§ Sir Alexander Russell (Tynemouth)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:But humbly regret that there is no mention of any national policy for a better location of industry, designed to prevent so far as possible a recurrence of the unemployment which prevailed in the period between the two wars, in areas mainly dependent on the heavy industries.This Amendment would have been moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Newcastle (Sir C. Headlam). Unfortunately, through illness he is absent from the House, and, in undertaking the task, I am sure the House will join with me in expressing the hope that he may have a speedy recovery. It is a remarkable thing that, though we are waging the greatest war in history and have been warned that the grimmest stage may be yet to come, throughout the long Debate on the Gracious Speech little more than passing references have been made to the conduct of the war. The special circumstances governing the Debate perhaps account for that, but in the country during the past month or two there has been a significant development.
§ Mr. Donald Scott (Wansbeck)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am sure the House will join with me in expressing our sympathy with our hon. Friend and will regret very much that he feels unable to carry on. In seconding the Amendment, I feel that the House will forgive me if I confine my remarks to one particular district, that in which I was born and bred and in which my constituency lies, namely the North East coast of England. I do that in no parochial 1042 spirit but rather because I would sooner speak of a district which I know, and I feel too that many of my arguments will apply with equal force to certain other districts. We are now in the fifth year of the war, and be our final victory far or near the minds of thinking people all over the country—and people are thinking to-day—are turning to the years that lie ahead and the problems which may confront us. The time is approaching when this Parliament is going to be judged, not by its fine phrases, its intentions, or its promises, but rather by its ability to translate those phrases, intentions and promises into legislation. Millions of our people are looking forward to greater social security, to better health services, to homes instead of mere houses, and to a wider and better educational system. Millions of our people are not fools, and they realise that these much-longed-for and much desired improvements in our social system must depend upon the ability of this country to give full employment. It is scarcely to be wondered at that districts like the North East coast and others, which but a short time ago saw and felt the grim horror of mass regional unemployment, should be seriously concerned and that those districts should be asking what steps the Government are going to take so to arrange the location of industry that we in the North East and other similarly placed districts shall have a second line of defence to our main bastion, the heavy industries, should they once again fall on evil days. What steps, they ask, are the Government prepared to take in order to prevent those districts becoming once again special areas, "special" only in that they excited the pity of mankind and the charity of the State? And those 1043 people who are asking that question, as they are asking it in the Press and through Members of all parties, have a right to some hope and some reply.
This problem of fostering light alternative industries in these districts would seem to be capable of approach in three different ways: first of all, by the widest survey and the widest possible planning on the part of the Government, and, secondly, there is a necessity for a changed outlook on the part of the people in those districts. We have been justifiably proud for generations of our industrial history, the coal we have mined, the great ships of peace and war that we have sent out of the slipways to sail the seven seas. It may be that our pride made us a little narrow-minded, perhaps a little superior, and made us say sometimes, "We who kept half the coal fires of Europe going, who launched the 'Mauritania,' who built the Sydney Bridge, what have we to do with light industries?" It may be too that we developed too much local patriotism, which is so often a euphemism for parochialism. Be that as it may, we on the North East coast somehow seemed not to have advanced with the times. We who led the world at one time in transport, literally missed the bus, and it is a most significant fact that the region that gave birth to the steam turbine, which heard the first whistle of the first locomotive in the world did not produce before this war one aeroplane, one motor car, one motor cycle and precious few ordinary bicycles. I submit that we have to get away from that heavy-mindedness. We have to develop a new spirit of enterprise and adventure or rather recapture the old one. To do that it is going to take not only Government co-operation but the good will of the capitalists, the industrialists and the trade unionists in the district.
My third approach is this: If we are to foster these new light industries, we have to look first to the State, then to ourselves, or rather to the industrialists and others concerned, and finally to our own Local Authorities, not necessarily by asking them to give up their identity, but to ask them to act as one body, not as a small body trying to stake out local claims, but one great body speaking with one great voice. We have in the North-East, and indeed in other areas similarly situated, another 1044 industry which has been, though in the background, a very good friend and a very good customer and a very loyal partner of the towns in prosperity and in adversity. I refer, of course, to agriculture, but I sometimes wonder if there has been a sufficient link between the enormous purchasing power of rural industry on the one hand and the production of urban industry on the other. It is a significant fact that in the North-East area there was not before the war one large firm turning out agricultural implements, no factories producing tractors, milking machines or small stationary farm engines. There were practically no firms processing agricultural products, and we had not a solitary sugar beet factory. I suggest that along the lines of a closer marriage between town and country industry you have at least one approach to this problem. Especially in the light of the increased need for agricultural machinery after the war. I realise perfectly well, as I am sure my hon. Friends who are associated with me realise, that it is going to need every possible approach. But I see no reason at all why, with the courage, the technical skill and the tenacity of the people in these districts, we should not be able not only to preserve our heavy industries—that is what we want to do first of all—but at the same time advance along entirely new lines, so that we can say that no industry is too heavy for us and at the same time no industry is too light and seemingly unimportant to take a place in our economic life. In a word, we want to produce the goods and all the goods all the time.
I have said that I propose to deal by and large with one particular district. My hon. Friends and I are very well aware that we are not the only district which has suffered in the past and which is a potential sufferer in the future. What the Amendment asks is that we shall have a rather clearer view of the whole problem and that if possible my right hon. Friend should give a much wider picture, a much more definite statement as to these areas and the problem of the location of industry than we have had to date. It may be that the Government have an answer ready. It may be that it is on entirely new lines. I have said something about planning, and I should really be a coward if I ran away from that rather difficult word. I do not like it, because unfortunately it is suspect. It means to so many people regimentation, Gestapo-ism 1045 and the negation of private enterprise. I am not using it in that sense. I realise perfectly that there is no solitary, simple, single answer to this problem and that it can only be solved not entirely by Government planning on the one hand nor entirely by private enterprise on the other, but really by a happy compromise and combination of the two. Millions of men and women have had their entire lives interrupted and disrupted by this war to save civilisation. Surely it is only fair that those people should have afterwards some of the fruits of that civilisation when it has been saved and should have the right at least to have the freedom to work when they want to.
Field Marshal Smuts has warned us that we are approaching a period in which this country is bound to be poor. That may well be, but it would be the rankest defeatism if we construed that remark as meaning that we were irrevocably facing a future of mass unemployment. Should that idea get into the heads of our people, should they think that because of lack of preparedness or lack of taking the initiative or fear or anything else the Government were not preparing against the evil day, should they think that we were irrevocably to return to the era of special areas, I say most definitely that there would be a catastrophic fall in the morale of the people of the country, the people in the Services and the workers in the factories, the mines and on the land. It is said that the public memory is short, but anyone even remotely connected with the special areas in those old days must have in his mind and in his heart an indelible picture of human misery and frustration which comes back to them like a nightmare. I think we are justified in asking therefore that those districts, because of their great industrial tradition and their more recent suffering, because of their great contribution to the war effort and because of the great potentialities they have for the future should at least now be given the right to hope, to great expectations, and above all the right to action now.
