I beg to move, in page I, line 15, to leave out "imminent, and" and to insert:
to be expected within such a period that it is expedient to exercise the said powers and (in either case)".
As the Committee will recall, we had discussion earlier on this very important point. Everyone has agreed that it is not sufficient to take action after unemployment on a serious scale has arisen and that, therefore, the Board of Trade must have powers to anticipate it. On the other hand, if the powers are too wide and too vague, and refer merely to a possible threat in the future, our resources might be dissipated over too large an area.
In the original Bill we used the word "imminent", which we thought would imply a threat of employment arising from some particular fact that is known and which, in itself, implies the likelihood of unemployment within a short period. A number of powerful arguments were put forward at that time that this was inadequate, and, on the undertaking I then gave, we have been reconsidering the drafting.
We thought it wise not to try to describe by an adjective what we have in mind, but to set out in detail what we are trying to do; which is to give the Board of Trade power to act when it should act. That is really what the Amendment says. If accepted, the Amendment moans that our powers will be capable of being used, not merely where there is substantial unemployment but also when unemployment is to be expected within such a period that we ought to do something about it. That is to put it in plain English.
I think that that should meet the views put forward earlier in Committee when it was pointed out with some force that in modern conditions, because the time it takes to build a factory, get a project going and people employed is considerable, there is a period during which it is necessary to expedite things. This would apply, first, to the likelihood of unemployment, and, secondly, to the time it would take to get an enterprise operating on a scale sufficient to absorb a large number of people.
We therefore hope that this Amendment will meet the point of view of both sides of the Committee, based as it is on common sense, and expressing in the simplest language possible what both sides want.
We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for looking again at the word "imminent". We had quite an extensive discussion on this matter in Committee and I do not propose to go over the whole of the around again.
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that during those discussions we suggested that the wording of the Distribution of Industry 1945 Act, Section 7 (2) was, in our opinion, rightly couched and gave us the right degree of powers of anticipation, and so on. We then submitted to him that if he would delete the word "imminent" and place in the Bill the words contained in the 1945 Act we would be very happy about it, as we felt that it achieved the objectives which the right hon. Gentleman himself told us he had in mind.
I quote the words of Section 7 (2):
Where at any time it appears to the Board that … there is likely to be a special danger of unemployment.
The right hon. Gentleman has not addressed himself in any way to those words. He has not told us why he has found it inconvenient, if that is the right word, to include them. I am rather disappointed that he has not spent some time in attempting to satisfy us that those words would not, in fact, do the thing which I understood that both sides of the Committee were seeking to achieve last time we discussed this matter.
We went into the matter in some detail and showed that "imminent" did not give us any powers of anticipation—the sort of powers which the right hon. Gentleman himself told us he required—and I think that from the fact that he undertook again to look at the word "imminent" conveyed to us that he was seized of the rightness of our objection. Why could not the right hon. Gentleman accept the words of the 1945 Act? His present form of words appears to us, quite frankly, although we are grateful for them as being an advance on his previous position, to be a quibble. The words which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to insert are:
… to be expected within such a period that it is expedient to exercise the said powers and …".
I promise the right hon. Gentleman that I shall not delve into the Oxford Dictionary once again for the interpretation of the word "imminent". On the other hand, the word "expedient" has
a connotation in this respect which we do not like. One interpretation of the word "expedient" is "politic as opposed to just or right". I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman wants to insert a word which is, not on my interpretation but on the interpretation of the Oxford Dictionary, capable of definition as "politic as opposed to just or right". I do not want to raise temperatures too high, but I think that that is a first-class interpretation of what I have been looking at recently—Tory policy in general.
When, for instance, would it be expedient to do these things? Some of my hon. Friends will doubtless say that it will be when there is a General Election imminent. We are looking at this as something which, if agreed, will become a permanent part of our legislation, and, as I have said, it is capable of this interpretation which, I am quite certain, the right hon. Gentleman would not want to enshrine in our permanent legislation. Why is it that, having come so far as to agree to insert the words which I have quoted and which are on the Notice Paper, he will not go the whole way and agree to give us the words which appear in the 1945 Act?
