§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
We turn now to a discussion of local unemployment. A week ago the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) wondered why we should discuss local unemployment and not local employment. I hope that during the discussion we may refer to local employment also, but on occasions such as this we discuss grievances that the House may have with the Executive and rather than discuss employment we would wish to turn our attention to the problems of unemployment.
It is interesting that as we discuss local unemployment, we should have had put before us today the South-East Study, which deals with quite the opposite problem of over-employment, congestion and the social problems arising in the South-East from the attraction of that part of the country to industry, year in and year out, and by the migration of population from the North, from Scotland and from Wales to the South-East.
Whilst no one denies the need to examine and tackle with vigour the great social problems of the South-East, equally no one can deny that the solving, even the tackling, of this problem with vigour in the South-East makes it immeasurably more difficult to tackle successfully the problem of employment in the North, in Scotland and in Wales.
Recently, we have had quite considerable industrial expansion. According to the F.B.I. Industrial Trend Inquiry, 19 per cent. of firms gave the shortage of skilled labour as the most important factor which was likely to limit their output in the next four months. Yet we have unemployment in the North- 1666 Western region amounting to 74,306, or 2.56 per cent.; in the northern region, 52,916, or 4.1 per cent.; in Scotland, 96,980, or 4.5 per cent.; and in Wales. 28,531, or 2.9 per cent. In each of those regions we have pockets of heavy unemployment.
About a fortnight ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the increase in the Bank Rate. The purpose of the adjustment in the rate was to hold back a little the rate of expansion; we were expanding too rapidly and the expansion had to be held in check a little. The unemployment figures which I have quoted show that the expansion has not yet reached some of the worst hit parts of the country.
If, this time, we have the experience that we have had on all previous occasions when the brake has been applied, those will be the areas which suffer most from the application of the restraint. In those areas, in which the school-leavers find it most difficult to get into employment, particularly with training for skill, the school-leavers will increasingly be denied the opportunity of getting into employment.
Clearly, what is wrong is a failure on the part of the Government to pursue a distribution of industry policy in the interests of the nation. This is what gives rise to the problem which we are discussing today. It is equally the reason for the problem which is sought to be tackled in the South-East Study. When one thinks of the reports that emerged from independent Committees and Royal Commissions before the war, and even during the war, calling attention to the problem, it is a tragedy that even now we should be met with the two opposite problems in the acute forms in which they exist in two different parts of the country.
It is not that the Government have not had power to tackle the problem. The power to regulate the distribution of industry throughout the country was given in the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945 For 12 years, however, we have had ineffective Ministers unwilling to administer the powers that were given in 1945 and Ministers who now have lost all the will to govern. I remember the late Hugh Dalton moving the Second Reading of the Distribution of Industry Bill in 1945, on 21st March of that year, 1667 19 years ago this week. He described it as a Measure to promote a healthy and well-balanced industrial life in all parts of the country. He said that it was needed to make a beginning with the carrying-out of the principles of the Barlow Report on the Distribution of the Industrial Population.
Subsequent to the passing of the Act, when Hugh Dalton was Chancellor of the Exchequer, I remember his speech at a Labour Party conference, when he said that the money that he found to give effect to the distribution of industry policy he found with a song in his heart. I remember how he was maligned by Tory propagandists for his speech on that occasion.
I also remember what the Tories said in the debate in the House of Commons on 21st March, 1945. They did not like this interference with the right of private industry to establish itself wherever it wished anywhere in this country, and it has been all too obvious, over the past 12 years, that the powers that the Government have to say "No" to the industrialists in the congested South-East are powers which are not exercised because they dare not say "No"—I was going to say to their friends, but that would be wrong—to their political paymasters who are in big business.
We shall be told once again no doubt, at the end of this debate, what has been done for the development districts—the free depreciation, the standard grants for building and machinery—and those of us concerned about the Scottish position will be told about the B.M.C. at Bathgate and Rootes at Linwood. The Minister of State will, no doubt, remind us of the pulp mill being built at Fort William. We may also be told about the £50 million in loans being made available to industry in Scotland under the Local Employment Act, 1960.
Of course, we might get just a little of the picture that the Prime Minister gave the other day when he addressed a Press conference to launch the Enterprise Scotland Exhibition. What right he had to do this, I shall never know. I happen to be one of the group of Members for Scottish constituencies who has had an interest in the Enterprise 1668 Scotland Exhibition for a very long time. A good many of us have been members of the general committee for several exhibitions past. We would not have approved of the Scottish Council, or the committee appointed to organise this exhibition with our support, providing a platform for the Prime Minister to make an electioneering speech on behalf of the Tory Party.
On that occasion, on Tuesday of this week, the right hon. Gentleman claimed credit for everything that has happened in Scotland since the end of the war—the introduction of office machinery. By whom? By a Labour Government. The introduction of the electronics industry. Under which Government?—a Labour Government. Most of the things that he mentioned in his speech as the great things done by a Tory Government all happened in the years when the Prime Minister was not a Member of Parliament at all, between 1945 and 1950. No doubt we shall get something of this picture that he then presented when he made this speech to the Press two days ago.
We shall be told that things will improve in the future. That will be tedious repetition. We have been told this on every occasion in the last 12 years when we have discussed employment in industry in Scotland. Not one debate has passed on this subject without Ministers telling us that the dark clouds were just moving away, that prosperity was round the corner; and no doubt the Minister of State will tell us once again that his right hon. Friend will continue to pursue a tough I.D.C. policy in London, the South-East and the Midlands. If he does, I can tell him that nobody will believe him.
Look at the figures. Take unemployment on the latest figures available to us. In London and the South-East: unemployed, 72,608 persons or 1.3 per cent. of the insured population; unfilled vacancies in the same region, 77,309. In the Midlands, unemployed, 42,024 or 1.2 per cent; unfilled vacancies, 44,120. The House will note that the unfilled vacancies in both those regions substantially exceed the number unemployed. In Scotland, the number of unemployed total 96,908, or 4.5 per cent. of the insured population; unfilled vacancies, 11,475. If all the unfilled vacancies in 1669 Scotland were filled by unemployed people there would still be over 85,000 unemployed.
We come to the issue of the industrial development certificates for factory building. According to the digest of Statistics published by the Board of Trade, in its latest issue, the amount of factory building under construction is as follows: London and South-East, 11,809,000 sq. ft., and in the Midlands 7,790,000 sq. ft., over 25 per cent, of all the factory building in Great Britain, notwithstanding that the unfilled vacancies in those areas already exceed the number of unemployed. In Scotland, factory building under construction is 5,650,000 sq. ft., or 7.4 per cent. of the total. We have over 21 per cent. of the unemployed and only 7.4 per cent. of the factories under construction. What a wonderful Government!
The right hon. Gentleman may tell us that advance factories are being built. Where are they being built? I am not asking him to tell me the towns and villages in Scotland in which they are being built, but I want to know how many factories are being built in different parts of the United Kingdom, including the congested areas—I hope not with public money.
We have heard from the Treasury Bench on earlier occasions of the great areas of factory space advertised weekly in London as being available to rent. I was astonished when I picked up the London Evening Standard of Tuesday, 18th February, to read:Property Chief Has No Fears About Election. One property man untroubled by the thought of what the General Election may bring is Mr. Gerald Mobbs, managing director of Slough Estates. 'Both parties are committed to industrial growth, and that means more people will be wanting new factories', he says. 'The small ones we've just built on spec have been snapped up and that's without our doing any advertising.' This leaves some 30 acres immediately available on the 600-acre estate for further building. 'Enough for the next four or five years at the rate we have been going'.The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have been telling us for years that in this area no industrial development certificate was given for any industrial building without the closest and most careful consideration being given to the need for the factory and for industrial building in the area. How are fac- 1670 tories built "on spec" at Slough? Why is this permitted?
Some of us get hot under the collar when we discuss these matters but we have every right to do so when we think of the drift of population, the migration of population from the North to the South, and the stories we are told about the tough policy being pursued by the Government in seeking to prevent a further concentration of industry here, when, daily, we have evidence that Ministers are misleading the House and the nation in the statements which they make.
The Secretary of State for Scotland and some of his colleagues have been making some noble declarations on the Scottish position since he became Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Fraser
The right hon. Gentleman is not likely to be here, because he makes all his noble declarations to meetings of the Unionist Party in Scotland. I have before me the Press report of a meeting which he had with his own Unionist Association in Argyll a little while after he was appointed Secretary of State. He said:We are certainly sympathetic to those who are unemployed but there is this other side to the question. After we go into the Common Market there are quite a number of firms from both America and Europe who will want to come here and start a business. They will look around Europe and the only place they will be able to find labour available will be here.This is the Secretary of State's boast—that the only country in Europe in which those companies will be able to find unemployed labour is Scotland. This is our great asset.
The Minister of State, the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, no doubt using the same script writer, made a similar speech. Ho said:Scotland had what the European community desperately needed—a stable country with all modern resources and a highly skilled and adaptable labour force ready to turn from old-established contracting industries into new and exciting fields. 'Nowhere else in Europe are these things to be found on such a scale,' said Lord Craigton, who was speaking at a Unionist meeting in James Gillespie's School. 'Expansion is in the air, and if we go in, then England, the United States and Europe will find, better in Scotland than anywhere else in Europe, all the conditions necessary 1671 for expansion. Then we shall see the solid, unspectacular groundwork of the last decade really start to pay off.The roads, the bridges, the overspill movement, the new towns, the industrial estates, the careful forward-planning of local authorities, both great and small, all will come into their own'.The only country in Europe with a large pool of unused labour. What a damning indictment of this Tory Government!
We did not get into the Common Market, and the right hon. Gentlemen concerned have no other cure for the economic ills of Scotland. In any case, what was this solid unspectacular groundwork of the past decade referred to by the Minister of State? The answer to that question was given by the Minister of Labour at Question Time on Monday. Between 1951 and 1963 the number of men and boys in employment in Scotland showed a decrease of 33,000. In the same period there was an increase in the number of men and boys in employment in the rest of Great Britain of 963,000. It was almost I million increase during the same period that there was a decrease of 33,000 in the number in employment in Scotland. This is the "solid unspectacular groundwork of the past decade". This is the way in which the Tory Government have managed to undermine Scotland in the past 12 years.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
This is a very serious statement about Scotland. I take it that my hon. Friend advised the Secretary of State for Scotland that he would deal with this matter. The Secretary of State is not here. We have here only one junior Minister representing Scotland. Did my hon. Friend advise hon. Members opposite that he would raise such matters?
§ Mr. Fraser
I did not tell them precisely which matters I would raise, but they were informed that I should be opening the debate, and the Scottish Office would not be unaware that I was liable to say a word or two about Scotland in the course of my remarks. But if my hon. Friend is surprised that the Secretary of State is not in his place this afternoon, I am surprised at my hon. Friend. It is my experience that when the Secretary of State knows that he will be under fire, he is never here.
1672 The Minister of Labour also told us on Monday that for every 100 wholly unemployed boys in Scotland there were 24 vacancies. For every 100 wholly unemployed in the Midlands there were 694 vacancies. This means that there are four unemployed boys chasing every job in Scotland, whereas there are seven jobs chasing every unemployed boy in the Midlands. Let the House reflect on the figures which I gave a little while ago about the amount of factory building in the Midlands compared with the amount under construction in Scotland. Let the Minister of State ask himself whether there is any equitable use of the I.D.C. procedure in the interests of the nation.
All this leads to the tremendous loss of population to which reference was made in the Government's White Paper on Central Scotland. It also accounts for the daily trek south on the trunk road A.74. Scottish Ministers are well aware that I live near that road, but the Minister of State may not know it. I can assure him that, every day of the week in every week of the year, young men can be seen on that road hitchhiking soutth in search of employment.
This is in addition to the men and women whose transfer to employment in the South is facilitated by the Ministry of Labour, which pays their fares and removal expenses. There is an assumption sometimes that all these moves are taken care of by the Ministry of Labour, but I want the House to realise that on this trunk road southwards to England every day one sees disheartened, frustrated young people, many only in their teens, unable to find employment in their homeland, trekking south in search of a job in another part of Britain.
The fact that that sort of situation pertains in one part of Britain while we have the situation described in the South-East Study brings home very forcibly the incompetence of the kind of Government we have at present.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
My hon. Friend has spoken about young men who hitch-hike. I see that, on the benches opposite, there is only one Scottish Member who may want to take part in this debate, but that two hon. Members from Ulster are present. An added misfortune for the unemployed 1673 of Ulster is that they cannot hitch-hike to here. They have to find the fare. But Scotland, at least, returns a majority Labour representation while Ulster continues to send to the Imperial Parliament 12 Tory Members.
§ Mr. Fraser
I do not want to get involved in the political set-up of Northern Ireland. Both my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) and I have visited that part of the United Kingdom and realise full well that, when the voters go to the polls, they are not encouraged to vote on the policies of the Tory and Labour Parties, but on religious grounds. Thus we get the distortion which we have in the representation of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom Parliament.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We cannot discuss the internal politics of Northern Ireland. What we can discuss in this debate are matters of Ministerial responsibility here.
§ Mr. McMaster
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. An attack has been made on my fellow Unionist Members and on what happens at a General Election. May I not have your permission to say a word in our defence?
§ Mr. Fraser
The White Paper on Central Scotland is no answer to the problems I have been setting before the House. The proposition in that White Paper that has been most loudly acclaimed by the Tories in Scotland is that public investment, which was at the rate of £100 million in 1962–63, would be increased to £130 million in 1963–64 and to £140 million in 1964–65.
Tories in Scotland, including hon. Members, make speeches saying that the Government are giving £40 million more for public investment, which is as near to being a lie as is possible. What the White Paper says is that public investment on all the public services—roads, houses and schools, etc—which was held back to £100 million in 1962–63 will be permitted to rise to £130 million this year and to £140 million next year. Most of 1674 this public investment is incurred by the local authorities, without one penny of extra money being made available from Government funds by increased grants to them.
The first year is almost up. The financial year finishes at the end of March. What has happened? The Government have appointed a committee in each of the growth areas to see how this extra money is to be spent. Most of the extra money is already spent, however, but nobody has been made aware or sees any evidence in Scotland of its having given rise to any great upthrust of economic activity. All that happened was that the Government, which had put a very heavy squeeze on the amount of public investment to be undertaken by the local authorities, lifted their foot a little off the brake.
The Government pretended, in the White Paper, that they would stimulate investment on what they are pleased to call the "infrastructure" and which we used to call the basic services, as in the Distribution of industry Act, 1945. The Government, however, now talk about stimulating expenditure on the infrastructure.
The Minister of State will not be able to tell us of any growth area in Scotland in which the Government have stimulated any of the local authorities concerned into incurring more expenditure on the infrastructure, because they have not done so. It may be that the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that, here and there, the Government have permitted the local authorities to do a little more than they did in previous years but he will find it difficult to give examples of permitting local authorities to do as much as they themselves want to do.
Part of North Lanarkshire lies in one of the growth areas. It has a big backlog of school building to be overtaken. Last week the Secretary of State told us that in the coming year—the second year of increase in expenditure on public investment—he has decided to allow the local education authority to do two-thirds of the work it wants to carry out. That is what the Government call "stimulation".
No one in Scotland knows of any advantage that there is in being in a growth area. The Minister of State may 1675 think that he knows but surely if anyone should know it is the local authority officials in these growth areas. The Burgh of Motherwell and Wishaw was at one time two separate towns. Motherwell and Wishaw were joined about 30 years ago. Now Motherwell is in a growth area and Wishaw is outside it.
I have the honour to be chairman of the Lanarkshire Development Council. I have had a meeting with the officials of the local authorities in Lanarkshire to inform myself of the advice they received from Lord Craigton and what they were to do on the working party that has been set up. I asked an official of the Burgh of Motherwell and Wishaw what was the advantage to Motherwell of being in a growth area and the disadvantage to Wishaw of being outside it. I wanted to know what works would be permitted in Motherwell which would not be permitted in Wishaw. I wanted to know what public investment would be stimulated in Motherwell and not stimulated in Wishaw.
That senior official of the Motherwell and Wishaw Burgh Council had not a clue. He said that he had asked exactly the same questions at the Scottish Office but could not get the answers for the people there did not know either. Does not this sort of situation demonstrate what a farce the Government's activities amount to? It is just window-dressing. It was never intended to be taken seriously by any serious student of the social and economic problems of Scotland.
There is only one thing in the White Paper of which I approve. For many years hon. Members of this side of the House have been lambasted by Tories and by the Tory Press in Scotland for telling the truth about Scotland. We have been accused of making over-gloomy prophecies. We have been told that it is a bad thing to bring to light our loss of population by migration. But now the White Paper admits that in the first 10 years of Tory rule the loss of population from Scotland by migration exceeded 280,000. That figure has now risen to more than 300,000.
The White Paper says, in paragraph 6: 1676The net loss of younger people cannot continue at the present level without serious damage to the prospects of long-term economic recovery.That supports what we have been saying in our debates over the years about the serious effect on the Scottish economy of this constant drain of young people. The White Paper admits that after 12 wasted years the goal is economic recovery, but prefaces that with the phrase "long term". We have suffered so much as a result of 12 years of Tory administration that we certainly are in need of economic recovery, but no one can see any possibility of that happening in the short term. The goal is long-term economic recovery. There is not a word in the White Paper about how the problem of our loss of young people is to be dealt with. There is not one proposal to arrest this constant loss of our young people.
The Barlow Commission, which reported more than 20 years ago, and to which I have already referred, said that to avoid over-congestion in London and the Midlands a national authority was needed to control the location of industry. That Report specifically mentioned the declining industries of Scotland and the North-East which the Government discovered only when writing their recent White Papers. That really is a dreadful commentary on the incompetence of the present Administration.
I realise that because of the time I must draw my remarks to a close. We are always being asked what we would do to deal with the situation in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman knows about our plan for a national authority. He knows about our plan for regional authorities, and he is aware of our determination to move industries from the congested areas into other areas, although I accept that it will be possible for someone to say that the Labour Party has not thought those ideas out for itself as these proposals were made by the Barlow Commission which was appointed in 1937, and reported in 1940.
The needs of Scotland are similar to those of the North-East. There are really two nations in this land. There is the nation north of the line from the Mersey to the Humber, and the nation south of that. The nation in the north needs more science-based industries. Secondly, we 1677 need industries based on the petrochemical works at Grangemouth. It is remarkable how little is said about the failure of private enterprise to make use of the products of the petro-chemical industry.
Half its products come south, to England, and the other half go overseas. When I was in Israel, some years ago, I saw some of the products of Grangemouth being converted into plastics to be exported. Where?—to England. Why cannot we in Scotland make use of the products from Grangemouth? Why did not the Toothill Committee mention this matter? The answer is that it could not do so without criticising industrialists in Central Scotland.
Thirdly, we want industries based on the products of the strip mills at Ravens-craig and Gartcosh. I could elaborate that, but I shall not do so. Fourthly, we want lower interest rates, or higher subsidies for local authority programmes for investment in the growth areas. Fifthly, we want the withdrawal of the selective coal price increases imposed in 1961–62.
Sixthly, we want contracts to be placed in Scotland for the supply of manufactures for the public services. Seventhly, we want a fairer share of office employment under the control of the Government and statutory bodies. In that connection, the Scottish Development Department has advised Hamilton Town Council not to construct any houses in the Beckford Street area, so as to leave space for the extension of office employment in the town. At some sacrifice to the housing programme, the town council agreed to that proposal, and I ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State to communicate to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State our request that he should support his Department and steer some appropriate Government Department into the town.
Recently, there have been many feature articles in the Scottish Press about the state of the Scottish economy. Many suggestions have been made for dealing with the problem. There has been widespread support for the proposition that there should be a new tax structure which will discriminate in favour of the depressed areas of the country.
