HL Deb 07 May 1952 vol 176 cc664-90

2.43 p.m.

LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR rose to call attention to the manpower position in industry; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, there is no need for me this afternoon to do what is usually done when moving a Motion—namely, to call attention to its importance. Your Lordships will agree that the subject matter of to-day's debate is one of great importance. Money, materials and machines may all be important, but I question whether manpower would take second place to any of them. Therefore, I trust that our debate to-day will enable us to see a little clearer how to employ our manpower to achieve what we have in mind at present—namely, to avoid war. Now, manpower is important in peace and in war, and the deployment of manpower is just as difficult in the one as in the other.

There are those who sometimes suggest that it is more difficult to deploy manpower in war time than it is in peace time. But I wonder. I agree that there may be a greater strain on manpower in war time, but I am not sure that there is not something in war time which helps a Minister or a Government to deal with the question of manpower far more effectively than in peace time. As we know, in war time you can introduce a policy and you can pursue plans which are resented in peace time. To deploy manpower to win a war is not easy; but I am quite certain that to deploy manpower to avoid a war is just as difficult. We deploy our manpower now not only to avoid a war but to avoid something else, to me much more serious than a war: we deploy our manpower to-day to try to avoid the spread of Communism. We have to keep in our mind both those purposes and to deploy our manpower in a manner that will achieve both. If we do not do that we shall fail—and fail dismally.

I can see the possibility of a Government deploying manpower to avoid war in a way which might at the same time facilitate the spread of Communism. A Government might resort to measures for dealing with the deployment of manpower in such a way as to create resentment among the workers, to kill their good will and co-operation; and in so far as that is done it will assist those whose job it is to further Communism.

The task becomes increasingly difficult. On the one hand you deploy manpower in such a way as to get the maximum of rearmament, in the hope that you will discourage a possible enemy. But we have also to keep in mind that Russia approaches her manpower problem in a different way. I have no doubt that she approaches her manpower problem in such a way as to avoid war while at the same time furthering the cause of Communism. Russia has an advantage over us in this respect. Her methods and her régime enable her to deal with manpower in a far more drastic manner than we can. She is able to direct her manpower in a manner such as no Government in this country could attempt in peace time. What we have done is the most we could do. We have in this country agreement as to the best method at a particular moment of handling our manpower; that is, agreement among all concerned. That is not easy, and it is not as satisfactory as some of us would like. But it is the best we can get, this process of agreement; and, indeed, in this country we are obliged, as I say, to proceed by agreement.

Therefore it behoves any Party in this country to be very careful in its manpower policy. I hope that I shall not give offence to noble Lords opposite if I say that it behoves a Conservative Government to be especially careful. Say what we will, the workers of this country are not quite so easy to deal with when a Conservative Government are in power as when a Labour Government are in power. For many years now some of our colleagues have beer doing their best to convince the workers that there is no hope in capitalism It is net surprising that, after three or four generations of such teaching, this has borne fruit. And, of course, some of the things which have been done by the Conservatives when they were in power have not been helpful, and have been such as inevitably to create suspicion. There are some leaders of industry anti politics who could have been wiser in some of their utterances. Therefore I beg the Government to be exceedingly careful, in their desire to deal with this problem, not to estrange the worker. If that happened, nothing could succeed. I look upon the avoiding of a war as being very important indeed. But I look upon the combating of the spread of Communism as even more important. To my mind, there is no purpose in fighting a war except as a means of preventing the spread of Russian Communism; and there is no purpose in winning a war except as a means of finding an end to this menace. How can we manipulate our manpower in this country so as not only to avoid war—or, if a war should come, to win it—but also to push back Communism? Any manpower policy which fails in that attempt fails in everything.

I do not intend to-day to go into industry after industry. Some of my noble friends here—and, I know, one or two noble Lords on the opposite side—have certain views regarding certain industries, and I am glad to know that they are to take the opportunity of expressing those views. In particular, we shall hear from my noble friend Lord Kirkwood. Who can speak with greater authority, after a lifetime of experience in the engineering industry, than he? Therefore, I shall leave many of these questions to other noble Lords. I would rather deal with the matter in a more general way.

But as regards engineering, there is just one question I should like to put to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. I am rather surprised that it has not been dealt with before to-day. When an apprentice reaches the age of eighteen, usually his call-up for National Service is deferred until he Las completed his apprenticeship period. At the end of it, however, at the age of twenty-one, he is called up. I could never understand why. At that time he can be of greater help to his industry than he ever can. The need for him in the engineering industry is greater then, at twenty-one, than ever. He is a fully-trained apprentice; he has completed his apprenticeshp. Moreover, in war he would not be called up. His services in war would be considered more important in the industry than anywhere else. Since it is the ease that he is not likely to be called up in war, I could never understand why he is called up in peace, when we need his services in industry. I know it is not an easy question for the noble Viscount to answer, but I hope he will at any rate consider it.

