§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD KIRKWOOD
My Lords, I rise with some diffidence to make my maiden speech in your Lordships' House. I have been touched by the welcome given to me by the veteran members of this House—not only from the people who think as I do, but from men whose views are as far apart from mine as the North Pole is from the South. This House is part of our democratic fabric, and I am proud to belong. I hope I may be able to contribute something to its counsels and something of value to the nation.
To-day, we are discussing manpower—the problem of finding enough men for our industrial needs, enough men to keep pace with our industrial expansion and enough men to do justice to our tremendous industrial tradition. It is not merely a problem of moving masses of people like pieces on a chess board, from a place where there is no work to a place where there is plenty; it is a psychological problem, too. The workers are human; they are not robots. They have minds as well as hands. As I see it, the problem is not only to find enough of them for the places where they are needed most, but to keep them in good heart when we get them there. How can we put them into better heart than they are now? I do not need to tell your Lordships that I am one of them. I was born one of them. I grew up among them. I shared their sorrows and their struggles, and I think I can claim to know their minds. We politicians—all of us, in all Parties—have failed the workers in one important respect. We keep lecturing them about the need for increasing production and increasing exports. We have ladled out grave and gloomy warnings; we have wheedled them. What we have not done is to explain in clear 695 enough terms just what the consequences of a real economic breakdown mean. Ever since the war they have been reading about crises, one after the other: but they have never properly understood just what it is all about. And we, their so-called leaders, have not been able to tell them. We have cried "Wolf" once too often, and the result is that they are bored and cynical when the cry goes up again.
It is different in war time. They can see and understand the enemy. He is a dangerous man with aeroplanes, bombs, soldiers and submarines to kill them or over-run them if they do not work hard enough to make better bombs and more planes to scatter the enemy. They cannot see this enemy which we call "economic crisis." He does not frighten them any more. What this country needs above all, at the moment, is a genius in simplification, someone with a heaven-sent gift of words who can make a living enemy out of "economic crisis," someone who can make the science of economics as easy to understand as the ABC, someone who can make "Mr. Crisis" as evil and as dangerous as ever Hitler was. Maybe that genius should start by educating members of both Houses of Parliament. We are apt to talk economics to audiences who do not comprehend a fraction of what we are saying, and I sometimes wonder whether we understand half of it ourselves.
The workers are intelligent people, but few of them have had courses in economics. They have to be taught the bread and butter facts of this sinister figure called "crisis," who keeps creeping up on them and who may one day knock them down. Somehow we have got to find a way to tell them exactly what they are up against. We have got to explain, in a way and with a clarity we have never achieved before, the full background of the threat from "Mr. Crisis" and the full meaning of what will happen if we fail to beat him. And we have got to give them some idea of what the reward will be if the battle is won. Until we do that we shall not get that extra drive, that extra sense of urgency, that industrial fervour which the economists tell us our critical condition demands. Convince the workers that the danger is real. Convince them, I repeat, and I am certain that they will not let you down.
696 But the manpower problem and the problem of maximum effort, the problem of doing the best for the country, is not confined to the man in the workshop. After all, the workers get their impetus from higher up; from the men in the board rooms. I hear constant complaints from the top job men, directors, managers and other executives, that it is not worth while exerting oneself when the Inland Revenue takes so much of their reward away. I think it stops short at grousing—and grousing is very human and very British. I hope it does, anyway, because it would be a deplorable thing if there was any slowing of industrial effort because the men at the top were disgruntled. These men—company executives—share our industrial heritage. They still have the lion's share of the rewards. They may have less income to invest, but they still live well. They—and that includes your Lordships as well as them—have most to lose if our economic structure ever collapses. Heaven help us if these grousers are among us in any great numbers! If there is sourness and disillusion in the boardroom, you will get sourness right through the factory, right down to the newest apprentice. Sourness was never any good to any business or any cause.
We, in this country, pioneered almost every engineering development the world has seen—steam, gas, electricity, and now jet propulsion. I, who in my time worked as a Clydeside engineer, have always been proud of that record. The workers of today are conscious of it and take great pride in it, too. It would be a great tragedy, the end of everything, if, because we are tired or because we are not making fortunes out of it, we let the initiative slip away from us. For sixty years and more I have seen this manpower problem in different phases, many of them bitter phases—days, months, years when there were pitifully few jobs for all the men who needed them. Those were days which are not easy to forget, and I ask your Lordships to remember that they are not very far back in human memory. The young men at the benches to-day can still recall the hunger and the want they suffered as children during the thirties. Maybe they are scared to exhaust all the work available—scared to exhaust it too soon. May be they are merely frightened to work too hard or too 697 long to-day, lest they put themselves out of work to-morrow. It is our business to reassure them. It is our business to give them guidance, explanation and sympathy. It is our business to start and pursue this campaign of education and effort with a crusading zeal.
I have made these very broad observations to your Lordships to-day, because I believe they are basic to the matter we are discussing. If we forget these fundamental considerations, we are wasting time discussing the details. If, as we are told, it is again necessary to save Britain, Britain will be saved by the willing exertions of the people themselves, if they get wise, enthusiastic leadership and. above all, unselfish example.
§ 4.32 p.m.
LORD BALFOUR. OF INCHRYE
My Lords, the privilege falls to me, on behalf of your Lordships, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, upon a remarkable maiden speech. There will be no contrary opinion when I say that it was a speech of great sympathy, wisdom and constructive thought. I hope particularly that the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and other members of the Government will take to heart the noble Lord's suggestion that what Her Majesty's Government need is a great simplifier, rather than a great co-ordinator. The noble Lord left another place with a wealth of good will and affection, from political friend and political foe alike. He is welcomed here in your Lordships' House with the same warmth, with the same respect and with the same admiration for a lifetime spent in the service of his fellow-workers.
In his opening speech, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, said that, as he saw it, there were two purposes in the deployment of our manpower—to avoid war and to avoid the spread of Communism. I believe there is a third purpose beyond even these two, and that is to deploy our manpower so that we are sure of economic survival as a nation in the years to come. If I detain your Lordships for a few minutes to paint the canvas rather more broadly than the noble Lord did, I hope that I shall not be found guilty of what the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, described as dangerous generalisation. The manpower shortage to-day is grave on a short-term basis, from obvious unfulfilled needs; but on a lord-term basis I believe 698 that our manpower position is terribly grave, because for the next ten years we can look forward to nothing except an ageing population, broadly stable in numbers, who will have to carry an ever-increasing burden if we are to survive economically.
On the short-term basis, on which the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, and the, noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, mainly spoke, we can give some first-aid help in various ways, but the long-term needs basic treatment, and for a moment I would ask your Lordships to examine the population facts. To-day we have a total working population of about 23,000,000, about 1,000,000 more than in 1939, but allowing for the drop in unemployment to-day as compared with the pre-war years, we have roughly 2,000,000 more people in work to-day than before the war. There are unfilled vacancies in the employment exchanges of 300,000; there are critical shortages of manpower in coal, defence and export industries. These shortages are reflected at all levels of industry, from the highest technicians right down through all forms of skill. In truth we can say to-day that skilled labour is one of our acute national shortages.
Full employment has ceased to be a political need, but full and efficient employment becomes a national essential, if we are to enjoy in the future the standard of living which we now accept as something that is our universal right. The background facts of our population position give little hope that the position will clear itself over the next few years by any increase. The working population is going to be approximately stable for the next ten years. Allowing for emigration and immigration, it may increase by about 350,000. The significant thing is that during this time of stable population, our working population will become older and older. I do not want to weary your Lordships with figures, but I must give some for the record, as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said of his figures. In 1911, 53 out of every 1,000 of our population were 65 or over; in 1947, 105 out of every 1,000 were 65 or over; and in 1977, the experts calculate that 160 out of overy 1,000 will be 65 or over. During this period of ten years, those within the age bracket of the working population, 699 between 20 and 40 years of age, are going to decrease by 7 per cent., while those between 50 and 60 are going to increase by more than 20 per cent., and there is not likely to be the compensating factor of any great influx of young men coming into industry over these years. The annual increment is going to be about 100,000 a year less than before the war, as it has been in the last year or two. All this means one thing. The responsibility for increasing the standard of living in the future, and the carrying of the present burden of rearmament, falls on a numerically stable and ageing population. If we are not to suffer a slow and steady reduction in the standard of life, this population will have to produce more and more every year. There is no getting away from these facts.
I said just now that our short-term needs can be helped by such measures as the Government are taking to-day: incentives, longer hours, postponing of retirement, the importation of labour—which can be done only to a limited extent because of the housing shortage—better mobility, increased efficiency and better distribution. But all these, though they are aids, do not solve the basic problem of an ageing population which has to carry this ever-increasing burden. I believe that in the long run the only solution is a steadily increased annual productivity value by this population. That is a hard task to give this ageing population, but I believe that that is the only way we can do it. The outcome depends on technological efficiency and the adequacy of equipment for industry and agriculture. This means the right equipment and enough of it. It means taking every chance of applying the results of research and invention to industry, so that Britain has a technical lead in the world, if we are to be able to compete with other nations in competitive trade.
Let us look at the United States for a moment. The United States have no manpower problem, but their manpower is of no use to them unless they have a technical lead in the industrial and scientific field. America is concentrating on the provision of technicians in schools, institutes and universities. In the United States, 10 out of every 100 boys of twenty-one years of age have gone through high school and attained some 700 sort of technical education. In Britain only 3 out of every 100 get higher education. Whereas in the United States a large proportion of the students in the universities and institutes go to science and technology, in Britain 44 per cent. of students in universities still go for the arts, 20 per cent. go for pure science, 16 per cent. for medicine, 13 per cent. for technology, and 3 per cent. for agriculture. This post-war shortage of technicians was foreseen by the Government in 1945, and the Barlow Committee was set up. That Committee recommended doubling the university population. This was done and universities now take 25,000 students per annum. I believe that the problem is so different now from what it was in 1945 that the Government ought to look again at this problem of developing the essential squads of technicians in order that we shall lead in technology.
