§ 2.57 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH rose to call attention to the need for an increase of automation in British industry and commerce and for effective planning to meet the inevitable changes which it will cause in our society; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, before speaking on this Motion, should like to declare an interest. I am a director of two companies working in the field of management consultancy and I have a professional interest in office automation. I am to-day going to consider several aspects of automation, but these will be in relation to two main issues only: first, the need to speed up the application of automation in Britain —because if we do not do so, this nation will no longer remain competitive in world markets—and, secondly, the need to plan ahead and take measures which will make this increase of automation possible without undesirable effects on our society. I think that few people will disagree with the last point, and I hope to convince your Lordships that the first is so vitally important that we are justified in taking very strong measures to achieve it.
§ What is automation? There are many definitions. Some favour a very narrow scientific concept, while to others the term includes almost any technical method of increasing productivity. Personally, I regard automation as an extension of the nineteenth-century mechanisation into the field of control. I think that a wider definition is a mistake, because is obscures the fact that automation can have the same explosive effect on our society as mechanisation had on an earlier age. It should, and must, be regarded as something new, because its potential is becoming realisable only with the development of electronic control systems and the computer. The fact that Babbage invented a computer and Watt an automatic steam governor more than a century ago may be of great historical interest, but it is of absolutely no importance in assessing the likely impact of automation to-day.
§ At this stage, I think it might be helpful if I were briefly to review the present 142 and future scope of automation. I should like to consider separately its use as an aid to management and as a means of controlling some manufacturing process or other activity. To some extent these functions overlap, but the tendency today seems to be to talk about manufacturing applications, whereas what is termed office automation is just as important and may, in the long run, produce more spectacular effects and cause greater changes in our social structure. Automation is now commonly applied to accounting in the broad sense, and its applications include banking, betting, pay roll, cost accounting, the recording of cash transactions and production of accounts and statistics, stores and stock control. It is also increasingly being used for production control and for the planning, scheduling and processing of major projects by the critical path method of analysis. There are also a number of other applications coming under the sub-headings of data processing and operational research. The latter uses mathematical techniques to solve commercial problems in which the number and nature of the variable factors make it impossible to find the most economical solution by intuitive means. A simple example of this is to find the most economical schedule for a fleet of mixed tankers which have to deliver varying quantities of different fuels at a number of ports.
§ Looking a little further into the future, we can see a stage in office automation where it is possible for the directors of a company to see within a matter of minutes the full implications of any change of policy, or the acceptance of a large sales order, and to provide detailed estimates and a delivery programme at the same time. The burden on top management will be eased. The system will bring to their notice only those matters requiring attention, and their decisions will be mostly concerned with those imponderables for which data and statistical evidence are insufficient to make a completely logical decision possible. Incidentally, this is surely one of the spheres in which management to-day are rather unsuccessful. They do not obtain the information they ought to require, and they are flooded with detail which they should not have to consider.143
§ In general, all the applications of office automation which I have mentioned require a digital computer. Computers are, perhaps, the symbol of automation, and it is a pity that they are so often clothed in an air of mystery. Just as it is difficult for the non-technical to understand the workings of a car, so it is with a computer. Nevertheless, the functions of both are relatively simple, and automatic means of programming make it possible to learn how to use computers on routine tasks in a relatively short time. Their function is to receive and store information, to make some logical decision based on this information, and to provide answers, perhaps as written data, for accounting applications or as electrical signals to control some physical process. In some cases the logical decision made is quite trivial, as in stores control. In others, it is very complex—for example, when controlling a manufacturing process whose characteristics are represented by a set of differential equations.
§ The computer's most important characteristic is its incredible speed of operation, which enables it to tackle problems which are outside the practical reach of human beings. To my mind, the really surprising thing is that it can be instructed to do these things while possessing only a very few basic capabilities. It usually cannot count beyond two. It can add, it can subtract, and it can remember, but that is really all.
§ To turn to what I term the control aspects of automation, the field is almost limitless. We have examples of computers controlling manufacturing processes, railway schedules, machining operations, traffic flow, telephone exchanges and missiles; and we have long been accustomed to such devices as the automatic pilot used in aircraft. The computer, of course, has many other uses in the field of research and applied mathematics. All these applications will quite certainly affect our social structure, because the manpower required to solve many of these problems is reduced by a factor of perhaps hundreds of times. In the same way as with automation, this will eliminate much of the routine work, and will mean that a wider range of problems can be tackled. The total manpower employed on research projects 144 will certainly be no less, but the proportions of the different skills required in a research team will change.
Increased automation is inevitable, whether we like it or not. If we attempt to arrest it or lag behind, we shall have to lower our wages and standards of living, or fail to be competitive in the world markets. This might just conceivably be possible for a basically self-sufficient country like France; but to Britain, which is dependent on its exports for its very existence, it is unthinkable. However we juggle with figures, or whatever yardsticks we apply, there can be no doubt that our wage levels and productivity are far below those in America, and in many industries they are beginning to compare unfavourably with those in some European countries. What is even more disturbing is that they have recovered after the war from a much lower level than Britain's, and their rate of growth on reaching equality with us is much greater than our own.
§ Why is this? There is, in my belief, one basic and root cause, although there are very many symptoms. It stems from our heritage as the foremost industrial nation and a leader of the world. This has made us far too complacent. Management have gone to sleep or are moribund. Problems of selecting and training senior management, providing efficient organisation, modern methods of manufacture and better labour relations have not been tackled with energy except in a few cases, most frequently by firms who have come from abroad. The belief that British goods were always best, and that it was the customer's misfortune if he bought any others, cannot now be expressed openly, but the spectre still haunts our board-rooms.
§ In the same way do the hardships of earlier days still warp the outlook of some of our trade unions. It is because of this outlook and background that we in Britain cannot allow automation to run its own course. It must be accelerated by deliberate Government policy, and as a by-product we shall also get some of the changes we need in management and organisation. It is also worth remembering that from a company's point of view the real benefit and pay-off with automation comes in the later stages of the build-up, and this makes it even harder to take the initial plunge. In other words, there 145 is often insufficient commercial incentive to outweigh the strains which are bound to be put on a company's organisation in the initial stages of automation.
§ Properly applied, automation will give us just those benefits which the majority of people appear most to desire. The increasing productivity can be used to provide higher wages and, therefore, greater purchasing power or, alternatively, more leisure. It will also mean that the nation can afford those social reliefs and public services which to-day are so often competing for money from an inadequate national Budget.
§ In the wider field, we can look forward to giving greater help to those organisations concerned with the health, welfare and prosperity of the less developed countries. We should perhaps remind ourselves that something approaching half the world population is still under-nourished, and that millions of its adult population are permanently disabled through preventable physical diseases. Inevitably automation will reduce the number of men required to perform a given task. This is nothing new. If it were, we should not have the fears of unemployment and restrictive practices which are a legacy from the ruthless industrialisation of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These fears are not groundless, because automation will cause changes in our society and in the future demand for the various types of labour. Nevertheless, I think it true to say that any industry which is not prepared to press ahead with automation and the introduction of modem techniques will inevitably decline and have unemployment. If it does automate it faces a very much reduced risk. With proper safeguards and an enlightened labour policy, and an understanding of the issues at stake, I believe that employees will co-operate.
§ We have only to look at the situation in the North, in particular at shipping, to realise what may happen if we do not follow a forward-looking policy. Restrictive practices and inefficient production methods have made this industry uncompetitive.
§ LORD HOBSON
My Lords, if the noble Viscount will allow me to interrupt, will he state categorically to which restrictive practices he is referring?
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
No, my Lords. I should not like to do so. I think there are many. I think this would become a detailed argument, which at the moment I should prefer not to enter.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
I should be very interested, however, to hear Lord Hobson's observation on why my statement may possibly be untrue. Some of the blame can no doubt be laid at the door of management, but we should not be afraid of saying that at least an equal share of the responsibility should be taken by the employees and trade unions, because it is an object lesson of what must never occur again—and that is a point I should like to make, not what may have happened in the past. I believe it was Mr. Bevin who said that it was easier for a fitter's mate to become Prime Minister than become a fitter. Why did he say that, I wonder.
The application and build-up of automation will spread over the usual type of exponential curve which is common to many activities, including, for example, a civil engineering product. It starts very slowly, then moves more and more rapidly, and finally levels off. We are far behind the Americans, who have six times as many computers installed per head of population as Britain and, by the same methods of calculation, we do not compare very favourably with other industrialised European countries, certainly not with Russia, surprising as that may seem. Our immediate object, therefore, must be to increase the speed of build-up at all costs. If we have delay, and have to catch up later on, it will increase the social problems that will arise when the steeper part of the build-up curve has been reached, for it is then that the brakes and not the accelerator may have to be applied.
The problem of increasing the application of automation in Britain is not a technical one. All the necessary techniques are there and can be applied without great difficulty. The major obstacle is a passive or negative attitude by old-fashioned management and trade unions, coupled with a general lack of knowledge of what can and should be done. What is required is joint effort between the Government, trade unions and management. In this the Government must lead, and some very firm 147 measures are needed to start things moving. It has been said that all increase depends on the product of four factors: wisdom in Whitehall, enterprise of the manager, co-operation of labour, and technical advance; and that if any of these factors is zero, so is the product. I support this view.
One of the first steps, I believe, should be to give an increased subsidy or taxation relief on some types of new equipment; for example, computers, numerically controlled machine tools and some other types of electronically controlled equipment. I realise that this proposal could present major administrative difficulties in defining which equipment would qualify for the subsidy, unless the list were a short one. I believe, however, that even if the list were confined to the computers and these machine tools, it would produce worthwhile results, particularly if it were made clear that the subsidy was for a limited period and would later be withdrawn. At present, there are strong indications that our capital investment programme has not produced, and is not producing, significant increases in productivity, and that much of it is being spent in replacing obsolescent equipment by new equipment of the same type. I realise that the introduction of a numerically controlled machine tool, for example, will probably not improve productivity in an old-fashioned engineering firm, but it will provide the lever necessary to speed its modernisation.
I have already said that we have all the technical knowledge and, in most cases, the basic equipment needed for the various applications of automation; in other words, we have a good Meccano set. There remains, however, the problem of constructing and trying out each new application. Even our largest manufacturing firms are usually unwilling to do this unless there are the clearest indications that a specific saving will result. Government grants towards a few selected projects could do more than anything else to get things moving. I would emphasise that the object would be to get new applications on automation tried out so that other firms could see them and follow suit. It would not be necessary to subsidise the new plant throughout an industry, and the 148 cost to the Government should, therefore, be relatively small.
In parallel, but distinct from this proposal, increased grants should be given to the industrial research associations for approved projects. The present system of a small Government grant for general research purposes is not the right answer, because it cannot carry with it the right to dictate policy and ensure that the money is spent to further national, as opposed to parochial, interests.
There is also a third way in which the Government can gently, or not so gently, lead industry in the right direction; that is, by imposing certain conditions in Government contracts. For example, the contracts can specify that critical path methods of programming must be used and that all drawings will show dimensions on a co-ordinate basis. The latter would be a strong incentive for installing numerically controlled machine tools, but, if necessary, their use can be specifically demanded for machining certain parts. It is quite usual for the Government to assist in purchasing the capital equipment for a contract, and these stipulations need not cause undue hardship to a contractor.
I would also suggest two rather more drastic methods of increasing efficiency in industry. Although I dislike both of them I believe that the situation is sufficiently grave to justify their adoption. There is little doubt that tariffs are sheltering inefficiency in some industries, and I would suggest that a report on this matter is required. This would be a preliminary to making some reductions in the tariff. Such reductions would, of course, have been inevitable if we had entered the Common Market. A capitation tax on firms situated in areas of full employment would be a strong inducement to increased efficiency and could also be used as a control to help locate industry in the areas where it is most needed. On the educational side, we ought to help technical colleges to buy their own computers. Quite apart from their value for training purposes they could have a secondary role as computer centres for industry and could operate on a profitable basis
Before leaving the more technical aspect of automation, I should like to 149 turn for a moment to the bodies who are at present most concerned with these problems. The sponsoring organisation is the United Kingdom Automation Council. It works through the various professional institutions, down to the industrial research and development organisations. This set-up has the merit of using already existing channels, and I do not believe that the idea of setting up a National Institute of Automation is a sound one. In the first place, automation is not a basic discipline like physics or engineering; nor does it serve one or two industries only, as does, for example, aeronautics. Secondly, there is no reason to suppose that our universities and other bodies, such as the Automatics Division of the National Physical Laboratory, are not capable of undertaking such research as is required and can be paid for from a limited national budget.
Basic research is important from a long-term point of view if our automation industry is to prosper, but much of it can be done by automation manufacturers, and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is also active in this field. All this, however, is a very secondary consideration compared with the problem of what I might term applied research; that is, adapting existing techniques to the needs of different industries, and the even more intractable problem of getting it tried out and adopted by industry. Although I strongly support the Automation Council, it naturally represents a wide range of interests, and I believe that it would be the greatest tragedy if its existence deterred the Government from taking immediate and independent action. I think it right to mention, however, that a very great deal of first-class work is already being done by D.S.I.R., through their research establishments, by means of development contracts, grants, and by their information division. This work could well form the basis for expansion.
I now turn to what I think is the most interesting and difficult part of this Motion, the reed to plan for the social changes which automation will inevitably cause. First, however, I would emphasise as strongly as I possibly can that in Britain we are nowhere near the point on the curve where we could run into serious labour trouble. I very much 150 hope that any conflicting views we may hear to-day on the labour situation will not deter the Government from taking really effective action to stimulate the application of automation while we are lagging so far behind on the build-up curve. Problems will arise as the rate of application speeds up, but it is unwise to draw any direct conclusion from present-day American experience. Their economy is run with a much wider margin between productive capacity and consumer demand, which implies that a high unemployment figure must be regarded as normal. Their philosophy is one of laissez faire, and controls are applied only as a last resort. Moreover, they have in their population a very large unskilled element which greatly accentuates the problem. We should also beware of assuming that their troubles are largely due to automation. Similar difficulties have arisen in the past, and in the last decade their working population has increased by 12 per cent.
Our aim in Britain must be to arrange for the necessary social changes to march in step with the build-up of automation. That is not altogether easy, because we are a democracy and there is an inertia, with a time lag, before any measure can become effective. Many factors are interlocking. An increased mobility of labour is clearly desirable for a safe build-up of automation, but this mobility depends to a great extent on availability of housing. There is little chance of solving this problem in the South of England until the drift from the North has been arrested, either by providing more industry in that area or by other means. This example, I hope, shows that there is no time to be lost in making plans and in starting to put them into effect.
Theoretically, it should be possible for labour displaced by automation to continue to be employed in the same industry, because the aim of automation is to increase productivity. This, however, presupposes that the consumer and export demand for the particular product can be expanded indefinitely, which is often untrue. In such circumstances, surplus labour will have to be transferred to other industries in which, with the rising level of wages made possible by increased national productivity, consumer demand will increase. It is not difficult to imagine 151 the demand for cars increasing. Every family would like one car, and possibly even a second or third for other members of the family, if they could afford it. Consequent on the increase in the number of cars would be demands for improved roads. These could be paid out of taxation on increased earnings and would provide further employment. This may be a bad example, as it raises other issues, but there are many other commodities to which the same argument could be applied. I think that the Government should examine this aspect of the problem and plan for the expansion of certain consumer industries in areas where there is likely to be unemployment. In theory, direction of industry into the right areas could solve the problem. In practice, I believe that an increased mobility of labour—and I emphasise the word "increased"—will also be necessary.
How can this be obtained? I would suggest as a first step that pensions, seniority and other benefits must be transferable when a move is made to a new location at the request of the Ministry of Labour. In these circumstances, it would be only right that a disturbance allowance should be paid for the family, in the same way as it is to Service families. Incidentally, the amount paid is, of course, unrealistic, as I know from personal experience. There is a real need for a thorough investigation into the factors inhibiting mobility and those causing movement in our population. The significant inhibiting factors are not always the most obvious ones. For example, many married men who would personally be prepared to move do not wish to do so because the rest of the family are locally employed. The possibilities of increasing people's working radius by faster means of transport should also not be overlooked; for example, by fast monorails.
Automation will, of course, alter the national requirements for the various trades and skills, and there must be a really good retraining scheme, with full pay and benefits for the trainee. Although there will be a substantially increased demand for maintenance technicians, I do not believe that this will be quite so large as some people imagine. Transistors are becoming increasingly reliable, and the trend is 152 towards automatic means of fault location and the grouping together of components which, if faulty, can be replaced as a unit and returned to the manufacturer. Rectification is then much more of a routine matter and requires less skill. Rather similar considerations apply to computer programmers, because automatic methods of programming will further reduce the training necessary to operate a computer for routine applications. Even now, a well-trained design engineer can learn to write his own programmes with Autocode and operate a computer with less than a week's training.
What other effects will automation produce? Clearly shift work will tend to increase because the greater cost of installed equipment will make its full use economically desirable. On the credit side, automation will eliminate many of the dreary and repetitive tasks caused by mechanisation and will enhance the status of many workers to that of technicians, who may be considered as the modern equivalent of the artisan. It will also tend to eliminate dangerous and unhealthy work. When I made this point recently a case was cited, in refutation, of a modern plant which was controlled by one man. He had literally dozens of buttons to press, instruments to read and a battery of flashing lights. The strain eventually proved too much for the operator; he became a casualty of mechanisation. But automation would have taken over the control function and eliminated this nerve-racking job. I think this distinction is a rather important one, and control must feature, to my way of thinking, somewhere in the automation definition.
In general, it must be accepted that there will be an increasing demand for higher skill at the expense of the manual worker. This should cause no difficulties in the foreseeable future as few people are approaching the limit of their capabilities. I think, however, that it would be wise to concentrate our efforts on automation where it matters most—that is, in production industries, and particularly in those concerned with exports. The concept of the automatic garage or an automated high-class hotel has few charms, and I foresee a continuing and increasing demand for personal as opposed to machine service in many areas of our national life.
153 It is, I think, quite certain that all sections of the community will wish to have a part of the increased productivity expressed in terms of a shorter working week and longer paid holidays. We must therefore make provision for a constructive use of leisure, and once again there will be a consequential increase of employment in another industry which will be greatly to its benefit, particularly if some of the longer holidays are taken in off-peak times. However well we plan, there are bound to be occasions and places where the social changes fail to keep pace with automation and we must be prepared to apply the brakes and to use compensating measures.