The right hon. Gentleman has just said that he does not want to put in words which imply powers which are too wide or too vague. He said that that would tend to dissipate the powers. The 1945 period of legislation, which contains the words which I have quoted, was most effective. I know that they did not actually speak in terms of anticipation, but in the actual working of the 1945 Act very much of the considerable success achieved by that Act was due to the intelligent anticipation of the Government in power at that time. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would deny that.
Why, then, is it that, having had a form of words which proved most effective in the way they worked, and having agreed, also, that his own word "imminent" is, on the whole, not suitable for the type of work which he requires this part of the Bill to perform, he now quibbles and speaks in the terms of the Amendment which brings in the words
expedient to exercise the said powers.…"?
The right hon. Gentleman has gone some way to meet us and we do not want to appear that we ourselves are quibbling. We want, however, to get a form of words which will carry out the purpose of the right hon. Gentleman and which we on this side, on Second Reading, suggested should be the way in which the Bill should work. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take this Amendment back and again to look at the facts which I have tried to outline as to the interpretations which could be put on a word such as "expedient", and to agree that, looking at it in retrospect, the wording of the 1945 Act gives us the facility to work expeditiously and also gives us everything that we required in regards to the anticipation of unemployment.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw from this position of a sort of half-way house, which cannot satisfy my right hon. and hon. Friends. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us why he cannot accept the 1945 wording, and if he cannot, to accept that wording so that we can enshrine it in the Bill.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee), who was so effective on many points, was not really serious when he related the word "expedient" to the party advantage of one side or the other of the Committee. Surely, it is obvious in a Bill of this kind, which may be operated by successive Governments—
I was quoting the Oxford Dictionary in using the words "politic as opposed to just or right". I am not saying that the word "politic" has to be used in a party sense. If the hon. Member does not accept the import of those words from me, he must accept the Oxford Dictionary.
Taking the word "politic" in that sense, surely whether a thing is "expedient" or "politic" is not to be related to a particular party, but to the judgment of the Board of Trade in considering questions in connection with the Bill. In that sense, I should have thought that the word "expedient" means expedient as judged by the Board of Trade to deal with the industrial problems contained in the Bill. Even if we had the word "desirable", which is a much stronger word, the hon. Gentleman could raise the same objection. He could say, "desirable to whom?" Desirable to the Government at a particular time before an election? If the stronger word "desirable" is used, he could then ask who was to judge the desirability of the implementation of the Bill. I should have thought that the objections raised by the hon. Gentleman were not really valid. I should have thought that the meaning of the word in the context of the Bill was perfectly clear.
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) is rather naïve. I will leave it at that.
We are anxious that, irrespective of words, there shall be action. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) has said, the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, provided in its wording for the action we required. I have in mind the advance factories which were created by the Board of Trade, and things of that kind. There should be no doubt about whether the Board of Trade will act. The right hon. Gentleman has retreated somewhat from the position he originally took up, but he still has not gone far enough and he should give more satisfactory reasons for what he asks the Committee to accept.
I have in mind areas such as my own where, in a particular part of west Cumberland, the coal industry is contracting. It may well be that, in two or three years from now, more miners will be made redundant. We are anxious that there should be adequate powers for the Board of Trade to act now to deal with a situation which could well arise four or five years hence, so that any contraction in a major industry could be phased with industrial development now, the creation of new factories and the provision of factory space, against the possibility of redundancies later.
There should be no doubt whatever about what the Board of Trade can do. The words the Minister has chosen are not wholly adequate. The wording itself is not really satisfactory. I do not know who was responsible for it. The words in the Amendment are certainly not as good as the words in the 1945 Act.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) in saying that the wording which the Minister proposes is good as far as it goes, but I want to press him again to explain why he has not chosen to use the words contained in the 1945 Act. The operative words in that Act were:
Where at any time it appears to the Board that the distribution of industry is such that in any area not specified in the First Schedule there is likely to be a special danger of unemployment …
The words which the President of the
Board of Trade has omitted from his Amendment are exactly the words
that the distribution of industry is such.