I suggest to the Government—I know that I shall not get an answer to-day—that in spite of the difficulty of obtaining teachers, and of many other difficulties, it would be well worth setting up another Committee, something on the lines of the Barlow Committee, to survey the whole field of technical requirements for the next ten years in the way that was done in 1945 by the Barlow Committee. In that way we might be able to make plans for the future technical needs. The shortage of teachers is acute, but if technical institutes were married to the universities that would go some way towards overcoming that difficulty. I believe that we should have two or three institutes of technology on the same lines as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the California Institute of Technology. We should develop technology to a far greater degree in our universities and try to increase the proportion of three in every hundred boys who go through higher education. Unless Britain can have that essential lead in technology, I can see nothing other than a slow but inevitable reduction in the standard of life which this country is enjoying at the present time. This ageing population, with an ever greater task, constitutes a grave situation. I do ask Her Majesty's Government, in all humility, to think deeply about this essential need of training more technicians of all sorts, so that we have the wherewithal to allow this ageing population to win against all comers, as I am sure they can, given the essential technical leaders.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, I should like to join with the noble Lord who has just spoken in congratulating my noble friend Lord Kirkwood on his maiden speech. I should think it is seldom that your Lordships have heard a speech so eloquent, because it was so simple, born of experience and made with a deep feeling which harmonised with the views he set forth. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, has emphasised the question of technology and suggested the setting up of a permanent committee.
§ LORD LAWSON
As a matter of fact, I was going to deal with something like the same subject, because I think we sometimes forget that we are living in a quickly changing society, and experience has taught us, if it has taught any nation, that the real need is to be permanently watching the changes that are taking place in technology and in science and which have a profound effect on our industrial and national life. It was excusable in the early part of the nineteenth century, in a country which received the first onset of the Industrial Revolution, that we had not the experience to face those changes which came, sometimes with deplorable effects. But I must say, frankly, that I did not think there was very much excuse for us one hundred years later, when we had to face equally great changes, industrial and economic, which had a dire effect on many areas of this country. I mention that only because I think we ought to take warning. Let there be no mistake about this. There were industrialists who saw that great change coming which, as I say, had a dire effect on the lives of masses of people in this country; and, indeed, the Governments of the day were warned, not only by the workers' representatives but by fairly eminent employers, as to what the effects would be, and they were given suggestions of great changes when unemployment came.
It is a remarkable fact that after the last war we escaped the unemployment that existed between the wars and particularly immediately after the First World War. If the Government of the day after the last war had dealt with the position, nationally, industrially and 702 economically, as it was dealt with after the First World War, then the state of affairs in this country would have been lamentable. After the last war it was imperative for our future that we should have steady employment, steady workers and an absence of disputes. It was imperative for the very future of this country that those conditions should prevail. In view of the general industrial experience of this country, a fact which cannot be overestimated or overstated is that since the end of the last war there have been fewer disputes in this country, and as a consequence less work lost through them, than at any time in our industrial history. It is worth while examining—I do not intend to do it to-day—the reason for that change. When we say we are not in anything like the condition of wellbeing that we were from the point of view of wealth, it is remarkable that during the past few years there has, on the whole, existed the greatest satisfaction that has ever been seen among the industrial population and the industrial workers of this country. I live in the centre of an industrial area in which one is reminded of that almost every time one looks around.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, told us that to meet the onset of the textile troubles a committee had been established, representative, I think he said, of the workers' side as well as of the employers. It is a good thing to draw from the experience of the industry generally, and it is a good thing that it is being done early, instead of late, as it was many years ago. At least we have learned a little from that experience. I would support the suggestion made by the noble Lord who spoke of the establishment of a general Committee to watch over the present movements in industry and to anticipate what may happen in the future. A great committee was set up, presided over by Sir Montague Barlow, which was called the Distribution of Population Committee. It is a great pity for this country that the Report of that Committee was issued during one of the most difficult periods in the war. It is one of the most informative Reports ever put before any nation. The outstanding thing about it is that although it gave us a multitude of facts and figures, it was too late to meet the needs of the country, whether those needs arose in Wales, Durham, Northumberland or elsewhere.
703 It is worth while considering the setting up of a permanent Committee of that nature.
We are told that a Committee has been appointed in the textile industry. I do not know anything about that industry, and I am not able to say just what it was that has brought about the state of affairs that now exists in that industry. But I will hazard the opinion that before they are very much older they will be affected by the low standard of conditions in Japan—by the long working hours and by other factors of that nature. On one occasion I had some experience of the International Labour Office—a very fine organisation—upon which any such Committee as that I have suggested should be established would have to rely for a good deal of their information. What struck me in the reports of the various conventions was that many representatives came from countries who had little conception of conditions such as we have in this country. The people of many of those countries have hours of work and rates of pay of a standard we should scarcely believe if we were given the facts. Not only in the textile industry, but in industry generally, I think it is imperative that we should have the best experience—of which my noble friend Lord Kirkwood spoke—in order that we should be able to give that leadership to this country and industry generally to which they are entitled.
I wish to say just one other word. Great changes took place in the early nineteenth century through the coming of coal as a form of power. That was followed in this century by the coming of oil, of electricity and other forms of power, and the application of science which, perhaps, is more powerful than all the rest of the changes put together. In those changes the industrial worker has to play his part. The appointment of workers' committees in industry, in workshops, in mines and in factories during the past few years, has been very heartening. It is important that increasing attention should be given to their share in the general control of industry. We have to remember all the time, as Lord Kirkwood has said, that the average industrial worker is not only a worker but also a man of mind and spirit.
I will be quite frank. I have no use for the development—or rather I will not 704 call it a development, but the spirit, which recoils from manual labour as well as from the technical side. We have in this country workers who can challenge the best that there are in the world to-day. I think it necessary to say that, because other things have been said in recent years. I saw some of the best miners, some of the best types of workers in the mining industry, in America quite recently. It is true, of course, that up-to-date machines are used there. I admired these workers, as I always admire a good workman; but I must say I did not see any man who was one jot better than the man working in some of the pits in Great Britain, who labours in a two- or three-foot seam and who, I think, is as good as the best in the world, including America. I sometimes wonder if it may not be that we have followed rather too eagerly much of the American experience so far as the placing of machinery is concerned. I have seen machines in some of our mines and have wondered whether they were the best fitted for the class of seam in which they are used, or whether we had been too much influenced by the assumption that Americans had the necessary mechanical experience of our needs and our seams, which are utterly different from theirs.
So I say that I think it would be a good thing if we could emphasise the building up of that co-operation in industry which is expressed in the joint council. Whatever technical experience there may be, if any real progress is to be made in increased output in this country, it will be much more surely made by co-operation through the joint councils in industry even than by dependence on an increase in working operations. It may be, of course, that even greater changes than we think are on the horizon; and I believe that this country can play a great part in leading the world through that changing period, a period which requires great experience, great steadiness, great strength of character, such as are possessed by the mass of the working men and those engaged in industry in this country.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I was particularly happy to hear the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, pay a tribute to the principle of joint consultation in industry, as did the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald 705 of Gwaenysgor, when he so ably opened this debate, because that is the subject upon which I should like to venture a few words to your Lordships this afternoon. I should hesitate to intervene in a debate in which so many experts have already spoken—men who have spent their lives in industry—were it not for the fact that for the last three years I have been the independent chairman of one of these joint advisory councils, the council for the carpet industry, one of the principal craft industries in this country; and I have formed an increasingly strong opinion that the effect for good upon production and upon the right use of manpower of these joint advisory councils is enormous.
Away back in the 1880's and 1890's in America, a rising young industrialist named Fred Taylor was carrying out experiments which have now become classical in industry. He took a standard 36 lb. shovel and measured the amount of work which the average man could do with it. He started cutting down the size of the shovel and noticed that as he did so, so the man's output went up. He went on cutting down the shovel until it reached the 20 lb. size, and then he noticed that output started to go down. Therefore, he decided that about 21½ lb. was the best size for a shovel. That was one of the first experiments in what we now call time and motion study. In the last seventy years, enormous advances have been made. We have carried out, both here and in America, many experiments to see how we can cut down as much as possible of the wastage of that most extravagant of all industrial assets, the human muscle; but we have now gone too far. We have reached the stage when there is a risk that we no longer treat the worker as a human being; we are treating him sometimes simply as a machine that eats. We have now got to go back, as two or three noble Lords have already said, and reconsider this problem of manpower afresh from the human angle.
I was very happy to see that the Minister of Labour summoned a conference a month or so ago on this very subject of human relations in industry. I attended, and I learned a great deal. The chief point which emerged from that conference and which struck me most forcibly was the growing effect of joint consultation in industry. We have, of 706 course, had joint consultation of a sort for a long time. We have had committees in works themselves, in mines and in factories. We have had committees to discuss industrial disputes, wages and conditions of work. On these committees both sides of industry have been represented. I think, however, that the joint advisory councils themselves should be able to discuss all subjects affecting the industry and that they should not be confined to certain topics only.
There will, of course, always be opposition to this idea. There will be the suspicions to which Lord Macdonald has already referred. You will get the suspicions of management which expresses itself in such forms as, "Well, it is my responsibility to take this decision; why should I allow the workers to come in and give their views on my policy with regard to imports or exports, or my policy with regard to Japan?" I do not agree with that point of view. It is my experience that there are very few items which cannot be given a place on an agenda of any joint advisory council which are not of equal importance to worker and management alike. Of course, it is equally important for the worker as for the management to discuss policy towards Japan. There are very few matters indeed which are not equally important to both worker and management. You also get opposition, of course, from the worker who says, "I am not going to take part in any joint consultation; I shall be written down as a bosses' man." That opposition has got to be broken down, just as has the opposition on the part of the management. Then, of course, there are managements who are anti-trade union. Lord Macdonald spoke of the worker who is violently anti-capitalist as a result of four generations of propaganda. Whether we like it or not, we are now involved in a system of mixed economy, in which the capitalist system has to play its part, and both sorts of opposition have to be broken down.