1678 I hope that the Minister will show us that he realises that the policies which have been pursued in the past are insufficient to deal with the problems with which we are faced. Something else must be tried. I am not suggesting that it is necessary for the Government to have additional powers. All I am suggesting is that Ministers should make use of the powers that they already have. It may be that I ought to know better than to ask that. After all, as was made clear in our discussions earlier this afternoon, there must soon be a General Election, and when the miserable record of twelve years of Tory Government is exposed to the electors, there is little doubt that a new management will be elected to take control of the nation's affairs.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) about the seriousness of the situation in Scotland. On the other hand, he has done less than justice to the Government for what they have done in recent years. Further, he made no more than rather vague suggestions as to what a Labour Government might do if they came to power. His speech was largely destructive, and not entirely logical. He brushed aside the various industrial developments that have taken place in Central Scotland and which have been largely, if not entirely, the work of the present Government. But, if I understood him aright, he said that he wanted subsidiary industries for the strip mill at Ravenscraig.
That is exactly what I should have thought it was now beginning to get. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that what has been done is of no importance and then ask for more of it.
§ Sir F. Maclean
He went fairly near to saying i[...].
He also did less than justice to the scheme for the growth areas. I hope that my hon. Friend will refer to that. It is rather childish to say that the line between one growth area and another, or the defining line of a growth area, is arbitrary. I do not complain because Irvine, which is the centre of a growth 1679 area, is situated in the constituency of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), because I am certain that that growth area will help to solve the unemployment in my constituency just as much as it will in his. That fact was pointed out in our debate on the White Paper. It was then made clear that growth areas are meant to expand outside their narrow boundaries, as defined on the map at the end of the White Paper.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
The hon. Gentleman does not seem to have heard a word that I said. I said that those burghs which were within the growth areas were not aware of any advantage accruing to them from that fact. This was brought out clearly in situations where part of a burgh was in a growth area and part was outside. The officials of the burgh did not know what effect the growth area would have on that part that was inside.
§ Sir F. Maclean
The hon. Gentleman was inclined to play the whole thing down. My feeling is that these areas will soon realise what advantages they derive from being either within a growth area or just outside it.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that, even admitting that growth areas in certain parts of Scotland help to increase the population, and solve the unemployment problem, those growth areas have been ill-balanced. There is no compensating growth area in the Highlands to prevent the Highland population from being attracted to growth areas on the other side of the Highland line.
§ Sir F. Maclean
The hon. Gentleman must realise that the present scheme for growth areas in Central Scotland is to be followed by another scheme for the Highlands and the Borders.
§ Sir F. Maclean
It is not for me to announce that, but I hope that we shall hear about it at the end of the debate. When we do I shall be as gratified as hon. Members opposite will no doubt be.
I was interested in what the hon. Member said about fiscal inducements. That is something for which I have been 1680 pressing for some time. I also read the interesting articles on the subject which have been published in the national Press. There is undoubtedly more to be done in this way. But we must recognise that the fiscal inducements offered by the Chancellor in the last Budget are already beginning to produce their effects. The hon. Member was less than generous not to mention them in his speech.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I had to leave the Chamber for a few minutes while he was speaking and I may have missed that part of his speech, but he did not mention it while I was here.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
If we have to wait until he is present before we make our speeches we shall never speak at all.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
The hon. Member is at least the one Conservative Member opposite who is prepared to get to his feet and defend his country.
§ Sir F. Maclean
There has not yet been very much chance for me to get a word in edgeways. I might point out that I have been waiting hopefully since three o'clock, while hon. Members opposite have engaged in an unrivalled display of filibustering. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They may have done better in the past, but their display was unrivalled in my experience.
Since July 1963 the Board of Trade has received 830 applications for aid in Scotland. That is an encouraging sign. It is a very much higher figure than for the previous year, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will tell us how many satisfactory answers have been given. It takes a long time for a firm to get an answer when it makes an application. I have already mentioned that fact on many occasions, but there does not seem to have been as much improvement in this respect as I had hoped to see.
1681 In this connection, I should like to take two examples from my own constituency. The first is the Ardrossan shipyard, which was almost completely derelict three or four years ago. It was then taken over by an extremely enterprising man, who has built it up into a flourishing concern. He now wants to expand still further, and, if he does, it will bring even more employment than he has already brought to the area, which badly needs it. The latest figure of unemployment in North Ayrshire is——
§ Sir F. Maclean
It is 7.6 per cent. I wanted to get the figure exactly right so as not to be picked on by the hon. Member.
A plan for this expansion has been before my right hon. Friend's Department for over a year, but so far nothing has come of it. I hope that he will give urgent consideration to the matter and see whether he can hurry matters on.
The other illustration is the new clothing factory at Rothesay. There, thanks to the War Office, which has behaved with its usual efficiency, we were able to obtain premises extremely quickly, and the firm has started a flourishing clothing factory in a very short time. Then, last October, it applied for help to expand still further. At the present time it employs about 30 people and could employ another 60 or 70 were the application successful. The application was made in October and, during the interval additional information has been asked for and provided. So far as I know, all the information needed has now been supplied. But I am told that the final decision cannot be expected before May at the earliest. This means delaying the opportunity to employ 60 or 70 more people in an island suffering from severe unemployment. I will give the up-to-the-minute figures; they are 334, or 11.6 per cent.
In addition, anyone who has been studying the national Press recently will have read articles and letters on the subject of the depopulation of Bute and North Ayrshire. That is bound to happen unless new industries are brought 1682 there. And now an extremely reputable and well-established firm has provided a new industry, and it has taken from October to March, and now, apparently, is to take from March until May, to get a decision on whether an extra 60 or 70 women could be employed. I hope that the Minister will see what he can do to help.
If the provisions of the Local Employment Act are applied more vigorously and if stronger inducements are given, I think considerable progress can be made. A certain amount of progress is being made already, and this is evident in Scotland. I would not say that the Labour Government did nothing towards solving the problem; I think they did quite a lot, just as this Government have done. The fact remains, however—and the hon. Member for Hamilton forgets this—that in Scotland unemployment was running at pretty consistently twice the United Kingdom figure, under the Labour Government, just as it is now. There may have been fluctuations, but that figure is about right. It is a tough, enduring problem and not an easy one for any Government to solve.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Carmarthen)
I make no apology for intervening in the debate, although I represent a Welsh constituency. No hon. Member from Wales ever makes an apology for making a speech at any time, anywhere.
We were all relieved to know that the unemployment figure for Wales has improved. But it would be foolish to ignore the fact that there are still problem areas in various parts of Wales where the rate of unemployment is very high. Unfortunately, these areas have suffered from persistent unemployment for a very long time, and there has been little improvement.
The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs made a statement last year that a study was being carried out by the Economic Intelligence Unit of the Welsh Office. This study will take a very long time, an unconscionable time. Last week, in a speech during the Adjournment debate the right hon. Gentleman said that the plan, which is to follow 1683 on this study, will be available early next year. Why is it to take so long? Why particularly, when the plan for the North-East was prepared and made available in a matter of months?
What is the difference? It certainly is not the difference between the Minister for Welsh Affairs and the Lord President of the Council—or whatever is the present title of the right hon. and learned Gentleman; it changes so often that I find it difficult to remember. There is a great difference between the two Ministers. Is the Minister proposing to say that the plan for the North-East was prepared too hastily and that it would have been better had as much time been taken over it as will be taken over the Welsh plan?
What is the reason for the delay? I can assure the House that it is not because the facts have not been made available. In 12 years we have had 11 reports on various aspects of Welsh affairs—transport, depopulation, industry and other matters concerning Welsh life. No other part of the country can rival Wales in the matter of inquiries. We believe that it is time to hurry the Report and the plan. Some action should be taken. I should like to hear that we may expect the plan sooner than the Minister for Welsh Affairs led us to believe that it would be available.
What is the reason for the delay? Is it a matter of priorities? After hearing the speech of my right hon. Friend, and knowing as we do the facts about high unemployment in Scotland and the North-East we understand that those areas where unemployment is high should have first priority. But hon. Members who represent Welsh constituencies are becoming anxious. They would like to know how far this system of priorities is to be carried. This is a danger which we shall have to watch, and the Minister must watch very carefully. We have areas of high unemployment in Wales, and the conditions which have resulted in high unemployment in Scotland and the North-East are apparent in the Principality. There is a decline in our major industries and there is depopulation which is still continuing, particularly in mid Wales.
We wish to know what are to be the priorities and whether Government con- 1684 tracts or new industries are to go to Scotland and the North-East or to one of the "black spots" in Wales, of which there are many. The Prestcold factory, at Swansea, is closing down and the Royal Ordnance Factory at Pembrey is progressively closing down. It will be completely closed down at the end of the year. We should like an assurance that Wales is not to be forgotten or left out and that we shall have equal priority with Scotland and the North-East.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Rafton Pounder (Belfast, South)
Hon. Members have been talking about Scotland and Wales and it is not surprising that I should cross the sea and speak of Northern Ireland, although my remarks could, I hope, equally apply to any area of the United Kingdom where unemployment is higher than the national average.
Although many tens of thousands of new jobs have been created in Northern Ireland in recent years, the great strides and intensive endeavours which have been made towards the provision of additional employment and new industries have, unfortunately, coincided with a run-down of employment in traditional industries. Although the face of industry there is changing faster than in any other area of the United Kingdom, there is no reason to assume that the pattern of change will not continue, perhaps at an accelerated rate, in coming years. Whether it will, in fact, be at an accelerated rate or not is not for me to speculate, but I wish to try to assess the reasons for the run-down in employment in recent years.
This, of course, to a very large extent has been due to the position of heavy industry in Northern Ireland. This applies equally to North-East England and Central Scotland. Every heavy industry in the United Kingdom has been subjected to great technological change, to increased mechanisation, and to the introduction of many labour-saving processes. There is no reason to assume that the present level of unemployment high though it is, is symptomatic of a permanent condition. The situation could be likened to a person going through a bad patch who, given a helping hand, can quickly again stand on his own feet.
1685 If we look at Merseyside, Clydeside, the North-East and Northern Ireland, we find a common thread running through the major industries of those areas. They have all been traditional centres of heavy industry and they are all in a state of transition at present. I know that I am guilty of a generalisation in stating the cause of the current unemployment problems in those areas in this broad manner, but what is to be done about them? More particularly, what can be done by Government? While the Government can assist in persuading new factories to set up in these areas, I am doubtful of the value of something in the nature of a national planning board such as hon. Members opposite advocate.
I do not think it is practicable to say to an industrialist, "Here you will set up your factory". In the last analysis the industrialist must be given a choice of the site on which he is to establish his factory. Granted that financial inducements can be given to help him to make up his mind, but we must come back in the final analysis to his right to decide the particular site which suits him.
Another way in which the Government can help areas of higher than national average of unemployment is through the expansion of retraining schemes. It is a fallacy to assert, as some do, that because a person has been trained for one particular job he is incapable of being trained for another. In Northern Ireland an extensive retraining scheme has worked extremely satisfactorily. At the risk of introducing controversy, I would say that the trade union movement could assist by showing more flexibility in regard to apprenticeships and also the length of the period of apprenticeships. In many areas there is a chronic shortage of skilled personnel.
§ Mr. Pounder
The building industry nationally is one such case. I fully appreciate that it is a primary responsibility of any trade union to do its utmost to protect its members' interests. I should probably be one of the first to criticise any union which adopted a different yardstick. The position now in regard to the extreme shortage of skilled 1686 labour is one which would justify much more flexibility by the trade unions.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
The hon. Member has claimed, and ought to put, the figures on record, that Northern Ireland has had an extensive programme of industrial training—more, I take it, than in any other part of the United Kingdom. I should like to hear the exact figures. It would seem that the trade unions are co-operating more there than it is alleged elsewhere. Is he also suggesting that the trade unions should encourage this extensive retraining to go further to provide men for the chronic shortages, not in Northern Ireland, but in other parts of the United Kingdom? Is he advocating mass migration from Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Pounder
No. The hon. Member has, I think, deliberately or innocently taken me up completely wrongly. I said at the outset of my remarks that they could apply equally to any part of the United Kingdom. On this point I am thinking not so much of Northern Ireland, but of the whole United Kingdom, where there is a chronic shortage of skilled labour in the building industry.
Since the hon. Member raised the point, in Northern Ireland the Government retraining centres have been successful so far as they have gone. I should, of course, like to see more of them, but that is outside the compass of this debate.
§ Mr. Pounder
With respect to the hon. Member, I beg to differ on this point, because my understanding from persons connected with the building trade, with whom I have been in contact at various times, is that the trade union movement is rigid in its attitude to apprenticeship schemes. If it were not so rigid, my friends in the industry and other firms feel that that they could expand their businesses quite substantially. I can only speak from what I have been told.
§ Mr. Pounder
Read it tomorrow in HANSARD. I thought that I spoke loudly enough to be heard.
I come to one particular case in Northern Ireland of a shortage of skilled labour. This was not in my constituency, but in a neighbouring one. Recently, a firm gave notice that it would have to close because of shortage of skilled labour. This, under any circumstances, is a regrettable situation, but in an area where we have higher than the national level of unemployment it is particularly unfortunate that firms should have to close. This illustration from my own area is equally relevant to other parts of the country.
Government expenditure on defence over the years has reached such proportions that it is now an essential part of the national economy. It follows, therefore, that the Government in its many and varied forms is one of industry's best customers. I have long held the view that there should be two criteria in the allocation of Government contracts: first, the obvious economic consideration of the best value for money, but, secondly, and closely allied, there should be the social considerations.
I shall not digress to talk about the aircraft industry in Belfast as we shall have an opportunity of dealing with that later. I am not advocating for a moment that Government funds should be extravagantly applied, nor that the taxpayers' money should be used to bolster up every decaying industry in the country, but there is a world of difference between wasteful extravagance and the Government giving a fillip to those industries in those areas which are temporarily in need of assistance. Of course, the taxpayers' money must be used to the best national advantage, but surely the national advantage must include social as well as purely economic considerations.
I would like to introduce a specific point on which I hope the Minister will comment. Something causing considerable concern in Northern Ireland is the need for further technological research into the computer industry—not only in Northern Ireland but throughout the United Kingdom. As matters are proceeding now it appears that a situation 1688 is likely to develop when the British computer industry will be nothing more or less than a marketing agency for imported American machines. Would the Minister consider restricting the importation of American computers into the United Kingdom until such time as the situation has been thoroughly investigated? What are his views on the subject?
To sum up, I consider that there are three ways in which the Government can assist in the provision of employment in areas of above-average unemployment. The first is by imaginative assistance in the attraction of new industry, the second is the provision of sufficient and comprehensive retraining schemes, and the third is the allocation of Government contracts.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
The United Kingdom is united once more. We have, in the various speeches, been from Scotland to Wales and on to Northern Ireland. It last we are now back home.
§ Dr. Bray
No doubt my hon. Friend will take us on a second tour. Meanwhile, there is one point on which all parts of the United Kingdom are agreed; the incompetence of the Government to tackle the problem we are discussing tonight. All hon. Members feel strongly about his problem because of its human aspects. We get heavily involved in statistics about the numbers of unemployed, the complexities of the Local Employment Act, computers and who knows what kind of incentives to industry, but behind it all are the people we meet at our weekly "surgeries"; the unfortunate people who are in hopeless positions, who have been unemployed for months and often years, some of whom have been retrained but have found themselves on the scrap heap, and others who are just unable to find employment. It is this kind of sharp human hardship which is well known to hon. Members personally which, above all, adds poignancy to the debate.
In addition to the human hardship there are other problems, like the sheer waste of resources, to be considered. When we complain of the unemployment 1689 in Scotland and the North-East, as well as parts of England and Wales, it is because of the untapped enormous reserves of resources which could be put at the disposal of the country if proper and imaginative steps were taken by the Government. What is needed to solve these problems is beginning to sink in to the consciousness of the Government, who are making appropriate kinds of noises, even if they are not seriously meant. It is interesting to note in the White Paper:The aim will be to promote a steady rise in economic activity as the basis for the continued growth of employment in the regions … Positive action is needed to improve the whole range of services which underpin the regions' economic activity.That is splendid, and similar noises are made about Scotland. We read about… a comprehensive and sustained programme for the modernisation of the economy of Central Scotland.We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) what this is adding up to. Still, let us carry the argument along as far as we can with the Government and welcome this broadening of approach to the problem of local unemployment. In this broader approach of seeing the development and growth of the regions as a comprehensive problem covering the whole community, there are two opposite dangers and, with the Government's happy felicity, they promise to fall into both of them. The first is the wider action on transport, building up the substructure and so on—but the aim of reducing unemployment is entirely lost sight of. The actions which are proposed in the White Paper do not seem to be based on any estimate of need in relation to the number of jobs which will be provided or the adequacy of the likely results in terms of reduced unemployment.
There is no estimate of the rate of reduction in unemployment—the rate of increased employment—and in the plans for bridges, roads and further developments, which we all welcome, there is very little sense of the immediate urgency of the problem. The initial reaction in the North-East was, "This is fine, but where are the jobs?" That was how the Report was first received, for it was considered that it contained no considera- 1690 tion of the short-term employment problem there.
The other danger in losing sight of the objective of reducing unemployment is that of getting the balance wrong when dealing with the wider issues—transport, housing, education and so on—and of not appreciating the tremendous importance in the life of the community in the regions of these issues.
There are other aims, apart from reducing unemployment, but it is often not realised that these must be fitted together into a balanced whole. We do not seem to have any unifying concept with which to achieve a reduction in unemployment against the background of the other objectives to enrich the life of the community. In particular, we see that the regional problem cannot be expressed in terms of unemployment alone, yet we know that it is precisely reciprocal to the problems in the North-East and Scotland and can only be tackled in conjunction with them.
Taking the primary aim first—of the reduction of unemployment—along with the dangers of losing sight of everything else, how well are the Government doing? Their policies have not made any impression on the problem at all. If we regard the objective as the full use of our economic resources, we are not asking for charity or merely for consideration of the personal hardships of our constituents but for hard, commonsense efforts to achieve the full use of the economic factors of production. The trouble is that we are going back through the old cycle which we knew in the 'fifties and 'sixties. We can think of the development districts as the least fully-deployed eighth of the working population; there are about 3 million workers in the development districts out of about 25 million in the whole country. That situation has not changed greatly in the last five years.
Let us consider the two main economic problems; the first is the perilous stop-go policies and the difficulties overall. The second is the regional imbalance—the lack of equilibrium in time from one period to another and in space from one region to another. It would be helpful if we could get these two major economic problems into perspective against each other. What, 1691 firstly, is the cost of stop-go? On the most conservative estimate—that is, not that we could grow at the rate of 4 per cent., as N.E.D.C. promised, but simply if we could maintain a steady rate, smoothly from one peak to another, not rising faster overall but maintaining a steady rate of growth which does not dip down between the peaks. Based on maintaining a 2.7 per cent. growth such as we have had in the past twelve years, we would have an addition to our gross domestic product of about £600 million a year. That is the measure of our benefit from escaping from stop-go.
What benefit would we derive from overcoming our regional problems? Here we have no work from the Government to help us—they have not made any estimate of the cost of regional unemployment and of the differences in regional activities. That is extraordinary, when they are prepared to spend quite large sums of money to deal with the matter. Trying to make an estimate, one can say that, apart from the trade cycle—the stop-go cycle—the excess of unemployment in the development districts over the rest of the country has been at least 2 per cent.