The removal of the incentives I have recommended for accelerating automation will obviously help, but other possibilities must be examined. I am quite certain, however, that we shall have to regard the length of the working week as something which can be varied on a local basis. One may say that many of the proposals put forward are not workable with our present labour relations. I would agree. It is just in this area that the greatest changes are most needed and are most urgent.
Let me pay tribute to those sections of management and of the T.U.C. and trades unions which, are, and have been, fighting an uphill battle to improve Britain's industry. They get scant enough thanks for their efforts. However, taken over-all we could still with some justification say that the shortsightedness and selfishness of some of our unions is leasing this country to ruin, that their prejudices are those of a previous generation, and their tactics more appropriate to the Battle of Waterloo than to present-day needs. But let us remember that the horizon seen by a man is far more dependent on the altitude of his position than it is on his stature.
No, my Lords, if we are to apportion blame it must, as the Duke of Wellington said, fall largely on the officers—that is, on management. They have, of course, with exceptions, done little to move away from the attitude in which labour was regarded as a dangerous animal to be kept at arm's length and, if possible, behind bars. They have themselves signally failed to move with 154 the times or to inspire their own staff with anything more than a sense of frustration. Whatever we may say of the past or present, what is needed is a joint all-out effort between the Government, management and the T.U.C.
If labour is to run risks in the form of redundancy it must either be given a corresponding increase in security and responsibility or share the risks and the rewards in the same way as shareholders. I personally believe that a combination of both these is required. Junior management is not given the information or responsibility which it should have, and I would favour moving labour up to much the same position, with the same privileges and security that junior management occupies to-day.
Inherent with these privileges must be the corresponding responsibilities and a stricter discipline. This is not so revolutionary in concept as it seems, because the training and skills of workers will tend to increase with automation. Already one-third of our working population come under the category of "white collar", and the tendency is for the, proportion to increase. In America it is now 50 per cent. Their status, privileges, responsibilities and, I would emphasise, obligations, should now be progressively extended to our craftsmen and manual workers. We should seriously consider the conditions in such countries as Sweden. We have a great deal to learn from them. I think that we must extend the principle of an annual bonus, dependent on the profits of a company, and possibly the issue of shares. I know that these things have been tried out, but I do not believe they have been tried out in the right way. Too often has bonus become simply another form of wages, and a share a negotiable instrument. It will take time and effort to re-educate employees in their meaning. Let us, however, realise that the days are passing when a firm can greatly increase its dividends without its employees sharing to some extent in the profits, and we shall never succeed in obtaining satisfactory wage agreements unless something more can be done in this direction.
I have said that with greater benefits workers must accept a greater degree of responsibility. I believe that with an enlightened labour policy workers themselves will be quite ready to accept and 155 enforce stricter measures against those few who actively oppose reasonable requests from management. I realise that my proposals imply some increased Government control, but in a modern age sensible people must always be prepared to face this where it is really necessary. I am afraid that I, for one, simply cannot take the views of "A Conservative", as expressed in the Press, seriously. He appears to be bent on widening the gap between our Parties, by finding some extreme and esoteric principle which can be used as a substitute for common sense.
In conclusion, I would again stress the need to take immediate action. The future is difficult to predict, and the more we look at the problem the more complicated does it become. If we wait until we can see clearly, what we shall then see is the economic ruin of this country. In other words, it is automation or death by stagnation. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, we always start by saying that we are grateful to a noble Lord who introduces a subject, and I would congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, on choosing a subject of such vast scope and on the range which he got through. A great deal of what he said—indeed, the greater part of it—will, I think, be acceptable to all of us; and the fact that there are some parts of it with which I am not entirely happy arises, I think, not so much from the fact that I sit on this side of the House, but because, speaking as a manager, I have always been rather suspicious of production consultants. I am not sure that the noble Viscount did not fall into some of the errors which are familiar to those of us who have dealings with production consultants. But I will deal with this matter as I go through my speech.
I am grateful to the noble Viscount, because this is a vastly important topic. So much has been published on it that there is no excuse for any of us not to be aware of the implications for all society. If we were not aware of it before, we are certainly aware of it after listening to the noble Viscount's speech. Of course, this subject is of 156 primary importance for workers, for managers, for scientists and for Government. It is, I think, an advantage that we are debating it in your Lordships' House, where we have a number of people who are, like the noble Viscount himself, directly involved as a manager. We have with us the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote; and on this side of the House we have one of the greatest experts in the country, the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, who I am glad is going to speak.
The difficulty about my speech is that so much of the material that I wanted to use would have been culled from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, and to-day I can hardly fail to get in first. And, of course, my noble friend Lord Hobson, who I suspect will speak from his wide experience on the trade union side of the engineering industry, will also have remarks to make.
This is a subject on which there has recently been a spate of publicity. The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee very properly had a session on this subject recently; the D.S.I.R. has been publishing material on it for a good while. But the greatest amount of writing on it has come from the United States of America; and, indeed, some of the experience which we have got to be seriously concerned about—and to be alarmed about—is derived from America. I will not accuse the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, of being in any way complacent, but his speech made me think that we might fall into some of the errors and some of the troubles that have arisen in the United States.
I will not attempt to define automation. My own experience of it is fairly limited. I do not think I need declare an interest, because at the present moment the computer in my firm is causing me more anxiety than the reverse. It is used mainly for stock control, and there seems to be a general opinion that all the stock disappears inside it and never comes out again. This is one of the main problems. I do not think it is enough to say—and I am sure Lord Han-worth did not mean this—that we have all the technical knowledge to hand, because an essential part of the technical knowledge relates to the operation of these machines. The whole of automation must be regarded as a vast process 157 affecting every aspect of management, and indeed every aspect of life in industry, and ultimately in society.
I did in fact look out a definition. Not long ago we attempted in another debate a definition of cybernetics. I do not think that we should let this debate go by without a reference to cybernetics, because automation operates particularly in the field of cybernetics and we are probably concerned in the use of cybernetic language. I should be interested to hear from my noble friend Lord Bowden whether this is unsatisfactory as a definition. There are those who say that automation is merely an extension —and the noble Viscount suggested that it is of a different order from previous advances—of existing technology. If the first part of the Industrial Revolution was the application of power, and the second part the application of principles of mass production and process control, the third stage will be that ultimately the machine will very largely take over the whole process. This is where we come to cybernetics and the technology based on automation and control.
I do not know how far this will go, but I should have thought it quite certain that there are no limits to automation, except possibly in industry and possibly in the personnel function. I should have thought that ultimately the whole of production might be controlled automatically—and I am not thinking only of 25 or 50 years ahead. We already know of allegedly automatic factories. It has been suggested that the Americans have even produced a motor car under automated control, but I gather that, if they did, it was a rather expensive process. But, whatever happens, we have certain estimates of the consequences; and I would just mention these at this stage, so that we have a measure of the anxiety. In the United States, where there is already heavy unemployment, they will need 40 million new jobs in the course of the next ten years; in this country something like 10 million new jobs may be required by the 1970s.
My Lords, will the noble Lord say whether that figure of 10 million new jobs takes into account the very large army of highly-skilled technicians who will be required to make and maintain the machinery?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, there may or may not ultimately need to be such a very large number of technicians to control and service these machines, because ultimately they will control and service themselves. I do not stand by this, although I shall deal with the approach to the problem later. It is an estimate of the consequences of the technological change which will come about. It may be that many of these new jobs will be in this new industry or activity, but this is the measure of the size of the change.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, suggested that we were lagging behind, and it is a tragedy that, since the computer industry in this country got off to such a good start, the American computer industry should now occupy such a dominant position. There are no doubt many reasons to explain this, not least of which are the size of the market, the extra resources and the capital available for expansion. But I believe that the Government are seeking to do something to strengthen our actual computer manufacturing industry. There is some argument whether some American firms go into the computer field for prestige purposes. It is also argued that no American business man ever does anything for prestige rather than for money. It has been suggested, too, that some people go in for computers like a young man goes into marriage—because he thinks it is something which he ought to do and which he thinks he will enjoy, but which he sometimes finds disastrous and very expensive. There have been some disastrous examples of this kind. This understanding is a reflection on the adequacies of our educational system. In saying that, I am not "getting at" the Government, though perhaps I could on another occasion. We have not really enough of a technical and technological basis to our general educational system to understand these things.
This brings me to my first major point of disagreement with the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth. He went so far as to say that most of the responsibility rested on management and that most of the trouble which arose could be attributed to management. I would say that the whole of it could be attributed to management—and I speak on this as a manager. It is useless in this context to talk about restrictive practices. These 159 matters are fully understood on the trade union side. They are not liked on the trade union side. It has been said that industries get the union leaders they deserve, and it is quite extraordinary what mistakes even enlightened managements still make.
I know of a case that occurred only recently, not involving automation, where we had introduced in a particular factory a new system of production control. It had been carefully explained; the organisation and methods people had been there; they had told everybody at each stage, and everything seemed to be going along quite happily. Then suddenly there was trouble. It was simply because we had missed out a stage. The organisation and methods people should have gone down to the factory more often the general manager (who happens to be a very good one) ought to have gone down. As soon as it came to light through the consultation machinery, we felt that it was possible to put it right. If that machinery had not been there, there would have been trouble.
I should have thought that this was something which many firms should be capable of avoiding. It is essential—and is going to become more and more essential —that management should accept all its responsibilities. It will no longer be possible for management just to assume that it is original sin that leads to workers, or, indeed, managers or those at a lower level, being reluctant to accept things. Nor will it any longer be possible, as in the New Yorker cartoon which was published recently, for a chairman, being somewhat worried about the effects of automation, to be comforted by his wife when she says: "Automation or no automation, dear, there will always have to be a chairman."
Nor, indeed, will the chairman be simply the man who happens to know where the factory is. There will be many capital and reorganisation questions coming before boards. This is a particularly delicate form of investment decision. It is not one which will be within the ordinary line of investment decisions taken by a firm. They may well know enough about a particular process to say that they will invest in 160 some more automatic looms, or whatever it may be. But this involves much wider knowledge and, therefore, it will no longer be possible for amiable and competent business directors to rely purely on executive directors to brief them on this matter. It will be possible and, indeed, desirable to alter the whole philosophy of management, which will be one of the good things in this respect —aided, I hope, by the noble Viscount if he gets his explanations to management right.
Managerial planning in the widest and longest sense will be of fundamental importance. But how many firms in this country even have proper systems of budgetary control? Yet we are talking about these infinitely more sophisticated instruments of management which are being put into their hands. It may be necessary to have some deliberate retraining of management. It has been suggested that it may be easier to train a manager in electronics than to train an electronics man in management—I do not know. But these are issues which the Government, the British Institute of Management and all these bodies, as well as production consultants, are seeking to get across.
My Lords, one of the matters on which the noble Viscount spoke was the extent to which the introduction of automation would abolish certain particularly unpleasant and, indeed, hazardous forms of operation. This is so, of course. There may also at times be greater risks of disaster if an error is made. But I am not sure that anyone is yet aware —I have seen such contradictory opinions—of the level of skill that is needed. An American aircraft manufacturer did a job analysis for a computer operator, and came to the conclusion that he wanted somebody with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering and an I.Q. of 80.
My Lords, we are going to achieve a very specialised individual. It may be that those of your Lordships who were educated on the humanities side still regard all technologists as people with low I.Q.s, but this, I am sure, is unjust, as my noble friend Lord Bowden will shortly demonstrate. But it is possible that in the interim stage—and it will be some while before we get beyond the button-pushing and watching a 161 warning light stage—there will be some dull and unrewarding jobs. Of course, there are a lot of dull and unrewarding, repetitive jobs of this kind already in industry. There are those jobs, like inspecting radio valves or bottles of Coca-Cola, which I am told are so dull that periodically the manufacturers have to put in a bottle of 7-Up, or whatever it is called, to make sure that the operator is awake. But it will not necessarily lead to an up-grading in skills, although it may do. There is need for more research, and it may not lead on present experience to much improvement in pay. This is really an important matter.
In approaching this subject we have to use the sort of techniques that we used in the Fawley experiment, which I am sure is familiar to the noble Lord. It is one of the most striking examples of effective management in the introduction of new processes and the getting rid of so-called restrictive practices, in a situation in which everybody benefited, particularly the worker. On this point I would stress that, although there was clearly goodwill on the workers' side, it was the initiative that was shown that improved the situation. I do not know how far emotional hazards and health hazards are going to be caused by this change. It may be that my noble friend Lord Taylor, who is to wind up, will have experience in this. But one thing I am sure of is that, as part of this general process, there is a need for strengthening the Industrial Medical Service, and this is a matter in which much of industry still lags and, if I may say so, the Government service particularly lags. Indeed, some of the Government medical services within the Civil Service are grossly inadequate.
Perhaps the most obvious and greatest source of anxiety is what is known as technological unemployment. There was a very interesting and frank letter in The Times—this was before "A Conservative" started monopolising The Times—a few days ago on the effect of automation. It was from a Mr. Laing who, I think, is President of the British Employers' Confederation. He pointed to the dangers which are only too well-known in America, and I expect noble Lords will have seen that article. But I should like to quote from some remarks made recently in Geneva at a special meeting, held under the auspices 162 of the International Labour Office, at which Mr. Snyder, who is Chairman and President of United States Industries Incorporated, had some worrying things to say about automation. He said:Recently, in America, anyone who says that automation is going to put people out of work has been considered a 'prophet of doom'. Some experts say that automation actually creates jobs—that everyone will always be employed.…'When the auto became popular …it knocked out trades like carriage-building and harness making. But, it created 100 jobs for every one it obsoleted.' Well, I disagree. That might have been the case in the long run.…To-day, Detroit is one of the centres of automation and it is also one of our country's largest and most critical areas of unemployment. In Detroit, at least, automation has not created jobs.He then goes on to give a number of examples, with which I shall not waste the time of your Lordships, as to how this operates and how, even if a particular firm itself may be able to absorb its own labour, it is quite likely to create unemployment in ancillary and dependent trades.
We have, too, the difficult question of mobility of labour. To many people the firm in which they work is an important part of their life. They give their loyalty and get their security from it. The risk of suddenly being told that they have to go out into the hard world and be re-trained in some other occupation is something which older people are very reluctant to face; and, indeed, I would say that it is something that many of us in your Lordships' House might be reluctant to face. It is a requirement that people should change their way of life.
We must take this matter seriously, and the first thing we have to do in taking it seriously is to try to estimate the size of the problem. I think it was when the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, was Minister of Labour (or it may have been a little after) that the first awareness of the urgency of this problem led to the first action, which was to set up the Manpower Research Unit. This is quite fundamental. Indeed, I think that if we are to discuss the consequences of automation the first thing we have to do is to estimate the extent of this problem.
In our debate on the Structure of Government I made some reference to the work of Professor Stone, at the Department of Applied Economics at 163 Cambridge, in trying to put the whole of the economy in a model, with the aid of a computer. Some of his colleagues have been applying these techniques with a view to forecasting the changes in the usage of particular skills. Mr. Colin Leicester has produced figures which, though they may not be final, none the less give some indication of the size of this problem.
It has been estimated that, as between 1951 and 1970, the percentage of men in the labour force engaged in managerial activities will have to increase from 11 per cent. to 17 per cent.; clerical workers will remain about the same, slightly declining; and the technically qualified will have to go up from 2 per cent. to 4.9 per cent. Here we may as well note one worrying thing, which we noted before, that in this country at the moment there is no increase in the supply of technologists. Indeed, we know that in certain fields there is a decline, particularly of mechanical engineers. The number of craftsmen will remain about the same, and the unskilled will go down from 12 per cent. to 7 per cent. If we analyse these estimates, we find that there are certain crafts in which there is already a grave shortage. I could give a list of those in which the number of unfilled vacancies vastly exceeds the number of those unemployed, while in certain other industries to-day the number of vacancies is a great deal smaller than the number of unemployed.
If these forecasts are valid—I do not know whether they are, but it is vital to get them right—we shall be confronted with the most enormous problem. There is no time now to discuss how to deal with it, although some of your Lordships may deal with these questions later, but one of the main questions, of course, will be this problem of re-training, on which a small beginning has been made. It is not my purpose to-day to start "knocking" the Government on matters, but I really do think that at the present moment we are simply nowhere facing up to the needs —and I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, will agree with me on this. This is a major problem which is going to confront every Government. There will be these changes in scales, 164 and there will inevitably be redundancies.
I agree strongly with the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, that the greatest need will be the transferability of pensions. I think it is a tragedy that, when the Government introduced their improved contributory pensions scheme, they did not go far enough. It is a matter of fundamental importance (and I am sure the majority of your Lordships who are engaged in management will agree with this) that if people are to change their jobs they must be able to take their pension right: with them—that is, where there are pension rights and of course there is still a large part of industry where they do not exist. Above all, the Government will need to explain frankly, clearly and continually what is happening.
As always, there are good employers and bad employers. One of the most interesting examples—it has been held out as a model or text, an absolutely perfect example of how to do it—was the recent introduction by Shell-Mex and BP of computers into much of their clerical work. I have seen the details of the efforts to which they went to get this across. This whole question of communication, which is gradually becoming more and more appreciated (and I am very glad to see that the Minister of Labour is himself taking some initiative in this matter), becomes all-important when we are confronted with this problem of automation. It will be necessary to give full details of prospects and of housing, for in many cases it will mean new housing, and this can be achieved by co-operation with local authorities. They, no doubt, make arrangements like these in Harlow—and my noble friend Lord Taylor would probably be willing to accept a computer or two in Harlow—and, of course, it will be necessary to introduce a proper system of redundancy payments. The Government's Contracts of Employment Act, does not begin to meet this problem.
My Lords, while we may be removing wheelbarrows and substituting flashing lights, it may be that people will go back to the wheelbarrows in their gardens, and I think it is almost certain that some of this will have to be cushioned by increased leisure. It is 165 not long ago that there was some argument in which the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, appeared to be successively agreeing with two contradictory views as to how people should spend their leisure. IL is perhaps fortunate that in a few weeks' time, on the Motion of my noble friend Baroness Burton of Coventry, we are to discuss leisure; but this again is a matter in which society will have a heavy responsibility. It will not be possible merely to let people gradually work shorter and shorter hours unless society, whether it be the Government or society in general (and I am very glad to see that the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Coventry is to speak in this debate) faces up to this particular question.
