§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Whiteley.]
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)
I desire to draw attention this afternoon to the delay, which is causing some anxiety, at least amongst the organised workers of the country, in introducing development councils as provided for under the Industrial Organisation and Development Act passed by this House over 12 months ago. I need hardly remind my hon. Friends of the circumstances which led to the consideration of this Measure, but perhaps it will not be out of Order if I make reference to one or two points to refresh their memory. During the war the manufacturers of consumer goods had many of their industries concentrated so that the energies of the nation could be concentrated upon winning the war. When peace returned, the Government thought the time apposite to take a review of the conditions of the consumer goods' industries to see what could be done to help in setting them on their feet once again.
It will be remembered that, despite the opposition and suspicion from some of the leaders in industry, a number of working parties were set up to consider the problems of the industries and of the country in its economic struggle which lay ahead. From these deliberations the House and the country received very valuable reports which led the Govern- 34 ment eventually to bring forward the Measure known as the Industrial Organisation and Development Act. That Act is an enabling Act, which permits the setting up of development councils where such bodies are considered likely to do a good job of work in increasing and improving the efficiency of our industries in this country. We on these Benches were very glad that the Government had the foresight to take time by the forelock. I think Members in all parts of the House, whilst some of them may have been suspicious of the working parties, feel that they did a good job of work and that the information which has been available to us should be the prelude to some better organisation in the less successful industries. In respect of furniture, pottery, mining, china clay, hosiery and cotton we were given an indication that the Government took the view that there might be set up with some useful results, development councils which would have some limited statutory power, and we had hoped that by this time greater progress could have been reported on what had been done in industry along those lines. The position today is that unfortunately, apart from the cotton industry, little seems to have been achieved. In fact, we have had great and responsible organisations like the T.U.C. criticising the Government for the delay in implementing the Act and bringing in development councils.
I think in this connection it is useful to remind ourselves of what the then President of the Board of Trade, who is now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said. He said that in considering development councils it was much better to have the good will and the co-operation of all sections rather than to have any kind of compulsion, and rather than to have these new bodies imposed upon industry. The Government said that this was not a first step in the process of nationalising the industries which were then under consideration. I do not think that that point of view was altogether accepted by some of the leaders of industry. As their conduct has since shown they have fought shy of the proposal which was put forward by this Government in a sincere desire not to be a sort of "nosy-parker" in their affairs, not to set up a bureaucracy, but to help the less successful industries and less successful units in industries to have the advantage of the 35 experience of the better organised and more efficient units. It was not a prelude to any process of taking industries over in a nationalised form.
Up to the present we have failed to get the co-operation for which the Government hoped. On 19th July I read an article by the industrial correspondent of "The Times," directing attention to the slight progress which had been made in the setting up of the development councils. That was followed by a letter written by Sir Frederick Bain, who I think occupies a distinguished position as President of the Federation of British Industries, asking that in this matter of setting up development councils there should be a great measure of flexibility, and pointing out some of the difficulties which presented themselves to the minds of industrialists. We know that under the Industrial Organisation and Development Act it is proposed to have representation—I think majority representation—from the employers and the employees in the industry, with a certain amount of representation from so-called independent people outside the industry who can be considered useful because they [have special knowledge, to cooperate With the men whose business it is to run the industry.
The proposals in the letter of Sir Frederick Bain to which I have referred, seemed to show that some industrialists would prefer to retain advisory bodies without independent representation. I hope it will be understood that the Government would not accept that proposal if it meant that there was no statutory backing. The Government, surely, take the view that apart from the interests of the employers and the employees in industry, there is an overriding social interest in this matter, and that the standing and the efficiency of industry is a matter of vital concern to the great mass of the people apart from those immediately concerned in the industry.
I want to ask the President of the Board of Trade, whom we are very glad to see here this afternoon, what progress has been made in the setting up of the development councils in respect, for example, of the pottery industry. An approach has been made to both sides of the industry to consider the setting up of a development council, but, despite 36 repeated promises that we should hear something of a definite nature, up to the moment we are without information. The workers at least are getting anxious and a little impatient at the delay. I dare say when the President comes to reply he will tell us that he has been seeking the good will of the employers in this matter, and that they have put before the employees and possibly before the Government alternative proposals, such as those referred to by Sir Frederick Bain, for the setting up of some sort of advisory body. I think that the pottery employers fear this thing which they describe as bureaucracy.