At the peak of unemployment in the trough of each trade cycle, the difference in unemployment in Great Britain as a whole and in the development districts is more than 2 per cent.—it rises to 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. but, at its lowest point, it is 2 per cent. In an essay that has been so closely read by hon. Members opposite and made the basis of their economic policy in recent years, Professor Paish argues that each 1 per cent. increase of unemployment over the 1 per cent. level corresponds to a 5 per cent. under-utilisation of capacity; there is a multiplying factor of five between unemployment and loss of production.
This would lead, with 2 per cent. unemployment in one-eighth of the working population, to an annual loss of national income of about £280 million. That is the amount lost by the Government through their failure to tackle the regional problem. It matches up fairly closely with the estimate made by the N.E.D.C. of the additional manpower available for the development districts. The N.E.D.C. places that at between 1692 200,000 and 300,000 people, bringing in the housewives who want to work, the people who have retired prematurely, and the people who would be able to get work in London and the South-East but cannot get work—and would never dream of trying, let alone registering for unemployment benefit—in the North-East and Scotland.
That would lead to an increase in national product, again, of between £200 million and £300 million a year—an enormous sum; £200 million would pay for 100,000 houses a year, or for the total cost of a 10s. increase in the old-age pension. As it is, this money is just being wasted by the Government's failure to tackle the regional problem.
Where are we now in the cycle? In the stop-go cycle, national unemployment is dropping, and unemployment in the development districts is dropping with unemployment in the country as a whole, but the margin remains exactly as before.
In 1961, unemployment in the development districts stood at 3.7 per cent., In Great Britain it was 1.5 per cent., and the difference between them was 2.2 per cent. averaged over whole year. The average rose in 1963 to 5.8 per cent. in the development districts, 2.5 in Great Britain, and the difference between the two was 3.3 per cent. National unemployment is now down to 2.2 per cent. The figures in the development districts have barely begun to shift—they are down to 5.3 per cent.—and the difference is 3.1 per cent.
But the National Institute estimates that by January, 1965 unemployment in Great Britain as a whole will have dropped to 1.5 per cent. I think that it may well have dropped in the development districts to about 3.7 per cent., leaving a difference of about 2.2 per cent. There is thus no change from the situation as we knew it in 1961, and we would, in 1965, be all set to embark again on the same sickening cycle, the same problem of high unemployment recurring in the development districts. Nothing structural has been done about the situation.
Looking at the present policy of the Government, if this is right—if, indeed, the level of unemployment over one-eighth of the most poorly employed 1693 parts of the country is to drop to 3.7 per cent. in a year's time—it comes well below the level of 4½ per cent. unemployment which the Board of Trade considers to be the level at which it schedules an area as a development district. Are we then to get mass descheduling as soon as the unemployment in the development districts is temporarily—temporarily, I stress—below 4½ per cent.? The Government will claim, and I am sure that it will be claimed tonight, that the regional unemployment problem has been solved, but that is not the case. I will argue it in detail with reference to one area in a moment, but there is this danger that the Government will really think that the problem has been solved and that, as has happened in the past, we shall find all the measures just dropped.
The fact is that this residual £200 million or £300 million worth of national productive capacity will continue unused all through this year and the next year, and will continue until the Government do something about regional development as a whole. When I first came to this House 18 months ago, unemployment was on the rise and, in my foolishness, I thought that there was at least some chance of the Government taking short-term action in the many ways possible. That was hoping for too much.
What the Government did was to plough into their long-term considerations. We got the Report on the North-East, which deals solely with long-term issues. But then we found that these long-term issues were biassed by the need to use them to tackle short-term problems and we have no assurance that we have got to the root of the long-term issues because what has been done has been applied to the wrong problem. These unused resources of £200 million or £300 million are only the initial reservoir of unused resources. Once these are mopped up, and growth starts, the gain would obviously be more than £300 million.
For an independent view I turn to the Economic Review of August, 1963, published by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. After reviewing the Government's measures, this reasonably objective journal says: 1694It is clear that the existing measures barely touch the fringe of the problem of securing a rational distribution of the population throughout the country. They are mainly directed to the task of reducing the high level of unemployment in certain districts, and have so far made little impression even on that problem … If it is seriously intended to provide in all parts of the country an agreeable and balanced environment … a much more positive approach to planning both on a national and regional scale is going to be needed … But it is not resources that are at present the limiting factor, but the will to act.A similar cold reception was given by the Economist in its review of the White Papers on the North-East and Scotland. When I quoted these to the Home Secretary this afternoon he said that I should never believe the Economist as he once worked for it, which sounded to me a somewhat two-edged response.
This is what the Economist had to say in an article, headed appositely, "New crutches for the North":The first thing to say about the regional plan for central Scotland and north-east England is that they are not really modern economic plans at all. They are not drawn up in terms of any Keynesian estimate of the gap between demand and potential supply there, because it does not seem to have occurred to anybody in the Government that such language and thinking would be relevant. An innocent might have expected some estimate of the present annual value of production in these two regions, and a comparison with what the planners estimated could perhaps be economically produced there if all of these regions' resources were fully and efficiently utilised …This is the reaction of people who try to think objectively about these problems.
What is involved in this much more positive approach to planning which everybody thinks to be necessary? We can perhaps feel our way towards this by looking at some of the instances of present Government policies in this matter. The first is the sheer lack of will and determination to do anything about it, the defeatism, the inferiority complex which seems to possess all Government Departments when they come to deal with these problems.
I should like to quote from a letter from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. I was putting to him the point that if we were to establish a new industrial estate in development areas, as we hope to do on Tees-side it is pretty pointless to expect to be able to 1695 provide all the skilled labour when it is perfectly apparent that there is a shortage of skilled labour already in the area. There is no electrician unemployed between Whitby and Seaton Carew in the North-East. I was told this by the district secretary of the E.T.U. the other day. At the same time there are thousands unemployed, many skilled in other trades and a great many not skilled at all. Obviously there is a great need for training. The way to start off an industrial estate would be to put a training school there first.
The Parliamentary Secretary's reply was:… study of the practical implications of the proposals has revealed a number of difficulties. First, we do not know what kind of industry will be coming to the estate and therefore any training that might be done would be purely speculative and could be wasted. Nor do we know either how much skilled labour will be needed or in what trades.I argued that when I.C.I. established its factory on the new site at Wilton the first thing it did was to put up a new apprentice school, but the hon. Gentleman said:… the situation there was very different. As only the one firm was involved—a firm moreover accustomed to making sophisticated forecasts of this nature and to planning ahead—it could assess what skills would be needed and in what numbers and was able to arrange a co-ordinated training programme.The I.C.I. training programme was only peanuts in comparison with its needs, but the company knew that such a start had to be made. No such attitude can be found in the Ministry of Labour today. This suggestion that sophisticated forecasting and planning ahead is quite beyond the capacity of planners in the Ministry of Labour is the kind of humility which may be becoming in a Tory Parliamentary Secretary but it is an insult to the men who work for him. Of course they are as capable of sophisticated planning as anybody in industry, but when there is a Minister who takes a defeatist attitude towards practical problems this demoralises the Department. If a Minister is determined to act there is the material in the Department which can be invoked, and when we get rid of the present dead-wood Ministers we shall see that that is the case.
1696 The Parliamentary Secretary went on to say:It seems to us that it would be much too chancey and taking too serious a risk with young people's lives to train them without even an approximate certainty of employment.The hon. Gentleman says that if we train people they will be worse off than they are now. He is not even offering an approximate certainty of employment to young people on Tees-side. This is an astonishing, pessimistic and defeatist attitude.
What then happens with this attitude, which is defeatist, when insight too is completely lacking? Again I refer to the local situation on Tees-side but it is typical of that in many places, particularly in Grangemouth which has already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton. On Tees-side we were very busy up to 1961. The old plants—the old steel mills and chemical plants—were turning out their goods, using a fair amount of locally mined coal and iron ore. At the same time, we were very busy constructing splendid new plants which were obviously going to alter the character of employment in the whole area.
Yet suddenly construction and new investment fell off very sharply indeed. In the four giants on Tees-side—the Dorman Long Steel Company, the South Durham Steel Company, and the Billing-ham and Wilton sites of I.C.I.—investment fell from a peak of £45 million in 1957 to £24 million in 1961, which when allowance is made for changes in cost, is more than a 50 per cent. reduction. What happened was that construction workers were laid off. The locally mined materials were replaced by imported oil and imported iron ore. The old plants closed, and the new plants, as they opened up, required far less labour to achieve the much increased volume of production.
Yet, while all this was going on, while all this investment was being planned in the early 1950s, no thought at all was given to the effect of the timing of this investment on the local economy or on local employment. From about 1955 to about 1959 all the big firms and contractors in the area were cutting each others' throats to get labour. There was a tremendous pressure on employment in the area and it appeared as if this would 1697 go on for ever, but it was in fact known as early as 1959 that it would fall off very sharply and nothing was done until 1962.
This lack of consideration of the timing of investment was not even in the interests of the firms themselves. Only last month a director of South Durham, speaking at the blowing in of a big new blast furnace at West Hartlepool, said that this furnace would have been fully operative three years ago if it had not been for the depression. In other words, given the state of trade as it was, that enormous investment in South Durham was made three years too early. Either the level as forecast in the whole country should have been maintained and should have used the steel capacity which was available, or that work in constructing that plant could have filled in a great deal of the dip in employment in 1962 and 1963. This did not happen.
It would not matter if these things were merely in the past, but the really worrying thing is that no thought is being given to these problems even now. There is no evidence that I can find anywhere in the regional offices of the Board of Trade, in the regional offices of the Ministry of Labour, in the headquarters of the Board of Trade, let alone in the Treasury or in N.E.D.C., of any record of investment plans by region in terms of the future employment which will be taken up by the process of investment itself and which will result from an investment when it is completed. I know of no such projections. If the Economic Secretary can tell me of any such projections, I hope that he will not merely tell me that they exist but will also ensure that they are published, because they are a most important factor which firms can, and would like to, take into consideration in planning their own investment.
The position as it now stands is that an immense wave of investment is on its way which will keep Tees-side very busy in 1965 and 1966, but this wave of investment when it recedes, as it certainly will under present plans, will provide a negligible number of new jobs. We shall have the same cut again—old plants being replaced by new, more highly capital intensive plants employing fewer men. The time to plan for the future is now. But there is no evidence that one can find that the Government 1698 are embarking on the plans necessary so that, when these investments fall off in about three years, there will be either new investment or new labour-intensive industry on its way to maintain the level of economic activity.
The Government will argue, what good is it trying to tackle the problems of the future when there is such a millstone round our neck in Northern Ireland, the North-East generally and Scotland? Certainly, there is the millstone, but do they say that they can never see any prospect at all of gathering the information and devising the planning machinery co-operatively with industry in order to maintain a steady level of economic activity, even when one is dealing with such industrial giants as the steel industry and the chemical industry? If so, there is no hope of the Government maintaining a steady level of employment in a much more complex pattern of industrial activity elsewhere.
As regards the machinery which the Government can use to maintain a steady level of activity, at present they rely very heavily on capital incentives. If I may quote again from the Economist—perhaps I am giving more weight to the journal than it really deserves—on 7th June, in a series of articles on the North-East, it was said:The Government's actions are both generous and amateurish. They are generous in concessions to new industrial and commercial investment; the measures of this year's budget do give very large sums indeed to any firm wishing to expand here"—that is, in the North-East—This has had proven and striking successes, such as the project by Chrysler-Cummins to establish a new diesel engine plant at Darlington. But there remain certain administrative clumsinesses in the arrangements for loans to investors; and it does seem a bit contrary to the spirit of the thing that Imperial Chemical Industries are likely to get a vast Government contribution to an investment of £30 million which they would have made anyway, which may be largely spent on plants bought outside the region. and which will give a negligible number of jobs once the construction is finished.To be fair the Economist goes on to say:But then I.C.I. certainly does well by the economy of its own locality on Tees-side; and investments of this capital-intensive … kind have a thrusting effect far wider than the jobs they directly provide.1699 My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton raised a question in this connection with reference to Grangemouth. He asked where was the evidence that Grangemouth had, in fact, provided an increased level of local employment due to ancillary industries springing up round about. No such evidence is to be found in the history of Tees-side in the early days of the petro-chemicals and plastics development there, where, again, there have been the materials available for ten years as they are also available at Grangemouth.
We expect from the Government chapter and verse about the very large sums of money which they are prepared to spend, which, of course, we welcome, while wondering whether they are being spent in the way which will get down to the problem of providing sufficient employment of the kinds needed.
On 6th February last, at Question Time, the Secretary of State for Industry and Trade questioned my statement that focal industry in the North-East regards capital incentives as inefficient. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had had no complaints from firms. Here is a quotation from a speech made by the managing director of the heavy organical chemicals division of I.C.I., Mr. K. W. Palmer, speaking to the Tees-side Junior Chamber of Commerce. Short of saying, "Here is your £4 million back again", he went about as far as he could in criticism of the balance of the Government's policy. He said:More and more our heavy industry trends to the capital intensive with fewer and fewer jobs per unit of capital and output. We need more labour-intensive industry, and we need the magnets to pull it here. Helpful as are the Government's aids to attract new industry, these aids are linked so closely with capital investment that they are less and less effective in the case of industries in which capital charges of one kind or another form a much smaller part of total operational costs. I would prefer to see additional special kinds of aid linked more closely, in respect of provision of permanent employment, to the real needs of the area.This is the manager of an I.C.I. division speaking, not the financial directors, who, I understand, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade are in the habit of ringing up to find out their views.
1700 It is not the financial directors who make economic decisions in large industry. They merely fiddle the tax when everybody else has done the work. Of course, they are in favour of tax incentives because it makes them cleverer financial directors than they would otherwise be. But if the Government consult the men who make the decisions, which in modern advanced industry tend to be the technical directors, the production directors, the sales directors, and so on, they will get a very different picture from the advice which evidently led the Government to their present set of capital incentives for industry.
Mr. Palmer goes on:I would also like to see some redistribution of Government departments away from London, and Tees-side take something fromthe over-concentration there. What is happening with regard to the Post Office? Did the Secretary of State for Industry and Trade intervene in the Cabinet the other day to stop the Postmaster-General sending the Post Office Savings Bank to Tees-side, or was it the Prime Minister himself who intervened? What will the Government decide in this case where the wishes of the staff and the needs of the area have been clearly expressed and have matched up so well?
Perhaps more important for the long-term future than any question of incentives is that of laying the structure of the future development of industry. Mr. Palmer says:I would like to see a new university on Tees-side preferably a special institution for scientific and technological education and research of very special character.The consideration of the Robbins proposals for special institutions is for the University Grants Committee, but it is not competent to deal with regional issues. When it has determined the kind of system that it wants, it will be for the Government to decide the geographical distribution of the new institutions. I hope that they will realise that this is, in fact, a question of determining a very large part of our future social and economic structure.
The Lord President of the Council already has responsibility for research and in future will have responsibility for higher education. It is he who, under the present Government, will be 1701 responsible for determining the future location of universities and special institutions. Yet he says that research associations in development areas are eligible to apply for grants under the Local Employment Acts and he hopes that some of them will take advantage of this. In view of the very great influence which the Lord President of the Council exerts over research associations and the line on which they can develop, it is extraordinary that his rôle is purely passive. He merely hopes that these bodies will take advantage of incentives.
Cannot the right hon. and learned Gentleman organise the grouping together of research associations so that they are able to reach a viable size and to do sound technical work, stimulating each other and having much fuller contact with industry? There is no evidence of this free riding, confident approach to industry from the Lord President of the Council. I am worried what his reaction will be to any proposal of the University Grants Committee.
What do these anecdotes about one particular local situation add up to in the general shape of local employment policies which we should expect the Government to follow? First, we need a much more sensitive adaptation to the industrial development that is under way. We do not know where we are going. The investment of 1960 and 1961 has not been aimed at satisfying the needs of the consumer or of other industries and there is a great deal of surplus capacity in the manufacturing industry which has not yet been used.
We have the situation that even now, it is not expected that at the peak of the next boom the plant and machinery in which people have invested will be fully extended. There will be shortages of manpower and unbalances of demand, which mean that large plants still will not be fully employed. This is a most inefficient way of going about things within industry. For industry's own internal health, it needs much better balancing of investment and supply against future demand. We need, therefore, a full model of the future development of demand.
Many hon. Members, on both sides, have quoted the forecasts of require- 1702 ments for different kinds of labour prepared by Professor Richard Stone at the Department of Applied Economics, Cambridge. Those forecasts suggest that there will be need for a large increase in the number of skilled men and a corresponding decrease in the number of unskilled men at the rate of 150,000 a year. This is only part of a much larger piece of work. Within the next few weeks, there will be coming out a model of consumer demand showing how consumer demand is likely to develop with, changes in the levels of incomes of different groups.
The Board of Trade and the Treasury have not exactly been knocking at Professor Stone's door eager to find out the results and what evidence these are likely to give about the directions of future fruitful investment. Had the Board of Trade been on its toes in pursuing a regional development policy, it would be wanting to identify the industries in which there will be a great deal of growth over the next five or ten years and making sure that the new investment is not only undertaken for these industries, but by the Government, using such foreknowledge as they are able to accumulate and offering incentives to industry to go to development areas by saying, "Go there. Invest in these lines. We are confidence that there will be a market for your goods. If there is not a market for your goods, we will provide tax incentives", which could be of the kind of which my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) and others have mentioned. The chances are, however, that there would be a demand for their goods and that no incentive would be required. To hon. Members opposite, this is strange thinking.
§ Mr. Wilfred Proudfoot (Cleveland)
This is not strange thinking. The hon. Member is really saying that a Government Department would be a better guesser of what customers want than would be the executives in business. A perfect example of how the executives in business can guess wrong is what is happening with refrigerator production. I do not see any reason to believe that a Government Department would be better guessers of consumer demand.
§ Dr. Bray
The hon. Member is doing an injustice [...]o the Board of Trade. It is 1703 clear that there was heavy over-investment in the consumer durable industry, and this was said in many places at the time. The Board of Trade, however, did not see fit to take initiative in directing the investment into more fruitful channels. It should have done. Had it taken the right approach, industry would have responded.
Given a much more fluent and much quicker adapting attitude to industry, there is no reason why that £200 million or £300 million worth of productive capacity should not be quickly set to the service of the nation and the problem of unemployment in all the development districts made a thing of the past, so that we can go forward together to reap the tremendous advantages and benefits of industrial development instead of suffering them as a scourge, as we do today.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
I am in favour of short speeches and I intend to make one. I will, therefore, return to the opening speech of the debate, in which the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) referred to the use of industrial development certificates and how this process could be stiffened. I shall take the difference between the tenor and content of the hon. Member's remarks and those of his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short), when we last debated the subject. On that occasion, the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central, leading for the Opposition, referred to the need to direct industry.
We have had no reference so far this afternoon to directing industry, and if this is a very subtle change that has come over the Opposition I hope that at the end of the debate the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) will make quite clear where the Labour Party stands on this matter. If he supports his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central he will be attacking his hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton and if he supports the hon. Member for Hamilton he will be letting down his compatriot the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central. So he will have a problem either way. I hope that the Labour Party will come to the 1704 point and tell us whether it believes in the direction of industry.
We must see this whole problem of the development districts against the background of the national economy. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray), who has at last sat down, referred to the stop-go policy.
§ Dr. Bray
The hon. Member has complained about the length of my speech. I should like to point out that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who spoke earlier today, said that he always made speeches which were much shorter than those of hon. Members who had entered the House only by recent by-elections. I therefore had to prove that my right hon. Friend was correct.
§ Mr. Williams
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is answerable to the right hon. Member for Easington already.
