§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
Those of us who have taken part in these Debates on manpower over the past three years have, I think, had three main inspirations. In the first place, we believe that the proper distribution of manpower is the primary test of our economic effort. Secondly, we consider that the statistical information given to us should be considered 569 objectively and constructively; and, thirdly, that we should face, and not flinch from facing, the logical consequences of these statistics and fearlessly express our views upon them. It is in that spirit that I approach them again this year.
The first point I wish to bring to the notice of the House is the effect of the new statistics, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour will not hesitate to interpose if I have misunderstood them in any way. I trust that I have not. But, as I see the position at mid-year 1948, the new basis shows a working population of 23,146,000 as compared with the old basis of 20,286,000. In other words, there is a difference of 2,860,000. As I understand it, adjustments have to be made, first of all, for pensioners remaining at work, namely, 750,000 men and 250,000 women; 500,000 domestic servants and 800,000 part-time workers who are now treated as whole units instead of half units on the old basis making the figure 400,000. That gives us roughly 1,900,000 and leaves the million that has come into the figures and which has been described in various quarters as "the missing million."
The difference, as I understand it, is caused by the fact that the new figures are based on the National Insurance figures instead of those under the Unemployment Insurance Acts. If that is the position—I have apparently stated it correctly—it raises a point which should be one of some gratification to us all, because there was a tendency a year or two ago to suggest that that number represented spivs or drones and the people who were not doing an effective job either for their country or for themselves. It is clear from the new figures that the explanation of the missing million was that there were people who had reached the upper insurance limit and had got outside the net of the Unemployment Insurance Acts, and that the explanation was not that there was a large pool of idlers in the country, but that there was necessarily a large element of guesswork in our figures when we got beyond a certain basis of the annual count of the Unemployment Insurance Acts.
The second point about which we feel some diffidence is the question of the 570 future accuracy of the new figures. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the point, and that it is one of some substance. In the old days, the Unemployment Insurance cards changed every 5th July. Therefore, the whole field was covered on 5th July, and we knew up to that point that we were right. In the future, with the National Insurance set-up, the cards will be changed quarterly, and only one-quarter of the working population will be involved in this change. Although the Ministry say —and I am sure they will do their best to see that it is so—that that will be a representative quarter, it will not be a complete check; it will only be a quarterly estimate. I suggest for the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman that at any rate to begin with, until we get the new system working, he should not only give us the quarterly estimate but should show, with full particulars, the size and distribution of each quarterly sample. Otherwise it will be difficult for those of us who are interested to judge the accuracy of the estimate.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman think it possible that the Ministry could give us a more accurate quarterly statement and also make an annual statement based on four quarterly statements so as to put us back in the old position which existed before 5th July?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Certainly; I add that to my suggestion.
My third point on the statistics is, I think, one of great importance. There are serious disadvantages in a break in continuity in figures at a time—and I believe this view is shared by hon. Members in all quarters—when I think the best use of the civilian working population is most important and, indeed, is the best test of our economic policy. May I take, as an illustration, the public service group? I shall deal with the trend in a moment. I ask the Committee to consider the figures which are at the foot of Table 18 on page 31 of the Economic Survey. They show a total under this head of 2,230,000. That is made up of Civil Service, Other National Government, and Local Government. In the new series on page 32 there is a group of public administration made up of National Government Service, 694,000, 571 and Local Government Service, 776,000 —a total of 1,470,000. It is true that there is a note to this effect:The figures for National and Local Government Service are, in particular, different in a number of respects: e.g. in this table the Post Office has been transferred to Communications, and the Police and Fire Service have been moved from National to Local Government Services. The National Government figures do not correspond to the figures for Civil Service Manpower issued by the Treasury.We see the effect of that—and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree—in that the figures for transport and shipping are up by 350,000, and they include the Post Office transferred to Communications.
The result is this, and this is a difficulty which, judging from the last Debate, is felt in every quarter of the House: with the new figures and with the break in continuity it will be impossible to ascertain accurately the number of those engaged in management and administration and for the people of the country to know with any accuracy whether the management and administration of the country is top-heavy or not. That is a matter which it is the duty of all of us to consider and, of course, it is especially the duty of the Opposition for the time being to consider it.
The seriousness of this point will be displayed when I come to the expectations and realities of the changes in the Public Service group. From a point of view of manpower, the most serious aspect of the 1949 Economic Survey is that the Government are really giving up the idea that there is an urgent necessity for improving the distribution of manpower. I think the House will agree with me that that is not my opinion alone. I shall take three quotations to cover the field in general in order to show how that opinion is shared. The first is from "The Times" leading article of 16th of this month, which said:The Survey looks forward to no significant change in the distribution of workers between different occupations. The shifts that took place last year were almost everywhere smaller than forecast and the modest expectations for this year no doubt reflect a prudent sense of the difficulty of moving workers about according to plan.572 Next, I take "The New Statesman" for 19th March. It says:Little enough has been done in the way of redistributing manpower and no reliance can be placed on securing much greater output by this means."The Economist" of the same date said:Coal production, for example, was disappointing and manpower stolidly refused either to leave the industries that were planned to contract or enter in sufficient numbers the industries to expand.The article goes on in the same way.
I invite all hon. Members to remember the very serious words introducing the proposed redistribution of manpower in paragraph 128 of the "Economic Survey" for 1947, where it was stated that the redistribution was needed to carry out the economic objectives of the Government, and the even stronger statement in the Economic Survey for 1948:But the Labour forces proposed for coal, agriculture and textiles are targets in the full sense. They are the numbers believed to be required to reach specific objectives in the set of output and export targets decided for 1948. The attainment of these manpower targets is among the first necessities in 1948.When one sees that not only has there been complete failure to reach these targets, but that there is apparently no urgency at the present time to see that the improvements which have not been made should be made, one is left wondering very much, and the House will require a serious reply as to either a change of policy or a surrender of effort, because it cannot be based on successes up to date.
I propose to limit what I have to say on this point to four categories—public service, coal, agriculture and textiles. I should take public service first. I am sorry to inflict figures on the House, but they are essential if we are to understand the problem which I am putting before hon. Members. At the end of 1946 there were 2,130,000 employed in the Public Service group. In 1947, at about the time when we held this corresponding Debate, on 19th March, the Government had just issued their estimate for the improvement for 1947, and they estimated that they would reduce the number in the public service group to 2,050,000—a reduction of 80,000. At the end of 1947 the actual number was 2,172,000—an increase of 42,000 instead of the hoped-for reduction of 80,000. In 1948 there was a more modest problem set, and the estimated figure was 2,150,000; that is, a reduction 573 of 22,000 from the figure that existed at the end of 1947. Again, the actual figure at the end of 1948 was 2,230,000, a rise of 80,000 instead of a reduction of 22,000. After that trend over the three years it is somewhat disturbing to find that in 1949 there are no comparable figures and that no target is set or objective set out. That is the position there.
If one takes civil servants alone, there is an increase of 310,000 as compared with 1939; in local government an increase of 300,000; and in other national Government services an increase of 155,000—an increase between 750,000 and 800,000. Yesterday the President of the Board of Trade made a statement about the relaxation of certain controls and the release of another 320—not thousands—but of another 320 civil servants, in addition to the 1,000 previously released after the de-rationing of clothes. Clearly, that is merely scratching the surface of the matter. Here we have a problem, one which has shown itself as getting more difficult each of these years, a failure not only to reach the figure, but on each occasion when the Government have budgeted for a decrease, we find a substantial increase. I say that it is a problem which the House, as the critic and the prodder of Governments, must take into account.
Let me give one example which I dealt with last year. In paragraph 88 of this last Economic Survey it is stated that the total call on manpower for Defence at the end of this yearis estimated to be about 1,465,000, of whom 760.000 will be in the Forces and 255,000 will be non-industrial civil servants in the Defence Departments or industrial staffs not directly engaged on production and research.Last year I asked the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the corresponding figures of 730,000 and 230,000, and the right hon. Gentleman's reply was:The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby drew attention to the proportion of civil to Service personnel in the Services. I was satisfied, when I saw the evidence, that they are clearing up. It takes a long time to clear up accounts and other matters, but the matter is being watched and they will not be kept there longer than is necessary to do the clearing up."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 2415.]That was a year ago. There can be no question of clearing up, because the number has gone up by 25,000. I still find it very difficult to see how we need 574 one civil servant to three uniformed personnel. One knows very well from one's own experience that inside the Services there is what somebody has referred to as "an enormous tail" before one gets to the fighting units. If behind that tail we have one civil servant to every three uniformed men, I say the whole position is one which requires very serious consideration.
§ Mr. Scollan
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that that is the inevitable waste of the military system, and that it has always been the case?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I should like to discuss it with the hon. Gentleman at a more propitious time, because one of my hobbies happens to be military history. I should not have thought that Carnot or Cardwell would necessarily have found that it was as the hon. Member suggests. However, the hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point, and some time we may have a chance of discussing it more fully. There is a point with which we are faced, and I think the hon. Gentleman appreciates it.
It is only fair to take the answer of the Government, and I refer the right hon. Gentleman to paragraph 92. There it is stated that there was a decrease in the Defence Department—there is certainly room for it—the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Food, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Works, but that the extension of the social services gave rise to a net increase of 22,000, which was partly accounted for by transfers from local authorities and approved societies, and which did not constitute an additional call on the nation's manpower. In answer to that I must point again to the steady rise in the total figure far above 22,000–80,000 in the last year. I say that there is a call on manpower. We have only a certain number in our working population. I do say with all seriousness that the time of pious phrases in this regard has come to an end, and that they should be translated into action.
Now I pass to the three basic industries where the problem is the other way—the problem of trying to get an increase. I deal first with coal. I take the total figures because they are set out first. We all appreciate the difference between the two sets of figures. At the end of 1946 there were 730,000 in the coal industry. 575 The estimate for the end of 1937 was 770,000. The actual figure was 758,000. That is, it was short by 12,000. In 1948 the estimate was 790,000, and the actual number 766,000. It was short by 24,000. I hope the House will appreciate this, because this is a serious matter. In 1947 there was a failure to reach the target figure for the coal industry by 30 per cent. of the hoped-for addition. In 1948 there was a failure to reach the target figure by 75 per cent. After that—after these failures—in 1949 there is only a hope expressed that there will be an increase of 10,000. That is, they fail by 12,000 one year and 24,000 the next, and then say they hope only for 10,000. I just do not see how that fits in with the position and with the need for coal.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman allowing for the very high incidence of wastage in the mining industry—70,000 last year?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Certainly one is allowing for that. If the hon. Gentleman will look at the White Paper he will see that that is dealt with, and that broadly—if I may put the position to him—it is hoped to deal with the wastage, which is in the nature of 60,000 to 70,000, partly by the mistrust amongst home workers and partly by getting an increased number of foreign workers. I had that point well in mind. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making it quite clear. It is a point which both the Minister and I have had in mind since first we started these discussions some years ago.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
That is the seriousness of the position. I know that there has been a slight increase and that every increase is to the good in output per man shift, but it is not enough to allow us to dispense with this problem, and the need of coal is still great.
I think that there are three points which the right hon. Gentleman must consider as being of practical help on this subject. There is still the need for publicity and of showing the need for recruitment; there is still a great need of housing in the colliery districts—and, in parenthesis, may I make this point of general economics, as I understand them? I am 576 not committing anyone else, but this is how I understand the position: When one is considering capital investments, such as housing, if it takes in an industry which is essential to our export industries or is a dollar saving industry, like agriculture, then the expenditure on houses which keeps up the manpower for that industry is of direct assistance in dealing with our balance of trade and dollar position. That is how it appears to me, and I do not think that can be watered-down, because I do not believe that we shall get our manpower up to what we want unless we deal with the problem in that way.
The other point is with regard to foreign workers. It is stated in paragraph 89 of the Economic Survey for 1949:The net increase of 8.000 in the number of employed would have been larger if difficulties had not arisen over the recruitment and absorption of all the foreign workers whom it was hoped to place in the industry.I hope that he will be able to tell us about that, because, although I do not want to do anything to endanger negotiations, it is obviously a point on which we shall have to get success.
1 hope that the House will not be bored by a further quotation because I think it is one of the utmost importance. It is a report of the speech of Mr. Bowman, of the National Union of Mineworkers, which he made at the recent Conference of Trade Union Executive Committees. He said:We have just made a joint survey of the manpower needs of the mining industry for 1949. I want to say this to the Conference, that the problems of examining the manpower question is not so much a question of doing the job of the bosses and pairing off individuals here or there; the task is one of securing a balance of manpower at the various factories or the various pits. In this respect, we have found that, in the first 21 months of nationalisation, we have engaged 23,000 people in the mining industry, and only 11,000 of those have found their way to the coal pits and productive work.I do not think that anyone will accuse Mr. Bowman of having any political bias in stating that, and I feel that I must bring it before the House because it is a very serious matter indeed. I believe that it is just as urgent a problem that we should increase manpower in coal as it was in March, 1947, and March, 1948, and I should very much like to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has to say about it.
577 With regard to agriculture, I am in a little difficulty, which the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, in that I have had to group the fishing figures with agriculture, because that was the way in which they were set out in 1947, and I have tried to get a comparable figure in each year. May I, without going into the details, give the result? In 1947, the actual figure was 30,000 short of the target or 75 per cent., and in 1948, it was 21,000 or 35 per cent. Here again, I believe that there are three problems which require urgent consideration and the greatest application. There is again the question of housing which I have mentioned; there is again the question, still urgent, of getting foreign labour; and there is another aspect which I would like the right hon. Gentleman to consider. I hear from a number of individual sources that there is some unreadiness to go into agriculture because of the ringed fence which is still round the industry; the feeling that if they go in they will not get out. I should like to know—because the right hon. Gentleman has not only many other sources of information but has great experience in this matter—whether he has considered that psychological point of view. I am not at all sure when we take the position of agriculture today that it would not be better to set it free and take the ringed fence off.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is suggesting that we should remove the iron fence round agriculture, would he also suggest that the same fence should be removed from the mining industry which people cannot leave?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I was going to make some general remarks afterwards. May I put it this way: I have not had representations with regard to coal mining. I am repeating what has been said to me by people in agriculture, and I should like to hear what other hon. Members have to say, but I shall have something to say about the Control of Engagement Order generally when I come to the end of this particular consideration. I hope then that the hon. Gentleman will ask any point on which he thinks that I can help him. I should like to deal with these three industries because I consider them of such importance.
578 I have dealt with coal and with agriculture, and the other, of course, is textiles. I am missing out the year 1946 and the estimate for 1947 because those figures were grouped with clothing and I was not able to break them down; but at the end of 1947 there were 652,000 people in textiles; in 1948, the estimate was 760,000 and the actual figure, I think, was 670,000. If we classify those figures, in cotton we were short by 38,000, in wool by 14,000 and in other textiles by 18,000. In each case, the shortage was over 60 per cent. of the amount expected. Again, I say that there are three things which ought to be considered. In textiles, we are largely dependent on female labour, and I believe it would be important if we took off the restrictions which exist at the present time on the earnings of widows which affect their widows' pensions. I think that they ought to be given a far higher ceiling than 30s. a week, and that that would have the effect on a small but not inconsiderable class of bringing them back to work.
Secondly, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consult again with his colleague the Minister of Works on whether he cannot speed up the construction of canteens and the making of other improvements in textile factories. Thirdly, I press again-1 did so last year, and I think the Minister agreed with me—that we need especially to get at the school children and young people to try to show them that in the textile industry in the future there will be better conditions and better opportunities than there have been in the past, to try to get them into the industry. I want to make clear that I believe all these- things to be urgent necessities at the present time.
That is the position with regard to these four main groups. In the public service, instead of any reduction there is a continuous rise; and in the three basic industries of coal, agriculture, and textiles, where we hoped for a rise there has in every case been a failure, and a very considerable failure, to achieve it. In these circumstances we are entitled to consider the general policy which the right hon. Gentleman is applying. In order to be perfectly fair, I quote from paragraph 89 of the Economic Survey where the justification is set out and the 579 claim of the Government made. They say:The Control of Management Order was effective in enabling large numbers of workers to be guided into essential work during 1948 without the interference with individual freedom which the widespread use of powers of direction would entail. Only 300 directions had to be issued during the year while 576.000 placings were made in the essential industries granted priority in the supply of labour.In view of the claim that there has not been interference with individual freedom, it seems very doubtful to me whether, when we consider on the other side the publicity campaign, guidance and demonstration, that the background of compulsion is really needed today.
Let me now put to the right hon. Gentleman an experience I had a short time ago at a conference in Brussels. I was endeavouring to get agreement with a number of foreign lawyers on an enforceable convention of human rights. The right hon. Gentleman knows the problem. There has been a declaration, and the next stage is to get an enforceable convention which can be enforced by a European court. I had put forward a short list—and I believe there are a number of reasons for making it short, with as little complication as possible —and in discussing the suggestions from other parts of Europe about including economic and social rights I had to say that in my own country—and in an international gathering I accepted implicitly the Government's decision, although I disagree with it as an internal politician—it is considered an economic necessity that there should be compulsory direction of labour in 1949. Therefore, when considering a list of human rights one has to be extremely cautious about including anything with regard to industrial conscription in time of peace, or forced labour, or anything of that kind. That was not a happy position, as the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate. I think he knows me well enough to know that I would, at any foreign gathering, loyally put the view of the Government of my own country, even if I disagreed with it.
I hope the Minister will think that the time is ripe for reconsideration. I do not want to go over a battlefield on which he and I have fought many times, but I shall never forget his own remark, made I think at the Trades Union Congress, that in his view a directed man was no 580 use to his job, to his companions, or to himself. Therefore, I have tried—and I think the House will bear me out in this —wherever I have criticised, to put forward practical suggestions as to the means by which I think the improvement in this position should be got. I urge that it is a matter of the greatest importance, but I myself feel today that we are not getting any benefit, and indeed are getting actual harm, from the background of compulsion which I have mentioned.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman believe that in peace or war free men are better than slaves?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Yes. The right hon. Gentleman has expressed my view clearly; but I am trying to apply that view to the present situation, and in doing so I have tried to consider all the factors involved.
There is one other matter I want to put forward for the right hon. Gentleman's consideration, even if he cannot give me an answer today. It concerns the point that was made with great force and clarity in the leading article of "The Economist" of last Saturday as to the general change in Europe consequent upon the disinflation that is beginning. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that it contained this passage, which I think we must consider, again quite irrespective of party, in relation to the position of our country:The net effects upon the people of this island will not be disastrous and may even be beneficial, but there will be many more changes than the minor adjustments in present figures which are all that can be found in the 1949 columns of the tables of the 'Economic Survey.' Disinflation in other countries will have. inevitable effects—for example—on the balance of imports and exports, and even though the net effect may be advantageous, it cannot be so to each citizen individually;That is the point: that obviously there will be changes, and with changes in demand changes will possibly be required in distribution, and everything is not so easy as the example quoted, of the motorcar industry, where they can go into the home market. That is a matter which I do not want to go into, because in the preliminary parts of my speech I tried to set the right hon. Gentleman one or two problems to.solve. Nevertheless, I do think it is something we must bear in mind. There may be changes, and 581 one of the great difficulties of economics as applied to actual life has always been that a broad change may be broadly beneficial, but will have different individual difficulties and individual troubles in its effect. I therefore ask him to consider this point, because we should be glad to be assured that the Government have it in mind.
I am sorry to have detained the House so long, but on a matter of this kind unless one analyses the figures carefully and tries to put them to the House broadly and clearly there would be no use our discussing the matter at all. I say once again that all of us who are interested in this problem approach it objectively and fearlessly. It is in that spirit that we ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the difficulties we have propounded to him, and we wait with anxiety and hope the answers that he may give.
§ Mr. Fairhurst (Oldham)
Am I right in assuming the right hon. and learned Gentleman is suggesting that the production industries are suffering as a result of the number of people employed in the public services?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Indirectly, that might be the case. It would be absurd to suggest, of course, that any clerk in the public service could at once be put into heavy industry. I am not suggesting that at all. I am suggesting that a clerk could find clerical employment in one of these industries, and that if the number of forms sent out by Government Departments could be lessened it would release more for productive industry.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Isaacs)
The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) has put forward a number of suggestions for our consideration. He put forward in a very careful and helpful way the main points he wished to raise. I shall refer to them generally and then come back to them in more detail. His main points were: proper distribution of manpower; statistical information to be subjective, and lastly that we should face the logical consequences of the statistics. He then referred to the basis of the new statistics and made use of the phrase, "the missing million." He also stressed the need for 582 accuracy in the new figures and referred to disadvantages caused by the break in the continuity of the figures. He asked whether the Government still thought there was urgency in the problem of distribution of manpower and quoted from the 1948 Survey, or from a speech I made—
§ Mr. Isaacs
I am not sure from where this particular quotation came, but it was about the numbers we believe to be requisite to reach the production target. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made it possible for us to give a good deal of the information asked for in view of the fact that he was good enough to indicate the points he intended to raise in this Debate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was sorry he had to quote figures to the House, and I must add my regrets to his; but I am giving the figures in the hope that if they are not assimilated now it will be helpful for those who want to study the problem to have them on record.
Before coming to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's questions, I think it would be better to deal with the background of the situation. When we faced the question of the distribution of our manpower as set out in the 1948 Survey, we knew the situation would depend on three major factors. The first was the total working population, the second the number of unemployed, and the third the targets fixed for certain industries. At the beginning of 1948 we made estimates of the total working population and the numbers unemployed at the end of the year. We estimated that the total working population would fall by 330,000. In fact, it fell by only 103,000. We had, therefore, 227,000 more persons available than we estimated. This was largely due to the very large number of women who were beginning to come back to industry.
We estimated that the total number of unemployed at the end of 1948 would probably be 450,000. In fact, the number was 350,000. Therefore, we had 100,000 fewer unemployed, due to the fact that redistribution of manpower was effected with less trouble than we anticipated. The result of these two underestimates was that we had 327,000 more persons in employment at the end of 583 1948 than we had anticipated. That is all to the good. When we consider the large problem we had to survey, an error of that kind should not be subject to much hostile criticism. We are, of course, anxious to get our estimates as accurate as possible.
I shall now deal with the question of distribution. The Government decided to slow down the releases from the Forces in the latter half of 1948, and this slowdown affected both the strength of the Forces at the end of the year and also the number of men on release leave. These two factors accounted for 46.000 of the additional numbers available, leaving 283,000 extra persons employed in industry, commerce and the professions. The great majority were women, a fact which obviously affected the industries to which it was possible to steer the increased manpower. We have, however, a big problem to face in the shortage of suitable accommodation in certain areas. In spite of the continued improvement in the housing situation, this has made it difficult for workers, and especially women workers, to move to essential jobs away from home. We have had many instances of men who have accepted essential jobs away from their homes but have not been able to take them up because they could not find accommodation.
In the greater part of the field the estimated distribution of manpower was achieved, but I shall deal first with those industries where the target was not reached. The first of these, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman says, is coal. We had great difficulty during the war in maintaining our labour force in the coalmines. For 18 months after the war, in spite of demobilisation, the number of wage-earners on the colliery books continued to fall. From January, 1947, when the mines were taken over by the State the story has been different. In 1947, the number of wage-earners increased by 28,000. That is a very significant fact. It is the first time for years that there has been an upward trend. This upward trend continued during 1948, although it was at a slower rate, when an increase of 8,000 was shown. Although the total at the end of 1948 was 24,000 short of the target set out in the Survey, the production target was almost reached. I want lo stress the fact that it is the production 584 target which is the important thing. Manpower targets are not ends in themselves, but are merely estimates of the manpower needed to reach a given production.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
Is the increase due to a larger number of young persons coming into the industry, or to the fact that a larger number of people are staying in the industry?
§ Mr. Isaacs
It is a combination of both factors. We have young men coming in, the build-up of machinery, the opening up of new coal faces and new methods. Then, of course, there were fewer strikes. I answered a Question the other day which made it look as if there were a lot of strikes, but like the servant's baby they were very small strikes and we did not lose much production. A comparatively small change in productivity makes a very significant change in manpower.
Therefore, whilst we like to reach our manpower estimates we do not feel it is a failure not to reach them if we find that the manpower available has got near the production targets that have been set. The excellent figures in this industry produced last week show that they are very well on to the target set for this year. I submit that if we can get equal production whilst not getting as close as we ought to the manpower targets it is a matter for congratulation, because it means there is a saving in manpower.
§ Mr. Scollan
Is my right hon. Friend actually putting forward the plea that the production target being achieved is an excuse for the manpower being used where it should not be used?
§ Mr. Isaacs
Not in the least. I am not putting forward excuses at all, and I hope that the statement I may be privileged to make to the House will not come into the field of excuses but will deal with concrete facts in answer to the specific questions put to me by the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
I should like to mention the numbers in the coalmining industry. The upward trend is still continuing and up to the middle of this month the increase this year has been 600. As one of my hon. Friends behind me said, we must bear in mind the wastage of 60,000 to 70,000 a year. There is, of course, a prospect that 585 wastage will get less, because we are still carrying on with a great number of men in the industry who are over pension age. As younger people flow in and the older begin to move out, it may be—we hope it will be—that wastage will decrease. The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about what steps we have taken to bring more people into the industry. That comes under several heads, and I shall not go into a full explanation of each, because they have been given so many times throughout the year.
First of all, there is the Control of Engagement Order with its "ring fence" round the industry. We still feel that the industry is sufficiently important for us to maintain it, and in that, as in other industries with a "ring fence," it is astonishing how little complaint we have had from the people concerned about the effect of this order. We hear a lot of people say that it ought not to be in operation, but the people inside the industries—the trade unions and others concerned—have made very little complaint about the continuation of this order.
§ Mr. Scollan rose—
§ Mr. Isaacs
Perhaps my right hon. Friend should ask some of them. They have not come to me because I have had no objections, but perhaps my hon. Friend can find out and let me know.
