I desire to raise the general question of war production in Scotland: This question is bound up with the compulsory transfer of Scottish mobile labour, particularly of Scottish girls, to work in English factories, which has now been going on for some time. I ask hon. Members to believe that there is very great indignation on this subject throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, and that this is not doing any good to the general war effort. There have, of course, been many cases of individual hardship. With these I do not propose to deal on the Floor of the House. There have also been cases where arrangements for the reception and accommodation in England of these girls from Scotland have been far from satisfactory; but I do not propose to deal with that point either. I accept the assurances of the Minister of Labour that things are all right now; and I intend to take advantage of his very kind invitation to visit one of the main receiving centres in England for the Scottish girls, and to see for myself the provision that is made for them.
It is with the principles that I want to deal for a few minutes, because the transfer of these girls from Scotland to England is a symptom and not the cause of the trouble. There is a background to this story. Ever since the last war Scotland has been more or less depressed. Between 1920 and 1940 her basic industries, agriculture, coalmining, fishing, shipbuilding, and engineering, languished. She never recovered after the depression of 1929. Scotland remained a distressed area, and was so categorised by the Government of the day. I submit to the House that, by comparison with England, Scotland received very bad treatment at the hands of the Government before this war. Her housing conditions were allowed to remain a blot on our so-called civilisation, much worse than those of England. Her principal cereal crop remained for years unsubsidised, as against wheat. Her natural resources, particularly of water power, remained undeveloped. Her railway system was administered from London.
Last, but not least, there was a steady drift of industry from Scotland to the South, and particularly of the lighter industries. I would remind the House that Nobel's great chemical industry started in Glasgow. It has now been merged in Imperial Chemical Industries with headquarters in England. Even some of the heavy industries, like Stewart and Lloyd, which began in Glasgow, were transferred to England; and, of course, what applied to the heavy industries applied far more to the lighter and more prosperous industries which, in fact, never really started up in Scotland during the years before this war. London was the magnet. London remains the magnet.
But in 1935, with the inauguration of the rearmament policy, came the great opportunity to reverse this process. It was not taken; and I want to say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland—and I challenge him to deny it—that practically without exception, when the 1935 rearmament programme was inaugurated, every single shadow factory projected was located in England and not in Scotland. One can hardly name a single factory that was scheduled to be located in Scotland. It is almost
unbelievable. Once again Scotland was left out in the cold. In a Debate in the House on 10th March, 1937, I referred to the unhealthy growth of London, to the danger of concentrating our industries too much in the South of this country, and to the necessity of doing something to stop the steady drift of industry from Scotland to the South. I said:
I have often felt that if we in Scotland were only a Dominion, which perhaps we shall be one day, or a Crown Colony, our resources would have been developed many years ago."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1937; col. 1259, Vol. 321.]
I believe that to be true. I believe that, if Scotland had been a Crown Colony, there would have been an uproar every time there was a Colonial Debate in the House until something was done. As it was, we were just allowed to drift along, in distress. Nothing was done. In fact, worse followed. The Secretary of State well remembers the fate of the Caledonian Power Bill, which was twice rejected by English. Members in the teeth of a majority of Scottish Members. If that Bill had been passed, we could have been producing all the vital carbide that we require to-day. May I quote one sentence of a speech that I made on the Caledonian Power Bill?
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs during the last war coined the phrase, 'Too late.' That phrase is alarmingly true in this country at present and is terribly applicable to the present situation. If we had had this Bill two years ago we should be able a year hence to manufacture all the carbide that we want in this country and we should nave taken one constructive step, the only one we have had during recent years, to revive the Highlands and bring assistance to them. If we pass this Bill to-night we may still perhaps be in time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th April, 1938; col. 447, Vol. 334.]
We did not pass the Bill that night. The English Members decided that it would be better to make our carbide in Norway than in Scotland.
We had a substantial majority of Scottish Members on both occasions. I only say that English and Welsh Members decided that we should make our carbide in Norway. I often wonder what they think about that today, because we are not getting a great quantity from Norway.
I think my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) is mistaken. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) referred to the Caledonian Power Bill, not the Grampian Power Bill.
That is correct. The war then came, and still Scotland did not get her fair share of Government work. Why has Scotland not got her fair share since the war broke but? Is it because the Scottish workers have lost their skill? I do not think so. Is there a river in the whole world that has produced more and better ships during the last three years than the Clyde? I doubt it. Are the engineers of Scotland, famed for the last hundred years for their skill, no longer masters of their craft? That cannot be substantiated. Yet the number of new factories for war production is out of all proportion lower in Scotland than in England, and that has gone on steadily for the last three years. The North, the centre and the East of Scotland are still comparatively neglected; and, last but not least, contracts are not being placed in sufficient numbers with the firms that already exist. The Ministry of Aircraft Production is the most culpable of the Government Departments in this respect. So we get the pitiable spectacle of the best Scottish girls being drafted South because Scotland has not got her fair share of war production, and that is why I say that the cause of the problem is not the drafting of the girls as such. That is only a symptom of the neglect that Scotland has had before and since the war broke out.
I want some assurance that Scotland will get a better deal in the future and that, as and when these new factories come into existence and these contracts which we hope will be placed in Scotland are placed, the girls who have been compulsorily drafted to England will be given an opportunity, should they desire to return to their native land. The Minister of Labour said the other day that he was bound to treat Great Britain as a whole, and that he was not going to make any distinction between Scotland, Wales, the North, and the South of England. I agree that there is a case to be made out for what he said, but there is another side to the question. There is such a thing as national patriotism, Scottish patriotism, which I do not think is at all inconsistent with the war effort as a whole. I do not think it should be discouraged. I do not think that Scottish girls who want to work in Scotland should not be encouraged to do so. The sort of remark made by the Minister, if carried to its logical conclusion, would lead to a demand for some form of Home Rule for Scotland, which might prove irresistible.
I implore the Secretary of State to see, on the score of domestic happiness, that where father and daughter are living together the home should not be smashed up by the compulsory movement of the girl. A man working at munitions, perhaps from eight in the morning to nine or 10 at night, needs food, and, if you take away the only person who could look after him, you will make him a much less efficient worker and inflict domestic unhappiness without getting much in return. There ought also to be a better approach to the girls when they are interviewed. They should not be told in a brutal fashion, "take it or leave it. We have the law, and God help you if you do not obey it." That is a bit annoying coming from young women of about 25 interviewing others of perhaps 35 years of age. I admit that the Minister of Labour has not been altogether unreasonable when approached on the matter but I ask him to look at it again.