I am most strongly opposed to the closed shop. I have equally little enthusiasm for the man who will not join his proper union. I think the ideal attitude is represented by a notice that I saw once on a notice board in a factory that I was visiting in the West Riding. It 707 stated that Messrs. So-and-So Company Limiteddo not insist upon membership of a trade union or any particular trade union as a condition of employment in this factory. They nevertheless urge all their employees to join their proper union and take an active interest in that union's affairs.That, I think, is the right attitude. But we have a long way to go yet before we can do away with the expression "both sides of industry." There should be no sides; there should be a partnership, with workers and management at all levels playing their proper and full part. There are two things you must do for joint consultation. First, I am convinced that you must not change your team every five minutes. It takes a long time for management and trade unionists sitting down round a table to get on really good terms with each other, to establish that friendship and that mutual trust which will enable old, hard things to be said in different tones and to be looked at in a different spirit.
The second thing that I am convinced you must do is this. You must make certain that all decisions taken and all matters discussed at your joint consultative level get down to the worker, and that the workpeople realise what is being said and what is being done on their behalf and in their interest. Identifying the worker with his work, identifying the worker with the fortunes of his firm, his industry, and his country is, I believe, of vital importance in this matter. To my knowledge, one firm in the Manchester area which makes very high-class fabrics has arranged that every printer in that trade always signs his work, just as an artist would sign his picture. When this work is sent out he knows, in due course, where that work has gone to. Industry has become so big nowadays that it is almost impossible to have ideal human relationships. We have moved away from the old eighteenth century craftsmanship to the dreadful automatic industry which Charlie Chaplin so graphically portrayed in his film Modern Times. It was most noticeable during the war that when gun detachments or crews of aircraft went back to a factory and explained to the workers what it was they made, why they had made it and what purpose that part served, the production 708 and interest in the work went up by leaps and bounds.
I believe that the manpower problem is as much as anything a problem of human relationship, a problem of making the worker realise that he is no longer a cog in a machine, that he has a full part to play and that his part is important. We must make him feel that his work, even if he is a little man, is no less important than that of a senior director in the board room; that all have their proper part to play, and that it is not a question of one side as against the other. We must abolish suspicion, as the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, said. Some people talk glibly about restrictive practices, and we see many examples from day to day in the newspapers. But do people who criticise stop to ask themselves this question: "If I myself worked harder, if I worked better, how should I like to run the risk of working myself out of a job?" Before you talk glibly of restrictive practices, it is as well to make certain how you would react if you ever had to ask yourself that question. I think there are many other examples that one could give of old traditions, old suspicions, which are hampering productivity, hampering full employment of our manpower and causing men to be used on jobs where they are no longer required, merely for the sake of those old fears which I am certain the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, would agree can be done away with by a frank discussion round the consultative table.
I should like, if I may, to conclude by reading an extract from a speech by a Mr. Clarence Francis, a leading American industrialist, at a recent meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers. This is what he said:You can buy a man's time, you can buy a man's physical presence at a given place; you can even buy a measured number of skilled muscular motions per hour or day. But you cannot buy enthusiasm; you cannot buy initiative; you cannot buy loyalty; you cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds, and souls. You have to earn these things. …It seems to me that the great problem facing us at the moment is not how to get more out of manpower but how to persuade manpower that it is in the interests of everybody, of the firm, of the industry and of the country, that manpower should put more in.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ LORD CROOK
My Lords, the last occasion on which I ventured to offer some words to your Lordships on the subject of manpower was on the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, to do with engineering in February of last year. On that occasion, I found myself very largely in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Balfour, and I find myself very much in that position to-day, because I agree completely that not only is the manpower problem of this country a vital one to-day, but its importance is going to grow as the years go by. It was my fortune to see a good deal of the work and the administrative labour of the handling of manpower during the war. I know too well, as many of your Lordships know, that it was only through the effective manipulation of the manpower of the country that we came through successfully in that great conflict. I am convinced that, in the next ten to twenty years, once again only if the manpower of the country is effectively deployed shall we cure, first, the short-term problem, and then the long-term problem. Again, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Balfour on that.
Because there has been and is some regrettable unemployment in the textile industry to-day, there has been some slight tendency on the part of some people in the trade union movement to stampede, and I see that in a few quarters it has been suggested that increased productivity should no longer be advocated by unions at a time when the number of workless in this country is rising. That, I want to suggest, is not a statement which should be made by any responsible leader in the trade union movement. We all regret, in the interests of the textile workers and those on whom the unemployment will have a repercussive effect, the unfortunate circumstances in Lancashire at the moment, but that must not blind the workers of this country to the real facts and the whole of the facts. The truth is that there is still a grievous shortage of labour—the figure of 300,000 unfilled vacancies has already been mentioned. It is clear that the truth is that there are not enough pairs of hands of the right kind in this country at the moment to do all the work that has to be done: We must see to it not only that there is re-allocation of labour and re-allocation of industries, so far as is practicable, but 710 that each pair of hands is made more skilful, and that there is an increased use of the employment of women and older workers, whether they be whole-time or part-time.
In respect of both the short-term and the long-term problem, clearly the engineering industry carries the main burden. It carries the main burden in respect of rearmament, yet it is that very same industry upon which we rely for a large quantity of our export trade. Merely because we rearm to-day is, I suggest, no ground for forgetting the more long-term programme of maintaining exports. Part of the tragedy of unemployment during the years between the wars was the collapse of the export trade. We know that we are faced to-day with competition greater than that with which we were faced in the years between the wars. Some of our friends who never previously produced have had to do so. In the last ten years America has practically doubled its productivity. All these are countries where a stable age position still exists and not, as Lord Balfour has pointed out, countries like Great Britain which has an increasingly ageing people. I do not think that we can impress the workers of the country too much as to the seriousness of the age grouping problem. In the age group eighteen to forty years, upon which both industry and the armed forces make their main calls, in 1960, owing to our ageing population, there will be 400,000 fewer workers available for employment. If you look at the figures for last year of youth fed into manpower, you will see that the number of boys who reached the age of fifteen in 1951 was 100,000 less than the number reaching that age in 1939; and the same broad position applies in respect of women. Therefore, it is true, that in times of increasing competition we shall have either fewer people or an older people to take up the productivity challenge.
If this were a totalitarian country it would all be very simple. We should merely draft workers from one part of the country to another, allocate the production that was expected of them while we shut them in camps, and we should at least get a result of a kind. But here the Ministry of Labour are not exercising powers to direct individual workers; they rely upon persuasion to secure that the workers go from one job to another. From my active association of more than 711 a quarter of a century with the employment exchanges, I know how much the staffs of those exchanges are enjoined to be careful not to carry their efforts to undue lengths. But I suggest to the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government to-day that it might be of value if, when winding up the debate, he would make a clear and specific statement that there is no attempt to coerce a worker, either by keeping him unemployed or by refusing an employer permission to employ him in the work of less importance that he declines to forgo.
While I am referring to the staffs of the employment exchanges, and because of my association with them over a long period of years, may I say how much I welcome the kindly tribute paid by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, this afternoon in respect of the effective work which we all know they perform? May I say, too, in respect of the observations of the noble Viscount, how glad I was to learn that the prior notification of redundancy to which I referred on the occasion of the Motion by Lord Balfour last year, is beginning to work itself out and to be of effective use to the employment exchange machine? That is part of the good understanding between the two sides in industry. The truth is that in this country we rely a good deal upon the good sense and understanding of the workers and their trade union representatives.
Arising out of that, as I understand it, what we can expect is that when skilled men are not available and production is prejudiced, alternative classes of workers will be employed, subject always to the terms and agreements between the two sides in industry. This dilution and the training of newcomers will permit the upgrading of those already in employment, after they, in turn, have had training in plants. Ever since the Trades Union Congress and the British Employers' Confederation agreed in 1945 that no industry could afford to be without apprenticeship or training schemes, schemes of this kind have been arranged by unions and employers in a number of industries. I refer to the matter this afternoon because, unfortunately, it seems to me that these arrangements have not been carried to enough industries, nor 712 broadly enough even in the industries where they have been introduced.
Even in the steel industry, which has done a magnificent job of work in attracting to the industry as large a share of the available labour as is possible and in training the labour which it has, it is still true to say that not sufficient has been done to make the most effective use of manpower. I welcome the announcement, which I am sure many of your Lordships will have seen, that that industry is to spend £750,000 a year on training, as against the £100,000 a year that it was spending a few years ago. But even in that industry many firms, large as well as small, have no systematic training schemes for operatives—a vital thing if we are properly to deploy the manpower that we need. Looking at a survey in regard to this industry as at the end of last year, I see that of 132 firms accepting new entrants in the Sheffield area, more than half the young operatives were not taking part in any systematic training scheme. Only 15 per cent. were getting day release for classes, and only about 3 per cent. were attending evening classes. At that stage these firms had vacancies registered for 350 young workers.