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
I rise to support the Amendment as representing a constituency in an area which in the period between the two wars suffered as grievously as any other through being dependent on a few heavy industries. My hon. Friend who has just spoken is 1046 particularly interested, naturally, in the future industrial prosperity of the North East Coast. He has told us that he and his friends in tabling this Amendment drew it so that it would include every area in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland which had suffered under a similar disability. I am naturally more interested in Clydeside and the West of Scotland generally.
There is considerable anxiety in that district to-day as to the future, and that is scarcely to be wondered at when we remember that during the slump in 1933 a fourth of the whole insured population of Scotland was unemployed. I have not the actual figures for the West of Scotland, but it may be taken that they were substantially worse than those for Scotland as a whole. The degree of misery which such a total of unemployment represents is very difficult to compute. It is not only those feelings of hopelessness on the part of the unemployed themselves. There is also the loss of dignity which comes from having to stand at Employment Exchanges and to apply for public assistance. There is fear in the mind of those who are still employed that at any time they may lose their job, and in addition there is a corrosive anxiety eating into the hearts of many others, particularly perhaps the small shopkeepr who sees a dwindling demand for his goods day by day and the prospect of closing down and bankruptcy staring him in the face. As the Seconder has said, those who have seen the cumulative effect of such unemployment not for brief periods but stretching over years have no wish to see it repeated.
The predominating cause of that misery on Clydeside was that we were dependent on shipbuilding and engineering and subsidiary industries, including the manufacture of steel. It is true also that we had a great coalmining industry in Lanarkshire, but unfortunately in that field the higher levels are rapidly being worked out. The fact is that whenever we find districts which are dependent on shipbuilding, engineering and coalmining we find excessive unemployment existing in times of depression whereas in districts where there is a greater diversity of industry unemployment is nothing like so severe. In that connection it may be germane to recall the situation that existed in regard to unemployment throughout 1047 this country in November, 1933. In London and the South-East area of England it was 10 per cent. of the total insured population; that figure rose to 14 per cent. in the Midlands and the South-West, to 25 per cent. on the North-East coast and in Scotland, and 33 per cent. in Wales. It is my contention that had that total unemployment been spread more evenly over the country, it would not have presented anything like such a grave problem as it did, for once a district gets down to the level which was reached in the case of Wales, the North-East coast and Scotland it is very hard to remedy, for you are caught up in a vicious circle. The Government's problem, as I see it, is not only to find employment, but to see that employment is provided where it is required. To achieve that the better distribution of industry is absolutely essential.
In the Gracious Speech we are informed that the primary aim of the Government is to ensure during the transition period food, homes and employment. A few lines later on there appear these words:In certain fields it is already possible to look beyond the transitional period and to frame proposals for social reforms designed to confer lasting benefits on My people.I would suggest that by far the most important of these aims is the provision of employment, and I would qualify that by saying productive employment. If we are able to provide that surely much of our anxiety as to food disappears. We have to provide homes, and there is no difference of opinion in this House or throughout the country as to that. When it comes to social reforms, I sometimes wonder whether these are in the same order of urgency as the provision of work. I also wonder whether we are not expending too much of our limited energy, energy which is limited by the over-riding importance of winning the war which must be our main pre-occupation, on social reform to the exclusion of employment. As the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment said, you cannot build up, or if you do you cannot maintain, social services except on the firm foundation of productive employment, for only from such employment can you obtain the wherewithal to maintain these services. Employment is the first essential, but in order to be acceptable to the majority of our people it must be provided in the 1048 localities where they live and if it is to rest on a secure basis, industry must be so distributed that no district is left to rely principally or entirely on any one industry.
There are those who hold the view that industry should be spread evenly all over the country. That may be a counsel of perfection. If we were planning from the beginning it might be possible, but to attempt to do it to-day, except very gradually, is impracticable. Further, it is beyond our means, for it would mean the abandonment and leaving derelict of many of our existing industrial areas. In those areas we have to remember that there are many of the amenities of communal life and we cannot afford to abandon them. We have also to remember that many of our people have their roots deep down in those areas and have no wish to be transplanted. We must, therefore, provide employment in these localities.
May I endeavour to put before the House one or two suggestions? My own district is devoted primarily to shipbuilding. I wonder whether it could be possible for shipowners in this country to forecast their requirements of new tonnage some years ahead. If they were able to do that it would enable the shipbuilders to plan a steady programme. That would prevent fluctuations both in employment and in the cost of tonnage and would be an advantage for every one concerned. I understand that negotiations with that end in view are in progress, and I am sure that every Member of the House will wish for them a happy outcome. If such an arrangement could be arrived at we should know, at least approximately the number of men in the district for whom steady employment could be provided and we should know what surplus remained over. That surely would simplify the question of the location of industry. New industries are attracted to areas where a surplus of suitable labour exists. I would ask, therefore, whether such forecasts could not be applied to other districts where a few industries predominate.
Following the war there will be a great variety of new industries. Science and the conditions arising out of the war have made that inevitable. Short of positive direction, which to my mind might stultify the object we have in view, are there no steps which the Government can take 1049 to persuade industrialists to establish these new industries in areas where greater diversity is desirable? Industries are attracted by both natural and man-made advantages. There is nothing the Government can do to alter the former, but I suggest that they might influence the latter.
I would like to give one or two simple examples which come to my mind. There are inequalities in rating to-day notwithstanding the Derating Act. These disadvantages are particularly strong in certain areas, and especially in Scotland. I would ask whether the time has not come when these inequalities should be removed and when there should be instituted a universal system of rating for the United Kingdom as a whole. Another example which comes before me is the disinclination of certain local authorities to co-operate with industry. I can remember the case of the great steel works, in the vicinity of Glasgow where, in the coking of coal, they produced a great surplus of industrial gas. They offered that surplus to the local authority, but it was turned down. It it had been accepted, as it was in Newcastle and Middlesbrough, it might have provided a cheap form of power entirely suitable for light industries and thus have proved an attraction to them. In such circumstances cannot the Government take an interest and bring its influence to bear?
I am absolutely certain that a central authority, operating perhaps in conjunction with regional boards, is essential, an authority which would be responsible for the collection of information and be in a position to advise both from a national point of view and in their own interests those who intend setting up new industries. That authority should have powers of negative direction to prohibit the setting up of industries in overcrowded areas, such as Greater London, except under licence, and also, in conjunction with the Treasury, powers much greater than those given to the special commissioner of giving financial assistance where it was considered necessary and desirable in the national interest.