In North Staffordshire we have an industry, the pottery industry, which is highly localised. About three-quarters of the producing units of pottery, china and earthenware in this country before the war were localised in North Staffordshire. It is an industry where there is a great deal of family tradition. It is an industry which has grown up from small beginnings, an industry in which there was and still is a high degree of craftsmanship. It is somewhat isolated from other parts of the country. For these reasons I should say that it lends itself especially to the setting up of a development council, because in the 300 factories or so there is great variety in the standard of production and in the methods which are employed. Some of the modern factories have a great deal of experience to give to the less efficient units in the industry. I know very well that in common with many industries providing consumer goods today, there is a good market for our products; there is no difficulty in selling our fine wares, and we have made a real contribution in our export sales.
I think that the President of the Board of Trade will acknowledge the great contribution which has been made by the pottery industry in the present difficult economic position in which the country finds itself, but it does not need much gift of prophecy to say that this condition may not continue indefinitely and that we should do everything possible now to put our house in order against the time when competition will be found increasingly keen, and when, as before the war, there will be many other people besides the fine British potters to provide for the business of the world.
37 I want us to use the opportunity within the limited resources at our disposal for investment and for the provision of new capital equipment, and to have this new body, a development council, which will provide a channel through which the workers in the industry will be able richly to contribute out of their experience to joint consultation on problems which confront the industry. I know that in the pottery industry what is called a popular canvas took place some time ago whether it wanted an industrial council, and we are told that overwhelmingly the idea was rejected. I do not think it is any unfair criticism of my friends in Staffordshire to say that we are fond of running our own show and we do not like other people "nosy-parkering" and coming in trying to tell us our business.
I feel that there has been built up in the past amongst the best firms an invaluable experience and I am sure the workers themselves, who are demanding, through their organised trade unions, the setting up of development councils and who are somewhat impatient at the delay in setting up the councils, will not be satisfied with an advisory council, because they have had some experience of this kind of organism in times gone by. It has meant that when they discussed matters with the employers, in the absence of statutory backing those meetings became sometimes a complete waste of time. Resolutions were passed in a pious kind of way and very little has resulted. The workers had expected from a Labour Government—and they did a great deal in my area to put it into power—that a firm line should be taken on this matter. While we recognise the value of getting the good will of all who usually take part in the industry, we feel that any attitude of laissez faire or any attitude of allowing people to go along in the old fashioned way and cashing in while the going is good while refusing to accept modern ideas in respect of accountancy, salesmanship, statistics and the organisation laid down in the Schedule of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, will not do.
I hope, after these few halting words, we may hear something definite on this subject this afternoon, not because I, as an individual, am most anxious about it, but because, when the country is faced with great economic problems, as it is today, when we have 38 this job of bridging the gap and when we hear exhortations to the workers to work harder, it is most important that there should be no weakening upon this matter. I know some of my hon. Friends would say that it is a very weak-kneed arrangement to set up development councils. Why not nationalise the industry out and out? If the industrialists are not so enlightened as to recognise in this friendly Government that there is some help forthcoming to aid them in getting upon their feet why not take the proper sort of action and deal with these industries in a more radical fashion? There are many of my colleagues who take that point of view.
I must say that I am surprised that many people whom I regard as enlightened people in the pottery industry regard some parts of the perfectly innocuous Measure to which I have referred as something of which to be frightened. The workers, as I have said, want to hear something definite and I hope this afternoon that we shall not continue to preach to them to work harder when, after all, we can produce more and better by setting our industrial houses in order. Our workers are doing a grand job of work whether miners, pottery workers, textile workers or whoever they are, and they are getting fed up with this instruction to work harder when there are so many obvious things that can be done within the industry itself to give us better results. This is a line which the Government can pursue with advantage.
I hope some of my hon. Friends from other parts of the country who have more intimate knowledge of the woolen, textile, and furniture industries will give us the benefit of their valuable experience, and help me in persuading the Government to give us some news of when they expect to be in a position to tell us that they propose to introduce these development councils into this well-known industry.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Titterington
I understood that we were limited to half an hour's Debate on the matter under review.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I hope the hon. Gentleman and others will not consider themselves too free.
§ Mr. Titterington
You know, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I do not require your admonition on that particular point because all I propose to do is to submit some corroborative evidence in the form of a series of observations in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. Edward Davies), and I propose to limit myself to two or three minutes in putting them forward.
