HL Deb 16 December 1942 vol 125 cc568-603

LORD NATHAN rose to ask His Majesty's Government what is the present position as regards domestic reconstruction and to call attention to the position of the Paymaster-General in regard to reconstruction; to ask for a statement as to the nature and scope of his functions and powers and as to the progress made to date; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion standing in my name raises two questions—one general, as to domestic reconstruction, and the other particular, as to the position of the Paymaster-General. My noble friends feel some anxiety and disquietude about the position of the Paymaster-General. When the Prime Minister formed his Government in May, 1940, he appointed, as your Lordships will recall, a Minister without Portfolio charged with special responsibilities regarding reconstruction. It has been generally understood that Mr. Greenwood, who occupied the position of Minister without Portfolio with those responsibilities, had as his bailiwick the whole field of reconstruction, both national and international. My noble friends would desire to know whether the Paymaster-General's functions are co-extensive with those of his predecessor and, if not, to what extent they differ. For instance, is Sir Frederick Leith-Ross's Committee responsible to the Paymaster-General, or to whom is it responsible? On this whole question of reconstruction and the position of the Minister in relation to it, my noble friends feel keenly that there has been a fundamental alteration in status—an alteration which affects net merely the Minister himself, whoever he may be, but seems calculated to affect the whole attitude towards reconstruction on the part of the Government and in the minds of the public at large.

The public at large are keenly interested in this question. Mr. Arthur Greenwood occupied a position in the War Cabinet. He was at the very centre of Government. He was able to discuss with his colleagues the War Cabinet, as equal, the problems coming within his province which he wished to place before them. The position of the Minister now charged with responsibility as regards reconstruction is very different. He holds the office of Paymaster-General, which I feel I may properly say is the least significant office in the Government hierarchy. I do not think that in modern history that office has been held by any Minister of standing or responsibility in relation to his office, or that the office itself has been charged with any serious public duties, till at all events it was occupied by Lord Hankey, just recently, and now by Sir William Jowitt. The fact that an office at the very foot of the official hierarchy has been that chosen for the supervision and direction of the functions of reconstruction is a matter that my noble friends view with great uneasiness.

The Paymaster-General, speaking in the other House on the 1st December, outlined the procedure which he applies to the conduct of his office and his responsibilities. It would appear from that statement that the Paymaster-General poses his problems to various Departments, receives their reports, and, if there are two or more Departments concerned, calls together the Ministers involved in the hope of arriving at a decision, presumably an agreed decision. What is the position of the Paymaster-General in such circumstances? He is sitting at a table together with Ministers far senior to himself in the official hierarchy, some of them holding great historic offices of State. Is not his position that of the holder of the least significant office of them all? When important matters have been decided in this preliminary way they are submitted to the War Cabinet. I do not know, but I assume that the Paymaster-General himself has, on occasion, personal access to the War Cabinet, but for a Minister to send proposals to the War Cabinet for consideration and decision without his assistance, or even with his personal assistance, is a very different thing from being himself a member of the War Cabinet discussing the problems with colleagues.

My noble friends feel, and feel strongly, that the position should be that which was established in the case of Mr. Arthur Greenwood, that the Minister charged with responsibility regarding reconstruction should be a Cabinet Minister in the War Cabinet. They feel that that was the right procedure, and they hope that His Majesty's Government will take these representations into consideration with a view to the Minister charged with reconstruction being given War Cabinet status. It is submitted that this would not merely assist the Minister in carrying out his functions, but would also have an effect in heartening the people at large, who at present feel that the Government are perhaps attaching too little importance to reconstruction, less importance than before judged by the status of the Minister now charged with these responsibilities. It would almost seem, from the statement made by Sir William Jowitt to which I have referred, that his functions at present are little more than those of a Director of Studies. For reconstruction we need something far more than the office of a Director of Studies. We want the Minister to be able to speak at the very centre of Government with authority as an equal to equals.

Now I leave that branch of the subject which I have put upon the Order Paper, and I come to the general question of domestic reconstruction. I confess that I am sometimes somewhat alarmed when I hear and read speeches on reconstruction, dealing in broad generalizations and fine phrases, directed to some distant and ultimate future after the war. I feel that there is danger in such airy generalizations. I feel that there is danger because they are apt to prevent us, ourselves, from clear thinking on the actual problems with which we are confronted. They are a danger, too, because by so many members of the public they are really not believed. As I go about I find a good deal of cynicism with regard to this airy talk about reconstruction. What the ordinary man, the munitioneer, or, I may say, the soldier, wants to know is this. This is the question he is putting: "What is going to happen to me after the war, what is going to happen as regards my family, my home, my job? "There is danger in broad generalizations. This grandiose talk with regard to reconstruction is something like an escapist's paradise. It is very easy to talk at large on reconstruction. For myself I am a pedestrian, and I like to keep my feet on the ground. Indeed, if we are to create a better situation after the war, it is essential that we should build up from the ground.

Where are we to begin? I think we must ask ourselves: What do ordinary people need? I mean the ordinary people living in ordinary homes in the ordinary streets of our ordinary towns. What do the ordinary people need? What does Tom Snooks want; what does he want immediately after the war, and what can we do to give it to him? Your Lordships will have read Sir William Beveridge's Report, and you will recall that he draws attention to five great giants, as he calls them—want, squalor, disease, ignorance and idleness. The real question for those concerned with reconstruction is what can one little man do against this "Big Five," and what can be done immediately the war is over. The most difficult problem of reconstruction is not in the distant future but in that harsh period immediately after the "Cease fire" is sounded. What happens then, my Lords? Tom Snooks, as I call him, the ordinary man, is Private Snooks. The war is over. He comes back to Bermondsey or Stepney or West Ham or Liverpool or Birmingham or where you like. What does he want to find when he gets there? During the whole time that he has been in the Army his mind has been occupied with the mystic conception of home. He has been thinking of his family, of his physical home, of the work he is going to do when he gets back from the war. If you listen to his talk this is what you hear him saying: "After the war, when I get home…" That is the content of his talk, and that is the starting point of all reconstruction.

Indeed, the reconstitution of the family, the reassembly of the family under a common roof, is the crucial problem of reconstruction, and it is also a task of the greatest difficulty. The ordinary man wants to get back and live a useful, quiet family life. Now, where is his family? His wife, let us say, is evacuated. She has gone to stay with some relatives in the country and is working part-time at a factory. His daughter is engaged in munitions in Scotland; she used to be a hairdresser, now she has lost her skill. His son is in the Royal Air Force as an aircraft-man; before the war he was training to be a teacher. Two youngsters have been evacuated to Devon. The problem is how to bring this family together. Where is his home? His home has been damaged by bombs and his furniture destroyed. There is no alternative accommodation and the children's school has been "blitzed." Where is his work? My Private Snooks happened to be a small shop-keeper but he closed down when the war began. He was a Territorial; he was called up and he surrendered his lease. His shop has been damaged and so has similar accommodation in the neighbour-hood. People from surrounding homes have gone, their houses have gone, and the local factory has been removed to the country. Before he had a shop he was an electrician. He has not been working at his trade in the Army because he was not skilled enough. He says: "What can I do? Who will employ me?" This is the great problem we have to answer. You may say that my Tom Snooks was singularly unfortunate in that all these things happened to him, but there are many to whom all these things have happened and will happen. Some of these things will happen to all our people. Therefore to see our problem as it really is in its true perspective, let us confront the facts as they are in all too many cases and will be always in some cases.