I think that Scotland at the moment is capable of greater development in the matter of industry. One of the arguments—and it is a reasonable one—is that we cannot in the middle of a war go in for great building because of the scarcity of material and men. I am certain, however, that there are a fair number of buildings available and that they are not being properly used. I mentioned the other day a building which is in the Tradeston Division, which was formerly an engineering works and was afterwards making sugar. It is used to-day as an office for the Assistance Board. My father used to work in it, and for at least 50 years it was carried on as a first-class engineering works. It might now be better used if machinery was put into it than as an office of the Assistance Board.
I would ask the Secretary of State again to survey the possibility of building space in Scotland and also of buildings which have machinery in them and which are not now, owing to the exigencies of the situation, making the goods that were normally made. Machines in such buildings could be taken out and other machines put in. I speak of this matter purely from a business point of view. I do not want to go into the war between Scotland and England and Wales. I once said in the Scottish Grand Committee that I would sooner have a good Englishman in the chair than a bad Scotsman. On these matters we are all like Jock Tamson's bairns, a very mixed lot. I do not want to raise any racial feeling. Speaking of this problem as a business proposition, I think it is better to move industry than a lot of human beings and so break up families. I would ask the Secretary of State to use his power and try to see whether he can swing the matter back in order to stop this great movement South. In Scotland there is some feeling on this matter. At a trade union conference on Saturday it was said that the politicians were agitating too much. If we had said nothing, we would have been accused of neglecting our duties, but when we say something we are told we are making an agitation. I am a strong, active trade unionist and hold some position in the movement, but I do not think trade unionism ought to be superior to the House of Commons, and I am not going to have offensive lectures made to me. This assembly is the greatest, possibly, in the world, and I am not going to have it substituted by other people. I am not going to have my duties as representative of Gorbals delegated to other people who have not been elected.
There is feeling in Scotland on this matter, but I do not exaggerate it or emphasise it. Some of the girls want to come to England and are happy when they get there. If they are to come, however, they should be given hostels. Private lodgings for a girl are rarely a success. A man lodger is a different thing. As soon as he has done his work he can go out to the pictures or have the fun of the fair. A girl, however, wants to stay in and wash her stockings or her hair, and she is a bit of a nuisance to the family she is staying with. As a result, she is not so happy in private lodgings as a man is. For the first two or three weeks her lodgings are good, but that does not last long. My mother used to keep lodgers, and I always said that there was never a good lodger or a good landlady. There is always war between them. For these girls, therefore, hostels should be provided. I am certain that there are buildings in Scotland which could be used for a movement of industry there. There is also available skilled labour, I will not say unused or untapped, but not fully used. If the Government applied their minds to it, I am sure that Scotland could be placed on a better footing with regard to industry than if has been before. None of us want to see a repetition of the terrible conditions that prevailed in parts of the country before the war, and for anything that the Secretary of State can do as a result of this Debate to help improve the situation in Scotland he will earn the gratitude of the people.
While I agree with and endorse the sentiments of my hon. Friends from Scotland who have spoken in this discussion, I want to raise another aspect of the matter with a special desire to tackle my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour in connection with a decision which has hitherto been acted upon but which I hope will be amended as a result of this Debate, that is, the decision that mobile women in Scotland must be earmarked exclusively for export for employment to England. I am not among those who hold any form of extreme nationalistic sentiment on this matter. The Emergency Powers Act to which we agreed unanimously on one day in May, 1940, gave the Government power to tell everybody what they ought to do and, indeed, what they must do. I have deplored ever since then the fact that the Government, and most of all the Minister of Labour, have never completely implemented that Act. It has been one of my greatest regrets that that Act has never been put into full force. At the same time, while I fully agree that Scottish girl workers must be prepared in the interests of Great Britain to be sent if necessary to English factories to help on the war effort, I consider that the situation at present revealed in Scotland shows conclusively that Scottish war factories of vital priority importance ought to be able to tap the pool of mobile Workers and that that pool should not be used exclusively for export of women workers to England.
The present Regulations mean that Scottish war industries of the greatest priority of importance are unable to utilise that pool of mobile workers except in the most exceptional instances, which might be quoted and which are of the most abnormal character. I consider that is all wrong. From time to time when this matter has been raised in the House my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has rightly suggested that if there were not sufficiently vital employment for them in the war industries in Scotland, these girls must go to England where there was vital war employment for them. I am not one of those who disputed that contention.
I assumed at first, perhaps too readily, that when the Minister of Labour said that, he meant that there was not employment for them in Scotland and that therefore they had to come to England, but latterly I have been making inquiries as to how far that contention was sound, and I am satisfied that there is and has been for many weeks, perhaps even for many months, an insistent, strong demand from most vital war industries in Scotland that they should be allowed to utilise, and to utilise to the best possible advantage of our war effort, a large proportion of those mobile workers whom they have not been allowed to employ because they have been told by my right hon. Friend's officials in Scotland, especially in the Glasgow area, that those girls are taboo, that they have to go to England and therefore cannot be employed in Scotland, however vitally important the employment there may be. I submit that that is an indefensible attitude for my right hon. Friend to adopt.
One does not want to make invidious distinctions, but we know very well that being of the younger type, the healthier type, they are the cream of our girl workers. I do not mean to suggest that our immobile workers are not of the most efficient type, because they are, but obviously the mobile workers, being younger, with fewer domestic ties, more adaptable and quicker to learn a new job, are the cream of our girl workers. Why should only immobile women be available for our Scottish war factories? Why should the factories not be allowed to tap this vitally important pool of mobile workers? I do not want to be misunderstood. I am in no way opposed to those mobile workers who cannot be usefully employed in vital war work in
Scotland going to England. I have no false or nationalistic sentiments on the matter. We all must do as we are told and they must; but from the point of view of common sense, from the point of view of justice, from the point of view of travel, from almost every point of view one can imagine, it is absolutely wrong that Scottish war factories should not be entitled to tap this pool of mobile workers. I have the most abundant evidence from vital war factories that that is not the case. In order to justify what I have said it is necessary that I should quote a few extracts from a letter from one of the most important war factories in Scotland, with a priority as high as that of any factory in any other part of Great Britain. I suspect that my right hon. Friend is fully aware of the firm to whom I am referring. These few extracts will amply confirm the statements I have made:
We are a very large employer of female labour, having at the present time a very large number of women on our books. Our production programme has been increasing steadily and has not yet reached its ultimate figure. For our further expansion we are looking almost exclusively for female labour, and at the present moment we could absorb several hundreds. We have been greatly disappointed at the number of women who have been actually forthcoming. Our problem became particularly acute when the Orders were issued making this district an exporting area, thereby precluding us or any other people like us from engaging mobile women in Scotland. Naturally we find that young girls in the mobile class make the best operatives, being healthy, intelligent and, generally speaking, without the domestic ties of the older women. The section of our factory which has been for some time in the greatest need of expansion in personnel, where they particularly require girls of this class because of the nature of the work, is very seriously handicapped.
