§ 2.56 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for Third Reading read.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (THE EARL OF DUNDEE)
My Lords, this Bill has been fully discussed in all its stages by your Lordships, and in moving the Third Reading all I have to say is how sorry we were that, owing to illness, the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, was unable to make his maiden speech on Second Reading, and how glad we are that he now proposes to make it on Third Reading instead. As I have perhaps an excessively cautious nature, I shall wait until after I have heard the noble Lord's maiden speech before I congratulate him upon it. I shall be a little surprised if his approval of the Bill is wholly unqualified. Meanwhile, I would only remind your Lordships that the noble Lord, as President of the Board of Trade, was the Minister in charge of the 1945 Distribution of Industry Act in another place; and long before that, as Member for Bishop Auckland—which he has no doubt noticed is included in the first list of development districts—the noble Lord took a continual interest in this subject, which many of your Lordships, and I myself, often debated with him 20 or 30 years ago in another place. The Rules of Order in your Lordships' House are not quite so cramping as they are in another place, and I do not yet know whether the noble Lord intends to confine himself to what is in this Bill or whether he intends to expand himself in a really interesting way. I greatly look forward to hearing what he is going to say. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ 2.59 p.m.
§ LORD DALTON
My Lords, I must, of course, begin by asking your Lordships' indulgence on this, the first occasion that I have had the honour to address your Lordships' House, and by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, for his kind references. I remember very well indeed debates long ago in another place in which, as he said, he participated with many others of us. It was 35 years ago last month that I 1109 made a similar plea for indulgence for a maiden speech in another place, and that seems a long, long time ago, looking back to an era now almost forgotten, except by the historians—what we may call the Baldwin-MacDonald era.
On the Bill which is now before us I should declare an interest—as the noble Earl has himself indicated, an historical interest—because I think I can say with all sincerity that there is no subject which, through all my public life, I have followed more keenly than this question of areas with a continuing abnormally high level of unemployment—special areas, development areas, development districts, call them what you will. I think that I may claim that there is no political topic to which I have devoted more personal effort, sometimes without success, sometimes with some success, towards finding a solution. This Bill, I hope, is going to help us towards finding a durable solution to this most distressing human problem, as all of us who have lived close to it, in our constituencies or elsewhere, through the long years of the past, must regard it.
I hope, particularly in view of what the noble Earl has said and the comparative flexibility of the Rules of debate in your Lordships' House to which he has directed my attention, that here and there I may be pardoned for a little personal reminiscence in the course of the remarks which I shall make to your Lordships. These were indeed the grim and gaunt areas in the 'thirties, and I tried to picture them in a speech which I made in another place a long time ago, on March 2, 1936. In the course of a debate on Government policy on the distressed areas and the special areas (they were officially so known then) I said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 309, col. 1024]:The Special Areas are full of men in middle age who have almost given up hope of ever finding work again…of young men who have never worked, through no fault of their own…of children who have never seen their parents come home from work…gallant women…have been starving and stinting themselves in order, somehow, to feed their menfolk and their children.I asked:… how much longer is all this to go on?Various steps have been taken since then to seek to bring this grim state of affairs to an end.
1110 When I was first chosen as prospective Labour candidate for the Bishop Auckland Division of Durham, which I had the honour to represent for 26 years in all in another place, I said to a friend of mine: "Representing these fine people will be one long heartache until we have made great changes and done away with all this unemployment." I think I was right; and I have felt that from time to time on many occasions since then. I think I was right to refer to my future constituents, as they then were, as, "fine people." I know that my noble friend Lord Lawson, with whom I have worked very closely for many years in County Durham, on this and other matters, will agree with me. They were fine people.
Here may I make this slight deviation from the terms of the Bill? Bishop Auckland has always been one of the best recruiting areas for that splendid North Country regiment, the Durham Light Infantry, whose Regimental motto, as many of your Lordships may recall, is the one word, "Faithful", so that we often speak of "The Faithful Durhams." May I add, in a slightly lighter tone, that Bishop Auckland also has a very famous association football club. Very often, when I have moved about the country and admitted that I was the Member of Parliament for Bishop Auckland, people to whom I spoke at once began to talk to me of the football club. It has indeed a fine record. It has played eighteen times in the Amateur Cup Final, and has won the cup ten times—that is to say, on more than half those occasions. It is the only amateur Association Football Club in England which has ever won that cup three times running, as it did at Wembley in 1955, 1956 and 1957. I am glad to recall that I was there to cheer them on on each occasion.
