§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Captain Michael Stewart.]
§ 2.55 a.m.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
I apologise to the House and to our admirable servants for keeping them up so late as this, but perhaps the fact that the trains have gone may lead to my having the indulgence of the House for a few moments. In the Coalition Government there was passed an Act creating development areas. Briefly, a development area is a part of the country which has suffered for a very long period from unemployment and it is desired to help it by bringing new industries of a suitable character into it. When the Bill was before the House, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, then 745 President of the Board of Trade, said the purpose of the Measure was to provide a better balance between heavy and light industries, and the Bill gave powers to the Government to influence industries into the areas. By giving licenses and adding priorities, the Government were enabled to encourage industries to go there. It became extremely attractive to industrialists to go into these development areas.
I have the honour to be the Member for the Lonsdale Division, which, though largely agricultural, contains a number of small towns, the principal of which are Ulverston, Dalton and Askham. Dalton and Askham border on the bigger town of Barrow-in-Furness. I will not speak about Barrow-in-Furness, for I have informed the Member for this constituency, who, although he sits on the opposite side of the House, is working together with me for the constituency as a whole. My constituency contains many people who work in Barrow, and when there is serious unemployment in Barrow they are gravely affected. It is because I apprehend that those who live in this district are likely to suffer serious unemployment in the next few years that I venture to raise this matter now. The point is that we are exactly the kind of area which has an unbalanced economy. The part of the constituency called the Furness district depends for employment very largely on the heavy industries of Barrow, particularly in the dockyards. There are no light industries to mitigate the severity of severe unemployment when it comes.
We have asked the President of the Board of Trade to bring the Furness district into the Cumberland district which adjoins. He has resolutely refused and that is why we have brought the matter to the House. The West Cumberland depressed area contains a population of 200,000 persons. The Furness district contains a population of 100,000. Unemployment in the Cumberland area is 2,800-odd, and in the Furness district 1,600-odd, and a higher number relatively among women. The Minister, in this case the President of the Board of Trade, has said that the reason he cannot accede to our request is that unemployment is small. I hope, however, that it is registered in the mind of the Minister who is to reply that, if small, it is nevertheless greater relatively, and in the case of women 746 actually, than it is in the case of the West Cumberland area. I have no fear of the limited amount of unemployment which we have now, but serious unemployment would arise if the heavy industries received a setback.
That brings me to my real point. It the Government wait until there is a setback in the heavy industries, if they take a chance of that and then say that now there is plenty of unemployment they will make it into a development area and help it by sending industries to that area or encouraging industries to go there, it will be too late. It will take two or three years to get a few light industries into this district, and if we wait until there is unemployment it will be too late. We in Furness, and especially in Dalton, suffered 25 to 30 per cent. unemployment in years gone by. It is not enough to say that we have a policy for full employment; we have yet to see how it works out. Since we are resorting to the method of development areas and encouraging trade to go there, will the Minister include our district in that great district lying next to it now, before it is too late? It is a great handicap to a district like ours to be next door to a great development area like West Cumberland, because the great area draws, through priorities, upon materials and labour, and that makes it difficult for the other area to get the materials which may be needed by industries which come into it. As another way to help an area like ours, which needs light industries, will the President of the Board of Trade see in what way he can encourage the rural industries, of which a few still remain in many of our country districts?
§ 3.3 a.m.
§ Mr. Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
I have only a few minutes in which to supplement what the hon. Member has said. It is true that the economy of the Furness area is definitely unbalanced. It has depended, as the hon. Member has said, upon heavy industry, notably Vickers, Armstrong, Ltd. In fact, the whole area has been depending on heavy industry—heavy engineering, shipbuilding and repairing, iron and steel. In 1938, 35 per cent. of the insured workers of Barrow, Dalton and Ulverstone were employed in the engineering industry, including marine engineering. Eleven per cent. were employed in shipbuilding and repairing, and 9 per cent. in iron and 747 steel manufacture. Owing to the type of industries in the area, there was little scope before the war for the employment of female labour. During the war, women were employed in shipbuilding and engineering, and also in the steel plant at Barrow. The situation has rapidly changed for the worse. The figure of unemployment among females is about 1,500.
It may be said by the Minister who replies, that the prospects of employment for men are, on the whole, satisfactory; but I urge the Minister to realise that there is an urgent need for the introduction of suitable industries for the employment mainly of women, and for men who can no longer work in the heavy industries. Such industries would have the advantage of contributing to the need for diversifying the industrial structure of the area. The Barrow Development Committee has rendered yeoman service to the town in its endeavours to attract new industries, but its efforts have counted for naught because they have not had development rights. I could, if I had the time, give particulars of numerous firms who have sought, and been desirous of obtaining, factory space in Barrow, so satisfied are they with the type of labour available, but owing to the lack of these development rights, we have been unable to accommodate these firms. We are now witnessing the large figure of female labour on the employment exchange register.