§ Mr. Isaacs
I have made a clear statement of fact, which is that no complaints have been received from the unions or from their members about the operation of the order.
Other steps taken dealt with recruitment in 1948. In 1948 some 9,000 foreign workers were available, but there were some difficulties in some areas about the willingness of British workers to work with the foreign workers. That has been broken down very considerably, but I 586 am sorry to say it has not all gone yet. We still have foreign workers available for the industry. Then there is the provision of hostel accommodation for such workers, and it must be admitted, especially by those of us who have any contacts at all with hostels for agricultural workers and for general industrial workers, that the hostels for the coal-mining workers are very good indeed compared with the others, and that they provide a very fine standard of accommodation. There is also a measure of priority being given to housing for the coal mining areas.
We have carried out a great deal of publicity in various ways to attract workers to the industry. As I have said, we have still some 2,000 foreign workers available as soon as they can be placed. The great problem in the mining industry —I must be careful not to go too much into technical details—is the question of the number than can be employed on the coal face. That matters most. I am referring to the actual coal getters. May I put this other point on coal mining? The total production for 1948 was 208 million tons, or only 3 million short of the target. If any statistician—and I am not one—would like to find out what is the percentage fall from the target and the percentage fall from the manpower target, I think it will be found that production has the best of the bargain against the manpower percentage.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman also referred to agriculture. The figures which I shall be giving to him are for agricultural workers and do not include forestry and fisheries. There was a shortfall of manpower of 19,000 compared with our estimate for last year. In October we very nearly reached the target of 1,110,000, when we reached 1,102,000. The short fall of 19,000 is mainly due to the seasonal fall in the labour force towards the end of the year. Of course, there were the usual heavy demands for labour at harvest time, but apart from these normal seasonal demands there was no real shortage of manpower last year in agriculture. In addition to the 20,000 foreign workers recruited under official schemes, over 10,000 German prisoners were granted civilian status during the year and were allowed to continue in employment in agriculture.
587 In this industry there is a factor which in some ways is common to the coal industry—the mechanisation of our farms. There is more of what I prefer to call labour-aiding machinery coming into operation and the actual need for the same amount of manpower disappears. We are satisfied after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture that there is no real problem, generally speaking, for agriculture, although, of course, when the harvest comes along there will be the same arguments about how we are going to get the harvest in, about the use of children, and so on.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to textiles. I can assure the House that the most constant and continuous attention has been given to the efforts to build up manpower in the textile industry. We could have produced more textiles if more labour were available. During the first nine months of 1947 there was no increase in the labour manpower in textiles in spite of the recruiting campaigns that were being undertaken. Following the introduction of the Control of Engagement Order, the labour force began to increase and has gone on increasing continuously ever since. During 1948 the numbers in textiles increased from 652,000 to 690,000, an increase of 38,000, or 6 per cent.
That is a greater increase than has been secured in any other industry, and, considering the difficulties that were encountered in recruiting, it is a very great achievement. The greatest difficulty encountered in recruiting was the memories of the older operatives. They remembered the bad times and they remembered that they had pledged themselves that their children and their children's children should never go into the mills. It is most encouraging today to notice the great number of the children of textile workers now coming back into the mills. This was due to a very large extent to the work of a committee of junior Ministers of the various Ministries concerned, which sat under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. They have concentrated mainly on the cotton and wool industry and they have instituted a number of measures which have had good results.
588 What do those measures cover? They include the provision of day nurseries for women with young children, to enable the women to work in the industries [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"] Somebody says "Shame." That could mean that it is a shame not to provide this accommodation, but to let the children play in the streets at home while the women go to work. It is right that we should see that the children of these women who are anxious to work have some care and comfort whilst their mothers are working. I should like to mention our appreciation of those broadminded firms who are leading in providing these amenities. There are these day nurseries, with which the local authorities have been cooperating very well. There has been encouragement for the improvement of amenities in the mills.
It is surprising what a change there is in the outlook of people in mills if the whitewash and the dirt are moved from the walls and replaced by bright colours. Managements have told us what a difference it makes in the atmosphere. Again, in the special recruiting campaign for volunteers and foreign workers we have had a very arduous and constant job. Nearly 10,000 have been recruited during the year under these official schemes, and placed in the textile industries. We have had to provide hostels to accommodate these foreign workers. We have also pointed out the opportunities in the cotton and wool textile industries to every woman applicant for employment.
We have been constantly active with textile recruiting campaigns, publicity campaigns, works meetings and special weeks in various towns. In this direction we have had very warm co-operation from a number of public-minded people, some of whom have staged exhibitions in the schools. Teachers have brought their children into the exhibitions to see such things as "the story of cotton," shown in all its stages from the growing, through the spinning to the weaving. We have awakened, and when I say "we" I mean the Government committee, in the cotton areas a greater interest in the vital part that textiles play in our national life. This awakening is of value not only to us but to the craft. All those who take part in that craft can be proud of it. It 589 is clear nobody can beat our Lancashire weavers at their own game. What was the consequence? It was that productivity rose during 1948. With the technical improvements that are taking place we hope we shall reach the target this year, even though the manpower target is not completely reached. Progress is continuing in 1949. We have already increased the labour force by another 6,000 and we therefore feel that we can look forward hopefully to providing the necessary manpower.
There are other industries mentioned incidentally, and not specifically, by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, where the situation is the other way round and where the survey estimates were substantially exceeded. Building is one of those trades. It was expected that manpower in the building trades would fall by 164,000. That was due to the slowing down of house building, and of new building of various kinds during the year. The Government found it possible to make some relaxations, so that while new building was still restricted greater latitude was given for maintenance and repairs. The effect was to maintain the labour force at about the January, 1948, level. The projected fall did not therefore take place, and so we have the apparent increase of 157,000 over the Survey Estimates.
Several factors have been associated with that increase. First of all, we found that by closing down the building industry we were placing men upon the unemployment registers, because no alternative work was available for them in their areas. For example take an aged bricklayer. He could not be called upon to take a job of another kind in his own area, because it was not available. It was not suitable to send him into another industry like coal or engineering. It is easy to say on paper that if you close one industry you can boost up another, but in practice it means that you are only taking round pegs out of round holes and trying to push them into square holes. It was necessary to allow some kind of building industry to go on and thus to allow employment for the kind of people whom I have mentioned. That was much better than saying to them, "If you cannot do an essential building job you have to remain unemployed."
590 Something has been said about distribution. The number in the distributive trades in 1948 was 86,000 higher than the 1948 Survey estimate. Having regard to the fact that there were some 250,000 more persons, mainly women, available than was expected, and to the other fact that the distributive trades have 500,000 fewer persons than in 1939, it is not surprising that the manpower has increased. Frankly, I am surprised that in the circumstances the increase was not greater than 86,000. Is this a waste? Are these people helping the production of the country? I think they are. If we have more staff available in the retail shops we therefore have more amenities for our women to do their shopping, and we ease a little the burdens of waiting and worrying. We also relieve the problems of shopkeepers themselves. It all helps to create a better atmosphere. In that way we get some element of improved production. I make that statement with that background in mind.
I am absolutely convinced that people who work in a happy spirit produce more than do they who work in a miserable spirit. Happiness does not always depend upon the mood of the overseer, who might have had a row with his wife before he came to work and will have the "rats" all day, while another fellow who has come to work under him may have had to listen to a sad story from his wife about her shopping and queuing difficulties and may have come to work with "a chopper on," as we say. If the two of them meet in a bad temper there will not be a very happy atmosphere in the workshop. I claim that whatever we can do to improve the general spirit of comfort and happiness in the homes of the country is reflected in due course in production in the factories.
As to the public services, it is true that there is an increase in the estimate. The increase is more substantial in the case of local government services. In national Government services there was a relatively small rise in numbers during the year, but it covered widespread changes. There was a decrease in staff in many departments. Against that must be set the staff needed to administer the greatly extended social services. A considerable proportion of the net increase is due to the transfer of staff from local authorities and approved societies. Those, although swelling the figure, did 591 not make any additional call on the country's manpower. The right hon. and learned Gentleman very astutely anticipated that that would be the answer put forward, but it is a fact and it is the only answer which can be given. The increase in the local government services is disturbing and the matter is being investigated. Much of it is due to the increased duties and responsibilities of local authorities, but at the same time we must be satisfied that local authorities are exercising every economy in staffing. That is one of the factors of which we are taking note.
In his speech the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to controls and questioned whether we needed them at all. Although controls might not have been actually used, the fact remains, that a recalcitrant person can be forced to take a job. We still believe that the forced man is not much good. Very little force has been used. Of the great number of industries, some hundreds, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, were under the "ring fence" order. The number of direction orders issued has been very small indeed. I have no hesitation in saying that I shall be the happiest man in this House when I can sign an order to abolish direction. Discussions in the I.L.O. have dealt with the question of the freedom of the individual but there was a reservation that control might be used in the case of national need, apart from war.
We shall take these controls away as soon as we feel that it can safely be done. I am indeed proud of the way in which our people have responded and of the little trouble we have had about it. The House may be interested in the figures of the manning-up of the first preference manufacturing industries. We have been able to increase their manpower by 5.9 per cent. compared with 1.9 per cent. in all the other manufacturing industries. It shows that, whether direction is a terrible power or not, the fact is that it has been instrumental in supplying the needs of our most essential industries.
However, it is not only in these mass movements that this is important. It is important in individual projects such as power station construction and in connection with coalmining machinery where sometimes the provision of one skilled 592 key man may make it possible for the work to be developed and for many others to be employed on the same task. For instance, the quick production of coalmining machinery not only provides work for other men in the use of that machinery but improves coalmining production by getting machines into operation probably months earlier than otherwise would have been possible.
Two.points about "ring fence" industries ought to be realised. The first is that these industries are so vitally important that it is necessary that we should keep them fully manned up. However, as to the disadvantages between men in that industry and men outside it, there is this to be said. If the men were outside these industries they would then be subject to direction to wherever it was thought fit to put them, but while they are inside the "ring fence" they are free to move where they like within their industry. The agricultural worker is free to move from one farm to another and the coal worker can move from one pit to another. Those men can thus move at their own choice; they have a little more freedom—it may be limited—from positive direction than men in other industries. I have said, and I repeat it. that we shall be happy to remove that order as soon as it can be done.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke about the logical consequences of statistics. I want to explain the difference between the new series and the old series of manpower statistics, and I hope to do so to the satisfaction of the House. We just could not help ourselves over the making of the new series. They have been subjected to a certain amount of criticism, first on the ground that they broke continuity which, it is said, will be confusing at a time when the best use of our total working population is the biggest test of economic policy; and, second, that the disparity of a million workers between the old and the new series has not been satisfactorily explained. I hope to explain the second point and get it cleared up.
What are the differences between the old and new series of figures? That is a rather important point. The old series was based on the number of unemployment books issued each year in respect of persons insured under the Unemployment Insurance Acts, and on information 593 derived from returns from employers and other statistical surveys. Those Acts and related Acts were replaced on 5th July, 1948, by the more comprehensive schemes provided by the National Insurance Act and the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. The annual census of unemployment books will not, therefore, be possible in future. I appreciate the point of the right hon. Gentleman, and I say at once—I shall refer to the quarterly statements in a moment—that if we can produce a careful systematic analysis of the quarterly returns annually, and present a comprehensive annual statement, it certainly will be done, not only for the benefit of the House but also in order to make it easier for those of us in the Ministry who have to handle this matter. That suggestion and the other suggestions of the right hon. Gentleman will be examined immediately.
We carried the old series forward to December, 1948, in order to bridge the gap between July, 1948 and January, 1949, when the new series became available. The new series of manpower statistics is based on the administration of the National Insurance Scheme and on returns from employers as well. That makes a very good check. The total working population in the new series represents the total number of persons aged 15 and over who work for pay or gain, or register themselves as available for such work. It includes private indoor domestic servants and gainfully occupied persons over pensionable age who were excluded from the old series of statistics. It also includes a great majority of employers and persons working on their own account who did not come within the insurance scheme before. Since it is not possible to isolate the part-time workers from the full-time workers, as the right hon. Gentleman said, we have now taken the 800,000 part-time workers as 800,000 full units.
The number of persons covered by the National Insurance Schemes is much larger than the number insured under the Unemployment Insurance Acts. It will therefore not be possible to continue with the old arrangement of exchanging all the old insurance cards for new cards as a single operation at the mid-year. It would be overwhelming, and we cannot do it. Instead the cards will be exchanged in four quarterly instalments 594 each year. While it will no longer be possible to make a complete census of the insured population each year, every quarterly exchange of cards should provide a representative sample of the total. I have said, "While it will no longer be possible," and I will qualify those words immediately by saying that we will make a very careful examination, and if it is at all possible to do so, we will produce an annual summary of the situation.
I shall now say something about the "missing million" at mid-1948. It is quite simple. The explanation is clear. Again, I ask the House to forgive me for giving figures. The total working population was estimated to be 20,292,000 in the old series and 23,146,000 in the new series. The difference of 2,850,000 is due to the following factors: persons over pensionable age included in the new series but not in the old, 950,000; private indoor domestic servants, 500,000; statistical increase due to accounting 800,000 part-time workers as full units instead of half units, 400,000; giving a total of 1,850,000. Now we are coming to the "missing million."
The balance of one million persons still to be accounted for in the total working population on the new series is made up as follows. A proportion of the difference, possibly 200,000, represents the number of people engaged in what was previously known as "inconsiderable employment," who are now included but were excluded before. By "inconsiderable employment" we mean employment, except in the case of dockers and persons under the age of 16, for less than four hours in any week by any individual employer; any employment only on Sunday or Monday in certain circumstances; and also employment as "snow clearer" for not more than four days in the week. Those "inconsiderable employments" were not included in the old figure. Of course, we do not get much snow clearing during harvest time. The remainder is due to under-estimates of the non-insured, mainly a larger number of non-manual workers earning more than £420 a year than had always been thought to be the case. I therefore hope that the question of the "missing million" is now cleared up and that the million is found not to be missing.
595 There is another point about our manpower which comes into this picture, and that is the question of the call-up of men for the Armed Forces. Figures have been added up and subtracted, we have thought of a number, doubled it, taken away another number and got a funny answer. I hope that I shall give not a funny answer but the proper one. First, apart from those young men who are deferred because they are in coalmining, agriculture or the Merchant Navy, and who will not be called up so long as they remain in those industries, every man who is medically fit will be called up as soon as his deferment expires. Second, of the 300,000 registered in the 1929 class, all but 400 have been accounted for. There is a complete check-up and those who endeavour to escape the net are relentlessly followed up. Only 400 out of 300,000 have slipped through somewhere, but we are still searching.
I propose to announce the programme of registrations, for at any rate the first half of 1950, about the middle of this year, thereby carrying out the undertaking I gave at the end of last year to give as long a notice as I could, possibly a year, of the date of call-up. It is fairly clear that we shall need all four registrations next year also, so that the normal age of call-up will again remain unchanged until the end of 1950. We can see that far ahead. After each quarter's age group of young men have been registered, their medical examinations are spread over the following three months until the next quarter's age group registers. In each age group the oldest are medically examined first, so that all those whose cases present no special features will be called up as near as possible around the same age.
Where a young man does not apply for deferment or postponement of call-up, he normally receives an enlistment notice between four and six weeks following the completion of medical examination. The completion of the medical examination may be delayed if he has to be referred to a consultant, but the four or six weeks period follows completion of the medical examination and not the commencement of it. The period may be longer in some cases where special efforts are made to fit young men into places in the Services for which they are particularly well suited or which they particularly desire to enter. If a youngster has a special desire to enter 596 a certain Service, we are quite prepared to hold him back for two, three or four months, or whatever it might be, until the opportunity comes for him to go into that Service. I spoke a little earlier about square pegs in round holes in industry. The same applies to the Armed Forces. A lad who goes into the job he wants to do will very often be happier there than he would be elsewhere. Everything possible is being done to avoid delays in calling up. Officers of the Ministry have had repeated instructions that they must make sure that there is no unnecessary delay.
Let me give a few figures to show the position. The figures for the newly registered young men entering the field of call-up this year, mainly those born in 1931, are expected to work out approximately, but pretty accurately, as follows: numbers expected to register, 300,000: deferments—agriculture, 18,500; coalmining, 8,500; Merchant Navy, 5,000; apprentices, 70,000; students, 6,000. That gives us a total for deferments in definite classes of 108,000. These figures differ slightly from those quoted by the Prime Minister in an earlier speech because we have now been able to bring them up to date and get them a little more definite. I should mention, however, that the coal-mining and agricultural industries and the Merchant Navy which have got a "ring fence" around them get some compensation by reason of the fact that they are not liable to military service while they stop within the "ring fence." Once they step outside, however, they come right into the National Service net.
Other factors have to be taken into consideration in getting down to the number really available in the long run for call-up. In addition to the deferments, we estimate that there will be about 2,000 not available for call-up, for miscellaneous reasons; for example, men granted postponement on grounds of exceptional hardship, conscientious objectors, Borstal boys, those in mental institutions, and so on. While I do not like to put them in the same category, there are those engaged in religious orders. Therefore, about 190,000 are expected to be available for call-up, but we have still got to make some further deductions, such as the medical rejects, and men who volunteer for service after registration, as many of 597 them do; they register, and then they enlist as Regular soldiers without waiting for call-up. Then there is wastage after registration, but this is not a very large figure. It relates mainly to emigrants—young people who have emigrated with their families. That brings the number available for posting down to 145,000. In addition, we have 21,000 expiring deferments—those who have deferred their call-up and who will come into the field of call-up this year, giving us a total of 166,000 available for posting.
I want to draw attention to the large number of deferments which we expect to grant to apprentices. We expect to grant 70,000, although we shall have only 21,000 deferred men joining the Forces during this year. Hon. Members may say, "You are going to defer 70,000, but you have only got 21,000 deferments running out." That will be explained a little later when the other figures are given. One reason why we expect to defer 70,000 is as follows. There are the existing arrangements for granting deferments to genuine apprentices in any industry begun in 1947. Previously deferment had been granted only to apprentices in certain industries of vital national importance, so that we did not have as large a field of deferment available then. Most of the young men granted deferment in 1947 will not complete their apprenticeships and therefore will not become available for call-up until next year or later. In short, these deferments do not yet fall in in any great number.
Another reason for this figure of 70,000—and the Government as a whole place a great deal of importance on this reason, which I emphasised when I introduced the Bill in the first instance—is that, with the encouragement of the Ministry, industry is developing more proper apprenticeship schemes. No longer do we have these dummy apprenticeships. Indeed, it was one of the objects of granting the deferments that proper apprenticeships should be encouraged. Therefore, more young men are being granted deferment in order to complete their apprenticeships because there are more proper apprenticeship schemes. Then again, more apprentices are deciding to finish their training before doing their military service, instead of interrupting their training and resuming it on release from 598 the Forces. Another reason why we expect about 70,000 apprenticeship deferments instead of 47,000 last year is that there are four registrations this year instead of three registrations; that therefore brings the number up.
I want to make it clear to the House that the deferment for apprenticeship is granted for not longer than 12 months in the first instance. They may have three years to go, but we grant deferment for only 12 months. Each case is followed up individually to make sure that the young men are still following their apprenticeships and making satisfactory progress, failing either of which conditions they are called up forthwith if medically fit. We have no reason to think that any of them escape their obligations. This check-up is very much in the interest of the young person, because it is not beyond some employer to induce a lad to be an apprentice because the employer does not want to lose his services, although he is neither capable nor willing to give him proper training. Such deferment is granted in the country's interest to enable a youngster to become a craftsman, and we check up to see that that is being carried out.
The deferment of university students is one of some complication and difficulty. I want to say at once that we are doing all we can to meet the situation and to give them a fair crack of the whip. We have decided that intending university students must do their 18 months' whole-time National Service like everybody else. This may mean that if they have to stay at school until July—for example, to pass their Higher School Certificate—and cannot get into a university straight from school, they will have to wait two years, and may have six to nine months on their hands, before they can start their university careers. We have entered into the following arrangements, some of which are completed and some of which we are negotiating. First, any boys who are in a position to leave school earlier, for example because they have already passed all the necessary exams, and who ask to be called up not later than April so that they may be out of the Forces, having done their 18 months' service, in time to go to the university in October. 1950, will be granted an early call-up. This should largely dispose of any problems in 599 Scotland where the Higher School Leaving Examinations are taken earlier than in England and Wales.
Secondly, we have asked the vice-chancellors of the universities whether it will be possible for them to make some special arrangements for one year only to admit some young men in January, 1951, under conditions which would give them a reasonable chance of catching up in their studies. It will not be easy for the universities to arrange anything on these lines, but it is hoped that some of them may be able to do something to help, and we are following it up. Thirdly, we have arranged to grant deferment of call-up to any boys who want to fill up the gap of six to nine months mentioned above by staying on at school until Christmas or March of next year. We hope that by working within these limits we can meet the problem of the university students. I think I have covered most of the points that the right hon. Gentleman has put to me. I shall study the speech to see whether there is any more information which I can give.
I would like, in conclusion, to go back to one other point which I touched upon, and that is the relationship between manpower and productivity. I am absolutely convinced we have not much prospect of an increase in manpower. I am not very happy in the belief that we can do much more by shifting men about, like pawns on a chess board, from one job to another. Therefore, we must devote our efforts to improving production. Workers have responded to guidance to essential work in a way which has been most encouraging. We have made careful inquiries of our employment exchange managers, and have found that there have been practically no complaints. We have had fewer than two score cases in which we have had to say to men, "You must do this job."
The nation is also grateful to the women who have responded to the appeal for increased production. I made a broadcast appeal which had a lot of cold water thrown on it by the Press and others, but in spite of that they responded; without them we should not have got the textile production that we have today. In passing, I am not sure that we ought not to express our sympathy with the husbands of these women 600 who, when coming home, have had to bath the baby and all the rest of it.
The National Joint Advisory Council, consisting of representatives of the British Employers' Confederation and the T.U.C., have also given us very valuable help in encouraging joint consultations in industry through the system of joint works committees. By means of these committees we can improve our production. Asking for improved production does not mean a call for greater muscular effort; the improvement can come by redeployment of labour, improved factory layout, increased efficiency, and the improved skill of operatives and managements, as well as applied energy and adaptability. That is where the joint works committees are useful. Many industries have had these committees for years, and others have adopted them recently and are rapidly being converted to their value.
There is Government help, too, under this Bill. Through the Ministry we are carrying out what are called "Training Within Industry" schemes—a system of training people to train others. To date 2,142 trainers have been trained and they, in turn, have trained 212,000 supervisors. Over 2,000 firms have indicated their willingness to co-operate in the T.W.I. scheme. These supervisors not only tell a man how to do his job, but train him in manhandling—and I use that term in its proper sense. When first went to work the term was used la a completely different sense altogether. The overseer was the man who could really manhandle men. Today, he is the man who can best handle men in the sense of giving them guidance and instruction.
These joint works committees are of great value. They lead to better personal relationship, good understanding and a happy atmosphere—all of which tend to lead to improved production. For many years I sat in the council chamber in the Borough of Southwark where. I remember, over the Mayor's head. were the words "United to Serve." The Government have these words in mind now in calling upon industry to give of its best. We are seeking to create a unity of Government, managers and workers which will bring our nation once again, and soon, I hope, to economic freedom and prosperity.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
Every Member in the House will readily believe the Minister when he says that it would be a great joy to him to see the Control of Engagement Order revoked. Among the figures that are given in the review which deals with different industries, the most important is the smallest one—the figure of 300. It is possible to make a defence, indeed a valid defence, of the failure of the figures to meet estimates. For instance, the Minister said that in the distributive trades women had been taken on instead of men, and that the figure had risen because a larger number of women than was expected had responded to the Government's appeal. That was a valid defence. It may be said, however, that the plan did not succeed, that it is a question of the efficiency of the estimate which was made.
But the question of the 300 people who were directed to labour is not a question of efficiency at all; it is a question of a different kind of treatment. I listened to two significant speeches in the House yesterday, one by the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) and the other by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who followed him. The difference between those two speeches was that they were not discussing two totally different methods of governing the country, comparing the relative efficiency of Governments, but were talking about two different kinds of society and civilisation, different in quality and kind. The figure of 300, although small, is, in one sense, far and away the most significant figure in the whole document.
How significant and how poisonous the doctrine about it is, one can test from one's own experience. When I first saw the figure, I was almost prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's argument that direction of labour had never been used, or that it had been used sympathetically. I have no doubt at all that the Ministry have carried out this policy sympathetically. When I have approached the Department I have never met with anything but the most sympathetic treatment from the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. But when I read the figure for the first time it was very much like reading the casualty lists of the First World War. If one saw the figures were lower one day than another 602 that was thought to be a good thing. One began to think that a small number of casualties was in itself a good thing, but one lost sight of the evil of the great number. That is what is happening here. The 300 is not a measure of efficiency or inefficiency; it is something which is evil in itself and wrong—
§ Mr. D. J. Williams
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman making a distinction between sending a man to a job against his will and keeping him in a job against his will?
