§ 3.11 p.m.
§ LORD LAWSON rose to call attention to the Report by the delegates of Her Majesty's Government to the International Labour Conference at Geneva, 1955 (Cmd. 9629); and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I feel that my first duty to your Lordships' House is to apologise for the fact that I was responsible for the postponement of this Motion from last week to this. This was unavoidable, but I regret that the postponement inconvenienced certain Members on both sides of the House. The Motion deals with the International Labour Organisation Conference, which is reported upon by delegates appointed by the Government of this country. There is not much stir about this great organisation; I think this is the second time we have discussed it since the war. I believe, however, that there is general agreement that it is one of the most powerful and useful world organisations in the realm of industry.
§ When I first came to Parliament there was no such thing as an International Labour Organisation. I came in 1919 and the Peace Treaty was not made, I think, until 1920, but I did join a small group of people who had been working at this question for some years. Like that of many organisations which have come to great usefulness, its membership was composed of members of practically all Parties. I remember that Major J. W. Hills, who was a Conservative, was Secretary. Mr. Arthur Henderson, who used to come and take the chair, although he was not in that Parliament, was its Chairman. I felt that the ideal of having an organisation for dealing with the important matters arising from the industry of the world, for improving conditions and for levelling up standards throughout the world was most important.
So I emphasise this fact: that, as the Conference with which we are dealing was made up of Government representatives and managers' representatives, as well as workers' representatives, so it was the fruit of the work of men of many different political views—but, of course, that is the way of Parliament. I remember once coming across a statement from an old chronicle (I think it was from a fifteenth century
Parliament) which said that in that House they were ever courteous to each other
and yet withal at times they do speak nippingly so that there is a commotion.
As a matter of fact, it is usually the commotion which gets the headlines. The work done very often by small committees or great organisations is done quietly but none the less effectively, and has no less importance for that reason. There were two Government delegates to this Conference, one managers' representative and one workers' representative—that is on what is called a tripartite basis. The governing body is made up in the same way. It includes twenty Government representatives, ten management representatives and ten representatives of the workers. This Conference, of course, is an annual affair and is the overall authority in dealing with International Labour Organisation matters. Seventy-four nations were represented in this Conference, ranging from the most recent entrants to the industry of the world to the oldest and, if I may say so, most sophisticated of the industrial nations, like ourselves.
§ In the last debate we had upon this matter my noble friend Lord Chorley drew attention to the fact that, while the League of Nations had been destroyed by the onset of the dictators, the International Labour Organisation, which was one wing of the League, stood erect. It continued its work and was ready to play its part with the United Nations when the war was over. That is a remarkable thing. It gives food for thought as to why an organisation representative of the whole of the nations should remain intact and continue with its work even after the political organisation has been destroyed. I have read that somebody at the Conference described it as the only great industrial organisation in the world on which there were Government, management and labour representatives who could meet and speak freely and express their own particular views.
§ The Director-General of this great organisation issues a report every year before the Conference. I am sorry that most of your Lordships have not had an opportunity to read that report; I did what I could to get some copies placed in the Library. But, if I dare make a suggestion, I should say that it is worth 849 while for every member of your Lordships' House who has thought fit to come to this debate to do what he can to get that report and to read it; it is certainly one of the most striking documents on modern world industry that I have ever lead. I should have liked to quote from it, because in the report the Director-General gives a direction to the Conference, as he does every year. He was asked by the Conference of 1954 to give a direction. They had in mind the state of modern industry and its swiftly changing composition. Some of the new ideas that have been put into machine form caused such perturbation that the Conference of 1954 asked the Director-General if he would apply his mind to the question of management and labour relations in industry and would give a direction which would lay the basis for the big general debate of the Conference. The Director-General did that in his most striking report, in which he showed how mankind generally had been affected by the coming of industry, how the personal skill of men in various industries had been affected by the corning of machines, and how men were being increasingly affected by the coming of machines. He dealt with the whole range of questions affecting workmen and management. Finally, he dealt with the question that is universally attracting the attention of all thoughtful people—that of automation.
May I read a generalised quotation from the report of the Director-General? He says:
One of the strongest forces making for industrial and social change is technological development. Many have suggested that we are on the threshold of a second Industrial Revolution.… We are moving rapidly towards a world of new power and new materials.… We have made machines which work almost by themselves in the performance of even the most delicate industrial operations and machines which solve problems that overtask the human brain. We are beginning to see whole factories run by virtually automatic machines and controlled very largely by automatic means. The vast possibilities of power generation brought into existence by nuclear research are opening the doors to new productive opportunities everywhere and are giving new perspectives of development to countries that have lacked fuel or water power.
§ In that review, in response to the request of the previous Conference, the Director-General dealt with the coming of automation. It is not an easy subject to deal with, and I am conscious of the 850 fact that if I began to deal with it in detail I should soon be bogged down. But, so far as I can gather, automation is the linking up of a number of processes into one continuous line of production which reduces the number of workers and increases output. Of course, there are various views as to the onset of automation. A wit has said, I think, that it is surely expressive of a second Industrial Revolution, because the first Industrial Revolution gave men the machines, but the second is taking the machines from men. If you take the thing in its general aspect, it looks almost as if that is to be the end of automation. Of course, there are others who point out that almost as many men as are taken off the machine are required for its maintenance. Equally, we have to remember all the time, that, however few men are taken off, or however many may be accounted for in regard to maintenance, there is still an increase in production.
§ It is also said that it may take some time to develop new process because of the great cost; but I have read an announcement by one great company in this country to the effect that it is to got "automised" (if I may use that word) through the new machinery that it is buying. The effect would be that whereas twenty-two men have been working on a line, two will do the work of those twenty-two and there will be increased production. Whatever may be the numbers involved, however slow or quick this development may proceed, there is no doubt whatever that we are facing a new force that is of such a disturbing nature that I think your Lordships will agree with the people who say that it is creating a new epoch for mankind—one that can be for the good of mankind, but one which, unless we are careful, may not work out exactly in that way.
§ It is curious that with so much discussion about this possible new Industrial Revolution on a vast scale there is so little evidence that the subject is receiving the attention of those in highly responsible positions in this country. One of my reasons for putting down this Motion is that I wish to ask Her Majesty's Government what is being done in this matter. Are they following this new development closely? Is special attention being given to the significance of this new development of automation and also to the 851 application to industry of nuclear power? If so, can the Minister state the nature of the action which is being taken? When I read of the Luddites, in the old days, smashing up machinery, I always remember that that machinery was taking away their livelihood. In the light of our experience since that time we know that mechanisation increases the possibility of employment and that, generally, its effect upon mankind is good. If, however, we sit and watch this development, if the Government of the day takes no stock of it and fails to register its progress and possible effects, then we may find ourselves in a very difficult position later on.