I should like to urge that if we are to get on with the solution of the manpower problem there must be the maximum possible pressure upon industries to embark upon training schemes and to persuade operatives to take the maximum possible advantage of the schemes which already exist. I should like to assure the Government (I think they already know it) that the trade union movement is doing all that it can in this matter. Indeed, the Trades Union Congress is running its own training schemes, in regard to both production and management techniques, so as to give to trade union officials and workshop operatives a good idea of the way in which productivity can be raised to aid in this manpower difficulty. In these courses they acquaint themselves with the work study techniques, the incentive schemes and the modern methods of management, which aim at getting the best possible results from the available machinery and materials. Indeed, the T.U.C. and over a score of large affiliated unions are part of the British Institute of Management. At last November's conference of that body, trade unionists were 713 prominent in debates on management and foremanship, promotion of policy, and the thousand-and-one difficulties which management has to face. The unions are conscious of the need to learn about management, and they play a real part. None of these schemes of training for dilution or upgrading will be of any use unless there is the utmost good relationship between the two sides of industry, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, a few moments ago. I hope the noble Lord who replies for the Government will be able to give us an assurance that the Government recognise the importance of this matter, and perhaps he will be able to let us know something of what is being clone to get industry to develop good personnel management.
My Lords, I had made a number of notes with a view to referring to the use—wrongfully, as I think—of manpower in the distributive trades. My noble friend who opened this debate mentioned the matter from these Benches, and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has made sonic reply. Even at the risk of unduly pressing this matter, I am bound to tell your Lordships that I, for one, feel that the balance of manpower in this connection is wrong. I cannot believe that this country can afford to have 2,623,000 people employed in the distributive trades to-day out of a total employed population of 22,158,000. Perhaps the justification for that observation becomes more obvious if I venture to give your Lordships a comparison in two other regards. There are more people engaged in distribution than those in the combined engineering, metal goods and precision industries, the figure for which is only 2,597,000. Even worse perhaps, there are engaged in the distributive trades to-day twice as many as in the building and contracts industries which have a force of only 1,411,000. I do not propose to debate these matters; I merely say that, together with a large number of noble Lords and others associated in the trade union movement. I feel that the balance between the distributive and other trades—notwithstanding that, as Lord Swinton has so rightly said, there has been some improvement—is still far from right and that something ought to be done about it.
One other thing that I should like to ask of the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government is whether he can say 714 anything about the response to the invitation which the Minister of Labour addressed to employers and unions with regard to employment for older men and women. Let me say straight away to the noble Lord that I do not expect him to say much on that subject. I know that a committee has been appointed and, as yet, has hardly got to work. But the invitation did go to employers, and I am sure that many of us are conscious that even without raising some of the more difficult problems of pension schemes and pensionability, there are reserves of unoccupied labour among the 6,500,000 men and women above pensionable age who could render effective help in the solution of our manpower problem. I suggest that there must be no artificial barrier against the employment of men and women in their later years in a country such as ours, where age trends are rising all the time and where the expectation of life has increased as much as it has. I know, from talking to them, that there are many men and women over the age of 65 who are anxious to work. I know, too, that the retention of the older people militates against the promotion prospects of the younger workers. But I think the younger ones must be made to understand that a heavy burden will pile up on them in the years to come unless we plan for the capable and willing pension-age workers to help keep the economic life of this country going.
I was much interested to note that a small number of employers have made arrangements for half-shift working for old workers, on the lines already common for women. One or two others, I believe, have set up special shops where the production pace is slower than normal and where older people can be employed. I say that, in the position in which we are placed with regard to manpower, both workers and employers of the future must become accustomed to a "Grandad's Section," where the older people can be offered employment at a slower pace, getting less money but making their valuable contribution to the productivity which we so urgently need. I think employers must learn a new technique in relations with their workers so as to devise working conditions of less strain and pressure, specially suited to the older people. I am not suggesting for one moment that the noble 715 Lord should in any way commit the Government to any unwise breach of agreements and conditions of service already entered into between employers and workers with regard to such matters as promotion and pension rights. But I do suggest that new entrants to trades, industries and professions which have pension-ability should no longer be allowed to feel that there is an automatic pension right at an age as early as sixty. It will not be possible to work that out immediately. It will want thinking about and will need concentration. But it is a suggestion which I make for consideration.
I have probably occupied your Lordships' time for far too long, but if I have done so it is only because I have felt that, as one who has been about thirty years in the trade union movement, I ought not to neglect an opportunity of saying something on an important subject such as this. It is a subject of great importance to the trade union movement, in which the "right to work" has been one of the oldest slogans that any of us has known. No aspect of the industrial policy of any union is more important than that of full employment. I am convinced that full employment and the guarantee to every man of the right to work is possible only if there is proper deployment of the manpower of the country in the best interests of the community at large. And I feel certain that that will be possible only by the closest co-operation between the employers and the workers, and by the maintenance and improvement of the productivity of every pair of hands in this country in the country's interest.
§ 5.37 p.m.
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Crook, if I appeared to try to prevent his making what proved to be a most interesting speech. Evidently, the excellent arrangements normally made through the usual channels have on this occasion broken down. I hope that we shall not need a co-ordinator to put that right. I was much interested to read in The Times the other day, an article entitled "The Way Ahead," and I should like to read to your Lordships a short passage from it, because I think it is very much to the point in relation to our discussion today. That passage is as follows: 716It is not wise to fasten upon a single item—food production, Commonwealth co-operation, emigration or industrial change—as the sovereign way from Britain's troubles. All must proceed together in a single consistent and economic transformation.No one could but agree with that, but what is particularly interesting is that in all those subjects this matter of manpower which we are discussing this afternoon is a vital factor. Therefore, I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, has done us great service in introducing this discussion in your Lordships' House.
Listening to him and to other noble Lords who have spoken, it is clear that one can divide the subject into two sections under two headings—the short or immediate term issue and the long-term issue. I should like to start on the long-term issue and to say a few words at the end of my speech on the short-term issue. I think that may be quite a useful way to approach this matter. I commence by putting what I want to say in the form of a question. Is it possible for a population in this country of 50,000,000 to provide and maintain an industrial labour force which can produce and maintain under present world trading conditions a sufficient exportable surplus to pay for the raw materials we require and the food we require if we are to exist, even allowing for the greatest possible increase of food production at home?
I should like to emphasise the phrase which I have just used—"present world trading conditions." Do not let us forget that the conditions now are vastly different from those prevailing at the time when there was this great increase in population. It may be that the answer to my question is, "Yes, we can produce an adequately sized labour force." I hope very much that that is the answer, but I do not know. Unless we can say that honestly and with conviction, which would mean that we should be making an effort in our industrial set-up incomparably greater than we have ever made before in peace time, because the circumstances of to-day are so much weighted against us as compared with the circumstances of half a century ago, then we have no alternative but to look for some additional lines of approach to our main economic problem.
There are many lines recommended. A much more enthusiastic emigration 717 policy is sometimes suggested in concert with other Commonwealth countries who are anxious to increase their populations, the object being to arrive at a time when our population in the United Kingdom will be at such a level that what I may call the food equation can be balanced—I mean the balance between the food we produce at home and can actually afford to import with the net proceeds of our exports, and what we need to consume. I know that to suggest any large-scale reduction of our population, even over a long number of years, is to embark on a highly technical and controversial matter. I realise only too well that it would be a very long term of years before there could be any apparent effect from such a course. But that does not mean that it should not be constantly before us, particularly when we are considering manpower. It means that for some decades yet our main theme must be that of increasing the maximum possible production we can get from our existing effective industrial manpower.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, gave us some extraordinarily interesting figures in regard to manpower. What he said amounted to there being one person in productive industry for every five of the population who are not so engaged. That means a productive force of about 10,000,000. If that figure is added to those engaged in the Forces, distribution, administration and professional occupations, we reach a total working population of between 22,000,000 and 23,000,000. I should like to give two other interesting figures which have not been mentioned but which I think are pertinent. Our present total force of employed men represents something like 95 per cent. of the available manpower within the normal working span of life—that is, between 15 and 65 years of age. That is a very high proportion. The similar percentage for women is much lower—something like 40 per cent.—but, of course, we have to take into account the number of housewives, those who are sick and those who are otherwise unable to work.
I mention these figures in order to bring out two important points. These figures show how narrow is the margin left to us from which we can increase our total productive force. The second point is that of our working population a high percentage has to be employed 718 apparently on work that is not directly productive. It was encouraging to hear from the noble Viscount Lord Swinton, that that proportion is tending to fall. However, there seems to be little reason to suppose that over the next ten or fifteen years we can look for any material increase in that part of the labour force which can be said to be productive. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, mentioned a probable increase of 300,000 over the next ten years, and I have heard the figure of 400,000 mentioned, but these are very small increases in relation to the total number employed. I think that the deduction which other noble Lords have come to by other arguments must be that, apart from temporary unemployment in certain trades like textiles, we must produce more and more with the same labour force that we have to-day.
That is the problem, and we hear many different suggestions of how its solution might possibly be assisted. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, and put little or no value on further exhortation and encouragement, because I believe that, for the most part, those with whom an exhortation of that type would carry much weight are already working extremely hard, without encouragement. The lengthening of the hours of work is suggested and I believe there is some value to be gained from that. I think there are many operatives who, if they had the chance, would gladly work longer hours. That is my experience. But there are difficulties in the way—psychological and personal difficulties and also a much larger difficulty. However willing the worker is, it is not always easy to arrange for overtime without upsetting the balance of output as between a series of consecutive processes or trades. It is also suggested that we should extend the normal span of working life. It was mentioned in the White Paper that the Government have taken steps to set up a National Advisory Committee on this question. I think that that is definitely a step in the right direction. My noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye mentioned one or two figures to support that suggestion. I should like to put the figures in another way which I think emphasises the importance of this point. At the beginning of this century there were roughly ten people over the present pensionable age for every one hundred within 719 the normal working age limit—that is to say, between 15 and 65 years of age. To-day that figure is twenty for every hundred and within a generation it is likely to be thirty for every hundred. I think those three simple figures emphasise the value of the steps Her Majesty's Government have already taken in this matter. But, clearly, that course cannot be regarded as a complete answer, and I am sure that the Government would not in any way regard it as such.