There is only one final thing that I should like to say. Whatever happens, the responsibility of the personnel managers must not be devalued during this process. It may be that we can put all the records, all the pay cards, and even the personal files—the whole lot—into the computer; but, in the last resort, relations between manager and men are as important as ever. As personnel management grows in industry and the function becomes more important, the personnel manager will have an important part to play in humanising this whole operation; and, of course, there will need to be a further understanding and further education among workers, whether they be shop stewards, supervisors or whoever they are, if we are to meet this need. With that, and with the importance of communication through the house journal or the meeting, whatever it may be, there will have to be a multiplicity of channels to explain this. We have been warned that the whole reserves of society, of Government and of goodwill must go into this. I think that we in this House, at least, are all agreed that the philosophy of "A Conservative", which the noble Lord so rightly clisclaimed—and some of us may have views as to whether the ideas of this individual may not be rather more widespread than the Government would like to admit—clearly would not be enough to meet this new challenge.
§ 4.8 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF COVENTRY
My Lords, this is only the third occasion on which I have spoken in this House, 166 but I am happy to say that on the two previous occasions I spoke on subjects that could not be put within the narrow confines of ecclesiasticism, and that I am not going to do so to-day. On the first occasion I spoke about the relief of world famine, on the second on the subject of housing; and on this third occasion my remarks will be on this vastly important subject of automation. It has long been the proud claim of the Christian Church that nothing human lies outside the scope of its interest, and it is therefore within the wider setting of this general concern that I wish to speak to-day. In other words, I wish to speak rather more about the social implications of this vast development than about the economic implications.
I said just now that this is an all-important subject, for clearly the issues involved will be intimately bound up with our whole economic future. There are those, as I have discovered, going in and out of factories, as I do constantly, who are gravely alarmed by the fear, as we have heard it expressed this afternoon, that automation my bring to this country the heavy and widespread unemployment that has come to the United States of America. But, as Mr. Maurice Laing pointed out, in an extremely interesting article in The Times recently, other factors must be taken into consideration. Furthermore, he pointed out—and here I quote:If we are not competitive, we shall fail to maintain our exports, and it will be this which will cause unemployment rather than automation.However, if this were the only reason for its importance I should not be taking up your Lordships' time to-day; but I am convinced that the social impacts of automation may well come to outweigh the economic. I would go so far as to say that the social repercussions of automation may be more far-reaching than those which followed the first Industrial Revolution. It is about some of these social impacts that I propose to speak; and I am glad to do so as the Bishop of Coventry because mine is an industrial diocese which has at its heart a city of great importance to the nation's industrial and economic life.
I hear frequent testimony as to both the merits and the problems which automation brings. As to the merits I will mention five. First of all, wise use 167 of the opportunities presented by automation can lead to efficiency; and efficiency surely can be regarded as a Christian virtue. Neither slovenliness nor a wilful refusal to respond to the challenge of progress can be regarded as according to the will of God. Secondly, and contrary to a view quite often expressed, automation can and, in fact, does raise the dignity of work, not least by removing from it dirty and laborious operations which for too many centuries have had to be carried out by human hands. It is surely untrue to maintain that automation makes man the slave of the machine. It is rather truer to say that the machine can become the slave of man-a slave, however, kindly and intelligently treated. In the course of my visits to factories I have often noticed the care, involving skill of a very high order, with which a man will tend the machine which works for him.
Thirdly, automation can and will inevitably lead to a vast extension of our leisure time. On some of the social problems presented by that fact I shall be speaking later in my address; and I am glad to see that we shall have a whole afternoon devoted to that all-important subject in a few weeks' time. A further merit of automation is that, contrary to what some critics say, I believe that craftsmanship can be enhanced by it. The complex operations which automation inevitably demands will require craftsmanship of a very high order; and while it is true that men in the front line who work on the vast new and complex machines may not require unusual brilliance of brain but only sound common sense, nevertheless the men behind the machine—the fitters and the examiners—must be men with a very high degree of intellectual competence and skill. Lastly, among the merits of automation is that, by the increased productivity that it makes possible, it vastly increases the good things to come within the reach of every man. In so doing it inevitably raises our standard of living; and since the Church is concerned with the whole of man, the Church must welcome such an admirable and praiseworthy development.
There are, however, many problems presented by automation, some of which have been touched upon already this 168 afternoon. First, and perhaps the most serious, is the resettlement of workers displaced by automation. Surely the solution of this problem can be found only in very carefully conceived schemes of industrial resettlement and retraining. This must be a major aim which will make a man flexible in mind, so that he will see these new techniques as fields of opportunity rather than as dangers to his livelihood. This flexibility of mind will make it easier for men to be mobile in their labour. It would be a tragedy if the glorious opportunities presented by this major change in the shape of industry should be lost by the development of a Luddite mentality. In my experience, the trade unions are very alert to this, and I am sure will bring their great influence to bear to avert that danger. With this in mind I would say that the Government's Industrial Training Act is to be welcomed.
But it seems to me—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, felt the same—that we are dangerously behind certain other nations in this field. Whereas certain other leading industrial nations, such as Sweden, the Netherlands and France, have Government agencies for forecasting the requirements in work and in skill which automation is likely to bring, so far there is no such agency in this country. The Ministry of Labour is in process of an inquiry in this respect in the engineering industry. But 1963 seems perilously late to have instituted such an inquiry. The year 1963 also seems perilously late to have decided on the setting-up of regional training boards. For a decade France has had her training and retraining centres, of which there are now over 100, financed by the Government and controlled by joint bodies of employers, trade unions and the Labour Ministry. In America, a Bill has been passed providing for the retraining of half a million adults thrown out of work as a result of automation. In Sweden, adult training schools are now open to everybody who wishes to better himself by acquiring skill. In that, responsibility is shared between the National Labour Market Board and the National Vocational Training Board. So it would appear that here, too, we are late on the scene—though better late than never.
This matter of retraining is of paramount importance, but inevitably it 169 raises many acute human problems. To the middle-aged man it will seem like going to school again; and some older men will find this process of mental reorientation both difficult and irksome. But how worth while it is, is shown by a recent inquiry into the subsequent history of those who have passed through these retraining centres. Seventy-two per cent. of those entering the building industry retraining centres and 80 per cent. of those entering metal industry training centres were still in the jobs for which they were trained four years after leaving those centres. Of course, there are grave difficulties to be overcome. Miss Eunice Belbin points out in an interesting article on this subject in the March 19, 1964, edition of that extremely worthwhile paper, New SocietyThe problem of unlearning is as great for the middle-aged as is the problem of learning.She also reminds us that the middle-aged worker has an innate fear of new machines, new jobs and new learning situations.
That these difficulties must be cleared up is revealed in another article by Lady Williams in the May 30, 1963, edition of the same newspaper, where she points out that there has been a substantial change in the age structure of the population in the last 100 years. While 100 years ago the community was predominantly young, to-day certain new factors have produced a working population which is predominantly middle-aged. It is also important that such men, when retrained, should be accepted in the new industry into which they have gone. They are often called (to use an ugly word), "dilutees", which is not the best of names and implies that they could easily be a threat to those who are in the industry before them. To this end, there needs to be a comprehensive social and industrial policy which assists men to co-operate in these changes without exposing them to insecurity; and, therefore, as I say, planning is needed. The Government's Contracts of Employment Act is a first step in this direction, but only a first step. When men are made redundant on account of technical change, generosity is needed. Some of the redundancy policies of some companies are good, but none can yet be regarded as completely satisfactory.
170 There are other questions, however, to be faced, such as provision of help to move to other areas and assistance in getting houses, when the prices are higher than they were in the area from which the worker has come. Some companies assist their staff employees in this matter, but this assistance could profitably be extended to all. But what I have said so far concerns movement within a national company. When a man has to leave, not only his job but also his company, he stands little chance of assistance unless his new employers will help him.
There is another cluster or group of problems centred on one word—security. All men these days have a right to security. I have worked long enough in London Dockland to recognise and deeply to feel in my bones the tragedy of past insecurity. Security is not an optional extra, nor should it be considered as charity. Security is a right which every man has a right to expect. I would give but one illustration of where automation could make the shoe pinch. It has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—namely, the subject of pensions. Every man has a right to a pension. The transference of pension rights, if, through automation, a worker has to move from one factory to another, is a right. I am delighted that the Government have recently taken steps to create a national scheme, so that pensions are no longer on a hit-or-miss basis—granted by one factory, not by another; available in one industry but not transferable to another. They have been lifted right above this local level and dealt with nationally.
Before leaving this subject, I would, however, repeat what I said earlier: that security is something that every man has a right to expect. We have already seen to this in the realm of health and unemployment benefit. Should we not aim to achieve it also in this matter of pensions? There are still far too few people in this country who recognise or feel deeply the depth of insecurity that overshadows the manual worker's mind, and very definitely also—though this is often unrealised—the office worker's mind. For one computer may well make 100 office workers redundant. This deep sense of insecurity lies behind the grave suspicion with which some workers 171 regard the process of automation. Their sense of insecurity, and with it their distrust of automation, would be vastly lessened if our unemployment benefit were a really adequate substitute for a good wage cut off by redundancy. Only slowly is the conscience of this nation being stirred to recognise that these basic rights, of which security is one, are not an optional extra, doled out by a benevolent Government or company directors, but a basic right inherent in the very nature of man himself.
So far we have been considering, among the problems that arise from automation, the problem of the resettlement and retraining of older men and the bringing of security to them. But now I would ask your Lordships' attention for a still greater problem, which has not yet been touched upon—that confronting school-leavers. For those who are not in what might be called the "A" stream, further technical education is needed. Only three days ago, I had the happy privilege of giving prizes to a group of industrial apprentices. That such further training should be made easily available to this very large proportion of our population is surely a matter of the highest urgency. Our society has been rightly criticised in the past for the wanton waste of the many abilities latent in it. Only an improvident nation can afford the luxury of untapped use of its potential—a potential which is definitely to be found in the category about which I am now speaking. For those who are "A" stream, the vital necessity is to ensure that they get into jobs adequate to their ability.
I have been discussing some of the merits of automation and some of the problems presented by it. I now come to mention one social change of the utmost significance which arises from automation—and again it is one that has been touched on by the two previous speakers, though it is to be thought of neither as a problem nor even as merely a merit, but rather as a glorious opportunity. That is the vast increase in leisure which will inevitably arise when the machine takes over from the man. For so long as memory can recall, mankind had had a stern taskmaster in his work.Man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening,172 said the Psalmist. The time is now coming when man may well go out to his work for two hours and face the rest of the day as a gentleman of leisure. The question is: What is he going to do with his leisure?
What is involved here is nothing less than a training in the arts of living; and this training will involve the whole field of education, so that it ceases to be merely utilitarian in objectives and becomes a university of Mankind, in which the virtues of lively curiosity, of outgoing interests, of artistic appreciation of many kinds, become not, as they have so long been, the prerogative of the few, but the birthright of the many. Here is an ideal which generous-hearted men have dreamed of for long generations. It is a thrilling thought that this is now within our reach. But if this is to happen, we cannot be caught unawares, as so often we have been in the past. And I am delighted to learn that we are to talk about this all-important subject very shortly.
In practical terms, how can we prepare for this age of leisure? Inevitably, new developments must take place within the entertainment industry. Equally inevitably there must be greater facilities for travel, so that Mr. and Mrs. Everyman can cross international frontiers more easily than at the moment they can cross the street. Furthermore, Mr. Everyman must be made to recognise that increased leisure brings increased opportunities for personal service. The motto of a great society in which I have had the privilege of working—Toc H—is "Service is the rent we pay for our room on earth." Shorter hours of paid work could, and should, mean longer hours of voluntary unpaid work. But not least its need will be to educate people to entertain themselves. This will involve a great extension of the field of hobbies and personal interests. Above all, man must learn the greatest of all arts, the art of giving himself time to consider what life is about and what it is for, without which deeper considerations—the hallmarks of natural wisdom in any age—no man can be whole or happy. And, in turn, he can do this only when he is delivered —and now it appears that he is going to be delivered—from the tyranny of time and the task. For all these reasons, 173 my Lords, I welcome the golden opportunities laid before mankind by the progress of automation.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, I should like to congratulate and thank the noble Viscount who introduced this Motion to-day. Though I would not agree with every word he said, I was most impressed by the wide scope of his speech and agreed with a very large proportion of it. It seems to me that there are three ways in which industry can be made more efficient, and automation is concerned with one of them. First of all, there is better administration, which enables us to use existing resources of people, equipment and money more efficiently. We can provide more competent people by recruitment and training; and we can provide for industry better equipment and rapid technological advance, which will have the effect both of improving the product and of lowering the unit cost, or both.
It is with the third of these that automation, in its broadest sense, is concerned. It follows from this that, with a constant quality of product, each unit will employ less labour. In to-day's context, there is no need to argue in detail the definition of what automation is all about: whether it involves control engineering, feed-back, computers, mechanisation or whatever it is. The important fact is the introduction of equipment that produces a constant quality of product at lower unit cost, and therefore displaces labour, producing problems in that respect.
There will be no disagreement that automation is a vital factor in increased productivity, and that, as many noble Lords have already mentioned, it will have an important effect on employment. The gain in productivity is wholly beneficial; and the effect on employment can, I believe, also be beneficial. I certainly would not agree with the pessimists who say that inevitably automation will lead to serious and immediate problems of unemployment. It certainly can, if we do not plan the future aright. The biggest factor is that the fear of unemployment through automation will produce unemployment by preventing a sufficiently rapid introduction of new equipment.
Most people are quite familiar—indeed a number of examples have already been 174 mentioned to-day—with the advances in labour-saving devices: in automatic lathes and other machine tools; continuous-flow production lines in the mass production of cars and domestic appliances; automatic process control in chemical industries, oil refineries and steel mills; computers for stock control and pay-roll calculations, not to mention the automatic cooker and washing machines in the home. These have all made possible a greatly increased standard of living, and in many fields Britain is ahead of, or at least up with, the leaders—although it is disappointing to see how often those industries have had to depend on American produced capital equipment.
I could not agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, that British management is moribund, or that success is confined to firms that have originated abroad. I agree that in many fields we have fallen behind, but this is well recognised in wide areas of British industry to-day, and it is widely accepted that we must move fast to catch up and maintain our position. But exhortation in these matters is no good. Indeed, to take a wholesale plunge into automation can be both wasteful and harmful. Like marriage, automation must not be taken in hand inadvisedly, lightly or wantonly, but with due regard to the cost and overall advantage.
No doubt there are wide areas where competitors have advanced and British industry could have advanced with great advantage. It is pertinent to ask why British industry has not gone ahead as rapidly as it should have done, and what can be done to improve matters. First of all, there is the historical point that we in this country suffered more from the Second World War, compared to America, where their resources were conserved, and compared to Europe, where their resources were rebuilt with the great programme of Marshall Aid. But it is no good looking backwards to these historical reasons. They are behind us, and, whether they are relevant or not, we cannot allow them to affect our future good judgment.
Secondly, with the great tradition of conservatism (with a small "c") in many branches of industry, there is a fear of risking capital on new devices—though this may not be unreasonable in many 175 cases, where the market at home is relatively small and prevents the possibility of recovering the capital investment over a reasonable period. I would strongly support the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, in this connection: that we want better tax incentives and better financial incentives of all kinds to encourage industrialists to invest in new equipment in the automation field, and to help reduce the considerable risk that is undertaken when a major piece of equipment of this kind is installed.
Thirdly, in this country, although we have a large Defence programme, it is very small indeed compared to the tremendous sums that are spent on defence and space research in America. I disagree with the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, who gave the impression that there were still in this country large schemes for capital assistance from the Government for the purchase of machine tools. This came to an end, unfortunately for industry, many years ago. But in America, I believe that a large proportion of the computer controlled machine tools in industry have been financed directly from Government contracts. This has had a tremendously stimulating effect on the buying of these machines.
Fourthly, there are the educational and social traditions of this country. Up to a short time ago (and perhaps some of this remains to-day) production engineering was not at all respectable; it was the least respectable branch of engineering. Many of those in it had come up the hard way; they relied heavily on past experience and were perhaps slow in accepting innovation. Then, again, there was an unhappy lack of understanding among engineers and scientists and financiers. Each is to blame. The engineers have not taken sufficient trouble to understand the problems of the financiers and accountants. They have put forward schemes which have not been well documented and have not been understood by those who control the money.
Similarly, the financiers and accountants have not taken the trouble to find out what engineering was all about and what the requirements of their colleagues were. This, I believe, is largely a question of attitude of mind. It is 176 difficult to prove conclusively by figures that a new item of equipment will pay its way; there has to be an element of faith in many cases. You have to try out examples of new equipment, after looking at the whole problem as carefully as you can, but not make it essential to prove conclusively that it will pay its way before you buy it.
The small scale of some parts of British industry makes it difficult for this expensive equipment to be financed or for the research and development to be done that enables full use to be made of it. Here, again, I strongly support the noble Viscount,Lord Hanworth, in his remarks about industrial research associations. I think it is sad that the Government, through the D.S.I.R., have adopted such a niggardly attitude to these most valuable associations. No doubt some of them are too small, and some are not as competent as they should be, but, on the whole, they provide a valuable form of co-operative research and development, particularly for the smaller companies who cannot afford the expensive equipment and facilities necessary. I am told that recently a Working Party of directors of Research Associations has been set up to investigate some of the problems connected with the spread of automation. I understand that they have asked the D.S.I.R. for support for research projects in this field, and it has been found very difficult to find the money for them.
Sixthly, I think there is a real problem in that capital goods manufacturers have to put a great deal of money into developing these modern types of automatic machinery. They often get a very low return on the development and capital which they have invested in these projects. Too often the customer gets almost all the value, and I believe there is some scope here for investigating whether renting agreements, or some other method of sharing the benefits, could not with advantage be adopted.
Then there is considerable misunderstanding about the flexibility of automation. Everyone thinks that his problems are unique, and many believe that automation is suitable only for large-scale mass production. Both these views are quite untrue. The principles on which automation depends are common over wide fields, though the details 177 will, of course, differ. One of the great advantages of some types of automation is that it can be successfully applied to relatively small-batch production. This is clearly a matter for education and publicity. Lastly, some speakers have already suggested that trade union conservatism—again with a small "c"—has been an important factor in slowing up the introduction of automation equipment into British industry. I do not believe that up to now this is true. I have not myself seen any examples of it, except on a minute scale. But do not let us delude ourselves that this may not become, and, indeed, will not become, a very important factor in the future unless we take the necessary steps to prevent it.