Why has he dropped those words? There is a later Amendment, in page 1, line 9, in the name of the right hon. Gentleman, which refers to the proper diversification and distribution of industry, but it is important to note that that Amendment about the diversification of industry applies as an objective of the Measure when it is implemented but is not part of a condition for bringing it into operation. In other words, if there is unemployment, then, presumably, the Bill will be used to diversify industry.
If, on the other hand, there is an area—and there are many such—where the distribution of industry is unhealthy now so that there could be an imminence of unemployment, then as I see it, because the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to leave out those words, there is a risk that the Bill will not operate in such circumstances.
We are very pleased to have the opportunity to discuss this provision of the Bill again. The right hon. Gentleman has tried to meet our wishes in the wording that he has now brought forward, but I am sure that he will agree, on reflection, that, from the standpoint we take about this Clause, his wording does not match the sort of action we want to see being taken under the Bill.
We thought that the Bill would come into operation much too late if the wording originally used was retained, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman admits that now. He suggests today the expression:
to be expected within such a period that it is expedient to exercise the said powers".
But action in this sense, also, could be too late.
I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart). Where it can be expected, in a dying coalfield, for example, that there will be a village or town bereft of employment in a certain number of years, the President of the Board of Trade ought to be able, in timely fashion, to he able to take protective action so as to avoid any great unemployment occurring in the area. Also, I should like him to have, within his own powers under the Bill, a blueprint to fit industrial fluctuations throughout the country and be able to prevent thereby almost completely, by steering industry into the affected areas, the sort of situation which, I think, perturbs all hon. Members.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) thinks that "expedient" is not a good word. While we on this side of the Committee do not like the word "expedient", I am not so much concerned with it in that sense. I want the President of the Board of Trade to say whether he has any actual period in mind in using the words "within such a period". In justification for his form of words, he mentioned the time it would take to build a factory. Site preparation, and so forth, does take time, and, perhaps, eighteen months would be a good estimate. Is he thinking of that sort of time for the preparatory work necessary in order to cope with unemployment which is foreseeable in any particular area? Has he any definite grounds for opposing the much more specific words of the 1945 Act?
I can well understand that the President of the Board of Trade is reluctant to widen the Bill beyond what he regards as the scope necessary for its purpose. When we argued about these Clauses on an earlier occasion it seemed that, while he assured us that he had an open mind about the word "imminent", he had already made up his mind not to go beyond a certain limit. This is really the trouble with the new formulation which he has introduced. It is not just a quibble about words. It is an important matter, and we want the right hon. Gentleman to look at it again.
The right hon. Gentleman intends to include a reference to something which we on this side of the Committee regard as very important, namely, the proper diversification of industry, but, if I may say so with respect, he is bringing that in at a point where it does not matter very much. If there is a declining industry in a certain area and it becomes necessary to bring employment into that area, nobody would think of taking factories in the same industry into the area where the industry is already declining. Diversification, or, at least, an element of it, is really automatic then. We have gained very little if the factor of diversification is given weight only at a time when it really does not avert the evil which we wish to prevent.
I cannot see why it is not possible, even if the President of the Board of Trade does not wish to return to the words of the 1945 Act, to introduce the words "the proper distribution and diversification of industry" as one of the factors that would make it expedient for the Minister to act, unless there is a determination to leave the Bill so flexible that at any given moment it is possible to do nothing at all because there may be general reasons for not wishing to do anything. I did not understand that that was the right hon. Gentleman's attitude earlier.
I therefore cannot understand why it is not possible, even at this late stage, to put the words "the proper diversification and distribution of industry" into the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman were to do that, he would meet most of the points about which some of us have been deeply concerned.
Perhaps I may intervene at this stage, because there appears to be some confusion. The Amendment is not concerned with the question why the Board of Trade should act, but when it should be able to act. The question whether diversification comes into it is not in issue on this Amendment, which is concerned solely with how soon in advance of the growth of unemployment we are empowered to act. The other points may be good, but I respectfully suggest that they are not relevant to this Amendment.
If our argument is to be dismissed as irrelevant, I ought to say that in deciding what is the right time to act any administration will have to consider whether a particular area is dependent upon one industry only which happens to be in decline. Diversification is immediately relevant when the Minister comes to make up his mind.
