§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question[9th November], That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
My right hon. and hon. Friends rendered a valuable public service yesterday in the debate by calling attention to the difference between the distribution of industry policy which underlay the Distribution of Industry Acts, 1945 and 1950, and the policy which underlies the Bill which is now before the House. I thought, when I first saw this Bill, that it was a bad Bill. The President of the Board of Trade, in his opening speech yesterday, confirmed my worst fears.
We all of us ought to recognise by now the changing pattern of industry in Britain. The areas in which our old heavy industries were based and grew up have suffered heavy unemployment in many years. During the first half of this century, when an increasing proportion of the employment available to our people was in manufacturing industries, we have seen those manufacturing industries growing up in London and the Midlands. In the first half of this century, we have seen this tremendous growth of population in the two great conurbations.
This was seen before the war—twenty years ago—to be socially and economically undesirable. It was appreciated during the war years that from a strategic point of view it was highly undesirable, and the Coalition Government resolved that in the after-war years an attempt should be made to redistribute industry more equitably. The post-war Labour Government gave effect to this policy not only in the administration 212 of the positive powers of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, but in the powers written into the Town and Country Planning Acts, to replace powers that existed in war-time regulations, with a view to controlling the development of industry in congested areas.
I must remind hon. Members that my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) yesterday invited the House to agree that a ring should be drawn round some of the congested areas, with notices posted up to say, "No more development here." That policy was, in fact, written into Clause 9 of the Distribution of Industry Bill as brought before the House in 1945, and that provision was taken out of the Bill by the Coalition Government before it became an Act in the summer of that year.
That since 1951, since the Conservatives resumed the responsibility of government once again, 40 per cent. of all the additional jobs created have been in the London area shows that Conservative Ministers over the past eight years have been unwilling to pursue a distribution of industry policy, have been unwilling to make use of the powers which were theirs under existing Statutes, and have shown that they have turned their minds from, even turned their backs on, the resolution adopted so readily by the House of Commons in the days of the Coalition Government during the war, which had been recommended by some very responsible people outside more than twenty years ago.
It is normally expected when I come to this Box that I will say a word or two about Scotland. During the past eight years, during which there has been an increase of about 1 million in the working population of this country, Scotland has had no increase at all. Indeed, it is very difficult to get figures of the number of people employed in Scotland at the present time. As the Minister of Labour knows, I had a Question on the Order Paper yesterday seeking to get the information, but the right hon. Gentleman was not able to give it to me.
I suspect that we have substantially fewer people employed in Scotland today than we had eight years ago. I remember hon. Members being very 213 annoyed in 1957, when it was discovered that after six years of Tory Government, we in Scotland, with 10 per cent. of the population, got one job in 25, but we find that after eight years of Tory Government, we have not got any share at all of the 1 million additional jobs provided in Great Britain as a whole.
This shows quite clearly how Tory Governments, and the Ministers who are 10 administer this new Bill, have neglected the powers which have been available to them ever since 1951. In mentioning these things, I must refer to the complacent speeches made by Ministers on the occasion of every debate on Scottish employment in the last eight years—speeches by Secretaries of State, Chancellors of the Exchequer, Presidents of the Board of Trade, and Ministers of Labour. I need not name them all, as they are all known to all of us here. Each, in turn, has come to that Box when we have discussed the economic well-being of Scotland to tell us that we on this side of the House were always calling "Woe, woe" when there was no justification for it, because Scotland had a healthy economy and the future was rosy. There is no one who has criticised me more than the present Secretary of State for calling "Woe, woe," when I was merely examining the facts of the economic and industrial situation in Scotland.
Last Wednesday, at Question Time, I listened to Questions being fired at the new Minister of Transport from Members on both sides of the House. All those Questions were about the great traffic congestion there is here in the South which has arisen directly from this attraction of labour to this great conurbation of London. For a solid hour, the Minister of Transport answered Questions, but he did not get halfway through the number of Questions on the Order Paper that were addressed to him. I would have thought that Ministers would realise that my right hon. and hon. Friends yesterday were not drawing too black a picture of what will happen if we do not do something to reverse that trend.
Those of us from places outside London who come to the House, and most of us do, know that no matter from which direction one comes one sees more industrial building going up around here than in any other part of the country. I could well appreciate the interjection made by 214 my hon. Friend the Member for Padding-ton, North (Mr. Parkin) yesterday, to the effect that there were no jobs for skilled workers in the centre of London. I think that that is true, but there are far too many jobs for skilled workers on the perimeter. Workers are being sucked from every part of the country to fill the new factories which are constantly going up on the perimeter of London.
We on these benches want a better distribution of industry and of the population. If right hon. Gentlemen opposite would contemplate what the position will be in another twenty or thirty years' time, when our population rises from its present 50 million to 60 million, or perhaps 70 million, with this movement of population all the time into this centre, they might ask themselves how many people will then live in and around London. Londoners will be completely smothered by people from the rest of the country being sucked into this great conurbation, this great Metropolis, this great area that ought not be the great industrial centre which it is so rapidly becoming.
Between 1957 and 1958, Scotland's unemployed rose by 24,000. I wonder whether the Secretary of State appreciates that during the same period the number of people actually in employment fell by 48,000. Unemployment went up by 24,000 and the number of people actually in jobs fell by 48,000. The right hon. Gentleman knows the reason for this, and it is not only that they are all married women. The reason is the number of insured workers who have had to cross the border to get jobs. The unemployed man who goes to the employment exchange to ask about the prospects of work is invariably told to go to London or Birmingham. I know that to be true. That is the advice given to unemployed men and women in Scotland.
The position in 1959 is very much worse than it was in 1958. I turn for a minute or two to the mining industry, and I refer to the mining industry for the whole of Britain. These mining areas are mostly in the Development Areas, mostly in the areas in which these powers of assistance have been available to Ministers for so long. They are areas with an already high rate of unemployment. During this year the number of 215 men employed in the mining industry has fallen from 687,000 to 651,000. There has been a loss of 36,000 jobs in the mining areas this year.
Speaking in the debate on the Address, a week ago, the Home Secretary seemed to be utterly complacent when he was saying that of the 10,000 miners made redundant as the result of pit closures last year only 1,000 were still unemployed. But we have 36,000 fewer people working in those areas. This has been the result of the halting of recruitment and the fact that there has been no prospect of employment for young people in the areas and alternative employment is not being provided by the Government. There is serious social deterioration, even decay, in many of the mining towns and villages which have no other industry attached to them. I think of the mining areas in the West of Scotland and the Welsh valleys. If it had not been for the factories built by the Labour Government in 1945 and 1951, I shudder to think what the position would be today.
The Government did not have to wait for the Bill to anticipate an increase in unemployment in those areas. The President of the Board of Trade made much play yesterday with the Government's forward-looking approach. He said that Ministers would be able to anticipate unemployment. But Ministers have known of the present high levels of, and very persistent, unemployment in areas in which their policy has led to still higher unemployment. Yet when some of us appealed in the House and made personal representations to Ministers in deputations for them to do something about those areas where mines were closing, the Ministers did not see fit to use the powers available to them. Ministers have a clear responsibility to exercise their powers in those areas now—not after the Bill is passed. They have the powers now, and they should exercise them.
In any case, no one really believes that the present Government would take action in advance of unemployment occurring. If anyone does, it would be like imagining a doctor going out and chasing someone who might have a cold but leaving another patient to die of pneumonia. 216 That is what is happening to the areas of heavy unemployment at present.
The President of the Board of Trade said a great deal yesterday about the power in the Bill to assist local authorities with the improvement of basic services and the clearing of derelict sites. Does he realise that in May, 1952, he and his right hon. Friends discontinued the operation of Sections 3 and 5 of the Distribution of Industry Act and that it was only a year ago, when we had very heavy unemployment in most of the Development Areas, that the Government announced their intention to revive the use of those powers? However, from my own experience, the Government have done precious little to show that they were serious when they said a year ago that they would revive the use of those powers.
From May, 1952, to the autumn of last year those powers were shelved by Ministers. Do they propose to exercise them in the future under the Bill when unemployment is higher than it has been at any time in the past seven years? We have a right to know. Do they mean to exercise their powers here and there when unemployment appears? I feel that the powers in the Bill are more restricted than the original ones. I see the President of the Board of Trade looking at me. The right hon. Gentleman made it clear yesterday that these powers would be used for the clearing and improvement of derelict sites if that would help employment in the area. I can tell him about what happened under the Labour Government. I can think of pit bings which have been cleared. In one case a playing field was created; there was no industrial development at all. On another bing in my constituency which was cleared a new factory was built for making metal windows, and it provided employment for 200 or 300 workers, most of them ex-miners, incidentally, I can think of another bing nearby which was cleared for housing development.
Yesterday, the President of the Board of Trade did not seem to realise that these things would be done under the powers taken in the Bill. I listened to what the right hon. Gentleman said, and, for greater accuracy, I obtained a copy of his speech this morning and read it again. Is the right hon. Gentleman now 217 telling us that he and his right hon. Friends were wrong to discontinue the use of these powers for six and a half years? If it is right to use them now, it must have been wrong not to use them during the past six and a half years. I think that the Secretary of State for Scotland might have a word to say about that when he speaks.
The President of the Board of Trade called our attention to the provision for building grants, in Clause 3 of the Bill. Is not such a power already in existence under Section 4 of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945? Of course it is. That Section provided for both grants and loans for any purpose calculated to increase employment in a development area. The powers were there, but what was not there was the limitation of 85 per cent. of the difference between what it cost to put up a factory and the market value of the factory after it was erected. Therefore, there is a limitation in the Bill which was not in the 1945 Act. The President of the Board of Trade did not seem to realise that.
Has the President of the Board of Trade any reason to believe that the industrialist who wants to build in London or Birmingham and is being induced to go into one of these areas which will be listed by him in the future is more likely to go if he has to build his own factory, albeit with a grant, than if he is to become the tenant of a factory?
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Reginald Maudling)
Obviously, we considered it reasonable, or we should not have introduced the Clause.
§ Mr. Fraser
I should like the Secretary of State to tell us why he has any reason to believe that. I can tell the President of the Board of Trade that I have had personal contact with many of the people who came into the Scottish Development Areas in the years after the war, and that many of them told me that the only reason they went there was that the Government had given evidence of their confidence in the future of the industry and the area by sinking so much capital in the building of factories that the industrialist who went in—sometimes with help—was risking only his capital on his tools and equipment, in that he was merely renting a factory.
§ Mr. Fraser
In the difficult areas it has not been possible in the past to get the industrialist to go in and build his own factory. There was an inducement under the 1945 Act. I wish right hon. Gentlemen opposite would read that Act and understand their own duties and responsibilities. The power was there, but what happened? I can mention individual cases.
Take National Cash Registers, a firm which wanted to build in London and said that it was the only place in Britain where it could build a factory and carry on its operations successfully. We induced it to try Dundee. It went to Dundee and made a success of it in a rented factory. It found the soil there fertile, and its roots went deep, and it built a factory alongside the rented one.
I am not against the industrialist owning his own factory, but—the President of the Board of Trade knows this as well as I do, and probably much better—the tendency nowadays, even in the congested and prosperous areas, is for the industrialist not to own the factory in which he carries on his activities. It is owned by someone else and he rents it out of his annual income and profits rather than put his capital into bricks and mortar. That is the tendency in Britain, in the United States and elsewhere.
I wonder whether the Secretary of State has taken the advice of Hugh Fraser in this matter. He took his advice on tourism. I am entitled to say to the House, as Hugh Fraser is a public figure, that he has become a millionaire by not owning bricks and mortar. I see the Secretary of State knitting his brows. Does he not know that Hugh Fraser has become a millionaire by buying up businesses lock, stock and barrel, a week later selling the bricks and mortar to insurance companies or property companies, and then taking them on a lease of about twenty years at a rent which he can comfortably pay out of the income from the business? By that means, Hugh Fraser can use his capital over and over again to take over one business after another. That is how he has become the tycoon that he is today.
219 Will not the Secretary of State even now consult Mr. Hugh Fraser to find whether he agrees that one is much more likely to get somebody in if one builds a factory in advance and offers it on favourable terms on a rental basis? When the Secretary of State is taking the advice of Mr. Hugh Fraser, he might also take the advice of Sir Robert Maclean, Lord Polwarth and Lord Bilsland. Sir Robert Maclean and Lord Polwarth have been to the United States on more than one occasion to try to persuade American industrialists to come to Scotland. They have returned and said that American industrialists will come if they can rent a factory, but they will not come if they have to put their own capital into bricks and mortar. This happens to be true. The Secretary of State should take that kind of advice. He should listen to those people who know what they are talking about.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)
The industrialist presumably realises that he does not need to take the grant and build himself. He can still get a factory to rent if he wants to.
§ Mr. Fraser
I do not know whether he can. The President of the Board of Trade, in recent years, has been refusing industrialists who have wanted extensions to their factories. He has wasted three years at Merseyside trying to get industrialists to buy their factories. They do not want to put their money into bricks and mortar. In any case, if it is a power which will be exercised only when the industrialist wishes to have it this way, why did the President of the Board of Trade think that it was so important in the course of his speech yesterday? One gained the impression that this was something extra and good, that this was a further inducement. But it was not an inducement which was not available if he had wanted to exercise his powers under the 1945 Act.
Another discovery made by Ministers in recent years is that extensions are just as important as new buildings. For some years, speaking from this Box in Scottish debates, I have tried to impress on successive Presidents of the Board of Trade that there is virtually no new industrial development in this country which is not an extension of an existing 220 industry. I did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman was considering applications for extensions in the London area as he would consider applications for completely new buildings, new factories and new enterprises coming into the country from outside.
It was repudiated a little when we pressed it very heavily in July, 1958. Then the President of the Board of Trade, on, I think, about the last day in July, 1958, said that in future he would look a little more critically at applications for extensions. But the figures we have quoted of the increase in working population in London in recent years provide strong evidence that the I.D.C. procedure has not been operated with vigour by the President of the Board of Trade. What we need most of all is the vigorous exercise of the negative power of refusing to grant industrial development certificates in the congested areas, coupled with the building of advance factories to be let at reasonable rents.
The Minister was careful not to mention advance factories yesterday. He was careful not to say that the Government would build them. He was equally careful not to say that the Government would not build them. I ask the Secretary of State to say whether advance factories will be built. Three were approved a long time ago. One of them was at Coatbridge, but a start has not been made on that factory yet. An industrial estate was built at Coatbridge by the Labour Government between 1945 and 1951. Not one square foot of factory building has been built there since 1951 by the Tory Government. No wonder they thought that, if there was to be one advance factory, that is where it should be. After so many months have passed, it is lamentable that not one brick has yet been laid.
Three factories for the whole of Great Britain are hardly enough. Nor, indeed, would three factories be enough for the mining areas which have suffered the dreadful drop in manpower and working population in the last year alone. The Secretary of State should tell us if advance factories are to be built.
Speaking for Scotland in particular, I say that what we badly need is not the tinkering with the problem envisaged by the President of the Board of Trade 221 yesterday. We want a constructive and creative policy. We do not want first-aid here and there when it occurs to the President of the Board of Trade that some remedial action might be taken.
There has been much speculation about what will be the consequences of the building of the strip mill in Lanarkshire. Perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us something about that. He will know that Scottish newspapers last week were full of reports of Scotland, at long last, getting a part of the motor car industry. Indeed, it was suggested that when the Secretary of State was home at weekends he had been in touch with a director of a company which was to start the motor car industry in Scotland. The suggestion made by the newspapers was that Secretaries of State normally do good by stealth. This was a further example of the Secretary of State rendering a great service to Scotland by inducing this industrialist to build motor car bodies at Linwood, near Paisley. It is said that this is to be done by Pressed Steel. The Secretary of State can tell us whether there is any truth in that.
The right hon. Gentleman can tell us also whether the Government are giving any serious thought to the desirability, indeed, the great need, to start thinking now about steering into industrial Scotland the manufacturing industries which will use the strip steel after it starts rolling. Or are the Government leaving it merely to chance and taking no action whatsoever, adopting the attitude that if a manufacturer asks for an industrial development certificate he will be granted it? Is that the limit of the Government's interest in the area? Is that the limit of the Government's thinking about the economic future of Scotland? If the Secretary of State can tell us that something much bigger than that is being done, and that there is some creative and progressive thinking about this, we shall be glad to hear what he says. His speech will be in striking contrast to all the other speeches that he has made on this subject.
The Scottish Daily Express yesterday reported the attitude of Scottish businessmen to the Bill. I thought that it was very enlightening. They were not favourably impressed by the Bill. They have recognised and pinpointed some of its 222 shortcomings—shortcomings which have been pinpointed by my hon. Friends. These are Scottish businessmen, not the Scottish T.U.C. One can well imagine what the Scottish T.U.C. will be saying about the Bill. Scottish businessmen are making exactly the same criticism. They make the point, in particular, of the need for assistance to reshape Scottish industry—not merely to give assistance to a new industrialist coming to Scotland, but to give some financial assistance to those people who have been carrying on Scotland's older basic industries, which are now becoming out of date and some of which are becoming unnecessary in the changed pattern of industry.
There is no reason why they should not be given some assistance to reshape their industries. We want this redevelopment; we want our native industries in Scotland to be given some assistance to go out into what the Secretary of State describes as overspill areas, just as I should like to see London thinned out a little. We are already building eight new towns to thin out the population of London. I have listened to the Minister of Housing and Local Government talk about overspill agreements with towns far removed from London—such as Swindon and Corby. Meanwhile, the President of the Board of Trade grants industrial development certificates which result in multiplying the population.
We want to see the populations of Scotland's principal cities thinned out, too—the population of Glasgow, for instance. That will be done only by taking jobs to other parts of Scotland. Will not the Secretary of State now say that in future the Government will give a little assistance towards that end, instead of leaving the whole business to local authorities, Glasgow Corporation, on the one hand, and the receiving authorities, on the other?
Is the Secretary of State yet considering whether Scotland can get some share in the plastics industry, an industry which will take the place of our engineering industries which have been the principal users of sheet steel? Plastics will take the place of steel in many products, in many durable consumer goods, as they are called. Is the right hon. Gentleman taking any positive action to secure that Scotland gets a share of that industry? Incidentally, many of the raw 223 materials of the plastics industry come from the refineries at Grangemouth, but we produce very little of the finished product and there is not much encouragement for those who are anxious to go ahead and produce the finished product. I can give details if the right hon. Gentleman wants them, but I do not want to make too long a speech. The Government should be doing something to foster the development of this industry.
Have the Government considered the effect of the Outer Seven Free Trade Agreement? That agreement is expected to benefit the country considerably, but it will benefit the industries which are concentrated in the congested areas of London and Birmingham, while it will have a serious effect on some of Scotland's industry. One of our older industries, an industry which has made a large contribution to the country's well-being in the past, is the paper industry. Without exception, everybody in the paper industry says that it will be seriously threatened by the Outer Seven Free Trade Agreement.
If we must have that agreement for considerations of national well-being, for the nation as a whole, cannot Scotland have some of the industries which will benefit? That is all we ask. We are not asking that all industries will be retained in exactly the same size and that there will be no change at all. We welcome change. But we do not want to be the victims of change. Let us have some of the advantages which come from changes in the pattern of industry.
There is also the neglect of the coal industry to be considered. I have no doubt that if it had been in private hands today, the coal industry would be protected. One has only to see how private industry is protected, and if the coal industry were not nationalised the Government would protect it, too. However, all we get is speeches from Ministers, week after week and month after month, saying that the mining industry must stand on its own feet and face the competition of other fuels, and so on, without giving that industry time to re-equip and make adjustments and without taking the trouble to find whether the competition from other fuels is fair competition.
224 Protection is afforded readily to agriculture—I am not complaining about that. Protection is afforded to horticulture, and there are many other private industries which are protected. I am not complaining.
§ Mr. Fraser
What about cotton? Is it £30 million which the cotton industry is to get as a gift from the taxpayer? The coal industry has not had the gift of one penny from the taxpayer.
We are often told that Scottish industries suffer the disadvantage of being far from markets, with resulting high transport costs. Let us take the loss of the supply of coal to Northern Ireland, a market which went from Ayrshire to the East Midlands. In that case, transport charges are in favour of Ayrshire, but the order went to the East Midlands and Scotland was sacrificed. There is no part of the country as a whole which will suffer more from next year's closure of pits than will Ayrshire. Does not the Secretary of State take any action in these matters? Is he quite unconcerned? We have to suffer the disadvantage when transport costs are against us, but when they are favourable to us, we are not able to take advantage of them.
The sacrifice of the shale mining industry is another example. Nothing was done to provide a single job in the place of those lost through the sacrifice of that industry, upon which a large slice of Scotland has hitherto depended. The shipbuilding industry is declining. Can nothing be done to revive it, or would it be better to provide alternative industry? Can assistance be given for the training of workers for other jobs? Could not the Government adopt a positive, creative policy to take alternative employment into those areas?
What is Scotland's future if it does not lie in a better distribution and diversification of industry? We have said all along that we want to change the pattern of industry and not merely have palliatives, which is all that the Bill offers. Yesterday, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said:This constant attempt of the party opposite to try to fossilise the pattern of the country's industry is not something in which we can share."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1959; Vol. 613, c. 156.]225 The Parliamentary Secretary does not seem to realise that we have been seeking the very opposite.
The hon. Gentleman went on to make some comparisons of factory building records under the two Governments since the war. He talked about the rate of approvals of factory building in London and the Development Areas in the periods 1945–59 and 1949–51. Will he take the trouble to look at the rate of completions? If he does that, and consults the civil servants of his Department, he will find that in 1949 we had so much factory building under construction in the Development Areas that we had to put a stop to the new starts to enable us to increase the rate of completions.
The important thing is that we kept the building industry fully employed. That cannot be said for the present Government in recent years. The Secretary of State will know that at this moment we have at least 10,000 unemployed building and civil engineering workers in Scotland. Before the war, four industrial estates were started in Scotland under the 1934 legislation. After the war, the Labour Government greatly increased those estates in size and in the number of factories upon them, as well as building 17 completely new industrial estates. None has been added since 1951. Will the Secretary of State tell us whether any such estates are to be built under this legislation, and if so, how soon?
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken about new developments. The only big new development in Lanarkshire, where there has been most of the unemployment in recent years, has been in caterpillar tractors, not an industry which has been steered away from London or Birmingham. I heard the president of that company himself say that he was attracted to that part of the country because of the quality of steel produced there, which was suitable to his needs. He built his factory alongside the steel works and there was no question of the Government taking credit for having steered that firm there.