In that latter connection I feel that we in Scotland have a case for special consideration. In the original planning of our war production Scotland was altogether neglected. We have no shadow 1050 factories, and that neglect has continued ever since. Now factories have been set up by the Government in England on a much greater scale proportionately than they have in Scotland. I was looking at the figures for 1941 and found that we received in Scotland less than one-half of the new industries to which we were entitled on a population basis and also on the Goschen proportion of 11–80ths. Not only so, but all our buildings which were available or have become available through concentration of industry have been relegated to storage purposes and not production. The result of that policy is that full employment is not available for our people and our younger people have been directed of necessity to work in England. That is a process which we do not desire to see continued for it will inevitably lead to the depopulation of our country.
That policy will also place Scotland at a disadvantage when the war comes to an end, for factories which are actually in production are capable of a much quicker turnover to peace purposes than are buildings used for storage. I would press on the Government the importance of their planning now to release these buildings for production at the earliest possible date.
It is on these grounds that I ask for special consideration of Scotland's postwar needs. We really feel that we have not been generously treated in the past. We ask for more generous treatment, financial and otherwise, and a better understanding of our situation in future. The trading estate at Hillington, I am led to believe, has been a success. It has been an inducement to new industries to come into the district, but much more than that is required. One direction which Government assistance might take would be financial aid for the provision of additional trading estates.
Glasgow and the Clyde deserve well of this country. It is an area ideally situated for the export trade with transport and other facilities of the highest order. It has unfortunately been represented as an unruly and undisciplined community, but it is in fact active, alert, independent and courageous and it has a highly skilled and most hard-working population. It has made a great and outstanding contribution to the war effort.
1051 The West of Scotland is looking to the Government to use every means that foresight and knowledge can suggest towards providing a better balanced distribution of industry in the country as a whole and the prevention of unemployment and distress such as we experienced in pre-war days. Nothing that the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply can say would put more heart into the industrial population than an assurance from him on behalf of the Government that the omission of all mention of the location of industry from the Gracious Speech does not mean that the Government are content with things as they are; that they are indeed striving and will continue to strive to find a solution for that serious and difficult problem.
§ Mr. Daggar (Abertillery)
I am, with other Members on this side of the House, indebted to the hon. Gentlemen whose names are put down to the Amendment for having afforded us an opportunity of discussing another important subject, because I am convinced that, unless some effective policy is formulated and suitable plans prepared now, this country will experience a difficulty after the war similar to the difficulty after the war of 1918, namely, a recurrence of unemployment and distressed areas. This nation cannot afford that. Everyone is naturally interested in the Beveridge plan, but I ought to lay some emphasis upon the fact that unless mass unemployment is prevented that plan cannot operate. With the demands now being made for improved social services and improvements in our educational system, it is impossible to make provision for the maintenance of so large an army of unemployed men and women as we had after 1918. We shall probably be faced with a National Debt in the region of £20,000,000,000.
I am not attracted by the optimistic statements of some individuals that we need be no worse off after this war than after the last war. That contention is based upon the fact that for the money borrowed in the last war we were paying 5 per cent. interest, whereas at present money can be borrowed at 2½ per cent. In my opinion those conditions may not continue to exist after this war, and, in addition, those individuals ignore the fact that 2½ per cent. upon twice the amount of our pre-war National Debt, which is 1052 approximately £16,000,000,000 is just as great a financial burden as 5 per cent. on a National Debt of £8,000,000,000. I am well aware that all expenditure is limited only by our capacity to produce, but I am also aware that that limit has never been reached under the present economic system, and never will be while that system is permitted to continue, because of the prevailing policy of restrictions in order to maintain prices at which articles can be sold at a profit. To Socialists that constitutes a part of our indictment of the existing system, because it condemns people to idleness instead of permitting them to produce wealth which could be spent to improve the conditions of our people. It is said that the ultimate cost of the Education Bill will be something like £190,000,000, and we are also informed by reliable authorities that in order to meet that expenditure rates will, on the average, have to be increased by 16 per cent. The money required for that and other purposes cannot be produced by enforced idleness but only by production. What we want to stress is that the country will not be capable after this war of spending, as it did at the end of the last war and during the interwar period, the enormous sum of £1,459,000,000 in order to maintain in idleness people who, had they been permitted to produce wealth, would have increased the wealth of the country by no less than £8,000,000,000.
These are some of the considerations which have prompted me to express my approval of this Amendment. Another reason why I am interested in planning to prevent a recurrence of unemployment such as we experienced between the two wars in areas mainly dependent upon the heavy industries is because I live in a Division which before this war was specified as a Special Area, and like many of my colleagues I still have vivid and painful recollections of those days. The conditions under which our people were compelled to live, or exist, had to be experienced to be believed, because it was impossible to describe them in language. Sufficient is it to say that the people themselves living in those areas regarded themselves as the forgotten men of Great Britain. Here is what the Commissioner for the Special Areas, the late Mr. Gillett, said in one of his reports:It may be that many of those who read these pages know as little about the areas 1053 from a personal point of view as I did before I undertook this work. I well remember the depressing effect the great slag heaps and the ruins of dismal factories had upon me on my first visit, and even some measure of familiarity has not removed that feeling. It is no easy task to persuade industry to come to some of these places, and makes me ask myself the question whether it is right that whole districts should be ruined without industry being held liable for some of the ruin they have created. I am now asked to clear up these places on behalf of the Government, these unsightly, ruinous concerns that in former days, no doubt, paid shareholders handsome dividends.Those days will inevitably return unless something is done now regarding the location of industry. War has achieved what peace failed to achieve, namely, to provide employment for those in the Special Areas. A writer in the current issue of the "Economist" states that the term "Special Areas" recalls a dismal and discreditable chapter in British history. With that I profoundly agree. He also states that "Food, work and homes" is a magnificent slogan for the post-war era, but the Special Areas have a claim to priority in its application, and from that I and my colleagues do not dissent.
Nothing has been done, apart from the war, to prevent the inevitable return of those inter-war conditions. As a result of repeated Debates in this House a Royal Commission was set up under the chairmanship of Sir Montagu Barlow, set up largely because of the suggestions made by one of the Commissioners for the Special Areas. The Commission held 29 public meetings at which oral evidence was received either from or on behalf of 50 bodies of persons, and written evidence was received from a further 72 bodies of persons. A Report, containing recommendations was issued, but it has suffered, to our discredit, the same fate as many others, in that it simply adorns the shelves of the Library in the House of Commons. That fact, with the absence of any reference to a national policy in the Gracious Speech, makes me feel very apprehensive and anxious about the future, not only for my own Division but for others. The outlook, in my opinion, is a gloomy one. The future, as far as my people are concerned, is both black and bleak. My anxiety is due to what has happened.