The question at issue is whether the Bill should contain the word "imminent" or the other words to which reference has been made. Those two alternatives are merely descriptive of the period of time within which the Board of Trade should act.
I am disappointed at the reaction of the other side of the Committee to this Amendment. I can understand hon. Members opposite complaining when we put forward an Amendment which goes only part of the way to meet their point, but when I go 100 per cent. of the way, if not further, it is disappointing to be accused of quibbling. If anyone is quibbling, it is the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee). The hon. Member asked why we have not used the words "special danger". The reason is that if we were to use those words our powers would not be as wide as they would be under the Amendment. I think that that is a fairly good reason.
The words in the subsection which we
are considering are:
locality in Great Britain in which in the opinion of the Board of Trade … a high rate of unemployment exists or is imminent.
It is accepted—the text of the Bill is not challenged—that the judgment is to be made by the Board of Trade. First, we have to judge whether a high rate of unemployment exists, and, secondly—and this is the point at issue—what we have to judge is "anticipation". The Bill, as originally drafted, said we must judge that unemployment is imminent. I accept that that could be improved. If we were told that there was a special danger of unemployment, I think that that would he much more restrictive. I agree that if there were an area based on one industry where there is high unemployment that might be a special danger. However, we do not want to deal only with the special danger of unemployment but with all dangers of unemployment.
In effect, the Amendment will give us power to act as soon as we think that we ought to act. We cannot go any further than that. If the Bill is so framed as to leave the judgment, as it must be left as a point of administration, to the Board of Trade, we can hardly go further than say, "We will act as soon as there is unemployment, or as soon as we think that there is a danger of it and that it is time that we did something about it".
By the Amendment we have tried to go 100 per cent. of the way, as the Opposition wished, and I do not think that any alternative words could possibly be wider. In fact, they would be narrower.
The President of the Board of Trade has gone part of the way to meet us. We said in Committee that, in our view, if the word "imminent" were left in the Bill as drafted it would not meet the point put very strongly from both sides We are entering a period of great technological change. There are two kinds of unemployment that we have to meet: first, unemployment due to economic policy; and, secondly, the unemployment which results from quick and rapid technological changes.
When the Bill is law it will be the substantive measure to deal with the unemployment problem. Every word of the 1945 Act will have been repealed. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the major object of the 1945 Act was not to deal with imminent unemployment or with the problems of localities, but to ensure that there was a sensible distribution of industry. When the Bill becomes an Act I hope that there will be very close contact between all industries experiencing or likely to experience unemployment from technological changes.
I have had experience of this in the industry which I know best. Because of changes in the coal industry, many mines have closed. Hundreds of men have been thrown out of work and have been unable to find employment of any kind. We want to avoid the sudden closure of old industries without an interval during which to take the necessary steps. We are anxious that the Board of Trade should be clothed with adequate power to act in anticipation of unemployment. It is essential that there should be the closest contact between the Board of Trade and industry. I should like industry generally to be obliged to acquaint the Government of changes in policy which may be followed by unemployment. The word "expedient" frightens us. We would like to have a stronger word in the Bill. We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for considering the matter and agreeing that the original words do not meet the desire of both sides of the Committee and that some other words will have to be substituted. We are anxious that the Bill should place an obligation on the Board of Trade to act in anticipation of unemployment in good time so that there is not a tremendous gap between the closing of old industries and the opening of new ones.
The words of the Amendment are an improvement on the Bill as first drafted. We hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider the matter again to see whether he can remove our fears about the word "expedient".
Coming from west Stirlingshire, what worries me is this. There are two communities there; Kilsyth, a community of approximately 10,000 people, and Lennoxtown, a community of about 7,000 people. Nearly all the people in those areas have to travel considerable distances to and from work. How do the Government propose to tackle that problem?
Surely it is perfectly in order, for we are dealing with the words:
to be expected within such a period that it is expedient to exercise the said powers…
Surely what my hon. Friend is arguing is whether, in this case, it is desirable to establish industry in those two areas, if it is possible to do so within the definition laid down. Surely it is in order to argue that.