That brings me to my second principal point, the effect on employment of automation. There is no doubt at all that at present in this country the great need is maximum production at minimum cost. With great respect to the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Coventry, I believe we are a long way away from the two-hour day which he mentioned. We have a long way to go before we meet all the needs of this country to remove poverty and squalor from the worst parts of our slums, and to make as big a contribution as we should like to help the underdeveloped countries abroad. Too true there is some local unemployment. But many of our problems come from overfull employment and a shortage of skilled men. Where there is unemployment, uncompetitive prices are often an important contributory cause—in, for instance, ship building and textiles.
But if we can become more competitive, if we can produce bigger exports through being more competitive, we shall run into an expanding spiral of the economy. We shall be able to give more help to underdeveloped countries, and we shall have more influence for peace and stability abroad. I really do not believe that there is any fear, within the next ten or twenty years, of any serious unemployment from the introduction of automation if we play our cards right. The present clear objective must be increased productivity, and there is basically no need to worry about anything else for a very long time.
But people look to the United States of America. They see the vast produc- 178 tivity, the vast output there, the economy of waste, and the 4 million to 5 million unemployed. As the President of the British Employers' Confederation said so well in the article that has already been quoted:Attribution of all American unemployment problems to the effects of automation is a gross exaggeration.But he concludes:The advance of automation has contributed appreciably to heavy unemploymentthat is, in the prevailing American conditions. We might conclude, perhaps, from reading the recent Sunday Times article which criticised British industry so heavily, that we might be better off to be inefficient and have no unemployment, than to be very efficient and have these vast numbers of unemployed. That is a plausible but a dangerous argument for us in this country.
The right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Coventry, has already quoted from the article in The Times by the President of the B.E.C., where he makes it perfectly clear that if we are not competitive we shall fail to produce the necessary exports, and for that reason we shall have unemployment. By contrast, there is everything to be gained by increased efficiency: the end of poverty and squalor, as I have already said, greater influence abroad and greater opportunities for leisure in our private lives.
Up to now, I repeat, I do not believe that trade union pressure has been an important factor in delaying automation, but the quicker the pace becomes the more danger is there that this will become a most important issue. Here I would say that I think there is some misunderstanding about the amount of maintenance that will be required for some of these automatic machines. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, suggested that we were not going to require many people because the machines were going to maintain themselves. Equally, with great respect to him, I think this is a long way away, and perhaps might come in in the next century but not in this one.
Having said that, I would emphasise that there is no time to lose in preparing for the changes that lie ahead. Already, as we have seen, some considerable progress has been made. The Ministry of 179 Labour's manpower research unit is making a special study of manpower requirements in the metal-using industries, and of the use of computers in office employment. I welcome these studies wholeheartedly, but I wonder whether their scope is wide enough and whether they are dealing specifically enough with the effects of automation? I hope that this can be reviewed when the reports of these Working Parties have been produced.
Secondly, the United Kingdom Automation Council has been formed, and the Working Parties that I have already mentioned are at work studying problems of communications and working through the research associations. I have recently had a personal experience of dealing with the sort of problems that might come in the wholesale adoption of automation in an industry where we had, in the company for which I work, substantial re-organisation and redundancy as a result of the cancellation of a defence project. I cannot stress too strongly both the importance and the difficulty of achieving adequate communication in those circumstances. I believe that these studies which the United Kingdom Automation Council are undertaking in the field of communications are of the utmost importance.
Thirdly, we have the Industrial Training Act, to which the right reverend Prelate has already referred, and which is a most valuable instrument in ensuring that we shall train people for the new era. Finally, the Robbins Report has been accepted and will lead, I hope, to the general raising of the educational standard for the more complex era into which we are moving. The foundations have been laid for fact finding and education. But the maximum effort is needed to sift other countries' experience, particularly that of the United States, to estimate the employment pattern in this country in 1980, and then to train people for the new pattern and to avoid a pool of unemployables in the new era.
There are other problems, too, with which other noble Lords have dealt, and I would wholeheartedly support the points that have been made on the importance of transferability of pensions and the need for adequate housing arrangements to provide flexibility of labour. Above all, the essential action is to show clearly 180 that automation is the way to prosperity for all, and not to unemployment and poverty for large sections of our people.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD BOWDEN
My Lords, the subject which we are discussing this evening is, as has well been said, among the most important which confront mankind to-day. It is wholly impossible to cover more than the smallest part of it, and, with your Lordships' permission, in order to be comprehensive I should like to concentrate on one or two aspects of it. Since the subject of computers and computation has already been raised, I will for a few moments deal with them. The most extraordinary and rather frightening thing about them is their prodigious speed, and it is on this that I should like to dwell for a moment or two.
By about 1938—in other words, just before the beginning of the War—it was possible to do arithmetic with the then existing adding machines, calculating machines, books of tables and log tables, perhaps 300 or 400 times as fast as it had been possible for one of the Greek astronomers to do arithmetic two or three thousand years before. May I remind your Lordships that the whole of science, the whole of accountancy, the whole of business, and the whole machinery of Government depended entirely on the arithmetic which was done in those days? The first computers which were introduced in about 1950 were a few hundred times as fast as an ordinary man had been in 1938; in other words, the increase in speed which was achieved by the first generation of computers over the best that could have been done before the war was about as great as had been achieved in the whole of historical time before that date.
This, of itself, is remarkable enough, but a more striking fact is that the latest computers which are now being sold are some thousands of times as fast as the primitive computers of 1950. In other words, the increase in speed of the last decade has very greatly exceeded the total increase in speed which recorded history could account until 1938. It is possible to-day for a computer to do arithmetic about a million times as fast as a good man with pen and paper. This means, among other things, that a computer can do in about five or ten minutes 181 as much arithmetic as an ordinary man can do in a working lifetime.
This, of itself, is startling enough, but since it is difficult to grasp what so large a factor means, perhaps I may be forgiven for using a couple of analogies. If you compute the ratio of the output of a man writing with a quill pen to that of a modern printing press printing an ordinary newspaper, you find that that, too, is of the order of a million or so to one. And remember that when we have printing presses we do not merely repeat the kind of writing which was done with a quill pen. Suddenly the whole of the popular Press, the whole of literature, the whole of the books which we read, the whole of the educational system, and the whole of modern mass communications becomes possible.
Another example, perhaps even more striking, is that a thousand years ago an ordinary man walking about the surface of the earth would perhaps move at four miles an hour. To-day, rockets move at perhaps 25,000 miles an hour as they go around the earth a speed of perhaps 5,000 or so to one. Remember, that when we have a rocket we do not use it merely to move more quickly through London; we use it for entirely different purposes, such as the exploration of space. It is my submission that these new computing machines have it within them to make a change in our society entirely comparable with that which has been made in, let us say, literature by the invention of printing, or in travel by the invention of aircraft and, even more, of the rocket. These machines are capable, therefore, of doing quite extraordinarily new things, as distinct from doing the old things faster—and this is the fundamental point to which I must draw your Lordships' attention.
I began by saying that in 1938 the whole of society depended on arithmetic. So it did; and much of the arithmetic was wholly inadequate. There were many regions of society's operations wholly inaccessible to us—in particular the nature, for example, of the business machine in its finer manifestations, and, even more so, the conduct of the affairs of Government and the operation of society at large. It was quite impracticable then, and it is only just beginning 182 to be practicable now, to work out in some detail what is likely to happen to society if certain changes are made in it. Let us remember that the whole of the function of Government is concerned with the control of our society through the physical process. For the first time in history, it seems to me, it will be possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be in a position to determine, before the results actually catch up with him, the results of fiscal changes which he proposes to make in his Budget. This particular aspect of the application of computers is now being studied by Professor Stone, in Cambridge, with extremely interesting results.
I may perhaps be forgiven again for using another analogy. About 30 years ago a very great meteorologist decided to try to see whether it would be possible for him to predict the weather by calculation. He was obliged very much to simplify his problem, but he took all the data that was available, and solved the equations which were available to him as precisely as he could. The work took him rather more than two months to do, and, since he was trying to predict tomorrow's weather from yesterday's, it was clearly out of date. With extraordinary courage he published his result, which was completely wrong—the reason being, of course, that he had had to simplify his calculation so much that it was obviously bound to be misleading. The over-simplifications had ruined it. It is now possible to do a thousand times as many sums in a thousandth of the time, and for the first time in history it is beginning to be possible to predict to-morrow's weather before to-morrow's weather actually happens. This makes a first-order difference to the weather forecasting business. If you can predict the weather before it happens, it is worth doing; if you cannot, it is not.
Similarly, I believe that it is now going to be possible for the first time to predict with some confidence the results of Governmental changes before, in fact, the circumstances have revealed them in all their horror; and it begins to be possible, in fact, to think for the first time that the Chancellor will know what he is doing before it is too late. The analyses, for example, of the extremely complex figures enshrined in the Census of Production and the Census of Distribution 183 have often taken several years, which means that all the data upon which the Chancellor is working (for much of it must come from these extremely valuable documents) are at least four years out of date. Information of this kind may be extremely valuable to some future historian chronicling the decline and fall of British trade, but it is of little or no use to a Chancellor trying to struggle with the problem of keeping the economy on an even keel.
I have ventured to describe the impact of one of these extraordinary machines on an aspect of our society which has perhaps not so far been considered. These machines, as I have said, are a quite extraordinary development in modern technology. The next point I must make is that they each cost, or may cost, as much as a large jet airliner. The large Atlas machine costs about £3 million. This is a vast sum of money, and, as I have already said, such a machine can have an immense importance for society. But, most unfortunately, the British Treasury have not so far grasped the implications of these machines or given to their development the support which in my view would have been justified. The Americans now almost completely dominate the world's markets in computers. Ten years ago English and American computers were competing neck and neck; to-day we have been hopelessly out-distanced. I speak from memory, but I think I am right in saying that last year we sold abroad only one-fifth as many computers as we imported from America in that year; and, of course, the Americans sold machines to the whole of the rest of the world. The manufacture of these machines is beginning to be an industry comparable in size even to the aircraft industry, and I am sure that in a few years' time its impact on society and on Government will be of comparable importance to it.
The dominance of the American computer business is in large measure due to the extraordinary insight and imagination with which the American Government has sponsored its development. Unfortunately, in this country the Treasury, which is obviously one of the more important of the customers for computers, has never felt itself obliged to accept any responsibility for the prosperity of the computer business, and 184 it buys its computers through the Stationery Office in much the same kind of way as it buys vacuum cleaners; it does so quite logically because computers are used for processing data, and so are pencils and paper. There may come a time when we shall buy wheelbarrows and aircraft through the same machinery for the same kind of reasons.
However, in the meantime it is true to say that, despite the fact that British manufacturers were as good as any in the world ten or fifteen years ago, they have not had the support they might reasonably have hoped for from the Treasury. The Treasury has, for example, not helped them, as the American Government has done, by buying the prototypes of new computers. Of the seven new types of computer recently introduced, five prototypes have had to be sold abroad by one large firm. To sell the prototype of a computer, as complex as it is, in a country some thousands of miles away from home is an extraordinarily difficult and foolish thing to do. The problem of maintaining it and keeping it serviced and so on is extremely vexatious, and in any event it is extremely hard to persuade a foreign customer of the merits of your product if your own Government are not prepared to support you.
It has been well said that to sell a prototype is like extracting the first onion from a bottle or the first kiss from a girl. It is difficult, but the rest, as your Lordships may perhaps even now remember, sometimes comes more easily. It has been the tragedy of the British computer trade that it has not received from the Government the support it might reasonably have expected, and I say this although I realise that a considerable amount of the difficulties which the industry is confronted with is due to its own imperfections. A very major part of the responsibility is inescapably that of the Government.
It has recently been announced that the D.S.I.R. has endowed research work in some of the bigger firms, and I have been told by senior members of the firms that they have accepted the contracts in some cases merely to do a favour to the man who is offering it to them, because the terms were rather onerous and the amount of money available was sufficient to provide four or five big 185 firms with two or three white collar workers each. I ask your Lordships to imagine how the aircraft industry would react to a similar proposal to develop, shall we say, a new Vickers VC.12, supposing there were such a thing.
I have said that computers have tremendous importance and I have said that they are complex and expensive devices. It is also true to say that they are peculiarly suitable for this country to manufacture and sell, since the content of brain is large and the actual value of raw material is small. It is indeed a tragedy that we have not succeeded in maintaining our hold on world markets, and I cannot by any means say that the Government are free from blame, or—shall I put it this way? —had they been more imaginative the situation would have been very much better than it is.
The next point I must come to is the problem of using these machines once they have been built, and this is a point which the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, underestimated. It is in fact true to say, I think, that as a rule it costs as much to get a machine into use and working as it costs to build it. It is an extraordinary statement to make, but again I will use an analogy. The organisation of, let us say. British Overseas Airways Corporation is immensely more complex than one would imagine if one thought of it merely as an assemblage of aircraft. The problems of organising it, getting its timetables ready, crews trained and so on only begin when the aircraft arrive for the first time on the tarmac. It is similarly true to say that the problem of organising the use of computers is vastly complex, and it is this as much as their building which has been neglected in this country, again I think in large measure due to the lack of imagination of Treasury officials.
Many developments have taken place, as the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, said, in the development of new methods of coding computers. That is true. Again it is worth using an historic analogy. When the great Newton for the first time explained the system of the world to his contemporaries, the methods he used wore completely incomprehensible to almost everyone, and few people were able to use them for 186 almost 100 years after his death. It took the life work of several great mathematicians to produce from the Newtonian calculus the syllabus now used in A level for schoolboys.
When I was programming computers fifteen years ago I was hopelessly bad at it, and it was very difficult to do. In the last few years the system has enormously improved and there are now a series of languages which can be used to communicate with computers, and these have completely revolutionised the operations of programming. But as the problem of programming has been simplified, so have the problems the machines can tackle become more complex, and it is true to say to this day that the problem of organising the kind of calculation that computers are capable of is such as to cost immense sums and taxes the resources and ingenuity not merely of mathematicians but of people who understand in great detail the problems the computer is to solve. It is far better to teach an economist to use a computer than to teach a mathematician economics and the same is true mutatis mutandis if one talks of accountancy, business or engineering.
These machines can use these new languages only if they are large, complex and fast, and we have far too few machines of this kind in this country to-day, to such an extent that the D.S.I.R. has from time to time been obliged to pay for some of our scientists to go abroad to solve their problems on computers overseas; there has been none adequate in this country for their purpose. If we as a nation are to exploit these machines it is at least as necessary to study their use as it is to study their construction.
Some achievements are noteworthy. For example, as you know, the greater part of the insurance records are kept by a computer in Newcastle. The British Army is paid by computer by the Pay Corps. I had the opportunity of seeing it work because much of it was done in Manchester. The Army Pay Corps sent a large number of officers and other ranks to study the machines, and study in detail the immensely complex problem of putting pay books on the machine. So we have made progress, but I do beg your Lordships to believe it is deplorably slow, 187 and it is alarming to find that, although ten years ago we were neck and neck with America, we are now hopelessly out-classed not only by them, but by many European countries—by Germany and Italy, for example—who have many more computers than we have in England. If we as a nation are to exploit these new techniques, the Government must take the lead in helping industry to do it, for the very same kind of reason as the Government are taking the lead in providing resources for building new types of aircraft.
I should like to turn, if I may, to one or two of the other aspects of this very complex problem. I have mentioned computers and I think I must now leave them. But there are other devices equally important for the study of automation. I refer, for example, to machine tools, and also to the general problems of controlling complex plants, such as, let us say, refineries or chemical plants of various kinds. Both of these subjects are important, and in both of them we as a nation have fallen far behind.
I should like to tell your Lordships the story of education in this country in the machine tool trade, for it is indeed a sorry one, and only too typical, I believe, of many of the things we have done in our lifetime. The first and best machine tools in the world were almost certainly made in England in the middle of the last century—by people like Maudesley and Whitworth in Manchester in the 'eighties and' nineties of the last century. For years their manufacture was regarded as simply for craftsmen, and it was held to be impossible to improve their design by taking conscious thoughts and engineering them in any sense. However, in the 'eighties and the' nineties Professor Nicholson in Manchester started an elaborate analysis of the behaviour of these tools and put them on something like a scientific basis. This work of his inspired the Germans to establish a large school of machine tool design in Berlin. This school was so successful that the German machine tool trade dominated the markets of the world for many years, and to this day I think I am right in saying we sell about one-third as many machine tools to Germany as they sell to us.
188 In 1956 the machine tool trade recruited altogether two graduates. It now recruits about thirty a year, which is 1,500 per cent. better, but still nothing to boast about. The point I want to tell your Lordships is this. We were able to start up a new department of machine tool design in Manchester and, by an extraordinary circumstance, we appointed the son-in-law of the first man to study machine tools in Germany, in the very college from which the whole subject had started about fifty years before, thereby bringing the wheel in full circle, and we hope starting up developments of machine tools which will make it possible for British industry to recover the place it had before the Germans succeeded in filching it from us by educating their designers.
If we are to cope with the problems of automation we must be able to handle such problems as the design of machine tools and control mechanisms and so on, and inevitably this must he a function of the universities and of industry. The universities must educate young men who can do this sort of thing; and they must do so in collaboration with industry at every possible stage. As your Lordships will remember, the Robbins Committee reported a few months ago and urged upon the Government, quite properly, the immense and vital importance of making provision for more undergraduate education for young people leaving school in the near future. This the Government are in process of doing, though with what success remains to be seen. But there is one aspect of the Robbins recommendations which is equally important and which the Government so far have ignored. It is this. It is essential that lively schools of post-graduate education should be developed in those places where collaboration with industry has been established and can be followed up. This is one of the proposals which Robbins made in speaking of the special institutions, the SISTERS as they are called.
Without wishing to enter at this moment into the question as to whether SISTERS are the right things to have, I would urge the Government to accept the fact that further post-graduate education in devices of this kind is essential if the industry we depend upon is 189 to be able to get the recruits that it so urgently needs. I feel that much of the history of automation in this country has been one of wasted opportunities and of neglect, and I fear that unless the authorities—this includes the Government as well management and industry—accept its importance and concede that something must be done quite positively to develop our new techniques, then our future as a great nation is indeed gloomy. On the other hand, we can remember the skill which made it possible for us to develop machine tools fifty years ago, and computers ten years ago. There is no doubt at all of the ability of our young people or of our manufacturers. What they need is the help which only the Government and the country as a whole can give to them.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
My Lords, I think that if there is any subject which one must approach both with humility and with imagination it is that of automation. I speak with special humility following the brilliant speech that we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Bowden. I feel that my noble friend Lord Hanworth has given this House a debate probably as important as any heard in either House of Parliament during this Session. One can only sympathise with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who has to reply to it.
