§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I beg to move "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill is the outcome of certain action that was initiated during the time of previous Governments, and particularly during the period of the wartime Coalition Government. Therefore, though there may be matters of detail, suitable, perhaps, for consideration in the Committee stage, which may lead to some differences of opinion, I believe that the principles contained in the Bill will meet with general acceptance in the House. The Bill shows its object by its Title. It is intended to bring up to date the central collection of statistics by the Government, so that reliable information may be provided for industry, for merchants, for financiers and others who are interested for their livelihood in these matters; also for the Government of the day, so that they may be able to get a better appreciation of the overall economic situation of the country, and thereby be enabled to take such steps as are necessary to follow through the policy of full employment, upon which objective all parties in the country are agreed.
Judging by the number of requests which I receive from Members of this House, in the form of Parliamentary Questions and otherwise, for statistical information of all sorts and kinds, dealing with the widest range of industrial matters, I am sure that Members of this House will appreciate the great benefit of a fuller statistical exposition of the factual situation as regards our imports; exports and distribution services. I do not think that the argument in favour of this fuller knowledge from the point of view of the Government could be put better, or more precisely than it was in the Coalition Government's White Paper on Employment Policy. That, as hon. Member will recall, was Cmd. 6527. That Paper had the advantage of being compiled under the authority of a number of Ministers who were deeply concerned during the war with ascertaining statistical facts of 37 all kinds, and who had taken and used powers to collect those statistics from the various industrial sources, not with a view to making themselves a nuisance, but in order to ascertain the essential facts by which to determine their then policy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), who reigned in the central chair of wartime production, with all its problems of co-ordination and planning, became almost an addict to statistics and graphs of every kind. And, indeed, unless he had drunk his fill of such knowledge, he would not have been able to do the very good job which, in fact, he did as Minister of Production.
Clearly then, those who are guiding the policies of the State must be fully informed of all that is happening as regards production and distribution. Otherwise they will not be equipped with the knowledge necessary for arriving at wise decisions. I will, if I may, quote from the White Paper I have already mentioned. It says:Just as the central organisation of a successful business must be in a position to know what is happening to each of its various branches, so the State cannot make its plans without knowledge of what is happening throughout the whole range of industry and commerce.But I would like to emphasise once again that it is by no means only the State which stands to benefit from the collection of such material. Industries require to know all the facts not only about the commodities in which they themselves deal and which they themselves produce, but also about general questions of production in the country. They require the fullest and most accurate information, about the raw materials or semi-manufactured goods which they utilise, and about the volume of overseas trade, not only in bulk, but in detail as well. Anyone who reads the "Board of Trade Journal." as I hope every Member of the House does each week—a journal which tries to serve manufacturers and merchants in this and many other fields—will realise two things: first the great amount of statistical information which is required; and second, the obvious gaps which exist in that statistical knowledge today. Many of the working parties which have already reported have drawn attention to this lack of reliable statistical information, which incidentally has made their own task of inquiry more difficult, and which embarrasses 38 the industries into which they have been inquiring. Let me give the House two typical examples of extracts from working party reports. The first is from that which deals with the furniture industry. This report says:The adoption of the proposals for fuller statistical information would be of great value to industry generally, and especially useful to industries such as furniture, upon which there has been so little information available in the past. The proposals to collect much fuller information upon the various elements of cost are especially to be welcomed.That was, of course, dealing with the proposals which had been made as regards a fuller census of production. Then, as to jewellery and silverware that report said:It will be necessary to have much more statistical information about the industry than has been available in the past. To take the right steps at the right time in the coming years will require nice judgment on the part both of the federation or association and of individual firms. To inform and fortify the necessary decisions, it is essential that adequate statistical evidence should be available on a wide basis and in a useful form. We are of opinion that all the necessary statistics about the industry of the country should be collected and made available by the Board of Trade.There are in this Bill, two major statistical matters—a census of production and a census of distribution. As to the census of production, in the past under existing legislation this has been on a quinquennial basis. It was, however, decided by the Coalition Government that in future it should be on an annual basis. I think there can be no doubt in anyone's mind as to the advisability of that decision. Five years is far too long a period to have to wait for precise statistics of the production of this country, especially when so many changes and shifts in industry are taking place annually.
It was as a result of that decision that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot, while he was President of the Board of Trade, appointed a committee of industrialists and independent experts under the chairmanship of Sir George Nelson, who is well known to all Members of the House, to consider what additional information should be collected for the census of production when it could be resumed after the war. Their report, which was unanimous, was published in October, 1945, as Command Paper 6687. The main recommendations were to collect information on the following topics: wages 39 and salaries, which had been expressly omitted from the old Census of Production Acts; other main items of cost, such as depreciation, rent, rates, and advertising; stocks and work in progress; fixed capital assets in each industry and changes in those assets, including machinery and buildings acquired or disposed of; analysis of sales between different types of customers, exports, wholesalers, retailers and so on.
At the same time as that committee was sitting, a committee was also set up to consider the allied problem of a census of distribution. There never has been such a census in this country. It was apparent that no inquiry of any value could be made into matters concerning distribution unless first some statistical evidence were available as regards the distributive trades. We must recollect that this was a branch of national activity which, before the war, absorbed the labour of over 2,750,000 of our people; yet we knew, and indeed we now know, very little indeed about distribution. The committee, which was set up for this purpose under the chairmanship of Sir Richard Hopkins, also reported unanimously in favour of taking a census of distribution. Their report was published in March, 1946, as Command Paper 6764. I am aware that certain elements in the distributive trade—I would not like to exaggerate—are not anxious to be burdened with this obligation. I can well understand their difficulty. On the other hand, whenever questions arise, as they constantly do, with trade organisations representing various sections of distribution, the first difficulty we have always come up against is the lack of any factual data upon which to arrive at decisions. Attempts have been made on a voluntary basis to help in this matter, such as those very valuable figures which are produced by the wholesalers of textiles in conjunction with the Bank of England; but that is only a small part of the field intermediary between the manufacturer or importer and the retailer. While we appreciate very greatly the cooperation of those larger retailers, who have for many years been providing information to the Bank of England for this purpose, and also of those smaller businesses who have recently agreed to provide the Board of Trade with information about their sales each month, to give us a small sample of the whole, we still do not know whether 40 those samples—the larger or the smaller ones—are really good samples, or in what proportion they should be combined to give us any satisfactory indication of the trends for each of the principle types of goods which are dealt with by the distributive trades.
What we require is some accurate knowledge of the whole field of distribution. That can only be gained through the machinery of the census. Perhaps I should remind the House that on the committee which reported unanimously in favour of the census of distribution, were two independent retailers who had been appointed by my predecessor, as I have mentioned, after consultation with the National Chamber of Trade. I think it would be accurate to say that the present lack of knowledge as to the distributive trades is the biggest single gap in the generality of our economic information about our own country. That knowledge is required for a wide variety of purposes.
These purposes fall into two main divisions: first, knowledge as to the structure of the distributive trades themselves and, second, knowledge as to the division of the national income. Both are of great importance because these trades cover such a large section of the population. I will give the House a few examples of the sort of knowledge to which I refer. First, as regards the structure of the distributive trades, we want to know the types of units and their relative importance. For instance, the multiple shops, the cooperative societies, large, medium and small retailers, and so on, the specialised shops, the general shops and all the rest of it. Second, we want to know the amount of business passing through wholesalers, as distinct from that which goes direct to retailers or through some other type of middle man. Third, we want to ascertain the variation of the proportion of shops to total population in different areas. That is obviously very important from a town planning point of view. Fourth, we want to know the relation of retail and wholesale margins to the amount of sales per employee, and how they differ as between different trades in the country
Secondly, as to the distribution of the total national income. We should get an estimate of the expenditure by the public on different types of commodities, which is at present unknown. We should get the amount of the national income which originates in the distributive trades them 41 selves, and its relation to the amount which originates in productive manufacture. Then we should get a more accurate analysis of total wages and salaries over the whole country, because that section, is at present, quite uncovered. These are all examples of the sort of thing that we hope to be able to ascertain by a census of distribution, and we cannot get that information in any other way. Here, I repeat the conclusion which was come to by the committee. They say:In present-day conditions, a census of distribution is needed to close the widest gap in the general statistics of industry.I should like to take this opportunity of emphasising that what the Government want to get are the facts about distribution. This is not some deep and dark plan for preparing for the nationalisation of retail trade. That is a headache that some other Government may undertake if they want to. We have no intention of nationalising the distributive trades, and I sincerely hope that what I have just said will go some way to persuade retailers that not only have they nothing to fear from such a census but indeed, in my view, and in that of a great number of retailers, they will have very much to gain from such a census. I appeal to them, therefore, to be ready to cooperate wholeheartedly in making that census a success. There is one thing that is certain, and that is that, if we are going to have a census, let it be complete, as, otherwise, it will lose a great deal of its value.
§ Mr. Sidney Shephard (Newark)
May I interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the subject of the census of distribution? I want to know whether it is to cover the whole field; for instance, is it intended to cover agricultural products? We have not been told to what this census will apply.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman answers that question, will he say if it is going to cover the drink trade?
§ Sir S. Cripps
It will apply to every thing retailed to the public, including services. The object, as the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. S. Shephard) will see, is to get at the facts of what happens as regards distribution, in contradistinction to what happens in regard to production. We have got an inkling of the facts about 42 production; we have no inkling as to the facts about distribution.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
My I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman how many items he thinks will be necessary to secure this inkling? How many items in retail distribution will have to be covered?
§ Sir S. Cripps
We shall have to cover them all. Taking the drapery trade, we shall cover everything the draper sells. I would like to bring to the attention of the House one important point so far as production is concerned, and that is that, with the exception of statistics relating to capital expenditure, those which are asked for and more, are all being collected today either by voluntary arrangements or under Defence Regulations. That is to say, the proposals of this Bill ask for less than is at present being collected from productive industry. Therefore, nothing under the Bill will be a new or additional burden. In fact, the burden will be somewhat lessened—
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean to say that, in addition to all the items set forth in this census—26 pages of foolscap, covering endless items—something more is contemplated?
§ Sir S. Cripps
I mean that what is being asked for, is something less than is being collected today. If the hon. Member will look at that census, as I have done, he will see that most of the questions are alternative ones, which will not be answered by any single firm. Because there are 600 questions, it does not mean that anybody will have to answer all the 600 of them. Compared with the system during the war and the recent postwar period, the system contemplated by the Bill will mean a lessening of the burden. Fewer statistics will have to be given than were collected in recent times. We shall, of course, be anxious, with the help and advice of industry—which we are getting very fully—to make that collection as convenient as possible to industrialists. During the present exceptional period of shortages and difficulties, it may still be necessary, in certain industries, to continue for a time to ask for the same detailed information as is required under existing arrangements. But the general scheme of the Bill will not require such additional details as have been necessary during the war period.
43 Perhaps I might here turn to the question of the actual statistics which it is proposed to collect under the scheme of the Bill as set out in the Schedule. Every one of these items in the Schedule, with one exception, to which I will refer in a moment, are required for the two censuses—production and distribution—and are in accordance with the unanimous recommendations of the two committees to which I have referred. The single exception is under the heading "orders on hand", and that is inserted, first, because it is clearly necessary, for any short-term forecast, to have a knowledge of the position of industry as regards orders in hand, and, secondly, because it was particularly mentioned in the White Paper on Employment Policy as a necessary factor of information. So that we have, in drafting the Schedule, stuck quite rigidly to the recommendations of the White Paper and of the two committees set up by my predecessor in office. The House will observe that the basis of the effectiveness of this statistical information must be in its completeness. It must be both as complete and as accurate as possible if it is to be used to help and guide the policy of industry and commerce, and of the State as well. That means that powers must be given in broad terms, so as to sweep in everyone engaged in industry and commerce. That accounts for the form of Clause 1, which deals with the broad question of statistical information generally.
Clause 2 deals with the two censuses, and lays down that the census of production shall be taken annually, starting in 1948, dealing, of course, with the production of 1947, and that the census of distribution shall be taken at intervals to be decided by the Board of Trade. It is not anticipated that that will be an annual census. Certainly, to start with, we shall have to take one census as soon as we can, then review the situation, see its value, note whether it requires adjustments; and then after a period of a year or so embark on another census. The Subsections in Clause 2 are inserted in order to give latitude in certain cases and to enable a partial census to be taken where that is sufficient. It might very well be that having tried a detailed census of distribution first, we should want to take a partial one which would deal with only one section of the distributive trade.
44 Clauses 3 and 4 make it compulsory to provide a return in the form submitted by the Board of Trade by all those who have that form served upon them, and it lays down penalties for failure or for making false returns. Clause 5 gives power, by Order in Council, subject to the affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, to vary the contents of the Schedule. It may be that at some later date, some new factors may become of importance, and the House and the Government will desire, therefore, to add them to the Schedules, and this Clause will avoid the necessity for bringing in an amending Bill for that purpose. Clause 6 is to enable particular censuses to be taken where a total census is not required, and it makes it obligatory, after proper advertisement, for those persons who carry on that particular type of business, to notify the Board of Trade so that they may know who is in that type of business in order to serve upon them the necessary forms that are required.
Clause 7 provides for a report to Parliament on the census and returns and provides for separate summaries of those reports for Scotland and Wales, which it is thought would be of value to persons residing in those countries. Clause 8 deals with advisory committees, whose functions it is to advise upon the forms and instructions given as regards the census. We have already advisory committees for the partial census, which have been of the very greatest assistance to us in working out the forms that have already been distributed for that purpose. We want to continue that in a more definite and formal way under the provisions of the Bill. Clause 9 deals with the question of the disclosure of information obtained, and makes it an offence for anyone connected with the census to disclose any individual estimate or returns obtained under the Bill. If, as may be the case, any items of such returns were of such a nature as to require special and greater protection, as for instance information given under the Income Tax Acts or some other Act, then Subsection (2) enables the Board of Trade to make an Order to add those special restrictions in respect of those items. Subsection (3) apart from what may have been contained in the other Statutes gives the Board of Trade power to make special restrictive Orders about communication of information in any special case which it 45 considers necessary. These powers are all to protect the anonymity of the individual who returns the census forms.
Subsection (5) gives effect to a recommendation of the Census of Production Committee and is a further Protective Clause because it specifies what must not be disclosed in the summary. As previous Subsections dealt with disclosure of matters in the forms returned, so this Subsection deals with what must not be disclosed in the summary laid before Parliament by the Board of Trade. The particulars given in that summary must not disclose the results of any individual business, subject only to this exception that where, for instance, there is only one firm which produces a single article, then the particulars of the total of articles produced, sold, or delivered can be given in the summary, provided that the persons concerned have, first, an opportunity of putting forward any objections to such disclosure. The House will appreciate that it is essential for the completeness of the census not to leave out altogether, articles manufactured only by a single firm. That provision, is put in therefore, to give the maximum protection in that very rare case where there is only one producer.
§ Sir P. Hannon
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman make it perfectly clear to the House and to the country that all of this information, so vital to the continuity of an enterprise in this country from which a man is making his livelihood, would not be diffused except under rigid conditions to the 21 Ministers entitled to receive it?
§ Sir S. Cripps
The whole object is to make the information available to the public, and that is why the provisions are put in that the summaries of the census shall be submitted to Parliament. They, of course, become public in a form which anyone can purchase. This particular provision to which I am referring only protects the manufacturer of an article of which he is the only manufacturer, and what we say here is that we must be able to publish the total of the articles sold or delivered, but no other particulars. We cannot publish the manufacturer's individual costs for instance, though we can publish the average cost in an industry where there are many producers.
§ Mr. Scollan
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman please explain that 46 point further? I have in mind one very large industry in Scotland which I believe is a monopoly. I am wondering whether the information, when it is collated by his Department and sent out, will contain the price of raw cotton, or the price of the finished article?
§ Sir S. Cripps
The hon. Gentleman has obviously in mind the Paisley thread industry. I do not think it is the only industry of that type for there are other small firms manufacturing the same goods. It is only those cases where the firm manufactures a particular type of article that we do not intend to disclose the cost but only the totals of the goods they sell.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
Before the President of the Board of Trade leaves that question, I should like him to clarify one point. Will he say whether this disclosure relates solely to the information collected by his Department, or whether there is also to be disclosure of information obtained by the other 18 allegedly competent authorities who may require information direct from individual businesses?
§ Sir S. Cripps
No. The Clauses with which I am dealing are concerned with the general question of disclosure of returns under this Bill, and some protection is given as regards returns made under this Bill in the form I have already mentioned. We believe that this code as regards protection, completely protects against any embarrassment to any individual firm by the disclosure of their individual businesses to competitors, in this country or overseas, as the case may be. That is done in a way which is also consistent with giving the maximum information to the public, to other industrialists and the Government. Those provisions as they stand are not exactly in accordance with the recommendations of the two committees. The Census of Production Committee suggested that the rigid rule of the Census of Production Act, 1906, ought to be modified because a great number of Government departments, and other people as well, might be interested in some of these statistical items. The Census of Distribution Committee, however, recommended that returns should be subject to very strict secrecy provisions—more strict than those which are primarily laid down in this Bill. But the power taken by the Board of Trade to make special orders of protection for special 47 secrecy will, I think, enable us to give effect to the spirit of both those recommendations and so give adequate cover to all undertakings without interfering with the utility of the census.
Clauses 10, 11 and 12 are merely machinery Clauses, and I need not trouble the House with them now. Clause 13 deals with a special point relevant only to the building industry, and provides for the estimated value of buildings to be given in addition to specifications under the provisions of the Public Health Act, 1936, and the London Building Act, 1939. The prewar statistics of value of building plans passed by local authorities, which is a very important factor in estimating the amount of labour and so on which will be required in a coming year, related only to 146 authorities, and the new provision will enable those very important statistics to be on a comprehensive basis.
I need not at this stage deal with the rest of the Bill. There are the provisions of the sort usually found in a Bill of this kind. This Bill, the Government hope, will enable them to provide an even better statistical service for the use of the country in general than they are doing today, and it must be borne in mind that much of what they are doing today is obtained under emergency powers which could not be continued unless some Bill of this sort were passed.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said he required the co-operation of industry. I wonder whether he realises that in industry there is great difficulty in getting clerical assistance, especially at this time of the year.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I entirely appreciate that. Of course, all we are trying to do at present is to take a pilot census of a very few industries in order to guide us into the most useful and least embarrassing way of obtaining a full census. It is wise to have a pilot census because I am sure we shall learn a great deal from if, and it will enable us to meet industry much better when we come to the full census. This Bill will enable us to provide a better statistical service, and certainly we shall do our utmost, with the help of the advisory committees which are to be set up, to keep the burden on industry as light as ever we can, because 48 we appreciate that we should not interfere with production. We want more production. We believe this Bill will help industry to obtain more production because of the greater knowledge which will be provided. Also we shall take all the steps we can to avoid overlapping returns from different departments. Indeed, I feel that the securing of these basic facts, over the whole range of productive and distributive activity, should remove largely the need for any such special returns. We hope that, as in the past, over a very large section of the field of industry we can rely on voluntary arrangements for the collection of these statistics. That has been done widely in the past, and has been of the greatest assistance to us; but it is clearly necessary for us to have in reserve the powers of compulsion, because otherwise a comparatively few people could make of no value the work which was done by the vast majority.
We believe that in this Bill the provisions against improper disclosure will be effective and adequate. I am sure there can be no question in anyone's mind about the need for this knowledge. If we are to make the best use of our resources in times of full employment—which it is our object to make normal in this country as soon as the shortages of raw materials disappear—I am sure the House realises that in the coming years we shall need to make the best use of every resource we possess in order to balance our overseas payments and provide our people with a rising standard of living. This I regard as an important Measure to help us to attain that end.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)
Listening to the President of the Board of Trade moving the Second Reading of this Bill, which he rightly described as important, I thought that if he did not make such good speeches it would be easier to believe the truth of his arguments. I do not think there is anyone, certainly on this side of the House, who does not envy the facility and grace of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's exposition. He wanted us to believe that the Bill is good all through, and that he would administer it with the utmost prudence. He almost convinced me of his good intentions, but, just in time, I remembered the lover in 49 Shakespeare's poem who overcomes the opposition of his lady by the disarming act of weeping on her shoulder; then, when it is too late and she has lost her virtue, she exclaims in lines which might be addressed to the Chair:O father, what a hell of witchcraft liesIn the small orb of one particular tear!Much witchcraft lies within the compass of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, and it is the duty of the Opposition not to be bewitched by eloquence. We have to examine closely what the President of the Board of Trade said; we must likewise examine a Bill which gives enormous power to the Government to do good or evil.
The Bill possesses this double-edged quality, because statistics are a powerful new invention. They are something of the order of television, or it might almost be atomic energy, capable either of enriching or of enslaving human society. We do not want to stop the progress of science or economics, but we sometimes forget that every new invention places upon us a new responsibility to ensure that it is used to help and not to harm mankind. I think hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree that we need fuller and more frequent information about industry and trade than was available before the war. My party need accurate statistics more than the party opposite. For this reason: if we were in power, our attitude towards industry and trade would be that of a guide and senior partner in the business of increasing the nation's wealth. Industry and trade would not find guidance acceptable ox useful if it were not based upon reliable information. No senior partner keeps his job unless he knows what his juniors are doing. We should use the methods of collaboration and persuasion to secure a high level of production and employment, and for those methods a first-rate statistical service is essential.
But the President of the Board of Trade and his friends have no use for an economic policy which relies upon persuasion. They regard industry as a spider regards a fly: day and night they work to lure, entangle and devour. As we know to our cost, His Majesty's Government are prepared to control and to nationalise without examining in advance the probable effects of putting their Socialism into practice. The Minister of Fuel and 50 Power admitted that he had made no close study of the mining industry before he brought forward the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act. Would any party which was scrupulous to gather and interpret facts have brought forward the "puppy-dog" proposal to nationalise iron and steel before they even knew where the industry began and ended? We cannot have confidence that a Government who have acted after this fashion, will pay attention to facts if the facts conflict with their pre-conceived theories. On the other hand, industry has good grounds for believing that the Government desire to put to them a whole series of questions for the express purpose of finding pretexts for extending their controls. I was interested when the right hon. Gentleman said he wanted to know the number of shops in each area. What does he want to know that for, except to license the shops in certain areas?
§ Sir S. Cripps
I told the hon. Member at the time, if he listened, that it was for town planning purposes. Where a new town is planned, it is very essential to know the right proportion of shops to population, and that can best be secured by knowing the facts and the existing situation.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman noticed that the Minister of Town and Country Planning is not a "competent authority" under the Bill?
§ Sir S. Cripps
If the Minister of Town and Country Planning has the census of distribution, he will be able to read it.
§ Mr. Eccles
It is clear enough that the two sides of the House take different views about the purpose of statistics. On this side of the House we regard a statistical service as a bond of partnership between the Government and industry. Such a service requires consultation between the partners at all stages. The President of the Board of Trade has just said that he would consult industry on the type of statistics to be collected and the way to collect them. My information is that he has not done so, anyhow in regard to some of these forms going out in connection with the partial census of production. Let us hope he will now suit his actions to what he has said.
But that is only half the story. If a statistical service is to be a two-way 51 service, then industry must be consulted, not only on how the figures are to be collected but also on the interpretation of the information which is gathered under the returns. The Central Statistical Office, in the introduction to the Monthly Digest, state quite plainly that some of their figures may be misleading owing to special circumstances at the time of collection. We all know that that is so, and therefore we desire that those who provide the information in the raw should afterwards, perhaps through their trade associations, be consulted on the meaning of the collated figures. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us whether the Government are prepared to consult industry on the interpretation as well as on the collection of the figures, and, if so, what machinery he proposes for this consultation.