I want to refer to the wool textile industry, an industry which at its maximum represents something like 250,000 workpeople of diverse occupations, qualities and abilities. The industry has great aggregations of capital. There are also a large number of independent firms. During the 1914–18 war, circumstances warranted the formation of a wool control in this country to carry through the aims and objects which the then Government had in view, and we had particular forms of consultation between the various organisations and interests. That form of wool control in 1914–18 gave us a cumulative type of experience, and it was the foundation of the form of wool control which was organised during the recent world war.
Following the 1914–18 war we were confronted by a series of reactions. Investigation committees were set up, in which some of us participated, when the industry reverted to private enterprise, private profit, private gain and private incentives. During the last war we had the form of control which I am sure to some extent eliminated these disabilities, and demonstrated that we had the full co-operation of all elements in the industry, that is to say, the employers, the employees and the Government, each of whom represented their varied interests. My hon. Friend raised the question of the forms of organisation which we should seek, and stressed the setting up of further development councils. Following the 1914–18 war, we did have joint industrial councils for consultative purposes, but those of us who were on them were 40 not involved in administration, rehabilitation or the application of technical improvements. In these circumstances, following the second world war, we have a firm foundation for development councils, and all these development councils should represent four-party interests—the employers, the employees, the Government for the consumers, and education and technical research interests. I hope naturally that the high technological developments in which we all share in various parts of the country and which have been inaugurated by the Government will also be considered.
Briefly, the point I want to make is a matter of practical application. We have to reorganise our industrial resources to the maximum amount of their capacity to achieve those things for which the Government stand and to rehabilitate the country at its former level of civilisation and achievement. We cannot do that without the maximum co-operation of, all the parties concerned, and we have got to realise now that, while in the first world war, there was a prevailing amount of individual employment, individual enterprise and individual capital, individualism today under modern capitalism has so developed that the industry is largely concentrated and a large number of small firms are now concerned in the aggregations of capital. We have taken out of the wool textile industry that purely personal proprietorship and interference with industry. Now we have representative boards, organisations and firms which represent a phase of collectivism, which means that the industry is run in the interests of all. In other words, the boards, managements, directors, technicians, and employees are servants of the industry and the industry itself is the servant of the State and the community.
For these cogent reasons and because of my practical experience in the textile industry. I have the greatest possible pleasure in supporting the observations of my hon. Friend in the hope that the President of the Board of Trade will be able to assure us today that development councils will be instituted at a not-too-far-distant date.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
It speaks well for the admirable restraint of hon. Members this afternoon that the 41 spacious time at their disposal has not been fully availed of. As a consequence of that I feel we should bear in mind many of the arguments which all of us would like to bring to bear on this subject, and I have no doubt that the young, virile, agile President of the Board of Trade, who has the advantage of youth and imagination, will respond with alacrity to the suggestions that have come from these benches. I am particularly interested in the subject though I have not as great a personal interest as my hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. Edward Davies), but I represent a contiguous industrial constituency which is gravely concerned in the welfare of the Potteries and the immediate district, because from Newcastle-under-Lyme are drawn in fair measure some of the workers for the industries in those areas.
I claim no particular technical knowledge but it can truthfully be said that the pottery industry has rendered yeoman service to this country and has worked under the most terrible conditions and often in evil surroundings. The town of Stoke-upon-Trent houses over a quarter of a million people—and they are very wonderful people—and like much of North Staffordshire it is covered by a perpetual pall of black smoke. It was built many years ago under a capitalist system, which, as hon. Gentlemen opposite will appreciate, was a type of system against which we on these benches fought. Like hundreds of other similar areas it sprang up willy-nilly with separate, badly organised pottery organisations. There are extremes. On the one hand, there is the magnificent works of Wedgewood, at Barlaston, which is an example of our industrial efficiency, and on the other, by contrast, some of the most miserable and abject works. I do not know what actual term to apply to them but I might call them pot banks which are a disgrace to any industrial country.
In the industry for the most part there has been industrial peace. That is because the workers are particularly proud of their craft in the potteries and because female labour has been exploited. Today the workers are responding magnificently to the call made to export as much as possible and their achievement has been an outstanding one. They still harbour a certain amount of resentment that they 42 are not being treated adequately and properly, and the result is that they are having to work under conditions which are often more suitable for moles than human beings. There are, of course, different types of employers varying from "not so good" to "better" employers, and because of these factors there is a certain amount of depression amongst the workers. They look to the Government, and in particular to a Labour Government, to do all they can. Many promises have been made by the Labour Government—[Interruption.] Yes, and fulfilled in great part, much to their credit—and the workers look to the Government to modernise this industry and to make it adequate technically and generally efficient.