Ministers have always said that we cannot direct industry. What about Government industry—the R.O.F., the Torpedo Experimental Establishment, at Greenock? The Government can direct 226 closures and have directed transfers from Scotland to other parts of the country. The Secretary of State may mention Acme Wringers going to Greenock. That firm wanted to expand in Lanarkshire if it could get a factory there, because that is where the industry started, but it could not get a factory there and found that one was available at Greenock. So if we had not had a vacant factory at Greenock, it would have been in Lanarkshire instead of Greenock.
What about Government-sponsored research? Industry is attracted by the proximity of research information. As industrialists have been telling us for years, we in Scotland get 2.7 per cent. of all the Government-sponsored research in Great Britain. In the years after the war we established a national engineering laboratory in the new town of East Kilbride. Why do not the present Government do something of this kind? Nothing has come since the Tories took over in 1951.
We have been reading in the newspapers that a thermo-nuclear research laboratory is to be built in Oxfordshire to assist industry. This is the industrial, not military, aspect of nuclear fission. Why should the laboratory be built in Oxfordshire? Do we need yet another magnet to attract industry to that area? Why not put it in a part of the country where there is a real need for new employment and for a magnet to attract new industry? Naturally, I ask why does it not go to Scotland, but why should it not go to Wales or Lancashire, or some other part of the country where there is a need for such a magnet? I am entitled to make a claim for Scotland, because we have 10 per cent. of the population there and only 2.7 per cent. of the Government-sponsored research in this country.
During the General Election I described the proposed legislation as window dressing. I had seen the Tory election manifesto and had read the speech of the President of the Board of Trade on 15th September. I realised that the Bill would be mostly repetitive and unnecessary. Now I have read the Bill I regard it not as window dressing, but as a fraud. The powers remain with the Government, but the objective is changed; and it is the objective that matters. A policy on the distribution of 227 industry is needed in Britain, and I say so knowing what I am talking about. It is needed as a permanent feature of economic and social planning, because first-aid for seven years is not enough.
Finally, I say that the only hope for Scotland in the next few years is that I shall be proved wrong in what I have said. I hope sincerely that the Government will prove me wrong. I shall be delighted if they will, but I doubt it very much.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) has made a speech which, I admit, has put more life into this debate than there was yesterday. I listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman to discover whether there was substance in his speech. What did he do? He went over history, as I also will do, and then talked of all the things that we want done in Scotland, but not once did he explain how he would achieve them.[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I will withdraw that at once and say that he mentioned advance factories, about which we had heard a lot previously. The hon. Gentleman also talked a great deal about the failure to use existing powers, with which I shall also deal.
It is not only today that members of the party opposite speak as though, if they were back in power, some really remarkable things would be happening. If they claim that, they must explain why and how. I have in my hands, because I noticed it with some interest during the election campaign, a cutting from the Scotsman headed:Twenty-thousand more jobs a year promised in Scotland. Labour plans new factories.I not only studied this with great interest and care, but I looked for the part which would deal with the 20,000 more jobs a year promised in Scotland. All I could discover in the cutting was this:The rest of the statement pledges that Labour will steer new and developing industries into the areas most in need of new jobs, and will build factories at Government expense for incoming industries.What magnificent new thinking.
Mr. James Mclnnes (Glasgow, Central)
Tell us what is wrong.
§ Mr. Maclay
Be patient and I will.
I went further and saw that the Leader of the party opposite would write in another newspaper, the Daily Record, answers to seven questions. I thought that there might be something of interest in that, so I looked it up. I found this statement:Labour will extend to large new areas of Scotland all the Government powers to attract new jobs—and will increase these powers wherever necessary.What on earth does that sentence mean?
§ Mr. Maclay
No, I do not know. There is no definition of "new areas." I do not know whether the Scottish Labour Party supplied the Leader of the Opposition with that paragraph, but if so, it did its homework badly.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:… what is needed is not so much new powers as action with the powers that are available.I take it that the party opposite has no intention of directing industry? Have we got that clear?
§ Mr. Maclay
The hon. Gentleman says that I have not got it clear. Does he wish to tell the House this afternoon that the Labour Party policy is to direct industry? Let us get that clear, because that is one of the implications of what I have read out Yet the speech of the hon. Gentleman this afternoon, and what was said in recent months, was that if the Labour Party was returned to power it would, in a way which was never explained in detail, direct industry. Is that the policy of the Labour Party?
§ Mr. Fraser
May I clear this up? It is impossible to direct private industry. We have said that over and over again and it should not be necessary to repeat it. It is impossible to direct private industry to where it should go, but it is possible to direct private industry to where it should not go. The other point is that a lot of industry is directed by the Government and a lot of industry has been directed out of Scotland by the Government.
§ Mr. Maclay
My speech must develop in its own way.
Why, with all the great thinking done by the Opposition during the last eight years has it not moved one step forward from where it was when it left office? It is because it has no constructive suggestions to make.
Let me make this clear, too. It is recognised in Scotland that the Labour Party has nothing constructive to offer.[Laughter.] Yes, I have heard remarks made already in this Parliament about the sweeping Labour victory in Scotland. I suggest that those who use that phrase should look at the figures of total votes cast between 1950, 1951 and 1959.[An HON. MEMBER: "Look at the benches behind you."] If hon. Gentlemen opposite will only listen for one minute, and will study the figures of all those years—[An HON. MEMBER: "This is not an election speech."] The hon. Gentleman says this is not an election speech, but what was said by his hon. Friend was very close to being an election speech.
The Labour Party today is still between 70,000 and 80,000 votes down on its total vote in 1951.[An HON. MEMBER: "So what?"] The hon. Gentleman asks, so what? It is an important point. It shows (hat there is appreciation that the party opposite has not a constructive policy.
Mr. A. Woodbrn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I do not want to discuss the question of votes, but the Secretary of State for Scotland has stated that we have the same policy as we had up to 1951. I accept that. It was to bring industry to Scotland. Is there anything wrong in that policy? It worked between 1945 and 1951.
§ Mr. Maclay
I will now come on to the main substance of the argument. This is the very point that I wanted to bring out clearly. The party opposite speak as if it had achieved many things that we have not achieved. Let us examine the matter. The figures for factory building, both privately financed and Government financed, since the end of the war are extremely interesting. They ought to be studied carefully, in a non-party sense, because there is a moral to be drawn from them.
230 I should like to draw attention not so much to the actual volume of building completed as to the comparison—and this, I think, will suit hon. Members opposite—between the area approved by the Board of Trade in Scotland as compared with the rest of Great Britain, I hope that it will be agreed that this is a reasonable test. In my view, this is the only objective test.
§ Mr. Manuel
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is making a very bad job of proving his case? At least, we did not direct industry out of Scotland and do away with it altogether, as the present Government did in the case of the Royal Ordnance Factory site at Irvine, with 6.4 per cent. unemployment.
§ Mr. Maclay
The hon. Gentleman has waited five years, and I think that he ought to wait a little longer, because I have not developed my argument. In the four years 1945–48 the area approved in Scotland, expressed as a percentage of Britain, was 13.8 per cent. These were, as was pointed out yesterday, the years when industry was anxious to start up after the war and could readily be steered to any location where premises and labour were available. I speak from personal knowledge, because I was working on the problem at the time. In the following three years after 1948, the years 1949, 1950 and 1951, the percentage fell to 6.6 per cent. In the seven years 1952–58 the equivalent figure did not rise much above that. In fact, it rose to 6.8 per cent. I will repeat the figure for Scotland; from 1945–48 it was 13.8 per cent. It is not as good as it might have been. I say that quite deliberately, for I was working on this problem at the time.
One of the great mistakes about that Act, which I agree was passed by the Caretaker Government, was the over-concentration on the Development Areas instead of spreading the net wider. Had it been wider, we should have done better. But with the powers that the party opposite had, it could have done better in those years. I could mention a 231 case which happened in my then constituency, when a factory in Angus was steered by the Labour Party to Plymouth.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Does the Secretary of State agree with what the President of the Board of Trade told us last night, that in future the areas are to be narrower and not wider?
§ Mr. Maclay
I shall be dealing with most of these points in my speech.
It is worth pondering these figures. There are periods when it is relatively much easier to persuade industry to go where it wants to go, and in other periods it is not so easy. That is self-evident when one studies the figures. After 1958 the percentage of movement to Scotland began to rise. In the period from January, 1958, to the end of March, 1959, Scotland received 9.2 per cent. of the approvals issued for Great Britain as a whole. In the first nine months of 1959 the percentage was 10.4. The absolute figure was 4½ million square feet, which, I believe, is a record for the equivalent period in any year.
§ Mr. Maclay
What is even more interesting is the fact that this figure represents an incerase of 40 per cent. over the same period in 1958 as compared with an increase in Great Britain as a whole for that period of 25 per cent. There is no point in suggesting that we are not applying our policy.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say how many whisky warehouses are included in that last figure?
§ Mr. Maclay
I am coming to that point in a moment.
Industrial building in Scotland in the three years up to the end of 1957 was estimated to produce jobs for 1.6 people per 1,000 square feet and the corresponding figure for Great Britain was 1.5. In 1958, the figures were 2.1 people per 1,000 square feet in Scotland and 1.4 in Great Britain. If there is anything in this whisky argument it must be applied more in the South. What has happened is that in the years immediately after the war there was a higher percentage of men per 1,000 232 square feet resulting from factory building. Since then, things like automation have happened.
It is difficult to analyse why the number of men per 1,000 square feet have dropped. It is nothing to do with whisky, because the figures that I have given are for all factories in the United Kingdom. I ask hon. Members to ponder this, because there are some lessons to be learned from it, quite apart from political lessons.
There is another sphere in which improved trends have been shown, and that is in Scottish building at the Government's expense. In 1956–57, 41 per cent. of the Board of Trade Vote for factory building was spent in Scotland. In 1957–58, 35 per cent. was spent in Scotland, and in 1958–59 48 per cent. was spent in Scotland. I am bringing these figures home because they make nonsense of the substance of the attack of the hon. Member for Hamilton.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Does the right hon. Gentleman know that he is talking nonsense when he refers to this as factory building? This is industrial building. This has been going on in England, Wales and Scotland. They are all included in these figures.
§ Mr. Maclay
That is what I myself said. If the figures are included in one, they are included in the other. These are the only available figures from which one can make these comparisons.
What has been happening can also be illustrated by reference to areas of particular difficulty. Let us take Dundee, for example. Between January, 1945 and the middle of 1959—I am not differentiating between the periods when different parties were in power—95 new factories, or extensions of over 5,000 square feet, were approved for Dundee, amounting in total to an area of over 3 million square feet. One firm, which employed 450 people nearly eight months ago, is taking on a new factory next year, and hopes to employ 1,400 by 1962–63.
Take the Greenock area, if I may dare to mention that in the presence of the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon). The figure of unemployment is between 7 and 8 per cent. The absolute figure is 3,246. Foundations 233 have been laid there for an improved future. Four major developments are expected to lead to the provision of about 2,000 new jobs. These are in addition to the graving dock, which must take some years to build. The total employed on the building of the dock and in ancillary occupations has been estimated at about 1,000.
There should be, on paper anyway, about 3,000 new jobs in an area where there are about 3,200 on the unemployed list. Of course, it is on paper because these things cannot leap into existence overnight, but, following our steady policy and using the powers that we already have, we have been producing concrete results and proper foundations for increasing employment. The best chance we had of curing unemployment for ever was in the immediate post-war years. Hon. Members may have noticed what has been happening in the world at large since then. But I am not complaining.
It has been suggested that I made complacent speeches in the past. If the hon. Member for Hamilton searches though the remarks that I have made, he will find that I have made it absolutely clear ever since I have been Secretary of State that I consider this to be the gravest of Scotland's problems, and we must go on working with the best means in our power until the average level of unemployment in Scotland is the same as in the rest of the country. Hon. Members opposite do not seem to like this very much but they must take it. The foundations which we have already laid—
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire North)
The Secretary of State has dealt with what has happened in Dundee and Greenock, and he has referred to the future. Surely he intends to deal with the very worst place, which has more pits closing, namely, North Lanarkshire?
§ Mr. Maclay
The hon. Lady will appreciate that I cannot go through every every area in Scotland. I am giving examples of the areas where things are happening. I accept from the hon. Lady that her area has a very grave problem and that we have to go on working to solve it, but there are other areas which are extremely difficult.
§ Mr. Maclay
That may be so in particular areas, but I am demonstrating that our methods are producing results.[Interruption.] I have given two particularly good examples where a great deal has happened, and the general figures of factory building have shown what has happened. I do not pretend for one moment—and I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite can say so—that this problem can be solved overnight. We are trying to reverse to some extent a hundred years of history.
Efforts to solve this problem were started in the 1930s. They were not started by the Labour Party or even by the Coalition Government. They were started in the 1930s when the full realisation came home that this kind of effort had to be made. It will have to be carried on for some time. What I claim is that steps have been taken under the existing powers. We are laying the foundations, but there is a great deal more to be done.
§ Mr. Maclay
The right hon. Member asks, "Why only seven years?" Why we have this Bill today is simply because we think that the exercise of the powers which we have had over these years since we have been in office can be improved upon. That is a very sensible idea, because it is quite obvious that one must be prepared to recast the legislation and seven years seems to be a very reasonable time to see how this Measure will work and then bring the whole matter back into full discussion and, if we have to do something more, to do it then.
§ Mr. McInnes
The right hon. Gentleman has demonstrated to the House by facts and figures what the Government have accomplished by way of reducing unemployment in Scotland. Will he now relate those figures to the fact that between 1951 and 1958 unemployment in Scotland has doubled and that from 1951 to the present date unemployment in Scotland, despite these accomplishments, has reached the highest figure for over twenty years?
§ Mr. Maclay
I did not follow the precise detail of the hon. Gentleman's 235 figures, but I will not argue about them; I will accept what the hon. Member for Hamilton said in opening the debate, that this is at a time when there has been an increase of one million in the insured population of Great Britain. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's figures are quite right but I am not quarrelling about them. There is a slight difference in our figures but it is a very small one.
The Government recognise that this situation is not right. I am not pretending that it has been put right. I am merely saying that we have laid some useful foundations and that this Bill will help us carry on this work. It is not only foundations that we have laid. We have laid the foundations for breeder expansion, if I may use that phrase, because it is the shortest term that I can give. For example, one firm with which I have been in touch recently has established itself in Scotland and is making a point of trying to persuade its suppliers in the south, with considerable success, that it is in the interest of both companies that the suppliers should come north and start operations in Scotland. At first, the English firm was accommodated in some vacant space in the manufacturer's own factory, but as the demand for its products grew, it found it necessary to have a factory of its own built in Scotland.
Of course, at Grangemouth there is the petroleum refining and chemical industry, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and which is immensely important We are doing everything in our power to persuade firms to come to Scotland which will make use in Scotland of the products of that very great industry. I think that is a sphere which needs great concentration, and we should try to get the right industries that will use the products of that industry.
Above all, there is the stripmill from which we can obviously expect interesting results. The hon. Gentleman referred to some rumours in the newspapers. It would be quite wrong for me to make any reference to that matter this afternoon. I can assure him, in reply to his particular question, that we are very much alive to the need for encouraging industries to go to Scotland which will use the product of that stripmill. If we were not, why on earth should we have 236 had discussions and undertaken all the work to get the stripmill there? The stripmill is itself very important, but, of course it is the use of its products which is of vital importance to the future of Scottish industry and, above all, to the diversification of industry.
I should like to make reference to the Scottish Council inquiry. This is an inquiry into the root causes of the unemployment and industrial problems that face us in Scotland. It is often said—and this is obvious—that industrial expansion is hindered in Scotland by transport costs. I know that this consideration is in the minds of a great many industrialists. It is however, very interesting that there are many industries to which one might have expected transport costs to be an impediment which have established themselves in Scotland, even in places so far away as Peterhead, and are flourishing there. It is obvious that we have not enough knowledge of the real impact of transport difficulties on the growth of industry. This will form part of the investigation which the Scottish Council are now doing, and I very much welcome the proposal by the Scottish Council to undertake the investigation.
I think that this is the kind of inquiry which my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart) had in mind when speaking in the debate on employment in Scotland last Session. It will cover not only the effect of Scotland's geographical position on transport and other costs, but also the distribution of Scottish industry as between capital and consumer goods, the problems set by the decline of certain old-established industries and probably the experience of other countries in dealing with distribution of industry problems. The President of the Board of Trade and I have promised the Scottish Council all the help that Government Departments can give it in this investigation. The Council is collecting a strong team to direct it, and I have no doubt that it will be making a further announcement about the inquiry as soon as it can.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
Is there also to be an inquiry into the amount of Scottish capital invested in Scottish industry?
§ Mr. Maclay
I will draw that to the attention of the Council.
237 So far I have been discussing to some extent the past and the foundations we are laying for the future. Those matters are relevant to the Bill now before us. If the powers that we have had produced no results, we should have had to have had a completely new type of Bill. In fact, they are producing results, but we believe that the powers can be improved so that we can get better results as time goes on. There is a great deal more to be done, and I repeat without hesitation that until we have reached a position where our Scottish figures run at all times roughly parallel to those for Great Britain as a whole, no Government will be able to relax its efforts to obtain that diversification of industry which alone can secure the result that we want.
How does this Bill improve on the existing powers? The unified list has already been discussed. It is a procedural matter, but obviously a great help. The reference to "imminent" unemployment in Clause 1 (2) was discussed yesterday, and I do not think I need elaborate on it.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
The Secretary of State a little while ago was very annoyed because of a newspaper article that I wrote about the areas which would require to get assistance under the Distribution of Industries Act, and he asked why the areas were not identified in the article that I wrote before the election. If he thought that it was important to devote space to identify all those areas, surely he will realise that it is doubly important that the Government should give a list of places to be assisted before we reach the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Maclay
It was not the hon. Member's article, which I read with great interest. This was an article by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. It was not the hon. Member's article in the Scotsman that I referred to.
§ Mr. Maclay
It was not that article in the Scotsman after all. The hon. Member did raise a point, but it is not relevant to what I am saying now.
§ Mr. Maclay
Of course, I can answer it. It really would not be appropriate in the course of a Bill going through the House—
§ Mr. Maclay
One cannot tell at this moment the final shape of the Bill when it leaves the Committee, and it would not be appropriate to give detail of that kind. I think that that is quite clear.
§ Mr. Maclay
I have already given way a great deal, and I really do not think that I can do so any more.
§ Clause 3 is really a very important provision, although the hon. Gentleman tried to write it down. There is one particularly important point in regard to building grants which I wish to emphasise. At present, if an industrialist wants to extend his factory, he can apply for a D.A.T.A.C. loan or, in special circumstances, he might obtain a grant; but it would be an annual grant, not an outright grant. In a great many cases, this is not a suitable way to set about the extension of an existing factory. If the industrialist is in an area where the Board of Trade is building factories, he may ask the Board of Trade to build the extension for him and then rent it back from the Department. That, again, is the present position. Obviously, it is a very clumsy method of arranging for the extension of one's own property. Under the Bill, the industrialist will be able, in appropriate circumstances, to obtain a grant and do the job himself.
§ I will not elaborate on Clause 4, out the House will appreciate that it presents new and much more flexible provisions for what are called D.A.T.A.C. loans and grants than are available at present.
§ Clause 5 relates to grants for work on derelict land, and this is an essential improvement in the existing statutory provision which, as the House knows, has been legally interpreted as applying only to land which is abandoned. That has been the legal interpretation of the thing. It has proved a very severe restriction on the operation 239 of the existing Act, and I hope that the House will find the new Measure of great value in this respect, especially in certain unsightly areas of Scotland where the introduction of new industries has been impeded by the condition of certain sites.
§ I hope that the hon. Member for Hamilton will listen at this point because I am again referring to his speech. He referred to the removal of bings even in areas where a projected factory was not to be built on the particular site. If a bing is in an area, this does not necessarily mean that a factory must be built on the particular site where the bing is. It is perfectly possible to apply the powers to work which will help to bring industry into the particular area This, I think, is entirely admirable.
§ Mr. Manuel
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I appreciate it very much. I have a great many bings or slag heaps in Central Ayrshire. Do I take it from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that, if work were created in removing these bings, this in itself would be regarded as an industry?
§ Mr. Maclay
Not necessarily, no. The hon. Gentleman will really have to wait until the Committee stage to explore points like that.
I will briefly summarise the chief powers conferred by the Bill. It is worth doing so, I think, because not all people realise what is possible. An existing firm, provided that it is in a listed locality and it satisfies the essential tests, will be eligible for a grant to help build an extension. Alternatively, it could get the Board of Trade to build it for it and rent the premises back. Also, it would be able to apply for a loan or grant—what is now called D.A.T.A.C. assistance—to cover plant and machinery or even to provide working capital. It is the combination of these two powers which I regard as of extreme importance to the Scottish scene, the combination of the ability to have a factory built and the ability to obtain loans or grants to help with plant and machinery, and even with Working capital. These powers, of course, apply to any new firms of Scottish or other origin coming to Scotland.
240 Again, it may be necessary, in order to accommodate a new firm, to clear a derelict site or to provide some basic service such as water supply or an access road. I know myself of cases like that at this moment. This becomes possible under Clauses 5 and 7.
There is one misconception which, I understand, has had some publicity, namely, that the Bill would not help a firm which wanted to develop a new line without change of premises. This is not correct. If a firm in a listed area proposed to provide additional employment by developing a new line and required assistance for the provision of new plant and equipment for such development, although it did not require to expand or change its premises, it could apply for a loan or grant under Clause 4, just as, at the present time, such a firm could apply for D.A.T.A.C. help. The test is the provision of employment, not the change of building or production.
§ Mr. Maclay
The provision of additional employment. This is a point which can be carefully discussed in Committee.
I am sorry that I have gone on longer than I intended, but the hon. Member for Hamilton made some very provocative remarks in his speech, and he would expect to be dealt with.[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] He has been dealt with. Before I sit down, I wish to comment on what he said about my remarks on previous occasions when I spoke of talking "Woe, woe". He said that he had every right to talk "Woe, woe". I agree that it is the right of the Opposition and of any Member of Parliament to represent Scottish difficulties and problems in the constituencies. I repeat, nevertheless, that it is extremely dangerous to carry on speaking as if we were a permanently depressed area in Scotland. We are not a permanently depressed area. There are many things showing great progress in Scotland.
§ Mr. Maclay
Some parts are difficult, and I know that they are having a very troubled time. But it is no way to help 241 Scotland and those parts to overcome their difficulties to keep on talking as though all Scotland is in trouble. It is not. Later, the hon. Member for Hamilton said exactly the kind of thing with which I charge him. He referred to the European Free Trade Area and spoke as though all the benefit was coming to England. In the first place, it is a deplorable tendency, which I could not too much deplore in Scotland, to have a "sour grapes" attitude—if something happens somewhere else, why should it not happen in Scotland? But even that is not correct in this case. I can tell the hon. Member of Scottish industries which will benefit very much from the Free Trade Area. There is the woollen manufacturing industry, employing about 19,000 people. There is hosiery manufacture, employing about 19,000 people. There is the printing industry, engineering, in particular, internal combustion engine manufacture, earth-moving equipment and agricultural machinery. Also, there are the carpet and rubber industries. These alone in Scotland give employment to over 70,000 people.