I would particularly ask the attention of Members to this point:
Not only, however, have we been debarred from employing mobile workers but non-mobile girls have not been forthcoming in anything like the right quantity, or have to come from such a long distance that they are tired with their goings and comings.
I may interrupt that letter to say that I have have evidence that there are quite a number of girls who are away from home for 14 hours in the day, taking into account their working time and their time going to and from work. That is a scandalous position of affairs. This particular factory finds it so difficult to get immobile workers that they have to seek them far away, and the girls are 14 hours away
from home on account of having to travel long distances. If this factory could dip into the pool of workers in the locality this scandalous state of affairs would never exist. The letter goes on:
Throughout this year we have been fighting the issue in all quarters without any success at all. Within the last month, however, the problem has become so serious that we have made personal representations in important directions and we hope that the situation will improve. We have even gone so far as to say, which is true, that if we do not get assistance from mobile workers we cannot fulfil our commitments to the Ministry of Production.
That is a very serious statement from a vitally important factory.
Quite a lot. The pool of immobile workers is so small that the firms have to spread their net far afield to collect workers and go a very great distance indeed. I do not and dare not go further than that. When I say that it is 14 hours between home and home and that they put in an ordinary day's work, my hon. Friend can imagine roughly how far some of them have to travel. The letter goes on:
As a result of this, during the last week or two there has been a considerable improvement.
This letter was written a week or two after some hon. Members and myself from Scotland had taken this matter up very strongly in the House of Commons by Question and answer. It is curious that this situation, which was so very deplorable, began to mend, as so often happens, the moment Members of Parliament took an active interest in the matter. I have had a further letter from my correspondents in which they say that the position has greatly improved. I give that point free, gratis and for nothing to my hon. Friend who may reply to this point for the Ministry of Labour. The position is better, but the fact remains that it is imperative that Scottish war industries of vital priority importance should be entitled to a priority claim on the cream of our Scottish girl workers, the mobile workers who are at present ear-marked for export to England.
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) deserves the thanks of Scotland for raising this matter to-day. I agree with almost every word he spoke; my only comment is that his case was not entirely complete. It is true that Scotland, particularly before the war, was neglected by those in Government places, but that is not the whole story. A good deal of the trouble arose because our own people, for some extraordinary reason, lacked initiative and the enterprise to start new industries themselves. I am ashamed to recollect the spate of begging appeals to London at that time.
Yes, I mean that. I remember the case of the Forth Bridge road, when there was a pathetic series of appeals. I say frankly that I am not proud of my country in its mendicant mood. We do not shine as beggars and too often that was the case during the depression. The situation is of course different in the middle of war. Initiative is cramped, and it is not possible for firms to set themselves up to create great enterprises without Government authority. They are dependent upon the action of the Government.
I see the Secretary of State for Scotland and a representative of the Ministry of Labour on the Front Bench, but the man who ought to be sitting there is the Minister of Production, who is primarily responsible for the trouble of which we are complaining. In principle we cannot, in the midst of a war of this kind, object that our girls, any more than our men, are drafted from one part of the country to another, and we do not object in principle, but we object to the circumstances which cause that drafting to become necessary. Why are these girls sent in such large numbers to England? Because the opportunities of production in Scotland are not properly exploited. Less than a year ago I raised this point in one of our larger Debates upon production, and I said at that time, upon the very highest authority in Scotland, that in the region near Edinburgh, bounded by Stirling, Falkirk and thereabouts, there were no fewer than 20,000 immobile women workers who were not working for the war and who might be put to employment. Since then, nine months or more have passed and it may well be that some of those women are working. But I see that the Minister nods his head. I am pretty certain that a good half of them are still unemployed.
I agree that we might have secured more large factories in Scotland before the war but, on the other hand, I recognise that in some parts of the country and in a great city on the East of Scotland development has taken place. But I contend that the Government and the Minister of Production have failed, and are still failing, to recognise and to exploit the existing capacity that ought to be used. I put a Question to the Minister of Production yesterday, and I got a rather unsatisfactory reply. I asked him
what steps he is taking to survey the capacity of the large number of industrial units throughout the country, not classified as engineering works but which could undertake some form of munition work; whether he is aware that many such units are now doing work of national importance in addition to their normal activities, with the result that local labour is employed and not sent away to other parts of the country; and whether his plans recently announced are designed to make full use of all such undertakings?
The reply I received stated:
The assessment of capacity in their regions is one of the principal duties of the regional boards. Their primary task must, of course, be to make full use of the capacity in the engineering industry; but they are always seeking to arrange for munitions production wherever it can be undertaken without impairing other essential production or wasting labour or other resources."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October; col. 1982, Vol. 383.]
I asked that Question for a particular reason. Last week the chief official of the Ministry of Production addressed a great gathering of engineers in London, and I was invited to be there. I asked him, in the course of the discussion afterwards, which was in public, what steps he was taking to survey and use the capacity of non-engineering units such as I had in mind. I will give the House an example of them. A paper mill is, I understand, not technically an engineering unit, yet in my constituency there are paper mills doing for the Ministry of Supply work which has nothing to do with the making of paper. Some parts of their mills are being used to make fuses for shells. I asked the Ministry Chief if he and his regional boards were surveying all the possibility of using these non-engineering units, and his answer was "No." He had never thought of it. Hon. Members have heard the answer to the Question I put to the Minister of Production yesterday. I fancy that the explanation is that, theoretically, the
regional boards have had this duty imposed upon them but in practice do not perform it. I declare from my knowledge of the facts in Scotland that there is a possibility of work in a large number of non-engineering work-places for the production of any amount of munitions and for the employment of hundreds, and it may be of thousands, of women who are not now doing war work. I ask the Minister to tell me what is being done about this matter.