I urge the Minister to realise the urgent necessity of including Barrow in the ambit of the West Cumberland development area. If we had had development rights, which would in effect mean some measure of financial assistance for the erection of factories, we could accommodate these firms and absorb all our female labour. There is another aspect of this problem. I find each week that skilled engineers are being discharged from Vickers, Armstrong, Ltd., and that these men are accepting work in other parts of the country. Obviously, they do not appear on the live register of the employment exchange at Barrow. I am confident that these men would remain in Barrow if work was available to them rather than leave their homes to seek work elsewhere. I had thought it was Government policy to bring work where unemployment is, and not to uproot the homes of people who have little 748 or no opportunity of obtaining a house. I appeal to the hon. Gentleman seriously to consider the situation in the light of the representations made by the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) and myself, and, if he is unable to put us in the development area that he will give consideration to some means by which light industries, at least, can be developed in Barrow to obviate the misery which will follow protracted unemployment.
§ 3.9. a.m.
§ Mr. Marquand (Secretary for Overseas Trade)
This Debate will have served a very useful purpose if it gives wide publicity, which I hope we shall receive from the Press, to the fact that the district of. Furness needs, and is anxious to secure, a greater diversity of industry, and, above all, if it gives publicity to the statements made by both the hon. Members who have spoken, about the availability in that area of an abundance of female labour. There are employers all over the country who are short of female labour and who are anxious to know where they may go to find it. There are employers with orders on their books for years ahead, and who could, indeed, take more orders if they had the labour with which to produce the goods they are asked to produce. In June last, according to my information, there were 1,336 unemployed females in the Barrow, Dalton and Ulverston area, and I wish to draw the attention of employers in the country who are looking for female labour to this available source.
The Board of Trade has been helping the area to secure a greater diversity of industry, and at Ulverston, a factory built for Armstrong-Siddeley during the war has been allocated to Messrs. G. C. Wade and Co., who hope to employ 1,000 workers on bicycle and furniture manufacture. One-third of them will be women workers. Then there is an electrical engineering firm in that district, established just before the war, which expects to continue to employ 400 workers, mainly women. There are two firms in Ulverston planning extensions, and they hope to employ a further 250 or 300 women. Other firms, too, are interested in the prospect offered by this district. I am unable to mention names, because it would be unwise to do so until firms have definitely agreed to come to any given area. However, I can assure the House that there are firms showing 749 considerable interest in the fact that this industrial area has labour available.
It is true that the neighbouring district of West Cumberland has been able, as a development area, to offer special inducements to industry to go there. But the female labour surplus in the West Cumberland development area has almost entirely disappeared; it has been catered for by the new industry that has been introduced, and firms proposing to employ mainly female labour will not, in future, be offered inducements to go to the West Cumberland area. Therefore, the Barrow district, about which we are speaking tonight, need not fear any longer that it will suffer from the superior competitive power of the West Cumberland area in attracting employers who wish to employ female labour. The fact that Barrow and its neighbouring smaller towns are not in a development area will not prevent the Board of Trade from recommending to the Ministry of Works, if suitable employers come along, that the necessary licences for building factories should be granted.
§ Mr. Marquand
I understand that if a licence for the building is granted, it carries with it a priority in the receipt of the necessary materials to carry out that building. The suggestion made by the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) that we should pay some attention to developing rural industries is, I must confess, one which I had not heard before. I will undertake to look into it. Certainly, if labour is available for industrial occupations in the rural areas we shall be glad to try to use it.
The argument which the hon. Member for Lonsdale put forward about the West Cumberland area is not a powerful argument necessarily for scheduling the Furness district as a development area. The argument of contiguity could not be accepted as decisive, because if we were to proceed on those lines, logically the development areas would never have any boundaries at all. It stands to reason that there must always be some area just on the boundary of a development area, which may feel it is a little adversely affected. However, I think the assurance 750 I have already given about the inducements which may be offered firms likely to employ female labour should reassure the hon. Member on that point. A characteristic of a development area is the decline of its basic industries, evidenced by the growth of male unemployment. In the Barrow, Dalton and Ulverston district in June of this year there were only 620 unemployed male workers. We do not believe that the long-term prospects for male employment in this area are bad.
The hon. Member for Lonsdale said: "Do not wait until it is too late." He gave us no reasons for the fear that seemed to be in his mind, that some day, somehow, unemployment would descend again upon this area. So far as we can see, looking a reasonable degree ahead, we see no reason to suppose that there will be heavy unemployment among the male workers of this area. It is unfortunate that in this area men are so heavily dependent upon one large employer, but we cannot plan the diversity of industry in the way we should like to see beyond the labour force in the area. We cannot provide for a greater diversity of male labour if there are only 620 unemployed and no great reason for believing that that number is likely greatly to increase. We believe that some of the unemployment existing amongst male workers in that area is due to the period of reconversion and will tend to disappear. I am glad to say that orders for the British shipbuilding industry generally are plentiful, and it looks to us as if in the future there may rather be a shortage than a surplus of male labour in this area.
To sum up: It seems to the Board of Trade that the long-term prospects for the basic industry of this area are good; that the total of unemployment is, after all, not large; that some success has already attended our efforts; and we have no intention of relaxing those efforts. The Board of Trade is definitely striving at this moment to try to increase the number of industries and diversify the character of the industrial make-up of that area, bringing into it firms which will employ the female labour.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Seventeen Minutes after Three o'clock a.m.