The debate so far has been most interesting, and particularly because from no quarter in your Lordships' House has anybody tried to pour cold water upon this subject. Usually these great revolutions of life have produced strong opposition, such as Professor Galbraith would call "the conventional wisdom." The Board of Admiralty passed its famous resolution, that whilst wood floated, iron sank, therefore the ironclad was impossible. There has been nothing like that in this House to-day. Yet we have to see whether the whole country can be persuaded to take as enlightened a view as those expressed to-day. Because, however unpleasant the consequences of a revolution may be—and there may be—most unpleasant consequences in all revolutions—it is impossible to contract out of a revolution. If we try to contract out of it and ignore it. it will mean that this country retires 190 to a backwater, and becomes a poor, stagnant island. We have either to advance or go right down, and the present "brain-drain," such as it is, would change from its present trickle into a flood of our best brains in science, engineering, banking and entrepreneurs going to other countries where this revolution is accepted.
It is hard for the layman whose only interest, which I must declare, is a few shares in various companies, to see what this means. It is a totally new way of the organisation, so far as the layman can see it, of the assemblage of facts, of the making of decisions and the putting of those decisions into execution: the tiny miniaturisation of all that we had in the hospital with which I am connected, the presentation from some experts on computers about what it might mean. In our hospital we have, I suppose, over a million case cards and records. The whole lot can be turned from cards into something occupying an area as small as the Dispatch Box. Henceforth, as soon as this can be done, the doctors can get any set of statistics, about any patients, in any particular selection they like, in a matter of minutes, both because of its miniaturisation and, as Lord Bowden has said, its fantastic speed—it used to be 5,000 sophisticated decisions per second, but presumably I am talking now of the bow-and-arrow computers. Now there is the assemblage, the selection and the rejection. People say, of course, that there is a human element, but it has been explained that you can cut out the human element because you can require the computer to say whether any mother is recorded as having a baby when below the age of 14 or over the age of 45, and the relevant card is tracked back quickly.
The possibilities are quite fantastic. If the hospital were to become computerised the space which the machine would take up would be two rooms a quarter of the size of this Chamber. It would be able to take one and a quarter million cards, all on tape, with the result that all the research workers and doctors treating a case could have all the facts to hand immediately. A machine the size of a transistor radio could be carried by an anesthetist during an operation, which would give him all the informa- 191 tion he needed as to blood pressure, blood count, heart beat and so on, so that if anything went wrong he would immediately be warned. That information could then be fed into the big machine and kept, so as to be easily available in the future. As well as handling all this medical work the machine could keep accounts, stores data and other important information. It would be perfectly possible to have one library where the facts of all cancer research all over the world could be kept. This idea was put up by this country. It was seized upon by General de Gaulle, and that centre will be in Paris—and it is because we were not quick enough.
It is important to realise that this is not really reducing the whole thing to an inhuman level. It is reducing the level of guesswork, so that everybody who has to make a decision can make a far more informed and sophisticated decision than he otherwise might make without its aid. An obstetrician might deliver 400 babies in a year and he would be very lucky if he could keep details of those deliveries in his head; but if he could have at his finger tips the facts in relation to every baby delivered in the last ten years, his level of approach would be considerably enhanced.
One could even imagine that most conservative of all branches of learning, the law, benefiting from this technique. When a judge was faced with a difficult problem of sentencing, he could ask for guidance from the computer—a computer which could easily be fed with details of every case of crime in the country and store it. The judge could ask for information in regard to a person of a certain age and a particular background, as to what sentences had been given in the past and as to what had been the result. Within hours he could be told that, with a certain type of treatment, the chances of success were five to one, or whatever the result might be, and he would then be able to exercise his human judgment in a way far more sophisticated than would be the case with somebody—as the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, has pointed out in a most interesting article—who, when put in the judgment seat without any experience in that particular field of criminology and without that amount 192 of facts available to him, finds the task most difficult.
One can say that there is no aspect of human society which may not at this moment be in process of revolution: One can take the problem of roads and railways as an example; and already aeroplanes move around largely under computer control. Town and country planning, education, and the present extraordinary mix-up one gets with various people applying to the different universities and colleges at various times, might well benefit from the application of these techniques. One can conceive of these problems being worked out in a far more intelligent way, and much more quickly, looking ahead, as the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, has said, in a way that is quite impossible to-day.
If all this is true, what is the position of this country? I understand that in America there are 17,000 computers. If we in this country had as many computers in proportion to our population, we should have 5,000. We have, in fact, no more than 800. That shows how far behind we are compared to the United States. Russia is making its big industrial effort based on automation. It is hard to find out any figure from Russia, but what we do know is that they have several large institutions working on nothing else. In one factory which was visited by an English technician they were making more control units per week than the United Kingdom makes in a year. They feel that with an autocracy like Communism they can enforce this revolution as ruthlessly as Peter the Great or Ivan the Terrible in their day, while we in a free society can do it only by personal persuasion and incentive. That is where they feel they can beat us—that is, unless we can catch them up.
Even France are ahead of us in the number of computers they possess. A number of people say we are behind in comparison to the United States because they were more or less out of the war. Other people say that we are behind Germany and France because they were involved in the war. It seems to me that we try to make excuses by having it both ways. It is about time we stopped producing excuses.
193 We cannot let the danger of such a lag continue. We must look at what has happened to one of the best organised, most intelligent and most sophisticated societies which has ever existed, the Chinese Empire. When the first English voyagers went there in the time of Charles II they found that in practically every respect China was ahead of Europe. Yet when the Industrial Revolution came along and China tried to contract out, they made a fatal error, and it meant at least 250 years from that time before that great nation could ever catch up with what it missed at that moment of time. We are in the same danger. We must not regard this problem as a simple one, for an enormous number of snags are involved. This is a most complex field, and dozens of things can go wrong in applying these techniques. But it is a matter of will and imagination, about which, at the moment, both Parties, whether it is Mr. Wilson or the Prime Minister, are making very modern-like noises.
The Government can still show in these months before the Election, and I hope for many years afterwards, that they really mean what they say and are not just paying it lip service. As a first incentive it is essential that they should consider giving selective investment allowances in the next Budget, so that the person who replaces an old machine by an old machine of the same pattern does not get the same allowance as a person who replaces an old machine by the most advanced machine imaginable. The Government should, to some extent, share that gamble as an effort of imagination. But, apart from that, I think the Government themselves must show an example. The problems of an automated and computerised industry and society cannot be coped with by a Government who depend only on type-writers. It is essential, if these terrible social problems are to be faced, that a Cabinet, in making its decisions, should have behind it the full resources of these machines and their sophisticated techniques.
Already a good deal has been done. The R.A.F. health reports, whose production for publication always took thirteen months under the old system, have now been put on to computers, and they can be produced in a day and a 194 half. It is almost incredible, but it is true. Papers which have been produced and published in the Government files, which nobody has ever looked after and which have never been seen and were of no use to anybody except historians, can now be put to immediate use. We have the possibility that all the Treasury's economic calculations and the Inland Revenue's tax machinery can be put into operation at an early date. It would be one big gesture if the Government said, "We have accepted the fact, and in the hospital service, the medical service, we are going to give these techniques priority, to show what they can do". The Government, by their example, will be able both to deal with these problems, and to give an example to society as a whole. I am sure, my Lords, that we all wish again to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, for opening this debate which is of such importance.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIAMSON
My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in paying tribute to the noble Viscount, not only for putting the Motion on the Order Paper but also for his very well-informed speech. I hope he will not mind if I refer to one passage in it, which I felt was unduly pessimistic, and a little unfair, concerning the progress which has been made by British industry by joint effort since, let us say, 1945 or 1946. The noble Viscount will be aware of the Anglo-American Council on Productivity, which was followed by the British Productivity Council and all the local committees and joint committees throughout the country—100 of them—which I am sure have made a very great contribution to British industry. Indeed, there are instances of firms in this country which are ahead of the United States in invention and technological development.
The Motion calls for an increase in automation, and I would submit to your Lordships that it is equally important to call for an increase in technological advance generally; for, after all, what is broadly understood as automation is only one field of scientific and technological knowledge and application. Over the past twenty years or so automation has attracted a great deal of attention and publicity, not always of a very discriminating or analytical character, and 195 it is desirable, therefore, that we should maintain a sense of perspective in this matter. Although automatic processes are advancing in certain sections of some industries, there are many others where the nature of the work and operations does not lend itself to automation, notwithstanding great scope, of course, for other forms of efficient development. Such industries might include agriculture, forestry, fishing, building, professional services, entertainment and catering. This is a great deal of our industrial and commercial activity.
To some people automation symbolises an evil force in the shape of transfer systems, robot factories and electronic brains, likely to revolutionise the very structure and organisation of British industry and threatening the jobs of everybody. At one extreme, large-scale unemployment is believed to be an inevitable consequence of automation, with all the adverse social repercussions, and at the other extreme automation is hailed as the key to Utopia, a means of access to the age of plenty. Such diverse views are not surprising, because little or no attempt has been made, or is being made, to effect a balance between different aspects of automation, or to help the layman to maintain a sense of overall perspective on this question.
To assert that industrial and production techniques could be revolutionised is not to mean that they immediately will be or, indeed, can be. Normally, there is a considerable time gap between research and its practical application. Automation is not new, any more than technological development and change are new, or the fact that problems are created as results of such changes. There are many industries—such as, for example, steel, glass, newspaper printing, communications, oil, chemicals and sections of engineering—where the scale of automatic production and control has reached considerable proportions. What is new, or may be new, about automation is the rate of acceleration, the speed and extent to which automatic processes and other labour-saving devices are introduced. There is no alternative but to accept the fact that the spread of automatic processes in Britain is inevitable if we are to survive.
196 But the speed of this development may bring in its wake serious economic and social problems, the solution of which is as important to the national wellbeing as is the adoption of modern industrial techniques themselves.
The displacement of manpower by machines is as old as industry itself, but because of Britain's dependence on international trade, social problems would be more acute if industrial change did not take place, or if it were slowed down. It is therefore of vital importance to workpeople that the ability of existing industrial relations machinery to deal with the problems of industrial change and advance is adequate. Much depends, of course, on how rapidly in actual practice new techniques are introduced. If the rate of overall industrial expansion can in the future be kept above the rate of substitution or displacement, as is the case now, much can be done to allay the genuine fears of unemployment or prolonged unemployment. Trade unions have already declared that they would like to see automation being introduced not too fast and not too slowly: not so fast as to put a breaking strain on the industrial relations machinery, or on its ability to cope with the inevitable problems of change; yet not so slow as to jeopardise industry's competitive efficiency and so create unemployment, anyhow. The difficulty of striking a neat balance accentuates the responsibility of industry to do all it can to ensure the adequacy and effectiveness of negotiating and consultative machinery. It is in everyone's interest to do so.
Benefits from automation will not come automatically; nor can problems created by automation be left to sort themselves out as best they can. There is no sense in planning and bringing into operation new plant and new machinery, only to have its advantages impeded, or even nullified, by expensive labour stoppages and non-co-operation generally. Unions strongly insist that all questions pertaining to technological and production changes, as is the case with any industrial matters, should be discussed and negotiated through the appropriate machinery in each industry. It is through this machinery of industry that trade union leaders can mobilise and organise confidence and co-operation and, at the 197 same time, ensure that workpeople's interests are safeguarded. If workpeople think, rightly or wrongly, that they personally are going to be worse off as a result of technological change, it would be idle and futile to expect their willing co-operation and acceptance.
Normally, the time factor involved in introducing automation plant and equipment in any workplace is such that there is no excuse for inadequate joint consultation before a changeover becomes imminent. There is no earthly reason why the same detailed care and attention given to the planning of technical adjustments should not be given to the manpower problems they are likely to create. Although the industrial relations machinery in Britain functions reasonably well by any comparison, there is still room for improvement in joint consultation and procedures in workplaces, and a more ample provision by management for imparting information, not excluding advance information on development plans and policies.
Many industrialists believe that more must be done to ease the difficulties of workers who face redundancy because of the changing pattern of production. Sir Cyril Harrison, Past-President of the Federation of British Industries and a member of the National Economic Development Council, is recently reported to have said:The achievement of more rapid economic growth means disruption and anxiety for many people. I doubt whether we have yet faced up to our full responsibilities to those likely to be affected".We are fortunate that in the postwar period there have been no serious technological redundancy problems which have been beyond the solution of the firms concerned or solution by local adjustment. But difficulties might arise. Indeed, they would be bound to if the rate of automation suddenly accelerated, especially if in substitution of established production methods in existing industries. When automatic controls and processes are substituted for existing production methods, some labour displacement is bound to occur unless there is already a sufficient shortage of labour, and the problem is how to solve this unemployment which is bound to occur no matter how carefully the change is made.
198 It seems to me that too much reliance is placed on the payment of compensation. Compensation is not the answer: it is only a palliative, the ambulance work. What the displaced worker wants is another job, and as soon as possible. Suppose a displaced worker was to be paid a year's wages as compensation, say £700 or £800. On the face of it, this would appear to be not too ungenerous. But what is the assessment of this for the man who has lost his job and has a three-year hire-purchase commitment on his car or his 'fridge or his television, or a twenty-year mortgage repayment to meet on his house? He regards such a payment as compensation for delayed bankruptcy. He wants another job as soon as possible, and to be assured in advance that adequate steps will be taken to provide it. And if in the last resort another job cannot be provided, his consuming power, his purchasing power, must be maintained much more adequately than it is now.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, who moved the Motion, said that we were behind the United States of America. So we may be, but we are also behind the United States of America in unemployment. America has six or seven times our unemployment pro rata to the difference in population, and this aspect of the matter is worrying economists and industrial leaders in the United States. Recently a paper has been published referring to man's struggle against the machine, and this was referred to in The Times of March 23 last, a fortnight ago, when The Times published what is the first recommendation of this paper. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I quote it:Society must undertake an unqualified commitment to provide every individual and every family with an adequate income as a matter of right. This is the only way to bring the dispossessed or soon to be dispossessed into the abundant society.My Lords, our industrial automatic process or a modern computer is the end result of a great deal of research, planning, trial and error and, I think one could almost say, what has been referred to as tears and sweat. If one-tenth of this effort were applied to the solving of the human and the social consequences of the invention, problems of redundancy would pale into insignificance—and, more important, a great deal of the opposition 199 and obstruction to the introduction of up-to-date methods would disappear.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ LORD MILNE
My Lords, I personally am very grateful to the noble Viscount who introduced this Motion to-day. This is a matter which has concerned me enormously, and to which I had intended to refer, had I spoken, in the recent economic debate. It is now a quarter to six, and I do not propose to speak for long; nor do I want to repeat what has been said, far more authoritatively than I could have said it, by speakers before me. I have made three pages of notes on various comments made by speakers, and to go through them would be tedious, but may I say just this. The practical, sensitive approach of the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, was one which appealed to me, as did the spiritual approach by my very old friend the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Coventry in a speech that I was delighted to hear in this House. Then we had, if I may say so, a fantastic tour de force from the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, on technical details.
From what has been said I think it might be generally accepted that automation will be a blessing, that its approach is inevitable and that in any case the outcome must be fewer jobs. I agree with those speakers who have considered, for one reason or another, that the on-coming of automation will probably not be so speedy in this country as it might be elsewhere. I do not think it is fair to compare the pattern of industry in this country with that in America; nor do I think it necessarily fair to blame the tax allowances. I believe that in many ways managers do not understand the tax allowances they get. Nor is it necessarily fair to make comparisons with what is happening on the Continent, where industry has been destroyed and has been rebuilt de novo. There being a transition which is inevitable, our task is to help to accelerate the process in a way that avoids unnecessary suffering, and, finally, to help people to enjoy their leisure.
As a consultant of industry—and therefore unloved, at any rate by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—I am not 200 proposing to-night to go into the technological details, which have already been propounded far better by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, and the noble Lord, Lord Bowden; and I go along with this, because clearly I am an ardent supporter of the introduction of these technological advances. My intention in this debate is to deal with some of the problems of resettlement with which, unfortunately, I have had quite a lot of experience. In some regard I think we may say that these are roughly the methods: job creation, money grants, encouragement to labour mobility and retraining. Creation of jobs is, to a certain extent, a minor-degree function of automation. It is also a policy which is being carried out, along with retraining at present. On labour mobility, I think we should have no preconceived ideas; and I would exhort the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, to read the January edition of Lloyds Bank Review. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, but, provided that the stigma is removed, I think money is of utmost importance. Houses, yes; caravans, perhaps; train passes on British Railways, yes.
What I want to discuss particularly, however, is the question of redundancy and money grants. A matter of the utmost importance to a man who loses his job is the loss of self-respect. He goes home; and he has to admit that he has lost his job. In the age which is coming this should not be a stigma. He is as much a casualty of economic war as one is a casualty of physical war. Again I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Williamson: I think that compensation does help in this matter. Perhaps he did not mean it in that way. But I think it does help if the stigma can be removed. I would also make the suggestion of introducing a certificate of redundancy which, I think, is an honourable certificate.
But the basic thing, to my mind, is that the man's income should be maintained as much as possible in the transition period—for that may last for a very long time. I mentioned a redundancy certificate. I do not know whether noble Lords realise that, while it is important that employers should be as generous as possible, redundancy payments are not in all circumstances an allowable deduction, for tax purposes, by the man who 201 pays them. Where there is a genuine case of redundancy then Form B.60, which some of us know, should have a certificate to that effect; and where the man gets this certificate it might be possible that redundancy payments should be received by him free of tax. But in all circumstances the Inland Revenue should allow the employer to treat such payments as an allowable deduction. At present (and I hope this will be noted by the Government), if a company ceases its business or changes its training, the Inland Revenue does not look upon that as an allowable charge, and when making redundancy payment obviously one estimates accordingly.
High grants during retraining are, of course, essential, but it is a fact that in this new age some elderly men are just not re-trainable. This is an economic fact, though the problem of its effect in the long term has not so far been studied. There are going to be a great many men for whom there will just not be jobs. References have been made to transferability of pensions. Of course, that is essential. A man's right to a pension must go with him, and I understand that this is the case with the Government pension scheme. I am sure that, when a man transfers, so long as he has not contracted out the amount of his pension to which he is entitled goes with him. These are all matters that will have to be looked into. In conclusion, my Lords, I must say that I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, for initiating this debate to-day.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, I, too, would join in this appreciation of the action of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, in introducing this debate. It has been a most interesting one, and has discovered many phases of this very important problem. Possibly the only major criticism I would express of the noble Viscount's treatment of this subject would be that he seemed to imply that automation of itself was something new, in the form of either angel or monster, which had burst upon us quite recently, and that now we were called upon to make a decision by accepting or rejecting this new industrial technique.
