I should like to express my great pleasure in having the privilege again of addressing the House. This is what I might describe as the first speech I have made in my second political marriage. I enjoyed my association with the West Riding, but very much regret that my constituency preferred the charms of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. I now find myself in association with the very famous constituency of Epsom, a name which is probably better known throughout the world than the name of any other constituency. I have no doubt that they will be more constant in their allegiance than my last constituency, and I am proud to represent Epsom here. I am very appreciative of the welcome which you, Mr. Speaker, and old colleagues of mine in all parts of the House have given to me on my return to this House.
Many hon. Members, recollecting my recent contact with the electorate, have asked me what the country is thinking about Parliament, and what the country thinks about us. I find that question rather difficult to answer. I believe that those hon. Members who know their own minds and put their country first all the time are becoming more and more acceptable to the electorate. Those right hon. and hon. Members who appear to shillyshally and fall back in times of difficulty on party slogans and partisan statements are increasingly losing the confidence, and, indeed, the patience of the electors. I am sure that the hon. Member for North Croydon (Mr. Harris) will agree with me that the electorate, and especially the women part of it, are rapidly and increasingly becoming more and more dissatisfied with the present Government. [HON. MEMBERS: What about Paisley?") I believe also that he would agree with me that on any political platform a call for unity and courageous leadership finds a ready and notable response from the audience. I will, therefore, attempt to be constructive in any criticisms which I have to offer to the Government, and not merely critical. There may have been some dispute with the Lord President about the importance of the subject we have just been discussing, but I believe there will be no dispute in the House about the importance of the manpower problem. Indeed our manpower and our womenpower is the one valuable asset we have in this country.
I find, if I may say so, Mr. Speaker, great pleasure in debating with my old friend and colleague of many years standing in the printing industry—the Minister of Labour. I would say to him that he has been very much missed by both sides of our joint industrial council in their deliberations. Not the least of the blessings that will come from the change of Government at the next Election will be that the right hon. Member will be able to return to his duties in the printing trade where he is so valuable and has been so much missed. He will get a great welcome there from all the members.
I would like to discuss, first, some aspects of the Ministry of Labour and its activities and, after comment, ask a few questions on the manpower section and employment policy of the White Paper that has been placed before us. I believe that it is time that the Ministry of Labour faced up to the problem of changing its name. After all "labour" does have a slightly party political flavour in the country. Some time ago, we changed the names of the labour exchanges to employment exchanges or offices, and I believe that a Ministry of Employment, or a Ministry of Manpower, would be better understood throughout the country and would avoid confusion or any unfortunate happenings such as those of which I found quite a lot during the time I was associated with the Ministry of Labour. As a Conservative, I was often asked how I managed to be at the Ministry of Labour because of the party to which I belong. I remember the wife of a porter at a block of flats being highly indignant at my being what she called a "Labour" Minister, and she could not understand it at all when I tried to persuade her that I was not. I think that we should change the name to Employment Ministry, and that the Ministry of Employment and National Service would be a very suitable name.
I maintain that the success or failure of the Minister's work should be judged by his ability to keep party politics out of his Ministry and his Ministry out of party politics. His chief duties are in the sphere of industrial relations on the one side and the operation of the employment offices on the other. Success in both these spheres depends on the confidence of the country, and especially of the industrial sections of the country, in the Ministry's fairness, lack of bias, and impartiality. I think that except for one notable issue to which I will come in a minute, the Minister has been, on the whole, pretty successful in this matter, and I congratulate him. So far as industrial relations are concerned, I believe that the Minister, in general, has done extremely well, as the figures of industrial disputes show. I do not propose to refer to the temperature of the Chamber today or the dispute which it has caused. There are two points of detail which I would like to raise for the Minister's consideration.
There have lately been one or two rather disturbing decisions by the National Arbitration Tribunal; decisions which seems to be rather out of harmony with Government policy at the present time. I am not criticizing the National Arbitration Tribunal or its excellent personnel. I believe that the fault, if there is a fault, lies in its orders, in the things that it is allowed to consider, and in the wideness of the judgments which it is allowed to make. I believe that the terms of reference to the National Arbitration Tribunal in the matters which they are allowed to take into consideration in judging disputes between the two sides of industry might well be looked at again for the benefit of all.
There is another point—a theory of my own—which, with some diffidence, I would like to lay before the House for their consideration. The House will, remember that during the war the shops stewards and shop stewards' movement gained a considerable amount of authority and the permanent officials of the union declined in authority at the same time. There has been, in my judgment, a great deal of nonsense talked about shop stewards in the country. Some people seem to think that all shop stewards are Communists, or evil people, or something of that sort. Of course, that is not so. But, in general, observers of the industrial scene think that the decline in authority and influence of the trade union officials because of the rise of the shop stewards' movement is a retrograde movement and not a good thing for industry.
One of the reasons why, in my judgment, the shop stewards increased their prestige was the wide introduction of piece-work, and the fact that the shop stewards, in the main, were the people who negotiated on behalf of the workers their piece-rates and, therefore, their earnings. Previously it had been the trade union officials who negotiated their rates of pay; and I suggest that it would be worth while the two sides of industry considering whether the organisations of the employers and trade unions could not set up some new machinery so as to work out piece-rates throughout the industry as well as in individual houses, and not leave the matter in the hands of the shop steward, the father of the chapel, or whatever we like to call him. I believe that this might have a salutary effect, because I think that everyone who considers these things wishes to see that the authority of the trade union and the union official who has to bear the responsibility is upheld. If we did that I feel sure that we would not have so many unofficial strikes.
With regard to the work of the employment exchanges, I would say this: in the war, owing to the operation of the National Service Act, the Ministry of Labour gained great prestige, but because of that there was a danger. The employment exchanges came to be regarded by ordinary folk as places where a man or a woman was caught up and placed into war work. I think that we must restore, so far as we can, the confidence of ordinary men and women in the employment exchanges in peace time as being places to help them find jobs and not to compel them to go to jobs to which they do not want to go. It is the function of the Ministry of Labour organisation throughout the country to aid everybody in Britain to get, so far as is possible, a suitable job, or even better still, the offer of several suitable jobs. I do not believe it is the function of the Ministry of Labour to compel anyone. Indeed, I believe that if we do compel, we lose the confidence of the population in the Ministry of Labour.
I do not propose this afternoon to go into all the powerful moral arguments for or against the Registration for Employment Order, or the direction of lat our, which were used in the Debates last November. I believe there is evidence to show that the confidence in the Ministry, since these powers were taken again, is being undermined, to a certain extent at any rate. The results have been almost negligible. "The Times" in its leader today says:
The latest labour returns strongly suggest that the' new labour controls' are not yielding the quick and substantial results which could be their only justification.
"The Times," I think, has understated the case. It would appear from the figures which the right hon. Gentleman has given to us that these labour controls lave hardly helped the situation a bit. The results have been almost negligible. As for the recent orders with regarc to spivs, drones and butterflies, as they are called, all I can say is that I do not believe the managements want these gentlemen in their industries, and I do not believe that the trade unions want these people in heir ranks. I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman in another sphere would advise N.A.T.S.O.P.A. to open up a special branch to enrol as trade unionists the gentlemen described under those terms.
We ought also to remember, when we are talking about direction of labour, that while it is possible to take powers to direct men or women to go to a job, it is not possible to make them work at that job when they get there, without using a whip behind them. Therefore, I can only assume that the whole purpose of the Registration for Employment Order for spivs, drones, butterflies and the rest, was psychological. We had another case the other day which was psychological. We were told by the Minister of Food that the fact that not more than 99 people were allowed to sit down together to a meal was justified because it was psychological. He finally found that the psychology was not working quite as he expected, and has had the good sense to withdraw that Order. I would seriously say to the right hon. Gentleman that he should consider the action of his colleague as to whether
he will not get more out of industry by the voluntary method rather than by compelling them. I am reinforced in my remarks by what the Government have said in their White Paper on employment policy. I read from page 59, section 16 on "Lessons for the Future":
Perhaps the outstanding lesson of the experiment hitherto made in democratic planning in this country apart from the limitations imposed by dependence on foreign trade, is the importance of the voluntary co-operation of the individual with the plan set by the central authorities. In the matter of industrial productivity, for instance, the Government can encourage, but it cannot compel.
Then it goes on to say:
Much will depend, therefore, on the individual's voluntary response.
I think those are excellent sentiments, and I entirely agree. I would ask his colleagues in the Government to draw them to the attention of the Minister of Labour if they have not already done so.
As we were told the other day by the right hon. Gentleman, these controls have been applied very fairly and tenderly. The officials of the Ministry of Labour up and down the country are a very fine body of men, and we would not expect anything different, but none the less the Minister will fail, and the Ministry will fail, in the task of regaining the complete confidence of the men and women in this country unless their motto remains to persuade, and not to compel or to persuade by threats. I would hazard a guess as to why this Registration for Employment Order and the others were introduced. From his previous speeches we know that the right hon. Gentleman does not think that they are going to do much good. I am not going to re-quote the speech that he made last year on the subject, but quite obviously he does not think they are going to be of very much help to the industrial world.
Furthermore, I am quite sure that the employers on his Advisory Council would not have told him that these spivs, drones and the others would be of the slightest use for their industrial production. I cannot believe, knowing his principal officials, as I do, to be very practical men that they would advise in favour of recruiting these people to the industrial world. From the constantly reiterated statements of high functionaries of the trade union world that they were against compulsion, I cannot believe that they were very enthusiastic about it. If, therefore, the Minister, the employers, the Ministry's officials and the trade unionists are not in favour of it, I can only suggest that it must be the vocal Left Wing colleagues of the Minister, who wish to extend their power over the lives of the citizens of this country, who have demanded this course, and I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will not stand up to them a little more firmly.
I was proposing to raise the question of disabled persons, but there was an Adjournment Debate on it on Monday night. I am sorry I was not able to attend owing to a previous engagement—which was not with "Annie Get Your Gun," either.
I was speaking in the country and did not know about it till too late. The Minister made a very interesting statement on that occasion which I read with close attention. I am sure that the House, on reading it, will have been grateful to him and I am sure we all wish him well in pushing forward with this great Act, which is closely associated with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Education. There is one point I wish to raise in regard to his speech. He said:
In fact, practically half of the total of unemployed disabled persons are in three regions—Wales, the North-west and London. London, strangely enough, has a big proportion. Unfortunately the Act does not permit us to have a regional quota. We must have a general quota to cover the country as a whole.—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 15th March, 1948; Vol. 434, c. 1847.]
If that is a handicap, knowing that the House is anxious to see that these disabled persons get proper and full employment so far as they are able, I am quite sure that no obstacle will be placed in his way if the Minister wishes to make some small alteration to that Act.
I would like to know something about how the juvenile advisory services are working. Juveniles are coming out again at 15 and it will be of the utmost importance to see that they have the right advice about what careers they are going to choose. The position is not really satisfactory. The Ministry of Labour is responsible for the advice to the juveniles over about half of the country, and the local education authorities are respon- sible for the advice in the other half. It is one of those things which have grown up in this country and I think it is time it was altered. I believe that the Ministry of Labour should be the authority responsible for directing the juvenile advisory services throughout the whole country, because the Ministry of Labour will be responsible for them during their working lives as they pass out of the sphere of the care of the education authorities.
I believe that the Minister has an exceptional opportunity, at the moment, to carry through this reform. I cannot believe that his colleague and right hon. Friend, the Minister of Education, who was with us at the Ministry of Labour, will have changed his opinion so drastically and completely by moving to another Department. So, I would ask him, if he has not already done so, to start discussions with his right hon. Friend to see whether he cannot take over the operation of these advisory services. I am pressing this rather because I am told—I have no proof—that, fairly widely, where the local authorities are the responsible officers, they tend to advise the black-coated occupations in preference to crafts and occupations of the hands. There is no room in the black-coated world for everybody; somebody must do the rest of the work, and a more balanced view must be taken by the advisory services than to try and move everybody who can add up a column of figures, or write well, into a clerk's job, when many of them would probably be much happier and better occupied as craftsmen.
I would like to know how the Appointments Branch are getting on? They have a difficult job. It was suggested to me the other day that better results would be obtained from the Appointments Branch if they were paid for every man they were able to place. That might be so, but I think it would tax the ingenuity of the Ministry's accounting officers to work out a system of proper payment. Nevertheless, I think opportunities are being lost. The other day a constituent of mine, aged 51, found himself out of work through rationalisation and mechanisation. He had a very good record, and received a certain amount of compensation. He was not a qualified accountant; he was an office accountant. He had been on the Ministry of Labour Appointments Branch books for a little time, and the Minister kindly offered to press forward his case when I wrote to him. When my constituent came to me I wrote two friends of mine who are chartered accountants, and asked them whether they knew of any client who might be looking for a man of this sort. They both said that they thought they could find a job themselves for him, as they were short of this type of office worker. I merely give that as an illustration to show that the close contacts which the Appointments Branch have with employers may be rather slacking off.
There is another point, not relevant to what I have been saying, but which is very much in the news at present. I am one of those who do not believe, never have believed, and have said so many times publicly, that industrial output is helped in the slightest degree by stopping evening sport in mid-week. I do not believe that the British working man likes to be subjected to that sort of thing, or that it encourages him to work Letter. I believe that representations are being made to the Chancellor, whom we see here this afternoon, and I hope he will listen to them with sympathy. I am all in favour of encouraging output to the highest degree, but I do not believe that it can be done by vexatious controls, which can have no effect. I cannot see why it should be wrong for a man to go to a dog race if he wishes, when it is right for him to go to a cinema and see American films.
The Minister has a fine machine and an enthusiastic staff, and I believe that until he went in for the calamitous futility of conscription of labour—if he does not mind me saying that—he was not doing so badly. If he would drop that, I would not be critical of his sojourn at the Nlinistry. The right hon. Gentleman was left with a demobilisation plan—and if the House will forgive a personal reference, for I had a little hand in preparing that age and service plan—which he has operated with remarkable skill and efficiency. When the history of these times comes to be written, the fact that we have been able to demobilise such a large number of men, with practically no criticism as to fairness, as between man and man, has been a great thing, and I congratulate the Ministry on the way they have carried it out.
In concluding this part of my speech, I would only say this: if the right hon. Gentleman stands up to his colleagues for his Department, because of his own industrial knowledge, he will do well. He should remember at all times that not many of his colleagues in the Cabinet have very much practical knowledge of industrial affairs such as he has; most of their knowledge has been collected from hearsay. I urge him never to give in to the theoretical doctrinaires in his own Cabinet, who are, I believe, the curse of industry and of this country. If he does that, he will do well. [An HON. MEMBER: What about the Opposition?"] Unfortunately, the Opposition are not now governing the country; if they were, there would be remarkable benefits and changes.
Mention of doctrinaires brings me to the few remarks I wish to make on the Government's Economic Survey for 1948.
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley
as our Scottish friends say, and if we compare the 1948 Paper with the Economic Survey for 1947, we find that practically all the schemes and plans enumerated in 1947 have not so far worked out. The leading article in "The Times" this morning enumerates all the targets which were set out in 1947, and shows how none have been achieved so far this year. When manpower was desired to be increased rapidly it increased only slowly; when it was desired to be increased slowly, it increased rapidly. The result does not bear scrutiny. As the Vote Office have been very practical in this matter, and have a supply of the 1947 White Paper as well as the 1948 Paper, I hope that Members who have not done so will refresh themselves by getting a copy of each and comparing them. For example, paragraph 136 of the 1947 White Paper states:
Action which serves to reduce output per man year in any industry is directly endangering the attainment of these objectives. The nation cannot afford shorter hours of work unless these can be shown to increase output per man year. Greater leisure is a very desirable thing but it is not at the moment a prime essential like imported food. It is not as important as coal or clothing or housing.
Paragraph 194 of the 1948 White Paper says, under the sub-heading of "Hours":
Changes during 1947 gave about 5,000,000 workpeople an average reduction of 3½ hours in the standard working week.
So, five million people out of our 20 million working population have not followed the advice of 1947.
I have read and re-read what "The Times" industrial correspondent calls—I think with complete justification—this "puzzling White Paper." There appears to be in it one phrase of overriding importance, which gravely disturbs me. I want to know what it means, and I would like an authoritative comment by the Government about it. Except in textiles, and in coal and agriculture—and I reckon they are about 12½ per cent. of our industrial population—we read:
labour is not at present, and is unlikely to be, in 1948, a limiting factor in economic activity as a whole.
The inference that we are being expected to draw is that materials will be the limiting factor during this year.
On all the hoardings throughout the country are great posters at the present time saying: "10 per cent. more. "It is a message over the Prime Minister's signature, and it comes from No. 10, Downing Street. We are told, however, in the White Paper that in nearly go per cent. of the industries of this country no more can be produced because there is no material, although there is labour. Can that be right? I am asking whether I am drawing the right inferences from this authoritative statement. I believe I am, but I do not understand how that statement can be reconciled with the Prime Minister's message that we must attain an extra 10 per cent. If we are so short of materials, how are we to attain it?
No, this year, in 1948. The White Paper says that labour is not likely to be the limiting factor in 1948. Surely, that means, if it means anything in English at all, that there is no chance of our getting a higher industrial output. Therefore, it is no good telling people to work 10 per cent. harder. Does it mean that we are already so far down the slope towards economic disaster that we cannot get more material to keep the labour in this country occupied at its full stretch? That prospect is most disturbing, and it should be cleared up by the Government. I do not believe it is right. I believe that there is a shortage of labour in many sections of the community. This White Paper says that, by and large, excepting mining, textiles and agriculture, there is no shortage, or no over-riding shortage of labour.
The White Paper goes on to say that such bottlenecks and shortages as exist are largely caused by lack of accommodation. The only comment I can make on that is that this is in large measure due to the sins of omission of the Minister of Health in his housing policy, which has not only caused great misery in this country but great economic difficulty as well.
If wiser counsels had prevailed at the Ministry of Health, there would have been more houses in the proper places for people to live in at the present time. Of that there is not the slightest doubt, and everybody in the building industry, both employers and trade unionists, tell us the same.
How does the right hon. Gentleman account for the fact that in the first two years following the recent war almost 20 times as many dwellings were provided as in the first two years following the previous war?
I suggest that that question is not relevant to our discussion. I am not interested in Lord Addison, who was the Minister responsible for housing at that time and is very well respected by the party opposite. I am not interested in Mr. Lloyd George's Government. I was quite young in those days. I am interested in the houses being built now, and I am making the categorical statement that if wiser counsels had prevailed at the Ministry of Health, there would have been more houses at the present time, and the job of the Minister of Labour would have been very much easier.
I intended to speak about many matters arising out of the White Paper, but I think I can leave them to subsequent speakers. There is one point I should like to comment on. I am appalled by the complacency of the' Government at the way in which they baldly state that they expect the numbers in the Civil Service administrative and non-productive staffs to be as great in the coming year as they have been in the past. Now that the Government realise that inflation is serious, their first duty, I should have thought, would be to economise in this respect, but we get no encouragement in that direction from the Economic Survey for 1948.
I have covered rather a lot of ground and I am very grateful to the House for listening to me and to the Minister for paying attention to me. I know that later on he will give me answers 70 some of my questions. As I have said this is the first speech that I have made in this House since I was elected. My electors in Epsom asked me to say to the Government: give us facts; give us efficiency; above all, give us a national and not a purely party lead at this time in the nation's affairs. We know it to be true that the British people, the crdinary British people, are the greatest in the world. We believe that they deserve a better deal than they are now getting. My people asked me to say that if the Government cannot give the people a better deal, the Government should gracefully retire and give a chance to somebody else to restore greatness to our country.
Until the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) began his incursion into the realm covered by the Minister of Health, he was making a very pleasing and fair speech. I thought he was somewhat out of his depth w hen he went into that realm, unless he was prepared to tell us what we could substitute for materials like timber which are m short supply in the world. I was glad he paid a tribute to the shop steward movement. I laid down my job as a shop steward to come to this House in 1945. I fully share the sentiment of the right hon. Gentleman as to the good work that was done in the factories by the shop stewards during the danger period, but I do not altogether agree that the authority of the union officials was in any way lessened by the increase in the influence of the shop steward movement.
The reason why that movement became more prominent during the war was the making of the Essential Work Order, and orders of that kind, and the creation of joint production committees and the agreements around those things. They meant that much of the administration had to be done internally in the factory, and in the main by people who were permanently there. It was necessary that the shop stewards themselves, who were present during the whole time, should take charge of that work. It was clearly impossible for the officials to do it as effectively. There were difficulties of arranging transport in connection with the committees, and the shop stewards played a leading rôle in finding solutions. It is for those reasons, and not for the reasons adduced by the right hon. Gentleman, that the shop steward movement became more prominent during the war.
I believe that the Government can claim, with justification, that, in spite of all our economic difficulties, they have been able to introduce a far better spirit into British industry than has been there for many years. There has been a lowering of the incidence of strikes, official or unofficial, and that fact has been very gratifying to us all. Because of his vast knowledge of the subject, the ability he has displayed and the sympathetic manner in which he and his officials have dealt with such strikes as have taken place, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is entitled to a great deal of credit and the thanks of this House and the country.
One of the great difficulties which has confronted us and still confronts us is to get a more correct balance of manpower in our industries. I do not believe that we can ever attain perfection in this. What may be perfection one month may well be out of all proportion two or three months later. For all that, I feel that there are certain ways in which a better balance could be obtained which have so far not been tried. The movement of manpower in itself is not the greatest single issue confronting us. To use manpower to the best advantage, we must think in terms of vast improvement in production methods. In this sphere we have a long way to go before we can be satisfied.
