Iron and Steel Board (Report)
Mr John Mendelson (Penistone)
One of the ironies of parliamentary timing is the feat that immediately alter last night's debate, when so many hon. Members opposite wore upholding the policy of the present Government, we should be debating a Report which is a severe indictment of the Government's whole economic policy. It is an indictment, I submit, which as all the mare remarkable and convincing because it comes from the Iron and Steel Board which, even if it is not a neutral agency, is certainly one which is not hostile to the Government. It is also all the more remarkable and convincing because the indictment is not in denunciatory form but arises from the facts stated in the Report.
If we look at the facts we find that all the general points that were made in defence of the Government's policy yesterday—and the Government found themselves in the difficult position of not being able to criticise their own past policies because had they done so that would have meant the resignation of the Prime Minister and of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Power who is facing us this afternoon—were contradicted by the experience of this mast important industry, the steel industry. The reasons for this indictment have meant very serious consequences for a great many of our people. We have rightly heard about Scotland and heard something about the North-East, but even in those areas not so (harshly affected the consequences have been serious.
If I may, I shall refer, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) has done so convincingly with his vast store of knowledge of the industry, to the position of south Yorkshire and Sheffield and my constituency of Penistone and other areas. There we have the position that whilst the number of people actually unemployed in the industry is not vary high, the number of those on short time is very high indeed. If I may, I will support this point with the latest figures published on 24th July. In the Sheffield area there are over 6,000 people on short time. The steel works at Stocksbridge, in my constituency, is a very efficient works, organised on modem lines. Recently, it further advanced its modernisation. Out of a total of 7,000 people employed there, 2,200 are on short time.
Even that does not give the true picture, because there are a number of people who do not appear in the statistics relating to short-time working. Sometimes workers drop a shift here and there, and so do not qualify to be included under the arrangements made with the Ministry of Labour and with the National Insurance offices.