I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given a figure of £1,620,000 as being the limit of our capital expenditure for last year, and that we are to look to something like £2,000 million on capital expenditure this year. The President of the Board of Trade must be in consultation from time to time with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask for more money for capital development, particularly insofar as it affects export, so there is a good opportunity for building up an efficient and modern pottery industry. Unfortunately, we should have to tear down the greater part of the present ramshackle industrial potworks in order to make the industry really efficient, though I am sure that British pottery will bear comparison with pottery in any other part of the world.
At the present time there is a danger of a contracting market. I agree that we must not be misled by the situation today that we can export pottery to any part of the world, but the fact remains that the market is contracting. The Japanese are now able to produce, as they did before the war, pottery of good quality and at much cheaper rates than we can. What encouragement have our people, unless we can give them a real live thrust, coming from the President of the Board of Trade? I know that my right hon. Friend has been to Stoke-upon-Trent some months ago and has seen the situation for himself. He will understand, I am sure, that the injunctions we are trying to give him are in order to achieve something that he wants to see accomplished. In regard to the goods which 43 are available in the shops, may I point out that if we go to Grimsby we do not see very much fish and if we do see fish we have to pay a lot for it. In the same way, if we go to Stoke-upon-Trent or other places in North Staffordshire we do not get more pottery than in other parts of the country. Nevertheless, people want these things in greater degree, partly to give them incentive to work harder and to brighten their lives.
We have heard that there is a certain amount of resentment amongst the organised workers. Bless my soul, I have in mind an industrialist in my own constituency. He always seems to have a complant against the alleged inefficiency and the inadequacy of the Government. Anyone with a captious mind, and a certain type of political outlook, could find fault with the Government, who have been a little remiss in certain respects. The overall picture however shows that the Government are very much concerned to stimulate industries in all parts of the country. The result has been to create in the minds of the workers a certain amount of dissatisfaction with the Government. I know that Governments are there to be got at and Ministers have to be shot at. We must therefore exercise forbearance, but the Labour Government has a special interest to improve the working conditions of every industry as quickly as possible and to make those industries as efficient as possible.
I do not regard the setting up of a development council as Government interference. If my right hon. Friend has an equal number of employers and employees, and his own direct representatives on the development council as well as a certain number of independent people, that will be an important step. I view with a great degree of suspicion the somewhat cryptic word "independent." I do not recognise literally that term. There are very few people without some degree of bias. Therefore, the people who are appointed as "independents" ought to be considered very carefully. The object of a development council is to develop and not to retard. The sooner the Government give a clear clarion call to our industry to show the workers that they are watching everything and are doing all that is possible, having regard to their commitments, the sooner will the 44 workers realise that the Labour Government are very serious about the promises they have made to improve conditions in the industry.
I, therefore, appeal to my right hon. Friend to look more closely into the matter and, as soon as possible—if he cannot do so this afternoon—to give us at the first available opportunity information what his Department is doing so that we may know that they are facing the problem fairly and squarely. We hope that they are determined to improve the life and working conditions of the working class people of this country, than whom there is no finer body of people in the world.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Back Benchers are in the unusual and luxurious position of having unlimited time at their disposal. It is very fortunate that my hon. Friend selected this subject for this Adjournment Debate and I desire to speak on it for two or three minutes because I should be failing in my duty if I did not do so. I reinforce everything that has been said on this subject, which I regard as of vital importance to the community at the present time.
Unlike previous speakers, who represent constituencies in which there is a predominant industry, I represent a London suburb, a dormitory constituency whose workers go to a multitude of places, some inside the constituency and others elsewhere in London. I am continually being impressed with the very deep concern felt on this subject by everyone, regardless of the industry affected. The home truth is now sinking into our people that our survival as an independent economic nation is at stake. The messages which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is repeatedly addressing to the nation are sinking home. Exhortations are not enough. The people realise that there is an obligation to increase production, and I believe they are desirous of responding wholeheartedly to those exhortations.