Of course, it is nonsense to say that things are weighted in our disfavour. I know that the paper industry is having anxious thoughts about the Free Trade Area. It remains to be seen whether its fears are justified. I am not convinced that they are, although there are grounds for worry. On balance, even if certain difficulties emerge for some industries, the Free Trade Area must be of advantage to Scotland in a very big way.
The Opposition have completely failed, so far, to establish any constructive criticism of the Bill. They have no substitute to put in its place. I hope that in due course they will see that the Bill is what the country needs and that it will be very helpful indeed for Scotland.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
In asking the indulgence of the House, I appreciate that I am entering the debate at a very provocative moment, but it seems obviously an appropriate time, particularly having regard to the designation of the Bill, the Local Employment Bill, to refer Scotland's needs, and particularly the position in the constituency of Scotstoun which I represent. I may not have another early 242 opportunity of describing Scotstoun to the House.
Scotstoun, in Glasgow, is one of those places which has both an old and a new community. Drumchapel, which is one of the biggest housing areas in Glasgow, is itself a community equal to a small burgh in Scotland such as Stirling. There is a population of 28,000 in this still developing area of Scotstoun constituency. That is the new development. In the older development, Yoker and Knightswood have already built into themselves a form of community.
Scotstoun and Drumchapel, in particular, have their problems, including that of transport, which a new community will bring. One of the needs of these places is light industry for the women workers in the new area. The problem of shopping facilities is also apparent, but this, we believe, can be solved. No doubt, as it develops, Drumchapel will develop a spirit and life of its own and probably will become one of Glasgow's best developments.
As the Member for Scotstoun, I have more than a passing interest in the Bill and in our need for light industry. In the old industrial part of Yoker we are peculiarly dependent on naval orders and Government support of the shipbuilding industry for our industrial prosperity. Effective Government action can help to ensure full employment in the area.
Many of the nation's best ships have been built in the area and in the yards of Scotstoun. It is in these yards that the Clyde craftsmen have been trained in the traditional way. The names of the yards in Scotstoun are household words in Scotland and in seafaring outwith Scotland. They include Connell's, Yarrow, Meechan's, Barclay-Curies and Barr and Stroud's, on the perimeter, which is one of the places which supplies the instruments for most of the vessels on the Clyde.
These yards maintain a continuing introduction of apprenticeships. Shipbuilding is the lifeblood of the area and the fear of redundancy, which was one of the features of the recent election, is very real. The candidates at Scotstoun were each circularised by the firm I have mentioned concerning naval defence and asking their opinions. This indicates the great interest that is taken in maintaining the prosperity of these firms which 243 is dependent largely on Government action and Government support in the way of naval orders. The shipbuilding craftsmen on the Clyde have done much to uphold the prosperity of the area. Today they are looking to the Bill for help.
I am not necessarily advocating any extraordinary requirement for light industries, because the peculiar position of the Clyde is that its existing heavy industries must be maintained there. They cannot be moved elsewhere. The Government should not overlook the tradition and needs of this industry, which has fulfilled national and international needs.
Speaking as an engineer with some knowledge of the situation, I find that one in four of the school leavers of the Clyde area are being offered the opportunity of an apprenticeship, but that in 1960–61, when the number of school leavers increases, the chance that a boy will secure an apprenticeship will fall to only one in five. One of the important things for workers is that they should have a craft behind them in order to ensure a good standard of life. People's standard of life is lower if they are not skilled. One of the peculiar traditions of Scotland as against England is that we have had the straightforward tradition of being either craftsmen or labourers. There is a minimum of semiskilled workers in Scotland. For this reason, parents are anxious to ensure that their children are educated and acquire a skill to ensure for them a higher standard of living.
To encourage that, we should foster the development of new shipping in the area of Scotstoun. Steam has given way to oil and oil in turn will give way to atomic propulsion. Our workers cannot build the vessels, however, unless they have the skill and necessary technical education. This is one of the criteria that will encourage other units to bring employment to the area, in which we have the type of labour that is appropriate to the needs of the development of existing industry.
The success of the Bill depends upon the Minister's interpretation of it and his definition of a "high rate of unemployment", During the election, despite the 244 opinion of the Secretary of State for Scotland, I argued from the public platform that Scotland was a depressed area. In the years since 1956, redundancy agreements have been entered into in which trade unionists agreed to give employers permissive power to dismiss workpeople. It is obvious that redundancy is continuing under these agreements, which were mutually agreed to by the unions. Redundancy, therefore, is the existing pattern of life in Scotland.
One of the features of the Bill is the need to decide the imminence of unemployment. In the public sector, the criterion so far has been a planned contraction and a knowledge and public awareness of the fact that mines or plant are to be shut down. In the private sector, however, similar advance information is not forthcoming, for the reason that it might be interpreted as a sign of weakness on behalf of management and ownership. Sound management and commercial judgment would be thought to be at fault in declaring that redundancy was imminent.
In one factory which I visited, all the workers were told at Christmas last year that major redundancy would occur during the forthcoming year. Obviously this came as a bolt from the blue and in a manner which is not necessarily acceptable to workers as the best form of warning of impending redundancy. The private sector is not as forthcoming as the public sector of industry in furnishing information of the imminence of redundancy. This aspect is related to one of the vital features of the Bill. I hope that, as a result of inducement by the Board of Trade, the private sector will become sufficiently open to announce in good time when difficulties are likely to arise so that the workpeople may have some opportunity of preparing themselves.
In establishments in the region of Prestwick, Ardrossan and elsewhere, men have been declared redundant in terms of the Minister of Labour's report and their cards were marked "T.S.", denoting "temporarily stopped", indicating that they were restricted from entering into other engagements. If "T.S." is to be the criterion on a man's card, we want these people to be declared fully unemployed in the sense 245 that they can build up proper benefit and get a correct and not a faulty percentage.
We are assuming, as we must, that the industrialists want to expand. We are well aware that there is over-full employment in the congested areas of the Midlands and London, where the principle seems to be to establish what might be regarded as a supermarket of chemical factories to the detriment of the chemical industry in Scotland. Because the Atomic Energy Authority is building the stations and supplying the power, we find that industry flows more readily into these congested areas, with the result that we in Scotland may well be left on the perimeter with an even smaller proportion of the chemical industry than we have had hitherto. This applies particularly to certain areas of Scotland.
I make an appeal to the President of the Board of Trade that if we are to succeed in maintaining the prestige of Scotland, and of the Clyde in particular, we want an immediate injection of capital towards the building of the new Cunarders. During the election, this was a leading topic in the Scotstoun area. If vessels of this kind are built on the Clyde, the sub-contracting will be spread throughout Scotland, benefiting the steel industry of Lanarkshire and the Scottish industrial belt. My single list idea—and I am peculiarly single-minded in this matter of shipbuilding—is that Cunarders should come to the Clyde and thereby give support to Scottish industry within the terms of the Bill.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Sir James Henderson-Stewart (Fife, East)
It is my good fortune to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small), and, in accordance with the custom of the House, to offer him congratulations upon his maiden speech. I am sure that we all welcome it when someone with a peculiar knowledge of something—the hon. Member for Scotstoun spoke for the engineering industry—contributes to our debates. I could not help feeling that the hon. Gentleman spoke with a great knowledge of the subject and of that part of our country which he knows so well. I know we all hope that he will contribute often to our debates and give us the benefit of his knowledge about matters 246 affecting the country, particularly those concerning Scotland.
It was inevitable that this debate should become a pretty wide-ranging discussion in which hon. Members representing all parts of the country would wish to take part. After all, this Bill has been heralded as the Governments major legislative Measure for the present Session, and it is accepted as such. It was given great prominence during the election, and it deals with a matter of acute importance to a great many people in a great many areas. In Scotland, it is a matter, one might almost say, of economic life or death to a considerable number of people. Therefore, it is a Bill which, by its very nature, attracts a wide interest.
I propose to say a few words not so much about the Bill as about what lies behind it. That is not to suggest that the Bill is not important in itself. It is. It has great possibilities, provided that the administration is efficient, imaginative and has sufficient drive. It has possibilities of great advantage to our country generally and particularly to Scotland. But it is to the wider horizons that I wish to draw attention for a few minutes tonight, horizons beyond the Bill itself.
I do not take a pessimistic view of Scotland's future. I remember in Committee upstairs the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) telling us solemnly that Scotland was "on the way out". I thought that a shocking statement for someone who was speaking for the official Opposition to make. I do not take that pessimistic view. I know very well that there are areas and industries which are in difficulties. We have to face those facts. In the coal industry, for instance, we have to foresee, I believe, a steady contraction over the next decade, with consequent repercussions which will be felt throughout many parts of the country.
The hon. Member for Scotstoun referred to ship building. It may well be that in the next decade we shall see some revival of shipbuilding, but for the next few years we have, I am afraid, to anticipate continued trouble and anxiety. A number of other older industries in the country are in the same position, but, at the same time—and 247 this we simply must bear in mind—there are signs and proof of real development in other parts of the Scottish economy.
I was very pleased to hear the hon. Member for Scotstoun refer to chemicals. The chemical industry in Scotland is of somewhat recent growth. Grangemouth is a product of the last few years, and yet the truth is that that same chemical industry may have within it the seeds of the biggest development that our country, certainly Scotland, may enjoy in the years ahead.
The other day I was given some extraordinary figures about chemicals. I understand that last year 10,000 new chemical compounds were added to the existing list of 500,000 chemical compounds. I am advised that the chemical industry manufactures about 5,000 of those 500,000 compounds, that is to say, about 1 per cent. of them. Therefore, there are apparently great possibilities of development in that direction. While I have immense hopes for Ravenscraig and the strip mill, I believe that there are possibilities of as great, if not of even more dramatic, developments in the chemical industry.
All this leads directly to the importance of research. I do not think I exaggerate when I say that I believe that in the course of the next five or ten years the application of science may revolutionise the industrial life of Scotland. But we really must face up to this possibility, grasp it and use it.
Let me tell the House what I have discovered. I understand that the Scottish Council, which does admirable work, has a committee called the Research Committee, which is composed of very distinguished men. But that Committee has not met for two years. Is it right that in this age, when there are so many chances of development, we in Scotland—never mind the rest of the country, should not have an active body composed of the best men available, devoting their minds to this matter of research?
If that body were actively engaged, met regularly and, perhaps, invited prominent scientists and industrialists from all over the world to meet it, then it might well be that new ideas and possibilities would emerge from such discussions which could be brought to the 248 attention of my right hon. Friend and the Scottish Office so that they could take the appropriate action—planning and the provision of Government aid of one kind or another. This is some thing in which Government and industrial research and Government action should be closely bound together. My view, and I think I know my Scotland pretty well, is that there is no provision for this and that there should be. There are other industries in the same category as chemicals which show signs—
§ Sir J. Henderson-Stewart
I am talking about information about research. I am taking the matter broadly. I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows what I am talking about.
It seems to me, therefore, that in the past I have not been so far off the rails in urging my right hon. Friend to institute a real inquiry into the Scottish economy. I was very glad to hear from him today that the Scottish Council, no doubt in co-operation with my right hon. Friend, is undertaking some kind of investigation. I have no doubt from what I have read and heard that such an inquiry will be worth while, but I would invite my right hon. Friend with great earnestness to consider whether the people involved in this inquiry or the Government are looking far enough ahead.
It is not enough to find out what is wrong with Scotland today. We know pretty well what is wrong with it, and it is certainly not enough just to inquire into the past. I feel that what we need is a peering into the future. It may be, as I have said, that great possibilities lie ahead, but they must be grasped and grasped in time. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) talked about the plastics industry, but it is not new; England grasped that industry and is using it now. We were late in Scotland. Is it not possible that there may be altogether new ideas which we could discover by real searching which could be applied to Scotland at the beginning, not as something we merely tag on to later, but something which we introduce as a start for ourselves?
Our trouble is that our old industries are no longer predominant. They are 249 losing force. If we are to maintain full employment in our country and if we are to make it great again in accordance with our traditions, we have simply got to have new industries. But that is not going to be done by setting up one or two new factories. It has to be done, I feel, by importing massive new enterprises, massive in size and content.
It is to that kind of inquiry that I hope my right hon. Friend will address his mind, looking far into the future, five or ten years ahead. The D.S.I.R. told us the other day that it is entering upon a five-year research plan. The National Coal Board has a five-year plan. I.C.I. have a long-term plan, and Unilever. Why cannot the Government—and Scotland—have such a plan? I do not, of course, want a plan in detail. I am talking of a plan in the strategic sense so that our industries in Scotland, our industrialists and bankers, may be guided, as it were, through this expert inquiry along the lines which lead to progress and development. That is my short plea.
§ Sir J. Henderson-Stewart
It is always easy to say, "You did not do this before". I do not deny that perhaps I have failed in the past. I am pleading with the House now, despite my faults and the faults of others, to face the new situation, the five- or ten-year period which lies ahead. I am saying that it should be done, not by tinkering with conditions now as they are, but by taking a broad view now and looking far ahead.
If we are to restore Scotland to its place, I implore my right hon. Friend even now to address his mind to that larger problem.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
As I rise to speak for the first time in this House, may I crave the indulgence of hon. Members? I thank God I have some Celtic blood coursing in my veins, speaking as I do in the midst of Scottish Members of Parliament. I regret it is 250 not Scottish, but I believe that I am entitled to wear a mud-coloured saffron kilt through my descent from some Irish great-aunt. I hope that that will be sufficient for the moment to assuage hon. Members who are, perhaps, distressed that the House is returning for a moment to discuss affairs in England.
It seems that grave local unemployment can be found not only in industrial areas but in those rural areas where there is an almost total lack of industrial jobs and where one is faced with an almost annual, consistent drift away from the towns and villages. Such is the experience in the part of the world from which I come. We in the West hope that the Government will use this Bill not merely as a weapon to fight existing unemployment but to create opportunities for the future to prevent those who would otherwise be forced to do so from leaving an area because there were no jobs. This second object, this second theme, in my submission, is just as vitally important as the first. Obviously, the experience one has had is drawn mostly from one's constituency, which is within a D.A.T.A.C. area.
I would also wish to refer to the conclusions which were reached by the economist's survey report in the Economist which, I think for the first time, went into the question of rural employment, instigated by the former and, as we who sit on this bench hope, the future Member for Torrington. Many of the conclusions to be found in that report are of value as applied to the rural areas in this country.
Let me, first of all, turn to the question of towns. Like many other hon. Members, I have a seaside town in my constituency, Ilfracombe, which in the summer enjoys great prosperity but in the winter is faced with unemployment which descends upon it like a disease and is cured only when summer comes around once again. According to the figures issued on 12th October, the unemployment is now 9.3 per cent., and if past figures are any guide, by the time we are in midwinter they will rise to between 10 per cent. and 11 per cent., an extremely high percentage indeed.
I must confess that we view the repeal and the burial of the 1958 Act with no sorrow, because experience there has been 251 that it has been utterly ineffective in bringing industries into this area. Applications have taken up to twelve months to consider before they were rejected, and very nearly 200 firms have been approached without success.
One may ask rhetorically whether the factors which have deterred industries from coming to such areas will be removed by the present Bill. Obviously, the first thing is communications. When one visits factories, particularly in the West Country in one's own area, from every one there is a complaint about communications. Almost everyone will make a complaint not merely about transport charges for freight but the inefficiency of deliveries by the railways. I had a case the other day of an engineering firm, a very small firm, which had retooled and had ordered brass rods, desperately needed to continue this operation, which were put on the train at Waterloo for Barnstaple and ended up at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. We need not only more efficiency on the railways for factories but for what is our second largest industry, namely, the holiday industry. There we find that while the airways are carrying people abroad and reducing their fares the railways, which bring the holidaymakers and tourists to the holiday areas in this country, are putting up their fares. In consequence there will be very great pressure on this industry in the months to come.
The roads are extremely bad, and, when one considers that 4 million people a year come to the West Country for holidays, they are nothing less than a national disgrace. I would urge upon the Minister that what are needed as much as factories, if not more than factories, are better communications—the provision of better roads. In Section 3 (2) of the 1945 Act there was provision for basic services which were defined asthe provision of facilities for transport (whether by road, rail, water or air) or of power, lighting or heating, and housing, health and other services on which the development of the area in question, and in particular of industrial undertakings therein, depends.In the present Bill basic services are not defined with such particularity. Clause 7 merely refers to them in general terms, and Clause 9 says that these services cannot be carried out without the permission of the Board of Trade, save for 252 those areas which contain land which a corporation is leasing from the Board of Trade. I hope the Minister will tell us whether it is the intention of the Government, when the Bill becomes an Act, to bring in better services and better communications to open up those areas, because we shall be faced not merely with this difficulty of getting industries—which difficulty, I am afraid, will continue despite the Bill, which we welcome because it goes some way to producing factories—but with continued difficulty in attracting industries to those areas until we improve our communications. We shall continue to have rural depopulation from an agricultural community which at the moment is going on at the rate of 3 per cent. per annum.
The survey in the Economist shows that since 1851 there has been constant depopulation in many West Country areas, particularly my own. Perhaps the most outstanding case is the constituency of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), where the population today is lower than it was in 1800. It is not merely mechanisation which is causing this. We are losing our secondary industries by reason of centralisation. The thatcher, the wheelwright and the man employed in the brick works are all engaged in local industries which used to support the agricultural community. But, above all, village after village, particularly in the West, is without water, electricity, drainage and bus services. It cannot be wondered at that people are leaving the land.
The real argument for opening up these areas is sociological. At the moment, in the West Country, the cream of our youth is leaving the area because there is no employment. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of those who leave the North Devon Technical College have to leave the area because there is no employment. Half the grammar school children in Ilfracombe have to leave the area, again because there is no employment. Of those unemployed in my constituency, 9 per cent. are under the age of 18. This trend will continue with the school bulge in 1962.
Unless and until we can get factories to these areas and, more important still, communications to the factories from the villages to allow people to get to places of work, unemployment will continue. The effect will be that our countryside 253 will be drained. The drift into the large centres of population will continue, and the industrial centres, owing to their congestion and ugliness, are probably the most hideous contribution any civilised nation has made to the world. This process is going on week in and week out.
I say to the President of the Board of Trade that the need is not so much to subsidise individuals and individual firms as to open up areas which at present are cut off because of inadequate communications. It will only be by a vigorous and imaginative use of the weapons given to the right hon. Gentleman under the Bill that we shall stop the drain from the countryside and the drift to the towns and, for the first time, remove from these areas the threat of persistent and annual unemployment.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
I have a fellow feeling for the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) in that, although I am not exactly making my maiden speech, I am making my maiden speech as a Scottish Member in what has become, and looks like continuing as, a Scottish debate. I was about to say that I felt some sympathy for him, but I think that sympathy in this case would be quite misplaced.
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member very warmly on his well-reasoned and eloquent contribution to the debate. If I speak with half the eloquence or, indeed, half the assurance of the hon. Member I shall feel very relieved. I think that the hon. Gentleman recently had something to say to the Press about the sartorial appearance of hon. Members in the House. Once again, I am relieved to think that I put on a clean shirt this morning, and I am even more relieved to notice that he is wearing a tie of which the design is, I think, identical to that which I am wearing.
Yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne)—who I hope, will continue with us for many Parliaments—mentioned the late Lord Oxford and Asquith. I feel that it is safe to say that, if we wait and see, we can count on many very useful contributions from the hon. Member for Devon, North on any subject to which he turns his agile legal brain.
254 It is with some diffidence, as a semi-maiden speaker, that I plunge into the rough and tumble which was initiated by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser). Speaking as a newcomer to these debates, I feel that he was rather less than fair to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and also less than fair to the Bill, especially in view of the fact that, as far as I know, hon. Members opposite do not propose to divide against it. I thought that the hon. Member for Hamilton made a very violent attack on a Bill of which, as far as I know, hon. Members opposite approve.[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We shall have the opportunity of seeing to what extent hon. Members opposite approve or disapprove during the Committee stage. Meanwhile, the fact remains that they are not to divide against it, although it may be that my information in incorrect.
To my mind, the question to anyone who views the Bill dispassionately is not whether it is a good piece of machinery, but what use will be made of it. It seems to me that that is much more important. That is what we ought to be discussing, and that was why I was surprised to hear the violent invective against the Bill from the hon. Member for Hamilton.
§ Mr. Manuel
The hon. Gentleman represents me in this House and, therefore, I hope that he will allow me to make sure that he does not misrepresent me. The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) was making was that he was not sure that the powers envisaged in the Bill would be carried out, because the selfsame powers were in the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, but have not been operated, especially in my constituency, during the period of office of the present or the last Government.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I do not think that that was the implication, but it was kind of my constituent and neighbour to come to the aid of his hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, although I do not think he really needs it. The hon. Member can manage quite well. This Measure is a streamlined, up-to-date and extended version of existing powers, and I shall come to some of the extensions in a moment, but if the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) will read 255 HANSARD he will see that the hon. Member for Hamilton was rather scathing about the Bill as such.
I said that the question that we should be debating is what use will be made of the Bill. Like other hon. Members, I am concerned to urge the Government to ensure that Scotland gets her full share of help under the Bill—in fact, perhaps, a little more than her full share. I think that we in Scotland could do with a bit more than our fair share. I say that in general. I should like to say, in particular, that I hope that my constituency and, indeed, the constituency of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire—because the two are linked at one point—get their fair share, too.
I agree with the hon. Member for Hamilton, as I am sure do all hon. Members, that the employment situation in Scotland at present is disquieting, but it was also disquieting when he was Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. I am sorry that he shakes his head at that comment, because it shows that he does not face realities, and I suggest that he did not face them then.
Nobody can say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State does not face up to the problem. I was glad to hear him say in the Scottish Grand Committee, in the last Parliament, that no Government could rest content as long as the unemployment rate in Scotland ran at double the rate for Great Britain. That was also the situation under the Labour Government. Some startling figures have been quoted today by hon. Members opposite, but the fact remains that the average unemployment figures over the years during which the Labour Government were in power were higher than the average since then, 63,000 against 61,000.
§ Sir F. Maclean
There was not much in it, but that is my information.
In any event, the employment situation is disquieting. Unemployment is far too high and there are a number of black spots, including several in my constituency, where unemployment is far higher than the average for the rest of Scotland. In one or two places in my constituency it is as much as 8 per cent.