I can well understand the reluctance of the President of the Board of Trade to accept the proposal that he should incorporate the word "danger"—danger of unemployment. What he fears is that there may be dangers which might not come to anything, but that the Board of Trade might take action which would be unnecessary, thereby wasting public money. If that accounts for his reluctance to accept our argument, it is difficult to understand how he construes that as being more limiting than the words which he has suggested. He could well have accepted our suggestion, which would not cost him anything.
What will the Amendment do? It makes a specific reference to localities, but whether the Government do anything at all thereafter will depend on the President of the Board of Trade and his advisers. In other words, no words included here can force or limit the hand of the President of the Board of Trade. It is left entirely to him to decide whether an area should be specified and whether thereafter powers should be exercised. There are few, if any, mandatory powers in the succeeding Clauses.
I cannot appreciate his unwillingness to accept what is a fact about areas of unemployment. There are areas where there is a special danger of unemployment, areas which have been shown historically to be especially vulnerable. Is it not better to have the right to take action there and to have the area specified, so that there is no need to go through all the rigmarole of persuading the Minister that he should specify such an area, then persuading him to take action?
What is now proposed is certainly an improvement on the last wording. In the last case we were bound by the question of what was imminent and there was no doubt that unemployment had to be facing an area and actually upon it before anything could be done.
I have looked up many dictionaries in relation to our discussion on the word "imminent", but none of them contained these words. There is no doubt an improvement on the last wording.
Exception has been taken to the word "expedient", but I think that that exception is probably a little false. However, the important thing is that expediency refers not to the Government, but to time
to be expected within such a period that it is expedient to exercise …
The expediency in relation to taking action is dependent on such a period, in the opinion of the President of the Board of Trade. That period may be three or four years, or two or three months. In that way, the right hon. Gentleman has given himself fairly wide scope for taking action.
At the same time, the right hon. Gentleman will equally appreciate that by including these words, he has power not to take action, even though heavy unemployment is expected. The danger may be there and may be admitted by the President of the Board of Trade, but the period may be such that no action need be taken, or it may not be expedient to take action. Having gone so far, I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman could have gone the whole way.
I am sure that, if the right hon. Gentleman accepted our suggestion about the word "danger", that would meet the case. He seems anxious to dispel our fears about certain areas historically vulnerable to changes in trade or economic conditions. They are the old areas, the special areas, where there is a special danger to unemployment which is still present. Having gone so far, the right hon. Gentleman should not have turned back from going all the way to allay our fears about the special areas with special dangers.
First, I must apologise for being rather late in attending the Committee, which, unfortunately, was unavoidable. I am a very practical person and I should like my right hon. Friend to argue against the Amendment on the basis of an example from the kind of area which I represent. We now know that it is unavoidable that we should have to look forward to unemployment among the mining communities. On the North-East Coast there is apprehension about the future of shipbuilding and ship repairing. There can be no doubt that in the County of Durham as well as in the County of Northumberland many coal mines are now being closed.
I do not think that I particularly support the Amendment which has been proposed by hon. Members opposite—
Hon. Members opposite were talking about what they wanted done, and I am now talking about what I want done. Is my right hon. Friend satisfied about the Amendment which he has proposed and with which I may or may not be in agreement? I want to know why we on the North-East Coast cannot get sanction from the Board of Trade—it may be the Treasury; I am not certain—to establish an extension of one of our industries on the Team Valley Trading Estate in the very centre of the mining area of County Durham. It is from that practical point of view—
I hate disagreeing with the Chair, but the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has been talking about special areas. I am talking about other special areas, of the North-East Coast.
Order. As I understand, the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) dealt, in passing, whit the special areas in general. Now the hon. Lady is trying to deal with a specific point, but I think that if she looks at the wording of the Amendment which we are now discussing she will realise that she is entirely out of order.