Again let me take my own Division, which was no exception but typical of every Special Area. From 1931 to 1938, a period of eight years, the number of persons placed by employment exchanges 1054 in other districts was no less than 4,648. The number who left my Division and found employment for themselves was 7,065, making a total of 11,713 who were compelled to migrate to other parts of the country. If you take the whole of Wales and Monmouthshire you will find that between mid-1926 and mid-1938 the reduction in the population through migration was 378,700, which means that in 12 years one-seventh of the population of Wales and Monmouthshire left in order to find work elsewhere. In a more or less degree that was true also of every Special Area in the country. We then heard a lot about destroying the family and the break-up of homes, and it is too much to expect us to go through a similar experience again. Men and women who are waging this war must not be expected to relive that life. The Minister of Production in a speech to his constituents in Bristol said recently:The location of industry must be planned by the State if distressed areas are to be avoided.This question should not be left to the whims of private individuals nor to their petty financial and economic interests, or the position in the future will be even worse than in the past. I should imagine that everyone in the House will agree with the "Economist" that the war has certainly brought full employment to the heavy industries of the Special Areas, but it also emphasised their dependence upon those industries.
How true that is of the mining industry, particularly in Wales and Monmouthshire and Durham, and with its further mechanisation the post-war problem will be intensified. Not all in this House are familiar with what took place in those days in connection with this particular point. As regards the mining industry in Great Britain, if you compare 1920 with 1937 it is found that 21,000,000 more tons of coal were produced with a reduction in the number of men of over 434,000. Let me take another period, comparing 1937 with 1931. In 1937 21,000,000 tons more coal was produced with 76,126 less men. Some of us are unable to forget the result of the efforts made on behalf of the people who exist in the Special Areas and I would remind the House of what was done in the way of establishing new industries in those districts. From 1932 to 1938, a period of seven years, the number of factories opened in Great Britain was 1055 3,617, 1,135 were extended and the number closed was 3,009. That left us with 1,743 new factories. In Wales and Monmouthshire, where the unemployment problem was so severe, we opened 60, extended 13 and closed 32, which left us with 41 small undertakings during that terrible period of unemployment. What was done for the Special Areas as distinct from the whole country, including Wales and Monmouthshire and Durham? During the same seven years there were opened in the Special Areas 173 factories and 78 were closed, which left a net increase of 95. In South Wales and Monmouthshire we had opened 26, none were extended and 10 closed. For seven years we had the small number of 16 factories. That is not much of an achievement in seven years—to have conceded 95 small undertakings to the Special Areas.
What is the present position? Where do we now stand with regard to the Government's proposals to deal with the Special Areas or to prevent their re-creation? Here for the moment I speak for the Labour Members for Wales, although probably our experience must be similar to that of other Members who have not forgotten the inter-war period. About 12 months ago we met the Ministry of Production and, after the usual discussion, we were invited to submit particulars of vacant buildings in our Divisions that might be suitable for small undertakings. Getting the buildings was necessary, we were told, because material and labour were not available for the erection of new buildings. I arranged with the three authorities in my constituency to submit the required particulars. We waited months for results, but nothing was done. We made inquiries, and then met the Ministry of Supply. After having carried out their instructions and waited for months we have now been informed that such questions are the business of the Board of Trade. Finally, we were told that no further dispersal of industry during the war was necessary and that before any action regarding post-war location of industry is undertaken it is proposed to have a number of surveys. To waste our time is bad enough, but to mistake movement for progress is worse in the light of what happened after the last war. These proposed surveys will cause trouble, annoyance and irritation among the people who have no future, nothing other than to live the past again. Let me read a portion of 1056 a letter which appeared in "The Times" on the 4th of last month, signed, I take it, by Lord Ridley:A positive Government policy of planning of industry whether by inducements or direction or both should begin now, and though perhaps such action cannot be taken in this phase of the war, it is not too soon for the Government to show that they are facing the difficulties and that they intend to solve them. Surely the planning of industry and occupation is the starting point of the planning surveys by local authorities. I do not know"—and here I share the Noble Lord's ignorance—the objects of the Board of Trade surveys to which your correspondent refers, or the ground which they are to cover, but I would point out that these areas have been constantly surveyed since 1933 from every point of view by every kind of organisation. Nor do I see in the method adopted for conducting these surveys much encouragement to trust the Central Government to understand the local problem, since, so far as I know, no advice has been sought from any local organisations and little is known locally of the activities of the Board of Trade investigators. The facts are welle enough known by those who live and work there; what is required is an effectively decentralised Government machine to carry out reconstruction, backed by some form of regional organisation as suggested by your correspondent. There is no lack in these areas of people willing to take the initiative and determined to see that those who live in what were known as the special areas, among whom are some of the finest workers in the country, have a future to look forward to. They cannot be expected to put up with a repetition of the past.Most of us know the cause of the depressed areas without undertaking additional surveys. I put it in all seriousness to the right hon. Gentleman and with every possible sincerity. Pits were closed down because of the lack of effective de-hand for coal. They have not been reopened. They are still closed, and since the war the unemployed mineworkers and others whose livelihood depended upon the industry have found employment in factories which produce the armaments of war. When the war ends, the men will be as they were before, namely, unemployed. Let me give an illustration. I shall not be giving away any secrets. I had thousands of unemployed in my Division when the war commenced. Then, because of the establishment of a factory in an adjoining division, all my unemployed mineworkers found work in that establishment. When the war comes to an end, instead of there being 13,000 employed in that factory, probably only 1057 2,000 will be required, and then I shall have unemployed miners coming back into my Division again.
Is it necessary to undertake further surveys in order to be convinced that that will be the position? Surely we do not want further delay by the undertaking of these surveys. It used to be a commonplace among Members of Parliament that when a commission was appointed it meant that the question with which it was expected to deal should be delayed of any solution; surveys imply further unnecessary delay. Why, there are already in existence no fewer than seven reports for the Commissioners for those Special Areas and also the Report of the Royal Commission, and printed surveys of almost every square yard of the depressed areas in Great Britain. In South Wales and in Monmouthshire we had two surveys, undertaken by the Welsh University, authorised and unasked by the Board of Trade. Their findings occupied three volumes. You can go into the Library and find that the volumes are now used to prop up other books. The reminder of those days is the cause of our present anxiety.