My last Question I address to the Secretary of State for Scotland. He recently formed a Council of Industry, which was a development of the old Scottish Development Council, with which I had something to do, as the right hon. Gentleman will be aware. We were led to believe that the new Council would do a great deal more than the old had done. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what the new Council is doing? I have not yet heard of anything that it has done, and I should like to know whether the Council have faced the problem of the Scottish girls who are moved to England Does the Council concern itself with the opportunities for work in East Scotland, or raise with the Minister of Production the problem of those non-engineering units? Is it performing that kind of function? In other words, I seek here publicly an assurance that Scotland's claims are presented in the right quarter, in the right way, and with the highest, possible authority.
I listened with some attention and some interest to the speech made by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). I am sure that other Scottish Members will welcome him into the fold. I was struck by an argument of his which was supported by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), and which is true, and that is that the employers of Scotland were responsible for the present situation and for industry going out of Scotland.
Nobody is more concerned about this problem than the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). He is very keenly interested in it and is very anxious to do a good job. It should be mentioned that Scottish Members have discussed this matter, and sent a deputation which has interviewed various Ministers and has received a certain amount of satisfaction from them—not from the Secretary of State for Scotland. The hearts of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove, the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) and the hon. Members for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart) and East Aberdeen are sore that Scotland has been denuded of industry. Their own Tory pals have denuded it because they went from Scotland to big combinations in England. They were after profit. Now the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove, who told the denizens of the slums that profit was a great motive for helping you on in life, has seen his country denuded by his own Tory party. That is one thing which he and his colleagues will have to face. I would like also to remark on the fact that the Minister of Labour yesterday set a very good example by introducing Marxism into this House. If hon. Members understood Marxism, they would see that if these girls are taken away it will not give strength to the campaign for self-government in Scotland. If they are taken away as they are being taken away, there will be no Scotland left for self-government. If we can get our own girls back and our own industries going, there will be a basis for self-government in Scotland, which will have to come sooner or later. [Interruption.] That is Marxism.
The unfortunate thing is that the people of this country do not understand Marxism so well. If they did, the hon. Member and his colleagues would not be having such a happy time in this country as they have been having. They are beginning to get an understanding of Marxism. That is an awful outlook for Members on the other side. This deputation has had some interesting discussions with the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Supply, the Minister of Aircraft Production and so on, and there is no question that within the limitations imposed on them by present circumstances they are trying to open out new avenues, other activities, in Scotland. But they have got to break through their limitations. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has made a valuable suggestion that in the present circumstances there is always the possibility of lifting the machinery from one of the big industries in industrial areas here and taking it to Scotland. If there is a big attack on some industrial centres, such as Coventry, everyone will get into a rush to do something of that kind when it is too late. Now is the time to make movements of that kind. We should try to learn the lessons which are being demonstrated in other parts of the world—look at the Soviet Union—but we should not wait until this is forced on us. There is the opportunity to do it now and to help the country as a whole.
What is the Secretary of Scotland doing in this matter? I know he has been in Scotland talking about new industries. He has been very encouraging, so far as his hearers are concerned, but I never hear of any fierceness down here in the Government, of the Minister going in and making threats of any kind to other Ministers. Is he afraid of the Minister of Labour, or of the Minister of Supply, or the Minister of Aircraft Production? The Secretary of State for Scotland, with his doughty lieutenant, should call a meeting of Scottish Members during this Recess to discuss the important problems that should be dealt with in relation to Scotland when the King's Speech is before us. Why should we not have such a meeting called to discuss this question, which has become a serious problem for Scotland and for the country as a whole?
Many Members have dealt with the question of mobile and immobile labour. The Scottish Members' deputation when discussing this are all clear on the fact that it is impossible to run an industry efficiently with only immobile labour. If the meanings of "mobile" and "immobile" are considered, it will be realised how impossible it is to run a factory on immobile labour. By immobile labour is meant women with domestic responsibilities who must give a certain amount of time to work at home. By mobile women is meant young, active, energetic women who have no domestic responsibilities and no need to give service to the home. If all those who are best fitted for production are taken away, and all those who are least fitted for production are kept to fill the factories, it is impossible to run industry that way. This differentiation is a mistake, and a change must be made. The Secretary of State for Scotland has had the very strong support of the Scottish Members. I do not know when a Secretary of State for. Scotland—and I include his doughty lieutenant—has had more support from the Scottish Members, and they will back him to the utmost limit if he will take this matter up. I hope he will do it.
The hon. Member who has just spoken, I can assure the House, takes a very much more forthcoming attitude on deputations when he is approaching a Minister in his innermost sanctum than he adopts on the Floor of the House. Between ourselves, I prefer his attitude on those occasions to his attitude on this. It seems to me that the danger we suffer from in Scotland is this desire to quarrel with one another. It is not at all true to say that either one side or the other is responsible for the depression in Scottish industry to-day. I could give many examples. I will give one which is present to the minds of many of us. When a great new industry was offered to Scotland, Scotland was begged to take it—that of carbide and ferroalloys—it was the subject of the most bitter discussions on the Floor of the House from one Scottish Member to another, and was turned down, not at all by the unanimous vote of one side or the other but by a vote in which many Members of the other side of the House took part. Let us remember that when one side or the other seeks to cast away all the blame for the condition in which our country is at present,
That is a rather distorted version regarding the carbide and ferroalloy industry. There was a principle involved of handing over great Scottish assets to private enterprise.
That surely is what is being said, that because of concentration on abstract principle the House, or many Members, refused to allow the development of an industry which would have been of the greatest value to Scotland and of the greatest benefit, I believe, to the country as a whole. As the hon. Lady will know, support for that came from that side of the House as well as from this side. It is wrong to say that the whole blame should fall on one side or the other. If we go back and dig up all the quarrels of the past, we shall never get industry going again in Scotland. We are now faced with very important problems, and we should tackle them, rather than saying that the whole blame for what has happened in the past is due to such-and-such a set of idle and self-seeking individuals.
My right hon. and gallant Friend will surely admit that in the case of the Scottish hydro-electric scheme a considerable majority of Scottish Members on both sides voted for it.
Yes, but the point is that an important opposition to it was developed not on party lines, but on lines of abstract principle. The point was made by the hon. Lady, and all of us will agree. Time and again in Scotland we have thrown away the substance for the shadow; we have lost opportunities because we would not come to an agreement on how the thing should be done. We have had experience of that in Scottish housing. I would not have raised this subject had it not been specifically raised—and indeed posted to my address—by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). For love of our country, let us abandon these past quarrels, and concentrate on immediate problems, which are quite important and pressing enough. Take this question of hydro-electric power. The Secretary of State, all credit to him, set up a Committee, which will, no doubt, report at an early date. Let us see that we get something from that Committee, rather than digging up old quarrels and seeing whether we can find stones in that debris to throw at each other. It is said that it is impossible during the war to expect great enterprises requiring building to be set going in Scotland. I do not take that view.