Very well, Mr. Blackburn, I can now start talking in general about the special areas of the North-East Coast. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Most certainly. I want my right hon. Friend to say why, in view of the imminence of unemployment on the North-East Coast—
I would prefer to have the words "imminent, and", because if the word "imminent" is embodied in the Bill there is a greater chance for the area which I represent to get fair treatment from the President of the Board of Trade. As I am not apparently entitled to make my case, and, of course, I accept your Ruling, Mr. Blackburn, I give notice here and now that I am so dissatisfied that I will vote against the Government and in support of the Opposition.
The apparent object of the Amendment is to bring uncertainty into a very uncertain Clause. The Clause is full of vagueness and I recommend the Minister to take it back and recast it. The Amendment which he seeks does not do what he desires to do. The Clause is intended, on a fair construction, to put an obligation upon the Minister. It does nothing of the kind, and the Amendment is just as vague as the Clause itself.
The wording of the Amendment includes the word "imminent" and I am sure that there is no one in the Committee who will allege that that word is in any way a word that is certain. The Minister, by means of the Amendment, seeks to substitute for that word observations or words which are just as vague and uncertain and indefinite as the word "imminent" itself.
The Amendment contains the words "to be expected". Is there anything more vague? There is nothing certain about them. Then the expression "within such a period" is vague, and there is no way of measuring what the period will be. Then again, there are the words "that it is expedient" expedient in the Minister's mind. It used to be said about the courts of equity in the old days that their decisions were as variable as the length of the Lord Chancellor's foot. Here the decision as to what is expedient, what is the period and what is to be expected is just as variable as the length of the Minister's foot. I will not make the obvious joke that arises from the word "foot", beyond saying that the Amendment fails to do what the Minister intends.
The Clause is bad. It does not put any definite obligation upon the Minister, which should be upon him in this very important matter, and the Amendment would leave the Clause just as vague as it was at the beginning. Therefore, I suggest to the Minister that the proper way out is to take back the whole Clause and recast it.
The word "imminent" is part of the Clause. The Minister seeks to take out the word "imminent" and to insert other words. My submission, Mr. Blackburn, is that he fails to make the Clause definite by that substitution. I am not discussing the Clause beyond saying that the Amendment fails to do what the Minister seeks to do and that, therefore, the Amendment should be rejected.
I hope that the Committee can now take a decision. The Amendment is really designed to meet the wishes of all concerned, but a certain amount of confusion has arisen in the course of discussion. The question, quite simply, is whether the word "imminent" should be retained, or whether other words should take its place. The question whether the powers of the Board of Trade should be permissive or mandatory, though important, is not in any way relevant to the Amendment.
Nor is it right to suppose that the word "imminent" introduces objective judgment into the situation, because the word is qualified by the words
… in the opinion of the Board of Trade …
Therefore, we are merely deciding in what circumstances the Board of Trade shall be permitted to take certain action. It is my clear impression that both sides of the Committee, including my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), wish the Board to have the powers to act as soon as possible, and that is precisely what the Amendment provides.
But do they not amount to a restriction on the President of the Board of Trade if, in the areas which I have tried to indicate, there is not at the moment a high incidence of unemployment because 100 per cent. of the workers go elsewhere to work? I suggest that there should be the greatest possible degree of power in the Bill so as to prevent the need arising for people to travel far afield for employment.
The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) said that the words which the President of the Board of Trade is introducing into the Clause had exactly the same meaning as "imminent". If that were true, the right hon. Gentleman would be grossly misleading us, because he would be making no change when he claims to be doing so. I do not agree with the noble Lord. I think that the Amendment makes a change and comes some way to meet us.
I agree with the President of the Board of Trade in that respect, but I think that it is he who is confused when he attacks my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) and says that he has gone 100 per cent. of the way. What we are discussing is how to specify what is already in the Bill. We proposed in Committee that the right hon. Gentleman should adopt the words in the 1945 Act. The right hon. Gentleman, quite rightly, points out that the relevant subsection there included the words
… there is likely to be a special danger of unemployment …
and he argues that those words are more restrictive than the proposed words "to be expected" in the Amendment. I rather doubt that. I should have thought that there was not much in it.
