HC Deb 28 April 1964 vol 694 cc198-9
Q2. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the accelerating impact of automation and its consequential effects in economic, social and other fields, he will consider advising the establishment of a Royal Commission to assess the problems likely to arise.

The Prime Minister

A good deal of research work is now in progress on the problems and the opportunities presented by automation. Reports on some of these projects will be published. These matters are engaging the continuous attention of the Government. I do not therefore think that a Royal Commission is called for.

Mr. Hamilton

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that there is a feeling in the country, and certainly among industrial workers, that the Government's attitude to this is one of almost criminal complacency; that thousands of jobs are already being lost, and that hundreds of thousands of jobs are likely to be lost in the near future in the coal mining and other industries as a direct result of automation? Does he believe, with his right hon. enemy the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), that this problem and others can be solved by free market operation, or does he believe in active Government intervention before the event occurs?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman recognises that at present unemployment is very low, but, as he also recognises, we have lately introduced the Industrial Training Bill which bears immediately on this problem. We are trying to enlist the co-operation of the trade union movement on retraining, which is very important, and some of the trade unions have a very full understanding of the problem. I hope that we shall get general co-operation from them.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

If it is true that all these thousands of jobs are being lost, can my right hon. Friend explain how it is that the unemployment figures are falling?

Mr. Bence

Not in Scotland.