There are two other industries to which I must refer—first, coal, and then textiles. Coal is a necessity. I have lived with it. I have spent my whole life with it. An increase in the product of that industry would mean a great deal to us. An improvement in coal would mean an improvement everywhere. I read very carefully the Economic Survey. I read also very carefully the references made by the National Coal Board to themselves in their recent Review. I am delighted with many things that I read in both. It is good to know that recruitment is better. But I would warn the Government that in some areas, and in particular in the North-West, the improvement in juvenile recruitment may not be due to the best of reasons—I mean that the textile industry is no longer in full employment. The recruitment there may not he permanent, and permanent recruitment is what we need in the coal industry. The warning uttered in both Reports needs underlining. To-day we obtain results quickly from juvenile labour, though not so quickly as we used to. For one thing, mechanisation does not enable our young, recently-recruited labour to become immediately advantageous. It is at a later date that that happens. It must be remembered by the Coal Board that as yet in this country a tremendous amount of coal is hand-got, and for this purpose really skilful miners are needed. There is not so much hand-got coal as there used to be, but there is still some; and your skilful miner is a very skilful person. The man who has to get coal by hand is equally as skilful as any man in this country, and we cannot afford to lose him.

Those who pay an occasional visit to the coal mines draw some conclusions. I remember one man, who is now a member of this House, who as a young man was fighting the Division in which I then lived, just outside Wigan, in Lancashire. He did the usual thing that young candidates of his Party did; he decided to go down the mines and have a look. He spent a whole day down there and in the evening he addressed a miners' meeting. Unfortunately, he referred to his experiences down below. This young man of twenty-three, who is now a member of this House, said: "I notice that if you hit the coals in the right place, they fall in a heap." An old miner sitting in the front row, who had been working all day in a very abnormal place and not getting much coal, growled in good Lancashire dialect—I hope your Lordships will understand it—"If they hit thee in the right place tha'd fall in a ruddy heap." That translated means: "If you were hit in the appropriate place, you would collapse completely." There is the danger of the man who pays just an occasional visit underground and sees something happening, and then draws conclusions. Take it from me, who was a hand-got collier for all my collier's life. I know the skill required. I do not want that skill to be lost to this industry. It must not be lost. We cannot mechanise quickly enough to afford to lose it for a long while to come. I hope that we shall see that some of our boys are trained not only to handle the machines but also to be hand-got colliers. We shall need them.

I am glad that the reports on the housing situation are appreciated fully. This Government fully appreciate the problem of housing in the mining areas. This question must be dealt with carefully. Sometimes in a mining area some fifty or sixty new recruits have new houses provided for them, while working with them are a thousand or more men who have lived in drab, dreary houses for generations. That situation has to be watched. As a long-term policy for this industry, I would suggest setting about obliterating the type of housing in which men have been condemned to live for generation after generation—those long rows of miners' houses, one behind the other. I hope that the miner in future will be able to have some dignity. Let him have dignity and be able to consider himself as important a member of society as any man in any profession. We must give the miner a sense of dignity. We must give his wife and sons and daughters a sense of dignity. I am sure that that will prove one of the finest recruiting agencies possible, and in years to come we shall get the number of permanent workers who are essential to this industry.

On March 12 the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, speaking for the Government, gave us a piece of information. Dealing with the number of additional men required in the industry at the moment, he said that he thought only 15,000 could be catered for. That set me thinking. Exactly what did the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, mean by that? Did he mean that if we recruited 15,000 additional to the present number employed in the industry we should have all that we required? Or did he mean that if at this moment we obtained more than 15,000, they could not be taken in? This point needs examining very carefully indeed. I cannot believe that we have exhausted the capacity of this industry to employ 15,000 additional to the number we already have. It is a good thing to know that this industry future will need a certain definite number. They will be needed to meet the requirements for domestic and industrial coal.

I know that it is difficult for the noble Viscount to find replies to these questions. I am satisfied, however, that we have got to get more coal from the mines with our present personnel. In some areas the absenteeism figure is rather on the high side. We need to look for the causes of that. Absenteeism is greater in some areas than in others. In some areas there are local causes. I should like the Government, through the National Coal Board, to look into the specific local causes, if necessary pit by pit, as to why absenteeism fluctuates as it does. Such an investigation might be quite a good thing. I need not say anything more upon coal. My noble friend Lord Hall, who can speak with a lifetime's experience of this industry, will be winding up, and I shall be surprised if he does not make some reference to coal.

As regards cotton, and textiles in particular. I am a Lancashire man and though at present I am not living in the county I have spent over fifty years there. I spent a few days there recently, since the collapse of cotton. The feeling in Lancashire is one of bitterness and soreness. There is a feeling that: they have been let down. Immediately after the war, they were urged: "Get into the industry. Its future is glorious. You cannot do better than get into the industry." They got into it—and they are out. It is not surprising that they are now feeling very sore. This is a difficult problem. It is no use pretending that it is easy. After all, what happened? The going was good. When the going is good, what happens? You produce to the maximum, you produce beyond what is being bought, and then you have to stop. They have stopped now. They have been stocking so heavily that I can quite understand the owners and managers saying, We have got to dispose of these stocks, to some extent, before we continue producing.

It may be true that the future of the cotton industry needs to be considered very carefully. Indeed, I do not think we need as big an output or industry in Lancashire as we did in the days before the First World War. In that period we commanded nearly 90 per cent. of world trade in cotton, all of which was done from Lancashire. We had almost a monopoly. Manchester was known, and has been known since, "Cottonopolis." It may not be known as "Cottonopolis" later, for to-day we have only 6 per cent. of the world trade. Since the Lancashire people have suffered in that way, you can imagine how they feel. It is not a case of blaming any particular Government. No matter what Government were in power, the result would have been the same. It may be impossible for this Government to increase purchasing power in order to facilitate the disposal of these goods. I think that something on those lines might have been done a little earlier. But that would not have avoided the trouble, it would only have postponed it. It would have had to come sooner or later.