We have to see this problem of the development districts against the background of the economy as a whole. The hon. Gentleman was quite right when he said that against the background of stop-go it was the development districts in the end which suffered the most. They are the first to suffer and take the longest to recover. That is why I suspect that on both sides of the House we approve of any Government policy which aims at eliminating stop-go and achieves a consistent, thought-out, well-conceived plan of development and expansion.
Therefore, I regretted intensely the incursions of Labour leaders into this foray of trade matters in the publication of the January trade figures. Their comments at that time did no service either to Britain or to the development districts. It seemed to me that those comments, based on too short a series of figures, were intended to exaggerate the country's problems and hurt the recovery of the North-East and other development districts.
The February figures have shown a return to more normal conditions and to a sound, expanding economy which is the basis for helping the development districts. It is only against the background of a soundly developing economy that we can even out the position 1705 between the "two nations" which has been referred to. This question of the "two nations" must be ironed out. Here we have two comments, one made by an ex-Member of this House, Mr. George Chetwynd, who was the Member for Stockton-on-Tees and who said not long ago that the recovery of the North-East was substantial, and another comment from someone who cannot be considered to be a party politician either of the Left or of this side of the House, Mr. Sadler Forster, the chairman of the Industrial Estates Management Corporation.
Speaking on the 12th or 13th of this month, he told members of the Tyneside Productivity Association thatif the present industrial trends continue, the region's unemployment rate might drop below even 2.5 per cent. This year he thought the figure would drop to around 3.5 per cent. from the present high 4.1 per cent.I would agree if hon. Members opposite tell me that this is too high a figure; of course it is. It is a substantial advance on the present situation, and we must not be Jeremiah enough to neglect it. This is an improvement of some fairly considerable value. It is against this background of independent spokesmen that we must take some reliable evidence into account. We must look at what has been done by the Government in the short term and the long term. There are three main fields in which the Government have operated in the short term. One was the Budget concessions of last year, and those were substantial. If they have not had full effect yet that is hardly surprising. A large and expanding industry must take considerable time to follow through the action of the Government into the digging of the ground and the building of factories. So I would expect the tax concessions of last year to become effective in the next 12 months.
The Government's second action was the shipping credit scheme, by which £75 million—seen against the concessions to the farmers, that is slight, but it is something—has been made available to the industry. This is a sizeable and valuable advance. I hope that we shall get as much appreciation for it on the part of the Opposition as from this side.
1706 It is interesting that of the tonnage placed a large proportion has gone to the North-East. If the Clyde can combat these figures, I shall be delighted to hear it. In recent months more than 700,000 tons dead weight of shipping has been placed in North-East yards and more than half of that has rightly come to the Wear. Forty-one projects have been started in the North-East since April last year.
It is depressing to me that the Opposition never see anything good in all this. Looking through the figures, one sees expans on in Darlington, Billingham, Stockton, Tees-Port, Hartlepools, Peterlee, Newton Aycliffe, Spennymoor, Blaydon, Team Valley, Hebburn, South Shields, Blyth, Ashington and Sunderland and other places. Here are sizeable projects coming forward. Under the Local Employment Act £100 million has been pledged, and 17,000 jobs are in the pipeline This is valuable, and it helps to put the matter into perspective to have these things reported.
As to the long-term thinking and remedies, it is, first, important that we in the North-East and in the other development districts should think regionally and not act internally against each other. This is now acceptable, I believe, across the board in politics and industry and anywhere else where these things are thought about.
The second thing is the attitude of mind in any particular region. Again, I quote Mr. Sadler Forster. At the meeting, of the Tyneside Productivity Association he gave a warning that the future of the area depended as much on a new attitude of mind as it did on new industry. Frankly, I agree. I can say this because I was born and grew up in the North-East. I still think that we in the North-East are stapled down to the attitudes of the last century. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North appears to dissent from this. I am not attacking the trade unions.
§ Mr. Williams
The hon. Member says that it does a great deal of harm, but it also does a great deal of harm not to expose fallacies of thinking as well. Both on the management side and on 1707 the trade union side there are far too many out-dated attitudes towards this matter. It is all very well to blame the Government, but one cannot shelve the problems off on to other people all the time. These problems in the development districts will be solved only by a change of attitude and the abandonment of the fear of unemployment.
I concede that unless one has a sense of security it is difficult to abandon the fear of unemployment. But we must take more courage in solving the problem—I am sorry if the hon. Member for Sunderland, North does not like my raising this matter—of demarcation in the shipbuilding industry. I will say how I think that the problem should be solved. I do not believe that the industry will solve the problem internally any longer. There is too much confrontation between the two sides.
The time has long passed when the Ministry of Labour, or even the Minister of Labour, could take the initiative in bringing the two sides together and dictate, if need be, an answer. The Minister should draw the fire of the two sides, perhaps making himself desperately unpopular with both sides, to resolve some of the problems which are now nearly crucifying the shipbuilding industry. These things must be faced if we are to modernise effectively.
The third long-term remedy which I have in mind is the Hailsham or Heath plan, whichever one likes to call it. I am convinced that an increase in the public service expenditure over and above our just due to an unfairly high and thoroughly acceptable level is the right way to handle the problem. It helped for houses, roads, hospitals and other services.
I have two specific questions to put to my hon. Friend. Is he satisfied that the port facilities of the North-East are adequate? At the beginning of February I received a document from a gentleman in Sunderland suggesting certain developments of port facilities in the North-East and, naturally, his first proposal was for the development of the Port of Sunderland. I forwarded that document to the Board of Trade at that time and have not yet had a reply.
That does not seem like the most speedy consideration one would wish. 1708 It may be that this project is of such size and practicality that it would take a long time to get the details fixed, but for six weeks to pass without a reply from the Board of Trade seems to reflect a slow reaction.
Secondly, there is the proposed development of Washington as a new town. It is a considerable time since we heard that Tube Investments would be building a new factory there and that there would be a new town. Precious little progress seems to have been made. May we have a progress report on the development of Washington? I do not think that it is a completely well conceived plan, but if we are to have a new town let us produce new industry there for a start.
The Post Office Savings Bank headquarters has been mentioned. In considering the location of the headquarters, there is a strong argument for associating The Hartlepools and Sunderland, which are quite close together and which have over 6 per cent. unemployed. If it goes to Tees-side, however, that is our loss and Tees-side's gain. Both towns have been lobbying for it. Surely this could have been considered. But, again, the Post Office selected three given areas—Tees-side, Merseyside and Clydeside—and did not look very positively on consideration of Sunderland at any rate, and, I suspect, of The Hartlepools as well.
I come back to what I said at Questime Time today. The Board of Trade should reconsider its policy towards advance factory building and the financing of these projects. I have suggested on a number of occasions that these factories should, where possible, be sold to the occupying firms and that the Board of Trade should not take so passive an attitude but should adopt a more positive approach.
I realise the difficulties in relation to the Treasury, but I believe that there can be a strong case for using the cash income from the sale of these factories for the financing of more advanced factories. The Board of Trade could, by a self-financing process, provide extra factory accommodation.
Over the years the Sunderland education authority has been profoundly 1709 upset—and I am sure that the hon. Member for Sunderland, South will agree with me here—because the Sunderland Technical College has not been recognised as a college of advanced technology. I understand all the limitations which are placed on a further classification in this category for the moment, but I still feel that, in a region where there is, as far as I know, no college of advanced technology—I believe that this is the only region without one at the moment—there is a case for doing something about this, and quickly.
Finally, in looking to the long-term future, I want to re-emphasise the importance of retraining. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West mentioned this and I am sure that retraining is the right thing to carry out. But I do not think that one can hope to be able to give guarantees that at the end of a training period, people will be certain to find jobs. That is a risk that the nation has to take in training for luture demands rather than for guaranteed future positions. I believe that the same thing applies to the trade unions. It also applies to those leaving school, to the unemployed under training and to those in industry who also need retraining. We need completely new thinking about training for skills of future years.
Finally, I come to a point which I know can easily, in party political terms, be misunderstood. But even so close to a General Election I want to raise this very difficult and delicate matter. It is how we are to help that section of the unemployed who nip into and out of employment, who nip into and out of National Assistance? I do not know the answer to the problem. I merely raise the matter as a question. There is a section of the community which lives by National Assistance. This is a difficult problem to raise in the political context of today, but I think that it is as bad for the nation as it is for the individuals themselves, and I believe that some way must be found of encouraging those people to get away from the debilitating atmosphere of hopping into and out of employment and relapsing into National Assistance and out of it.
It may be that the answer, in the long run, is to raise the basic wage in industry 1710 to such a level that they will live above the National Assistance scales, but there can be no doubt that at the moment there are some people who find it profitable to live on National Assistance rather than do a day's work. They are a very small minority, but this atmosphere of hopping in and out of National Assistance can spread and harm the moral fibre of people with greater strength. That is the danger. I do not pretend to have an answer to the problem, but I think that it is worth posing.
I return to the theme of what I have been trying to say, namely, that action has been taken by the Government, both in the short and in the long term. Those who represent areas in the development districts applaud them for what they have done so far, and will encourage them to ever greater action in the future.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
I much regret the last part of the speech of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams), because he posed a question which, with all respect, is a problem of a society having over-full employment. Like other hon. Members who represent constituencies in which there has been considerable unemployment for many years, I know that one of the consequences of a high unemployment rate locally is lower wage rates, and the inevitable consequence of that is the operation of the so-called wage stop. That means that the unemployed who have the misfortune to live in an area of consistently high unemployment suffer the disadvantage of having the lowest National Assistance rates below the determination of needs level compared with other parts of the country. That is a cruel thing.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that there are people, albeit a small minority, who dodge in and out of National Assistance, and in and out of employment. That may happen in Bournemouth at the present time. It does not happen in the majority of the constituencies affected by unemployment. That kind of argument hits hard at the unemployed, and, if the hon. Gentleman does not know it, it robs the genuinely unemployed, who are in the overwhelming majority, of just a little more of their moral fibre. There are many men 1711 in their fifties and sixties, in distinguished posts in industry, who look back with bitterness to the hungry years and are forever scarred by the memory when somebody asked, "Are you genuinely looking for work?" To revive that atmosphere at this time is a mistake.
I should like to think that after a decade of Labour government we shall ourselves be considering this tiny minority who exploit the National Assistance position, but that is not the problem today. I think that the hon. Gentleman spoiled an otherwise good speech by making that point.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman's speech is probably the last one that he will make on unemployment, at any rate while representing Sunderland. I hope that this is the last debate that we shall have on unemployment during the life of this Parliament, because I should like some variation of the old themes, and I hope that we might get that in the next Parliament. I expect that we are going to have the same reply as we have had so often from Ministers.
I am always pleased to hear the hon. Member for Sunderland, South. He is very much a disciple of Benjamin Disraeli, in that he has always been in favour of reforms—reforms in the past, rather than in the future. We have taken him along the line of conversion, point by point, and he is now an enthusiastic disciple. Hon. Members should recall his wonderful remark about shipbuilding credits. I can remember the day when he was not too keen about them, but in our last debate on shipbuilding he was with us in demanding that we should take the shipbuilding credit scheme a stage further.
We must remember that this is just a breathing space for the industry. To quote the Minister, this is a "once-for-all" form of assistance. They were ominous words for hon. Members opposite. The Minister said that after this single injection of credit the industry must find its own shape and size. We know what he meant by that. He meant that it would become smaller than it is at present. He meant that there would be more unemployment among skilled men in the shipbuilding towns.
This is merely re-echoing what my hon. Friend the Member for Middles- 1712 brough, West (Dr. Bray) said earlier. One of the main charges against the Government is that they have known that industries are going to contract but have singularly failed to do anything about it in advance. In the winter of 1959–60 we were debating the Local Employment Measure, and the Minister said that he wanted power to do certain things when unemployment was imminent. We all wondered what he meant by that. We have never seen any examples. Indeed, under the Local Employment Act we have seen Ministers tumbling over themselves to deschedule areas because they thought that they had solved some local unemployment problems.
We have only to remember the case of Bathgate. When it was an area of high unemployment it was scheduled, but when B.M.C. set up its factory there it was promptly descheduled, and it was not long before the unemployment rates rose higher, because of the contraction of local industry. The Government did not realise that they had cut the throat of the shale industry in their Finance Bill, thereby throwing into unemployment thousands of miners. The charge against the Government is that although they convinced themselves that they have helped to solve basic problems, they did not do so. They have also failed to anticipate the contraction of traditional industries.
If the Minister of Transport were worth his salt he would be trying through N.E.D.C., to make an estimate of the optimum size of the shipping industry, and saying, to the President of the Board of Trade, "In my opinion we should have so many men in the shipbuilding industry in the next five years, and we should concentrate, in certain towns in the United Kingdom, in trying to solve the unemployment problem." He should also tell the Minister of Labour that in the shipbuilding towns a certain number of men will become redundant, and will have to be retrained.
It is another sad commentary upon the Government policy that they have only just woken up to the problem of retraining. The number of people to be retrained under the Industrial Training Act will be pitifully small compared with the size of the problem.
§ Dr. Mabon
I will give the hon. Member an example. In my own area we have had well over 2,000 people unemployed ever since the party opposite came to power. The Government have made no impression at all on the unemployment problem there. Despite the fact that people have been encouraged to find jobs elsewhere, and that there has been a net decrease in population in the last 12 years, owing to migration, the unemployment rate has not been kept down. At the moment it is 7.4 per cent. That has been the average since the Government resumed office in 1959. During their previous term of office the average was a mere 6 per cent. That represents about 2,500 men and women.
We are to have a training centre. We were told that it will be provided very soon and would be capable of retraining 100 people each year. So that it would take 26 years to retrain the unemployed, not counting those who will be unemployed in the future. This is the size of the Government's contribution. We had this announcement about the industrial training centre on 8th April last year. But not a single spade has been driven into the earth to start to build the foundations for the centre. It is almost a year now since that announcement was made. But when I asked the Minister what he intended to do, he was not even sure of the courses which he would introduce into the centre once it was constructed.
It is the same story about advance factories. I remember when hon. Members opposite were violently opposed to advance factories, and I could quote speeches to that effect which were made by hon. Members representing English constituencies and hon. Members—to their shame—who represent constituencies in Scotland. I could excuse the English Members, but not those from Scotland. From 1956, 1957 and 1958, hon. Members opposite were opposed to advance factories, and many sophisticated arguments were advanced, about why they should not be built. But in 1959 it was different. It is strange what happens at a General Election. The conversion of St. Paul on the road to 1714 Damascus was no more rapid than that of a Tory Government at election-time.
We have been a long time building these factories. There is one being built in my constituency. We were refused such a factory until 1962, and then we were given one which will provide employment for about 20 men when it is in full swing. But we are grateful. We are always grateful for small mercies. This is the extent of Government activity. My constituency is similar to many others in different parts of the country.
I am told by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. J. Robertson), who has intimate knowledge of these affairs, that there is an impending closure of two plants operated by the International Computers and Tabulators in Northern Ireland. I am sorry to hear about that, because it will mean that about 1,200 people will lose their jobs. That is a much more serious and drastic situation than is faced in some constituencies in Scotland. I am told that on the Notice Paper of the Northern Ireland Parliament there is a Question to a Minister asking whether he is aware that a survey carried out in a certain district in Belfast revealed that male unemployment was at the rate of 48 per cent. That staggers me. It reminds me of the situation which obtained in Greenock in the 1920s and 1930s. I am sorry that the people in Northern Ireland should be in this position, and I hope that a new Government will be able to do more for them than is being done at present.
The problem in Northern Ireland is the same, with the exception that the rate of migration is not as high as in Scotland. I say that as a great-grandson of a Montgomery whose forebears went across to the plantation of Ulster and I say it is no unfriendly spirit. It is not a characteristic of Northern Ireland that the migration rate is high. I wish that it were not the characteristic of Scotland, and that we had kept our unemployed so that the percentage went higher and higher, to reveal the disgrace of this Government and exposed the clamant need for action.
I firm believe that it is not a proper argument—as we heard from the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder), who argued the case of pure 1715 laissez faire—that industrialists ought to be able to put their factories where they wish. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South—
§ Dr. Mabon
I agree, but the hon. Member for Belfast, South, said that all kinds of inducements and "carrots" could be provided, but in the last analysis industrialists should be allowed to settle where they wished. That is not the Government's policy.
The Government have a negative system of industrial direction. They can ban certain places by refusal to issue I.D.S.s. It is not laissez faire. Let us admit that the Conservatives are not Conservatives any more; they are in a sense "Conservatocialists". When hon. Members opposite ask if we are in favour of directing industry, they must concede that they have agreed that industry will not go to certain places. That is a big move forward from Tory philosophy.
The time is coming when we shall have to adopt new measures to solve the basic problems of unemployment and it will need a new Government to do this. I predict that in time the hon. Member for Sunderland, South—after his return to the House in a by-election for a safe Tory constituency—will claim that he was in sppport of this. He will do that when he re-enters this House.
When the new Government come into power they will have to establish undertakings in areas where private firms are unwilling to expand at present. When we get to the nub of the argument Ministers say of a specific example, "If we refuse this I.D.C. to this firm which wants to set up in the South-East, do you not see that they are so adamant that they will refuse to expand at all?" The Chancellor of the Exchequer has suggested in correspondence that when the interests of the nation are paramount an I.D.C. must be issued.
The cry then is, "If you do not like that, what would you do? Would you insist and not give an I.D.C.?" I say, in response to the Chancellor and other critics of this policy, that if it is in the national interest to expand the produc- 1716 tion of a certain factory, or manufacturing plant, or industry, and the private firm is not willing to do it except in its own district, the Government should do it. They have the capital and could attract the technical and commercial staff to do so. They should set up the industry where it is needed and compete. Hon. Members opposite will cry out that this is unfair competition and that State capital is being used to compete with private capital.
§ Dr. Mabon
The groundnuts case is "peanuts" compared with Blue Steel, Blue Streak, and all the other extravagances of hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member had better be careful in talking about groundnuts, because he is interested in sugar beet. He had better not talk of other agricultural projects which have cost far more than the groundnut scheme. That is a boomerang argument.
When we have the acceptance of direct Government contracts it is not a far cry to the question of directing publicly-owned industry. Let me give an example. In health debates I have raised the question of the supply of disposable sterile syringes in an effort to reduce the incidence of jaundice and other diseases which are sometimes carried by ineffectively sterilised syringes. Although the Government have assured me that there is such a system in hospitals, I can find very few doctors who can get such facilities. I have been in correspondence with various hospital doctors and I shall raise this matter on another occasion.
If we are to supply large quantities of materials to the National Health Service, either for more widespread use of disposable sterile syringes or for drugs, why should we not do it from publicly-owned factories? It is done in Australia and other countries. There, the public service is sustained by public supplies. It is done by a number of local authorities in this country already. There is nothing wrong with this concept of public enterprise. It is high time that we thought about it as a new weapon in the fight against unemployment.
Hon. Members opposite have been converted over the years, step by step in a long and painful process, gradually 1717 to agree with some of the views that I am expressing. After the next Labour Government I am sure that they would be willing to agree to employ the sort of solution I have described. They have already done it politically by swallowing something like nine of the 11 nationalised industries, because they have not denationalised all of them.
The Minister for Science said in a famous book on Conservatism, published in 1947, that no Government could undo everything done by the party in power previously. He agreed that the party in power must accept some of the things done by the previous Government, or Parliament would be on a complete merry-go-round. If we can institute during the next Labour Government the sort of solution that I have adduced I predict that hon. Members opposite, after attacking it at the beginning and putting up quite a fight, would find it a satisfactory and acceptable solution.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
I do not think so. It is a good idea to have transport publicly owned. It has to a certain extent been misused by the party opposite, but the basic concept is good. Hon. Members opposite should not get me wrong. I am in favour of closing railway services if they do not pay and if the social and economic consequences of closing them are negligible. It is wrong to stick by all the Victorian patterns which were established by our forefathers. Modern Socialists are not Luddites or backward in their outlook. We are most anxious, as are the few progressively-minded hon. Members opposite, to accept change. I am sure that those who believe in Conservatism and still are forward-looking will agree with this judgment. I am willing to admit that some hon. Members opposite are empirical and are willing to alter their position. They have had to do so and they have managed to maintain office only by being prepared to adapt over the centuries and to change to prevailing circumstances.