As the noble Earl was kind enough to say, I was honoured to serve as President of the Board of Trade in Sir Winston Churchill's War Coalition Government, and it fell to me in that office to try to work out, with my colleagues, an effective post-war employment policy. We had considerable tussles on this matter in the Cabinet and in Cabinet Committees. But at the end of these I was authorised, in 1944, to move the Distribution of Industry Bill, which subsequently became the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945. I recall 1111 that in that day's debate the Bill passed another place without a Division, and that it fell to me to open the debate which was wound up by the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos (as he is now). I think it is right that I should pay a tribute to him to-day when we are discussing this topic. He was always conscious of this problem, of its economic importance, and also of the practical possibility of solving it. Perhaps I may add, without undue disclosure, that on this issue he was at that time my best ally among all my Conservative colleagues of the Coalition Government. I have kept in touch since then with him. He has known industry, and has always recognised the desirability and the need in the national interest to have some control over the location of new industries, as indeed he has since shown in his work for the benefit of Northern Ireland. Therefore, I think it is right that his name should be mentioned to-day.
The passage through the House of Commons of the Distribution of Industry Bill was slightly delayed by what the Prime Minister would call some little local difficulties—the Coalition Government broke up while the Bill was still in Committee, and the Caretaker Government was formed. Later, there was a General Election, after which I became Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sir Stafford Cripps, who was then the President of the Board of Trade, and therefore the Minister in charge of operating the terms of the Bill, and I went all out to make the fullest possible use we could of the terms and possibilities of the Distribution of Industry Act. In the next year or two we put in hand a big programme of new factory building—that was the nub of the matter at this time—in different parts of the development areas, and other plans for development under the various powers conferred by that Act. We worked that Act as hard as we could, and after a few years full employment did come. Full employment in wartime as somebody once said, anybody can organise, but in peace time greater difficulties appear. After a few years of peace full employment did come to these areas—in many cases for the first time—and I confess that this event seems to me to be a crowning mercy.
1112 Desiring to make no Party point of this, I will state that full employment, which came for the first time (and if it is desired to be precise, I would say that I have always thought it reasonable in modern conditions to take full employment as meaning anything over 98 per cent. of the insured population employed; that is to say, an unemployment percentage of no more than 2 per cent.) in the Government of my noble friend Lord Attlee, was continued after 1951—a significant turning point, for some purposes, in British political history. It continued for some years after that, though I think that in more recent years there has been some backsliding from that standard. That, I think, is why this Bill, which is now being debated on Third Reading, was introduced early in this Parliament: so that the ground might be cleared for a further effort to resume a durable full employment level.
My Lords, I shall not rediscuss this Bill in any detail. As the noble Earl said, it has been well discussed in another place and again here, and I shall not resume discussion of any of its minor points. I confess to certain scepticisms which still linger in my mind. I am still not quite sure that the change of title from "Distribution of Industry" to "Local Employment" bill is an improvement. I am not quite sure whether these new Management Corporations will work better and more effectively than the old Industrial Trading Estate Companies. The noble Lord, Lord Bilsland, who was a great source of strength to us, has expressed a contrary opinion very strongly in your Lordships' House. At any rate, the question is open to discussion.
I will make one point. There is to be, as I understand it, one Management Corporation for the whole of England, one for Scotland and one for Wales. For England the Government have chosen Mr. Sadler Forster to be Chairman, and he is, to my knowledge, a very good man. When I was at the Board of Trade I picked him to be Regional Controller for the North East, and he did splendid work. But he has now been given a tremendously varied assignment, with the new scheme of development districts. He has to take charge of what is left of the North East, and what is left of West Cumberland; those, as your 1113 Lordships know, are two of the earlier development areas. Then he has a number of other miscellaneous districts: Merseyside, Blackpool—one could go on through the list. It would be a tremendous administrative achievement to bring all those very separate and diverse areas effectively together under one administrative machine. I hope he may succeed, but I feel that he has been given a very difficult task, and that it is open to argument that it might have been better, from the point of view of the Management Corporations, to split England into two or three areas.