The Industrial Organisation Act will be well within the recollection of hon. Members. That Act gave the Government power to set up development councils in many industries. I would like the Minister to dilate on that when he replies. I am informed that up to date no development councils are in being. I am aware of the necessity for preliminary discussions and an examination of each industry, but I feel that a sufficient length of time has now elapsed since the passing of that Act for us to have seen development councils set up in at least one or two of the more essential industries. We are seeing a very fine response from the workers and management in a number of the essential industries but unless we can get a really big increase in productivity in certain of our feeder industries, that increase in mechanical production and so on will inevitably result in unemployment in the essential industries.
Surely it is in the feeder industries, in which conditions of labour have been poor for many years, that we must concentrate our efforts for the setting up of development councils? It may well be that in those industries the idea will receive most opposition. That sort of thing has happened in certain industries, because of their conservative—I use that word in its industrial sense —outlook towards change, they have held back the ability to expand of those industries which depend upon their products. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend to realise that unless we can get development councils and an expansion of labour power in those industries, the very fact that we are encouraging production and getting a response from essential industries which depend for feeding on other industries will merely result in unemployment in the essential industries.
While I am speaking about feeder industries, I would offer my humble but very sincere congratulations to the Joint Advisory Committee on Conditions in the Iron Foundries which has now issued its Report. This Report is a very splendid piece of work. We know that the foundry industry has long been the Cinderella of the engineering trade, and we are well aware that foundries will always be foundries, no matter what we do about it. We know that the comfort which can be obtained in modern aircraft factories or general engineering factories can never be achieved in an industry in which men work on their hands and knees in cold, wet sand, an industry in which the men are frozen to death in the morning and roasted in the afternoon when the furnaces are going.
However, I hope that the recommendations of the Committee will be accepted; especially do I hope that the recommendations for the setting up of a joint standing committee which will be permanently in session in order to examine the development of the foundry industry will be supported by my right hon. Friend. It is noticeable that in paragraph 3 of the report it is pointed out that:
There are in Great Britain about 2,000 iron foundries, differing greatly in size and production and producing castings ranging from an ounce up to approximately 150 tons. Some foundries, particularly those in the automobile section or those constructed or equipped for special war purposes, are highly mechanised while in others, particularly the smaller jobbing foundry, methods have not changed appreciably in the last 5o years.
That puts a finger on the centre of our troubles. My knowledge of the foundry industry tells me that we really must concentrate upon its modernisation. I know employers who have sent their foundry managers to America and even to scour the world to find out modern improvements in foundries, and they are most anxious to give facilities to their employees in order to get more comfortable conditions as well as increased production. On the other hand, there are many foundries which are a standing disgrace to our industrial organisation. I hope that the recommendations for the setting up of a joint standing committee will find favour with my right hon. Friend.
The lack of imagination and expenditure in pre-war years is now being paid for very dearly. While under present conditions we cannot expect to achieve the same capital expenditure as we would like to achieve and as is necessary, I hope we shall realise that by a study of modern methods, many things can be accomplished in all industries even within our present limited range. I spoke a minute ago in reply to the right hon. Gentleman on the question of joint production committees and their rôle during the war years. I was a member of one long before the war, but I was never satisfied that they achieved anything like the results which are possible under that scheme, even in the most advanced factories during the war.
Although I know that my right hon. Friend is making strenuous efforts in this direction, so far we have not get many beneficial results in this most important field of joint consultation on production matters. We ought now to envisage-linking them up far more strongly with the regional boards in industry. In a particular factory the workers elect their representative to the joint production committee. From time to time they take complaints to him and say, for instance, that there are many unnecessary operations in the performance of a certain job and ask him if he can do something to have the operations eliminated. He meets the employers' representatives round the table and puts those points to them. If the employers do not choose to carry out the suggestions, that is the end of the matter. Failure to agree means that the employer always wins.
I do not want to use the joint production committees for industrial warfare, but it is necessary that we should be able to get a neutral mind as an arbiter on important issues of this kind, because when one places the case of the men before managements and, time after time, come back with the same story—that the management does not agree with the issue and therefore nothing else can be done—immediately there is frustration and lack of interest in the production committee. It is easy to see that this has broken down the joint production committee arrangements in many factories during and since the war. Therefore, I hope my right hon. Friend will make strenuous efforts to link them up Ns with the regional boards in order that, where there is failure to agree in a factory on a specific issue, the regional board ca n send along one of its members, who,ire employers' representatives or trade union officials, to bring a new mind to bear on the problem, a mind not disturbed or biased from within a factory.
I hope the hon. Member is not trying to make out that joint production committees in general are places where disputes are settled? I am sure he means that they are places where these things are worked out together.
I see the hon. Member agrees. Would he not also agree that in cases such as that, instead of sending along what might be called an arbitrator, it would be of far greater value if there were available technical advice which could be called in?
That was really my point. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that in 99 cases out of 100 one can get agreement without any dispute, but in the odd case, where contentious points arise, where, maybe, there is a little sourness, and it is so necessary to get a settlement, when, as now, it merely rests with an employer to say no, and that is the end, inevitably there is frustration amongst the employees. However, I accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion; we want technical advice from whatever angle it comes. I submit that the most appropriate people to supply that technical advice would be the regional boards who consist of employers and employees in the vicinity, who would have good knowledge of the factory, the type of product it makes, and so on.
I think the workers in general understand the necessity for increased output, but we have now reached a stage where we must be more specific in our information on the importance of particular industries to the people working within them; instead of general propaganda on the question of production, we must give particular industries knowledge of the importance of their own products. During the war we went much further than that. We had targets for factories, targets for departments within factories, targets for sections within departments. Those targets were on view, and the men and women were able to see that the target figure was being overhauled each month; indeed, at times we were able to increase that target figure. In this way we would be able to bring influence to bear on groups of workers within the factories on the targets at which they are aiming.
Speaking in an economic Debate in this House a year ago this month, I said I felt we were suffering from concealed unemployment. Today that is more true than it was then, in this respect: I have not available figures, but I am certain that the percentage of non-productive paper workers is rising every week. I know some are necessary because of the necessity for controls, and so on, but even if we take into consideration the necessity for administrative workers—paper workers, as I term them—on matter of that kind, there is a far greater percentage employed within the engineering industry than ever there was before. That tendency started well before the war, and has been accelerated since. Instead of merely allocating certain numbers of people to each industry, the Government should now get down to the job of ensuring that there is a proper percentage of the workers on productive operations, and that a decrease in the number of paper work is achieved.
For the purpose of elucidating what my hon. Friend is saying, with which I do not disagree, may I ask would he agree that as, for instance, the production capacity of any man on machine tools is increased, inevitably the proportion of floor workers is also increased?
Yes, I do not dispute that, but I am trying to bring to the notice of the Minister that the proportion of paper workers is increased out of all relevance. Therefore, if we are to get the best out of the manpower available in these industries, we must look into the types of job upon which they are engaged. We hear from time to time of the amount of production obtained per head in industry now as compared with pre-war, and we are told that many industries have not yet achieved too per cent. parity with pre-war. We cannot achieve that if we add to the productive worker the burden of a bigger ratio of non-productive workers than he had to contend with in pre-war days.
We have also reached the phase where our piece-work practices are retarding productivity in some degree. Many modern factories have long discarded the ordinary piece-work system. For instance, the Ford Motor Car Company would not have individual piece-work many years before the war. We know that when a method of production under piecework agreements is decided upon, the piece-work price is fixed, and that price will obtain until there is a change in the particular operation. We also know from experience that if we go higher than a certain piece-work earning, there will be a change in the type of operation, some infinitesimal change in the casting we are machining, and, on the basis of that, there will be a demand for an alteration in the piece-work price. Because of these things, workers in industry know that if they go above a certain fixed percentage of piece-work earnings, inevitably that piece-work price will be reduced. Precisely the opposite should be our aim. We should say, "If once you have achieved a certain ratio of piece-work earnings, say 50 per cent., we will increase your price as an added incentive to reach that particular figure." That method obtains now in a number of countries, and the results achieved by it have been wholly satisfactory, so I hope we can see a change in that direction.
Before my hon. Friend does so, may I ask is he prepared to accept that this method exists in many industries in this country, and that at the present time it is not common practice to lower production bonuses when the output is increased?
I can speak for certain heavy industries: I do not doubt my hon. Friend's knowledge of one industry, but I know engineering and foundry work and in regard to that, what I have said is perfectly true.
My hon. Friend is an engineering employer, but it is true. In an endeavour to get increased productivity, instead of keeping that fear over the head of the worker if he increases his production to such a degree that his piece-work earnings go above a certain percentage, we should say "Once you have achieved that percentage, we will give you a better piece-work price." That would provide the incentive to go at an even faster gallop.
I was rather unhappy earlier in the year, and I know that many members of my union in the shipbuilding industry were unhappy, about the 20 per cent cut in steel. The explanations which have been given are wholly satisfactory, but they have not had sufficient publicity in the shipbuilding yards. I was, therefore, very pleased when my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury pointed out that the steel allocation this year will be at least as high as, and in the first two quarters higher than, last year. That being the case, there no fear of prolonged unemployment in shipbuilding. In fact, he envisages a bigger turn-out of ships this year than last year. I hope that announcements like that will be given full publicity, because there is great fear in the industry after its terrible experience in the interwar years. I hope the Goverment will find means of making such announcements more widely known than they have been able to do in the past.
Trade unions must adopt a far more responsible attitude towards the question of production than in prewar days. For many years we in the trade union Ill lVernent have done what we could in this matter, but, now, with nationalisation of great industries and control of others, the need arises for trade unions to use their funds to a far greater degree in providing education for their members for admnistrative posts and for educating their members in technical matters appertaining to their industries. I know that trade unions own big funds, and I take no pride in the fact that my union has many millions tucked away in the bank. It would be far better used in educating our members, and giving them an opportunity of learning about management and so on. That would increase the number of technical workers, and the efficiency of the industries in which they are engaged.
These things would pay the country and the trade union movement more than merely preserving funds against the day —which I hope and believe will never come again—when there is necessity for using those funds for strike pay and so on. We should give to the worker far greater responsibility, and I mean this to apply to industries which are nationalised, as well as to those which are not nationalised. The dignity of labour can only be fully realised when men work for themselves, for their country, for the rehabilitation of their country—not for private enterprise. By replacing the restrictions of the profit motive by the incentive to work for one's country, we can release that vast store of creative genius which our workers possess in such rich abundance.
I trust that the hon. Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee) will not mind if I do not follow his arguments in detail. With a great deal of what he said I agree, but there was much with which I thoroughly disagreed, including his last remarks regarding private enterprise. From some slight experience of industry during the war I was interested in his remarks regarding development councils, and I agree with him in his belief that at the moment there is a degree of concealed unemployment.
I wish to base my remarks on man power on two premises: first, that there is, in fact, no shortage of labour, and, secondly, that the manpower which is available is not being used wisely. My first assumption is based on some interesting statements in the "Black Paper," the Economic Survey of 1948 which remarks with the most disarming candour that if, through some mishap, we were unable to receive Marshall Aid, this Government will
be obliged to make such drastic cuts in our dollar and gold purchases as will bring wholesale unemployment, distress and dislocation of production and will delay for years the prospect of a decent standard of living for our people.
If because of the happy events in America in the last few days we may hope to receive Marshall Aid, nevertheless this "Black Paper" remarks that, even with the full assistance of capitalism to bolster our Socialist economy,
the shortage of dollars will impose limits
on the Government's power to buy imported supplies of raw materials even if available
on a sufficient scale to eliminate bottlenecks in our own production.
Further in the Economic Survey we find in the discussion on the export targets for 1948 much talk of saturation of markets and shortage of raw materials. In
paragraph 193 it is said that this country must face under-employment. These are most serious statements. If during the coming year we are to face increasing unemployment, what steps is the Minister of Labour taking to counter this rising tide of unemployment which, without doubt, is to be with us?
On the second assumption, that manpower which is available is not being properly used, I agree with much that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) said, and I wish to support him in his second "maiden speech" in his remarks on the Control of Engagement Order —of which he made nonsense—and on the spivs and drones Order. I know that in industry the directed person is nearly always an unwilling worker. In the war we used to find that when these people arrived at the works with the inevitable green card the firm was more or less forced to take them on, and because they could not seek employment elsewhere, a kind of resistance movement to work was set up in the industry which was most difficult overcome. We found in Aberdeen, when labour was directed South to Birmingham, while many made good, there was unrest at home, unrest in the factory, and, in some cases, these people took the next train home. I am absolutely certain that the average person in this country very much resents the flouting of the age old long tradition that a man or woman should in time of peace be able to choose his or her own employment.
In the Economic Survey for 1948 we find that the three most important industries in this country during the coming year are coal, agriculture and textiles. The appeal for more workers in textiles is to a very large extent directed at this time towards women. I should like to make a few inquiries to the Minister of Labour in connection with women at work. In this country we a all know we have a long tradition in certain areas, particularly in Lancashire, of women at work in industry. There has, however, been a social trend towards women taking on black-coated work employment in preference to factory work, and since the war many have returned home or have married and are unwilling to re-enter industry. During 1947 the figures given by the Ministry of Labour of new entrants into industry amounts to 750,000, but the wastage amounts to 800,000. The target envisaged in the cotton mills for recruits is the very conservative estimate—and I use that in its industrial connection—of 58,000, which of course means that we are hoping to get as our target for the end of 1948 as many people back into the textile industry as we got during the 2½ years after the war, when we had people coming back from the Services.
One must, therefore, assume that many women are going into the textile industry from other industries, for instance, light engineering, and they are going to enter a highly skilled industry when they are probably unskilled. Will the Minister say what practical arrangements he is making for the training on a short or long term basis of these new entrants into the textile industry. Then, of course, there is the question of married women in industry. I should like to know from the Minister what arrangements he has made for whole-time mill workers, who have left and got married to return to the mills on a part-time basis. During 1947, 100,000 more women have entered industry on a part-time working arrangement. I would also ask him what arrangements he has made with the industry to pursue the practice, which had some success during the war, although it was difficult to administer, of putting work out to married women's homes. I am aware of the difficulties confronting the management, but I believe if married women are to return to industry these things must be considered.
I must confess that I think it is absolutely wrong that women, married or otherwise, should now be asked to return to industry in great numbers. After all, family life has during the last eight years been profoundly disturbed, and I would suggest that the family unit, as the most stabilising force in the community, should be given some peace and time for readjustment. It is just about a year ago since I first caught Mr. Speaker's eye for my maiden speech, and I remember saying then that I thought it was asking a great deal of women that they should go back to a double job. If I may be allowed to quote what I then said, it was that those keeping house today are spending at least half the day trying to live the other half. Women are being asked to run the home, do a job, and work almost double the hours of the average man. On every hand you find men asking, for shorter hours and vet they have the temerity to ask women to return to industry and do a double job. If I may say so with respect, I consider that we are returning to the social habits of the jungle where in Africa, for instance, women undertake long labouring tasks and the men have hours of veritable ease. The only thing which gives me quiet pleasure is the fact that I do not believe men appreciate the consequences of the five-day week, because many of them find Saturday mornings about the busiest day of the whole week, and they have to do their share of the housework.
Nevertheless, I should not like to give the impression to the House that women do not perfectly appreciate the national emergency, and there are not some who are very willing to return to industry. That may be in cases a form of escapism from congested accommodation, because we all know that housing has been tackled with supine inefficiency by this present Government. Nevertheless, if women are to return to industry, I welcome the remark in the Economic Survey on page 151, that efforts are being made to improve the amenities and issue more licences for the purposes of canteens and day nurseries in the factories. I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to take, part in this Debate later on, and I should like to ask whether cuts in capital investment are going in any way to preclude the provision of these further amenities in industry.
I should like to ask questions on one or two points about the provision of day nurseries. It is most important that these nurseries should be open at hours which conform to the working shifts. For instance, in Aberdeen during the war we found the day nurseries opened from 9 o'clock to 6, while the working shifts were from 6 to 2, from 2 to 10, and from 10 to 6. There was, in fact, only one nursery open for 24 hours or where women could leave their children all the week and collect them at the week-end. Also, if the Minister of Labour is searching about for some other labour for redistribution, I trust he will give prime attention to the Civil Service before, first of all, depleting the distributive trades, because if he does that it will only lengthen the queues and cause more housekeeping difficulties for women at this time.
I hope the Government will not forget that these women who have to enter industry and do a double job are to be the mothers of the next generation. On the one hand, we find the Government asking for an increased birthrate and doing everything possible to help the mother and child, and, on the other, there is this demand on our women to work longer hours under unnatural conditions. It is the high responsibility of any Government of the day to ensure that no women suffers from overstrain, but that she is able to keep herself in enduring fitness of body and of mind.
There is just one other aspect with which I should like to deal. I approached the subject of manpower on two assumptions, namely, that there is no shortage of manpower, or at least there will not be in the near future; and, secondly, that the manpower that is available should be better redistributed. The point which I found of great interest in the speech of the hon. Member for Hulme was his remark regarding personal output, because, whatever labour and materials we have available, it is very important that the greatest effort should be made to ensure the maximum production of what we have in use. The Prime Minister has often exhorted us to work 10 per cent. harder, and it has also been said that if all bestirred themselves five per cent. harder it would be equivalent to 900,000 extra workers. When we are considering the personal outlook of man and woman to their work, we must take into account the broader physical and economic policy, which, of course, we are going to debate in larger fashion after the Easter Recess. I trust that the Budget will give us some hope, that there will be greater opportunities for those in industry to have more adequate rewards for skill of head or hand invested in their work. I notice that the Lord President of the Council the other day, when he was temporarily disengaged from party politics, made a speech at Birmingham, in which he spoke of the importance of the human factor in industry.
Apart from the pleas made by the hon. Member for Hulme for development councils, I trust also that the practices of training personnel for welfare industrial officers will be very carefully examined, because I feel that personal management has got immense possibilities for increasing production. It has the twin aims of improving the working conditions of men and women and of easing human relationships. It has been proved that where industrial welfare has been organised efficiently, the better health and morale of the worker has very much facilitated greater production. Although we can get people into industry by one means or another, we cannot necessarily make them like it or make them work. The task of personnel management is not only to supervise canteens, surgeries and so on; it is, also, to understand the home background of every worker in the factory, to know the job inside out, to understand the payments for the work, and, therefore, to hope to be able to assess in human fashion the personal characteristics of every worker. We must never forget, in all these organisations, that the operator is essentially a human being and capable of all the vagaries of human beings.
In conclusion, I trust that when the Government, on a high political level, are composing economic surveys and the Budget, they will remember that no political design can be of any use unless the personality and character of the individual operator are taken into account. In this age of materialism we should do well to remember the famous words of a great statesman—Disraeli—when he said that:
The wealth of England"—
and, I trust, also of Scotland—
is not only material wealth. It does not lie only in the number of acres that we have tilled or cultivated, nor in our shipyards, nor in our factories, nor in our works. This is only the material wealth of a nation: we have a more precious treasure, the character of our people.
When I hear hon. Members discussing the questions of manpower and production I feel sad, and for this reason. I come from an area in Lanarkshire, which is in the heart of industrial Scotland. A few days ago the Minister of Labour gave the number of people unemployed at 16th February as approximately between 6,000 and 7,000. These figures, which relate to only a small part of Lanarkshire, have since risen very rapidly. For the whole of industrial Lanarkshire the figure is now more likely to be between 9,000 and 10,000.
Much has been said about production, but we have come up against a difficulty which is a very important factor. This is a development area, and under the Distribution of Industry Act a number of new industries have come into the district. I have spent the last two or three weeks in visiting various Government Departments to try to stave off, to some extent, the danger of large numbers of people coming on to the unemployed register. Only last week one firm alone paid off 300 employees, an additional 200 will be leaving tomorrow, and there is the possibility also of a few weeks' total close-down. This is because of overproduction—or, perhaps, not so much over-production as bad arrangement on the question of production generally.
The hon. Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant) mentioned maldistribution of labour, but this is maldistribution of production. I quote as an example the firm adjacent to my own home, which paid off 300 workers last week, another 200 this week, and which is faced with the possibility of even further reduction. It is up against a problem; there are five or six different firms producing the same kind of goods in the London area where there is no problem of manpower. There seems to be a lack of liaison between one Government Department and another. If the various Government Departments got together they could, to a great extent, divert, and have a greater diversion of, production throughout the country. That would obviate the question of unemployment.
In my Division there is a factory with approximately 1½ million feet of factory space which has not done a stroke of work since 1945. This is not because there is nothing to do, for skilled labour is available and the factory is suitable for heavy industry and could, in fact, be used to great advantage. I understand that the factory is owned partly between the Government and Colvilles Ltd. I have tried several times to get the factory for the use of other industries. Only a few weeks ago I was approached by another concern who said that, if they could have use of that factory, they could find employment for 4,000 or 5,000 people. Something must be wrong, for we cannot obtain the use of that factory and get it into proper production. In one small part, fewer than 200 men are employed.
There is the example also of another firm which came into the district from England and produced 5,000 temporary houses in 13 months. Admittedly it has since been put on to the production of permanent houses. But again we are up against a Government Department and no encouragement is given. Eight hundred people were thrown out of work at that factory only a few weeks ago, again because of a lack of co-ordination and relationship between one Government Department and another. I appeal to the various Ministers concerned to come closer together and examine the whole question.
After addressing a public meeting last weekend and appealing for keener and greater production, I was challenged about various places closing down because they had over-produced. This problem is having a serious psychological effect. If large numbers of workpeople are thrown out of work there is a damaging and serious effect on the rest of the workpeople in various branches of industry.
If the hon. Member will allow me, there is one question I should like to ask him. He is putting out a very great dangerous and misleading argument, although I do not believe he really means to do so. He talks about a factory closing down because the workers had overproduced. Can he tell us a little more about it?
The factory I referred to, where workers are being paid off every week, is a new one in the district. The firm is that of Vactric and this is what happens. There are five or six different firms all producing vacuum cleaners. The allocation of materials goes to those various firms to produce for the home market and also to aim at a certain standard of exports. The firm I have in mind made a serious attempt to increase their export figures and they have done so. I believe that they are the highest in the list of exports for that product. The other firms, which were producing in the London area and which have no unemployment trouble, did not face up to the question of exports, with the result that the home market has been flooded.