I rather look upon it as merely a normal and natural extension of a pro- 202 cess of industrial evolution that has been going on for a very long time. Possibly it started with Adam as he thought up some new way of manufacturing the fig leaf or altering its shape, and from that day we have had developments of industrial effort. But we have had industrial revolutions before. We had a very important one that burst upon this country 150 years or more ago, and enriched it. At the time, very little attention was given to the social consequences of that Revolution. For example, no attention at all was given to the consequences of labour displacement. And the atmosphere of laissez-faire which dominated the first Industrial Revolution created social effects which we are still feeling to-day. Therefore, when the noble Viscount deplores, as I infer from some of his comments, the attitude of labour towards encouraging the development of these new techniques, I would remind him that the memory of man is fairly long, and although the noble Viscount made reference to the memory of Waterloo, the memory of labour is influenced more by Peterloo than by Waterloo.
When we speak of the social consequences of these changes, we must remember that they are inevitable changes. Nothing that the trade unions can do, nothing that the managers or the industrialists can do, can stop this development. But what we have under our control is the rate of that development, and this can be a decisive factor in determining the relationship of the industry of this country with that of other countries. And the rate of development is the outstanding influence upon this question of the control of the social consequences of automation. It is the responsibility of management and of the trade unions, and in particular of the Government, to examine this matter collectively. This is of paramount importance to secure, as we must, the support of collective labour in the encouragement of these new techniques.
What we have really been talking about to-day is accelerated productivity. I think that it is accepted by all that there is no automatic industrial growth. Industrial development is not the sort of thing that is inevitable. It is something that has to be encouraged. In more than one debate, I have expressed 203 my criticism of the rate of development of productivity, but I appreciate that our country has seen many increases of productivity over the years since 1937. At that time one-third of our manufactured exports was in machines, equipment and chemicals, and to-day it is two-thirds. To-day 250,000 people are employed in the electronics industry, where there was practically only a handful before the war. The supply of electricity to industry has increased fivefold since before the war. All these are indications of the considerable development of productivity.
While I suppose we could sit back and say, "Well done", we have to consider the position of this country in relation to others. When the rate of our industrial development is compared with that in Sweden and the United States, we fall far behind. In Sweden, where productivity per man-hour is much higher than in Britain, real wages are much higher and the efficiency of industry is such that they have a high export record.
The factors that determine the increase of productivity, whether we employ automation or not, are a combination of equipment, machines, aggressive selling policy and many other things. Seldom is it dependent upon physical human effort alone. The important thing about many of these factors, and particularly about automation, is that labour as such has little or no influence upon their introduction. I agree that at times organised labour can check development, but it has no power of initiation. Industry itself must bear the full responsibility wherever there is any criticism with regard to delayed development. It is not labour that is called upon to examine whether or not new equipment should be installed. It is wrong to assume that automation is something that can be plucked out of the clouds and deposited within industry which will automatically secure the benefit. Automation is a slow and gradual process. I am going to advance the point that it is not a question of whether we proceed with the development of automation—that is inevitable—but of the extent to which we develop it and the rate at which we do this.
We cannot discuss the rate of accelerated development without dis- 204 cussing the problem of redundancy, but we have to remember that we have a problem of redundancy without the introduction of automation. I have had the responsibility of negotiating redundancy agreements, and this is the only point on which I would disagree to some extent with my noble friend. I believe that the worker is entitled to, and legitimately claims, the right to secure redundancy payments and to assistance in securing another job. I think that my noble friend would agree with me that there are only 4 million workers in this country who at the moment are covered by redundancy agreements.
If employers are so anxious to secure the encouragement of labour in this new revolution, I think they should assume a little more initiative, enterprise and foresight in encouraging the development of redundancy agreements of a general character. We have to keep in mind that the attitude of labour is determined by a man's mental approach to the possibility of losing his job. One has not to be of a great age to look back to the industrial experience of 1931, when 22 per cent. of the total labour force were unemployed, and of 1936, when 15 per cent. were unemployed. One would be too optimistic if one believed that merely by painting the pictures that we have heard painted in words from the opposite Benches, of the wonders to come from the benefits of automation, we could secure the wholehearted support of labour. Industry will have to be more objective in its demonstrations of the benefits that will flow to the men employed in industry. I agree wholeheartedly that the more we can develop automatic processes and rid labour of the monotony, the boredom and sheer physical effort of work, the better it will be in the long run, but we must think of the attendant social problems. The need for dealing with the question of leisure is in itself something that only the Government can deal with. To what extent have the Government dealt with it?
Another important point is the question of industrial skill, which I believe is the most important industrial problem confronting us. Just look at the situation: compare it with years ago—and go back a hundred years, if you wish. The nature of the population at that time was 205 predominantly young; the rate of movement was slower, and in consequence of the social conditions it was possible for new industries to find a sufficient supply of young labour, because each succeeding generation appeared, for a variety of social reasons that I need not describe, to be greater than the preceding one. But what is the position to-day? The position has changed somewhat over the years, and we are becoming predominantly old. To-day half the total male working force in this country is over 40 years of age. In 1901 the proportion of male population between the ages of 45 to 64 was 23½, per cent. of the working age group, and at the end of the 1950's it was 37 per cent. What does this mean? It means that, with accelerated automation, there must of necessity be a greater rapidity in the rate at which old industrial skills become obsolete.
What do we depend on to-day? We depend largely upon training for apprenticeship—not a big number each year—at the technical colleges and so on, but largely confined to a narrow age group of, I would say, 16 to 21. After that, very little opportunity is provided. Mobility of labour can be accelerated not only by the provision of houses, accommodation and so on, but also by giving the men the opportunity to develop new skills. What have we done in this country? Compare the record of this country—I was going to say of this Government; in fact I will say the Government, because they have had long enough to do the job—with that of Sweden, the Netherlands or, better still, France. If you do that, you see that since the end of the war, due to the pressure of economic circumstances brought about by the outgoing of skilled labour during the war years, they have set up a highly developed system of industrial training: not merely giving a few evening classes to adult students, but an organised training, based on the estimate of future requirements and on a recognition of changing trends in industry. In this way they have increased and stimulated the overall efficiency of labour. That, I believe, is vitally necessary.
I could go on. I wanted to make reference to the question of America, but time is passing. I know that accelerated 206 automation there has brought about a position where 1,800,000 lose their jobs every year. But I would not accept that in its entirety the American experience is one that can be completely identified with our own. I believe that in the United States there has been a fantastic increase in the labour population over the last twenty or thirty years; and it is still growing. I believe that there is greater social and educational disparity in the population of America than there is in Britain and this tends to increase the extent of dislocation and consequential unemployment. Therefore, let us deal with this as a problem of our own.
I would end with this comment. Do not exaggerate the difficulties that you believe are created by labour. Labour has as much at stake in the development of this nation as the man who owns the enterprise. But labour wants a fair share of the reward that flows from the co-operation; and labour knows from past experience that that has not always been the result, when encouragement for new methods and processes has been given, sometimes reluctantly, and the working man has found himself out in the street.
We need to-day, on the part of the Government, trade unions and the employers, a reasoned attitude towards this new problem. All these questions of redundancy payments, of retraining, of the stimulation of the mobility of labour by the provision of adequate houses in the places where they should be, which are of tremendous importance, can be dealt with only by the Government. It is a pressing problem and, I believe, one that is associated solely with the question of accelerated economic development. All the things that we hope for are entirely dependent on our economic progress. If automation can do something towards this, let us encourage it. But let us give far more attention to the possible social consequences than was ever given by our forefathers 150 years ago.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ LORD HOBSON
My Lords, it was not my intention to take part in this debate, but I am glad I arranged to do so, particularly in view of the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, 207 who moved the Motion. This is indeed a wide subject, and of course the trouble is that it means so many things to so many different people. I feel it is just as well to define one's meaning. When people talk about automation they often mean mechanisation. It reminds me that when a new process was installed before the war we used the word "rationalisation"; but now we call it "automation". Therefore, I think it is important when one uses this word, particularly in the context of a Motion before your Lordships' House, to have a precise definition of it. My definition of "automation" is a complete production process without human intervention other than the impulse. I think that anything outside this is purely mechanisation and something that has been with us for a long time.
Frankly, there are not in this country —and indeed, I suggest, in the world—so many examples of these automated processes. In this country, I know of a chemical process, certain steel processes and certain food processes that are completely automated. Nor do I believe there are many completely automated plants in the United States of America. In point of fact, as noble Lords have already pointed out, business and commercial interests in the United States are at the moment going easy on the development of automation because of the social consequences involved; and, in my view, they are quite right to do so. The speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, painted a very gloomy picture, particularly of British industry. Quite frankly, in view of certain references he made to the problem, and more particularly a reference to the union of which I have been a member for many years, namely, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, I thought his speech was calculated to make the introduction of automation almost impossible.
What is the position in British industry to-day? The big firms in Britain, which make up probably 75 per cent. of the economy of this country—they are household words—spend millions of pounds on research and modernisation of their plant, and they are highly successful in the competitive world in which we live. If I may say so, they 208 often do it without the help of management consultants. The close association of these large firms, particularly with the universities, is something which is welcome, particularly in the development of an automated process. I think, with respect, that the universities and the schools of technology are far more important than managerial consultants. There is nothing worse than the person who comes along and tells you how to do the job when he does not know the job himself, and no management consultant can know every industry. But I believe that, in the specialised faculties within our universities, dealing with engineering, chemicals and textiles, such as exist in our industrial centres, there should be the closest possible co-operation between the large firms and the universities concerned.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he does not believe with me that the problem is not one of research in the universities. It is of practical application, of getting the plants installed and in use, and trying out the various technological combinations we want to use. It is not research with the universities which is holding things up; nor is it important to-day. If the noble Lord consults anybody he will hear the same: that research will be important in five years' time or more, but it will not have an immediate effect.
§ LORD HOBSON
My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Viscount. This is going to be the main theme of my short speech. This is what I am endeavouring to put over. I made reference to the speech of my noble friend Lord Bowden; I made reference to the universities in our industrial areas; I mentioned the specialised faculties, and I repeated the industries with which they are concerned. This is the line on which development should take place, and the kind of help they should give. In point of fact, many of our large firms cooperate with the universities. The association of Associated Electrical Industries and the Manchester university is a case in point. The association of I.C.I. with many of our universities is equally true. I agree with the noble Viscount that it is this joint training and application which we in this country should 209 develop, and I for one wish to see it developed.
During his speech the noble Viscount referred to the fact that there was some sort of obstruction regarding the trade union worker to the processes of automation. This is simply not true. He referred also to restrictive practices. I had the temerity to intervene, as the noble Viscount has interrupted me, and I asked him to state in what industry there were these restrictive practices. Let us have them named. Let us have the full searchlight of publicity on them in order that we can know where these restrictive practices by unions are taking place. I think I can say this in fairness to the noble Viscount. What is really at the hack of his mind are the demarcation disputes, which are an entirely different thing from disputes over restrictive practices. We must be clear in our terms. I challenge the noble Viscount to name where there has been a single strike within the last twelve months arising from restrictive practices.
As a matter of fact, the record of the British trade union movement in relation to the application of new methods in industry is one of which we have every reason to be proud. The co-operation which takes place at floor level, right up the hierarchy of the trade union movement, is something which many countries could envy, particularly the United States of America. Any reference to the papers which circulate in Detroit will be proof beyond peradventure of everything I am now saying.
We have heard before the rather small gibe the noble Viscount made, that it was easier for a fitter's mate to become Prime Minister than to become a fitter. But is that really true? What happened during the war? There were thousands of dilutees for skilled jobs during the war. There was a special section created in the Amalgamated Engineering Union for them. There was no difficulty on the part of that union, or other skilled unions, with regard to dilutees, and it is rather unfair to say otherwise.
I want to point out that, with the complexity of modern planning to-day, it is important that skilled people should be available to look after it. They are the only people competent to do so. I suggest that if the noble Viscount were taken ill, which I trust will not 210 happen, he would not go to a quack but to a skilled doctor or a specialist; and I am pleased there is one available. Why, therefore, should not the union man, the fitter, who has had seven years' training and served an apprenticeship, who has probably gone to night school and sat at the feet of my noble friend Lord Bowden, be entitled to the same respect and the same consideration, and, if necessary, the same privileges, as the professional man? It is utter, complete bunkum to argue on other lines. It is the type of spirit which is calculated to induce unrest and dissension within the industrial arena. Therefore, I hope that the noble Viscount will be very careful indeed.
What is the position with regard to the complication of automated plants? What we shall need is more skilled men than ever before. We need those skilled men specially trained. We need to insist not only that they have served their apprenticeships, but that they get the required technological studies in the evening in order to make them able to understand the plant which they will be called upon to repair. I, for one, trust that that will be done.
In point of fact, the trade union movement is far more advanced than is the noble Viscount. We are rapidly passing from the division between the unskilled and the skilled, and we are now talking in terms of job evaluation. In point of fact, the International Metalworkers Union, meeting in Geneva, have had study groups for over two years going into this point. Indeed, it is more than probable that a court of inquiry will be considering job evaluation with regard to the industrial dispute which took place in Wales quite recently. So far as the trade union movement's being an organisation to impede the development of automation is concerned, it is simply not true.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
My Lords, I should like to remind the noble Lord that I did not say that. I paid considerable tribute to some of the trade union activities, and to the unions as well. I am very much heartened by the noble Lord's reassurance that they are doing even more than I allowed for. But in exactly the same way as I criticised some management, I have also criticised the trade unions. This does 211 not mean that many of them are not doing a first-class job, and I should like to get that point quite clear.
§ LORD HOBSON
I am very pleased to have that assertion and statement by the noble Viscount. I listened very carefully indeed to his speech, and I felt that it had undertones. There was an evident prejudice against the attitude of the unions. I felt it my duty in this debate to answer some of the points which he raised, and I do it in the most friendly spirit. I think that when he reads his speech to-morrow morning in retrospect he will probably regret some of the nuances with which he phrased parts of his speech.
The noble Viscount made another definite statement, that we are a backward nation. When he comes to reply I should like to know what countries and what industries are, in his opinion, more advanced compared with us. I know some nations are, but I should like to have from him his views as to which specific industries are backward in relation to our competitors in Europe. With regard to his references to income tax, I would say this. Those firms who are buying plant get quite a reasonable rebate arising from the provisions of recent Finance Acts with regard to the purchase of modern plant. It is to their advantage taxwise to modernise their firms as quickly as possible.
I think there is point in the question which the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, raised, in view of the facts which he put before your Lordships on the decline of the British computer industry, particularly after we were leading. There may be a case for special treatment of that industry. After all, this would not be a new departure from the present Government's policy, particularly in view of their attitude and of grants they have made to certain specific industries in this country.
I want to say that this assumption that where there is automation there will be easier maintenance problems just is not true. I agree that one can easily change a transistor in a computer, but that is only the beginning. It produces the impulses which set the plant in operation. This is usually quite a complicated plant, and there could very well be far more breakdowns involving far 212 more maintenance, certainly more highly skilled maintenance, than at the present moment. So the beginning and end is not just computer maintenance, but still the maintenance of the larger parts of the plant which is engaged in the industrial process. I thought the noble Viscount was in error there.
I do not want to detain your Lordships much longer, but I was in particular agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, said with regard to questions of personnel management. I do not want in a debate of this sort to enter into the difference of opinion over whether there should be labour relations officers or personnel people, but I myself feel that when these changes, which are inevitably going to lead to redundancy and a change in jobs, are going to take place, these matters are far better handled by labour relations people with experience of both sides of industry than by personnel people who, very largely in modern industry these days, are responsible for welfare.
I think we are all indebted to the noble Viscount for calling our attention to this great problem. It is one to which, I am sure, your Lordships' House will have to come back frequently in the future. But the great point is this. As has been stressed by many noble Lords on both sides of your Lordships' House this afternoon, with the advancement of technological science the question remains: what are the consequences which are going to arise from greater leisure and how are we to use that leisure? This is the real point which will ensue from the shortening of the working week arising from modern processes.
§ 6.33 p.m.
My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this debate, and I intervene for only a very few moments. Having started work in 1929, I can never regard unemployment as just a matter of figures, percentages of redundancy, and so on. To me, they are names, some of them friends; and I cannot take this paper view of unemployment. Therefore, although this is perhaps a small point, I regard it as one that should be made in dealing with the inevitable redundancy which will arise and which will, at times, produce unemployment.
213 Any large firm has a fairly large turnover of labour every year, and it occurs to me that the real difficulty in retraining, compensating, or replacing people occurs probably in the age group between 40 and 50. These are the people whom it is difficult to retrain; they have a long time before retirement age; and I should have thought it would have been worth while, three or four years before a major upheaval of this sort is going to take place, to see whether, by adjustment of the intake of fresh labour, a more favourable age group of one's workers could be produced. For a man who is to go on pension at 60, it is no real hardship, especially if he receives two years' compensation, if he is declared redundant at 58. It is not difficult to retrain a young lad of 20 or 21, but is very difficult with the man aged about 40, usually with a family. They are the men who present the difficult problem.
I wanted to make this point, although perhaps it is only a small point, as no one has yet done so. Having said that, I should like to ask a question: I do not expect an answer, but I should like the point to be noticed. I would ask the noble Viscount who is going to reply whether he will draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland to this debate and ask him why, when the Scottish Department of Agriculture own a computer, it still takes them over a year to produce an analysis of costs to us farmers who comply with their accountancy schemes. I have still to receive an analysis of costs of what I did two years ago. It is not now of much value, and that situation seems to me quite ridiculous.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR
I must first say how sorry I am to have been absent from part of your Lordships' debate this afternoon, for professional reasons. I missed two or three speeches of importance, and if I do not adequately deal with these, I hope that your Lordships will forgive me. When my noble friend Lord Bowden was addressing your Lordships I was reminded of a French doctor who lived about a hundred years ago called Dr. Louis and who thought it might be possible to do the whole of medicine by mathematics. What he did was to write down all the diseases and then all the 214 symptoms. The theory was that when you saw a patient, you wrote down all his symptoms, fed the list into what was a huge book of log tables, and out came the answer. Unfortunately, Louis's mathematical medicine never really worked out quite as it ought to have done, because there were certain nuances (as my noble friend Lord Hobson would say) which could not be turned into mathematical terms. I am just wondering whether the delay with computers, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, has referred, is not sometimes due to the programming that one has to feed into the computer. These machines can do the work very quickly, but it is getting the work ready to be done that takes the time.