Nevertheless, I find that there is a sense of frustration at our failure to provide in some parts of the country the mechanism which enables the workers to make their most useful contribution to the technical efficiency of their factory and industry. Because of that sense of 45 frustration I regard it as of vital importance that the President of the Board of Trade should tell us not only why he thinks that his existing statutory powers are adequate, but also what precise steps ought to be taken in our industries and factories where there is a manifest desire to organise a development council on the part of the workers but a failure of the part of the managements to co-operate.
As a result of three years of Labour Government the workers are, I believe, emerging from the impression that their chief objective is to maintain an outlook of militancy against employers and managements. They are now concerned to co-operate with employers and managements, given the appropriate organisation and machinery for securing technical improvement in their factories and industries. Without that organisation we cannot, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer and His Majesty's Government are repeatedly reminding us, increase the production of this country or escape from the bondage of financial dependence upon a foreign Power.
It is because the application of that principle is not clear and because people do not understand what ought to be done to enable them to respond to the appeals from the Government, that this Adjournment Debate will serve a most useful and valuable purpose at this critical stage. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will say something which will go out to the people in the factories and industries and which will show them how they should deal with this acute problem.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I wish to draw the attention of the House to a matter of some urgency. I am sorry that I have not been able to give proper notice to the Secretary of State for War, but I hope that what I shall say in this Debate will be conveyed to him through the OFFICIAL REPORT, and that it will lead to some change in the policy of the War Office towards soldiers with very long terms of service, and who have been evicted from the barracks at Ayr and their property thrown out upon the street
I wish to point out that at a time when the Leader of the House has appealed to Members of the House to join in a recruiting campaign for His Majesty's 46 Forces it is a very bad example indeed for the War Office to be evicting from the barracks at Ayr four people who have given the greater part of their lives to their King and country and who have been thrown upon the street as a result of the policy of the War Office towards people living in married quarters in barracks. I have already drawn the attention of the Secretary of State for War—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but it might be for the convenience of the House if he would defer discussion of the fresh matters to which he has referred until at any rate the end of the subject which we have been discussing.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I shall not detain the House very long. As previous speakers have said, we are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. Edward Davies) for raising the issue of pottery development councils. When one looks at the magnificent efforts of North Staffordshire in the production of pottery between the end of the war and now, one can be very proud of the men and manufacturers, and of the experts in all branches of the industry, including the sanitary and tile side of it, because of their achievements.
I have been looking at the Trade and Navigation Accounts for July while my hon Friend the Member for Burslem was speaking. In 1938 the average monthly export of pottery products was somewhere in the neighbourhood of £336.4 thousands. In 1947, as a result of co-operation in the industry and understanding between the union and the management, that figure had jumped up to £1.4 million. In 1948 it had reached £1.89 million, and now at the end of the first seven months of 1948 we see that this little island of industry in North Staffordshire has exported some £11,523,828 worth of products all over the world to help Britain to get her bread and butter.
I contend that an industry exporting that amount is of paramount importance to the economic welfare of Britain. If I am right in my contention, I believe that it is an industry which deserves attention from the Ministry. I know that it has had 47 co-operation from the Board of Trade. All of us who are Members of Parliament for North Staffordshire have on different occasions been to the President of the Board of Trade and received the co-operation of the Minister and his civil servants in helping to develop the industry in this district, but so far as development councils are concerned, we want now to know exactly where the Ministry stands.
I am informed—I stand to be corrected—that the Pottery Workers Union stand foursquare behind this idea of a development council for the industry, and in doing so they demand that some of the producers of these artistic products should have some say in the control of the production. I should not be exaggerating if I said that one of the best advertisements of the technical and artistic skill of Britain is her pottery. Only this morning I landed in this country after a trip in France—not for a holiday but to try to fathom the political situation. Since I have been living in North Staffordshire it has been my custom, whether I have been in the Far East or in my mother country, Wales, to turn over my cup and saucer and see where they were produced. Even in the South of France the names of famous North Staffordshire look turn up on British pottery. I look at the pottery and feel proud of the craftsmanship put into that clay which represents the spirit of this little island of industry which we call the Potteries. I therefore hope that the maximum facilities will be given to the experts in this industry to give advice to the Minister and his servants so that the industry will be able to exceed its already excellent figures for export.