I do not know how far the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, can deal with this matter to-day. He has been fortunate in that he has not been dubbed a co-ordinator, but I have a suspicion that he is fairly busy in that direction. I was very pleased to see that he has been called right to the centre of the affair. I am inclined to think that no one is more likely to devise a practical course in regard to this problem. I hope that he can give us some encouragement. There are thousands of people in the Duchy of Lancaster, of which he is Chancellor, who are aching for a word of encouragement and hope from somewhere. That is not confined to the workers but extends also to the management side. They have all this skilled labour on their hands. They realise that they should release it, but they do not want to release it if they are going to need it. It has taken years to build up this skilled labour force. Why should they release it if there is the possibility of an opportunity to retain it? The workers, too, are hoping for some message from the Government. Somebody has got to decide what is to be done for the cotton industry in Lancashire. Do not worry too much about the men of Lancashire. If they know that 20, 30 or 40 per cent. of the producing power has got to go; if they know that output must be concentrated in the better mills of Lancashire—we all know that some of the mills there are very poor—I am sure they will understand. But I ask the noble Viscount, if he can, to make a statement that will give some real hope and encouragement to these people.

In connection with textiles, may I also mention rayons? At present I am living in North Wales. On Monday night there was an announcement which caused consternation, the like of which I have never seen in my life. In Flintshire, there are a number of rayon mills employing something like 5,000 people. On Monday night it was announced that, as from Monday next, all these mills will close down for four weeks. Noble Lords will understand the feelings of the people concerned. That prospect itself caused consternation, but what is to happen later? Where are we then? What is going to happen after four weeks? Is it going to be four weeks, or will it be four months? One can understand the feeling. I know that this may not appear to be so important as the cotton problem, but the fact of 5,000 people being unemployed for a month will cause a real problem locally in Flint-shire. I do not know how far the noble Viscount can make any statement in regard to that. If he can, I shall be very pleased.

There are one or two other questions which I should like to mention, dealing with the differences between Russia and this country. There are differences between the two countries, but there are some things which remain the same in all countries. One has first to consider how to maintain the maximum number of employed in the most important industries. That is a crucial problem. In connection with it you have got to consider everyone—the young and the old. It concerns not only men but also women. I know that they are being considered. As I was coming into the House I received a document, issued by the Ministry of Labour and National Service, concerning the employment of women and men. I consider that the Minister has a very good grasp of this problem. He has the right and a realistic approach. He is not troubled very much by politics, which is an advantage.

In a speech in another place, when dealing with this matter, he emphasised the importance of the old people, and he also indicated some of the problems. This document is not for me only; it is available to all noble Lords. It is well produced and it states the case very clearly. The old people are a problem, but we may need them. We may have to say to ourselves, "Our manpower is in such a state that we have got to take them back into industry." One of the great problems and needs to-day is skilled labour. Let me refer again to the mines. To-day, we need young men skilled in mechanisation, and not those skilled in hand-got coal. I agree that if we can retain the older men in order to release the young men for skilled work, then that is all right. But there are many problems surrounding the retaining of older men, especially in some industries. There is no need to pursue this question further. An Advisory Committee has been appointed and we shall hope for a favourable report from that Committee.

Turning to the question of women, I wonder whether the women now in employment are being used to the best advantage. I have just read Chester Wilmot's very interesting book dealing with the struggle in Europe, which compares the use of manpower during the war in this country and in Germany. He deals particularly with women. For some reason or another the Germans went to no trouble at all in this regard, and did not bother about their women folk in any shape or form, whilst we were bringing them in by the million. During the war, millions of women came into industry in this country, and they proved that they could be trained for skilled work. I should like to ask the noble Viscount to say, so far as he can, whether we can extend our training of women in regard to skilled work, such as engineering and so on. They have shown an aptitude which has surprised most of us, and we ought to take advantage of it.

I am inclined to think that some women are employed on jobs which are not essential. I am sure that in making that statement I have the support of the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York, whom I see here to-day. I am told that the gambling institutions employ a lot of women. I am told (and I think it is true) that taking a risk is part of human nature. I take a few risks myself front time to time, but I feel that this gambling instinct is one that has to be watched very carefully. What does it really do? We are trying to get something which allows us to make a greater demand on consumption without doing anything to increase production. That is the danger of gambling, and a very real danger it is. It is difficult for the Government to go into this question, but I think that, in such a critical time in our history as the present is, this question needs going into very carefully. Perhaps an investigation committee or some such body might be set up to look into the question of whether our womenfolk who are doing less essential and non-essential work could be persuaded to go into some better and more useful industry.

Another matter of importance concerns the balance of manpower between distribution and production. No political Party wants to touch this subject, because of the fear of losing votes. I feel that there are far too many distributive agencies. I feel that the number employed is much larger than is required for the job, and that something ought to be done to lessen the number in distribution, in order to increase the number in production. This is not going to be easy. I read some figures recently which I found fairly consoling. I am not sure of their authenticity, but they were given in a letter which was published in the Manchester Guardian during March. Here are the figures: Taking 100 as the number employed in retail sales in 1939, the number estimated for 1951 would be 107. In distribution, taking 100 for 1939, the figure for 1951 is estimated at 85. That seems encouraging. With regard to distribution it will be noticed that taking the figure for 1939 as 100, the estimated figure for 1951 is 85. I found that second figure very encouraging indeed. It seemed to me to indicate that things are moving in the right direction. But how far those figures can be substantiated I do not know. I would ask the noble Viscount to look into this question, for it is clearly a matter of vital importance.