In the submission which I make to your Lordships the key to the whole matter is work, employment. It is not merely a question of providing full employment, providing work for everybody: it is a question of providing work for Snooks. Snooks has been fighting, and he wants and he expects his family to be reassembled, a home to be provided and a job to be forthcoming. Above all, he wants independence. He wants to feel that after this war he is going to be able to get along under his own steam. He comes back to be the breadwinner of the family. He comes back after a long absence when he has been regarded very likely by his children as something of a hero to be fighting in the war. Children who have been evacuated and who have not seen him for a very long time, who have almost forgotten the sort of man that he is, have in mind the idea that their father is a bit of a hero. It is essential that the respect of children for their parents should be sustained, for family life to a large extent depends upon that, and no one who has been engaged in social work of any kind can have failed to observe the grave effect upon children if their parent is not able to make his proper contribution as a breadwinner to the household and the grave effect upon the parent if he feels that he is losing the respect of his children. Snooks has not come back to be supported by charity. He has not come back to be pitied as a misfit. He has come back to have his, family reassembled about him again, to live in a decent home, to have a job from which he can sustain his family and to live a decent family life. In the future that I am endeavouring to place before your Lordships the first aim of reconstruction is to give Snooks independence for himself and security for his family.

Independence and security! Those are the things he has been fighting for: they are also the aims of democracy. Let me ask this question: What do the trials of my Tom Snooks add up to? I submit that they add up to a definition of reconstruction. It is Snooks's wants and Snooks's needs which are the real war aims. What, then, I ask, is the programme? First of all in point of time, if not of importance, there must be a demobilization policy to bring him home as soon as he can be spared. I am aware that Sir William Jowitt, the other day in another place, stated in general terms that demobilization was to be based upon age and service. It is because it was not based on age and service that, as many of your Lordships will remember, difficulties arose at the conclusion of hostilities after the last war. But the condition of the Armed Forces in those days was very different from what it is now. Age and service would have answered the requirements then because that Army, the Army of the last war, was created by volunteers of all ages joining the Army in the earlier days of the war, so that the older men were, on the whole, those who had been longest in the Army. It is very different in this war. By reason of our conscription arrangements it is the youngest men who have the longest service, and I should be interested to know how the Government propose to apply the principle of age and service to the Armed Forces of to-day.

But it is no part of my purpose now to enter at any length upon a discussion as regards demobilization. I am not, indeed, satisfied that the moment is very opportune for a discussion on demobilization at all. I will say, however, with regard to its effect on the general problem of domestic reconstruction, that it is essential that those in the Forces should only be kept in the Forces for so long as they are, required for the purposes of the Forces. They must not be kept there on artificial grounds merely to ease the economic situation at home. That would be a bad policy, bad finance and bad economics. You must not shelve the problem of finding employment by keeping men unnecessarily in the Army. And concurrently with demobilization we must have a welfare policy, a welfare policy which will enable the family to be brought together and, where there is not room or work or education, to see that these are provided. I will say, no more on that subject to-day. I hope to raise it on a Motion standing in my name shortly after the Recess.

Then of first importance is a housing and accommodation policy to give Snooks, when he comes back, a decent roof at a decent rent and furniture at a reasonable price. I pause here for a moment because this is a subject upon which, of course, the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government speaks with special authority having regard to his responsibilities. What is the position going to be? How shall we find ourselves placed immediately the Armistice occurs? Large areas will have been destroyed or damaged by enemy action. Alternative accommodation is already at a premium and it will be unobtainable when the Armistice occurs. What is the position with regard to labour? What is the position with regard to raw materials for building? What is the programme which the Government have in their minds for making good not only the normal deficiencies of housing but also the abnormal deficiencies arising by reason of the war situation and the increasing number of families for which provision will have to be made? Perhaps the noble Lord will feel able to say something on these points when he replies.

I would ask him, further, in that connexion, whether he has considered the policy, and (to my mind) the likelihood that the accommodation available shortly after the Armistice will be so inadequate and the possibilities of building—of building sufficiently quickly—so small that it will be essential to arrange something in the nature of communal living, communal accommodation. What does he propose to do, if anything, with regard to British Restaurants, communal laundries, communal kitchens and so on, so as to enable, during the interim period, some resting place to be found for the soldier on demobilization, the munitioneer returning home, and the reassembling families back from the evacuated areas? I am satisfied that it will be essential that there should be well-thought-out plans for dealing with the situation, otherwise difficulties of the gravest nature are likely to arise. In addition to all these things we must have an education policy which will restore the children's schooling and give them a decent school with an opportunity related to capacity. That, however, is a subject which can well arise later in your Lordships' House when the promised Education Bill is introduced.

I mentioned a little earlier the crucial importance of finding Snooks a job. Therefore I place in a position of great prominence the matter of an employment policy which will provide a decent job for Snooks and his daughter and his son when they come back from the work upon which they are at present engaged. The noble Lord who is to reply for the Government had great experience in the difficult times in the distressed areas, and, if I may be allowed to say so, he earned a great reputation for himself, for his wisdom and broad-mindedness at that time. It may be that he will think that the problems with which we shall be confronted after the war will be very much the same as those with which he had to deal in those difficult days some ten years ago. What policy does he envisage for the period immediately after the close of hostilities? It must be a full employment policy; and when I say a full employment policy I do not mean necessarily that Snooks must be employed all the time. What I mean is that practically all the Snookses must be employed practically all the time. That is a full employment policy, and unless we can provide that full employment our reconstruction schemes will be wrecked on a rock. In addition, and ancillary to it, there is a training policy, a social security policy, and a consumption policy, which last will include the provision of a physical minimum. The redistribution of income under the Beveridge scheme will be of little use unless there is also a redistribution of goods to satisfy the minimum physical wants of the people.

In the outline which I have ventured to place before your Lordships I suggest that I have covered the greater part of the ground of domestic reconstruction. This is not reconstruction in terms of "isms" or "ologies," but reconstruction in terms of Snooks. It is a reconstruction which deals with wants and needs, with the expectations of the ordinary man and the ordinary family, the actual man and the actual family. It is not merely reconstruction; it is democracy, and it is also common sense. Some of your Lordships may say that it does not amount to much; but Snooks has fought for this, he expects this and he is entitled to this; and if he does not get it there will be trouble. It is Snooks who is going to make or break the "brave new world." For myself, I affirm a passionate faith in the Snookses of this country, and I believe that, if we build upon Snooks so that he may make the best of himself, as we must see to it that we make the best of him, then indeed we can go forward into the future with clearer and more confident minds. I beg to move.