I have not the time to develop it, but while we are talking of the pottery industry I would also like the Minister to emphasise his attitude, if it is at all possible this afternoon, towards the tile industry and the relationship of that industry to the present building programme. Only about five weeks ago a friend of mine in the tile industry wrote to me about the difficulties he now had in finding markets for some of his tiles even in our own country.
This is just an aside. I would like to ask the President of the Board of Trade when he next comes to North Stafford- 48 shire to remember not only this great pottery industry, but also that not very far away in my own constituency, which covers pottery and textiles, we have the silk and rayon industries which have problems very similar to those which are now cropping up in the pottery industry in North Staffordshire.
I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) pay a tribute to the North Staffordshire people. As an individual who is interested in art and who has very modestly helped at different times to teach people something about art, I would like to say that I have never found anywhere in the British Isles a higher standard of artistic talent than there is among the children of North Staffordshire. By way of technical schools and various methods of linking up the industry to the educational system, that artistic talent comes out in our pottery and tile exports and our designs, and every Britisher wherever he may be in the world can always be proud of the North Staffordshire pottery industry, whatever firm may put its stamp on that piece of ware. Therefore, I beg the Minister to give us some concrete idea about the position as it is today and let us know how soon he hopes to get some galvanic action so far as this development council for North Staffordshire is concerned.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)
I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. Edward Davies) for having raised this question this evening. I am delighted that the time available has made it possible for so many of my hon. Friends to join in the Debate and to support the remarks he made, with which I am in very full agreement. I know he will understand when I say how much I regret that I am not in a position to give any very clear answer to the questions he has put about a development council in relation to the pottery industry, but I would like to say a word or two about the discussions which have been held with a view to the establishment of a development council in that industry.
Before I do that, I would like to join him and also my hon. Friends the Mem- 49 ber for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) and the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) in what they have said in paying tribute to the great effort made by the pottery industry in its production and export efforts, particularly during the past few months. In March, when I visited Stoke I set a target for the industry, and in launching the production drive, I pressed both sides for a very big immediate increase in production. The industry has made tremendous efforts and has secured very satisfactory export results. We know that in many markets it is no fault of the industry that it is not selling more than it actually is; it is, in fact, due to some of the difficulties about import restrictions and currency restrictions abroad. I would also like to say how much I welcome the steps which the industry is now taking to modernise and re-equip itself, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme said, is one of the most urgent and important things facing the industry at the present time. I can tell him that I have written to the pottery industry only in the last few days saying that the Government entirely endorse the industry's re-equipment and modernisation programme and will give every assistance in carrying through that programme.
Turning to the development council, as my hon. Friends know discussions with both sides for the establishment of a development council were proceeding in a very constructive and amicable way last autumn. The Board of Trade had prepared draft heads of an order which both sides were studying. Then suddenly two or three days before I had to go to Russia for the trade discussions I heard that the employers' federation were calling on their members to pass a formal resolution rejecting the whole of the draft order. I immediately asked the president of the federation to come up and discuss the matter before the federation had this resolution before them. Following those discussions, we revised the draft order in certain particulars on lines which I hoped might make it more acceptable to the manufacturers, and following that, as I have already told my hon. Friend in answer to a Question which he put down some little time ago, there was some considerable delay owing to the illness of the president of the 50 federation and my desire not to proceed in this matter without the fullest consultation with the president and his colleagues.
Then when further discussions were resumed in the spring, as my hon. Friend knows only too well, the union informed me that in spite of having previously taken a very strong line on this matter—standing, as my hon. Friend said, foursquare behind the idea of a development council—they were at this time in negotiation with the employers on the basis of a non-statutory advisory council. Shortly after I had invited the two sides to see if they could reach agreement on a suitable body which I would then have to examine, I gather that a full meeting of the executive of the union decided to instruct the secretary to withdraw his letter stating that they were in favour of an advisory council and again to press for a full development council.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether the new attitude of the union was not due to the delay in setting up the development council? Had they not all this time become a little sceptical of ever having a development council and were thus prepared to listen for the time being to the other proposal?
§ Mr. Wilson
I have no idea what motives led them to cool off from their original desire for a development council; I can only record the facts as they were presented to me. I am quite sure that the union would have endorsed the line I took, that I did not want to force the pace in this matter in the absence of the chief officer of the federation with whom it was essential to negotiate. Since that time, as my hon. Friend has said, the union have stood foursquare for a development council. Further discussions have taken place. The pottery employers have prepared an alternative scheme and, in all fairness, it was right that the union should be asked to consider that alternative scheme before I was able to go further with my own discussions.