My Lords, I think I have covered nearly all the ground which I need cover, but there is just one other point upon which I should like to touch. Reference has been made several times to the importance of production committees. I agree that they are important but, frankly, I have felt at times that their function has not been what it ought to be. To put it bluntly, it has seemed to me that in some cases the managements have not entrusted these committees with as much as they ought to have done. They have not taken them into their fullest confidence, and they have played about with trimmings. That will not do. The worker to-day is a very intelligent person. You can risk taking him into your confidence and telling him everything. But withhold your confidence, and fail to give him full information, and you create suspicion, distrust and doubt. I think that appealing to both sides is a very good step, though if you do appeal to both sides you are apt to get into trouble. I have found myself in hot water after some "news-hawk" has dealt with a speech of mine in which I have appealed to both sides. For instance, it has happened that my appeal to the workers has been reported in the Press whilst my appeal to the employers has been totally ignored. The result of that has been that the workers have been after me and have asked: "What are you about—appealing to us and not to the employers?"

I believe in both sides getting together and being quite frank with each other. Employers need not be afraid of their confidence being abused. When they deal with the workers in industry to-day they are dealing with very intelligent people. Recently I read in the Manchester Guardian a statement by General Templer dealing with this very problem of manpower in his own way. His statement was made with the forthrightness that one would expect from a soldier or, if not from a soldier, from a North countryman. His statement appeared in the Manchester Guardian of April 14, and this is how it ran: The Communists work; they don't just say things. They seldom go to races, give dinner cocktail parties or play golf. They work. Then General Templer asks: How many people on our side do the same thing? That, I suggest, is handling the manpower problem in a very realistic way. General Templer has seen in Malaya the danger of Communism overrunning that part of South and South-East Asia. He has seen the possibility of that happening. I am satisfied that those words are applicable to the whole non-Communist world to-day.

We are in real danger of going too easy. I can visualise the possibility of Communism becoming universal as a result of our taking things too easy; and that is a terrible thing to contemplate. It is a possibility which, as I say, I can visualise creeping upon us. I can see some future generation condemned to live in that jungle and obliged to fight back. If that does happen, it will be because my generation has not recognised the danger in time and taken the necessary action. The right handling of the manpower question is only one way of dealing with the danger. The other day I read in a book (the title of which I liked very much, for it was The Coming Defeat of Communism) this sentence: Civilisations die, in truth, only by suicide. It may be that not all noble Lords will subscribe to that philosophy. Some of them may have reservations of their own to make. But I suggest that there is sufficient truth in it to cause us to stop and consider whether there is a possibility that we shall lose the Western world's way of living because we ourselves are not doing all that we can to see that money, material and manpower are used to the best advantage in order to stem the tide of Communism. I beg to move for Papers.

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, we should all agree, I am sure, that the subject which the noble Lord has raised in his Motion is as important as any we could be debating at this time, for it is indeed true that however grave our economic position may be—and it remains very grave—men are more important than either money or machines. I am sure that I shall carry the whole House with me in saying that there is no noble Lord on either side of the House whom we would rather have introducing this Motion than the noble Lord who has just sat down. He has moved it in a speech which was broad in its outlook and understanding and penetrating in its analysis and in the questions which it posed. I will try to give answers as full as the speech deserves. I think it would be useful to the House if I gave this information—and I have a good deal. I do not know whether I have co-ordinated it, but any rate I have tried to collect as much information as I can. I think it would be useful if the debate continued in the light of that information.

Running through the noble Lord's speech was the theme that it is vital that men, the most important element, should be able to make their best contribution, and the question he raised was: are we enabling them to make the maximum effort in the most important industries? I think that that—as, indeed, the noble Lord said—carries with it two questions which I would try to answer together, the first is: what is being done, and how far are we being successful, in facilitating the transfer of labour from less essential to more essential industries? As a corollary to that, there comes the question: how is the new plan, the very important plan under the Notification of Vacancies Order, working? As the noble Lord truly said we have quite a different idea of getting the best out of people from that which is entertained on the other side of the Iron Curtain. In war there must be direction of all of us, but we have no intention of engaging in direction of labour in peace. A volunteer force is what is needed in the national effort. In the short time—it is just over two months—that the plan has been in operation, it has, I think, shown very encouraging results.

I might remind your Lordships of the provisions of the Order. Broadly they are these. First, that employers must not seek to engage men between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five and women between the ages of eighteen and sixty, except by notifying their vacancies to a local office of the Ministry or to a scheduled agency. Secondly, as counterpart to that, employers must not engage people of these ages except through a local office or a scheduled agency. There are some exceptions to these provisions. There are certain excepted employments like coal mining, agriculture and different fields of professional employment. In this way the Order gives the employment service of the Ministry of Labour much greater opportunities for influencing the re-distribution of labour in accordance with national economic policy, rather than making any radical change in its normal functions.

This service has always had a threefold obligation—to employers, to workers and to the nation in general. In particular, because of the shortage of workers, and especially of skilled workers, as the noble Lord said, it has had a continuing responsibility for many years to try to influence workers who are suitable and available for more than one job to take the one which is most important. Since, because of the Order the vast majority of people who are now looking for work must come to the local offices of the Ministry, and the employers have to go there too, the service is in a position to exercise its influence over a much wider field. It does this by acquainting workers of the jobs which are suitable for them and in which at the same time they can make their best contribution. Of course, the final choice rests, and must always rest, with the individual concerned.