I shall not further develop these questionings, because I am most anxious that this Bill should succeed, and I wish it all success. Whether it succeeds or not will not be difficult to determine. It will be a simple matter of statistical comparison, because we know what is the unemployment now in each of these districts, and from time to time other figures will be produced. It will then be a matter of simple arithmetical calculation to see how far this Act, novel in some respects, is succeeding in achieving the task of bringing down the still substantial unemployment figure that remains.
There is only one other point upon which I wish briefly to touch, and that is a matter of administration. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will pay considerable attention in picking those who are to work for him to carry out this Act. I do not think that mere "routineer" administrators will be up to it. It is going to be in many ways a difficult and tricky job, calling for much skill in human relationships and knowledge of industrial conditions. They should be men who have fire in their bellies, who are determined to win the fight, district by district, against this curse of unemployment. I have tried to keep up my contacts of old with leading figures in the various development areas, and I have had an uncomfortable feeling in the last few years, travelling about and seeing old friends, that the Distribution of Industry Acts were not being very energetically administered, not very confidently administered, not administered with great zeal. It would almost seem sometimes that Talleyrand had become the President of the Board of Trade and that "pas trop de zêle" was 1114 his directive to his Regional Controllers. I hope that any such tendency will be curbed under this new régime.
I quote briefly a notable leading article from The Times voicing the same apprehension that I have just voiced; that there was a rather lazy and unconfident administration of the Distribution of Industries Acts. In a leading article on October 29, The Times stated:The Government's policy on areas of unemployment has gone through some remarkable changes during these past two years. It was less than a year ago that the Government were still clamping down completely on some of the major normal activities under the Distribution of Industry Act, were scarcely sanctioning or themselves carrying out any new building under it, and were giving no aid to local authorities for special work on basic services in the development areas.The same apprehension was voiced by the noble Lord, Lord Bilsland, speaking in this House in March, 1957 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 202, col. 805] when he said, referring to the Distribution of Industry Act:… a major Act of Parliament has been rendered practically inoperative …From such a high authority, those are serious words.
In conclusion, my Lords, I express the hope that this Bill will succeed, will abundantly succeed. And I trust that, in the light of the apprehensions I have just voiced and the quotations I have read to your Lordships, with the passage of this Bill into law there will begin a new more positive and more dynamic chapter in the long history of this grave human problem.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I regard it as a very high privilege to be the first to congratulate my noble friend on a remarkable maiden speech. My noble friend has observed all the traditions of this House: he has been uncontroversial; he has been brief, and he has spoken with the greatest possible authority on a subject of which I imagine no one in this House, or in this country, can have a greater knowledge. We welcome his speech; we welcome his intervention in our debates; and I say, with no sense of formality, that we look forward to further interventions on his part, though I think I can promise the House that they will be substantially more controversial 1115 than this particular intervention has been. This is the second time on which I have had the privilege of congratulating a maiden speaker. On the last occasion I had to follow a speech which was highly controversial. It was the introduction of the Second Reading of a controversial measure by the noble and learned Viscount. It was obviously not possible for him to be non-controversial on that occasion, but on this occasion, as I have said, my noble friend has observed all the traditions of this House.
My reason for intervening in the debate is to ask the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, whether he can give some assurances to a number of authorities who are somewhat concerned about this measure. They are authorities who are engaged in activities under the Town Development Act and the New Towns Act. As the noble Earl is aware, both new towns development and the expansion of existing towns are taking place for the purpose of dealing with problems of large towns with congested population, and they are doing it with the good will of all Governments. The new towns policy has been approved by all Governments, and so has the Town Development Act, which was passed by a Conservative Government but had been prepared by its predecessor, a Labour Government. It is of the essence of the success of new towns and of town expansion that, in taking people from the congested towns into the new towns, there should also be taken a certain amount of industry, otherwise the economy of the new towns or expanded town will become uneven and unbalanced. It is, and will still be, necessary to obtain an industrial development certificate in the case of industries which go from the congested towns to the new town or the expanded town. I should like some assurances that there will be flexibility in the matter of granting industrial development certificates, so that neither the expanded towns nor the new towns will suffer.