The Minister of Production, speaking at Oxford on the 28th of last month, is reported as saying that the Government plan upon the Beveridge plan would emerge, but—and I would draw the attention of hon. Members to this point—in common fairness we must be able to see the outlines of the New Jerusalem before we start committing ourselves so far as to how it is to be furnished.That is a dreamy observation. What fantastic heights of superficial oratory he attempts to scale. We want to see the Government plan for the New Jerusalem, and we can safely leave the furniture and its design to the right hon. Gentleman. He can have the pleasure of mixing his metaphors at his own leisure. We desire to know the plan which the Government have, to provide food, work, and houses, and to prevent a recurrence of what took place after the last war. To borrow the right hon. Gentleman's word "furnished," some of us still retain painful recollections of the name of one piece of furniture which had the effect of robbing the unemployed of this country of no less than £45,000,000 between November, 1921, and November, 1935. It robbed them at the rate of £15,000,000 a year, making a total in four years of not less 1058 than £65,000,000. That piece of furniture is still in existence, namely, the infamous means test introduced by the Government of those days. During the same period, there were cuts in unemployment benefit, and increased contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, which in four years denied to our people no less than £110,000,000. Again to borrow the metaphorical language of the Minister of Production, we want to know more about the New Jerusalem and its furniture. We, I repeat, are more anxious about what may be the position of the people in the recreated Special Areas, unless something is done. Like them, we dread the future. Give them, it is not too much to ask, an assurance to which they are entitled, namely, a measure of economic security. We ask the Government for their plans now in order to prevent our people from going through the hell of despondency, misery, starvation in some instances, and want which they experienced during the inter-war period.
§ Mr. Magnay (Gateshead)
I am glad to catch your eye, Sir, on this occasion, because this question is in the very pith and marrow of my bones. When I came down here in 1931 I had in Gateshead alone 10,000 unemployed, on the dole. To see those men standing in queues at the employment exchange taking the form of an interrogation mark it seemed to me that it was saying to us legislators, "This is the riddle you must answer or die." Thousands of men of my breed—for I am a working man's son—as good as my father, and there was none better, dying of broken hearts, as I knew them, friends of mine, because they had to go and plead for employment, skilled craftsmen, or get away to the furthest ends of the earth. I too remember, as some of the older Members here will remember, that I did an unforgiveable thing in the eyes of the Whips. I got 91 Members of Parliament to back a round robin to the Minister of Labour of that day to the effect that if something was not done for the distressed areas we should vote against the Government. Among the 91 was a member of the Government benches. Then there began to be talk about these things.
I make allowances for those placed in authority over us at that time. We were shocked, not only surprised, at the condition of things. When unemployment insurance was enacted I went up and 1059 down the land as one of those who had argued for this. The insurable risk then was 4 per cent.; that was the average. When it got to nearly 40 per cent. in the distressed areas I, to my everlasting regret, was Member for the second worst hit place in England and Wales. Merthyr Tydvil, I remember, was first, Gateshead second and Jarrow after that. I remember that I was elected as secretary of Members of Parliament representing distressed areas. I remember, too, many deputations we had from Liverpool and Glasgow. Backwards and forwards we went. We gave them no peace until they considered the matter, and while we were considering as Members to do what we could there was one man in 1933 who came unannounced, unknown to Tyneside, who never disclosed his identity but went to Jarrow and started there in a very small way, with insight and wise action, to put Jarrow on the map again.
When I contrast the condition of things now and then, I thank God that there was a man from Surrey who had the heart to come—none of us on Tyneside would do it, had the heart, brains or wit to do it—and from small beginnings put Jarrow on the map. I pleaded with him to come and do something for Gateshead. Sir Thomas Inskip told me, "We are going to close down the Close Works. Do not be alarmed, do not look like that. Your men will all get employment." I said, "Yes, but out of the neighbourhood. We have had more than enough of that kind of thing." I went to the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir J. Jarvis) whom I did not know personally. I asked him whether he had any good in his mind for Gateshead. He bought the Close Works. The consequence is that a man who had the vision, for "without vision the people perish," of what could be done, trained people in the factories, not in trainee places miles away from the place of employment, not at Wallsend or some other place, but in the factory where he established and initiated the work. He trained the men from better to best. The consequence is that he has employed 6,000 without a penny profit, without any dividends and also without even his expenses. He has gone backwards and forwards, and at an expenditure of £1,000,000, which is less than £200 per head, he has put 6,000 into 1060 direct employment, which will be continued after the war—peace employment, with the best mill not only in Durham but in the world.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman to co-opt a man who has proved by experiment on Tyneside what can be done by insight, knowledge and by the good will he has created. In the 10 years there has not been one quarrel in the works. He has made these men, these employees, self-respecting. You can never respect anyone else until you have respect for yourself. No man can pull anyone higher than he stands. If I have no respect for myself, if I do not lift high my salvation erected brow, I can have no respect for anyone. You must not allow anybody to be brow-beaten. You must not allow your child to be brow-beaten. Teach them to stand on their own feet, with food in their stomachs, decent localities to live in and a park to play in.
The people to whom I refer have attained that respect for themselves which enables them to respect others, and they have not had a quarrel for 10 years. That is what has been done, not by talk, by speeches, or by conferences, but by a man whom nobody knew. It is time that we did something. We could be excused for what happened in 1931 and 1932. The rate of unemployment was four per cent. when the Unemployment Act was brought into being and we were surprised and shocked by what happened in those years. But we have no excuse now. What we have to do is to "put our brains into steep" as I have heard it described. Nobody else can do this home-work; we will have to sit down and get it done ourselves. We have to consider what ought to be done instead of talking defeatist stuff. All these difficulties that people are imagining can be taken in our stride and overcome, if we have the heart and the brains to do it. I have no need to tell the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade about Durham. He is Member for a Durham constituency and knows the hardships which the people of Durham suffered in those bitter dark years. He knows the loss of morale that was caused when men had not even a decent suit to wear, and were compelled to lounge about their homes almost afraid to go out to ask for a job. This is a testing time for us as a nation and to those who 1061 argue that we ought not to be making plans at this time, I would say if you have an allotment, do you not make plans for the harvest of next year?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
The hon. Member's story is very interesting to those of us who represent districts like the one to which he has referred. May I ask what those mills produce?
§ Mr. Magnay
Steel, metal tubes and all sorts of things, as the President of the Board of Trade knows well. The right hon. Gentleman as I have said does not require to be told about what is happening in Durham. God may forgive us if we do a stupid thing a second time but we can never forgive ourselves. I say—and I have never spoken more seriously in my life—that after all the fighting that has gone on for us, and to secure the better conditions which might be ours, we can never forgive ourselves if we do not have our plan, and if we do not see that our plan works and that we avoid what happened at the end of the last war. I wish the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade all good will and the best of luck in his endeavours to bring about a better state of affairs this time.
§ Mr. McLean Watson (Dunfermline)
I am glad of an opportunity of taking part in this Debate. Reference has already been made by an hon. Member from the West of Scotland to the position in that area. I wish to speak for another part of Scotland which is interested in the location of industry and much concerned about what is to happen after the war. After the last war we had a very bad time. I saw two industries in my own area which then seemed to be dying. One was coal mining. The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) has told us what happened in Wales. The same thing happened in Lanarkshire and in Fifeshire. I saw nearly a score of collieries closed in my area. Naturally, we wonder what is going to happen after this war. During the last war we had the same prosperity that we are enjoying now, but when the war was over we had an army of unemployed men particularly in the mining industry. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and those in authority are considering very seriously both the location of industry and the provision of employment for the millions who, to-day, are not engaged in productive employment. Millions are in 1062 the Services and are otherwise engaged whose services will not be required in their present occupations—at least I hope not—when the war is over. To deal with them will be an enormous task and we are entitled to know what the Government are thinking of as regards the provision of employment for the great numbers who will require employment at the end of the war.