I now turn to the nature and scope of the statistics which will be collected under the Bill. The President reminded us that the Coalition White Paper on Employment Policy called for new types of statistics as instruments for an efficient employment policy. My hon. Friends stand by the White Paper. We consider that steady employment is the very centre of economic policy, and we know that if both sides of industry were convinced—as they are not today—that booms and slumps would never again disfigure our economy the effect would be magical; most of the ills and weaknesses of the prewar system of production and distribution would cure themselves; within a framework of stable demand for consumer and capital goods the self-regulating forces in our economy, now thwarted by Government interference, would then, and only then, have an opportunity to restore health and vigour to industry and trade.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
When the hon. Member says he stands by the White Paper, is he referring to the White Paper on Employment Policy? If he is, will he say whether the Opposition stand by the whole of that White Paper?
§ Mr. Eccles
I am speaking only for that part of the White Paper which relates to statistics. I have a reservation to make in regard to Chapter VI in a moment.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
would the hon. Member indicate if the 52 self-regulating principles in our economy were in full operation in the years between the two wars?
§ Mr. Eccles
I think many of them were thwarted by a lack of knowledge of monetary technique, a knowledge which we now possess. On the basis of a stable demand for goods and services the Government could handle the employment problem, but not unless they could rely upon a first-rate statistical service. Therefore, in principle, we do support Chapter VI of this White Paper.
There are, however, serious qualifications to be made to the outline given in that chapter of the new statistics required for an employment policy. Paragraph 83 reads like a hotchpotch of demands put forward at one of those inter-departmental meetings of economic advisers. I can imagine the scene: a long table, flanked by a dozen important and gloomy experts; each assistant secretary in turn fills his pipe, looks down his nose and states firmly that he cannot go back to his Minister unless this or that new brand of statistics is included. What has been the result? A schedule of statistical requirements of very unequal value at any time and, in the days of emergency through which we are passing, hopelessly impractical.
I only wish to pick out the worst example from this Schedule, and one which has found its way into Clause 2 of the Bill. I refer to the annual census of production. Even a partial census of production is not justified at the present time. An annual census of production is nothing new. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) were to address the House, he would certainly remind us that in 1906 the late Mr. Lloyd George looked forward to a census of production at frequent intervals. Economists have always wanted this, and no doubt they would learn much from it, and could write many useful articles if they had the material of an annual census. But the practical point is this: would an annual census be justified today when business is so abnormal and manpower is so short? The House will appreciate that an annual census of production is not an instrument of much value at a time of economic crisis. It can only be published in the autumn of the year following that to which it relates, and by its nature it can 53 give no indication of the trends within the base year. Events are moving so fast, and action has to be improvised so hurriedly, that no additional strain should be placed upon industry which is not strictly related to the battle of production. We must win the battle of production or we shall cease to be a first-class Power.
What is the situation in industry today? Apart from the process of producing goods, the clerical staffs are up to their eyes in dealing with P.A.Y.E., and filling up other forms, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) indicated, in this quarter of the year, in stocktaking, and getting out the accounts for 1946; and it is not consistent with the drive to get more persons into productive employment to put demands upon clerical staffs, unless the results are expected to be of the very highest value. Surely the Board of Trade realises that it is not possible for many of the firms to whom the questionnaires in regard to the partial census of production have been sent, to fill these up by the end of February? Surely, too, the Board of Trade realises that it is asking for trouble, asking for bad statistics, to put hurried demands on a firm for information which it cannot comply with, unless it alters its methods of bookkeeping? But that is the case with many firms. The Board of Trade, if it were a practical Department, which it is not, would give a year's notice to industry to adjust their books, so that they could conveniently comply with the questionnaires in the form in which the Government desire the information to be given. Experience shows that better value, for the same or less clerical work, can be obtained from the monthly and quarterly indices of the type of the Monthly Digest. I shall turn to those indices in a moment. But I put it to the Government that the practical policy in 1947 is to concentrate upon improving the sensitive checks upon what is actually happening, and to leave the census of production to more abundant days.
The Monthly Digest is good, but it could be better. We want more information than is now available, mainly for two over-riding purposes: first, to convince both sides of industry that the Government really do possess the data necessary to ward off mass unemployment; and, secondly, to enable industry and the Government to follow the use of scarce 54 resources and to cooperate in their distribution to the best advantage. Hon. Members will agree that the indices required for these two purposes should possess two common characteristics—they should be as up to date as possible, and sensitive to change. The value of statistics is in inverse proportion to the delay between their publication and the period to which they relate. Therefore, in a time of emergency it is better to ask industry for little and often, than to ask it for more at longer intervals. That is the heart of the matter; and it really was disquieting that, in his opening speech, the President of the Board of Trade did not seem to grasp the relation between the economic crisis, revealed in the White Paper published this morning, and the difficulties of industry in getting out these complicated returns.
I should like to give the House a few examples of the kind of information which, I think, would be worth compiling as soon as we can. We want more and better figures about the consumption of raw materials, and of finished products, and that calls for a wide range of indices, of the type the right hon. and learned Gentleman described, covering work in progress, orders in hand, and stocks. It is a matter for the experts to say how far reliable indices of this kind can be maintained by sampling where sampling gives a reasonably accurate figure, it is to be preferred, in present conditions, to a national return. Then, we need more and better figures to show how the population is employed. I was glad to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman refer to Clause 7 of the Bill, which ensures that the figures for Scotland shall not be lumped in with those of the United Kingdom. A great deal more breaking down of our statistics covering the main regions would be valuable, for the employment patterns and trends in Scotland and Wales are not the same as those in the United Kingdom as a whole; and we ought to keep our statistics of employment, as far as possible, on a local basis.
We want to know the proportion of the clerical to productive workers in the major industries. For example, if we knew how many man-hours are required to deal with P.A.Y.E. it is quite possible that that tax would be seen to be bad on that score alone. We want more and better figures to show output per man-hour, and, as soon as possible, the capital invested 55 per worker. Is it fair to the coal miner that his output per shift should be the only one we are allowed to follow? What about the output per day of the 156,000 non-industrial civil servants in Service and Supply Ministries? It would make an interesting index to have some figure to show how that immense number of people are performing their duties. I recommend it to the Government as a salutary check upon the abuse of manpower. Would anyone, except His Majesty's Ministers, deny that we need a better cost-of-living index? The present figure is a melancholy example of the way in which the Government make public and deliberate use of statistics which they know to be inaccurate. The wages of 2,750,000 workers are tied to an official cost-of-living index which stands at 132, against 134 when the Government came into office. In other words, the Government tell us on paper that over the last 18 months the cost of living has gone down. Every housewife in the country knows it is humbugging nonsense to pretend that the working-class cost of living was lower last month than in July, 1945, when peace and Socialism arrived together. Before we have a partial census of production, at least let Ministers clear up this scandal of statistical inaccuracy.
Now, I find myself in agreement with the President of the Board of Trade. I think we need to know a great deal more about the distributive trades. That, indeed, is the worst gap in our knowledge. We have no idea whether the 2,000,000 or 3,000.000 persons engaged in distribution add more or less than what is reasonable to the cost of goods when they leave the factory and the farm. If I may say a word for agricultural interests, it has long been a suspicious fact to farmers that the gap between the price of the products they sell off the farm, and the price the housewife pays for them in the shops, has been so large. It is high time that we confirmed or denied those suspicions. I do not know how much labour and form-filling would be entailed in a national census of distribution; I can well believe that we could not afford to take it in 1947, but speaking personally, I would put the need for a census of distribution far ahead of the need for a census of production.
The most important type of information that we require is one which the right hon. 56 and learned Gentleman, in a most astonishing way, seems to have left out altogether or hardly touched upon. I mean estimates of the future; estimates of future employment, estimates of future consumption and production, and estimates of future capital expenditure. I am told that the Government intend to collect such estimates solely on a voluntary basis. I am sure that must be so, because estimates would be of no value at all unless they were collected on a voluntary basis. That being so, I want to ask the Government to consider this point: if they make industry and trade sour by asking them for too many unnecessary facts about the past, are industry and trade likely to cooperate wholeheartedly in providing estimates of the future? Yet these are, by far, the most important guides to action we can have.
Before I pass from the type of statistics which I think we ought to put at the top of the list, may I urge upon the Government that they do their very best to persuade the Dominions and Empire territories to keep their statistics on the same basis as ours? Our Central Statistical Office could probably learn a good deal from Dominion practice. For example, I am told that the Canadian census of distribution is a much simpler, much more practical affair than the mammoth rod which the Board of Trade have in pickle for our unfortunate retailers. I suggest that a meeting of experts should be arranged forthwith for the purpose of agreeing upon uniform statistics covering the major series of population, production and finance. It would be an immense advantage, not least to the Foreign Secretary when he has to speak to other Foreign Secretaries, if we had a Commonwealth and Empire quarterly digest, and I seriously recommend that proposal to His Majesty's Government.
The next question is, who should be empowered to collect the statistics? We very much dislike Clause 16, which gives 21 Ministers the power to ask anything that falls with in the Schedule. It is not far wrong to say that it allows them to ask anything about everything. The President of the Board of Trade promised that he would do his best to avoid the duplication of demands. We are not satisfied with that asssurance. We might agree that the Minister of Labour should collect employment statistics and the Ministers responsible for agriculture 57 should collect statistics relating to farming, but why bring in all the others? We shall certainly put down Amendments to omit the other Ministers from the list. There are quite enough right hon. Gentlemen already looking through keyholes and counting other people's chickens, without bringing in a whole new platoon of Ministerial inquisitors. What is more, the best advice is against it. Industry itself has asked that the Central Statistical Office should collect the greatest possible proportion of our statistics, and I think I am right in saying that the Foreign Secretary, when he was Minister of Labour, speaking in the Debate on the White Paper on Employment, agreed with that view. That was sensible advice, and the Government are foolish to have departed from it.
That brings me to Clause 9 which as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said is designed to avoid the harmful disclosure of information collected under the Bill. We are not satisfied with this Clause, and we shall seek to amend it in Committee. We quite realise the administrative convenience of passing information between Departments, but such disclosures ought only to be made under the very strictest safeguards, and only after giving the firm concerned notice of the disclosure and an opportunity of explaining to the inquiring Department the background of the information for which they are asking. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us when he replies whether the Government are prepared to accept Amendments designed to give effect to these widely desired and very reasonable safeguards.
If I may trespass on the time of the House for a few minutes longer, I would like to make one or two general remarks upon the nature of statistics and the reliance which Governments should place upon them. Statistics have a fascination. To my way of thinking, anyone who does not enjoy a prowl through the Monthly Digest must have something wrong with him. I often succumb to the sorcery of graphs and index numbers; I suppose that in this weakness I am in the fashion, for if I may borrow three words from my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), no generation has worshipped so uncritically as my own the "magic of averages." It is, however, right to remember that behind these well-groomed and seductive data lie the failures 58 and successes of millions of men and women; in the Library of the House I may play with the indices, but to provide me with those toys, they, in their millions, have been acting independently, as individuals, taking risks, going slow, working overtime, changing their jobs, living out the adventure of their separate lives. Lives are not reducible to trends and averages. This morning I was riding in a bus, sitting next to the conductor, and I watched the faces of a score of passengers as they boarded and left the platform. These faces, given them by nature and changed by experience made me suddenly aware that no cold statistics could distil the essence of those gay and tired, silent and talkative Londoners, so attractive just because of their variety, and so dull when considered as an aggregate of ticket-holders. Governments are concerned with life in the round, and life in the round refuses to be expressed in index numbers and averages. It is just because we need to keep the human side of statistics in mind, that one fears so that the statisticians and economists may run away with the Bill. Of course, if these figures are used as servants and their limitations are well understood, then they can powerfully aid a government to maintain employment and make good use of our scarce resources. But if a political party were to enthrone the common factors among men and women as sovereign guides to policy, then we should curse the day when we had invented statistics and inflated these useful servants into inhuman masters.
It is just because there hangs about the President of the Board of Trade and all his works such a strong taint of inhumanity that we find this Bill dangerous. We do not like the Bill as it stands, and we are not satisfied with the assurances about administration which the President of the Board of Trade thought fit to give. We shall have to wait to hear what the Parliamentary Secretary says, and we shall certainly have to put down Amendments during Committee stage. Reading the White Paper on the economic situation, published this morning, one saw that the country is in a very serious position. We are short of houses, coal, steel, transport, and many other vital goods and services, and above all the Government is short of common sense. We all know there is no way to overcome these shortages, except by a wise use of our resources 59 and a general willingness to work hard. We all know that we shall only achieve these things if both sides of industry have confidence in each other, and in the Government. Is it too much to ask that the Government should make their statistical service an earnest of a change of heart, of a new desire not to quarrel but to cooperate with industry? If the President of the Board of Trade were here, I would say to him that when he comes to administer this Bill, let him remember what we were both taught at school, "Manners makyth man".
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I am very glad to have the opportunity to say a word or two on this very important Measure. I gather from the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) that it is not the intention of the Opposition to divide against this Measure although they want to improve it, as, of course, they are entitled to do. Perhaps I may be allowed to refer to what I tried to do in the House, probably some 14 or 15 years ago. I asked the then President of the Board of Trade whether it was possible to have a census of distribution in this country and members of all parties in the House seemed then to ridicule the suggestion. I believe Lord Passfield once said, that every reform secured in this country takes, from the day when the suggestion is made until it is translated into law, an average of about 19 years. It has taken about 15 years for the suggestion which I made to mature into law. It is high time that we had a census of distribution; and hon. Members opposite who are afraid of what a Socialist Government might do with the statistics, will know that, already, a census of distribution has been taken in the United States—the country of free enterprise—every five years for several decades, and the people of the United States are therefore apparently not afraid of the use which is made of the results.
§ Mr. Davies
I am not so sure what may happen in America even about a Socialist Government in due time. The fact remains that they take a census every five years but for reasons different from our own.
Let me give one or two reasons why we should have such a census. We are 60 told statistically how many tons of coal, how many cwts. of potatoes, how many bushels of wheat, and how many yards of cloth are produced annually but no one has yet been able to say what is happening in regard to distribution. The most valuable result to be obtained from such a census is to find out the tendency relatively towards Cooperative societies, chain stores, multiple shops, emporia and the small shopkeepers. If we could secure information on that trend alone, it would be most valuable. The President of the Board of Trade assured us that the result of this census would not be used to nationalise the distributive industries. I wonder, if he did try to nationalise the distributive trades what the Co-operative movement would say about it? It would be very interesting, if a Bill were introduced to nationalise the distributive trades, to note what the Co-operative Members of this House would have to say about it. The Co-operative movement provides us with a complete census of distribution in its own sphere. Every society publishes a balance sheet, and I have some of the figures with me, which provide a fair indication of what is already happening in distribution. The Co-operative movement has over nine million members. It is true that they do not all buy everything from the Co-operative stores, as some of us who were employed in Co-operative shops will know. If all Co-operators bought everything from Co-operative shops then their own census of distribution would be very real.
The hon. Member for Chippenham suggested that there were too many people employed in distribution. That sort of statement always gets cheers in this House. I want to warn him and other Members of what happened to a Minister in this House who condemned outright the cost of distribution of coal. If I remember rightly he lost his post in the Government as the result. He stated, if my memory serves me right, that coal at the pit-head was sold for 15s. a ton, but that when it reached his own house it cost £22S., and he deplored the fact that the difference went into distribution. A Member of the Opposition at the time made inquiries, and followed the cost of a ton of coal from the pithead to the Minister's home. There were the costs of insurance, carriage, wages and the Cooperative Society's dividend as well; and, 61 in the end it was found that the cost of distribution was actually greater than the cost of production. If, therefore, the hon. Member for Chippenham aspires to a post in a future Government he had better beware of what he is saying on this point. Nobody knows the total distributive trade of the country. Take the Cooperative societies. At the last count, there were 216,737 employees, and they handled £360 million of sales in retail trade. The number of retail shops in the cooperative movement is 24,000. It is estimated that there are some 600,000 shops in the country; that in some towns there is one shop for every 40 inhabitants, and, in others, one for every 70 inhabitants.
Some people argue that there are too many shops. Let me warn them that if there is anything behind this Bill at all—and I am not casting doubts on the President of the Board of Trade—the one thing that the statistics could be used for, as a matter of public policy, is not to nationalise the distributive trade, but to license shops. As one who supports this Bill, I shall want to know, in due course, what use is to be made of these statistics when they are available. It may be that in future there will be a different Government, so I am entitled to look a long way ahead. I have seen a political party almost as strong as my own wiped clean out of existence in a quarter of a century. I have been here too long to believe that any party can hold office for all time.
To return to the issue of licensing shops. If the Tory Party were wide awake—and I do not think they are—it is the licensing principle they would have smelt behind the provisions of this Bill. I am doubtful of the licensing of shops as a matter of public policy, and I will say why. Apparently, local boards must be appointed to license shops. In one part of the country the board would ostensibly be composed of anti-Cooperatives, and the local society, in that case, might be refused a licence. On the other hand, in Lancashire, especially in my division, where the Cooperative movement is paramount, what would happen? It is my view that the voluntary cooperative effort will grow to such an extent that, some day, not during my lifetime, maybe, it will provide its own statistical information on distribution without the necessity of a State census. As for those who are complaining that there are too many people 62 employed in the distributive trade, let them talk to members of my own trade union on that. The reason why the community is spending so much on distribution is simple. It is partly because of the heavy duties imposed by the State on the distributive trade employee. He is coupon clerk and provision hand combined. The Government have demanded that he must be all that and more. If the Government continue to call upon him to do the work of rationing which is falling upon him now, there will not be fewer distributive workers, but more. For instance, one of the reasons for queues outside shops is not because there is a shortage of goods; it is because there is a shortage of distributive workers to handle rationed goods. Some Members opposite seem to think that is not true. I am proud that one of the things the Government are doing in this Bill is giving us, at long last, separate statistics for England, Scotland and Wales. That is the result, I presume, of agitation by the Welsh and Scottish Nationalist Parties. The Government must, naturally, be influenced by all such movements.
There is a question I would like to ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, because the same issue arises here as has emerged on several other Bills since I have been a Member of this House. When a firm is guilty of an offence by not implementing the law, the employee may now be included as a culprit. I do not understand the law well enough to argue it, but I believe that up to 10 or 12 years ago if a firm committed a civil offence relating to, say, weights and measures, the offender was the employer. If the shop assistant gave short weight, or tampered with the goods, the shopkeeper was held responsible. If the shopkeeper was prosecuted, he had his redress by dismissing the employee. I always thought that was the law. But during the last few years the employee has been held responsible for actions in the course of his employment.
§ Mr. Davies
That shows the ignorance of the lawyers. Many small Cooperative societies in Lancashire have a secretary and about a dozen employees all told. I want to defend the employee when his employer may be guilty of the offence. I welcome this Bill; I think it is an admirable Measure. I do not know enough about production to speak intelligently upon it, but, on distribution, I am sure that every Member of this House will some day thank this Labour Government for introducing a Bill which will give us at long last a census of distribution covering the length and breadth of the land.
§ 5.9 P.m.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles). He made a very well-informed speech, but I could not help feeling that there was a slight apprehension in his mind that it was not quite the thing for Socialists to be armed with as much information about all sorts of industry as this Bill seeks to provide. Knowledge is power. It is perfectly true that the Government may misuse the power which can be obtained from the knowledge which these facts will give. The action which the Government may be led to take, may not be the right action. I take rather a different view, however. It seems to me that if the Labour Government have this information, which was so badly needed between the two wars, and which was not then available, a Labour Government is, of all Governments, most likely to be dissuaded from a bad doctrinaire course, by the facts which will now become available. We Liberals, at any rate, subscribed wholeheartedly to the doctrine of the White Paper on Full Employment, produced during the war by the Coalition Government. It was made clear that some information about industry and about the trends of employment was required if we were to avoid periods of slump and unemployment
The President of the Board of Trade told us a good deal about what information he wanted and what new information he would get; but I was struck by the fact that he told us very little of what action he thought it would be possible to take on that information. I take it 64 that the general line of the White Paper on Employment is still the policy of the Government, and that they believe that when capital development in private industry is lacking, that is the right time for capital development on the part of the Government to replace it. Some of the information necessary to make that sort of decision will be available under this Bill. The President of the Board of Trade gave no indication at all of whether a census of distribution would give information upon which it would be possible to economise in the very heavy costs of distribution. He said nothing about that, but I, for one, and I think my hon. Friends on this Bench, believe that economies, for instance, in distribution of food, fuel, and many other articles, ought to be made.
I do not wish to speak long on this Bill. I think that it is a valuable Measure. I listened before the war to many eloquent pleas by individual Members of all parties that the Government should undertake, a census of distribution. We are now to get it. I believe that it is necessary to ensure that, later, the Government take action to forestall depression; I believe it is also necessary that we should have the information, which will make economy in distribution possible. We believe, therefore, that not only for the Government, but for the public and industry generally, this information will be of the greatest value.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Durbin (Edmonton)
I followed the able speech of the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) with great interest and care, but I found some of his arguments against the Bill rather difficult to follow. He began by comparing the invention of statistical technique with the discovery of atomic energy. Immense advantages, he suggested, might accrue to the human race from these things, but, at the same time, great dangers might follow from their improper exploitation. But exactly what these dreadful evils were, and how our liberties would be curtailed or our prosperity reduced by the increase of anonymous statistics remained, so far as I could follow his argument, completely unstated. As to his argument that an annual census of production was not expedient at the moment, because conditions in industry were abnormal, no conceivable ground could be more weak upon which to rest such a 65 conclusion since it is of the greatest advantage to follow the process of major changes in the industrial pattern of the country. The fact that the position is abnormal, and that there will be very considerable alteration in the distribution of employment and production, is an excellent reason for following these changes through, and learning from the figures which are made available.
The only serious argument, as it appeared to me, that the hon. Member advanced, was on the question of pressure upon the clerical staffs. I should like to return to this matter before I conclude. But, if I followed the hon. Member aright, he went on to draw up a list of statistical demands which he laid upon the Government, and these seemed to add up to as great a pressure on the overburdened clerical workers as the proposals in the Bill. He asked for a new cost-of-living index. I am sure that he must be aware that precisely this sort of work has already been done by the Institute of Statistics at Oxford, and that, curiously enough, although there is a difference between the official index and the index calculated by these statisticians, the difference is only of the order of five or six points. No revolutionary conclusion follows from making the calculations for which the hon. Member pleaded so eloquently. Towards the end, the hon. Member seemed to degenerate into obscurity, and he trotted out all the familiar arguments against the possession of social knowledge of any kind whatever.
There is not the slightest shadow of doubt that we do need an improved and extended service of statistical information in this country, and that this Bill will do something to provide us with it. But there are one or two questions which I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary about the statistical problem as I see it, as indicated by the provisions of this Bill. The first question I would like to ask is why British statistics are so inferior to the statistics of the United States of America? I think that is the most outstanding fact that any one who has tried to work with existing social and economic statistics, as I have tried to do, has been force to note. I will quote two examples. We have here an admirable statistical production—the White Paper on the National Income. I have seen behind the scenes a little of the effort, energy, devotion 66 and hard work that is necessary to produce this single annual reading of the flow of money through our economic system at the point of consumer's income and expenditure. It seems a monumental labour, and yet, in the United States of America, there is a monthly reading of the national income. The labour that appears to us Herculean over the 12 months period is achieved by our American friends every 30 or 31 days, and in February in 28 days. Why is that? One cannot have it both ways. I thought that the United States was the home of progressive and active capitalism, and yet they have all these statistics. Why should not we be comparable in that respect?
The other example I wish to quote is the figure of savings. There one has the greatest difficulty, by adding up little columns of figures oneself and turning from book to book and from periodical to periodical, to find out something about the nature, size and sorts of funds flowing into the London capital market. In America almost the whole thing is done in a single statistical publication of the Federal Reserve Board. In that, the analysis of the size and sorts of savings is set forth with a completeness and lucidity that should be the envy of our statisticians in this country. It is really rather strange that this should be the position, since we were the pioneers in the study of these matters. The names of Petty, Galton and Bowley are English names, and yet, in the development and perfection of their technique, we have so far been outstripped by our American friends. I would like to know why that is so.