My Lords, the Motion of the noble Lord offers the first occasion on which we can express a view upon the statement which was made by the noble Lord, the Minister of Works and Planning, in this House on December 1. On the same day in another place the Paymaster-General made a more comprehensive statement on questions of post-war planning and reconstruction in general. The noble Lord's statement on December 1 in this House dealt with the Central Planning Authority. I should like to take this opportunity of offering a very warm welcome to that statement and to the proposals, so far as they go, which were announced by the Paymaster-General in another place. I have all the more pleasure in extending that welcome since these proposals follow very closely the lines which, with wearisome reiteration, I have been recommending in your Lordships' House for the last two years.

I am particularly glad that the Government have decided to continue with their policy of creating and rendering permanent a Ministry of Town and Country Planning, and that they have not been beguiled into substituting a Commission for it. I confess that I was greatly surprised by the support which the proposal for a Commission in place of a Ministry received from important authorities and from members of your Lordships' House of light and leading. It seemed to me from the beginning a particularly bad proposal, with hardly any arguments of substance to support it. It is a matter of satisfaction to me that the Government are now definitely rejecting it, while at the same time arranging to do what we have all concurred in from the beginning, and that is to establish a Commission for the exercise of property rights, a Commission not in substitution for a Government Department but to exercise such functions as are performed, for instance, by the Mining Royalties Commission, the Forestry Commission and other such bodies. I am glad also that it is proposed to separate the Ministry of Works from the Ministry of Planning. In this time of war there is enough to absorb the whole attention of a Minister in the building programme of the Government, and in the immediate post-war years the same will probably be true.

With regard to a Council of Ministers, some of us have advocated this from the beginning as being indispensable. Whether the Chairman occupies for the time being the sinecure post of Paymaster-General or some other office is not a matter of great importance, although no doubt he ought to be, in the closest co-operation with the War Cabinet. The present arrangement is only an embryo, and it is obvious that either before the end of the war or soon afterwards it will have to grow into something much more substantial and more authoritative. These matters at present are in their preparatory phase. I also wish to give a particular welcome to the statement that the Government propose to introduce early legislation giving to the local planning authorities wide and simple powers for the acquisition of land. I think that that is a matter which is second to none in importance. The Uthwatt Committee recommended that the powers of purchase should be enlarged, but at the same time would limit them to specified categories. I ventured to suggest in your Lordships' House that it might be better to give very wide and almost unlimited powers of discretion to the local authorities for the compulsory purchase of land, there being a proper appeal to a Minister in case of necessity, as has always been customary.

So far so good; but there are many points still outstanding on which no pronouncement has yet been made. Of the greatest urgency of all, I think, is the determination of what are to be the areas of the local planning authorities. It is universally agreed that the present areas of the local authorities are not suited for planning in the present age, and that it is not possible to re-model the whole of the areas of the country, that being too controversial and too prolonged a matter, but that it is necessary to constitute joint committees. It is agreed that that should be done throughout the whole of the country wherever it is found necessary. In The Times yesterday there was an interesting article on the steps which are being taken in Manchester and the surrounding district for post-war town and country planning, and in the course of it this sentence appears: Within 15 miles of Manchester there are 96 different local authorities, 26 statutory authorities for the supply of water, 53 for the supply of gas. 97 for drainage and sewage disposal, and 23 transport authorities. How is it conceivable in such circumstances that speedy and effective measures can be taken for the good planning of that area? The local authorities, however, cannot proceed with their plans until that fundamental question is settled; and I would urge with the utmost emphasis upon the Government the need for a quick pronouncement to the country as to what those areas are to be.

Furthermore, the Uthwatt Committee, as your Lordships will remember, made it one of their first and principal recommendations that the development rights of unbuilt-on land should be purchased by the State as a whole, and by a global sum. The Government have not yet declared their mind upon that proposal, and again I would suggest that that should be done without delay. The fact that there may be opposition in some quarters to this proposal ought not, I submit, to be a ground for rejecting it, or even for postponing it. You cannot allow any vested interest to have a liberum veto on proposals of this kind; you cannot permit any group or any class to exercise the power of saying "No" to any proposal on the ground that it might be of a controversial character. If there is opposition, that opposition should be faced and overcome. It is urged, moreover, that the local authorities should know what their financial position is to be, what will be the relations between national and local finance in dealing with these great problems of land purchase.

My noble friend Lord Addison, at the end of the noble Lord's statement on the 1st December, asked whether we could expect legislation in the near future, and the noble Lord, greatly daring, said "Yes." Well, I hope that he will confirm that to-day, and I trust—which was not quite clear from that question and answer—that the legislation which is to be introduced in the near future will not only deal with the establishment of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and the separation of the Ministry of Works from the present Ministry of Planning, but will also deal with many of these most urgent matters of general legislation. I most earnestly hope that the noble Lord will not repeat to-day the favourite formula of these matters being under consideration, or under active consideration, or even, to go a step further, under immediate consideration, but will tell us that the thing is to be done and that the legislation will in fact be introduced in a very short time.

The noble Lord's Motion to-day deals with national reconstruction. I should myself prefer the term "national organization." It is not merely a matter of reconstructing things that may have been destroyed during the war, or indeed reconstruction in any sense of the word, but we have to envisage the proper organization of the whole nation for social and economic purposes. That term is used by the Scott Committee in their recommendations, and I suggest that it is one that might well come into common usage. Essential, as the noble Lord has said, in the whole matter is the structure of industry and the prosperity of industry. Very little has been said hitherto in these discussions of the position of monopolies and quasi-monopolies. That, I trust, is engaging the attention of the Government. It was referred to in a very striking declaration by a number of the leaders of industry that appeared in the Press not long ago, but I trust that the Committee under the Chairmanship of the Paymaster-General, or some other organ of the Government, is giving close attention to this matter, for it is one that arouses very great interest among the people at large. It is essential to secure that, through monopolistic powers of one kind or another, the profits from our industries should not be drained away into private hands, instead of being used for the benefit in the main of the community as a whole.

There must be various measures of State control in industry such as we have not known hitherto, and the problem before the Government and Parliament and the country is how to effect those measures of control without destroying the initiative and enterprise which are of vital importance to our commercial prosperity. Here in Parliament our attention is mainly directed to the measures of control. We have to consider Acts of Parliament, we have to consider the actions of the Government, we have to keep a watch on the various Government Departments, and sometimes we are inclined to forget that this is not the essence of industry itself, these are only the measures which happen to come before us because we are parts of a legislative assembly. But industry itself must essentially depend upon the innate energies of the people, upon a lively spirit of enterprise, successful management and efficient labour. And our aim should be to render cur industries, or to assist our industries to become, self-supporting and economically independent. When we are speaking of maintaining employment and avoiding the great problem of mass unemployment, it is easy to have recourse in times of difficulty and stress and failure to a policy of subsidy, direct or indirect, from the taxpayers for any industry—agriculture it may be, or shipping, or coal, whatever you may like to name—which, because it is not successful in standing on its own legs, seeks to come on the "dole" and to be maintained in greater or less degree, directly or indirectly, at the expense of the community as a whole. That leads to the demoralization of the industries themselves, and in the long run to the ruin of national finance. I earnestly trust that as soon as may be after the war we may get rid in every direction of the principle of subsidization.