It may well be that in a long war, in which great engineering schemes are produced, one of those great engineering works will be constructed in our country. There has been a miracle of engineering development in the last few months. A great army of men has come from across the Atlantic, and has been accommodated in this country, in spite of the shortage of materials and labour, which one would have said a priori would have made such a development impossible. It must have been expected that those who are stressing the demand for a relief offensive to assist Russia would boggle at the thought of anything which would delay the continued construction of the great bombers by which alone that offensive is being pursued. I can sympathise with the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Aircraft Production when they say that all mobile labour must be kept on the plant and tools which are capable of turning out a continuous flow of these great instruments for which the people of this country, inside and outside this House, are so insistent, to relieve the strain upon our great Ally, who is so hardly pressed. But we are passing, as we have been assured by General Smuts and others, to new developments, and in those developments I believe it is possible for Scotland to take a share. I believe that the demand which has been put forward, that a proportion of the mobile labour should be reserved for the local factories, is justified. Whatever one may say, older people, ourselves in this House among them, are not so quick in learning new processes as younger people, with their more nimble fingers. I am sure none of us would like to be piloted by any Member of this House in battle against the enemy in a Lancaster, or even in a Beau-fighter; we would rather be piloted by some boy just out of the university, or even just out of school.
I am sure that that scheme is pressed upon the Secretary of State for Scotland by the hon. Member for West Fife—who has apparently evaporated from this discussion—in season and out of season. Naturally, his creed being what it is, the hon. Member does not recognise any activity which is not accompanied by bangs of some kind or another. He considers such activity divorced from reality. If the Secretary of State were to place shots of dynamite under the chairs of his colleagues, it would no doubt cause a great sensation in Cabinet discussion, but there is no reason to believe that it would forward the cause we have in view.
If they did, he, being only one, would be shattered to fragments before he had destroyed his colleagues, especially one built on such ample and Cœur de Lion proportions as the Minister of Labour. There is no doubt that a far greater proportion of Scottish factory space is being used at present, for production and for storage, than was the case a few months ago, and I am sure the Secretary of State will be able to tell us that new industries are being concentrated in Scotland, although it will be quite impossible for him to give details to the House. My hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) asks for not merely assurances, but specific instances. Specific instances would be difficult to give in time of war, but I am sure, as one who has paid some attention to this matter, that development is being advanced as fast as it is in the power of my right hon. Friend to do so. The Ministers whom many of us have interviewed, and continue to interview, are aware of the necessity. Discussions which show that Scotland is keen on such development will, I am sure, strengthen the hands of my right hon. Friend. One or two specific points raised by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and others are important.
The primary thing is the need for industrial plant and equipment in the North, of which the transfer of labour to the South is merely a symptom. I agree that there are ways in which such transfer could be ameliorated. The position of a girl in the household as a housekeeper might well be the subject of further regulation. That is a position which is recognised in many other fields of industrial life, and might profitably be recognised in this one. Occasionally girls who have been deferred have omitted, not knowing the intricate working of these matters, to claim their deferment, and have been called up almost automatically, without any specific withdrawal of the deferment or notification of the Government's intention, simply because the deferment has run out. The girl thinks that for some reason she has been de-reserved, and she accepts that position. I beg of the right hon. Gentleman in some way or other to call the attention of these girls to their rights under the provisions which this House has made, and make quite clear, more than once if necessary that a deferment is a renewable thing which can be renewed again and again and give them at least the repeated notices that most of us get, when, for some reason or other, we have not found it possible to pay our Income Tax on 1st March. Before we are put into gaol, we find ourselves reminded several times about our duties to the Government, in increasingly active tones no doubt, but without removing us from our present employment and casting us into employment by the State.
Your administration can be and should be modified, but the big general question, I agree, is that labour must move in order to put out the maximum effort of the war industry. That general principle is conceded in all parts of the House, but the planning should be increasingly brought forward and pursued by means of which the great development of that potential in the Northern Kingdom takes place, has taken place and should take place at a rate increasing above the way it has been running lately. A great deal of the aircraft industry has largely been developed south of the Border, and it has been extended to two or three times the size of the shipbuilding industry, but it is no reason simply for saying other industries are given a greater proportion than in England. It must be a much greater proportion to balance up the enormous development of this trend in industry which has taken place in the Midlands and the centres of motor car production here. Therefore, there must be planning and immediate movement of orders, and then subsequently movement of plant and equipment, and even the movement of structural engineering, of factory buildings, and, it may be, power development such as the hydro-electric power development should not be turned down merely because it would be some time before it could come into fruition. If the war ends, good and well, but we are told on all sides that we must prepare for a long war. Let us look ahead, for much of the present difficulty, we know, is due to the rush, the emergency, the hurry, the fearful pressure to develop at once and immediately every small job and potential which existed in this country. This is very largely the reason why we find ourselves now with this over-concentration of potential in certain areas and not always in areas where it can usefully be developed. The Secretary of State is keenly alive to this, and I am sure that he is pressing on with the utmost diligence of which he is capable.
I welcome this Debate. When I raised the question originally in this House the Minister of Labour was good enough to draw attention to the fact that I was prac- tically alone in this matter, but the House knows to-day that there never was a matter on which the Members of Scotland were so united as they are on this question. It is a very serious question, affecting the life of Scotland. Munitions work to-day, as we understand it, is essentially engineering, and the cradle of engineering is Scotland. The greatest asset of Scotland is its young women. I have visited some of the largest factories in Britain with the Minister of Supply and the Minister of Production. Only three weeks ago I visited factories in my native land with the present Minister of Supply, and there we saw what the Minister of Labour describes as mobile workers. They were at work in Scotland. We saw them in what were formerly carpet factories, and they had had no previous experience whatever in the particular type of machinery they were using. It was in Kilmarnock where we were dreading the application of this method of taking the mobile girls from Scotland. As an engineer, I have seen young women at work who I never dreamed would find it possible inside six months to be able to produce some of the most accurate type of tools that have to be used in the manufacture of aeroplanes.