I do not know whether my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade would think it apppropriate to make this the subject of inquiry by one or more of the committees that he appears to propose setting up under Clause 8. I can quite understand that it may be held that the terms of reference of those committees will be limited to the censuses referred to in the Bill, and that, therefore, they would not be suitable bodies to have this matter referred to them, but I think that some broader inquiry into the reasons why we have drifted behind in statistical practice would be something that might either come out of the Bill or be added to it, with profit to all of us.
67 The second question I wish to ask is whether it would be possible to make a serious scientific and impartial attempt to examine the charges that the collection of statisics by Government Departments involves a great deal of duplication and unnecessary labour. Hon. Members on this side of the House are just as opposed to bureaucratic waste of time or over-elaboration of machinery as anyone else. I think it was Lenin who said that "bureaucracy was the enemy of Socialism." We are as aware of this danger as any other student of the problems of social administration. I tried, in my humble capacity in the public service, to suggest that an inquiry should be made, not in Whitehall, but in the offices of the firms and undertakings that are called upon to supply these figures. I suggested that we should have a field investigation to get the facts about what returns were asked for, whether they were excessive, and above all, whether they duplicate one another. I was told—unfortunately, I was too busy to check it myself—that during the war the same set of figures about the classification of the labour employed by a concern, was asked for by three separate Departments on three separate forms. I do not know whether that charge against the efficiency of the late administration of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr.Churchill) is true or not, but I think that much irritation and waste could be avoided if this kind of charge is true, and it can only be avoided if we actually discover what the position is. My humble suggestion went by the board, as did most of the suggestions which I made at that time, but I repeat it now in the hope that the more enlightened administration will be prepared to see what substance, if any, there is in this charge.
The third question I should like to ask is whether we can have a very great extension of the publication of material as distinct from the increased collection of material. The Statistical Digest is excellent, particularly to people like ourselves. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Chippenham that there must be something wrong in the constitution of men and women who do not feel an irresistible impulse just to turn over the pages of the Statistical Digest. Nevertheless it is rather a specialised set of figures. It is likely to appeal to those who are not either 68 members of the uninstructed public on the one hand, or technical statisticians on the other. It is a series of figures of particular interest to those who take a practical and continuous interest in the public affairs of the nation. I think that excellent publication needs to be supplemented by an enlarged statistical abstract, a very much larger and more voluminous publication of the existing collection of figures for the use of technical statisticians. And I believe there is room for some more popular presentation of statistics by pictorial and graphic methods that could be placed at the disposal of people without technical instruction or qualifications in the statistical field.
My fourth and last question is one which was asked by the hon. Member for Chippenham. It is rather strange to find in the Schedule no provision for the collection of forecasts. It is the forward looking figures from which can be obtained the greatest guidance, particularly in the matter of unemployment. Yet in the Schedule there are provisions for many sorts of historical accounting figures, but no provision whatever for the collection of forecasts. Why is that so?
I do not think there can be any substantial dispute about the value of this Bill. More statistical information is in the interests of all of us, and particularly in the interests of those who oppose the present Government. What would they be able to say if they were kept in ignorance of the development of our economic and industrial life? This Bill is based upon the proposition that knowledge is power, and, in the hands of reasonable societies, is power for good.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
I agree in large measure with what the hon. Gentleman opposite has just said, but he will forgive me if I disagree with him on the value which attaches to this information, from the point of view of the Opposition in this House. We all agree that we must have statistical information as the basis of our national economy, but my feeling about this Bill is that it is introduced at a time when it imposes upon the manufacturing community of this country a burden which it cannot be expected to bear in the difficult circumstances in which it now finds itself. I have here a resolution from the Midland Council of the National Union 69 of Manufacturers in Birmingham which I shall venture to read to the House. It embodies, I think, a feeling which is held very largely today throughout the manufacturing communities in this country with regard to this Bill. They all recognise that it is desirable to have as complete a collection of statistics as possible, and that this is overdue, but they also feel that this is not the moment to impose upon them the obligation of compiling that information. This is the resolution adopted a few days ago after representations were made to the Board of Trade from a whole series of manufacturers in Birmingham:The Midland Council of the National Union of Manufacturers, representing over 800 firms in the Birmingham area, after giving deep consideration to the Board of Trade new census of production Bill, appeals to the administrative Committee to make the necessary representations to impress upon the Government in the real interest of production, both for the home and overseas markets the time is not opportune for putting this additional burden on industry.The resolution goes on to say that there is no evidence that previous censuses of production have been of value to any manufacturer or to any Government Department—although I do not of course agree entirely with that—in view of the dilatory process which always follows the taking of these statistics. In 1935, it says, the figures were not tabulated or known until three years after their collection. It is not very helpful to the productive enterprise of the country if the figures cannot be made known earlier than several months after they are collected. The resolution goes on:Few, if any, manufacturers today have the necessary staffs capable of preparing the fantastic mass of details"—the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade will forgive a manufacturer this force of expression in drafting a resolution like this—"which the present Order demands, and to accumulate a host of statistics based mainly upon estimates, as inevitable they must be, seems to be the height of folly; and the Government request should be withdrawn until such time as the labour needs of production are fully satisfied, and even then only something within the range of practical performance should take the present Bill's place.I have also a series of letters direct from manufacturers. As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, I happen to be president of an organisation which embraces nearly 4,000 of the smaller works in the country. With this burden 70 placed upon these struggling people at a time when the Government themselves are exhorting more production, more and more efforts, and so on, and at a time also when, owing to the difficulties of the coal situation, masses of firms in this country are being thrown back on to a four or even three day week, in order to carry out productive work in which they are engaged, difficulties will be increased. I know that in Sheffield next week most of the steel industries will be thrown back on a four day week. At the same time the manufacturers have to cope with the difficulties arising out of that situation they are invited to enter upon this complex process of preparing these returns. In Birmingham we are threatened with a 50 per cent. reduction on the November coal allocation, which means a three day week practically throughout industry.
Let me take one enterprise with which I am concerned myself. A three day week at Small Heath, Birmingham, will mean that 6,000 people employed by that unit will be thrown out of work. While manufacturers are themselves responsible for facing that situation they are asked to enter upon a process of preparing these reams of figures. We do not object to giving the information, although we are doubtful about the assurances given by the President of the Board of Trade about the secrecy of the disclosures, and that has been a matter of grave consideration to a great many of our manufacturing communities. Apart from that, the real objection and resentment felt in industry is that the information is being requested at a time when the smaller manufacturer, in particular, is not in a position to comply. One letter which I have received from a manufacturer employing 500 or 600 hands says:We had not recovered from our feeling of disgust at receipt yesterday from the Census of Production Office of the Board of Trade of their 28-page schedule of information required—Fancy, with all the forms scattered throughout industry at the instance of a variety of departments, a manufacturer, fighting for his life in the restoration of the trade he maintained before the war, finding a 28-page schedule of information before him from the Board of Trade—then by the same post as we had this census of paraphernalia we also had forms from the Customs and Excise with regard to 71 punchase tax. We already have on hand forms to fill in from the Ministry of Labour, in addition to which we had those from the Ministry of Supply concerning our requirements of controlled products for the next 12–18 months.I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to put himself in the position of a small manufacturer contemplating this mass of forms, this accumulation of paper, while at the same time struggling with all his efforts to keep his workpeople employed in industry and fight for his place in a competitive world outside. It is a very serious situation indeed for the smaller manufacturer. I appeal very strongly that this Bill, at all events, necessary as may be the majority of its provisions, should be postponed for another 12 months to give industry an opportunity of surviving the difficulties of the present time. This particular correspondent says that there is a nation wide call at the moment for production but while he should be concentrating the whole of his efforts upon a campaign for this present year, he must, instead, concentrate upon figure extraction for one or other of the multitudinous Government Departments. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary, who is a sensible, practical person—
§ Sir P. Hannon
I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees with what I am saying. I do not think he has ever had an unkindly feeling about anyone. Whilst statistical information is desirable as the basis of our national economy let us not ask for it at a time when the mass of productive enterprise in this country—and for that matter the distributive enterprise as well—is struggling for its life in order to recover from the difficult period through which everyone has passed. I know that the President of the Board of Trade himself is very much interested in the revival of the industrial enterprise of this country. I know he has been very active in the interest of the export trade and I pay him the highest tribute for his efforts in that direction. Much as we objected to his working parties I can see the desirability of the object he has in view, but the introduction of this Bill just now, asking industry to tackle the problem of finding all this mass of information at a time when industry itself is engaged in the greatest possible struggle 72 in its reconstruction activities to get back into competitive life again, has led me to plead with the Parliamentary Secretary—whose gentle smile always reaches me across this House when I make such an appeal—to postpone the Bill and not to hurry the distribution of 28 foolscap pages containing hundreds of questions to be filled up and extracted. It would add to the burdens of the smaller manufacturer, with whose destiny and outlook the President of the Board of Trade is so familiar, and the information itself cannot be made known for several months afterwards. Much as we desire the Bill, and much as we appreciate the undertaking that the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave to the House with regard to disclosures under the Bill, I appeal to him to postpone it for at least 12 months, and so give the manufacturers more time for thought and more opportunity of preparing the information for this House.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)
While the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) was against the Bill, in general, I was glad to hear that he was in favour of more information about the distributive trades. Statistics of the distributive trades would certainly assist in exposing the chaos that exists and the amount of waste that goes on. There is an immense gap between the producer and the retailer because of the middleman wholesaler. Multiple firms and cooperative societies have got over this to some extent largely through being producers as well as retailers, and I am somewhat surprised at times to hear hon. Members advocate that a Serviceman should embark on a business without any training or any adequate capital. Multiple firms could, if they would, sell goods cheaper than the small retailer can buy them, because the small man has to rely on the wholesalers. I remember that some years ago the Scottish Retail Grocers Association decided to buy direct from the producers and the manufacturers. They set up an establishment in Leith, and they saved the profits that otherwise would have gone to the middleman, the wholesaler.
The methods of some of these big firms is open to severe criticism. I know one firm which sells articles at a given price. How do they get these articles? They go to the small manufacturer and ask him how many of a particular range of articles he produces in 12 months. Having got 73 the information, they tell him they are prepared to enter into a 12 months' agreement to buy his whole output of those articles. The small manufacturer naturally thinks that that will save him from a considerable amount of trouble, and he falls for it. Twelve months later, he is faced with the fact that this large firm want a reduction in price and that he is entirely in their hands. He can do nothing but fall into line with what they offer him. I believe that this Bill will be a good thing for the small traders They have nothing to fear, and the information will be such that they will welcome it.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
I should like to say, with the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon), that I have certain commercial interests. I happen to be president of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, a body of manufacturers and merchants which has been in existence for 200 years. It is an especially enlightened body, because not so long ago it had the privilege of being addressed by the President of the Board of Trade himself. This body came to the same conclusion as the National Union of Manufacturers in Birmingham, that this proposal of a census of production and distribution is put forward at an undesirable and extremely inconvenient time. It is felt that there are other preoccupations of greater importance. If the President of the Board of Trade is not aware of them—and I cannot believe that he is altogether ignorant of them—I will remind him that they are concerned with the reorganisation arising from the shortening of hours, the large problem of fuel, absence of raw materials and other problems of an equally diversified character. It would be correct to say that at no time has a businessman in this country been more harried and harassed than he is today and that, too, at a time when his cooperation is being sought, and rightly sought, because he is an essential element in expanding production. I think it unfortunate that the Government have chosen this particular time to embarrass him by this additional straw which may well break the camel's back. These are the views put forward by the Chamber of Commerce of which I am president.
I, perhaps, do not take such a liberal view of the value of statistics as has been expressed earlier. I am one of those who are inclined to believe that just as 74 "happy is the country that has no history," so "happy is the community which has no statistics." I am not as enamoured of statistics as the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Durbin) who has carried out a thorough examination of them, and I am not so appreciative of them as the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) who spoke of the sweet sorcery of figures. I am in agreement with Samuel Butler and others in distrusting the scientific method which has not brought any greatly increased measure of happiness to mankind. We have, in the President of the Board of Trade, as passionate an idealist as has ever sat in this House, but I imagine that sometimes in his loneliness, he wonders if science is such a strong protector and benefactor of the human kind. We have heard the quotation:Where ignorance is bliss,Tis folly to be wise.This country was a great commercial nation when there was ignorance of many of the facts which the President of the Board of Trade now wants to elicit from us. I am not sure that that greatness will ever be touched again, even with these interesting facts. I am in agreement with the lines of Robert Browning:Where the apple reddens, Never pry;Lest we lose our Edens, You and I.It may be that we have lost our Edens. It may be that these old-fashioned views carry little conviction in this House or in the country, but it is an unassailable truth that this country was probably happier with fewer statistics than it is at present when so many are wanted.
The President of the Board of Trade has indicated to us the necessity for an inquiry in the distributive trade. He was concerned with the place it occupies in our economy. He said that it was the biggest single gap between production and distribution and he mentioned the amount of national income which it enjoys. I detect in many places this dissatisfaction with shopkeepers, particularly among politicians and statisticians, but there is nothing more desired by the people than the little shop and the grand store. I think the little shop is one of the greatest of human endeavours, because no shop exists except by the free will of those who use it. If it is a petty little shop, charging too much, dirty and not very 75 well kept, none the less it is kept by a human being and a certain number of people want to associate with that person in his business, and so satisfy their wants and needs. In the interests of streamlined civilisation, the fruits of which are sparse today, are we to dispense with those rich individualities and those places which have been the breeding ground of some of the greatest of our country? Is a system to be thrown away because it is inconvenient? Is the ideal of the President of the Board of Trade—and I suspect for all his protestations this is the case—that the Co-operative societies should be expanded indefinitely so that their only serious competitor will be the multiple store?
Believe me, the shopkeepers of this country are suspicious of this inquiry into distribution. This inquiry is like what happens in a court when a prisoner already knows that he is guilty, and is shortly to be condemned, because the President of the Board of Trade and those associated with him will no doubt prove to their own satisfaction that the shopkeeper is redundant and is as superfluous as are his methods and cost of distribution. But he will not disprove that the public of the country like the little shopkeeper. They like the little shops, and will persist, whatever Government is in power, in supporting them. I make a plea from this side of the House for the small man, who formerly looked, in mistaken loyalty, to the other side, but who now knows what his fate is to be. That fate is to be either a civil servant or a municipal employee. Only the other day I was approached by one of my constituents who wants to guide her boy into the business of life. As he seems rather dull and about my own mental calibre, and might not do well at a university or a higher school, I suggested that he might do well to become a shopkeeper. His mother said: "I will not have him in a shop. I would like to get him into the Co-op. or the Corporation." God help him. That is the kind of paradise that this Census of Distribution is, going to produce for us.
Now that I have sketched in the general background of the Census of Production and Distribution, I would like respectfully to, suggest an alternative. Why should this be made compulsory? Why should there not be a voluntary census? I put 76 it to the President that efficient businesses are well equipped and have the staff and the experience to supply such statistics as are required, if invited by him to do so. If they are they will continue to do what they have done in the past, and submit the statistics which he requires in the form he requires. By gentle persuasion, in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not deficient, he might gradually grade up the voluntary effort to the point at which at least 50 per cent. of the worthwhile businesses were giving him the information which he requires. He would follow this plan, if his intentions were benevolent.
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not follow the voluntary method he leads us to the suspicion that his intentions are malevolent. He is not willing to ask for the voluntary cooperation of the leaders of industry in this country. He holds over them a whip. He says, in Clause 4, that if they fail to make returns, or if they make reckless false statements, there is imprisonment for three months, or a fine up to £50. He says later in the same Clause there can be imprisonment for two years or a fine up to £100. With the eye of a prophet he foresees a certain degree of recalcitrance, because he says that for any recalcitrant who fails to furnish the estimates there shall be an additional fine of £10 for every day on which the recalcitrant continues the failure to provide the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his officers with the returns which they require. Does that look like sweet reasonableness? Does that look like the building up of the new Jerusalem of "each for all and all for each"? It does not look like a reasonable spirit and I ask the Minister to remove those provisions from the Bill.
When the Minister asks us to undertake this matter, the House should know in some detail the kind of thing that is required The hon. Member for Edmonton told us about the importance of these detailed statistics, and how impossible it was to direct public policy without all the facts. I submit very respectfully, in regard to what he said about the American statistics for 1929, that those American statistics were as good then as they are today, and that the possession or those statistics in 1929 did not prevent the slump in America. The mere collection of figures will not in itself be of service, and the 77 collection of unnecessary figures is surely the worst kind of economic waste.
I have in my hand a census form which has to be completed in not less than three months from 1st January. It deals with the clothing trade. The document runs to 16 pages and is issued by the President of the Board of Trade. It is an indication, in my view, of the kind of task which the President of the Board of Trade has undertaken and the errors which will inevitably arise out of it. It is addressed to a gentleman who died in 1936. That gentleman is dead, and is beyond the cajolery of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the census which he requires.
§ Sir W. Darling
It shows the value of statistics being timely. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade is not making the claim that statistics which might have been collected from this gentleman in 1936, are required to guide his policy in 1947. We heard the Minister of National Insurance today deplore his inability—as I understood it, and I protested against it at the time—to deal with all the hundred and one, or thousand and one, applications in connection with the new National Insurance Act. The Board of Trade are undertaking a not dissimilar activity, but here it is not a matter of old age pensioners who can be made to wait. Here we are concerned with the Government themselves, who require information. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman equipped to send out all these documents adequately? I have proved that at any rate one of them was sent to somebody already dead. How much more waste paper in dead letter documents, will pour through the post?
There is a further observation. The document has a mis-spelling in it. If the Director of Statistics will look at the penultimate paragraph, he will see how he spells the word "further." Surely he must take into account the importance of proper spelling in these documents. I am not so much impressed by the signature of the Director of Statistics upon the document as I would be by that of the Minister. If the Minister issues documents of this character, I should like to see his name upon them and not the name of any of the officials of the Crown. The 78 Minister, being proud of the document, ought at least to put his name upon it. The document consists of 16 pages of two sections, (a) and (6). There are eight subsections in (a) and four in (b). The matters upon which the curiosity of the Minister or of the Director of Statistics is aroused are not only interesting but somewhat extraordinary. We are being asked to provide this information in order that the Government may formulate a great national policy, which will hinder or restrict the possibility of mass unemployment. I will read some of the items upon which information is sought and upon which this Director of Statistics, acting under the Minister, is curious. He wants to know, for example, in page eight—which is properly marked "Confidential"—the amount of infants' pram coats, overcoats under 24 inches in length, leggings, breechettes, gaiters, and the like. What influence that information will have, even if it is accumulated in its entirety throughout the United Kingdom, I have a little difficulty in imagining. When he proceeds to ask for the number of siren suits, dressing gowns, baby bags with sleeves—there is no reference whatever to baby bags without sleeves—I have a little difficulty in following the Minister's curiosity. There is no limit to this thing. Paragraph 6, I am glad to see, is also marked "Confidential." The Minister wants to know, in paragraph 7, the following:78—Laced corsets and brassieres;79.—Lapped corsets and brassieres;80.—Maternity and surgical corsets and brassieres.He wants to know the quantity per dozen and the net selling value of those. He goes further. He demands to know the number of suspender belts under separate heads, and of:roll-ons, step-ins, and panties.I am not going to say that these questions are improper or indecent, but I seriously suggest that while the collection of statistics about general industry may be desirable and proper, this inquiry is a waste of public time and money. Anyone who is conducting a manufacturing business of this character conducts it on a certain plan, which use and want in the circumstances of business justify. He does not analyse his business under such headings as "pinafores and aprons, smocks, academic and ecclesiastical robes, gowns, 79 cassocks and surplices made wholly or mainly of fur. That is not the classification. He departmentalises his business in an entirely different fashion suitable to its characteristics, and the extraction and collection and codification of all these items means, as the whole House will agree, a tremendous amount of time. I put it to the Minister that it would be helpful—if he cannot accept my suggestion of a voluntary census—if he would reduce the number of items upon which he wants information. What is sought from this comparatively small business, seems to be nothing except raw material for the statisticians. I beg the Minister in dealing with this pilot scheme, to see whether it is not possible to deal with a business of this character under the labels "Ladies' clothing," "boys' clothing," "men's clothing" and" children's clothing." He would not gain a great deal at this stage by further subdivision. If he should find that children are having too much to wear, he can ask, in future years, for a subdivision of the amount of material and labour used in the manufacture of infants' clothing. At the present stage, a major division should be sufficient for his purposes.
There are 21 Ministers who can require this information. Is it not ridiculous that 21 Ministers of the Crown should demand from me—a manufacturing corsetier—the number of "step-ins" and "panties" I make? That is the power the Minister is taking. It may well be ridiculous, but it is only by pointing out the absurdity and nonsensical character of this so-called sensible demand, that it can be brought home to hon. Members If the Minister is serious in saying that he, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Minister of Fuel and Power and the Secretary of State for Scotland are deeply concerned for the purposes of His Majesty's Government in the numbers of garments of that character produced by small manufacturers, let him say so, and I shall tell this House that it is nonsense. He will not say so because he knows it is nonsense.
This document looks as if the Director of Statistics has said, "There is nothing like statistics." Good luck to him. He is passionately devoted to statistics. He wants a lot of raw material for his industry, 80 and he has persuaded the Minister, and many Ministers before him, that a lot of this is worth having. A statistician, a Member of the Royal Society, told me the other day, "Do not complain about statistics. One never knows what statistics can tell, until one has got them." He held the theory, doubtless held by the Director of Statistics, that one cannot have too many statistics about anything, because the statistician can only tell one what the statistics mean when he has got them. So statistics are called for about the number of persons who tread on tin-tacks, and prick the soles of their feet and of the numbers who post letters without a stamp. That is the kind of thing statisticians want. While Ministers of the Crown should be respectful to their senior civil servants—they often have to rely on them—they should also restrict them somewhat and they should say in a familiar way, "Old chap, I think if I get a simple form through the House this time that will do. We should not carry it too far." Asking for these particulars about "step-ins" and pinafores is carrying it too far.
Much of this information is already supplied. In this document, which is only one of several, we find on page 13, which is also marked "Confidential", that a producer has to give information as to the amount of coal, coke, gas, heavy fuel oil, petrol, etc., which he consumes in his industry. That is quite proper, but that information is already in the possession of the Minister of Fuel and Power. His officers issue me with every ton of coal I have got. His officers—or they will shortly be his officers—know exactly what electricity I consume because they ask me to pay for it. Is it necessary to devote a page for this further information?
I do not think the Minister has made a case. He has made a case for better and fuller figures than we have but he has not made a case for figures in the degree of elaboration he is now seeking. I admit that in these matters I am quite conservative. I do not think that industry is helped by such achievements. I still believe in the rule of thumb method, and in human instinct and not so much in human science. I believe that the greatness of this country's industry, its manufacturing genius, its capacity to manufacture and export and to maintain its high 81 standard of living are not things taught by scientists. I have a great respect for the rather stupid chap who runs a successful business in his own way. He does not believe in consultations with working parties, and he is the bête noir of the President of the Board of Trade. He is not a talking chap, but his balance sheet shows that he is making a far more substantial contribution than the most prominent member of a working party. British industry has what its critics call a stupidity, a dull traditionalism and a conservative quality, but it should not be misunderstood. That quality, at its peak, brought this country the highest standard of living this world has ever seen. The more Government has interfered with industry, the less industry has been efficient, and this further interference by Government in British industry is neither timely nor necessary.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
I always listen to the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) with pleasure. I am beginning to understand why the national poet referred to his city as:Edma, Scotia's darling seat.I congratulate him today particularly on the very important statement of policy he has made in the last few minutes. We have been waiting for some considerable time for a declaration of the policy of the Opposition. Now we are told the policy is:Where ignorance is bliss.'Tis folly to be wise.How apt and how appropriate, and how eminently suited to the intellectual resources of the Opposition. I congratulate the Opposition at least on having a policy which they will be able to carry through. The hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) made an appeal to which I listened with interest. The appeal was that as the ship of trade is sailing in calm waters, we should not have any lifebuoys or boats or other resources for rescue and should take no precautions for the future. We should do precisely what we have done in the past, and face the possibilities of the same tragedy from economic storms.