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
I am coming to that. I represent a division in which the two main industries are agriculture and mining—both "ringed" industries. I represent a division of serfs.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
I have done so, and I shall tell it to them again. These 300 people, whoever they may be, have lost their civil rights. They have lost their most precious possession. If they had committed a crime they would have been tried in the courts. The country knows nothing about them; they have been dealt with administratively, anonymously, through the Ministry of Labour.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Ness Edwards)
I should make it clear that they are neither dealt with anonymously, nor by a machine. They are dealt with by a committee, on which sit representatives of both sides of industry.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The hon. and learned Gentleman will perhaps permit me to say that this is a machine which is entirely outside the Ministry of Labour, and which arbitrates between the State and the right of the individual.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
I do not mind whether the Ministry of Labour are responsible for this or not. I am pointing out that even if these cases were tried by a court of justice, it would still be wrong—but they are not given even that 603 publicity. We do not know the facts in any one of these 300 cases. That is a completely evil thing. How evil it is one has only to look at this document to see. A sentence from it which was quoted by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) is an admission that if this were extended it would be an interference with the liberty of the individual.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then President of the Board of Trade, speaking in this House over two years ago, said that this country was to try a new system. He made the admission that in no country where the planned economy had been adopted had it been possible to carry it out without the direction and control of labour. This country was to adopt a planned economy, he said, but would do it without the direction and control of labour. If that had been carried out there would have been perhaps a defence for a planned economy—not that I believe that, but I could have understood it. Only just over two years have gone by since that declaration was made by the then President of the Board of Trade, and we now know that that cannot be done. This country has failed to do it, and 300 have been directed.
The right hon. Gentleman made another important admission. It is not merely the importance of those 300 who have been directed. He said, "I cannot do away with this order because it is useful for bringing pressure to bear upon the large circle beyond who would not otherwise be directed." There are half a million referred to in the other paragraph. I have been asked whether I would go to my own division and tell the agricultural people that they are serfs, and that they cannot leave that industry without the permission either of the Minister of Agriculture or the Minister of Labour. I will say this for the right hon. Gentleman, that he is far more sympathetic than the Minster of Agriculture. He will release people. The Minister of Agriculture in this same Government has refused. Note the absence of law, or anything in the nature of law. A man's liberty to leave his industry for something else is left to the haphazard chance of what Minister one consults. I should always be happy to consult the Minister of Labour and to get his decision because I know it would be sympathetic. What 604 is wrong is that I should be left to the choice of the two Ministers, or that I should be left to the choice of any Minister, to determine whether I can leave the industry.
That is true of both mining and agriculture. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take the first opportunity of making himself happy about this, because at the moment, believe it or not—and this is important for every working man in the country and for the liberty of every man in the country—this is not a matter of relative efficiency; it is a matter of doing away with an essentially evil thing, evil in itself, and I rise to make my protest about it. I will not go over the great field, although it is a legitimate field, because it has been adequately reviewed by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby—
§ Mr. D. J. Williams
Would the hon. and learned Member allow me to put this point? He is talking about the tyranny of directing people into industry against their will. Does he regard that as a greater evil than directing people out of the industry against their will, which happened in his division in the inter-war period?
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
I have reviewed that inter-war period in this House before, and I do not want to go over that today—
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
First, it would not be in Order and, secondly, I have never heard a more wrong-headed economic explanation of a period than I have heard in this House over and over again of the inter-war period. It would take more time than the House would permit me at the moment to put that right. If we intend to approach the control of labour from the economic point of view, and think that the task is more important than the man, then it can be measured upon the scale of efficiency. I am not making that protest. I am making a protest on the ground that the man is more important than any production target, and that the first and most important right of the citizen is his right to personal liberty.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
Certainly, the right to work, and the right to work where he likes at what work he likes. That right was growing through the 19th century. The worst period in the history of Europe, where a man has not that right, is today in the 20th century, almost from one end of Europe to the other.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I cannot understand this talk of personal liberty. Has personal liberty ever induced an hon. Member on the other side of the House to take a job in a foundry or a shipyard?
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
Let me remind the hon. Gentleman of one thing about personal liberty. Let him turn to the history of the 19th century, when the personal liberty of the individual had a greater place in the history of Europe than it has had at any period since.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
The 19th century believed in the dignity of the individual and progressively liberated the individual. It spent its time in enlarging the liberties of the individual from one end of Europe to the other, while the 20th century is restricting that liberty because,it doubts the value of personal liberty. The result is that there is practically no freedom to move in Europe or to believe in the things in which one wants to believe. That is the situation. That is the essential evil in this figure of 300.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams
Whatever interpretation the hon. and learned Member puts on the inter-war period, will he deny that thousands of his own constituents were driven out of their industries and valleys against their will during the inter-war period?
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
—but I want to point out that it occurred in the 20th century when the value of the liberty of the individual has been progressively going down.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
If the hon. Gentleman will only read his history, the 19th century enlarged it. We are living in a totally different century with different 606 ideologies crippling the people and we no longer see the difference between 300 people directed and one man directed. However, if only one man were directed under this order it would still be an evil, and an evil which I stand up in this House to protest against, as firmly as if it were 1,000.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
It is a real pleasure to me to follow the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) not only because he is a Welshman like myself, but because we represent neighbouring constituencies. I was amazed at his description of the majority of his constituents as serfs. Naturally, holding the political views he does, he objects to the directing of people against their will, but I remember the time in his own division when whole valleys were rendered derelict and thousands of people were driven out of the industries there against their will. It was during that period that half a million people were driven out of Wales against their will.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
That is perfectly true, but will the hon. Member also say that prior to that there had been a world war, which is a negation of liberty, and after that we had dictatorship ideas throughout Europe?
§ Mr. Williams
The war had nothing to do with it, because this took place over the whole inter-war period, and it could not account for the devastation in the Welsh mining valleys between the years 1920 to 1940.
However, this has been a most useful and interesting Debate on an important subject. I thought that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Fife—[Interruption.] I am sorry—West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe). It is very dangerous on these benches to congratulate the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) on anything, but I want to congratulate the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby on a very able and objective analysis of the problem we are discussing today. During the last three years we have had several Debates on this manpower problem. In all of them, stress has been laid on the supreme importance of using our manpower resources to the best national advantage. I agree with the right hon. and 607 learned Gentleman, who said that the real test of an effective economic policy is that our manpower resources are used to the best advantage.
We have not always realised—neither has the right hon. and learned Gentleman's party always realised—that labour is our most important and precious national asset, and we have certainly failed to make the best use of it. For years we allowed millions of productive workers to rust and rot in enforced idleness. Mass unemployment was regarded and accepted as a normal condition of our economy.
§ Mr. Williams
It was assumed that the economic system could not function properly without the existence of one or two million unemployed. The mechanics of free enterprise economy created what Karl Marx called an industrial reserve army. This was not only regarded as a law of economics; it was widely accepted as a kind of law of nature, immutable and inexorable in its operation. Those days have gone, never to return, we hope. This country has now established full employment.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Would the hon. Gentleman excuse me? Is he not aware that, according to the reports issued by his own Government, we should have one or two million unemployed at present but for the kind-hearted generosity of the American capitalists?
§ Mr. Williams
I am surprised at the vehemence of the hon. Member for West Fife against the American capitalists, because I remember that about two years ago in this House, when we debated and divided on the subject of the American loan, I abstained but the hon. Member for West Fife went into the Lobby to get money from these maligned American capitalists.
We have now established full employment. It is essential, in the interests not only of British workers but of the country, that it should be maintained. This does not mean, however, that we have solved the problem of manpower. We are using all or nearly all, our available manpower resources, but we are not yet using them to the best national advantage. Most people are in jobs, but not all of them 608 are in the right kind of jobs. The result is a serious distortion and lack of balance in our economy.
Several times during the last three years we have debated the problem of the distribution of manpower. In the course of those Debates, both inside and outside this House, we have had many proposals for securing proper distribution of our labour force. There were suggestions of a labour policy, suggestions about disinflation and of direction of labour and control of raw materials by the Government; some economists suggested—I remember reading letters in "The Times" about three years ago—that we should have mass immigration of foreign labour to man our undermanned industries. Most of those suggestions have, in part at least, been adopted, but, while there has been a considerable improvement in the situation, the problem has by no means been wholly solved. We have not yet secured a proper distribution of our available manpower.
I want to make some comments on three aspects of this problem. First, the labour position in the basic industries. Many of these industries are still, and have been for a number of years, undermanned. They are the most important industries in our economy—coal, textiles and agriculture. These industries are vital to our economy and essential to our economic recovery as a nation. In agriculture, as has been said, there has been a considerable improvement. In 1948 there was a net increase of 36,000 in the numbers employed. True, we were short of the target by about 19,000, but there was still an increase of three and a half per cent. On the whole, considering all the difficulties, that increase was very satisfactory. In textiles there was a decided improvement. The target was not reached, but there was an actual increase in the numbers employed of about six per cent. As the Survey says, this was the greatest increase achieved for any single industry.
Now I come to coal, in which industry I have spent most of my working life and with which I am very closely connected. In coal, the labour position is not so satisfactory. In 1948 we aimed at an increase of 32,000 in the manpower employed, an increase of from 758,000 to 790,000. The actual net increase, however, was only 8,000. Recruitment, of 609 course, was far more than this figure, but this industry, as I pointed out to the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby, carries a very high incidence of natural wastage of men who leave for a variety of causes: death, old age, injury and disease in particular. In 1948 nearly 70,000 people were lost from mining. The Survey for 1949 budgets for an increase of 10,000, a figure which assumes that there will be nearly 80,000 new entrants into the industry in the coming year. This is a very formidable objective, but it has to be achieved if we are to raise the level of production and increase the level of exports of coal from this country.
The second aspect of this problem upon which I want to comment relates to the group of overmanned industries. Far too many people in this country are employed in non-productive activities of all kinds.
§ Mr. Williams
We have too many non-producers compared with the number of actual producers. This means a distortion in our economy and a serious disequilibrium in our whole economic structure. This is not, of course, a new problem. It did not emerge suddenly in 1945 when this Government came into power; it is a very old problem. It existed long before the war and, indeed, it grew phenomenally in the interwar period, side by side with the decline of the basic industries. In those days it was concealed by two factors. The first was mass unemployment. Our concern then was not how a man was employed, but whether he had employment of any kind. Secondly, it was concealed by income from overseas investments. With free imports, mass unemployment was not such a very serious problem and, because of that, we could carry a large army of non-producers. Those factors no longer exist. The situation has completely changed. The problem now is a problem of production, and this crisis is a crisis of underproduction. We need as many people as possible in the productive industries. This is the only way in which we can get through the crisis.
The third feature I want to deal with is the existence in several parts of Britain of a serious unemployment problem. 610 Those are the old depressed areas, now called the Development Areas. In Britain as a whole there is practically full employment and in some districts there is an acute shortage of labour. In the Development Areas, however, there are heavy pockets of unemployment. There are vast resources of manpower which could be used in the interests of the nation. In Britain as a whole the unemployment rate is somewhere about 1½ per cent. to 2 per cent., which contrasts strikingly with the position in the Development Areas, where the rates are very much higher. The great majority of our unemployed are to be found now in the Development Areas.
South Wales is by far the worst of the Development Areas. In South Wales at present the unemployment rate is somewhere about 6½ per cent. and it has been at that rate for the last two years. It is the highest figure for the country. It is well above the average and well above the rate for any of the other Development Areas. In spite of all the efforts of the Government—and I want to congratulate the Board of Trade on what they have done—we seem to be unable to reduce our unemployment figure below the rate of 6½ per cent. There are about 40,000 unemployed in Wales and most have been unemployed for a year, two years, or three years. It is very difficult for those people to understand why they should continue to be unemployed, when there is so much emphasis on the need for more production and on the need for more labour in some industries.
The most serious aspect of our unemployment problem in South Wales is that of the disabled and partially disabled men. In the main they are ex-miners who have been suspended because of silicosis and pneumoconiosis. There are about 14,000 of them—half the total male unemployed. They cannot return to the pits; they are certified and suspended; and up to now we have not been able to provide them with suitable jobs. Most of them are fit for ordinary factory employment, but about 1,700 will require sheltered employment of various kinds. This problem is unique to South Wales. It has no parallel in any other part of the country.
The Government have made a start in trying to find a solution to the problem. 611 They have built, or are in course of building, 10 Grenfell factories, but so far these factories are employing very few people. Then there are the Remploy factories under the control of the right hon. Gentleman. There are not enough of them and they have been far too slowly completed. So far they have done very little to deal with the problem. The measures taken so far by the Government have been commendable and we welcome them, but they do not do more than touch the fringe of the problem, which is a serious and tragic problem. It is the greatest single deterrent to recruitment of labour for the mining industry. I know it is a difficult problem, but I also know that it can be solved, and I appeal to the Minister to give it his urgent and immediate attention.
May I now say a few words about some of the manpower problems in Wales. They are of a different character and order from the general manpower problems of that country. Some of them are very paradoxical, contradictory and anomalous. We have heavy pockets of unemployment, yet our basic industries are undermanned, and we are importing foreign labour to man them. We are short of labour in agriculture, and our young people are leaving the countryside and leaving Wales. We need men for the mines, but we have no houses for them. For 30 years our building industry declined, and now our local authorities have to try to build houses with apprentice labour.
Technicians have to be imported into Wales for the new industries, whereas for the last 30 years we have been exporting teachers and still continue to do so. Wales is short of skilled personnel of all kinds and, unfortunately, short of the facilities to train them. In technical education Wales lags badly behind the rest of the country. There has been inadequate cooperation in the past between education and industry. Industrialists were not interested in education and educationists were not interested in industry. They moved in opposite directions and education came to be regarded in Wales as a means of escape from industry. In the last few years there has been a welcome change, but we still have a long way to go to secure a proper relationship between our educational system and the social 612 and economic needs of the Welsh people in the modern world.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Heathcoat Amory (Tiverton)
When we look back on 1948 I think every hon. Member in this House must regard what this nation achieved, with the help of Marshall Aid, with pride and relief. The question whether that was achieved because of, or in spite of, some of the actions of the Government, is something on which we are not likely to agree in this House, but when something goes well I do not think we should deny the right hon. Gentleman his right to claim his share of responsibility for it. If he agrees with that, I think the Government must also not try to escape their share of responsibility for the disastrous year of 1947.
Today we are looking forward. We are looking at the manpower aspects of the Survey for 1949. It is perfectly clear that these annual Surveys are useful. They are useful as an indication of the Government's planning intentions. But it is also clear that they show the limitations of planning as it is at present carried out. I think the "popular" edition of the Survey for 1949—which I have here—is a great deal better than many previous Government publications. Having paid that compliment, I want now to say that some of what I might describe as the exhortation leaflets are still awful. I exhibit one which was sent to the managing director of a firm I know, employing 1,500 or 2,000 people, I trust for his information only, and not for his enlightenment. Incidentally, the name of the firm is spelled wrongly. I do suggest that that leaflet is really hardly worth getting out.
I wish to make one criticism of this Economic Survey. It tends to pass over some of the failures too lightly. After all, there were some of what were described as "targets in a full sense" which were pretty badly missed. The Survey recounts the fact that they were missed but dismisses it rather lightly, in a kind of attitude of "Never mind, on the whole the results were not too bad," rather like a small boy who, having missed the mark at which he was aiming, and fearing the derision of his friends, says, "Well, how do you know I ever really meant to hit it?" I suggest that so far as this record of manpower change 613 forecast is concerned the Government have reason to be a little humble. The "sights" have been lowered in some cases for 1949. Perhaps that is wise but if it is carried too far it means that what should be a plan of operation becomes merely a prophecy of what will happen in any case.
The Survey contains these words:No large-scale redistribution of labour between industries is required.I suppose it depends upon what one means by large-scale. Certainly some substantial changes are necessary. I believe that textile industries are 70,000 workers short, distribution already has too many people in it and public administration has far too big a proportion of the total manpower engaged in it. In the case of agriculture I think that we are perhaps within sight of success. The figures are moving in the right direction, and if the Government will only get on faster with housing and amenities in the country districts I do not think we need fear that that target will not be hit.
In conditions of full employment, and when an anti-inflation policy is being carried out, the problem, as the Government well know, is how to get these moves brought about without raising costs in the industries into which it is desired to attract people. I agree that it is a difficult problem. I cannot help feeling that the impression given in this Survey is that the Government have no convincing answer. I agree entirely with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the importance of such things as a happy atmosphere and more cheerful working conditions. All these help enormously.
I note that the unemployment figure is estimated to be no higher at the end of the present year than it was at the end of 1948. We all hope that that will be so but I am afraid that this year will witness, as is already perfectly clear, a sharp falling off in demand in certain directions. It seems to me very difficult to believe that we have yet enough flexibility in industry to be able, in those circumstances, to keep unemployment down to the present total. At all- events we all hope that that forecast will be borne out.
I wish to say a word about compulsion. No one would accuse the right hon. Gentleman of being harsh in the way in which he has carried out such compulsory 614 direction as exists today. He and his Department have carried it out with great sympathy and understanding, but I entirely agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe) that compulsion of any kind in peace time is thoroughly bad.
Yes. That is a fair question. I am in favour of compulsory military service in peace time in the circumstances in which we are placed. I make that exception but I do not want to see compulsion carried outside the Armed Services in time of peace. I do not think it is a good thing. I definitely agree with compulsory military service.
I am afraid that I am now too old for that. I am saying that I do not believe that an unwilling worker is really worth having. The principle has bad effects on the morale and prestige of the industry concerned. I know that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with that view, and I hope that he will screw up his courage and get rid of those remaining traces of compulsion wherever they exist.
I turn now to the question of manpower for exports. At present I believe that we have working for export about twice the manpower which we had so working before the war, and the volume of exports today as compared with 1939 is about 150 or 160 per cent. That ratio is not in itself a very impressive one. Costs and quality are the two factors which give everyone who is working for export a great deal of anxiety. I suggest that in respect of neither of them are there any grounds for complacency today. We in this country are relatively high cost producers and are not likely to get back to being low cost producers again. Accordingly we have to address ourselves wholeheartedly to the question of quality, by which I mean up-to-date design, absolute reliability and decent finish.
I know a Canadian business man who is at present over here, and I was sorry to find that he had come as an emissary from his association with complaints as 615 to the average quality of British textiles today. That is a trade in which I am interested, and I was sorry to hear what he said, but I am afraid that there are grounds for it. There are of course many difficulties. There is the question of high rate of labour turnover, which places an enormous burden on training. That in itself has an effect both on quality and costs, and it is a problem with which we have to deal.
The fact remains that at the moment we are not really making the best of our tremendous asset—the high quality of British manpower. How can we do that? I suggest that it is partly a job for management, partly a job for the workers and partly a job for the Government, as everything else seems to be when one gets down to these questions. I believe absolutely in the soundness of the principle of joint consultation. I believe that one can do many things in that way if only one has the patient and understanding to work it. Do not expect too much but stick to it and work away, and one will find one is getting more results than one thinks. There are certain responsibilities and ways in which all these partners can help. Management has, in present circumstances, to be more alert and on its toes than ever before. It must be encouraged to be so. I suggest first of all the restoration of competition wherever that can be done. Secondly, let the Government continue abolishing the quotas and controls based on the status quo. They do not encourage efficiency.
Yes. I know only too well as a manufacturer that competition can be an extremely painful process. On the other hand, I know the dangers of the alternative to competition. Competition is a rough and ready method but I believe that it is the best way of serving the general interest.
I am for the moment referring to domestic competition inside a country where there is a common standard of living.
All I say is that I believe that competition is something to be encouraged and not discouraged. I have not time to go further into that although I should be very glad to, because it is a most interesting subject. Management must be encouraged, too, by further taxation concessions, to increase its present rate of investment in new equipment and machinery, and there must be big material rewards for those who achieve success above the average.
I wish to refer to one or two ways in which I think the wage earner can make his contribution. I suggest that it is a good thing when wage earners welcome more efficient methods and more efficient equipment, and not only welcome them, but press for them. The trades unions in the United States are more apt than ours are to press employers and manufacturers to provide them with better means and better tools for getting on with the job. I think that that is to be welcomed. Workers would, in general, be wise to be glad rather than sorry when the concern for which they work earns good profits and ploughs them back into the business. On the whole, the efficient concern offers more security than the inefficient and the weak concern.
Then there is that intangible thing which I would describe, for want of a better term, as pride in one's job, or in the way one does one's job. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the worst thing, where it exists, is what one might call the "couldn't care less" attitude. We find it, in places, among all sections of the community. Is that the fault of the employer? I would be the last to deny that employers must take their share of responsibility for all these things, but we sometimes find this attitude in the very best and most progressive concerns—even in Government Departments and nationalised industries. Many people put their hearts and all they have into their jobs, but unfortunately it is also true today that many do not.
Part of the trouble is the tendency for material remuneration to be levelled out, so that the industrious and the lazy, the highly skilled and the person who only just scrapes through on skill, tend to get very much the same kind of reward. That 617 is disheartening for the man who has skill or energy above the average. It is a truth, and I am afraid a sad truth, that where slacking does exist it exists largely in the younger section of the community. That is something which should give us all grounds for a good deal of thought.
I would illustrate what I mean by telling the House of one trivial incident which I noticed last night. I was travelling on a bus. The bus stopped, and the bus conductor jumped off the vehicle, went down the street into a shop, bought a packet of cigarettes for himself, came back again, and the bus went on. I admit that the loss of time was not more than a minute. There were not more than 20 people in the bus, and that would, I suppose, mean the loss of 20 man-minutes. But I feel that if that conductor had had a little more respect for his job, that bus would not have been stopped in that way.
I would make three suggestions as to ways in which the Government can help. First, there is the call-up. Listening to the Service Debates the other day I received the distinct impression that there were too many National Service men going into the Forces at the present time and that it would be better for optimum efficiency if the number could be cut down by 20 per cent. or 25 per cent. I would have no objection if it had to be done by ballot. There is nothing anti-democratic about the ballot if no more scientific way can be thought of. The gain to industry and the gain to the Services would be quite considerable. Secondly, there is the question of retirement. The net effect of the National Insurance scheme seems to me to be to encourage retirement. As a population we are getting older. I am glad to say that we are also getting healthier, and I consider that the aim of that insurance scheme ought to be to encourage people to continue working.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Is the hon. Member aware that there is an increase in pension for the man who will continue to work until he is 70?
I am aware of that, but what I want to see is a bigger encouragement to continue working because I believe that the present encouragement does not out-weigh the direct encouragement to retire. Industry too must face up to this problem. I should like to see 618 industry consider very carefully whether something can be devised to provide special jobs for the latter stages of a man's career. There are so many jobs in industry that are fine for men of 20 or 30, but are definitely unsuitable for men of 50 or 60. If we can find a way to get a gradual transition to suitable jobs for them there is no reason why many more people should not be happy and satisfied to continue to work for another five years. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider the desirability of persuading the Government either to abolish the condition of retirement at present in the National Insurance Scheme or, at any rate, to increase the benefits to those who desire to work a bit longer.
Lastly, I wish to refer again to pride in the job. I hope that the Government will see that joint consultative bodies at all levels get together and try jointly to work out ways of strengthening this sense of pride and satisfaction in the job. It can be tackled in several ways, partly by better differentials in remuneration for skill and effort. In that connection I should like to see the professional status of "rate fixers" raised nearer the level of that of chartered accountants, for example, because I believe that their work is very important, if they do it well and in an impartial manner. 'There is also the question of technical training which obviously has a most important part to play in this connection. Then there is generally the attitude of the management and the unions and the Government to the whole question of pride in the job; particularly the trade unions, perhaps, because they are closest to the mass of the workers. Let the Government show that they regard pride, ambition and loyalty in doing one's job, whatever it is—and whether one is working for the Government or a private employer—as equally a good thing.
The first two suggestions I have made would increase the quantity of manpower available. The third would increase the individual output and quality of the work given. Today, it is unfashionable to own up to pride in the quality and output of one's work. It is regarded rather like "swotting" at school; but nevertheless it is absolutely fundamental to our full recovery. I am certain that, on the whole, we have in this country the very best manpower that there is anywhere 619 in the world. That is a tremendous asset of which we must make the fullest possible use. I sincerely believe that to the extent to which every one of us feels, and is glad to own that one feels, pride and self-respect and loyalty in the job one is doing; to that extent the feet of the nation will be firmly set on the road to prosperity. That is the attitude which I hope it will be the aim of the Government, by their actions, to foster and promote in every way possible.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Edelman (Coventry, West)
The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory) began his amiable and helpful speech by paying a tribute to the Government. I should like to reinforce that tribute. Everybody who sees how during the last year the Government have maintained full employment will applaud their efforts. Equally, I am sure that they will want to applaud the Minister of Labour for having continued those policies initiated by his predecessor which have resulted in so much good will within industry as a whole. If we compute the amount of industrial friction, trouble and dispute which has taken place during the period of transition from war to peace, we must all agree that it has been, indeed, very small.
But, Sir, when one talks of full employment one must recognise that, however desirable full employment may be, however essential it is for the happiness of the people, in itself it is not necessarily an index of prosperity. The Chinese have had full employment for 5,000 years, but the Chinese peasant, working from dawn to dusk or the Chinese labourer pulling his barge from morning till night, does not necessarily have a high standard of life because he has full employment. Therefore, in considering full employment as it is today and the variations in employment such as they are likely to be in the coming year, we must consider what is the structure of employment and whether we are getting full employment in those industries where we need it most. I am thinking now of the export industries in particular, which, unless fully manned, unless able both by their manpower and their productivity to reach the targets outlined in the Economic Survey, will not be able to serve the national interest in the way intended.
620 In the Midlands during the last few days we have heard, for the first time since 1945, the word "redundancy" widely uttered. In 1945 that word did not have quite the sinister implications which it has today. In 1945 we were changing over from war production to peace production. Workers realised that even if they were temporarily out of work while the factory was being re-tooled or while a new job was being prepared, once the factory was set up for the new production they would be able to have good and secure employment. That is what happened in the first three years after the war.
The important and significant fact about the year which followed the war was that British industry was in a seller's market. At that time America, preoccupied with her domestic market, was not a competitor of Britain abroad. Today America is beginning to enter, or is re-entering, our overseas markets. In the earlier circumstances, what with the devastation left by the war and the amount of leeway in the production of consumer goods which had to be made up, British industry could look forward to a long period of full production and, therefore, of full employment.