§ The question of unemployment arises. Is large-scale automation likely to create unemployment in certain areas or countries? Unemployment, low wages, and bad industrial and social conditions are responsible for far more disputes than is full employment. I do not like disputes at any stage, but I and many of my friends in the industrial world have sombre memories, from boyhood onwards, of gloomy homes and difficult times amounting to sheer want, because of some stoppage. That was long before statistics were accumulated by the Minister of Labour. In spite of the difficulties of this time, I am very pleased at the comparative comfort and general social rectitude at this time of full employment.
§ I was led to go into this matter and to make such investigation as I could. I do not wish to trouble your Lordships with figures, though if they are wanted I will give them; but a comparison of the number of disputes in times when there was practically no protection and there was low wages and unemployment with the number to-day, when there is full employment, would astonish most members of your Lordships' House. I say that to underline the fact that if, as a nation, we hesitate about going into the question of automation and finding out how it is developing and what are its effects, and unless we have skilled men working to keep us informed, we may, I fear, find ourselves in great difficulty. Though that question is sometimes put in the context of keeping our place among the rest of the nations, it is also one which involves the exact conditions that we have to face at such times as this. If, unfortunately, 852 unemployment or some similar regrettable development arises it will be more difficult to catch up with our task in this field.
§ There has been more than one debate in this House on technical education. I would ask the Minister whether he can say a word on this subject. Doubtless it has been the lot of many other noble Lords, as it has been my lot, to present certificates and prizes at technical schools and colleges. I have been very much struck with the general bearing of the students; from what I have seen of them they are as good as the best in the world. Yet it is striking that one can never pick up a copy of The Times or the Manchester Guardian or other leading national newspaper without seeing long columns of advertisements asking for men of technical knowledge in various fields of modern industry. Some of the advertisements are repeated so often that it looks as though we may have difficult times ahead in this respect. I believe we should give the problem more attention that we have been giving it.
§ Turning to another aspect of my Motion, I would say that America is, of course, the star country in dealing with these matters. The workmen there welcome these developments, just as I understand they would be welcomed in this country, always assuming that the men get their share of the increased wealth that comes along as a result. It is so pressing in America, I understand, that there is already a claim for a thirty-five hour week. There has been a claim for annual wages. Development over there has been so great that it is bound to have its impact on us in this country. I believe that one great union has completed its negotiations for a contract for annual wages. I mention those facts only to show how this thing appears to be growing in power. And it seems to me that it will not allow people or nations just to drift along in the good old way.
§ The Director-General's motion dealt, of course, particularly with management and labour relations. The Report contains a resolution which was passed after a very striking debate. It is a long resolution, and in the main it recites the points that were discussed during the conference. It ends by stating (I quote from 853 page 40 of the Report) that the International Labour Conference:
1. To ask the Director-General, in the light of the observations made by members of the Conference speaking in the general debate, to review the I.L.O.'s activities as a whole and to consider how theses activities should be modified or supplemented so as to contribute effectively towards promoting labour-management co-operation and better human relations in industry throughout the world;
2. To ask the Governing Body—
Like good representatives the delegates at the Conference knew very well that they must not rush their fences—if I may use the term. They had to take careful stock in this matter. They are representatives of great masses of working people in each country, and in the case of the older European countries, particularly, they represent great organisation. And they know enough about their job to be aware that they will have to take careful account of the opinion that is held upon this matter. But, for my part, I ant very pleased that the matter is to be considered again by the International Labour Organisation. I am sure that this particular Organisation is rendering very great service to all the seventy-four countries represented in the International Labour Organisation as part of the United Nations, and if there is a way to forestall difficulties arising from the epoch-making changes which are taking place in the world of industry today it is through this Organisation that it will be found.
May I conclude by quoting some words which I wrote in a book about twenty years ago. These words are an expression of my own outlook upon this matter.
To be masters of our own fate while freely submitting ourselves to the necessary discipline for purposes of production; to shape, mould and direct industrialism consciously for man's purposes; to bring order into industry; to co-operate with other nations so that industry shall freely operate across national boundaries; to break down antagonism; to supply human needs consciously rather than work for mere individual gain … that is the colossal task of the men and women of the twentieth century.
As the mind of man has built up this vast, wonderful industrial organisation, so can the spirit of man be its supreme master and use it to perform miracles for the generations to come.
My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, the relationship between management and labour is, as the Minister of Labour told the International Labour Conference, one of the keys to our national prosperity. I am sure we are, grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, for putting clown this Motion and so providing us with the opportunity of discussing the most interesting report of the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation. I heartily endorse the noble Lord's commendation of this report. It deals with the question of labour-management relations at great length and covers a very wide field. By no means all of it, naturally, is applicable to this country, and I should like to confine my remarks to one or two aspects of two of the fundamental problems with which, as it seems to me, we in this country are faced to-day in regard to industrial relations. They are communication and automation.
The strikes with which we were afflicted in this country last year seem to me, in general, to be symptomatic of some general malaise in certain sections of the community rather than protests against inadequate wages. It is difficult to discover with any certainty the basic cause of this feeling of unsettlement, particularly as at no time in our history has the wage-earner been so well off in real terms. It seems to me that one of the root causes of this discontent is the feeling that the effort of the individual, or of the group to which he belongs, is not being sufficiently recognised, and that others, whoever they may be, are getting a better deal. The reason for this feeling, in my opinion, is the lack of knowledge of the true facts and, in some cases, misrepresentation, either through ignorance or from some deliberate cause. Some employers do give a considerable amount of information to their employees, but there is undoubtedly room for a great deal of improvement in this direction. Two-way communication in industry is absolutely vital, and it is only by such means that it is possible to break down the attitude of "we" and "they."
Unless our education system has failed completely, it is absurd in this age to 855 maintain the argument that people will not understand—provided, of course, that they are given a reasonably clear picture of what they are asked to understand. In any event, secrecy always breeds suspicion; it is generally undesirable and usually unnecessary. War-time experience showed that the most successful leaders were those who insisted that every man under their command was kept as fully as possible in the picture. I think that if the true facts were known and understood to-day most fair-minded people—and the majority are fair-minded—would agree that the wage-earner is getting a better deal than the shareholder or anyone else.
here has been a great deal of talk recently about the high level of company profits, and a lot of this has been based on confused thinking. It is rare that two people, when they use the word "profit," endow it with the same meaning. The various academic definitions which have been suggested are extremely difficult to apply in practice. There has grown up, unfortunately, an accounting convention whereby what might rightly be called the "surplus on trading account" is shown in published profit and loss accounts as "profits on trading." This figure is then seized upon by either the malicious or the ignorant, including, I am sorry to say, some of the Press, as being the profits of the company. But this figure is not the profit, because no allowance is made either for depreciation or taxation; and therefore to call it profit gives a grossly inflated and erroneous picture. As factories become even more heavily mechanised than they have been in the past, the greater will be the distortion in this way, because of the larger sums that will be required for depreciation. I should like to see the use of the word "profit" in profit and loss accounts confined to the balance remaining after depreciation, taxation and interest charges have been deducted from the "surplus on trading account." This would still give a somewhat inflated picture, but it would be much less misleading than the present practice.