There are also the scheduled employment agencies which are approved under this Order. So far about 130 of these organisations, mostly trade unions and voluntary associations of ex-Service men, have been scheduled as employment agencies. They can, and are, performing a useful service, because they have a specialised knowledge of their own people and of the jobs which they can fill. To assist local offices of the Ministry to identify the most important vacancies to which the attention of suitable workers should be drawn, a system of what is called first preferences has been agreed and has been in operation for some time. Under this system, local officers can identify those jobs which are the most important. These include employment in many basic industries such as coalmining, agriculture, iron and steel, over a range of defence work and, equally important, on production for export. Recently a system of super-priority production for the defence programme has been identified, and lists of establishments engaged upon such production have been supplied to the local offices. I may say that I hope that that will not be carried any further. I have seen something of the allocation of materials on priorities and super-priorities. It is rather like having documents marked "Confidential," "Secret," and "Top Secret." By the time you have labelled something that is not very secret "Top Secret," you have nothing left to keep the stuff which should really be kept locked up from being looked at. I think it has been right to give super-priority for vital things like some of our aircraft and the Centurion tank, but it is like strong drink or the prescription a doctor gives when you have a heart attack—you have to be careful how you take it. The Ministry of Labour are trying to get that super-priority without unduly impinging on the export programme.

Here I should like to say a word or two about the redundancy procedure, which was established some time ago and which is proving a great help under the new plan. As the noble Lord knows, with the purpose of avoiding unnecessary unemployment and loss of production, consultation took place with the National Joint Advisory Council while he was still in office. As a result, the Minister of Labour asked the British Employers' Confederation and the Trades Union Congress for the co-operation of employers and workers in seeing that the exchanges were notified in good time about workers who were likely to become redundant. That is not only sound administration, but is also a good humane way of handling the problem. There has been full co-operation from both employers and unions and, as a result, advance notification of redundancies is now received at many exchanges and those workers who are going to become redundant are advised in good time about the position.

When the employment exchanges receive notification they arrange for workers to register for alternative employment before they leave their present jobs. They circulate lists of vacancies to the works, and in other ways try to secure that workers have new jobs to go to at the earliest possible date. In addition, a number of employers provide facilities for local offices to deal with individual workers at their place of employment, or alternatively, workers are given time off to register at the exchange and sometimes, when desirable, to go for an interview by a prospective employer. Where necessary, exchanges are kept open after ordinary hours. I am glad to say that these arrangements are working with good will, and I am advised that they are a material help both humanely and economically.

To assist in the re-distribution of skilled labour and to secure the proper use of workers where there are shortages, the experiment is being tried of having a limited number of labour supply inspectors, who are highly qualified. What we want is not a vast number of people who do not really know, but a few people who know their jobs. This part of the service works in this way. Where employers notify demands for particular kinds of labour and it seems unlikely, as it very often does to-day, that these demands can be met easily, or there is doubt about whether the services of workers with particular skills are being fully used (the noble Lord asked particularly about that point), inspectors visit the employers and, with their cooperation, examine the position. They assess requirements, consider possible alternative ways of meeting the requirements and, where appropriate, discuss and secure the agreement of employers and trade unions to the measures which will reduce the demands for scarce skilled men. That may include, and I think often does include, further development of training and up-grading of men and women who are likely to be able to make the grade. Although I am reporting only two months of work of the service, and actually less of the work of these inspectors, I find it is not too early to give some of the results. I think pretty good results have come to hand. The results of the work of thirteen recent labour supply inspections in the Midlands have been as follows, and I think these figures are very rewarding. Out of the original demands for 620 skilled workers, firms were supplied with 332 skilled workers and 99 unskilled or semi-skilled workers whom it was possible to train and upgrade. If those thirteen inspections are an example of the bulk, then I think these inspectors are well worth their money.

It is not enough to offer to workers in each area the opportunity to fill the most important jobs in that area. You often have to try and provide reinforcements from outside, or to send men from one district as reinforcements to another. Of course, vacancies outside the area are circulated in the employment exchanges, and vacancies are brought to the notice of workers who are able and willing to work away from their home area. But what we have to do is to try to help the man who is willing to transfer, but who cannot afford to do so without some help, to be able to go and give his services where they are needed. Financial assistance is provided when the jobs are important ones and when they are beyond daily travelling distance of the worker's home. The way in which that works is that free fares are provided to the place of employment and, in approved cases, home when the work ends. But the men also get a settling-in grant of 24s. 6d. I think that that is a most practical arrangement. Then, married workers and single workers with dependants have an allowance, if they qualify for it, of 24s. 6d. a week towards the extra cost of living away from home. In addition, if a man who has transferred to another district finds that he is able to get a house to settle down there and bring his wife and family, then help is given to him to bring his family and settle them in.

One of the main problems, especially in the engineering industry, is, as the noble Lord said, the shortage of highly skilled men. It is not just that the skilled men are short but, as all who have had experience of it know, the rate at which the lesser skilled or unskilled workers can be absorbed often depends entirely on the rate at which the skilled workers can be found. Therefore, in certain areas special housing allocations are being made to help attract skilled workers needed for highly important work—I will come in a moment to the particular question the noble Lord asked about houses for miners. These measures, of course, will not wholly meet the shortage, and accordingly industry has been asked to help by training and up-grading workers either directly or by making use of the training facilities provided at Government training centres.

