HC Deb 07 May 1963 vol 677 cc389-400

Motion made and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. F. Pearson.]

10.51 p.m.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

I rise to make a speech about the need for new industries in my constituency of Falmouth and Camborne in Cornwall. I have rather a lot to say and I may have to speak rather quickly.

In my constituency we suffered from severe unemployment between the wars and even before that, and now the whole of the constituency is a development district under the Local Employment Act. I welcome the Local Employment Bill, now before the House, as a step to improve the worsening conditions in many of the development districts, and I welcome the Contracts of Employment Bill as an attempt to soften the harshness of the "hire-and-fire" aspects of industry, particularly ship repairing, which is the chief industry in Falmouth, employing about 2,200 men.

This industry subsists on casual labour, even though most of the men are very highly skilled in many specialised crafts. I will give an example. The men can be given notice within an hour to terminate their work at 4 p.m. They may be off work for weeks and then one evening get a telegram 'telling them that they are wanted next day. They go back the next morning, and by 4 p.m. they can be "fired" again. I hope that the Contracts of Employment Bill will do something to humanise this very harsh practee, and that the employers will do all that they can to facilitate it because it has harmful results not only for the man., but for his wife and family.

Last year, Falmouth had an average of 8 per cent. unemployment—throughout the year ended 31st March last. Of 71 development districts in Great Britain, Falmouth was the third highest in numbers of unemployed—799. The shipyard workers represent one-fifth of the insured working population in the Falmouth employment district; so the extent of unemployment among them could well have represented 25 per cent. over the year. At one point last November two-thirds of the whole labour force in the shipyard were unemployed.

A study of the figures issued by Ministers reveals that there has been a fall of 500 in the number of insured workers in Falmouth since 1956; and more than 300 in Camborne-Redruth. This means that in the whole of my constituency there has been a drop of more than 800 in the total labour force. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that it is a tragedy that so many skilled workers have left the county and that so many more have turned to unskilled work in an effort to keep their homes and families intact.

Cornwall is the only county in England with a declining population.

Many of our young people who have passed through the excellent technical colleges in my constituency cannot find work in their native county. The steady erosion of new recruits for industry and other services in Cornwall is a tragedy. This is all despite the fact that Falmouth shipyard possesses a fine, modern dry dock which is capable of taking vessels of up to 80,000 tons—something which even Belfast does not have. The owners, Messrs. Silley Cox & Co. Ltd., are trying to get some non-marine work, and I hope that the Board of Trade will assist in their endeavour.

On 17th April last there was a conference of councillors and representative bodies in Falmouth convened by the mayor, Miss Frost, at which the whole question was discussed for some hours. At the close of the conference a resolution was passed pleading with the Government to arrange for British ships to be repaired in British yards and not sent to continental ones. Those attending the conference viewed the present situation with considerable alarm.

Local authorities incur huge debt liabilities to provide housing, hospitals, schools, roads, sewerage, and so on. The county council has a loan debt of about £6 million and the local authorities as a whole in my constituency have loan debts of £7 million or more. Industry depends on the provision of these essential items of community life by the community itself. The community can never escape these liabilities in the way industrial enterprises can and sometimes do.

Until now the Board of Trade has not channelled a single new industry to the Falmouth—Penryn area. Falmouth has secured its first industrial site, which has still to be developed, and at Penryn a site suitable for light industries exists. I have written to the President of the Board of Trade about a project for building catamarrans in Falmouth and my constituents are waiting anxiously for the decision of the Board's Advisory Committee. We hope that it will be able to support this far seeing project. There are other boat building yards in Falmouth which do excellent work.

Falmouth arid its hinterland is an excellent tourist centre. Apart from the wonderful climate and scenery, the sailing and yachting is superb. Proposals have been made to the Board for developing Falmouth as a commercial port. How far that is possible I am not sure, but I hope the proposals will receive serious consideration by the Board.

Camborne—Redruth is the largest urban district in Cornwall with a population of over 35,000. It was one of the earliest industrial areas in Great Britain. We have produced many notable inventors, including Richard Trevithick, one of the greatest engineers that Britain has ever produced. The average rate of unemployment during the year ended. 31st March last was 5.3 per cent.