The Beveridge Report, which has received so wide a welcome and which we of the Liberal Party most cordially support in all its main principles, is after all a remedy for evils that may arise, but is not itself a direct contribution to the solution of the problems of industry. We want not only a policy for dealing with unemployment, we want a policy in the main for assuring employment. To rescue those who have been suffering from misfortune, to raise the status of those who have been in poverty, to help them to make provision for old age and for widowhood, and for other calamities that befall the individual in the course of nature—those are most necessary steps to take, and society should be very ready to take those steps and perform its duty to the suffering members of its own body. But, as I say, that is only a second best, and the matter of chief importance is to help people to avoid those evils; in other words, to establish such a state of society, such an organization of industry, that the people may have assured employment and regular incomes well above the poverty line.

When we come to that the noble Lord who has just spoken has made certain suggestions, but I venture to say that the terms of his Motion are such as to exclude a most important part of the whole problem, because he speaks of "domestic reconstruction." Now, domestic reconstruction cannot be dealt with as though it were something self-contained—to be settled by itself. If we lived in a country which was economically self-contained, well and good, but we do not. Russia, for example, with its vast territory, can supply almost all the needs of its population, and, where imports are indispensable, they can to a great extent be purchased, not necessarily by exports, but by the vast gold production of modern Russia. The United States, again, could be nearly self-contained, depending upon outside sources only for rubber and coffee and tea, and some other articles; as re-girds all the main essentials it can produce what it needs within its own borders. Not so this little island. No doubt the production of food might be vastly increased. The application of science to agriculture might even—so some scientists hold—double the food production of this island, but still we should have to import great quantities of foodstuffs, while our raw materials, such as cotton, rubber, and oil and such articles as tobacco and tea, which are indispensable, cannot be provided to any extent within our own borders.

Of all these things we are very well aware owing to the present discomforts due to the interruption to some extent of our oversea trade. The Paymaster-General in another place, if I may respectfully say so, somewhat over-simplified the matter. He said: If we can produce adequately we can consume adequately, and if we consume adequately we can produce adequately. Well, that sounds very agreeable. If you take the world as a whole I think it is true, but if you take this island in particular no amount of improvement of production here will enable us to consume adequately. We must depend to a very great degree upon export to enable us to dispose of the products we have produced. When we look back at the last depression of trade and the cause of the mass unemployment that existed then, and when we wish to find the means of preventing its recurrence, we have to recognize that the cause of that depression in this country was the collapse of the export trade. The industries that suffered mass unemployment were the export industries—the cotton trade, the coal trade, shipping, shipbuilding. That was the source and origin of the terrible distress in those areas, and the poverty caused in those trades spread in widening circles over the whole nation. Domestic reconstruction, therefore, to which the noble Lord has referred, is no sufficient remedy.

The Labour Party has always made the mistake, if I may say so, of thinking that we have only to nationalize our industries to abolish unemployment. It is quite a fallacy. If at the time of the last trade depression the mines had been nationalized, as had been advocated for many years by the Labour Party, that would not have prevented unemployment in the mining areas. If Germany was depending on brown coal for her electric supply, if new coalfields were opened up in Silesia, if Italy was depending more and more on hydro-electric power, and if in many markets of the world, one by one, our coal exports declined until they were reduced to only a fraction of what they had been, and if depression in those countries was still further reducing the immediate demands for coal, the fact that the mines were in the hands of the State would not in the least have provided a solution of the problem. You may say the mines would be worked more efficiently, and that we should be in a better position to compete with other countries, if there was State management. That might be so, or the opposite might be the case, but even if it were true the fact would remain that the loss of these markets meant unemployment here, and no question of the ownership of the coal mines—whether they were under capitalist direction and private ownership or whether they were in the hands of the State—would have affected the matter substantially at all.


Who said it would?


Again and again the Labour Party have been trying to persuade the miners that if only nationalization had taken place they would not be subject to the evils which have been too often their lot.


Who are the people who said that?


I am very much surprised to hear that interruption by the noble Lord. I have been in the thick of the coal controversy for many years, and all through the coalfields, again and again, the people have been told, "See how you are suffering. You have low wages, you have irregular work, at times you have mass unemployment. What is the remedy? Nationalization of the mines."


I rise just to say this. My noble friend looked at me when he spoke about nationalization in relation to a cure for unemployment. I never mentioned the word "nationalization" during the whole of my observations. Furthermore, my noble friend indicated that it is the thesis of the Labour Party that nationalization is the cure for unemploy- ment. That astonished me. There are reasons, into which I shall not go at this stage, why the Labour Party has in certain directions advocated nationalization, but I am unaware that it has ever held out nationalization as being the cure for unemployment.


That is a very important declaration, and I hope it will be widely promulgated throughout the country. Two representatives of the Labour Party in the House of Lords have categorically affirmed that they do not regard nationalization as a cure for unemployment.


I retract nothing of what I said—my words were carefully chosen—but my noble friend has not perhaps correctly interpreted them, or I did not make myself sufficiently clear. I was referring to an observation made by the noble Viscount in which he said, as I understood him, that the Labour Party has held that nationalization is the cure for unemployment. I believe those were the words he used. My comment upon that is that I am unaware of the fact that the Labour Party has ever put forward the idea that nationalization is the cure—the cure—for unemployment.


That is exactly what I understood, and what I hope will be widely known—that this pronouncement has been made to-day in a debate on this specific subject by two representatives of the Labour Party, that nationalization is not a cure for unemployment.


The cure.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon—is not the cure for unemployment. At all events, that is a step in advance. We have learnt something from that because, hitherto, the Labour Party has tied up its fortunes with the cause of Socialism, and it has defined Socialism as the nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. Now we learn that that is not to be regarded as the cure for unemployment. I am glad that we are all in agreement on that point.

And now, if I may resume my argument, which has been temporarily diverted, though the diversion was well worth while, the cotton industry was one of the worst victims of the late depression, which brought misery to the whole of Lancashire. That was due to the fact that, through various causes into which I do not enter, our great markets overseas—India and Japan in particular, and countries where Japanese competition was active—were mainly lost to us, and the majority of the cotton mills in Lancashire had to be closed for that reason. I was a Member of Parliament at that time for one of the cotton districts, and I well knew the extreme distress that was caused to the people by the unemployment from which many of the workers suffered. That being so, if the last great depression was due specifically to questions of export more than to any other one cause, it is obvious that if we are to obviate another depression of the same kind we must be on our guard against its arising from precisely the same circumstances. I do not believe that by any general single formula you can cope with this question of international trade—neither the formula of the abolition of all barriers to trade, which is a very sound one as an ideal, nor the formula of nationalization of industry in this country, or any other formula of any kind.

In the nineteenth century, when industries in this and many other countries were, on the whole, very prosperous, the reason was that there were new countries o being opened up—North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and many more—which provided active markets for the exports of the great industrial countries. We have to look around and see whether, in the present period, somewhat similar conditions can be brought about. Our eyes turn to countries which are amongst the oldest in civilization, but at the same time among the newest economically—particularly to the vast populations of Asia. As I have on more than one occasion reminded your Lordships, half of the whole of mankind dwell in three countries—in China, India, and Russia. If only you could add something to the prosperity and the development of those countries and other undeveloped countries of the world, there, I believe, and there only, are you likely to find any real remedy for the problems that will face us in the near future. It has been written "The eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth," and no doubt if we are to neglect entirely our own home affairs for the sake of developing the distant parts of the globe only, that would be an act of folly; but the ends of the earth are more close to us in this present age, and it may well be that if we are to adopt a policy of active promotion of the development of those countries that I have mentioned, and as well all Central and South America, and of all Colonies, both our own Colonies and those of the other Colonial Powers, and if we are to do all this in close conjunction with the United. States, there it might be that we should find the best means of preventing the mass unemployment from which we have suffered in the past.