That is the plan, and the way the Order works, and it all sounds very good. But let us test it by results, because that is the only test that is of any use. As I have said, the Order has been in force for only just over two months, but there is already good evidence that it is working satisfactorily and helping in the proper redistribution of manpower. One thing that I think is quite clear on the evidence, and is most heartening, is that the majority of workers are ready to accept the advice of the employment exchanges upon the relative importance of jobs to which they can go. I dare say it is true that the rates of earnings on the more important defence jobs are a contributory factor, but I do not think that that explains it all. Let me give your Lordships some figures. The total placings by the employment service during the four weeks ended April 9—that is, the first full period we have got—were just under 294,000, compared with just under 171,000 for the four weeks preceding. That, in the first month after the Order came into force, is an increase of 72 per cent., and is evidence of the much wider field in which the service is now working. But what I feel is even more significant is that the vacancies of first importance (they are included in the total figure) which were filled in the four weeks ended April 9 were over 38,000, as against 21,500 for the preceding four weeks, which is an increase of just under 80 per cent. As I say, there are wages and there are seasonal causes, but I think the size of the increase justifies the conclusion that the Order is helping appreciably to secure a proper redistribution of labour.


I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether the 294,000 he mentioned are the total placings of the Ministry of Labour, or whether they are special placings following upon the new Order.


I believe they are the total placings, but I will have that verified and my noble friend Lord Lloyd will confirm it later. I think that increase shows that, although the Order has been in force for only a short time, it is a good plan and it is working well. We all welcomed it and wanted it to work well, and I think we can be satisfied. I am sure the House would wish to congratulate the men and women in the labour exchanges—I think that is the wrong title, but that is what we used to call them.


Employment exchanges.


Yes, employment exchanges—anyway, we mean the same thing. These men and women have worked very hard on this scheme. They have worked overtime and long hours and have put their hearts into it, I am sure that even by working overtime they would not have done this job as well as they have had they not treated it as a human problem even more than as an administrative problem. I am sure we are all grateful to them.

The noble Lord asked me particularly how the manpower engaged in production compared with that in distribution. That was about the only time that he generalised and, as I thought, his speech fell from the highest possible level. I know from experience how much easier it is to generalise than to particularise and how much less convincing it is. I know the old technique—it is in all the text books—that under a capitalist State there are always far too many people engaged in distribution. I might say that there is not a bad proportion engaged in the nationalised industries at the present time; but I will not enter into any polemics of that kind to-day. I will try to answer the noble Lord's question equally fully, although at less length.

The figures I am going to give came as a surprise to me, and I think they will be an agreeable surprise to those of your Lordships who have not engaged in recondite research in this subject. At the present time there are over 22,000,000 people in civil employment in Great Britain. Of these under 12 per cent. are in distribution, compared with 55 per cent. in directly productive industries. In productive industries I include manufactures (that is about 40 per cent.), agriculture and fishing, mining, building and contracting. The balance consists of about 9½per cent.—that is, of the total of 22,000,000—who are in the services closely associated with productive industry, and I really think ought to be lumped with them—namely, transport, communication and public utilities. About 17½per cent. are engaged in commerce and finance, professional services (including medical services and education), and personal services (catering, entertainment, sport and domestic service), and 6 per cent. in public administration. That seems to me a little on the high side, but I am not sure.

To go back to distribution. Over 2,600,000 people, of whom about 500,000 are employers or self-employed persons, are engaged in the various branches of the distributive trades. Of these, about 1,800,000, half of whom are women, are in retail distribution. What one wants to see is the comparison. Is it going up or down? I quite agree that one must take pre-war and post-war. Between the middle of 1948 and the middle of 1951, employment in distribution increased by about 120,000—that is, 5 per cent.—including over 80,000 women. In the second half of 1951, employment in distribution increased by only 13,000, compared with a rise of 40,000 in the second half of 1950. There was, as I say, a 5 per cent. increase between 1948 and 1951, but that was probably due to an increase over this period of about 6 per cent. in the volume of trade (I say volume and not "value" advisedly); and, of course, there was an alleviation of the very austere standards of service which we had during the war and just after. Employment in manufacturing industry increased by about 7½per cent. between mid-1948 and the end of 1951, and that is in spite of a reduction—I hope temporary—of nearly 80,000 in the textiles and clothing trades during 1951.

These are figures which are particularly interesting to me, and I thought it right to have them on the record. There are to-day about 33 people employed in manufacturing industries for every 10 in distribution. In 1948 it was 32 to 10, but (and this is the remarkable figure) in 1939, before the war, it was 25 to 10. Therefore, we have had a very great diminution in the proportion employed in the distributive trades. A rough estimate shows that the distributive trades are now employing about 400,000 fewer people than they had in 1939—and that in spite of the extra work which was imposed by the activities of the Government in purchase tax and rationing, which do add a good deal to the activities. This is interesting. This saving of manpower—the 400,000 as compared with 1939—is entirely on the men's side. The number of women in distribution is probably a little higher than it was in 1939, but the number of men is 400,000 fewer. During the same period, employment in the manufacturing industries increased by something like 1,000,000. We have also to remember that a number of the women employed are married women, who find the hours of work and the closeness of the shops to where they live a very convenient way of earning a little, and who, if they were not employed in distribution, probably would not take up any work at all. To sum up, if we take manufacturing alone it is estimated that the manufacturing industries employ about 1,000,000 more workers than in 1939, while distribution has 400,000 fewer. I think that is fairly satisfactory.