I am glad to see the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) in his seat, because he takes a different view. I live in Leicestershire and so does the hon. Member 82 for Louth. He lives in the business community and I live in the Quorn country, and during the Recess I have been regaled with reports of his speeches almost nightly—an admirable example of the selectivity of the Kemsley Press. Here is the headline to one of his addresses:Terrible austerity or harder work—M.P.The address was given to the Leicester Rotary Club, and I understand that the members are still rotating. There could not have been a better demonstration of the need for statistical information, because almost all the figures in the speech were wrong. He announced that in just over 12 months we have spent half the American Loan, and only 9 per cent. on re-equipment. That is a quotation and no doubt the hon. Member will correct me if I am quoting wrongly. I understood that he was so closely connected with the papers that the information they get might almost be true, and could be relied upon. If he wishes me to give way, I will do so with pleasure.
§ Mr. Osborne
What the hon. Member was saying is perfectly true. I said at that time that 30 per cent. of the American loan had already been spent, but I added, if the hon Member will allow me to repeat it, that only 9 per cent. of that amount had been spent on re-equipment, and the rest had been fiddled and fooled away.
§ Mr. Hale
Yes, I appreciate the force of the hon. Member's demand that we should not spend so much on food, and that, probably, is the reason why he was talking about the future period of austerity. When he got to the more important aspect of his speech, he said:We must endure terrible austerity or stop talking nonsense"—[Laughter.]I will continue the sentence:—about shorter hours and more pay.I appreciate that the policy of the Opposition is to lengthen hours and reduce wages—
§ Mr. Osborne
The hon. Member knows that is unfair and untrue, and I am surprised that he should say such a thing to make a point.
§ Mr. Hale
I intervene in this Debate with some reluctance and, indeed, with my customary diffidence, for two reasons: firstly, because I must confess that I myself am somewhat allergic to form-filling, although I think I may claim to have had more success in filling in my own "form" than the President of the Board of Trade. Indeed, I once propounded the suggestion that we should have one final, comprehensive form which everyone should be given to fill in. They should put in column I particulars of the number of forms they had completed; in column 2 particulars of the number of duplicate forms which accompanied them; in column 3 particulars of the number of triplicates they kept to remember the lies put in column I; in column 4 the number of forms which explained how to fill up the forms; and in column 5 the number of forms bunged into the waste paper basket without answering them. I must admit that if I completed it with accuracy, column 5 would exceed the other four columns.
I have another reservation about the Bill There are certain Clauses of which I do not fully approve. I sympathise with what the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) said about Clause 13. I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, will consider Clause 13 between now and the Committee stage. I would seriously ask him to consider the Clauses dealing with the question of penalty. I am appealing to a very eminent lawyer in this connection, but it seems to me that these Clauses, which are by no means new I know, for they have been raised before, have some undesirable features. This is not the Committee stage and I only want to say that the prosecution have a right of selection which they should not have, the right to select the court which will try the case. I know the difficulty of enforcing proceedings against directors of companies, and in this Bill it is carried a stage further, because the person concerned has to rely a great deal upon information received from the Press. He may have to go into the witness box and say, "I never saw that notice." It would produce, it anyone sought to enforce it, an absolutely Gilbertian situation. We would have a business man saying, "For religious reasons 84 I read nothing but the 'War Cry' and I never saw the notice. "You would have another man saying, "I am an athlete and, therefore, I read nothing but 'The Pink Un.' "Or it might even be that a man says," On moral grounds I read nothing but the 'News of the World.' "Only the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) could do justice to trials conducted on those lines. I remember serving in the Forces with a very good man who read nothing but the "Daily Mirror"—of which I entirely approve—but the only section of the" Daily Mirror "which he read was "Jane." Should it be an offence if the notice was not published on the same page as "Jane" but on another page?
Subject to those minor reservations, I desire to give this Bill the heartiest possible welcome I am a little surprised at the attitude of some of the Opposition in this Debate. We always listen to the hon. Member for Chippenham with respect and pleasure because he always speaks ably and sincerely. He compared the Opposition to a very virtuous and very guileless maiden, and I would accept that description as 50 per cent. accurate, but when he came to the really material part of his speech, it seemed to me he hesitated a good deal I felt that I was listening to a supporter of the White Paper on Employment Policy endeavouring to carry out the old and quite untrue proposition that it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose On matters of detail it seemed to me, it I may say so without offence, that we asked for bread and he gave us Eccles cake. I was very moved and impressed by the concluding part of his speech. I accept the fact that statistics seem to have something inhuman about them, and that they leave out of account the great human values that matter. When I think in terms of Lancashire, I think of people in that constituency who suffered from the lack of statistical knowledge and its consequences in a long period of unemployment; of the men who were half fed and who suffered for years, the men broken by wholly unnecessary industrial disease which decent organisation and well-informed knowledge could have cured, the aged people who waited so long for their increase of pensions. We can see those faces staring at us whenever we raise our voices in this House, and one can never think of them without emotion. No figures can compensate 85 for the lack of understanding of human values which may be the result of being over-statistised.
The White Paper on Employment Policy was a very great step forward. We are indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aidershot (Mr. Lyttelton) for setting up that Committee, and a few other committees, which called attention to many of the troubles which we would have to face in a postwar world. It is a very great pity that Members of the Opposition did not read it, because, had they done so, they would not have voted as they have done on a number of Measures before this House. It called attention to the necessity for organised spending. It called attention to the necessity for rationing and a measure of price control. It went out of its way to say that the use of capital would have to be controlled. If hon. Members opposite had taken that to heart, we would not have heard the speeches on the Exchange Control Bill that we have heard. It said that it could not be expected that the public, after years of wartime restrictions, would find the proposals of the Committee altogether palatable. Hon. Members opposite are opposing the Government day after day for carrying out the very measures that this White Paper proposed and provided for. And it provided for the statistical inquiry on which we are now embarking, which will give us the knowledge and the information and the power to provide the blue prints of a modern economic civilisation, and to provide against the rise and fall of unemployment which was a feature of Conservative Governments in the past.
I congratulate the President of the Board of Trade on bringing this Bill before the House. It is one of the most important Measures we have had before us. It carries on a policy of the Liberal Party, who are entitled to some credit for it, for this was first introduced in 1906 by Mr. Lloyd George under the Ten Minute Rule. It was rather remarkable that no one spoke against it, and so the normal provisions of the Rule had to be suspended and Mr. Chamberlain, from the Opposition Benches, spoke in favour of the Bill. Admittedly, that was before the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) took over the leadership of the intellectual Conservatives, when they were perhaps a little more progressively minded than they are today.
86 I believe that this Bill will not only do good to the country and to the community and the Board of Trade, I hope it will do good to the President himself. We have had in the Conservative Press, which I read with assiduity a good many prognostications of the President's future. When I was a member of the Socialist League he seemed to have arendezvous with death on some disputed barricade.The Conservative Press have been prognosticating that we shall see him in some remote "Shangri-La" contemplating his navel with a look of ineffable bliss and peace and apparently remote from the affairs of the world, involved in complete and utter austerity. I believe that after this the President will be like the Chancellor of the Exchequer and will have a song in his heart. We shall welcome it. I would not like to prophesy what the song will be. Economically speaking it ought to be, "It ain't gonna rain no more," but perhaps it will be addressed to some statistician from the London School of Economics in these terms:A glass of water, a piece of lettuce—and ThouBeside me, computing and calculating in the Wilderness—Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!This is an exceedingly important Bill. It is going to give us a power in the future to plan as planning has never been possible before. I want to conclude with one word to the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh. He made facetious play with the form which asks for particulars of drapery sold. Much of the produce sold in the drapers' shops of Edinburgh comes from my constituency of Oldham. We have lived in a civilisation in which 50 per cent. of the people of this country have not had a spare shirt, while factories in Oldham were not allowed to make them. That has got to cease. We are planning now and we must have the tools to plan. If the House will give the President of the Board of Trade the tools, he will get on and finish this job.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)
In the remarks of hon. Members opposite we have had a great deal of rhetorical exuberance, but very little reference to the Bill, and certainly nothing to carry out any application whatsoever of the Measure we are debating this 87 evening. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) indulged in a personal quarrel with my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne). I must say that from the quotations he made, my hon. Friend was quite correct, and I could not see in what guise the hon. Member for Oldham dared to produce these quotations. He finished his speech with one of those magnificent rhetorical efforts to which we are accustomed, in which he said that Oldham is suffering but it will not suffer any more after this Measure.
The hon. Members for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) and Edmonton (Mr. Durbin), both in the presence of the President of the Board of Trade, have tried to make out, on no basis whatever, that this Bill will achieve the effect of a plan. They have come here and addressed the House on the assumption that just because the President of the Board of Trade produces a Bill, it means that he has produced a plan. They have assumed the plan is there, and they have gone on to say that this Measure implements the Coalition's policy in the White Paper on Full Employment. They have jumped the absolutely essential stage as to whether this Measure in any sense whatever helps the policy of full employment. Not one hon. Member opposite, not even the President of the Board of Trade, said one word as to how this Measure is to help full employment. All they have said is that we have a delightful Measure. For a Socialist Measure it is comparatively short. They have said: "This is magnificent, we are planners and are going to use full employment. Jolly good, let us sing 'The Red Flag,' and go home." That was literally the argument of the President of the Board of Trade, and those behind him.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
Literally. If this Bill means anything at all, it needs three factors behind it. The first is that the Government have within their power the proper means on which to produce a census, that they understand those factors which will enable industrialists to produce the information they require, and secondly, that they propose to use the information they gain, properly. Thirdly, the Measure they produce to Parliament should be designed in such a manner that they can get this information normally and without undue suffering being caused 88 to the people from whom they wish to collect the information. There is not one word spoken by the President of the Board of Trade which suggests he has any understanding whatever of the cost that is imposed on industry in asking for one of these forms to be filled in. Nor has anything he said given any indication that he even understands the basis on which a census must be made.
I must disclose my interest to the House. My interest is in printing and publishing. Recently the President of the Board of Trade issued to us what I believe is called, in the peculiar jargon of hon. Members opposite, a "pilot census." He sent to printers and publishers forms which we must take as a model of those he is going to inflict on industry in the future. These forms show that the Board of Trade, as any industrialist knows, has not the slightest clue about industry. They are made up by some bunch of civil servants who sit around and produce something which they know will please their lords and masters, but which bear not the slightest resemblance to conditions in industry. Any hon. Member who has any knowledge of publishing will know that no publishing firm is a self-contained unit. It always has connections either with printing or subsidiary companies of its own, as an example, for the purpose of differentiating between general and educational publishing, or whatever other branch they are engaged in, so as to enable them to use the very large overheads and technical staffs employed to the best advantage. Do the Board of Trade understand that? They send this form to every single firm irrespective of whether it is a trade firm or wholly owned subsidiary. The mere fact that the name appears in a telephone directory, or whatever volume they consult, is sufficient guarantee for a Board of Trade census form to be presented. They make no differentiation at all between the actual trading firm, or the firm constituted to help the parent company to distribute overheads and reduce costs of production, and in that mariner to try to reduce prices to the community as well.
The same applies to the printing industry. In the firm with which I am connected, we have a subsidiary which is purely a name, a trade name, that is used for very high class printing, and the Board of Trade have sent in a form. It 89 is a small firm with a turnover of something like £10,000 a year. Its staff is one girl, but, because we happen to have more than 10 people engaged in the course of the year, we have solemnly to fill up this enormous, monstrous, and quite unnecessary form produced by the Board of Trade, in order to produce a result which does nothing to help the Board of Trade, but which costs us weeks of work, and which can do nothing to help the welfare of the country. The form has been designed by civil servants who understand nothing, and is only designed to collect material they think will look pretty on some card index they are going to produce. They ask one to differentiate, at some arbitrary date, between the number of operatives one has aged above 18 and under 18. Has the President of the Board of Trade ever thought what effort that entails in checking one's back registers to find out exactly what employees one had at that date, and how many were over 18 and how many under 18? Has he ever thought whether the ordinary business carries that information? In the next question one is asked to differentiate between operatives and administrative people. In a small business in the printing trade very often one's technical manager is also one's chief operative. How is one to distinguish between those duties? How is one to decide as between "administrative" or "operative"? I was given one of these forms this afternoon and I can say without prejudicing the firm to winch I am referring that according to my own arbitrary decision I could make the answer to that particular question vary 50 per cent. either way. Yet the President of the Board of Trade is prepared to use such figures and submit them to this House of Commons as being something of value.
To go further, the next thing we reach is a schedule of 63 questions to the printing industry, as to how they divide their particular products. Has the President of the Board of Trade ever thought of the small jobbing printer, and whether, in fact, he ever makes these differentiations? How difficult it would be for anybody to differentiate between greetings cards and picture postcards. When does a picture postcard cease to be a greetings card, and when does a greetings card become a picture postcard? I am anxious to know, because I am told that if one does not get the answer right one will be 90 subject to some penalty at the Minister's discretion. These are the sort of things to which the Board of Trade pay no attention, which they do not understand and never have understood. Recently my firm rang up the Board of Trade and asked them to explain the form, to say what they were trying to get at. The person at the Board of Trade to whom we spoke was very nice, very helpful but quite non-committal. All that has happened is that now, in addition to these 63 paragraphs, we have to enter a 64th in manuscript in order to satisfy the President of the Board of Trade—jolly good show. This is the basis on which the President of the Board of Trade is asking us to accept this matter, and to congratulate him on producing something which is to help this country.
It makes absolute nonsense, because the President of the Board of Trade has at the back of his mind the thought that every one of these nice forms which he sends out is going to a firm which is watertight, self-contained and deals with whatever may be the particular subject he is dealing with. He does not seem to understand that industry nowadays is interlocked, and that no publisher, to take one industrial example, is without some connection, at least, with a printer, probably with a chain of retail shops, for the distribution of his books. Very often, he is engaged also in the production of drawing materials or some other things. I was confronted with one of these forms, and the position was impossible because any single question depended entirely on the board of directors making an arbitrary split between the percentage of time in which people were actually engaged in the functions in which the form set out as against the percentage of time they were engaged in the other occupation with which the firm is concerned.
We have tried—and I hope the President of the Board of Trade will bear this in mind, in view of the proposed penalties—to be accurate in our own summary, but if we get, as we must, 95 per cent. of the firms which this questionnaire concerns making the same arbitrary distinctions, of what value are the final figures? Are they of any value whatever, either to His Majesty's Government or to the industry concerned, particularly when, as I am certain the President of the Board 91 of Trade will appreciate, the master printers of this country and the publishers' association provide accurate figures at the moment on which any normal person would be able to judge the state of that industry? That is the situation so far as the compiling of statistics is concerned. I would suggest to the. President of the Board of Trade that, if he seriously is requiring some additional check of the figures which are already in existence, the only way of doing it is by promulgating, before census, some basis on which that census is to be taken. He must provide by regulation a costings system as some basis on which all firms can make a return, and a return which will compare with that of their neighbours. Returns which my firm is making under forms 144 and 147 will simply bear no relation 10 any other, not because we are more honest or dishonest than any other firm but because the answer is arbitrary and will provide no comparison and will be of no use to His Majesty's Government.
Any figures supplied and used must be used accurately, and the Board of Trade have a most unenviable reputation in this matter. I need only refer to the October trade returns. Those returns, as far as we know, were accurate so far as the figures were concerned, but the Explanatory Memorandum put out with those figures was one of the most misleading things I have ever seen. The Board of Trade, in order to prove their case, in order to make the figures sound nice to the general public as a whole, compared one section of figures with June, another with March, some, they said, were double those of the early months of this year, others were the largest since the war, others were an increase on the month preceding. In fact, the Board used statistics in that way, which is most abominable. They used them to try to bolster up their own position instead of showing the truth to the country. Nothing is more despicable in a Government Department than to use trade returns and figures in order to try to prove its immediate case, irrespective of the harm it may be doing to the country as a whole. The President of the Board of Trade recently appeared on the same platform as the Minister of Fuel and Power and said then that he was, for the first time, going to treat the situation about coal in a realistic manner.
§ Sir S. Cripps indicated dissent.92
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
Let him look to his own house before he appears with another Minister and tries to correct him. I suggest to him that if he is to come to this House and introduce a Measure about statistics, let him come with a clear conscience to the Despatch Box and say that he intends to use those statistics properly. At the moment his Department stands branded above all others in the Government for using statistics for proving whatever it wishes to prove at the present time. The President of the Board of Trade said, not long ago, just before the General Election, in relation to the Coalition Government, that he was surprised with the amount of Socialism he had got away with. I was surprised to see him stand at that Box trying to pass off this Measure as one which had been approved by the Coalition Government. The Board of Trade stands at the moment not as an authority which will give the country figures on which the country can rely but as an authority which will produce anything to suit its own book at the moment. That applies to such things as a refusal to differentiate between U.N.R.R.A. shipments for export and shipments for export in the ordinary way of trade.
We come to the actual measures which the Government propose to employ to make this Bill work. Again, one comes up first of all against this point, that the Government are not concerned in trying to produce a Bill that will give them the material they require, but a Bill that gives them unlimited power to do whatever they require in the industrial sphere. They are not concerned in merely helping the country. They are concerned, above all, in taking to themselves power which will enable them to do anything they may wish in the sphere of industrial statistics and production. Above all, they have committed the unpardonable sin of saying, in Clause 9, that they may require information from the individual which subsequently can be used against that individual in a criminal prosecution. They have said that not only themselves but other Departments to which they have given this authority may collect information, and ensure the delivery of that information, which will later lead to the giver being put in the dock. I do not know whether the President of the Board of Trade realises that. I noticed that he skated over it in his speech.
93 It is possible for any industrialist who has quarrelled with the Treasury, for example, to find that the Treasury can compel him under the terms of this Bill to provide information which will put him in the dock and which will be used as evidence against him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I notice that hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer. I would point out that even a murderer is granted the safeguard that the officer who arrests him is bound to tell him that he need not say anything unless he wishes and to warn him that it may be used in evidence against him. He is further bound to caution the man not to say anything until he has legal advice. That is not so with the President of the Board of Trade or the other 13 Ministers to whom he has delegated his authority. They are now empowered to demand information which can be used afterwards in a court of law by any other department. That is something unknown to British law as it stands at the moment. The President of the Board of Trade ignored these provisions when he talked about the Bill. Nor did he talk about the position of a director. Hon. Members will see from the Bill that a director or any other member of a body corporate is to be held guilty of any offence under this Bill unless he proves himself innocent. Is the President of the Board of Trade really going to tell the House that he wishes to hold every director of a business guilty unless he can prove himself innocent? Does he really mean to say that to the House? Perhaps he does not like that question.
When he advertises, in whatever papers he may think satisfactory to himself, and a business fails to reply to the forms which he distributes so nicely without demand, does he mean to tell us that any firms which do not comply must prove that they are innocent? Have they to prove that they did not know of the order of the Board of Trade? The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not appear to like that question either. This Bill involves the most enormous inroads on the personal liberty not only of the keeper of the small shop but also of the big company which in future, at the will of the Board of Trade, will be considered guilty of these offences unless they can prove their innocence.
I will pass to another point. I recently asked the President of the Board of Trade 94 how many people in his Department were allowed to exercise the power of signing Statutory Rules and Orders. To that question the right hon. and learned Gentleman replied, somewhat coyly, that there were ninety-one and fourteen regional officers. Under this Bill all these people, 105 in his Ministry alone, will be entitled to exercise every power. The 105 people in that Ministry will be able to make these inquiries and to bully the industrialists upon whom the President himself has said the future of this country depends. As I understand it, the attitude of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that he goes to the country at the week-ends and urges everybody to additional effort at production and comes to the House and produces yet more authoritarian power for himself to bully the persons upon whom he relies for the future of the country. That is the situation and all I can do in conclusion is to repeat for the benefit of this House that which is called the ex-Fascist's lament, when he says:Carry me back to Douglas,Back to the Isle of Man;For I would rather be free under 18BThan part of your postwar plan.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Skeffington (Lewisham, West)
Having listened to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) I am reminded of a statement made by Lord Snowden after he had listened to a rather vociferous speech by the right hon. Gentleman who now sits for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), when he said that he realised, that the pantomime season was still with us. I feel much the same after having heard the speech by the hon. and gallant Gentleman though I am sure we are all glad to think that he has had a holiday during the Recess, and that the invigorating winds of the New Forest have sent him back in such high spirits. To revert to a serious argument on the purpose and structure of this Bill, I wish to speak from my own experience.
I had the pleasure for a period during the war to assist in the application of certain policies at the Board of Trade and later at the Ministry of Supply. In 1941 when we were asked to carry out a policy, approved of course by the Coalition Government, of concentration of production, we were faced then with the kind of economic situation which was only a little less urgent than it is now, and with the 95 same dearth of information. We were dealing with a number of consumer industries in which very delicate operations had to be performed in order that we might save labour and raw materials, economise in space, and at the same time retain the structure of these industries for postwar development. It was a policy which was overwhelmingly successful. The result was that our consumer industries were able to get back into full production in a far shorter time than most people imagined was possible. But in order to carry out these very delicate operations when we were asking various firms to combine and telescope, it was necessary to be confronted with accurate statistics. When one approached the Board of Trade statisticians of those days they said they would be very glad to help, but the only figures that they had were based on a census of production in 1935. This was in 1941 and of no help at all. That is the kind of commentary which one has to make upon the statistical information which so far has been common place to administration and to trade in the country. Obviously figures so much out of date, and grouped together in a way which gives only a general picture, are not particularly useful for any purpose. So we had, at that crucial stage, to conduct inquiries before a single administrative step could be taken.
A similar difficulty was experienced at the Ministry of Supply. With others I was engaged at one period in the expansion of medical supplies. It was a most urgent task because with the United States we had to supply the civilian and military requirements of the whole of the non-Axis world. It was essential to know where production capacity existed and could be expanded. The old contract methods obviously had to be washed out. We had to plan. In this case, the Department was not set up until 1941 which, I think, was most unfortunate.
In 1943, we had, at that late stage, to make inquiries and investigations into medical supply industries carried out with co-operation, I am glad to say, from all sections. These inquiries were undertaken in order that we should be able to make our plans and place new demands where production existed. The problems with which the country and the Government are faced today are only less urgent 96 than in war. We must have up-to-date statistics available. As the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) has said, we welcome the work and services which the Central Statistical Office has provided for us, but they only give a general picture from which we may draw certain conclusions. When it comes to the administration, and the protection which any modern Government must give to industry, in the world in which we now live, we must have something much more accurate than the information which is available at the present time, and we can only get this information through the agency which is proposed in the Bill. It is quite certain that we cannot get it by relying upon the general talk of the trade, because, when one examines it closely, it is nearly always found to be based on hearsay. We cannot get a conception of industry as a whole unless an inquiry is conducted on a scientific basis and by people who have been trained in the past to this kind of work, obtaining always the cooperation and the services of those in the industry itself.
I was amazed to hear the last speaker suggest that the forms which are to be sent out will be designed merely as he said by "a bunch of civil servants" obeying their masters. I would not speak so disrespectfully of those public servants even if it were so, because, though the hon. and gallant Gentleman threw many taunts at them, I think most of them are completely undeserved. That is not the way at all in which these administrative processes develop. In my own experience, there has always been co-operation between the Department and the trade associations and with some interests who may be outside the trade associations. I think the hon. and gallant Member's idea of a "bunch of civil servants" in a remote Department in Whitehall devising these forms in order to please their masters is a silly fantasy of the imagination.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I quoted one case from printing, and one from book publishing. I should be very glad if the hon. Member can tell me of any consultations that took place in those cases.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Perhaps I might answer that question, as I have the information. The bodies consulted were the British 97 Federation of Master Printers, the Publishers' Association, the Federation of Master Process Engravers, tie National Association of Engravers and Diestampers and the Photo-litho Reproducers' Association.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I will certainly withdraw, but I would like to ask the President of the Board of Trade if he can state what percentage of the recommendations made by any of these bodies were incorporated in his scheme.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Obviously, I cannot, without consultation, give the hon. Member an answer to that question. I think he will find that very largely, the forms were agreed.