I am sure we are all very grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, for having introduced this debate. He made a very interesting speech, containing a number of practical suggestions, and I hope that the Minister, when he comes to reply, will say something about some of these practical suggestions. But the strange thing is that I had a feeling, all the time the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, was speaking, that he was describing a kind of picture of British industry which did not accord with the kind of picture I see every Monday and Friday when I am doing industrial medicine in ordinary British factories. I wondered whether, perhaps, being a management consultant, he is called in only when the industry is sick, and sees only the bad industry and not the ordinary day-to-day efficiently functioning industry to which the noble Lord, Lord Hobson, referred, and of which there is a great deal.
I felt that he produced automation as a sort of miraculous therapy which could be applied to industrial processes, just as my noble friend Lord Hobson said was done with "rationalisation" before the war. It is not like this at all. I think my noble friend Lord Williamson was quite right when he said that automation is only one aspect of technological advance. Many human activities and forms of employment do not lend themselves to automation. It is a process of vast importance, but it is only one of the aspects of the scientific revolution which is taking place. It seems to me 215 that there are at least four kinds of jobs going on simultaneously at the present time, all of which represent stages in the evolution of work, and if one is a sociologist one is concerned in each of these kinds of job, not only with the product produced but with the satisfaction of the person who is doing the work—that he should enjoy his work, and that it should be worth while. Admittedly, this is secondary to the product or the service being given; but in a good society work ought to be satisfying besides being productive and besides being remunerative.
First of all, there are the pure craft jobs—for instance the bespoke tailor, or the signwriter, which is one of the most delightful remaining crafts. A great deal of building work is craft work, and must be craft work because it is a one-off job. You cannot fully automate in order to do the kind of carving we have in this Chamber. I suppose you could do some—some looks as if it might have been produced by automated process. But a vast number of building processes cannot be done in that way, and the essence of the craft job, which is non-mechanised, which is one-off, is that it gives job satisfaction.
Then we get mechanisation, starting off with Newcomen's engine. Mechanisation still goes on as the main process in a vast range of British industry. And sometimes it is one-off, or very short runs in mechanised factories. One of the factories I look after is making electronic microscopes. No one would suggest you should fully automate the process for making electronic microscopes at a rate of one a week; the thing does not make sense. The total output and requirement of society may be 50 or 100 for everywhere, and each one of these may contain 20,000 parts. To make this by machine seems to me to be quite extraordinary and almost certainly utterly uneconomic. That is an example of a job which involves many mechanical skills, many electronic skills, and there is immense satisfaction in it, but it is one where automation plays no part at all. At the other end of the mechanised society we have the long runs, with pure machine-minding as the feature of the work and simply one process being dope over and over again; and down comes the job satisfaction.
216 The third phase is mass production with the long assembly line. This obviously is only of value and only of importance where one has tremendously long runs of production, and unless one has those the assembly line does not begin to make sense. Of all the firms in Britain, in only a small proportion—though admittedly this proportion employs relatively more than its share of labour because the firms in it tend to be large firms—are there assembly lines. In the 50 or 60 firms which I help to look after, only about three or four have assembly lines of any sort. One is a co-operative biscuit producing factory, which my noble friend Lord Peddie knows very well, and a very fine factory it is. Another is an electronic assembly plant making small radio sets; and I believe there is a third one. But the remainder have nothing in the nature of a conventional production line, and there is no reason why they should.
Within a production line factory it is only a limited proportion of the people who are in fact on production line jobs. For people who are on production line jobs it is pretty boring just to have to turn one screw, to tighten one screw on a single wheel over and over again; and in all jobs of that sort job satisfaction is very low. It is here that automation begins to make sense and to come in as the next step beyond the production line. To put it at its simplest, I have a slightly different definition from my noble friend Lord Hobson, with his electronic-machine minding. He will allow it only when the entire process is electronic, and I think that is a perfectly fair point to make—to say you must take the whole process and unless it is all automated it will not he counted. I would say that if it is partially automated, I count it as automated.
In my noble friend's system, the essence is that there is automatic correction of error in the machine tool or whatever it is; if the machine tool starts wandering, begins to make the holes too big or too small beyond a permitted tolerance, it automatically corrects itself; and it is this automatic feed-back which is the essence of the modern automation machine. I think I am right in saying this is so, and I see my noble friend Lord Hobson agrees. Once one begins to do this one begins to get a 217 machine of really unbelievable complexity, and, as he says, and I agree, fault-finding in such a machine and maintenance of such a machine is a terrific job. Although it is perfectly easy to remove a defective electronic panel and put in another one, the skill of the person who has to deal with the panel when it has been removed in order to find the fault is very considerable, however carefully the blueprints are worked out; and, in addition, there is the maintenance of the actual machine itself. So we certainly need the radical retraining of which we have heard so much.
One of the great issues which we have had discussed this afternoon is the relationship of automation to full employment. Can we have automation and full employment? Well, am perfectly sure, first of all, that we are not going to have full automation for a very long time, for all sorts of obvious reasons—because it does not make sense; for small runs it does not begin to add up in a vast amount of industry. But where it is done I cannot see why we should not achieve full employment with a great deal of automation. We have had mixed evidence on this point. We have had first the evidence of America, and here the evidence given to your Lordships has been diverse, because it is not absolutely clear how far the unemployment in America is due to technological advance and how far it is due to failure of training schemes, lack of mobility and so on.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
My Lords, may I intervene? It is also due to the very considerable increase in the population; I think it rather important to make that distinction.
§ LORD TAYLOR
I would at once accept what the noble Viscount says: that the increase in the number of jobs in America has been very substantial, despite automation. It is, however, a fact that the growth of jobs has not kept pace with the even greater growth of population. We have heard that we must have mobility of labour. Of course, we must try to achieve mobility of labour. None of us likes moving. When I look back o my own life, I realise that since I was married I have lived in three houses, all within a mile of each other. I do not want to move out of London; I like it here. And 218 it is a fact that most British people like to be where they are. The point has been emphasised in this debate that it is not merely a question of a job; it is a question of a home. But it is not merely a question of a job and a home; it is jobs for the rest of the family as well, and it is this collective family income, collective family employment situation, which is essential if we are to achieve mobility.
I want to say a few words about Sweden, and the reason why I do so is because last year I had the job of going with members of the World Health Organisation and a group of doctors from developing countries to look at industrial processes and industrial medicine in Sweden. Swedish experience is interesting. Here is a note from our report which I should like to read:Sweden has had full employment for a pretty long time now. The Swedes have enjoyed full employment since the late 1930's —that is, for about 25 years. There have been pockets of local unemployment following automation and rapid industrial change, but these have presented minor problems only. By contrast, over-full employment in many areas has led to a high labour turnover. Continued full employment means that the unions can afford to adopt a progressive attitude towards rationalisation and automation in production. Shortage of manpower means that employers are happy to take any available worker and to make the best possible use of the unskilled and the handicapped. Thus, the pre-employment medical examination is almost never used as a means of excluding a worker from a job, but rather to assist in proper placement.There we see a highly developed industrial society, a highly automated industry, and full employment—indeed, over-full employment. So, clearly, the thing can be done. But there is a corollary. It is this. The Government of Sweden has been stable for about 30 years, with the Social Democratic Party in power. I think that is one of the reasons why Sweden has been able to achieve this success. Ninety per cent. of the industry remains in private hands; but 75 per cent. of the iron mining and 42 per cent. of power is publicly owned, and consumer co-operatives handle about 15 per cent. of the retail trade. In Sweden, the Social Democratic Government have achieved precisely what I think we ought to be able to achieve here.
I should like now to say a further word about redundancy, about excessive availability of labour as a result 219 of automation. If one spends much of one's time outside conventional industry and looks at the services of Britain, it is quite clear that the standard of our social services is going up all the time, and the demand for manpower and womanpower is growing enormously. I have no doubt whatever that we can absorb any redundant manpower and womanpower from industry in socially valuable and useful jobs. For example, I remember that during the depression many men from the mining areas took to male nursing in the mental hospitals. We got the finest group of male nurses we ever had; it was the finest period of intake. I give this just as an example of the kind of job for which retraining and training is now urgently required. The jobs are waiting for people to come along, and one can visualise that, in so far as we do automate and iron out the production of essentials and necessities of life (we shall have to leave some of the superlatively special things un-automated), society will be able to afford a higher level of services, and there will be plenty of work for all, provided that we plan our services.
I want next to say a few words about health problems in relation to automation. My noble friend Lord Shackleton referred to this aspect in his extremely interesting speech. I did not know much about health problems in relation to automation until I visited Sweden. There I visited a fully automated steelworks at a place called Oxelösunds, in South Sweden, which employs 2,600 workers. It is a magnificent steelworks. Those 2,600 workers have one doctor, one nurse and three other health and safety workers. This is a pretty low ratio for an enormous factory like this. One might have thought that this was because Sweden is short of doctors—and, as a matter of fact, Sweden has fewer doctors, in proportion to the population, than any other country in the world. However, this doctor was not over-employed: if anything, he was under-employed; and so were the nurses and the first-aid workers, because a properly automated industry is remarkably safe, and almost all the conventional dangers have been "engineered out". Indeed, it is one of the beauties of automation that one can make industry a safer and a better place.
220 What has happened in this steelworks? The conventional industrial diseases have disappeared; serious accidents are virtually unknown—though they occasionally occur; and all the dangerous processes are what is called fully hermaticised—that is to say, hermatically sealed in. There is a good relationship between the management and the unions. Health and safety are treated as a joint concern, and workers' safety representatives appointed by the unions act as volunteer work safety inspectors. This is, incidentally, exactly what happens in the U.S.S.R. The example I have been quoting happens to be in Sweden; but it works remarkably well.
From the point of view of health I asked the doctor what were his problems, and he said that the first was the number of people with bad backs. The reason they get bad backs is that they do not have to use their backs any more, with the result that when they lift something they tear their muscles. This is a strange situation. It is happening already in British industry. If a fellow is well developed, and is working hard and lifting objects a great deal, and doing it efficiently, he does not get a bad back; but if a man suddenly lifts something when he is not experienced and is not in really good physical training, the risks of back injury are greatly increased. So bad backs follow increasing mechanisation and automation.
The second thing is obesity—excessive weight, putting on weight. The chaps were eating too much and getting too little exercise. That is the second problem, and over the age of 45 it became increasingly important. Further (here I must not over exaggerate, but this was something that my medical colleague in Sweden emphasised), there was increase, in his opinion, in both neurosis and alcoholism in his fully automated factory. This he attributed to boredom. This is a serious and a real problem. It is a problem because one is dealing with a process of negative watching. This process of negative watching is an extremely difficult thing. One is waiting for something that almost never happens. When one is waiting for a thing that almost never happens one's attention wanders.
221 There are certain other health problems arising out of automation, one of which the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, mentioned, quite properly, as did my noble friend Lord Shackleton: it is the increasing tendency to shift-work. The reason for this increasing tendency to shift-work is simply that the machinery is so costly that, in order to make the thing pay for itself, it has to be worked throughout the twenty-four hours. The result is all the things which we know follow from shift-work. Shift-work is not popular, and it is deservedly not popular. I have had to work shifts, and I hated working shifts. The best of a bad job is, I suppose, the weekly shift. But even with weekly shifts there is an upset of the sleep rhythm, it is difficult to keep your body working properly, and it is the best of a bad lot. The result of shift-work is almost always increased absence from work, both certificated by a doctor and uncertificated, and a higher labour turnover.
But in an automated plant one cannot afford a higher labour turnover because the skill required of the person in charge of a highly automated machine is enormous. He is a key man in the team, he is as important as the manager, and because he is such a key man he must feel keen and part of the team, and I think in fact he does. One of the results of full automation is inevitably a great increase, and a proper increase, in wages for the person in order to counteract the disadvantages of shift-work. This is right and proper, and inevitable.
I should like to say one word about dials and the watching of dials. Dials are not, of course, a sign of automation, but a sign of lack of automation. Even if a dial is going to give a certain indication and at that indication a certain action is supposed to be taken by the operative, there is no reason why that particular link and process should not itself be automated. But in the intermediate stage, the stage before that described by my noble friend Lord Hobson, where one is still using a console, where one has a group of dials to control a big process, as with a power station or strip-mill dial watching is bound to go on. One of the ways of avoiding trouble is to design dials so that they give only essential information; making sure that the window is 222 such that it does not reflect light so as to blur what is indicated—this might even be done by making the window biconcave instead of making it convex or flat; further, by the building in of both auditory and visual alarms.
Then, when it comes to the controls, there are a whole mass of ergonomic points which are worth bearing in mind. For example, controls should normally turn clockwise to be "on", and anticlockwise for "off"; one should move an instrument to the right if it is supposed to move something else to the right, and to the left if it is supposed to move something else to the left; the resistance of the control movement should not be too stiff for the weakest operator, but stiff enough to prevent inadvertent operation. These are a few of the obvious principles of human engineering which are immensely important when it comes to automation.
How far and how fast are we going to go with automation? The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, would have us go very fast and very far. I am much more of the Lord Williamson school in thinking that we cannot go too far, and I cannot help feeling that we are here facing a very difficult dilemma. The dilemma is this. The greater the competition within an industry, the smaller are going to be the units and, in consequence, the less the scope for automation. The less the competition, the larger the units and the greater scope for automation. I do not think it is any accident that the most striking example of automation of all is the float glass process at Pilkingon's which has cut labour by 90 per cent., and this has occurred in the production of what was plate glass—in what was virtually a monopoly.
This is one of the dilemmas which we are now facing, and it may be a much more important dilemma than the dilemma of automation itself: what is the right size to achieve maximum efficiency, and ought we to have competition and efficiency achieved by competition within a limited mechanical scope, or monopoly and, as we should think, some sort of control of monopoly in the public interest and appropriate public safeguards, in order to make automation possible? I have mentioned that in the factories I try to look after from the 223 health point of view, of the 70 firms, with about 14,000 employees, only two, with under 3,000 workers, are suitable for full automation. One is engaged in making glass bottles, the other in making biscuits. The one with the assembly line to which I referred was not suitable for full automation.
In this country we are amazingly fortunate in the attitude of labour and the trade unions towards automation. I entirely agree with my noble friend behind me that there is no trade union opposition to automation, provided that there is a fair share—and on this I think we are all agreed—of the benefits between management, labour and the consumer. As regards management, I feel that the decision to automate has to be a management decision. One is reminded of Sir Thomas Legge's maxims in connection with industrial disease. Your Lordships may remember that he was the first great medical Inspector of Factories, and he laid it down that until the employer had done everything possible to prevent an industrial disease occurring, it was not part of the duty of the worker to take steps. Whether that maxim was absolutely right and invariable I am not sure, but I am quite certain that the decision to introduce automation is a management decision, though it must be made as a social decision as well as a purely economic one. If it costs less than the labour force saved over five years it is said to be worth doing. If this be true, the high wage rates in the United States greatly encourage automation, and the higher the wage rates the more the incentive to automate.
I think that British management is very good, but it is often a bit conservative, and there is not here the same prestige to be gained from newness and novelty as there is in the United States. My father took pride in never having changed his tailor since he was at Cambridge. I think this applies to many of us and our attitude to machinery. If the machinery is good and goes on doing its job, there is an inherent resistance to change. Management will certainly need to be encouraged and stimulated in the numerous ways to which Lord Hanworth referred in his opening speech. But he did not mention—or, if he did, I missed 224 it—the difficulties facing the manufacturer of fully automated machinery.
Although the demand for biscuits may be enormous, the demand for fully automated biscuit-making machines may be a matter of perhaps five or ten over the whole country. And once a manufacturer has made those five or ten machines, that is it. He may be able to get an export order for one or two more, but, once having done that, he has had his profit and that is that. So there is not an incentive on the manufacturer of automated machines to make them. That is why there is something to be said for the renting of these machines rather than selling them outright. Indeed, we already rent computers, tabulators and duplicating machines, boot and shoe machinery, and so on.
Finally, my Lords, I want to say one last word about ourselves, about the British people and their attitude to work. Here I want to quote some remarks of an American management consultant, Mr. William Allen, the man who modernised Fawley. This article:Writing in the Sunday Times, Mr. Allen accused Britain of being a 'half-time country, getting half-pay for half-work'. The present national product, he argued, could be produced by half the current labour force if we used American manning scales.The writer is commenting on these. He went on:So concern over Mr. Allen's figures is certainly justified. But what intrigued me was his underlying analysis of the British industrial psyche. I quote: 'A rather high proportion of the work force takes a substantial part of its wages not in money but in leisure, most particularly in the leisure which is taken at the place of employment'.The writer goes on:Get it? We don't go to the office or the factory to work we go there because we enjoy it! Once this simple fact is grasped, an awful lot that is superficially odd about the British falls into place. For example, the British work among the longest hours in Europe and have the fewest statutory holidays. Yet they have a not unjustified reputation for …spending an inordinate time drinking tea.This is, of course, an overstatement. I may say that I was quoting from Punch of March 18, from their section "In the City", which is a very interesting section. But there is a little bit of truth in it. I think none of us likes working too hard. We like working optimally, and optimally does not mean killing 225 yourself all the time; it means being sensible by working as hard as you have to, but no harder. Given this attitude to work, I think automation should suit us down to the ground.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT BLAKENHAM)
My Lords, I think the whole House has listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who always manages to cover an immense amount of ground in a most sympathetic and interesting way. I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the effects of automation on health, as so far discovered. It was interesting that he was able to enlarge on what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, mentioned on this aspect of the subject. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and with everybody else who has spoken, that we are extremely grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, for having enabled us to have this debate; and we are grateful to him also for the way in which he set the pattern of the debate. If I may say so, I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, also, in his opening speech did a great deal to keep the debate on the interesting lines that in fact it has pursued.
I think, first of all, that we were all, right from the start, aware of the fact that we ought to be reasonably clear about what we mean by the term "automation". The noble Viscount, Lord Han-worth, defined it, and I think that the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, and others, including the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in his last remarks, were quite right in pointing out that the use of new methods and materials, the changes in demand, the increase d mechanisation—all the things that have been going on for a long time, and are still going on—have immense effects, although they may be less dramatic than what we know to be automation itself. The automation that we have discussed in the House this afternoon and this evening has been automation in the truly sophisticated sense of the term. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, automation means the direct control of an industrial or administrative process by a computer which imports judgment into the control. I thought some of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Bow 226 den, at the beginning of his speech were extremely interesting. There was the vast jump that has been made in the last ten years in the speed with which knowledge can now be made available.