The capital, I believe, would be easily forthcoming. The people of this country are being made savings conscious, and the Savings Movement is likely to go on after the war. The Beveridge Report, if its recommendations are carried out, would, I am convinced, not undermine thrift, as has so often been urged by critics and opponents, but would be more likely to increase thrift and promote it. We heard the same objections when old age pensions were first introduced. It was said that they would discourage people from saving for their own old age. On the contrary, for the first time they had a hope of being able to maintain themselves in old age, and were only too ready when they could to put by money to add to the meagre pensions they would receive. So it is now with the Report of Sir William Beveridge. I believe the adoption of that scheme would be accompanied and followed by an immense further expansion of savings when the people were in a better position to provide for their future. The small savings would probably tend to flow into investments in our own country and for the development of our home resources, but large savings, which would ultimately come through banks or other financial institutions, might well be used in a great campaign of careful world-wide development. Just as the Export Credits Guarantee Department has been able to render most admirable service before the war by giving financial guarantees to private merchants for the development of our export trade, so a similar system on a much larger scale, accompanied by general development of resources in those more distant countries, might, as I say, help to solve the problem of security and of employment which, at the present time, is undoubtedly the main anxiety of the nation.


My Lords, I think the House owes a debt of gratitude to my noble friend Lord Nathan for bringing this matter before your Lordships. We cannot have too many debates on the post-war situation. Without undue self-praise, I think we may say that this House contains a membership which is capable of dealing with every conceivable phase of the question of reconstruction, and that the assistance of noble Lords could be of the greatest possible value to the Government in dealing with the matter. But undoubtedly it is an enormous subject. My noble friend Lord Samuel just now said, I thought with absolute truth, that it is impossible to separate domestic reconstruction from general reconstruction. I entirely agree with him. I am sure that that is fundamentally true, and indeed I have seen with some anxiety a great many speeches and utterances in o the country that seem to indicate that the speakers thought that if they could have a satisfactory system of what is called domestic reconstruction all the rest of the difficulties would solve themselves. I believe that to be a profound untruth, and a very dangerous untruth as well.

On the other hand one must admit that, if you are to deal with the whole of reconstruction, debate would be quite impracticable, for every speech would have to last the whole time of the ordinary sitting of your Lordships' House, and I do not intend to attempt a general discourse on that kind of footing. I will observe, however, that both the Paymaster-General and the Foreign Secretary, when this matter was debated the other day in the other House, insisted that no form of domestic reform was worth consideration unless it was based on satisfactory international arrangements for the maintenance of peace and for the maintenance of prosperity. As your Lordships no doubt remember, the two Ministers divided the whole subject between them, the Paymaster-General speaking generally of what might be done by legislation and administration in this country and the Foreign Secretary speaking entirely, or almost entirely, on the international aspect of the question. I do not propose to attempt to follow either of those right honourable gentlemen. I hope to make a much more restricted speech. Indeed, as far as the inter- national aspect of the matter is concerned if I may be allowed to say so, I find myself so very largely in agreement with everything the Foreign Secretary said that I think it would be merely waste of your Lordships' time for me to repeat the arguments he put forward so powerfully on that occasion.

On the other matter, the social and economic side of the question, again I do not want to attempt a disquisition on that subject which would follow or cover the ground that has already been covered by three very important State documents, the Reports of the Scott and Uthwatt Committees, and now the Report of Sir William Beveridge. Certainly I do not think anyone ought to speak about those subjects unless he has mastered those three Reports thoroughly, and I am afraid, with great humility, I must confess I am not in the number of those who have yet been able to do so. I therefore propose not to attempt to discuss the general international question or even the general social and economic question. I agree most fully that you cannot deal with the social and economic question unless you deal, to some extent at any rate, with the international aspects that it raises, but I am not going to attempt that. I am not going to present to your Lordships either any observations on unemployment or a question which has not been dealt with at all to-day, which is evidently both domestic and international, the question connected with the tariff controversies and the other methods of artificial assistance to trade or, as some of us think, the artificial obstruction of trade in the world. But there is one subject on which I would like to say a few words, and that is education, which is certainly a social subject though not I strictly an economic subject, and is to my mind an excellent example of an element of reconstruction which cannot be considered merely by looking at our own educational policy or educational administration.

You have to consider what is going on in the rest of the world because it is quite evident that education, the level of education and the nature of education, is largely dependent on the general course of intellectual and mental development which occurs all over the world. As to this country, I have nothing to say on the subject of any importance, beyond remarking that, so far as I have been able to observe, the general line of our educational policy has been, with one exception, correct. We are doing the right kind of things. Probably they ought to be done with greater vigour and greater development, but broadly speaking the general course of education is sound, and I believe it is markedly successful, with one exception. The one exception, of course, is the religious question. I know how very rash it would be for me to enter on any discussion of that matter on this occasion. I would therefore say only that I think it is a most surprising thing that, whereas I believe nine-tenths or a very much larger proportion of the population will agree that no education is really worth while unless it has a religious basis, though everyone agrees that the poorer children should have just the same advantages, just the same opportunities of religious education and religious training as their richer neighbours, though all that is agreed, yet owing to the unhappy dispute—not as far as I am able to see, generally speaking, about the great truths of religion but on the question of the method and system by which those truths shall be taught—we have in fact, as all authorities seem to agree, made a failure in bringing up the youth of this country not only with any belief, which may perhaps be beyond the control of anybody, but with any real knowledge of the subject. I will not say more on that subject, but it does seem to me that that is one thing which in any scheme of reconstruction is absolutely necessary.

Do not let us be under any illusions. If you doubt the importance—I am not dealing with any doctrinal matter at all—of religious education from a civil, from a mundane point of view, you have really only to look at the condition of Europe at the present time. I believe it to be true that at this present time there is being waged throughout Europe an elaborate warfare not only against the lives and liberties of vast masses of population but, consciously and deliberately, with a view of destroying their mental development and their cultural life. I believe that is true, abundantly true, and it comes, as I shall venture to submit to your Lordships, from the fact of the central belief which governs the policy of Germany at this time. A great part of that policy has been the destruction of a great part of the peoples of Europe, and that is true not only in Europe but also in China.