But today industry is beginning to run into difficulties which were certainly not envisaged last year and which, in my view, are not contemplated in the Economic Survey. I am inclined to believe that although the Economic Survey suggests the level of unemployment will remain more or less at what it is today, it is likely to rise unless certain very important steps are taken. What is more, unemployment is likely to rise not merely in the general sense that there will be unemployment among those whose activities make, perhaps, a lesser contribution to the national welfare, but is likely to rise in our key export industries.
Only two days ago there was an announcement which occupied a small space in the national Press. I make no complaint of that because there were many other matters of importance. But that announcement was extremely suggestive of a great danger which the country is facing today. It was that 1,700 workers had been dismissed en masse from the country's leading tractor factory. In terms of personal hardship that in itself is considerable. In 621 terms of the national interest it is most ominous. That is only one indication. There are others. Only yesterday in the Midlands 250 motor car workers were dismissed because of difficulties which the motor manufacturers are finding in the export market.
Here I should like to emphasise a point in connection with the dismissal of these 250 workers, because it illustrates that in the last few years, engaged as we have been in a seller's market, we have perhaps become careless of the consequences of certain processes and actions which we have been undertaking and for which we all have responsibility. I am speaking particularly of a system of export which is known in the motor industry as C.K.D. The initial letters C.K.D. stand for "completely knocked down." It is the system by which motor manufacturers ship abroad cars in an unassembled condition for assembly overseas. It is a practice in which the Americans have engaged for a long time. They have been accustomed to ship car-components C.K.D. to branches of their own firms in order that the cars might be assembled either by cheaper labour in overseas countries or in order to overcome certain restrictions which foreign countries had placed on the importation of American cars.
In the year following the war this traffic, which was conducted on a fairly large scale, may be said to have had some justification because of lack of shipping space. I submit that there was never any validity in the argument that motor manufacturers had to ship cars in an unassembled condition because had they not done so the Americans would have done so. In point of fact, in many cases the cars have been shipped into areas to which the Americans were not exporters and where they had no private facilities for assembly of this kind.
Naturally; at a time when it was necessary to encourage and develop exports as far as possible, it was desirable to ship by this C.K.D. system. But today we can see two consequences which arise from this method of sending cars abroad unassembled. First, motor assembly workers in Coventry and Birmingham, and no doubt in Rugby also, may at some time find themselves unemployed as a result of this method. And secondly, 622 looking ahead, we can see clearly that to ship components abroad for assembly by foreign countries is fundamentally a form of slow industrial suicide. As everyone knows, these semi-developed countries, when they begin to develop industries of their own, begin at the assembly end and work backwards to the fabricating beginning; and that is what has been happening. When we have taught foreign countries the technique of assembly, they teach themselves the technique of fabrication. I have stressed that purely as an illustration of an undesirable practice, and which no doubt can be multiplied by reference to other industries.
In the case of tractors, we have a different problem, and I want to say a word about the tractor industry. There, today's redundancy may well become tomorrow's unemployment—unless we take certain drastic action. The major reason for redundancy in the tractor industry is that certain foreign countries, particularly France, are short of sterling, and, therefore, however much they desire British tractors—and we certainly produce the best tractors in the world—however unmechanised their own farms may be, they are prevented from buying our tractors because they lack sterling.
In this country, we have a tractor industry producing at the rate of well over 100,000 a year, which is enough to supply our own industry and also provide a surplus for export. The French, for their part, because their farms are unmechanised and need tractors, are straining every nerve to build up a tractor industry of their own under their own four-year plan. If the French are successful by using all their efforts in building up their own tractor industry, the result will be, not merely surplus tractor capacity in Coventry and those other of our cities where they are manufactured, but also surplus workers in the tractor industry. It seems to me that it makes a mockery of the whole conception of Western Union and economic integration, if it is impossible to relate the industries and manpower of this country to the manpower and capital investment of countries overseas.
I must confess that I was somewhat disappointed when the other day I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer say, in connection with his talks in France, that there had been no question of the basic 623 principles or the integration of the industries of the two countries being discussed. Surely, that is the problem which faces us today—the problem of trying to make our industries fit into the industries of the other industrial countries of Western Europe in order to avoid harmful and wasteful competition?
What is true of the tractor industry is equally true of the motor industry. For a long time, motor manufacturers—and we have to remember that the motor industry is our biggest export industry—have had the opportunity of selling in a market which has been favourable both because of the needs of the consuming countries and because of the absence of American and German competition. We are now faced with German competition as well as the likelihood of increasing American competition. If we are not to have a large number of motor workers unemployed, which will mean that the export effort of the country as a whole will be seriously harmed, it obviously is of the greatest importance that there should be some form of consultation between the competitive countries of Western Europe, and America as well, in order to achieve specialisation and avoid wasteful competition.
The Council on Anglo-American Production, which has recently been sitting, recommended that domestically there should be some endeavour at specialisation, in order to facilitate mass and therefore cheap production. What can be achieved in America on a continental scale could be achieved in Britain on a national scale. It should certainly be attempted, and I believe it can be achieved, in the general context of Western Union.
The 19 countries of Western Union have produced plans, many of them out of harmony with each other, and the net result has been that, instead of the co-operation which was the design of the founders of the plan, we have a situation in which these 19 plans are more or less in conflict with each other. I want to suggest—and perhaps my right hon. Friend will convey this suggestion to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade—that we should be attempting bi-national or multi-national industrial consultation as between the countries of Western Europe which today are in competition with each 624 other; and that those bi-national or multi-national consultations should include, as it were, some form of joint production committees. There should be representatives of the employers and the workers and governmental representatives all operating within the framework of O.E.E.C.
Only by such an approach and by such consultations, which will encourage forms of specialisation can the dangers which threaten the full employment position today be overcome. I know how much easier it is to follow the traditional line and to rely on the optimism which three years of full employment have created; but there are very grave dangers today, and I sincerely hope that my right hon. Friend will renounce the complacency which the Economic Survey suggests as being in the minds of some of those who plan production for the coming year, that he will recognise the dangers, and, having recognised them, will take steps to avoid them.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I am sure that the House will agree with a great deal of what has been said by the hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman). I think the real problem with those of us who are actively engaged in industry is this complacency which he has mentioned, and I entirely agree with him that, if we do not do something through the medium of Western Union and try to work out some system, the 19 nations will destroy themselves, and we shall not be able to get that full employment which we all desire. I welcome this Debate, because on this occasion we are dealing with facts that really matter to all our constituents in every part of the country. The speech which we heard from the right hon. Gentleman gave us a good deal of satisfaction, but I share the view of the hon. Member for West Coventry that, not only in the Economic Survey but even in the speech of the Minister, there was a suggestion of complacency which I do not think is justified.
If we discuss matters concerning the export trade, we find that our costs in this country are far too high, and the real problem which workers and managements have to solve is that of the means by which we can reduce these costs in order to make it possible to sell our goods abroad. How that is to be done is a 625 matter for the Government, managements and workers to face up to, but I am very alarmed at the position in which some trades in this country find themselves today. I do not know how we are to bring home—whether through the trade unions, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the President of the Board of Trade, or the Minister of Labour I do not know, but we must bring home somehow or other—to all concerned, the fact that, unless management can reform its methods and the workers reform theirs, we are not going to continue in the happy state in which we are today.
With regard to this matter of redundancy, there are danger signs in the motoring industry. But it is not only in that industry; there are many others which, in the next few months, will fly the danger signals. To take one small example, there is the present position in the radio trade. The output in the United States today of ordinary wireless receivers is so great that they are literally dumping them in different parts of the world at prices which we simply cannot look at. That is a problem which is easily settled by merely looking at the trade returns of the different countries. But what is even more important in the Debate today is the distribution of manpower, and how we are going to deal with it in order to help not only the export trade, but the maintenance of employment in this country.
One of my hon. Friends made a most excellent speech just now, with every word of which I agree. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility for the Minister of Labour together with the trade unions to try to find some way by which workers in industry can, as they get older, be allocated to more easy jobs. It is that very difficulty of the cast iron distinction between different jobs in industry, and the inability to transfer a worker from one to another which, in the end, militates against the real interest of the workers. I have to do with various industries and the employment of some thousands of men, and I am perfectly certain that one of the great things for which we must be thankful today is that the old idea has passed and that we realise that managements must share with the workers the complete knowledge of what is intended and how we are working towards that end. In a war the great 626 secret of success is to trust the troops and to tell them what we are going to do. That is equally true in peace for industry.
Those directors and managements who do not take the workers fully into their confidence are bound to suffer, because there are a number of very intelligent men throughout industry and we must open up to them the opportunity of going to the very top. I think that private enterprise may do that more easily than nationalisation, but that is only my view. If private enterprise does not do it now, then they are going to get what they deserve, and that is nationalisation. I can think of no worse thing. The really important thing in these relations between management and labour in industry is to get rid of a little bit of suspicion that still exists. I find in joint production councils that, if one wants to discuss the policy of the firm, it is very disappointing when the whole time is taken up on some tiny detail which does not really matter instead of getting down to the big question of policy.
I do not know whether the House realises how great a difference little things can make to the every-day happiness of workers in factories. I wonder how many hon. Members realise the difference it makes if the ceiling of the factory is painted a pale blue like the sky, and if golden lights are placed outside the windows during the winter months. If this is done, one finds a feeling of happiness in the works, and that is the atmosphere we must have. We must have a feeling of happiness in all branches of industry so that when walking through a factory we see happy people and not scowling faces. When there is that atmosphere, there is no suspicion.
We have gone a very long way in regard to personnel management at the present time, and I think that a great deal more might be done by the Government, not only in training artisans, but in training people in that very important work of dealing with personnel, both men and women. As a matter of fact, I have to leave the House rather early this evening because I have to go to a conference on this very subject early tomorrow morning. We are concentrating too much on the artisan side, the operative side, and the management side, and not enough on 627 how to get the right type of person to deal with the every-day small problems of the men and women in the factories.
There is one other thing to which I wish to draw the attention of the House. I believe that in this country today there is what the Minister of Agriculture would call, "marginal land." There is also an enormous amount of what one might term "marginal labour." I cannot understand what these people are doing. The other day I walked down Oxford Street with an American friend of mine. It was 11.30 in the morning, and we saw a great number of young men just walking about. He asked me what they were doing, and suggested that we should count them. I was astonished at the number of young men who, apparently, had nothing to do except walk about Oxford Street. No doubt they have something to do, but what is it? Then my friend drew attention to the number of barrow boys. There were a lot of young, healthy fellows selling oranges.
I do not understand the system of barrow boys. They are admirable people, no doubt, and fulfil a useful function, but it makes me wonder whether the statistics of the Ministry of Labour about the availability of labour are as accurate as they pretend to be. I have a shrewd suspicion that the figures which are presented, especially those in Command No. 7018, published in 1947, entitled "Economic Considerations Affecting the Relations Between Employers and Workers," and the table at the end, do not really cover the available labour in this country. One has only to go to a race meeting and walk round the course to see quite a lot of seemingly idle people. I do not know what they are doing, but they are certainly not doing much to help the export trade. All I am suggesting is that while we are bound to take the figures of the Ministry of Labour as our basis, there are a lot of things we can still ask about which might be helpful in regard to the export trade.
The other point to which I wish to draw attention is the attitude of the trade unions with regard to modern machinery. I know this is a very delicate subject, and one on which one must be very careful about the words one uses. But there is too much of the "Luddite riot" atmosphere still about. In the 628 United States, as has already been said today, the whole pressure of the unions is to force employers to give them more power to their elbow and the most modern machinery. In this country, our workers are handicapped because they are trying to produce goods without the power and without the modern equipment which the Americans have got. Until we can induce those with whom we are associated in industry to say that they will accept the most modern machinery and will be delighted to work it, we shall not be able to compete in foreign markets with those countries which do use such machinery. I could give the right hon. Gentleman detailed particulars of certain factories where machines have been put away because the representatives of the trade unions refuse to allow them to be used.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I am not prepared to say where, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there are such places. I can deal only with facts. It is the wrong mentality not to utilise everything that helps in production. The danger is, of course, that there is this fear of unemployment. If a battery of new machines arrives and, on the face of it, it looks as if you will have to stand down a certain number of workers, then the first natural impulse is for people to say, "We are not going to have that we are not going to see our friends stood down because of that." Surely in any modern industry the management ought to guarantee that there will be no displacement of those in employment, although I do not pretend for a moment that if we use modern machinery the total sum of labour in the industry may not be reduced. The slack would be taken up in some other way. I think it is a frightful condemnation of the failure of direction, management and workers that we are not accepting in this country the most modern machinery in order to help our export trade.
In his last report to the House the Chancellor of the Exchequer emphasised the importance of industry modernising itself by every possible means. It seems to me that we are exporting today a large number of machines which are vital to some of our backward factories. 629 I cannot believe that that is very good policy at the present time, because it seems obvious that the markets of the world in the future will accept only those things which are really first-class in quality and which are produced with the best possible workmanship. I am certain—and this is not a passing remark—that the British artisan and worker is the best worker, so far as I know, in the world today, and it is wrong that he should not be given every facility and every help. There is a great change coming in these new machines. In the old days a craftsman used to judge by the unit product which he turned out. I think we now have a change and we must make the craftsman proud of the machine he handles. Some of these machines are extremely expensive and one needs a very highly-skilled man to handle them. The great thing is to make the engineer so proud of his machine that he is anxious that it should turn out at its maximum capacity whatever it is producing.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Manchester, Hulme)
Would the hon. Member agree, on this most important issue, that we shall not get that pride in a machine if, when a new and modern type of machine is introduced, we insist upon telling the man that he has now become a semiskilled man because we have taken the craft out of the job; and if we insist on reducing his pay, so that he must accept a reduced standard of life?
§ Sir R. Glyn
That is a very good point. I think if that is done it shows a very bad fault on the side of management. Surely that is one of the things in which joint consultation between worker and employer is so important. Some of us who are actively engaged in agriculture think it is a most extraordinary thing that we have to pay exactly the same wages to a tractor driver —and, after all, sitting on a tractor is not very highly-skilled—as to a man who has been a ploughman all his life and who, because the number of horses has been reduced, has to use a tractor but is nevertheless first-class with the implement which the tractor draws. Yet that highly-skilled man in the use of that implement is entitled to no more pay than the boy who goes out and drives the tractor, perhaps knowing very little about the implement which he draws. That is only an illustration from one 630 industry, but I think it is true throughout.
What I am anxious to urge upon the Ministry of Labour is this: that we should go forward with this technical education of boys and apprentices before they have to join the Army. In some industries with which I am concerned we have technical classes and we encourage the boys who are the sons of the workers to attend these classes. We try to help them by every means we can in this technical education and everything else. But then they are called up. I believe we are calling up far too many people under the National Service Act. Whatever the number we call up, let there be some link with the Minister of National Service and the Services themselves so that an apprentice who is in a particular line of the engineering industry can go into the Services into some similar line and can continue his education; and when he has completed his service, let industry see that they fit him back into an appropriate job. These may sound complicated things, but I think the whole future of our country is at stake and that in the next few years we must see better relations between management, direction and labour. Any of us who care about the future of this country, quite apart from politics—and I do not think politics enter into it; this is a human problem—know the importance of this.
There are bad managements, difficult trade unions—or if not difficult trade unions, there are difficult representatives of trade unions—and in one part of the country a certain arrangement is quite easily made while in another part of the country it is not easily made. But it is up to the Ministry of Labour to help us to get over these difficulties and the only way in which it can be done is by taking the workers fully into our confidence and telling them the problems. Let us be done with this utter nonsense that there is some sort of mystery about direction and management; there is not. The whole thing is one. Anybody who is in industry and is doing his job properly ought to have an equal pride in what he does—the worker, the management, the people in the office, the costers and everybody else; it is all one thing. If we can get that feeling introduced, and if the men can feel they can ask questions, we shall be making progress.
631 I remember I was concerned with one article which involved a great deal of mass production. It was a tedious job and the women employed in it had to move their hands to pass things down an endless belt. I thought it might be interesting for them to see the finished product on which they were working, so I had photographs taken and placed over the machines. For the first time they knew what, ultimately, they were doing. That is a tiny thing, but why should we not do more of it? I think it is the pride of the worker, the pride of management, that is really the hope for the future.
I feel the Ministry of Labour have done a very great job, although I am not quite happy about their statistics; I do not think they tell the whole story. I believe we must deal with this matter as one of real urgency, because, as has been said, I think we can see the writing on the wall this month. I think the situation in the autumn, and certainly next year, may be very serious unless we reduce the costs of our products in foreign markets.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I think this discussion today is evidence of a universal desire to solve the problem of the allocation of our manpower so that we may find a permanent place in world economy, because without that there is no real social security for the people of this country. It is already evident that we cannot tackle that job without recognition of the responsibility of political government. That is a very serious change which has taken place over the last 20 years, because I can remember a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Robert Home, who in the period of the First World War tried to convince the people of this country that the only possibility of obtaining economic and industrial prosperity was to divorce industry as far as possible from any contact with the political machine of the country. Today there is a recognition, apart from party politics, that if we are to get the best out of industry, the Government of the day, of whatever party it may be composed, in association with the employers and the trade unions, must constantly examine the problems of industry and ways of solving them.
632 One of the interesting features of the Debate has been the attempt to emphasise the need for bringing more people into certain industries. I want to join in that discussion, but from another angle of approach. The unemployment in this country, by comparison with the number of people employed, is very small indeed. It is remarkable evidence of economic recovery that, within three years of the end of the war, over 20 million people are employed. I know that some people say that if it had not been for Marshall Aid there would have been a very serious crisis in our country. What annoys me about this is that some people feel annoyed because we have Marshall Aid, and feel uneasy about it. However, Marshall Aid does not alone explain how it is that an island community of 50 million, three years after the war, can find employment for more than 20 million. It is a remarkable job of recovery.
However, I represent a part of Britain which, in my view, is not enjoying that portion of prosperity and of employment to which it is entitled. I speak of Scotland. Roughly speaking, there are 365,000 unemployed in Britain, and over 70,000 of them are in Scotland. In other words, of every five unemployed in this country, one is in Scotland. That is a remarkably high proportion. It is a reasonably well-established fact that of financial contributions to the social services and to industry in this country from the national Exchequer, Scotland gets a tenth or a twelfth part of what goes to England. Because of over-centralisation in government, there is a tendency to regard Scotland as a somewhat isolated piece of land on the border of England. There is the view, particularly in London, that a two penny bus ride will take one all over Scotland, that Scotland is just one of those little places which does not matter, and that it can have any thrown-off odds and ends which cannot be fitted into the scheme of things in England. I say seriously that I want the Minister to give more attention in future to the claims of the Scottish people in regard to the allocation of employment.
Let me give a few figures to show how serious a matter this is. In London, with its millions of population, there are some 28,000 unemployed; in Birmingham there are 3,400 unemployed; in Manchester, 6,000. The only black spot in England comparable with that in 633 Glasgow is Liverpool, which has an amount of unemployment almost identical with that in Glasgow—23,000. The cities of Glasgow and Liverpool have made as large a contribution to the wealth of this country as any other town in the United Kingdom. Yet unemployment is becoming permanent in the city of Glasgow. Even the Minister himself seems to recognise that. I give him credit for having taken some steps to ease the situation slightly by way of arranging conferences. But compare 23,000 unemployed in Glasgow with a little more than 3,000 unemployed in Birmingham. I do not want to misrepresent the picture, and I am not saying there should be 15,000 unemployed in Birmingham and 15,000 unemployed in Glasgow. What I do say is that it is the responsibility of people examining industry and employment to find how far they can reduce unemployment in the city of Glasgow, if they have already found ways and means of reducing it in the city of Birmingham.
It has been argued by the Minister, and by others, that housing plays a large part in the success of the industries engaged in the export drive. The mining and agricultural industries have priorities in housing. There is need for further inquiry into the manpower called up for National Service. It was contemplated that we would require 25,000 apprentices annually in the building industry to keep up the strength of the labour force in that industry, which is reckoned to be about 1,250,000. In round figures, half that number are craftsmen. There are people who could be employed usefully on the labouring side of the building industry, but there is no place for them because of the gradual reduction in the number of craftsmen entering the industry.
The curtailment of capital expenditure is an important factor adversely affecting the industry. Another factor is this. Young men, or lads coming out of school, are incapable of directing their minds progressively to any particular industry because of the possibility of their being called up for the Army. I am no pacifist, but I cannot see how we shall get a sound industrial economy or a proficient army by operating this system of conscription, because it is an unsettling factor in the life of young people who should be entering the trades and professions. In view of the reduction in the 634 number of apprentices in the building industry because of their going into the Army, I foresee the closing down of a considerable part of our housing output at an early date.
One only requires to make even a casual examination of a city like Glasgow to see the shocking conditions in which the people live, and, so long as that happens, we can never get the best output in any of our industries. People who built the "Queen Elizabeth," the finest ship that ever sailed, have come back to my Division to live, some of them in single rooms, with four or five youngsters, under the most insanitary conditions. I ask the Minister carefully to examine the question of the calling up into the Armed Forces of young people who should be directed into housing.
Complaint has been made today against the direction of labour. I shall be very happy to be on the recruiting platform to aid, if possible, in the direction into industry of the people who have been searching for work for the last 18 months. I shall be happy to help to direct them back into industry. There can be no harm in directing people into industry, or any phase of our national life which is essential to our well-being. Why should people make demands on the community unless, at certain stages of their life, they make their contribution to the well-being of the community? If people do not do it willingly, then I think the conclusions compel the Government or the authorities to call them in to work, even by the method adopted by the right hon. Gentleman.
I want to finish by making two points. While I plead for a further examination of the conditions in the areas where unemployment is heavy, I am conscious of the fact that we can so speed up our industrial production and become so much engaged in mad world competition that in the very process of producing all the goods that the peoples of the world require, we can, because of the shortsightedness of our approach, start starving the people who produce those goods. I am satisfied that, just as the national Government in this island of ours are compelled to take a responsible part, in constant consultation with the employers and trade unions, in examining our economy and straightening it out wherever they can, we are now in a period when we shall require to apply 635 that principle permanently in our international relationships.
After all, we are liable to lose sight of the fact that production is only the first process and that unless we have the intelligence to relate the consuming power of the people of the world with the power to produce, there is bound to be a great deal of foolish and blind competition. Call it politics or what we like, the sooner we realise the importance of trying to examine the needs of a community and producing according to the requirements, the sooner we ease the possibility of any serious crisis.
I think it is a great tragedy in the world today that we cannot find former allies willing to sit round the conference table, not merely to draw up peace treaties, but to ask each country what resources it can give to the world, and how best those resources can be allocated. There need be no crisis in the world if we have intelligent statesmen in the world. There are millions of people in great need, and statesmen, in their wisdom, should get together and try to examine how far our productive resources can knit into the claims of the people and encourage the people to increase their claims as their knowledge grows. I hope that at the international conferences which my right hon. Friend is to attend, he will stress that point of view. This little island community of ours cannot, in my view, prosper by the policy of sheer competition, because in our own country, as in the world, we have this serious contradiction that the greater the education of the people the greater their tendency to slip away from industry altogether. That is a factor which we have to face.
I think that if we examine the membership of this House of Commons, irrespective of parties, we shall find that there are many who would prefer their sons to be civil engineers or doctors rather than ordinary engineers or dock-men. That is the general view, because until now, we have never regarded labour in the creating of tangible wealth as a useful occupation. We have done so only when we were lecturing people who were engaged in industry while we were not —when we were lecturing other people that it was good to be a miner and an honour to work in the docks and that people in such employments were doing useful work for the nation.
636 The truth is that our education tends to help us to escape from those jobs. There will need to be a revolution with regard to the place of men and women in society and in the industries of society. I know that is not a job which this Government can solve today, but it is a task that must be undertaken. It may be a long-term policy, but sooner or later, the peoples of this country and of the world must recognise that it will be useful to have educated people engaged in real industry, and that there is no crime in doing so. I end as I started, by pleading with the Minister to make further inquiries into the pockets of unemployment in the country; and, if I may be sufficiently selfish, particularly in regard to the city to which I belong, where we have a great people entitled, because of the wealth which they have already contributed to this country, to a much higher standard of living than they have ever had before.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Central)
Every now and again this House sails into calm waters, and I think it is at its best on such a day. One gets reasoned and thoughtful contributions from all sides of the House, and the standard was ably set by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) in his opening speech. I thought for a moment, that a storm was going to blow up from Bridgeton, but the hon. Member ended on a calm note and left the House relatively unruffled. I should like to associate myself with the appeal he made because I am a co-citizen of his, and I know just how much Scotland and Glasgow, in particular, have suffered in the past from an excessive proportion of unemployment, and that, small though that is at the present time, Scotland is still bearing more than its share.
Then we had a reasoned and reasonable contribution from the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams), with most of whose speech I agree, except that he persisted in comparing compulsory Government action to direct people into industry with an accidental economic fact which forced them out of their jobs in between the wars, and the two factors are not in any way comparable. Then we come to the speech of the Minister of Labour, with the latter part of which, 637 of course, I find myself in complete agreement, because it was pure Industrial Charter. Now there can be no doubt that one of the most acute problems in planning is the problem of manpower distribution. As my right hon. and learned Friend stressed at the beginning, the Economic Survey of 1948 underlined that, and it was for that that the Control of Engagement Order was, unhappily, inflicted on the country.
Then the Survey for 1949, which has entered into so much of our consideration today, uses these words:The aim of the Government…has been to increase the labour force of certain industries which are essential to our economic recovery,and goes on to say:this policy has met with a large measure of of success.Well, has it? Looking at this objectively, can one really say that that is true? Or are the Minister and the writers of the White Paper making virtue of a necessity? I hope the right hon. Gentleman has not fallen into the disruptive theory of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health who, when explaining away the appalling miscalculations under the Supplementary Estimates for Health, said that all that showed he was a bad arithmetician but a very good administrator. I hope that is not the doctrine which the right hon. Gentleman is adopting in connection with this Survey.