256 The emigration figures are also extremely disquieting. I was speaking during the week-end to the town clerk of Rothesay, and he told me that the unemployment figure for Rothesay at the moment is 233, which is roughly 8 per cent., and that during the last three years 2,300 people have left Rothesay. These people were probably among the best elements in the town. In addition to the unemployment figures, therefore, we must bear in mind the emigration figures.
Nor do I think that the future is reassuring unless urgent action is taken to put the position right. That was why I was very glad that in opening the debate yesterday the President of the Board of Trade particularly emphasised the powers which the Bill gives him to deal with areas in which there is a threat of imminent unemployment. The Scottish Council has said that it will be necessary to find 120,000 new jobs over the next ten years. At present, new jobs are being found at the rate of 4,000 a year instead of 12,000 a year, which is nothing like enough. That is why I hope, and feel sure, that my right hon. Friend will use these powers to deal with unemployment and the threat of unemployment in Scotland.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire) rose—
§ Sir F. Maclean
I gave way to the hon. Member in the last debate on foreign affairs, and he welcomed me very kindly to Ayrshire, and even welcomed me as a fellow traveller. That was good, coming from him.
In this debate, however, we are probably travelling in different directions. If we have not been travelling in different directions so far, we shall certainly do so from now onwards, because my next comment is that in my view a very great deal has already been done both by the Government and by private enterprise to remedy the situation.
Mention has been made of the new graving dock at Greenock, the steel strip mill at Ravenscraig and the development of the chemical industry at Grangemouth. Indeed, there is no doubt that if we view it as a whole there are many extremely encouraging features of the economic situation in Scotland and 257 one of the most encouraging is the fact that in an enterprise such as the steel strip mill at Ravenscraig lies the possibility of generating other industries. It is my firm hope that we shall see this in the future and, in particular, in the next five years.
But we must remember that the Government's powers are limited. Except in special cases they can direct neither capital nor labour. The attitude of the Labour Party on this subject is less than clear. Some hon. Members opposite yesterday expressed one view, whereas today the hon. Member for Hamilton expressed another view. That is a part of the great debate, of the agonising reappraisal, which is taking place as to whether hon. Members opposite are to be proper Socialists who believe in a Socialist State, or are to join the Liberal Party as some kind of Radicals.
For our part, we say that in a free society, except in exceptional cases, the Government can direct neither capital nor labour. What they have to do is to offer inducements and deterrents. A great deal, therefore, depends on private enterprise, and I believe that there is a great deal to be done in Scotland by private enterprise. Much has been done and much more needs to be done. It is extremely encouraging that more than half the new factories on the industrial estates are Scottish-owned, but I feel that there is still room for much more Scottish investment in Scottish industry.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I am coming to that in a moment. I find that my two new neighbours are extremely helpful to me.
In my view, Scotland is a country where, more than in most cases, a well-directed injection of capital can produce results out of all proportion to the original outlay. One question to which I hope we shall have an answer before we have concluded our debates on the Bill is: how much money do the Government propose to spend under the powers which the Bill gives them? The money spent so far has not been very considerable. During the last few years it has been about £3 million to £4 million a year. I hope that more will be spent in future. The Government have not far 258 to look to find many extremely worthy causes for help, and causes which will give a very big return in the long run.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) mentioned Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, which I, too, have already mentioned. We already have a successful tweed mill there. It does very well, but it does not employ many men. During the summer I saw a tweed mill on the East Coast that employs a far larger number of men, and I see no reason why that kind of enterprise should not be extended on the Isle of Bute.
Obviously, one essential for any industry in the Highlands is that it should not be crippled by transport costs. The mill on the East Coast uses raw material—cashmere and vicuna—costing about £1,000 a bale, and the finished product sells at £50 a yard. Needless to say, it is sold mostly in America. That mill employs several hundred workers and is bringing in a great many dollars to the Exchequer. I do not see why something like that should not be brought to Bute. It is the sort of enterprise which might well enjoy the help envisaged by this Measure.
Another possibility would be to do in Bute what has been done in Blackpool—bring in a Civil Service centre. Such a step would also bring prosperity and employment to a great many people on the island.
I might now mention certain towns in an area where the constituency of the hon. Member opposite adjoins mine—Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenson. The unemployment there is local. Other parts of the constituency enjoy very considerable prosperity, but in those places there is a high level of unemployment. That is due partly to changes in the I.C.I., factory, which does not employ as many now as it did, and partly to the present state of the shipping industry.
There, again, there is a case for bringing new industry to that neighbourhood. There is a good site at Ardrossan which, I believe, is at present leased to the Air Ministry, but would make a very good site for new industry. I was looking at it this weekend. It has good road, rail and sea communications, and also, right at hand, a skilled and adaptable labour force.
259 I would be the first to agree that a great many other places in Scotland also have good claims, and that is why I would ask the Government to be generous in their administration of the Bill. I ask them, also, not to apply too rigid standards, or to take too short a view. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart) that what is needed for Scotland is a long-term policy. I am convinced that, economically, Scotland has great possibilities. We have enormous assets which, if properly exploited, can bring great prosperity to the country as a whole. What is needed is a policy to help us not only to overcome our present difficulties and those of the immediate future, but to break through to a new era of prosperity.
Personally, I thought that comment on the Bill was very well summed up recently by a writer in the Glasgow Herald, who said:The real test of the new dispensation will be the extent to which Ministers concentrate their efforts on the relatively limited number of places in which a once-for-all injection of capital has a real chance of fostering permanent economic improvement.I am sure, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that of such places there is a very large proportion in Scotland.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. David Ginsburg (Dewsbury)
It is with a deep feeling of humility that I address the House for the first time—and I also crave the indulgence of Scottish hon. Members. This is particularly the case, as my recent vocation as a backroom boy at the Labour Party's headquarters does not make me less of a new boy here. Furthermore, I can lay few claims to expertise in the subject under discussion.
However, while a new Member may rightly wish, as I would have done, to delay his maiden speech until he has more fully assimilated the atmosphere and traditions of the House, the issues raised in this Bill are, for reasons that I shall set out, of such vital concern to my constituents that I would be doing less than my duty by them if I did not now seek to intervene on their behalf. I do so, fortified by the belief that what I have to say will be received with tolerance on both sides.
260 I wish to begin with some rather more general observations to highlight the importance of this topic. It has been frequently stressed in this debate that we live in an era of rapid technological change, an inevitable consequence of which is that while new industries grow up, other traditional industries decline. What has not, perhaps, been sufficiently appreciated is the speed of that change at present.
Only recently I read one reliable estimate that in the United States at present half the labour force is employed on producing and selling goods that did not even exist fifty years ago, and that if this trend were to continue, then, twenty-five years hence, half the labour force would again be employed on producing and selling products that do not exist today. I think that we would be extremely unwise to imagine that the rate of change in this country is likely to be very much slower than that in the United States. Nor, I submit, would we be wise to underestimate the significance of this development for the older industrial areas.
It is not simply a question, important as that is, of providing jobs for people who are displaced. Rather is it, at root, a question of ensuring that communities whose historical roots in this country are deep are not drained of their life blood. This is not a matter of sentiment but of hard common sense, for if as a nation we are too bent on dealing with the problem of structural economic change by measures to speed up the mobility of labour, we shall pay for it by having to maintain, at one and the same time, two sets of social capital—one set in the old industrial areas and another in the new ones.
Another general comment that I should like to make on the importance of this legislation may be rather more controversial. This is a particularly vital Bill for full employment given the economic policy which this Government are pursuing. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will not mind my drawing their attention to an interesting remark made by the Prime Minister during the debate on the Address. He then said:General measures of expansion—and I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with this"—261 he was there referring to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—monetary or otherwise, to try to cure this situation … would certainly risk the return of inflation. I think, therefore, that everyone agrees that special and particular measures are needed to deal with this problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1959; Vol. 612, c. 73.]While the desirability of more general measures of expansion may be a legitimate area of disagreement and argument between us, there can be no denying that once we accept these premises of the Government's policy—and, after all, they are the Government for the time being—that this is an important Bill—it is absolutely vital that it should succeed.
I turn now to the interest which my constituents, the electors in the County Borough of Dewsbury, the Urban District of Mirfield, and the Borough of Ossett have in this legislation. My constituency is in the centre of the industrial conurbation of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Just over one-third of the working population is employed in the textile industry, principally the woollen industry. Also, sited as we are at the western end of the Yorkshire coal field, we have a sizeable mining population. I confess right away that I have little first-hand knowledge of these two great industries. Nor am I a Yorkshireman, but this will not detract from my aim to be a zealous advocate on behalf of my constituents, as was my predecessor, Mr. William Paling, who was loved and respected in this House and whom we all wish well in his retirement.
It is my duty to say to the President of the Board of Trade that my constituents—as I believe to be the case in all the coal and wool textile areas of the West Riding generally—are deeply worried. We are worried—and the House will have heard this anxiety reflected by other hon. Members with first-hand experience of the mining industry—about the present situation in the Yorkshire coal field. We cannot continue piling up coal stocks for ever, and if allowance is made for unsold stocks of coal at the pitheads in Yorkshire we have at the present time an effective unemployment rate of 4.5 per cent.
We are worried, and shall continue to be worried at least as long as no alternative employment is provided, about decreasing job opportunities for young 262 people in the coal fields at a time when the number of young people coming on to the labour market in this area is likely to increase by as much as 25 per cent. over the next seven years. We are worried also, not unnaturally, about a particularly ominous sentence on page 19 of the "Revised Plan for Coal" which says:In consequence of the decline in production in the West of the coalfield and the build-up in the East, there will be a movement of labour from the West to the East.Those words may read very well in print, but let me illustrate them concretely for a moment.
As I am sure the Minister of Fuel and Power knows, the Beeston seam at Old Roundwood Colliery, Ossett, is having to be closed for some considerable time for essential repairs. I do not quarrel with that. Alternative work for most of the men displaced is not available in the neighbouring collieries and about 220 miners will have to travel some 50 or 60 miles daily to the South Yorkshire area and back for work. Clearly travel of this magnitude cannot constitute the basis of a long-term solution of our wider problems.
There is also concern in the woollen industry. There have been two recessions in wool, in 1952 and in 1958. The latter was particularly harsh on the heavy woollen district of which Dewsbury is the centre. In 1958 there were serious mill closures in the town. Although the position in the wool textile industry has improved in recent months, there is still concern for the future. While the woollen industry is skilful, ingenious and adaptable—and as we all know in this House "There is no substitute for wool"—there is anxiety on many counts. There is anxiety about the American quota, if it is not lifted, and about the growth of wool textile industries in countries to whom we export and in other countries with whom we compete.
Let us face it. There is bound to be concern, too, about the consequence of higher productivity within the industry. Although we want to see this, it could imply a significantly smaller labour force within the industry. This is particularly serious because the standard of living of the woollen worker today depends overwhelmingly on overtime. Indeed, the male woollen worker, whose weekly earnings are about £1 a week less than the national 263 average, is having to work an average of 10 hours a week more than he worked before the war. One can see what will happen if there are substantial improvements in productivity. We therefore feel that we have wide grounds for concern about the position in the woollen industry.
I know it may be said that the harsher unemployment and short time of last winter are clearing away. I concede that that is so, but two factors of significance remain. Firstly, there has been little marked change recently in the number of vacancies in the area. Secondly—and this I consider to be far more important—effectively no new industries have been introduced into Dewsbury since the war. We therefore hope that the present improvement in the woollen industry will not be an excuse for complacency by the Government, but, rather, will provide a fruitful breathing space for broadening the basis of employment in the area, for at the moment we have far too many eggs in one basket for anyone's peace of mind.
I am aware that, partly in consequence of representations that were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) and by my predecessor, Mr. William Paling, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade had already agreed in principle to permit the granting in suitable cases of industrial development certificates in the heavy woollen district. Even so, this long fought for concession did not affect his priorities for what he termed "steerable industry". The position, therefore, is that though the Minister is at last willing not to stop suitable industry coming in, he is still unwilling actively to assist it to come in. We hope, therefore, that the Bill will at long last enable the Government to tackle the industrial problem of the West Riding and the threat of depopulation so far as young people are concerned—I assure the House that this is a very real problem—and, specifically, to assist Dewsbury and the heavy woollen district.
Despite certain misgivings which I share with other hon. Members on this side of the House, there is one aspect of the Bill that I welcome. I welcome the fact that the Bill gives the Government power to deal with imminent as well as actual unemployment. The 264 definition of "imminent" in this connection is crucial. May I from my own experience as a research worker impress on the Minister of Labour the importance of having the most up-to-date statistics available? It is most unsatisfactory that, because of the time taken to produce these figures, we have to use the employment figures for our localities as at June, 1958, nearly eighteen months ago. Equally, greater accounting of hidden unemployment, especially among women workers who have left work and part-time women workers, is needed.
I believe that the success of the Bill will depend upon creating in the Board of Trade or some other Government Department an intelligence and a planning unit with a staff strong enough to deploy the powers of the Bill as a flexible instrument of policy. For let there be no doubt that local unemployment is one of the great challenges facing Western democracy today. We in this House will be judged by millions of our fellow-citizens according to the will, the resources and the instruments that we deploy in meeting this challenge.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil McLean (Inverness)
It is a pleasure for me to follow the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Ginsburg) and to congratulate him upon his maiden speech. I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that there was no need for him to be hesitant about his lack of expertise, because in his learned, careful and thoughtful speech, delivered in a fluent and lucid manner, he displayed great expertise and skill, and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will look forward with interest to his future contributions to our discussions, which will be most valuable.
I want to make a few remarks about the general aspect of the Bill, and also to suggest how it may affect the Highlands of Scotland. Most hon. Members will agree with its aims, which are to cure or prevent pockets of persistent unemployment in certain districts. There may be some disagreement about the methods which we are hoping to use, but if there were profound disagreement among hon. Members opposite they would divide against the Bill. The fact that they are not to do so shows that they are in agreement with its general 265 aims, and with the methods proposed in it.
Hon. Members opposite, especially the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), concentrated their criticism upon the allegation that the powers which already exist are sufficient to deal with the present problem and, secondly, that the powers in the Bill are not strong enough to enable the Government to carry out the necessary action. Although they deny it, what they would like to do is to direct industry to specific areas of unemployment. And whether they seek to direct industry to go to a place—which would be impossible—or close every other area so that the industry is forced to go there, makes very little difference in the end. It really means that hon. Members opposite would like to direct industry to certain areas. This would mean that labour would also have to be directed.
§ Mr. McLean
I do not believe that direction is a practical or an efficient method.
Nevertheless, I find myself very much in agreement with hon. Members opposite when they say that the important thing about the Bill is the way in which it will be operated. Hon. Members on both sides will judge the Measure not so much upon its terms, but upon the spirit and determination with which they are put into practice. But other criticisms have been levelled against the Bill. It has been said that it interferes too much with the free play of economic forces and that, as a result, it may place a burden upon our economy and hinder our competitiveness in world trade. I do not believe that that is so, although I agree that the situation will have to be watched very carefully, because any burdens placed upon our economy which made us less competitive would be disastrous.
The Government will also have to be very careful that they do not allow a position to arise in which an official is able to subsidise Mr. X to compete against Mr. Y, who is trying to do exactly the same thing. I do not say that this will happen, but there is a grave danger that public funds will be used merely to subsidise one industrialist to compete with another in 266 neighbouring areas. I do not believe that the problem of local unemployment can be tackled in any other way than on the general lines proposed in the Bill. I do not think that certain methods of tax relief which have been proposed would meet the needs of the situation.
What the Government have tried to do is to reach a practical balance between the free play of economic forces and the need for Government intervention so as to encourage an industry to go to an area where it is needed, for a social purpose. I feel that the Bill will be able to bring industries to the necessitous areas, especially if it is implemented in a vigorous and imaginative way.
I am particularly pleased with Clauses 6 and 7. I also hope that the Government will use the powers contained in the Bill to help to move workers to other areas where more work is available. There are many places from which it is possible to move workers without undue suffering, provided it is done with a great deal of help from the Government, so that the transfer takes place with the minimum of discomfort. These powers in the Bill will go a long way towards solving for us a problem which faces not only this country, but also Europe and, indeed, the rest of the world.
I now turn to those aspects of the Bill which may affect Scotland, and particularly the Highlands. Hon. Members opposite, especially the hon. Member for Hamilton, spoke of how little had been done since the Conservative Government came into power, and how much the Labour Party did when it was in office. But the hon. Gentleman omitted to mention that after seven years of Labour Government the economy of the country was left in a terrible state, and that if their disastrous policy had continued Scotland would have suffered as much as, if not more than, any other part of Britain. Nevertheless, it must be admitted, as it is by hon. Members on both sides, that there is a serious unbalance in Scotland's economy, and, also, that the rate of unemployment there is much higher than it is in England. This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs.
Over the years the new steel strip mill and other similar projects will play an immense part in bringing Scotland's 267 economy more into balance. The steel will come direct from the strip mill, on the spot, and many other projects will become economic possibilities. These facts, together with the Bill, if operated with vigour, make it possible for Scotland to look forward to the future with confidence.
If a Bill like this had been introduced some years ago we would already have had many benefits in the Highlands, and I am sure that the Bill will be greatly welcomed in the North of Scotland. Although unemployment there is not as high as is claimed, there is, nevertheless, a great deal of concealed unemployment, in that many young people leave the Highlands to seek jobs elsewhere and their names never appear among the number of unemployed. I do not say that it is wrong for them to leave the Highlands to seek jobs in other parts of Britain or in the Commonwealth, because that process has played a tremendous part in building up the economy of our own country and the Commonwealth, and it is right that these people should continue to go out if they wish.
Adventurous spirits are always to be found in our part of the country and they will continue to leave to seek their fortunes elsewhere. But I feel that we do need more jobs in the Highlands for our young people.
§ Mr. McLean
Everyone knows that the Highlander is an adventurous person. He went out to seek his fortune by the sword and in business. The part played by landlords in turning people out, although there were bad cases, represents but a small part of the tremendous rôle that the Highlanders have played in our history.
I am surprised that during the debate we have not heard more from hon. Members opposite about the importance of the development corporation which they proposed for the Highlands. During the election campaign great play was made by Labour candidates in the North of Scotland with the idea of a development corporation, which was designed to solve every problem in that area. I am surprised that hon. Members opposite have not mentioned that yet.
§ Mr. McLean
I am reminding hon. Gentlemen opposite so that perhaps they will mention it. The hon. Member for Hamilton made no mention of it in his speech. I do not know whether he will now be more ably supported by some of his more vociferous hon. Friends on the back benches.
Although I regret that the Bill, or a similar Measure, was not introduced before to give help to the Highlands, a great deal has, in fact, been done during the last six or seven years. A considerable amount of industry has come to Inverness. I hope that when the provisions in the Bill are enacted, there will be more by way of loans and grants for industry, and that the application for such assistance may be made in a more simple way than was the case with D.A.T.A.C. assistance. Under the D.A.T.A.C. scheme there were considerable delays in obtaining approval for assistance and the forms of application were complicated. Many people who desired to apply did not do so because the form of application was so difficult and strict.
In implementing the provisions of this Measure as applied to the Highlands I hope that priority will be given to providing assistance for those industries which are aimed at developing the natural resources of the area, such as farming, forestry, fishing and, of course, the tourist industry. I wish to call the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to two projects which particularly concern my constituency.
The chipboard factory in Inverness, now under construction, will provide a good deal of employment and I consider that it is a sound economic proposition. I hope that assistance for that project will be provided under the terms of the Bill and that help will also be given in the establishment of a large-scale pulp mill which may be erected in Inverness-shire. I trust that existing industries in these outlying parts will also be helped to expand. People who have risked their capital, and have gained their experience the hard way by starting a small industry in the outlying parts of the Highlands, should be given most favourable consideration.
269 In deciding which factories are to be supported I hope that the Secretary of State will take advantage of local advice about conditions in that part of the country which may be offered by people who have worked in the area. In the Island of Skye a diatomite factory, which employed about 40 people, has been closed for various reasons. I hope that assistance will be given to any proposition advanced by the company which ran the factory, or by any company which may be associated with it, and that every effort will be made to help and encourage the development of plans which may lead to the opening up or extension of the factory.
The Bill will do a great deal for the Highlands, but I would remind my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that, in the long run, many existing ventures will find difficulty in carrying on unless there are some concessions or special rates for freight. The main problems confronting industries in the Highlands relate to their distance from the markets and the high freights. The Government have an extensive programme for the improvement of road communications and harbours. I am sure it would be worth while for the Government to consider very carefully the question of special freights for certain commodities the production of which they wish to encourage in the Highlands and other outlying parts of the country.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite doubt whether the Bill will do much for Scotland, but I disagree with them in that, although I agree when they say that the crux of the matter lies in the successful administration of the provisions contained in this Measure, and the amount of vigour, determination and imagination which will be devoted to carrying them out. The hon. Member for Hamilton, who poured cold water on the Bill during the greater part of his speech, said, finally, that he hoped it would prove workable so far as Scotland was concerned. I believe that with the imagination and drive which will be shown in the administration of this Measure it will prove of great benefit to Scotland.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
In making this, my first, contribution to the debates in this House, for 270 which I must ask the indulgence of hon. Members, may I say, at the outset, that I intend it to be very brief. I shall not talk about Scotland but, in the short time at my disposal, will try to spotlight the difficulties faced by my constituents in West Gloucestershire at present, and with which they are likely to be faced during the next few years.
I welcome the Bill. I would welcome any Measure likely to give hope for those people in areas where there is unemployment or it is likely to develop in the immediate future. Like so many of my hon. Friends, I speak from personal experience when I talk about unemployment. To me, unemployment is not to be measured or assessed in terms of X numbers of people. It is to be measured in terms of human suffering and degradation, and if there is anything which may be done to eliminate unemployment from our midst, I think that we ought to do it.
In my view, the Bill contains all the provisions necessary to ensure that wherever unemployment exists or develops immediate remedial action can be taken. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. N. McLean) when he said that the provisions of the Bill are of secondary importance. The degree of vigour and determination shown by the Government will be of greater importance. I plead with them very sincerely that, whatever they do in the course of this Parliament, they shall do their utmost, irrespective of all the arguments we have, to arrest the decline in some of our older industrial areas and ensure that every person in society has the first natural right to maintain himself and his family.
I was very pleased to hear the definition of the word "imminent" which was given by the President of the Board of Trade in opening the debate yesterday. I can assure him that if a list is to be drawn up of the areas which will need help on the basis of his definition, he can put the Forest of Dean on that list immediately, because at present we have an unemployment figure of 3.2 per cent., which is higher than the national average.