After all, it is up to management to satisfy their employees—I deliberately avoid the use of the word "workers," because it is absurd to imply that management does not work just as hard 856 as, or even harder than, anyone else—that all are receiving a reasonable share of the income of the business in which they are all engaged. Simplified profit and loss accounts and simplified company reports undoubtedly help to achieve this, and I should like their publication to become even more widespread. I think that every employee of a large public company should be able to see a copy, and that a real effort should be made by management and unions to explain what these reports mean. This particular question will grow in importance as automation makes itself felt, as the ratio of capital investment to labour is bound to increase. It is a good thing, also, for a man working on some highly intricate and costly machine tool to realise that it was necessary for some members of the community collectively to save up, say, £10,000, or whatever the figure may be, to buy the machine for him to have a job at all. It is better still if the man is a shareholder in the company and consequently is a part of it.
If, as many people believe, we are on the threshold of a new era in industry as a result of increased automation, the need for new capital to finance modernisation and to build up-to-date factories and machines will be enormous. This is evidenced by the current high level of demand of new machine tools and the rate of now factory building. If we are to double our standard of living in twenty-five years, this can come only by vast investment in new productive equipment in industry, as it means, of course, that we shall have to produce twice as much as we do to-day without more manpower. It is essential for everybody to realise that this new investment can come only from corporate profits and individual savings, which must be large enough for this purpose.
Automation will be an extravagant waste of effort unless full advantage can be taken of saving labour on particular processes. The trade unions do not yet seem to have awakened to the problems of the present age in taking a lead, for the ultimate benefit of their own members, in dealing with restrictive practices. They must make their members understand that they have no hope of effectively improving, or even perhaps maintaining, their standard of living so long as they insist on two or more men doing work which can easily be done by one 857 man and a machine. After all, an improved standard of living means only that more goods and services are available to more people at a price they can afford, instead of these things always being out of reach however much wages may rise. There can be few more certain ways of committing economic suicide than to allow production to be held up pending futile arguments on demarcation. The Cammell Laird strike, which has now been going on for months, has already meant the loss of three-quarters of a million man-hours of production. It is a paradox that restrictive practices which were adopted during periods of large-scale unemployment might be one of the few things that could again cause mass unemployment by pricing our goods out of world markets. The main shortage in this country to-day is manpower, and our standard of living can be raised only by every member of the working population being usefully employed, with the maximum possible amount of machinery behind them. We can no more afford waste of manpower than of any other of our few precious resources.
It is interesting to note that according to the Director-General of the international Labour Office, the resistance to technical change is least in those industries which are most progressive, and vice versa. As more mechanical and repetitive work is relegated to machines, the status of the individual worker will be enhanced, and his responsibilities increased, as also will be his earning power. In other words, the importance of the individual will be increased; and let us not forget that it was individual effort that made this country what it is, a country which for many years enjoyed the highest standard of living in the world and which to-day is far ahead of the rest of Europe and is surpassed only by North America, where the trade unions have consistently welcomed technological improvements as a means of bettering the standards of living of their members. It is interesting to see from the I.L.O. Report that in 1910, 25 per cent. of the working population in the United States was classified as unskilled, while by 1950 only 10 per cent. came into this category.
It was the individual man or woman who was out of the ordinary who made this country and created businesses from 858 which we all benefit. There is too great a tendency to mould people into a fixed pattern, to level down to the average, instead of giving incentives to those who have more to offer than the average. If a man earns extra reward, be he on the workshop floor, manager, engineer, research scientist, or what you will, let him enjoy the reward he has earned so that he will make the extra effort and we may all benefit. Unfortunately our system of taxation encourages mediocrity and penalises merit. There can be no question that the current excessive rates of personal taxation act as a deterrent to just that section of the community who can do most by their exertions and ingenuity to bring about the living conditions we all desire
§ 3.59 p.m.
LORD MACDONALD OP GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, in intervening briefly in this debate, let me say first of all that I deeply regret not having heard the earlier part of the speech of my noble friend Lord Lawson. If the earlier part of his speech was as interesting, relevant and effective as the latter part that I did hear, then my disappointment is all the more intense. Let me say also that I am pleased to be following the noble Earl, Lord Cromer. While listening to his remarks, I could not help thinking how different was his background from that of my noble friend. I am not sure that the difference in background was not rather reflected in the two speeches—the approach to the problem now before us was so vastly different. But I was pleased that Lord Cromer, like Lord Lawson, agrees that the I.L.O. deserves every encouragement to deal with the difficult problems with which it is confronted to-day and has been for many years. I have always felt that the question before us in a debate like this is what we can do to make this Organisation still mere effective.
We are called upon by the Motion to discuss the Report of the 38th Session of the International Labour Conference. That takes my mind back to the end of the First World War, and my noble friend Lord Attlee and I were just looking at Dod's Parliamentary Companion, to see when the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, first appeared in this world. We were rather surprised to find that he has been in the world almost as long as the I.L.O. itself: he will attain his thirty-eighth 859 birthday this year, and the I.L.O. has just passed its thirty-eighth birthday. If I could be satisfied that the I.L.O. had progressed as well as the noble Earl during those thirty-eight years, I should be a little more optimistic regarding the future of that Organisation. I am quite certain that the I.L.O. has a more difficult time to face in the future than it has had in the past—and there is no doubt that it has had a difficult past. We have only to visualise what the state of the world would be to-day without the I.L.O. Those of us who are old enough remember the end of the First World War and the conditions then prevailing. I would say that the improvement that has taken place in the meantime, as a result of the setting up of the I.L.O., indicates what a grand organisation it has been, and how well it justifies its existence. But I am not satisfied that it has fully justified the hopes of its originators; I feel that they hoped for more from this Organisation than has yet been achieved, and I am concerned as to the future.