I wish to discuss another question. In Lanarkshire certain types of labour have been trained for the new industries. These men and women have done a good job of work. Representatives of the English firms who have come up there met the various managements to find out their troubles. Those representatives are unanimous that the type of labour in the districts excels in quality anything which they have ever found in the South. For that reason alone, more consideration ought to be given to the Lanarkshire Development Area. There ought to be greater co-operation and liaison between the Government Departments concerned. In Lanarkshire there is a big factory at Mossend where there is approximately 2,000,000 square feet of factory space. Another big factory, which belonged to the Ministry of Aircraft Production, was taken over by a firm in order to build houses. They built 5,000 houses in 13 months. Then the temporary housing programme finished and they turned to the production of permanent houses. Officials of the Scottish Office say that their product is second to none. But there are no contracts coming in, and 800 men have been paid off.
Against that, we find that other firms are receiving large numbers of contracts, with the result that they are not able to meet their obligations. In the meantime, in Lanarkshire we have 800 additional men unemployed. I consider that more could be done on the part of the Government in co-operation with the various Departments. We should have a greater diversification of industry instead of trying to produce so much in London. Other things should be produced in London, and more opportunities should be given to the development areas. I remember the period between the two wars. I remember 1939. The position was so serious that at least 5e per cent. of the working population had been unemployed for many years. Our people think that there is a danger—and I can see it—of drifting back to the conditions of 1939. I appeal to the Government to get down to the problem and see what can be done to stimulate a greater interest in the use of the manpower available in Lanarkshire.
I do not propose to speak for very long and I shall discuss only one aspect of the manpower problem, that relating to day nurseries. I agree entirely with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant) when she remarked that at this stage it ought not to be necessary to encourage women to go into industry. They "did their whack" during the war. But there it is; they are not compelled to go back to industry and we should ensure that if they do return, adequate steps are taken to look after their children.
I raised the question of day nurseries on an Adjournment Debate last June, because I was seriously perturbed at the closing down of so many nurseries. I got very little satisfaction from that Debate. During the war we had 1,550 day nurseries with places for 71,000 children. That was the peak period. By 1947 the number had fallen to 900, with places for 44,000 children. There is good reason why that number had fallen and why the nurseries were being closed. At the end of 1946 the Minister of Health with the Minister of Education circulated a letter to local education authorities stating that after March, 1947, they would receive only the same grant for day nurseries as they received for educational purposes. Up to that time, the Minister of Health had assumed 100 per cent. responsibility for the day nurseries.
From what was said by the Minister during the Adjournment Debate, I thought he would see that, where there was a need for further day nurseries, steps would be taken to provide them. He said:
Wherever the Ministry of Labour say that more nursery places are required, the Ministry of Health at once approaches the local welfare authority, and arrangements are made for the opening-up of the day nurseries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, I2th June, 1947; Vol. 438, c. 1464.]
But these nurseries are still being closed. More nurseries are being closed than are being opened. In reply to a Question yesterday, the Minister of Health said that six day nurseries for 344 children were opened during 1947, and 13, for 567 children, were closed. Surely there must be a far greater need than is shown by those figures for places in nurseries. According to the "Economist" last week the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, speaking on the need for married women in the cotton industry, said:
In order to attract 10,000 married women the programme for day nurseries, which had virtually been allowed to lapse, is to be speeded up.
I would like to know what steps are to be taken to speed up this matter. What
provision is to be made to open day nurseries wherever they are required? Is the onus still to rest with the local authority? Is the grant to be restored to 100 per cent? If it is not, I do not believe that local authorities are prepared to carry the burden of the cost.
At the firm with which I am connected, we opened a works' nursery a year last January. It proved an enormous success. The number of children for which one can cater, or the actual number of mothers who come to work, is not the most important factor. Even though a particular nursery can cater for only 20 children and, therefore, only 20 mothers can work, those mothers can do an important job. In my factory they were employed on tasks which enabled bottlenecks in production to be avoided. The consequence of being able to use married women for that purpose is out of all proportion to the actual physical work which they do. The nursery has proved so successful that we are trebling its size. We are confident that that is the right approach.
Now that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is here, I would point out that, if they are to be equipped properly, nurseries cost a lot of money. I ask him whether industrialists are to be allowed to treat the capital sums spent on equipping or building nurseries as an expense for purposes of taxation. They are no use for any other purpose. I ask him to look into that point. It seems to me that if a firm is prepared to spend money on a nursery which is obviously quite useless for manufacturing purposes, that amount of money spent ought to be allowed as an expense of the firm.
I cannot pretend to be able to follow the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Shephard) with regard to day nurseries, and which of them have or have not been closed down. I would like to take him up on the point about increased employment of women, which was also mentioned by the hon. Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant) who spoke earlier. I certainly agree with the hon. Lady that a woman's place is in the home; but under the present circumstances, if there is an opportunity, and women wish to use that opportunity, why should facilities not be afforded them to go and work? It is not a question of conscription of women. That would be entirely deplorable at the present time, and possibly would be deplorable however severe the circumstances. It seems to me to present an entirely false view of the whole situation to pretend that women are being bullied to go and work. It is not so. They are being encouraged and afforded the facility to do so, and I do not see why they should not have that facility if they so desire.
I start my remarks tonight by protesting against the ever-increasing habit in this House of a Member getting up and saying that he or she dries not intend to follow the person who has just sat down. That seems to me to be the absolute negation of Debate and I propose to carry on a campaign about it by interrupting every time a Member gets up and makes that remark when he or she commences to speak. Any Members who suggest that they do not propose to follow the Debate should clear out and write a letter to the Press. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why to the Press?"] I am sure that that is a point of view which is shared by a large number of newspapers. Let them engage in some other form of verbal or written activity, if my hon. Friend is touchy on this point. I understand his point of view.
When the hon. Lady—I wish she were here—began her speech, she said that she based all her arguments on her belief that there was no shortage of labour, that there was plenty of labour but that it was not being properly used. I do not accept either of those two theses. I think there is a genuine shortage of labour, but I am not prepared to say that it is all being properly used because I do not know what the term means. If "properly used" is meant to convey that everyone has to be regimented and chased into jobs which one thinks they should be doing, I am prepared to accept the hon. Lady's view that labour is not being properly used. But she proceeded to contradict herself entirely by saying that everyone should be able to choose whatever job he likes and go where he likes when he likes. She apparently wished to give people genuine liberty, which I certainly desire, but I cannot reconcile that with her previous statement, and I think that her argument was useless on that ground.
The hon. Lady went on to indulge in the usual Tory Press campaign of bewildering the people on the question of under-employment and unemployment. As I understand the White Paper—I do not always understand White Papers—paragraph 193, to which she referred, refers to under-employment arising not from the fact of there being too little raw material or too little opportunity to work, but owing to the dislocation arising from change-overs as a result of which there is inevitably a short period of unemployment which might be described as underemployment; and the effect on our productive machinery is bound to be deleterious.
The way in which that was put and the way in which newspapers are inclined to put it, is something against which I protest most strongly—the suggestion that there is likely to be large scale genuine unemployment in the immediate and middle future. I do not think that that is the case at all. I think that the Chancellor was right in the point he made that we depend on the Marshall plan under our present cock-eyed monetary system to enable us to purchase the necessary raw materials to enable us to keep our men employed, there will not be unemployment. He explained that if the Marshall aid plan went through that would not arise, and it is doing a bad service to this country at this moment for any public person or newspaper to give the impression to the workers that there is danger of immediate large-scale unemployment. I do not believe it to be the case, but it is having the effect of making people hold back and feel anxious, and not give of their best.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) opened the Debate. Again, I wish I could follow him. I should like to take him up on several points. He said one thing with which I agree—it may be that he said others, but I refer to this particular one. He said that he thought there was something to be said for changing the name of the office of the Minister of Labour. I agree with him. There is a good case to be made for calling it the Ministry of Manpower and National Service. It is a psychological point, and I think there is a good deal to be said for changing the name to the Ministry of Employment and National Service or the Ministry of Manpower and National Service.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that raw material was all right but that labour was in short supply, thus completely contradicting, in anticipation, what the hon. Lady said. They seemed to be talking from very much the same brief. It savoured very much of the Tory Central Office. Then, much to my surprise, he complained that housing was all wrong. How any Tory Member can stand up in this House and say that sort of thing absolutely beats me. I certainly agree that we have not achieved all that we wanted to achieve in housing. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, who has done such a magnificent job of work in this matter, would be the first to admit that. But we have done far more than a Tory Government would ever have achieved had one been returned to power in 1945. To pretend otherwise is merely deceiving the people.
Listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee) I agreed, not entirely, but to a considerable extent, with what he said about joint production committees, but I am not sure that he and I mean the same thing. I do not believe in high falutin' committees, I do not believe that they are any earthly use. What really matters in production is that affairs that go wrong on the floor should be settled immediately, not kept for a monthly meeting of a body of people who rather pompously sit around a table——
Would my hon. Friend say what other body he would substitute for the regional board? I merely desire that some other type of body not biased on the immediate issue should come and settle it. If my hon. Friend can suggest something else, I shall be obliged.
I have not got up to that level. I am speaking about what I consider to be the vital issue in the shop. I believe that there should be regular shop committee meetings held on the spot, the machine shop, the fitting shop, the foundry and so on. Let complaints be brought forward and settled on the spot, and settled quickly, and not be left to those pompous bodies who think they have authority, which they have not.
My hon. Friend then discussed the question of the proportion of paper workers to productive workers. I interrupted him to say that it was inevitable that as the power of production of one man was increased by machine tools, etc., the number of floor labour or people not engaged in working machine tools but who are just as important in the productive machine, is bound to increase in proportion. I would agree with him, in regard to his reference about paper workers, that there is a danger of the whole system being flooded with paper. In my view, the situation has very much improved since the present President of the Board of Trade took office. There has been quite a considerable diminution in the amount of form-filling, and if one only fills in half of it one can get away with it without anybody noticing. The hon. Member was referring, I suppose, to the paper work that is involved in keeping the machines going, and there is a danger there, but that is always the difficulty of planning any production. You must have a plan on paper; there is no other way. One cannot keep a plan in one's head, and the politicians who try to do it always forget their plans. If we were to carry that type of work into a machine shop, it would not come out all right. These points must be guarded against.
One other difficulty which the hon. Member spoke about was that of increasing the supervisory staff in production today. It is inevitable now that an amount of green labour has to be taken in, but it is no use pretending that this is any immediate use to production. We cannot take in new entrants with no experience and expect them to operate machines. The production does not come out. We need to have a larger supervisory staff than would otherwise be necessary.
Once the basic rate of piece-work earnings has been fixed, it should not be cut. The hon. Member went on to explain to me later what he meant by a sort of bonus on top of high piece-work earnings. I think that is quite a good thing and there is a great deal in it. He also said that there was the danger in the men's minds that, if it was found that they were getting good earnings from high piecework rates, the rates would be cut. There ought to be in any well-organised factory an absolute cardinal agreement that a piece-work price, once it had been fairly fixed, should not be cut, whatever the earnings. Then, of course, there comes this difficulty. If there is a change in the methods of production, where are we? There should be no change unless the methods are changed as a means of getting genuine improvement in production.
I quite agree. I imagine that what we could agree upon is that, if there is a change in the method, the average earnings before the change should be agreed upon after the change of method.
I might agree, but there is a -difficulty. What we want to get into the men's minds is that it does not matter if they earn time and a half, double time or two and a half times, that it would not mean any change in those piece prices unless the method is changed for improved production, and that it should not be used to cheat in order to put the rates down and reduce earnings.
I referred just now to the difficulties of green labour, and this is accentuated by the fact that at present the demands on our manpower for the Armed Forces are very considerable. Now that the Chancellor is here, I will say to him that I Wish he would urge upon his right hon. Friend the scrapping of the Conscription Act. I believe that we could gel an immediate accretion to our manpower of 100,000 young men who would come in at the right stage of development. We lose them now; they go off, and we cannot help it. We have to take what labour exists, but these people do not come back. May I also urge on the Chancellor the question of getting the best out of our manpower? I am not referring to what was mentioned by the hon. Lady. I understood her to say that she thought it was misdirection of labour, in which everybody was in the wrong places.
I want the Chancellor to realise -hat, if we want working men and women to work —people like me, who might be regarded as a not very principled fellow, and ordinary human beings—they want a carrot. I want a carrot; I am not going to work for nothing, and the average man is like that. I am sure my hon. Friends behind me agree with me that a man will not work unless he gets something out of it; that is, unless he is a complete idiot or a saint, and I do not claim to be an idiot and I am certainly not a saint. Therefore, I must have a carrot, and the carrot which I want the Chancellor to give me is the carrot which appeals to the women, because my opinion is that men will only work when women make them. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend suffers from the appalling handicap of bachelordom. I believe that, if the Income Tax was taken off earnings up to £7 a week, it would probably be the biggest incentive to greater production all round, but, if it has got to stay on, in order to maintain this monetary system, then a carrot must be provided.
In other words, I want a carrot which attracts the women. Men will work when women make them, and, if there are attractive things in the shops, the women will tell the men to go to work to bring home a bigger wage packet so that they can buy those things. It is no use saying that it is not so; it is. The whole of this question of a bigger effort is a psychological one. We cannot do it by urging or persuading men mathematically about the figures of the national income and the export gap. They simply say "All right, I cannot add that one up."
I wish the Government of this country would make it clear to the people of this country, and I hope the Minister of Labour will do it——
Will my hon. Friend allow me? May I suggest to him that he should put a speed limit on his speech, because he is speaking so fast that it is very difficult to understand what he says?
I am sorry I was speaking too fast, but, if I speak slowly, I forget what I want to say. However, I will try, but my brain goes faster than my voice.
The next point to which I wish to refer is that the Minister of Labour should make clear to the people what is the Government's policy as regards foreign labour, and I include in that German labour. There are lots of Germans in camps in this country who have nowhere to go if they return to Germany, and who, in the economic conditions prevailing out there, would find, if they were skilled men—I do not say it of the ordinary rough labourers—that there is very little for them to do. There are a number of these men who are skilled men and have nowhere to go, and who could be absorbed into our own industry with advantage to our own workers, but they are not allowed to do it because they must register for agricultural work When they write to me and say that they are highly skilled mechanics or textile workers, I have to write back and say to them, "You clock on as an agricultural worker, and we will see what we can do for you." These people are available and could be put to immediate work, but they are prevented from doing anything else because they must register for agricultural work.
The absence of what I will call a sufficiently emphatic Government policy regarding the use of foreign labour is having serious effects, and this leads to very serious misunderstanding of quite a considerable nature. I believe that if the people of the country really understood that the Government realised the necessity of using these workers who are available, and if the Government would say that it was their policy, the people would accept the proposal with greater good will than some are inclined to do at the present time.
I want to talk to the Chancellor about the overall manpower position. I think it was stated by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate, or by the hon. Lady who spoke later, that there was too much labour, and that, therefore, it was likely that the unemployment position would get worse. I put it to the House that, so long as the Government follow the policy of full employment, and so long as there is a real opportunity for people to work, there will always be a shortage of labour. In point of fact, provided the sources of nature are set free, there must always be more jobs than there are people to do them. That is more or less the position under the Government policy of full employment.
I do not see the slightest possibility of getting back to our 1939 standard of living with this increased labour power at the wheels, and with an ever-increasing export demand in order to pay for our imports, because—for the sake of argument—what, in effect, we are doing is employing 1,500,000 more people than before, and, taking the average family as four persons, that means that there are six million more people who are high consumers instead of on the margin of starvation. Therefore, we must have consumer goods for an extra six million people at a time when we are trying to double our export. That being so, one must recognise the fact that the sky is almost the limit in the capacity of this country to absorb labour, provided the raw materials are available. Of course, I agree that if there is nothing to work on, there is nothing to do; hut, provided the supplies of raw material can be brought in, there need be no fear at all of unemployment. We ought to be able to go to an ever-increasing crescendo of output, confident that there is no fear of people going on short time.
I do not believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer can ever achieve his export programme in manufactured goods, because I do not think the necessary manpower exists. If he wants to do what I think is impossible, namely, to double his export of manufactured goods, he will have to have at least 650,000 more skilled and semi-skilled men at work in this country today. There is not the slightest chance of getting them. In fact, we have to look to our raw materials—and if my right hon. and learned Friend likes, to our capital goods and textiles—to close that gap.
I must now come—if I can find it—to my conclusion. It is that I welcome this survey of the Government. I do not regard it, in the ridiculous Beaver-brook Press attitude, as being a "Black Paper." It is a very good, factual statement. I, personally, would have expressed some of the things in it in a different way, or would probably have put in some things that are not there. But here is something on which we can build, and which was really started in the 1947 Survey. I am confident that if the Government will really say what their policy is with regard to this foreign labour, and if they will make it clear, beyond all possible shadow of doubt, that there is no real fear of any considerable unemployment, now that we see our economic supplies of raw materials almost secure, then, I believe, with the response which each man or woman can make, there is every possibility—I do not say absolute certainty—that, even if we do not succeed in closing our export gap in 1948, there will be not the slightest danger of our not doing so in 1949.
Nobody is immodest more charmingly than the hon. Gentleman. I am very well aware that I do not suffer from this disability, so perhaps it is appropriate that the House should enjoy the rest of listening to my slow-working brain after listening to that lightning performance which we have just admired.
I wish to make two points. The first, which I think hon. Members on all sides can agree with, is that this country is more dependent than, perhaps, any ether great nation on an adequate distribution of its manpower. The second, which I may find more difficult in getting accepted, is that, at the present time, we have not got anything like a happy distribution of manpower. There is nothing in the White Paper which gives one any encouragement to think that we are going to get the right men in the right places. If these two points are accorded, I believe they make a most important indictment of the Government.
If I can, I want to justify them. With regard to the first, we are, I suppose, the only really great nation which has for a long time been absolutely dependent upon imports from abroad. After all, if the rest of the world were submerged, and the United States of America or Russia were left, they could, somehow or other, still survive. But for this country, if the rest of the world were submerged, it would mean that half its population would starve, and I believe there would be a good deal of as to which half it should be.
We are dependent upon vital supplies from abroad because we can only produce about half the food we need, and only a small amount of the raw materials. We have become great, not by digging immense mineral wealth from our soil, but by selling manufactured goods. Therefore, if we are to export enough to enable us to get the vital necessities, it is absolutely imperative that we should have the right distribution of labour. At the present time, we must have the maximum labour in those industries making the necessities of life and the goods which we export, and the minimum in the semi- or absolute luxury industries. After all, a rich woman can afford to be an untidy housekeeper; a poor woman cannot. We are pretty poor today. In fact, it is because we are so poor, and so dependent on essentials from outside, that many of us on this side of the House have been so apprehensive during the last two years at the projects of the Government and about their playing tricks with our economy.
I have tried to show that I think it is desperately important to get the right distribution of manpower in this country. It is very clear to any objective observer that we have not got it today.
I was going to take these figures from the White Paper. The distributive trades, national and local government, transport, and building increased their labour force by 321,000. The 1947 Economic Survey had anticipated an increase of only 22,000. The vital industries, coalmining, agriculture and textiles, only got 98,000, whereas 149,000 had been hoped for. We have found that the planning abilities of the Government have, apparently, in many cases, led them into grave errors, particularly in their anticipation of the amount of new labour available which, in the Economic Survey of 1947 it was thought was going to be 278,000, and was actually over twice as much—611,000.
The hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. I asked him to give the ratio between the 1939 figure of non-productive workers and the figure estimated in the White Paper. If he has not got the figures, perhaps he will forgive me if I read them to him. Out of every 20 persons employed in production in the essential industries in 1939, seven were employed on distribution. As estimated in 1948, there are only five. In transport and shipping they are parallel. In consumer services—the hon. Gentleman could not give me this information—for every 20 in 1939——
I thank you for that information Mr. Speaker. I had thought that, having given way to a question, I was unable to rise to interrupt the speech. I now know I was wrong. Of course, I had the information, because the figures the hon. Member was giving us were published, but I did not think they were very relevant because in prewar days we were a relatively wealthy nation, with vast resources and we could afford all sorts of luxuries that we cannot afford now. We could, then, perhaps, afford 1,400,000 people in Government and local government services, but we cannot afford 2,100,000 people there today.
As to the maldistribution of labour today, I would like to quote from the leading article of "The Times," which I think is very relevant:
The latest labour returns strongly suggest that the 'new labour controls' are not yielding the quick and substantial results which could be their only justification. The manpower budget for 1948 is so precariously balanced, even on paper, that a deficit in terms of essential output seems almost certain.
There are two Ministers who are able to re-allocate and redistribute labour. First, there is the Minister of Labour, who can do it by direction. If he were in Germany, as before the war, or in Russia today, and he was clever enough to do so, certainly he could carry on with it because he would have machine guns and concentration camps to enforce discipline. I do not believe the Minister of Labour has got the heart or the head for that job. I do not want in any way to be disrespectful to the organisms of the right hon. Gentleman; I am only making the suggestion on the assumption that his heart is typical of the average Englishman who loves liberty and freedom above everything else and that his head is typical of the average occupant of the Front Bench.
The other Minister who can, of course, redistribute labour is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is why I hope he is going to take part in the Debate today——
—because it is possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by seeing there is a fair balance between demand and supply, to make the price mechanism work. Unfortunately, he is paralysed by the inflationary policy of his predecessor who has virtually tied his hands up to date by it. The Government's experiment in suppressing inflation by a system of controls has completely broken down—as we on this side of the House have repeatedly said we were sure it would, and now in fact it actually has—and the latest Government White Paper actually says, in paragraph 217:
No system of economic controls can be wholly proof against strong and persistent inflationary pressure.
