Capital Investment (White Paper)

Part of Orders of the Day — Princess Elizabeth's and Duke of Edinburgh's Annuities Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th December 1947.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr George Chetwynd Mr George Chetwynd , Stockton-on-Tees 12:00 am, 18th December 1947

A little while ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) in a very persuasive speech, spoke of the academic economists in certain universities attacking the expenditure of capital equipment in the Development Areas. I have no objection to economists doing that, because their work is seldom read by people other than economists, who usually disagree with all they have said, but when the Press, and not merely the penny Press but the twopenny and threepenny Press, like the "Manchester Guardian" and "The Times" sees fit to devote editorials to attacking the Government's Development Area policy, I think it is time something was said in this House. On 8th December, the "Manchester Guardian" wrote in this way: For 18 months, the policy of building new factories in what used to be called the Depressed Areas to guard against a return of heavy unemployment, has been doing more harm than good. I think that would sound very harsh upon the ears of many thousands of people in Durham, South Wales, Scotland and Cumberland who in the past have known serious unemployment, and I do not think that it can go unchallenged.

Then, again, it is said that much of this money was used to set up in the Development Areas certain light industries of such a kind as the manufacture of electric fires. That may be so in isolated cases, but, really, the Development Area policy has been to bring a light and diversified economy into the Development Areas, and many of these projects have a direct contribution to make to the export trade and a direct contribution to make to the health of our basic industries. It is quite clear that, on economic grounds alone, the Government is right to pursue this policy in the Development Areas.

There we have the sole remaining substantial source of possible labour, and it is not fair to expect these people at this time to be forced to move from their homes to take up employment elsewhere. The limiting factor there is, of course, housing. We cannot move people from Durham into Birmingham or other places unless we can provide houses for them, and I am really surprised that the "Manchester Guardian" takes this line when it says: To get the essential jobs done in time, we must move the workers to them. In view of the attitude of the Liberal Party in the Debate on the control of Engagement Order, I wonder if the "Manchester Guardian" now favours large-scale direction of labour in a much more brutal form than could ever be contemplated by this Government.

I would like to say that there are certain things that must be done immediately if we are to get the fullest benefit from this Development Area policy. It is still a fact that 39 per cent. of the total of wholly unemployed males in the country are to be found in the Development Areas, and 50 per cent. of all those who have been unemployed for over six months are in these areas. As regards the women, it is even worse. Fifty-seven per cent. of the wholly unemployed, and 77 per cent. of those unemployed for six months and over, are in these areas, whereas there is relatively little long-term unemployment elsewhere. Firstly, we should have a campaign to finish those factories not yet completed. That may mean that more building labour should be diverted to those schemes, but, in both the short and longterm view, that will pay this country.

Secondly, there must be a greater selection from the many potential tenants. Now that we have various firms competing for factory space, it should be more possible for the Board of Trade to select those firms which can make the greatest contribution to our export needs. Then we must make certain that the guarantee given on page 12 of the White Paper, paragraph 20 (4)— Within the reduced volume of factory buildings, preferential treatment will continue to be accorded to the Development Areas"— is not just a paper priority. We have the promise of all possible priorities of raw materials to the firms in Development Areas. It is our hope that this promise given in the White Paper will be translated into action.

There was some argument at the beginning of this Debate as to whether we should talk success or pessimism in the country. I believe we have much of which we can be proud. Many successful things are taking place in this country today, and it is only right that we should take every opportunity to stress this. There is no need for all this gloom and despondency, because, after all, the success of this Government, and our plan, to conquer this economic crisis will, in the end, depend upon the individual workman—whether he has his tail up or whether he has it down. It is our job, as responsible Members of this party, and of this House, to see that we do everything we possibly can to encourage the success of the workers in this country. There is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm in the country, in spite of what is said in America about this being a dying nation. One has only to go to football matches and greyhound races to find it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Oh, yes, there is, but we have to make it our job to canalise this enthusiasm behind the Government.

We can do it by making one Minister responsible for what I would call the coordination of voluntary labour. The recent success of the turn-round of wagons, is just one indication of what can be done. We can unload wagons, clear up bombed sites, work in the fields, help in the Christmas deliveries and, best of all, we can help with the collection of scrap. I would like to see this scrap iron collection taken out of the hands of the barrow boys, and the junk boys, and made a voluntary effort in every part of the country. There could be scrap depots and people could be encouraged to collect scrap and dump it at weekends at these depots. By canalising all this enthusiasm I am convinced that in the next six decisive months, which will decide the fate not only of this Government but of the country, the actions of this Government will pull us through.