Corning to the Report itself, I do not know how many of your Lordships have had the time to read it, but it makes extremely interesting reading. Almost the first sentence of the Report is quite striking, and we should not overlook it. It says:In our Report on the 37th Session we described the impact upon the Conference of the decision of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to re-enter the International Labour Organisation. We pointed out that this raised some very difficult problems and that much hard thinking, great patience and wide mutual tolerance would be needed to solve them.One is pleased that the Soviet Union have re-entered the Organisation, and I hope that every Communist country in the world will enter into it. But when they do they create a small problem for us, because we are not satisfied, from the trade union side, that the trade unions in those Communist countries can exercise the liberty, judgment and decision that we want trade unions to exercise throughout industry in every country. I would not charge the Soviet Union with the intention of joining the I.L.O. to make it difficult for it to improve conditions throughout the world, but it is no use misleading ourselves. What better way is there open to Communism than to do that: to retard, to hold back and make 860 slow improvements for millions of workers in various countries? One cannot overlook that possibility, and I am pleased that this Report has not overlooked it, because it shows that there are some far-seeing statesmen from the different countries who are members of the I.L.O.
Then there is a passage, a little lower down on page 3, which says:On the whole, however, the atmosphere was much calmer than last year …That is followed a little later by this statement:The work of the Conference was thus able to proceed on a tripartite basis and once again much useful and construction work was done.When I turn to the first sentence of paragraph 4, however, I see these words:It would, of course, be idle to claim that a final answer has been found to this and the other problems posed by the re-entry of Soviet Russia into the I.L.O.However much we may welcome the fact that a greater number of countries enter the I.L.O., and are tempted to jump to the conclusion that the better it is for that Organisation, I should hesitate to subscribe to that view. But there it is; the Soviet Union are with us in the Organisation, and it is up to the countries with the free trade unions, such as our own, to see to it that this re-entered member is not allowed to use similar tactics on the industrial side as she has used on the political side. I am pleased that the warning has been given in this Report.
There is one other sentence in paragraph 4 of the Report to which I want to refer, and it is this:In the meantime it can fairly be said that at this year's Conference valuable time was gained and it was once more shown that the presence of delegations from Soviet Russia and other countries of Eastern Europe need not prevent the Conference from getting on with its work and producing useful results.To me that is a most encouraging section of the Report, for it shows that the Conference realised the possibility that the new member might exercise her tremendous power for purposes different from those for which the I.L.O. is intended. Then, at the end of paragraph 5, there occurs this sentence:The success of this experiment in associating non-metropolitan territories more closely with the work of the I.L.O. was most gratifying and augurs well for the future.861 I should like to Compliment our Government on having initiated that move: a very wise move.
I was also pleased that the then Minister of Labour and National Service, Sir Walter Monckton, made the time—and I mean that literally, because it must not be forgotten that at that time he was confronted with some difficult problems in this country—to attend the Conference. He realised the importance of his presence there and the implication of the keenness of this country in the future of the I.L.O. I was impressed, too, by one or two of his statements, which, in all fairness, I think one ought to mention here. There are two sentences to which I would refer. The first is this:Labour-management relations had two separate and complementary aspects—industrial relations, which covered collective bargaining"—and I would draw particular attention to the words "collective bargaining," which mean that the workers' representatives are free to bargain with the employers' representatives—about wages and conditions of employment and the settlement of disputes, and human relations, by which was meant the relations between man and man—in the case of industry, relations between management and work-people.There is a sentence which has been much used by the late Minister of Labour and National Service, though not those same words. We had some good Ministers of Labour and National Service during the Labour Government, but I think it will be conceded by all in the Labour Party that we never had a Minister of Labour more interested in that aspect of the problem than Sir Walter Monckton. He devoted much of his time to it, and did a grand job of work.
What we have to remember is that there was a day when labour was looked upon as a secondary contribution to industry and when the big factor was capital. One had a hint of that to-day in the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Cromer: that he who made possible the provision of big machines was making a big contribution to industry. Of course he is—we have never denied it. There are many men who contribute their skill to industry. There are other men who may not contribute the same skill—the manual labourers, who make a big contribution in the work they do in industry, day in and day out—but who also gain tremendous knowledge. This 862 employee-management arrangement is one which recognises the amount of experience the worker has which should be capitalised in the industry. The trade unions are willing, and there are those present who could speak for the employers' side and say that the employers are willing to give the full benefit of their experiences. But this industry-and-labour arrangement will not come until we have mastered this problem.
Reference has been made by both the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, and my noble friend Lord Lawson to a document to which I wish to refer briefly. This is a fine report by the Director-General, and I compliment the I.L.O. There are one or two sentences to which I wish to refer, and this is one in the introduction:For in the fast analysis the success of efforts to bring about higher productivity depends very largely on improved co-operation within industry between management and the various categories of workers concerned and their organisations. This is perhaps the most urgent and important single area requiring joint endeavour in the years to come.He then goes on to outline what we must all realise, and that is the difficult problem confronting the I.L.O. There are seventy-four countries represented, with varying conditions between one country and another. There are advanced countries like America, and there are backward countries, which I will not name, whose industrial position is vastly different. But here the I.L.O. are trying to legislate for them all, and it is very difficult.
The Director-General said:… it has been evident that the relations between labour and management are either a powerful stimulus to economic and social progress or an important factor in economic and social stagnation.The question of co-operation in some countries is difficult. The reason why I was late in getting to this debate today was because I was dealing with the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which is also confronted with this problem. It is not for me as a member of that Board, to discuss it here. Could we not get that co-operation between management and labour in some of the underdeveloped areas of the Commonwealth, in order that they may be better developed? That problem exists right through the Commonwealth, and it was a fine move on the part of the Labour Government to set up an organisation to 863 look into it. We cannot ignore a Report like this.
I now come to the conclusion of the report made by the Director-General. He there poses a number of questions which I would pose here to-day, but to which I do not expect the Minister to reply this afternoon. They are questions which I feel Members of your Lordships' House and Members of another place ought to be considering. Here are the questions:… is there not more that we could do to tackle the substantive problems of labour-management relations in a positive way? Are there not ways by which we could come to closer grips with many of the day-to-day issues of industrial practice with which these relations are concerned? Should we not seek to adjust our overall programme to admit of a greater emphasis on activities which contribute to improved relations between management and the various categories of workers and their organisations?This is the last question:Is it not our responsibility at least to explore the possibilities?That applies to each one of us. I am pleased that I.L.O. the have gone a step further and appointed a committee to explore those possibilities.
My last words are also a quotation from the report, which I feel indebted to David Morse for having made:Work in the field of labour management relations is clearly a matter of vital concern to all Governments at the present time as well as to employers and workers and their organisations.Here is the last sentence:Our responsibility is to vitalise and strengthen the democratic process within our own sphere of competence, since it is a process which is basic to the accomplishment of our objectives and which is at the same time a solid rivet in the structure of world peace.I hope that the Minister replying for the Government will be able to give some encouragement and re-echo the fact that we are strong believers in, and strong supporters of, this great organisation.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ LORD HADEN-GUEST
My Lords, I feel greatly privileged to be able to take part in this debate, because it is one of immense significance. It is one outside my ordinary sphere, dealing with things from the standpoint of a doctor and of the scientist applying science to purely human problems. I would say that, in a sense, it is an even greater problem, although, of course, everything depends 864 upon the carrying out by the individual members among us of the research work and all the other work necessary in connection with maintaining the standard of health of the population of this country—and, indeed, of all the other countries of the world, although that, of course, is not our business. I am struck by the fact that, in considering this subject of the labour organisation of the world—because that is what it amounts to—it is not our country alone with which we are concerned but all countries, and I think a substantial proportion of all countries are represented.