The other industry which I saw dying in my own area was the linen industry. I do not think anything has been said up to now in this Debate about textiles. What is to happen to that industry after the war? In my own town we produced the finest damask linen in this country, as good as anything that could be produced in Northern Ireland. That industry almost died between the two wars. Very little linen is now being produced in Dunfermline. Fortunately, owing to the enterprise—not of British but of foreign manufacturers—I am ashamed to say it—the silk industry was introduced into my constituency. Swiss manufacturers established factories or took over the closed linen factories and turned them into silk factories, and they are, at this moment, engaged in important war work. There is also the Border tweed industry. Will that industry be brought back to what it was before the war? Those two industries, the Dunfermline linen industry and the Border tweed industry, have suffered very heavily because they insisted on producing goods of quality rather than on producing goods in quantity. They may have a very hard struggle in the future to maintain that high standard which they set for themselves in bygone years.
There is another industry in the East of Scotland in which I take some interest, although I do not represent its area here and that is the jute manufacturing industry in Dundee. Here, again, we have a serious problem. I do not know what would have happened to Dundee if it had not been for war work during the last war. I do not think there would have been much to boast about as far as its main industry is concerned. Before the war it had serious competition with India and a very hard job to keep its place. I wonder whether that great city of Dundee has much prospect of prosperity in the years that will follow this war. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will be able to reassure us, because the 1063 vague phrases in the King's Speech are not good enough. There is no promise that things will be any better after this war than they were after the last war, and despite all that has been said about our experiences in the inter-war period, I do not know whether the Government yet realise what will be expected of them with regard to the location of industries.
I could mention other industries but I refrain from doing so because I promised to give the right hon. Gentleman time to make an adequate reply and I am more concerned to hear the case that he will put up for the Government than to talk further about the grievances of these areas. But I assure the right hon. Gentleman that not only the men in the Forces are concerned about what is to happen after the war. There are millions of others who to-day are doing work which will not be required after the war and they are just as much concerned about whether they are to be engaged in productive industry again, or whether; once more, they will have to join the queue at the Employment Exchange and to be paid the dole. Are we, once again, to pay out millions of pounds with nothing to show for it in the end, as was done between the two wars? I think there could be nothing more wasteful than to pay out money in the form of doles and to have nothing in return to show for it. There was a time when the Labour Government were accused of wasting the people's money because they sought to provide work for the unemployed. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] In 1929 and 1930. To-day, all over the country, there are roads that were constructed at that time and they are as good to-day as when they were made. They were made as schemes for the relief of unemployment. At any rate, we have something to show for the money spent in that way but we have nothing to show for the millions which were spent on the dole except the effect on the minds of those who passed through that terrible time.
I hope we are not going back to that again. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to reassure the House that there are schemes in preparation and that before we reach the end of the war, as munitions are no longer required so the factories now producing munitions will be 1064 turned over to peace-time industry, and to the preparations that will be required for either permanent or temporary housing. I suppose that for the time we shall have to be content with temporary houses, until we can get the materials for the building of proper houses. I hope that the munition factories will be made full use of in this connection. I am glad to have had the opportunity of stating the conditions created in my area after the last war and to give a warning against the possibility of a return to them. I have never held out to my people the prospect of great prosperity after the war. I have reminded them of what we passed through last time and I have told them that they will be fortunate if they do not have a like experience again. I hope that the same thing will not occur again but the responsibility is the responsibility of the Government. If they want to have the House of Commons and the country behind them, they will show the people that they are in earnest, and go ahead with a policy that will satisfy the people and make things better after this war than they were after the last war.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Dalton)
I welcome the Amendment which has been moved. I welcome the speeches which have been made. I welcome the strong feeling which has been expressed, and which I share, as the representative of one of the most distressed constituencies in the pre-war distressed areas of this country, and I welcome, in addition, the opportunity of making a statement on behalf of the Government on this very important matter. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay) for his very kind remarks at the conclusion of his speech. The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) truly said that unless mass unemployment can be prevented the Beveridge plan cannot be implemented nor any similar plan for social amelioration in this country. That is perfectly true. It has been repeatedly stated, and I entirely accept it. The terms of the Amendment contain this phrase:no mention of any national policy for the better location of industry.I shall say something about the location of industry in relation to national policy in a moment, but our national policy has already been declared. The policy at which we aim is full employment in peace, 1065 no less than in war, and after the war not only full employment, but full efficiency in the production of goods to the maximum extent of which our labour force is capable, both to meet the great needs which will exist after the war in the home civilian market for our people to re-equip themselves and furnish themselves with all they require, and also production for exports which it will be vitally necessary to increase as a means of paying for the food and raw materials we shall need to import. This national policy, as I have stated it and as the Government conceive it, is entirely inconsistent—and I wish to make this abundantly clear—with any repetition of the experiences between the two wars of those areas which we are discussing today. There is much in our history in the inter-war years from 1918 to 1939 of which we can all, according to our degrees of responsibility, feel ashamed. But I think there is nothing of which we should collectively feel more ashamed than of our neglect year after year of millions of the best of our men and women, who were living in those areas under conditions of deepening poverty, chronic unemployment and dull despair for the future. My constituents suffered these things, and so did the constituents of a great number of other hon. Members. Looking back we should be deeply ashamed of this, and we should pledge ourselves to do all in our power to prevent its recurrence. Successive Governments and Parliaments in the inter-war period seemed impotent to deal with this question. They seemed to show neither the will to deal with it, nor any intelligent planning such as was necessary to find a solution. I say with the utmost sincerity and conviction that there must be after this war no more such impotence, and that in these distressed areas, as we used to call them, there mast be, as in the rest of the country, food, work and homes for all our people.
I welcome and accept the statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith), in the course of his very clear and forcible speech, that it is the duty of the Government not only to provide employment, but to provide it where it is required. We have shown very great national capacity to organise for war. This war has been very well conducted, much better than the last war. It would be a shameful irony if, 1066 having shown such high capacity to wage war, we failed to show a corresponding capacity, when the war is won, and to carry forward our powers of organisation into the years of peace. We have done a wonderful job in mobilising the whole nation for the war effort. It has been done to an extent which before the war hardly anyone could have believed possible. It must be done no less in the years of peace.