Then there is another suggestion one often hears, of restricting the production of non-essentials for home use and encouraging the transfer from non-essential industries to essential industries. There, again, the Government are already taking steps by restrictions on raw materials and by the steps that have been taken for the notification of change of employment. Here, again, I am glad to hear the encouraging results that the Order appears to be showing already. There remains one further way, I suggest, of increasing output—namely, by the use of more highly mechanised equipment, giving a greater output with fewer operatives. I think that a great number of sometimes unconsidered remarks are made on this subject. While there is a great deal of value to be derived from this method, do not let us think that it is necessarily all gain. The more complicated and automatic the machinery, the more man-hours, both in the drawing office and in the shop, are required to make the machines. So it is not all gain. But perhaps even more important is that the enormous cost of modern automatic equipment, as we know it to-day—and this is probably more than ever likely to be so in the years ahead—cannot in any way be justified unless we can be quite sure that those who are going to operate the machines will be prepared to exploit their possibilities to the utmost. Unless they are prepared to do that, then the cost of producing those machines cannot be justified.
One hears to-day from time to time of cases where that is not so. To my mind—and I think other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate on both sides of the House will agree with this point—this is a matter not in any way to be approached in a spirit of criticism. The trouble arises from fear—fear that the use of labour-saving machinery will 720 create unemployment. That is a very understandable attitude of mind, particularly at a time like to-day, when we are probably at the end of the artificial conditions created by the post-war sellers' market. I believe that we are now beginning to see an acceleration in the transformation of our industrial pattern, which means new industries taking the lead at the expense of some of the older ones, with all the uncertainty and inconvenience (temporary, we hope), which is caused to the individuals concerned.
Taking those five general points which I have gone through quite briefly, obviously none provides a solution, but all can make a great contribution. Not all, of course, are points over which the Government can take direct action, although some are. As to others, the Government can assist by encouraging and facilitating their operation. In many cases it is up to individuals or to all sides of industry to take action without Government assistance. I am afraid that in the course of my remarks I may have laid myself open to the accusation of making a number of rather pessimistic observations. I am not in the least pessimistic myself, but in regard to our industrial manpower position that, surely, is the measure of the problem. It is so difficult to get hold of; there are so many imponderables. That being so, I should like to conclude by asking my noble friend who is to reply whether he is really satisfied that there is to-day adequate machinery for carrying on continuous study and research on the widest aspect of manpower. There are many individuals and many private organisations that make studies of and do research work on this subject. The Royal Commission on Population, in their Report published in 1949, devoted the whole of Chapter 10 to this particular aspect of it. I suggest that the matter ought not to be left where the Royal Commission on Population left it, but that it should be constantly under review, and, above all, constantly brought before the public.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, my intervention in this debate is for the purpose of raising three points. I am stimulated to do this more particularly because I have just returned from some fairly extensive travelling abroad, during which I was 721 made aware of many facts which came into the question of manpower in other countries. I raise these points in the hope that they may receive some consideration by the Government. The first point I have given notice of, and I hope that my noble friend who is to reply will be able to make some comment on it. Incidentally, it is a point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, in opening the debate—I refer to the textile trades. I should like to know whether the Government are taking steps to produce some conscious plan for orderly contraction—for the expected need for a reduction in capacity of the cotton and wool textile trades. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, went further than I expected he would and said that it was likely that the cotton industry may require to be shrunk. I entirely agree with him. A great deal of attention, in Parliament and the Press, is being drawn to the textile trades. After all, there is nothing novel about the situation. It is, as alt those who have experience of the industry know, a repetition of what we have seen over the past forty years, with all its accompanying unhappiness, misery and misfortune. There is no reason why we should not attempt to solve the problem better than it has been solved in the past.
Without wishing to expand on that, the purpose of my question is to ask whether the Government are really going to convey to the interests concerned—employers and workers in those two large industries—evidence of their belief that a shrinkage is likely to be necessary and, if so, that it should be on a sensible plan. In similar situations in the past, we have resorted to the conventional system of elimination by the survival of the fittest. That is a practical way which always appeals to the Manchester Free Trade school, but that school had little consideration for labour. To-day, it seems that, if it be true that the existing capacity of the cotton textile and wool textile industries needs to be shrunk, then proper planning should be undertaken with regard to the labour forces in those industries.
I personally have little doubt that the future of world trade—as the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, said—is definitely changing. Nationalistic development in all countries is visible in a marked degree, 722 particularly in the consumer goods trades, and there is going to be an increasing expansion of capacity in most developing countries and some of the older countries, all of it at the expense of this country's prospects. Of course, if we were to throw open the economist's world to world trade, then there would be a very different position. Let us look practically at this problem for a moment. Of course, the common-sense way to do it would be to make sure that, in a picture where the whole front was shrinking, we operate at the lowest operating cost the most efficient part of our equipment and shut down that which is less good. A further logical step is that that part of it which is good should be run on at least two, if not three, shifts. That is the way to get the cheaper production for which Lord Rochdale has just appealed, whatever incentives or inducements may be required.
That brings me to another point, and I must confess to some disappointment that we did not hear from Lord Macdonald some outline of the Socialist (I do not say that on partisan grounds, but in the way of seeking a solution) proposals for solving the problems of the so-called "full employment" policy. I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, who is always so considerate in his willingness to assist the House by giving information, will convey to us some idea, as to the manner in which those who often take issue with Conservatives on this point of how to attain continuous, high—I do not like the word "full"—employment would deal with this problem. After all, we inevitably get cycles of world trade. Demands are influenced by crops, and that is in the hands of Providence. It is inevitable, therefore, that the activity of the textile trades must be of a fluctuating character.
My second point concerns the question of controls, and my thoughts on this are stimulated by what I saw on my travels round the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. I am impressed, and indeed convinced, by my observations that controls raise prices, and it is on those grounds that I address myself to the Government in the urgent hope that they may accelerate relaxation, if not abandonment, of many more of the controls. One thing is patent in all the other countries to which you go—that if 723 you take off your controls prices will come down. They may go up temporarily for a while, and then there will be all sorts of criticism for a few weeks or months. But it is the long-term project about which we are talking in a manpower debate like this, and it is the retention of controls which keep up prices. If there is one thing which is clear, it is that the moment controls are relaxed, prices come down.
Sulphur is an example. The world was scared about the prospects of a shortage of sulphur. All sorts of preparations were made by users of sulphur to scramble for stocks. It put up the price of sulphur and all the other things dependent on sulphur. Immediately those imprudent warnings have blown themselves away, prices come down. It is these warnings of scarcity from rearmament and dangers of inflation which temporarily put up prices. That has been overdone, and it seems to me that we—and this applies to every human being—should address our minds to the experience of the consumer goods trades as closely as to the steel trades. If what has occurred in the textile trades of the world is just over the hill with regard to many other industries, then, indeed, we have to prepare a policy which will handle the situation before the avalanche comes to swell the kind of criticism we have heard.
My third point is one to which reference has already been made, as is natural in a discussion like this, and that is the dispersion of population. I am under no illusion—I recognise that it is a matter which is decidedly controversial. The discussions which have taken place in your Lordships' House over many years have been frequent. I realise, too, that the admirable speech of my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye emphasised the danger of an ageing population, and that has quite a bearing on dispersion of population. The noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, brought up a very proper consideration—the terms of trade. The terms of trade appear to be running against this country and the cost of food—which is not being sufficiently produced—is going to be higher than are likely to be the prices which we can obtain for manufactured goods.
My purpose—believing that this dispersion of population is an economic 724 question, and one which inevitable should be considered in connection with a discussion of this kind—is to suggest that, because it is an economic question, it should be the subject of research, and that the Government should take steps to appoint some authoritative body to examine the factors which basically affect this question; and, further, that some statement should be made at the earliest opportunity. I have ventured to bring this matter to the attention of the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, who, in his dual capacity of Leader of the House and Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, seems to be the person best qualified to make such a statement. I have asked what is the view of those best qualified to judge with regard to the continuance of what has been this country's policy for 200 years, which is that the adventurous should be free to go out and develop the Commonwealth. Are they to be regarded, as some people appear to regard them, as deserting a sinking ship? But the point is, of course, that the ship is not sinking. I hope my noble friend will bring these views to the proper quarter.
There is one further point that I should like to raise—though I do not expect the noble Lord to give me a reply at this moment. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, in his remarks tried to give the House some indication of the assistance that had been offered to the textile trades by placing orders. He used these words, if I am quoting him correctly: "Textile orders were placed where the need is greatest." The question I wish to put to my noble friend is whether the conventional procedure of purchase by tender has been modified or abandoned. Otherwise it is hard to see how an equitable distribution of contracts can be effected.
§ 6.14 p.m.
My Lords, this has been a most interesting debate and we are very much indebted to the noble Lord who introduced it. I intervene to say a few words about manpower in Scotland. I cannot claim to be the first Scottish voice to be raised in this debate, for we have had from the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, a welcome intervention in the form of a maiden speech. He will be a valuable champion of Scottish affairs and a valuable help in discussions in this House. I wish to draw attention to a 725 paper which I hold in my hand entitled Industry and Employment in Scotland in 1950 (Cmd. 8223). It is a most valuable document. It was published in 1951, I think in the month of May, and it gives a wide and useful survey of industries and trends of employment in Scotland.
Your Lordships will probably be aware that, owing to certain trends, employment in that country for a number of years has not been as satisfactory as in the United Kingdom as a whole. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote from this Paper a few figures which bear that out. In 1939 the percentage of males and females unemployed in Scotland was 10 per cent. In the development areas it was 12 per cent. Since the war it has been greatly reduced and it is at a level of about 2½ to 3 per cent. I would, however, draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that in Great Britain as a whole the percentage in 1939 was 7½, and to-day it is 1½. There is, therefore, room for improvement, and it appears that there are still difficulties in the country with regard to the employment of manpower which require special treatment and special knowledge of the features of the country. Much of Scotland's economy has been built on seaborne trade and on the industries connected with it. I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government whether it is intended to publish, for the next period, a similar document to the one to which I have referred, and, if so, when we may expect it. The last one was, as I say, published about May of last year. It would be most useful to those who are working out a better balance of manpower in Scotland.
