Orders of the Day — Distribution of Manpower

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th March 1947.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington 12:00 am, 19th March 1947

I believe we should both attract and direct, but I emphasise that the Distribution of Industry Act has certain weaknesses, and I would like to see the restoration of a Clause similar to Clause 9 which was taken out by the Caretaker Government. In wartime, workers responded and factories were put up overnight. I give the example, which the hon. and gallant Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) knows quite well, of Distington. There a new light engineering industry was introduced; key workers were brought in from outside, local labour was trained, and after a few months that factory was turning out intricate aeroplane component parts. It was in itself a wartime miracle. If it can be done in war, it can be done in peace. The old argument that we should concentrate on localities where traditional engineering skill is high has been disproved by our wartime experience.

I would like to see the Government conducting a vigorous distribution of industry and an increased implementation of the limited Act of 1945. This would absorb the unemployed we have at present. Our old distressed areas want more light industries. We want, certainly in Cumberland and other development areas, not just factories for female labour, but our fair share of heavy industry. I believe it is possible. I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to see if his colleague, the President of the Board of Trade, could not delegate some responsibility to a junior Minister in that Department who would concentrate solely on manpower in the development areas and the need of factory development too. They are in themselves of major domestic importance. Not only must we have factories, we require the basic services, gas and electricity supplies, and above all we require new houses to attract workers. In West Cumberland, as the hon. and gallant Member for Penrith and Cockermouth knows, we need considerable improvement in our transport services; both our roads and our railway services need a drastic overhaul. If we are to have that planning, we must have also a greater co-ordination between Government Departments, not just at a high level but at a low level. I hope that the Front Bench will look into that question of the co-operation of Whitehall and the local authorities. At present, too many Departments are going their own way without looking at the problem as a whole, and if we could have that coordination and co-operation between Government Departments and the local authorities, I am confident that this battle against unemployment would be won.

In my short speech I hope I have emphasised the needs of the Development Areas. I would not tolerate another exodus from the old distressed areas. We do not want history to repeat itself. We do not want, as the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby said, a voluntary exodus out of our areas; we want to attract more men and women into these areas so that we can create locally an expanding economy which offers a brighter future to our people. I believe it can be accomplished if we have the will to accomplish it.