Let me take the case of China first. I am not going in detail into it, but there cannot be the least doubt that Japanese policy has been to prevent the intellectual progress of the Chinese by every means in the power of the Japanese. They began in the first year by the total destruction of twenty of the Chinese universities, and during the whole course of the war they have continued in the same way, going out of their way to bombard Chinese universities and other centres of Chinese intellectual life. I believe that to be profoundly true and it has an extraordinarily menacing accompaniment. Wherever the Japanese have gone they have reintroduced the cultivation of opium. They have pressed the consumption of opium on the Chinese deliberately because it is believed, and I think rightly believed, that opium saps the intellectual and moral energies, particularly of the people who become addicts to it. It is a very interesting fact to me that you find a curious parallel to what the Germans have done in Poland in what the Japanese have done in China. In Poland the Germans have destroyed, deliberately destroyed, every element of intellectual progress. They have destroyed their universities, they have destroyed their schools, they have destroyed their traditions, they have destroyed their books, they have forbidden with one exception the making of new books. And what is that exception? The exception is pornographic literature. That they encourage, and they encourage, so I am told, performances of the most disreputable kind in the theatres and things of that kind.

It seems incredible, but it is true that these two great military Powers have set to work to destroy not only the lives but the energies and the spirit of the population. There has been wholesale destruction of schools and a refusal in many cases to allow any teaching to be given in the native language. They insist that teaching should be in German, and for all I know in Japanese, although I am not aware whether that particular step has been taken by Japan. They have done the same thing with libraries. They have burnt libraries and destroyed books. There is a story told, I think in one of M. Molotov's communications, that when the Germans occupied Tolstoy's villa, they burnt his books as fuel. Some Russian authorities begged them not to do that and said they would provide firewood rather than that should happen, but the German officer said: "Oh, not at all, we want to destroy everything that belongs to your Tolstoy." In the same way it is said that they used books—it sounds a very inadequate proceeding—with which to construct a surface for the roads so that they should be destroyed by tanks and lorries passing over them. In the same way they have robbed museums, taken away works of art and transferred to Germany collections of scientific instruments. They have killed wherever they could professors and teachers throughout these countries. They have indeed tried to carry out what I think Herr Franck—who I understand is one of the Nazi gang—put in this way: "Poland is to be made an intellectual desert." That seems to me to be a matter which affects not only these unhappy countries but us too. If the whole intellectual life of Europe is to be hampered and destroyed, it is going to produce a very disastrous effect on this country also. The Government ought to consider very carefully what measures they can take not only to supply starving populations with food for their physical needs but intellectual nutriment also to the same people.

I will not detain your Lordships for more than a few moments longer. You may ask how on earth it has happened that the Germans have done these things. There is no doubt at all, indeed it must be common knowledge to your Lordships, that it has been done in pursuance of the central doctrine with which the Germans were imbued when they entered upon this great enterprise. This is what Hitler says in his celebrated book: The German race—that is our faith. We have a divine right to rule, and we will assure ourselves of that right. In a paper of theirs published in 1940 I find this: Lower races need less room, less clothing, less food and less culture than a higher race. The German cannot live under the, same, conditions as a Pole or a Jew. That is their central doctrine—that the Germans must dominate the world by means of force and that no scruples or doubts of any kind must interfere with the accomplishment of that object. As we have been reminded, and it is perhaps hardly necessary for me to repeat it, that is not an absolutely new doctrine. Unhappily, it has been more or less preva- lent, at any rate in certain sections of German opinion, for very many years past. As long as the Germans, these 70,000,000 or 80,000,000 Germans, hold views of that kind I do not see how peace and progress can be possible in Europe. I cannot, myself, envisage a condition of affairs which would make them possible when you have this great block of vigorous humanity—for whatever else they may be the Germans are certainly that—right in the very centre of Europe, with such a mental outlook. Unless you can get rid of that condition of mind, I do not see how any of our plans for reconstruction or progress are worth considering at all.

It was really in order to say this that I have ventured to intervene in this debate. We hear, sometimes, of the re-education of Germany, and I am sure it is absolutely vital. But it seems to me to be an undertaking of the utmost difficulty. I know that there are people who think that all you have to do is to defeat Germany thoroughly, occupy her territory for a certain number of years—some people say a long period and some people say a short one—and that will produce the necessary revolution in German thought. I am afraid that I can see no ground for holding that opinion. Your Lordships will remember that Napoleon occupied Germany for six years, and occupied it very thoroughly. If I remember rightly, he took half the territory of Prussia away, joined up other States of Germany into various combinations called by different names, and he put, generally, some of his relations to rule over them. For six years that very rigid military rule was enforced, but instead of producing a more peaceful and collaborating mind in Germany the result was to create that kind of thought which has ultimately blossomed—if you can call it blossoming—in the Bismarckian school and still more in the Nazi movement.

Therefore, I do not believe that mere violence is going to do any good, or at any rate sufficient good. We have got to do something more. We have got to re-educate Germany. I feel that that is true, but it seems to me that it is going to be a tremendously difficult job. I doubt very much whether it is a practical proposal to send in foreigners to teach the Germans better because I am afraid that they would not listen. Somehow or other you have got to get them to re- educate themselves. That is going to be a tremendous- task. I should feel very much relieved in my mind if I felt certain that the Government had in view the enormous importance of this job and had some plan or other, or had appointed some competent advisers to consider this very question and to give their whole minds, with the assistance of the Germans at present in this country, to elaborating some scheme which may have a chance of removing from Europe and from the world the terrible danger and the terrible curse that the existence of the present German Government and the present current of German feeling now constitutes.


My Lords, I would like to join with the noble Viscount who has just spoken, and with the noble Viscount who preceded him, in congratulating the noble Lord who raised this very important Motion. The economic aspects of this matter have been touched upon by noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, and that aspect is certainly a vital one. As I see it, the noble Lord who brought forward this Motion had in the front of his mind an anxiety to avoid the devastating effects of unemployment that fell on the country after the last war. That, surely, demands an alteration in the economic system. After the last war we had more skilled labour, capital, equipment and material than before, and we were, therefore, capable of producing more real wealth. We were, therefore, richer. But what actually happened? We went through short periods of what was called "general over-production," which I suggest would have been more properly called "general under-consumption." In other words there was a failure of the existing system to equate effective demand with supply, which is the essence of the whole matter, and an attempt, which was unsuccessful, to equate supply with effective demand by entering into what might be broadly termed a "scrapping policy."

That will get us nowhere, and it is obviously absurd, that, as has happened in the past, men in need of the necessaries of life should be denied the money with which to buy them because there is a. superabundance of those necessaries, and therefore their services are not required to produce any more. Such a situation must not be allowed to occur again. In another place, not many days ago, the Paymaster-General stated: "Finance must no longer be the master," and he went on to add: All plans must be subject to the limitation of financial resources. The question immediately arises in our minds as to what are the financial limitations of this or any other country. I suggest that the answer has been given in very clear and vigorous language recently by the Governor of the Bank of Canada, who stated: Anything physically possible and desirable can be made financially possible. Those words are very definite. I suggest, therefore, that the financial resources of the country are limited and determined only by its wealth-producing resources, which in turn are constituted by the full utilization of its man-power, machinery and materials. I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply to this debate will be able to give some definite guidance on these matters.


My Lords, the Notice of Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, is … to call attention to the position of the Paymaster-General in regard to reconstruction; to ask for a statement as to the nature and scope of his functions and powers and as to the progress made to date; and to move for Papers. This debate, however, has assumed a very wide scope. I was here to represent the views of my right honourable friend the Paymaster-General, who is supposed to be responsible for what has been called "the large P in Planning," but the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has brought me back to the "small p," and so we have covered both the "large P" and the "small p" in the debate on planning to-day.