Whatever may be said about the direction of labour or industry, hon. Members opposite must realise that I in my con- 1718 stituency and other hon. Members who represent constituencies like mine are all the time seeing the direction of hundreds and thousands of people away from their homes and being forced to travel elsewhere. My part of the country is beautiful and my constituents are fine people. Although I have an old town it is gradually being developed and modernised. Why should these people be herded into the South, like Gadarene swine, down into this corner of the island? Why are we not spreading industry out into the whole of the United Kingdom? This Government is directing our people to this crowded, congested, overpopulated corner of Britain. If we must choose between directing people or industry I am in favour of directing industry.
I would direct industry through public ownership and negative controls which, as I have said, hon. Gentlemen opposite have already accepted. That is the only way of achieving employment stability. I wish that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) were in his place, because I remember, as a Labour candidate, fighting his constituency. I was a medical student at the time and was terrified that I might be elected. I wanted to qualify first. I studied carefully all the difficulties that faced that constituency. The one thing that has amazed me in the intervening years is that unemployment has gone up so much in various parts to nearly four times what it was in 1951. I suppose that the electors there would have been better off had they elected a Labour Government and me at that time.
The argument of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire is that there has been a delay of six months over the building of a factory and another twelve months' delay over helping Ardrossan dockyard. That was the sum total of his contribution towards solving the unemployment problems of Scotland. For everything else he suggested has long been written into Government legislation and in part at least practised by the Government. There was nothing original in his remarks and I regret that it was the only Conservative speech we have heard tonight from a Scottish hon. Member.
I suggest that since we are in the dying days of this Parliament it is high 1719 time, with the hustings before us, that we heard something more practical from the benches opposite. We should be told what they intend to do in the years ahead if they are re-elected. However, they would be wasting words because we will win the election.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Commander J. S. Kerans (The Hartlepools)
Though the amount of unemployment in my constituency is not as high as that in Greenock, it is still 6.3 per cent. It has been as high as 12 per cent., and in 1959 it was 5.9 per cent. I have no shipyard—that disappeared a few years ago. We have had a number of debates on this subject, but the high average of unemployment in my constituency remains about the same.
One of the things necessary to put The Hartlepools on the map must be adequate communications. Not so long ago, when I asked, in a Question, what was proposed to be done for West Hartlepool I was rather shaken and surprised to hear that a decision was to be taken during the next year or two. That is not good enough, because natural communications with the A.1 road are vital if we are to attract industry to this area. Further, we want good air communications, and I hope that the project for taking over the Middleton St. George airfield, in April, can quickly be made workable and viable.
I am happy to say that a good many people in the constituency have made considerable efforts locally to bring in industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) is not present, but I can inform the House that he has, on his own initiative, with Government assistance, established a firm called Pitch Fibres which, it is hoped, will start operations next June. The trawling industry was about to disappear altogether when some local authorities got going on their own, and a second trawler is coming along quite well.
But it is the people on the spot who have done a good deal to get the image of Hartlepool, its attractiveness to trade and industry, brought to the public notice. The appointment of an industrial development officer by the local 1720 authority has been well worth while, and the standard of advertising in newspapers in the South and elsewhere has been good, and has borne a good deal of fruit. The local industry committee of the council has also played its part very well.
As I have said before, if we are to attract industry to the area, we want more shopping facilities, more hotels—perhaps motels—and entertainment. What I find so galling is that every now and then the B.B.C.—sometimes I.T.V.—does a programme on the North or the North-East. I do not know what gets into it but on every occasion one sees the worst features of the area. That is damaging, and is a very bad influence on those in industry down here whom we are trying to attract to the area.
I should like to see the Remploy factory in my constituency extended by the Government so as to give more employment to handicapped men. I should also like to make a plea for the Post Office Savings Bank, which has been mentioned on both sides of the House, to be sent to us. I am quite certain that Tees-side offers considerable facilities for the Savings Bank. With the advent of improved communications in the future, the transfer would do a lot to help my constituents.
I asked, and hoped, that an industrial retraining centre should be brought to The Hartlepools. As we have an unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent. that did not seem an unreasonable request. Why the Government have to put the centre in Billingham I cannot understand. It does not make sense to me.
I should like to ask the Economic Secretary what developments will take place in the heart of The Hartlepools, where we have been awaiting a decision on coaling stages and nothing seems to have occurred. We want more deep-water approaches and considerably more dredging. It is not so long since ships had to be turned away from The Hartlepools to other ports because there were not sufficient berths alongside for loading timber.
I find it rather galling that The Hartlepools is mentioned only three times by name in the White Paper, but I accept that the White Paper refers to Teesside as a whole. The proposals in the 1721 White Paper, however, will require a considerable time to be implemented and at the end of this month there will be a further number of school-leavers in the area who are bound to add to the unemployment figures. This sort of thing happens all the time. We never seem quite to catch up.
I am happy to say that the advance factory built in The Hartlepools has recently opened after being taken over by the Reed paper group. This is first-class. I ask the Economic Secretary to do what he can to persuade the Government to organise immediately the building of another advance factory. If there is a factory "in the pipeline" it is far more advantageous to people who are deciding whether or not to bring an industry into an area. Finally, it may be of interest to some hon. Members that the Labour Party, in 1950, produced a report on developments in the North-East but, by 1951, decided not to print it because the money had run out.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Ifor Davies (Gower)
I intervene briefly to reinforce the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) for the publication as soon as possible of the plan which has been prepared for Wales. It has been said many times that South Wales in particular and Wales in general are now prosperous but I would draw the attention of the House to the statement made by the Minister for Welsh Affairs on 11th March last that despite the prosperity in parts of Wales there are still sharp individual problems. I want to refer particularly to some of these and I should like to draw the attention of the Economic Secretary to recent events which have indicated clearly how vulnerable is the boasted prosperity.
Local authorities in Wales—and this is a matter of some importance—are themselves making great efforts towards solving unemployment problems in their areas. I welcome very much the recognition of this fact in the recently published Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire. The Government have put on record in paragraph 83 of that Report their appreciation of what has been done by some of the local authorities. Reference is made, for example, to the efforts 1722 made by the Milford Haven Urban District Council, and by the Pontardawe Rural District Council in the area which I have the honour to represent in the House. These are efforts which should be recognised and I associated myself with the Council in a one-day effort in the Midlands not long ago.
I ask the Economic Secretary to consider a speech made in another place by the noble Lord Lord Eccles on 28th November, 1962. His comments are of some significance in relation to local authorities. The noble Lord said:The first and obvious duty of the public authorities is to provide in advance the basic services which industry will require—power, transport, water, housing, education and so on. I would put forward a very special plea for the clearance of derelict sites and of those other evidences of decay which I know, from experience at the Board of Trade, so discourage a firm from going in for the first time to one of the old industrial areas."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 28th November, 1962; Vol. 244, c. 1239.]This is a very significant comment.
Britain today is allowing its area of derelict land to increase at the rate of 4,000 acres a year. Already we have more than 150,000 acres out of use because of spoliation and neglect. A country with such limited land resources should regard it as a national duty to make the best use of what land is now available and, indeed, to reclaim what has been left derelict.
In Wales there are 2,800 different sites, comprising a total of approximately 20,000 acres of land, which are derelict. This is land which has been used and laid waste and is now unsuitable as it stands for further use. I agree that modern industry in parts of industrial Wales is creating a new image, but the slag heaps and the ruins of the old and long-since dead industries should not be allowed to dilute it.
For example, in the lower Swansea Valley there is the largest area of industrial dereliction in the United Kingdom. I refer to an area where there are 800 acres which could provide excellent industrial sites. In view of this depressing site, I often wonder how many visiting industrialists with ideas of development in this area turn away and catch the next train back to London, or the Midlands, or wherever they come from.
1723 This derelict area is an offence to the civic conscience. Many efforts have already been made to get something done. The site has remained an ugly reality simply because the cost is too great for the local authority itself to do anything about it. However. I am glad to say that, despite these difficulties, a bold experiment has been started. It is the first experiment of its kind in this country. It has been given the title, "The Lower Swansea Valley Project". This is a combined effort by the University, the Nuffield Trust, the D.S.I.R. and the local council. It is not a mere academic exercise. It is a genuine effort to provide a take-off for action by the local authority and the Government.
What can the Government do to help? Is it possible to do anything to help? I make this very serious suggestion. It has already been brought up but it has not been favourably received. I want tonight to reinforce the argument. There is provision in the Local Employment Act for help for the clearance of derelict sites. Yet this area, the worst in the country, can get no support at all, for the very simple reason that the area is not within the bounds of a development district.
Arising from that I want to mention a recent development which has taken place. As the House knows, the closure of the Pressed Steel Factory employing 1,500 people has been announced. The unemployment figure for the Swansea area and the Swansea Valley is over 3 per cent. at the moment.
The suggestion I put to the Minister—it was mentioned by Lord Eccles in calling for new thinking about development districts—is that the lower part of the Swansea Valley should be scheduled also as a development district. The top of the valley is scheduled. The centre has been put on the stop list. Will the Minister schedule the lower part of the Swansea Valley, comprising the Morriston and Swansea employment exchange areas, and give it the whole district the title of the Swansea Valley Development District? There is a case for doing this even on the percentage of unemployment, which, of course, is the Government's criterion in deciding on designations. The unemployment resulting from the redundan- 1724 cies at the Pressed Steel factory will bring the percentage from 3 per cent. up to 5 per cent. for the Swansea District which comprises also the Valley in Ministry statistics.
I do not put my suggestion from any narrow point of view. I advance it having regard to the very serious situation in the town and Valley. I urge him to designate the whole of the Swansea Valley as a development district not only because of the unemployment figures themselves but also because of the great help which could then be forthcoming in the clearance of derelict sites. I urge the Minister not to close his mind to this possibility, and I am reinforced in my plea in the knowledge that the Welsh Board for Industry had decided to support it even before the pending closure of the Pressed Steel factory was recently announced. The Act provides that help should be given not only where there is unemployment now but where there is unemployment expected. The whole of the area has done everything to help itself so far. Because of statistical difficulties, the Government have excused themselves. Now, having regard to the new arguments I have put, I ask the Minister to give the whole matter fresh thought.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
Like the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. I. Davies), I represent an area which has recently experienced a reverse in its employment prospects. Only yesterday, the Minister of Aviation announced that an order for helicopters, which we were very anxious should go to Short Bros. of Northern Ireland, was not to come our way. In following the hon. Gentleman, I wish to emphasise the special needs of the area which I represent.
The rate of unemployment in Northern Ireland has been showing a slight improvement over the past year. The latest figures which we have relate to February this year. A year ago, unemployment in Northern Ireland was 9 per cent., and it is now down to 8 per cent., a very welcome improvement. Nevertheless, there remains in Northern Ireland a rate of unemployment about four times greater than the national average of 2 per cent.
We have our special problems. First, there is the obvious physical disadvantage 1725 of the Irish Sea. Raw materials have to be imported specially into Northern Ireland and all our manufactured goods and finished products have to be exported to Britain or other parts of the world.
I address a special comment to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Board of Trade, who takes a deep interest in the affairs of Northern Ireland and who has often helped us in the past. I believe that Belfast is not a recognised port and, therefore, any goods which we export abroad must first be shipped from Belfast to Liverpool and then transferred to other vessels and sent abroad, thus incurring higher freight charges than would be incurred if they were shipped direct from Belfast. I believe that this is a result of Shipping Conference rules which prevent goods being shipped direct from Belfast.
I should like my hon. Friend to take up this matter with his colleagues in the Government, because I was told recently by a manufacturer in Belfast that, even if he could arrange for a vessel to bring in raw materials to Northern Ireland and immediately to load exports for return to the same part of the world from which the raw materials came, the Shipping Conference has prevented him from doing this. This adds quite a substantial amount to the freight charge per ton and places Northern Ireland at some disadvantage.
The Northern Ireland Government, with the backing of Her Majesty's Government, have been seeking strenuously since the war to diversify our industry. We have received a great deal of help from Her Majesty's Government, particularly from the Treasury. We have been successful in attracting about 160 new industries to Northern Ireland in this period, and more than half our working force is employed in these new factories set up since the war. This is a very creditable effort, but, in spite of it, unemployment still remains at a serious and uncomfortably high level.
We have the prospect of creating another 6,000 jobs in the next 12 months and we hope, perhaps, to double the number during the subsequent year. But this still leaves us with a rate of unemployment much above the national average. The reason is that it appears that every one step which we take for- 1726 ward we slip back two. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) has referred to the run-down in our traditional industries, particularly the ship building industry in my constituency and the linen industry. One of the oldest linen mills in Northern Ireland, the York Street Linen Mills, which is within my constituency, has been forced to close down because of changes in fashion and taste. This mill, which was modernised after the war, was forced to close down about two years ago.
This type of run-down in traditional industries which is caused, on the one hand, by changes in fashion and, on the other, by modernisation and more mechanisation such as that which has been taking place in the shipyard, along with a fall in the demand for new ships which has to some extent been halted by the Government credit scheme—but it might occur again—has caused the level of unemployment in Northern Ireland to remain dramatically high.
There has been quite a move from the land into the towns, and this has created specially difficult problems because people displaced from agriculture are unskilled. There is a problem, which has been referred to in this debate, of training this unskilled labour, because even in Northern Ireland, as my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South pointed out at some length, there is a severe shortage of men in certain skilled trades.
I ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State to give particular attention to these problems and to the problem of our shipbuilding industry. In the past, the Board of Trade has greatly helped the British shipbuilding industry by awarding substantial credit to it, by guaranteeing exports through the E.C.G.D. system and by making available special credit terms for the sale of large single capital items, such as ships. This has helped the British industry to win export orders. I am not satisfied, however, that we are always able to compete with overseas yards.
I think particularly of certain facts which have been drawn to my attention concerning Japanese yards. I am told that in certain cases they can, with 1727 Government credit and export guarantee assistance, offer better credit terms and lower interest rates than British yards can offer with the help of the Board of Trade. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State to give special attention to the question of credit for British shipbuilding.
I ask my hon. Friend also to look favourably upon a renewal of the Shipbuilding Credit Act when it expires in less than a year's time. Under this Measure, £75 million has been made available to British shipowners who place orders for British ships to get specially favourable credit terms so that they are put on roughly the same footing as a foreign shipowner ordering shipping tonnage in British yards. We have, however, been told that this assistance will not be renewed. If that is so, much of the help which our yards have been given and much of the money which has been invested by the Government in their modernisation schemes will be lost.
I should like my hon. Friend on the Treasury Bench to reconsider the Government's decision on this item. For the help both of the Belfast yards and of other yards, could not this assistance be extended to the repair, refit and modernisation of ships? There are a number of yards, including Harland and Wolff, in Belfast, which devote a lot of work to the refitting and modernisation of boats. It is anomalous that British shipowners who bring passenger liners and other vessels to be refitted have to pay higher interest rates on money which they borrow for this purpose than a foreign shipowner would have to do if he brought the same work to a British yard. In considering this point, my hon. Friend should remember that British shipowners may receive more favourable terms if they have their boats refitted and repaired in certain Continental yards. This is not helpful to our shipbuilding industry, on which so much employment depends.
I speak with great feeling, because since I came to the House of Commons I have seen a dramatic rundown in the numbers employed in many shipbuilding yards. When I entered the House in 1959, about 24,000 people were employed by Harland and Wolff. This number has been reduced to about 1728 11,000, which means that 13,000 men in Belfast have been made redundant. Many of them are older men who find it difficult to adapt themselves to new skills and who, because of family commitments and because they have lived most of their lives in Belfast, are not mobile and cannot go abroad or even come over to Britain to find similar jobs.
The hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) talked about the Labour Party's schemes to meet problems such as these. He indicated that the Labour Party would be prepared to direct industry to areas such as Northern Ireland. The next step, which the hon. Member seemed to be afraid to take, if the Labour Party came into power would be to direct people. If direction of industry does not work, what does the Socialist Party then advise?
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
The hon. Member most uncharacteristically does me a grave injustice. I said that if we had to choose between directing people and directing industry, we would direct industry. I said that we should direct publicly-owned industry.
§ Mr. McMaster
I recollect the hon. Member saying that, but I was going on one beyond it. If direction of industry does not work, what is the next step? I suggest that it would be quite consonant with Socialist philosophy to go on and direct labour.
§ Mr. McMaster
I turn to another problem which affects my constituency. I have just outside the borders of my constituency three factories at Castlereagh which are occupied by International Computers and Tabulators Ltd. It has recently been announced that two of these modern factories are to be closed. I am told that the men there have been trained to construct peripheral machinery for computers. There is a great demand for computers, a demand which is growing all the time, and I believe that many such computers are now imported from the United States.
I ask the Minister of State to look into the problem. It is of vital concern to areas such as Northern Ireland that these men, some of the most highly skilled men in the country, men skilled 1729 in delicate electronic engineering, should be given every encouragement to develop their skills, and to design their own computer, the modern contact computer, the Mark III or Stage 3 computer, which requires no peripheral instruments or machinery attached to it. They should be allowed to design the computer in Britain and assemble it in Britain.
I mentioned just now the problem of shipping and shipbuilding. The United States has adopted very many practices in shipping and shipbuilding which are detrimental to British interests. Here is one way of bringing some force to bear on the United States. If it will not agree to abandon its practices of flag discrimination and flag reservation, we might well take some steps against it such as limiting the imports of these computers, and that would, on the one hand, assist our electronic industry and, on the other hand, help convince the United States that if it wants other nations to play fair with it and trade with it, it will have to abandon its restrictive practices.
I believe that the rules of order do not allow me to speak twice during the debate. I had hoped to enter into a later part of the debate when the firm of Short Brothers and Harland will come up for special mention by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills). Because the rules of order will not allow be to speak again, I should like to address a few remarks to the House at this stage on part of the problem as it affects my constituency interests. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North will deal particularly with the contract for the transport aircraft, the HS.681, and so I intend to say nothing about that. I hope that, when he replies, the Minister of Aviation will deal with this point and also with the points which I now raise. I trust that some of my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench will convey my ideas and thoughts to the Minister of Aviation so that he may consider them when replying to the later debate.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
I think it is possible that, by leave of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) may be able to join in the debate somewhat later when the Minister of Aviation is here.
§ Mr. McMaster
I must accept your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I shall confine myself to the remarks which I had intended to make in that debate. I propose to say a few words about that now. The firm of Short Bros. and Harland, which is in my constituency, has frequently been assured by the Government that they will retain there a balanced production unit. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation said on 5th March, 1963, that employment for a production labour force not far below about 6,000 would be retained until 1970.
At that time I drew my right hon. Friend's attention to the need for further production work at Shorts. The firm has been given certain sub-contract work not only on the medium range tactical freighter but also on the VC.10, and I hope that he will consider whether further VC.10 work cannot be given to Shorts. There is the problem which I have raised recently, of the Shackleton replacement, and I feel that the proposal put forward by Vickers for a developed version of the VC.10 for this purpose might well meet the approval of the Ministry of Aviation and of the Defence Department. If additional VC.10s were ordered for the maritime reconnaissance rôle, part of the production work might well be placed with Shorts.