I do not blame the present Government for what is going on. I protested when they were building these huge factories in England. In wandering through England as I do, I have seen these great factories being erected, and there have not been any erected in Scotland. The employers of labour who were asked to develop along these lines refused to go in for the development of the aeroplane, but it must be remembered that at the inception of the building of the aeroplane we were before England. My late employer built the machinery for the R.34. It is the same with regard to the motor car-industry, and the employers of labour in Scotland allowed all that to go, so that I do not blame the present Secretary of State for Scotland nor the present Minister of Labour, who has been left with a baby to hold. I saw this week-end in this country huge up-to-date factories built on the finest lines, copied from Germany and America, with finished machinery in them but not a single human being. At the same time English colleagues are annoyed because we have the hardihood to stand up here, not because of any national sentiment at all, although I do not make any apology for the sentiments I have always expressed in this House, and will continue to do so as long as I am able to draw the breath of life. I have always made these appeals, not to the detriment of Britain, but in the interests of the wealth of Britain. How can we sit calmly by, as I have been forced to do, and see the finest raw material in the world being drained away from my native land?
There is another aspect—and all Scottish Members have done all they could to get this remedied—and it is that now that all our young women are going to England the birth-rate in Scotland is decreasing at an alarming rate. Surely it is time the Government did something gigantic, something in a big way, not as a twopenny-halfpenny move or a palliative. We want factories built in Scotland, We have the skill, the finest skill in the world, to produce what is necessary to win this war. Now it is being frittered away. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has mentioned the conference which took place in Scotland last weekend. I have said time and time again in our movement that a millionaire is a menace, and it is becoming apparent to me that a powerful trade union leader is becoming a menace. His satellites make speeches in Glasgow, and they think they can do whatever they like. But there are men and women representing the Scottish race, in this House and outside, who are of independent minds, and if we cannot raise our voices outside or in the trade union movement, we can do so on the Floor of the House of Commons. I know perfectly well that the House will see to it that we shall have the right to express our point of view here, irrespective of whether trade union officials or anybody else try to dominate us. One thing is certain—they cannot dominate me.
It is no use my throwing bouquets to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, because he knows my estimate of him. The highest honour any Scotsman can attain is to become Secretary of State for Scotland. This high honour has been conferred on him, and with it goes responsibility. I have never heard him raise his voice in this House in the manner we are doing to-day. I have never heard him standing up against the Government. It is because of the support that my right hon. Friend has bad from his colleagues that he is Secretary of State for Scotland to-day. It is the bounden duty of my right hon. Friend, having listened to hon. Members in all quarters of the House making appeals to him, to let the Cabinet know the sentiments that have been expressed in this Debate condemning Governments that have gone before. It is all very well for the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove to say that we have no right to go back. We have to go back. We do not want to go back with a view to causing irritation or any split—we do not want to do anything of the kind—but in this case we have to lay the blame where it should be in order that we may get those who are in power now to tell the Cabinet what Scottish Members have said in this Debate—to tell the Cabinet that we will not sit idly by and see our country being; depleted of its womenfolk in this way. It is apparent to me, after being here for 20 years, that, as a result of this war, one after another of the rights—not the privileges, but the rights—that our race has struggled for through the centuries are gradually being filched from us. We heard to-day the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour announcing that our boys of 18 are to be conscripted. Will anybody tell me that if it had been a Tory who stood at that Box and made that statement, these Benches would have remained silent? I do not believe a word of it.
My hon. Friend does not need to ask me why. He knows why perfectly well. It is only too true and too obvious that if a Tory had announced the things which the Minister of Labour has announced, this House would have been in an uproar. Several of us, Mr. Speaker, as you know from experience, would in all probability have been required to be emptied out. It is no laughing matter. It is a very serious accusation that I am making and I know perfectly well what it implies. But the place in which to make these statements is this House, and not outside where there can be no reply made to them. That is one of the privileges of the House, that he who dares and has the opportunity to express his sentiments, can do so, particularly if he is prepared to pay the price—and I am prepared to pay the price, whatever it may be. The present Government and the Secretary of State for Scotland recognise, as well as the Minister of Labour does, that Scotland has been wronged in this matter, and, that being the case, it is their duty to see that these wrongs are righted.
I desire to associate my friends with our colleagues from Scotland in their protest with regard to the transfer of girls to England, and the general position with regard to Scottish industry. I feel that the Ministry of Labour has been very badly served in many ways by the administration in Scotland. I attended the meeting of Scottish Members which has been referred to, and I made the comment that I had never seen such unanimity among them on any other occasion. There is a very widespread feeling of anger in the country. It has not been engineered by political means but is the expression of very great resentment on the part of the people everywhere. Last Saturday I heard of a case of a girl at Ardrossan who kept house for her father, and there were three young children. The Committee gave her three months and told her that at the end of that time her father would have to find a housekeeper. I do not think the Ministry want that sort of thing to happen at all, but it is happening. In another case the suggestion was made that, if a person could not be found to look after the girl's invalid father, she could put him into an institution. That sort of thing has done tremendous harm; and the Minister should see to it that the administration is made much more humane. Officials and members of committees have to realise that the exigencies of war cannot be used to allow them to become petty Hitlers. If young women can get jobs in local war industries, there should not be so much difficulty about their being allowed to take them, and in that way I believe a great many difficulties would be overcome.
I made a proposal to the Secretary of State previously that he should have a committee of Scottish Members meeting in Scotland during periods of Recess. The Secretary of State has a Council with him in Scotland, and it would be a help to him if he had a committee of Scottish Members which would receive reports from the Council of Ministers and have some days of discussion on Scottish problems. If the Secretary of State will not give me all I desire in a separate Legislature in Scotland with financial control, the committee I have suggested would be a half-way house and might do something to ease the situation in Scotland. I desire to support my Scottish colleagues in the protest that they have made to-day and to hope that there will be some alleviation of the distressful situation that has arisen in Scotland.
The Scottish Members form the most diversified group of individuals that is to be found in the House. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) is right, however, in saying that on this matter there is unanimity in claiming that all that is possible to be done shall be done in order to provide work in Scotland, so that the draining away of our young womanhood to the South of the Border, which we all deplore, shall be prevented and that the current shall be reversed and the young women brought back at the earliest possible moment or, at least, given the opportunity of coming back to their native land. In making two points, I do not want it to be imagined that I do not endorse many of the things that have been said by my colleagues. I hope that one point will be listened to by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, because I noticed that when it was being put to the House by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), the Parliamentary Secretary's attention was otherwise engaged. I will repeat what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said. It was in relation to the postponement that is given by the hardship committees.