This Report shows that we are now at a stage of development in industry which means a new period of civilisation. It is already being shown that that is the case. I should like to quote two examples from the International Labour Review, the official organ of the I.L.O. The first is with regard to the working of the Cleveland engine plant of the Ford Motor Company, and is an example of the increase of their production. On one part of the engine block-line twenty-five men now perform the work formerly done by 117 men, principally because the present group of operators no longer have to stand before each machine. Here is another example:Another combination of machine tools, tended by nine men, drills the necessary holes in the crankshaft, whereas this was formerly done by thirty-nine men working on twenty-nine separate machines.There is in those two examples a statement of the revolutionary reorganisation—what one may call the re-tooling—of industry. The U.S.S.R. is reported as having similar machines with immense productive capacity. It is within the power of any nation in the world, who have the trained people necessary to carry out the work, to do this in its own territory, by the use of its own labour and its own capital.
Here is another example:In the United Kingdom a recent announcement concerning the Standard Motor Company's plans to modernise their tooling for the production of motor vehicles and tractors describes the performance of an electro-hydraulic transfer miller capable of performing electrically all six machining operations on a cylinder head.A further example is this:This machine … will give a much higher output with the direct labour of only two men 865 —a loader (unloading is automatic) and a supervisor—than twenty-two men now achieve with conventional machine tools.I could give numerous other examples by quoting from this Report. It seems to me of intense importance to the world. It is practically a world revolution in the application of machinery for the benefit of human lives. How shall we plan our future, in view of the powers of production that we now have? These powers will certainly increase. We have great powers in our hands and I hope that we shall be careful to apply them in the interests of the great world civilisation.
One good thing that seems to have been made clear by the discovery of nuclear energy and of the nuclear missiles that might (though we hope never will) be brought into existence is that from the standpoint of the human race any future war will be pure madness, because most certainly we shall destroy each other. That is the only sure result of such a war. I speak here with some particular knowledge, because I have looked into the matter from the medical point of view, which is most important, and from the defence point of view, and there is no doubt whatever that the odds that that would be the result are about 100 to 1—or is it 1,000 to 1? Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply will venture to give an estimate of the result of such a war, but the probability—I would say almost the certainty—is that it will mean vast areas of human destruction in all parts of the world, with perhaps a few places in the more remote and less cultivated and civilised parts of the world left untouched. Certainly, the civilized, organised, and industrialised parts of the world are those likely to be destroyed. Let us be careful how we apply these new forces. Let us use this immense new power of automation to speed up industrial reorganisation and revolution in order to provide the basis for a civilisation built up to higher standards than we have ever had before.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ LORD BENNETT OF EDGBASTON
My Lords, before I come to the few remarks which I wish to make, I should like to associate myself with all that has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, and others speaking on the opposite side, about the great value of the I.L.O. I have watched it for a great 866 many years. I know something of its initial difficulties and realise something of the problem it faces to-day. Although it may not have achieved all it would have desired, I know from my knowledge of it that it has made a great contribution to the industrial life of the whole world.
I had no intention of speaking when I came here this afternoon but I should now like to fill in a gap which I notice was left by the noble Lords, Lord Lawson and Lord Haden-Guest, in dealing with this problem of automation—a subject that I mentioned when I spoke before in this House. Both noble Lords gave examples that have been quoted in the Press of a displacement of labour by the introduction of some of these new processes; but what they did not say was where these machines have come from. I have repeatedly had quarrels on this matter with people in all walks of life. They have talked about "the curse of the machine age." They have said that the introduction of the machine "has taken away the skill." In fact, of course, it has done nothing of the sort. The machine age has transferred the skill from the man who used to finish with his hands to the man who makes the machine which produces a large number of things. Life in a council house to-day is better than it was in a palace in the Middle Ages. There has been the constant shift of skill from one particular process to another. I agree that there will no doubt be dislocation and trouble but labour will not be lost through being used to better advantage. One can go into a shop full of machines, some operating under this process of automation and some more or less of the old-fashioned type. But they did not grow; they had to be made by the skill of man. The problem now is not that there will be displacement and movement to machine minders; the problem is, how are we to get sufficient skilled men to make these machines, the jigs, the tools and the fittings? That is where the problem lies.
The noble Lore, Lord Lawson, referred to advertisements that he has seen in the Press. I have seen them. My own organisation is responsible for putting in some of the advertisements for technological men, graduates and high grade men. The problem is not only there; it is to get 867 sufficient skilled men to make all these machines which will reduce the amount of labour of the unskilled man. I suggest that the problem on both sides of industry to-day is to speed up all the training schemes they can in order to get a bigger percentage of skilled men as compared with unskilled. The noble Earl, Lord Cromer, referred to what has been and is being done in America to-day. He gave some interesting figures. Formerly, 25 per cent. of the workers in the United States were unskilled. By tackling this problem, they have brought that proportion down to-day to 10 per cent. We have to tackle the same problem: we have to get more skilled men. There will be not less work but more. That has been so all through the history of mechanised industry. Mechanised industry has not meant fewer men, but more. It has shifted the work from one side to another. There is a great chemical works where there is very little labour employed. It is a vast organisation but the work has been done by other people in preparing for it. So it goes on, To-day, the problem is not that we shall have too much labour; it is that we shall be short of labour. And we must make certain that it is trained in the direction in which we want it.
§ 4.27 p.m.
My Lords, I intervene only to say how gratefully we on these Benches welcome the general atmosphere which the debate has engendered, and to thank the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, for introducing it and the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, for a very moving speech which touched me deeply. We have heard such a lot about the two so-called sides of industry, the employers and the employees, as the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, was careful to call them. This talk about trying to understand each other has gone on for a long time, and the effort to understand has also gone on in some limited degree for a long time. But surely, now that we have reached the atomic age and the age of automation, we can no longer afford to lose time. I support with all my heart what the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, has said to-day. We must get together. I hope that the good will that we on this side of the Iron Curtain are seeking to spread will permeate to the other side, 868 and that there may be good relations throughout the world between the employers and the employed.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I want to intervene for a few minutes to add my tribute to those which have been paid by other noble Lords to my noble friend and colleague Lord Lawson for giving us the opportunity of discussing this interesting Report and listening to a most delightful and well informed speech. I should like to give the noble Lord my own personal thanks because a perusal of this Report has been of great interest to me and I endorse what he has said as to the admirable way in which it brings out matters which are obviously of the greatest moment to us at the present time in this country, and indeed to people in almost all other countries which have embarked upon the process of industrialisation.