Having recently had the pleasure of flying in a VC.10 to Khartoum and back, I am convinced that this aircraft will probably be sold in very large numbers to operators who find that their ageing Boeing and Douglas aircraft do not meet the demands of the public and pending the introduction of supersonic aircraft, which might not be until the mid-1970s.
It might well be economic for a second production line of VC.10s to be laid down in Belfast. At the moment, nose and tail units are being made there, but this is not such a practical idea as producing the whole aircraft. The Government have announced that they are spending an extra £2½ million on sub-contract work with Shorts and that it is uneconomic to make such large 1731 single units as tails and noses to be carried to Weybridge or elsewhere for assembly with the rest of the aircraft.
I should like my right hon. Friend to consider whether further work on the VC.10s could not, therefore, be awarded to Belfast. We have been told that if further work is not sent there there will be a serious run down in the work force.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
Perhaps my hon. Friend could also deal with the point about the HS.651. It would save the time of the House later.
§ Mr. Willey
On a point of order. Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is this not an abuse of procedure? We arrange these subjects for the convenience of hon. Members. No one objected to the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) referring to this subject, but now he is stealing a march on his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) and making a major speech to a Minister who is not here.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It is usual to comply with the arrangements that have been made through the usual channels, but a point of order does not arise on it.
§ Mr. McMaster
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was affected in my judgment by the fact that I had hoped to make two speeches, one now and one later, and on being told I could not do that I felt that, the only way to get round the difficulty was to mention that point now. Perhaps I had better leave that to be dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North. I have mentioned one subject which I agreed with my hon. Friend I should deal with, and later I shall deal with the Belfast aircraft and the jet version of the Belfast for which we hope to receive orders.
I propose now to deal with the question of local employment. In addition to the points that I have made about shipbuilding and aircraft, there are certain things which the Government can do to help Northern Ireland to deal with this problem of an unemployment figure of 8 per cent. First, they should take further steps to increase public investment in Northern Ireland. The 1732 Government in Northern Ireland, with the approval of the Treasury, have recently announced that a new road scheme is to be undertaken in Northern Ireland and that a large sum of public money is to be spent on it.
Public money is being invested in the North-East and in Scotland, and I consider that Northern Ireland deserves similar treatment. If Northern Ireland is to overcome the employment difficulties which I mentioned earlier she needs not only a better road system, but also improved hospital facilities, better schools, and perhaps one or two new colleges of advanced technology—this was the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South—because it is a lack of trained skilled labour which sometimes acts as a brake on industrial expansion in Northern Ireland.
I also think that as a matter of public policy certain items of defence expenditure should be directed to Northern Ireland. If there is a small difference in the price quoted for, say, assault vessels, or helicopters, or any such item, when an order is being place for those items attention should be paid to the social factors involved. Instead of the work being given to a factory in the South-East where there is a shortage of skilled labour, it should be given to areas where employment is definitely needed.
It is in concerns such as Imperial Computers and Tabulators and Short Bros. and Harland that we have our most skilled and highly trained labour. The apprenticeship schemes undertaken by those organisations have done a great deal to assist industrial development in Northern Ireland. I therefore consider that assistance should be given to them, and that care should be taken not to hinder them in any way. If they are given assistance, we hope that in a very short space of time, certainly within the life of the next Parliament, we shall be able to bring the unemployment figure down to much nearer the national average, and at the same time raise the standard of living so that we become less of a drain on social service funds, because it must be remembered that a rate of unemployment of between 7 and 9 per cent. represents a considerable 1733 drain on National Assistance and similar funds.
At the same time, we do not provide as high a contribution to the national income as we might otherwise, and our export effort and tax revenue could be greater. The Government could well 1734 afford to invest a little more money in Northern Ireland. Such an investment would bring about a tremendous improvement, and would create a dramatic change in conditions in Northern Ireland, at the same time bringing a substantial return to the Government.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I was rather surprised to hear the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) criticise my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) for referring to the direction of industry, because this evening he has defended an industry in Northern Ireland and has asked the Government to place orders in that industry, although it was directed there by a Coalition Government during the war, from Kingston-upon-Thames and Rochester. I am surprised that he should object to any Government's directing industry.
I see no objection, in certain circumstances and in certain emergencies, to a Government's directing an industry from one area to another. This is much better than directing people from one area to another, where there may not be enough houses or transport facilities. It is much better to direct industry and commercial activity into areas where there is unemployment.
§ Mr. McMaster
I am sure that the hon. Member does not wish to mislead the House. The first branch factory of Short Bros. was set up in Belfast in 1938. It is true that its main factory in Rochester was closed down later and its entire works directed to Northern Ireland, but in the first place it built in Northern Ireland of its own free will.
§ Mr. Bence
The point that I made was that a factory was directed to move from Kingston-upon-Thames and Rochester to Northern Ireland. I know, because I had something to do with manufacturing the jigs and fixtures for the Northern Ireland factory. I knew that it was directed to Northern Ireland.
We have had many long speeches, and I shall try to be brief. I do not know how inept the Government can become. They are getting more stupid as the days go by, and their latest publication is about the biggest affront to the people of Scotland that any Government have been guilty of in the last 50 years.
Last autumn we had a White Paper on the Development of Central Scotland. 1736 It explained that this area needed development. There was heavy unemployment, and the railway system was not used to the exent that it should be. Dr. Beeching therefore made proposals to close it down. Now we have another document from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Ever since the Barlow Report we have been asking for a policy of redistribution. The population density in the South-East is too high for industrial efficiency and the general social well-being of the population, whereas industrial activity and the population density in the North is lower than it could be.
I have no doubt that the Government will accept this Report. They are accepting similar documents at the rate of about one a month. No matter how much they cost, the Government will accept them. I do not know how much this will cost, taken together with the Buchanan Report, and adding the two together to the Robbins Report. Anyway, we now have another one, and the Prime Minister will no doubt accept it. But the Report suggests there should be a redistribution of the excessive population of London and the South-East wholly within the area of London, the South-East and the South-West.
In the document there is reference to the planned capital development of three new cities and other growth towns in the South-East and part of the South-West down as far as Portsmouth. It is not only to accommodate the assumed increase in population up to 1981 but a further migration. It provides for a further migration into the area from Wales, the North-East and Scotland. At one time we have a document to provide for the migration of the population from Wales, from the North-East, the North-West and Scotland, and then we have a White Paper proposing development in Scotland, the North-East, Northern Ireland and the North-West to keep the population there. Which policy will be successful? Will this document be circulated in Glasgow? If it is, the people of Glasgow will be wondering what the Prime Minister was talking about when he spoke in Glasgow.
§ Mr. A. Bourne-Arton (Darlington)
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that this survey gave way to the surveys 1737 for Scotland and the North-East which took priority and were published first?
§ Mr. Lawson
My hon. Friend will agree that the document dealing with the South-East is voluminous and expensive, showing that a considerable amount of care was exercised over a considerable period to undertake an inquiry into the subject. The documents for the North-East and Scotland are scrappy pamphlets which give no details whatever. Surely the contrast in the two documents brings out the idea of the two nations with which we are dealing.
§ Mr. Bence
My hon Friend is quite right. The document dealing with redevelopment in the South-East is a glossy magazine. I do not object to the redevelopment of the South-East. But there are proposals to create such an expansion of development as to provide for an increasing movement of population from areas of the country—(HON. MEMBERS "No."] It says 3½ million by 1981. It gives a natural increase of over 2 million by 1981 and movement into the area of 3½ million.
§ Mr. P. Williams
I agree that that is in the document. But the hon. Gentleman will recognise that this is a study based on what is likely to happen. It does not mean that the Government will not provide a counter-magnet. Of course they will. But in a study of this nature they have to recognise that a certain inflow is bound to take place.
§ Mr. Bence
The hon. Gentleman has made the final point. This document is issued by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The Minister looks at the policies of the Government for the North-East and for Scotland and he says, "This White Paper for the central development of Scotland, and the proposals for the North-East and the North-West, will not work. These policies will not keep the population in those places. I am convinced that people will come here, and so in our plan we will make Provision for when they come, 3½ 1738 million of them." So the Minister has no faith—
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Edward du Cann)
The hon. Gentleman has twice made the same inadvertent mistake, and perhaps it would help if I corrected him. He is saying that 3½ million people will come. That is not so. The total growth is part immigration and part natural.
§ Mr. Bence
I am sorry. As I read it, I understood that was the expected migration into the area. But I will accept that it is not. It does not affect my argument. We have proposals to increase economic activity in Scotland and the North-East. These are proposals from the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development—and all the rest of it: such a string of titles I cannot remember them all. He has a set of proposals. They have been operating for some time.
We have had the Distribution of of Industry Act, the Local Employment Act, all sorts of measures, fiscal policies and Acts, to keep the populations in those areas and to increase economic activity in those areas to get people to move up there from the South. I have been asked, other Scottish Members have been asked, by the President of the Board of Trade to try to convince executives down here what a beautiful part of the United Kingdom Scotland is, because he wants to get executives to go up there. While the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Labour are pursuing all these policies for Scotland and the North-East, the English Minister of Housing and Local Government issues a document about accommodation for people who are going to move down here, and so I say he has no faith in his fellow Ministers.
§ Mr. Bourne-Arton
I really think that when the hon. Gentleman has had more time than he or I have had to read this document thoroughly he will find that it is not a document, as the North-East and Scottish ones were, for expanding and attracting industry, but proposals for making people already in this area more comfortable and so for the region to work more efficiently for the people who will inevitably be there. It is a totally different problem approached in a different way.
§ Mr. Bence
It is surprising how shallowly some people handle these propositions. They think of people in industry at the point of production. Fewer and fewer men for an ever increasing rate of production are required. When we talk of people functioning and working in the context of a civilised society, we have to get away from the idea that the only way we can employ people is to put them at the point of production, because the productive engineer and the technologist before long will enable a multitude of things to be produced without labour at the point of production. This talk of three new cities down here and increasing amenities down here misses the point that we are progressively taking people away from the point of production.
What we need in Scotland, though, is something like this, and not only productive industry employing a few people. No matter about the South-East, this is what we want in Scotland. We want new towns, new social amenities. We want a couple of new universities. My hon Friend the Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson) wants a health research organisation. This is the sort of thing we want in Scotland, as well as a few factories, because all these things generate employment, and they generate social function.
Bless my soul, if all we can think of is in terms of employing the mass of our people in producing things, we shall be a very poor society indeed. We ought to think of employing the large mass of our people in rendering services to one another—as is done in London. The number of people employed at the point of production in London is infinitesimal. I think it is disgraceful that we in Scotland should have to suffer the indignity of being palmed off by the Prime Minister and other Ministers with a White Paper telling us what they will do to keep the present population in Scotland and to bring people back to Scotland while at the same time they issue a thing like this glossy survey about the South-East about providing for people who are to move from Scotland.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfred Proudfoot (Cleveland)
I am glad in one way to follow the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), but rather disappointed in an- 1740 other way, because I cannot answer his last points on the Study. I happen to be Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I was delighted, though, that he had the glossy magazine, because my division produces the "glossy" for the glossy magazines, and they make work for people in my constituency.
I wish I had been called a little earlier—about two speakers ago—when I should have followed two doctors and a commander, and I thought I was going to be in really high society to answer some of the points.
§ Mr. Proudfoot
Listening to the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon), I was amazed at his idea about industry, and I cannot for one moment accept that that would work as a practical solution in a modern-day industrial country. In studying reasons for locating industry we must give industrialists a certain amount of freedom if we refuse them permission to go to over-crowded areas. The product and the raw material used decide to a large degree where the industry must be located. If the end product is bulky it must be near the market. If the raw material is heavy, the production will be near the source of the raw material. A perfect example is in modern steel works where they are located near the coast and indeed they are called coastal steelworks. No amount of Socialism can get away from these facts.
The hon. Member said that these industries should be publicly-owned, nationalised. Once an industry is nationalised, a Government of no matter what complexion is virtually bound to protect it by all methods that can be used, by tariffs and price controls.
§ Mr. Lawson
Is this what the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Proudfoot) is concerned should be done with the shops of which he is proprietor?
§ Mr. Proudfoot
I even use those rarities—loss leaders. I believe in the most vigorous competition. I made a speech two years ago saying that resale price maintenance should go and that we should tackle monopolies and mergers. I am delighted that the Government are doing exactly what I suggested. I could not be more pleased.
Take, for instance, the coal industry. We see how the Government have to protect a nationalised industry. In my opinion that is perfectly right on humanitarian grounds. I have always lived in the North-East. The fuel tax on oil protects coal. In my constituency £7 10s. a ton has been put on the price of steel. This has not helped to make it competitive with concrete. When there is a nationalised industry, a Government of any complexion is bound to protect it. This is impossible in the modern world. It is like saying, "Stop the world, we all want to get off."
§ Mr. Proudfoot
I accept that, and if a hole is drilled in it the control no longer applies, and the control price accounts for the oil tax.
The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) is a scientist and he always manages to blind himself by science. His idea of what the Government should do in market research was incredibly vague. The Government's market research in the form of reports is all there for all to see. I was amazed that the hon. Member had not read the Report of the N.E.D.C. He should turn to paragraph 139 on page 23. Then he would see where new jobs will come with a growth rate of 4 per cent. If we have growth people with vigour and energy will benefit from that growth. This is interesting when we consider Tees-side and the North-East. The greatest number of jobs will go into service industries. In a total of 17 industries there will be 383,000 jobs, of 1742 which 248,000 will be in service, 220,000 in distribution and 28,000 in postal services and telecommunications. This is the kind of era we are going into. More and more service workers will help.
In the index to the Report one sees that the N.E.D.C. and the Government have done their homework on growth, where it will come and in what industries, where the growth of jobs will come. We in the North-East must recognise that some of our older industries are becoming obsolete. Once all the coal has been removed from a mine that [...]s the end of the mine.
Although one can refer to the great steel industry, its enormous development and the modernisation that has gone into it, we must also accept that there occurred a series of events which made life difficult for that industry. The nationalised Coal Board had, by correct social policy, to run down its number of workers. The shipping world was doing less business. All that reflected back onto the steel works and one can understand the reason for the recession in the steel industry. The director of "Neddy" was director of the Iron and Steel Board. Under the guidance of the Board there has been some really first-class planning.
In any case, nobody can guess just what the consumer will want from one year to the next. Fashions change, and whether the planners are nationalised or not the changing fads of the consumer will never be completely worked out by the planners. However, if private enterprise planners are doing the guessing they will stand more chance of success because their operations can be manoeuvred more quickly particularly since they are not protected by the Government as are the nationalised industries.
I must raise not a constituency but a Tees-side point after weeks of lobbying and letter writing. I appeal for the new Post Office savings bank to be located on Tees-side. I believe that it should be sited South of the Tees for many reasons, the main one being that in the whole of Tees-side it will complement the Hailsham Report. We on Tees-side have always had a history of heavy industry and the 7,500 jobs which we hope will eventually come to the area 1743 will be a great help if the savings bank is sited there because it would also provide employment for a number of women. Another reason for establishing it on Tees-side is that it would be within easy reach of East Cleveland, and Whitby would be only half an hour's car drive away.
I hope that my hon. Friend has not forgotten that the people concerned, the Post Office workers, have expressed the view that the most desirable part of the country to which they would wish to be directed is the part about which my hon. Friend is speaking.
§ Mr. Proudfoot
I am pleased that my hon. Friend raised that point. I have already been called the slickest salesman on Tees-side, and I wear that name with pride. I am only too delighted to "sell" my constituency to get more jobs and industries to the area. The Post Office workers have voted, by a vast majority, to go to Tees-side as opposed to Clyde-side and Merseyside. An article appeared in my local newspaper yesterday stating that there had been 1,500 volunteers wishing to come to Tees-side, but only 200 willing to go to the other two riversides.
I have been probably the luckiest hon. Member in the Ballot for Notices of Motions. I have succeeded in raising the questions of decimal coinage, monopolies and mergers and training. I am a great believer in the benefits of training. I am delighted that it has been a Conservative Government who have taken a keen interest in training legislation, although a considerable amount of criticism has come from the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West.
The Government gave money to the education authorities to help the two leading firms finance extra training there—Dorman Long and I.C.I. These two firms are excellent examples of modern enlightened private enterprise. Their factories are producing more trainees than the firms themselves can use, and that is ultimately to the good of the community.
The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West shakes his head, but let me tell him this. At one time I employed two boys in Scarborough as newsboys. 1744 They both came to my division, and both of them became instrument fitters—excellent men at their jobs. They were trained at I.C.I. One of them is now in Rumania and the other is in London making instruments for oil refineries for export. Those boys got there because I.C.I. is training more chaps than the firm itself needs.
A third firm would have started a training scheme, but for one thing. I plead with the trade unions on the Teesside to attend their branch meetings and to vote for more training. That is where the true blockage lies. The trade unions put a restriction on the number of trainees they will accept. I have been told that over and over again. It is a tragic thought that a father who is a qualified craftsman may stop, unknowingly, even his own son from getting an apprenticeship, but that is the set-up.
I plead with the trade unions locally to adopt a more liberal attitude towards training. The big shortage in the North-East in the future will be in trained men——
§ Dr. Bray
The hon. Member has addressed the House on the same subject before, and I have challenged him in the Lobby to state a single shop on the Tees-side where a restrictive practice was adopted by a trade union in a modern trade—electricians, turners, fitters, and so on. He was not able to produce a single example. It is only in trades where there is redundancy and men in them are unemployed that anything of the sort happens, and in every case the restriction has been applied by the employer.
§ Mr. Proudfoot
I do not accept that statement. There is a split mind on this subject. The national trade union leaders all agree on the need for more training—everyone agrees on that—but when we get to the local level there is a restrictive attitude. The hon. Member mentioned the electricians; I think that they are a little more enlightened now than most of the craftsmen—they all welcome a greater number of apprenticeships. In all sincerity, I cannot at this moment quote a particular trade, but when I have gone round the training schools they have put this point to me and I am perfectly prepared to accept 1745 their word. Within the next few days I shall produce examples for the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West.
Two main noises are coming from Tees-side. The noise from industry and business is optimistic and confident for the future; the other is a political, pessimistic noise. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West made some typical pessimistic noises tonight. Of course, his chances at the next General Election will be reduced if unemployment is cured, and he knows it. That is absolutely accurate.
I ask the hon. Member to be what he once accused me of being—a good salesman for the area. We cannot sell the area unless we talk about its advantages. My division is a huge growth point in the North-East. The numbers of my electors have increased by 10 per cent. since the last General Election, so my division is one of the really fabulous modern growth areas of the country. It is enormously exciting to pass these huge capital projects in chemicals and steel.
One of the things that most people do not know about is the new Teesport. It is on dead level ground. Here is a £3½ million project that hardly anyone knows, but it will be one of our major ports. The Harbours Bill, which is going through Parliament, earmarks Tees-side as one of the vast growth areas. If one goes to this port, one will be surprised by the sight. Motor cars from the Midlands are now exported from Tees-side. The Government gave £2 million in the last Budget to deepen the river. This was completely right.
In the same area there are several thousand acres of land which are to be reclaimed. It is absolutely flat and right for industrial development. Further back in the Cleveland hills will be a residential area situated on the edge of a National Park. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West said a short time ago that I.C.I. was embarrassed by the tax inducements to go to Tees-side. I do not think that for a moment. I am sure that my constituents are delighted by the Government's tax incentives to bring more jobs to Tees-side. These inducements are the greatest in the free world, and this should not be forgotten.
§ Mr. Proudfoot
I do not think that it is ill-conceived. The £10 million Shell refinery which is to come will provide jobs for many people. It is no use looking only at the process workers, as the hon. Member did, and thinking that that is the end. Every productive worker, like a front-line soldier, has hundreds of people behind him. They are employed in local government, in teaching, in distribution and all the other things that go to make our society.