Now I come to a more technical and more difficult question which the noble Lord put to me, about which I will try to give him an absolutely frank answer. The noble Lord asked whether it was possible and desirable to exempt from military service all apprentice engineers or ex-apprentice engineers. He said, quite truly, that they were very valuable in industry, and he also said that all of them would not be called up in time of war. I would not go all the way with him, because there are a great many skilled trades now in the Services. We have given very careful consideration to this matter. The case was put by all my colleagues who represent the manufacturing side and the Service side against each other, and some of us who arbitrated (I will not say co-ordinated) had to decide or advise what should be done. I do not think it would be right to go further than we have, and I will tell the noble Lord why. As he knows, the Services urgently need skilled men, and I think I shall be able to convince him that every effort is being made by the Services to use these ex-apprentices to the best advantage. I dare say you find a case here and there where they are not so used. I am sure the noble Lord who was First Lord will bear me out in this. If there are cases where skilled men are being misused, by all means let us know about it. But, broad and large, I think they are being used to the best advantage. I agree that there was a period when they were not called up and then later they were. But for some years now they have been called up. You have to remember this. There are a great many of these ex-apprentices who have been serving in the Army and who are now coming out into civil life, so that we are not just raiding the labour side and not putting anything back. I am advised that this year the return to civil life of those ex-apprentices who have been doing skilled jobs in the Services will, broadly, compensate for the numbers who are to be called up. Apprentices in the engineering and metal working trades are, generally speaking, granted deferment in order that they may complete their apprenticeship before call-up. That of course will go on. The total number who are called up annually is about 23,000.

I think the House knows—certainly those who are expert in this subject do—how very careful are the arrangements to see that these men are used in the Services to the best advantage. The Services are notified of the men who are coming up, and their skill and training, and the Services then notify when they can best make use of them, so that their call-up is phased and timed for the best use to be made of them. The hulk of these men are actually used—certainly a very great number of them—in the exact trades which they have been following in civil life. As they go on working on aircraft or radar, or in all the minutiæ of modern naval vesels—it is not as if they were halting and not becoming more efficient—they are going on and they are becoming just as efficient, and perhaps more so than if they were working in a shop. Even where the particular man cannot be fitted into his particular trade he very quickly trains on to a Service trade which is as nearly as possible analogous.

We did decide, as the Minister of Labour announced last month, that there would be deferment, for not more than two years after the completion of apprenticeship, for a limited number of ex-apprentices in certain highly-skilled occupations where full use is being made of their skill on certain specified rearmament projects of the highest priority, such as the latest types of military aircraft. Deferment is subject to the men not being required in a Service trade that will make full use of their skill. The occupations to which the arrangements apply are certain highly skilled occupations, such as particular types of draughtsmen, tool makers and instrument makers. We have given this limited exemption in super-priority cases. But we must hold the balance of civil and Service needs as fairly as we can in the national interest; and on the fullest consideration we are convinced that it would be contrary to the national interest to carry exemption further. I probably carry the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, with me in that, and I am pretty sure that I also carry the noble Viscount, Lord Hall—who has an interest in it both ways, so to speak.

Lord Macdonald asked me to deal with coal, which, as he said, is the key to all. If we can get more coal it is worth more than anything else; it is almost as important as the gold reserve. He also asked me about mining recruiting. I do not pose as a skilled miner, though for six months I did spend every morning down a coal mine. But I think that on the recruiting side I can report satisfactory progress. Between the beginning of February and the middle of April there has been a net increase of 8,300 in the number of men and boys employed in the mines; and what is a satisfactory feature of this is that, as compared with last year, nearly 2,000 more boys have come into the industry in the early months of this year. I think that shows that both the boys and their parents see that there is a future and a career in the mines.

The noble Lord rightly linked his inquiry about recruiting with the development of housing. If men are to be attracted to the mines there must be houses for them. In the last five years over 50,000 houses have been let to the miners by local authorities. Though that may seem a pretty good rate it is not enough to keep pace with the additional numbers we need in the mines. Accordingly, authority was given early this year for 20,000 more miners' houses to be provided in selected mining areas by the end of 1953. I am sure that local authorities will continue to do their best. But such a large increase will in some places put too heavy a financial strain on the local authorities in spite of the grants in aid which they receive. Moreover, to supplement—not to replace or supplant—the efforts of the local authorities, the Coal Board has set up a Housing Association. This Association will concentrate on areas where an intensive effort is required beyond the reasonable scope of the local authorities. The Coal Board will, of course, maintain the closest touch with the local authorities.

I was greatly interested, and I am sure the Minister of Fuel and Power and the Minister of Labour will be greatly interested, in the point which the noble Lord raised, that it might be that attractive houses would be built and might be let to the latest recruit—the man who comes in at the eleventh hour. I can understand that the neighbours of that man would not receive that situation in quite the admirable spirit of the parable in the Gospel, and might well take exception to such preferential treatment of the eleventh-hour man. But that is just one of the human points that must be dealt with. I am very glad that the noble Lord linked housing with the economic use of manpower. You cannot deal with this just as a mathematical proposition or as a game of chess. Men may become redundant here and there, but it is impossible to move them about as one can move an extra division or battalion up the line. There must be a considerable transfer of labour, and the account I have given to your Lordships shows that considerable progress is being made in this direction; and it certainly shows that a very large number of men are ready to transfer to other jobs. But the limiting factor is not the readiness of men themselves to go where they can best serve the national interest and their own; it is the limits of accommodation. The progress we have already made in completing and building houses, and which we shall carry on and extend to the utmost of our power, is therefore a very real contribution to our economic recovery and expansion.