The result of that stage of the negotiations is still that the pottery employers declare themselves as irrevocably opposed either to the establishment of a council under the Act or to any executive functions being given to any non- 51 statutory body which might be established. Equally, on the other side, the union are implacably opposed to the establishment of any body which is not scheduled in the Act and which does not possess the functions set out in the draft order submitted to both sides of the industry earlier this year. That is the position at the moment, and in view of that position and the fact that discussions are still proceeding, I do not feel that it would be very helpful at this stage to say anything definite about what I expect to happen in the course of the next few weeks, but I promise my hon. Friend that I will keep him and the House very fully informed of the progress of the negotiations and will do all I can from now on to speed up some settlement of this long overdue and extremely urgent matter.
Since my hon. Friend and other hon. Members have referred to the question of development councils in other industries, I think it is right that I should spend a few moments reviewing the working of the Act and the progress we have made in other industries. As the House well knows, in the cotton industry the Cotton Board has now been set up as a development council under the 1947 Act. It is working extremely successfully and I commend to those in other industries who have any doubts about the value of development councils the record of the Cotton Board in the past few months and hope that they will study the work of that Board a little more carefully before they come with some of the fantastic remarks which they present to me from time to time about how they think a development council would operate in their own industry.
As to the furniture industry—one of my hon. Friends referred to this—our proposals for a development council order for this industry were published as a White Paper in the middle of August. They had been accepted in principle already by both sides of the industry. We have asked now for detailed comments on the draft order by the end of this month, and I hope to be able to lay the final order before this House for approval at the beginning of next Session. I see no reason at all why this order should not come into effect, and the council be functioning, by the end of this year.
52 The position is somewhat similar in jewellery, where our proposals for a development council order were published as a White Paper at the same time. Here again they have been accepted in principle by the main trade associations and the union, but have not been accepted in principle by the Sheffield organisations, chiefly because of the feeling which regrettably exists between the Yorkshire side of the industry and the rest of the country. Here again, however, we have asked for comments on the draft order by the end of this month.
In china clay I met both sides of the industry a fortnight ago and put to them our ideas of how a development council, as opposed to the advisory council for which the employers pressed, might work in this industry. We hope to have further discussions with them in the near future. In the case of the jute industry also, we have drawn the attention of the two sides of the industry to the recommendations of the working party report, and we shall be having further discussions with them also in the near future.
I must admit that I would like to have seen this matter proceed more quickly. I would like to have seen development councils established in a number of other industries, but I have made it my rule over the past year, wherever possible, to try to proceed by agreement with both sides of each industry. I have not been desirous of forcing the pace, or at least, so far, of using the powers conferred on me under the Act for proceeding where there is no agreement, unless I really feel there is no hope of getting a council established by agreement with both sides. However, I must now frankly inform the House that there are still a number of industries, like pottery, where the two sides are sharply divided on this question. In addition to pottery, there is hosiery, wool, clothing and cutlery, and in each of these the trade union side has declared itself wholeheartedly in favour of a development council. The employers have declared themselves equally strongly against a development council.
In the case of wool, to which my hon. Friend the Member for South Bradford (Mr. Titterington) referred, like him I am anxious to see a development council established. Discussions are still proceeding between the two sides on the details of some appropriate body for the industry 53 under the chairmanship of Sir Richard Hopkins, who was the chairman of the wool working party and who completely won the confidence of both sides in his handling of the problems which were before that working party. I hope to have his report in a week or two, but until I have it, naturally there is nothing I can say to the House.
In the case of the other industries, I am quite sure the House will agree that we cannot delay some settlement of this problem for very much longer. The intention of the House in passing the Industrial Organisation and Development Act a little over a year ago was quite clear. I think the House, which passed this Act without a Division, felt that there were many important common services which could be provided by a development council; that councils could function in a large number of industries in order to increase the general efficiency of the industry, and, in particular, to bring up the level of efficiency of the least efficient firms to something nearer the efficiency of those at present running more satisfactorily. I am sure equally that it was the wish of hon. Members in all parts of the House that, having got this Act, the Government should try to proceed by agreement wherever possible, but the House gave me powers under Section 1 (4) of the Act to establish a council even where there was a division of opinion within the industry, provided I was satisfied that the establishment of a development council for the industry was desired by a substantial number of persons engaged in the industry. In appropriate cases where I am satisfied that a development council is needed in the industry, and that a substantial number of those engaged in it desire to see one established, I should certainly have no hesitation in bringing the necessary order before the House, even though I failed to get the agreement of all concerned in the industry.