My noble friend Lord Nathan spoke of the position of the Paymaster-General in comparison with that of his predecessor, the Minister without Portfolio. There is the essential difference to which my noble friend Lord Nathan referred, that the Minister without Portfolio was in the War Cabinet whereas the Paymaster-General is not. I will discuss the functions of the Paymaster-General further in a moment, but I should like to say that what the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said is true—namely, that that difference is not at the present time so important as Lord Nathan may think it is. So far as the status of the Paymaster-General in co-ordinating the views of other Ministers is concerned, the position is not quite what Lord Nathan thinks; it is not at all that of a lower boy in the school with the head boys sitting round him. It is necessary to bear in mind the personality of the man concerned and his qualifications, and I can assure your Lordships that we who sit under his chairmanship find him very helpful to us.

What I want particularly to impress on your Lordships is that it is the task of the Paymaster-General to get agreement, and, when agreement is reached, the matter has still to go to the War Cabinet so far as any major questions of policy are concerned. For 90 per cent. of their time the War Cabinet are dealing with matters concerning the prosecution of the war, but, when they deal with questions coming from this Committee over which the Paymaster-General presides, the Paymaster-General has access to the War Cabinet and is able to put the views of his Committee before them. His position, as the noble Lord has rightly said, is that the Committee over which he presides has to deal with all questions of planning—with a large P—which concern two or more Departments. I will give you an example of what I mean. The question of housing concerns the Minister of Health, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Agriculture and myself, and therefore the question of the housing programme, to which I shall allude presently, is one of the questions which we discuss with the Paymaster-General as Chairman of the Committee to which I have referred.

I think I am right in saying that this Motion regarding the position of the Paymaster-General was put down by my noble friend Lord Nathan before the survey given by the Paymaster-General in another place, a very full survey which I expect most members of your Lordships' House have read with great interest. The Paymaster-General's Committee examines, as I have said, any problem which affects more than one Department. The Ministers concerned attend and give their views. Take, for example, the question of demobilization, which is one of the most important items in post-war reconstruction, and which has been discussed by the Paymaster-General in another place. This is a topic which will come upon us immediately the war ends, and plans for demobilization must be prepared in advance. Any scheme of demobilization must be subject to military needs, and no man in the Services can expect to be demobilized so long as his services are required for military purposes. The broad principles on which plans are being drawn up will be based in the main on age plus length of service. The noble Lord referred to this question, but I shall not discuss it now, because I do not think that this is the time to debate it; but that is the general view of the Paymaster-General and his Committee. We agree that the scheme must be fair to all, so that we do not have the difficulties which we had at the end of the last war. In good time it will be disclosed to Parliament.

Another important question which the Paymaster-General is examining, and regarding which he is helping to prepare proposals, is that of the education of those who have missed an important part of their education through being called up for the Services, a matter which everyone will agree is most important. The Paymaster-General also stated on December 1 that the Government are embarking on a close examination of the proposals contained in Sir William Beveridge's Report. This examination is being made under the ægis of the Ministerial Committee over which the Paymaster-General presides, and to which he referred in his speech when describing the machinery established for the consideration of reconstruction problems as a whole. The Paymaster-General also said that he was prepared to receive, on behalf of the Government, any representations which persons interested in Sir William Beveridge's Report might desire to make. He also expressed a hope that early in the New Year there would be an opportunity to discuss in another place the main questions raised in the Report, and said that when the Government had had the advantage of hearing the opinions expressed in the debate they would be able to indicate their general attitude. The Motion on which the matter will be raised in your Lordships' House stands in the name of the noble Lord who proposed this Motion to-day, and that will give an opportunity to your Lordships to express your views on this very important Re- port. In addition to these questions, the Paymaster-General is examining the question of electricity with the Minister of Fuel and Power, and he is working with the Forestry Commission on the preparation of a programme for replanting this country after the war. With the Minister of Health he is going into the question of the water supply in this country, and he is also concerned with the examination of the Scott and Uthwatt Reports. As I think I have already said, the actual Departments concerned should be and will be responsible to Parliament. He is really therefore the Chairman of the Committee that co-ordinates the work of the Departments concerned, but all questions of major policy go to the War Cabinet for decision.

Before I go on to the second part of the speech of the noble Lord, I should like to refer to one or two questions raised by my noble friend Lord Samuel, as to the position in regard to legislation and the statement on the subject that I made in your Lordships' Hoose at the beginning of December. The noble Viscount referred to his whipping us up to get the central planning through, and he is trying to whip me again—quite rightly—to get as much information as he can. Well, I am not going to use the phrase "still under consideration," but I assure him that legislation is really in active contemplation. We are also proceeding with the question of giving greater authority to the local authorities. With regard to the passage which he read out of a newspaper, nobody would disagree with the noble Viscount on that, because it shows the absurdity of the position round the Manchester area. That part of his speech was of great interest to us. With the second part of his speech in which he referred to the question of employment I should like to deal when I am answering the noble Lord, Lord Nathan.

The noble Lord referred to the imaginary case of a man returning from the war and the difficulties that he will then have to face. I cannot deal with an individual case in this way, but I will try and take the question on broader lines. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Nathan for letting me have a copy of his notes before this debate, giving me a summary, of what he was going to say. The two subjects, of which I chiefly want to speak are employment in the post-war period and building. No one can yet foretell the length of this war, and that is why one must keep one's feet on the ground. As the war progresses, so the cupboard will become barer, that is the cupboard which contains the materials which we need to get our industries going in this country again. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, referred to the trade depression after 1929 and its ramifications in many countries. At that time it was not a question of the shortage of raw materials, which we have to face now. The depression took place from another cause, though the results were similar. Raw materials are now limited by our shipping facilities, and this condition may continue for some time after the war is over.

The Minister of Food recently spoke of the food position after the war, and said that not only would food supplies still be limited by shipping, but there would be a greater number of people to feed. As regards materials we cannot know what the position will be, but the limitation of shipping will be a difficulty then. Your Lordships in this House have been the first to realize the difficulties with which we are faced by this question of the limitation of shipping. The expedition to North Africa, which was one of the greatest expeditions that ever took place, is fresh in your Lordships' minds, and you realize the immensity of the organization and the immense quantity of shipping which had to be employed for that expedition at a time when so much shipping space was needed to bring food and raw materials to this country. I do not hesitate to say that that piece of organization reflects the greatest credit on our Ministry of War Transport.

Besides these factors of materials and shipping we must remember that as the call-up of our man-power becomes even greater than it is at the moment, it is difficult for us to keep even a nucleus going of some of our industries which in days gone by have helped materially to give employment to our people. So in many cases there will be three controlling factors that we shall have to contend with—namely, shipping, materials, and the partial depression of many important industries. I claim that I have the advantage of knowing the position of our raw materials in this country. I know full well the difficulty of allocating materials to Departments when they are not in full supply. We are fortunate to have the assistance of our American Allies in helping us to secure our necessary materials. We have to ask for these materials in order of priority, those that are needed most for the war effort, and in the same way we shall have to ask for those materials that are most necessary to build up this country in the time of peace.