I will now deal with one or two administrative matters which I hope will be of interest, and which arise out of the changeover. There is this connection between mobilisation for war and mobilisation for peace. We have built up this machine for mobilising the nation for war. When victory comes, that machine will still be with us. It will have been perfected for war. We must then put it into reverse, in order that we may turn back into peaceful production the man-power and the woman-power organised for war and the industrial capacity devoted to war. It is likely, it now seems, that there will be a two-stage ending to this war: it is likely, it now seems, that we shall get Germany down before we get Japan down. That, from this point of view, is advantageous, because it means that the change-over from war to peace will come in two phases, and will not be so abrupt as it was in 1918. When Germany is beaten a great war effort will be needed still against Japan. From this point of view that is an advantage, because it eases our problem. In this stage of the transition from world war to world peace there will be a considerable measure of demobilisation, not only from the Armed Forces but from war production, although much war production must inevitably continue in the second stage of the war against Japan. In this task of putting the machine into reverse the Ministers primarily concerned are working together as a team. We frequently meet and discuss this question together. I was discussing it only two days ago with my Noble Friend the newly-appointed Minister of Reconstruction, and I urged him to take a particular interest in this matter of the location of industry and the switch-over from war to peace. I did not need to urge him hard: he is taking a keen interest in the subject, and has already made a number of helpful suggestions.
I am also in touch with my right hon. Friends the Minister of Labour and the them has a special role in this matter. 1067 Minister of Production, because each of They will be responsible for releasing labour and industrial capacity respectively, from the war effort when the moment comes. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has been calling up labour on a great scale, and when the machine is reversed it will be for him to arrange for labour to be released from the war effort for peaceful purposes. Likewise, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production will be releasing industrial capacity. Both my right hon. Friends, with their Departmental responsibilities, will examine with me the question of where these releases of labour and industrial capacity, as they become possible after the defeat of Germany, can best be made: in what trades and in what areas they should first be made, with the object, on the one hand, of avoiding heavy local unemployment in any area, and, on the other hand, of making the largest and speediest contribution we can to civilian needs and the rapid development of the export trade. My right hon. Friends the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Production and I—bringing in others for consultation when necessary, but primarily we three—will see that in the months following the defeat of Germany the difficult areas from an employment point of view are given a quick start, ahead of others, in any change-over from war to peace production.
So too, I, as President of the Board of Trade, having the responsibility for the Factory and Storage control, will take the same consideration into account in urging upon other Departments the need to clear requisitioned premises which I have furnished to them in difficult areas. I have been pressed very hard, and sometimes very inconveniently—though always in the interest of the war effort, and therefore I accept the inconvenience—by other Departments to find them premises for storage. In the clearance of such premises, I shall urge them to give special priority to the clearance of premises requisitioned in the difficult areas.
§ Mr. Dalton
That is one example. I do not want to enumerate the difficult areas: the principle is quite clear, and if we start to debate which areas are difficult and which are easy we shall be here a long 1068 time. Nothing is being held up by the making of further surveys. I am satisfied that I and my right hon. Friends know well which are the difficult areas. But I take the responsibility for, and I organised, in conjunction with the Minister of Labour, a quick look round the pre-war distressed areas and certain others, to see how far the position had been altered by the erection of Government factories and any other new circumstances. But let my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery not think that there is any hold-up on that account: not at all. I was speaking of the clearance of premises taken for storage. I shall press my right hon. Friends to give special priority and to take quick action in clearing, when clearance becomes necessary, premises which were requisitioned in the difficult areas, where otherwise unemployment would become a menace again.
I pass to another administrative matter. Taking the country as a whole, most of our building labour and material after the war will be required for housing. A great housing programme is an urgent and proper commitment for the Government to have undertaken. Taking the country as a whole, most building labour and material will be required for housing, rather than for industrial building. During the war we have built hardly any houses, and we had a bad housing problem, with shortages in many areas, before the war. Then we have had enemy action, which has destroyed many dwellings and damaged many others. I could not, as President of the Board of Trade, ask that I should have more than a certain reasonable fraction of the building labour and materials diverted from housing to industrial building of any kind, but there are certain areas—and these are the same areas of difficulty from the point of view of unemployment—where industrial building is not less important than new housing.
Therefore—and I have chosen my words deliberately here—as far as labour and material are available for industrial building, including the adaptation of Government factories to new uses and repairs and extensions to other factories, we shall aim at giving a high priority to industrial building, again in the difficult areas where there is a serious danger of unemployment. The mechanism for this is the building permit. No one can now undertake new building 1069 without a permit. As far as new industrial building is concerned—I am not now speaking of house building—building permits are issued on the advice of the Board of Trade by the Ministry of Works. This will be a most powerful lever for influencing the location of industry in the transitional period. If I am still at that time President of the Board of Trade, I shall advise the issue of permits for industrial building so as to give a high priority to those places where industrial building is most necessary, or, in the words I have already quoted from the hon. and gallant Member's speech, not merely to provide employment, but to provide it where it is most required.
It is part of our policy, which will be, I hope, assisted by the various administrative measures I have been discussing, to create and maintain a greater diversity of industry than before the war in the difficult areas, which in the past have been too much dependent on one or two industries such as coal, cotton, shipbuilding and the like. It is never wise to have all the eggs in one basket, and there has been great unwisdom in our industrial lay-out in this country in that respect. How much better during these pre-war years have certain areas fared where there has been a great variety and diversification of industry and a more balanced employment! How much better have they fared than the areas of which hon. Members have been speaking in the Debate to-day! Although we have done nothing during the war, necessarily and by reason of the conditions of war, to deal with the housing problem, yet we have made during the war a very great addition indeed to the industrial equipment of the country, and it is mainly for war purposes. All these Government factories now under the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Aircraft Production—the factories, themselves, the machinery installed and the rest of the services that have been laid on, sometimes in rural areas—roads, special transport facilities, electricity and water supplies—represent a very great addition to the industrial capacity of the country. In so far as these factories have been established in some of these difficult areas, there are great post-war possibilities, as was indicated by one of my hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Furness (Sunderland)
While I cannot expect that the right hon. Gentleman 1070 did me the honour of reading my few remarks the other day, the whole point of them was that I pointed out, which I am surprised he does not know, that the doctrine of vulnerability has prevented new factories being put down.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
Would my right hon. Friend say where these factories are? In my particular area we have not a factory at all.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will give some lead with regard to the three Reports that have been mentioned, the Barlow, the Scott and the Uthwatt Reports before he sits down.
§ Mr. Dalton
I do not propose to name any factories in this Debate, for security reasons. We all know where they are. I could tell my hon. Friend who it was who succeeded in breaking down that security embargo on putting certain factories in the area about which he spoke. I know and he knows what exists there now. It is no use saying that certain things have not been done in various areas; I am discussing what can be done with what is actually there. There has been put down a very large number of plants, which could be of great use by adaptation to peace-time production after the war. My hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) says that there are no factories in his division, and I am afraid that many hon. Members can say the same. We know all that; I am discussing what exists now.