But I think—and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, here—that it would be wrong to regard this sophisticated type of automation as being applicable to all industries. Whether it is applicable really depends on how far an industry has gone already in mechanisation, and in the application of instruments to control the important dimensions or qualities on which control has to operate. Because, my Lords, even in the United States where the technique is certainly most advanced, as has been made very clear to-day, there are areas of production which are not yet ready for automation. The application of the general principles of automation to a process is a matter which must be studied case by case. The particular techniques of a process have to be extremely carefully considered, and the control system has to be imaginatively designed, to produce the desired results. There are vast horizons which come within the scope of what I would call "sophisticated automation".
I entirely agree—as I think does everybody else who has spoken in this House —with the general thesis of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, which is that automation is essential and, indeed, is inevitable, and that we must plan to meet the social and human consequences of it. Again, I have sympathy with those who said that one has to temper the speed of automation with the plans by which one deals with human beings. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, who said (I think he was exaggerating a bit) that if one-tenth of the effort that goes into scientific research had gone into study of the human problems in this matter, we should have been better off. But I take his general accentuation of the fact that the human element must certainly receive major consideration in the progress of the new automation age that lies ahead. After three and a half years at the Ministry of Labour, this is a subject about which I myself feel very strongly.
It was the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, who indicated that nine times out of ten the benefits of automation will 227 be the reduction of the labour content of production, with the consequent large savings in costs; and indeed we have seen since the Industrial Revolution a higher standard of living and a shorter working week. Of course, if we can handle this aright, automation should take the same process even further in increased production and consumption, and in increased leisure with the means to enjoy it. I am very glad that it has been decided that we are to have a debate on leisure. I think some of the questions of exercise and obesity, which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, mentioned in his winding-up speech, could well be covered in our discussion on leisure; because I think that sport and exercise, as well as intellectual activities, do in fact play their part in the general subject.
However, what nobody has said in this debate has been that another great advantage which automation will bring is that it offers great economies of material, as well as opportunities for improvement of quality. An automatically controlled production line or process plant can react far more sensitively and quickly than one dependent on human operators to any variation in the quality or dimensions of the raw material, to the wearing of the tools, or to imperfections due to an earlier stage in the process. In fact, automation can make it possible to work to finer limits than human inspection or control.
Having said that I would go on to say that I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, that progress is slow, and that in many fields we are behind the United States. We must ask ourselves why this is so. Part of the reason is that not only is automation in itself, as I have said, expensive to introduce, even when one knows exactly what one wants to do and exactly how one proposes to do it, but also because the determination of these two unknowns which I have mentioned is expensive. Careful and very detailed studies are needed to apply the general principles to any particular plant, and until these studies have been done no one can say whether automation is going to be practicable, or even make a guess as to whether it will be economic. The computer or equipment firms maintain that they cannot afford to do too much of this as a speculation, and only too often the potential users feel that 228 the whole business is far too uncertain for them to invest the necessary funds.
So there are these difficulties; and we are going too slowly. Perfectly rightly, I have been asked what is being done to speed up the process. I think that a good deal more has been going on than perhaps some noble Lords have suggested. First, there are the activities of the D.S.I.R.—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was good enough to say that they were doing a good deal of work. There is the D.S.I.R. itself, and its research stations, and also, of course, there are the research associations. Here, I refer particularly—as did the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, to the Industrial Automation Group which has just been set up by the Committee of Directors of Research Associations. Owing to their intimate knowledge of the problems and technology of their industries, the research associations, I hope noble Lords will agree, are perhaps ideal bodies to work out the application of automation to their particular circumstances. I should like to say to the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, that of course this group has only just been formed. He said that the Government have been niggardly towards it in their attitude, but I can assure him that careful consideration is being given to see what more can be done to help.
Complaints were made by a number of noble Lords—the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, I think; the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, and others—that not enough has been done by the Government in the past. The noble Lord, Lord Bowden, pointed out that in 1950 we were very much in the van as a national electronic industry, but I think he would agree that the post-war British computer industry was in fact very much supported and helped in its earlier stages of development by contracts from the National Research Development Corporation, I think to a total of about £2 million in those early days—one of which, for instance, did finance the early stages of the Atlas, which is in fact now the newest and the most powerful of the British computers. At the moment, N.R.D.C. is supporting work on computerised medical records and diagnosis (I know this is of the greatest interest to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor) and D.S.I.R. has in the last twelve months placed about 229 £150,000 worth of development contracts with British firms as the first slice of a contribution to a total programme of over £1½ million for developing the basic elements of computers—those elements which are in fact going to be in the next generation of these machines.
Most of the United States Government's money which has helped the computer industry, and the electronics and the solid state physics which forms part of it, has of course been a by-product of the space programme. Much of the academic use of computers in the States has been made use of by bodies like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Rand Corporation for their large-scale statistical studies. I think, therefore, that the discrepancy between the 17,000 computers in use in the United States and the 800 to 900 in the United Kingdom is really more a measure of the relative sluggishness of the British industrial market, since a very high proportion of these machines are in industry. I do not think that the computer industry can complain that the Government are not in fact buying British. Out of the 88 computers for Government use which are already installed or on order, 81 are of British manufacture.
It is true—I am not denying it for a second—that the United Kingdom has fallen behind the United States, but this, of course, was due mainly to the size of their market; and I think one should remember that, although it was pointed out that their population is three times as great as ours, their national income is, of course, six times as great as ours. I think I should also like to remind your Lordships that Britain has the only effective general purpose computer industry on the Continent apart from the French, whose major company has recently been going through very difficult times, in fact. Recent figures show that, although Germany may have more computers installed than we have here in Britain, in fact we have more computers on order than Germany has. Of course, I think it is wise to remember that quite a proportion of the computers installed on the Continent will be British, and that the majority of the remainder will be American. But our own British computer industry is satisfying British requirements.
230 To come to the more psychological approach, I would agree 100 per cent. with what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and by others, that there is a very important educational job to be done. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that he felt there was a case for the re-training of management in these matters. I agree with him. I think there is a need for reorientation courses for management for this purpose, because I agree again with those who said that it is primarily management which will make the decisions on which the progress of automation will depend. Therefore, everything which can be done to increase the knowledge of management about the most up-to-date techniques which exist, and anything that can be done to increase the open-mindedness of management to change, will obviously help the whole process of these new techniques to spread.
However, again—and I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, who made this point—there is also the need to give a basic knowledge of the concepts and methods of automation to all our engineering students, whether they are training as engineers or as technicians. Certainly there is going to be a demand for an increasing number of technicians for maintenance purposes, and there is going to be a demand for an increasing number of designers and computer programmers the people who can talk and, indeed, think in that mysterious language which computers understand and in which, I regret to tell your Lordships, I cannot claim to be very knowledgeable. Of course, much is being done already at universities and at technical colleges, and by the professional institutions, with the encouragement of the United Kingdom Automation Council, but I am sure that more is needed, and here I think that the great leap forward in higher education foreshadowed in the Robbins Report should play its part.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, in his opening speech, suggested that one means of accelerating the adoption of automation would be a tax relief or subsidy on the purchase of new capital equipment. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Hobson, who put his finger on a very sound point here. He pointed out—and this is true—that tax allowances on capital equipment already add 231 up to 130 per cent. of cost. No one can say that these allowances are not generous. To devise further allowances on automated equipment not simultaneously applicable to any other new capital plant would present considerable problems of definition and administration. But the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, and others did suggest this. Having said this, I will see that the point is noted by my colleagues in the Government who are responsible for these things, with the proviso that I have just given.
I should like to turn now to what I think all of us realise is the great problem of the human and social consequences that would follow a large increase in automation. We have to ask ourselves these questions. What is the impact of automation on total employment? What kind of jobs does it abolish and in what numbers is it likely to abolish those jobs? And, what new jobs can it create? This is not just a British problem; it is an international one. All industrialised countries have agreat deal to learn and to give on this, and we must pool our knowledge and experience. I remember speaking at the International Labour Conference two years ago and I am glad that they have set up a special unit in the I.L.O. to work out and co-ordinate a programme for the benefit of all countries who are advancing in these ways. There has been a steady rise in total employment throughout the whole post-war period, despite considerable shifts between different industries and occupations. There are nearly 2 million more people in jobs now than there were thirteen years ago. There also have been some substantial declines in agriculture, mining and textiles. On the other hand, to make up for those, and to allow for the extra number at present in employment, three quarters of a million new jobs have been created in the engineering industries, and rather more in the financial, professional and other services, as well as another half million in the distributive trades.
A number of times in the debate American experience has been quoted as a warning of the difficulties which lie ahead. The right reverend Prelate 232 the Lord Bishop of Coventry, in what I thought was a first-class speech, to which we all listened with appreciation, mentioned, as did the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton, and Lord Caldecote, the interesting article by Mr. Laing, of the British Employers' Confederation, in The Times recently. But, of course, when Mr. Laing wrote about the need for us to accept the inevitability of automation, he also pointed out that the circumstances of the United States and ourselves differ in many respects.
I think it has been mentioned only indirectly by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, in an intervention, that the manpower situation in the United States is very largely due to the rapid increase in the birthrate and the size of the population. In the fifteen years up to 1963 the United States labour force rose by 20 per cent., whereas the corresponding increase here was 10 per cent. I think it is interesting to note that in the United States a further increase of 17 per cent. is expected in the next ten years, compared with our own expected increase of only 3 per cent. It is clear that, although automation is a factor in the situation, even the Americans, with far more cause to fear it, are very uncertain about the extent to which it is directly responsible for unemployment. Mr. Snyder was quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton; and I think these comparisons are interesting and relevant.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, might I just ask the noble Lord one question? He said there was to be a 3 per cent. increase in our labour force in the next ten years. Was that correct?
§ VISCOUNT BLAKENHAM
My Lords, I will check this point. My notes may not be correct; but I have it down as referring to the labour force. But I will check this and let the noble Lord know.
The main point of what I was saying, however, is that we should beware of 233 drawing too close a parallel between ourselves and the United States. What we can learn from them is the need to be on guard, the need for vigilance, and the importance of measures to ease the transition. There is no doubt that automation has a profound effect on the occupational structure of employment. It tends to increase the demand for the more highly skilled workers and to reduce the demand for the unskilled; it may also accelerate changes in the pattern of demand for different types of skill. All this points to a need to raise the general level of education, and it underlines the importance of adapting our system of industrial training to the progress of technological change.
My Lords, what are the Government doing to deal with these problems? First, as has been said by the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Caldecote, a systematic attempt is being made to study future manpower requirements. It was a year ago that I set up the Manpower Research Unit at the Ministry of Labour. The Unit is concerned to identify probable changes in the occupational structure and between particular types of skill. In its first year, as has been said, it has been carrying out general studies of the distribution of manpower in the metal using and construction industries, and also the effect of computers on office employment. The first results of this work will be ready this summer, and further surveys are planned, including inquiries into other industries and follow-up studies, based on the work which will be published this summer. The important thing is that the Research Unit works closely with the staff of the National Economic Development Council and with other academic research workers engaged in similar studies. The Ministry of Labour are sponsoring other academic research projects into manpower questions, including a study of the changes in the occupational structure in the United States.
The other related projects being sponsored by the Human Sciences Committee of the D.S.I.R. include a series of case studies of technological change and a study of the managerial implications of office automation. The result of the Research Unit inquiries should help our manpower plan in all branches of industry. An important part of the Unit's 234 work is the provision of information to help the new Industrial Training Boards and the Government Training Centres. For this reason, special attention has been given in its initial programme to craftsmen. Good arrangements for training and retraining, as every speaker has stressed, are vital in the context of automation. I think it is recognised that the new Industrial Training Act is a major step forward in this respect. The Industrial Training Boards will see that the training given to young people, in particular, is sufficiently broad to enable them to adapt themselves adequately to changes.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree, in view of his comment that the training will be directed towards young people, that there is an increasing need to provide training for adults, rather than for young workers?
§ VISCOUNT BLAKENHAM
My Lords, I was going to answer the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, who raised the same point as did the noble Lord, Lord Peddie. This was concerned with the training of the 40-year olds and adult workers in general. Both noble Lords are right. This certainly raises a major problem. It is one of the functions and responsibilities of these Industrial Training Boards to engage themselves in adult training, as well as in the training of young entrants into the industries. This is one of the functions that must be looked at seriously. This is in addition to the extended programme in the Government's own training centres, which, of course, deal with adults. Some forty different trades are covered by this training programme, and the Ministry of Labour will change them as the need arises.
The noble Lords, Lord Hanworth and Lord Shackleton, talked about mobility —industrial, occupational and geographical. We need to know more about the factors which cause or impede mobility. I certainly have great sympathy with Lord Taylor's feelings on this point, when he said that in his fairly long married life he had lived in three houses within a mile of each other. We need to know more about what kind of people move and why they move and what is the pattern of movement between different industries, occupations and areas. Already there is a great deal of mobility, 235 much more than people seem to realise. The Social Survey recently carried out an inquiry on behalf of the Ministry of Labour covering a sample of 10,000 households throughout the country, and this should throw a valuable light on all these questions.
But in all this I think that we should agree that it would be wrong to expect the workers to bear the brunt of technological change. It is my opinion—and I think it would be the opinion of everybody—that this would be socially unjust. It would also mean that the workers concerned would resist change, and we should understand the reasons why they would do so. Certainly the Government have always recognised this. Most people agree that the worker ought to be given improved status and security. The Government have been following out such a policy. The first fruits of this, as the right reverend prelate the Lord Bishop of Coventry said, was the Contracts of Employment Act, which I myself had the satisfaction of seeing put on the Statute Book.
This was the first occasion on which Parliament had laid down conditions of service for universal adoption. Of course, the Act sets the minimum standard, on which every good employer will want to improve. At the same time, I put before the National Joint Advisory Council of the Ministry of Labour a whole programme of action to improve status and security. Besides provision for redundancy, this programme covered sick pay and a guaranteed week's payment, both of which are now being studied by the Council.
One of the greatest needs is for forward planning of manpower requirements by individual firms and for good communications, which was emphasised strongly by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, so that when managements produce these new plans they should do so in consultation with representatives of the workers, and a formal scheme for handling redundancy should be worked out in ample time before redundancy is likely to occur. It just is not good enough to wait for the emergency to arise, because the worker has every right to know where he stands beforehand. I would say that during these last years we have made constant efforts to en 236 courage employers to produce such schemes, and we have had some success. The coverage of redundancy schemes in private manufacturing industry has roughly doubled over the last three years. I should like to see it very considerably extended.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, rightly pointed to the desirability of sharing the economic benefits of technological change. This should happen through reductions in prices, which will benefit the community as a whole, and also through rising levels of wages, in line with the growth of productivity. In individual firms there may well be more direct participation, through a system of profit-sharing. The Government certainly would welcome any movement in this direction. Although I should point out that profit-sharing may not always be the right answer, it can certainly increase the sense of partnership between workers and management in firms where there is a sound basis of mutual understanding and effective leadership.
I am sorry to have been so long, but this was an extremely interesting debate. To sum up, I think it has been agreed in this debate that it is wrong to assume that automation is inevitably going to cause mass unemployment in this country. I believe that the reverse is true. In the long run, it is rather failure to maintain and increase the pace of technological advance that would jeopardise full employment. At the same time, we should all accept that there will be these grave problems of adaptation, training and mobility, and we must plan in advance an employment policy which is adequate to meet them.
I have mentioned a number of recent developments which have been set in motion, and reviewed what has been done by the Government and by private interests to forward the progress of automation. Frankly, I believe that this is not enough and that there will have to be more expenditure on education and more research into the techniques of automation. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, that we shall have to find some way of filling the gap, to which I referred earlier, between the equipment-maker and the user, perhaps by seeing what we can do to get private installations going at co-operating plants; and here I think that the 237 National Research and Development Council may have a part to play.
This is an opportunity for everyone. It can have the effect of increasing and refining the quality of our civilisation, and we disregard its potentialities at our peril. How to direct and co-ordinate the extra effort required and how to put some central drive behind it is a matter to which the Government are giving anxious and careful attention. But most important of all, perhaps, is our whole attitude to automation—the attitude of the public, the trade unions and the employers.
It has often been suggested that this attitude might be one of fear of the unknown and its unpredictable consequences, of the dangers of the enslavement of men by machines or of massive unemployment and soulless and uninspiring work. I would suggest that the attitude should rather be that of expectant participation in a new adventure of society. If automation is wisely and energetically accepted and directed, then, as someone who is deeply concerned with the subject has said, the present age might come to be called an age of liberation, rather than an age of scientific bondage, andthe future historian will be able to look back and say, 'In the twentieth century man used machines to release human beings from mental drudgery as well as physical labour. By so doing he laid the foundation of a new age of freedom for mankind'.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
My Lords, first of all, I would thank those noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and also those outside who have helped me to sort out my ideas on the subject and have given me encouragement to put forward this Motion. There was a moment to-day when I had the feeling that we were going to be so much of one mind that not even one spark would come out of the debate. This might have been a bad thing, because it is always a good thing that other views, on automation, which are certainly held, should be raised; and I was grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Williamson and Lord Hobson, for raising some of these points and enlivening our debate.
There is nothing I should like to do more than to reply to some of the points raised, but I realise that it is getting very late and I think that these points are probably better discussed between us 238 outside. When all is said and done, the only major issue that I take with the noble Lord is the pressing need to encourage the speed of the application of automation in industry and commerce, which is the first part of my Motion.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I do not think the noble Viscount need be too coy about the time. If he feels in a position to answer my noble friends' arguments, the House would enjoy it.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
I thank the noble Lord very much for his intervention. I feel that this need to speed up the application of automation to industry and commerce arises mainly from outside pressures. Unless we adopt it, we shall not remain competitive. There are indications, as I said in my speech, that other countries in Europe have come up from a lower level; they are going up faster, and after reaching equality, are going ahead. I personally do not necessarily believe that everything that automation produces will be good. But, whether we like it or not, economically we have to go on. That is the point I want to make.
The other point is this. I would once again reiterate, as I said in my opening speech, that there are many people in management, firms, trade unions and the T.U.C. who are doing a first-class job in this modern age; and to these I pay every tribute. But I have been making a little bit of a case in my speech, and I have allowed myself the liberty of making generalisations. I do not retract those generalisations at all, but I do not wish people to think that they are universally applicable to the whole of management or even to a larger part of trade unions. I think that is all I need say in closing, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.