I do not want to belittle the need for controls on occasions. I realise, of course, that after the dislocation of a great war it is inevitable that there will be bottlenecks, and unless there are some controls prices will soar and will perhaps remain high even when those bottlenecks have been eliminated, thereby adversely affecting the cost of production. Controls are, no doubt, necessary on occasions and they help by temporarily cushioning the rise
in prices, provided that production increases. Where I maintain that controls are disastrous is when they are preventing production from increasing, and I believe we may be approaching that time now. We have seen in Germany how the whole system has been undermined by controls and the effect on production has been catastrophic. I believe today the Government are fighting a losing battle with inflation. They are having to add control upon control; that means more snoopers, more cost investigators, more prosecutions, until finally we shall have more people controlling than being controlled.
I believe today we have got a great deal of concealed unemployment owing to the appalling shortage of raw materials. It is an awful thought to realise that in paragraph 28 of the White Paper it says:
Clearly, with our financial reserves it so dangerous a point, we cannot afford a heavy investment in additional materials. But clearly also such an investment would bring a rich return.
We have, indeed, been brought to a very low state if we cannot afford to buy the raw materials to make production efficient. I believe there is probably nothing interfering with vital production more than this lack of raw materials. It means that factories can have no rhythm, because, all over the country they have to stop production to switch over from one material to another and so eke out their insufficient supplies. There can be no proper rhythm in production unless there are adequate reserves on which to base their plans for the future. Now we have a clear admission from the Government that we are not able to create the stocks which would bring such a rich return.
I had hoped that the Chancellor 01 the Exchequer would speak today and I was going to ask him if he would make two admissions. First, if he would say how much he regretted that his predecessor should have boasted as lately as 15th April last year, in his Budget Statement, that:
Today there is plenty of purchasing power. That has been our ailD."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th April, 1947; Vol. 436, c. 54.]
He took obvious satisfaction in the very substantial increases in expenditure on the social services, coming on top of vast increases in the preceding year.
We have tried to live better than we can afford. We have reduced the hours of work, raised the school leaving age, lowered the age of retirement, expended vast sums on housing and medical services and kept down prices by subsidies. All these things are highly desirable, except perhaps the last. I am not sure in our present position it is wise to pay out subsidies to rich and poor alike, whether they need them or not, but for the rest I entirely agree that they are desirable provided they are not going to jeopardise what is much more vital, and that is the food of the people. I realise it is very difficult to admit one has been wrong, and knowing the Chancellor of the Exchequer I think he would dislike admitting that one of his colleagues had been wrong even more than admitting that he had been wrong himself.
There is, however, a second admission which I should like to ask the Chancellor to make. If we could have a clear admission on these points, it would encourage the country a good deal, because everybody knows we are in a mess—there is no question about that—but if the Government could say they knew how they got there and where they have gone wrong, there would be a little more hope for the future. I should like to hear the Government admit that they did not sufficiently realise that our attempt to consume more than the supplies available was adversely affecting the balance of payments. Apparently, from previous speeches of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, there has been the idea that external expenditure and internal expenditure were quite independent of one another. I always got from him the impression that, provided he had an effective favourable Budget balance, that was all he could do in the matter. Surely, it is absolutely clear that to the extent to which we consume more than we produce we must be drawing upon our gold and foreign exchange, thereby endangering our balance of payments position.
The Government's attitude to inflation —which I believe is so largely the cause of the mal-distribution and inadequate production of the country today—has taken the very usual line that Governments have always taken. First of all there is the denouncement of spivs. That has always been the case, because in the first instance Governments do not seem to realise that spivs are not the cause but the inevitable consequence of inflation. To denounce them is about as useful as denouncing the spots on a man's face when he has got measles. Then, according to historical precedent, the Government start a widespread measure to resist a rise in prices, again not realising that, if there is inflation, that is only nature's cure if nothing is done about it. To try to suppress a rise in prices by controls is about as effective as trying to cure a man with fever by putting the thermometer into cold water. That is the Blum phase, which failed in France: that is the phase through which we are now passing. Finally, we shall come to the third phase when we take a realistic view and attack the causes of inflation instead of the effects; but history shows us that that generally requires a new doctor. We must have an orderly reduction in the standard of living——
Would not the hon. Member agree that a more preferable procedure would be to do everything possible to achieve a better standard of production, in order to avoid that progressive reduction in the standard of living?
Obviously, it is far more pleasant to lengthen the short leg than to shorten the long leg. We must do everything in our power to return to that period of comparative abundance which we had in the inter-war years, and which at the time of the General Election we were told to expect. One reason why we have not done so is the inflationary situation caused by attempting to spend more than we possess. Therefore, putting first things first, we must get down to living on what we have got before we can hope to get better production. We must face the fact that in our nation's industrial youth, 100 years ago, we were a rich nation with a start in the world, and with conditions in our favour; we worked very hard and saved a lot. Today—through no fault of our own—we have lost those savings. Conditions have been against us, we are not working very hard, and have a very high idea of what we can afford. We must adjust ourselves to the facts and come down to earth. Obviously, it is imperative that this reduction in our standard of living should be orderly and fair all round. Clearly, it would not be fair to knock £50 a year off everybody's income, for that would cause terrific hardship to those in the lower income groups. At the same time, we must not make such reductions as will be a disincentive, and which would reduce the amount of goods available. In fact, we must not sacrifice the principle of efficiency for the principle of equality, because to do so may bring down the standard of living of the worker lower than would otherwise be the case.
I maintain that unless the Government spend much less than they are now spending, and consume a far smaller proportion of the country's goods, the cost of living must go up. There will be no other alternative. However, we must ensure that it takes place in such a way as will inflict least hardship on those who can least bear it. Two years ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:
What we roust guard against … at all costs, is a foreign indebtedness that we cannot discharge or an inability to import essential foodstuffs and commodities from abroad, without which we can neither live nor work."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1946; Vol. 419, C. 2213.]
The right hon. and learned Gentleman must realise today that we have arrived at just that condition. Without incurring further foreign indebtedness we can no longer afford to buy those goods which are vital to us. But have we taken all steps to avoid that situation? Quite clearly we have not. We have gone ahead with a vast plan of expenditure; we have avoided doing all sorts of things which might have got us right. We are in a real mess today, which I believe is due, not nearly so much to what the Government have done—to their nationalisation or other schemes, which may cost us dearly later on—as to what the Government have not done, because they have failed to plan.
It is no good bickering about who is to make the sacrifices: all sections of the community must make sacrifices, and that requires leadership. We have been denied that leadership which is vital if were are to recover. As we have been told repeatedly in the White Paper, we shall be in a position to get the raw materials to maintain our present standard, and the food we need, only if we borrow again from America. I believe that the United States, in their generosity, will give us another breathing space. But to my mind it is vital that in that breathing space we make the adjustments, however painful and however drastic, which will get us on our feet again, and make us independent. It is monstrous that we should use this time merely to put off the day of reckoning. It is unthinkable that the United States of America should be called upon indefinitely to support us as pensioners. And it is quite intolerable that we should accept that situation.
Daring the last 12 months or so we have had in this House many Debates on the economic situation. In those Debates almost every speaker has stressed one thing: the need for more production; more production in order to close the gap in our balance of payments; more production in order to relieve the inflationary pressure; and more production in order to raise the standard of living of the British people. Whatever differences may exist as to the cause or character of the present crisis, I believe there is general agreement that more production is the one thing vitally necessary in order to overcome the crisis.
In this task of producing more the proper use of our manpower is of fundamental importance. Productive labour is the most vital element in our economy. It is not, as economists like to say in their textbooks, simply one of the factors of production: it is the one creative agent in the productive process. Machines and materials are dead and inanimate things unless living labour is applied to them. In the words of Sir William Petty: the founder of classical political economy:
Labour is the father and the earth is the mother of all wealth.
Economists have travelled far since then, but in these days of crisis we all have to come back to this basic and fundamental truth. There are four aspects of this manpower problem. First, there is the size of the available labour force; secondly, there is its distribution throughout the economy; thirdly, there is its distribution within industry, or, as the economists say, the division of labour, and, fourthly, there is the productivity of each unit of labour.
These are large and complex questions, and I have no time to deal with them all. I propose, therefore, to confine my observations to the distribution of labour throughout our economy.
Since this Government came into power, we have heard a great deal about the overall shortage of labour. I am sure that the significance of that will not be missed by the workers of Britain. In the past, our problem was not a shortage of labour, but a surplus of labour—not too few men for the jobs, but too few jobs. Since then, the wheel has turned full circle, and whatever our present difficulties, we do not want to see it reversed. Apart from the fear of war, the workers of Britain have one dominant fear, and that is the fear of the return of mass unemployment. That, I believe, is the one thing which will make the workers of Britain lose confidence in this Labour Government, and I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Labour will take special note of that.
I do not accept the view that there is an overall shortage of labour. An absolute shortage of labour is a quite meaningless expression. It is as meaningless as an absolute shortage of population; indeed, it comes to the same thing—we cannot add to the one without increasing the other, and I do not think anyone will argue that these islands are under-populated. Our problem, therefore, is not a shortage of labour, but maldistribution of labour. The task which faces this Government and the British people is to secure the redistribution of our available labour force in accordance with our national needs. This is the starting point of any policy of putting first things first.
It is no use allowing labour to be drained from productive sources into nonproductive activities. It is no use allowing labour to be drained from production into distribution, when the available goods for distribution are being reduced in quantity. Lastly, we cannot afford the basic industries, coalmining, textiles, and agriculture, to be deprived of essential manpower, when the products of these industries are absolutely indispensable for our national salvation. Yet this is happening now, and it has been happening for quite a long time. We cannot overcome this crisis until these tendencies are reversed. This, I believe, is the most urgent problem that faces us in 1948.
It is clear that the present distribution of our manpower is completely unsatisfactory. We are not using our labour force in the best national interests. The Economic Survey for 1947 made that perfectly clear. The present position is that we have a whole variety of anomalies in the utilisation of our available manpower. For one thing, our most important basic industries are seriously undermanned. Secondly, in the less essential industries there is too much labour in relation to the available supplies of raw materials. Thirdly, non-productive and non-essential activities absorb far too large a proportion of our available labour force.
In some areas, notably in London and the Midlands, there is a shortage of labour. I understand that the local employment exchanges have far more vacancies than can be filled from the local working population, whereas in the Development Areas —and I come from one of the worst—we have vast pools of unemployment, and have had them for many years. We have over 40,000 people unemployed in South Wales. They are not temporarily unemployed for a day or a season, but it is a long drawn out helpless and hopeless process which is undermining the hopes of prosperity for this area and for these people. All this shows a serious lack of balance in our economy. This, in turn, reflects itself in a lack of balance in the use of our labour force. We are not using our labour to the best national advantage, and this aggravates and intensifies the economic crisis, and makes it far more difficult to overcome it.
This lack of balance in our economy is no postwar phenomenon. This was not something which was invented when this Government took office in 1945. Its roots go back far into the inter-war years. No one will argue, I am sure, not even hon. Members opposite, that we made the best use of our labour force in the inter-war period. For one thing, we had a vast army of unemployed, ranging from one million to three million. During the whole of that period, the Development Area in South Wales from which I come had the highest percentage of unemployment in the country. There was this surplus of labour, and no one bothered about the basic organic disequilibrium affecting the economy. The problem was there, but it was concealed. An army of two million unemployed provided an iron curtain which concealed this disequilibrium from the eyes of the economists and from the eyes of the ordinary people. Since this Government has been in power, with the application and implementation of the policy of full employment, that iron curtain has been torn down.
We can all see now that the economy is badly out of balance and needs drastic and far-reaching readjustment. This disequilibrium has been going on for a long time. During the inter-war period, our basic industries were declining. The numbers in employment in them fell each year. Between 1927 and 1937, coalmining employment dropped by 26 per cent.; the cotton industry by 28 per cent.; the pig iron industry by 26 per cent., and shipbuilding and ship repairing by 18 per cent. During the same period, there was an enormous increase in employment on non-productive, non-essential and, if I may use the expression, parasitical activities. Between 1927 and 1937 employment in entertainment and sport increased by 105 per cent.; in hotels, restaurants, public houses, clubs and boarding houses by 157 per cent.; in professional services by 53 per cent.; and in the distributive trades by 51 per cent.
These figures show that our economy was in a dangerously unhealthy state during the inter-war period. It was seriously out of balance. This went on for 20 years or more, and no real attempt was made to correct it. We were developing a spiv economy, and, even worse, these tendencies were creating a spiv psychology. These tendencies, which operated during the whole of the interwar period, were temporarily submerged by the war. Since the war, this pattern of economy has re-emerged and it is now aggravated by inflation. Surplus money, in the form of capital, drains labour and materials away from production and the important industries to less essential and less productive activities. Inflation always aggravates every unhealthy tendency in the economy.
Now we are faced with a very serious disequilibrium. It is not going to be easy to correct it. It is going to be a long-term job, but it has to be done if we are to overcome the present crisis. The Government, of course, are quite aware of the seriousness of the problem. In last year's economic survey a special section was devoted to the problem of the distribution of manpower, and a series of targets were set for some of the most important industries. It was evident that the Government attached a great deal of importance to those targets, because they said that the achievement of the objectives of the White Paper could only be guaranteed if the manpower targets in the basic industries were reached.
The survey for 1948 enables us to compare and to assess how far these targets have been reached. If we examine the figures, I am afraid that we are all bound to come to the conclusion that the results are most unsatisfactory. People have been entering the wrong industries. That is one very clear lesson of the statistics in the 1948 Survey. Our under-manned industries have been far short of their target, and the non-essential industries have exceeded their targets considerably. From August, 1946, to August, 1947, 1,300,000 people entered industry—new manpower available for industry. NN hat use was made of this huge army of labour? One hundred and sixty thousand went into distribution; 191,000 went into other consumer services; 45,000 went into entertainment and sport; only 17,000 went into agriculture and fisheries and 12,000 went into agriculture alone. In the coalmining industry, which is our basic industry, without which everything goes, there was a net increase in employment of only 20,000. The Economic Survey showed clearly that we were short of the target in every one of the essential industries. In coal we were short by 12,000; in textile and clothing by 91, coo; in agriculture and fisheries by 30,000; and in distribution services the target was exceeded by 178,000. These figures reveal a very serious state of affairs. They reveal, I am afraid, that we are not putting first things first. Until we do that we cannot hope to overcome the present crisis.
The root of our trouble is that we have not enough producers especially in coal, textiles, agriculture, pig iron and the other basic industries. On the other hand, we have far too many people employed in non-productive and non-essential activities. These services are absorbing far too large a proportion of our available labour force, and the numbers are increasing. At the same time, we have had, as the result of the export drive and the import cuts fewer goods to distribute and more people distributing them. There are many forms of inflation. The most pernicious form is too many distributors chasing too few goods produced by too few producers. That is the root of our problem and until we put this right we cannot hope to overcome the present economic crisis.
The hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) did some service to the House by pointing out that the maldistribution of labour is perhaps our most signal difficulty at present. The Government are perhaps entitled to say that to put seven million people back in their jobs in a few years is a pretty good job of work. There is a reasonable case for those who sit on the Government Front Bench saying that those of us who cavil at the small percentage of maldistribution are not recognising the good work that has been done. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) was at pains to point out that we in this country feel the maldistribution of labour much more quickly than other countries, because we have to use so much of our production for export, and we have to export precisely those products which other people wish to buy and not those that we wish to produce. Therefore, our labour force must be directed specifically into certain channels.
I quarrel with the hon. Member for Neath and other hon. Members opposite about the way in which it is apparently conceived that in a democracy one can order about the labour force. It is an extraordinarily difficult thing in a democracy to try to alter the pattern of its economy. It is particularly difficult to do it when we have a level of employment as high as it is at the present time. Those who face the facts must realise that it is quite impossible even to guide the economic forces which, in our conception as Conservatives, ought to be guided by the State. If we had totalitarian powers we could do it as the Russians do. The Soviet Government sent four million people to the other side of the Urals when German invasion threatened, and issued an order that they were not to return. They have not returned. In this country, with our present democratic outlook and the fact that we have too high a level of employment, it is extremely difficult to control our economy and change the nature of men's employment by the means at our disposal.
There are, I think, definite wastes existing. The first is obviously that of the Civil Service and, to some extent, of the Armed Forces, and the second is in industry itself, where during the war there developed far too many administrative workers. Hon. Members opposite have quoted the relationship between distributive workers and producers. That in itself is alarming, but the figures as presented in Government guide books do not give a complete picture, because if we look at the ratio of administrative people engaged in manufacturing industry to the actual producers, we find that during the last 20 years that ratio has increased enormously and that during the last eight or nine years it has advanced at an ever-increasing rate. Why has it increased? For the simple reason that E.P.T., plenty of profits and easy prices encourage the over-elaboration of administration. Almost every business in this country could cut down the costs of administration. Far too heavy an administrative load is being carried.
As to the Civil Service, it is quite unreasonable for the Government to ask industry to take the position seriously when they have two million local and national civil servants, and it is sheer nonsense for them to say that they cannot do with fewer. Is there a Member in this House who believes that every civil servant employed by the Ministry of Supply is necessary? I hope there is not an hon. Member who believes that. Is there any Member who believes that some very severe pruning in the Ministry of Works could not be carried out with good effect?
Assuming that we dispense with large numbers of civil servants, what does the hon. Gentleman suggest they should do? Does he suggest they should go into heavy industry or some other kind of industry?
The hon. Member for Neath asked me where they would go, but that is not the point. Because of the nature of their work they contribute towards an inflationary pressure, and the fact is that the Government have been spending so much of the national income on employing these people——
There are vacancies in work of a productive nature in various parts of the country, and the reduction of the number of civil servants and their absorption into work allied to production would help. The Armed Forces, I have argued, are in present circumstances a wastage of labour. I am one of those who believe that 12 months' conscription is not the best form. We ought to reach the conclusion now that a period of six months' conscription would be a much better length of time. Twelve months is not long enough to train a specialist and too long for basic training. In view of the difficulties that we face today, there ought to be some alteration in the present length of National Service.
There have been many questions today as to whether or not there is a shortage of labour. The answer is that, in general, this country is not short of labour. I look with a good deal of fear on this policy of importing large numbers of foreign workers, because our basic longterm problem should be to find employment and food for over 48 million people. I feel that we should not, in looking at the immediate problem, lose sight of our long-term difficulty. To import foreign workers is to take too much notice of the immediate problem and too little of the long-term problem. Our problem will be solved by better methods of redeployment and by greater efficiency, and if we attempt to solve it by importing more labour, in effect we avoid the true solution of efficiency and the redeployment of our forces. That is true of industry generally and of the cotton industry more than any other.
I said a short time ago that over-employment is a bad thing. Over-employment has just as much evil behind it as under-employment. Over-employment means lower output. It can be definitely said that there comes a point in employment beyond which there are diminishing returns, as for instance if there is employment to the extent that we have in this country, and there is a lower output figure than a smaller number of persons in that industry would give. There is also lower quality, and to a nation specialising in quality that is not an unimportant factor. Then there are far too few trainees. In the engineering industry today, for example, where are the skilled toolmakers of tomorrow? It is very difficult to find them. There are plenty of bodgers who rushed into the business, getting into it by a few weeks' or months' training, but the craftsmen who made our industry, and upon whom we must depend, are, not there. That is one of the evils of over-employment.
What is the remedy? What does the hon. Member advocate—a period of deflation which will automatically ensure a pool of unemployment in order to counteract these evils about which he is talking?
I was merely saying that if the Government allow themselves to get into an inflationary condition where there is an over-demand for labour, it will bring in its trail a much less satisfactory position than would be the case if the demand for labour were better balanced. What we have to do is not, as an experiment, to indulge in large doses of inflation, but to try to find the optimum point at which we have a reasonable reserve and a mobility of labour so that we can maintain quality and apprenticeship, in particular. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) should not try to make political capital out of this, because it is a most important aspect of the national problem.
I am not saying that the workers in this country are not doing their job. The dockers are not doing their job, nor are many builders, but apart from them, the workers of this country, who are the best in the world, without any doubt at all, are doing their job, and too much complaining by this or that side of the House is not in the national interest. We ought to say quite clearly that managements are not doing their job, because precisely this feature of over-employment and over-demand which make things bad from the point of view of the useful employment of the labour also operates in the case of managements. Managements today do not have to go round their factories trying to improve efficiency when the profit is not big enough. All they have to do is put something on the price. They are no longer driven to the most efficient method of production, because the Government protect them. Far too many businesses are based upon the 1939 output and protected by Government decree, and far too many people with energy and enterprise are excluded from the chance of competing with them. That is not by any means a desirable situation, and it can be remedied only by getting this better balance between supply and demand.
I have suggested three ways by which that might be done—reducing the numbers in the Civil Service, reducing the length of conscription, and redressing the over-weighting of a large number of our industries. In future, industry in this country must contain a higher technical efficiency than ever before. We have, first, to get the balance back in our labour forces and get actual production and then we have to face the problem of getting production at the right price. Those are the two stages. To do that we have to change our outlook. We have to abandon restrictive practices—and they exist on both sides, despite denials made by one side or the other. We have to get competition back into industry, because it is the lifeblood of industry and of progress.
We have to show that production is the thing that really matters; we must glorify production, if necessary; we must get a much better tempo into our industrial life. If we cannot get the machines regulated properly, which is the best thing, we must have piece-work. The Minister said recently that he did not know whether there had been an increase in piece-work since 1938. Only one per cent. more of our labour force is affected by piece-work than was the case in 1938. That is not good enough; our industrial future depends upon our productive efficiency, and I would remind the House that we had lost the race by 1938. By then, America was producing at over twice the man-hour rate that we were producing. The distressing feature is that we are not catching up with America. We are lagging further behind.