There is, as he knows nothing at that place on the document that is handed to the applicant to show that after the deferment date, which is put in in ink, has been reached, there is the possibility of a still further deferment being granted if application is made in due time, that is, some considerable time before that date is reached. The right hon. Member for Kelvingrove made the point that it should be made clear to girls who get a certain period of deferment that if their circumstances are such that they require a further deferment they ought to apply at a particular date in order that consideration may be given to their circumstances and further deferment granted.
The other point is this: Much has been said about empty factories, or partially empty factories, in Scotland not being used to the fullest extent for industrial purposes at the present time. I know that inquiries were made about such factories. Particulars of them were gathered and tabulated, and they were registered for storage purposes and the like. My point is, Can we help those who have this particular problem under review at the present time by asking local authorities to press upon the Secretary of State for Scotland, or whoever will accept communications, the desirability of using those factories for industrial purposes in-order that Scottish girls may be employed instead of being sent away to England? May I put it the other way? Is it well enough known to the Government that those factories exist, is all the information that is required known about them, and can they, without any further efforts on the part of the Scottish local authorities, Members of Parliament or anyone else, see that the space and equipment available are put to use whenever the opportunity arises? Those are the two points that I wanted to make, and I hope that we may have from the Government Bench a reply to much of what has been said here to-day by Scottish Members. I know how deeply this position is felt in Scotland. I am not suggesting that I have any peculiar knowledge in that regard, but I believe the position is known to every Scottish Member, and I know that in Scotland there is deep earnestness and great concern about this problem.
We have had, I think, a very useful discussion, one which will be to the benefit of the Scottish people, if only for the reason that for once, at all events, there has been a cordial unanimity of purpose displayed by all parties and sections in this House. I do not seek to disguise, indeed I never have disguised, the fact that I dislike the compulsory transfer of girls from their homes to work in factories South of the Border. That dislike is, I should say, shared by every other member of this Government, including the present Minister of Labour, but we must get our facts in proper perspective. The present arrangement whereby girls are transferred to work in English factories is not a wicked, malicious plot against the Scottish fireside; it is not a deliberate policy of breaking up the Scottish home. It directly follows from the iron necessities of war. Whatever may be said—and a great deal can be said—about the original planning of shadow factories and their siting, the fact remains that those shadow factories are not in Scotland. The fact remains also that aero engines are urgently required for the purposes of war. Therefore the policy of transferring girls has been carried out. I repeat that no girl under 20 has been transferred. This policy of transferring female labour, as it is called, to work in those necessary factories to produce material so urgently required for the prosecution of the war has been made necessary. While that is true, it is also true that every possible precaution has been taken to ensure the comfort and safety of these girls. No hon. Member has said one word in criticism of the welfare arrangements that the Ministry of Labour have in being in England.
I have sat here and listened to some criticisms, and perhaps I may be allowed to state my views. The Church of Scotland have made inquiries; the Scottish Press have sent independent investigators; every letter that came to the Scottish Office, either through a Member of Parliament or direct by way of complaint from a woman worker, was carefully studied, examined and replied to. Although, from the very nature of things, there were slips here and there, particularly at the beginning, it is true to say now, that out of the large number of girls transferred to work in factories South of the Border, fairly adequate and very sympathetic arrangements have been made for their material welfare and comfort.
One hon. Member said that he had not heard any explosions in the Government over differences of opinion upon this matter. Because he has not seen any dead bodies carried out from meetings he would be unwise to assume that the Scottish point of view has not been put. From the time the Council of Industry was started in February of this year, there has been a steady reduction in the number of women transferred South of the Border. The number is now about half of what it was then. I can say further, I hope without disclosing important information, that there are four areas in Scotland now, into which women are being imported, and there are 24 areas now, out of which there are no transfers compulsorily of women.
Please allow me not to be specific about areas. I am forbidden to mention areas, but I am giving totals, and I am merely saying that the trend has been towards a diminution in the numbers of transfers South of the Border. In addition to the investigations which I have already said are being conducted into every possible allegation of hardship once a girl has been transferred, we have offers, and I am very glad to welcome them, from Scots clubs, Caledonian societies and so on, in the Midlands of England. When we receive them at the Scottish Office we place the Ministry of Labour in possession of these offers, and we hope that there will be some kind of home-from-home arranged in as many areas as possible, in the Midlands of this country. I would say if I might to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eastern Renfrew (Major Lloyd) that with a good deal of what he said I most cordially agree, but he ought not to assume that the Government are entirely responsible for the absence of hostel arrangements in the particular area to which he refers. As a matter of fact, I myself was so disturbed about the health conditions which might obtain from these long hours and long travelling that I went and saw the directors of that firm. I did my best to persuade the directors of that organisation to set up a hostel. I want to say no more about it than that.
Yes, Sir, but the fact is that if there was decent housing accommodation there we would not be getting letters from Aberdeenshire from girls who beg not to be sent to this particular factory to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred, but prefer to be sent to England where they would have a hostel. That is a contributing factor.
I know, but I am dealing with this particular instance which the hon. and gallant Member for Eastern Renfrew has raised, and I say that the state of affairs to which he refers is not entirely a Government responsibility. Most of us now have women relatives who are down South working on Government jobs. I would, in fact, if I had the choice, rather be an employee at a factory where there were decent hostel arrangements than be at home compelled to go to a factory where, between my factory employment and my transport, I had to spend 14½ hours away from home. I ought to say that the many questions which arose about Ministry of Labour operations, hardship committees and so on will be replied to by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, and I would like, if I may be permitted, to deal rather with the long-term efforts that we are making to stop the necessity for transferring girls south of the Border. Unemployment figures are not a very reliable guide these days, owing, first, to the increasing employment of persons not previously engaged on industrial work.
On the other hand, they are not a reliable guide because of the continual intake into the Services from industry. However, since February, this year, unemployment in Scotland has fallen to the lowest figure I remember—from 33,000 to 20,000; and these 20,000 contain physical disability cases and persons in transit from one job to another. I am assured that, for all practical purposes, unemployment in Scotland has ceased. The Scottish Advisory Council on Industry will in a week's time issue its-first report. It started in February, and has had a most active career, and most encouraging results. It would not be fair for me to anticipate what the council will be reporting publicly to its constituent bodies in a week's time.