The heavy end of the steel industry has been through a rough time. I hope that the Government will be able to speed the new regulations governing safety regulations against fire. The structural side of the industry is placed at a disadvantage because of the present amount of cladding that must be put round steel structures in modern buildings. A building made of steel clad with concrete must be capable under the regulations of standing for four hours in the event of fire. This is an awfully long time to provide for the occupants to get out. I am convinced that this requirement should be altered. If it were altered it would be of great benefit to people engaged in this sector of the steel industry.
I do not believe that the people in the steel industry want nationalisation. The Socialists at this point in time are trying to "sell" the nationalisation of steel on the ground of job security. One single fact can prevent its being sold to the steel workers and that is that job security in the modernised coal industry is no greater under nationalisation than it was under private enterprise. The problem that confronts us all as a society is that we must have retraining and proper redundancy schemes because we have to let modernisation flow in this country.
I should like to tell the House of the exciting story I came across in my Division recently. I was being shown round a steel works. I was shown a rolling mill. I was told, "We have just modernized it completely. Three chaps 1747 used to look after it and now there is only one." A man took me into a little room which was about the size of the average bathroom. In it was a large electronic machine. Lights blinked all over it. I could not have figured it all out in a million years. I was shown punch cards which were being fed into it. The punched cards, about 9 ins. by 12 ins., had holes in them just about big enough for me to put my little finger in. Just as I was turning away, I noticed that several of the holes had been blanked off with "Sellotape". I asked the chap showing me round why this was, and he replied, "That is an interesting story. The chaps who operate the mill came in in their own time and decided that they could do without this or that operation and they blank off the holes. They can beat the machine".
I regard this as one of the most exciting stories in industry that I have ever come across, showing how modernisation is succeeding and is being accepted by the people who work in industry. It pleased me very much indeed.
A welcome should be given in the House to the survey which is to be carried out in Tees-side, at a cost of £300,000. I understand that the Government are footing half of the bill. This again is right for the growth of the area of Tees-side. We are determined to have things right in the area, and I am convinced that the plans which will emerge, with traffic "computerisation" and so on, will be first class. Once they have been devised, they can be modified as time goes on to keep pace with developments.
Roads are a factor of the greatest importance affecting employment in my constituency. Strange as it may seem, I have no trunk road in my constituency although there is a road which has been called a trunk road for the past 20 years. Technically speaking, however, it is not a trunk road. This is a bit of "North-East Irish". In fact, we in Cleveland need a better road system, and I am most disappointed by the county council's lack of appreciation of the enormous growth which has taken place on the south bank of the Tees.
The local roads must be improved. Of course, I welcome the South Tees-side 1748 parkway, and I sincerely hope that a start will soon be made on it, but we must have the local roads right from Loftus through Brotton to Skelton into Guisborough and on to Middlesbrough. We have a great roads problem and something must be done about it. The other day, two officials who were in the north-eastern office of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government lost their lives on one of the stretches of road I am talking about. There are some crazy bends and right-angle turns on them, yet they pass through absolutely flat open land. The county council must really get cracking on these roads. In the past, it has always blamed the Government.
I have been to see the Minister of Transport several times about our road system. The county council decides the priorities for the next few years. The programmes then go to the Ministry, which says how much money is available—this will always be so under any Government—and then the Minister picks out of the top priority decided by the county council exactly what can happen. One of my local councillors was able to move one bridge up to the top of the list, and I am delighted to say that that bridge—Windsor Road railway bridge—was pulled down and rebuilt in a fortnight while one of the steel works was on holiday. It was a magnificent piece of engineering—almost an "instant" bridge, so to speak.
It is roads that we need. We want the road improved from Skelton to Redcar. Half of it is being done now. Then it will be possible for Skelton to grow so that it will become a living area virtually on the edge of the National Park and yet within easy reach of industry.
The other road which must be improved very soon is the road from Guisborough to Redcar. Guisborough's population has grown up by 46 per cent. in the last ten years, but the road is almost still the same. It has got a ridiculous corner at each end of it. I can recall four deaths occurring on it, and I assure the House that it is quite a terrifying sight to see the volume of traffic and people using it when the shift workers of I.C.I. are coming and going. There are dangerous sections of camber which have thrown people off the road.
§ Mr. Proudfoot
I am glad to see the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West agreeing with me wholeheartedly on this.
We need that scheme to improve the A.19 to Tees port urgently. The port needs better access. I should not leave this aspect of the matter without mentioning the A.1085, which, in effect is the trunk road. It passes through a densely populated area of Grangetown. Councillors and representatives of the churches have written to me about this road. One councillor is waging a campaign to get it improved. I wish him luck. I sincerely hope that the county council will move everything that it can in order to improve this road and reduce the hazards to life in this area.
I want to say here and now that I am excited by the growth prospects on Tees-side. I think that the recommendations in the Hailsham Report are absolutely right, and let us not forget that the areas adjacent to this growth zone will benefit enormously. It will be like throwing a pebble into a pond; the ripples will grow and spread and one can foresee places like Whitby and Scarborough becoming the Brighton and Hoves of the North-East.
I think that the Government's plans are right and that they will prove to be seen to be so in the not distant future.
§ 11.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
We have had not only an interesting debate in which the general argument has been against the Government in terms of constituencies. I would remind the House of what my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) said about unemployment; that when we talk of unemployment we are talking of tragedy. This is an aggregation of family tragedies, not only for the people who are unemployed, but for the whole area in which there is unemployment.
We in the North-East are told repeatedly that we should help ourselves, but I believe that we have done everything that is possible to help ourselves and, if the Minister of State challenges that statement, I hope that he will do so tonight. This is essentially a question of the location of industry. If one looks at the ten industries which have grown most rapidly over the last ten 1750 years, we find that in the country as a whole industry has increased by 23 per cent., but that in the North-East it has increased by 26 per cent. and that those industries which have advanced most rapidly are not sufficiently represented in the North-East.
As the Minister of State is about to reply, I put the issue to him simply and say to the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Proudfoot) that the Government are not looking to the future. The then Minister of Labour gave an express pledge at the last election. When the Minister came to Sunderland he said that unemployment was a passing phase and that areas like Sunderland would find that the Government would tackle it at once, but that to tackle it demanded legislation. This was to be one of the main problems which the Government was to tackle. By legislation, it was to spread industry more widely and then the problem would be solved. But the Government have failed
I have quoted the right hon. Gentleman, but he was not alone in giving this undertaking. The Prime Minister gave it. He sad that unemployment was confined to particular areas and he also said that it was a passing phase, and I say that the hon. Member for Cleveland was hyprocritical when he faced the electorate.
§ Mr. Proudfoot
But one of the first pieces of legislation which this Government introduced was the Local Employment Act, and when it was found that it was insufficient for doing the job it was changed.
§ Mr. Willey
The hon. Member sticks to his political philosophy, but I will stick to mine. I said that there will be no change if a Conservative Government is returned The hon. Member for Cleveland will have to face his constituents and explain how his arguments are right. In Sunderland at the time of the last General Election there were about 5 per cent. fewer unemployed in conditions similar to those obtaining today. It was a general election boom. But, said the Minister of Labour and the Prime Minister, that was a passing phase; it would be solved immediately, and to solve it legislation was needed. 1751 The Government have had the legislation. They have not solved the problem, and they are accountable.
Today, in similar conditions, we have, not 5 per cent. unemployed, but 6 to 7 per cent. unemployed. In Hartlepool—the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) is no longer present—the condition was similar. At the last General Election, when the hon. and gallant Member was elected, there was 5 per cent. unemployed. Now, there is 6 to 7 per cent. unemployed. In the North-East as a whole, we had 3 per cent. unemployed then. Now we have 4 to 5 per cent. unemployed. The average unemployment in Sunderland last year was 8.6 per cent. This is the account which the hon. Member for Cleveland and his hon. Friends must give to the electorate. The problem has not been solved. A pledge was given—the election was fought upon it in the North-East—that our problem would be solved immediately. Hon. Members opposite said that we would endure this unemployment for a short term, and the electorate were woefully deceived.
I want to show how bad the position is. When we think of unemployment, we must relate it to jobs which are vacant.
May I say how greatly the hon. Member encourages me by what he is saying? If he says that we shall be judged by the pledges that were made on whether the Government would introduce a Measure to stop widespread unemployment in areas where industries were running down, I made that pledge—it was the only pledge I made—and in my constituency my constituents see the fruit of that policy by many incoming industries. If this is all we are to be judged by, the hon. Member encourages me very much.
§ Mr. Willey
I will come to the hon. Member's constituency presently. The important thing was that an undertaking was given that unemployment was a passing phase. This was an issue at the election, because hon. Members opposite said that all that was needed was a little legislation and unemployment would have gone. This has not happened.
We have to deal not only with the scale of unemployment; we must relate it to 1752 the jobs which are vacant. We still have 9 per cent. male unemployment in Sunderland. This applies generally throughout these industrial areas in the North-East. We have 23 unemployed people chasing every job. In the county as a whole, 20 unemployed men and women are chasing every vacancy. When we debated this problem in the summer two years ago, Crook was quoted as an illustration that 40 men were chasing every job. Today, there are 236 men chasing every vacancy.
The Minister of State, Board of Trade, knows what this means in terms of juvenile unemployment and to school leavers. Against this background, we are expected to migrate. The Minister of State is intelligent and knows that migration aggravates the problem and makes it worse. I have been studying the employment position in Sunderland. Half of those employed are in the service industries, the distributive trades, the construction industries and public utilities. If 1,000 people leave Sunderland, 1,000 people in Sunderland are put out of work.
The core of the problem is that over ten years, 80,000 people left the North-East. Eighty thousand people leaving the North-East creates unemployment virtually to the scale of 80,000. The first problem which the Minister must tackle is that we now have about 12,000 people leaving the North-East every year. The hon. Gentleman has either to stop the migration or provide employment for those who are put out of work by it. That is the first major problem.
The second is the problem of the heavy industries. Since the last General Election the coal mining industry has thrown up a redundancy of 12,000. No one has mentioned power stations. They are very relevant to this. We have had no satisfaction about the power stations. The hon. Member for Darlington can face his electorate on that.
§ Mr. Willey
But the hon. Gentleman can face his electorate on that. He will be asked why he deceived the electorate in saying that this was a passing phase. So the Minister must say what his plans are—because we know that redundancy in coal mining will continue—to provide alternative employment.
1753 In 1951 we were the greatest shipbuilding country in the world, as we had always been. We were dominant. We are not now. Is it a matter of national policy? Japan, which builds more than twice the tonnage that we build, is a shipbuilding country because it was national policy to be. West Germany is also above us in the table. Both countries are great shipbuilding countries because of national policy. They decided that this was the export business to get into, that it was great export business to export a ship. They deliberately went into it. They have displaced us. We are now third; and we are being overtaken by Sweden. We have 64,000 fewer men employed in the industry than when the present Government came into power. Is it national policy to contract British shipbuilding? We know exactly what steps Japan and West Germany took when they built up their shipbuilding, but apparently it was the policy of the Conservative Government to contract and reduce British shipbuilding.
Let us take the position more currently, last year. World output of shipbuilding increased. But British shipbuilding dropped very sharply. We can now, unfortunately, talk about the 30s. British shipbuilding output is now below that for 1938. What were the Government doing for British shipbuilding in 1938? We had a scrap-and-build programme then. We were aiding the industry.
What is the national policy of the Government towards shipbuilding? Take the position since the 1959 General Election. The industry has been reduced by one-third. Is this the policy? Even if it is said that it is not, it seems to be the policy, because the Government have intervened only to hold the industry at its current level. They watched it go down to a level below 1 million tons before they took any action. Is the attitude of the Government now that they will be content to hold the industry at this level? This is important. It particularly affects us in Sunderland.
We have done well out of the Government's scheme. The North-East has done well. We have 65 per cent. of the orders which have been provided. In Sunderland alone we have 45 per cent. But we have more than 1,000 shipyard workers 1754 on the dole. Is that the Government's policy? Ten per cent. of our shipyard workers are unemployed. We have Short's shipyard closed down. If this is the Government's policy, and it appears to be, what are the Government going to do about alternative work? We have had migration. We have had what has happened to the coal industry. We know what is now happening to shipbuilding. What are the Government doing?
The Government are certainly not helping—and again this will be a political question at the General Election—for the shipbuilding areas are complaining about the price of steel and about the lack of commercial practices in the steel industry. The price of steel has run against British shipbuilding since denationalisation. I forecast in 1959 that if we got any redundancy in the steel industry, it would be carried by units which were too small and that this would determine the price. That is what has happened.
We know that on the North-East Coast 100,000 more jobs will be needed over the next few years. What are the Government planning to do about it? What has emerged from the debate is that they have not come to grips with the problem at all. In the last few weeks I have been engaged in debate on the application of science in industry. The same sort of situation applies in this case. We cannot get the Government to take effective action.
The Lord President of the Council is concerned with both science and with the North-East. He would say that it is easier to help industry if one is engaged on defence work but more difficult in industry if only the profit motive counts. But that is a problem that the Government will have to tackle. In 1961 and 1962 there was great public pressure on the Government to get something done for the North-East, Scotland and other areas. But the Report for 1962–63 published by the Board of Trade shows that the Government actually spent £8 million less on the North-East than in the previous year while the total number of jobs provided there was 500 less.
Obviously, there should have been some national planning and policy but the Government saw that there was an 1755 upswing of private investment. Later, they did respond but they should have done so at the critical time. In 1962–63 the total amount of new factories, extensions and industrial development certificates provided for an extra 2,384,000 square feet of space, but this was only half the previous year's total.
The year 1962–63 was the critical year for the provision of more employment now, yet the provision made by the Government for the Northern region was half that of the previous year. Now the brake has been applied yet again. The Bank Rate has been raised, and that effects these development areas more than any others because of its brake on capital investment. Yet in Sunderland we have 6 per cent. unemployed. In other districts it is even higher.
I am not surprised that in the debate scarcely any reference has been made to the Hailsham Report. It was meagre. It was a record of what had happened. It was brought out in expectation of an autumn election last year. It was no guide to future policy. It has already been virtually forgotten. The idea was that there should be deliberate public service investment and discrimination in favour of the northern region. If that was Government policy then, how is it that investment by the Government on factories in 1962–63 was less than half of the previous year in the northern region?
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cleveland has left the Chamber, because he touched on a cardinal point. The interesting thing is that when we look at the Government's figures for increased public investment over the next few years we see that it is almost entirely accounted for by road construction. We know the facts of life. Did the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Bourne-Arton) expect the A.1, as a new motorway, to end at Darlington? That motorway has to be driven through the Counties of Durham and Northumberland, and that will account for almost all the increased expenditure on public investment in the Northern region over the next few years.
If the Government really wanted to help the North-East, why was not this done before? Why is it that our part 1756 of the road is the last to be constructed? I agree that this will provide some employment in the area, but the Minister of Transport is in effect saying to the hon. Member for Darlington although that employment is being provided, 4,000 of his constituents will be put out of work because the railway workshops at Darlington are to be closed.
§ Mr. Bourne-Arton
It will be within the hon. Gentleman's knowledge that the new employment created by a succession the Government measures has done two things: it has provided employment for those declared redundant at the railway workshops, and it has provided employment for those declared redundant because of modernisation in existing firms. This new employment is being created not only by incoming firms, but by the expansion of, and extension to, existing firms.
§ Mr. Willey
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he ought to have made his speech during the debate.
§ Mr. Bourne-Arton
The hon. Gentleman mentioned my constituency, and I am entitled to put him right on his facts.
§ Mr. Willey
I am dealing with the Minister of Transport. I am dealing with the facts. I said that the Minister of Transport is providing employment by continuing the new motorway through the counties of Durham and Northumberland. I said that at the same time he is creating redundancy as great as the employment he is creating.
§ Mr. Willey
I shall deal with the Government's other measures. That is what the hon. Gentleman said in 1959.
§ Mr. Willey
The hon. Gentleman has. He need not get so anxious and nervous just because an election is in the offing.
§ Mr. Willey
I am dealing with public investment. I shall now deal with another subject in which the hon. Gentleman is interested—education. The cuts made in our school building programme have been more severe than those made in other areas. Why is that? We receive preference in the construction of minor works, but not in school building.
Let us consider the situation in education. We have two nations in this land. We have been talking about the South-East. If we consider the figures for children aged 15 who are receiving full-time education, or those between 15 and 18 who are receiving full-time education, we see that the figures for the South-East are double those for the North-East. That shows the educational disparity between the two areas.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)
Order. I do not think that we can carry on like this. The hon. Member for Darlington may catch my eye later.
§ Mr. Willey
The position is that from an education point of view we are two nations. We in the North-East are much worse off than people in the South-East. The education opportunities in the South-East are twice what they are in the North-East. This means that we should get some discriminatory capital 1758 investment in the North-East—but we have not got it. We have suffered just as bad cu[...]s as other regions, or even Worse cuts.
The question of training and retraining has been mentioned. This subject features in the Hailsham Report. What is the position? The Report talks about a substantial expansion. There are 700 places in all. We have been talking in terms of N.E.D.C. There are to be 100,000 new jobs. Pathetic! We have also been talking of school leavers. The Hailsham Report talks of the capacity of classes at Tursdale being doubled. We have provided 24 more places. This is pathetic. It does not begin to deal with the problem.
Reference has been made to derelict sites. Here I want to quote in full the Board of Trade Report. It says:The Ministry of Housing and Local Government gave final approval during the year for one scheme for the tree-planting of a 2-acre site at an estimated gross cost of £155. Two other schemes estimated to cost £44,000 gross, covering 41 acres, were approved in principle after having been provisionally approved in previous years. Five other schemes, estimated to cost £47,000 gross and covering 92 acres, were provisionally approved. Twenty-six further schemes covering over 450 acres were under consideration at the end of the war.That is pathetic. It is not making the North-East Coast as attractive an area to industry as the newer areas.
We spent less in 1962–63 than in the previous year on basic services. This is not getting to the heart of the problem of the North-East Coast and the development areas. We must have an end to "stop-go" The trouble is that we stop before the other areas stop, and we start much later. We have a very short period of activity. The Government talk of an unemployment rate of 6, 7 or 8 per cent. as prosperity, but this is not what they conveyed to the electorate in 1959.
We must plan intelligently in order to use our resources intelligently. This is not an argument about capitalism and socialism. Other capitalist countries can use their intelligence. It is time we did. But if we are to have a national plan we must also have regional plans. The hon. Member gave the impression that he did not believe in regional planning, but we must have it. The Hailsham Report referred to a single building at 1759 Newcastle. We should be restoring the powers we had in 1951. The regional headquarters should be the power house for the region.
We must have an end of this Government, with their procrastination, indecision and delay. We must have action well in advance. I have dealt with the year 1962–63 because that is the year which affects employment this year. It was the failure of the Government to act in 1962–63 which was responsible for the present position. This procrastination is illustrated by the case of the Post Office Savings Bank, which has been mentioned. I have not the slightest doubt that this will come to the North-East, but it does not help the Government's image to have the point about procrastination raised.
I have mentioned two or three points. I do not want the Government to say that I have made no suggestions about what we should do. I congratulate the Government on what they are doing in providing Commonwealth aid, attached with strings to the use of surplus capacity here, but they have acted on far too small a scale. It needs to be done on a large scale; £15 million is not enough if we are to make any impact on the problems we have been discussing tonight. But this sort of aid is alien to Tory philosophy. The Minister of State is an intelligent member of the Administration, and I can appreciate his difficulties. We must be tough with our I.D.C. policy.