§ Mr. Skeffington
I think that point has been established, and that it ought to be established, because of the integrity of, and our high regard for, our public servants, it should be established that it is not a case of a "bunch of civil servants," divorced from the realities of trade and commerce deciding these things merely in order to "please their masters" All I want to say in conclusion is that one cannot depend merely on talk in the trade, or entirely upon trade associations, although I think that many trade associations are quite prepared to be helpful and to cooperate. But British character being what it is, there are always some firms outside any trade association, and others who will not communicate all their figures and data to what is, after all, a private organisation. Therefore, an inquiry of this sort must be conducted by public servants in the public interest and in full secrecy as far as concerns the individual firm, and with safeguards which I think are enumerated quite adequately in the Bill.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I have now got the answer to the question which the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) asked me. All the headings were agreed with the associations mentioned.
§ Mr. Skeffington
I am very glad the House has had that information from the President of the Board of Trade, because, having had some experience of this work, I think that the point ought to be established. I think it would be most unfortunate if the contrary impression of the 98 hon. and gallant Member were given. I hope the President's statement will be given full publicity.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
This does seem a very important point. The President has said that all the headings were agreed. I would like to get this matter cleared up. Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us exactly what he means by "agreed," because I happen to be a member of one of the bodies, and, recently, there was a meeting—
§ Mr. Skeffington
I would only add that I am quite certain that the information we shall get from this scientific survey will be of great interest to trade and industry and in the interests of efficient administration and in the general interest of the whole community, because it will enable us to go ahead with the plans which we must have if we are to avoid the dislocation which may quite easily come upon us as a result of the strain of a world war unless we have this necessary information. This job has to be done, and, whatever Government was in power in the complicated world situation in which we find ourselves, this information would have been required. I am quite certain that, had a Conservative Government been here today, though no doubt its inquiries would not have been so extensive, some sort of inquiry would have had to have been made periodically. Lastly, I think that, particularly in view of what has been said about the Board of Trade and its officers, considering the difficulties under which they worked during the war and since, owing to the lack of information and the difficulties experienced after the contortions of a world war, we ought to be extraordinarily proud of the work done by the Board of Trade and its officers.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I would like to know, when the Parliamentary Secretary replies, whether the House can be satisfied that the Central Statistical Office will work in close touch with the Dominions and Colonies. I think it is of supreme importance that, when this House receives statistical information, we should emphasise the importance of obtaining our raw materials and supplies from within the British Empire and Commonwealth. It is certain that the Canadian Statistical 99 Office, whose work I saw some years ago, has done exactly what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now asking for, and their experience would, surely, be well worth having.
There is another point about which I would like to ask. It seems to me that no mention was made by the President of the Board of Trade of the position of firms, in the case of emergency or threatened emergency, when they are engaged in making articles which must be kept secret. How far would they come under the Official Secrets Act; and how far does that matter impinge upon the regulations which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now putting forward? I think that this is a matter which should be cleared up, because it is a matter of dubiety where duty should lie. I am perfectly satisfied that it is absolutely vital to have these statistics. I do not see how we can look forward to the future without getting this information. I believe that there are fears of the information being put to political uses. These may not be justified and I wish it was possible for some assurance to be given to the House, that the Central Statistical Office would have the same sort of relations to the public and industry as has the Board of Inland Revenue. It seems to me that the whole record of our public service, especially in regard to the Inland Revenue, is something of which we ought to be very proud. There has never been any leakage. There have been occasions when political pressure has been put on the officers of that Department, but they have resisted it.
The President of the Board of Trade and the Government of the day must have the confidence of the country if they are to obtain statistics and figures which are really worth having. Today, the President of the Board of Trade said he looked forward to the cooperation of industry. I am sure that that cooperation will be given in proportion to its confidence in the secrecy of facts and figures supplied. In these days, people are fearful of shadows and are inclined to miss the realities. I hope that my hon. Friends on this side of the House will not give the impression that we wish to proceed in a lopsided way in the future. Without accurate statistics, it is impossible for industry to work, and it is equally impossible for the Government 100 to act unless there is confidence between themselves and industry.
I feel that this is an occasion on which one ought to attempt to remove all possible fears from industry and also the feeling that Whitehall does not understand the very great difficulties under which industry is at present working owing to the shortage of manpower, especially typists. Typists are most valuable people, but they were overworked during the war, and many of them have gone home and have not returned to industry. Large firms who have an enormous volume of work thrust upon them from all Departments might feel that this was the last straw on the camel's back if they thought that the Government Departments would not consult them beforehand, and would threaten penalties if within a few weeks, at a time when everybody is working overtime, the facts could not be prepared. It seems to me that the course which I suggest would lead to a renewal of that confidence which we all want to see, and that industry would flourish as a result.
It happens that this request has come, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, at the very moment when firms are experiencing the heaviest load on the secretarial and accountancy sides of their business. While it is necessary to have a comprehensive census, it would make things a little easier and, I am sure, would do a great deal of good, if the Parliamentary Secretary would say that he understands the difficulties from which industry is suffering at the present moment. It is no good merely giving lip service to the future. There are immense difficulties, and statistics will not help unless they are handled in a humane way. There is always the danger of statistics becoming very impersonal. I believe that the whole future depends on the good relationship between management and labour; it is no use working only on statistics and figures. They are necessary, but it must not be thought that they can take the place of a human relationship between labour and management.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mrs. Ganley (Battersea, South)
I do not propose to keep the House very long, but there are one or two comments which I should like to make. I am sure that we are all glad to hear that the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) accepts the 101 position that it is essential that there should be a basis of statistics, in order that the knowledge so badly needed may be available to the country in the future. Several hon. Members have said that, at the moment, it is unfair to place an extra burden on industry! But, surely, it is essential just now that the future should be faced in a real way and the necessary information obtained, even though it may involve placing an extra burden on industry.
Although I am not at present associated with any particular organisation, I have, in the past, been very closely associated with the Co-operative movement. In the society in which I was working, we were keen on keeping statistics in order that we might know exactly where we were going in the various activities of our organisation. But, in the early days of the war, one thing happened which really penalised the Co-operative movement for keeping statistics. Theirs was one of the organisations which could at any time declare the exact amount of material available in their warehouses and factories. The fact that they were able to do that reacted against them. In those days, information was wanted of the amount of food available in the country, because rationing had been demanded—certainly by the Cooperative movement—not merely because it was the only fair solution, but also because there was going to be a shortage of those commodities. The punishment which the Co-operative movement had 4o undergo at that time, because it had kept statistics, was the appalling sight of its butter going into other people's shops. A very large number of people admitted that they kept no records and accounts and, therefore, it was impossible to tell how much butter they had available at that time.
I entirely agree that, if the country is to develop in the future on the lines we are all desirous of seeing—and I am certain that hon. Members opposite are also desirous that the country should flourish and that there should be enough food for all and some pleasure for all—the only way that that position is going to be attained is by ascertaining the fundamental basis upon which the organisation of the country is to be built. Those of us who have had any association—not only the practical association—with the Co-operative movement, because of its inside knowledge and its outside attachments, 102 during the war, and who know what had to be undertaken in order to keep some control, know perfectly well what happened and what was disclosed at that time. Complaints were made by people who were unable to get what they thought was a fair deal, in regard to the price of articles sold to retailers. I very well remember the situation that arose on one occasion when the price of a certain commodity was challenged. An inquiry was held, and it was found that a quantity of that commodity had gone through five different firms, each one putting on an extra profit. Obviously, when it eventually reached the retailer, the price charged was very unreasonable.
Is it unnecessary that we should know what goods are being produced and how they are being distributed when we know that this kind of thing is happening and when, time after time, people say that it is impossible to know the prices paid for particular goods before 1939, because no records of any kind were kept? We often wondered how people who kept no records of any kind were able to say what Income Tax they were liable to pay. Another side of the case is the very large number of bankruptcies recorded year after year. We are told that the country has been built up on a basis of freedom and enterprise, and the proud achievement of the individual. But we hide the number of failures that have taken place in exactly that same way.
We slur over that position. There are between 6,000 and 7,000 bankruptcies every year, and it must be remembered that those people who have had to declare the state of their affairs for bankruptcy purposes have also had to involve other people. Those are the statistics that we wish to get. It is essential that as production proceeds in the workshop and the factory, there shall also be fair and reasonable distribution. It is, therefore, essential that we should have the statistics for which the Government are asking. When complaint is made that there may be some inquiry into the reason why statistics are withheld or are not given correctly, I would say that, surely, no honest trader would have any cause to fear submitting the correct answers to the questions. It is only the person who may have been trading dishonestly who will be afraid of what will be disclosed if he supplies the information asked.
103 I welcome this Bill. I am sure it will be an extremely important contribution to the future construction of the country, in that it will bring nearer to fruition those desires that we have always had, of full employment and of the utmost care in production and will be of benefit to all.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Gridley (Stockport)
During recent weeks those of us engaged in industry have had rather more time in which to consider this Bill than we have had for Bills of even greater importance. As a result of consultations which have taken place, I think it can be said that industry generally is most desirous of helping the Government to secure the right kind of statistics, to enable not only the Government, but industry itself to reach the right objectives; subject, of course, to what are considered by those, engaged in trade and commerce as necessary, proper and reasonable safeguards.
I understood from what has been said not only outside the House, but inside today, that information which is to be requested as a partial or pilot census—and here I have a form consisting of 26 pages of questions which have to be answered—is in agreed form; that is, the industry concerned have been consulted prior to the issue of the form. I have in my hands form No. 51. I would like to know whether the industry concerned with form No. 51 was ever consulted.
§ Sir A. Gridley
The electrical engineering trade; that is, the manufacturing side of it. So far as I know, the industry itself has not been consulted, and yet an enormous mass of information has to be supplied, according to the directions of the return. Perhaps I may be allowed to read from it. It says:I am directed by the Board of Trade to inform you that a survey of production in certain industries is being held in respect of the year 1946, and that persons carrying on undertakings within the scope of any of those industries during the whole or any part of 1946 are required if so directed by a competent authority to fill in the forms of return issued to them and to deliver them to this Office. This requirement is imposed by Defence Regulation…and so on. It goes on to say:The industry to which this form applies falls within the scope of the partial Census, and you are, therefore, hereby directed to fill 104 up and sign the form and return it to this Office as soon as possible and"—in black outstanding type—in any case not later than two months from the above date.That is, 1st January 1947. This information has to be in by 28th February. It has been said how difficult, if not utterly impossible, it is for the short and overworked staffs, who are now busy in getting out the annual accounts and who have only just completed stock taking, to work out immense sums and sheets of figures, with the auditors in the office at the same time. This industry is asked to transfer its clerical staffs to producing information of this kind, just after the introduction of the five-day week in the industry. The workers in the factories are not working on Saturdays, and employers do not feel inclined to ask their workers in the offices to work a six-day week. Therefore, there is that additional complication. It means asking the clerical, costing and statistical staffs to do six days' work in five.
§ Sir S. Cripps
May I answer that point? The answer is that 15 associations in the electrical engineering industry were consulted. I will not read them all out, but there is a very long list.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I accept that statement. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be good enough to let me have a list of these 15 associations who are presumed to speak for this side of the industry.
§ Sir S. Cripps indicated assent.
§ Sir A. Gridley
The question I want most earnestly and seriously to put to the President of the Board of Trade is this: Before the Debate ends, will he undertake to extend this time of two months for sending in the information to three months? If he would make that announcement, he would secure the good will of the industry at once. Not one of us engaged in industry—certainly not one of us who devote a good deal of time to this House—could possibly carry out his work outside unless he had the right kind of statistics to enable him week after week to follow the trend of what is going on, not only at the present time, but in the future. But at the moment we keep those statistics in our own way. They may or may not be suitable for the kind of information which the Government Departments require. I would like to say this 105 for industry: if their present-day methods do not coincide with what is required by the Government Departments, then, after consultation with the Board of Trade and the Central Statistical Department, if we could have time to decide with the Government what form the census information should take a year from now, when we have to deal with the figures for 1947—although I wish we could postpone it for another year—and if we could agree speedily with the Central Statistical Department precisely the information which is required, I am sure industry would be only too ready to alter their present methods and statistical bookkeeping arrangements, so that by the end of the year the information which is needed would be available.
It will be extremely difficult if we have to continue with our present methods for the next six or nine months and then find, towards the end of the year, that what we have been doing is not really helpful to the Government at all. Therefore, I would ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will give us a very definite assurance that in the preparation of the information which is to be compiled there will be the cloest possible discussion, consultation and cooperation between the Government Department concerned and the various bodies which speak for industry, or the individual trade associations who have a right to claim that where their own particular industry is concerned they should have the right of consultation with the Government Departments.
I am cutting short what I had hoped to say, and I now turn to a point to which great importance is attached, namely, the risk of the misinterpretation of statistics if handled by individuals without practical experience in the various branches of industry to which the statistics refer, or of the statistical methods employed therein. It may interest the House if I quote from a paragraph of considerable interest which I found in the "Encyclopaedia Britannica", in making my researches into this subject. I think hon. Members will be interested to be reminded of it if they happen to have seen it before. It runs as follows:In sociological science the importance of differences of quality is enormous, and the effect of these differences on the conclusions to be drawn from figures is sometimes neglected, or insufficiently recognised, even by men of unquestionable ability and good faith.106 This perhaps will give a little more thought for us here:The majority of politicians, social 'reformers' and amateur handlers of statistics generally are in the habit of drawing the conclusions that seem good to them from such figures as they may obtain, merely by treating as homogeneous quantities which are heterogeneous, and as comparable quantities which are not comparable. Even to the conscientious and intelligent inquirer the difficulty of avoiding mistakes in using statistics prepared by other persons is very great. There are usually 'pitfalls' even in the simplest statistical statement, the position and nature of which are known only to the persons who have actually handled what may be called the 'raw material' of the statistics in question; and in regard to complex statistical statements the 'outsider' cannot be too careful to ascertain from those who compiled them as far as possible what are the points requiring elucidation.I make no apology to the House for quoting that passage from the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" which deals with statistics, because in the reports of the Board of Trade themselves, issued under the present President of the Board of Trade and his immediate predecessor, I find reinforcement of the great importance of this. I take these sentences from paragraphs 124 and 125 of the Nelson Report. The members appointed by the Minister say unanimously:We would, however, like to record that statistics in themselves may be open to misinterpretation if handled by those without practical experience in the various branches of industry to which the statistics refer, or without knowledge of the statistical methods used.That sounds almost the same as what I read from the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" a moment or two ago.We feel, therefore, that it is of the greatest importance that arrangements be made administratively for the closest relationship to be established between the Census of Production office and the various branches of industry, so that those statistics can be collected which are of the most practical use. Proposed legislation or regulations relating to the collection of production statistics should, we feel, always be discussed beforehand by the Government Departments concerned with representatives of the individual industries as well as with industry as a whole.I do not think that Clause 8 of the Bill, which deals with advisory committees, really meets that recommendation in the Nelson Report. That is why I asked a moment ago—and I repeat the request now—that, not only should these committees have trade representatives on them who would speak for the great organisations, but there should be the 107 fullest consultation not only as to the forms and nature of the information required by the centre for the returns but as to the frequency of the statistics required, which may vary—as I think the President himself stressed in his speech this afternoon—and for collating and summarising them. In other words, we want the statistics to be expressed intelligently and intelligibly, so that without any doubt at all the right conclusions and the right lessons can be drawn from them.
I have one final point with regard to the large number of Departments which may seek information—no fewer than 21 During the three days' Debate on the White Paper on Employment Policy the then Minister of Labour, now Foreign Secretary, himself announced to the House that it was the intention of the Government to set up a Central Statistical Department. In heaven's name, can we not have one Central Statistical Department, from which all inquiries should come and to which all returns should be sent, and not have to deal with a number of Government Departments? I believe it is the desire of the President of the Board of Trade to avoid overlapping—indeed he said so this afternoon. But in many Departments today there is overlapping which really ought to be looked into. We do not want industry, which has much to do at the moment in dealing with forms and returns, to be asked or expected to run the risk even of having to supply information to more than one centre. That centre should be a Department of the Board of Trade. If other Government Departments want information they should let the Central Statistical Department know what they want, and ask that Department to obtain it. When that information comes in the Central Statistical Department should be the one to supply Government Departments wanting information with the details they require.
Clause 9, which deals with the disclosure of information, is not satisfactory as it stands. In the wording of the Clause information is not to be disclosedexcept to such persons or for such purposes as may be specified in the order.That is an order which may be made by the Board of Trade. Industry is very nervous about that indeed, and I wish to put this specific question, to which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able 108 to give a definite answer when he replies this evening: Will the President of the Board of Trade agree that before information may be passed from one Department to another it can only be so passed on the direct authority of a Permanent Under-Secretary of State? Otherwise, there would be no safeguard, and some official, perhaps, in a Department might get secret information from another Department. We do feel that when information is to be disclosed by one Department to another the authority of the Permanent Under-Secretary should be obtained, to make sure that there is justification, not only for the information asked for, but also for it to be passed.
What I have said sums up the points I wanted to put. Will time be increased from two months to three months for sending in this information? Will the same extended time limit be applied to the annual census that is to be taken of production? Will there be the closest possible consultation so that trade associations may agree with the Government precisely the type of information to be provided in the censuses? Will the Minister agree to an Amendment in the Bill to provide that all information must go through the Central Statistical Department; and will he also agree, when the Committee stage comes, to accept an Amendment which will necessitate the authority of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State before there can be a disclosure of information from one Department to another? If we can have assurances on those points, then, I think, many of us will hesitate to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill; because we feel that statistical information, needed by any Government, must be provided by industry, but that, similarly, if industry is to help the Government, it must be consulted in every possible way. If we can have assurances on these points before this Debate ends, then we shall certainly not go into the Lobby against the Government and against the Bill; but we do reserve our right to make sure that we do get suitable Amendments on the Committee stage of the Bill, or otherwise we may have to vote against the Third Reading, a step which we should very much regret to find necessary.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Smith (Colchester)
I hope the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) will forgive me if I do not follow 109 him in the points which he has made, because in the few moments for which I shall detain the House, I want to direct attention primarily to the provisions relating to the taking of the census of distribution. We have had from the Opposition in the Debate so far a variety of mood rather than a variety of argument; and the mood has varied from the mysticism which streaked the speech of the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) to the melodrama which marked the peroration of the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre). We have not, however, had in any of the speeches any serious challenge to the view that the Bill will repair, by making provision for a census of distribution, what the President of the Board of Trade rightly said was the most serious gap in our information on the economic life of the country.
If we look at our economic organisation in the realistic way indicated by the White Paper which we have had this morning, "A Statement on the Economic Considerations affecting relations between Employers and Workers," it cannot be considered anything but remarkable that, for so long a time, we have left ourselves without statistical information about so vast an area of our economic life as the distributive services. It is, I think, possible to approach this question of the importance of this area in our economic life in three ways. We can look at it, in the first place, from the point of view of manpower. The President of the Board of Trade quoted statistics of the number of people employed before the war in the distributive trades. He did not, however, quote the comparative figures which show that the number of employed in the distributive trades in 1939 was equivalent to two-fifths of the whole of those engaged in manufacturing industry; nor did he say that even today, in our present labour-starved economy, we have engaged in distributive trades a total equivalent to one-third of the number of people we have in the whole of manufacturing industry.
The evidence of the working parties provides the most striking information about the importance of these distributive trades looked at from another point of view—from the point of view of the distributive services in the case of any particular commodity. The working parties' reports on hosiery and pottery, for example, show 110 how clear and how intimate is the connection between the distribution and the actual production of any particular commodity; and the working party on furniture gives some most remarkable statistics about the amount of the final cost to the consumer for which the distributive costs account. When we realise, as the working party's report on furniture makes clear, that the minimum retail margin is something like 50 per cent. of the wholesale cost, that 100 per cent. is the more normal retail margin, and that in the case of firms engaged in the hire purchase trade the retail margin is 150 per cent. and upwards of the wholesale price, it becomes clear how important, from the point of view of the standard of living, is a full and comprehensive inquiry into distribution.
Another important viewpoint is that of the aggregate expense of the distributive services. The hon. Member for Chippenham made a passing reference to the weight of distribution costs in the case of agricultural produce. I am surprised he did not quote us figures which were given by the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) soon after he became Minister of Agriculture, when he estimated that distribution of foodstuffs in this country cost about £850 million, compared with £250 million going direct to the farmers and £400 million going direct to the importers—an indication that the distribution of our foodstuffs in 1939 conditions cost £200 million more than their purchase from the farmers and from the importers put together.
There are one or two points in this connection to which I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to make some reference. There seems a danger that the Board of Trade may regard the passing of this legislation as sufficient treatment of the problem of distribution. I should like to know something about the timetable to be reached, because it does not seem to me possible for the results of the census of distribution, provided for in this Bill, to be available much before 1950 or even 1951; and the statement which has come into our hands today, and to which I have already referred, makes it very clear that this is a problem which has to be dealt with a great deal more urgently than that. If any additional evidence of that fact is required, the reports of the working parties provide it, because every one emphasises how completely we are in 111 need of information, even about particular distributive services, let alone the distribution field as a whole. So, I hope it will be possible for the President of the Board of Trade to follow up the indication clearly given in these working parties' reports, that additional information is needed about the distribution of the particular commodities which are the concern of the Board of Trade. The Minister of Food has already given him some sort of a lead in this direction, because he has set up a working party himself to examine the distribution of milk, and to make a comprehensive report upon it, which, we hope, will be productive of rather more action than some of the reports on milk distribution have been.
The President of the Board of Trade is responsible for a very large range of commodities which enter into the working-class budget, and in very many of these the distribution charges constitute a very high proportion of the cost to the consumer. I hope, therefore, that the President will not regard this Bill as being by any means enough in itself; I hope that he will realise that 1950 or 1951 will not be soon enough to deal with some of the more urgent aspects of the distribution problem, even though we should all agree that, for a comprehensive review and for a full and comprehensive policy, he must clearly await the detailed information which the census alone can make available. I hope that in the meantime he will not overlook the very clear directions given by the working party reports about information needed in the case of the distribution of particular commodities, and I hope he will take action upon the lines indicated by those working party reports and, by seeking such further information, enable some steps to be taken even before the result of the census is available.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), and I am glad also that the Parliamentary Secretary was present as I believe with the President of the Board of Trade when he made what I think was a most important contribution to the Debate. I agree with him in two things he said. First, that statistics are highly valuable in these matters; I am quite certain that statistics are obtainable 112 which, in their use in all businesses, are well worth far more than the cost to those businesses of their collection in manpower or anything else. Secondly he said that part of the trouble was a sense of fear that the use to which the statistics will be put will not be a voluntary use but a compulsory one and a bad use. Accordingly I should like to commend the appeal made so movingly by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) when he asked the President to make clear, through the mouth of the Parliamentary Secretary, that there is no cause for fear and to show it by being willing to cooperate and to be sympathetic, and to make amendments where necessary. I remember going to see the Hitler Youth parading with spades; the spade is a perfectly good instrument capable of good, but in some hands it may be used for bad, and I think the difficulty apparent in this Debate, is, as the hon. Member for Abingdon said, that there is a fear that what is potentially a beneficial and useful measure, may be abused. I hope that that fear will be dispelled by evidence of a spirit of cooperation and sympathy on the part of the President of the Board of Trade.
The whole country wants what I am glad to see His Majesty's Government are now calling "high and stable employment." We all want the maximisation of employment We never want' to go back to the days of wastage of manpower, and we have now got two brand-new factors which give not only this country but the whole world a hope that we shall never return to the bad conditions of those days. The first of these two new safeguards is the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Looking back on the period between the two wars and particularly studying the graph at the end of Lord Beveridge's great work, one can see how impossible it was between the wars to maintain high stable employment, when international trade was behaving as erratically as it was. The unemployment even in the home trades, was caused by the drop in international trade. Now we can hope that, in future, international trade may be stabilised, and at a high rate. After all, that is to be the main function of the Social and Economic Council. The other and second safeguard is the development during the war of a new technique, which we had not in the period before the war, through which we 113 have the possibility of influencing world and home trade and stabilising them. An essential part of this new technique is the collection of statistics.