I cannot say, but I think so, I can say that during this year there have been 119 new units of production established in Scotland, employing, or in course of employing, 25,000 workers. A unit of production is either a completely new undertaking—that is, a new building, with new factory processes going on in it—or an extension of existing premises, or existing premises which have been converted to an entirely new form of war production. There are 18 new undertakings, 37 extensions of existing business, and 64 conversions of existing premises to other forms of production. Some of these conversions will, I hope, have post-war permanency; and they will employ, and are employing, more labour than the processes on which the factories were previously engaged. In addition, there are eight new units under active consideration. They will employ 900 workers. There are four other new units, which will involve new buildings and the employment of 1,200 workers. Then there is a large-scale new works, of which I am not at liberty to say anything to-day. There may have been more, but I understand that some private firms in England have been deterred from going on even under pressure because of the story that Scottish Workers and managements are disinclined to adapt themselves to new processes. What nonsense.
If they are munitions of war factories, yes, but they are not munitions of war factories that I am speaking of now. It is not true that Scottish workers and managements are disinclined to adapt themselves to new processes. I believe that nowhere in the world is there a greater adaptability. We have had to adapt ourselves. Here is the final answer to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). In 1941 we had 500,000 square feet of factory space allotted to production by the Factory and Storage Control. By the end of April, 1942, that was up to 1,500,000; by the end of July, 1942, it was up to 2,500,000 square feet, and in the months of August and September there was another 642,000 square feet allotted to production. I do not want to say anything about the causes of our depression.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us about new factories, which is welcome news, but would he tell us what he or his Council does to prevent the closing down by orders of the Board of Trade of quite considerable firms, one of which is in my constituency at the moment, employing several hundreds, and who have a very good claim to be continued?
I thought I had covered that by saying a report by the Council on Industry would be available for publication in about a week's time, and it would be unfair for me, on my part, to seek to anticipate what they are going to say, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Advisory Council on Industry try to ensure wherever there is a nucleus of production that that nucleus, as far as possible, be established in Scotland. We have taken active and energetic steps in at least 20 instances with the Departments down here, and in the overwhelming number of them we have been successful. I cannot say that there should not be concentration. If there is a town in which there are four companies producing the same commodities and none is working at full pressure, if they are all working, say, at half pressure, we cannot stand in the way of concentration of these processes into two of the factories, leaving two new buildings. What we say is that we take every step we can to get new industries into the two new buildings and that the two remaining factories producing the old commodity should be allowed to continue working at full pressure.
I can only say, that on behalf of the Government, I welcome this discussion. I wish there were more of them. It would greatly strengthen our hands and assist us in endeavouring to undo what was undoubtedly a serious, a grievous wrong inflicted upon industrial Scotland. It was an inadvertent wrong. I do not believe that it was done maliciously, but it was done, and we have to do the best we can to retrace our steps and to ensure" that when this war is over we start out with a better chance of survival as an industrial nation than we had at the end of the last war.
The Secretary of State has asked me to intervene and answer, if I can, some of the specific points which have been raised with reference to labour during the Debate. May I first refer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) and my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) about the notice on the deferment papers with regard to renewal. I will look into that point, although I am under the impression that there is printed at the bottom of the form a statement that application should be made within 14 days of the run-out of the deferment if renewal is required.
What I suggested was that some reminder should be given to the girl of the run-out and power to renew. It is true that it is on the form, but three months afterwards the girl has perhaps not applied her mind to it and consequently has not applied for deferment.
I will certainly see if it is administratively possible. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) raised points about hardship—a question which was largely dealt with in the previous Debate on this subject, which was so well opened by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). In general, I am convinced that the hardship tribunals are endeavouring to carry out the statutory obligations laid upon them by this House with as much sympathy and care as possible but if there are cases where hon. Members think that is not so, the Minister or I will be very willing to take them up. With regard to the cases where movement is under the Registration of Employment Order, the independent women's panels, in the first place, assess women as mobile or immobile, and it may be interesting to the House to know that, taking the supply regions as a whole—that is, the regions which supply workers to other regions—about 50 per cent. of the unmarried women who have been interviewed have been classed as mobile. When we come to Scotland, we find that the women's panel has classed only about 40 per cent. as mobile and 60 per cent. as immobile, showing that on this point, at any rate, more consideration is given in Scotland than in England.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eastern Renfrew (Major Lloyd) raised one or two questions of principle and related them to one firm. I think everybody will agree that it is the duty of the Ministry of Labour and National Service to mobilise the men and women of this country to the full for the war effort, and that we cannot regard Scotland differently from the rest of the British Isles in this matter. Nor, I am sure, will Scotland wish to be classed as a special area with special privileges which are not given to England and Wales. Many parts of Scotland are now classed as areas from which no persons are moved. Some areas are now classed as importing areas, and mobile girls when available will be moved to them as required. But other areas in Scotland are not so full of work that they can use all their present immobile labour, and in these cases we cannot allow mobile girls to stay and take local jobs while immobile labour is available.
With regard to the special case mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend, I would only say that it would seem to me to be quite impossible to run efficiently a labour policy if we are to be expected to change or vary that labour policy because some big and important firm can get the ear of a Member of Parliament from the area to raise the matter here.
My hon. and gallant Friend is asking the Ministry of Labour to vary their policy of moving mobile girls out of areas where immobile girls are available, with special reference to this factory. I regard that as asking for a special favour for this factory, and I say it is impossible to run efficiently a comprehensive man-power policy if we are to give way to special cases of this kind.
Is it not the case that in the factory to which reference has been made, there are jobs for those several hundred girls even though they are classified as mobile workers, and that there are not sufficient mobile workers to go there to work constantly at the job without a lot of absenteeism, in the same area? That is the point that has to be answered.
The man-power position of the factory in question is under constant supervision from the Supply Department concerned and the Ministry of Labour, and from time to time the preference afforded to the factory, as to other factories, with regard to the supply of labour, varies. Recently, an increased flow of labour has been sent to that factory, not at my hon. and gallant Friend's request, but at the request of the Ministry concerned. In conclusion, I would only say that it is quite obvious that the Ministry of Labour do not move people about for the fun of the thing, considering all the work and cost involved. The last thing we wish is for labour to be moved unless it is absolutely necessary, and it is our constant endeavour, as it is that of the Secretary of State for Scotland, to impress upon the Production Departments the necessity of sending new work to Scotland and to the other areas where immobile labour is at present available, and we will continue that pressure until their demands are satisfied. The position is very much better than it was, and I am sure the House will have noticed that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, in answer to a Question the other day, replied that, as far as is practicable, if girls have to be moved back to Scotland, as well may be the case when the proposed factories which are at present planned come into full operation in Scotland, Scottish girls will get first preference in being moved back North of the Border.