We have just received a serious blow. We have had the "Revised Plan for Coal" and I wish to quote from page 21, which says this about the Forest of Dean:This small isolated coalfield has a restricted market and most of the readily accessible coal 271 has been worked. It is unlikely that more than one colliery will be in existence by 1965 and even this is dependent on demand. In any event, the greater part of the existing labour force will be unable to continue in mining employment in the Forest.What does that mean to us? It means this. It is an open secret that by June, 1960, there will be the closure of two pits, the Albert and Edward Pit and the Cannop Pit. In addition to our present 3.2 per cent., we shall have another 500 men unemployed. Of them, 350 will be more than 50 years of age and 100 of them will be over 60 years of age.
Perhaps if there is a defect in this Bill it is the fact that no provision whatever is made for Government expenditure on training for new skills those people declared redundant by virtue of old industries working out. I ask the Government to have a further look at this issue of training centres being set up in areas in which unemployment arises.
I have been a trade union official for a number of years. I know that many employers are very reluctant to expand in new areas, because it is essential—and I have no quarrel with it—that, so long as we have a private sector of the economy, employers will expand and indulge in business on the basis of the profit they make. If they have to spend too great a degree of capital in training people, they are reluctant to go into these areas. I ask the Government to do what they can in trying to spend some money in these areas on training. Unless they do that on the basis of large groups in the mining areas, not only will there be no jobs available for those over 50 or 60, but a great proportion of those declared redundant in those areas will never work again.
In 1965 the rest of the pits will close and we shall then have 2,300 unemployed. That does not take account of the normal natural growth of the labour force. We must also bear in mind that the bulge year for school leavers will be 1961. Hon. Members opposite may well realise why I welcome the provisions of the Bill and ask them to do what they can to ensure that they solve this problem of unemployment. Unless some thing is done the community of the Forest of Dean will surely die.
272 I wish to make a brief reference to the issue of mobility of labour. I know that it is very easy to say, as the noble Lord the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) said yesterday, that labour should go to areas where the work is, but, beyond a given point, mobility of labour is merely a nice-sounding phrase. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) pointed out that if we try to push people away from one area into areas where work is available we waste the physical institutions of that community—the shops, schools, services, houses—and send people into areas where there is an inadequacy of the physical institutions of social life. Already, 700 men are travelling daily from the Forest of Dean to Gloucester and elsewhere for work. Some of them, in fact, have to travel 28 miles. That is a costly business. It means that a large slice of the wage packet has to be spent from day to day in getting to and from work; and we know how costly transport is at present.
We often talk today about a 40-hour week. If people have to travel long distances both in the morning and in the evening that makes an extension of the working day. I do not think it fair that whenever we think in terms of sacrifice the sacrifices have all to come from one side. Again, in my area there are often periods in the winter when villages are snowed up and it is physically impossible to use transport for long distances. In those circumstances when, for instance, a man is living in St. Briavels, one of our difficult areas, and he has to go to Gloucester to work, he has to get up much earlier in the morning because he has longer to walk before he can get to his transport. I believe that we have to get clearly in our minds that it is our task to take work to the areas that require it, and not to expect people to go to areas where work exists.
Some hon. Members today have been asking what our attitude is to the direction of industry. I do not know about this big rethinking that is going on within our party. I know that I am a Socialist, and I also know that it is physically impossible to tell private industry where it can set up its factories, because, in the final analysis, private industry will determine whether it will 273 set up a factory or not. There is only a subtle difference between telling industry where it cannot set up and telling it where it must set up.
If there is any objection to the idea that it is wrong, on the basis of the freedom of the individual, to use development certificates to ensure that industrialists set up in the right areas, let me put this point for the consideration of right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
I believe that society must be run with the minimum of coercion. I do not believe that any man has a right to direct another man, unless it can be justifiable in the sense that he may be doing something that impinges upon the freedom of the rest of society. I believe in freedom; I do not believe in control or in direction. There is as much control or direction in forcing the removal of a large section of our communities by economic compulsion as there is in writing a ticket telling them to go somewhere. In my view, it is in the interests of society to direct, if need be, 20 men who comprise a board of directors, rather than 500 men who are directed by economic compulsion, because that meets the issue of the minimum degree of coercion for the defence of society.
Finally, let me say that it has been somewhat of an ordeal for me to speak this evening. I want sincerely to thank the House, particularly hon. Members on the other side, for listening to me with such patience. I would ask that the Government should show a real determination in applying the provisions of the Bill to ensure that hope comes to those who need hope most at the present time.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Sir Alexander Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
It has often happened before that I have had the opportunity of congratulating a maiden speaker, but I do not think that I have ever before had such an easy task as I have now. I think that the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) has done three things which always please the House. He has spoken on a subject which he knows very well, he has said a lot of interesting things in a short time, and he has impressed us all with his sincerity. He told us that it had been something of an ordeal to do so, but that was not very apparent to those 274 of us who listened to him. I have no doubt at all that we shall often hear the hon. Gentleman in the future, and I am sure that the whole House would wish me to express our hope that we do.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), in the closing sentence of his speech yesterday, told us of the test by which he would judge this Bill. My test is, most naturally, rather different. It is whether the Bill can materially reduce those pockets of unemployment without our becoming less competitive in world markets. Apart from war, I think that serious unemployment is perhaps almost the worst thing that can happen in a country. It would, of course, be easy in the short run for the Government to increase employment. By the use of their fiscal and monetary policies and other measures, they could easily increase spending so that prices rose, and then it would be profitable to make those things for which there is no demand today. But that, of course, would mean inflation.
Up till now, when we have had inflation in this country other countries have had it too, but if we had inflation here and not elsewhere in the world the effect on our balance of payments would be catastrophic, and I think the risk of mass unemployment would become acute.
The merit of the Bill, as I see it, is that it aims at reducing these pockets of unemployment without having recourse to inflationary measures. We all know that there are places where there are reservoirs of industrial skill and experience that are not being used today, and I know well that, in the land in which I was born, these places are more numerous than elsewhere. This means a waste of natural resources and great hardship to those concerned, and it also means, as the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) said in her maiden speech last week, that it affects whole communities.
The old idea, if it ever existed at all, that a pool of unemployment was necessary in order to keep down prices is completely discredited. I do not believe that any given percentage of unemployment is necessary in order to keep prices stable. I can imagine unemployment being at well over 2 per cent. and yet having conditions of inflation if that 275 unemployment were concentrated in a few areas. I can also imagine getting unemployment throughout the country down to a little over 1 per cent. without any inflation, provided that it was evenly spread throughout the country. Therefore, I think that the economic, human and social advantages of spreading work are so great that it must be right to incur the initial cost.
It will cost quite a lot to offset the increased costs of production in certain areas, due to geographical and other reasons. I believe we can afford that, but there are three things which I am convinced we cannot afford. One is for the Government, either by the use of the stick or the carrot, or both, to induce industries to set up in places where the costs of production are not only abnormal but are likely to continue to be abnormal, because then we should be unable to sell in world markets. Secondly, I am sure that, whatever the employment advantages, we cannot afford to freeze production in obsolete directions. In the long run, it is no good trying to enable industries to produce goods which people no longer want to buy or at prices which they are unwilling to pay. It must be the Government's policy all the time to facilitate drastic changes in industry to fit in with modern demand. Thirdly, we cannot afford to over-extend the economy. We tried that in 1955, with unfortunate results. We tried in it 1951, with almost disastrous results.
In what I thought was an admirable speech yesterday, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said that if the butter, in the form of assistance, were spread too far, there would not be enough for the places which needed it most. I thought I heard the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) comment, "Why not much more butter?" It sounds very attractive to run the economy of the country at full speed and then, when danger appears, to apply the brakes. The difficulty is that these brakes do not work very well. The use of them is apt to end in a skid or a crash.
§ Sir A. Spearman
I do not think that even the most admirable steering will prevent a crash if the brakes will not work. These brakes have recently been examined by an expert body and the report on them was not very favourable.
We have always to keep in mind that our object is not just full employment but stable prices, a rising standard of living and full employment—not one, but all three simultaneously. I am convinced that we cannot achieve that unless we are competitive in world markets and unless there is competition here to keep prices down. If we weaken our competitive position in the world, I have no doubt at all that we shall not increase but reduce employment in this country.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Elfed Davies (Rhondda, East)
At this moment, I feel very much like a bowler sending down his first ball in a Test Match for England. He is not too hopeful that he will get a quick wicket and he will be very glad indeed if he gets a maiden over. As this is the first occasion on which I have had the honour to address the House, I must say that I am very conscious of the traditional tolerance and kindness shown by hon. Members on both sides to those who stand timidly, as I do now, before them. I therefore sincerely ask for that tolerance to be accorded to me tonight.
I am equally mindful of the tradition that an hon. Member's first speech should be non-controversial. That I will endeavour to be in the short statement which I shall make on this occasion. I do not promise, however, that on future occasions it will always be the case.
The Rhondda Valley, part of which I have the honour to represent in the House as the Rhondda, East constituency, has a long and honoured record in the industrial life of this great country. The name Rhondda has been for many years synonymous with coal. Whatever one was mentioned the other automatically came to mind. Indeed, coal has been the lifeblood of this valley. It is therefore fitting that the constituency of Rhondda should have been continuously represented in the House for the past 86 years by a miner.
277 It is indeed a great honour for me to be given the opportunity of following the footsteps of such great men as William Abraham, more commonly and affectionately known, perhaps especially in mining circles, as Mabon; Colonel D. Watts-Morgan; and my immediate predecessor, Mr. W. H. Mainwaring, who represented the constituency for over 26 years in the House. While I cannot hope to attain the greatness of some of these men, it is my fervent hope and desire that I may follow their example of service to the people, both here in the House and among them in their daily walks of life.
Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. I. Davies), who, in his excellent maiden speech last week, extolled the beauties and grandeur of the Gower Peninsula, I cannot claim that nowadays there is much beauty left in Rhondda. The House should be reminded, however, that it was once a very beautiful valley of which it was said that a squirrel could travel from one end to the other from tree-top to tree-top without once coming to ground. What should always be remembered is that this transformation from the beauty of old to the smoke and grime of today is the price which has been paid by its people for its industrialisation.
Nevertheless, down through the years we have produced many great men and women in Rhondda. If I mention one this evening, it is not because I have any particular regard for his previous calling, but because he lived for a long time quite close to where I live now and is at the moment seriously ill in a Cardiff hospital. I refer to probably the greatest flyweight champion the world has ever seen—Jimmy Wilde. I am sure that the House will join with me in wishing him a speedy and complete recovery.
We are extremely proud in Rhondda, too, of our cultural and musical organisations. One of these, the Pendyrus Male Choir, is famous all over the world. I remind hon. Members that in early December the choir is due to take part in the production of the Messiah at Festival Hall in London. I am anxious that this proud record shall continue, but I believe that it can continue only with full employment for my people.
I should like for a few moments to say something about the Bill which we have been debating yesterday and today and 278 which can be of great importance and value to so many of my constituents.
The Bill repeals the Distribution of Industry Acts, 1945 to 1958. It will be generally conceded that much good was derived from those Acts by distressed and Development Areas. Much more good could have and should have been done under those Acts during the past few years for Rhondda and similar areas. Whatever may be the improvements which the Government have extolled during their presentation of the Bill to the House, its passage will be in vain unless there is a strong, determined and purposeful effort by the Government to implement its provisions. There is an urgent need to divert industries away from the already over-industrialised areas, such as London and the Midlands, to the localities which are desperately in need of new industries, thus giving new hope for the future to the inhabitants of those areas.
I ask the Government whether any consideration has been given to one problem which is very serious in my constituency, namely, the provision of suitable work for men rendered redundant as a result of the closure of collieries. I know that this has been mentioned many times during the debate, but one section has not been mentioned. I refer to those who suffer from industrial disease and accident. This is a problem which is now arising and will soon become more intense in my constituency. The colliery where I worked until recently, Tylorstown No. 9 Colliery, is in the process of being gradually closed down and the men transferred to the Maerdy Colliery, which is being modernised and reorganised under the plan of the National Coal Board.
Whilst most of the men will be absorbed, there is the problem of employment for surface workers and the partially disabled men who are now doing the lighter work in the collieries that are to close and will be unable to find such employment in the other colliery. To find jobs of a similar character is very difficult when three pits are closed and one only is being worked. Can the Minister do something to help this type of case by the provision of a suitable light factory or factories in the Rhondda which could absorb those men once more into full employment?
279 Another problem causing grave concern is that one factory in Rhondda and another situated a few miles outside, on the Treforest Trading Estate, have notified people locally of the intention to close. The factory at Treforest employs 250 to 300 people, many of whom live in my constituency and are disabled ex-miners, such as I have previously described. This firm, Johnsen and Jorgensen, has always been given a good name by its employees. It was referred to yesterday by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower).
I echo the hon. Member's hope and desire that everything possible will be done by the Ministers responsible to persuade this company to reverse its decision and remain in South Wales where it is so badly needed. There is a statement in the South Wales Press today that three other factories on the Treforest Trading Estate contemplate closing and moving to their former areas. Until the full facts are known, I will say no more, other than to ask that the Minister make inquiries about the position.
Under the Distribution of Industry Acts, 1945 to 1958, which the Bill will repeal, amenity value was considered a valid justifiable reason enabling local authorities to clear sites. I am pleased to note that that situation will continue under Clause 5. I hope that the Minister will give generous consideration to applications made under the Clause by local authorities such as Rhondda, where there are many derelict and unsightly legacies from years of coal mining.
One experience that I have witnessed in my comparatively short life I never want to see again. That is the complete degradation of a fine and proud people as the result of mass unemployment. That was the Rhondda I knew between 1928 and 1939. I remind the House that it took a war to change it. Rhondda will never again meekly submit to these conditions.
There are in Rhondda, too, surfaces of collieries which are now abandoned. There are too many unsightly old rubbish pits. There is an urgent need for something to be done to make these into suitable sites for building purposes or playgrounds for children or playing fields for 280 young adults, all of which are badly needed in Rhondda.
If this work is tackled with purpose and vigour, it will serve two needs. First, it will help to solve the unemployment problem. Secondly, it will assist in restoring the beauty of a valley in which there live a people who have themselves given, as have their parents, so much towards making this great country a great nation.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wolrige-Gordon (Aberdeenshire, East)
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfed Davies) on his absolutely remarkable maiden speech. He has gifts of oratory and sincerity which will be of great service to the House. I was sorry to hear that the Rhondda Valley of old had disappeared, because the hon. Gentleman described it so entrancingly. The excellence and the constructive nature of his subsequent speech assured me that his gifts will be very suitably and ably directed towards the service of his constituency, and I feel sure that I speak for all hon. Members when I say how very much we look forward to his contributions, many of them, in the near future.
I ask the hon. Gentleman's pardon for not pursuing him down the Rhondda Valley, because I wish to say a word or two about Scotland, about which we have already heard a certain amount in the debate. First, depopulation, unemployment and over-concentration of industry have been the bane of Scotland for too long. I very much welcome the initiative of the Government in producing the right kind of Bill to remedy the problem as their first Measure in the new Parliament.
It is undeniable that the situation was bad and, whatever the figures may say, we lost seats in Scotland. At last, however, we have on the planning board some great projects with which to reinforce the foundations of the Scottish economy. I think of the steel strip mill and the graving dock at Greenock as two examples in particular, and wish to congratulate and thank those responsible for them. It means that we have a very great opportunity, and we must be prepared to take full advantage of it. We must be able to use, in Scotland, all the 281 steel that will eventually be produced by that steel strip mill.
We are an enterprising people in the North. My own constituency is famous for its farming and its fishing, and for the revolutionary steps it is taking in the marketing of its own produce. Local industries there have also done extremely well in combating the natural disadvantages of distance and communications—as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State himself allowed—and in many cases they have succeeded in expanding and consolidating their position. The fact remains that, however hard we try, however hard Scotland tries, we cannot do it all by ourselves.
It has been said a number of times in this debate that we have already had the necessary legislation. What we need now, most definitely, is the spirit to implement that legislation fully, and we need that spirit from all Government Departments. Even in the short time that I have represented Aberdeenshire, East I have found cases of separate Government Departments pursuing individual and personal policies of their own that have directly and needlessly contradicted the aim of the Government as a whole to improve the employment position in the area. I hope that we shall have no more of that. I hope, too, that there will be an easier spirit of co-operation and that the relationship between Government and potential industrialists will be better than, perhaps, it has been in the past.
When, last year, I began seriously to study the details of the Government's policy, my first reaction was that it was too complicated. The Secretary of State, I must say, reminded me of Brünnhilde encircled by flames, and I felt that it was very difficult for ordinary people to get to him. Anything, therefore, that cuts that circle of red tape is helpful.
I very much welcome those provisions in the Bill that make one professional management corporation answerable for the whole of Scotland. That will make it easier to do the job. I also welcome those provisions that make it apparent that the Government are prepared to spend much more money than has been spent in the past, even for small and comparatively insignificant communities.
282 Any investments made on those lines will take a long time to fructify, but I am sure that public money could not be better spent and that the eventual return is assured. After all, what do we want in Scotland? No longer are we trying to achieve those intense concentrations of industry that developed in the past round Glasgow and Edinburgh. We seek, perhaps, smaller clusters of factories in outlying parts; in places where they can recreate themselves and produce for each other the ancillary products and markets that can make their operations both economic and profitable.
Transport, at the moment—particularly in my own constituency—is what I would call a psychological difficulty. It is certainly not prohibitive in Aberdeenshire. The national railways do all they can to run their services in a business-like fashion and give, as far as possible, favourable terms for local industrialists to operate economically. Consequently, any firm, particularly any firm that puts craftsmanship into a small unbulky product, can operate extremely successfully even in constituencies as far off as mine. Their success is proof of that fact.
We need something more than that, however. In those areas we need an initial investment on a large scale to produce a greatly increased extension of local industry so as to make self-supporting economic units of such places as Fraserburgh and Peterhead.
Local authorities can do much to help. I have been very much impressed by the spirit of urgency with which they attempt to grapple with the problem as a whole, but I think that, to some extent, their attempts have been frustrated by what I would describe as lack of specification. I would like to see each area concerned defined much more exactly.
For example, the Buckie-Peterhead area stretches for many miles and includes many boroughs where there is relatively no unemployment at all. On the other hand, unemployment in Fraserburgh is 7.1 per cent., and at Peterhead 7.4 per cent. We know exactly the numbers involved in those places, and the size and type of industry likely to be most efficacious. These are special problems in those boroughs, and they would lose nothing by having special solutions applied to them. A more exact definition of the area involved 283 would make it much easier for the Government and the local authorities, working together, to achieve the desired result.
The local authorities do a great service by headlining the problem and suggesting the cure. Twice, to my knowledge, since I have been the Member for Aberdeenshire, East, Fraserburgh has lost the opportunity of getting firms—including a particularly outstanding local firm—to set up in the town simply because the local authority could not immediately offer premises to the firms.
The local authority felt strongly about this, and I sympathise with it. If local authorities are prepared to spend their own money on building shadow factories so as not to lose those opportunities—and, after all, those opportunities do not come too often, and certainly not in Aberdeenshire—I would urge the Government to do what they can to support them with financial aid.
It is the principle of our Government that we seek to aid those men on the spot who are trying to do the job. I have just mentioned what has happened, or what has failed to happen, in one case. Assistance of this sort need not involve much money. If the Government can give a favourable impetus to local initiative in places like Peterhead and Fraserburgh—and this, I am sure, goes also for the rest of Scotland—we will find those places themselves solving their own local unemployment problems.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)
I have waited a long time to speak, Mr. Speaker, but I am very grateful to you for selecting me, even though at such a late hour. As this is my maiden speech, I ask the House to grant me its forbearance. I am supposed to be non-controversial, and obliging, and I expect reciprocity on this occasion. If, inadvertently, I break that rule I trust that hon. Members will forgive me.
I should be very remiss if, on this occasion, I did not say a few words about my predecessor. I refer to the Right Hon. Wilfred Paling, formerly Member of Parliament for Dearne Valley. He came into this House in 1922 and remained here until just recently, except for a period in 1931–33, when, unfortunately, an hon. Member opposite defeated 284 him at Doncaster. Wilfred Paling is a man of very high integrity. He is sincere and has a great honesty of purpose. He also has a great ability. This House has rung many times with his voice on behalf of the working people. In fact, he, along with the Right Hon. Tom Williams and Tom Smith, were considered to be "the terrible three".
Mr. Wilfred Paling has recently had an attack of pneumonia, from which, I am glad to say, he is recovering. On behalf of every right hon. and hon. Member of the House, I think that I can say to him the next time I see him that we wish him and his good lady good health and a long retirement.
During the last two days we have been discussing the Local Employment Bill. When we read new Bills, it is often hard to discover why they were necessary. The Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, and the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act, 1958, give sufficient powers to the Government to carry out and maintain a policy of full employment. In view of the fact that the Bill has been introduced, and the Government have assured us that they will maintain full employment, we must accept what they say in good faith. I hope that that good faith will be with us in twelve months' or two years' time and that they do not treat the Bill, when it becomes an Act, as they have treated other Acts in the past.
There are three things that I should like to say about the Bill. The first concerns Part I, where the wordsa high rate of unemployment exists or is imminentappear. What do the Government mean by "a high rate of unemployment"? Do they mean 7, 8 or 9 per cent., or 30 or 40 per cent., which we experienced during the depression period, or do they mean what the Board of Trade says is a reasonable percentage of 4 per cent.? The Government should tell the House what they mean by a "high rate of unemployment".
Secondly, what do the Government mean by the word "locality"? Do they mean that where there are high pockets of unemployment the term "locality" covers a wide expansive area, thus ensuring that the average rate of unemployment is low, or do they mean that 285 they will consider each pocket of high unemployment on its own?
Thirdly, in Part III the Government promise "to be responsible for the difference of 85 per cent. between the cost of the erection of a building and its market value after completion. In a Development Area, one appreciates that there would be a difference between those two values and this provision probably would encourage private enterprise to come along and erect a factory or plant. In an area where there is only a little unemployment, 400 or 500 unemployed could be absorbed if two or three factories were erected. If there is a stable economy, about which we have heard so much from the Government, the difference between the cost of erection and the market value may be insignificant. If it were so insignificant that it would not attract private industrialists, what would the Government do to encourage the erection of factories?
In my division we have 3 to 4 per cent. unemployment. Sixty-five per cent. of the industry is coal mining, but the employment of mine workers has been restricted, with the result that at present 540 men are out of work. In addition, 81 boys, 348 women and 46 girls in the Dearne Valley, which is supposed to be an area of practically full employment, are unemployed. What perturbs me particularly is that we have boys and girls who are unemployed. In fact, 21 boys and 5 girls who are still unemployed left school in July. If we waste our youth like that, what is the good of our educational programme? What is the good of attempting to train technologists and scientists if we allow our youths to be unemployed?