May I give an example of some of the problems that will arise? A number of the new towns are substantially completed, or will be completed in the course of the next two or three years. Others are probably not more than half-way towards reaching the desired population, and they will not achieve it unless they can get the industry there with the popu- 1116 lation. If they cannot be assured of getting the necessary industrial development certificates, they will not be able to get industry there. The same applies to the expanded towns. A number of examples are Swindon, Bletchley and, one hopes, Hook, in Hampshire. Perhaps I should not say that—that is sub judice at the moment. At any rate, other expanded towns are actually in being, and it would be useless to start with the proposal for an expanded town unless one could be assured that, in proper cases, an industrial development certificate would be granted to industries which, though not perhaps able to go to one of the areas of high unemployment, were willing to go to one of the areas of the expanded towns. Without elaborating the point, I hope that the noble Earl can give some assurance to those authorities who are deeply concerned in this matter, that the procedure for granting the certificates required for the success of the Town Development Act and of the new towns will be reasonable and flexible in proper cases.
§ 3.24 p.m.
My Lords, I do not want to delay the Third Reading of this Bill, but I should not like this opportunity to go by without adding from these Benches our very great pleasure at hearing from the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, a remarkable maiden speech which we all enjoyed so much. I would say that the conventional and sincere hope of us all is that we shall often hear him in this House.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, I think it is fitting that one who has worked so closely with Lord Dalton for so many years should take this opportunity of joining other Members in congratulating him on his most successful maiden speech. He had the distinction, in the county that I used to represent, with him, of being the only non-miner who sat for a mining seat. In that county they are very particular whom they select to represent them. I can tell your Lordships that he not only pleased and satisfied his constituents, but attained more than distinction in the county by the affection in which he was held before he came to this House.
There is one thing I want to say about this Bill. I think that it contains a fatal 1117 mistake. Lord Bilsland made it quite clear in his speech. I cannot understand how the Government could come to the conclusion that they should abandon the committees, known as the Estates Committees, which were set up in different parts of the country. They were composed of carefully selected men and women of experience, and they represented the confidence of the people in the various areas. Among them, in industrial matters and local knowledge, there were some very distinguished people. They gave confidence to the people in the areas, and in the course of the years they have not only built up these estates in England, Scotland and Wales, but have themselves gained a great deal of knowledge. I should have thought that, when a Bill of this type was presented to your Lordships' House, the last thing any Government would have thought of doing would be to abandon that experience and to cut themselves off from the company of some of the most distinguished people in these particular areas.
Having said that, I want to add that in my view there is another defect in this Bill. Before a development area is created there must be a standard of unemployment. In some of the heavy industrial areas that means that, before the area is made a development area, there must be something approaching gross unemployment. In these heavy industrial areas they are working almost up to the last moment when a mine or plant, or something like that, is closed. These areas make all the steel sheets for motor car factories in this country. I see great loads of iron ore which have come from Spain and other parts, going past my own door many times a day, to the Consett Ironworks. There is the steelworks at Middlesbrough which supply a great mass of the steel used in this country in the making of motor cars, and for heavy engineering, too. Yet there must be unemployment there before that is considered to be a development area.
If I may repeat what I said in my last speech in this House, the distinctive thing about a heavy industrial area is that there is a great deal of woman labour that is not used. In and around colliery areas they work only about the house, for the simple reason that there are no factories in which they can work. 1118 If that labour was reckoned with the general unemployment in the area, then in every part of the county which the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, used to represent (in common with myself) there would be a clear case for it to be made a development area at once and to get to work in that respect.
It is true that South West Durham has been made a development area, but North West Durham has not. In a great stretch of that area, which has been claimed by the National Coal Board as producing the best coking coal in the world, mines have been working for nearly two centuries. As I told your Lordships in my previous speech, I had the privilege of being invited by the community there to present long-service certificates to some of the men who, with the closing of one of the mines in the vicinity, had been declared unnecessary.
I believe a great mistake is made in the Bill, in that areas which, by the special nature of their work, underpin the greater part of our industries in this country must have a certain amount of unemployment before they are taken into consideration. On the whole, one of the greatest defects of the Bill is that it has not opened out areas of the country but rather proposes a layout and condition of things which inevitably will have the effect of pulling labour from these areas and thus repeating the mistake which has been made here in London. Already there are signs that people are being drawn away from these wider, more open areas which are better fitted for the establishment of industries than a great many of the areas which will get them. People are being drawn from those areas and absorbed into places in the Midlands, and it looks as though there will be a repetition of what has happened in London, with people being drawn in. There is no clear vision of the extension of industry to those parts of the country that need and have the space for industry.