The first thing that impresses itself on one, looking at this Report, is that it makes quite clear that all over the world there is a tendency for the numbers of people who are engaged in agriculture to decrease and for the numbers of people who are engaged in manufacture and metal processes to increase. That that process should be going on all over the world I regard as a matter of the greatest importance, particularly when it is the case with such countries as Italy, which one had rather assumed were, so to speak, committed to occupying the great mass of their people more or less permanently on a rather unsatisfactory agricultural basis. Indeed, all over the Asiatic Continent there is, obviously, a trend towards manufacture, which trend is clearly of the greatest significance. It means that we in this country who have in the past relied on finding markets among the agricultural workers in these distant countries will clearly have to put in a large amount of new thinking as to how, over the coming years, we are to direct our own industrial development. One other significant point which I think arises from these Tables is that in those countries which are, so to speak, in the van in regard to industrial progress, there is what is perhaps an even more significant trend towards the occupation of the largest numbers in the communities in such services as those of transport and commerce. That, again, is 869 a significant and important matter which I think has never attracted the attention which it deserves
The next point which seems to me to be of the greatest significance for us here is that the report brings out most clearly how increased production depends basically on an increase in the tools which are available to the workpeople. I suppose that is a rather obvious point, but it is not until it is made with the emphasis with which the Director-General makes it here that perhaps one realises what it means. I get rather tired, in a way, of having it "rubbed in" that the output per head of the workmen employed in the United States is about twice the average output in this country; because the workpeople there are provided with twice as much tool and machinery capacity as we have. Surely it is time that we pulled ourselves together and provided our own workpeople with the machine tools and the general tools to enable them to catch up with their fellow workmen in the United States.
It is quite obvious from this report that the problem of re-tooling and tooling up industry is extraordinarily closely bound up with the problem of education which was referred to by the noble Lord opposite, in a speech with which I found myself in a great deal of sympathy. Clearly, industrial output and industrial progress and development in all the highly-developed industrial countries is depending more and more on education—using education in a very wide sense so as to include industrial training and apprenticeship and other matters of that kind. Although we in this country over the last few years have clearly been making education al progress, I am sure we have not been going ahead anything like so quickly as we ought to have done. There is still a great deal of leeway to be made up, I think, both at the top end of the schools and, more particularly, at the point at which industry takes over from the schools.
Although, since the end of the war, progress has been made, and in certain industries and among certain enlightened employers that progress has been most marked, nevertheless, I am afraid that, looking at the country as a whole, industrial concerns have not been taking their duties in that regard as seriously as one would like. I am quite sure that 870 if we are to get this large, more highly-trained industrial army to which the noble Lord opposite referred, it is along those lines. I am sure that he is right—indeed the report brings it out—that while it may be that in many respects the old, skilled type of workmen in certain branches of industry is no longer in demand, nevertheless, that is rather a displacement than a disappearance of the need.
The report brings out that the proportion of workpeople who are no more than labourers is now a good deal smaller than it was twenty or thirty years ago—in other words, throughout industry there has been a tightening up of, and an increase in, the skill which is required, and is indeed called for, from practically all the workmen who are engaged in it. I think we want the tightening up throughout industry, from top to bottom, from the highest of scientists trained fundamentally in the main principles of the natural sciences on which, in the end, the whole thing depends, right down to the boy who is just leaving school and taking up his apprenticeship. It is significant that on the whole the Director-General comes out on the side of those who contend that apprenticeship is still essential, at any rate over most of industry—that the boy should be, so to speak, trained with a long-term conception of what is going to be his position in industry, rather than just pitchforked into it, to live from hand to mouth and to feel that he can do any sort of odd job which comes his way. Certainly, the need for skilled labour has not diminished. I entirely agree with the noble Lord opposite when he says that, as the years go by, we shall find that a much higher degree of skilled operative is required than we have at present.
Finally, of course, it appears throughout this report that the labour-management relationship is one of the most essential elements in the whole problem of production in this and in any other country. It is significant that only over the last few years has there been a beginning towards giving adequate attention to this highly significant problem. The human element in industry is so obvious that one would have thought that all those engaged in any position of authority in industry would, quite naturally, devote a great deal of their time to it; yet, as one goes about, one realises that people 871 are extraordinarily busy and that working with materials and paper in offices away from human contacts is in some ways much easier and much less troublesome than getting down to the hard and difficult task of adjusting oneself to the human relationships which are essential. Although there may be good will, I am afraid there is often not sufficient tenacity in putting that good will into operation.
That this is so, I think appears quite clearly time after time in the report with which we are concerned to-day. I am looking particularly at page 77 of the report, where the Director-General makes it clear that although a beginning has been made in the development of labour and management co-operation at the plant level, it is only just a beginning; that the surface has scarcely been more than scratched, and that there is here an obvious field of the richest opportunity for further work towards the discovery and building up of new techniques in joint co-operation. I am sure that here in these vital paragraphs there lies, if not the whole of the secret, at least a large part of it. I hope that these wise words of the Director-General will be taken to heart and followed up by both sides—by managements and by the workpeople of this country.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF DEFENCE (LORD CARRINGTON)
My Lords, it is almost exactly two years since your Lordships debated, on a Motion put down by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, the Seventh Report to the United Nations of the International Labour Organisation. All of us well know that the noble Lord has for many years been intensely interested in that Organisation and in the problems of labour. The thoughtful speech that he has made this afternoon will be widely welcomed by all your Lordships who heard it. The reply to the last debate was made by my noble friend Lord Lloyd, then Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs. On this occasion it is to be answered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence who, on the face of it, has even less to do with labour than the Home Office—except, of course, that the new Minister of Defence, to whom the noble Lord paid so kindly a tribute, was for a long time Minister of Labour.
872 I am particularly grateful for this opportunity since, although I have for a few months answered for the Ministry of Labour in this House, I have, of course, no departmental responsibility on the subject of the Motion, and it has enabled me to learn something of the work of the International Labour Organisation and of the problems which automation will bring to industry. I must confess that it is a rather difficult debate to answer, because on this occasion not only are the rules of your Lordships' House wide but the terms of the Motion and of the Report are also wide. I am even more nervous over my task after hearing the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, speak on my noble friend's background and age. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, are wrong, for the International Labour Office was born in the same month and the same year as I was. My noble friend Lord Cromer was then a robust child of eleven months, and no doubt taking an active interest in the labour-management relations of the nursery. Whether or not he was, we all listened with great interest to his speech this afternoon.