If my noble friend Lord Nathan were to ask me the position of the cotton industry and many others after the war I could not give him an answer. No one in this country could give him an answer. Take the great woollen industry. With the cupboard getting barer to-day, the making of plans to absorb the people in employment in that industry after the war would present an insoluble problem, and it is well for us to look the facts in the face. Take the motor-car industry, which was one of the most thriving of our industries before the war. What is going to be the position after the war, seeing that at the present time 90 per cent. of the world's crude rubber is in the enemy's hands? Take the paper industry. At the present time it is manufacturing approximately two-thirds of its output from waste paper. Or take the iron and steel trade, which is dependent upon imported ores as well as our home-produced ore. Therefore everything comes back to the question of the limitation of shipping. The question of employment, trade and industry, which must necessarily go hand in hand, is therefore a very difficult one to diagnose or make decisions on at the present time.

I take it that my noble friend Lord Nathan is seeking assurances on the question whether His Majesty's Government are alive to the situation, and whether they are taking the necessary steps to repair machinery for this vast task wherever possible. I can assure him that this is being done. Controls will have to be kept in being after the war until in each case supplies assume normal proportions once again. Much as one dislikes Controls, one cannot deny that during this war up to date they have operated effectively. If our present system of allocations and priorities has on the whole been successful during the war, then we have ready-made machinery to carry on our requirements for peace-time industry as long as it is necessary owing to limitation of supplies of raw materials. And that is a thing that could be easily dealt with in the interregnum period from war to peace. We have to see that every step is taken so that our men can get employment when they return to normal conditions. As your Lordships know, training centres were in being before the war, but this question is now being examined most carefully by my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour. He is not only looking at it from the point of view of our existing industries before the war, but is also alive to the possibility of new developments which may take place after the war is over.

Some figures have recently been given which noble Lords have probably seen, but it is worth repeating them. The Minister of Labour made a statement recently that 22,250,000 people between the ages of fourteen and sixty-four were engaged in industry or national service. Of these, 15,250,000 were men and 7,000,000 women. These are gigantic figures, and no one realizes more than the Minister of Labour the enormous task that faces him when the war is over. Men will require work, and one must never hear the complaint raised again that they are not prepared to work. I remember hearing that said when I was seeking to help men in the Special Areas to obtain work. I found from experience that that statement was quite untrue. In the depression period seven or eight years before the war, it was quite a common thing to hear people say: "Oh, you cannot get these people back to work in one part of England or another, because they won't work." That was absolutely untrue, and nobody has a greater right to say it than I have, because I went round and saw for myself that it was not so. It was a case of adapting men to other work. I remember a man who had been a coal miner and who, in six months, was making silk stockings for ladies. That is as quick a turnover, and as great an adaptability as anyone could wish, and I only give it as an instance.

I have tried to point out some of the difficulties with which we are faced in seeing the position of our various industries which prevent us at the present time from being able to conjecture with any accuracy what the position will be like after the war is over, but there is one industry at least where greater progress can be made, and that is the building industry. We know that there will be a vast amount of building to be done in this country after the war is over. In discussing this I put housing first. That is probably not only the largest but the most important question, and it also fits in with the desire expressed in my noble friend's speech. Not only are we assured of a very large programme of building, but nearly all the materials are at hand in this country. You have your brickfields in this country. As your Lordships know, with the demands of the Services on labour, our supplies of bricks are going down and down, and what we are trying to do is to maintain these brickfields in a state where they can start up immediately when they are wanted. We have got concrete cement, roofing, and that sort of thing in this country. Timber may be a difficulty, but that probably may be got over by using substitutes, or through timber imported from overseas.

What was said by the proposer of the Motion is perfectly true. We may have to have a short-view policy as well as a long-view policy. He was talking about pre-fabricated huts. He was talking about national restaurants; but my noble friend Lord Woolton has departed, and I am not proposing to go into the question of the British Restaurants or communal feeding. We may have to make shift for the time being, and for that reason, as I say, we may have to have a short-view policy and a. long-view policy. And we may have to do that with building. I have dealt with the question of building materials. My Department is responsible for co-ordinating the programme of requirements for other Departments, and this is being got on with. My right honourable friends the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, as well as the Minister of Agriculture, are getting out the numbers of houses they will require. The President of the Board of Education is getting out his programme of schools, the Postmaster-General his post offices, and so on. These will all be collated in the programme, which must necessarily run over a period of years. The materials required and available must be balanced with the programme. Then there is the question of labour required and the labour available. This is being gone into by the Minister of Labour and myself. There is the question of the training of young labour and those who will have to be trained after they are demobilized, also the question of apprenticeship. The Minister of Labour is not only giving great attention to this question, bat both he and I are taking representatives of the industry into our consultations. There is bound to be a system of priorities and licences in this industry after the war, and my view is that the amenities for the people will have to be given first place.

I instance this industry as one which is not only of paramount importance in the future, but one in respect of which we can see the ways and means of preparing plans for its future. The question of the timing of all our post-war plans for the future of employment is one which we must keep in front of us. My noble friend Lord Nathan has dealt with the future of the case of a man seeking for his family a home and work, besides alluding to the future training of himself and his family. I have tried to show your Lordships that training is being examined, a home is being planned for, but I have been unable to show the various forms of employment which will be open to him. I would much rather tell your Lordships I am unable to do that, for the reasons I have given, than, tell you it is possible when it is not. If I tried to do so, with none of us knowing when the end of the war will come, or what the state of our cupboard will be at the end of it, I should merely be letting my imagination run loose. It is much better to be a realist and to realize what difficulties we have to face. Believe me, a realist can have imagination when the time is ripe. Let us finish the war. We must be prepared to look ahead for the welfare and the future of those who have served us in our hour of need.


My Lords, I wish to thank most warmly the noble Lord who has just spoken and who has given so much care and time to the consideration of these problems. The noble Lord stated very clearly the difficulties we have to face, and he told us he is a realist. All of us must realize these difficulties, and all of us attempt to be realists. I am not in the least surprised by what the noble Lord said as to the difficulty, in particular, of finding employment for those who come back from the war. The problems which he indicated are obvious and are difficult of solution, but I would impress, through the noble Lord, upon His Majesty's Government what I believe to be the vital importance of encouraging those who are engaged in munitions now or are in the Armed Forces of the Crown by the knowledge that when they come back there will be some job for them. I recognize that the noble Lord cannot suggest now what particular work will be available. It may indeed become more difficult to make a pronouncement upon that as the conditions themselves become more difficult.

I regard the first three to six months, say the first three months after the "Cease fire," as being the most critical which any of us will have known, far more critical for this country even than the difficult times that followed Dunkirk and graver in their possible implications. Our most urgent task is to keep our people steady in those days immediately after the Armistice and to give them cause for contentment with, and loyalty to, social and moral order. That will not be an easy task. I would implore His Majesty's Government to take into their most serious and urgent consideration the question of being able to hold out a reasonable and reasoned hope to those coming back to their homes from the factories or from the war that there will be something definite for them to do when they come back, and at once when they come back. With those words, my Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.