I was asked about industrial location and direction. This is the wrong approach. We should not be negative but positive in this matter. If industries are to be persuaded to go into the North-East, to Scotland and to the other development districts we must be positive and say that we will back those that go. Let us work in partnership. This is the same problem as that which arises in connection with bringing scientific research into industry. If private enterprise will not do it then public enterprise, or public and private enterprise working in partnership, will have to do it. The Government gave a specific pledge and undertaking that this was a short-term problem which would be settled within the lifetime of this Parliament. It is the failure of the 1760 Government to settle that problem which will seal the fate of many of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends when the General Election comes.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Bourne-Arton (Darlington)
I am most grateful at being allowed the opportunity to intervene, though it will be for only one moment. I wish, first, to apologise to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) if I appeared to be getting a little warm just now when he was discussing problems in my constituency. Secondly, I wish to correct one point which was left uncorrected when the hon. Gentleman was speaking. We have had very good building starts indeed in Darlington, but, like every other education authority anywhere in the country now and at any other time, in the entire list of orders of priority building not all have been accepted. Indeed, they never have under any Government at any time, and never will. But we have done pretty well on building starts.
§ 11.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Edward du Cann)
I am glad to have the opportunity enfin to wind up this debate, and I shall certainly do my best to answer the questions which were raised. I am not at all clear whether some of the hon. Gentlemen who asked them are necessarily interested in the answers. It may be that I am doing them an injustice. Certainly, the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) have been good enough to explain to me their personal circumstances because of which they have had to leave London, and I entirely understand that it may be that the same applies to other people. I would not wish to do them the discourtesy of not ensuring, as far as I can, that the answers to their remarks are written into the record.
The first thing I should like to do is to quote something which the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) said, which was reinforced by the speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). He said—I wrote it down at the time—that all of 1761 us take this question seriously because of its human aspects. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North went on to say, in effect, that Britain cannot afford wasted resources. I would certainly agree with both those sentiments. Indeed, I thought that agreement with both those sentiments largely characterised all the speeches made during the course of this evening. I would only say this by way of addition, that this is a serious problem, and the very stories of individual locations, exceptional though they may be, cannot but be moving. I have never thought that these problems, wherever they exist in the United Kingdom, were capable of any easy solution, and I do not think they are now. I think it would be idle to pretend at any time that they are.
I turn to the question of aid, raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North, and to what he said about aid from surplus capacity. As I was at the Treasury at the time when this policy was formulated, I agree with him that it was a very good scheme indeed. I have no doctrinnaire objection to schemes of this sort. Indeed, I think they have already brought great benefit to many British industries. But there are problems. There is a limit, obviously to what we can afford, and that is really the only factor at present preventing us from doing more than we are doing.
I should like to endeavour to some extent, in winding up the debate, to put it into context. The matters I am now going to refer to, I wish to make it plain, in no way affect the point, which I accept, that certain areas have a serious and grievous problem.
The first point I wish to make is that at this time, more people are in employment in Britain than ever before. It is remarkable how the figures have risen. To take mid-1951, for example—one can pick any year, in general, over the last 20 years or so—the number of people employed in the United Kingdom was 23 million. In mid-1963, to get an approximate comparison, the figure was 24.65 million, a rise of nearly 2 million.
It is a commonplace to say that we live in an era of change. As the hon. Member for Sunderland, North and some of my hon. Friends who are now in the Chamber pointed out, we not only live in an era of change but in one 1762 of rapid change and that this is something to which one has to become accustomed. Hon. Members were right in what they said about the importance of retraining. It is remarkable how the balance of employment is changing.
I was asked to say something about shipbuilding. Hon. Members will know of my prejudice on this subject for reasons with which I need not bore the House now. No doubt we are in difficulties over coal as new fuels come into existence. Although these fine old traditional industries of Britain may not be able to play quite the same dominant part in our economy as they played in the past, we are most anxious to see them play an important part in the future. We wish to see a strong, efficient and competitive shipbuilding industry. I was delighted to hear what the hon. Member for Sunderland, North said about the performance of the North-East in obtaining contracts. That seems a good indication of efficiency and augurs well for the future.
We have to face changes in employment. I was looking at an analysis of export figures only a few days ago and was struck by the fact, which is an illustration of what I am endeavouring to stress, that before the war only 5 per cent. of our sales abroad consisted of engineering goods. Today it is nearly half. That is an added indication that we live in a changing world. It is difficult at times to become accustomed to this change and to provide for it It is a matter for pride that the United Kingdom has as good or better a post-war record of maintaining full employment than any comparable industrial country. Comparisons are difficult for obvious reasons, but that should be a matter for pride.
Lastly, I refer to the general economic position, a point to which the hon. Member for Hamilton, who opened the debate, I thought so well and with such obvious feeling, drew attention. It is the essence of the Government's policy that not only does an expanding economy help the proper development of the regions, but the proper development of the regions makes it possible to sustain over all a higher level of activity in the national economy as a whole. It is very im- 1763 portant at this time to have an expanding economy.
Reference was made by the hon. Member for Sunderland North and the hon. Member for Hamilton to the application of Bank rate. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South made a very good point when he said that we have to consider the development districts against the background of the economy as a whole. We need to sustain a soundly developed economy expanding at a rate which the United Kingdom can afford. While recognising the importance of avoiding stop-go policies, I do not believe that a cut back can have a serious effect in development districts or that the recent rise in Bank Rate is likely to have a great effect in development districts, if any at all. I will not go into detail unless the House wishes of the reasons advanced by the Radcliffe Report in 1959. The situation has changed very much since earlier stop-go days. Now we have the new incentives of free depreciation and investment allowances and so on which did not exist earlier and which seem to be a counter attraction of very great strength far outweighing any general economic cut back which might take place from time to time. Bearing in mind the need I have expressed to maintain the growth of the economy, I support the Chancellor in the action he has taken in time to maintain the rate of growth which happily exists at the moment.
I come to the Government's regional development policy objectives. The first is to bring about a more even spread of economic activity. The second is to maintain the individual and unique character of the regions, which I have always felt is one of the outstanding characteristics of this country. The third is to improve the quality of life in all its aspects throughout the country.
I was pleased to hear some rude remarks made about the word "infrastructure." It is, without doubt, a most appalling word and why we continue to talk American rather than English I cannot think. I said in Bristol the other day, and I have no hesitation in repeating, that I am sick of "documentation." I prefer "documents." I am sick of "transportation." What is the matter with "transport," and I positively re- 1764 fuse to "meet up with" anybody—at their infrastructure or anywhere else.
A great deal has been said about the need to attend to the problem of making life convenient and pleasing in the regions, and this is one of the basic needs. Above all, what we must succeed in doing is to provide good and fair opportunities for those who live, work and, perhaps even more important, grow up in these areas. As hon. Members know, the Government have certain instruments for implementing these policies. We have regional development policies and our aim is to secure both immediate and long-term benefits. Our general approach in the short-term is to make full and constructive use of the Local Employment Acts to seek the results we require in achieving our objectives.
I will deal later with the latest position under the Local Employment Acts. I wish, first, to deal with regional points. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) questioned me about Northern Ireland. As they know, the development of the Northern Ireland economy is the responsibility of the Government of Northern Ireland, who offer favourable financial assistance to new industry. The Secretary of State has already informed my hon. Friends that we keep in close touch with them on the evolution of our development policy for the regions. In steering industry we give Northern Ireland the same high priority as the most needy development district in the United Kingdom. We shall certainly continue to do what we can to draw the advantages of a move to Northern Ireland to the attention of every suitable firm. There have been a number of successes recently, but I will not weary hon. Members with the details.
From my personal experience I can inform the House that when in New York a few weeks ago I had the privilege, while there on Government business, of seeing for myself at first hand the activities of some of the officials of the Northern Ireland Government who are attempting to attract American industry to Northern Ireland. I was most impressed by the work they are doing.
1765 Now, the North East. It seems to the Government that the North East Development Group is pressing ahead well. The acquisition of the site for the South Tees-side Industrial Estate is well in hand and the comprehensive survey and plan for re-developing Tees-side has now been launched. It is true beyond doubt that there has been an upsurge in the rate of inquiries. This is to be welcomed and I hope that those inquiries will result in more projects going to the North East.
As to the specific questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland, he will have to rely on me to give him the answers in due course. The same applies to my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans). The hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) asked me several specific questions about Wales. There has indeed been a transformation in the Welsh economy.
On the other hand, there are problems and difficulties, and both hon. Members mentioned the situation in Pressed Steel. It would be premature to suggest that that area should again be added to the list of development districts. I am told two things. I am told that the prospects for further employment of people who will be leaving the Pressed Steel factory—which, alas, has never been a very great success—are good. I am also informed that there is some prospect that another firm will in due time—and perhaps not before long, although I cannot, for obvious reasons, go into details now—take over the factory. So there is hope. I will pay attention in the immediate future to the point about derelict sites mentioned by the hon. Member for Gower.
Employment in Scotland was referred to by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), by my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, and other hon. Members. It is true that in certain parts of Scotland the unemployment situation is serious, but the figures since last summer show that the situation is improving, and that the underlying trend is downwards. Between mid-July, 1963 and mid-February, 1964, unemployment rose by 5,750, as compared with an average increase of over 18,000 in the same period over the last ten years. From now until the 1766 summer, as the House will know, the seasonal trend will, happily, be down.
In 1963, 36 English or overseas firms, with a total future employment of over 11,000, dec[...]ded to develop in Scotland—the largest number of companies so to decide in any one year since the war. It is, therefore, fair to say that the prospects are not all gloomy. It is, of course, urgent and important that better progress should be made, but the present news is not all gloomy, and it is right that I should say so——
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
But what do the Government estimate will be the number of jobs they will lose in the period in which they gain that 11,000?
§ Mr. du Cann
I cannot say at the moment, but I will let the hon. Gentleman have a note on the subject as promptly as possible.
I should have liked to have spoken about the South-West, from which I have just returned, but as I have not been asked about it I will not weary the House with details of my tour. Nor have I been asked about Merseyside or the North-West, and I hope that neither area will feel it improper that I should not mention them now.
The questions I was asked about growth areas seemed to indicate a view that these areas are not a wise or a sensible conception, but that seems not to be the general economic opinion. Begging the pardon of certain hon. Members who may be here tonight—although I cannot see all round the place—I am not too sure that one should always accept everything told one by the economists—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad that I carry some people with me—I was getting worried.
It is significant and interesting to note that although there are some hon. Members—and I think that the hon. Member for Hamilton was one—who do not find the concept of the growth area necessarily satisfactory, although I believe that they are wrong, there is a great deal of pressure from hon. Members, for constituency reasons, to have their constituencies or other areas in which they are interested included in the growth areas, which makes me feel that perhaps not everything is wrong with them.
1767 I believe that the growth areas have substantial advantages. The first is that a growth area is a funnel for increased public investment and, indeed, it will not cease to be a development district just because its own economic health improves; in other words, it will be a continuing opportunity for building up prosperity in general in the part of the world that has been selected for its site.
§ Dr. Mabon
The hon. Gentleman will see one of his colleagues beside him who once expressed most clearly to us this distinction between growth areas and development districts. My constituency is a development district. It is not a growth area. This is the concern which my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) was trying to express. If an area is a growth district and also a development district it is in the first division, but if it is simply a development district it is in the second division in the matter of public investment. Our area, with high unemployment, is by definition a development district and we are terribly concerned that this discrimination in terms of public investment is made against us.
§ Mr. du Cann
Which is really the opposite of some of the things that have been said tonight.
I understand the hon. Member's concern. It is quite reasonable if one is concerned immediately with a development district to think that there is some other part of the world that is getting some special advantages. But what matters in the long-term? At the furthest remove it is vital that the whole economy expands and is prosperous. Coming a little closer it is equally vital that the growth area expands and is prosperous, and if both conditions obtain they must bring benefit to the development district, which by itself alone has advantages over the rest of the whole of the United Kingdom. Therefore I do not think that it is quite appropriate to talk in terms of first and second divisions when the whole standard of grant help and improvements has risen so greatly.
I come to talk of financial assistance and the House might like to have the latest figures. The total help under the Local Employment Acts now for the whole of Great Britain is £103½ million, bringing an estimated additional employment of no less than 121,000 jobs. The 1768 total sum in B.O.T.A.C. assistance for Great Britain is about 362 projects recommended. The total number of standard grants for Great Britain is no less than 1,159. I quote these figures deliberately as an indication that a great deal has happened. It is fair to say that those jobs of which I spoke earlier might well not be there if Parliament as a whole had not given approval in the past to the necessary legislation.
The hon. Member for Hamilton asked certain questions about Board of Trade factories. At present the Board of Trade owns 55 million square feet of factory premises, of which about 40 million square feet are in development districts mainly in Central Scotland and North-East England. Currently 1½ million square feet of premises are under construction, again mainly in Central Scotland and North-East England.
During 1962–63 a programme of 32 factories was announced by the Government and that factory building programme, as the House will know, continues. The latest addition is an advance factory in the unhappily high unemployment area of Falmouth. In addition to building factories for the known requirements of tenants, and advance factories, the Board of Trade is developing new industrial estates. I agree with the favourable opinions expressed about this programme. It is perhaps one of the best ways of helping.
I was asked questions about the Board of Trade Advisory Committee. I will not discuss its functions now but I should like to make three points. The first is that the Committee does not judge applications solely from the point of view of the commercial lender. It also has regard to the policy of the Act, and that fact is not always understood. The second point is that it has no bias against small projects. I have heard this suggested, and it was suggested to me on my recent tour of the South-West. For example 29 of the 54 loans recommended in the North-East were for £30,000 or less.
The third point is about delay. I recognise that this is a matter of some concern to hon. Members. I ask that where they are aware of a single instance of what they believe to be avoidable delay that they should take this up at once with 1769 the Secretary of State or with me or with the Parliamentary Secretary. I assure hon. Members that there are no cases of avoidable delay of which I am aware. My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire mentioned two cases specifically. I do not have the answer on one of them to hand—I will write to my hon. Friend about it—but the point with regard to the second is that the accountants of the firm concerned did not, apparently, supply up-to-date accounts. The accountants advising the Committee, obviously, cannot start their investigation until they have those accounts. That is why, in this particular case at Rothsay, we cannot see that a decision is given before May, since we did not have the information until March.
I have been asked about I.D.C. approvals. I was rather struck by the point made by the hon. Member for Hamilton in this connection. So much of the growth in and around the Midlands, London and the South-East is inevitable, and no bad thing for that. It does not necessarily create additional jobs. Hon. Members will understand this well. I regret that I did not understand the hon. Gentleman's case about Slough, unless it related to building factories having an area of 5,000 sq. ft. or less. I think that the limit is right. It was, in fact, set by the Labour Government in 1947, and I should not myself like to recommend changing it. Perhaps, if the hon. Gentleman reads these words of mine, he will be good enough to let me have particulars, which I shall be happy to look into.
I have taken out the figures for the last two quarters of 1963, and they show that in Scotland I.D.C. approvals during those six months covered about 2,585,000 sq. ft., for 8,001 jobs. In the Northern area the figure was 2,516,000 sq. ft., for 8,130 jobs. For London and the South-East, the figure was only just 2 million sq. ft., and the total number of jobs to be provided will be less than half the Scottish total. I do not think that it can be said that we are being unreasonable in I.D.C. approvals. I am deliberately not using the words "pursuing a tough line". I think that we are pursuing a reasonable and sensible policy.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
I am sorry to interrupt again, but I am speaking on behalf of several of my hon. Friends from Scotland who have just caught a train. Could the hon. Gentleman give similar figures for the south-east of England for the same period?
§ Mr. du Cann
All I can say about those other Scottish Members is "lucky dogs". I am sorry to tell the hon. Gentleman that I have not the figures to hand. I know that he will understand. I got these figures out particularly because they were the ones I was asked about; but I shall see that he has the information.
As hon. Members may know, the Secretary of State and I are both to attend the London County Council Conference on decentra[...]isation during the course of tomorrow. In view of the publication of the White Paper and the comments which have been made, I thought it right to say something about offices in London and about the South-East Study itself. As regards offices, the first objective—let us be clear about it—must be to get offices to move a really long way from London. As regional development goes forward, it should be possible to get more office growth outside the South-East altogether. The problem has to be tackled at both ends, that is, by private enterprise and by the Government
The Location of Offices Bureau is dealing wilt private enterprise in London by encouraging employers to move their existing offices out of Central London and by discouraging the setting up of new offices in London. Incidentally, we are pursuing—it is fair to say this—a very tough planning policy. Since its inception, the Bureau has been approached by well over 300 firms. How many of these will ultimately decide to move it is not possible to say, but 75 of them have. already definitely decided to move or come to reasonably firm decisions to do so. The number of jobs involved in these 75 is about 13,000, or nearly a whole year's increase of office employment in Central London. I hope that the House will regard that as not a bad start.
Now, the Government side. The total strength of the non-industrial Civil Service is 688,000, of whom 133,000 are 1771 headquarters staffs here in London. Some people talk as though there were about 2 million civil servants in London and that we ought to move everyone out. I appreciate that the House does not share this view.
In July 1963, we announced that the Government had accepted the recommendations made by Sir Gilbert Fleming, following his review of Civil Service headquarters work in London and, as a result, moves affecting 19,000 staff—in addition to the 31,000 headquarters staff previously dispersed from London—are now in progress, or planned for the near future, making a total of about 50,000. Most of these moves, including the dispersal of the Post Office Savings Bank, with a staff of 7,500, will be to places right outside of London. As hon. Members may know, Hastings, Crawley and Basingstoke have already been announced as locations for staff of the Ministry of Public Building and Works, the Paymaster-General's office and the Forestry Commission, respectively. An announcement about the location decided upon for the Post Office Savings Bank will be made soon.
I hope that we shall not disappoint all those hon. Members who have asked for them to go to their particular locations, but hon. Members can be sure that the Government's decisions in this matter will be wise and prudent and in the best interests of everybody.
Now to say something about the South-East Study. I have observed with interest that the evening newspapers have described it as "a document of historical importance". One rather lyrical writer described it, to my surprise, as "visionary". The fact is that we have to deal with a population explosion. One hon. Member got his facts a little wrong, but my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Bourne-Arton) was good enough to put him right, I have no doubt that we shall all be able to see the position better when we have had an opportunity to study the White Paper.
I would like to draw the attention of the House particularly to four matters which appear in the White Paper. First, it is stated that, where possible, economic growth will be channelled to other parts 1772 of the country than the South-East; secondly, that priority in public investment will go to central Scotland and the North-East; thirdly, that employment and expansion schemes in Scotland will not be allowed to detract from other parts of the country, and, fourthly, the Government will ensure that growth in other parts of the country are not prejudiced.
The South-East Study is a document dealing with an area which has a background totally different from the North-East, or Merseyside, or Northern Ireland, or Wales, and I can assure the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen that we shall get out the study for Wales just as quickly as we conveniently can do it. We shall not delay, but I am certain that she would be the first to admit that it is a complicated subject; but I hope that it will be with us in the tolerable future in accordance with the announcement recently made by the Minister for Welsh Affairs.
As I have tried to indicate, every region is different. It has been right to produce this current South-East Study, and to take action, but everything will be done in the context of not in any way derogating from the Government's regional priority, which is to help those who most need help. That is a duty of Parliament, and it is most assuredly a duty for the Government.
Speaking in the context of the situation generally, the unemployment figures show an improvement over the previous month. We have not the latest figures—which will be available next week—but I think that enough has been said in the speeches tonight to show that the policies of the Government are the right policies. It is our wish that they should bite harder and should be more effective. It is the Government's determination that that shall be so.