I hope the whole House and the whole country will believe that the employer is just as interested in high and stable employment as the worker. If he can employ twice the staff he can double his turnover, and presumably double, or even more than double, his profits. If every other employer—except perhaps his competitor—is also doubling his staff, he is also delighted because he has a fine outlet in the greatly increased number of prosperous homes which are buying his product, and his sales problem becomes correspondingly easier. I would admit, for hon. Members opposite, that an economic blizzard hits the worker, as far as temperature is concerned, much worse than the employer, but in amount of, total loss the effect of economic distress is far greater on the employer. We have national unity in wishing to work these new techniques, let us have unity in this House. I join with the hon. Member for Chippenham in appealing to the Parliamentary Secretary to meet our support of the principles of this Bill in a spirit of cooperation and sympathy in the matters of detail.
The hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) has taken up two important points. Time is limited and I can take up only one which is, I think, a matter both of public policy and of high constitutional importance; it is in regard to the disclosure of individual information. I wish to draw a distinction at once between the disclosure of an individual form and the disclosure of aggregated totals. Clause 7 provides for the availability of any aggregated total. If people wish to know any aggregated figure for England or Wales, or, shall we say, for Somerset or even Bath, I do not think anybody has any objection; if the information is fit to be reported to this House and made available it is clearly fit to be distributed between the Departments, numbering, I think, well over a hundred, provided for in this Bill. And perhaps I should here point out that although 21 Departments can demand information, all Departments, and I believe there are well over a hundred, can have it passed round amongst them. However, if the information is such that it ought not to be reported to this House and published, 114 surely that information is equally not fit for passing round among over a hundred Departments. In other words I think the individual form should be protected.
I would put my point on two grounds, one of high constitutional precedent, and the other of public policy. Taking public policy first, it seems to me that it is wrong for returns of this kind to be sent in their individual form to other Departments. Under the Schedule, wages paid to staff are returnable on this form, which under Clause 9 can be sent round all Departments. Suppose that one of my employees has applied for a scholarship for his child—is it right that the Minister of Education should get from my form, on which I may, quite in innocence, have made a mistake, information which surely he ought to get directly from my employee? Similarly, if a Minister wants to use something which I have returned, it is his job, in my opinion, to come and get that information direct from me, so that I know that he wants it and that he has got it, and similarly so that my employee shall know that he wants it and has got it. After all, there is a big difference between Government Departments and private firms. If anyone likes to go into Selfridges and buy something on credit, it is not objectionable that behind his back someone should ascertain his credit-worthiness with Harrods, or some other firm, because firms have not the right to demand such information under oath and under penalty. It seems to me, as a matter of public policy to be wrong for a Government Department which has these powers to use them, as well as for general aggregates as a means of acquiring individual information—it is somehow not cricket. The hon. Member for West-houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) raised the question of Co-operative societies. I would point out that under this Bill a lot of information could be found out about individual officials of Co-operative societies without their knowing the slightest bit about it. I personally think that would not be right and that it is not right to take such powers. I think that the onus is on the Government Department concerned to come out in the open and say to the citizen, "We want this information. Will you please give it to us? rather than to take power to piece together individual returns for a purpose other than that disclosed on the face of the demand.
115 In regard to the point of high constitutional precedence, as I understand it, each Minister of the Crown is responsible only to the Crown. The concept is that His Majesty's Government on the other hand is a free association of ministers who only in their individual offices are responsible to the Crown. The Government is not in itself a full constitutional legal entity. It seems to me that if we are to retain, as I hope we shall retain—and in this I think we have a great advantage over the United States and Germany in not having a single head as the one central executive—our departmental responsibility, then it seems to me to be right to continue the practice which has hitherto been universal, as I understand it—and I hope I shall be corrected if wrong—namely that each Department and each Minister is responsible for collecting his own information, and for keeping it as his own direct responsibility to the Crown; he is not permitted, unless by specific order of this House, to disclose individual information collected in his privileged capacity.
I have here the 16th Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure for the Session 1941–42. If the Parliamentary Secretary, later, will turn to paragraph 117 and onwards, he will find that this question of exchange of information within Government Departments has been more or less a hardy annual; yet Departments have not seized upon opportunities to pool information for the very good reason, I think, that pooling is a double-edged advantage. If Ministers of the Crown are to be able to use individual information of this kind in that way, then they come up against correspondingly greater difficulties when they wish to get further information from the citizen. The answer from the citizen will tend to be, "Why, in view of the pool, are you bothering us again?" I think this is an important administrative point, and one which I suspect has been in the background of the non-acceptance by Departments of this oft-repeated recommendation.
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to consider very carefully this issue of disclosing individual as well as aggregated information and I would couple with it a plea for him not to be too exuberant and too enthusiastic both in the Bill and in the pilot investigations that are being 116 made. There are real dangers of the new broom being over-enthusiastic and overdoing the job. If the President of the Board of Trade takes what are undoubtedly the good principles of this Bill he can do very well with it. Surely he can say that if he believes that his party will have a long period of Office, then he will be able to add to the Bill as experience dictates when he may be certain that He will get a backing from both sides of the House in making really effective what we all desire—a first class statistical service in this country. Let him therefore go quietly in the beginning, and build up the confidence. We all wish to see a maximisation of employment, and we regard this as one of the most important steps and one in which we can march pari passu with him.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Mikardo (Reading)
The House rightly listens with very close attention to any observations on commerce and industry which are made by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman), but with respect I submit that the main arguments he used are irrelevant to the subject we are considering today. What he said and what was said broadly before, him by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) and by the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) was that the House should be wary of giving the President of the Board of Trade the powers asked for in this Bill to collect a lot of statistics, because these statistics might be put to a use which might be thought to be wrong. It seems to me, if that is the view, of hon. Members opposite, that their proper course is not to oppose or criticise the terms of the Bill, but rather to be watchful of the use to which the statistics collected are put. We do not tell people that they are not to make bricks because sometimes a brick is used to smash a shop window. What we do in that case is not to take action against the makers of bricks, but to take action against the person who used the brick to smash the shop window. There is only one other observation I want to make on what was said by the hon. Member for Bath. He said that if he passed on a return in respect of an employee to the Ministry of Labour or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it would be wrong if that return were passed to the Minister of Education who would then get, for his 117 own purposes, particulars of the income of the employee. I think that it is a tenable argument, but hon. Members opposite cannot have it both ways, because we have had a lot of complaints and a lot of allegations from hon. Members opposite that businessmen are harassed by filling in the same forms for different Departments. The hon. Member for Stockport wanted to cut out all the 21 authorities who may demand information and let the Central Statistical Office pass the information round to all departments.
§ Mr. Pitman
That was in terms of global figures, not individual forms. If it is of individual information, every business-man I have asked would rather fill in two forms than have the first one circulated behind his back.
§ Mr. Mikardo
The hon. Member will have to sort out his own differences with his colleagues. Many of his colleagues have been saying that businessmen would rather fill in one form and have it circulated than have to fill in two forms. Hon. Members opposite ought to reach some solidarity on these subjects before coming to the House. It seems to me that one of the most surprising things is the fact that there can be any opposition at all to this Bill, even when the opposition has been only to some of the provisions of the Bill, and even when it has been, as in the case of the hon. Member for Chippenham, rather with tongue in cheek, and without any heart in the job.
I can well understand Members opposite, and those for whom they speak, seeking to oppose, by all means in their power, the policies and proposals of this Government. But what I cannot understand is their seeking to oppose the collection of data on which those policies and proposals must be based. That point was well put by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts), who pointed out that what is, in effect, being said by those inside and outside the House who are trying to ferment opposition to this Bill is, "We do not like the future economic proposals of the Government, whatever they are. We do not know what they will be, but whatever they will be we do not like them." Further, what is, in effect, being said by those who are opposing the Bill is, "'Whatever the future economic proposals of the Government are we would prefer them to be made as a result of blind guesswork, instead of on the basis of established 118 facts." I recently had the opportunity of hearing some comments on the Bill from the Secretary of the National Chamber of Trade. This gentleman, presumably speaking with the weight of his large organisation and of the many affiliated organisations of chambers of commerce behind him, spoke in most condemnatory tones about the Bill. In particular, he used a phrase which has a familiar ring, when he said "This Bill takes away the last remnants of liberty from the commercial community." The last remnant of liberty we hear so much about is rather like the oil in the widow's cruse. It is always being taken away, but it is always there.
These proposals are not the first proposals for a census. We have had for many years the ordinary census of population, which everybody accepts at a matter of course. So far as I know, no Member opposite has ever raised his voice against the census of the population, and no Government composed of Members opposite has ever sought to repeal the Measure which authorises the census of the population. Yet, when the first proposal to hold a census of the population came before the House it was bitterly opposed by the spiritual ancestors of the more obscurantist Members opposite in almost precisely the same terms as some of them have used about this Bill today. I have been looking at past proceedings of the House in J. Almon's "Debates and Proceedings of the British House of Commons," which preceded our present OFFICIAL REPORT, and from which I would like to make one or two references. On 27th March, 1753, this publication reports the following, which I hope I can quote without offence to my right, hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade, who introduced this Bill. It states:On March 27th a Bill was brought in for taking and registering an annual count of the total number of people, and the total number of marriages, births and deaths in Great Britain…The great patron of this Bill was Mr. Potter, son of the late Archbishop of Canterbury, who was looked upon as no inconsiderable speaker in the House and a man of more than middling abilities; but he was extremely positive and somewhat conceited of his own parts…Members will see that if Parliamentary reporting in those day was less thorough, accurate, and unbiased than it is at present it was at least very colourful. This Bill was an innocuous enough Measure, 119 but it was bitterly opposed by a certain William Thornton, Esq., then Member for the City of York. This Mr. Thornton who, apparently, did not believe in "pulling his punches" began his speech with these words:I was never more astonished and alarmed since I had the honour to sit in this House, than I have been this day. For I did not believe that there had been any set of men or, indeed, any individual of the human species so presumptuous, and so abandoned, as to make the proposal which we have just heard…Later, he referred to the Bill in these terms:…As to myself, I hold this project to be totally subversive of the last remains of English liberty…Then, almost in a paraphrase, he said:This is a Measure calculated to divest us of the last remains of our birthrightI am sure that Mr. Thornton, speaking so eloquently in 1753 of the last remnants of English liberty, would never have dreamed that, 194 years later, there would still be some last remnants of English liberty with which his spiritual descendants could concern themselves. I am sure that in 194 years' time Conservative Members of Parliament, if there are any left, which I doubt, will still be using the same arguments and the same phraseology. There was another piece of phraseology used by Mr. Thornton which has a familiar ring in this House and which, I believe, would commend itself very much to the Leader of the Opposition, if he were here. This Mr. Thornton said:This proposal to hold a census of the population is an idea copied slavishly from foreign countries.This was years before Karl Marx was ever thought of. In the 200 years that have gone since, the Party opposite have not found one fresh idea or proposal to put forward The estimable Mr. Thornton is dead, but one sometimes still detects the musty odour of his ghost rising from the benches opposite.
It always surprises me that the businessmen's party opposite always seeks to deny to His Majesty's Government precisely those practices which every efficient businessman uses in the conduct of his own business. No sensible business man would try to formulate marketing or development plans for his own business without getting, as best he could, the facts on which to formulate and build up his plan. 120 Most progressive businesses go a little further, and adopt some form of budgetary control system which gives them a forecast, based on past efforts, in a most reliable way All this Bill seeks to do is to apply these techniques to the affairs and business of the nation, to create statistics on which the most scientific business methods of forecast and control can be applied to the economic effort in the nation. If I were a manufacturer or a distributor I would not oppose this Bill, because I would hope that I did not mind having the auditors in, as some appear to mind. I would support the Bill wholeheartedly, because I should expect a great deal of benefit from it, in the knowledge that the statistics gathered will be passed on to the business community. We have had the most explicit assurances on that point from the President of the Board of Trade As a business man, I should look forward to having these returns because I should know how valuable they would be to me in the formulation of my own marketing and general development policies. The fact is that, in the past, individual business men, as well as Governments, have had to do far too much of their planning in the dark. Anything which throws light on that darkness is, therefore, of great value, not only to Governments but to individual business men as well.
The second way in which I think that this Bill will help the business community is that it will compel them to put their own statistical controls in order, so that they will be able to pass the required information to the Government. The best managed and most progressive businesses will already have control systems, which will enable them to supply the information asked for in the census by immediate reference to their own figures. We have heard a lot from hon. Gentlemen opposite about the enormous labour involved in the answering of these questions. I have looked through the questions, and I know personally quite a number of businesses where one could extract the information asked for with very little difficulty, and with comparatively junior labour, because if a business has been well managed it will have been getting out for its own use precisely the information for which the Government is now asking. In the case of well managed businesses, this will not be a problem at all. There will be many firms, of course, which will not be able, 121 out of their existing records, to provide the information required, and they will have to reshape their recording and control systems to provide the information. The effect of this Bill will be to bring up to the standard of the best managed businesses those firms which at present fall far below that standard.
There is some evidence of this type of process having taken place before, especially with regard to the operation of maximum prices legislation. When the Board of Trade first began fixing maximum prices of some products in some industries on the basis of scientifically ascertained costs, those firms which did not have a proper costing system had to put one in. They benefited and are still benefiting from it, and they will continue to do so long after the maximum prices legislation has been repealed and forgotten. Exactly the same will result from this Bill. Those firms which have not proper statistical control methods will introduce them, and, in the end, they will bless the name of the President of the Board of Trade who induced them to introduce such methods. People who know how important it is to raise the standard of management in British industries—and I think that no one knows this better than the hon. Member for Bath—will agree that any influence, whether external or internal, which tends towards the raising of the standard is to be not condemned but applauded.
This Bill represents one of the many steps which the Government have taken to fashion the tools of economic planning. The task of creating those tools has not been an easy one. The Government had a double job of doing some economic planning, with the dreadfully inadequate tools that then existed, while, at the same time, building up the tools for some real economic planning in the future. They were in the same position as the works manager who takes over a new job in a factory with the double purpose of maintaining existing production and perhaps increasing output, while, at the same time, reorganising, replanning and re-tooling the factory for a quite different sort of production. Any engineer will tell one that either of these things by itself is comparatively easy. It is comparatively easy to maintain production and perhaps even to increase it by existing methods, if one can use all one's resources on current production and not be compelled to divert some 122 of those resources to re-planning and retooling work. On the other hand, it is comparatively easy to re-plan and re-tool a factory if one can shut the factory for a few weeks and devote all one's resources to re-planning, without worrying about current output. To do both, which means retaining and increasing current output and re-tooling is a much harder job. That is exactly the job which the Government had to do in connection with the economic life of the nation.
Very few of the people who have criticised the economic activities of the Government during the last one and a half years have realised the double nature of this task which the Government have had to carry out. They have had to do economic planning and economic re-tooling at the same time. I think that, in the future, it will be recognised what a great job has been done in this connection, and, in particular, what a great job has been done by the Lord President of the Council and some of his colleagues in refashioning the tools of economic planning while the general economic life of the country has been kept ticking over. This Bill puts the seal on that work. On that account alone, I think that it deserves the interest of everyone and the support of everyone, irrespective of party, who really has at heart the interests of the economic life of the nation.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Sidney Shephard (Newark)
This is the first occasion on which I have found myself quite genuinely and honestly in favour of a Measure produced by the present Government. In fact, I go so far as to say that this Bill should be removed from the sphere of political bias. I am speaking as an employer, as a controller of a public company, employing many hundreds of workers. I know very well that this Bill will place a burden on the staff. But I also know that the object of the Bill is to implement the employment policy of the Coalition Government of 1944. One of the main reasons given for unemployment in that White Paper was the lack of the purchasing power of the nation. Under this Bill, there will be a census of distribution, and the Government will be enabled to know the costs of distribution. The costs of distribution must partially affect the purchasing power of the nation, and that surely is information which this Government, or any other Government, must 123 have if they are to be in a position to apply the employment policy stated in 1944.
I know that there is doubt in the minds of some hon. Members on this side of the House as to whether there is a sinister purpose behind this Bill. There is not the slightest doubt that if the Minister wishes, he can abuse the principles of the Bill. He can use it as a means of exercising far more control over industry than at present exists. It could be used as an instrument for determining profits both in production and distribution, and undoubtedly used in the wrong way, it could provide the essence of tyrannical control over the whole field of our industrial life. But I believe myself that if the Conservative Party were in office, we should have had to bring in a Measure of this sort, and that is the reason why I support the Bill in principle.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham, South)
For the first time in a short Parliamentary career, I have the pleasure of finding myself on the same side as the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. S. Shephard). I think this has been a most exhilarating Debate. It has been enlivened by displays of faulty arithmetic such as that given by the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christ-church (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre), who equated 91 plus 14 to 103, an error, it is true, of only about 1.9 per cent. It has been enlivened also by a faulty metaphor from the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), who opened the Debate from the Opposition side of the House with a really delightful speech, but who, as the representative of an agricultural constituency, rather put his foot in it when he said that right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House were going about looking through keyholes to count other people's chickens. I have spent much time on a farm in the constituency of the hon. Member for Chippenham, and I can assure him that when chickens are under lock and key it is at night, when one cannot see anything through a keyhole, and indeed keyholes are the exception and padlocks are the rule.
Apart from such faults, the Debate has been a good one. There has been constructive criticism from hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member for Abingdon 124 (Sir R. Glyn) backed up the hon. Member for Chippenham in expressing his hope that the President of the Board of Trade, in administering this Measure, would closely coordinate his activities with those of the Dominions. I very heartily support that. I think the hon. Member for Chippenham was on more dangerous ground when he rather regretted that the information which it was proposed to get did not include estimates of what was to happen in the future. The hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) made a most valuable quotation from the "Encyclopaedia Britannica," in which he pointed out the dangers of inexperienced or unskilled people monkeying about with figures, a practice that would yield monstrous equations such as x tons equal y miles, which is nonsense. The hon. Member wants to get returns of what firms estimate for the future. That is purely and simply extrapolation, which is always dangerous, and if any hon. Member does not understand the danger of extrapolation, let him consult any hon. Member who has tried to make money on the Stock Exchange, and he will soon find out.
I would like to make two constructive criticisms to the President of the Board of Trade and to the Parliamentary Secretary. I rather regret that this Bill is a comparative sideshow. I would have liked to see it appear as one of the major Bills of the Government; indeed I would have liked to see a sort of Office of National Credit established, much on the lines of the National Physical Laboratory, charged with the duty of collecting as a matter of routine and of publishing all the essential statistics of industry, closely relating them to the current statistics of finance. I would like to suggest that there should be required information concerning not only actual production, but also potential production, by which I mean that firms should be asked to state not only how much they produced in a given time, but how much they could have produced with their existing physical resources if their order books had been full. The purpose of that is obvious. In a situation like that which existed in 1931, when unsatisfied need co-existed with unused productive capacity, the only thing that was short being money in people's pockets, if some such Measure as this had been in operation, it would have been easy for the 125 Chancellor of the Exchequer—especially if the 1945 Bank of England Act had been in existence—to adjust the difference by giving people the purchasing power necessary to enable them to satisfy their unsatisfied consumer needs, by giving them effective purchasing power with which to back their demand to the firms which had the unused productive capacity.
I would like to make another suggestion in this connection which I think is most important. From both sides of the House, the view has been expressed that this Measure will help to combat trade depression. So it will, but one could combat trade, depression much more effectively if there were to be put into the Schedule a rather more comprehensive requirement upon firms by way of their methods of financing capital appreciation. The House is familiar with the kind of private business run by a frugal capitalist who consumes very little himself and who, instead of drinking champagne bought with his profits, puts the profits back into the business to extend his capital plant. When he does that, he is quite unwittingly contributing to trade depression, because he makes the public pay in the first place not only for the service which the public gets, but also for new plant and equipment which the public does not get. That being so, there is bound to be a deficiency of purchasing power in the consumers' market precisely to the extent that he ploughs back profits into the business.
Surely, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be made acquainted with this in order that he may create, or cause to be created, without inflation, new money to counterbalance the deficiency which the frugal capitalist has brought about by ploughing back his profits into the business. Therefore, I suggest very earnestly that the whole business of statistics of trade should be related very closely to the current budgetary situation. If that is done, the Government will have—in the time which is bound to come sooner or later, when there will be a deficiency of purchasing power or an excess of production—precise and exact information necessary to enable them to expand purchasing power without running that risk of inflation which all of us desire to avoid. I am very glad that the party opposite have seen their way to support this Bill.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Osborne (Louth)
The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) took it upon himself to quote against me, in connection with this Bill, what I had said at a Rotary Club in Leicester. I do not quite see the relevance of the point which the hon. Member was making, but he quoted me as having said that when the American loan had been spent, we should have to work much harder and produce a great deal more—which is the chief object of this Bill—or we should face a terrible economic crisis. Surely, that is the gospel which the President of the Board of Trade has made his own for the last 18 months, and if in preaching that doctrine I have sinned, I have sinned in very good company. Moreover, we have had issued today a White Paper which, if it means anything, means what I tried to say to Rotarians at Leicester, that unless all classes work considerably harder, nothing can save us from an austerity such as we cannot imagine at the present time. I do not withdraw one word that I said.
I have only one complaint to make about the Bill, and that is its timing. It is possible to do the right thing at the wrong time, and I think the Government can be criticised on that ground. While the House has been in Recess, the housewives of London have been faced with the loss of their rations because of a breakdown in trade union organisation and discipline, which may be repeated. I feel that, on this first day after the Recess, instead of discussing long-term policy, we should attend to first things first. Clearly it is much more important that the President of the Board of Trade should appoint one of his working parties to look into the organisation of the Transport and General Workers' Union than that he should bring forward a Bill of this sort. When a factory is on fire, one does not put in a new filing system; one puts out the fire. That is the position with regard to the nation at the present time. Where I feel the Government have gone wrong is that they are frightened to tackle the one big problem that faces them—that of indiscipline in their regular supporters, and they are afraid of a general wages policy. Until those two things are tackled, and tackled quickly, this long-term policy may or may not be of any use. Therefore, I say the Government are to be blamed for giving this first day to a policy which can only bring results 127 over a long period, and funking—and I use the term advisedly—the real difficulty in their own supporters' ranks.
I also feel that this extra work, which may fall not only on the clerks in our factories but also to some lesser degree on the Civil Service, may be the last straw that will break the camel's back. The clerk of a county council said to me only last week that no one person could possibly keep in touch with all the Bills, memoranda, explanatory notices and Orders that are coming from this House. There is the danger of the whole of the Civil Service breaking down through being overloaded and we face the same difficulties in our offices and factories. The Government are asking the machine to do too much, and to do it too quickly, and I wonder, if instead of bringing forward a long-term policy, whether it would not be a good thing to close this House for 12 months except for Question time and let the Civil Service and industry catch up with the work in front of it. The Socialist policy will break down through trying to do too much too quickly. The Government are trying to bite off more than they can chew and they will choke.
§ Mr. Osborne
The second point I wish to make is that there are many honest men in business and in industry who fail to see the use to which these statistics may be put. The Government have more power through the Board of Trade than was ever possessed by any Government before and there are those who feel that it may be ill-used. I think the Government would do a lot for themselves and the country if they would reassure the men in industry who have to produce these facts that these facts will not be used politically in the making of speeches by certain distinguished Members of the Front Bench who seem to enjoy speech-making week-end by week-end. Only the Front Bench in this House will have access to all these figures. I feel that the President of the Board of Trade could do a great deal—as might I say he has done in my industry, the hosiery industry, which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will agree has played ball with his Department better than any other industry—to get the confidence of industry in the things he wants if he remembers that a 128 willing partner produces twice as much as the man who is fearful that what he produces will be turned against him.