Camborne-Redruth was far-seeing in the acquisition of industrial sites and provided its first site before the war ended. The total cost of developing its latest site will be about £200,000 I understand. Towards this sum, some substantial Government grants have been received and it is hoped that the Government will be generous towards the later instalments of this large project. We are very grateful for what we have received already, although the greater burden falls on the urban district. The whole estate is a fine asset of which we can all be proud.

Our workers have shown great adaptability in training and adjusting themselves to the skills and techniques required for the new industries which have come to us in the post-war years. Recently, Tecalemit (Engineering) Ltd., a firm which, we thought, would, in the not distant future, employ 250 men, informed us 10 days ago that it was unable to occupy the fine new factory which had been built for it by the Board of Trade. The decision of the firm not to occupy it has come as a great shock to us all—not least to the skilled men attracted by the firm for training in its special processes in a pilot plant. Although they have been offered jobs at Plymouth, one can readily appreciate their reluctance to entrust their lives, homes and families to further promises by the firm. We appreciate there may be delicate financial adjustments to be made between the Government and the firm, and I do not ask for details tonight. Nevertheless, we hope the public purse will be properly safeguarded.

Last year, I. C. I. withdrew from my constituency where, a few years before, they had employed 500 workers at Cam-borne and at Ponsanooth. The firm which they had taken over about thirty years ago had started in the district over 130 years before. It is interesting to note that Dr. Beeching was a director of I.C.I. at the time the decision was taken.

The Beeching Report on the railways has caused consternation in Cornwall. Hayle station, in my constituency, is one of those to be closed. Hayle has a population of about 5,000 and depends on the tourist industry to a large extent. I will send to the Parliamentary Secretary a detailed letter from the secretary of the Camborne Chamber of Commerce about the implications of closing all stations in my constituency to parcels traffic. I hope he will study it carefully and take up with Dr. Beeching the points made in the letter, because my constituency is the most industrialised area of Cornwall.

To withdraw these railway facilities from a whole development district seems to me very serious. Indeed, it is regarded as such by the whole county. The chairman of the county council called a conference about the Beeching Report which took place on Maundy Thursday—a conference attended by Over 100 people from all parts of the county.

There are signs of a mining revival so far as the production of tin is concerned. We are glad that some of the disused mines in Camborne and Redruth are being or are about to be reopened, and we hope that the same will apply in the Kerrier rural district, part of which is in my constituency. We hope that the Board of Trade will do all it can to assist these enterprises. There are also the granite quarries in the middle and southern parts of my constituency which have produced granite for Westminster Bridge and for the Embankment near the Festival Hall. The granite industry has had hard times of late years, but there seems to be an improvement in other parts of the county and we hope that the Board of Trade will do what it can to rescussitate work in the granite quarries of the constituency. There are also great resources of non-potable water available in old mines which have been flooded. These supplies can be attractive to some kinds of industry. One Government Department has already made great use of it.

A conference was held at Truro on 1st March, convened by Camborne Urban District Council and attended by delegates from all parts of the county, at which alarm was expressed at the growing unemployment in the county and particularly in my constituency. I should like to pay tribute to the county planning committee for what it has done to try to secure new industries for Cornwall and also pay tribute to the great skill and adaptability of Cornish workers, both men and women.

I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade that it was said recently that 750,000 new jobs were created in the London region between 1951 and 1961, or nearly half of the new jobs in the whole of Great Britain. I hope that Cornwall will not be forgotten and that my constituency will have a fair share of Government Departments in any redistribution of Departments which might take place, and a fair share of Government contracts. I hope that I have shown how much my constituency needs and deserves new industries. I hope, too, that my speech will bear fruit. The whole of my constituency is a development district with 25,000 workers, to each one of whom should be accorded full human dignity.

11.8 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)

In following in the debate the hon. Member for Camborne and Falmouth (Mr. Hayman), I should like, first, to thank my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade for his visit to Co[...]wall recently. He came to my constituency and saw many people. I think that they were impressed by his sympathetic hearing of the various cases which they put to him.

On the question of a mining revival, we are grateful to the Government for what they have done in the Finance Bill to help the mining industry. We hope that as a result this important industry will be given a further impetus in Cornwall and that people will correct the wrong impression which they have at the moment that the present Government do rot want further mining interests to be developed in Cornwall. This is wrong. They do, and I hope that through the help given in the Budget this will be shown to be so.

