§ 23. Mr. Edelman
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has considered the effect of his expansion plans for the motor industry on employment in Coventry and the Midlands generally; and what modifications he will introduce into his plans, in view of the present threat of redundancy in the older established areas.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. John Rodgers)
The projects concerned are part of the longer term expansion envisaged by the industry itself. It would be a shortsighted policy to allow present difficulties to frustrate the substantial contribution which the industry proposes to make to areas of relatively high and persistent unemployment. These proposals carry out the intention of Parliament as expressed in the Local Employment Act.
§ Mr. Edelman
Is the Minister aware that the industry's plan to treble output by 1962 is encouraging false hopes of prosperity in depressed areas, while deepening the anxiety of the workers in the older established areas whose jobs are already threatened? Is he further aware that the motor manufacturers have had the cushion of very high profits in the last few years, but there is no such protection for redundant workers? In those circumstances, will he consult the trade unions again, as well as the manufacturers, in order to see whether the present project is an economic one?
§ Mr. Rodgers
I prefer to take the motor industry's own view of its future rather than the hon. Member's view. As for his second point, I would remind him that while it is true that there are at present about 18,000 workers on short-time in the Midlands, the unemployment figure for Coventry is only 1.1 per cent., which is much less that the national average, whereas the areas which will benefit from the expansion of the motor industry—Scotland, South Wales and Merseyside—have an unemployment rate many times greater than Coventry's.
§ Mr. Edelman
But is the hon. Gentleman aware that, despite the fact that he prefers to take the industry's forecast rather than mine, motor manufacturers in the past have consistently been proved wrong in their calculations? Is he further aware that the record of the industry is one of seasonal unemployment, which has been rectified only by the Labour Government policy in 1945? In those circumstances, and in view of the fact that even today one worker in seven is unemployed, on short-time or on strike against redundancy, is it not right that the motor manufacturers' miscalculations should be re-examined in the light of present conditions in order to see whether the plans which are being made are realistic?
§ Mr. Rodgers
No, Sir. I know that there have been seasonal ups and downs in this industry, but the general progress has been remarkable and I believe that the industry has a very fine future.