The paint which the right hon. Gentleman failed to notice, however, and which justifies what at least two of my hon. Friends have said is that the words in the 1945 Act include also the words:
Where at any time it appears to the Board that the distribution of industry is such that in any area not specified in the said First Schedule there is likely to be a special danger.…
The right hon. Gentleman is not inserting those words in this part of the definition in the Bill. Therefore, it is possible to argue, when one takes that into consideration, that the words now proposed are as wide as the previous words.
I should like to quote an example to the right hon. Gentleman. Suppose that there was a coal mining village with no other employment in it but coal mining. Suppose that there was no unemployment there at present and no reason to expect it in the immediate future. Under the wording which the Minister now proposes, the Board of Trade could not act in those circumstances. Under the wording of the 1945 Act, one could have argued that, although there was no unemployment either present or to be expected, nevertheless the distribution of industry was such in that area that such a condition might arise. I am not saying whether it would be right to act or whether it would be right not to act in those circumstances. I am not arguing that at the moment, but it is perfectly clear that the words of the 1945 Act were wider, at any rate in this respect, than the words which the right hon. Gentleman is now putting before us.
Though we agree that it is a considerable advance, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman has come rather more than half-way to meet us—and I am being charitable to him—he really cannot contradict the views of my hon. Friends that these words, even now, will not be as wide as those of the Act which is being repealed. If he does he himself is confused.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 27, to leave out subsection (6).
We are proposing here—and this is an important point which was not debated at all during the Committee stage—that the Government and the Committee should not include in the Bill these words in subsection (6):
The powers conferred by this Part of this Act shall not be exercisable after the expiration of seven years from the commencement thereof unless Parliament otherwise determines.
If this subsection remains in the Bill, it means that all the positive powers in the Bill will cease to operate at the end of seven years, unless new legislation is passed. In our opinion, that is a totally unnecessary provision and ought to be struck out of the Bill. We challenged the President of the Board of Trade about it on Second Reading, and I think on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", though there was no Amendment. The only reason which the right hon. Gentleman could give for inserting these very odd words in the Bill were that it would be a good thing to allow Parliament, at the end of seven years, to review the whole matter, and see how we were getting on.
We find that completely unconvincing. For one thing, even if we do not have these words in the Bill, and if the powers continued in being without any need for Parliament to reinstate them, it would he possible to debate the matter whenever we wished. There are all sorts of methods by which the House can debate unemployment and the distribution of industry, as the Minister well knows, and it is not necessary to insert this provision in the Bill so that the matter can be debated when it ought to be debated.
If there is to be a sound argument for putting in this subsection, the Government must show that there is a particular reason why these powers should expire. After all, the Minister might have argued in the same way about almost any Bill coming before the House which deals with subjects which we wish to debate from time to time, and that therefore, the whole of the Act should expire after seven years in order that the position might be reviewed. But the Government did not apply that argument to the Rent Act, and there is no provision to that effect in that Act. Nor do we find such a Clause in the Homicide Act, which could be another example chosen at random, although that might be an interesting subject for debate.
Coming rather nearer home, there was no Clause of this kind in the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, which would have gone on indefinitely if no action had been taken, nor indeed in the Distribution of Industry (Finance) Act, 1958, which the present Government themselves introduced. It is very extraordinary that they should have introduced it, albeit the minor amending Act in 1958 put in no provision that it should expire at the end of five or seven years. Yet, when they were consolidating the whole of the powers, as they claim to be doing in this Bill, they should put in this Clause to state when these whole operations should come to an end.
This would only be justified if the problems which the Bill is intended to meet were temporary and emergency ones and not a permanent part of our economic life. I say without hesitation that the problems which we are meeting here are likely to last as long as British industry and employment. For one thing, the drift of population and industry to London is a permanent long-term factor, and not a temporary one. Can any hon. Member honestly think that that drift is likely to come to an end in any foreseeable future?
The whole problem of expanding and contracting industries, as the Minister must know, is a permanent problem, and not one just of a few years or even a few post-war years or anything of the kind. It may well be that the industries which will be contracting ten years' hence will be different from those expanding now. Some will be expanding and some will be contracting, and there will be some areas particularly hit by unemployment. The whole merit of these powers, and I think the Minister will be with me here, is that if we get a situation in which the coal industry, on which some areas are largely dependent, is contracting, or the cotton industry, we can ensure that the slack is taken up, and the contraction, though it hits the industry, does not hit the whole area as well. Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that for some mysterious reason, seven or ten years' hence, all this will cease to be true? Obviously, he cannot.