In my neighbouring constituency—and I mention this with the permission of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Kelley)—72 school-leavers have been unemployed since the end of July. The position, therefore, in that area is worse than the position in my own constituency.
The West Riding County Council administrative area has had no help from the Government under the Distribution of Industry Act or the 1958 Act. Personnel are going out of the West Riding County Council administrative area into the large towns and cities for employment. Girls are travelling by bus 286 from my own constituency at 5.15 in the morning to the Halifax and Bradford areas for employment and are returning late at night, between 7 and 8 o'clock. That is not a good thing.
We say, therefore, that light industries should be allowed to come to my division to make certain that there is employment for our female workers, for our aged and sick miners and for persons not physically fit to work in heavy industries. We hope that the Bill will help us to obtain the light industries which are needed in the Dearne Valley area. The contraction of the mining industry, unless it is planned contraction, can have a grievous effect on the economy. I would remind hon. Members opposite that 80 per cent. of the oil that comes into this country comes from a politically unstable area, and in the event of anything untoward happening in that area the economy would immediately be in a very parlous state.
I ask the Government to do a bit of rethinking about their present attitude towards the coal mining industry. Coal is our indigenous fuel, and we should make certain that it plays its full part in the fuel supplied to industry. If it is necessary that the coal mining industry is contracted, let us carry out the purposes of the Bill and ensure that employment is maintained in the mining areas before the pits are closed. Once a mine is closed it is too late to say that we will build a plant or factory there. It is essential to ensure that chaos, social upheaval and degradation do not occur in our small towns and villages.
It has been said by an hon. Member that there is nothing worse than unemployment, except war. To a fit and able man unemployment is degrading. A man feels that it besmirches his character. It upsets his soul and warps his opinions. It is the duty of any Government to ensure full employment wherever labour happens to be at any given time.
I may have been a little controversial. If so, I hope that hon. Members will forgive me. I will save any further comments, caustic or otherwise, for some future occasion. But I must impress upon the Government and upon hon. Members generally that we in the mining industry desire—I nearly used the word 287 "demand"—the Government to consider fully a national fuel policy. I regret that the Minister of Power is not in the House today. It is essential that coal should play its part if we are to make full use of our indigenous fuel.
I suggest that opencast mining should be stopped immediately. Compensation for loss of contracts, which would be the responsibility of the Coal Board, should be taken over by the Government. The situation could be eased by making certain that the personnel and machines at present used in opencast mining were transferred to building our roads, thus making certain that our roads were such that when factories were built the materials required in those factories could be delivered there. If the Government will consider that suggestion and will put it into effect, I am certain that we can build up our economy and maintain full employment.
I hope also that the Government will bear in mind the question of residual oil. The Secretary of State referred to finance in connection with the stocking of coal, oil dumping and opencast mining. We are waiting to see what the Government intend to do on each of those three points.
I am grateful to the House for having listened to me so patiently and I hope that hon. Members will take note of what I have said.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Rupert Speir (Hexham)
I am very glad that it falls to my happy lot to be the first to congratulate the hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) on the excellence of his maiden speech. The hon. Gentleman apologised for being controversial, but for my part I did not find anything in his speech with which I would wish to quarrel. I do not know whether I ought to sit on his side of the House or whether he ought to sit on these benches I entirely agree with him in his opposition to opencast mining.
I agree with him also in many of the other remarks which he made so ably. I was particularly glad, as I am sure were all other hon. Members, to hear him pay a tribute to Mr. Wilfred Paling, who had such a long and distinguished record in this House. We are all delighted to learn that Mr. Paling has recovered from his severe illness.
288 The hon. Member for Dearne Valley represents a mining area, an area which in my view stands to benefit very much from the provisions of this Bill. It was particularly appropriate, therefore that he should seek to intervene, even at this late hour, in the debate on this Bill. Naturally, with some 50 million tons of coal stocked above ground, the mining community are anxious about their future, but I believe that this Bill demonstrates that both the Government and the Country are determined to remember their debt to coal and to the coalmining community.
I am glad to welcome the hon. Member for Dearne Valley in taking part in our debates here and also to pay a tribute to him, and, through him, to the mining community of Great Britain. They have done a wonderful job for Britain for many centuries past, and I know that I speak for all Members when I say that we look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman intervening, controversially or otherwise, on many future occasions.
This Bill does almost exactly what I urged the Government to do during the last week of the last Parliament, but my remarks on that occasion received a rather frigid reception from the Government, particularly from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. Therefore, I am very glad that the Government have had second thoughts about the matter and have acted so quickly.
I take pride in the fact that my remarks seem to have been far more potent than those of the Prime Minister, because it has taken me only a few weeks to get the Government to act whereas it has taken the Prime Minister nearly twenty-five years. It was on 9th July, 1935, when the Prime Minister, speaking then as the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees, in a debate on distribution of industry, urged that new industry should be attracted to special areas by overcoming transport difficulties, by clearing industrial sites, and by the institution of "a forward economic planning policy." Anyone who has lived through those terrible days of mass unemployment in the 1920s and 1930s must be determined to do his utmost to prevent a repetition of those conditions. Anyone who saw those conditions ought to welcome this Bill.
289 As has been said already, both sides of the House now regard the maintenance of full employment as second only in importance to the maintenance of peace, It is obviously essential to enable the Board of Trade to look ahead and to take action in time before the rot has set in. Inevitably, however quickly any Government Department tries to act, there must be a long time-lag between the plans to produce new factories in the special areas and the actual working of those factories. Yet, today we know that in many areas of Britain industries, whether they be coalmining, cotton or other industries, are in danger. Therefore there is absolutely no time to be lost.
I realise full well that some people sincerely hold the view, although I think they are a dwindling number, that in order to maintain prosperity and full employment we ought to allow the free play of economic forces. That was a view which was held in the old days by the Liberals, the old laissez faire view, and I think that the advocates of such a policy today are few in number and certainly they have no place in the modern Conservative Party.
I am also one of those who think that in these small, overcrowded islands it is far better whenever possible to take the work to the workers rather than to uproot the workers, destroy local communities with their local ties, local loyalties and local associations. It seems madness that in this post-war period we have been spending £400 million on building up new satellite towns which have been competing with the old towns for the limited number of new industries. We do not want to see the depopulation of vast areas of Britain with all the young people having to drift away to other parts of the country. I realise that that is a view which may not be 100 per cent. economically sound; but who would suggest today that in a matter of that kind economics should rule the day and reign supreme. I believe that social considerations must definitely be taken into account.
On social, strategic or other considerations, I am one of those, along with many other hon. Members, who think that both London and Birmingham have been allowed to grow too large. Both 290 those cities, particularly in this post-war period, have been acting as a great sponge. They have been soaking up the new industries and leaving other areas dry. I am told that if three men go to a London employment exchange on a Monday morning, two of them can be found jobs straight away and the third can be found a job the following day. We know that since 1952 some 40 per cent. of new employment in the United Kingdom has gone to the south-east of England. In the national interest and in the interest of London itself, we ought to put a brake on the growth of industry and employment in these areas. It would help the still acute housing problem in London, and the traffic problem as well. I hope that the Government will act firmly in this regard.
In the matter of providing employment in areas which are now threatened with unemployment, it is essential to enable the Board of Trade to plan ahead, and that is what it cannot do under existing legislation. It cannot take into account the fact that if an industry is getting into difficulties there is bound to be unemployment in certain areas unless additional industry is attracted there soon. I realise that it is not a paying proposition for the mining community or for anyone else to take a Canute-like attitude and to oppose all change. Old industries are obviously on the way out and new industries will take their place. I think we are all prepared to accept that challenge.
It is completely untrue to suggest, as I am afraid some hon. Members opposite have done in the past two days, that the Conservative Party is opposed to planning. We are against the attitude that the "gentlemen in Whitehall know best", and we are also against any attempt by the Government to control every aspect of our lives. We do not want the Government to control everything, but it is absurd that at a time like this the Board of Trade should be precluded from looking ahead.
The Bill will, thank goodness, enable the Board of Trade to look ahead and, for that reason, we should give it every possible encouragement. It will provide those in the mining areas and in the cotton areas with both a new hope and a new deal.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Pentland (Chester-le-Street)
I have listened with interest to the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir), who comes from my part of the country, and whom I know as a Member who has very deep and sincere sympathies with the workers there, particularly with the miners in his constituency. I wish that I could be as optimistic as he is about the effectiveness of the proposals in the Bill. I only wish that I could agree with him.
I have listened to almost every speech that has been made in the debate during the last two days, including the admirable maiden speeches which have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and I have found that there is still considerable anxiety among hon. Members on both sides as to whether or not the Bill will be really effective in steering new industries and creating new industries in the areas where we have heavy unemployment.
The Bill will eventually repeal the Distribution of Industry Acts, and many of us who represent the Development Areas are extremely anxious to know if, as a result of the Bill, Government aid will prove to be more effective than the previous legislation in steering new industries into our areas. I do not think that it will, because the proposals in the Bill seem to me just as vague as anything we have had before. No doubt, as the hon. Member for Hexham has intimated, the proposals are reasonably specific upon the methods whereby the problem of local unemployment can be attacked, but can we reasonably expect that these proposals will have any long-term success? I do not think so. I do not believe that they will have any long-term success in County Durham, with which I am principally concerned. Therefore, in the short time for which I wish to detain the House, I shall draw particular attention to the serious situation in Durham today.
It will be well known to most hon. Members that over two-thirds of our working people in County Durham work in the traditional basic industries of coal, steel and shipbuilding. As the hon. Member for Hexham well knows, in these three industries we have seen a serious decline during the past few years. The decline still continues. Particularly 292 in coal and shipbuilding the situation is serious. Indeed, today, many thousands of workers engaged in these industries are very apprehensive indeed about the future.
We have a very high rate of unemployment. The decrease in unemployment which has taken place since the beginning of this year does not affect County Durham. In June this year, we had 10 persons unemployed for every one vacancy notified to the employment exchanges. We had 15 men unemployed for each suitable vacancy, compared with a ratio of three to one in the whole of Great Britain. Comparing the figures for June, 1958, with those for June, 1959, we had an increase of over 40 per cent. during those twelve months. As in many other parts of the country, of course, we have a serious problem in finding work for our youngsters. In this respect, we have three unemployed for every two vacancies notified to the employment exchanges.
Last Monday, in a Question to the Minister of Labour, I asked him for the unemployment figures, percentages, numbers of vacancies, and so forth. I had a Written Answer today. The numbers of unemployed between September, 1958, and September, 1959, have grown from 17,706 to 22,496. The percentage increase during those twelve months is 27.1. In his reply to me, the Minister of Labour said:This increase in unemployment at a time when the national figures have fallen causes me considerable concern."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1959; Vol. 613, c. 9–10.]The right hon. Gentleman is quite right to be concerned. So, also, are we.
I have always held the view that depressed areas never arise by accident. They arise as a result of the absence of a realistic approach to the economic problems prevailing and the absence of a plan by the Government of the day to overcome the problems which are well known in advance. The problems in Durham have been well known in advance.
In a county like ours, where communities have existed for a hundred years or more on the one staple industry, coal, the difficulties are acute. My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfred Davies), in a most admirable speech, explained the problems facing the 293 Rhondda Valley. Durham is in very much the same situation. We, too, have communities which have existed for over 100 years on the one staple industry, coal.
I have always held the view that when problems of this nature face such communities, there should always be a plan of some kind, but, to my knowledge, there has never been any plan which would solve the employment problem once the coal mining industry had failed to provide these communities with a means of livelihood. As has been said many times, the National Coal Board has its "Revised Plan for Coal", and we in Durham are affected by it. Pits are to close, some of them because their reserves are almost exhausted and some of them because of the lack of a national fuel policy at a time when the coal industry is facing a very difficult situation. Pits are now termed "uneconomic".
I put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade last Tuesday, asking himwhether his attention has been drawn to the high rate of unemployment existing in the County of Durham and to the fact that a number of coal mines have been scheduled for closure by the National Coal Board over the next few years; and what proposals he has in mind for bringing new industries into the county.In his Written reply, the right hon. Gentleman told me that he wasaware of the high rate of unemployment which existsand so forth, and he said:The Board will continue in its efforts to attract new industries to the county and, under the proposals in the local Employment Bill, will be able to take into consideration any imminent threat of high and persistent unemployment brought about by pit closures."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1959; Vol. 612, c. 42.]We have heard a lot about the "imminent threat" in this debate. It is all right as far as it goes, but, of course, the threat to the pits to which I am referring has been there for years. It has been known about for years. When it is known that a pit's coal reserves are running out, it should be a quite simple matter for the experts we have in the Coal Board or anywhere else to give the approximate date when it will die. Therefore, what the Government of the day, whichever Government it may be, should have is a plan ready to put forward in anticipation of a pit's death. 294 That is the real need, and the Government must definitely face it.
Can the Government, as a result of the Bill, put new life into the areas of which I am speaking? If we have no assurance on that, we may as well face the stark consequences, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said yesterday. We shall once again find that mining communities and villages are becoming derelict, with skilled miners thrown on the scrapheap. Whether they like it or not, the Government must face that. As my right hon. Friend said, local authorities in these areas have spent thousands of pounds on the provision of new houses, schools and social amenities, yet all this will be of no avail or, in effect, will be a serious financial loss to the country at large. That will be the situation if the problem is not tackled realistically, especially since we face such a setback in the coal industry.
I do not for a moment deny what has been done already in Durham to bring about a diversification of industry there. There is the trading estate, the extension of the chemical industry by I.C.I. and, as I well know, Durham County Council, through its planning committee, is doing everything within its power to attract new industries to the county. I am not suggesting that it is an easy problem to solve—far from it. What I do say, as many other hon. Members have said, is that there must be more rethinking by the Government if we are to stave off distress from many thousands of people in our areas.
Therefore, I shall put forward briefly some proposals which should be put into effect as a consequence of the Bill. In County Durham, we urgently require further extension of the engineering and chemical trades. I suggest seriously to the Government that they should look further into the question of coal as a source of chemicals. The President of the Board of Trade, who opened the debate yesterday, said that we have now to take into consideration the changing world industrial picture and that we must make the maximum use of these changes. I therefore urge the Government to make the maximum use of our indigenous fuel—coal.
Let us have more and more research into new outlets for coal. We could 295 have new by-product industries established in areas like Durham, where they would work and operate easily with the rest of the Durham coalfield. I say that that could be done. One hon. Member who spoke earlier today said that we should now take advantage of industrial research. If it were applied in this instance, new industries could be born in these coalfield areas.
It is not possible to say how many million tons of coal could be used for these new purposes. We do, however, know two things. The first is that the returns for chemicals produced from coal are highly lucrative. Secondly, we know that insufficient research is taking place into the exploration of new uses for coal. I say no more about this now, however, because we will be able to expand our views on this aspect of coal in our future debates on the industry.
The Government should undertake a programme of research with the object of finding new outlets for coal. As a result, new by-product industries could be established in many parts of the coalfields, in Scotland, South Wales and Durham, which would achieve at least a partial solution to many of the problems which face these communities when a pit closes down.
It is true that in Durham we face a serious position which causes us great concern. If other hon. Members from the county, from Tyneside or from Tees-side had been able to speak during the two days of this debate—and they have certainly attempted to do so—they might have expressed more forcibly than I have done the great concern that all of us in that part of the country feel.
In County Durham, our memories are very long. While we know that the position today is not as acute as it was in the 1930s, nevertheless the trend is dangerous. We have seen it all happening before. Many of our young people are beginning to realise what their fathers were talking about when they have tried to tell them of their experiences in the 'thirties.
I know that no one in this House wants any part of the country to return to the conditions of the 'thirties. I hope, therefore, that we in Durham will have an assurance that as a result of the Bill, the Government will use every possible 296 power to co-ordinate and plan to bring new industries to these areas in the county and in the whole of the area of the North-East Development Board. Without such an assurance, the Bill will do little to relieve the anxiety and apprehension now prevailing in Durham.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
I ask the indulgence of hon. Members on this occasion, the first time that I have had the honour of addressing the House. I should like to speak on the Local Employment Bill because I believe with all humility that my experience outside this House might be of some small benefit. The experience to which I refer is the fact that for the last twenty-five years I have been an executive director in a firm of civil engineering contractors. In that respect, I declare my interest.
One of our subsidiary companies has been developed to create factories for the building of concrete and building products and we have centred our efforts in those areas which have the highest unemployment. One of our factories is in Wales and two are in Scotland. I am delighted to see the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) in her place, because one of these factories, at Coltness, is in her constituency. I pay tribute to the cooperation that we have had in that area and I would like to advise industrialists in other heavy industries to follow our example. We are, in fact, starting a second factory nearby.
It is because I see the human benefits that have been achieved by factories of this sort in high unemployment areas, because I have been a building contractor who has had to meet architects and clients and hear their views and reasons for erecting factories, and because I have been chairman of this subsidiary company and have had to decide the location of factories, that I intervene in the debate today.
It has been said in this debate that we are in the second industrial revolution. From my point of view, I think that we are rather in the first managerial revolution—or that is how history will record us—because the higher executive has a much greater say in the location of industry today than ever before. For that reason, I beg the President of the 297 Board of Trade to bear these points in mind. Higher executives get the impression that they are being unduly directed. They may even feel that they should set up their factories abroad. Possibly, representing Folkestone and Hythe, the nearest constituency to the Continent, I may be considered prejudiced on that account.
In common with other hon. Members who represent seaside constituencies, I welcome the fact that the Bill has provision to deal with seasonal unemployment. Although we have a good deal more sunshine in Folkestone than in Scotland—and we have a good deal more sunshine in our unemployment figures—we suffer from serious unemployment in the winter.
Many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will probably have had some of their military training at the Hythe School of Infantry. Unfortunately, from our constituency point of view, there are rumours that this school is to be closed. We have other military installations. While we rejoice that the international situation allows reduction in military forces, we appreciate it will mean the dosing of those installations and that that will have a bearing on our unemployment figures, particularly during the winter. I would, therefore, plead with the President of the Board of Trade to bear this point in mind when he is considering the issue of industrial development certificates.
I plead for a broadminded view to be taken of the issue of industrial development certificates for small factories, because there is reason for small factories throughout the length and breadth of the country. The reason may be geographical. It may be the fact that a factory is wanted by sub-contractors of a main factory. It may be the type of factory for seasonal—for winter—employment of staff in a coastal resort. We would very much welcome that.
I would also say that if we are to shut down new industrial development, it is like putting a tourniquet on the industrial artery of a district. Our first lessons in first-aid have taught us that it is very good to put on a tourniquet, but if it is kept on too long it will cause disease in the healthy limb; and this tourniquet could cause harm to healthy industry which exists in some of the areas today. 298 For that reason I ask that a broadminded view be taken.
The best benefit which would be caused by the Bill would be the rapid erection of factories. I was taken round this Palace the other day and was told a story which I had not heard since I was very young. It was when I was shown the statue of Sir Charles Barry, the architect of this building. I was told that this building took three years longer to erect than was anticipated because the architect would not talk to the clients. The clients had to write to the architect. That may seem most extraordinary, but with conditions today as they are I am sorry to say that the lack of communications between clients, architects, contractors and local authorities is holding up developments.
Those hon. Gentlemen who have read the report of the Ministry of Works to the Royal Institute of British Architects will have read that the average time it takes today to design and start the erection of a building is 20 months. It is quite recently that we used to complete a building in 20 months. If we did not complete a building in 20 months we thought that we had done a bad job. It is the number of regulations caused by town and country planning and the like which causes these delays.
One suggestion I would make to the President of the Board of Trade and the Government to get this thing going quickly is that it would be a good idea if one Government Department could co-ordinate the whole lot of other Departments and be what we in the building industry call a "slasher", the man who can press for early completion. That would very much help the proceedings under the Bill.
As it is very late in the debate I will make only one other point. I would plead one other thing which, I think, would improve the Bill, and which would improve speeding up construction. When a factory owner is about to start a new factory he wants to build the factory because he sees some sort of outlet for his products and is keen to get on with his work, and if he is told that it will take 20 months—nay, three years—to complete this factory, even the most enthusiastic factory owner gets cold feet. He is worried whether his market will still exist. That is why I 299 plead for every possible endeavour to be made to speed the administration under the Bill.
For the building owner who is about to build a factory which he wants to own himself this Bill provides two main imponderables on arriving at his grant. The first is the estimated cost of the building. The second is the value of the building when it is erected. It is quite simple, or, at any rate, reasonably simple, for a builder, with his architect, to arrive at what is the estimated cost of the building. What he has not got the data to do is to decide what is the final value of that building when it is completed. It is on that that his 85 per cent., grant is given. I suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that the district valuer is the man who has got this information and that the district valuer should be asked to give a table of values in each area. It would be quite simple by that method to have a formula which would convert rental into capital value.
The advantage of that would be twofold. It would give a very quick and easy guide to the prospective building owner. It would also have an effect which, I feel sure, would appeal to some of the areas of grossly high unemployment, because surely those areas would mean a lower value on completion. Therefore, the building owner would immediately see the advantages of going to areas of high unemployment, because those are the areas where he would get the greatest grant. It is an unusual proceeding, it is a novel proceeding, but I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will give that his consideration.
I support the Bill and I ask that it be given very liberal interpretation.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
This is the first time that it has fallen to my lot to follow an hon. Member who has just made his maiden speech, and it gives me extra pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) because, as he has told the House, there is in my own constituency one of the industries of his firm. It is a very good thing that we have it there, in an area that has been very badly hit by the closing of other industries. I keep very closely 300 in contact with it, and I understand that labour relations in that factory are very good indeed. I am sure that all hon. Members on both sides of the House will admire the fluency with which the hon. Member made his points. They were of the greatest importance, and I am sure that many of them will have to be seriously considered by the President of the Board of Trade. I congratulate the hon. Member most sincerely and hope that we may often be able to listen to other points that he may have to make.
I wish I could say that I was as pleased with the speeches that I heard from the Front Bench opposite. When one read the responsible newspapers this morning it was interesting to find that every one of them remarked on the lack of enthusiasm for the Bill shown by the President of the Board of Trade yesterday. The speech made by the Secretary of State for Scotland today left me in despair. There was no vision in it, no hope in it, no bold imaginative plan such as we must have if Scotland is to overcome the many problems that are facing it.
Like other hon. Members on this side of the House, I criticise the provisions of the Bill on the grounds that they are inadequate. My main fear is that the Government will not administer even those provisions with any sense of urgency. Indeed, I have very little faith in the Government, a Government which failed miserably, at least as far as Scotland is concerned, to make all the use they could have made of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945.