In that connection I should like to mention particularly and to commend the work of the Scottish Council (Development and Industry). This is a voluntary body, representative of all sides of industry. It works in close co-operation with Government Departments but it is not responsible to the Government because it derives its support and its income from local authorities, firms and individuals and many people all over the country. This body is doing most valuable work and it is able to take an independent view. It has been markedly successful in promoting the expansion of existing industries—we must still depend in Scotland upon the existing industries for a great part of our employment. It has also been successful in connection 726 with the development of new industries, particularly through the industrial estates, and is carrying out valuable research work into the development of raw materials and into Highland problems. I hope that support will be given to the voluntary bodies who are trying to readjust the balance of manpower in Scotland.
There is one feature of manpower in Scotland as regards the older industries. I do not think the figures as we have them will show any very marked increase in unemployment in Scotland. The main industries will retain substantially their quota of workers and, indeed, some are short of labour at the present time. But what does not appear in the figures is that there is a good deal of under-employment in certain of the older industries because of a lack of raw materials and that is a most important feature. If I give some instances from the steel trade because I have personal knowledge of it, perhaps your Lordships will forgive me. The situation there is that there is an enormous demand for steel. Shipyards are fully booked and there is a tremendous demand. Yet, in the best plant in the country, there is a certain amount of under-employment. The men are not getting a full week's work, for lack of raw materials, particularly scrap and coking coal. Taking scrap first, I am aware that the Iron and Steel Federation are making vigorous efforts all over the world to get more scrap into this country. The scrap metal problem is a world-wide one. The Iron and Steel Federation are making vigorous efforts to secure scrap, and I would ask my noble friend when he comes to reply to reassure the House that the Government are giving every possible help to the Federation in their search for scrap. Your Lordships will realise that this problem has a very direct relationship to employment of manpower in Scotland. The men are there, the plant is there, but the scrap is not there.
That brings me to the next requirement. There is a certain shortage of coking coal in Scotland. The world shortage of scrap will not be readily remedied, and the real remedy is to turn over the practice of the works to a large manufacture of pig iron. Our seams of coking coal are not unlimited. I hope my noble friend will be able to assure the House that the National Coal Board are making vigorous efforts to exploit them and to discover 727 new measures. I ask the noble Lord to reassure us that the Government attach importance to that matter, and also that the National Coal Board will in no way "let up" on the search for coking coal. It is vital for Scotland, for its old industries still must supply more employment for men in the country in spite of the good work which is being done to establish the lighter industries. It is a major point, one of importance. I ask the Government to consider these three points: I hope the White Paper will be available shortly; I hope we shall be able to get this scrap and coking coal, and that the Government will do their best to encourage those responsible for obtaining these commodities.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, I join with noble Lords who have expressed appreciation of my noble friend Lord Macdonald for initiating this debate and also for the very high standard which he set in his opening speech. Indeed, the debate has been marked by a series of excellent and constructive speeches. Not a single point has been made for political purposes during the course of the debate. I should like to make special reference to the speech of my noble friend, Lord Kirkwood, a maiden speech of great distinction. I am one of the few now in Parliament who listened to his maiden speech in another place thirty years ago. I detected no difference in the accent, the eloquence, the presentation and indeed the effect upon those who listened to it. There was some slight difference, of course, in the matter, but one would expect that. Of the speeches made from the other side, I thought that of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, was one which should be taken great note of; and a like remark applies to the speeches of my noble friends, Lord Lawson and Lord Crook, and of almost all who have taken part in the debate.
Having said that, and seeing that upon the question of manpower depends so much in the country, and indeed the position of Britain in the world, I must say that the Government themselves have treated the matter with very scant courtesy. While it is true that rearmament and the Defence Services are, to some extent, responsible for the unbalancing of the manpower situation in this country, with the exception of just 728 a "look in" by the Minister of Defence there has been none of the Service Ministers, nor anyone representing the Service Ministers, on the Bench during the whole course of the debate. Indeed, the number of members of the Cabinet who have sat and listened to any of the speeches, all of which were worth listening to, is almost negligible. I am not for a moment questioning the ability of the noble Lord who is to reply—I am sure that he will do justice to all the points which have been raised—but at the same time I would that this important matter was treated a little more seriously by the Government than appears to be the case, judging by the absence of any of what might be referred to as senior members of the Cabinet, notwithstanding the fact that a number of them are members of this House.
This question of manpower generally and industrial manpower in particular is of vital importance, not only to the Defence Services and our export trade, but also to the very life of the nation. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, pointed out that we have a working population in this country at the present time of about 23,500,000 people. Never in our history have we had such a number as that. Of course, the Services will by the end of this financial year take something like 900,000, leaving about 22,500,000 odd in civil employment. During the last two years, no fewer than 500,000 persons have been added to this working population. Since we cannot expect that there will be great additions to the working population in the future, it behoves us to take every precaution—and many valuable suggestions have been made here today—to see that the working population of this country is used to the best possible advantage.
I am one who thinks that the manual worker is one of the most important assets of this country. I am not going to attempt to lecture him or industry generally. Since the end of the war a magnificent piece of work has been done by the increase in production all round. As the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, rightly said, some industries have not only reached their zenith but are also going down a little on the other side. I am afraid I cannot accept his invitation to explain to him what the Socialist viewpoint is in relation to the difficulties with which he 729 and so many others are concerned in Lancashire, but perhaps we could engage in a discussion with an audience of just himself and myself upon that point.
We have to use our manpower to the best advantage. I just wonder whether we are. I understand, with regard to the super-priority which has been given to the most important of our Service requirements at the present time—that is, the aircraft industry—that that super-priority means (if we accept what is stated in the Economic Survey) that they must have sonic 50,000 persons between now and the end of March. I take it that the number of skilled men who are required is included in that 50,000 persons. In view of the large numbers which are employed in the metal-using industries, such as shipbuilding and engineering of all kinds—there are something like 7,000,000 persons employed in those industries—it ought not to be very difficult to find for the aircraft industry the numbers of skilled and other workers which they require.
I was interested in the figures which were given by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, in his speech to-day, when he said that quite recently no fewer than 294,000 persons were placed in industry—I think he said that the period was a month—and that of that 294,000 something like 38,000 have been put into first preference jobs. My Lords, if there is to be any preference at all, it seems strange that, out of 294,000 placings, only one in eight has been placed into what might be regarded as an essential industry. If there is anything more to be said about that matter, I would ask the noble Lord who is to reply if he will deal with that point.
Another question which has impressed me very much in going through the returns of the aircraft industry, and, indeed, of many other industries, is that, whilst men have been pumped into those industries, the wastage has been very high. For example, take the machine tool industry, one of the most important of our industries—in fact, a key industry. I saw in a Report of the Select Committee on Estimates that it was stated in a memorandum which was submitted that the wages paid in the machine tool industry were lower than those in other engineering industries, and that the machine tool industry is losing a considerable number of its skilled men to other industries. My Lords, I do not 730 seek compulsion, but if there is this disparity in working conditions and wages in an essential industry of this kind, why is it that the employers themselves do not do something, instead of depending; upon this pumping in of men? Possibly they are taking advantage of low wages Naturally, the men are leaving. The same thing applies in the aircraft Indus. try. I saw in the Economist the other day a very striking article about the scale, upon which it is said that a very large number of skilled men in the aircraft industry are leaving. In one case (it did not give the name of the firm) nearly 50 per cent. of the men had left. These are, the points into which I think the labour supply inspectors might look. I am very pleased that the Ministry of Labour have appointed those inspectors, and I trust they will make full use of them in the very near future.
My Lords, there are just two other points to which I wish to refer. First, there is the question of endeavouring to establish in industry to a much greater extent the payment by results principle. My colleagues and I, when working in; the pit, would not work upon any rate other than a piece work rate. From one of the later returns of the Ministry of Labour one finds that 56,000 employers in this country were asked if they could state what, if any, payment by results system was in operation in their works, Out of that total of 56,000 employers, only 18,000, or about 30 per cent. of the whole, had some system of payment by results. That covered just 34 per cent. of the people who were engaged in those industries. My Lords, 60 per cent. of these essential industries are working upon what we call day rates, where in some cases the measurement of the work is based not upon the amount. of work, produced by the man who gives an average day's work, but possibly upon that of one of the slowest. I think the Government ought to take note of, and should look into, that aspect. The strange thing is, that the percentage of women working upon piece work rates is higher than that of the men.
When I was at the Admiralty I had to go into the dockyards and engineering works, and I found great suspicion amongst the workpeople who were engaged upon some system of piece work that they would not earn more than 33 per cent., or one-third, above the basic 731 rate. I had no end of difficulty in persuading them that if there was a rate agreed between them and the representatives of the Admiralty, whatever their earnings were, that rate would be paid. They were still suspicious, but I think we have overcome that.
There is another difficulty, in regard to which I am afraid the Government cannot very much help, because it depends upon the employers and how they treat it. This is the difficulty of getting fixed contracts from the industrialists who are taking defence orders and, for that matter, civilian orders as well. It has been almost impossible to get a fixed contract for the building of a ship. One hardly dare mention the system of cost-plus, but there is a good deal of that existing at the present time; and the possibilities are that in some cases—I am not suggesting in many—the cost of the commodity or the article is based upon the cost of labour, the cost of material, overheads and the percentage of profit. If some system could be devised which would dispense with that, then the possibilities are that we would get a largely increased output. Then for groups there is the question of job contracts, which have played a very important part. I hope that the Government will look into that matter and see what they can do.