I had intended to criticise these five key industries—coal, agriculture, cotton, textiles and wool—but my right hon. and learned Friend has already given the figures, so I do not want to burden the House with a repetition of what he has said. Nor do I want to show, since he has done so, how the building trade, the distributive trades, and local government have failed to get the reductions which were contemplated and estimated. But I do just want to say this in passing before I treat one or two of these individual trades separately. In these five essential industries, which are said to have "met with a considerable measure of success," but which in fact have only gone a very short way towards achieving what they set out to achieve, the total increase is 82,000 workers.
We also see that, although there were, mercifully, only 300 directions under the 638 Control of Engagement Order, nevertheless there were 576,000 placings made in the essential industries granted priority in the supply of labour. That must make any thinking man wonder a very great deal. Here are 576,000 placings in these essential industries in one year, resulting at the end of the year in a mere 82,000 increase. That is a terrific turnover in labour. Almost as fast as the labour is poured in at one end of the funnel it is pouring out at the other. I know the right hon. Gentleman says that his officials are guiders; that they cajole and exhort those who come to them to go into the particular industry in which they are required. I can only say that the pleaders have failed the planners, because for merely 82,000 to stick at the end of the year shows there is something very wrong in the turnover of labour in that connection.
Turnover of labour is extremely costly to industry; it is a thing to be avoided, so far as one possibly can, because there is time lost, and there is the loss necessary to train the newcomer in the job in which he has gone—because he cannot straight away pick up a new job, fall into it and be as efficient as the man who left it. The Trades Union Congress has estimated that, for a light engineering firm employing 5,000 men a labour turnover of 50 per cent.—and some of the figures in the Survey come almost to an equivalent of a 50 per cent. turnover in labour—would cost the firm £200,000. That is the sort of cost industry cannot possibly afford in the days of competition which are coming ever more rapidly towards us.
What, then, can we analyse to find out what causes this excessive turnover? I believe that it is due partly still to the unsettlement of war. We had it after the First World War. A man cannot be pitchforked into the unnatural life that war represents and then told, "Now you have got to be a good boy, forget all about that, and go back and get into a job and stay there." The whole nation becomes unsettled, and I think that part of that unsettlement is still with us. Then, when there is full employment, as there is just now, we descend, if I may use the term, to the low stratum of employee, to the man who naturally is unsettled, and naturally tends to leave his job. I think that also increases the turnover of 639 labour. Then possibly there is over-persuasion by these pleaders who exhort individuals to go into one of the priority industries, from which those individuals clearly, judging from these figures, depart very soon.
Let us look for a moment at the building industry figures, because I think that a great deal of our trouble stems from building. It stems from the fact that the building industry has not been able, in spite of all the Minister of Health says, to produce the houses the nation needs. It was because of financial stringency that a decrease of 164,000 workers in the building industry was aimed at. In fact, the decrease was 7,000. Nobody can say that that is a large measure of success. The building force today is greater than it was in 1939, but is producing only two-thirds the results. Well, what are the Government to do about it? It says in the White Paper that building labour which did not decline in 1948, as at first intended, is expected to remain at or about its present size in 1949. Have the Government, then, thrown in the sponge on this matter? It is all the more curious, because under the capital expenditure programme for building there is a contemplated reduction of £56 million expenditure in 1949 over 1948.
So we see a failure last year to achieve a diminution in building labour, and at the same time a reduction in capital expenditure in building. Yet the Government say: "Well, it is all right. We are fairly happy. It will continue just about where it was." I suggest that something more than that has got to be done. The Minister told this House on 30th November last:There has recently been a continuing shortage of…carpenters, plasterers, painters and slaters, which slows down the completion of houses."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 1787.]Of course it does; and part of the trouble in the building industry is the unbalance, the failure to channel labour and materials, at the same time so as to produce the maximum result. When a bricklayer sees that there is no slater, plasterer or plumber available afterwards, what incentive is there for him to hurry up and get the house built? That is one of the troubles.
Another trouble is the immobility of labour, which again leads us back to 640 housing. The Minister used the expression that it was "not possible to take a round peg out of a round hole and fit it into a square hole." Let us recognise that that must be done. The day undoubtedly is coming—in fact it is with us just now—when we shall have to move labour from one part of the country to another, and when the man who is a round peg has got sometimes to adapt himself to a square hole. It is quite impossible for this country to maintain full employment, with men working permanently at the job they are doing just now in the places where they are working, and mobility of labour will undoubtedly have to be achieved some time, otherwise there will be a very serious unemployment situation.
The Survey plans an increase in production in 1949 over 1948. We have heard speeches, already from this side of the House indicating that the buyers market will be coming along soon when it will be much more difficult to sell our goods. Personally, I think it is approaching fairly rapidly. But the White Paper plans for an increased production, and we have pledged ourselves under O.E.E.C. to go on increasing production until 1952. Where are we to find the extra reservoir of labour which is required? That is the problem we have somehow to solve, and that is the problem the Survey poses to us. In my view, foreign labour is not the solution. Sooner or later it is going to pile up a mass of troubles for this country.
We have to get the necessary manpower and the necessary productivity out of the workers of this country. Therefore, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should turn the searchlight on restrictive practices. I am not pretending that restrictive practices are confined only to one side. A working party was set up to inquire into these restrictive practices. Has it yet reported? It would be extremely interesting for us to know. The line of demarkation in work is far too rigid. It was introduced at a time when there was a surplus of labour or unemployment. The idea was that it would preserve employment. It was a wrongly conceived idea. What it did was to increase costs and in the end to decrease work. That demarcation must be relaxed. This idea that one man should not interfere with another man's job is costing the country a very great deal.
641 I shall give the House two simple illustrations of what I mean. An electrician can wire a house or a ship but cannot fit the block on the wall on which the switch has to be fitted. Someone else has to come along and do it while he looks on. A plumber can work a pipe but cannot drill a hole in a pipe. Although he is perfectly competent to do it, he has to send for a driller and stand by while he does the work. That is a theory carried to absurd lengths, and it is very costly to the country.
§ Mr. O'Brien (Nottingham, West)
Is the hon. and gallant Member aware that these alleged restrictive practices are the subject of a special investigation now taking place, and that my right hon. Friend's National Joint Advisory Council for Industry, the employers' associations and federations representing a wide range of industry and the General Council of the T.U.C. are all concerned in the matter? I am sure that the appropriate sub-committee of the investigating committee would welcome any evidence the hon. and gallant Member can submit.
§ Colonel Hutchison
I shall be very glad to submit that evidence. I thought it was a working party, but if it is a committee of inquiry I do not mind, so long as these things are brought to light. Actually, the instances I have given are well-known and have been published in book form. They are there for everyone to see, and I have no doubt that the committee has already studied them.
Our aim last year was a reduction of 31,000 in the distributive, trades, but the result was an increase of 55,000. This year a further increase of 16,000 is planned, and I cannot understand why. If it was contemplated last year that we were to reduce the number in the distributive trade and the number increased, then surely this year we should be aiming again at a reduction. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman made a very strong answer there. Again, in the case of local government it was planned to make a reduction from 1,105,000 to 1,075,000, but in fact there was an increase. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was to be the subject of further inquiry and that he was not satisfied with the situation.
I have made one or two constructive suggestions which, together with the 642 many other suggestions that have been made in this Debate, should add up to something. The Government are on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand they do not want to direct labour, and on the other they do not want supply and demand to regulate the wages situation because they would then get inflation. It is a very difficult problem to solve. Where can they turn for help in this direction? The last string to their bow seems to be the trade unions, but the trade unions are themselves in a dilemma. They are asking themselves what is their role today when the Government are the employers. That is a dilemma inseparable from nationalisation. Are the trade union leaders the agents for the Government they are largely responsible for having put into power, and with whose political views they have a great deal of sympathy? If they are, are they to carry out the wishes of this Government by cajoling or threatening their members, and if they do that, what is their position vis-à-vis those who elected them?
Never was clear thinking by trade unionists more necessary. Never were wise heads at a greater premium. I can appreciate their dilemma. It is the dilemma which those of us who have thought about nationalisation have pointed out must inevitably arise with nationalisation. They have a great responsibility; their power is very great, may they use it wisely. The Survey says:Future progress will result from technical progress, new capital equipment, improved organisation, steadier and more productive work.I notice it is careful not to talk about longer hours, although longer hours have been found necessary in the case of the coal mines. Steadier or more productive work is the keynote of the Survey, and it should be the keynote of trade union policy and our industrial life. Will the trade unions sound that keynote sufficiently loudly? Output per man in the ultimate test is international. When international competition becomes really acute we can choose between longer hours, lower pay, or steadier and more productive work—to use again the words of the Survey. The third choice is the most desirable.
It is not a situation that can be controlled by any party or Government. 643 These are international economic facts over which no Member of either Front Bench has any control. It is an inescapable choice, and as I have said, the best answer is steadier and more productive work. If the trade unionists come to the Government's aid to put that teaching across—and, incidentally, they have to clean out their own Augean stable—and get their members to see that ultimately it is to their benefit and to the welfare of the country as a whole to have steadier and more productive work, they will then be doing a worthwhile job.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Manchester, Hulme)
I am pleased that the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison) referred to the responsibilities of the trade unions. The trade unions accepted that responsibility, and I, for one, do not believe that this enormous responsibility could be in sounder hands. I hope to show what the trade unions will do to meet that position. The absence of any real major criticism during the whole of this Debate, especially from the benches opposite, is, in fact, adequate proof of the success which has been achieved by the Government in their manpower policy. It would be very hard indeed to find any major criticism against that policy, which during 1948 resulted in a decrease in our overseas deficit by £500 million, in spite of the fact that the terms of trade turned against us by a further five per cent. That in itself is a great tribute to the manner in which the Ministers responsible to the country for manpower policy have carried out their duties. The labour force bad risen by only two per cent. during that period, and yet we have seen an increase of industrial productivity during 1947 of some 12½ per cent.
During this Debate it has been stated that the manpower targets were not reached in a number of our basic industries. That statement is obviously correct. I believe that we must turn our attention not only to the counting of heads within an industry, but to something which, in my submission, is even more important. Speaking in this House on 11th March, 1947, I suggested to the Government that it was not sufficient merely to tell us the number of people they required in each industry, but that 644 they should give us the figures of the productive workers within an industry as against the non-productive.
I am pretty certain that since 1947 the ratio of unproductive to productive workers has continued to increase. Although I agree at once that increased productivity from the productive workers necessitates a greater number of unproductive workers, I think I am right in submitting that the numbers have increased out of ratio to the increase in productivity itself. Again I express the hope that the Government will give us the figures and show quite clearly the tendencies within basic industries in the matter of productive and unproductive workers.
There are several factors which will prevent us from obtaining any big increase in the number of workers going into these basic industries. One of the factors that will work against us is the greater security which the workers have in industry today. It is pretty obvious that if they have additional security in a job, they will not be keen to change to some new type of employment. The absence of large-scale unemployment works against us in manning the "dirty" industries or the industries in which work is more onerous. I am very glad that there is no mass unemployment which can be used as a recruiting sergeant to man those particular industries. The question of housing shortages has been mentioned, and that is another factor.
We must concentrate even more upon obtaining an increased output per person employed in these industries. The Government will not obtain any big swing over from the present levels. In this question of increasing productivity per man hour in industry, the things the Government can do are strictly limited. I should have thought that the responsibility rested far more on the employers' organisations and the trade unions, and I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow on that particular point.
The question of joint consultation has been mentioned by several hon. Members, and I know that, given frankness and a more co-operative attitude than we have so far had from a number of employers, joint consultation can effect a very re- 645 markable change. It is not sufficient for the employers of the country—I know there are honourable exceptions to this—to go into the question of full production with the unions and participate in joint consultation unless they are willing to put their cards on the table. I was very impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), and if the attitude he represented were accepted by all the employers of Britain, there would be a most remarkable change. Often they sit round a table with representatives of the working people and look at each item put on the agenda by those workers' representatives, after which they proceed to knock the ideas down one after the other. If, instead, we found the employers willing to discuss such questions as profit distribution, capital re-equipment, the cost of equipment—matters which are generally held to be within the sacred precincts of managerial functions—we should be amazed at the difference in output and production.
Before the war, I sat on production committees. In fact, I tried in my own humble way to popularise the idea throughout the industry in which I was engaged. It is necessary that we should get across to the men in industry the fact that the days when they were just considered to be numbers on a clock card, when their advice and their assistance were not wanted, have gone. Every little thing they can contribute to this great problem of increasing productivity is very welcome and it will receive every consideration. It would be a great encouragement to the workers if there were some prospect of their advice being accepted and if they could see the results on the production lines of the application of such advice. Unless we get that idea prevailing in industry, frustration will follow and there will not be that complete co-operation which is necessary for increased output.
In considering this question of making far better use of our manpower, I want to embark on a rather different theme. Hon. Members opposite are very fond of talking about "jobs for the boys." I want the Government deliberately to go out of the way to find boys for the jobs. I have received many complaints that thousands of highly competent workers are not being used in the capacities for which their abilities qualify them. I will give one illustration. I have had letters 646 from the Association of Scientific Workers in which they tell me that many thousands of young scientists are frustrated, because they are not being employed on jobs which require their skill, capacity and craftsmanship, but instead are on work which somebody far less skilled than they, could perform satisfactorily. There seems to be no method whereby they can be placed on better types of work.
Perhaps I might say in passing that these organisations are barred by the employers from participation in joint production activities. I should like hon. Gentlemen opposite to note the point very carefully when they talk about help and co-operation in joint production committees. I should have thought that particularly in this case the employers would have been most keen to allow these workers to participate in this activity. Members of the organisations are bitter about what they regard as the lip-service paid by employers' organisations to the idea of joint consultation while the employers themselves refuse point blank to allow their workers to do joint productivity work.
There are very many highly-skilled young scientists who are not being worked to their full capacity. Is there any machinery between the Department of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and the T.U.C. by which the existence of these men can be brought directly to the notice of the Government? I have heard destructive criticism to the effect that Mr. So-and-so, or Lord So-and-so, has been placed upon such-and-such a regional board. I doubt very much whether the T.U.C., if approached by the Minister of Labour, could not at any time produce people who would fit into this type of job in a nationalised industry. If it is a fact that many thousands of men are able and willing to do this work, and if the T.U.C. has no machinery by which they can be brought to the notice of the Government, I ask how we can hope to get the best type of management into our nationalised industries and to obtain a better use of our manpower?
Now I turn to the question of producing more boys for the jobs. I and other hon. Members on this side of the House have complained in the past of class bias in education. We have talked—I refer to 647 workers in general—about not having been given facilities to advance our educational standards. I suggest that it is now incumbent upon the trade union movement to go into this question of increasing opportunities for education in a really colossal way. Very many unions are already embarking upon projects of this kind by conducting weekend schools and lectures, which are all very nice in their way, but merely touch the fringe of the question. We should now ensure that a large percentage of the funds which have been built up by trade unions over the years is allocated to giving the membership an opportunity of specialised education connected with their trades, in order to make them more proficient and able to take managerial positions. This is another way in which we can make a far better use of our manpower than ever before.
I press the trade unions to go even further and suggest that, having conducted their own elementary examinations, they should be prepared to withdraw a large number of people from industry and give them two or three years' training, perhaps at a university. Or the trade unions might themselves employ the best brains in finance, economics or administration to provide this education. While their members are withdrawn from industry, the trade unions should be able to guarantee their economic position by paying to them wage rates comparable to what they would have obtained if they had remained in their industries. These payments will relieve their members of economic anxiety for their families. I hope that we shall see a very great extension in this direction by the trade union movement.
I yield to no man in my admiration of the way in which the trade unions have tackled the job of increasing productivity. I know that it is not easy for a trade union official to do so. The majority of his members probably recall distinctly that as recently as 10 years ago increased productivity undoubtedly meant increased unemployment. It is not easy for the officials to inculcate into their membership the knowledge that we now stand or fall in our efforts for economic solvency by our ability rapidly to increase the levels of production. I therefore pay my humble tribute to the work which many trade union officials have done in 648 this direction and to the way in which the mass of the people in industry have responded. We are in a most paradoxical position because in pre-war days the only so-called incentive to production was the fear of the sack. The present Government have, as a calculated principle of policy, practically rid the country of unemployment. That fact makes it far harder for us to get that increased productivity which, in pre-war days, was obtainable only by the threat of unemployment.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)
I should like to get this point clear. What have the Government done in their three and half years in which they have been in office to rid the country of unemployment?
§ Mr. Lee
If I tried to give the hon. Gentleman an answer in detail, no other hon. Member would be able to take part in the Debate. One of the most important ways is that the Government, instead of being afraid to import raw materials to maintain full employment, as were the party opposite in pre-war days, have recognised that it is most essential to step up productivity, even though in doing so they might incur a bigger deficit in overseas payments. It would ensure more foodstuffs coming into the country, which would in turn ensure full employment. I agree that the answer is elementary. I promise to give the hon. Gentleman a more complicated one at some other time. The present position has been brought about by the deliberate policy of this Government. It has made the lot of the trade union leader harder, although it is in itself a most desirable asset.
I have spoken of some of the things which are possible under the existing trade union rules and constitution. I want the House, when we assume that trade unions will accept all sorts of new responsibilities, to recall that trade unions were not brought into existence to do this type of work. For many years their chief rôle was to resist the encroachment of employers and to obtain a better standard of living for their members. They are, in fact, products of the capitalist mode of society, subject to its booms and slumps. When we ask that trade unions should take on additional responsibilities, we must not forget that the bitterness and the sourness which may be embodied in their rules and constitution is because the 649 trade unions were born for a different type of job from that which hon. Members are now expecting them to perform.
I should like to say a few things about this which are not often said. It is not much good for people like myself and my hon. Friends to tell the people that changes are taking place at a tremendous pace—which is true—and that we must adapt ourselves to changed conditions, if at the same time the trade unions are not also prepared to face everything which is involved in those changed conditions. Having demanded a planned economy, and having been instrumental in bringing into office the party pursuing a policy which will give a planned economy, the trade unions must be prepared to accept everything that that means. It is not possible to have a planned economy if every trade union or group of trade unions retains the autonomous right to demand changes in wage structures and conditions for millions of people which will drastically affect any plan which becomes operative.
We have now reached a time when we cannot achieve a higher degree of planning unless the trade unions accept a redistribution of the national income, such as we have seen up to now, which will, I hope, continue, and which allocates certain percentages of the national income to, say, social security, housing food subsidies and such things. We cannot hope to plan our economy thoroughly and successfully, unless the trade unions are prepared to hand over autonomy in regard to wage rates and conditions to a more comprehensive body than the individual trade union; a body which can survey a larger field and perceive the effect upon other industries of wage increases, and so on, in one industry. It is natural that each union or group of unions should seek to improve the standard of life of its own members, but if we are to continue to redistribute the national income, in present conditions inflation will defeat the unions if their efforts tend to succeed. In the matter of autonomy we cannot afford to live in the past, and we must look to a different structure within the movement to handle these complex problems.
We must ask ourselves whether even the present T.U.C. structure is adequate to the task now facing it. The T.U.C. at times works very closely with Govern- 650 ment Departments, to the dismay of the Opposition. The Minister of Labour may ask the T.U.C. General Council or a sub-committee to talk to him about his difficulties. He will no doubt explain to them what his difficulties are and, like intelligent people, they will listen and probably say, "We are very sorry to hear about this, but there is nothing we can do about it because we have no executive power. All we can do is to report the facts to the executives of the various trade unions and ask them to do something about it."
I suggest to all my trade union colleagues that the time has now arrived when, with a top structure given executive power and representing all the unions, they could, in close discussion with Government Departments, see at a far earlier point, how necessary it is to make certain alterations and to make them forthwith. This is somewhat revolutionary but I believe that, having asked for a planned economy, the trade unions will be willing to face what will be a most difficult period in the transition from something which was purely destructive in its outlook towards capitalist society, to something which is entirely constructive within a Socialist planned economy. I hope that the trade unions will realise how important this development is.
It is most important that we should create a central council of trade unions, with executive power, representing all our industries, not merely in order to stop wage advances—I want this to be perfectly clear—but in order to allocate the portion of the national income which goes in wages in a far better way, so that the lower-paid workers, about whom we are so concerned, can attain a far higher standard of living than they can apparently get when we are still living in the jungle in which private unions negotiate with private employers irrespective of the effect upon other industries. I hope that we shall see this structure created in place of the present T.U.C. and that the trade unions will accept the fact that it is necessary for them to hand over to it their autonomy in these matters so that we may more speedily accomplish the changeover to the planned economy which we all desire.
I repeat that I bow to no one in my recognition of the work which the trade 651 unions have done in the past. I accept the view that only the trade unions can now solve these great problems which face us. Knowing the responsible attitude which they have been able to adopt during these years of crisis, I am certain that if we can propagate the ideas which I have described, we can go forward at a far greater pace to the time when the people who produce the goods, the people upon whom we all depend for improvements in our standards of living, will have a far more responsible position in determining the distribution not only of the national income as it is, but of the increased national income which will undoubtedly come from the greater productivity which will result.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
The hon. Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee) began by saying that if there were more employers speaking in the terms of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), conditions would be better. I might return the compliment and say that if more trade union leaders had adopted his own expansionist policy we might have been a richer country today. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) seemed to think that if international planning could take the place of international competition, we should live in a happier world. In that case he would have to show us how we can produce more accurate planners than the Government have succeeded in doing in the last three years in spite of the fact that they have, I believe, the finest Civil Service in the world to pick from. I would remind him that international competition requires infallibility and that infallibility is not a very human virtue. Indeed, in conditions of competition people who are fallible tend to suffer but when in planning there is fallibility, it has to be dealt with by machine-guns and concentration camps.
My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon referred to the need for better equipment in our factories. I have no doubt that the difficulties about that are partly due to taxation and other reasons about which it would not be appropriate to talk today, but to some extent it is due to restrictive practices which have been mentioned on several occasions. 652 Perhaps I might quote from a recent speech by Mr. McDougal, representing the Amalgamated Union of Foundry Workers, at a conference on 18th November last year. He told us that no union had done more to increase overall production and improve productivity by focussing attention upon shortages and bottlenecks and by dealing with the problem of labour shortages than his own. He went on to say:These efforts have met with a measure of hostility from our members for reasons which may be fully justified if present trends mature, bringing redundancy where only a few short months ago there was extreme labour shortage.I would also like to quote from a most interesting booklet published by Courtaulds, called "The Intelligent Weaver's Guide" which showed that in this country only a very small percentage of looms are automatic compared with about 95 per cent. in America, and they gave as the reason the resistance of the workers who refused to handle more than 14 looms, although in the United States 40 looms are looked after by one man. They illustrate that by the remarks of a typical weaver, saying:But automatic machines mean that fewer workers will be needed, and some day there will be more workers than jobs again. If I agree to labour-saving methods now, I might be putting myself out of a job later.
§ Mrs. Manning
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the reasons why women will not go back into the textile industry in the same numbers in which they were employed previously is because it is an industry which has not brought up to date the methods of production at which women are so able?
§ Mr. Spearman
The point I am trying to make is that throughout the country there is still a degree of resistance to labour-saving devices, and that is based on the remembrance of the unemployment in the inter-war years and a very natural but, I believe, entirely unnecessary fear of it coming again. I believe that that fear is quite unnecessary and is most damaging in discouraging people from agreeing to these better equipment and labour-saving methods. For that reason I appeal to hon. Members opposite not to exploit for any purpose of their own this fear of unemployment, which I believe is quite unnecessary, in the terms of the inter-war years.
653 A man can be very ill from blood pressure. It may be that he is suffering from very low blood pressure or from very high blood pressure. The result of that illness is the same, but the cause is quite different and the treatment for it is exactly opposite. So it is with unemployment. Before the war we suffered from a glut of goods which we did not then know how to consume. There was an existing demand, but we did not know how to make it effective, whether it was this party or the party opposite under whose régime unemployment reached the highest level.
In those days, when there was a slump it was followed by unemployment. Whether it was this party or Mr. Ramsay MacDonald's, it was thought that the thing to do was to cut expenditure. That was in accordance with Mr. Say who, unfortunately, lived over a hundred years ago and established what is called Say's Law, which more or less said: "If we cut expenditure, that will accumulate savings. Those savings will reach such a large amount that they will force down the rate of interest. If money can be borrowed very cheaply, then industrialists will be encouraged to set the factories going again and that will re-create employment," and so forth. I have no doubt that that law is perfectly right in the long run, but at the present time we can die in the process, and that is quite unthinkable.
Fortunately, we had that great economist Lord Keynes, who showed us the fallacy of that law, which had not been recognised by economists in either party before. He showed us that these decisions to save and to invest are not made by one person at one time as had been thought, but are made by different people at different times and get out of step, and that there is no automatic mechanism in the system which will put that right. That is what we must recognise now, and it entirely changes the position in relation to the conditions of the interwar years. I personally do not blame the system for that defect in it, any more than I would think of refusing to have a motor car because in 1902 it was not quite perfect. One has to adjust the system every time.
The White Paper on Full Employment, published by the Coalition Government, showed us how to deal with 654 that situation. When there is unemployment we must by fiscal measures increase consumption throughout the country, and create confidence that will create full employment again. I urge hon. Members opposite to recognise the fact that the unemployment from which we suffered in the inter-war years was due to a disease which is not present at this moment and which we now know how to cure.
The danger today is of a far worse sort. In the same way that high blood pressure may be more fatal than low blood pressure, so the danger of unemployment through a degree of scarcity is far greater than anything we have experienced. Alas, we are in a very difficult position to deal with that danger today, partly through no fault of the Government because of the destruction of our resources during the war, but partly through their fault because by their unwise and spendthrift policy in many ways those resources have been dissipated. Vast quantities of our foreign exchange have been lost unnecessarily. Vast quantities of money have been spent in Germany and elsewhere unnecessarily. The result is that we have not now got the resources to make sure that we can buy the raw materials to keep full employment here.