Between 1937 and 1948 America increased her national productivity by nearly three times, in terms of monetary values. We did not, in those terms, increase our national productivity by double. Even allowing for the disparity between the increase in American and British prices, it means that during the war the Americans increased their national productivity at a much greater rate per annum than we did. Before the war, our average rate of increase was 1½ per cent.; in America it was 3½ per cent. In the last five, six, or seven years the Americans have accelerated their increase in national productivity, and we have slowed down. Those are very serious facts. If we have to sell more goods in a world in which the demand for manufactured goods is decreasing, and not increasing—and that is the salient point—we can only do it as a result of greater efficiency inside our own industry. We can only get it if we shake off the old ideas. The Government will render service to the nation if they can convince people of the necessity for greater efficiency and greater production, and get those engaged in industry to abandon their old ideas.
Up to now, the Government have not succeeded in convincing the mass of the people of the urgency of our situation. No one would imagine that we were living on the edge of bankruptcy, with our gold reserves running out. If the Government, who are supposed to have the confidence of the workers, are to justify themselves in history at all, then they must accomplish this task as soon as possible. It has not been done yet, and I hope that, for the sake of the nation, which is even more important than the Labour or Conservative Parties, the Government will succeed in bringing about this realisation quickly, and will get down to the job of saving themselves from the disease which may well overcome them.
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. W. Shepherd) in his references to a high rate of employment. That is something which, of course, is of vital concern, and we must see that the workers of the country are not enticed away from productive jobs to the non-productive jobs. It is interesting to notice the suggestions which have come from the opposite benches—for instance, from the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) about the need for more planning. That is the sort of thing for which this Government have been criticised, and it is difficult to follow that line of argument in any degree when their proposals are so contradictory. I believe that the labour distribution of this country is of prime importance. If we do not solve our manpower problem, and cause our manpower to go into productive industries, where it can produce at a sufficiently high rate to satisfy the needs of this country and the export trade, then we are faced with only one alternative—mass emigration. That is the only way by which people will be able to find food.
I want, however, to refer particularly to the Civil Service. I gave notice that I would raise this matter on the Adjournment, when I put a Question to the Prime Minister on 4th March about the size of the Civil Service. I am glad that I have been able to catch your eye this evening, Mr. Speaker, in preference to balloting for the Adjournment, which is always an uncertain thing to do. I rather regret, though, that I have caught your eye at this moment, because there is only one member of the Government, the Minister of Labour, at present on the Front Bench, and the Civil Service is not his particular responsibility. I think there is a major case to be made out for the transfer of the Civil Service, however, to the Ministry of Labour, because in any industry it is unusual, and considered to be bad management, for labour control to be in the hands of a chief accountant. There is an argument which can be made out for the Civil Service coming under the control of the Minister of Labour, so that the whole of the manpower of the nation is then his responsibility.
I am very concerned at the increase of the non-industrial side of the Civil Service from over 382,000 in 1939 to over 691,000 by 1st January this year. From such contacts as I have had with industry, I believe that industrialists still need to find adequate manpower for our basic industries in order to satisfy demand. If they could get these workers they would be able to produce steel and other essential commodities to a much greater extent than today. I think it would be a good thing if there could be a transfer progressively from the non-industrial ranks of the Civil Service to productive industry, and if some of our black-coated workers could think in terms of getting their hands and faces black instead.
I would like to refer back to the Adjournment Debate of 21st January, in which I spoke of the operation of industrial controls by the Civil Service. I believe that the way in which the bureaucracy is functioning is tending to hold up productivity, and to undermine the economic stability of the nation. Replying to that Debate, my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said that in criticising the Civil Service I was showing that I did not like the Government. That was hardly a fair deduction to make, because the Government were not responsible, in the first place, for organising or building up the Civil Service, or for its methods. The Civil Service was already very mach inflated as a result of the war, and in any case the Prime Minister himself was, only last year, convinced of the need for an overall reduction as part of the Government's policy — in fact that there should be a reduction of some 10 per cent. If I was in agreement with the Prime Minister himself only last year, I think it was a little unjust of the Financial Secretary to say that I was working against the Government in suggesting that an investigation should be made into the size of the Civil Service and the way in which it functions.
The House, particularly those of us on this side, ought to know, why there was a change in the policy of the Government in departing from this idea of a need for a reduction. I know that some reduction has taken place, but I do not think it is enough. The change in policy has come about because Ministers have consulted with their Departments, and have been told with perhaps some justification, that the Civil Service is working under great strain at the present time and is, in fact, overworked. The Departments point to the new tasks which are being laid upon them as reasons for the impossibility of complying with what was, at that time, the Prime Minister's decision. I have had a very interesting booklet sent to me about the Civil Service; it was produced by the National Whitley Council, and seeks to justify the present size of the Civil Service. It refers, in particular, to a remark made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in June, 1946, in which he stated:
The Civil Service of this country, is, of course, not perfect, but in my view, and I think in the general view, it is the finest in the world. Staffs are now grossly overworked. There is not the slightest doubt about that.
The booklet goes on to say:
As in large organisations, there are bound to be small pockets of staff here and there which through poor supervision or faulty planning, are temporarily underemployed. But even if perfection were achieved, the elimination of such cases would make no noticeable difference to the size of the Civil Service.
This small booklet is rather too much of an apology for the Civil Service and does not do justice to the facts of the case. It is clear, I believe, that the 10 per cent. reduction should be a minimum and not a maximum target to which to work.
As a result of the Adjournment Debate to which I referred, I received a considerable number of letters from civil servants or retired civil servants. They wholeheartedly supported the points I have made. It was interesting to note that the most concrete suggestion for reduction in the Civil Service came from those who knew, from experience over a period of years, the methods by which the Civil Service functions. The information that I have points to inefficiency at the top levels because of the method by which the administrative staff are recruited. After leaving university, these people have to face a very stiff examination, at the age of 22 or 24. I do not believe that the ability to pass a stiff examination at that age is any qualification for a responsible job in the public service as an administrator.
Administrators are not found in that way. Those who pass stiff examinations may be very intellectual, but they may not be good administrators. There are better ways of finding good administrators. Certain methods have been used to supplement the examination system, I know, but a great deal more has to be done to make certain that we get good administrators for the public service. I recall the methods that were used during the war to find men who would be most likely to be good leaders in the Armed Forces. I would refer, in passing, to the most excellent scheme that was worked out by the Army for officer selection, by the application of certain principles of good management. The need now is just as great as it then was, to get first-class leaders in our public service.
The present method is all too likely to find some good men and some bad men. It may well be justifiable to suggest that 50 per cent. of our senior officials are good administrators and that 50 per cent. are indifferent or poor. If we add to that the war recruitment by which the Civil Service has increased to a certain extent, and consider also the fact that the best men have been called back from the public service to go into industry, we may say that the number of administrators in our Civil Service contains more than 5o per cent. who are poor. I consider that to be a very serious state of affairs for the country.
It is a matter of special concern to a Labour Government which is going forward with a Socialist policy. This Government is setting the administrative machine a vastly different task from any that it has fulfilled before. In the past, it may not have mattered very much whether the Civil Service was efficient or inefficient. In fact, if it had been efficient in the past it might have shown up the defects of private enterprise, and that would never have suited a Conservative Government. Matters have changed, and now hon. Members on this side of the House should show the Government that they view these matters with great concern.
There has been too much conflict between the technically trained civil servant going into a technical department like the Ministry of Supply or the Ministry of Works, and those who have gone into the administrative service. The tendency has been to keep out of the more responsible posts those who were technically trained and to fail to take into consideration the need that, in Ministries primarily concerned with technical problems, it is the technicians with administrative ability who should have the senior posts of great responsibility. That principle does not apply at the present time. The cloistered atmosphere of the Civil Service is not conducive to the cultivation of great administrative talent.
There should be some means—and I throw this suggestion out to the Minister of Labour because he is familiar with the methods of training within industry, which should apply also in the Civil Service—whereby men could be transferred from the administrative to the executive grades or vice versa. If they are not c…pable of good administration, it should be possible to transfer them, to the executive grade and if executive civil servants have proved themselves to be good at administration, they should be given a chance to make good progress. It is the only way to encourage enthusiasm in the Civil Service by giving the keen, capable men plenty of scope. I have made contact with civil servants, particularly in my own district. It is an industrial part of the country where many industrialists and trade union leaders feel that production is being held back because the controls are not functioning efficiently.
I know one civil servant, who is a very hard worker and a trusted man. His opinions were not formed hastily and are such as can be taken notice of. On one occasion he was talking to me after a heavy week's work in the Board of Trade. He told me he had discussed his work with another official there and had asked him: "What have we achieved this week?—nothing tangible or constructive." That man felt a keen sense of frustration, That is not good enough. It must be possible for responsible public officials to feel that there is an objective towards which they can work, such as is provided in most large undertakings. It is vital that people shall understand what they are working for, so that they can fulfil their proper function in any organisation. The larger the organisation the more important it is.
It is interesting to note that the staff of the Board of Trade has increased from about 4,000 in 1939 to more than 14,500 in 1948. A previous President of the Board of Trade sought to prevent such an increase by the use of methods of decentralisation, which industry uses very effectively. He encouraged the building up of the regional organisation, to prevent the creation of a huge bureaucracy at headquarters. That plan worked well, but since he left he has been amazed to find that the headquarters staff at the centre has been built up into a huge department in order to check the checkers who were out in the field. That sort of thing is not good enough. It duplicates and re-duplicates the numbers in the departments in such a way that it increases the overhead of non-productive workers. It is rather like a little ditty which runs:
Big bugs have little bugs
Upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little bugs have lesser bugs—
And so ad infinitum.
The way the Departments build up is like a grit of sand in an oyster, but unfortunately they do not produce a pearl. Contact with individual civil servants tells one what is happening in the Civil Service. They refer to the big bugs, and the little ones either bite those big bugs or scratch their backs. The yes-men scratch the backs of the big bugs and the no-men are inclined to bite them.
I would refer in particular to one Department which has grown out of all proportion to what is justified. It is the Ministry of Civil Aviation, which has gone up and up continuously since 1939, when it had 273 of these non-productivties. In May, 1947, the figure was 4,950; in October, 1947, it had risen to over 5,000; its present estimate approaches 7,000, and it is proposed that it shall rise to 11,000. When the present Minister came into office he said he would make his Department one of the greatest in the Government. If he considers greatness to be numbers, he is certainly getting pretty near his target. That is happening at the same time as the airways Corporations, which are nationalised under-takings, are building up also, that instead of the nationalised undertakings taking responsibility away from the Department by a proper system of decentralisation and doing their executive tasks with a full sense of responsibility, the Department is building up equally. That sort of thing is thoroughly bad management. If that is to spread throughout the Civil Service, our nationalised industries and the country, we shall be faced with an ever-increasing number of people living on the backs of the productive workers, and that is bound to bring down the standard of living and increase production costs in such a way that it will prevent the country from exporting, particularly as the overseas markets become more and more competitive.
As the Minister of Labour is here, I would like to refer to one thing which affects my constituency. It is a small matter, but it is indicative of the way in which the Departments do not view their responsibilities quite as thoroughly as they might. As we are short of steel, everything should be done to encourage production and to remove whatever is hindering production. Only a few weeks ago I visited a steel plant in Middlesbrough which is one of the largest in the country. I asked if there were any great problems or bottlenecks of manpower, and so on, which could reasonably be remedied, and the general manager said it would be a tremendous help if the young mill control boys who were doing an important job could remain at that work instead of being called up for National Service. Those boys operate the controls when the steel is put through the rolling mills. It is an important job and it is to some degree skilled, although it can be learnt within about 12 months. When young fellows are put on that job they become more or less indispensable.
I put the matter to the Minister of Labour, as this probably affected only a few hundred boys throughout the country, and the Minister replied that he did not consider that it was justified. I got that reply—I will give the Minister credit for that—quite quickly, but if the Minister was able to give such a quick reply, I do not believe that he could have investigated this important problem with the thoroughness which it deserves. Perhaps he will be kind enough to look at the matter again, because exceptions are made to the call-up procedure where men are required for vital production, and here is a case where he could help to smooth out a difficulty.
I also ask the Government to give serious consideration to the question of a review of what is a serious overhead cost to the country, namely, the organisation of the Civil Service, to see if there can be a reduction. It is only a question of opinion if I give a few cases or put forward examples for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to look at, but no opinion either of mine or the Government can really matter unless the case has been thoroughly examined. I consider that the Organisation and Methods Division, which is doing very good work on general problems of superficial organisation, is not able to dig deeply enough. Senior members of the Civil Service agree with me that when it comes to fundamental changes, for example, whether or not a Ministry like the Ministry of Civil Aviation could be closed down—it could be closed down by the organisation of an air transport authority to take its place, that authority being a small organisation to supervise general policy-making only and not to take the executive work away from the Corporations—such major decisions can only be decided by the Government itself.
Would it be possible to have without delay a Select Committee or a one-man investigation with expert assessors to go into the matter in order to see if the Government could set an example of efficiency to the country by economising in manpower and at the same time encouraging industry to economise in manpower where it finds that to be practicable?
There will be a certain measure of support on all sides of the House for a great deal of what has just been said by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper). Naturally we should all like to see big reductions in the Civil Service, and, failing that big reduction, most of us would like to demand some form of inquiry into why there was not a big reduction. What we have to face today—or what I have to face—is the very uncertain problem whether it is likely that the present Government, acting along the lines on which they started in 1945, actuated by principles which are entirely Socialistic and bound by their very being to centralise all our activities, will ever be able to reduce the numbers engaged in the Civil Service. That is the doubt in my mind, and I am afraid that in view of the Government's ultra-political approach to present world and national problems, I can hold out very little hope to the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough that he will ever see his desires fulfilled——
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise—I suppose he does not, otherwise he would be on this side of the House and not over there—that Socialism does not mean a big bureaucracy? In those industries which are today run by socialised methods—where those in control understand what socialised methods of organisation mean—the numbers of nonproductive staff are lowered greatly compared with those in industries not so run. The proportion of non-productive workers to productive workers can be shown to fall considerably.
This is very interesting. Industry is becoming steadily nationalised, yet the hon. Gentleman was the first to quote the extraordinary increase in the number of civil servants in the Board of Trade. How does he adjust those two things? We cannot get away from it that even if we nationalise industry we must still have some form of ministerial control. That has been explained to us over and over again. It has also been said that if we do not nationalise our industries, we must get them under control so that they shall not compete with those which are nationalised, and that requires a lot of civil servants.
I say that Socialism depends on control from the centre, and any system which depends on control from the centre is bound to be backed up by a heavy bureaucratic service which is bound to make heavy calls on manpower. I regret that the hon. Member will be disappointed in his desire, but his aim was admirable. His purpose must have been to find more men for work, but he did not quite tell us what he was going to do and how he would get them into work if he got them out of the Civil Service. The tragic fact remains that that is the problem which is really the background of the Economic Survey. In 1947 we had an Economic Survey which took between 32 or 36 pages of paper. It is significant that in 1948 it takes 63 pages of paper to explain the position to the people of this country. And a considerably larger number of people must have been employed to provide the present White Paper.
The problem still remains, how to get the right people into the right work, and how to get enough people into the right work to enable this country to tick over at all. It is exactly the same problem which faced the Minister of Labour when he first assumed office. It is exactly the same problem for which preparation was made before the war had even come to an end. And it is exactly the same problem which is coming closer and closer to the people of this country without changing, but growing larger and more acute because the right steps have not been taken to solve it.
Let us look at it. I have here a list of industries, all in trouble, which cannot get the right people and so cannot produce the stuff, so someone else suffers and, in the end, the whole country suffers. What is the list? Coal, agriculture, iron and steel, textiles. I certainly would not put agriculture second; in many ways I would put it first, because I believe that unless we can settle this problem of food production, it does not matter whether we have more workers in the pits or not, since in the days to come, in the near future, they will not have the food or strength to raise the coal to the surface. I would put it at the top for another reason, that it is the one industry which calls for special treatment, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that his problem in dealing with agriculture is housing.
All these four industries would be helped in finding the labour they need if there were sufficient houses. What a pity the Minister of Health is not attending this Debate. Of all the four, the housing problem is most difficult of solution in agriculture. There is a certain amount of resilience and elasticity in attempting to solve the housing problem in the big industrial centres, but in the countryside there is none. There one is right down to the fundamental fact that there is no accommodation to spare and, added to that, is the fact that the system of agriculture in this country over the last few years has been forced by world conditions, by wars and so on, to change so rapidly in many parts of the country that a great deal more labour needs to be taken on over the whole area than was ever thought possible or necessary. Therefore, the housing shortage is far more acute, and the labour problem is far more difficult of solution in the rural areas.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to do this tonight before he goes to bed; to go to the Minister of Health and tell him that he cannot continue to find chaps to work on the land unless he gets houses. Then let him go—and he will have quite a nice walk on the way home—to the Minister of Agriculture and tell him the same thing. I do not know if the three right hon. Gentlemen ever talk together; I often wonder if Ministers in the present Government ever talk together; but those three Ministers should keep in the closest possible contact. Do they mean to solve this food production problem or not? It was described by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer as the greatest dollar saver. What are they really doing about it?
We have had many big boasts from the Minister of Labour and from other Ministers as to how smoothly the flow of labour out of the Forces has gone since the end of the war. Comparisons have been made between the Liberal administration immediately after the 1914–18 war and the Socialist administration after the last war, always to the detriment of the Liberal administration. That, of course, may account for the forfeiture of deposits in different parts of the country. These boasts are really not justified in any way. How can any Minister of this Government boast that demobilisation has gone smoothly and, at the same time, play any part in the production of an Economic Survey of this kind which shows that labour has gone into all the wrong industries? [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman laughs. It is a perfectly simple thing to empty a vast stadium of people by merely throwing the gates open and saying, "Get out." It is not quite so simple to see that everybody can get to the right railway station and into the right bus, tram and motorcar, and go to the right place.
It is that part of the process which the right hon. Gentleman entirely forgot to carry out when he started to be responsible for the flow of labour. He might have imagined before it started that it would not be quite so easy to guide labour into those industries which needed it most. What steps did he take to put that matter right? He may smile; he may carry on a nice conversation with the Whip sitting beside him; he is probably paying no attention to the remainder of this Debate, but I want to ask him this question, what steps did he take when he saw that the intake of labour into those vital industries which are still undermanned was not going in the right direction? I hope he will be able to answer that question when he speaks on that matter.
I cannot read the Economic Survey to the hon. Gentleman. If he has not read it himself, he should ask his hon. Friends. He will see all the figures there, and he can relate the importance of one industry to another, I will not insult hon. Members by attempting to read it to them, I am here to put forward a case.
If hon. Members opposite, who evidently have not read the Economic Survey, would allow me to continue with my speech instead of putting inopportune questions, that is exactly what I was about to tell them. As I say, the first object is to guide labour into those industries where it is short. If those engaged in industries where there is a likelihood of redundance were told the facts about the industries short of labour, a great many of them would wish to be employed in those industries. The hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. W. R. Williams) may smile, he evidently does not believe in people being told the facts. I wonder if he has ever seen any body of workers from an industrial centre taken down to an agricultural part of the country and shown how farming is carried on? Has he ever seen the effect of taking industrial workers on to the land, where they gallantly spend part of their holidays in helping with the harvest? Has he heard them say, "I did not know there was so much in it"?
Hon. Members opposite do not believe in taking people down to the job and letting them face the facts. Of course not. How much has been done over the air to put across the case of what type of work would be open in those under-manned industries? How much has been done by way of films? How much has been done by organised visits from those industries, which we know will be over-manned shortly, of workers who would like to see how they would have to work in the under-manned industries? Let us take it a stage further down.
What is being done in the juvenile advisory committees and by the juvenile employment officers in this matter? I have with me here two pieces of paper. One is a popular leaflet which is sent round to the schools and to the teachers on the question of juvenile employment. The other is an instruction sent to offices of the Ministry in all the different districts, and it tells all about the grants which can be paid and help given in starting a young man or girl in employment. It certainly tells them all that, but does not say a single word about the industries where labour is short and industries where there is obviously a greater future and better possibility of rapid promotion for those prepared to go into them; not a word——
I have given way twice, and I cannot give way again. I would go on far too low if I did. If we are to attempt to guide people into the industries which the nation needs to have working fully, we need to start at the beginning. We ought to show the parent, the child, and the teacher where opportunities lie. Then we might do something to help solve the problem in a practical way.
There is another question of the training of those who wish to change their employment. I thought the hon. Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee) made an excellent suggestion when he said that possibly the time had come for trade unions, with vast sums at their disposal, to use that money for training for higher grades of skill. Why not start at the beginning? I think the hon. Member would agree that we might well build up a training scheme where those going newly into an industry when over the average age of entry, could get preliminary training necessary to remove or reduce the problem of the heavy overhead caused by additional supervision of the "green entry." That is the real problem today, particularly in the engineering industry. Is any real attempt being made to give the most elementary training to help those moving from one industry, in which they have become redundant, to another where there is a demand for their services? Has anyone worked out what it means to a person changing employment at an age which is above the normal age to enter an industry? I put this forward to the Minister, who at, the moment, may not be so interested in trade unions as some of his hon. Friends, and I hope it will be considered. I think it would be of very great value in starting off those who will be of great help to the country.
Another matter is the use here of European workers. I would like the Minister to tell us what happens when those people are vetted and examined on the other side. I understand that the officers of his Ministry are responsible for seeing that as far as possible, the right men and women are put in the right jobs when they get over here, but I cannot help feeling that the job is not always done with quite the care and attention which should be shown.