We must realise that if industry is to come to Cornwall we must get the transport situation right. It must be understood that there is adequate transport. If a new Beeching is to deal with the roads, I hope that he will be in co-operation with the Beeching of the railways and not against him. Transport must be treated as an integrated system, and where branch railway lines are closed adequate road transport must be provided in lieu of them. Industries cannot be attracted to places like Cornwall unless there are adequate facilities to serve their needs.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the very vast efforts made in Falmouth by certain new firms and others who are doing extremely well with export orders as well in this industry. I am disappointed that D.A.T.A.C. has not helped them more. I have spoken about my hon. Friend's visit and how grateful we are to him for coming, and I would finish by saying that I hope he will impress upon the Government the fact that we should be considered as a special area and should be granted the concessions announced by the Chancellor during the Budget debate, because this would be of great help to us, and that he will be able to say something about this in his reply.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

I want to add only a word or two to what has been said. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) that communications are really the answer to this matter. We want not only better railways, but better ports, air services and roads.

11.12 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. David Price)

No one in my position as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade could possibly quarrel with the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) for raising the need for new industries in Falmouth and Camborne, supported by other Cornish hon. Members on the case for Cornwall generally, on the Adjournment. I am sure that the whole House was impressed by the informed manner in which the hon. Gentleman presented his case. I think that it was the more impressive for the support which he got from my hon.

Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) and, in a brief intervention, from my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson).

We in the Board of Trade agree entirely that there is a need for more industry in Falmouth and Camborne, as there is in Cornwall generally. I hope that this short debate will have the effect of bringing to the notice of industrialists the possibility of establishing new factories in Cornwall. It is sometimes forgotten that Cornwall, as well as being a famous holiday centre, has a long industrial tradition, as the hon. Gentleman reminded the House when he last raised this question on 1st February, 1961.

To get the measure of the problem, it might be helpful if I were to give the House the latest unemployment figures for the hon. Gentleman's constituency. In April, 1963, in the Camborne-Redruth group, the figure of wholly unemployed was 796 or 5.4 per cent. of the insured population. Within three people that is exactly what the figure was a year previously. In Falmouth, the figure was 353 or 3.5 per cent., which was substantially lower than in the previous April.

I think that the House will agree with me that one does not get a fair picture by just taking one month's figures. It is far better to look at the running average. It is the trend that matters. The hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that the average of wholly unemployed for Camborne and Redruth for the last twelve months was 783, that is, 5.3 per cent. of the population, and for Falmouth it was 780, or 7.8 per cent.

I think that we can take some comfort from the fact that neither in Falmouth nor in Camborne-Redruth has the rate of unemployment increased since last year in accordance with the general trend in the country as a whole. Nevertheless, it is still too high. The House will have-noted from the figures I have quoted that unemployment in the CamborneRedruth group does not fluctuate widely, although there is a seasonal decline in the summer.

On the other hand, unemployment in Falmouth is subject to very wide fluctuations both according to the season, since it is a holiday centre, and according to the fortunes of Silley Cox, the famous Falmouth ship repairers and shipbuilders.

The level of unemployment in Falmouth in April of this year was very much lower than for April last year. This is due to the fact that Silley Cox were working at a high level of employment when the April count was taken, but some of the men in the shipyard have been laid off since. I will say more about the prospects of ship repairing in Falmouth in a moment.

What are the Government doing to encourage new industry to go to Camborne —Redruth and 'Falmouth—indeed. to all the Cornish development districts? And what are the prospects of success? As the House will know, both Falmouth, and Camborne and Redruth, are listed as development districts under the Local Employment Act, and a large part of the county is so listed. This means that new and expanding firms are eligible for all the benefits available under the Local Employment Act, 1960, and, in answer more particularly to my hon. Friend, the new standard benefits under the Local Employment Bill—an Act, we hope, soon, when it has passed all its stages in Parliament.

All firms in the Falmouth and Camborne—Redruth areas are also eligible for the tax concessions announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget, and, of particular relevance to Camborne, also the capital allowance in respect of mining in development districts which is covered in Section 39 of the Finance Bill to which the House gave a Second Reading yesterday. Taken together, these constitute very considerable added inducements to industrialists to site their expansions in development districts, and, I hope, particularly in Cornwall.