Let me give an example which is topical today—motor cars. The demand for motor cars for export is falling off. Had we adequate resources it would have been perfectly possible to create an adequate demand to keep all these men profitably employed by increasing a home demand for motor cars. Today we may be unable to do that because we shall not be able to get the raw materials to make those cars in those numbers unless we are getting dollars for them, and we may not be able to get the petrol to make it worth while to buy them. Because of the diminution of our resources we are in danger today of unemployment through scarcity which may be far more fearful than the unemployment that we used to experience through gluts. It is for that reason that we should recognise that today, unlike 20 years ago, distribution is not the problem. The vital thing today is production. It is only by that that we can maintain employment and decent conditions in this country.
655 My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory) referred to the different attitude by the trade union leaders in the United States of America. Each time I have been to America since the war I have had the advantage of long talks with many trade union leaders. In particular, I always see my friend Mr. John L. Lewis, and I have been immensely impressed by that expansionist outlook which they took in that country. Mr. Lewis said to me that in his opinion, of anything he had done, the greatest credit was due to him for the fact that by forcing up wages in the mining industry, he had compelled the employers to put in labour-saving devices to reduce costs.
The result of that, he said, has been three things. "First of all," he said, "the employers, through being forced to do that, have made far larger profits, and I am glad of it. I do not mind them making profits. Secondly, the price of coal has been reduced to the consumer, and that is excellent. Finally—and this is what I mind most about—the conditions of my men have been improved. I am now working on something concernning the machinery in the coalmines which will reduce the number of men needed for certain processes from 60 to under 20, and it will be a great thing if we can get that going." I asked him whether he did not get objections from the men who were thrown out of work. He said, "Yes, the other day 2,000 miners were thrown out of work, and they appealed to me to oppose these labour-saving methods. I told them I was sorry, but that it was contrary to my principles to help in that way. It is hard on them, but it is good for the industry and for mine workers generally that this saving should take place." In a short time all the men were reemployed, and were earning better wages than before.
Perhaps there are things we can teach America, but I believe that in some things our trade union leaders could learn from them. I trust that our trade union leaders will get rid of restrictive practices and will go out to increase production, and that Members opposite will rid themselves of the bogy of unemployment through a glut—a theory in which they have believed for so long, but which is 10 years out of date.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
I must say that I have never heard any spokesman for the Opposition approach the question under discussion in the manner in which the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) approached the problem which is before the House today. He deliberately set aside all signs of partisanship, and examined this momentous question in the manner in which it deserves to be examined. He put certain posers to the Government about targets which had been brought before the House, and which either had not been reached or had been departed from in certain respects, and with all that I was in complete agreement. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour dealt with the points which have been raised in a very able fashion, but I felt, after listening to their speeches, that we were not yet facing the fundamental problem which is before the country. This problem is merely the outcome of a larger problem which affects all nations. We may stave off a final solution for 12 months or two years, but ultimately it will come back to us, and when it does, it will come back in a more menacing and threatening fashion than ever before.
The hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) made a laudable approach to the question of the economy of the United States, where trade union leaders and industrialists have cooperated to find a solution of their own difficulties. Yet the United States had 11 million unemployed when the war broke out. When they went into the war they built new factories for munitions, but they were never able to take up the slack of those 11 million people.
§ Mr. Spearman
Before the war the United States had no more idea of how to deal with a trade slump than we had, whether Conservative or Socialist.
§ Mr. Scollan
I agree, but we have no more idea of how to deal with it now than we had then. I shall try to show why. When the United States went into the war they had the biggest Navy, the largest Army—with the exception of Russia—and the largest Air Force in the world. They supplied all the Allies, but still they could not take up the slack of all those 11 million people. America came out of the war to face a world which 657 was war weary, a world in which everything consumable had been consumed.
When we are talking about the great recovery here and in America why not be realistic? There was a buyers' market because the world was hungry for goods; it was bound to be after six years of destruction. But productivity, which increased during the war, led us into this position: the Tories would have muddled it, but we knew where we were going. The Labour Party had to reorganise our national economy. First, we had to re-establish our industrial production to its pre-war, not post-war, basis. We see examples, of that in every White Paper which has been issued since 1938. For the sake of our own economic salvation we had to increase production in order to exploit the only market that could buy our goods.
Why does the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that we must have dollars? Because the dollar part of the world is the only part rich enough to buy the commodities we propose to sell. We cannot sell to China, Germany, Europe or the rest of Asia because they are too poor. Obviously, there is something wrong. My hon. Friends have said that the problem is one of production, and not of distribution. Before the war, it was one of distribution. May I presume to tell the House, and the very many clever people here—I say that in all seriousness—that the problem is not one of production, but of distribution.
§ Mr. Scollan
It is the hon. Member himself who is 20 years out of date. Why cannot we sell our goods in America? Why do all our economic experts agree that we have a dollar problem? Dollar currency is not a productive agency. Sterling is not a productive agency. These are the distributive agencies in the world today. The dollar is on the gold standard, which we left. I do not wish to rake up the past, but we remember what happened when the then Chancellor went to the then Prime Minister and said, "We must leave the gold standard."
Then the Prime Minister thought, "Well, the Chancellor knows something about this." The Chancellor, however, had never heard about the gold standard before so the Chancellor and the Prime 658 Minister fell out. Finally, they went to the Labour Party and divided its ranks on the subject of the gold standard. But half the Labour Party had never heard of it before, with the result that a General Election was fought on that issue. All our politicians went to the country to explain the danger of leaving the gold standard. The country left the gold standard, however, but nobody bothered very much about it.
The dollar currency in one part of the world was based on gold. Because of the advantages of a straightforward system of currency we said to that part of the world, We have left the gold standard and now cannot operate our currency alongside the dollar. "We fixed the price of our paper money on how much gold it would buy. The Americans fixed the rate for the dollar in exactly the same way, and we in this country offered to give 172s. 3d. of our currency for an ounce of gold. The Americans have fixed the exact equivalent in gold, but they will not give us the same amount of dollars for the equivalent amount of sterling, with the result that we find it necessary to make outside agreements with other countries who have different currencies.
What is the result of all this? It is that in one part of the world we cannot sell our motorcars because the exchange rates in the free market are against us. Then somebody arrives to explain that the whole problem is a matter of increased production. Increased production for what? That was the problem in the days of competition, before it was killed by the war. Who were our competitors? One was Germany, one of the foremost producing nations of the world, but they were knocked out in the war. Who was our next competitor? It was Japan, who before the war knocked out the Lancashire cotton trade. They, too. were knocked out in the war. Therefore, we have eliminated two of our greatest competitors and are left to face one great industrial nation in competition.
We pay lower wages, give a lower standard of living, and work even longer hours and with more crude machinery, in our competition with the United States of America. Surely, in consequence, we ought to have some advantage. Why do we not defeat the United States in our own markets? The reason is perfectly simple: the United States productive 659 machine cannot sell its own goods; America has to give them away in Marshall Aid; if the United States were to stop Marshall Aid they would have to stop production. They would not continue to make so many goods to be piled up and left to rot and waste in America.
§ Mr. Scollan
Of course they would have unemployment. Therefore, what we ought to be discussing, when debating the distribution of manpower in this country, is how to defeat American competition in the markets of the world.
Consider shipbuilding, for instance. I represent part of a shipbuilding area. The cry of shipyard workers and employers alike on the Clyde today asks, "Is the Government going to embark on a porky which will allow German shipyards to enter again into competition with us?" They know that if those shipyards which competed with them prior to the war were to set about the task of supplying the world with the tonnage it requires, half our shipyard workers will soon be languishing in unemployment, for which, in the absence of an entirely different system, there is no cure. Certainly, the present competitive system provides no cure.
The hon. Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee) put forward a plea for a new approach by the trade unions to the whole economy of today. A great deal can be said in favour of that, but there is one point that the hon. Member for Hulme did not understand: that the trade unions themselves are now at the half-way house. Private industry in this country is still in private hands. The trade unions cannot take the vital step of entering into a coalition with the Government for an industry that remains in private hands, because, obviously, so long as it remains in private hands and outside the Government sphere, the country has no control whatever of the proceeds of that industry.
I belong to the largest trade union in the distributive side of industry and that trade union's policy has always been that distributive industry should be a rationalised industry with an organised policy. They want to see it rationalised and put on a proper basis, but, as soon as any 660 one mentions rationalising an industry so that manpower can be used to the best advantage, people of all kinds would say that we were interfering with their right to live, and so on. I object to this direction, not because I object to a planned economy where everyone is directed, but where 300 out of several million are directed to do the dirty work for which no one will volunteer, that is not the kind of planned economy of which we should be proud. Three hundred individuals in the whole of Great Britain were picked up by the scruff of the neck and shoved into jobs which they did not want. What a great achievement for a so-called planned economy.
If we are to have a planned economy, I want the spivs and drones of society not to be picked out and shoved into jobs but brought before a tribunal to justify what they are doing and to show if it is in the interests of the nation. Before we can do that we would require to have complete Socialism and hon. Members opposite would not accept that. Now we have a measure of co-operation with them, due to the peculiar circumstances in which the nation finds itself, and I do not object to that. We have to go through a period in which we must carry the diehards who still live in the past under the old capitalist system and on the other side of the House these will be progressive people who see very much further than their party can see, people of a studious character who are prepared to explore every avenue for the benefit of the whole people. Do not forget we carry our quota of Conservatives on our side of the House. [Laughter.] Oh, yes. As a matter of fact we have our quota of Conservatives in the trade union movement. If we went to the T.U.C., or to the annual meeting of a big union, and said that we wanted to take over distribution and exchange, they would denounce us as wanting to sweep away something which has existed always and which they wanted to keep as it was. That is true Conservatism and they are rabidly in favour of it.
We are faced with the problem of the dollar exchange and soon the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be presenting his Budget. All kinds of questions will be raised in the Debate on the Budget, but the fundamental basis of the problem will be the dollar exchange: There is not one in 50 who have tackled the problem who 661 properly understand it. What is wanted is an international monetary exchange which will be accepted. What is it to be based on?
Is any hon. Member prepared to say why Karl Marx as an economist was complete anathema to all the orthodox economists from the day he first published his findings on capital? I ask that, and I am prepared to sit down and listen to the answer if anyone can give it to me because I have asked that question hundreds of times at public meetings and I have never met anyone who knew why. I will tell you why. Karl Marx was the economist who proved that the fundamental basis.of wealth and the symbol of wealth was the labour-time necessary to produce a commodity. That may not seem very simple to those who have not given it any attention—that the actual labour-time put into the production of any necessity, is the fundamental basis of the value of it. Instead of that, we have for hundreds of years let an ounce of gold determine the value of exchange. Could you imagine any metal more useless than gold, except for filling bad teeth? Do you know any use for it but the worship of it?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)
The hon. Member says he has asked many questions at public meetings. He must not proceed here as though he were addressing a public meeting. He must remember that he is addressing the Chair.
§ Mr. Scollan
I am sorry if I have offended against the dignity of the Chair. I had no intention of doing so, and I shall not transgress again in that respect. Gold never had any use except as a medium of exchange. That medium of exchange is still sacrosanct in the United States. We did not abandon it because we did not like it but because we had not got it. All the gold had been concentrated in the United States, and we had to abandon it as a medium of exchange and find a new medium. If only we could get the U.S.A. and the other countries to recognise that this shibboleth of the past must go. To open the floodgates of the productivity which is waiting to supply the world by making possible the exchange of goods between one country and another, we must have a proper monetary basis between the various countries.
Look at Berlin. We introduced a currency in our zone, the Russians have 662 their currency in theirs. We have told one part of Berlin that they must use our currency and no other, and the Russians have told the part of Berlin they occupy the same thing about their currency. On what is our currency based? Not even on gold, not on the £. It is based on the fact that these two great nations have the goods and are prepared to give them for that currency. That is the value of it. The currency itself is useless. It is what it can buy. Some medium of exchange is wanted. Up to now there has never been any attempt to deal with that problem. We had the International Monetary Fund set up in connection with U.N.O. That was for the purpose of carrying us over until O.E.E.C., Marshall Aid, etc., came with the aim of opening the floodgates of production for the whole world.
In regard to our manpower problem in this country, so far as industry is concerned the Minister, although he has not done all the things which he probably set out to do, has made a very good job. The difficulties that confronted the nation during the period since we last considered this matter have to a large extent been difficulties which no Government and no people could have overcome. Consequently we must make allowances. The Government must be conscious of one thing. There is no man or woman in this country who has any right to object to industrial conscription if he voted for military conscription. We have no right to call on one section of the citizens and say, "We need you for this job, you will do it whether you like it or not," and to the other section, "We need you for that job, you can go if you like." Obviously we cannot do that sort of thing.
At the time the Government introduced military conscription I opposed it. I said then that we could not have conscription without having differentiation between the people of this country. It was denied then, but I do not know if it would be denied now. Out of the total number to be called there are 108,000 who the military experts agree are cluttering up the Army, and they cannot use them. But today the Government are standing on their dignity and sticking to this position into which the brass hats have shoved them with their advice. As a consequence of this useless military conscription, industries 663 like the building industry are left undernourished with labour.
In Scotland alone the Board of Trade have built so many factories and given us so much floor space as a Development Area. They have not been able to occupy one half of it. Why? Simply because the Government have no control over industry. The Government said to the industrialists, "We would like you to come to Glasgow, to Port Glasgow, to Newhouse," or somewhere else. The industrialists said, "We are not in this business for our health; we are in this business to get something out of it. We will say where is the best place to go. Your advice is very nice, and all the rest of it, but it suits us better to be near the big markets. We want to put up a place in London."
I put down a Question in this House on several occasions asking for the amount of new work put up in London. I never got an answer. Why? Because the people behind it knew perfectly well what I was after. I was out to compare the new work in London with what had been done in Scotland and they never gave me an answer. May I say to the Parliamentary Secretary that I do not expect him to reply to all the Questions I put. I can assure him that the Prime Minister has dodged it, the Chancellor has dodged it, the President of the Board of Trade has dodged it so I do not see why the Parliamentary Secretary should take the matter up. May I say this in closing—[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"]I know how the hon. Member feels, because I have felt the same myself since half-past two today. I sincerely hope that the Government will get down to the question of sending industries to the places where they have built those factories. The factories will be standing monuments to waste if they are not occupied and people employed in them. I hope those factories are not shadow factories for the third World War. Sometimes I am a little afraid that they are. I hope they are not, and I hope that the Government will soon have them full of ready and willing workers.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston upon Thames)
It was a little difficult during the speech of the hon. Member for Western Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) to be 664 quite certain whether medieval economics or what Dr. Johnson called, "damned Scotch metaphysics" were uppermost. But he did two very remarkable things. First, he took part in a Debate on manpower and said, very properly, that manpower was far more important than gold. Then he devoted two-thirds of his speech to gold.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Then I think he passed from economics to metaphysics, and proceeded to tell the House that this Government had solved the problem of unemployment—he did not condescend to give the details—whereas the United States have failed. I would venture to remind the hon. Member that if he takes notice of the words of right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench, of the Lord President of the Council, of the Minister of Supply and others, he will appreciate that they have admitted that the only reason we do not have a high level of unemployment in this country today is the aid which is provided to this country by the free enterprise system of the United States of America, which he himself has so scornfully denounced.
As I share the hon. Gentleman's belief that manpower is far more important than money, I shall try to devote my remarks to that vitally important subject. It seems to me very fortunate indeed that the first Debate in this House since the Economic Survey has been published should be upon this immensely important matter. It was clear in a number of speeches—in particular in the speech of the hon. Member for the Hulme Division of Manchester (Mr. Lee), who seemed to have been putting in a little overtime on the Industrial Charter—that a good many hon. Members are getting a little cynical about these manpower targets in successive White Papers. There is obviously a good deal of cynicism as to whether these are feasible or desirable.
The House must face the fact that the policy put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour and by His Majesty's Government in the White Paper is still based, I will not say firmly but somewhat insecurely, upon these targets. I was most interested in 665 what the Minister of Labour said about the tracing of the missing million. That seemed to be most interesting from this point of view. As I understood it, there was a theory on the benches opposite that the missing million consisted of spivs, drones, eels and butterflies. I trust I have got the right nomenclature. That was the justification put forward from the Front Bench opposite for the Registration for Employment Order. The object was that these people could be rounded up and put to work.
We have now had from the right hon. Gentleman a statement which makes it clear that there is no such large reservoir of spivery in existence, and that, on the contrary, most of these people are occupied in a whole variety of ways. It is true that some of them are engaged in what the right hon. Gentleman described as "inconsiderable employment." I am not sure whether that is a euphemism for the office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster or whether there is some other and more technical designation. But what has been made abundantly clear is that the whole justification for the Registration for Employment Order—the rounding up of these large numbers of idle people—has been knocked away. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider what he himself has said today in this House and to consider whether, now that the justification for that order has gone, the order itself should not go also.
On the targets question, the Minister of Labour in that effectively disarming manner of which he is such a master, slid most adroitly over the fact that last year he completely failed to achieve the manpower targets which the Government set him, and that in a number of cases he realised that that failure is so complete that this year he will not attempt even to reach the target which he aimed at reaching last year. That, surely, is a matter which calls for some analysis. I do not want to weary the House with any more figures. There has been a deluge of them today, but in order to demonstrate the breakdown of the right hon. Gentleman's system—that is to say, the failure of the Minister to achieve his own targets—/ must remind the House of one or two figures. For the vital industry of coal, the right hon. Gentleman's target for the end of this year is 666 14,000 below the target at which he unsuccessfully aimed last year. For agriculture it is 9,000 below.
On the subject of coal, I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to be quite as satisfied as he appeared to be. He indicated that he did not think that things had gone too badly because the coal industry had only fallen some three million tons below the 200 million tons target. I would remind him that opinion throughout this country, opinion expressed by no less a body than the T.U.C., was that that target was far too low. Whether that opinion be right or wrong, the fact is that that target is 27 million tons below the actual output achieved in 1938. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman, because of that appreciable, though not vast, failure to reach that target, has any reason to be complacent about his progress.
When one goes through the figures, one sees in cotton and wool that he is not even attempting now to achieve the targets which last year he indicated were urgently necessary in the interest of national recovery. This White Paper makes it plain that in coal and textiles production is hampered by lack of manpower. And it is significant that they are industries which are still able to export all they can make, in contrast to a considerable number of other industries. When one looks at his astonishing failure, which the right hon. Gentleman admitted, in connection with distribution, that is striking enough, but his failure is still more significant, because the matter is more directly under the control of the Government, in Government employment itself, central and local.
And one is forced to one of two conclusions. It is either that the target which was set was a wholly impracticable and impossible task, that is to say, that when the Government set it they did not know what they were doing; or, alternatively, the method adopted to achieve it was ineffective and inefficient. I do not see how the House can escape one horn or the other of that dilemma. Either the target was impracticable and should never have been attempted, or the task was a feasible one which failed because the Minister went about it in the wrong way.
He went about it by the method of compulsion. That was the weapon he 667 selected, despite protracted opposition on many occasions from hon. Members in certain quarters of the House. Judging by the task which he set himself and by the failure of compulsion to do the job, he ought to reconsider a method which has so plainly failed. And I hope that the House will bear in mind the thoroughly illusory character of the Minister's contention that, because only 300 people were directed, therefore direction has not been of very great significance. There are two possibilities. One is that the Minister realises that direction is so unpopular and so oppressive a measure that he dare not enforce it, or that there is a great deal of direction over and above that figure of 300. And I think this comes about in this way. Those 300 cases are only the cases of those determined individuals who carry their resistance to the Minister's Department to the last. In many cases, it must be the fact that his local officers, after being as helpful as they can in the early stages, say to the man, "You go to this job, or we shall have to direct you." In many cases, no doubt, the person concerned, in the language of the Metropolitan Police, goes quietly. The 300 are those who resist, and I believe that that is the explanation of that comparatively small total.
What does call for explanation is the right hon. Gentleman's failure, for I believe that it is not only a positive failure, in that it failed to reach the objective for which it was designed, but that it was a negative failure too, because it tended to prevent the manning-up of the under-manned industries. It fails to do so in three classes. I am certain that it prevents people from trying, experimentally, to go into these industries. It prevents them from leaving non-essential employment where they are safe from the Minister and thereby exposing themselves to his direction. They do not go because they feel there is something dangerous about going.
Secondly, it induces in the minds of the employers the idea that the provision of labour for their works is not mainly their responsibility but that of the Minister's Department. They are thereby deprived —and I am referring to employers who are nationalised industries as well as to private employers—of the urgent incentive to set about attracting labour to their 668 particular industries by offering it the appropriate inducements. They feel that this is not their responsibility, but that of the right hon. Gentleman. Thirdly, I believe that the work is hampered because the whole atmosphere of the right hon. Gentleman's branches in the country is poisoned by this compulsory element.
It is awfully difficult to discuss on equal terms and obtain friendly advice when the person with whom one is talking has, in the last resort, authority over one. There is always in the background the knowledge that the power of direction remains. I believe, therefore, that the immensely helpful way in which, as I know well, a very large number of the right hon. Gentleman's officers are carrying out their tasks throughout the country is weakened in its effect by the knowledge that they are not only counsellors and friends of those who come into their office, but also potentially, their masters.
The other criticism I wish to make is this. The fact that the Government have failed to carry out a proper redistribution of labour in the sphere of Government is very significant. There was complete failure, as the figures show, in connection with local government where they budgeted for a decrease of 30,000 and saw, instead, an increase of 41,000. One knows perfectly well that the central Government through the system of grants, through the system of ministerial orders, circulars, and so on, has great influence, sometimes in our view, an excessive influence, over local government through out the country. It is not very encouraging when we come to the very sphere where Government authority directly runs to find that even there the targets which the Government set themselves are not achieved. We see the same policy in the sphere of central Government. It leads one to believe that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government are not wholehearted in their desire to achieve these targets which they put forward, since they do not, in fact, achieve them in the sphere where they have absolute control. It leads one to the conclusion that they are not really intent upon them, and once they allow that view to gather strength then throughout the country we shall be left with the feeling that the whole of this policy of apparent planning is turning into a policy of drift.
There was only one significant omission in the speech of the right hon. 669 Gentleman, and it was this. Those of us who have been in certain parts of the country recently, including the hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman), who spoke earlier, know perfectly well that there are signs of unemployment in a number of areas. Although that is becoming patent to many of us there was not a hint in the right hon. Gentleman's speech of any proposals which he had in mind, or of any planning in which he had indulged, to deal with that possible development. One knows—I myself came across it in Birmingham towards the end of last week—that there is a slackening of trade. The hon. Member for West Coventry gave a very vivid illustration of what is happening.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of that possibility, and has he any plans to deal with it? After all, in war plans are made to deal with the most unlikely eventualities, so that, if they in fact eventuate, it is possible quickly to deal with them. Can the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, assure the House that the Department have plans available if unemployment shows signs of rearing its ugly head? Have they thought out what will have to be done? Have they considered raising the compulsory labour controls in these circumstances? Have they plans for stopping the flow of foreign labour, and for turning it back if necessary? Have they considered stopping the flow of married women to the factories if unemployment comes upon us? Has the matter been thought out? That is what many of us are very anxious to know. I do not expect the- right hon. Gentleman to give the details of his plans, but when one compares the Minister's speech with what we know, in fact, to be happening in parts of the country today, it is a little perturbing not to have that danger even mentioned. It raises in my mind the unpleasant possibility that such plans are not ready and are not available.
I believe the right hon. Gentleman must assure us, in these circumstances, that he has plans available. As one reads the 1949 Economic Survey, one is left with the feeling that it is a policy to deal with a situation which has already changed; that they are doing what the War Office is so often accused of doing—planning for the previous war. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us, in his speech, a much clearer indication 670 of how the Government view the present situation, and of a break with the long series, as indeed they are, of Economic Surveys full of targets that were never hit and full of similar targets put in their place which would probably never be hit, and will give us a fresh and new approach which shows that the most vital of Departments in the Government, the Ministry of Labour, are alive to their duties and to their colossal responsibility.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)
I am glad even at this late hour to remind the House that the burden of production in this country is not borne upon the shoulders of men alone. Throughout the whole of this long Debate no reference has been made to the magnificent work done by women. In fact, the only reference to women at all was the rather disgraceful suggestion of the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) that if there should be any apparent unemployment in this country, we should turn back the married women from the factories.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I thought I made it quite clear that what I was suggesting was this: that the active steps being taken now to persuade women not in the factories to go into the factories for the sake and benefit of the public, and the appeals which are being made to them, would obviously be inappropriate if they were made in an altering situation. I hope the hon. Lady will agree with that.
§ Mrs. Manning
I quite understand, and I am quite certain that when my right hon. Friend comes to discuss the points that have been raised by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames he will have something better than such a disastrous plan, by which, as the hon. Member has suggested, in this altering situation, we should say to any willing worker that we do not want that worker.
§ Mrs. Manning
I accept your statement that you did not intend to say that women should be turned out of the factories but only that they should now be discouraged from taking up work.
§ Mrs. Manning
I apologise, Sir. I accept the explanation that what was meant was that we should not encourage women to go into the factories. Even if we have a changing situation, I say that would be disastrous. If we look at the figures at the present moment, in spite of what has been said about redundancy and pockets of unemployment, even today we find that we have not all the workers for whom there are jobs. That has been said every year since the end of the war when we have discussed the labour situation in this House. The same position exists today. There are other methods in a planned society which are better than that of telling anybody willing to work that we do not wish for their assistance.