I still hope it will be possible to reach agreement in all outstanding cases, but I ought to make it clear to the House that I am not prepared to carry this desire of mine to proceed by agreement to the point where any sudden outburst of opposition by a group—even a majority group on the employers' side—leads to pressure for a non-statutory rather than 54 a statutory body. In more than one industry employers who were at one stage in favour of a development council, and who were co-operating in working out the details of one, have suddenly become strongly opposed to it and have not, in every case, been able to advance good reasons for their change of attitude.
It has been my view that their opposition in certain cases has proceeded from a misunderstanding of the purpose of the Act or of the way in which development councils would operate. In some cases there has undoubtedly been a political flavour about the opposition. Individual employers, or the trade association concerned, have formed the view that when the House passed this Act and blessed this idea of development councils, it was with the idea of creating half-way houses towards nationalisation. I am sure, as my hon. Friend said in his opening speech this evening, and as hon. Members on the other side of the House who voted for this Measure will agree, there was never any intention in any part of the House in passing this Act to create halfway houses towards nationalisation. However, if I were to give way now to political or doctrinaire opposition of this kind, I am quite sure that I would be regarded by the House as failing to carry out the intentions of the House as set out in the Act.
I think there are one or two industries where the opposition to development councils has come from the trade associations concerned, or from the paid officers of those associations, because of the mistaken view that the establishment of a development council would remove the need for a trade association, and would make the trade association secretariat redundant. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. I should certainly wish to make use of any development council that was established for the purpose of obtaining advice on the problems of the industry, as I do almost every week in the case of the Cotton Board, but experience of that Board has shown that the establishment of a development council in that industry in no way weakens the position of the trade association on either side of the industry and it certainly does not in any way affect the right of those trade associations on both sides of the industry to make their representations direct to the Government. In fact, I am seeing a number of trade 55 associations from the cotton industry tomorrow, and the establishment of a development council there has in no way affected the degree of contact and consultation which we have with the trade associations.
Then, again, I think in certain cases there is a fear that the establishment of a development council would involve intervention on the part of the Government—which is a fantastic notion in this connection—or on the part of the development council or its secretariat in the running or management of individual firms. Again, this is a completely wrong-headed notion, derived either from a misreading of the Act or, more likely, from the fact that the Act has not been read at all. The Industrial Organisation and Development Act was an enabling Measure. It does not involve the establishment of a development council in every industry. It allows freedom in industries to reach agreement on appropriate bodies of an alternative character to a statutory development council, but there are very many industries in this country where I am convinced that a body on the lines of a development council, set up under the Act, would be highly appropriate and highly beneficial to the industry concerned—to those who work in it, to those who live by it, and to those who consume its products.
I believe that there are a number of industries which could agree tomorrow on the constitution of an appropriate body, and could agree on the functions of a suitable council, but who have some kind of inhibition about its being scheduled under the Act. Even though they might have no disagreement on the form of the council, its method of operations or its functions, they have some difficulty, which frankly I cannot understand, about the very fact of the council being established under the terms of an Act of Parliament. It is in the hope of getting over these difficulties and inhibitions, as well as of continuing our discussions on points of constitution and on the functions of these bodies, that negotiations are continuing with the industries concerned. I hope they will lead to a mutually advantageous and statesmanlike settlement of the problems still outstanding by those concerned on both sides of industry.
56 However, I am sure the House will agree with me that we have now practically reached the point where decisions will have to be taken and, in default of agreement between the two sides of industry, those decisions fall, under the Act, to be decided by the Government. As long as there is still hope that the two sides in these industries may agree on something acceptable to the Government and to the House, it would be wrong for me today to prejudice the position in any of those industries by saying anything more, but I can at least tell my hon. Friend and all concerned in these industries that if in the last resort the decision has to be taken by the Government, then that decision will be taken industry by industry, in the light of the conditions and needs of each industry, and with full regard to the needs of our national economic situation and of the need for maximum efficiency in productive industry. However, it will similarly be taken with full regard to all the considerations which this House had in mind when the Industrial Organisation and Development Act was passed a little over a year ago.