Last autumn, as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives was kind enough to remind the House, I took the opportunity to visit Cornwall and spoke to local authorities about their plans to attract new industry to the county. Although Cornwall has an obvious disadvantage which all hon. Members have referred to of being a fair way from the main centres of industry and population, it has a number of important attractions which, for the right kind of industry, should more than offset the disadvantage of distance.

Let me suggest some of them. First, available labour; second, a most agree- able climate; third, delightful country in which to live. This is not unimportant when one is having to move key workers. Then, it has good social amenities and unlimited opportunities for outdoor recreation; a competent and helpful county council, well supported by the subordinate local authorities, only too anxious to help the immigrant industrialist; and, as has been mentioned, good educational facilities.

When I was in Cornwall I was particularly impressed by the desire of local authorities to help themselves and also by the evidence which I received from firms which had moved to Cornwall of the big welcome which they had received from everybody on moving to Cornwall. I again emphasise how important it is for a development district to give a good reception and a helpful reception to the industrialist when he is making inquiries, because it is very rare that he goes just to one place. He looks round in many places and makes his choice on the margin—because a local authority has helped him to meet the local water board and the electricity board, and so on, so that he feels, "This is the sort of place where I can settle down, and be happy, and where they want me as a neighbour."

I turn to the specific prospects in Camborne and Redruth, and Falmouth respectively. Camborne and Redruth have suffered a serious disappointment in the decision of Tecalemit not to take over the new factory built for it by the Board of Trade. May I say it has been equally a big disappointment to me? I can assure the hon. Member that the reason for Tecalemit's decision has been strictly commercial, namely, that it no longer needs a new factory anywhere in Britain at the present time. It was not the result of any dissatisfaction with the factory or with the location. The factory, which is a new and highly adaptable one, of some 30,000 sq. ft., is, therefore, now available, and we in the Board of Trade are doing all we can to see that it is taken over by a suitable firm. I can tell the House that we have already shown it to several firms, although I think that it is a little too soon to expect a firm bid.

The abandonment of this project means that there are at present fewer industrial jobs in prospect in Camborne than we had hoped until recently. Nevertheless, there are other new developments going ahead in this area where the assistance we have already offered under the Local Employment Act, excluding offers declined and excluding the value of the Tecalemit factory, totals nearly £57,000. The number of additional jobs which we expect to accrue for projects at present known to us is between 400 and 500, which is a substantial number in relation to the number of workers wholly unemployed at present, which, as I said, is 793.

The fortunes of Falmouth are closely linked with ship repairing and, as I said earlier, some workers in the yards have been laid off since the April count, but I understand that the position is likely to improve in the short run with new work coming in. We must expect that the fluctuations of activity in ship repairing to make it inevitable that there must be some degree of fluctuation in the unemployment rate in Falmouth, apart of course from the seasonal variations in the holiday trade.

The rota system of employment for the dockyard workers ensures, however, that they all get some work during the year, with a reasonable level of average weekly earnings. To some extent these dockyard workers who register as wholly unemployed when no work is available for them are in the same position as workers temporarily stopped in other industries, hence we cannot assume that they would all necessarily wish to take regular factory jobs as an alternative if it were available to them, and I think that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that this doubt must lie in the minds of industrialists when they look at Falmouth.

At the same time, the hon. Gentleman will recognise that neither Falmouth nor Camborne is suitable for the very large and dramatic industrial project like a motor car factory. It is on the smaller ventures that our hopes must rest. Furthermore, given the character of Cornwall, it would be unreasonable to look to manufacturing industry alone as the sole source of new jobs. While Falmouth has not yet succeeded in attracting new industry on any large scale, I was interested to see that a new type of catamaran is to be built that will provide some male employment. We have granted an I.D.C. and the application for financial help is going through the normal procedure.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned granite mining. I understand that this industry will be eligible for the depreciation allowances under Clause 39 of the Finance Bill if the House approves it.

I note that the hon. Gentleman recently asked my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to consider steering the Board of Trade to Falmouth as an alternative to new industry.

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at twenty-two minutes past Eleven o'clock.