I stress this lack of faith because of the experience I have had in my own constituency. The Secretary of State for Scotland makes many speeches in the House on industry and employment in Scotland. In these speeches he usually takes us on a tour of Scotland to show how well the Government are doing. In his tour today he mentioned two places where there is a high rate of unemployment, but where certain development is taking place. He did not mention North Lanarkshire, and if one were to go through all the speeches in which the right hon. Gentleman has taken us on a tour of Scotland one would find that in every instance Lanarkshire had been missed out. Of course, there is a very good reason for that. In his speeches 301 the Secretary of State tries to paint the brightest picture he can of Scotland. If he touched on Lanarkshire, and particularly North Lanarkshire, it would be a very bleak picture indeed.
I have listened with the greatest interest to the maiden speeches that have been made from this side of the House today. Most of them were made by hon. Members from mining areas, and, as I listened to them I was reminded of the many speeches that I have made in this House since 1952. On every possible occasion since then I have stressed the serious problems that are facing my people in an area where the only industry, coal mining, is fast disappearing. There has been unemployment in my constituency for a considerable time. We have always faced the possibility of imminent greater unemployment, and time and time again I have asked the Government to use in this development area—because in North Lanarkshire we have not needed to wait for the Bill that is before us today—the powers that they had under the Distribution of Industry Act, but time and again they have refused to do so.
In 1952 I brought a deputation from the Lanarkshire County Council to London. The deputation met Ministers from the Ministry of Labour, the Scottish Office and the Board of Trade. That was seven years ago and we are still waiting for some action by the Government. Seven years ago we were saying that we had great fears for the future of Lanarkshire.
On the last Friday in June of this year I took a deputation to meet the Secretary of State for Scotland. It was a most representative and responsible deputation. I felt that the Secretary of State had been greatly impressed with that deputation.
§ Mr. Maclay indicated assent.
§ Miss Herbison
The right hon. Gentleman nods his assent, but I am afraid that he is so weak that when he gets into the Cabinet, no matter how impressed he is with a case, he fails to make that case strong enough to influence the other members of the Cabinet.
On 28th July I put down a Question asking the Secretary of State if he had 302 any statement to make as the result of meeting this deputation. His reply was:… I am giving very careful consideration to the position at Shotts. If I am able to say more during the Recess, I shall write to her."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1959; Vol. 609, c. 300.]It is evident that the Secretary of State had nothing to say during the Recess, because I am still waiting to receive a letter from him.
Various Presidents of the Board of Trade have been quite feckless and ineffective when faced with the serious human problem that exists in North Lanarkshire and also in Durham, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland) has said. To the many Questions that I have put to various Presidents of the Board of Trade I have always had the same type of Answer—an Answer which seems to have been learned parrot-wise, just as a child learns something. It has always been that the Government will continue to try to encourage industries to go to that area. But every time the Government have stopped short of doing the things that would have brought industry to the area.
What we want is results. We want jobs; we want an assured future for one of the finest communities in Scotland. Anyone who knows this community knows that it has about the best community spirit anywhere in Scotland. The latest S.T.U.C. magazine says of the miners who are becoming redundant:Miners are not lacking in skill and initiative, and willingness to turn to other occupations, but these are non-existent in Scotland at the present time.During the General Election, in the village of Shotts, there was a huge Tory poster about two minutes' walk from my home which bore the words, "Life is Better under the Unionists." Under that Tory poster every day when I passed I saw men sitting on their hunkers. The Secretary of State may know that position. These men were unemployed, and some of them were no longer able to work in the pits, but had they been in the Midlands they would have been working every day in the factories. Others were younger men who could not find a job anywhere. When they rose and looked at the poster, what cynicism and bitterness it must have bred in their souls.
303 My opponent in the election, perhaps not knowing just what he was up against in the way of Tory philosophy, mentioned the Bill in his election address. He said:We will immediately bring in a major new Bill to enable quick and effective action to be taken wherever unemployment crops up. This will ensure that North Lanark gets the help it so badly needs.What faith he had—much more than I have, for the reasons I have already given—in the present Government. The only hope for an area like North Lanarkshire and that area described in the excellent maiden speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) last week, is the building of advance factories which will attract industry. The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe might not have had a firm in my constituency if there had not been a wartime factory which became vacant. Such situations have provided great incentives in attracting industry.
Another thing which would help would be a much stricter use of industrial development certificates. At this late stage in the debate I will not weary the House with all the statistics which I could produce to show how weak-kneed the Government have been over the years in the use of the industrial development certificate procedure. But it is not sufficient for this Government to say that they are trying to encourage private industry to come to areas where there is a great measure of unemployment when, at the same time, they are showing in other directions that their efforts are sadly lacking in relation to Scotland.
Take the question of research, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser.) In Scotland we have less than 3 per cent. of the research and development workers. The Government are responsible for much of the research work in Britain, and if they wish to show the people of Scotland that they have a real desire to tackle our problems, they should see to it that one of the first things to be done is to ensure that we get at least our fair share of Government sponsored research projects.
There are other ways in which the Government could show they are in earnest. In Scotland we have not our proper share of defence establishments or of workers in ordnance factories. Indeed, 304 when the Government have had the chance to keep such work in Scotland they have decided to take it to England. The Government could show to private industrialists that they believed in the future of Scotland if they used the powers which they have, and I ask, both with regard to research and employment provided by Government agencies, that they see that Scotland gets a fair share.
I wish now to refer to that part of my constituency which is a coal mining area. In the years of Tory Government between 1952 and 1958 there was a reduction in the insured population of that area of 1,350 workers, which represents a reduction of 15.2 per cent. Even with that reduction we have today an unemployment rate of 6.7 per cent. In that whole area there is no work at all for women except as shop assistants. Every woman who works must travel out of the area in order to find employment. This is the worst-hit area of Scotland from the point of view of pit closures, and perhaps it is the worst in Britain. Since 1951, seven collieries and mines have been closed. In the latest plan put out by the National Coal Board last week a further pit just over the border of my constituency, where at present 500 men work, will be closed in 1960. Many of those workers come from my constituency.
Mr. Parker, the chairman of the Scottish Division of the Coal Board, said:We are satisfied that there will be more jobs available in the industry than there will be men displaced. The problem is redeployment and not unemployment.That might be true were we dealing with men like pawns on a chessboard, if we could move them at will and if they were inanimate objects. But we are dealing with human beings who will lose their jobs when the pits in my area are closed down. It is not true that the problem is as simple as Mr. Parker suggests.
A short time ago a young man came to see me. He became redundant following the last pit closure in my constituency. He had been offered a job in the east of Scotland, but for very good domestic reasons he was not able to move. His father had been a miner. His father was no longer able to work 305 in the mines because of a chest complaint, but, as often in the case of these men, the Pneumoconiosis Board said he was not; suffering from pneumoconiosis. He was in receipt of £2 10s. a week National Insurance benefit.
This young man rightly accepted his responsibility to his home. He felt that his place was at home where his wages would be of use. He asked me if I could try to help him to get work in a colliery in our area. I wrote to the National Coal Board, and I shall quote the reply I received in order that I may emphasise the seriousness of this problem. This is what was said in a letter I received from Mr. Innes, the area industrial relations officer for the Central East Area of the Scottish Division:There are, at present, approximately 230 workmen in receipt of redundancy compensation, many of whom have domestic difficulties covering a very wide field, and for whom no employment is available. There are no vacancies in any of our local pits meantime which can be offered to Clark of any of the other men I mention, and it is a problem which is exercising the mind of every official in this area of the Scottish Division of the National Coal Board.That is the problem that is facing the Coal Board, and it is not just as simple as "redeployment and not unemployment". I could quote many more letters, but I hope I have said enough to stress once again to the Secretary of State that action must be taken, and taken very soon, if this area is not to become completely derelict.
I am very sorry that the President of the Board of Trade is not in his place, because I want to deal with another matter. I put a Question to him last week about a factory in my constituency. I asked him in a supplementary question if he would institute compulsory purchase, and he replied:No, I do not think that compulsory purchase should be applied in this case. Here is a case where negotiation is going on between a firm and the farmer who owns the land, and I do not think we should interfere."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1959; Vol. 612, c. 828–9.]I took it from that answer that the Government had decided to scrap all compulsory purchase completely, but, on examination of this Bill, I find in Clauses 2, 5 and 14 measures for compulsory purchase. I want to know at what stage a decision will be taken for compulsory purchase of land.
306 An American firm came to this area about which I have been speaking, an area which has been badly hit by unemployment. That firm is doing very well because it finds that the people in the mining areas are grand workers. On 20th November last, almost a year ago, it applied for further factory space of 70,000 square feet for an extension. On 25th February this year the President of the Board of Trade announced that this was accepted and that the firm could have the extra space. Not a sod has been cut in order to provide that very much needed employment in the area.
Now, in this month of November, the Cummins Diesel Engine Company has told the Board of Trade that it will not proceed with the first extension if land is not assured for further development. It has said to the Board of Trade that if it cannot have land assured for further development it will move out of the factory altogether to a place where its future can be assured. A great deal of capital has already been sunk by the firm in this project, and it would be imprudent for the firm to sink any more capital in it if it has no assurance that it will have land for future development. I have here the plans of the future developments—the plans for the first, second and third extensions. This is a firm that is really looking ahead.
The Government have said many times to me that they are doing everything possible to encourage industry to this area, yet here they are doing the very thing that may mean an important concern leaving it. If this firm should leave Shotts, it does not mean that it will go anywhere else in Scotland, or, of necessity, that it will go anywhere else in Britain. It may go to a Common Market country. I want to know tonight if the Government will now decide on the compulsory purchase of this land.
§ Mr. Maclay
The position at the moment is this. I am advised that there is every hope that an agreement will be reached shortly between the owner of the land and the firm. It is better that this matter should be arranged by agreement. It is much better than compulsory purchase, which would impose unavoidable delays.
§ Miss Herbison
I saw the managing director of this firm on Saturday 307 morning. It was from him that I got all the information. He feels very strongly about this, and there was no suggestion from him that there was any likelihood in the near future of coming to an arrangement. What I ask tonight, and what I think I have a right to ask, is how long the Government will wait if no agreement is reached between the farmer and the firm concerned before instituting compulsory purchase of this land.
I know that there is another Scottish hon. Member on the other side of the House who wishes to speak. There are many more points that I wanted to make, but I wish to say finally to the Government that unless they use the provisions of this Bill with a greater sense of urgency than they have used those of the previous Act, very little hope will come to that area.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)
On a point of order. My constituency is probably the one most affected in Scotland in regard to this Bill. I have been sitting here from half-past two hoping to speak. My constituents will rightly wonder why I did not speak. I have something to say in regard to one-half of Scotland, not merely a town or a burgh or a collection of towns and burghs, but one-half of Scotland, and I protest most strongly at not being called—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. Member and all hon. Members know that the number of Members who can speak is dependent on how long each speech takes. The fact is that a number of hon. Members have been unable to speak because there have been more Members wanting to speak than time to call.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
We are all sorry that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) has not managed to speak. We know the great interest he takes in these matters, but perhaps he can be consoled with the thought that the Committee stage is to be taken on the Floor of the House when, perhaps, there will be more opportunity for hon. Members to speak 308 than if the Bill went upstairs. I am sorry the hon. Gentleman has not been able to give us the benefit of his comments in this debate.
During these two days there have been 13 maiden speeches. I have been fortunate enough to hear some of them, but some of them I have missed. By general consent, we can congratulate the hon. Members concerned upon the exceptionally high quality of their speeches. We have heard an even number from each side of the House, although today more of my hon. Friends have made maiden speeches than have hon. Members opposite. I most heartily congratulate them all on having overcome that trying ordeal. We all look forward to hearing them again when they can be more controversial and more at ease in addressing the House.
During the past two days the House has been engaged on a remarkable ceremony. The first part was for the House to inter the Distribution of Industry Acts, 1945–58. The second part of the ceremony was to disinter the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945–58, on the assurance from the deputy undertaker that in the process of burial the Acts had become more virile and relevant than ever before to the subject under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to me to be going one better than Mark Anthony by coming both to bury Caesar and to praise him.
I agree that the Opposition have long been asking the Government to do something with these Acts. I conceded at once that we did not think of this very original response to our applications. I know that charges of original thinking are not often made against the Government, nor were they made against their predecessors, but, after this, who knows? We may find as we go along that new and original inducements are made to employers to move into a Development Area. Might one suggest the use of the Honours List, for example? Shall we say that 200 new jobs equals one knighthood or that kind of relationship as we go up the social scale? We have seen many people honoured for much less obvious reasons. While we are in this mood of original thinking, perhaps ideas of this type will even stimulate members on the Treasury Bench to look at them.
My hon. Friends have been most critical during the last two days. I 309 wonder whether we should be quite so critical. The fact that under the impetus of planning an election somebody remembered the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, itself certainly represents a marked advance on what we have seen in the last few years. We know that after much thought, probably involving sleepless nights, the combined intellectual capacity of the Tory Party has arrived at a far-reaching decision—namely, that the thinking of Mr. Hugh Dalton in 1944, afterwards enshrined in the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, with the addition of a few Amendments moved by my hon. Friends in Committee on the 1958 Bill and rejected by the Government, can now be endorsed. In other words, the new Toryism crashes through the thought barrier of 1945.
In the course of the General Election and the preliminaries to it, we read of ideas which Ministers had and of statements in which they forecast the appearance of this Bill. I have a cutting from the Daily Express of 14th September, which reads:Sir David Eccles, President of the Board of Trade, will tomorrow reveal full details of a 'revolutionary' Tory plan for tackling unemployment.A new Bill embodying it is already drafted.If the Tories win the election, this will be the biggest and most important measure they will put through in the opening session of the next Parliament.Sir David will announce the plan in a speech at Heywood, Lancashire. He told me last night; 'It brings a totally new approach to the problem. We intend to tackle unemployment with the methods of mobile warfare'.The chief need, said Sir David, was no longer to provide aid for large development areas. Unemployment was now mostly concentrated in small pockets. 'Our aim is to bring them quick remedies—and in particular to attract the really big firms to the spot. You can't do that by bullying or direction. I believe our plan will make it really worth while for big concerns to come in—and stay in'.Inducements to the firms to open up in the 'black spots' will, I understand, include subsidised rents and big capital grants.Nothing so lavish or ambitious, Sir David made it clear, has ever been attempted before".I have not noticed in the course of the discussion in the last two days that any hon. Member has recognised this as a revolution never attempted before.
In the main, this is a consolidation Measure. It is a Measure which, as my hon. Friends have indicated, contains one or two useful and 310 worth-while amendments. It has been suggested in the debate that we have revealed almost animosity towards the Bill. That matter, as such, does not arise. The annoyance felt by my right hon. and hon. Friends arises, first, because 98 per cent. of the provisions of the Bill are already on the Statute Book and the other 2 per cent. could have been put there by simple amendment of the Acts. Secondly, we naturally feel frustrated by the knowledge that, given the fact that they are on the Statute Book, our discussion of them is irrelevant to the issues now facing the country. That is the attitude which my hon. Friends have been taking during the last two days.
There are changes in the Bill—some welcome, some not so welcome. The first change which concerns us is the change in the Development Areas themselves. On 24th February, 1958, as reported in column 154 of HANSARD, the former President of the Board of Trade suggested that Development Areas should be de-scheduled. He raised quite a storm and, because of that storm, he did not proceed with it. Shortly afterwards we had his 1958 Act, in which he elbowed forward. He created complete confusion by having two lists, resulting in D.A.T.A.C. areas which were not Development Areas and Development Areas which were not D.A.T.A.C. areas. That, as it turned out, was the first act towards de-scheduling.
In the Bill, we see the full implementation of his demand. The Bill sees the end of the present Development Areas and the power of the House to decide Where they shall be. In other words, the Government have obtained by subterfuge that which they failed to obtain by consent. Therefore, with the repeal of those Acts we have no Development Areas. The House has lost its power to decide by Order where the new Development Areas shall be. Clause 28, as I read it, empowers the Board of Trade only to decide when the Act shall become operative.
What happens during the interval? Is it to be deemed that there are no Development Areas in existence or that the present structure of the Development Areas shall continue to receive financial assistance, and so on, during the intervening period? Again I pose the question posed by so many of my hon. Friends. Why can we not have a list 311 now? The Board of Trade must have some idea of the sort of list it intends to produce. The First Schedule of the 1945 Act gave the list as we then saw it. Why should the House have to vote blindly on this issue without any knowledge of where the Development Areas will be?
I am prompted once more to read part of my quotation of what the former President of the Board of Trade said:The chief need, said Sir David, was no longer to provide aid for large development areas. Unemployment was now mostly concentrated in small pockets.Does that mean that there are to be drastic changes in the Development Areas? Does it mean that their boundaries as we have previously known them will not again be scheduled? These are vital questions to which the House is entitled to an answer before we conclude the Second Reading of the Bill. We all know that in the Government-enforced depression of 1958—and now—the areas of heaviest unemployment were almost invariably the Development Areas. I suggest, therefore, that there is nothing to make us expect that some of those areas will not be de-scheduled.
I ask another question that has been already asked several times in the last two days: why the seven-year period, at the end of which this legislation expires? The only answer we have had so far is that the Government believe that at the end of that period they will have completed the job they now see before them. I can only say that if they do as much in the next seven years as they have done in the last, the position at the end of the seven years will be almost precisely as it is tonight. There can be no reason, therefore, for retaining that period in the Bill.
Opening the debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) showed us, by percentages and so on, that the drift of population from certain areas is reaching very dangerous proportions. He also told us of the diminution in the amount of building done in Development Areas under this Government as compared with what the Labour Government did. I have some Liverpool figures to the same effect. In the 1945–51 period, 140 new firms went into the Liverpool Corporation trading estates, finding employment for over 312 15,000 persons. From 1951 to 1959, 14 firms went into those trading estates, providing work for 6,408 people. That is the sort of pattern that results from the present Government's neglect of the Distribution of Industry Acts.
It has been pointed out that all this has brought a drift from the North; from Scotland, from Northern England, and from Wales to this great London conurbation. It would almost seem that Disraeli's two nations have become a geographical feature; north and south of a line across the middle of this island—with Wales, of course, well over to the West. The result is that unemployment figures in some areas appear to be not very high, simply because, in despair, people have left those places to come south.
The criteria to be applied should not be just numbers of unemployed. The numbers of unemployed should be put against jobs available. My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland) has told us that for every ten unemployed in his constituency there was only one vacancy. That is the sort of pattern which is emerging in the northern part of the island.
When we have raised the question of industrial building in the South and the Midlands, we have always been told that it is nearly all in the form of extensions. We heard that yesterday from the President of the Board of Trade. I doubt it very much. Yet under Clause 20 there is still no need to obtain industrial development certificates for extensions of under 5,000 ft. If Ministers are right and the greater part of new building has been by this type of small extension, there must obviously have been very considerable abuse of it. As I read the new suggestion, it merely prohibits conversion of non-industrial building to industrial. There is an obvious need to strengthen the conditions under which industrial development certificates are granted and probably also to strengthen the determination of the Government to ensure that abuses no longer take place.
The occasion of the introduction of a Bill of this kind is always very serious, for, if it fails, it follows that there will be a long period of misery for those it is designed to assist. Therefore, to judge its effectiveness we must examine the 313 nature of the problems which we face. For instance, are the problems similar to those for which the Distribution of Industry Acts themselves were intended? Those Acts were introduced against the background of depressed areas in which the temporary collapse of one main industry resulted, on many occasions, in 40 or 50 per cent. of the people in the area becoming unemployed. They were areas which women and girls had to leave through lack of light industry.
We all remember the trek from the valleys. We remember the days when women and girls left the heavy industrial areas in which the only industries were either steel or coal. They could not possibly enjoy home life with their families and were condemned to move away almost the moment they were born. That was the sort of background against which distribution of industry policy was devised. Later, we had the problem of industries or great firms which had been damaged during the war.
I doubt whether the problems which we now face are of that type at all. I think there are three outstanding problems to which we must now direct our attention. First, we are seeing a scientific industrial revolution which, unless its effects are anticipated, may well bring heavy technological unemployment. Hon. Members who study what has happened in the United States will know that they are now suffering from the same problem. Up to now, neither the Government of the United States nor any other Government has successfully anticipated the coming of automation and technical advance of that type and anticipated its effects in the reduction of the number of people employed. That is one of the issues which we now have to face. Where is there anything in the Bill that meets that sort of problem?
Secondly, very many of our older industries, such as cotton, coal, shipbuilding and the railways, industries upon which Britain has depended for a century, are not now in temporary recession. They are permanently running down and are contracting. For my part, I cannot foresee a time when most of them can ever again employ the numbers which they could employ. My second point, therefore, is that we must not merely replace factories but think of replacing great basic industries. Again I ask, 314 where is there anything in the Bill which deals with a problem of that sort?
Thirdly, we are now witnessing in British industry the development of the monopoly or semi-monopoly stage which many industries have already reached, where great firms are buying up smaller firms for no other reason than to close them down. A firm in my own constituency, Harbens Limited, which employs 1,200 to 1,300 people, was bought up five months ago by Courtaulds. Four months later—in fact, last month—they declared that they were going to close it down. Fortunately, we have managed to find an occupier who will take over part of the firm. That instance can be repeated time after time, and many of the firms which are being swallowed up by the bigger fish are the biggest single employers in small areas. That is a problem which will become intensified. During the next few years this monopoly situation will develop at an ever-growing pace.
What is there in this Bill which tries to anticipate or understand the nature of that sort of problem? Therefore, to the question whether this Bill matches up to the problems which we now face, my answer is, "No, it certainly does not." I know that the President of the Board of Trade can tell us that there is included in the Bill the ability to grant assistance where unemployment threatens. But even if this is a departure from the 1945 procedure, let us consider what the Labour Government did from 1945 to 1951. We were anticipating a great deal of the factory building. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) has told us that the whole conception of building Government factories was in anticipation of firms coming in to replace firms which were closing down. Therefore, the 1945 Act, no matter how it was worked, was a very fine example indeed of intelligent industrial anticipation.
It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to tell us that this Bill will give greater power than ever before. It may be so in print, but when one looks at the way in which we anticipated problems and solved them and then considers the inertia of the present Government, how can we believe that "anticipation" means anything at all in this Bill?
I take second place to no one in my admiration of what has been accomplished by the Distribution of Industry 315 Acts in proper hands. I believe that Hugh Dalton did an enormous job of work. His Act saved millions of people from misery. But for that Act they would undoubtedly have had to endure that misery for years, as some of us did before the war, in the unemployment queues. Therefore, I make no reflection against the Acts which were put on the Statute Book in those days, or their administration. What I am saying is that in these days there is a new problem. I heard the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart) arguing in this vein a few hours ago, but the problem is not capable of solution with the political approach of hon. Members opposite. We are all the time trying to see which of our great industries are contracting and how we can replace them with modern industries which, for the next half century or century, can be relied upon to bring us decent living standards, foreign exchange and that sort of thing.