I want to talk for a few minutes, not about what my hon. Friend the Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee) called "boys for the jobs" but about "girls for the jobs," because I think that is of extreme importance in present circumstances. The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), whose speech I found most attractive, helpful and enjoyable, said that one of the most important things we could do in industry today was to see that everybody had the chance of going right from the bottom of the ladder to the very top. He suggested that that was much more possible and feasible in private enterprise than in the nationalised industries. If the hon. Member were here, I should like to assure him that as far as women are concerned it has newer been very obvious either in private enterprise industries or in the nationalised industries. I have never found a woman, however intelligent, however hard-working, however conscientious—and they are always more conscientious than men—who could find any way of going right from the bottom of the ladder to the [...]op. Even in a factory which is a woman's factory they will find some way of putting a man as a boss over her when it comes to the top job.
It is important that we should remember that very great and fundamental changes concerning the employment of women have taken place since the days before the war. Then, it was the domestic industries—textiles, clothing, food and drink, tobacco—that absorbed women. During the war they flocked into other industries—the metal industry, electrical works, explosives, chemicals, engineering 672 —all those industries which were expanded during the war. In spite of what was said by the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman), they were the very industries which during the war used new techniques, new processes. I have never found a woman who was not able and anxious to use a new kind of machine. If you were to ask me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or if the hon. Member and his two right hon. Friends were to ask me, why it is women are not anxious to go back to textiles and prefer to stay in engineering, I should say that women are able and competent users of any new process that comes out. During the war they learned in a very short time to use all types of machines. Those of us who know the jobs they undertake in agriculture know how quickly a woman can master any new machine that is used in that industry. What is true of the women in agriculture, is true of the women in other industries.
Now my right hon. Friend wants them back in the textile industries. During the war the number of women in those industries where there were new processes and new techniques increased by 300 per cent. Even today the women account for 23 per cent. of the labour force in those industries as compared with 14 per cent. or 15 per cent. before the war. Women like that kind of job, and probably will not go back to the industries in which they were more usually employed before the war until those industries have new processes, new techniques, and, what is more important, have better conditions of labour. Factories built during the war were equipped with all kinds of things that both men and women like, but women particularly.
The problem of women in industry is not only a labour problem; it is a great human problem, and if we want women in industry we have to consider what are the proper conditions for their employment and provide them. Many women who have gone back to the textile industries complain. No wonder. Look at the mills. What are they like? What kind of improvement has there been in the conditions in the employment of women? They have had pegs put up on which to hang their shawls, and precious little more. My right hon. Friend will not induce women to go back to those industries until there are new processes, new 673 machines which will make them more productive, and until the women can enjoy some of the amenities which they enjoyed in the new factories put up during the war.
I have been speaking particularly of the single women. However, I am the very last to suggest that we should not continue to go on doing our best to induce married women to return to industry. I mean the married women who are free to do so. I do not think we should encourage women who have babies to look after going into industry; but there are other married women whose children are older or off their hands who would go back into industry, if they could be assured that their homes, their husbands and their children would not suffer were they to do so. I do not think the Government have done enough yet to ensure that those women's homes, husbands and children will not suffer if they go back to work to help in the great production drive.
The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory) said there were two incentives needed if people are to give of their best. The first is material reward, and the second joy and pride in work. I take up the question of joy and pride in work first, because I want my last note to be on the question of material rewards for women, about which I have a word to say to the Government. The hon. Member for Abingdon told us about the women workers in his factory who worked on a conveyor belt, and who had no interest in their work until he showed them a finished product. That was a good way in interesting them. But there are more important ones. Why is it that in our technical schools and institutions today we do not give exactly the same chance to girls and young women to take the kinds of courses that will open up to them the best posts in industry? Constantly they are offered courses in millinery, cookery, make-do-and-mend, tapestry; why cannot they have instruction in engineering and all those fascinating things which boys are taught?
Let any hon. Member tell me of any good technical school or institution where all the courses are open to boys and girls alike. I shall give a medal to the local authority which provides that. My experience is that there is a great range of interesting courses offered to boys and 674 men, and a very limited range of courses regarded as suitable for girls and women. We cannot get the kind of women who would go right up the ladder, which is what we want, if we are to give jobs to the girls, and find the girls for the jobs, unless we give them this preliminary training. Then they may find that interest in their work about which the hon. Member for Tiverton spoke.
The last and most important thing, which is going to really prove an incentive and bring women into industry, is the rate for the job. That has been neglected by this Government. Of all the things in their programme that they promised to us at the General Election, one of the most neglected is that of women getting the rate for the job. In industry I know that it is not easy. I know that it will not begin there. It has to begin with the Government. I ask my right hon. Friend, if he thinks it is an important matter to get women into industry, whether it is going to help women to take a joy in their work and feel a sense of responsibility if he can offer nothing better than half what a man is getting when doing the same job, or even two-thirds as in some industries, or four-fifths as in the professions or Civil Service.
Is it not time that in an expansionist state leading to full employment, we decided that we must put this principle into operation? I am quite certain that if the Government would take a step in that direction, even though it were only a gesture, such as has been constantly suggested, of giving the same increments to men and women in the Civil Service, it would give an impetus to the whole of the women employed in this country and would eventually be adopted in industry. We should find in the engineering trade, which accepted the principle during the war, but who, like the Government, never put it into operation, a totally different attitude.
I cannot understand why it should be possible for some of the countries in Eastern Europe, with their difficult economy and frightful devastation after the war, to give the rate for the job and complete equality of status to their women, so that it is the ordinary thing for a woman to take a job according to her ability whether in a factory, in a profession or in the Government, yet we 675 cannot adopt the principle here. The Government do no[...] set a good example. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary: if it really is true that the Government still need women in industry, what is he going to do about these suggestions I have made, and about which every woman in this country is deeply concerned? Women seem to me to be the more quiet and patient sex these days; we do not hear enough from them.
§ Mrs. Manning
Well, judging from the mumblings of the hon. and gallant Member, who has mumbled, talked and chortled ever since he came into the Chamber, while I have been here for hours without saying a word, I think I am entitled to make that observation.
§ Colonel Dower
On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the hon. Lady to say that I have mumbled and chortled, when in fact I have listened to every word she has said with a great deal of sympathy? If she is not careful she will turn me into an "Opposition" Member.
§ Mrs. Manning
I was suggesting that women were today quiet, docile, patient people. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, who, as I say, has been talking and mumbling all the time he has been here, seemed to me to give point to my argument, because I sat here for hours without uttering one single word.
I hope my right hon. Friend will recognise that it is not true to say that women do not care about these things, merely because they are not making a fuss about them. That is the argument adduced time and time again on the question of "The rate for the job" by hon. and right hon. Members on the Front Bench, who say that there is no pressure in the country, that the women are not making a fuss about it. The great majority of the women leave it to us to speak for them, and I am very glad to have had the opportunity of raising this important question, and pointing out to this House that women, equally with men, are today carrying the burden of industry, and I say they deserve a square deal.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)
I do not propose to join issue with the hon. 676 Lady the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) on the matters she raised because she is much too formidable for me, especially when she is on the warpath for the rate for the job for women. I prefer to leave her speech to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale), who has a great deal of knowledge of questions affecting women in industry.
§ Mr. Shepherd
We have had a very interesting, though not exciting, Debate today. I think this has been due, to a very considerable extent, to the very good lead given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) in opening the Debate. These are occasions when there can be a lot of carping criticism and antagonism which can do very little good; but today we have had a very useful Debate indeed. I was very pleased to hear the Minister of Labour in better form. When I think of the difficulties in which he has had in these last three and a half years, I think that on this occasion he must have felt much happier than on similar occasions two or three years ago. There were times when many people wondered whether he would survive to the end of the journey, but I think he is now pretty certain to stay the course, to be thrown out of office in 1950 with the rest of his right hon. Friends.
We ought. I think, to be mindful of the fact that four years after the end of the war we still have a serious disequilibrium in our labour force. In the important industries of agriculture, coal and textiles we have vital shortages. I do not say that all this is the responsibility of the Government, but I do attach a good deal of blame to the Government for the situation in the textile industry. Practically nothing was done for nearly two years to get women into the textile industry. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer bears a very grave responsibility for having failed to do anything. He completely failed for two years to appreciate the needs of Lancashire. He simply "stooged" on the job, relying on working parties and consultative committees, instead of getting on with an interim policy of providing labour and improv- 677 ing amenities. There is a very definite responsibility on the Government for delaying the action they have now very properly taken in the case of the textile industry.
When I say that there is a serious disequilibrium in labour, I mean that it is serious even though in detail it is slight. Where a nation depends on exports for its livelihood, even the slightest disequilibrium or mal-distribution of labour has a very marked effect. If we can get more labour into the textile and coal industries, we shall be able materially to improve our export position. Many hon. Members have talked about hitting or missing targets, and some have wondered whether we should have targets at all, but the upshot is that it is extraordinarily difficult to adjust the labour force in a democracy. It is even more difficult to adjust the labour force when there is a high level of demand for labour. In a totalitarian State there is no difficulty, because people can be forced to do what is wanted. If there is a great reserve of unemployed, there is all the labour required. But when a democratic nation has a very high demand for labour, it is very difficult to make the necessary adjustments.
In this connection, I ask the House to consider whether we are above the optimum point in employment. Obviously no one in his right senses wants to have a great mass of unemployed, but I ask the House whether it is true that we are at the optimum level of employment. The Lord President of the Council once said, in a misguided moment, that the aim was to have more jobs than men. I do not think there is anyone on the Government Front Bench who really believes today that that is a good thing in the national interest. It is probably true to say that it is possible to get higher production with a percentage of employed less than at present. It is possible to get over-employment and lower production as a result. With over-employment there are higher costs, less skill and less incentives to go in for apprenticeships, and all the evils we have suffered in the last few years.
I believe that the workers of this country have done an extraordinarily good job in the last four years. There have 678 been black spots, of course, and it would not be unfair to say that the dockers have not done as much as they ought to have done, and that for some considerable time, the miners were giving a good deal of anxiety. Building trade labour is also letting us down in many fields. Apart from that, our workers in general have done an extraordinarily good job. The British worker remains the best in the world, with qualities outside his pure capacity for work which mark him as being far superior to any other worker. We ought, therefore, to pay a tribute to our workers, because it is they, and not the Government, who are responsible for what has been done.
§ Mr. Shepherd
Neither must we overlook the value of management. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are apt to think that management is not so important as direction, whereas it is, in fact, extremely important. If we are to strive for higher and better techniques, the importance of management becomes even greater. I was very glad to hear the Minister talking about the new type of foreman, because the lack of training of the N.C.O.s of industry has been one of our greatest shortcomings. It is no good putting a man in charge of a shop, or even part of a shop, merely because he happens to do his job better than the next man; he must be a leader in the proper sense of the word. If we are to maintain a high and steady level of employment, as I hope we shall, we must utilise new methods to get people to work their best. Good leadership, right down to the charge hand, is one of the means by which to get the best possible work and output. I was glad, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman stressed the value of foremen who did not rely merely upon cursing and swearing at those under them.
Many times today I have been worried by the talk from hon. Gentlemen opposite who have said, "We have planned full employment and, therefore, there is really no need to worry." That kind of talk is most dangerous, because nobody who looks at the situation in which this country finds itself today can be really satisfied that we have planned a society in which there is a guarantee of full em- 679 ployment. I am surprised that hon. Gentlemen should t ilk in this way. True, they want to support their own Government and to enhance their own efforts, but the fact remains that there is facing this country today a very real danger of unemployment, and the danger that we shall not be able to sell our goods overseas. This problem. I know, is one which would have to be faced by any government, and I do not readily see any answer to it. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman replies, he will have the answer cut and dried.
I hope, too, that the right hon. Gentleman knows what is to be done should our export markets cease to exist. I do not think the suggestion of a rapid lowering of our prices will be very effective. My main concern is that during the last two years we have been selling our exports overseas at prices which are far to low. We could, in fact, have got considerably more for many of our exports and not only improved our present position but also, probably, closed the gap in our balance of payments.
I want the right hon. Gentleman to answer this question: what shall we do if unemployment comes our way and we can no longer sell our exports overseas? That is a question which ought to be exercising the minds of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They should be considering that, instead of congratulating themselves on a situation which has come their way, not as the result of their own efforts or of any conscious plan, but as the result purely and simply of an accumulated demand during the years of war. The present situation has nothing to do with our present Administration. If the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply wants to establish the capacity of the present Administration and enhance his own reputation, he will give the House tonight a full and clear statement of what steps the Government propose to take if and when exports begin very seriously to fall off. If he does that today, we on this side of the House will be more convinced about the merits and capacity of His Majesty's Government and will have a special regard for the right lion. Gentleman.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland)
At this late hour I wish to confine my remarks to one point which is of particular 680 and rather urgent importance. It is perhaps the most baffling and difficult of all manpower problems, the problem of the distressed areas. I have had the distressing experience of living in a distressed area. I do not want to overpaint the picture tonight, but we are living a very different kind of life in those areas today, which does not compare at all with the experiences through which we passed between the wars. In spite of what the hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. Shepherd) said, we attribute our present prosperity to our present Government.
Although we have had considerable new industrial developments and although the Trading Estate Company in the North-East alone has provided employment for over 30,000 people, nevertheless I think I am speaking for the people of the Development Areas generally when I say there is much more to be done. We are driven to that conclusion whether we look on the brighter or the darker side of the picture. If we look on the brighter side, in the North-Eastern Development Area, we see that there are 100,000 more workers in employment today than in mid-1939. That means that the additional employment we have cannot even substantially be attributed to the development which has taken place since the war. This new employment cannot be attributed to a new pattern of industry or to the provision of alternative forms of employment.
In fact, to a major degree new employment has been provided by a revival of the basic industries, the heavy industries, and today we are probably more dependent in the Development Areas on the heavy basic industries than we were before the war. For instance, in the North-East if shipbuilding and heavy engineering went back to its 1939 level, which was a very high peace-time level, we should have to find new work for 32,000 workpeople. If we limit the field and take my constituency on Wearside, according to newspaper reports of an inter-departmental inquiry held recently, in three years' time we can probably anticipate that there will be 5,000 shipyard workers who are redundant. In the same locality, but going a little wider than my constituency, we can anticipate that 1,000 miners will be redundant. That is a very considerable problem. I often think that in talking of manpower figures 681 we are too much concerned with immediate targets. In mining, for instance, we have to remember that in the Reid Report we had a picture of perhaps 20 or 25 years ahead when the industry would carry only 415,000 men.
Returning to the Development Areas, we realise that what we want are some clear, specific, perhaps not immediate, manpower targets, although, particularly regarding shipbuilding, a relatively immediate target. There is a special difficulty in regard to shipbuilding, because whatever we decide to be the suitable level of employment for that industry, it must be less than the capacity of the industry. We must retain additional industrial capacity. What are we going to do? I know it is an extraordinarily difficult problem. I cannot suggest what one can do in a shipyard except build ships, but there have been inquiries. I am told that it is not practicable to think of structural engineering in shipyards.
I should like to make a suggestion to the Government. We have an excellent modern shipyard, the "Corporation" yard at Southwick, which is empty at the moment. There is no prospect of it being used as a shipyard because of the National Shipbuilding Securities provisions. The Government have expended a good deal of capital on that yard, which has stood idle for several years now. I blame no one and I do not think that anyone is to blame for failing to attract alternative work to that yard; but I should like the Government to say, "We will take over the yard—after all we sunk a good deal of money in it—and we will see what can be done in the utilisation of a shipyard for other purposes." If a success were made of such an experiment, it would be of vital importance to the shipbuilding industry. One of the worries facing us is that no use has been found for shipyards except shipbuilding.
I have mentioned two basic industries which affect my own constituency particularly. In the same way I should like some examination and forward view to be directed to the basic industries, because that is the crux of the problem so far as the distressed areas are concerned. In what I have said I have been looking on the bright side, that is, that these basic industries are today providing 682 far higher employment figures than before.
Let us look at the dark side. If we look at the other side of the picture, we come to the same conclusion—that more has to be done. We in the North-East —and I am referring to the North-East only as an example which is typical of all the Development Areas—have a hard core of 30,000 unemployed. That is a trifle compared with the position which we have unfortunately experienced at other times. It amounts to between three and four per cent., and we have experienced unemployment over the region as high as 38 per cent. But when our unemployment percentage has been 38 the national average unemployment rate has been 221 per cent. Today, when we are experiencing only about four per cent. unemployment, we remain, in relation to the country as a whole, in quite as disadvantageous a position as then. In fact, the ratio between our unemployment and the figure for national unemployment is higher today than it was sometimes during the inter-war years.
We enjoy national prosperity but—and this is an important and urgent question—when the Government are saying that we are exhausting the labour power available in the country and we have to depend more and more upon individual initiative and effort, it is time for us to take exceptional steps to utilise such labour as is available. We have labour available, and in the light of the manpower which is available, in the light of our present difficulties regarding capital investment, we should, if we possibly can, do more for the Development Areas.
Again taking the North-East as an example, we have had expended upon us since August, 1945, £6,750,000. Nevertheless, we have to compare that expenditure with previous expenditure. Before August, 1945, we had £2,500,000 spent upon new factories in our North-East Development Area. We have again to keep in mind the fact that, in spite of that expenditure, we have today 30,000 unemployed. We of the Trading Estate Company can say that we are proud of our achievement during 1948. We provided new employment, additional employment, for some 5,400 people, but we have to say that that rate of progress is too slow against the background of 683 30,000 unemployed and against the background of possible redundancy in heavy industry.
Another point, which again must be typical of the other Development Areas, is that within the Development Areas themselves there is a good deal of difference between the various districts regarding the density of employment. I believe we shall have to take some more effective steps regarding the location of industry. My own constituency has 5 per cent. of unemployed. But take two recent developments. Paton and Baldwin's mills have gone to Darlington, where they will provide employment for some 3,000. Adjoining is the Aycliffe Trading Estate, which is already having difficulties regarding labour. Bakelite are providing new premises at a cost of about £1 million. Both those schemes are at, or in the vicinity, of Darlington which has less than 1 per cent. of unemployed. We therefore have to consider not only the location of industries, but the location of industries within the Development Areas.
Moreover, coming back to the point about heavy industry, these new developments at Darlington are away from the areas most likely to find difficulties if the heavy industry is bound to contract. I do not wish to upset the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) but we have been rather more expeditious than other Development Areas in the progress of work which has taken place since August, 1945. I may be wrong, but I consider that there seems now to be a tendency to slow the development in our Development Area as compared with the other less successful areas. I think that that tendency ought to be stopped. I do not think there should be any endeavour to have an equal rate of development amongst the Development Areas. What we should try to do is to develop as rapidly as possible the Development Areas so long as vie have reservoirs of unemployment. I hope that when the Development Area policy is considered nationally there will be no effort to try to get an equal rate of development.
As has been pointed out in a previous speech, the powers of location are extremely limited. It considerably delays development if endeavours are made to persuade an industrialist to go somewhere —perhaps Scotland—where he particularly does not wane to go. He may be 684 less adverse to going to Wales or to the North-East, and we should try to get him to go to one of the Development Areas at the earliest possible opportunity. I do not wish my right hon. Friend to think —and I am sure that he will not—that this is any niggardly criticism. We have a new spirit of hope and invigoration in, at any rate, our Development Area, and I raise these points only because we are confident that these matters will receive, not only serious but effective consideration from the Government.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Mr. McCorquodale (Epsom)
Those who have sat through this Debate will agree that it has been a most valuable and useful one and one in which this House of Commons has been at its best as a Council of State rather than as two sides bickering against one another. The tone was set by the constructive and objective speech with which my right hon. Friend opened the Debate. It was responded to by the Minister in his reply, and indeed, according to their respective lights, it has been followed by hon. Members without exception in all the speeches which we have heard throughout the day. I have heard the main part of every one of them.
I was very interested in the remarks which the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. F. Willey) offered to the House. It was a good thing that, at the end of our Debate, the Development Areas were again forcibly brought to our notice. In good times and bad they are one of the chief anxieties of all Members of all parties, and we should never forget them. I was pleased to hear a Member from Sunderland speaking, because it was my privilege during the war to have personal knowledge of the outstanding efforts that that great port gave to the service of our country in shipbuilding in a position closest to the enemy from a bombing point of view.
We have had a most varied and interesting series of speeches. We had an impassioned speech on behalf of liberty from the representative of the Liberal Party, the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris). We had a speech about Wales from the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams). It was an interesting and valuable contribution. We had two speeches, one from the hon. Member for 685 Tiverton (Mr. Amory) and the other from the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), bringing a rather higher note into the Debate. My hon. Friends' note about pride in the job struck a chord in the hearts of the whole House. Then we had a breath of realism from the hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman) whose Division has just been struck by one of the blows that exporting areas are liable to suffer—namely, the cutting off of some of its exports of tractor production. He was right to bring the House back from the spirit of possible complacency which this latest White Paper somehow has engendered in a good many people's minds. Indeed, if I might make a general criticism of the Economic Survey for 1949, it is that, read by and large, it is a little too complacent in view of the difficulties which we face in the sales markets of the world.
Then we had two interesting speeches from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison) and the hon. Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee) about the responsibilities of trade unions. Both speeches—especially that of the hon. Member for Hulme—were very much in accord, I was glad to hear, with the sentiments expressed in a well-known Conservative publication, the Industrial Charter. I trust that the hon. Member for Hulme will again refresh himself from the Industrial Charter. He will find that he was speaking on lines parallel with much in that document. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) gave us valuable information from his contacts with American labour leaders. Then the hon. Member for Western Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) paid handsome tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) for the tone in which he opened the Debate. I shall not pursue our Scottish speaker from Renfrew into all the avenues into which he went during his speech. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) took out of my mouth a great deal of what I intended to say. I hope that I shall not be repeating word for word too much of what he said, in the later remarks which I wish to address to the House.
Then I was delighted to hear the intervention—if she does not mind me 686 saying so—of the gallant defender of Epping. As I have been connected with the publication of a report concerning some problems affecting women, which obviously she has read, digested and welcomed with open arms, the hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) might almost come and join me in Epsom. Indeed, I was delighted to hear her championing her sex in this matter, and I hope she will support us in our campaign on a small but valuable point to get the level of the earnings of widows before their pension is cut, lifted above the present 30s. I am sure I can count on her support for that as also for the rate for the job and many other points. It could not have been a more delightful speech. After it, my hon. Friend the Member for Buck-low (Mr. W. Shepherd) brought us back to the facts of the situation once more.
I wish to make a few remarks about one or two other questions which have not been raised in the Debate, and then deal briefly with two main points. I do not think the problem of the disabled persons has been referred to in any detail in the Debate, but it is a problem which remains with us. I gather from the "Ministry of Labour Gazette" of February that there are some 913,000 disabled persons on the register, and that 76,000 of those are still without work. Of those 76,000, 61,000 are considered suitable for general employment, and only the other 15,000 have to have sheltered employment of one sort or another. Last year when we discussed this problem, the Minister of Labour suggested that he was under some difficulty about not having the power to fix differential rates in the compulsory employment of disabled persons, and I suggested to him that we would assist him in anything he wished to do to change the present system that would help in getting these disabled persons into employment. The responsibility rests with all of us to get these disabled persons — more than half of whom are disabled because of the effects of war, and a great number of others from serving in the mines—into suitable employment, as far as that is possible, and I hope we may hear something from the right hon. Gentleman when he replies.
There are two small but important points about the call-up to the Services. We are grateful for the careful analysis which the' Minister gave us today of the 687 figures of the call-up, and it will be most useful. What I want to see is the present system maintained. I do not want to see the age for the start of the call-up increased next year or the year after. I believe that it is a bad thing to have people hanging about waiting to be called up at 19½ or 20. It will be a very bad thing indeed for this country, and, whatever method the Government try to pursue to take in the right number, and not too many, of the National Service men, let them try some other method than that of raising the age, which was threatened recently by the Minister of Defence. I believe that that is the very worst method which we could pursue, and I was delighted that the Minister put his foot down about that, as I believe he did, because the Minister of Defence changed his mind after that Debate. May I urge the right hon. Gentleman to keep his foot pressed firmly on the ground in that respect, and to suggest an alternative method to this most deleterious one?
Now that demobilisation in general is completed, I should like to pay tribute from this House to those concerned in the administration of the demobilisation plans. As we all Know, it has been a tremendous task, which has been carried through by the officials concerned with the utmost despatch and with the least possible friction. I think they are to be congratulated upon it, and I have no doubt that the Minister will pass that on to those concerned. I want to know, now that demobilisation in general is complete, whether the necessary adjustments are being made. An excellent arrangement was made by the Foreign Secretary in setting up resettlement advice offices throughout the country. I do not believe they will now be needed to the same extent as hitherto. Are they being closed and their premises taken over by the employment exchanges? These advice offices occupy some very valuable premises which could be used for other purposes.
I noticed the setting up of the special committee—I was very grateful to hear about this; I do not think a great deal has been said about it—to deal with the employment of Regulars when they leave the Services. A great deal has been said of the necessity of bringing our Regular Forces up to full pitch. One 688 way of helping to do this is to let the Regular man know that at the end of his Service he has the expectation of a good job. I hope to hear more about the deliberations of this committee in due course.
Having made those general remarks, I now wish to refer to two questions in particular. I believe that this manpower Debate is one of the most important; the manpower subject is, possibly, the most important of all our domestic considerations. Apart from coal and the productivity of our soil, we have no natural resources in this country and have to depend for our prosperity and our standard of living upon the skill and productivity of our people. It is, therefore, of vital importance that this skill should be developed and rightly used. I want to add my plea, and argue the case now, that the Minister and his right hon. Friend should announce quickly the striking off of controls upon the liberty of the person so far as employment is concerned, because I believe that they are now operating harshly and not in any way in the country's interest.
