I am pleased to support what has just been said by the hon. Member for Hull, Central (Mr. Hewitson), and I am particularly glad that he emphasised the fact that the Order was only arrived at after the fullest consultation with the T.U.C. and the employers. In spite of that, however, I think it is right that we should question why it was necessary. One of the chief reasons seems to me to be in the interests of full employment. Hon. Members opposite have recently expressed much concern about the danger of unemployment. This Order, perhaps only in a small way, but none the less an important way, is designed to play its part in the policy of maintaining full employment.
In the short term, this Order, because it will help to ease and speed up the transfer of labour to essential industries of export and defence, will help to minimise the temporary dislocation of employment which does occur in a transfer of labour on the scale which we have to attempt. In the long term, by getting labour as quickly as possible into the essential export industries, it will help to overcome the economic crisis which is the chief threat to full employment.
The threat of heavy unemployment does not arise from lack of demand, even though there may be lack of demand in certain localised industries at the moment. The threat still rests mainly in the danger to our ability to import the raw materials we must have to keep all our people at work. To get these raw materials we have to export more. If this Order can help to get people into these export industries more quickly, it will be playing a big part in helping to avert any threat of mass unemployment.
The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Craddock), expressed particular fears about this, and I would say to him that the greater his fears the greater should be his reasons for supporting this Order, and not praying against it. I felt that the hon. Member's statement about half a million unemployed was not very helpful. It is not helpful, in this national crisis, to make alarmist statements, and it is a fact—and I challenge the hon. Member to deny it—that the unemployment figures for male workers have never been lower at this time of year than they are now.
I think this Order should be supported, but it remains to be asked why this purpose is to be achieved by an Order and not by legislation. I would have much preferred legislation. But hon. Members who are raising this point, as I admit in all sincerity, must remember the urgency of our situation. If the reasons I have given for the necessity of this action are valid, it is essential that the action should be taken quickly. Hon. Members should bear in mind that with the programme in front of Parliament at this time of year, any legislation on this subject would have to be delayed, and would take time.
If this Order has anything to do with helping to maintain full employment, as I believe it has, it is important to do it quickly, and not to allow any tendency to unemployment to get out of hand. The Government would be failing in their duty if they allowed even two or three months to elapse before bringing in this Order. Apart from that consideration, I agree with other hon. Members who feel that this should have been done by legislation.