In one of the earlier economic debates I pointed out the difficulties of the transfer of men. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, dealt with that subject in the course of his speech. It is so easy to talk about transferring men from one place to another. I instanced the case of men who had spent almost a lifetime in an industry, who were skilled at their jobs skilled at the machine which they were working, and were earning £10 to £11 a week. Then there was a slump in the industry and the men were offered jobs fifteen miles away at £7 a week. It would cost them 12s. 6d. a week to travel to and from their homes; they would have to pay for their lunches and they would be away from their homes for two hours longer. Can one wonder that these men will not take up those jobs? I know what I should say if I were in a position of that kind. Those are the problems which have to be faced. So far as I remember, there is now no payment of bus fares. There is an allowance of 24s. 6d. if a person lodges away from home. I 732 feel that there ought to be a greater sense of realism, not only in dealing with the placing of manpower, but also in the treatment of men and women who are faced with the difficulties which arise as the result of these transfers. If that greater sense of realism were apparent, I think that the workers would be more forthcoming than they are at the present time.
I am going to say one word about coal, as I think it is expected of me. After all, this is an industry upon which so much depends, and to some extent one to which it can be said that much has happened as a result of mistaken policy. I was amazed when I heard the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, refer to the manpower requirement of the mining industry of this country as being 15,000 men. Three years ago we had something like 8,000 more than the total would be now if that 15,000 were added. And the noble Earl said that 15,000 was all that was required. What is the target? What output do you want? It is said that there is no face room for more workers. The machine has brought with it many problems, but it ought never to have brought a problem of such magnitude as that with which it is evident the coal industry is now faced. I have never been a slave of the machine. Indeed, I question sometimes whether the machine is giving all the advantages to the industry and to the nation which the nation expected of it. I was looking up some interesting returns the other day—and in this connection may I mention that my colleague, Lord Lawson, and I commenced work in the coal industry at about the same period? There were just a few months between the dates when we started. That was in either 1892 or 1893. Lord Macdonald began work about six or seven years later.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
Let me point out these facts, for I think they are rather interesting. The average manpower in the mining industry in the period from 1893 to 1902 was almost exactly what it is to-day—that is from about 713,000 to 750,000 persons. What is particularly striking is that, in addition to the manpower being similar, the output was similar. In 1950, the output of deep mined 733 coal was 204,000,000 tons. The average for the ten years which I have referred to, between fifty and sixty years ago, was 203,500,000 tons a year. The output per man employed in the industry in 1893 was 285 tons a year. In 1950, the figure was 292 tons a year—so that there is a difference of only about six or seven tons. But the great difference is that in 1893 and the years immediately following not a single ounce of coal was cut by machine. The first machine was introduced in 1898. At the present time, 80 per cent. of the coal produced in this country is produced by the machine. The machine has brought many advantages. It has lightened the work of the men—and heaven knows they wanted some easement it their labour in the pits! But is has also brought many disadvantages. For example, it has brought disadvantages in its effect on the health of the miners. It has brought the disadvantage that, of the coal which is now produced, about two-thirds is small coal. One of the great problems facing coal users at the present time arises from the fact that they cannot get sufficient lump coal. I have seen some of the seams, which certainly are thinner, but there are still quite a number of thick seams, particularly in some of the newer coal fields. In South Wales and in Lancashire, and in some of the other areas, there are difficulties about low seams, and I would ask the Secretary of State for the Co-ordination of Transport. Fuel and Power to look into these questions.
There is a difficult problem now in connection with the increase in manpower and youth power—which we were all pleased to hear of and to see. We are told that these persons cannot be put at work at the coal face as soon as could be wished because there is no coal face room for them. They have to wait probably some three, four or six months before they can take over the key job for which they are being trained, the job upon which production at the colliery depends. They cannot start at once because there is not face room. My noble friend Lord Macdonald has referred to the number of youths going into the mines in this country, and it is true that there has been an increase. But the number of boys employed in the mines at the present time is only one-third of the number employed in 1938, and none of them 734 is learning the trade of coal mining. I was as proud of my craft as my noble friend was of his when I had my working place at sixteen years of age. It was a place of my own. It was a place where I could do something, where I possessed something. I could walk out of my working place and I could see the coal weighing from 20 cwt. to 30 cwt. which I had piled upon a truck, as compared with the miserable little tubs which are being sent up at the present time, using up manpower by carrying, instead of 25 cwt. to 28 cwt., something like 16 cwt. to 20 cwt.—and mainly small coal at that. The reason for that is, largely the fact that the coal is now machine-mined. We cannot abolish machine-mining. The bulk of the coal produced in this country in the future will still have to be produced by the machine, but I suggest that much more attention should be given to other methods of mining.
In the old days if you then wanted an increased output there was no question of there not being sufficient coal face room to put on more men. Under the old system of long wall and stall production you could, if you wanted an increase of output, have it at any time. I would be told by an official: "There is a big order in. We will increase output." And we would increase output 30, 40 or 60 per cent. by putting on a double shift, when there was manpower available to do it. At the present time, we are told, this industry, so vital to the nation, with all its workpeople and with all its requirements of manpower fulfilled, would not be able to produce another 1,000,000 tons more in a year than it is producing at the present time. We are under an obligation in regard to the opencast system—indeed, I think a promise was given by the Government that opencast coal production should cease in three years' time. We are producing now 12,000,000 tons of coal a year by the opencast method. That cannot go on. But if we were to abolish opencast coal mining to-morrow we should not have sufficient coal to meet our own internal requirements, and not a single ton for export. If we wanted to abolish open cast coal mining and have an export of 25,000,000 tons a year, we should require another 20,000,000 to 28,000,000 tons of output to meet that obligation.
735 I beg the Minister of Fuel and Power, and the noble Lord who is in charge of the co-ordination of Fuel and Power, not to disregard what has been said by my noble friend and myself on this matter. I feel strongly about it because I see that little notice has been taken of suggestions that have been made. If the coal industry is going to give to this nation the service that it gave in the past, there is only one thing to be done, There must be a reexamination of the methods of production, without any elimination of machinery but with the introduction of other methods which can be expanded, so that we shall not be faced in the future with the situation that faces us at the present time. I am afraid that I have taken up too much time. My colleagues on this side and I give second place to no one in our desire to see that the manpower of this country is used as it should be used, and that the nation should get from industry the service which the nation expects.
§ 6.52 p.m.
My Lords, as is usual in debates of this kind, discussion has ranged very wide. Whilst I will do my best to answer every question put to me. I hope that if by any chance I should overlook anything noble Lords will acquit me of any discourtesy. I think it may be said that the debate has focused itself on two main points—first, the absolute necessity for the full employment of our available manpower, and, second, the necessity that that manpower should be distributed in the best possible way in the national interest. There were many subsidiary issues, but these are the two main questions.
As regards the question of full employment, the noble Lord, Lord Crook, asked me to give an assurance that the Government would never use unemployment as a method of coercion. I hope I can say with absolute sincerity that full employment is a part, a major plank, of Government policy, not merely because of the misery and despair which unemployment brings to its victims, but, for reasons advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, and other speakers. Because of our general manpower position, our ageing population and the great disparity between the total population and the working population, we simply cannot afford unemployment, or any large 736 measure of unemployment. I entirely agree with noble Lords who said that it was important to try to persuade those who would normally retire at a certain age to work a little longer. I hope that the Government's interest in this aspect has been clearly demonstrated by the setting up of the Advisory Committee.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, gave me notice that he would ask to know the position as regards coal miners working after the normal retiring, age. As the noble Viscount knows, the position as regards coal miners is covered by local agreements and local customs, and there is no fixed rule about the age at which a man should retire. It depends on the individual fitness of a man and the capacity he has to work, having regard to the nature of the duties he has to perform. But, as the noble Viscount is probably aware, a special pension scheme for coal miners has been agreed between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers. The scheme came into operation on January 1, 1952, and entitles miners to extra pension by remaining at work beyond the age of 65. I assure the noble Viscount that the Government will do everything possible to encourage miners to stay on, if they desire to do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Crook, asked me what results had been reached by the Committee set up by the Government in conjunction with industry to aid in this matter of employing people above retirement age. The Committee have met, but so far have not reported, and I cannot say anything at the present stage about the results of the Committee's work. Speakers this afternoon have generally agreed that we cannot afford to waste our manpower through unemployment, and it has been equally agreed that we cannot afford to waste it by wrong distribution. It is essential that the industries on which our national wellbeing depends must be properly manned. We must have enough men in the Forces and in rearmament to defend ourselves, and we must have enough men in the essential industries—in agriculture, in coal mining and in the vital export industries which feed and maintain us. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, will forgive me if I do not follow him closely in what he said about coal mining, but I should like to say that, if my recollection serves me aright, the figure of 15,000 extra coal 737 miners is not the ultimate target, but the number which the National Coal Board said they could absorb immediately. This is vital, and I am sure we shall continue to get as many people into the mines as possible.
A number of noble Lords have stated that if we were self-supporting, our task would be easier, and the noble Lord, Lord Crook, also said that if we were a dictatorship, it would be a great deal easier to effect a re-distribution of labour. But we have to do this by other methods, by financial inducements and by persuasion, and that makes the problem a great deal more difficult. On the question of financial inducements, the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, pointed out that only 40 per cent. of our total manpower is engaged on piecework rates of pay. That figure is correct for manufacturing industry, and I assume that that is what he meant.
I think I ought to say a word about the Government's attitude on this question. Our attitude is clearly set out in the pamphlet on incentive payments schemes which was published in March, 1951, by the late Government. We entirely support that policy. The Government cannot compel private industry to adopt incentive schemes; they can only encourage and suggest how these schemes might be put into operation. It is essentially a matter for industry itself to decide what incentive schemes should be employed and what is the best type of incentive scheme, according to the nature of the industry. In my view that is essentially one of the things that should be dealt with in joint discussion between management and workers. In so far as incentives lead to higher productivity, and the additional rewards do go to those who put in the greater effort, I think I can say on behalf of the Government that we entirely support them. While I agree with the noble Lord that the advance towards a greater adoption of incentive schemes has not perhaps been as great as many of us would like, nevertheless I feel that we can derive encouragement from the fact that there has been an advance. In nearly all the groups of industry the percentage of workers employed on an incentive basis was greater in October, 1951, than it was in October, 1949. I do not claim that there has been 738 a spectacular advance, but there has been an advance.