I have only one other point to make, and I apologise for having kept the House so long. The noble Lord referred to the unemployment in the textile industry which is causing us all so much anxiety. Of course we must take every possible step to reduce this unemployment, but I do not think it would be right, either in cotton or woollen textiles, to take the pessimistic view that these industries must face a permanent contraction. I entirely agree that we shall not get back to the full amount of trade that we had before the war. Broad and large, all over the world there is a temporary slump in these industries, but consumption is increasing and I should not like at the present time to assume that we have necessarily to contract this industry below its present capacity. Over the whole world, as I say, there is a temporary slump in this industry, and everywhere it is reflected in reduced employment and short-time working. But domestic demand and world demand will recover. I am not at all sure that there is not some slight sign of a movement in that direction at the present time. There are reports that on the wholesale side there is a bit of a renewal—


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord but may I ask whether what he is saying applies to Japan and Germany?


I have not got figures, but from the information given me it certainly applies to Japan. I was hearing only a few days ago from somebody that manufacturers in Japan were complaining that the demand was flown. I am not sure about Germany; I think there is a recession there. There certainly is one in America. I think it is pretty well world-wide—though, as I say, I hope that it is temporary. But when demand does recover, the industry must be ready to take every advantage of it.

While the industry as a whole may not be curtailed, the demand may change and shift, and there is no doubt that competition may be keener in the future. The seller's market in textiles and in other things has gone for ever, or for a very long time to come, and in the future the seller will be the courtier and the buyer will be the king. But do not let us underrate our assets. We have a world-wide merchanting experience in foreign markets. We have a high reputation for quality. Our textile workers have an innate, ingrained skill. All this must be used to the best advantage. The merchants must "smell out" and even anticipate demand, and management and labour must be efficient, elastic and adaptive to changing conditions. But both in the short term and in the long, every possible encouragement and incentive must be given to the textile industry, provided that it is a real incentive which will bear fruit in times when the industry is hard hit. We really have to discriminate. There are a hundred and one suggestions to be made and we might spend a great deal of money without doing something effective. On the other hand, where there is something effective that can be done, then I do not think we should be unduly cautious; but it must be the right and effective thing.

One thing is very important in the cotton textile industry where a spinner will have again to work on narrow margins: it is essential that they should be able to get cotton of the quality they require, and at the fairest price. At the beginning of this year, the President of the Board of Trade and I appointed a Committee of all the interests in the cotton trade—merchants, spinners, manufacturers and trade unions—with these terms of reference: To consider and report to the President of the Board of Trade and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on the question how, in the current foreign exchange position, cotton can best be supplied to the United Kingdom cotton industry on the most advantageous terms as to quality and price. We felt that no one was more competent to advise on this matter than the people with all the practical knowledge in the industry. As I informed the House, they did their work expeditiously and presented us with a unanimous Report. We accepted that Report immediately and we are now putting it into force.

I am glad to be able to tell the House that the Advisory Committee which the Report recommended has already been appointed and has met and done quite a lot of good work. The Committee has dealt with a number of points which required elaboration and detailed application. Acting on the advice of the Committee, we have established in Manchester the Entitlement Organisation, which will issue quotas to spinners who contract out, and every spinner has been notified of his option and how he should proceed to make this effective. I can, therefore, assure the House that we shall have this plan in operation at the beginning of the new buying year, and I hope that your Lordships will think that we have acted as expeditiously as Sir Richard Hopkins' Committee. The Government are also placing large additional orders in Lancashire and Yorkshire for the Services and for Civil Defence. That should give considerable relief, and care is being taken to place these orders where the need is greatest. I wish we could do more in that way.

Noble Lords will recollect that last year the late Government placed large orders on the Government's account abroad. I am not going to make any capital out of that. It is perfectly true that at that time the capacity in this country was fully employed, but we all wish we had those orders to place now. I am not generally complaining about the production programme lagging, but I rather wish that this part of it had lagged behind a little more. It is nobody's fault that we have not now those additional orders to place. As soon as the recession began, all those orders were knocked off, and we cancelled orders where we could. While these measures will help, I cannot pretend that they will absorb all those who are to-day out of work or on short time. Only a revival of demand in the industry will do that. But in the meantime every effort is being made by the Ministry of Labour to place men and women who are unemployed or on short time and who are able and willing to work at other jobs, to find alternative employment in the industries where there is a steady and growing demand. I apologise for the time I have taken—


Would the noble Viscount deal with Courtaulds?


I will make inquiries about that. I heard late last night from the noble Lord about this factory in Flint. I should not like to answer this point offhand. I know that the noble Lord is right, as I understand that the firm thought that it was probably wiser to shut down for several weeks, in the hope that at the end of that time there might be full employment again. I fully appreciate what that means in a place where that is the one industry. Of course, that fact makes the problem frightfully difficult. I am afraid that I have taken a long time, but the noble Lord gave me a pretty wide field to cover, and I thought that the House would want to have all the information I could give. Debates of this kind in this House are always of value. They are conducted with sympathy and understanding, and great practical experience. The noble Lord's speech was typical and, if I may say so, was a model of all that. My colleagues and I value it greatly, and we value equally the further constructive suggestions which I feel sure will emerge from this debate.