In a recent case, which is not the only one I know of, a man and his wife were employed on a farm in this country; the man as a rather low skilled agriculture worker and his wife to help generally on the farm. They were there for some months, and appeared to be quite happy, until the wife received a letter from a textile worker in the North of England which thoroughly unsettled the couple. The wife sent for the officer from the employment exchange, who, after a great deal of deciphering and unravelling, discovered that the letter from the textile worker reported that in her district there were certain machines standing idle because there were no workers skilled and experienced in running them. The wife naturally wanted to go and work those machines. Contact was made with the local Ministry of Labour officer, and the woman was immediately transferred, and the man removed from the agricultural employment. It turned out that the woman was of far greater value to this country than the man could ever be. He was a low skilled worker.
When couples are moved from Europe, is inquiry always made about the real value of the experience each of them has? We may be losing some very valuable workers unless that happens. So much do we know of pre-war occupations and training in certain parts of Europe, that we know almost invariably both husband and wife went to work, and one might be far more skilled than the other.
In general, I end just as I began. The problem is the same as in 1945. Nothing has been done by way of guidance on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to solve the problem. No inspiration has been given, and it does not matter how many factories we have filled, or how many pits we have filled, or how many docks we have filled, unless something better is done by way of guidance or telling the truth to the people, we shall not be helping the spirit of the people. On the spirit of each individual worker the spirit and mood of the nation depends.
I am finding it particularly difficult in the Merseyside area to convince the people that there is a shortage of manpower and that there is a crisis. The reason I am finding it difficult is that at the moment there are 17,000-odd men, 3,300-odd women, and about boo juveniles, unemployed. I had hoped to get an up-to-date classification of the types of people who are registered under different headings, but I have been unable to do so. On Merseyside a large number of physically fit men have been out of work for any period up to about eight months. In those circumstances I think the Minister will agree that to talk about manpower shortage is very foolish, because all these men are very anxious to work. They are not anxious, however, to remain on 24s. a week, if single, or, if married, on 24s. for themselves, and 16s. for their wives.
When the question of transferring them arises, they find themselves in difficulty, because numbers of them are married and have wives and children dependent upon them, and the wages they would earn outside the city area are quite inadequate to maintain the men themselves in the area to which they would be sent and to maintain their wives and children at home in Liverpool. Of course, if the housing situation were better and if we had been able to do more than we have done, or if, between the wars, those having at their disposal vast numbers of unemployed building workers had used that labour to meet the housing situation, the question of transfer would not need to be one of compulsion. When there were depressions in one area of the country, the people would have packed up and gone with their families to an area where there was employment, because they would have been able to get housing accommodation.
It is very difficult indeed to explain the crisis in an area like Liverpool, with its steady mass of unemployed. But, let me say here, that the present unemployment figures of Liverpool are very much lower than they were at any period during the two depressions while the Conservative Government had control of industry in this country. Those figures are vastly reduced, but the problem is still there, and it must be dealt with. It can be dealt with by the Ministry of Labour, if they have to transfer a man, making certain that the amount he is able to send to his family is more than he could give them if he stayed in the area in receipt of unemployment pay. That position must be faced, because men do not like to go away from their families. They feel that they have a responsibility to their family. If we have to send them away for a temporary period, until the type of industry that we require on Merseyside can be brought there, then, obviously, we have to make certain that the families do not suffer from the financial point of view because the man has to keep two homes going.
I said it was difficult to persuade people in Liverpool that there was a crisis. There is a very interesting table on page 41 of the Economic Survey, which gives us the total of the industrial population—the working population. It is estimated that at the end of 1947 the industrial workers in this country were approximately 20,500,000. I have added 4,300,000 children who are receiving family allowances to that number, and I estimate the total to be somewhere in the region of 25 million. What I am anxious to know—and what I hope the Minister will tell me—is, what are the other 23 million in the country doing who are not registered as anything at all? [An HON. MEMBER: "They live on the others."] What is happening? We have 23 million people—if our population, as it is suggested, is 48 million—who are not scheduled in an industrial or any other occupation. If there are 23 million people not registered as working people, then the 25 million people must be producing sufficient to keep those people who are not producing anything.
Let us put another million and a half on the figure. It still leaves us with a large completely unemployed population. I am not talking about the unemployed, amounting to 300,000, who are included with the industrial workers. I am talking about the unemployed who are doing nothing productive at all. If we are to persuade, or try to persuade, people in an industrial area like Liverpool that there is an economic crisis, we have to give them some account of the 20 million whom the other 25 million are working to maintain.
I have to admit that I cannot find any conviction myself in trying to persuade them that there is an economic crisis, because there is no evidence at all that the people who have always enjoyed additional pleasure, additional finance and additional amenities, are in any way doing without the things which they have always had as a privilege. When the working population, in an area which has 17,000 men unemployed, sees that there is no alteration in the living standards of those who have always been in the position of being able to live well, it is perfectly obvious that it is very difficult to persuade them that there is an industrial crisis. The reason that the most difficult industries are finding it hard to get the manpower or the womanpower required, is, I think, because the working classes of this country have commenced to take a leaf out of the book of those representative of the party opposite. They find that the least manual form work brings in the biggest financial return, and they are all making efforts to try to find the easiest way of making a living with the least possibility of industrial injury, industrial accident or difficulty. That is the situation that we have to face.
We have to face it, not because we are responsible for producing it, but because that position has been produced by a century of dominating political control by the Conservative Party, and particularly by the capitalist employers in this country. They have created that position. They have made the industries which are the most difficult and the hardest in which to work, the most badly paid, and they have given the workers in them the most difficult and bad conditions in which to work. What has been done since 1945 in manning-up the industries that are short of labour represents a terrific achievement on the part of this Government. But we have still to face the position that while our internal position is good—it has never been better—our difficulty is to meet the export position.
I believe we must take a strong line in this matter and check up on the 23 million people—let us call it 20 million—who are not doing productive work of any sort, or not working in any way, or making a contribution to the necessary industry of this country. I am not talking about the spivs. I think that word is overdone. I am talking about the people who have never at any time given any assistance at all to the industrial welfare of this country, but have always lived upon the industry and the ability of the other 23 or 25 million people. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the housewives?"] The housewife has a very difficult job. Her responsibility is to sec that her man is fed well enough and is able to go into industry and produce what is required.
just one moment. I know that hon. Members opposite do not like it and I know they will make efforts to get over it, but it is an actual fact. The housewife is not included, unless she is working. I am asking the Minister to try to designate to me who are the 23 million who are not included in these tables. We have to fact the position that there is in this country, and always has been, a very large percentage of people who do not contribute in any way to the industrial welfare of this country. They live on the labour and the industry of the workers. Sooner or later this position has to be faced, because we shall reach a time, not far distant, when it will be a physical impossibility for the industrial workers to keep up production sufficient to meet the needs of those who are not producing, and fulfil export needs as well. The situation, as I see it, is that if we are to persuade our industrial workers that there is a crisis—and I agree that there is a serious one—we have to try in some way to give an indication that every possible source of manpower and womanpower is being tapped. Even those who lave never at any time, up to the moment, taken part in the productive effort of this country, have to be brought in to increase the productive manpower.
I believe that to be the position. I do not see any other way out of it, because I know, as a Socialist, as one Eying among the ordinary workers and being in contact with them, that while they cannot see any difference at all in the method of life of those who have always been privileged, they will never be persuaded that we are in the midst of an industrial crisis, and they will never be persuaded to produce more in the interests of the country as a whole. Some time, and I think in the not very far distant future, this position will have to be faced with a tremendous amount of courage and vigour. We shall have to do something in, the direction of saying that the time has gone completely when we in this country can carry anybody who is not a useful and productive citizen in the community, or we shall find ourselves in greater and graver difficulties than those we are in at the present moment.
I should have thoroughly enjoyed replying to some of the statements made by the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock), but I have made a pledge so far as time is concerned, and I will content myself with saying that it is acknowledged that the middle income groups in this country have made the greatest sacrifice in recent years so far as pleasure, amenities and income are concerned. To prove that point one has only to refer to some of the tables given in the "Economist." Furthermore, I cannot reconcile the hon. Lady's statement as regards a productive worker with the real situation because society has a way of demonstrating how valuable an individual is to the State by the amount of income that person receives. The dock workers and the agricultural workers are just as important as the cotton workers, the steel workers, etc. The hon. Lady must take the picture as a whole.
I had not intended to say as much as that about the hon. Lady's speech, because I want to develop my own theme. The flow of argument tonight has developed on how we can best improve the efficiency of manpower. I do not want to continue on that theme, though that is the most essential part of a Debate of this kind. I wish to strike a note of warning—and I say this to the Minister—that the position of employment today cannot possibly continue. Since the end of the war we in this country have been living in an inflationary period. We have had the benefit of several contributory causes in improving the flow of money. There are the ex-Service men who have spent their gratuities in the last two years. There have been shorter hours of work. We have had the £1,000 million, to which reference has been made, chasing too few goods, and we have had every cause for maintaining a standard of demand such as we have never experienced before. Unfortunately, from many points of view, we cannot possibly continue in the future upon the basis of the full employment which we have enjoyed in the past two years. The Government themselves, against their own inclinations, I know, are deliberating creating unemployment. There is the cutting down of their capital expenditure programme. We have had one reference to the 17,000 building employees out of work in Liverpool.
I am afraid that I misunderstood the hon. Member. At all events, the Government, by their policy of cutting down capital expenditure, are contributing to unemployment. They are, for example, cutting down the number of houses contained in the original Government scheme, due, we are told by the Minister, to the lack of timber. I am not criticising this. I am only stating it as a fact.
This has been unavoidable because of our economic position. Nevertheless, all this means that we shall not be able to maintain full employment. We shall have a certain amount of unemployment, it may be grave unemployment, in the future. The Government should consider the position now rather than wait until that emergency is upon us. In that regard, I ask the Government to consider whether they intend to continue bringing dispossessed people into this country. It is true that the dispossessed person has been most useful in many trades, in particular in agriculture, but I wonder whether at this particular stage, when we are likely to be faced with grave unemployment, it would be considered best to adjust that programme.
Furthermore, we should at this stage begin to think about the question of mass emigration, family emigration. We shall have to get out of the habit of thinking of this country as one unit, and to look upon the whole of our Empire as being potential employers of our labour. Looking back into history we find that the population of this country was only six million in 1750. Then, in 1775 we had the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the invention of the steam engine, and other inventions of a similar nature, which exploited our natural wealth of coal and iron, and increased our population enormously. It increased from six million in 1750 to 14 million at the end of the 18th century, and it developed rapidly during the 19th century. Today we have a population of 50 million.
During the 19th century we were the one workshop of the world—we had no competitors. Since that time America, and before the war Japan and Germany, were coming into open competition, and we found that we could not sell our goods so readily. At present we can only produce four-tenths of our food. The whole economic balance of the nation appears to be out of gear. No nation can, I believe, maintain itself on a reasonable standard of life when it can produce only four-tenths of its food, unless it can secure to itself such a tremendous export trade as I believe to be beyond the bounds of possibility even for this country.
Therefore, we shall have to look further to secure that employment for our people. I wonder whether hon. Members realise that the density of population, which in England and Wales is 740 per square mile, is only 43 per square mile in the wealthy United States. In Canada the figure is three and in Australia only two per square mile. These facts should strike home and make us realise that the Government should plan family emigration. Emigration will take place in any case. The young men will go—they always have done—the best and the cream of our manpower. It does not help the nation to allow only the young men to go. This course only adds the burden of an ageing population to those who are left. I ask the Government seriously to consider the problem of our manpower in relation to unemployment in the future, and plan family emigration to the great and wealthy lands within our own Empire.
Recently, I returned from Canada. I was amazed at the natural wealth of the province of Alberta. I am sure that those hon. Members who heard the Minister for Economic Affairs for Alberta speaking during a visit to the Empire Parliamentary Association must have been deeply impressed. Alberta has the second largest oilfields in the Empire; some of the largest coalfielcls—much larger potentially than our own, with first-rate coal, and easy of access; a wonderful and rich-growing land, and mineral wealth of every kind. One can put clown a pipe into the ground in any part of Alberta and secure natural gas, or literally have one's own gasworks in one's own back yard. In a province with all that great wealth, there is a population of only one million. The Government must think of that and, before great unemployment comes upon us, must seize the opportunity to think deeply about this matter of family emigration; about whether they can maintain full employment—or reasonable employment—in this country in the future; and consider what other steps they must take to secure full employment, bearing in mind the possibilities of our great wealth and resources within our own Commonwealth.
I listened with alarm to the hon. Gentleman advocating the defeatist policy of mass emigration. More than that, when he referred to Britain's glories in the past I could not help thinking that, if we w ere to reduce our population to a figure comparable with that of the 18th century, our prestige and greatness also would proportionately diminish. The strength of this country and its increase during the 19th century ran exactly parallel with the increase in Britain's industrial power and the lead taken during the industrial revolution. The fact that we were able to become the workshop of the world and supply other countries with the manufactured goods they needed to carry on—an economy based not merely on rural and pastoral products but on the manufactures of our skilled manpower—raised Britain to the eminence which she enjoyed during the 19th century and continues to enjoy today.
It is quite clear that if, as the Australian Minister of Immigration recommends, Britain's population should be reduced by 10 million by mass emigration, one can foresee a Britain in which factories will be deserted, fields will be overgrown and houses will lie in decay owing to the absence of the population which should inhabit it. A reversion to pastoral economy would inevitably mean a serious decline in the power, the prestige and in the importance of this country.
At the same time, we must recognise that today there is a steady and an increasing stream of emigration. Unhappily, those people who are going abroad are in many cases the most enterprising and the most skilled. If that process continues and we lose those very few people whose productivity proportionately brings this country its greatest return, we may find that we are left with the semi-skilled, the unskilled, the elderly dependents and all those people who are not productive in the country's economy, but who are dependent on the work of others. Clearly, the more the most skilled and most efficient people drain away from this country, the less able are we likely to be to reach our export targets and so maintain our standard of life.
I agree with the hon. Member for Buckrose (Mr. Wadsworth) that what is vitally necessary today is an emigration and an immigration policy by the Government. At present we see a two-fold movement of emigrants and immigrants. Coming to this country are displaced persons, to many of whom we are glad to offer hospitality but who, nevertheless, for the most part bring only unskilled hands to the unskilled tasks which do, nevertheless, cry out for labour. Moving in the other direction we see a contrary process. We see some of our most skilled people going abroad, enriching the Dominions and Colonies, but correspondingly weakening the power of this country. It may well be that within quite a short time, perhaps a year or two, those unskilled tasks, in agriculture most particularly, which are today so important, may not have nearly the same significance for the economy of this country. If, as seems likely, there are abundant harvests all over the world, we might well want to revert, at a certain point, to a policy of importing basic foods rather than concentrating on their production at home. So we may find ourselves left with a completely distorted labour force—the unskilled hands—while the most skilled workers will have gone abroad.
For these reasons I ask my right hon. Friend whether this evening he will indicate what is the broad policy of the Government on emigration: Do they encourage emigration? Have they liaison with the Dominions in order that there should be a plan for the whole family of British nations? Or is the process to be simply anarchic, with everyone just packing up their bags and going? We can well afford to lose many of the people who leave this country because they claim that austerity is too hard to bear. If they want to take their place in the boat, they must be prepared to pull with the rest of us. I am quite sure no one will regret their departure, but we certainly do not want to see the skilled men, engineers and technicians going abroad because they feel that they have the opportunity of a wider and more ample life.
I have listened with great interest to what the hon. Member has said, but is he not taking too parochial a point of view in looking upon this country as a complete unit, instead of as part of the perfect whole?
I accept the view of the hon. Member but I believe, nevertheless, that Britain must continue to remain the heart and the arsenal of the whole of the British group of nations. For that reason, I think it vitally important that the greatest concentration of skill and capacity should remain in this country.
The hon. Gentleman referred to a matter which I must confess has caused me considerable concern. I refer to the prospect of unemployment which is contained in the Economic Survey. The figure of 450,000 as the prospective number of men likely to be unemployed at the end of 1948, although it is rather tucked away at the bottom of a long table of statistics, is necessarily one which must cause anxiety and concern to everyone in this country. While I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) that one should not exaggerate the amount of unemployment which is likely to develop, nevertheless, it is a fact that, owing to certain specific causes which I will detail in a moment, unemployment will exist in this country and, as forecast in that document, it is likely to reach a quite significant figure by the end of 1948.
The most serious aspect of the matter is that the increase in unemployment is likely to take place in those key industries which are vitally necessary not only for national recovery at home but also for the export market. In particular, I am thinking of the engineering and shipbuilding industries. We have a target proposing for the engineering industry an increase in production by 17 per cent. in 1948 over the last quarter of 1947. That target must be reached with a diminished force and with diminished resources. The point I want to put to my right hon. Friend is contained in the question: What steel supplies is industry likely to get during 1948? I realise that in a Debate on manpower it might not seem relevant to talk about steel, but the fact remains that steel is the conditioning factor which will determine whether there is to be substantial unemployment in this country.
Already, particularly in the Midlands and in the engineering and motor industries, we are beginning to feel the effect of lack of adequate supplies of steel. Even if the target set for the steel industry during the coining year is reached, there is no guarantee that there will be sufficient steel in the Midlands to maintain full employment in the engineering and motor industries. For that reason, I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether, in the negotiations for supplies under the Marshall plan, any provision has been made for the import of steel from America. We all welcome the consumer goods which may be made available by means of American aid, but I am sure that any one in this House or in the country would willingly sacrifice the greater part of those consumer goods if, instead of them, we could have a million tons of steel for our national industries.
Having that steel, we may be able to reach the export targets which will determine whether we will be able to maintain our standard of life. Unless we have the steel that is necessary, clearly we will not be able to maintain our standard of life. I submit that it would be far better to have the steel which we need for conversion into high value products, and to send them abroad in order to earn suitable currency to pay for the import of food than merely to have some kind of dole of food from America which we will consume and that will be the end of it.
Further, I would like to ask my right hon. Friend whether, once we have got the steel, we are going to put it to the right use. During the past year or so we have been concentrating on building up certain of our engineering products and our motor industry for purposes of export, but we are finding in the motor industry that not only are we reaching a general saturation point in exports but, in addition, certain firms who have concentrated on the production of specialised cars are finding that they cannot sell their products abroad at all. Therefore, we already have a most significant redundancy in the towns in the Midlands which are concerned with the production of motorcars. I do not want to see these firms go out of production. They have done a useful job in getting together highly expert teams of engineers and technicians whose services in converting the raw material into a high value product are relatively of greater vane to this country than those of many people who are producing articles which are able to be sold abroad. From the national point of view, it is desirable that those teams should be kept together.
The fact remains, however, that most firms have not yet had guidance as to what they should convert their factories to in the event either of decline in the amount of steel made available or a shutting down of their export markets. I would only mention that in some cases—I have in mind one Coventry firm—employers and industrialists have tried of their own accord to turn over from a product which consumes a lot of steel and gets a relatively low return, to a product which will bring in a high return in proportion to the amount of steel used. The case I have in mind is of a motor manufacturer who, finding that there was difficulty in selling his cars abroad, of his own initiative is now producing printing presses which bring a very considerable return for the amount of steel which is employed.
I want to put two points to my right hon. Friend. First, I suggest that he should try and divert to other areas the movement of workers into these engineering industries where they have the belief that there are high wages and a greater demand for their services than is actually the case. I am sure that it would be the experience of most hon. Members for Midland constituencies, that there is a steady attraction of workers to the Midlands from all parts of the country who, on arrival, find not only difficulty in accommodation but actual difficulty in obtaining work, because the market is saturated and because of the steel shortages. That is a most vital conditioning factor.
The second point is to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is now making provision against the possibility that the shortage of steel may continue with the result that those industries which have been built up, and have built up their labour force, on the assumption that there is to be a large and continuing supply of steel, will be able to maintain full employment in their factories. Unless that is done now, unless some attempt is made to provide for a contraction of the amount of work to be made available in the great engineering areas, it may well be that new regions of chronic unemployment will have been created.
To conclude, I would say that, although from the other side of the House there has been an attempt to indict my right hon. Friend and his Ministry during the past few years, I, for my part, would gladly leave the verdict to the workers of this country, because in no case have they enjoyed so much full employment. I believe that the word "over-employment" which an hon. Member opposite used is a verbal monstrosity and is a conception which would never be acceptable to workers who have experienced long spells of under-employment. These workers have enjoyed the benefit of my right hon. Friend's enlightened policy and will be convinced that in future he will take account of the difficulties already indicated in the White Paper and will provide against them.
I would like to add a few words on the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale), who quoted from the White Paper a statement that labour is not at present, nor is it likely to be in 1948; the limiting factor in economic activity as a whole. I think that there is going to be a tremendous demand on industry in the next few years, and I do not, therefore, anticipate unemployment except for one factor and that is a lack of raw materials. If there is a lack of raw materials, which seems to be a possibility according to the White Paper—which speaks of a possibility of a cut in raw materials from dollar sources—it that is the policy of the Government, it is an intolerable policy and almost a criminal one. If we want to earn dollars, we must spend dollars. If we ask a horse to work harder and then say that we cannot afford the oats with which to feed him, the result will be that the horse will work less hard and possibly face death before very long.
If we cannot get the materials to supply our manpower, we are really very nearly approaching the end. It is vital, therefore, that whatever else the Government do, they must find the means by which these raw materials can be purchased. Given the materials, we must then have more incentives. I have advocated in the past that we must have a reduction in Income Tax if we are to stimulate people to work harder. I want to see Income Tax on overtime taken completely away, because I believe that the available manpower, from the boss downwards, will then put their best foot forward to produce what the country wants at the present moment, which is to increase its export trade. I would also say that, besides incentives, we must get rid of disincentives, and by that I mean the direction of labour, which is the worst of all. It is no use sending unwilling people to places where they do not want to go, because they will not work their best and will only make a bad job of it.
