Scotland (Industry)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th July 1949.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir John Henderson Sir John Henderson , Glasgow Cathcart 12:00 am, 7th July 1949

It makes forecasts, and the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday indicates that the forecasts are completely out of date. That statement leaves us very much in the dark, though not altogether in the dark for the orange light has changed to red. Some hon. Members opposite who have been proud of the colour red are now, in view of Communist activities, more inclined to the shade of pink. A standstill order prevails at the moment, but I can assure hon. Members opposite that after the General Election the standstill order will be cancelled and the green light will shine for progress and freedom once more, giving "the Clear" to national prosperity.

Coming back to the review of economic affairs in Scotland, there is rightly some approval of the number of new industries expected to play an important part in Scotland's industrial development. According to the White Paper, new industries seem to be the cure for any unemployment which might otherwise have arisen in Scotland, but what is the position? The aim was to provide the Scottish Development Area with 155,000 more jobs than in 1937 by a programme of Government-financed factory buildings. It was hoped that these factories, being occupied by new light industries, would lead to a necessary redressing of the balance between heavy and light industries in Scotland, and that they would act as a buffer against unemployment if, unfortunately, a depression again attacked the shipyards and steel works.

The target was to provide Scotland with 155,000 more jobs than in 1937. Up to date fewer than 50,000 have been created. During 1948 the number attained was only 8,000. This gives one a very uncomfortable feeling. What is worse is that the closure in 1948 of a considerable number of new factories opened by English firms who came to Scotland is passed over in discreet silence in the White Paper, there being no mention of it. In Hillington, just outside Glasgow, three firms. Hoffman Ball Bearing Company, Crittalls, and Saturn Oxygen Company, have closed down entirely. Renfrew Foundries have discharged 1,350 workers since the end of the war.

Rolls-Royce's payroll has fallen from 24,000 to 4,200—I know that is accountable to a change-over from war-time production to peace-time activities—and in at least seven other enterprises there has been large-scale paying off of workers. I think I am right in saying that a new factory put up either during or shortly after the war in Rutherglen for the manufacture of radio sets closed down a few months ago. These things have a disturbing effect. There is nothing whatever in this review in regard to the closing down of new factories, and it seems strange that this review claims "consolidation" of previous gains against the existing background.

Of the alternatives open to the Government in facing the economic crisis, the Chancellor chose the grim expedient of transferring to the shoulders of the citizens the onus of getting Britain out of her financial troubles. The policy of the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not get even a start unless people and industries will put up with increased restrictions and cuts, and this overlooks the fact that they are already under an oppressive burden of taxation to a greater extent than any free country in the world. The position of our country has been characterised as facing a financial crisis. That crisis has been averted during the past 18 months by the generous gift of Marshall Aid, and again another crisis seems to be breaking upon our island shores with renewed force. The dwindling resources of gold and dollars in the sterling areas has already been reduced below the safety margin. They are still sinking. I repeat that we are faced with a grave crisis. The dollar deficit is running at the rate of £300 million a year and, far from contracting, shows signs of swelling to even vaster proportions, since British exports to America during the first four months of this year were 14 per cent. lower than in the last quarter of 1948.

What solution is there in this White Paper for these problems? The only solution which the Government seem to be able to put forward is fresh cuts in imports. We may have less petrol, we may have less tobacco, perhaps fewer raw materials for the factories.