In the 1947 White Paper the Government issued targets for manpower in the different industries and a little later in the year took compulsory powers to see that those targets were reached. In 1948, the Government had to confess in their White Paper that the results really bore little resemblance to the targets aimed at. Nevertheless, in a mood of optimism, they pushed forward and issued fresh targets, and kept on the controls. Now, in 1949, the White Paper confesses that these revised targets have also not been reached. Very wisely the Government have more or less abandoned the issuing of fresh targets and turned more to suggesting trends of employment. I think they are wise, but I regret to see that they still propose to keep on the labour controls.
However, it is interesting to note—and I think we should bear it in mind—that while production in 1947, owing to the coal crisis, the financial crisis, and other difficulties, did not show up well, production in 1948 has been very good. I am glad that a tribute has been paid to industry from all quarters of the House, and I think our thanks should go out to those engaged in industry at all levels for the efforts they made which increased 689 our productivity in that year. While the targets for manpower, as has been emphasised, have not been reached, our targets for productivity—which is what really counts—have been reached and passed in many cases. I cannot forbear to mention that the most marked increase in productivity has been achieved under private enterprise and not under nationalisation.
We may, however, legitimately comment on this—that all the meticulous planning or attempts at planning have not worked out so far as manpower allocation is concerned. How wise are the experts, therefore, now to abandon the realistic targets they claimed in former years. If ever there was a case for putting on these controls—and I do not believe there ever was a real case, in spite of the fears of inflation under the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer—there is now no justification for them at all. We are now in a position of a more realistic financial approach to the country's affairs, under the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the compulsory controls should be swept away.
I have been endeavouring to make up for my own use a sort of credit and debit balance with regard to these compulsory controls on manpower. Some of the points have been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames. It will be remembered that in this Debate last year we rather ridiculed the "spivs and drones" order. I remember suggesting to the Minister that he might like to have these gentlemen as members of N.A.T.S.O.P.A.—the union he has done so much to build up. I am glad that since then nothing has been heard of these rather obnoxious terms.
On the debit side of labour controls I would put, first, the "ring fence." A "ring fence" operates round agriculture, although the Minister says he has no anxiety about the manning up of agriculture at the present time and, indeed, there is a small amount of unemployment in agriculture. It seems to me almost midsummer madness to keep a "ring fence" round agriculture. Surely it must detract from the attractiveness of that industry. It is similarly true of coalmining. The young, adventurous man or boy who is not yet sure what he wants to be in life, is prepared to try 690 two or three trades before he settles down. In the coalmining industry they had to introduce a special relaxation of the "ring fence" principle so that after a certain period of months new entrants could get out if they wanted to. I believe we lose by compulsorily keeping people in the industry who want to get out of it. We lose more in stopping other people from entering it than we gain by keeping unwilling people in the industry.
I believe that in both coalmining and agriculture—agriculture certainly and coalmining probably—a good credit balance in the manpower situation would be obtained by removing these controls, and I am fortified in that argument by the recollection of what happened when the Essential Work Orders were reduced in the cotton industry. Many people said that when the Minister took that action he would do great harm to employment in the cotton industry. He did not do so, and nobody wants to replace the Essential Work Order control. There was a temporary fall and then a rise.
Again, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames commented quite rightly on the effect on certain managements putting the responsibility for manning-up industry, on to the Ministry when it should be the concern of management. There is also the case of a man seeking employment: rather than choosing his own employment he falls into the frame of mind in which he leaves it to the Ministry of Labour to send him wherever they wish. I do not think that creates a good enterprising spirit in the general public.
Finally—and this is one thing on which I am particularly, keen—I do not believe it does any good to the value of the regard in which the employment exchange is held in the minds of the people. The employment exchange should be a friend, adviser and guide to management and employee alike. It should not be a place where compulsion is applied, but a place where help and guidance can be sought and readily afforded. In the war, although the Ministry of Labour and National Service did a great deal of admirable work, of necessity because of the compulsion they had to use they came to be feared in the minds of a certain number of people in the powers which they possessed. It 691 is essential that these fears should be dissipated, and that there should be complete confidence that the help that the Ministry's officials in the employment exchanges can give will be given to all who come to seek their aid.
So much for the debit side. Of the credit side what can we say? I think that one of the things it is hoped these controls will do is to control the turnover of labour. But the turnover of labour is most disastrously high, and in a moment I want to say a special word about that. Certainly it has not been cured by these controls. The Economic Survey claims that 576,000 people have been guided—I think that is the word used—into essential industries during the year by these controls. The Ministry of Labour Gazette gives the figure of the number of placings for the four weeks in November last year as no fewer than 368,000. If we take November as a typical month—I do not know that it was—that gives us something like 4,500,000 or 5 million placings during the year. That sounds a tremendous figure.
If out of that number the Ministry have been able to steer, with all the controls they have at their disposal, only 10 per cent. into essential industries, I am convinced they could have done that without the controls, merely by the guidance which they could have given and can give. I would keep on and would extend all the advertising campaigns. I would place great emphasis upon the services of the advisory committees—the juvenile advisory committees and the other advisory committees. But compulsion in peace time, I believe, is bad in principle, and I believe now, in our present circumstances, is bad in practice also. I beg the Minister of Labour and his right hon. Friend to consider this matter very carefully, and to remove these controls at the earliest possible moment. And do not let us have to wait until only just before the General Election before they are removed.
I do not wish to speak too long, but another point to which I wish to draw attention is the change that is coming over our trading position. During the last two and a half or three years the cry has been, "Production—production at all costs." But now the position is changing. It is no longer production at all costs; it is production at the lowest possible cost so 692 that we can compete in the markets of the world. That has been emphasised by a number of hon. Members who have spoken tonight. I want to make one or two comments on how we can, I believe, reduce our costs, particularly with reference to manpower.
I want to comment first on this turnover position. The figures have been given in the Ministry of Labour Gazette for February. The Ministry of Labour Gazette is a mine of information for anyone interested in the subject, and I congratulate those who draw it up, for it is an admirable paper. Figures have been given of turnover and, really, they are most alarming. Even at this late hour of the night I should like to quote them to the House. The turnover they give for the four weeks which they take is, for males, 2.3 per cent. Multiply that by 13, and we find that it comes to nearly 30 per cent. per annum. For females the figure is 4 per cent.—nearly 50 per cent. per annum.
These are alarming figures. In textiles they are most alarming. If my figures are right this is a colossal source of wastage. It has already been quoted in the Debate that the T.U.C., in giving attention to this problem, estimated that in a 5,000 man light engineering factory, the cost of turnover today alone works out at something like £200,000 a year. If we can do anything to reduce that turnover figure—and the Control of Engagement Order has not done it—I think that will be valuable.
The only suggestion which I can throw out to the two sides of industry, in considering this problem, is whether some longer period of engagement, rather than the weekly or fortnightly engagement so current in industry would not help to maintain a more stable employment. It is true that the upheavals due to the war and everything else have tended to make people restless and to make them change their employment. Anything that we can do to stop that change, so that people, having acquired a skill, may continue to use that skill and not wander off and have to be taught something else, would be of advantage.
I believe that much more could be done to lower costs by payment by results, a bonus system and piece work. I will not go into the details at this late hour, but I believe that a great deal could be done by lowering the administrative cost 693 of operating industry and operating government, for one reacts on the other. The other day, I think it was when the President of the Board of Trade stopped clothes rationing, he told us that not only was he hoping to save 1,000 people in the Civil Service, but also several thousand who were in industry operating this scheme—I believe the figure was 8,000, speaking from memory—which shows how the operation of controls affects the number of people employed in the Civil Service in administration and necessitates an excessive number of people being employed in administration in industry as well. All this has to be paid for by the production of the productive worker, and all of it goes to put up our costs.
I urge the Government to give even more attention to cutting down the numbers in the administrative services which they operate. I do not think that it can be justified that 41,000 people should be employed in the Ministry of Food at the present time, that there should be 14,000 instead of 4,000 employed by the Board of Trade, and 38,000 employed by the Ministry of Supply. The Ministry of Transport staff has gone up from 3,000 to 9,000—goodness knows why; the Ministry of Works 6,000 to 20,000, without improving the productivity of the building industry at all.
When we look at the higher ranks of the Civil Service—those at the top —we see that the numbers have been doubled. The executive group has increased two-and-a-half times, the clerical group nearly two-and-a-half times, and even the messenger group two-and-a-half times. I believe that the people in the Government service, who necessitate very often corresponding people in industry, are keeping up the cost of our products which we shall now have to sell in a buyers' market rather than a sellers' market in the world. If we wish to see our high rate of employment maintained, which I am quite sure is the wish of everybody in the House—His Majesty's Government, His Majesty's Opposition, and everyone alike—one of the things that we have to do in this year 1949 is to concentrate on bringing down our costs where we can, so that we can compete and sell our goods, even in the new situation in the world in which we find ourselves.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Ness Edwards)
I do not know the exact number of manpower Debates I have attended in this House, but I must say that I have never been present at a better manpower Debate than this one. It has been conducted at a high standard; we have heard excellent speeches from both sides of the House, and I think the House is to be congratulated on the way it is facing a problem which affects the nation at so many points. I thought the opening speech by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) set the tone for the Debate. He was, as usual, objective and fair in his criticism and helpful in his suggestions. My right hon. Friend covered the general ground and gave the House the exact picture as the Ministry of Labour sees the position. Nothing was held back; all the figures were given; and he even tried to explain the existence of the "missing million," which is now no longer missing.
The right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) was, of course, dealing with an old love—and I do not think he would ever attempt to kick an old love down the stairs—because for many of the things about which he was critical he had some responsibility; he knew the reasons why these things were introduced, and I felt that because of that his criticism was tempered by his memories. I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman commit the same arithmetical mistake for which his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) chastised my right hon. Friend. How 2 per cent. becomes 36 per cent. is still a mystery, and will, I presume, rank with the "missing million" as one of the two mysteries of this manpower Debate. The right hon. Gentleman will not have forgotten the point, and I am sure his hon. Friends will enlighten him on it afterwards.
The charge that we had been too complacent, or that the Economic Survey is too complacent, is one that cannot be justified. I do not think anybody on this side of the House is complacent. Indeed, this nation cannot afford to be complacent while it has to depend upon aid from other countries. I assure hon. Members on both sides of the House that we regard this problem as one of very great seriousness, and we shall continue 695 to give our undivided attention to getting the country on its feet. When we have done that we may perhaps be a little more expansive with our [...]iberties and be able to enjoy those things that we are entitled to enjoy if we pay for them ourselves.
A number of points have been raised, and I think it better that I should try to answer hon. Members by hanging my reply on the points made by the right hon. Member for Epsom. He referred to disabled persons. This is a side of the work done by the Ministry of Labour which gets far too little publicity. A grand job of work is being done to fit disabled persons into employment. We have our rehabilitation units, our remploy factories, and the disabled persons' advisory committees, set up, I think, by the right hon. Gentleman. All those are working, and the fact that the vast majority of the 913,000 registered disabled persons are in employment is in itself an indication of the success of the Ministry in dealing with the problem.
I am not blind to the serious position to which attention was called in the very able speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams), assisted by a similar speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. F. Willey). My hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) mentioned the same sort of problem, which existed in Scotland. With regard to the Welsh problem, which is much more intense than that of any other Development Area, we ought to see exactly what has happened. I do not want to underestimate the gravity of the position. On the other hand, we ought not to be blind to the great achievement of this Government in dealing with the problem.
It is true that we have roughtly 12,000 disabled unemployed persons in the Development Area of South Wales, despite the fact that every month up to January, 1949, we placed in employment 1,200 disabled persons. As for the pneumoconiosis problem, in the 12 months to October, 1948, 4,722 persons suffering from that disease were placed in employment. Since 1938, 70,000 more people are in employment in South Wales. That is an indication of the nature of the work done by the Ministry. We must not forget that coming from the mining industry in South Wales are men disabled by 696 chest diseases acquired over the past 10 years, and no matter how many we put in employment we never seem to be able to break down what looks like a hard core of unemployment, despite the fact that the people on the books are changing from month to month. In order to deal with this problem, there has been set up a Committee on the Re-settlement of Disabled Persons in South Wales. That committee is representative of all sections of the community and industry. We are now awaiting their proposals.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer today received a deputation from the Welsh Regional Board dealing with this very problem. It is the Government's view that the Grenfell factories and remploy factories are inadequate to deal with the present situation. We think we have reached the peak of the incidence of disablement in South Wales and that it will now start to go down. In order that all these men shall be placed in employment, new policies are necessary. My hon. Friend can be assured that special steps will be taken to deal with that problem. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has already paid inspection visits to South Wales, and he is going to the North-East Coast, to Scotland and the Merseyside. A report on the operation of the present policy will be prepared for the President of the Board of Trade, and once the report is presented steps will be decided upon to deal with the resulting problem.
I would remind my hon. Friend the Member for Neath that unemployment in South Wales is substantially lower than it has ever been. I would remind him of the position in July, 1932, when we had 202,547. The latest figure is 29,546. The percentage of unemployment in Wales is not 6.6 but 4.4. I agree with him completely that we have this other side to the problem—and this applies to both Development Areas—that there is a substantial number of jobs we cannot fill despite the existence of a large number of unemployed. Over the country as a whole, despite all the apprehensions about the general economic situation, there are more jobs registered with the Ministry of Labour than persons registered as unemployed.
The great problem we are always up against is how to fit the unemployed to the jobs that exist. Whilst there may 697 be apprehension about Coventry, let me remind the House that there are 30,000 vacancies in the Coventry Region now, and in the Midlands Regions alone, 60,000; so that the demand for labour in the Midlands is quite large enough to absorb for some time to come a very substantial number of men who may become redundant in high preference industries. Whilst we can not be complacent about this question, I can assure the House that we are watching it as carefully as we can, regionally and nationally. The right hon. Gentleman knows that in every region we have regional meetings of regional controllers. Every month they get together and examine all the tendencies that occur in the regions, report to national headquarters and meet every month down here to collate all the evidence and arrive at conclusions which they pass on to headquarters staff and so on to the Minister.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that we might have a differential rate for the quota obligation for individual industries in regard to disablement. The right hon. Gentleman has asked me to look at that. As he knows, there is in existence the National Council for dealing with disabled workers.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
We have the council on disabled men, representing all types of disablement and all sections of the community—a very responsible body, presided over by that gallant Gentleman, Sir Brunel Cohen. They have advised us against this policy. We have put it to them. We have asked if an increase in quota would help with the problem. They have turned that down. We have asked them whether marking off certain additional employment would be the right thing. They have turned that down. They take the view, I think rightly, that a disabled man ought not to be marked off from the rest of the community. The vast majority of disabled men, if only the right job is found for them, are able to do a full day's work as good as able-bodied men and ought not to be shut out from the generality of jobs because they are marked down as only capable of certain types of work. The suggestion was made that the pools industry might 698 be scheduled. That is going before the Commission of Inquiry and we shall see what the Commission has to say about it. It would be a nice way of solving one of our intensive problems in South Wales if we could move one of the pools into a mining valley and take in all the disabled men. That would solve one problem very easily. We are giving this matter very close attention, as the right hon. Gentleman knows.
In regard to the question of the age of call-up to the Services, I was rather surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should say that he did not want the age to be raised, because when the original National Service Bill was passed in 1939, the party to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs laid down the age as 20. I am surprise to see his reversal. However we agree that 18 is the right age. I think I can assure the House that so far as my right hon. Friend and I are concerned in this matter, we shall endeavour to see that the age is not unduly raised. My right hon. Friend has already promised that later on in this year he will state what the call-up and the call-up age will be next year. We shall be able to look forward to the end of 1950 without any feeling of trepidation as to what the age is going to be.
I was rather pleased that the right hon. Gentleman paid a tribute to the departmental machine which has been responsible for the great job of demobilisation. No matter where one may look I do not think any unwinding of the Forces in any country in the world has been done in a more orderly and equitable manner than by the machinery at the Ministry of Labour in this country. I was pleased to hear this tribute paid to those officers who are responsible for this machine. With regard to the resettlement advice offices, these are being wound up. As the demand falls we are closing offices down and are giving up premises all the time. That is our intention and it is being operated. With regard to the scheme for the resettlement of ex-Regulars, it has been agreed that they shall be eligible for the business training course, about which the right hon. Gentleman knows somethings. Further details of further schemes for the employment of ex-Regulars will be announced as soon as these details are worked out.
699 Then we come to a matter which was mentioned not only by the right hon. Gentleman, but also by other hon. Members in the course of the Debate. The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) became a little impassioned about this, and I could not help thinking, when he was talking about the liberty of the individual and talking about freedom, of the time when he sat in this House: as a member of the Liberal Party, with a Liberal Prime Minister, when the miners of South Wales were denied even the right to work. I thought of the time when they were driven from their valleys, and when the "genuinely seeking work" clause was brought in by a Liberal colleague. I remember families being broken up in South Wales, in the North-East of England and in many other parts of the country when the world cyclone hit this country. Then the Liberal Government and the Liberal Prime Minister sat with arms folded and said this was due to world forces and could not be helped. This happened in the past and it did not enable me to appreciate the vehemence of the hon. Gentleman in his protest. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-on-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) put forward, in his usual trenchant way, three important considerations. I thought he was approaching the problem much more rationally, and he stated, as did his right hon. Friend in winding up, that it was hoped we would get rid of these controls as soon as we could. I was interested in some of the speeches made by other hon. Members.
Reference was made to the turnover, and there were many comments about our failure to reach targets. It seems to me that hon. Gentlemen opposite want to have it both ways. They will the end but not the means, on the assumption that if we do not have the controls we should reach targets easier. Is that the assumption?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Let us see what that means. In 1947, and in even 1946, we did not have these controls. What happened? The mining industry was going down: the textile industry was going down: cotton was going down; wool was going down: agriculture was going down. All this was be- 700 cause the labour force was becoming completely distorted and it was felt-necessary, on the recommendation of the National Joint Advisory Council, representing the T.U.C and the British Employers Confederation, to bring these controls into existence. It is only since the operation of these controls that we have been able to build up a labour force in the four basic industries.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
There was one other important consideration which I should like to mention before the hon. Gentleman goes further; in 1947 we had the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer with quite different policies from which are now being followed.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I do not want to detain the hon. Gentleman, but may I too, put one point to him? I know that the last thing he wants is to make a bad point; he does not wish to do that, any more than me. In 1947—and the controls only came in at the end of that year—if one takes the coal industry as an example, and looks at the figures on the colliery books, one finds that the numbers increased by 26,000, and in 1948 by only 7,000.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
What the right hon. and learned Gentleman fails to appreciate is that there was a great let-out from the Forces of all the skilled miners; there was then a special circumstance, but if we have regard to the normal intake, we see that the labour force in the vital industries was going down. That was why these controls were brought in. We ought to look at this machine as it operates, and not get false ideas. The Ministry of Labour placed last year nearly 5 million in employment and we were able to give to the first preference industries a very much greater share of the new manpower than they had previously had.
Reference has been made to the number of placings in the first preference industries; the figure of 550,000 relates to all first preference industries and not to essential industries which included textiles and agriculture, and so on. So the right hon. Gentleman's proportions were all wrong. He was under-estimating the success we had obtained in this connection. He also criticised because it is said that, although we had these controls, 701 we were unable to reach our targets. A point was made about cotton. Does the House realise that in placing in the cotton trade, in order to get an increase in the total manpower, we had first of all to put in 40,000 to deal with wastage? So that, last year, although we increased the manpower by 20,000, we had to put in 60,000 into the industry. The same thing is true of coal; we did not reach our target, but there are special reasons. But the numbers we put in were swollen by 70,000 wastage.
Unless the Ministry of Labour had some power of guidance in this matter the problem would be such that it could not possibly be dealt with in an entirely free atmosphere. It is suggested that this operation of the Control of Engagement Order is poisoning the atmosphere at the employment exchanges. That is quite wrong. I think that Ministry of Labour employment exchanges in this country are an example of good Government machinery. The employers and the trades unions go to the exchanges very freely and use them to the maximum, and the feelings existing there are of the most friendly and the most happy. It is most astonishing that Members of Parliament will get up here and say this is poisoning the atmosphere, and yet they will pay the most glorious compliments to the persons who are operating in what they say is a poisonous atmosphere. I do not think that is true.
We have consulted all our officers throughout the country about this. My right hon. Friend and I are as anxious as anyone in this House to remove these labour controls as soon as we possibly can. We are anxious to do it. Neither my right hon. Friend nor I want to direct a single person, and we consulted our regional controllers. I do not want to put responsibility on them but I want to show that we have been examining this. Their unanimous advice is to retain them if we want to try and reach the targets set out in the Economic Survey. We consulted the National Joint Advisory Council who are a responsible people representing employers—large and small employers—and representing the trades unions. Their advice is, "Keep them on until the end of the year, and then let us discuss it again."
So that all the advice we can get from responsible sources is to retain these con- 702 trols over labour. I hope that hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House will appreciate that we are only anxious to do what is necessary to get this country on to its feet. This is, I agree, an interference, but it is a much smaller interference and a much less vicious interference with the existence of the individuals to do this in a direct way and keep full employment than to get unemployment and do it in an indirect way. I remember the present Foreign Secretary saying that on this point we ought to come clean with the House and do the things in a straight way and that if you want to build up an industry do it straight and above board and not by creating unemployment and telling the chap, "Unless you go there, we will stop your benefit; we will starve you." I think that what we are doing is the right way.
Reference was made to the "spivs" and "drones." I make no apology for what we did to the "spivs" and "drones"; no apology at all. I do not concede it is right that a citizen has the right to live on the labour of the nation and do nothing about it. In that case I am prepared to direct. With this country facing the present economic situation, is anybody in any part of the House going to say that the Government should sit idly by and allow people to live on the efforts of the others in this very grave situation?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many people in this category he has actually caught and directed?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Altogether, my right hon. Friend reminds me, our estimate is 30,000 men but does the hon. Member, even if it is only one person, concede the right of anybody in this country to live by the efforts of all the rest of the nation and to do nothing in return? Does the hon. Member believe that a man has the right to be a parasite on the community?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Of course. I think I said—relying on my right hon. Friend's memory—that 30,000 men have been caught under compulsory registration, and of these some were directed.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The point is—does the Opposition agree that everyone should pull his weight in this national crisis and if he refuses to pull his weight that we should do nothing about it? What is the position of the Opposition? Is it that people should be allowed to dodge the column while at the same time, married women in Lancashire who have left industry go back to help the country in her hour of trial? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that we should exercise that power in relation to those dodging the column?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Since the right hon. Gentleman ha; challenged me, I say that I stand by every word I have said. Despite the fact that I disapprove, just as strongly as the right hon. Gentleman, of people who do no[...] work, I still do not approve of the position that there should be industrial conscription or compulsory direction of labour in time of peace.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I understand by that that the Conservative Party justify the dodgers in the country, and are prepared to do nothing about it. I do not want to be unfair to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but is that not the position? Let us come clean about this. We do not want to direct people, but here is the situation with which the country is faced. We do not want to be beholden to American dollars or anyone else's dollars. We want everyone to pull his weight. Do I understand that the position of the Conservative Party is that anyone who wants to dodge his obligations to the State in those circumstances can do so—that the Conservative Party do not justify it but justify doing nothing about it? I am very sorry if hon. Members of the Tory Party take that view. One other point wich which I should deal is the question—
§ Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of direction, may I remind him that he interrupted the course of the Debate and stated that people who were directed had a right to appeal. To 704 avoid making an entirely false point, will he agree that local appeal boards can only recommend and that the National Service officer merely considers the recommendation subject to any directions given to him by the Minister, and that the last word is therefore with the National Service officer?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I do not want to deceive the House in any way. The short point is that any man—or woman—who is unemployed is offered the choice of four jobs. That is the "slavery" which has been talked about. He can refuse the first, second and third, and if he does not take the fourth he is directed. He then has the right to appeal to the appeals tribunal, consisting of a chairman who is completely independent, one representative of employers and one representative trade unionist. He can go before that tribunal and argue his case. The National Service officer can argue his case. The two then have to leave the room, the tribunal makes its decision and recommends to the National Service officer. The National Service officer is not allowed to depart from that recommendation without the express authority of the Minister. So there you have a complete check upon any autocratic, totalitarian abuse of power over the citizen.
§ Sir J. Mellor
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. But the fact remains that the ultimate decision is with the Minister, and it is not that of a judicial tribunal.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
It cannot be the decision of the Minister where the National Service officer accepts the recommendation of the tribunal. The only case when it is the decision of the Minister is when the National Service officer seeks the authority of the Minister to reject the recommendation of the tribunal. In 99 cases out of 100 it is the recommendation of the tribunal which holds the field.
I think I have covered a substantial part of the ground. I just want to make one or two further observations. This great machine has a high standing in our community—a very high standing. It is doing a great job of work. Upon the success of the operations of this Ministry depends the economic stability of the country. When anyone looks at the way 705 labour has been mobilised, at the way we have got over our difficulties since 1945; when one sees our industrial record and sees our production record—I agree that production of the right class must be the major aim of everyone; efficient production is the thing we should all plug for now as hard as we can—when one sees the experience of this country and compares it with anything else in any country of the world, one must be convinced that this country has a right to be proud of the way it has adapted itself to the changing situation, and has done so with so little controversy and so little upheaval.
I would compare what we have done after this last World War with what was done after the First World War. I think we have learned much in this changing situation which is talked about. The right hon. Gentleman knows that plans were made by the Coalition Government to deal with depression and changes in industry. Those plans have been extended and, the right hon. Gentleman can be assured, enlarged; and as soon as the situation demands it, this Government will step in and take any action which is necessary to maintain full employment. I think that what we have done in the various industries in relation to manpower, in a situation of full employment, is a remarkable tribute to the efficiency of the machine over which the Minister presides.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.