Finally, I want to say that it is imperative, as we have heard from hon. Members opposite today, that Government expenditure, particularly in the Civil Service, must be cut down. The Government should know better than I do the best way of doing that, but I will give only one small example. It is in this document which I hold in my hand, issued by the British Electricity Authority. This is done in a worthy cause—finding out what facilities there are for welfare in the various electricity undertakings—but it covers 10 foolscap pages and contains 159 questions. If it just asked what sports grounds there are, what shower bath facilities or canteens there are, well and good; and if then it was found that there was anything wrong, a civil servant could be sent down to find out what it was. Instead of that, it asks such things as what are the salaries of the assistant welfare officers, if there are any cheap rates for joining the Automobile Associa- tion, the detailed arrangements for serving tea, particulars of netball facilities and details of card games and equipment. These statistics are going to be collected in Whitehall, instead of being decentralised and done locally, and, if that is what government from Whitehall means, we are coming to a very sorry pass. Surely, it is Whitehall that can save manpower? That is one small example of the way in which the Government could do something to cut down their own waste of manpower.
May I begin by apologising to the House, and especially to the hon. Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee), for my absence for a short period at the beginning of the Debate? I think the hon. Member will take it from me that it was, indirectly, in the service of the House, but I regret my absence, though I got a full report of what he had said.
I think it is important that we should, of all, look at the overall position, and then deal with the basic industries and seek to make some contribution to the improvement of the position which we now find. With regard to the overall position, I am sorry that the hon. Member tot the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock) is not here, because I did not agree, and I do not think that many hon. Members on the other side of the House agreed, with what appeared to be an attempt to put 23 million people in a sort of parasitic class. I thought the hon. Lady had forgotten—I am very glad to see that she has returned to the House—I thought she had forgotten that, in the 23 million people with whom she dealt, there must be included, not only the first children, who do not come into the children's allowances scheme, but the housewives, the old people who have done a thoroughly good lifetime of service to the State, and many of those who are engaged in occupations that do not come into the Table on page 44 of the Economic Survey.
Even so, I do not think that it is a fair point, because, in my view, the housewife makes a contribution to production by the work which she carries on, and the same is true of a great number of the categories who are not in the Table which the hon. Lady took as a limiting factor. It would be a pity if it went out from this House that it was at all a general view that those 23 million people should be put in anything approaching a parasitic class.
The other point on the overall position which I should like to take up was a remark of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) that, in his view, there was a shortage of manpower and no maldistribution. I contest this point, and I approach the matter very much in the same way as the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams) did in the penetrating speech which he made on this occasion. The difference between this Economic Survey and that of 1947 is that, whereas in the 1947 Survey there was a call for the manning-up of basic industries, and for greater production and harder work, the tone of the present White Paper is set by the quotation from paragraph 186 which my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) mentioned, that labour is not at present, and is unlikely to be in 1948, the limiting factor in economic activity as a whole.
The White Paper goes on in the next sentence but one to say that that is not true of coal, agriculture and textiles. I agree with the hon. Member for Neath that those are the industries to which we should pay first regard. We must face the fact that, with regard to coal, there has been a falling short of 12,000, or 30 per cent. of tile estimated increase. With regard to agriculture, the falling off of 30,000 is 75 per cent, of the estimated increase. In textiles, although there has only been a falling off of 9,000, that, according to the table, is for both textiles and clothing. As the Government require a reduction of 31,000 in clothing and an increase in textiles by the enormous figure of 108,000, about which I shall say more in a moment, there has obviously not been a satisfactory increase in textiles either.
These are figures from which we cannot get away. The figures on the other side—and I will add one to those chosen by the hon. Member for Neath—which are most remarkable are, first of all, those of the public service in which we were promised a year ago a reduction of 80,000, that is, in the three categories, Civil Service, other national government and local government personnel. Instead of a reduction of 80,000, we have an increase in these categories of 14,000. In other words, there has been a failure to the extent of no fewer than 94,000 of the undertaking given to this House a year ago. The right hon. Gentleman will remember the Debate that we had on 19th March last year, almost exactly a year ago.
With regard to distribution, we again have the enormous figure of 178,000 instead of 55,000, and with regard to building, despite the fact, that it was known that there were going to be cuts, we again find that industry has absorbed 75,000 instead of the 50,000 claimed. It is true that the labour employed in every main industrial group has increased but, and this is the vital point, the opportunity that this gave for redistribution of labour between essential and non-essential trades was not used. I believe that this question of redistribution has become a decisive factor for the national future.
Let us try to look at the general position—and if the right hon. Gentleman can correct me on this, I tell him with the greatest frankness I shall be very happy—and this is as I see it. The target figure which is set by the White Paper is for increases in mining, agriculture and textiles of some 205,000. In the other groups in which increases are asked for, they are something like 80,000. That is, we are seeking for a figure of about 290,000 in increases. What is the position on the other side? We are seeking for deductions from building and building materials of no fewer than 179,000, and deductions from the other industries where deductions are to be made—clothing, food, drink, tobacco, distribution and local government—of 115,000. That is, again, a figure of 294,000. But although these figures appear to balance, one has to remember that there is allowed for, in the immediate future, a figure of unemployment of 150,000. That is, one has only cut out of the industries that are going to be reduced a total of 140,000 towards nearly 300,000 who are required.
One is left—and the right hon. Gentleman can tell me if there is anything I have omitted—with the foreign workers, with those who are unoccupied but do not appear to be expected by the White Paper to enter industry, or by further cuts, to fill up a figure of 150,000. The right hon. Gentleman and I have joined issue on many occasions on the question of the direction of labour and the concomitant matters, and I assure him at once that I am not going to repeat tonight one of those struggles which we have both enjoyed so much in the past, but I give him—because this is one of the angles of the picture which we must bear in mind —an article in the "Manchester Guardian" of 16th March which said that his totals for registration were 19,236 women up to 25 years of age, and 4,053 men up to 41 years of age. Whether or not the "Manchester Guardian" is justified in saying that he has given no indication of what is going to be done with them, the fact remains that it is chicken feed in this problem. That is the point that worries us.
The same applies to the results of direction. That is the overall picture which, as I say, we have been unable to disregard. How are we going to deal with it, because that is the point which has interested everyone here? I say—and here again I think I have the support of the hon. Member for Neath and the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) on the other side of the House—that there must be a real cut, a real attempt to cut, the figures of those employed in the public service and local government service groups—that is, in administration.
On the question of releasing a large number of civil servants from Government employment, I take it that the right hon. and learned Member wants, not to save the taxpayers' money by not having to pay those people, but to add them to the productive forces of the country. Does he think that merely sacking them from the Civil Service would drive them into productive industry?
I think that a great many could find places in productive industry, some in the administrative sphere and some in employment which is, so to speak, on the verge, between that and the other grades. I should like to develop that point, because it has given me serious thought, not only in relation to the national position which we are primarily discussing tonight, but because I am very interested, as is the hon. Mem- ber, in the human problem of what will happen to these people whom we might seem to be disposing of rather airily from the human point of view. I want to develop that aspect for a moment, because it is extremely serious.
If we take—as I think it is fair to do—the general trend before the war, there was an increase between 1929 and 1939 of from, roughly, 300,000 to 400,000, whereas between 1939 and 1st January, 1947, there was an increase of from just under 400,000 to 722,000 in the non-industrial Civil Service alone. Between January and April of last year that figure fell by some 5,000, and there were cuts in the Services and the supply departments of the Fighting Services. But what is the resultant position? We have Forces of 730,000 men, which are stated to need 230,000 non-industrial civil servants in the Defence Departments, together with industrial staffs not directly engaged in production and research. I cannot see why it is necessary to have one civil servant for every three men in the Forces. That is an indefensible position, and specific cuts could be made there.
I emphasise the point made by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough that it is important to get reductions in groups directly under Government control, not only for the absolute result, but because of the admirable example it would give all over that field. We come back to the statement made by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer over a year ago, that the Government hoped to get a reduction of 80,000. Instead, there has been this meagre figure in the group of non-industrial civil servants, and an overall rise in the group as a whole.
I ask the Minister to note the following. I do not ask for his agreement, but I do want to follow it out, although I am not for a moment suggesting that I want the Debate to hinge on the subject. There are, at any rate, three categories of controls: controls which deal with personal freedom, which I have endeavoured to show have not produced results; controls which interfere with industry, such as the go controls in the building trade, which were cut down, if my recollection is right, to 23; and a large number of controls which are the basis of unnecessary criminal offences at the present time, which I am sure could be revised and done away with, thus effecting a saving of manpower and the release of people who are dealing with industrial matters—matters which could be dealt with by industry and commerce through their own associations—who would then be able to go into industry and commerce themselves. These are two positive lines which demand exploration at the present time.
I now wish to pass to the coal industry. The right hon. Gentleman will agree with the importance of this industry. Be may remember, in the Debate which took place almost a year ago, that I said that coal was a harder currency than dollars. I think that everyone will agree with that today Coal is absolutely essential for the recuperation of Europe, and is of primary consideration from the industrial point of view. Let us look at the position. I have already said that recruitment for the coal industry is less than the target for 1947 by 12,000, or 30 per cent. It is now hoped to recruit another 42,000 for 1948, but we are already one quarter of the way through the year. It is most important, therefore, that we should know how we stand in this matter. In paragraph 88 of the Economic Survey, it is said that the chief reason for the improvement in the coal industry is the better output per manshift, which has increased from 1.04 tons to 1.07 tons, or three-fifths of a cwt., and to the increase of 15,000 in the labour force. Despite that rise, however, we are still considerably behind the prewar figure, even on a manshift of 1.14.
I was very much struck by the statement in the Economic Survey for 1947, that in the long view—and in my opinion in the immediate view—an increased output per man-year is the only way to expand production and give a higher standard of living. How do we stand in that regard? Last year, the output went up to 262 tons per man-year, or 265 taking the 53-week year. According to last year's Economic Survey, the output per man-year was far below prewar. Prewar it was 302 tons.
I quite agree that that is so in some of the mines. The hon. Member will realise, of course, that the position of all the mines in the country is being generally looked into. There are other mines, however, where the position is still extremely good, and where mechanisation has taken place. I do not want to make any attack, but I am trying to deal with the actual position. The position is that we are still in the same position as the Economic Survey stated last year, being far behind prewar in the output per man, and we have still a very great leeway in recruitment to make up. I want the right hon. Gentleman to tell us how it is hoped, having fallen short of the recruitment last year by 30 per cent., to attain the target for this year; and if the Government do not attain the target how are we going to deal with the situation without the coal which is urgently required?
Next, I will turn to agriculture, and I should like to be informed of the steps it is proposed to take in dealing with it. As I understand the comparative position, the figures are given for mid-1947-mid-1948. We are now nearing the end of March, 1948, and the right hon. Gentleman has got three months to produce the numbers for which he is budgeting up to mid-1948. Last year, at mid-1947, we had 1,045,000 civilian workers, including 6,000 foreign workers and an additional 60,000 German prisoners of war. That gave a total of 1,105,000 in agriculture. In the middle of 1948, in addition to the total of 1,045,000 civilian workers we are budgeting for another 37,000 foreign workers, either Poles or European volunteer workers, and 18,000 voluntary German labourers, who are ex-prisoners of war. We must know the exact figure now, because this is the figure which is to prevail next summer, a very important period of the year.
Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether 18,000 ex-prisoners of war are going to stay—for we must know. What arrangements have been made for the additional 37,000 voluntary workers? Where are they going to live? Are they going into camps or into houses, and if so, what houses; and what arrangements have been made?
As I suggested last year, are we binding them to the essential and basic work for which they are obtained? Unless tonight we get assuring information on these points, how can we view with equanimity the position of our agricultural labour force in mid-1948, which is three months' time? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will say whether he has been able to follow the suggestions that were made last year as to the use, housing, and retention of a section of that force.
I now come to textiles, and again I will try to deal with the matter factually and as briefly as I can. The White Paper asks for a 40 per cent. increase in exports of textiles. If we are to get that increase and to carry on our programme it is absolutely vital that this enormous increase of 108,000 workers from 652,000 to 760,000, should be made; otherwise the export target becomes illusory. We want to know—because this is of great importance—which of the various suggestions made in paragraph 149 of the White Paper have begun to be put into operation. I agree with the recruiting campaign, but I would like this addition to it. It is essential, if we are to have a recruiting campaign, that we should encourage the children to go into textile work. My own knowledge goes to this extent, that in textiles more than in anything else it is necessary to be started and brought up in the job. The recruiting campaign ought to be directed to that point.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Shephard) made an extremely pertinent suggestion with regard to the provision of nurseries in addition to the canteen accommodation. Unless businesses are to be allowed to treat these as an expense at this time and for this purpose, it will be very difficult to spare the money for the purposes which my hon. Friend pointed out are essential, and the success of which in his own works, he described to the House. Again, we want to know about the recruitment of foreign labour and there are other points about which the right hon. Gentleman will, I hope, be able to inform us. There are those of such pressing importance as what are termed in the White Paper:
Further measures…to restrain the growth of other industries and services in the textile areas.
Does that mean that by stopping supplies, or some other means, the right hon. Gentleman will deal with, say, the light engineering industry in Lancashire in order to transfer the women who have
gone into it into textiles? Is some practical scheme envisaged by those words? If so, it is a very serious matter. It is extremely serious for those who have gone into those industries. We must know. This is our only opportunity of learning whether the situation is so serious that some measure as stringent as that has to be taken.
I am very anxious that I should not trespass on the time of the right hon. Gentleman. I have tried to cover the ground of the basic industries and to make my suggestions, and apply them as specifically as I could, as to the cutting down of the number of national employees, but I want the right hon. Gentleman to remember two matters which I have approached in previous Debates, and which, I hope he will agree, I have tried to approach from a constructive and non-controversial viewpoint. The first is that of restrictive practices. We were all most impressed by almost the concluding words of the 1047 White Paper:
There is now no place for industrial arrangements which restrict production, prices or employment. Such regulations and traditions grew up as a means of protecting those engaged in industry from the effects of a shortage of work and of empty order books.
May I say at once, as I have said before, that I think that does not apply as a unilateral measure for a moment; I am approaching it as applying to both sides of industry. However, I want to know what has been done to implement that necessary action which the 1947 White Paper commanded. How do these words and this proclaimed endeavour to get rid of restrictive practices fit in with the three basic industries I have mentioned, and also with the conceptions that, apart from these three basic industries, labour is no longer the rub? The right hon. Gentleman will see the difficulty—it is a very real one—that if one is saying, as this White Paper rather suggests, that labour is not the rub except in the three industries with which I have dealt, then it might be thought that that important statement in the last paragraph of the 1947 Economic Survey had ceased to be important. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do everything possible to bring such practices into the light of day and, in that way, make a great number of them disappear.
The other question, a live question and my last, is with regard to hours of work. In September of last year the right hon. Gentleman's Department issued a statement as to the time rates of wages and hours of labour which I have obtained from the London and Cambridge Economic Survey. The result of that statement is that in III industries where there are minimum rates and normal hours which have been agreed, in 56 of these with the hours unchanged, 32 had more wages, 21 had no change and three had a fall; but in 55 examples, where hours had been reduced broadly from the range of 48, 47, 46 to 45 or 44, 44 had wage increases, six were unchanged and five had fallen. Now I find that difficult to square with the general policy which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has put forth, unless of course they are merely to deal with the time rate, and then I understand it so far; but, on the broader question, these figures are really inconsistent with an increase of production and require serious consideration, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reassure us, if he can, on this broad point because, indeed, we require it. I have examined it in no spirit except that of seeking the truth in the estimates which the right hon. Gentleman formed for the end of 1947.
We have found that both ways in important groups of industries these estimates were completely wrong. In the basic industries there was an over-estimate of the number coming in, and in the industries where there should have been a reduction in order to secure help, the numbers have gone up. We want to know from the right hon. Gentleman why the 1948 figures are expected to have a better fate. There is no doubt that this Economic Survey depends to a large extent on these provisos being fulfilled. It is a serious matter when there has been such a failure in the past. We must know, if we are to be sure that the utmost is being done for the economic state of our country, that we can expect better things for the present year. In that spirit, and in that great problem, we call on the right hon. Gentleman tonight.
I appreciate very fully the tone in which the Debate was opened this afternoon, and that on which it has ended. I will do my best to answer all the questions put to me, although I have a lot of interesting facts and figures I would like to have given, without being asked. However, I think it right and proper to answer queries.
The right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale), who opened the Debate with a speech which he called his second maiden speech, and which I would call a "grass widow's speech," was kind enough to make one of those generous personal allusions which are a feature of this House. He made a kindly reference to me as being associated with him in the printing industry. He said I had been missed in that industry, and that one of the good things about the ending of this Government would be that I would go back to the industry. I must tell him that I am "time-expired" this year, and that when I leave this job, I shall go on the shelf.
The right hon. Gentleman made an interesting suggestion about changing the name of the Ministry of Labour. I do not like to give assurances, but I will give this one; I will not attempt to change the name, which was given to the Ministry when it was first created, and which has seen it through a great many troubles. I do not think people believe that it is mixed up with a political party because of the term "Labour." The right hon. Gentleman said that this Ministry must avoid party politics because of the confidence it enjoys in industry. In the ordinary political field the Minister must be as free as anyone else to take part in party politics, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Ministry itself, in all its associations and connections with industry, endeavours to keep a completely impartial view, so that when we have to consult employers and workers, separately or jointly, they can rest assured that the Ministry, through its capable and devoted officials, is acting completely impartially, and is not swayed by political opinion. Many things have been said tonight about the Civil Service. I think it is generally agreed that they honestly and honourably serve the Government of the day, to whatever party they belong.
The right hon. Gentleman made a similar reference to the National Arbitration Tribunal. It ought to be more widely known that the National Arbitration Tribunal could have come to an end automatically nearly two years ago, but both sides in industry, employers and trade unions, said, "We do not like compulsory arbitration, but do not take away the order yet." They had another chance last year, in one of the Acts of Parliament we pass in order to continue or to end orders, and again they said, "Let us keep it going." Here we have both sides of the industry, though they do not like compulsory arbitration, asking that this National Arbitration Tribunal, which is a compulsory tribunal, shall remain. That shows the great confidence that particular body has gained, and I hope that it will continue.
Another indication that confidence in this Ministry is being maintained is found in the operation of what the right hon. Gentleman urged should be the continued policy of the Ministry namely to persuade, and not to compel, people to go into the industries into which we wish to direct them. I use that word in the sense in which it was used before we accepted this last power of direction. The fact is that we have been placing 80,000 people weekly under this Control of Engagement order. We have filled 200,000 first preference vacancies, and we have placed 1,630,000 generally in industry, and in nine or 10 weeks 17 people only have had to be directed, which shows that they will listen to guidance and persuasion——
We are told we ought to do something. Hon. Members opposite have been asking questions as to what we are going to do about filling these vacancies and getting this labour. We have got to have it one way or the other, but there is this indication that people are being treated honestly and decently and courteously by the local employment exchanges. Otherwise if there had been, any complaint, the local Member of Parliament would have heard about it, and I am sure that I should have heard about it as well. It is a tribute to the local officers that they have been able to do this work without much trouble.
I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the position we are in today was not unknown in the days of the Coalition Government. There was a White Paper entitled "Employment Policy," Cmd. 6527, which was presented to Parliament in 1944 by the then Minister of
Reconstruction in the Coalition Government, Lord Woolton. He made two provisos which are absolutely true, and which show that the situation today is not the fault of the present Government, but is the fault of the sequence of consequences that have emerged from the war. He said:
There will, however, be no problem of general unemployment in the years immediately after the end of the war in Europe. In this transition period our problems, though no less difficult, will be different. It will be a period of shortages.
Lord Woolton said that, and I understand that a lot of people put a great deal of reliance in what he says. Let us say he was just as right then as he is now. He also said:
In order to direct the efforts of industry towards the right tasks in the right order, it will be necessary to establish certain broad priorities, and to enforce them for a time by means of the issue of licences, the allocation of raw materials and some measure of control over the labour and staff required for industry.
I wish I could have found this extract from Lord Woolton when we were having the previous Debates on the Control of Engagement Order, but I pray it in aid now, although it is a little late for the purpose.
I come now to the penetrating examination of these figures by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), and the problem he set me. If I cannot give the answer in the minor details, I hope I can satisfy him on the general principle. The right hon. and learned Gentleman himself said that the opportunity for distribution between essential and non-essential trades has not been taken. It was not taken till about six or eight months ago. Then we had to take this measure of control for the redistribution of manpower between the essential and non-essential industries. We have far more power than we are using. It is hoped to continue to keep in the background this further power which we have. For example, at present those people who come to the employment exchange and say "Find me a job" are the only people to whom we apply guidance and, in the last resort, direction. We have the power to go into places and say, "We shall take these people from this job and send them into that job." We do not want to do it. Not only is it a little further infringement of the liberty of the individual, some of which has to be given up at this time; it is also interference with management and with the employer. Though we might not think that work is as essential as something else, it is essential to them. So, although we have that power, we are using it only to the extent I have described.
I would like to clear up a further point which was referred to by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby and my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper), who dealt with the question of the Civil Service. I have no comment to make about the terms of the criticism of the right hon. and learned Gentleman on this matter, but I think that my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough went a little further than was fair. He quoted letters from civil servants, some of whom are in the Civil Service and others of whom have retired, who have written telling him how the Civil Service should he rearranged so that it could work properly. If the writers are in the Civil Service, they might have brought the subject forward there. As for those who have retired, we know that people outside see a lot of things which they think ought to be done.
My hon. Friend said that 50 per cent. of those at the top level are inefficient. They are not here to defend themselves, but if those at the top level in other Departments are as good as those at the top level in the Departments with which I have been connected, they are 100 per cent. efficient. My hon. Friend talked about the little bug on the lesser bug. I wonder whether a similar metaphor might not be preferred, and whether my hon. Friend thought that he was a flea on the Civil Service dog. With some knowledge of the Civil Service from the inside, which has been gained in the past two or three years, and having taken part in a careful check and examination of Civil Service activities, I am quite confident that there cannot be any real reduction in their numbers. If we reduce the services which they are given to perform, we can reduce their number, but it is perfectly clear that the recent figures covering national Government service and local government service do not sufficiently make clear the facts.
There is a substantial number of non-industrial civil servants in the Service and Supply Departments who are engaged in terminal activities in connection with the war. The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby drew attention to the proportion of civil to Service personnel in the Services. I was satisfied, when I saw the evidence, that they are clearing up. It takes a long time to clear up accounts and other matters, but the matter is being watched and they will not be kept there longer than is necessary to do the clearing up. In 1947 the national Government service figures went down by 41,000 and those of local government services went up by 53,000. That is how the balance is arrived at in that respect. It is not my purpose at the moment to defend the numbers in national Government service, but Acts passed by this House from time to time, and the coming to full fruition of other Measures passed in the Coalition Government period, bring them additional duties, and makes increased staff necessary.
I do not want to be a flea in my right hon. Friend's ear, though I may be a flea on the back of the Civil Service; but how does he account for the fact that the two years when the value of the £ fell to the lowest figure, were the two years when the Civil Departments were at their highest, and that even when unemployment figures stood at over 2,000,000 the value of the £ was considerably higher. Does not that show the close connection between the size of the bureaucracy and the economic standard of the country?
What unemployment has to do with the value of the £ and the flea on the dog's back, I do not know.
The hon. Gentleman referred to textiles, to coal and to agriculture. As far as recruits for the coal industry are concerned, we are moving towards our target. I am wondering, however, whether the right hon. Gentleman has got the head of the column correctly, because he referred to the figures at mid-1948.
I felt there was a misunderstanding between us somewhere. So far as coal is concerned, we are proceeding towards the end-of-the-year target. It will be noticed that 790,000 is the target figure for total manpower in the collieries, but the figures on which I have to work are the numbers on the colliery books—750,000. We have been helped very much by the mineworkers' organisations. They have helped us in our recruiting campaign; they have dug out the names and addresses of their members who have left the industry, and have got them back; they have broken down—although not much breaking down was needed—the much advertised hostility to working with foreign workers; they are now working in the mines with Poles and European volunteer workers. Before my right hon. colleague the Parliamentary Secretary went abroad to seek for further labour, the Mineworkers' Federation agreed even to work with the Volksdeutsche. Their agreement to work with foreign workers in the mines will help us towards our final target, and we are certainly proceeding that way.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of textiles. Before coming to figures, I would refer to the need for encouraging children to take an interest in the industry. I am glad to say that a great deal of work in this direction has been done locally by the Ministry of Labour, education and school authorities, employers of labour and other organisations. Exhibitions of interest have been staged, showing how the cotton grows on the trees, and following it through its various processes. Children have also been taken into the mills and encouraged to prepare for the time when they will go to work, and speakers have attended schools. There is now the indication that parents no longer say to their children, "You won't go into coal," or "You won't go into textiles."
There is a vast amount of work to be done; it is being done rapidly. Mills are being cleaned up and amenities are being put forward. In the main, employers are actively co-operating, but they come up against the general problems of shortages of materials and supply, and so on. The Government have placed this problem in the hands of a committee of Parliamentary Secretaries who have complete authority to go right ahead, with priority for the provision of nurseries and other amenities.
We are being very successful in obtaining the foreign workers required to go into the mills. As we have not got the people in this country, we must find them from somewhere else. We give whatever inducements we can to bring back the women who have left the industry, but we still have to get this other labour. Of foreign workers already in the industry, managements express themselves well satisfied and describe them as very intelligent, quick to pick up the industry and to make good. We have made arrangements to bring in others, but I am not quite sure whether we shall reach that high target of another 58,000 for cotton; we will do our best. If the redeployment in the industry can be got going at the same time, perhaps we can get the mills and the looms manned up without having to go quite to that high number.
So far as agriculture is concerned, there again I can give a general over-all answer which I think will satisfy hon. Members. The 18,000 prisoners of war whom we were hoping would stay, have in fact turned out to be 20,000 which have asked to stay. They will be retained in industry on a civilian basis. So far as E.V.W.'s are concerned, we have this year got 27,000 Poles and 16,000 other E.V.W.'s. There, again, we come up against a great problem. It is a real difficulty to decide whether we should build cottages to take four or five agricultural workers in the area, or build one of these big camps, or extend one of them, to take the great number of people who are coming in.
They vary from week to week. A lot of people sometimes ask me questions about them, and I usually carry a little document. This shows that, roughly, we are bringing in between 500 to 600 E.V.W.'s a week. The number actually going into industry is somewhere about 1,100 Poles and E.V.W.'s each week. I will not be tempted to go any further into that or to break up the figures any more. I thought that it was right to answer those main points which were made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
In regard to the question of the raid-September figures. I am aiming all the time at the end of the year. Reference was made to the mid-year figures. At the moment we are not actually worried about them. I have not got the thing absolutely certain from my hon. Friends, but I am informed, in speaking about the steps being taken for the volunteer harvest workers, that the books are pretty well full up, and that anybody who wants to take a voluntary holiday in the camps at harvest lime had better get in quickly or he will not get a chance at all. A great number of workers are enrolled for that and in addition, of course, the military and others will give such assistance as may be required at the peak of the harvest.
Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned restrictive practices. So far as restrictive practices in the trade unions are concerned, believe me there is a lot of hot air talked about this I know that there are some, but there are nothing near so many as people might think. I am not speaking about restrictive practice by employers in business. In the case of industry, during the war the trade unions voluntarily surrendered certain customs and practices which had been theirs, in many cases, for generations. They were given up. They remain suspended, but the trade unions have the absolute right, at a given date to demand the restoration of those practices. They could have demanded that restoration last December 12 months, but they decided to put it off for a year. Last December they considered the matter again and at our request they put it off for another year.
As I said in this House sometime ago, the less we say about it the better it will be. I believe that they will leave the matter alone and not ask for the restoration of those practices unless somebody comes along, stirs up some trouble, and makes out a story of the wickedness of the unions. Then they might say, "If we are so wicked, give us back what you took away from us." All these practices, given up in war-time, still remain suspended, and I hope that they will continue to remain suspended.
On the question of hours of work and wages, all those negotiations went on before the publication of the Government White Paper "Personal Incomes, Costs and Prices." They went on without any interference from the Government under the purely voluntary system of collective bargaining which we have adopted. Since the publication of the White Paper, all those who engage in wage negotiations are asked to undertake those negotiations bearing in mind the views expressed in the White Paper. Those opinions are not binding instructions. They are opinions in the form of guidance laid down for them.
Many other points have been raised in this Debate. I would like to deal with most of them. The right hon. Member for Epsom who opened the Debate, referred to the juvenile advisory service. There, again, I would very much like to go right into it and say how it is working. It is working satisfactorily. That service is not directed by the Ministry of Labour but is operated jointly, in some areas by the Ministry of Labour and in others by the education authority. I am obliged to notice that the right hon. Gentleman thought it should be run by the Ministry of Labour alone, and I think that is on its reputation and not because of anyone now connected with it. It has its National Advisory Council and its local committees, and it encourages contact with industries when required. For example, in Kingston-upon-Thames a week or so ago, I went to see an interesting exhibition staged by employers to show the children coming from school what kind of work was done in their area, and I think that sort of thing is going to be very useful. We cannot get full benefit without some further legislation, which I hope will shortly come before the House.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question on a point which I raised a short while ago? Is the right hon. Gentleman considering the point about industries which are undermanned from the junior employment side?
We want to encourage people to take an interest in the undermanned industries, in their own area if there is one. I personally want to see the children given the chance of a job without their having to pay a railway fare to some other town right away from them—a job in their own local industries—and I think that if we can get that interest in the local industries, we can give them a better job and do something towards increasing local interest.
There is a point which has been mentioned—it may not be true—about the education authorities, in that if they have control, they are inclined to put too much emphasis on black-coated occupations.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for reminding me of that. I think there was a case a little while ago, when the Home Secretary was with the right hon. Gentleman in the Education Office, and they did draw attention to another difficulty in finding jobs, but these committees are trying to encourage children to take jobs where they have to take off their coats and roll up their shirt sleeves. In the old days, a clerk only wore a collar and cuffs and never wore a shirt. That was all he had—a dickey and his cuffs. We have got beyond that in these days.
Then the Appointments Department was mentioned. I have got a beautiful story to tell of the vacancies that have been filled, but I cannot keep the House much longer. It has proved a very great success, and it has enabled people of very different standards to find employment and it has enabled employers to find the right kind of person they wanted. Perhaps, if the people knew more about the appointments officers and employers knew they would be able to get the persons they wanted to fill their vacant posts, it might be used much more. Therefore, we intend to keep that service going because it has given very satisfactory results.
I would very much like to answer in more detail some of the other questions put to me. I think I have covered the points put to me from the Front Opposition Bench. The hon. Member for Hulme (Mr. Lee) spoke of the development councils, and they are now actually being built up. An order will be made shortly for the cotton industry, and the matter is in hand, and we hope soon to be able to make orders for development councils in wool, hosiery, footwear, furniture and pottery.
With reference to the joint production committees, as one who has some knowledge of industry, I would say that for hundreds of years we have had shop stewards under the name of "Fathers of the Chapel,' and shop committees under the name of "Chapels." The only religious light about it was the name; there was no hymn singing there, especially on the day when we paid our entrance fee to the chapel meeting by way of buying beer. That was the wet rent.
My hon. Friend suggested that the regional boards might be brought in at some point as a kind of arbitration body for joint production committees. I would ask him to pause and think that over. I think that, if a joint production committee in any works has a difference of opinion, it is not the happiest thing to bring other employees and other industries into it; it is far better that they should build up some system of conciliation themselves, and, if I may say so, refer the matter to the regional industrial relations officer of the Ministry of Labour, who is an independent person, anxious to find a settlement and not to create trouble. I would ask my hon. Friend to consider that.
I would now like to refer to what the hon. Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant) said. She stated that she had some experience of industry. I began to doubt what her experience was until she mentioned something about the duties and activities of the personnel manager. Then I realised that, on that point, at any rate, she had a good knowledge indeed of what was required in industry from personnel managers. I think I have already dealt with one of her points. She said that people resent having taken away from them their right to choose their own employment. I would only point out that of the 200,000 people whom we sent to the first preference jobs, and whom we could have directed, only 17 were so directed, so that, at any rate, only 17 expressed any kind of resentment. The noble Lady also said that it was wrong to ask married women to go back to industry. I do not think it is, because we only ask them when they come to the Ministry and ask for a job. Although I entirely agree that it is much better for married women to remain at home—certainly from their husbands' point of view—when they come along in response to our appeal, I think it is much happier to feel that they are coming along because they want to instead of being forced to do so through sheer economic necessity. Those who come along are welcome, and we are glad to have them.
The hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) also raised this point. He said we must have the right distribution of labour, and that it was desperately important that we should have it. All the while he was saying that I was asking myself how we could get this distribution of labour. After all, we are trying to do it by our control of engagement order. We have not had many riots yet, nor all the labour distributed into the sections to which we want it to go. But we are gradually building it up in that way, and I think we shall be able to do it. The hon. Gentleman also said that there must be an orderly reduction in the standard of life, and then said that, in our youth, we were a rich nation. I do not think he meant in "our" youth; I think he meant in the youth of the nation. I have read about those days of poverty, cruelty to children, of kids of five being sent to the mills, and boys of 12 working in the pits, and when there were no social services. I would rather we were a poor nation with a population of happy contented people, than a rich nation with
There are only one or twp other things to which I think I ought to make reference. The hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. Shepherd) said that there are too many administrative workers, over-elaborate administration, and that every business in this country could reduce its administration. I wonder if the hon. Gentleman would back me up if I asked for power to direct boards of directors and administrative workers? I should like to see them doing more useful work—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—useful from the point of view of what the hon. Member for Bucklow said. He said, as I have already quoted, that there are too many administrative workers and over-elaborate administration. All right, if there are too many, then there are more than the jobs need. I cannot imagine any modern business like firm really keeping on their staff administrative workers they did not want. They may have kept one or two more, waiting for the tide to turn when they get their raw material or orders to keep their people busy, but my experience is that they do not keep passengers hanging about. I do not take much notice of that point.
The hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock) began, I think, to juggle about with some millions of one sort or another. I think perhaps I shall help her and the House, and help myself by getting the matter put down clearly as to what the position is. There are 11 million boys and girls under the age of 15—they are not spivs, of course. There are five million men and women over 65 years of age. That gives us a total of 16 million, if my arithmetic is correct. There are 16 million women between the ages of 15 and 64 of whom approximately two-thirds are married women with children under school age or other domestic responsibilities; we have that 11 million, which gives us a grand total of 27 million. We have a total working population of 20,500,000 which, with this 27 million, gives us 47,500,000—that is how I make it with my arithmetic; if anybody else can make it anything different, it is for them to have a go.
I will not go further into the many points which have been raised except to say this; there has been, time and again in this House, a reference to the over-population of the Civil Service, but I think I am correct in saying that, although the House may have criticised the number in the Civil Service, I do not think there has been any real criticism of the service of the Civil Service. This is my first opportunity since I have been Minister to say this—now two and a half years; I never thought I would last as long as that—and in that two and a half years I have made contact with civil servants of the higher grades in the Ministry with which I am proud and privileged to be associated, and with those in other Departments and those of lower ranks, and I would like to say, speaking especially of the service with which I am associated, that I am always full of admiration for their efficiency, their integrity and their assiduity, and the way in which they give themselves to their jobs. I can ring up any of the principal officers of my staff any time of the day or night and always find them cheerful and willing to help. Those men in Ministry of Labour offices all over the country—in large groups in some of the big offices and in one or two men in the offices in the small towns—are men to whom I pay tribute. They have earned the respect of those whom they serve in these offices, through the service the Government are giving in those localities through these individuals, however humble they are. I would like to close on a note expressing deep and sincere appreciation to all the staff of the Ministry of Labour, from top to bottom, for the loyalty and the assistance they have given to me in the time I have been privileged to serve as Minister.
I regret to have to keep the House any longer, but I have a duty which I owe to my many friends in the building industry and I promised that I would, if possible, put forward their case tonight. Before coming to that point, I want if I may, to reinforce the point made by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) and the note on which the Minister closed his speech. It was a reference to the number of civil servants. I do not think the point has been sufficiently emphasised that all the enormous number of national employees, as they have been called, have their opposite numbers in industry. I know many big firms who keep five or 10 or 15 clerks doing nothing but filling up Government forms, and those firms have to bear that expense.
One of the most important aspects of the manpower problem is its relationship to the building industry. It is a very human aspect, for the building of houses is of great importance to national recovery. To a great extent, houses are the raw material of industry, and the Government cannot expect increased production from the workers, which would enable the Government to export goods and services at world competitive prices—I emphasise, world competitive prices—when so many thousands of the workers are homeless or living in overcrowded conditions, leading inevitably to unhappiness at home.
The Midland Federation of Brick and Tile Manufacturers know from practical experience the difficulties and problems, and what should be the manpower policy of the future. I want to thank them for the information they have given me; I am certain they have no axe to grind, but
they have afforded me that information in the national interest. When bureaucrats in Whitehall insist that political prejudice is more important than economic recovery, chaos inevitably follows. It is the Government's own inept policy which has resulted in the failure to build houses. The Minister of Labour himself recently issued an undated leaflet, which is quite short, and which I propose to read to the House. It is called "Pick Your Job" and says:
For prosperity. Brickmakers are sure of good wages for years ahead. Workers of all ages are wanted urgently in brick works. There is a variety of jobs for workers with and without experience. Wage packets compare favourably with other trades, and there is a certainty of steady employment for years ahead
I ask the House to note the phrases "for years ahead" and "steady employment."
In planning for the future, you will want to pick a job that offers security.
I ask the House to note the word "security," to which I shall refer again in a moment.
You will get it in brickmaking. For certain occupations in the building brick industry the Minister of Labour has arranged a training scheme in consultation with the National Joint Council for the industry.
Then it urges people to go to the employment exchange and get the job. The very policy of the Government has vitiated this pamphlet, which holds out such bright hopes to the workers. The Government have destroyed that security which they advocate in this pamphlet. Although I do not like the politics of the Minister of Labour, I rather like him, and I am sure this pamphlet was issued with perfectly good intentions. But I would remind him that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The Government, by their ineptitude, are not allowing the hopes they raised in this pamphlet to fructify. Only today I asked the Minister of Health,
if he is aware that there are thousands of unemployed builders; that timber yards are so full that they cannot store any more; that brick yards are closing down because production is greater than the demand, particulars of which have been sent to him; and if he will immediately remove all restrictions and allow building firms to build houses and carry out repairs.
He did not reply to the details of my Question, because he cannot, and to do
so would have been to admit a colossal failure. He replied:
the amount of new building work which can be allowed must continue to be related to the timber which can be imported. Timber stocks now in the country are not excessive, and will be needed to complete work in progress or projected.
On leaving the Chamber I met a right hon. Gentleman who is now in his place, and he said to me: "That question of yours was very interesting." He added that only today he had heard of a sawmill which was closing down because they had so much timber in stock that they could not get rid of any more. The truth is that when Whitehall takes action and gives directions to an intricate and complicated industry like the building industry, they release forces and factors which they never thought of and which they cannot control. As I have said in this House before, if any Government try to break the law of supply and demand, that law will break them with resultant disaster.
I want to give another instance of the misdirection of labour, and to illustrate what I said about releasing forces over which the Government have no control. I am told by the building industry that the Ministry of Labour rushed in and appealed for a large number of trainees for the bricklaying industry. They quire forgot that a bricklayer can be trained much more rapidly than a plumber or a carpenter, with the consequence—and I am told this on good authority—that there are many houses in the country today which are merely brick shells, which cannot be inhabited because there are not enough plumbers and carpenters to put in the fittings to make them habitable.
I turn now from the manpower which ought to be employed on building houses, to the manpower which ought to be employed on repairing houses. In my division, there are over 3,000 families waiting for homes. I will give one typical example which shows what is happening all over the country. I know of an old-fashioned cottage, in which a man and his wife have brought up six children, who have now gone out into the world and made good. The cottage suffered from the effects of a bomb which fell fairly nearby. We are only just beginning to find out that as a result of the blast from the bomb the damp is rising. I went to a local builder—one of the oldest firms in England—and he told me that for £70 or £80 he could make that cottage habitable in a fortnight.
It is hardly creditable, but I cannot get a licence to spend that relatively small amount to enable the family to go into that cottage. I am told that the Minister of Health has lowered the ceiling of the amount which local authorities are allowed to spend on repairs, and therefore my local authority are unable to help me. The Minister told me today that if I will give him the details, he will see what he can do in the matter. I am very anxious to get that cottage repaired, but it is all wrong that, because I happen to be a Member of Parliament, I can go to the Minister and get some kind of priority. It is unfair to thousands of other people.
I want now to give an estimate for 1948, which has been prepared by experts. It is based on the figures in the Housing Return for England and Wales, 1948, Command Paper 7333. It is estimated that 164,000 building workers will be laid off in 1948 by the simple expedient of refusing licences for new buildings and repairs. The person who is in the shortest supply in that industry is the labourer and this cut will bring out the skilled craftsman who to a large extent will find his way into a factory and will be employed in what they call "dolling it up." Very little additional production is likely to ensue.
With the cut already announced by the Government in factory building it is anticipated that 1,000 million bricks will not be required in 1948 and the corresponding number of bricklayers who will be put out of work will be 12,500. The 1,000 million bricks referred to will build 50,000 brick houses. The point I am trying to make is the difference between the traditional and non-traditional buildings to house the people of this country. I want to urge the Government for the sake of employing more men as I shall show in a minute that the non-traditional-built houses should be cut by 50,000 from now, and the factory space and workers engaged on the production of non-traditional houses and not the proper building trade workers should be deployed under an economic plan for the manufacture of exports. This, surely, would be a quicker way to provide exports, than pushing unwilling men, who will hold on to the last, and, when absorbed, the building trade will never see them back? Therefore, the switch intended by the Government damages the building industry permanently to the present and ultimate advantage of the non-traditional housing industry.
I do not want to go into too much detail as it is late, but may I refer the Minister, if he wishes to examine this more, to Command Paper 7333, where he will see on page 6 that out of 317,928 tenders approved 82,020 are non-traditional? There is also the additional number of 13,461 permanent aluminium houses. This illustrates the misguided importance the Government attaches to the non-traditional permanent housing programme, and the tables in this Command Paper 2 (b) and No. II on page 32 show some two dozen types which are being authorised for tender at about 4,000 a month. These 4,000 per month should cease immediately. It may be that compensation will be asked for and may be due to the contractors of factory-built houses and for experiments, but it would be cheaper to build brick houses and pay compensation than build non-traditional houses at a much higher cost, as I shall show in a minute, and do permanent damage to the building industry.
The volume of brick construction on 31st December, 1947, had only reached 56 per cent. of pre-war. At that level brick construction is not overspent. What is overspent and ought to be cut is all this tendency to steel and aluminium which is the delight of the planners and the Government office spendthrifts. I want to give an example. This week the Sutton Coldfield Council in Worcester announced a contract for 16 brick houses at £18,787, which is equal to £1,175 per house. That compares with the Wimpey non-traditional house which is one of the cheapest of the non-traditional houses at £1,350 to £1,380. I have no doubt that all I have said about the maldistribution of labour and the direction of things from Whitehall, which costs the taxpayer lots more money, also applies to Scotland.
My last word is this. The only solution of the manpower problem, especially as applied to housing difficulties—and they are very real—is to remove all controls as soon as possible and to allow the private builders to get on with the job and use all the men and material they have to the best advantage. In the words of my beloved and honoured leader, "Set the people free."