I do not know whether your Lordships have had time to read the Report of the delegates of Her Majesty's Government to the International Labour Conference last year. It is not very long and it makes interesting reading. It provides evidence, if evidence were needed, of the usefulness and importance of that Organisation. The Organisation now has seventy-one members and is one of the oldest world organisations. It has a unique feature in that, as the noble Lord, Lord Lawson has said, it is tripartite—that is to say, it has representatives of employers and workers, as well as Governments, and all take part in its work and have a voice in its decisions. Broadly speaking, its aims and objectives can be summarised as the promotion of social justice throughout the world by the establishment of decent conditions of labour. It carries out this task by laying down international labour standards through conventions and recommendations. Since 1919, 104 conventions and 100 recommendations have been adopted, on an enormously wide range of subjects, and there can be no doubt that these have played an important part in raising labour standards throughout the world.
873 Since the end of the war the activities of the International Labour Organisation have grown rapidly, both in scope and in importance. For example, the Organisation now takes part in the Technical Assistance programme of the United Nations and gives assistance to members in such directions as manpower organisation, vocational and technical training and industrial safety and health. It does this by visits from missions, by sending out experts, by the provision of fellowships, by conferences and other means. For those who doubt the need for such an organisation as the I.L.O. and who are suspicious of international bodies of this kind, I think perhaps it is worth while to give two concrete examples of the constructive work which the Organisation has done.
To-day, thousands of seamen live on board ship in decent, comfortable quarters, with a limited number of men to each room. They owe this improvement in great part to an I.L.O. convention adopted in 1946, as a result of which many ships then on the drawing-board were changed to take account of its provisions. Again, although the I.L.O. does not claim that it has been wholly responsible for the fact that millions of workers have holidays with pay or social security protection, it is true that, before conventions were drawn up by the Organisation, only relatively small numbers of workers enjoyed those benefits. Successive Governments in this country have fully supported the work of the I.L.O.—indeed, as is well known, British Government representatives played a leading part in establishing the Organisation. To-day we still play a leading part and are recognised by other members of the Organisation as one of those who lead the way in trying to solve labour problems. This is equally true of British employers and workers' representatives who have made, and continue to make, a valuable contribution to the work of the Organisation.
There are two points in the Report which we are discussing to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention. The first was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor (who I know has had to leave), and concerns paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Report in which the problems of Russian membership are discussed. The main controversy centres upon the question of employers' representation on committees of 874 the Conference, which is referred to in paragraphs 15 to 17 of the Report. Naturally this caused some sharp differences of opinion, but the compromise solution which was reached enabled the Conference to proceed with its work. The attitude of the United Kingdom Government delegation was that these constitutional and procedural difficulties should not be allowed to hinder the Organisation in the performance of its proper tasks.
There is no doubt that these developments have confronted the I.L.O. with some very serious problems, the solution of which, as the Report says, will be of vital importance in determining the whole future of the Organisation. The Fact-Finding Committee, which is referred to in paragraph 4 of the Report, will submit its conclusions in the near future. It is not easy to see what the answer to these problems will be, but certainly Her Majesty's Government will do everything in their power to help the Organisation to overcome the difficulties as it has overcome so many other difficulties during its existence.
The second point to which I want to draw your Lorships' attention is the speech made at the Conference last year by my right honourable friend who was then Minister of Labour. As will be seen, he was concerned with many of the subjects mentioned this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson. In particular, he devoted a large part of his speech to the work of the Organisation in human relations in industry, and a summary of his speech is given in paragraphs 19 to 22 of the Report. This is not an economic or a political task. Our own experience with nationalised industries has shown us that these problems arise irrespective of the ownership of the business. The Russians are quite ready to admit that they have labour and management problems in their factories. Their chief delegate said that it is a mistake to suppose that there are no differences between management and workers in Russia.
For our part, both employers and workers have come to realise that a man needs not only an adequate wage but something more if he is to do his best. In our present-day conditions, where crafts have largely disappeared—and after all it was in the skill of the crafts that men found satisfaction—the problem has become more difficult. But that satisfaction 875 can be replaced, although replaced by something more complicated. It can be replaced by pride in working in a well-run factory, pride in the end product which the firm produces, pride in working with people whose skill and competence are respected and, finally, pride in the efficient operation of complicated machinery. I am told that when the steel workers in South Wales left their hand-rolling mills, which called for a great deal of skill, to go to the highly mechanised mills at Margam, where this skill was partially replaced by mechanical and electronic devices, they accepted with satisfaction their new rôle as operators of these highly complicated machines. That does not always happen. Sometimes workers look upon the introduction of new machinery with resentment, fearing that their skill and status, and perhaps even their livelihood, will be endangered. It is the task of both management and unions to take these very natural feelings into account. Employers must see that the need for this new machinery is explained. Re-training, transfer, and so on, must be discussed, and unions must play their part in this also.
There were naturally many other topics discussed at the Conference this year which I have not time to mention. It is interesting to note that for the first time at a Conference observer delegations from several British Colonies were present. and we shall encourage this as much as possible in the future. Another activity of the I.L.O. has been the sending of a delegation to the International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy; but I do not want to waste your Lordships' time in reciting facts which can easily be discovered by reading the Report.
The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, mentioned the question of technical education and its great importance in this mechanical age. I expect that the noble Lord has noticed that the Prime Minister has had something to say on this subject in almost every speech he has made in the last twelve months. I will only repeat what he said on January 19 in his speech at Bradford. He said:We have already decided upon an extensive programme for technical education which will be put into effect over the next five years. The Education Ministers will describe the details in a White Paper to be published before the end of next month.876 This and the other things which have been said indicate the importance which Her Majesty's Government attach to this subject, and I do not think at the moment I can carry the matter any further.
As regards atomic energy, which the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, also mentioned, he will no doubt have read A Programme of Nuclear Power (Crud. 9389) in which the Government's plans are clearly set out. They are bold and, I think, far-reaching. The Atomic Energy Authority realised from the start the necessity for devoting considerable effort to training scientists and engineers from industry in nuclear technology. This has been done and is continuing to be done. The heavy electrical plant manufacturers and associated boiler firms, whose staffs have received this training, are now preparing for the first nuclear power stations to be built for the Electricity Authority. The experience which industry is gaining will be of great value in the competition for export orders for nuclear equipment.
The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, has devoted a large part of his speech, as have most of your Lordships who have spoken in this debate, to discussing the question of automation, and he has asked whether the Government are giving special attention to this significant new development. I have made it my business in the last ten days to try to find out something about automation. I think perhaps the first question which one has to ask oneself and to answer is, "What does 'automation' mean?" There seem to be widely differing definitions. To some people it means the development of mechanical methods of moving components from one process to another without the delays involved in manhandling. This, I think, is what was meant by Mr. Harder, Vice-President of the Ford Motor Company, who coined the word "automation," for which I am not altogether sure that we are grateful. Other people understand by the word the principle whereby a machine which is carrying out a process automatically is itself automatically corrected and controlled. To others it seems to mean the application of electronics to manufacture and recording, and in particular the use of the computer.