§ Mr. Dalton
I am speaking about factories put up since the war effort began. I beg hon. Members not to miss this point, but to take note of it. I am saying that, since the war effort developed, there has been established a large amount of industrial capacity in different parts of the country. I have already said that by certain measures we are going to give a special fillip to the use of this industrial capacity in the difficult areas. I have explained how factories can be used for that purpose, and I have also indicated that, as far as any new industrial building can be put up with the limited amount of labour and material that can be spared from house building, we will endeavour to deflect that to the places where it is most necessary from the employment 1071 point of view. With regard to Government factories, some of them will be permanently required for arms production. We are never again, I hope, going to slip back to the state of affairs in which we produced too few arms. There were many Debates before the war about this, and I might be provoked into reminding hon. Gentlemen that it was when they had a majority in the House, that our arms production was insufficient, but I do not want to be led into controversy. I would say to everybody, whether they supported or whether they opposed the Government of that day, that never again must we be caught with too few arms in any future international situation. If you must choose between two miscalculations, it is better to have too many arms than too few. I myself have always obstinately maintained that view.
§ Sir G. Gibson rose—
§ Mr. Dalton
Will the hon. Member allow me to go on, because there are other things I want to tell the House which may be of interest? Some of the factories will be permanently required to produce the necessary arms for the country in accordance with the future international situation. At present these factories have not been and cannot be selected, but I am in touch with my right hon. Friends at the Supply Departments, the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and also the Minister of Production himself, and considering with them how we can, as soon as possible, get some decisions taken as to what factories are going to be so continued, so that we can begin to see the shape of future development in some of these areas. Any area will be lucky where a factory for arms production is kept on as a permanency, producing to its full capacity. Many factories could be used as complete units for some form of civilian production, and others could be adapted, as suggested by an hon. Member, as trading estates. I entirely share the view that trading estates must be increased in number and set up in various parts of the difficult areas. Some Government factories, by reason of their lay out, might be well adapted, with certain structural changes, for use as trading estates, as new centres of light industry and development of new processes and new materials in 1072 which I hope we are going to take a definite lead after the war.
My controller of Factory and Storage Premises and his regional officers have already had conversations with a number of industrialists on their post-war plans. Obviously I cannot mention any names, but I would like to give the House a general picture of the talks which have been going on. My officers have already talked to a number of industrialists on their post-war planning, on the possibility, on the one hand, of these industrialists becoming applicants for Government factories not required for arms production and, more generally, on the possibility of these industrialists undertaking production in one or other of the difficult areas.
§ Mr. Dalton
If my hon. Friend will allow me, I will tell him what is being done, and it will help Merthyr Tydfil, if he will only give me his attention. In answer to a Question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) on 2nd November, I said:The Government have further decided that the Board of Trade, through its Factory and Storage Control, shall co-ordinate the disposal of all surplus Government factories. With a view to decisions being taken as to the best use to which these can be put in the national interest, the Control will compile lists of factories and of applicants for them. The Government recognise the importance of reaching such decisions before the end of the war in as many cases as possible, but much must depend on the course of events, including future programmes of war production. Special attention will be paid to the release of factories urgently needed for peace-time production and to the possibility of converting into trading estates some of the premises no longer required for Government work.And I said, in reply to a supplementary question:We shall certainly have particular regard to the employment aspect of the case in each particular locality."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1943; cols. 502 and 503, Vol. 393.]I am glad to say that I have also had certain conversations myself with industrialists on this matter, and so has my hon. and gallant Friend the Parlimentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, and we propose to have some more. Broadly speaking, I am not discouraged by these conversations up to date. My purpose is to see how far we can create an interest 1073 in new industrial development in these areas. I would like to tell the House, I must not mention names, as that would be quite improper, but I heard only yesterday from one of my officers of a conversation he had with a London industrialist who wanted to extend his works on the present site in London, in order to employ several thousand more workers. He said he would be willing, if he could get his production going more quickly, instead of making an extension in London, to set up in some other part of the country, provided suitable premises were available, or if they could be built more quickly there than in London. I am going to encourage these industrialists and try to meet their wishes in these matters. We have found a remarkable degree of willingness, especially on the part of big, firms, to consider suggestions by the Board of Trade as to the future location of their factories. I thought it right to tell the House that, in order to show that we are actively pursuing this, not only by way of general statements, but in detailed discussions with interested parties.
May I say a word or two on the general problem? When I came to the Board of Trade and began to study post-war problems with my advisers, I decided that we would ban the term "distressed areas" and wash it out from our vocabulary, and that instead we would speak of "development areas." That is what I and my officials now call them. A "distressed area" suggests an area, the distress of which the Government are prepared, if not passively to contemplate, at least only mildly to palliate. A "development area" means an area whose resources the Government are determined actively to develop and diversify. That is a change of emphasis which I thought it right to make. Those difficult areas are capable of development, in accordance with proper plans. I should like here to pay a tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour for his constant help, and good counsel, and for the many stimulating suggestions that he has made to me on this question. He has suggested that we should call them "Defence areas," and I think that is a good title too, because they have been one of the foundations of our national defence and must continue to be so. Tyneside, Clydeside, the mining areas—coal is a munition of war and also a munition of peace—where the coal is won by the hard toil of sturdy men, and many other areas 1074 essential to the life of the country, are entitled to be cherished, developed and safeguarded from the evils that have fallen upon them in past years. It is surely better that there should be health and hope again in Industrial Scotland, in the Industrial North of England and in South Wales than that the lifeblood of these areas should continue to be drained away in order to nourish a new ring of suburbs and suburban industries in Greater London and the Home Counties. I believe that practically the whole House agrees with that and that is one of the purposes that I shall hold before my eyes so long as I occupy my present office. On the resources of these areas we have leaned heavily in time of war; but for them we could not have carried the war effort as far as we have. From these areas have gone forth some of the bravest and best of our soldiers, sailors and airmen, and they will come back when this is over and expect to find something better than the inter-war years gave them. Therefore, I welcome the emotion and the interest which have been shown in the discussion of this subject, and I ask for the continued support and stimulus of all parties so that we may find a worthy solution to this problem.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
May we take it that the Government in their consideration of post-war planning have accepted the principle of the location of industry, because in the absence of that principle being accepted I cannot see that the post-war period can be planned at all? Also are we to understand that the only hope the Government have of these great establishments which have been put up to meet our war requirements being used for peace purposes is in the industrialists who let us down so tragically during the two wars?
§ Mr. Dalton
I do not think I can do better than ask my hon. Friend to read carefully the report of my speech to-morrow. I have spoken at considerable length and have endeavoured to answer the questions that he has put.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.