I thought it was necessary to say a few words upon that subject, but I rose chiefly to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, upon his first speech in this House. I know that they will miss him in the County of Durham but I am sure that they will gain by the experience that he won in that particular industrial area—and it is not very often that we, 1119 in that part of the world, take anybody in from outside.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has raised a question arising from this Bill which your Lordships have not previously discussed, perhaps I had better begin by answering the point which he put to me on new towns. I must first remind your Lordships that it is laid down in Clause 17 of the Bill that:In considering whether any development for which a certificate under the principal enactment (hereinafter referred to as an "industrial development certificate") is applied for can be carried out consistently with the proper distribution of industry, the Board shall have particular regard to the need for providing appropriate employment in development districts.I must emphasise, as I am sure your Lordships would wish me to do, that we are determined that development districts must have priority. We must exercise that priority with firmness if this Bill is to be a success. But I believe I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that the provisions of this Bill do not in any way prejudice the position of the new towns, and that in their control of industrial development by means of these certificates the Board of Trade will continue to have regard to the needs of the new towns and to the importance of securing for them a balanced and suitable industrial structure. When a firm is moving from an area of low unemployment and cannot be persuaded to go as far as a development district, the attention of the firm is always drawn to the new towns and the overspill towns. That is the existing policy and it will continue unaltered.
For instance, if a London firm wants to expand its capacity and is not allowed to do so in London, then, if the Board of Trade are satisfied that it cannot be steered to a development district—which must have the first chance—the firm will be encouraged to go to one of London's new towns. That would not be the case with, say, a firm in Leeds, because we do not want to encourage any movement of industry to the South-East. But it is fully recognised that the new towns and overspill towns have an important part to play in accepting both population and industry from the centre of which they are, so to speak, the satellites. Subject 1120 to the overriding needs of the development districts, each case will be considered on its merits, as it is now, in the light of the distribution of industry policy; and this most certainly includes the proper development of the new towns and overspill towns.
May I now have the pleasure of adding my congratulations to those of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and others of your Lordships who have spoken, to the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, on his maiden speech which we have heard with such great interest and to which we listened with care, as we always do when listening to anybody who speaks with as much authority as the noble Lord has on this subject? Perhaps there is no one whose political history better entitles him to speak on it or who is more likely to interest your Lordships when he speaks. He has certainly done so on this occasion.
Apart from some detailed points which the noble Lord mentioned, like Management Corporations, which have been already very fully discussed on the Committee stage and at other stages of the Bill, I believe the noble Lord's criticisms were mainly in the nature of exhortations which I was very glad indeed to hear. His theme and the whole burden of his speech was that he hoped the administration would be toned up; that he hoped the Bill would succeed and that it would be administered in a more dynamic way.
He quoted, from The Times newspaper and other authorities, observations made not long ago to the effect that there have been a good many changes in our distribution of industry policy. I did, I think, put it to your Lordships on Second Reading that it is not easy to make progress in the development districts when we are engaged in a constant battle against inflationary pressure, with a constant threat of balance of payments crises in the background; and the reason why building was slowed down in the development districts was that it was necessary to reduce Government capital expenditure below the line in order to relieve inflationary pressure and evade another of these balance of payments crises. I added, my Lords, that it is precisely because we have some reason to hope that our economy is in a more stable condition and, we hope, likely to 1121 remain so, that we are now able to contemplate a much more dynamic and vigorous policy of Government building and industrial development in these areas.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, I am not going to indulge in speculation now about what may happen. The policy must be judged by its results; that is to say, in the last resort, by the effect on unemployment figures in these areas. Of course, we may have indications before that as to whether it is succeeding or not: it takes several years before a factory is actually going at full speed and employing the full number of workers which it is capable of employing; but before it has reached that stage, it may be possible for us to judge how much success is attending our efforts. We have already, I think, in the Second Reading, discussed the hopeful signs of movement from the motor industry; but, as I say, I do not want to try to look ahead until we actually have some tangible results to judge by. But that is our hope: that because of the economic stability which has been achieved it will be possible to have a far more dynamic movement in the development districts than we have had for the last few years. This Bill is limited in its duration to seven years. Long before that time—at the end of which it will probably have to be revised—we shall be able to judge how much success can be claimed for it. We hope that by then, although we may not have been able to do it ten times, we shall have won the "cup" seven times in all the development districts, including Bishop Auckland.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.