In the building industry, for example, the advance is perhaps more spectacular: it is the largest overall increase, and the percentage for all workers has risen from 6 to 16 per cent.
Between October, 1949, and October, 1951. Again, there are some industries which are well above the percentage that the noble Viscount mentioned. The percentage of workers employed on an incentive basis in the metal-manufacturing industry (these are industries in groups) is 58 per cent.; in engineering, shipbuilding and electrical goods it is 52 per cent.; and in textiles 51 per cent. The proportions in the manufacturing industries are higher than in the service industries for obvious reasons. In the gas, electricity and water supply, the proportion is only 1 per cent. On the other hand, up to a point, that has the effect of bringing about a redistribution towards the essential manufacturing industries, because there is a tendency for the wages in those industries to be higher than in the service industries, which is all to the good.
I do not propose at this hour to deal in great detail with the steps that the Government are taking towards the redistribution of manpower, because I think that was fully dealt with by my noble friend Lord Swinton, and I do not want to waste the time of the House by going all over it again. The noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, and the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, both mentioned the effect on the redistribution of industry of Government control over scarce materials. Of course, the fact that scarce materials are controlled does restrict labour employment in the less essential industries and makes it available for the more essential industries. I am not going to follow my noble friend Lord Barnby on the whole question of controls. We still think that some controls are necessary, even if he does not. I have pointed out one useful effect at the moment of the particular control on scarce materials.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, expressed a certain disappointment about the results of the Notification of Vacancies Order, in so far as first-preference vacancies were concerned, and he pointed 739 out that the figure was only 30,000 out of a total of nearly 300,000. But I think the noble Viscount was a little too pessimistic about that. After all, this scheme has been in being for only two months, and these are early days to judge the total effect. We hope that it will have a cumulative and much stronger effect. But, even so, in those two months the vacancies of first importance which were filled were 38,000, as against 21,000 for the preceding four weeks, which is an increase of 80 per cent. That may not be enough, but it is a great improvement, and it is an encouraging sign of the use of this particular Order.
It would be idle to pretend that any measure of a purely persuasive nature of this kind can have sudden or spectacular results; the results must be gradual over a period. After all, there are many other difficulties to be overcome, as I feel has been generally recognised in the debate this afternoon. Where there is a pocket of unemployment, there may be no vacancies in an essential industry in the immediate vicinity. On the other hand, where vacancies in essential industries do exist, it is often the fact that there is a housing shortage, and the transfer of workers is an impossibility. Many noble Lords have referred to the matter of housing, and I should like to emphasise the importance which the Government attach to it. We do hope that, as the new housing drive gets under way—and the results for the first quarter are encouraging—it will make a definite contribution to this question of solving the redistribution of labour.
Another problem to which reference has been made by a number of noble Lords is the question of the shortage of skilled labour, particularly in the engineering industry. A great deal has also been said by various noble Lords about the importance of technical training. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, in what I thought was a most constructive speech, and one to which I thought we should all pay great attention, spoke about this subject and suggested a new Committee on the lines of the Barlow Committee. Whether that is the right solution or not, it is a suggestion which I feel we should all consider. It is certainly a fact that much more could be done by industry than is now being done 740 in the way of providing training schemes, and we all hope that the Government will give every encouragement to that aspect of the matter.
Of course, the Government do what they can to help. The Ministry of Labour run vocational training schemes and vocational training centres under the Employment and Training Act, 1948. Due to this shortage of skilled workers in the engineering industry, the Government have recently agreed to provide about 1,400 engineering training places in Government training centres in certain of the main engineering occupations—that is to say, fitters, machine operators, instrument makers and welders. This programme is in the process of being implemented, and nearly 600 men are now under training. The engineering course lasts about six months, and the trainees are then placed in employment at the rate of pay appropriate to the skill which they have acquired. Courses are also provided for engineering draughtsmen (about 300 of those are being trained at the moment), and other training trades of national importance include building and civil engineering occupations, agricultural machinery repair, scientific glass-blowing, and—what seems curious to me, but I suppose it is important—typewriter repair, and vehicle building.
So far, I have confined my remarks to the question of the redistribution of labour, but a good deal has been said on the matter of unemployment. Of course, in a flexible economy such as ours there is bound to be some unemployment at all times, owing to the fluctuation of world economy. Our object, I am sure, must be to keep that unemployment to a minimum, and to ensure that individual workers are out of a job for the shortest possible time. I am glad to say that, apart from Lancashire, unemployment over the country as a whole has not altered very much. I will not weary the House with a lot of figures on this, but the main increase of unemployment is entirely in Lancashire.
The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, and the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, both referred to the Government's policy in Lancashire. My noble friend Lord Swinton dealt fairly fully with this point, and I do not propose to go very much further or, indeed, any further than he has gone. It seems to me that the main 741 thing is this. We have first to decide what kind of recession this is—how permanent or how temporary, and at what level the textile industry is going to settle down. Until we are in a position to have some idea of that, it seems to me that to begin taking very definite and decided action in a particular direction or other might be unwise. At the same time, the usual services of the Ministry of Labour (who are working the whole time) are available to all those who are unemployed and who possess the type of skill which can be used in other essential industries. Whilst the situation is one which must give us all the greatest concern, it is being watched by the Government the whole time. We are looking at it and trying to see the best future policy to employ.
Certainly we are praying. I do not think the noble and learned Earl would think it wise, until the situation is a little clearer, to embark on extensive policies which might prove to be entirely wrong. It is not a bad idea to wait a little to see how the situation develops. In the meantime, as my noble friend has said, buying orders have been placed in Lancashire in an endeavour to deal with the situation.
In conclusion, I should just like to say this. I think we were all impressed by the speech of my noble friend Lord Mancroft. I am quite sure that, even if we have proper redistribution of industry, and even if we have full employment, neither of those things will be any use unless we have that co-operation and that spirit of mutual confidence between all sides of industry to which the noble Lord and several other noble Lords referred. I am sure that a sound, clear and consistent policy on the part of management over the whole field of its relationship with its employees is vital. Equally vital is good will and co-operation on the part of the workers. Above all, I feel that there must be a real understanding between both sides of industry. Joint consultation which is joint consultation merely in name is not much good. What we need is genuine joint 742 consultation. I think that in a considerable section of industry that is becoming a reality, and if the standard of all could be brought up to the standards of the best our problem would largely be solved.
I would, with respect, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, on his admirable speech. I was very impressed with his observation that what we needed was a genius of simplification. I am sure that is true, not only on the part of politicians, but in the factories as well. If management could get down and talk straight to the workers, and the workers could talk straight to the management, I believe that that understanding and cooperation would come about. I fully agree, too, with the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, that there should be an increase in the sharing of responsibility with the workers in industry in this country, and that they should feel that that sharing was real and genuine. It is such an important thing, that I think in a way it transcends the whole of the rest of the problems put together. Anybody who impedes or hinders this understanding has not the interests of this country truly at heart. The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, said that we should tell the workers the truth about the situation. I think we should, but I should like to say this now to all noble Lords opposite. It is they, even more than us, who—if they will, and if their friends will—can explain the problem to the workers, and can persuade them of the vital importance of a real common effort on the part of all at the present time. My noble friend Lord Man-croft, I think, said that the Government's attitude and the Government's real interest in this matter was shown in the initiative of the Ministry of Labour who held a special conference in the middle of March this year to deal with human relations in industry. In so far as good industrial relations can be created by the State, we are doing everything we can to assist. I would draw particular attention to the Industrial Relations Department of the Ministry of Labour, which has a small staff of personnel management advisers who are ready to give advice to firms on this subject.
The noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, asked me three questions. He asked me about the publication of the White Paper on industry and employment in Scotland. I am glad to be able to tell him that that 743 is coming out next Wednesday. I can also assure him that the question of the drive for more scrap and for more coking coal is very much in the mind of the Government at the present time. I am quite certain that I have not dealt with anything like all the points which were raised, but I have done my best to do so. I should like to end by saying this. We do not live in easy times to-day, and I have no doubt that we have very great economic difficulties still to surmount. But I do believe very sincerely that, if we can face them united, each in his own sphere — Government, management, workers, and the like—with a common object and common determination, then, with the natural genius which this country possesses in such ample measure, our future is assured. If, on the other hand, we are divided, I think there is very little hope for us, whatever we may do.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, the day is done, and from my point of view it has been a very good day indeed. I have little to do now except to express my sincere appreciation to all noble Lords who have taken part and made substantial contributions to this debate. I would refer in particular, if I may, to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. He went to a great deal of trouble to prepare that full, frank and informative reply. Not only that, but he spent a great deal of time on the Front Bench to-day, and I consider him one of the busiest members of this Government.
There are those who are not, in my opinion, as busy, and who might have presented themselves a little more frequently in this House. But I am very pleased that the noble Viscount has promised to convey to his noble friend the Secretary of State for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power, what I have said. I think the Secretary of State ought to have spent a little longer in a debate of this kind, for he could not have been ignorant that the subject 744 would be raised. However, the noble Viscount has given an undertaking to convey my views to the Secretary of State and that satisfies me. I congratulate the noble Lord who has wound up the debate. He was afraid that he had missed some of the points but he seems to have missed nothing. He has done very well.
I would end with one word about my noble friend, Lord Kirkwood. I have an idea that this day may be remembered for something quite different from the debate itself. It may well be that May 7, 1952, will be remembered as the day on which David Kirkwood delivered his maiden speech in your Lordships' House. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.