The third point is this—statistics by themselves, no matter how many, will not produce results. I remember so well, as no doubt does the President of the Board of Trade, whom I am glad to see has returned to the House, the Wall Street crash in 1929. American offices were filled with graphs and statistics. The Americans knew everything but they had no judgment. What is required today in industry, and indeed in Government, is judgment. A man could be cluttered up with plans, but the man who is successful in business is not the fellow who keeps a mass of graphs or statistics at his finger tips but the man with judgment. What is required at the present time is not so much emphasis on more and more statistics but more commonsense. If I may put this to the right hon. Gentleman—because I know he will agree with it if many of his less uninformed supporters will not—when the Government have got their statistics it would be a great tragedy if the workers, on whom we are depending, were to think that a lot more statistics were going automatically to give them higher wages and shorter hours.
It will be a tragedy for them as well as for the whole country, if this Bill gives the false impression, as did nationalisation for a while—[An HON. MEMBER: "Only for a while."]—It has taken until now. The Lord President of the Council himself has admitted that nationalisation of itself will not win one ton of coal, and a lot more statistics will not help us to overcome our difficulties. If it gives the workers an idea that putting up a national flag and obtaining a lot more statistics is in itself going to improve their position, it will be a curse and not a blessing. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that today our need is not primarily for more statistics; it is for greater willingness on the part of all classes to work harder, to work longer and to work more efficiently. The problem with which the Government are faced is of their own making, in my opinion. For 40 years to my knowledge the Socialists have been telling the workmen—among whom I was born—that if only they were returned to power everything would be all right and easy.
§ Mr. Hale
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to interrupt him for a moment? I gather that he was annoyed at something I said in the course of my speech. I was not here when he raised the point but, knowing the very high esteem in which he is held in Leicestershire, and the sincerity and forthrightness with which he always expresses, his views, I should be exceedingly sorry to say anything which even tended to misrepresent him. May! offer him this generous compensation? He has this afternoon achieved immortality. His name will now be included in the index to the collected edition of my speeches for the benefit of posterity.
§ Mr. Osborne
The reply to that would not be Parliamentary. May I just finish by emphasising that the one need today is greater and greater production. This Bill of itself will not produce one iota, even if it gives us all the statistics in the world, and I want to appeal to the President of the Board of Trade, who is the most fair minded man on the Front Bench opposite, to say to the workers what he knows to be true—that it is only in so far as we restore the hope of reward and fear of punishment that we shall obtain the production needed
§ Mr. Osborne
"Fear of punishment," I said. There is no alternative, and if we tell the working man and the trade unionist, that by Parliamentary legislation, we shall somehow obtain the results that these two old forces gave to us we shall be misleading them
§ Mr. Murray
Will the hon. Member tell the House exactly how it was we produced 250,000 tons of extra coal last week—the first week after the holidays?
§ Mr. Osborne
It was by hard work, by sweat. There is no other way. The curse of Adam is still upon the lot of us. It is by sweat that we shall earn our bread. There is no alternative, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman can do it better than anyone else on that Front Bench. He should say to the people, "Very well, we will give the statistics. We will use them well, and we will plan, but planning of itself will not produce the Eldorado we have promised. Only 130 hard work will do that." May I say finally, that there are men in industry who honestly believe that this kind of inquiry has a kind of hook behind it, and may I remind hon. Members opposite that they gathered a great deal of benefit from that first broadcast in the General Election by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). He said that he feared a political Gestapo, and there are men in industry who fear it and who feel that this is the first stage—[Laughter.] It is not a laughing matter because if the minions of the right hon. and learned Gentleman like to threaten to take away our labour or our supplies they can exert great pressure. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that, and they know it too. It is giving extraordinary power into the hands of the Board of Trade, and although I am content that with the right hon. and learned Gentleman there that power will be used wisely and moderately, there are other right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Government Front Bench whom I would not trust across this Chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give the names."] If hon. Members do not know them, let them ask their friends. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is to get the best out of this inquiry he must win the confidence of the minority, perhaps, of employers who are frightened. I beg of him to do that. If he will do it, and will accede to the request put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley), to give us three months instead of two months to make the returns, I think he will act wisely.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)
I propose, if the House will allow me, to avoid much reference to speeches which have already been made. I do not want to delve into the wider issues which have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) or to go into the somewhat murky depths of Social Credit which were plumbed by the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Norman Smith). Nor do I wish to revert to the 18th century with the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo). It has been customary for hon Members now sitting opposite to claim in this House to be progressive, but they always have a tendency to look back 20, 30 or 40 years. On this occasion, the hon. Member for Reading went back a couple of centuries. 131 I feel that there has been a fair measure of unanimity on the purposes which lie behind this Measure, and that only the "Sunday Express" is in splendid isolation in violent opposition to its purpose. There are, however, a number of reservations which many business men would like to make about it. As politicians we may well say that more information is desirable and necessary if we are to have a better conception of our economic needs. Very few people would deny that statement, and fewer people still would deny the desirability of our being aware of economic trends We certainly cannot visualise a society in the future in which we had no conception of what was happening and no idea of the sum total of our economy.
There is a fear in the minds of all of us that unemployment may recur, and we say that we will accept this Measure because we want to avoid unemployment. Everybody is sincere in that desire. There is the danger that we shall assume that the provision of these figures will automatically remove that possibility. I read a remark in a newspaper this evening that the only exercise some people have is that of jumping to conclusions. There is the danger of thinking that, as a result of the passing of the Bill, we shall be presented with some means by which we can automatically, by some miracle, avoid the recurrence of unemployment.
The most important aspect of the Bill in the collation of figures about industries is to get the proper cooperation of industry as a whole. I suggest, particularly to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that the Government are mistrusted and distrusted by industry more than any Government has been who ever occupied that position. That is so in the main because of their proposals about road haulage, and because of the abolition of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange. They have caused, rightly, men engaged in industry to be mistrustful of them. Many times I have had the unfortunate task of trying to make the intentions of right hon. Gentlemen opposite look more reasonable and genuine and less murky when I have had to explain to some of my fellow businessmen their various activities. The desire for cooperation which is expressed by the President of the Board of Trade is not, after all, borne out when he puts into this Bill such harsh penalties. It is true that 132 these penalties will exact the figures which he requires, I feel quite certain that had he evoked the shadow of the gallows, the figures would have been even more smartly forthcoming and the defaulters would have been fewer, but that is not the way to get cooperation from industry.
The President of the Board of Trade made extraordinary play with the recommendations of the Nelson Committee, but I notice that one of the most important recommendations has been ignored. That is the recommendation that before legislation or regulations relating to the collection of production statistics be entered into, the matter should be discussed between the Government and industry. To my recollection, the first notice that organised industry had of this Bill was on the very day it was introduced in this House. The record of cooperation and collaboration which the President has given us to understand has taken place over this Bill conflicts very strangely with the experience of hon. Member? on this side of the House. Each time an industry has been mentioned, the President has said that he has consulted this and that organisation connected with it, but I know of no industry which has, in advance, been shown a copy of the questionnaire and has approved of all its terms. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us to what extent consultation has taken place so far as the actual questionnaires are concerned.
Much more propaganda should be put out by the Government to convince people about the desirability for more information. I say this because there is an obvious clash—and a very reasonable clash—between the views of the Government of the country and the business men. Very often business men know the trends and are more sensitive to developments than the Government can ever be because they are dealing day to day with the problem. They know as soon as material starts to rise and they know when the market contracts the difficulty of getting orders. They are more sensitive to the labour situations than the Government is. Industrialists may ask what the Government wants these figures for because the industrialists already know the answer. That is a very natural tendency on the part of the trader, and usually the smaller the trader is the more forceful is his view.
133 It is essential that the Government should make more clearly known to industry the real purposes behind the Bill. If we are to subscribe to the purpose at which this Bill aims, we must not blind ourselves to the fact that at this juncture we may be using more man-hours for the collection and collation of this material than we can afford. I say this because one of the grievous tendencies of industry in the last 20 years has been the increase in the proportion of people engaged on clerical, administrative and technical work. Many of us feel that much of the value of increased productivity has been dissipated and lost over those fields. Therefore, adding unnecessarily to that wasteful effort is something which we should avoid.
I suggest that the President of the Board of Trade should consult the industries to which these questionnaires refer to see how much of the material can be eliminated and how many of these admittedly superfluous headings can be abolished. Surely, it is much better to build up a statistical service from a relatively low level, than to plunge in and ask for all the details not required at the very beginning. Many of us feel that the Civil Service has got the bit between its teeth and is running away. I suggest that the President should postpone this partial census for another year. I say so because, firstly, the inferences from a purely transitional period may not be very valuable to the economy of the country; secondly, we want to allow industry to adjust its own records so that the information required may be afforded without undue effort; thirdly, to give us a minimum of delay; fourthly, to give us a minimum of diversion from productive purposes to clerical staffs. All this information should be canalised through the Office of Statistics. There is no justification, so far as I can see, for having a multitude of forms for a multitude of Departments. Surely there can be authority granted by some authority within the Cabinet or a Department to receive information? When that authority is granted, it can then be put through the Office of Statistics and the whole thing done with a few forms.
In conclusion, I suggest there are many dangers about the collation of statistics. It is very easy to overrate their value. The judgment of an ordinary 134 businessman and the interpretation is perhaps as variable as the quantity produced. I think we may well reach the stage in a short time when we have too many figures to digest. That is a very real danger in collation. Another danger I see is that they will become available to trade at too remote a date. Therefore, it is much better to have fewer in number and more readily available to industry than to have a whole mass which takes a long time to collate but which comes too late to be of use. We must not assume from this Bill that the mere production of figures will mean the end of our problems. However, I feel that if the safeguards we require, and which we have suggested should be incorporated in this Bill, are accepted, this information will form a very valuable basis on which we can judge our future economic action, and by which we hope to avoid the scourge of unemployment that caused so much misery to our people between the two wars.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
The President of the Board of Trade in introducing this Bill spent a lot of time in stressing the need for the acquisition and possession by the Government of further statistics. I think it is true to say that in the course of the Debate from no side of the House has come any denial of the necessity for the Government to get certain further information for the appreciation of the economic trend. The criticism really has been threefold—first, with regard to the emphasis on the particular form of statistical information, as to whether or not the census of production is of as much value as the present monthly return. Secondly, I think it is true that there has been a suggestion from this side of the House, indeed, more than a suggestion, that now is the worst possible moment for taking a census of production. Thirdly, there has been the criticism by two hon. Friends of mine of the actual forms which have been served upon their industries in connection with this pilot census. I think it is true to say that there is not now, as there has not been since 1944, in the days of the Coalition Government, any denial of the necessity of the Government having in their possession more statistics than they had in the days before the war. Indeed, in paragraph 82 of the White Paper on Employment Policy it is stated 135 that it is vital for the Government to obtain,'more fully and much more quickly than they have in the past, exact quantitative information about current economic movements.'If this Bill did no more than give power to obtain that information, I do not think that it would have been subjected to any criticism. I certainly should not have had much criticism to direct towards it. It gives power to obtain information which is so vital for the implementation of the Coalition policy of full employment. It cannot be denied that if this Bill is passed in its present form, the Government will have power to obtain the necessary information. Also, it cannot be denied that this Bill is so wide in its scope, and so vague in its terms—the President of the Board of Trade spent so much time talking of statistics, and said really remarkably little about the terms of this Bill—that it could be used as an instrument of great oppression, for the persecution, and the totalitarian treatment of the individual. I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman would deny that the powers contained in this Bill are so wide, and the safeguards so non-existent, that they could be used in that way. Indeed, if one looks at Clause 1, one sees that no fewer than 21 Government Departments can ask any question at any time, and as often as they like, of any person engaged in any trade or business in this country, whether that person is in a large or small business. The Schedule defines the matters about which questions can be asked, and there is power to add to the matters. It will be an offence not to answer any of those questions. It is no defence for the individual to say, I have already been asked that question by 20 other Government Departments." It will still be an offence for him to refuse to give an answer, and not to disclose the information for which he is asked.
If the Bill were used in that way, it would be a Bill of inquisition. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give an assurance in his final speech on this Measure to the effect that on the Committee stage an Amendment will be inserted limiting the wide powers the Government are taking under this Clause. We are told in the Clause that it will befor the appreciation of economic trends, and for the discharge by Government Departments of their functions.136 But when we look at the Explanatory Memorandum, we see that the statistics to be collected arerequired primarily for administrative purposes by a large number of Government Departments.Nothing is said there about "economic trends." Monthly returns—I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) about this—are at the present time likely to be of much more importance and of much more value, not only to the Government, but to industry than any census of production or census of distribution. But under Clause 7 of the Bill, after either a census of production or a census of distribution, there is to be a report presented to Parliament "as soon as practicable" of the proceedings of the Board in connection with the census, and a summary of the statistics obtained. There is no provision in this Bill for a report to Parliament of any proceedings taken by any Government Department under Clause 1 of the Bill, and there is no provision in the Bill for any report, either to Parliament or to industry, of any of the statistics, the aggregates, obtained as a result of the inquiries directed under Clause 1 of the Measure. That I regard as a defect in the Bill. I ask that we be given an assurance that there will be an extension of Clause 7 so as to provide that when Clause I is used by Government Departments, apart from taking a census of production or distribution, Parliament should have a report of the proceedings in the same way as it does in regard to a census, and also a summary of the statistics obtained. As it is now, the industry and Members of this House will only know what the Government like to reveal as the result of the use made of Clause 1 of this Bill.
I note with some interest that the Minister of Agriculture is one of the Ministers who can make use of this Clause. He is described, in the words of Clause 16 (2), as "a competent authority." It is not a little curious that under Clause 75 of the Agriculture Bill he also has power to collect a wide range of statistics. There is this interesting difference between the two Bills, and in this connection I venture to think that the Minister of Agriculture has been perhaps a little wiser than the President of the Board of Trade. Under the Agriculture Bill the Minister of Agriculture takes power, in Clause 75, to introduce 137 regulations to give him power to call for returns on this, that and the other, but that power of introducing regulations is expressly provided only after consultation with the Agricultural Statistics Advisory Committee. There is no provision in this Bill for any consultation with anybody before the powers under Clause I are used. I ask tonight if we can be given an assurance that provision will be made in the Bill for consultation before Clause I is used by any Government Department. I suggest some similar provision to that which is to be found in the Agriculture Bill, which has been introduced by this Government also.
With regard to that matter of consultation, I would emphasise the concluding remarks of the Nelson Committee, which I will quote:Proposed legislation or regulations relating to the collection of production statistics, should, we feel, always be discussed beforehand by the Government Departments concerned with representatives of individual industries as well as with the industry as a whole.Was this Bill which we are now discussing considered with any representatives of any industries, with industries as a whole, before the Bill was presented?
It would be very interesting to know. My hon and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) complained of non-consultation. If there is any consultation it should be free and frank and not half-hearted. It would be very interesting to know to what degree there was consultation before this Measure was introduced. The fact remains that under Clause 1 of the Bill there is no limit 10 the questions which can be put, or to duplication. Different Ministries can ask precisely the same question many times and there is no limit really to the purposes to which the questions may be directed.
For instance, the Minister of Fuel and Power can put the most searching interrogatories to any industry he covets with a view to confiscating it "in the name of the people." That should be altered. There is another point to which the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale), and indeed the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest, drew attention. I refer to the curious effect of Clause 9, which is a new departure from the Census of Production Acts, and provides that any return or information obtained compulsorily 138 under this Measure could be used in any criminal proceedings. Under the Census of Production Act of 1906 returns could only be used in evidence in the case of prosecutions under that Act. Under the Agriculture Bill returns called for by the Ministry of Agriculture can only be used in prosecutions for failure to give information asked for, for giving false information, or for wrongful disclosure. But here the President of the Board of Trade is expressly taking power to be able to use any information he gets from an individual in evidence against him on any criminal prosecution. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said nothing about this in introducing the Bill. It is worth while examining what would be the result of that wide extension of the existing law. It is an extension which in my view is an infringement of the old-established principle that no man shall be bound to incriminate himself.
As I see it, it will be possible, when this Bill becomes law, for any of the competent authorities to serve a notice requesting information from anyone engaged in any trade or business. The Ministry of Food is, I think, a competent authority. If a person refuses to answer a request from that Ministry he commits an offence, is liable to be fined and imprisoned, and also liable to be fined an extra sum of £10 a day until he does give the information for which the Ministry asked. Then if he gives the information, it can be used against him in a criminal prosecution for breach of a food regulation. That provision seems to me to be an infringement of the ancient liberty of the British subject. Indeed, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is seeking to make the policeman's caution rather a mockery when he says, "You need not say anything unless you wish to do so." Now, it should be, "You need not say anything unless you wish to do so, but if you do not say anything I, as a policeman, will get the Home Secretary to serve a notice on you under Clause 1 of this Bill. Then if you do not say anything you will be committing an offence, and if you do say something I will use what you say in evidence against you." I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give an assurance that that will be altered, brought back to the position in which it was under the Census of Production Act of 1906 and into line with the similar provision in the Agriculture Bill 139 which we are to discuss shortly. There is no justification for that wide extension which can lead to the abuse of individual rights.
I have drawn attention to two important matters on which I hope we shall be given some satisfactory assurances. There is a third matter upon which the right hon. and learned Gentleman touched in his opening, when he said that power was taken to increase the restrictions on disclosure in certain cases where Parliament has provided that there should be more restrictions than are provided in this Bill at the present time. Power is now being taken by the Board of Trade to increase those restrictions by Order. I suggest to the President that doing it that way is doing it the wrong way round, and that, where Parliament has thought it right that there should be more restrictions upon the disclosure Of information than are contained in this Bill—on particular kinds of information—those restrictions on disclosure should remain, unless the Board of Trade bring in an Order reducing them and can justify to this House on each occasion the reduction which is proposed. This is a point, I think, of some constitutional importance, for we are here enabling the Board of Trade to say, "No matter what Parliament has done before with these different classes of information, we shall reduce the restrictions on disclosure right down, reserving the right of increasing them in particular instances.' There is nothing in this Bill to stop the disclosure, by any one of these 21 Government Departments, of information obtained to any civil servant in any Government Department, whether he be a high ranking civil servant or not, and I suggest that that part of this Bill needs tidying up. That part of the Bill conflicts very strongly with the recommendations of the Nelson Committee, which provided, if my recollection is correct, that the disclosure should only be to a senior officer of the other Government Department. It may well be the case that, where we have 21 Government Departments having the power to ask for this information, there should not as my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) contends be the power of passing the information between different Government Departments. If there is the power of circulating information between Government Departments, I 140 would suggest that there should be a limitation on the power of the 21 Departments to ask for the same information, and I ask that we should be given an assurance that, in the case of a prosecution for refusal to give information which has been asked for, it should be a defence to say, "We supplied this information which you are seeking to another Government Department only a few weeks ago."
I have dealt quite shortly, at the end of this Debate, which has, quite properly, in my view, taken a considerable time, with questions arising in this Bill which I regard as of considerable importance. But, because I have directed these criticisms to this Measure, it does not mean for one moment that I do not recognise the existing need for some further statistics. It is terribly important however that a line should be drawn, and carefully drawn, between statistics which are necessary and vital and statistics which merely cast an increased burden upon the individual who has to supply them, and by that I mean an unnecessary burden and a burden likely to result, in the long run, not in the creation of further and full employment, but likely to lead to an increase in unemployment. I hope that before this Bill leaves this House it will contain limitations upon Clause 1 which will not prevent the obtaining of proper information, but which will provide safeguards against wrongful disclosure and against its becoming an instrument for persecution. If the Parliamentary Secretary can give assurances on these points, then, indeed, it may be that this Measure will not have a particularly difficult passage.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Belcher)
I am very grateful to the hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate for the great appreciation which has been shown of the necessity for the Bill. Almost all the comment has been directed, not so much against the purpose of the Bill, as in the direction of details which, of course, can be discussed when we reach the Committee stage.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) summed up the case for the Bill admirably when he said that the procedure which it is sought to follow under this Bill is one which would normally be adopted by a progressive business firm. If I may say so, he 141 was admirably supported by the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Shephard), who is to be congratulated upon his clear and broadminded approach to the subject. Several hon. Members, including the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller), stressed that the Government will be acquiring powers which could be misused. That, of course, is the case with every power which a Government takes unto itself, and the remedy lies in the hands of Parliament. If, as a result of this Bill when it becomes an Act, the Government have a power which they proceed to misuse, then it is for Parliament to use its power to restrain the Government.
§ Mr. Belcher
I am quite prepared to give the assurance that the only reason-for seeking the powers inserted in this Bill is in order that we may be the better able to survey and plan the industry of this country in the interests of full employment. That, of course, is the derivation of the Bill itself; it arises out of the White Paper on Full Employment produced by the Coalition Government. When the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) was President of the Board of Trade, he appointed committees who inquired into this problem and who made recommendations which are being followed in this Bill. I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Daventry will forgive me if I do not deal in detail with the large number of points which he raised. I think that they are matters for the Committee stage of the Bill. At this stage, we are concerned with establishing a principle—the principle that the Government require power to obtain information about the state of trade in this country in order that both the Government and industry shall be able, more effectively, to deal with the various issues which arise.
But there is one point which the hon. and learned Member made about the exchange of information as between Government Departments on which I should like to say a word or two. He appeared to fear that there would be a danger of some Government Department receiving information from the Board of Trade which would enable that Department to deal harshly with the individual who had supplied the information to the Board of Trade. In practice, the ether Government Departments would nominate an official 142 who would be entitled to the information possessed by the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade would then satisfy itself that this official was the kind of person to whom this information could be communicated and, the Board of Trade having satisfied itself that that was in order, the information would be communicated.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Would the hon. Gentleman indicate what tests the Board of Trade will apply in judging between civil servants and other Government Departments as to whether or not the information should be divulged?
§ Mr. Belcher
Yes. The Board of Trade, like the hon. and learned Gentleman, possesses the faculty for judging the status of an individual, and would satisfy itself that status of the civil servant in question was such as to justify communicating the information to him. There can be no other standard.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Would the hon. Gentleman indicate what status a civil servant must have before he may be given the information? If any test is to be applied, the hon. Gentleman must know where the line is to be drawn.
§ Mr. Belcher
No. Surely, it would depend entirely on the facts of the case. In one case it would be one particular grade, and in another case it might be a different grade. One must leave some judgment to the people who are administering a Measure of this kind. It would depend entirely upon the case, and one must reserve to the Board of Trade the right to decide for itself in any particular case, who should have access to the information.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Does that mean that every one of these 21 Government Departments must decide for itself to which civil servant in another Government Department it may disclose information?
§ Mr. Belcher
We shall be dealing with a large number of different questions, each one of which will have to be judged on its own merits, and there are bound to be differences in degree between different cases which arise. In one case it will be one individual to whom one may communicate the information, and in another case it will be a different person.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I think the hon. Gentleman was not in his place when I put a 143 very definite question to the President of the Board of Trade on this most important point. The question I put was this: Would the disclosure of information by one Government Department to another, be permitted only by the authority of a permanent Under-Secretary of State? Will that be agreed to or not?
§ Mr. Belcher
No. The practice will be that it will be decided by the Board of Trade that information may be given to a certain person in another Ministry. The Board of Trade will decide whether or not to give the information to the individual from the other Ministry. What is decided will depend entirely upon the nature of the case. Of course, the President of the Board of Trade is ultimately responsible to this House for what takes place and, the ultimate authority resting in the hands of the President of the Board of Trade, there is really no argument about who inside the Board of Trade, should decide whether or not the information is to be communicated to somebody else.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre rose—
§ Mr. Belcher
I am restricted in time. There has been plenty of debate and a large number of points have to be replied to. Hon. Members opposite would be most offended if I missed any of the points which they raised in the course of the Debate.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I must ask the hon. Gentleman not to avoid answering this most important question by pretexts of that sort. He has dealt with the question how the Board of Trade will decide. Will he now say how the Minister of Fuel, the Minister of Works and the other competent authorities are to decide? Are they going to adopt the same principles as the Board of Trade with regard to information which may be obtained?