Clause 1 lays it down as a criterion that there must be a relationship between expenditure and the employment which that expenditure will find. That is important. I have nothing to say against it. I would have thought that while we were considering industrial development we might have spared a thought for the end product. In other words, one of the criteria for the use of this Bill should be that we produce those things which we desire to make. Instead of producing any sort of commodity that we can induce men to go into a development area to produce, we ought to be thinking in terms of the value, maybe to the export trade, of the product it is proposed to make. This is one of the most important things we should consider. Strangely enough, I find myself in some degree of agreement with the noble Lord the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). He said that we must insist on having value for money. I thoroughly agree with him, but I am distressed to see the way in which the Tories run away from that in their own policies.
I invite the House to remember that what we have been getting unanimity about in the last two days has been the increase of public expenditure on private enterprise. The noble Lord was right. I know that the Front Bench opposite 316 was worried about what he was saying. He was, in effect, saying, "I know that we got away with it at the last election and managed to kid the people that public enterprise costs public money and private enterprise does not." The noble Lord was pointing out that in fact we are now going into the phase in which more and more lavish expenditure of public money is proposed for allowing private enterprise to function at all.
Is the Tory Party prepared to accept this? I know that it has moved from the day when it said that the Government must not interfere with private enterprise. It has now reached the point in which it says that the Government can interfere to the extent of putting in public money, providing that they do not get any sort of control of it. That is a most vital point which was raised by the noble Lord. I hope that he will not upset the Cabinet too early in this Parliament, but I think that the party opposite ought to get down to an examination of this very great problem.
I have said that we must try to decide the sort of product that we shall have, its value in the export market and so on. We must encourage new industries such as plastics, electronics and automated machine tools. Perhaps some day we can get a statement from the Government about the machine tool industry itself, because one hears disturbing rumours about D.S.I.R. Reports. I do not know whether the Minister of Labour can tell us anything about that when he replies. By common consent we know that the genesis of the whole of our industrial productive effort must be an efficient machine tool industry able to produce new automated machinery.
Again, I believe that the Minister of Labour must have or must exercise far wider powers in the retraining of people displaced in industry or we may be merely encouraging more and more unskilled jobs. The type and degree of technical education in many areas depends on the type of industrial pattern that emerges. These are related matters to a distribution of industry labour policy meet for the times in which we live. Hon. Members can search the Bill but will find nothing about that. It is not enough to lament the decline of old industries. We must 317 take an active part in ushering in new. It has been pointed out that lack of transport facilities in Britain will produce a bottleneck, if it has not already done so. I agree.
I believe that so rapid has been our advance in our knowledge of industrial production that we may already be reaching the point where automated processes may have to be slowed down because of our inability to get raw materials in at one end of the factory and out at the other. Therefore, the transport system is a very important point when we are considering the distribution of industry policy.
Why do we only consider our internal transport? Shipbuilding is in trouble, but I doubt whether it is all the result of other nations taking orders which previously came to us. I believe that one of the important reasons is the increase in air transport. I cannot conceive that in the next fifty years there will be a large industrial area in Britain which has not a great freighter base which will put industries within a few hours' flight of their customers on the North American continent or anywhere else. What have we in mind?
I admit that I have a personal axe to grind. In my division there is the biggest freighter base in Europe, the old American airport at Burtonwood. It has the longest runway outside London, and the facilities are there. It was the greatest store base in Europe. Yet it is now rotting, while, within a radius of 50 miles, we are worried sick about how we are to achieve industrial expansion. Surely, at this time, the Government can anticipate that our ability not only in the matter of prices but in the matter of delivery dates also will depend very much upon our great industrial areas being in a position where their products can be flown to our customers overseas within a few hours. This must be the new conception.
For all this, I frankly doubt whether the Board of Trade is the appropriate Department. I have argued many times that it should be the concern of the Ministry of Labour, but it was called "empire-building" in those days. To look at all these matters properly, to achieve the necessary intensive planning and to anticipate the results of technological change, we should have a 318 specific Ministry, perhaps a Ministry of Economic Planning and Development—call it what one will—which can devote the whole of its attention to analysing the problems and anticipating change before it comes, in that way ensuring that we modernise our industries and have the nation's cash, for that is what it is, invested in the sort of industries which will give the nation a real future. Unless we do that, all the work of the Ministry of Education in trying to provide proper technical education for our youngsters will fail.
I have said that by present methods we are likely to encourage the establishment of unskilled industries or unskilled factories. Only a day or two ago, the Minister of Labour and I were discussing the fact that today a larger percentage of our school leavers are going into blind alley occupations with every year that passes, and this is happening at the very moment when technical advance, automation, modernisation—call it what one will—is demanding a higher ratio of skilled people every year. If we continue asking merely for doll's eye factories to replace the industries which were the basis of our apprenticeships and skills, there will be precious little future for Britain under any sort of dispensation.
One hon. Member, I think it was the hon. Member for Fife, East, spoke about the application of science to industry. This nation is the worst of all the great industrial nations in applying pure science to industrial processes. The time lag between something coming, as it were, from the university and entering the factory is far longer in Britain than it is in any other great industrial country. This, again, is because private enterprise either will not or cannot finance that kind of development. This House, therefore, must face the question whether we can continue to have industries which cannot apply our science quickly enough or whether we are in increasing measure to put public money into them.
I have tried to show that we are not by any means antagonistic to the sort of legislation we are discussing. I have shown that we on this side are extremely proud of the way we worked that legislation when we were in office. I have tried to show that that legislation is not 319 now appropriate to the new sort of problems which we face. I ask the Government to think again on this.
In Committee, we will try to amend the Bill broadly along the lines that my hon. Friends and I have discussed during Second Reading. I suggest, however, that now they have won the election the Government should forget all about the things they said to win it—[Interruption.] I have been praising the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South for ten minutes in his absence. He must not criticise me now.
The Government won an election on all sorts of "phoney" semi-promises. Now that they have won it, I ask them to put the interests of Britain before the interests of their own shareholders, and so on. This legislation is not good enough. I am asking the Government to meet us in Committee and accept the Amendments that will make the Bill appropriate to the days in which we live.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Minister o£ Labour (Mr. Edward Heath)
This is a Bill which gives considerable powers to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and it is for my right hon. Friend and his colleagues in that Department to operate it when it becomes law. It is, however, of the greatest possible interest to any Minister of Labour, who is bound always to have before his eyes a detailed and vivid picture of unemployment in different parts of the country. Therefore, I am particularly glad that the first speech I make from this Box—indeed, the first words which could in any way be called a speech by me in this House for the last seven and a half years—should be in connection with a Measure which is a constructive one to help to deal with this problem.
Everybody in the House will agree that this has been a worth-while debate. Thirty-two Members from the back benches have taken part. It has given them the opportunity to deal with the particular problems of their constituencies. That is in addition to eight Members from the Front Benches. The House would, I am sure, like to convey to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and to the usual channels, of which I so recently ceased to be a part, that two days on a Bill of this kind is 320 very valuable to the House. It has given the opportunity to six Members new to the House to make their maiden speeches today in addition to those which were made yesterday.
I join the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) in offering them my congratulations. All their speeches were not only of a high standard, but of great interest. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) spoke forcibly. He raised the point that those who are temporarily stopped are not included in the unemployment figures and he said that this was unfair when one compares various areas for inclusion in the list which is to be compiled under the Bill. If the men are temporarily stopped and are then going back to the same employer, it is natural that they should be excluded from the figures and it is right to exclude them when making comparisons. This, however, is the reason why no rigid figure is fixed for deciding areas of this kind, so that in the consultations between my Department and the Board of Trade these other aspects of the employment figures can be taken into account. I would like the hon. Member to know that.
Then there was the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), who comes from a long line of Conservative Members of Parliament. We forgive him this slight deviation today for the interest of his speech. He emphasised particularly the need for better communications. This, too, was mentioned by my hon. Friends the Members for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne), Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) and Inverness (Mr. N. McLean), in particular. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has emphasised that Clause 7 gives powers to deal with local facilities and communications but that they must be treated as such rather than as national services, although they will, of course, be extremely useful in that connection.
The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Ginsburg) made an interesting speech, in the course of which he confessed that he was a backroom boy, one of those slick young gentlemen from Transport House of whom my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) spoke, and on whom was foisted part of the parentage of this Bill—mistakenly, I would 321 add. The hon. Gentleman said how unfortunate it was that the latest employment figures were those for 1958. That is due to the fact that we in the Ministry of Labour do not keep a register of employment as such, only of unemployment. Therefore, the figures have to come through the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and their contributors' cards, and it takes a considerable period to deal with the cards. Those are the only absolutely accurate figures of employment we can offer.
The most important part of the hon. Gentleman's speech was that in which he paid a great tribute to the importance of the Bill and showed an understanding which has been, perhaps, rare on the other side of the House. He spoke of the importance of the Bill in the context of full employment at the moment. That is perfectly true, because the economic objects of the Government are to obtain expansion at the same time as stability. It is in doing that that the areas of high unemployment, which are marginal areas, so to speak, have to be dealt with separately, other than through general financing policies, which can lead, as many hon. Members will agree, to overall inflation. That is the true importance of this Measure.
There were then the maiden speeches of the hon. Members for Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfed Davies) and Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright), who both spoke of the problems of the coal industry and very movingly of their home areas. I regret I did not hear them myself.
Then the hon. Member for Gloucester shire, West (Mr. Loughlin) welcomed the Bill. He mentioned the difficulties of travel and the lengths to which many people go to travel to their work today, particularly from Bristol. I was in that area myself last Friday and Saturday and discussed—
§ Mr. Loughlin
May I correct the right hon. Gentleman? I said Gloucester and elsewhere, not Bristol.
§ Mr. Heath
I am sorry. However, part of the area comes under the same regional comptroller. We were discussing there the problems of this area and the work being done to meet them.
Lastly, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), who spoke with great 322 practical experience of the problems of factory building. I should like to tell him that the President of the Board of Trade is, I understand, to adopt—has already arranged to adopt—the suggestion he was discussing, whereby businessmen and industrialists who wish to put up factories can be given a clear indication, when they go, as to what would be the cost of the factories and of what the 85 per cent. would amount to in any area.
I will now deal with one point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), because it is of general interest to many hon. Members. He regretted in the interests of Scotland the Atomic Energy Authority's proposal to set up a new establishment for thermo-nuclear research at Culham, in Oxfordshire. The Lord Privy Seal and Minister for Science wrote to the hon. Member on 6th November explaining this. I would put on record very briefly what the position is. This extension of the pioneer experiment already carried out at Harwell and Aldermaston should be, and needs to be, in the closest possible contact with the work being carried out at those two establishments. It will, in fact, share some of the services with Harwell, such as the computer and workshop facilities.
The new establishment may reach a strength of 1,000 in four or five years' time, but more than half of these will be coming from the staff already employed by the A.E.A. at Harwell and Aldermaston. It is, therefore, for the next few years, really a question of the redeployment of those in those two places into the new establishment. The work to be done is on basic research. It is not thought that this will, therefore, have very much effect on the location of industry near it, as the hon. Gentleman suggested.
The hon. Gentleman expressed general concern, as, indeed, the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) did, about the share of the Government's research effort going into Scotland. It is a tremendously important question. The Lord Privy Seal has invited, or is in process of inviting, the hon. Member and his colleagues to see him to discuss this question at the earliest opportunity.
During the last two days the debate has given us an opportunity to discuss 323 both the principles of the Bill and of action of this kind, and local constituency problems. I think that there has been broad agreement about the nature of the problem. It is true that the hon. Gentleman dealt with much wider and larger issues. They are of the greatest possible interest and of immense importance to the country as a whole, but they are not the particular problems with which the Bill is dealing, as I think the hon. Gentleman will agree. The problem is that one-quarter to one-third of the unemployed in this country are in particular areas of high unemployment. The Bill is concerned with an endeavour to deal with that problem.
I think that the House also agreed, broadly, that the means used in the Bill are necessary and justifiable. It is true that my noble Friend the hon. Member for Dorset, South took a slightly different view, as did the hon. Member for Huddersfield. East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu), who thought that public enterprise ought to have been used instead.
The other thing that has emerged is that many hon. Members would like these Measures to be applied to their own constituencies. That is only natural. Any Government would like to do that, bearing in mind, at the same time, that if they are to achieve worth-while results in particular areas they must concentrate their efforts on the places that need the help most. That is bound to lead to some difficulties with hon. Members who would like to share these benefits.
The hon. Member for Newton raised many major problems, such as technical education and apprenticeships, which are of the greatest interest to me as Minister of Labour. I have no doubt that we shall have other opportunities of discussing them. The hon. Member also raised the problem of the changing pattern of employment. That is fundamental, and none the less so because it has been changing considerably over a long historical period from the first movement of population in the South up to the textile areas of East Anglia and the North, and the emergence of the great industrial conurbation round the supplies of fuel, and change to the coast, and so on. Immense technological developments have taken place in modern years. There has been an 324 emergence of new materials and a change of taste. There is also the fact that today industry goes much more to the markets than it did to the materials.
One has only to compare the exports of this country today to get an illustration of that. Last year, there were £484 million worth of exports from this country from industries which, before the war, either did not exist or had negligible exports. If one compares the change in exports of coal and motor cars between 1938 and 1958, in 1938 we exported £5.5 million worth of cars and, in 1958, £180.8 million. The exports of coal declined to a considerable degree. That is an example of the changing pattern today.
I was glad that the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and the hon. Member for Hamilton welcomed this change. The hon. Member for Newton asked what was being done about it. The most remarkable thing is the way that the pattern of employment has changed of its own volition and the volition of those working in industry. Migration between the different regions of people in employment has averaged 446,000 a year for the past seven years, without the addition of those people who were helped by the Ministry of Labour.
That shows the huge scale of migration in this country during the past seven years. It also ought to reassure those like my noble Friend who may feel that the policy we are following in the Bill will change the whole trend of economic events. It shows that the problem is a marginal one that is being dealt with marginally. The pattern of movement is very great indeed.
What are the problems of a changing pattern? The first is that in many industries time is needed to allow adjustments to take place without great human suffering. It is possible to achieve that in various ways. Many people in Lancashire felt that the agreement that it was possible to obtain between us and Pakistan gave an additional time period in which the cotton industry was able to reaccommodate itself. But that has still to work itself out in practice.
The second problem concerns the areas of high unemployment that we find left behind. The reason for the Bill and its readaptation of the practice we have been following is that since 1957–58 325 we have seen the emergence of new problems, which have been referred to. There is the problem of coal and cotton, and others may emerge in the future. We have learnt many lessons from the operation of the 1958 Act, and have tried to embody some of those lessons in the Bill.
There has been much criticism from hon. Members opposite about the extent to which the legislation was used in the early years, from 1951 onwards, but if one looks at the figures of unemployment in those years—from 1952 right up to 1957 and the beginning of 1958—one finds that they were very low indeed.[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes. I have the figures here. I know that the figure for Scotland was sometimes running at roughly twice that for England and Wales, but even that figure was a comparatively low one.
§ Mr. Heath
I am not saying that it was as low as one would desire, but it was comparatively low. If we take the years 1954–57, we find that the figure was running from 2.4 per cent. to 2.6 per cent., which is below the 3 per cent. rate normally quoted. Unemployment in the Development Areas was running at about the same level.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten that in the latest of the Development Areas, namely, North-East Lancashire, which was created in 1951, the seven years to which he refers were seven years of the most catastrophic contraction in the cotton industry for two generations?
§ Mr. Heath
I am not arguing about that. I am arguing about the actual figures of unemployment in those areas over those years.
I now wish to say something about the additional benefit arising from our dealing with the Bill at this moment, when we have an expanding economy. Those who tried to operate the D.A.T.A.C. arrangements in 1958 learnt of the difficulties of trying to persuade firms to go to certain areas when the economy was not expanding. The time we are choosing for this operation is a good one. There is every opportunity for taking advantage of this expanding climate in the preparation of the Bill.
326 The last problem arising from this changing pattern is that of concentration in conurbations. There has been an artificial argument about the distribution of industry and the Title of the Bill. Clause 18 contains the phrase:the proper distribution of industry.The phrase remains in the Bill, where it has always been in similar legislation. The argument of hon. Members opposite in this respect is slightly artificial. Everyone realises the dangers of concentration in south-eastern England. We all know of the shortage of labour which emerges. Although it may sometimes be the wish of industry, my hon. Friends will agree that it can lead to a return to the wage-cost spiral, which is not economically beneficial as a whole. Such problems arise as the shortage of houses, transport difficulties, the distribution of foodstuffs and local government difficulties. All these difficulties emerge from concentration. Therefore, there is every reason to try to exert an influence against that sort of thing.
But there must always be exceptions. There always were, even under the Labour Administration. Provision was made for these exceptions at the discretion of the Board of Trade. We must leave it to the judgment of those who have to make the decisions, but the Bill tightens up the situation in two respects: first, against change of user, and also by virtue of the fact that any extension which takes a factory above the 5,000 square feet mark automatically qualifies it for an I.D.C. The Bill is bound to have a considerable effect upon the operation of I.D.C.s.
Then there is the question of areas where local unemployment is high. Here I want to say a word in answer to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in his speech yesterday. We are keeping a careful watch on these problems and also upon the point which the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. D. Jones) raised in his maiden speech. As far as we can ascertain, the threatened redundancies in the area he mentioned are about one-third of his figure. That is on the assumption that every person who could become redundant did so, and did not retire after leaving the cotton industry.
On that, we find that already two firms have arranged to move in that area and 327 there are various plans for establishing workers. We calculate that additional jobs will represent about half the maximum possible redundancy. I will check upon the figures if the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has any doubts, but we have calculated the figures in the best way we can and the redundancies are about one-third of the 38 per cent which he mentioned. We will encourage additional firms to come into the area wherever possible.
In tackling the problem of local unemployment the I.D.C. is, of course, a negative weapon and it depends on firms being prepared to go to areas rather than to remain in their present position and at their present size. The Bill increases and widens the inducements. My right hon. Friends the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Scotland have described them in detail and I do not propose to repeat what has been said. I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr). Very often, businessmen do not realise the advantages of going to the places to which they could go. Very often, the factors which determine the place to which businessmen want to go are not solely economic and it is possible, by means of these inducements and the benefits which can be given, to persuade firms to go to places which do not appear attractive.
I had the experience last Thursday of meeting an industrialist near London who said that, rather unwillingly, he had recently put up a factory in the North. He was delighted with the result and the welcome which he received there and said that he would solidly recommend his colleagues to do a similar thing in similar circumstances and with the inducements which they would be offered.
All that this Bill does is to give help in setting up firms. It cannot hope to equalise the cost of production over a long period. Indeed, the point of the Bill is that the firm must be able to show that it would become viable within a reasonable period. It means that within these areas we shall be able to use the existing social and economic capacity to the greatest possible extent. Where industry is not actually attracted to these areas of high unemployment there remain two things. There are, first, the 328 areas of travel and overspill and the Bill widens the provisions of the Board of Trade to include these areas; here we return again to the fact that many more people now travel some distance to their employment and do so willingly.
§ Mr. Heath
Quite so, and many people prefer to have their work on their doorstep. But where work is not available and it is not possible to persuade firms to go to the areas it is an advantage to persuade factory workers to travel out to overspill areas.
The other thing is that my own Department, under the powers which it has under the 1948 Act and also the new powers which it will be given by this Bill, and which are in Clause 6, can help with the resettling of personnel and with the transfer of those unemployed either on a temporary or a permanent basis. Perhaps I might say a word about the details of these schemes. There is, first, the resettlement transfer scheme which means the transfer of workers from certain areas to permanent settlement elsewhere. The normal criterion of high unemployment for this scheme is 4 per cent. but it is a flexible arrangement which we can change. The areas we have designated contain altogether about one-sixth of the employed population, so that we are able to help people in those areas.
The point has been raised about whether the facilities are generous enough. They include free fares, lodging allowances for up to two years, fares for visits to home, removal expenses and allowances for any financial commitments which people may have at their former homes in the areas of high unemployment. I think that those are generous allowances. After six months a worker has to decide whether he will make his home permanently in the new area, or whether he still prefers to travel.
The temporary transfer scheme deals with those who wish to remain temporarily away from home or are able 329 to return to work in their own area after a short time. The benefits and facilities are similar to those which I have enumerated, but the worker must remain registered in his own area and return when facilities are available, which presumably he would want to do. So there is both the permanent transfer scheme and the temporary transfer scheme, which were the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and, I think, also by the noble Lord. There is also the key workers scheme, which comes under Clause 6 of the Bill and which was in the original Act. The numbers dealt with under that scheme are, in fact, very small. Very few opted to take advantage of it.
It might interest the House to have the numbers of those who have taken part in the resettlement transfer scheme and the temporary transfer scheme during the last quarter. It is an increasing number, but when one compares it with the figures for the migration which goes on, it is minute. In the quarter ended on 1st September, 1959, the resettlement transfer scheme covered 343 people and the temporary scheme covered 201 people. Both are very small totals.
One hon. Member, in a maiden speech, raised the question of training. The Ministry of Labour has powers to carry out training under the 1948 Act. At present, it is directed mostly to those who are disabled or who are members of the Regular Forces, but we are able to give training to those who want to change their skills.
Perhaps I might say a few words, in conclusion, about the Bill. The particular problem we are dealing with, I should like to emphasise again, is the problem of high unemployment in certain areas. It is not the great problem of the movement of industries, of technical training, or of technical developments, which were discussed by the hon. Member for Newton. Nevertheless, 330 this is a very severe and, at times, a very intractable problem. There is no simple or easy solution to it and this Bill alone cannot be a solution to it. Every Government has to use a combination of methods, such as the negative method of I.D.C.s and the method of inducements which are there for firms to go into those areas which at first they do not wish to go into. There are arrangements for providing greater amenities and reducing the number of those unemployed, and arrangements for retraining. We must be prepared to use all these to deal with this problem.
I did not notice that hon. Members of the Opposition had any other particular points they wished to put forward as constructive ways of dealing with this problem. They denied that they wanted to use direction of employers or firms, or that they wished to use any sort of direction of labour—quite naturally and quite rightly so. If one is not to use direction, one comes fundamentally to the fact that this is a method of persuasion and inducement. We believe that here we are putting forward very constructive ideas for that inducement and persuasion.
Naturally, any others put forward in Committee will be carefully considered, but the House may rest assured that we realise the nature of this problem and are determined to do everything possible to deal with it. We shall make these arrangements known as widely as possible to employers and employees and the Ministers concerned will use their powers vigorously to achieve this end. I now ask the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Bryan.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.