§ 21. Mr. Lewis
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that, due to a continuing decline in our national production, the adverse effects of the import cuts and the resultant cuts in our export trade, over 12,000 dock workers are unemployed which has meant a revision of the Dock Labour Scheme; what plan the Government have to arrest this decline in production and loss of exports; and how far the Prime Ministers' Commonwealth Conference have or will be discussing these problems, with a view to bringing about an improvement in our terms of trade and national production and thus ensure full employment for the dock workers of this country.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I am aware of the difficulties to which the hon. Member refers. The Government are taking all possible measures, for instance, by arranging for additional supplies of steel, to help to increase production and exports. Both the advance estimate of the index of industrial production in October and the provisional figures of exports in November suggest that improvement has occurred. The communiqué issued on the work of the Commonwealth Economic Conference shows that consideration was given to measures for the expansion of both world and inter-Commonwealth trade.
§ Mr. Lewis
Has the Parliamentary Secretary not seen the United Nations Report? How can we get national recovery if we find, as we do find, that production is continually flagging? Is it not about time the Government did something, because for the first time for six years production is falling and the people of this country are suffering. Is it not about time they gave us something tangible?
§ Mr. Strauss
The provisional figures of exports in November are 2 per cent. greater than those for October which, in their turn, were approximately 10 per cent. above the average daily rate for the third quarter.
§ Mr. Jay
Yes, but is not the Minister aware that production and export figures for the first nine months of the year showed a sharp fall? Are not the Government seriously concerned about this? Have they nothing more to suggest beyond the string of platitudes contained 1180 in the Commonwealth Conference communiqué?
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not intend, in answer to this Question, to discuss the Commonwealth Conference communiqué, but the improvement to which I alluded in my last answer will, I hope, be as much welcomed by the right hon. Gentleman as by all on these benches.
§ Sir W. Smithers
Will the Minister make it clear that the decline in our foreign trade and in our shipping, and unemployment at the docks, is due to six years of the Socialist policy of bulk purchase abroad and the nationalisation of industries at home, which killed initiative and killed enterprise; and that it will take the best Government in the world some little time to recover from that maladministration, from the effects of which we are still suffering?
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that when the dock labour scheme was revised the reason given was the smaller amount of exports and imports which the docker had to deal with? If he now says that the Government are satisfied that production is increasing, is not it a corollary that this scheme should be discontinued?
§ Mr. Strauss
That question should be put to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour.