Orders of the Day — Manpower

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th March 1948.

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Photo of Mrs Bessie Braddock Mrs Bessie Braddock , Liverpool Exchange 12:00 am, 18th March 1948

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.