§ Mr. Belcher
Surely the Board of Trade, as the authority responsible for collecting the census of production—
§ Mr. Belcher
—and the other Ministries will nominate somebody to whom they will wish the information collected by the Board of Trade to be communicated?
§ Mr. Belcher
It is the responsibility of the President of the Board of Trade to decide to whom in the other Ministries this information shall go.
§ Mr. Belcher
The Debate was opened, if I may say so, admirably by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) in a speech which, for at least three-quarters of its duration, appeared to bless the Bill. As a matter of fact, he said that all parts of the House agreed on the need for accurate statistics. He also referred—and I am most grateful to him for doing so—to the Government in relation to industry as the senior partner. "That certainly commends itself to this side of the House. So far as I could see, his only criticism was that at the present time, with a shortage of people in industry, and particularly a shortage of clerical workers, we were imposing upon industry a burden which it would be difficult to carry. That was echoed several times by other speakers. But really, apart from the very smallest businesses, I cannot believe that the kind of information for which we are asking is not readily available. I am not an industrialist—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I agree—but I am quite sure that there is no efficient industrialist in this country who does not have readily available for his own purposes, for the purpose of conducting his own business, the information for which we are asking. It would be a comparatively simple matter for any efficient industrial firm to provide the answers to the questions which we are asking. I know quite well that in the case of the smaller firms normally the practice is to employ accountants, who will be able to provide the information for which we are asking in a matter of minutes.
§ Mr. Belcher
I am sorry, but I cannot give way; there is not sufficient time. The hon. Member for Chippenham suggested that there had been no consultation with industry about the nature of the schedules which are to be sent out. He may be interested to know that before drafting 145 the schedules for the partial census of production which is to take place this year, we discussed it with other Government Departments, all the industries concerned and the trade associations of every industry which is to be questioned. We questioned the shipbuilding industry, the National Union of Manufacturers, a prominent firm of builders, the Nuffield College, Imperial Chemical Industries, the Railway Clerks' Association—[Laughter.] That was a very sensible thing to do—the Federation of British Industries; we even went to the London School of Economics, and quite a number of other people, including the Co-operative Wholesale Society. All these people were consulted before the schedules were drawn up, and I think it is quite unfair to suggest that we have ignored the knowledge or the wishes of industry in face of the consultations which have taken place.
§ Mr. Belcher
A further point that was made by the hon. Member for Chippenham concerned the necessity—or nonnecessity—for this census at the present time. He said, quite rightly, that we are living in abnormal times; and that it would be wrong to base a judgment, or to attempt to plan for the future, on results obtained by a census taken at the present time. But I would point out to him that we are today trying to estimate our future requirements in industry, trying to plan our future, on the basis of information which was obtained in 1935, which was the last year in which there was a census of production; and, surely, even though we may be living in abnormal times, it is far better to try to estimate what we ought to be doing about British industry during the next two or three years on what we know about the present time, than to rely upon information which is 11 years old.
Then, the hon. Member proceeded to accuse my right hon. and learned Friend on the ground that we were proposing to inquire into the facts of the present time, but were not proposing to seek the advice of industries, of businesses, of firms about estimates for the future. But, surely, nothing could be less useful than an inquiry of different industrialists and different firms about their estimates for the future. Surely it is far more realistic, far more useful, to get hold of the facts about 146 the present, and then to base one's own estimates for the future upon the facts as one finds them now. That is far more businesslike, surely.
§ Mr. Eccles
Will the hon. Gentleman recall 1929? He will remember that we had all the facts, but nobody thought there was going to be a slump. Every index looked as though it were going up and up. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That was the case. Therefore, what we want are estimates, as accurate as possible, of the future, from those actually handling them.
§ Mr. Belcher
I quite agree with the hon. Member. The reason why we want this Bill, and the facts which we are going to get as the result of the passage of this Bill, is that we can then base our estimates for the future on something realistic. If in the past some people ignored the facts which were presented to them, that is no reason why we should be prevented from getting all these facts, which every industrialist in this House knows are essential if the Government are to plan their own job; and when the facts are made available to industry, industrialists can plan their future work. A question was raised by the hon. Member about the Dominions. I am able to tell hon. Members that we have had consultations with Canada in the past about this census of distribution; and, as a matter of fact, we have made amendments to our original scheme as a result of suggestions made by the Canadian Government; and an official of the Board of Trade is shortly going to Canada to discuss further problems with statisticians in that country. Before the war there were conferences with statisticians from the various Dominion countries and this country, and I have every reason to believe that those conferences will continue.
Then, the hon. Member made a point, which was made by several subsequent speakers, about the use of the statistics. He said, and so did many other speakers, that we must not expect the collection of statistics by itself to solve our problems, that we shall not create full employment by collecting statistics. We know that only too well; we know perfectly well that it is only by work—by producing—that we shall solve our problem. But we also know that we cannot work at the highest level, we cannot produce the maximum 147 amount, unless we have in our possession the knowledge of industry in this country which will enable us to plan effectively the use of our very limited manpower and raw materials. It is essential to have this knowledge in order that we may make the most economical use of those things which are in such short supply.
The point was raised by subsequent speakers including my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) about responsibility—who shall be responsible in the case of noncompliance? That is a matter which might be argued out in Committee, but the notices will be served on individuals, and it will be the responsibility of those individuals to comply with the notices; there can be no complaint if, having been given notice in proper form, an individual who does not comply with that notice is held responsible. The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) criticised my right hon. and learned Friend for having said nothing about a census of distribution, making possible economies in distribution. But we do not know; let us get the facts, let us find out, as a result of a census of distribution, just what distribution is costing, and if there is any possibility of making a saving somewhere. But until we get that knowledge of the facts, which we do not possess at the present time—but which is possessed by some other people in some other countries which do not adhere to the political theories of the present Government of this country—we cannot judge how far it is possible to make any economies in the cost of distribution. I hope that as a result of this inquiry we shall be able to make some economy in that direction, because what is needed at the present moment is not more effective distribution but more effective production, and the more we can do in that direction, the better.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Durbin) asked why our statistics are inferior to those which appear to be available in the United States of America. I understand from him that, whereas we are proposing to collect at lengthy intervals the kind of information which we are seeking as a result of this Bill, similar information is available monthly in the United States of America. I have made inquiries and I understand that that is the case. I should have thought it might be a recommendation, 148 in the view of hon. Members on the other side, that the United States of America, the land of free enterprise so much admired by them finds it necessary to produce the kind of information which we are seeking at far more frequent intervals than we do. I am told that the reason why the United States Government have made this effort in the past is that United States industrialists require the information, and recognise its value. I believe, despite what may have been said by hon. Members opposite this evening, that British industrialists are with the Board of Trade in their desire to secure this information. That, at any rate, has been my impression from discussions with one or two people whom I have met during the last few weeks.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton asked whether we could look into the charges which are made from time to time of unnecessary duplication of Government inquiries. I think it would be a good thing to do, but I feel that by regularising the procedure, and by having this census of production and distribution conducted by the Board of Trade, we shall, almost certainly, cut out a number of inquiries which would otherwise be made by other Government Departments. The hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) for whose industrial knowledge I have a very great respect, said that this Bill might be overdue, but that this was not the time to burden industry with more forms. The hon. Member is, I believe, an Irishman, but to say that though something is overdue, it ought not to be produced so soon, appears to be rather a contradiction. I know perfectly well that there are a number of people who are going to find the job of filling in the forms burdensome. I hope that they will cooperate despite the additional burden imposed upon them. I assure the House that we are anxious to do everything in our power to ease this burden as much as possible, and that we have consulted with the representatives of trade and industry with a view to making the inquiry forms as simple and as easy to answer as possible.
§ Sir P. Hannon
Will the Parliamentary Secretary give manufacturers a little more time to examine these forms so that they can give the proper replies required by the Board of Trade?
§ Mr. Belcher
The hon. Member asks for more time to complete these forms. They have been given two months.
§ Mr. Belcher
I am prepared to sentence them to three months. There is no reason why we should insist on two months, and if it is going to help trade and industry to have an extra month, as far as we are concerned, we are prepared to do that. I should like it to be noted, particularly for the benefit of the smaller industrialists, that the period has been lengthened by one month, or 50 per cent. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale), in a very witty speech, raised a number of points on Clause 13, which I think it would be far better to deal with on Committee stage.
Then there is always the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling). He does not like this scientific approach to industrial problems. He prefers the rule of thumb method from which so many millions of our people, prior to the introduction of the scientific methods of the present Government, suffered unnecessarily for so many years. If the rule of thumb method is to produce a severe unemployment problem which is going to last for years, and if, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham said, people in Edinburgh are unable to buy shirts and people in Oldham are unable to get employment making them, then I prefer to have nothing to do with it. I much prefer the scientific approach of this Bill, which will, first, give the information we require to balance our industrial development, and then make it possible for us to get the goods we require and give the employment to our people which is being given at present, when the unemployment figure is far lower than at any time during the 18 months which succeeded the First World War.
The hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre), in the only speech of the day which was characterised by quite unnecessary and quite undeserved bitterness, complained that nothing had been said as to how the Bill would assist full employment. Is it necessary for anybody on this or the other side of the House 150 to say anything to the hon. and gallant Member about how this Bill will assist the policy of full employment? Surely, it is an elementary fact that you cannot plan or produce anything unless you are informed about the factors which will finally affect the problem you are trying to solve. Unless you know the facts about production and distribution how can you possibly plan a policy of full employment? The Coalition Government produced a White Paper as a result of which we have this Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes. The right hon. Member for Alder-shot appointed committees to discuss this question, and those committees, representative, not of politicians or civil servants, but of industrialists, produced a unanimous report, on which this Bill is founded. That Coalition Government recognised, as the hon. and gallant Member does not, that you cannot have a policy of full employment, or plan, unless you have the facts on which to base that plan. All we are seeking, in our desire to implement our policy of full employment, which is being well implemented at the present time, is power to collect the facts which will enable us accurately to plan the future of British industrial production and distribution.
The hon. and gallant Member for New Forest, who appears to be acquainted, to some degree, with the publishing industry, criticised our approach to the publishers. He may not, he certainly does not, know that before we sent out the questionnaire to the publishers we consulted a number of people who might be expected to know something about publishing. We consulted the British Federation of Master Printers, the Publishers' Association, the Federation of Master Process Engravers, the National Association of Engravers and Die Stampers, and the Photo-Litho Reproducers Association. Apparently, the only person connected with the publishing industry we did not consult was the hon. and gallant Member, and I apologise for that omission.
§ Mr. Belcher
The hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley), in a speech for which I am very grateful, said that if industry could agree with the central statistical office as to the type of information required in a year's time industry could alter its statistical methods. That is a very wise and sane suggestion. We 151 are, of course, prepared at any time to enter into consultations with representatives of industry in order to facilitate the collection of the information from our own point of view, and to make it more easy for industry to deal with us.
I believe that a case for this Bill has been made out not only from these benches but by the speeches of hon. Members opposite. Those on the opposite benches who are most closely identified with British industry have made contributions to the discussion this evening which have been helpful. They may have been critical on details, but those details can be taken up when we reach the Committee stage. I am quite sure that no hon. Member of whatever party who has regard for the future of British industry, and who believes that it is possible to establish full employment, can oppose this Bill on principle, whatever he may feel about the details. The details can be discussed at a later stage, and I hope that in the interests of the future of our people and of British industry, no hon. Member will find it necessary to divide the House on the Second Reading of a Bill which will serve a useful purpose for the people of this country.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
I should not have intervened in this Debate except for the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary did not answer my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre), who is probably one of a comparatively few people in this House who really objects to this Bill on principle. I think that, however small the minority may be, any hon. or right hon. Gentleman of this House should show greater respect for the feelings of small parties than the hon. Gentleman has shown. He is, of course, a very raw Member of this House, as he showed repeatedly while he was on his feet. I do not wish to comment on the speech any further, except to raise that one point, which I think was really deserved, and I regret that the hon. Gentleman, so early in his career, succeeded in introducing such an arrogant touch.
A further point of view is my very strong objection to Clause 5 of the Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary said that he could recommend the Bill, he thought 152 from our point of view, because American business people and the American Government worked this system well. I am against Clause 5 for this reason. Under Clause 5, it is left to the Government to insert by Order in Council almost anything which they may want to do at any time. Quite frankly, I am not among those people who are so green as to really think that we can trust the Government not to insert Orders in Council which will go far beyond the Bill. We know that, at the present time, as far as this House is concerned, we have very little chance, partly because of the number of Orders in Council and partly because of the general timetable, once a thing is in a Bill, of dealing with it in the future. I have no doubt whatever that if we had a Government we could trust and rely on, we could have a Clause of this sort, but no one who followed the very eloquent speech of the President of the Board of Trade as closely as I did could fail to realise that at the back of his mind, through the whole of that speech, were purposes far beyond anything contained in this Bill. The purpose of the Bill is far greater than the collection of information. I am glad to note that the President of the Board of Trade recognises my capacity for understanding what the Bill really means. This is not an innocent Measure, it is not a Measure to gain statistics, it has a far greater meaning than that. It is part of the purpose of the Government to put burdens of various types on industry.
Although we may perhaps obtain some concessions in Committee which will strengthen the Bill in some ways, I feel that, after the appalling speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, a speech which denied the very good natured opposition which has been forthcoming today, if there is a Division—I do not know whether there will be, as I am not in the councils of my party—it will be due almost entirely to the Parliamentary Secretary's speech and I shall be obliged to vote against the Bill. I regret that, a little while ago, the President of the Board of Trade intimated that I might go on for a very long time, but he was completely incorrect. I have no intention of attempting to do so, because if the Government think they want a Bill, nothing will prevent them from using brutal measures. Having said that, I will conclude by reminding the House 153 that any trouble the Government may have tonight will be due to the gross incompetence of their own Front Bench.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Drayson (Skipton)
I have listened carefully to the speeches of the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary, and I feel that no case has been made for this Bill. The President of the Board of Trade started by referring to the furniture industry, and said that that industry required a great many more statistics. I suggest to him that there are plenty of other things which the furniture industry requires besides statistics. If he will make a little research into the practical aspects of these businesses, he will find that they are not short of statistics at the present time, but of the essential raw materials with which to get on with their job. The President of the Board of Trade said
§ there was nothing sinister in this Measure. I wonder why he said that I think many of us regard him as the most sinister Minister on the Government Front Bench, and many of us feel that the provisions of this Bill will allow the Government to go far to carry out projects far deeper than anything suggested by this simple Bill. Many of us have thought that the working parties set up to study industries have been merely a prelude to industries being taken over—
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. William Whiteley) rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 273; Noes, 74.155
|Division No. 52.||AYES||10.0 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Collins, V. J.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Colman, Miss G. M.||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Comyns, Dr. L.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Cock, T. F||Grey, C. F.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Grierson, E.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Corlett, Dr. J.||Gunter, R. J.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S||Guy, W. H.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon C. R||Crossman, R. H. S||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Daggar, G.||Hale, Leslie|
|Ayles, W. H.||Daines, P.||Hall, W. G.|
|Bacon, Miss A||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Balfour, A.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hardy, E. A.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Harrison, J.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Barton, C.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Battley, J. R.||Deer, G.||Hewitson, Capt. M|
|Bechervaise, A. E||Diamond, J||Hobson, C R.|
|Belcher, J. W.||Dobbie, W.||Hoy, J.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Dodds, N. N||Hubbard, T.|
|Benson, G||Donovan, T.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Beswick, F.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bing, G. H. C||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)|
|Binns, J.||Durbin, E. F. M.||Irving, W. J.|
|Blenkinsop, A||Dye, S.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A|
|Blyton, W. R.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Janner, B.|
|Boardman, H.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||John, W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Bramall, Major E. A.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Ewart, R,||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Brooks, T. J (Rothwell)||Fairhurst, F.||Keenan, W|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Farthing, W. J||Kenyon, C.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T||Field, Capt. W. J||Key, C. W.|
|Buchanan, G.||Follick, M.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E|
|Burden, T W||Foot, M. M.||Kinley, J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Forman, J. C.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Kirkwood, D.|
|Byers, Frank||Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||Lavers, S.|
|Carmichael, James||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Gaitskell, H. T. N.||Leonard, W.|
|Chamberlain, R. A||Gallacher, W.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Champion A. J.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S||Lever, N. H.|
|Chetwynd, G R||Gibbins, J.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)|
|Cobb, F. A.||Gibson, C. W||Lewis, J. (Bolton)|
|Cocks, F. S||Gilzean, A.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Coldrick, W||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Collick, P.||Gooch, E. G.||Logan, D. G.|
|Collindridge, F||Goodrich, H. E.||Lyne, A. W.|
|McAdam, W.||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|McAllister, G.||Perrins, W.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Pritt, D. N.||Tiffany, S.|
|McKinlay, A. S.||Proctor, W. T.||Timmons, J.|
|Maclean, N. (Govan)||Pryde, D. J.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|McLeavy, F.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Randall, H. E.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Ranger, J.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Mallalieu J. P. W.||Rankin, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Ree-Williams, D. R||Wadsworth, G|
|Marquand, H. A.||Reeves, J.||Walkden, E.|
|Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Walker, G. H.|
|Medland, H. M.||Rhodes, H.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Middleton, Mrs. L||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Watson, W. M.|
|Mitchison, Maj. G. R.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Weitzman, D.|
|Monslow, W.||Robertson, J: J. (Berwick)||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Moody, A. S.||Rogers, G. H. R.||West, D. G.|
|Morley, R.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Sargood, R.||White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Mort, D. L.||Scollan, T.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Murray, J. D.||Shackleton, Wing.-Cdr. E. A. A||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Nally, W.||Sharp, Granville||Wilkes, L.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Shurmer, P.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Simmons, C. J.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Noel-Buxton, Lady||Smith, C. (Colchester)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|O'Brien, T.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)||Willis, E.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Paget, R. T.||Sparks, J. A.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Stamford, W||Woodburn, A.|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Steele, T.||Wyatt, W.|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Yates, V. F.|
|Parkin, B. T.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Younger, Hon Kenneth|
|Paton, Mrs. F (Rushcliffe)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Paton, J. (Norwich)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Pearson, A.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Mr. Snow and Mr. Popplewell.|
|Baldwin, A. E||Grant, Lady||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Gridley, Sir A.||Ronton, D.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Ropner, Col. L|
|Birch, Nigel||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Scott, Lord W.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hogg, Hon. Q||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hollis, M. C.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Challen, C.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Darling, Sir W. Y||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Touche, G. C.|
|Drewe, C.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Marsden, Capt. A||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Mellor, Sir J.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)||Nicholson, G.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Gage, C.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Glyn, Sir R.||Osborne, C||Commander Agnew and|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.||Pitman, I. J||Major Ramsay.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."156
§ The House divided: Ayes, 278; Noes, 48.157
|Division No. 53.||AYES||10.11 p.m|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Awbery, S. S||Belcher, J. W.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Ayles, W. H.||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Bacon, Miss A||Benson, G.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Balfour, A.||Beswick, F.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Bing, G. H. C.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Barstow, P. G.||Binns, J.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Barton, C.||Blenkinsop, A.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Battley, J. R.||Blyton, W. R.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Bechervaise, A. E.||Boardman, H.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Perrins, W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Hardy, E. A.||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Harrison, J.||Porter, E. (Warrington)|
|Bramall, Major E. A.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Herbison, Miss M.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Hewitson, Capt. M||Pryde, D. J.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Hobson, C. R.||Pursey, Cmdr. H|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W T.||Holman, P.||Randall, H. E.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hoy, J.||Ranger, J.|
|Burden, T. W.||Hubbard, T.||Rankin, J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Rees-Williams, D. R|
|Butler, H. W (Hackney, S.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Reeves, J.|
|Byers, Frank||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Carmichael, James||Hynd, Rt. Hon. J. B. (Attercliffe)||Rhodes, H.|
|Castle, Mrs B. A||Irving, W J.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Champion, A. J.||Janner, B.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Chetwynd, G R||Jay, D. P. T.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Clitherow, Dr. R.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Cobb, F. A.||John, W||Rogers, G. H. R.|
|Cooks, F. S.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Coldrick, W||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Sargood, R.|
|Collick, P.||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Scollan, T.|
|Collindridge, F||Jones, P Asterley (Hitchin)||Shackleton, Wing.-Cdr E. A. A|
|Collins, V. J.||Keenan, W||Sharp, Granville|
|Colman, Miss G. M||Kenyon, C.||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Key, C. W.||Shurmer, P.|
|Cook, T. F||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Kinley, J.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Corbet, Mrs F K. (Camb'well, N.W)||Kirby, B. V.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S||Lavers, S.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Crossman, R. H. S||Leo, F. (Hulme)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Daggar, G.||Leonard, W.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Daines, P.||Leslie, J. R.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Lever, N. H.||Stamford, W.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lewis, A. W. J (Upton)||Steele, T.|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Lipson, D. L.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Deer, G.||Logan, D. G.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Diamond, J.||Lyne, A. W.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Dobbie, W.||McAdam, W.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Dodds, N. N||McAllistor, G.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Donovan, T.||McGhee, H. G.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Tiffany, S|
|Durbin, E. F. M.||McKinlay, A. S.||Timmons, J.|
|Dye, S.||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McLeavy, F.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Edwards, John (Blackburn)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Mallalieu, J. P. W||Viant, S. P.|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Mann, Mrs. J.||Wadsworth, G|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Marquand, H. A.||Walkden, E.|
|Ewart, R.||Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Walker, G. H.|
|Fairhurst, F.||Medland, H. M.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Farthing, W. J||Middleton, Mrs. L||Warbey, W. N.|
|Field, Capt. W J||Mikardo, Ian||Watkins, T. E.|
|Follick, M.||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.||Watson, W. M|
|Foot, M. M.||Mitchison, Maj. G. R.||Weitzman, D.|
|Forman, J. C.||Monslow, W.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Moody, A. S.||West, D. G.|
|Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||Morley, R.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Gaitskell, H. T. N.||Mort, D. L.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Gallacher, W.||Murray, J. D.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S||Nally, W.||Wilkes, L.|
|Gibbins, J.||Naylor, T. E.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Gibson, C. W||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Gilzean, A.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Williams, D. J (Neath)|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Goodrich, H. E.||O'Brien, T.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon A. (Wakefield)||Oldfield, W. H||Willis, E|
|Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Oliver, G. H.||Wills, Mrs. E. A|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Paget, R. T.||Wise, Major F. J|
|Grey, C. F.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Woodburn, A|
|Grierson, E.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Wyatt, W.|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Pargiter, G. A.||Yates, V. F.|
|Gunter, R. J.||Parkin, B. T.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Guy, W. H.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)|
|Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Paton, J. (Norwich)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hale, Leslie||Pearson, A.||Mr. Snow and Mr. Popplewell.|
|Hall, W. G.||Peart, Capt. T. F.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Scott, Lord W|
|Baldwin, A E.||Harvey, Air-Comdre A. V.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P G T||Hollis, M. C.||Studholme, H. G|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Kerr, Sir J. Craham||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Thomas, J. P L. (Hereford)|
|Conant, Maj. R J E||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Thornton-Kemsley, C N|
|Cuthbert, W N||Manningham-Buller, R E||Thorp, Lt.-Col R. A. F.|
|Darling, Sir W Y||Marlowe, A A H||Touche, G C.|
|Drayton, G B||Marsden, Capt. A||Vane, W. M. F|
|Drewe, C.||Mellor, Sir J.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||White, J B (Canterbury)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Nicholson, G.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Nield, B (Chester)||Winterton, Rt. Hon Earl|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir D. P. M||Noble, Comdr A H P|
|Gage, C.||Ramsay, Maj. S||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G||Ropner. Col. L||Col. Crosthwaite-Eyre and|
Question put, and agreed to
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed to a Standing Committee