There are a number of assurances which I think the Committee is entitled to receive from the Government before we part with this Clause. This Clause lays down the number of localities which are to be selected for Government assistance, and by that act, of course, it isolates other localities which are not to receive Government assistance. The Committee, throughout the discussion of the Clause so far, has been principally concerned with what is likely to happen in the mining areas where pits are likely to close and unemployment will be created.
We have had an example already given to us today of a very large Board of Trade factory in one of these areas which has been completely empty all along. I wonder what the cause of that is, and whether there is an explanation that this factory is going to come into existence at the psychological moment when a pit is closed in order to absorb the unemployment which thereby arises.
Arising out of that example, can the Government say in a general way whether it is their policy to start opening factories, to start inducing organisers of private industry, directors of research organisations, and so on, with Govern-assistance to get ready to go into mining areas when the pits are closed and to take up the slack of unemployment which thereby arises? If that is their intention there a difficult situation arises which may ensue if and when the reason for the closure of the pits is no longer apparent.
Since the war we have had one or two occasions, notably during the Suez crisis, when oil suddenly was cut off from this country and very great efforts were made to produce very large stocks of coal as quickly as possible. Those large stock are now lying on the surface in enormous quantities. They may disappear. The pits will be closed down.
In the next ten or fifteen years, there may be another oil crisis arising from an international situation and it may be necessary to reactivate the pits at short notice. What will happen then? Apparently, the Government will have arranged, through the aid of the taxpayer, to put down factories, light industries, and so on, almost on the surface where the mines are to absorb the local unemployment. If the new factories are operating on a large scale and turning out light industries and the miners have been retrained and all the rest of it, and if these factories are sited on top of the pits, what people will be brought in at a later stage to reactivate the mines? How will they be accommodated in the mining areas? All the accommodation, all the local authority housing and the miners' cottages, will by that time be occupied by those who are working in the light industries. That is one example of what is likely to arise under the Clause and I would be grateful if the Government would give attention to it and answer the problem involved.
Another question of the same sort that arises is leapfrogging from industry to industry as unfair competition produces a local depression. We have already had examples under the Distribution of Industry Acts of Government assistance being directed to a particular area under the old depressed area idea and subsequently under the Distribution of Industry Acts and indirectly unfair competition has been caused to arise to the detriment of established industries.
I have an example which I will quote without giving the name of the company
involved as I have not obtained permission to give it. It is, however, a prominent railway carriage and wagon building company in Yorkshire, who wrote to me on 10th November in these terms:
In our industry (railway rolling stock manufacture) we had inflicted upon us in this country"—
"this country" meaning England—
a very grave and serious hardship—owing to the demand which was apparently made in Scotland to find employment—by the Government placing a factory at the disposal of a new company, to whom the Transport Commission gave exceptionally large orders for railway wagons and carriages. The effect of that action has simply been, whilst finding employment in the Glasgow area, to put hundreds of men in this country, both building and repairing wagons, out of a job. Recently, we had one case where, although this company quoted the lowest price for some carriage stock, the order was given to the subsidised factory in Scotland. The effect really has been 'robbing Peter to pay Paul'.