In any event, whatever may be meant by the word, and whatever the noble Lord 877 may have meant by it, none of these is a particularly revolutionary device. Perhaps 1 may give some examples of what I mean. I believe that one of the earliest examples of automatic machinery was the mechanical loom built in 1741 by Jacques de Vaucanson. In 1782, Oliver Evans, in the United States, produced a continuous process lour mill using an ingenious combination of belts, conveyors and endless chain buckets. As regards the automatically controlled mechanism, I am told that Witt, when he invented the flyball governor, was really doing exactly the same thing. It is also interesting to realise that in about 1650 Blaise Pascall built six arithmetic machines, and a computer was developed in 1823 by Charles Babbage in this country. It will be seen from these examples that the changes now taking place are really nothing more than an accelerated movement in the direction of increasing mechanisation. There have been quite a number of fully automatic factories in England for some years. For instance, I believe that razor blades are made and wrapped without being touched by hand, and such things as tinned and bottled foods are equally made without any human intervention.
We have all read in magazines and newspapers some very colourful accounts of automation—what is called (and it has been so called this afternoon) a second Industrial Revolution, the problems it will bring, and the Utopia which is unfolding before us. My Lords, without in any way underestimating the developments which have taken place and which are likely to take place, I am inclined to think that this is going a hit too far. I paid a visit last week to the Ford factory at Dagenham, where the cylinder block of one of a range of cars is processed by automative methods. It is a remarkable feat, and I believe that others are to be found in similar factories in England. It seemed to me, however—to take only one example—that there was a limit to the automation possible in a car factory. It is limited because of the nature of the goods being produced, because of the capital cost of the machine and the relatively short period of useful life as models change, and limited also by the volume of production. I believe, therefore, that although there is a great deal of scope for all sorts of automation, it will be a gradual process which will take 878 place in comparatively small instalments and will pass comparatively unnoticed. There are those, I know, who are anxious lest these developments will mean that machines will take over jobs previously done by manual labour. As Lord Lawson has said, that is hardly a novel fear either. The Luddites were, I suppose, the first of the line.
Whatever the arguments for and against mechanisation may have been 150 years ago, it seems to me that there are certain incontestable advantages in modernising mass-production lines. In the first place, modern mechanical processes tend to improve, rather than detract from, the quality of the finished article. It is not a case of the cheap and nasty product of the machine replacing the hand product, but the introduction of a new precision and reliability in the mass-production line. Secondly, these processes are designed to benefit worker and management alike. They provide a less monotonous and less physically exacting job for the man at the bench, and they produce a better article at a very much faster rate. The difference between the new and the old concept is rather like that between driving a motor-van and pushing a heavily laden wheel-harrow. It may be said that the objection is that one motor-van will do the work of half a dozen wheel-barrows. But from the inquiries I have made I am convinced—as was my noble friend who sits behind me—that the fears about the displacement of labour by the introduction of automation in the factories are unwarranted, and likely to be as far ahead as we can see, and certainly in the present circumstances of acme shortage of labour.
In the long run, automation, gradually introduced, will increase production and so create more jobs and not fewer, although one kind of labour may tend to be displaced by another. In a very interesting article in a booklet called Automation, Mr. Albu, who is a Member of another place, says:Even on the level of a single factory it has, during the post-war years, often been the case that the increase of output by mechanisation in the early stages of production has led to more employment at the later stages, such as finishing and packing which cannot be mechanised to the same extent.And he ends his article by saying this:Provided there is full consultation and reasonable human understanding on the part of 879 managements and provided there is a continuance of the present industrial climate, based on full employment, it does not look as if the introduction of new methods to which such an ugly name has been given, will meet with any opposition from the trade union side of industry.Last week I paid a visit to "Leo," the remarkable machine built and designed by J. Lyons & Company, Limited. I should have thought that there is clearly an immediate future for this sort of machine, which is capable of doing, with great swiftness and accuracy, jobs previously performed by clerks, or not performed at all because they could not be done in time to be of any use. In the long run this may mean that fewer wage clerks will be needed in industry, although the small size of many firms precludes the use of these machines even though sub-contracting is a possibility. But we shall want more electronic engineers for the construction and maintenance of the computers, and the increased efficiency of business methods which the machines will bring should ensure a bigger output and consequently more jobs. But the real problem is not really a technological one; it is rather in the ability to reconcile the work which is done in our modern industrial society with the dignity and status of those who do that work. That is really what is meant by human relations in industry: the recognition that, as Sir Walter Monckton has said, a man brings to a factory more than the work of his hands; he brings a part of his life, and in that working life he should enjoy rights and satisfactions just as he does in the life of the larger community outside.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, that the authority of the International Labour Organisation is growing throughout the world. In the thirty-six years of its existence it has most certainly left its stamp on the social policies and social legislation of countries which are at very different stages of their political development. The work it does is perhaps too little known among the ordinary people of this country. I wonder whether the average man in the street would even know what the initials "I.L.O." stand for. I could have answered that question, but a very few days ago I could have told your Lordships little more. I think that is a pity. It may be the fault of the I.L.O. itself, or owing to the fact that the work the Organisation does is not very 880 sensational. But I am convinced that, despite the political difficulties which have been caused by the joining of the Communist countries, the International Labour Organisation has a very useful and constructive part to play and it is one of the world organisations most worthy of your Lordships' support.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for his reply. The noble Lord is Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, which sounds negative to the average citizen, but in his reply he talked more like a Minister of Reconstruction. While doing first-class work on defence, he has shown commendable zeal in studying this subject in order to make a reply which on the whole is very satisfactory. I have already paid my tribute to the International Labour Organisation which, as the noble Lord well said, is growing in influence and importance. They have at their disposal probably greater concentrated knowledge of labour relations than any other organisation in the world because they cover seventy-four countries. I am not criticising the efficiency of the organisation any country has for dealing with labour matters. As a matter of fact, I would say that our Ministry of Labour is the most detailed and forceful organisation touching the lives of the mass of working people to be found anywhere in the world.
I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I hope they feel, as I do, that it has been well worth while spending an hour or two upon this important subject. I was pleased to see my old friend Lord Attlee in his place during the debate, for he has been responsible, more than any other person, for introducing new powers to the I.L.O., so that when they make conventions on social security it must be remembered that he has not been without influence in these matters. I am personally very pleased to see him here. I said to him on a previous occasion, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; come up higher." So he came up. All I have to do now is to beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at seven minutes past five o'clock.