I give one further example. The drift of the population, which is one of the factors giving rise to this problem, is not a temporary one here. It is going on all over the world, and there is no reason to think that, as mechanisation proceeds in agriculture—and that is the real cause of it—it will abate or disappear either.
For all these reasons, we believe that these powers are not merely necessary, but should be a permanent part of the planning machinery of this country. They are not a bit of emergency aid for an odd, temporary problem which is going to disappear in a few years. To imagine that is totally to misconceive the whole operation. There is no justification whatever for this foolish subsection, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, who I do not believe can disagree with my argument, will meet us even at this late stage.
I am rather surprised that the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and his colleagues should have taken this view of the Clause. I recall that, as the right hon. Gentleman said, this matter was raised on Second Reading, and I also recall that there were certain arguments along the lines he mentioned today, but the right hon. Gentleman also said—and I quote his words—that it was very extraordinary that a similar Clause was not contained in earlier legislation. Surely it would be even more extraordinary if in framing new legislation at this moment, we took no account of experience gained in implementing previous legislation.
Surely the experience of the 1945 Act and of previous legislation was that, while it confererd undoubted benefits on certain areas in the country, it failed to touch certain fringe areas outside the Development Areas. In other words, by perhaps 1950 or 1953, the Distribution of Industry Act had shown itself to be somewhat inflexible, and its benefits were limited to certain areas which needed major assistance at the end of the war or in the inter-war years, thereby depriving certain areas like North-West Wales to quote one example, of the assistance which they required.
Surely, if that is so, the hon. Gentleman must be able to show that the remedy was not to terminate the powers altogether at the end of seven years; but to extend the Development Areas which could be done under the previous Act.
Not at all. To extend the Development Areas in that way would be to spread the butter rather more thinly. Reverting to my argument, anyone who looks at this objectively in the light of the experience of implementing earlier legislation can see that after a certain period of time, there was need to consider legislation of a slightly different kind. In his speech the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) emphasised that we are living in a rapidly changing age, in a very dynamic period in our history. I respectifully submit to the Committee that the fact that this age is changing so quickly, and that this is such a dynamic change, will make probable the need for a further review of this Measure in a shorter period rather than a longer one, as compared with the period in which the previous legislation became obsolescent. Certainly, at the end of seven years it would be beneficial to have an absolute necessity for new legislation to be considered. This Bill is designed to meet a particular problem, namely, high unemployment.
The hon. Gentleman knows that when this Bill is enacted it will be the only substantial Measure on the Statute Book to deal with this problem, because the whole of the 1945 Act is repealed. We are, therefore, now considering what will be the only Act of Parliament under which Parliament has power to act in this matter. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that at the end of seven years there will be no need of any legislation of this kind? If he agrees that there will be a need for legislation at the end of seven years, because this is a permanent problem, why include seven years in the Bill?
I have said that there will be a need for legislation of perhaps a very different kind at the end of seven years, and for that reason I think that my case and that of my right hon. Friend is strengthened. I hope that he will reject the Amendment.
Reverting to the argument which the right hon. Gentleman interrupted, the Bill is designed to deal with the problem of much unemployment in certain parts of the country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite want to bring in other things as well. They want to deal with other areas where unemployment is not severe and to apply the Bill to them. Indeed, some of their Amendments have that purpose in mind.
It may be, as I hope, that after seven years we shall have largely solved the problem of severe unemployment and will be able to contemplate the areas of not so severe unemployment. Therefore, I should think that it would be beneficial that this Parliament, or its successor, should be able to contemplate the problem in seven years' time, not only in the light of our experience today but of the experience which Parliament and the Board of Trade will then have of the operation of this Measure.
The answer to the hon. Gentleman is a simple one, that without this provision being in the Bill, the Bill can be amended and brought up to date at any time Parliament or a Government decides to do so. With this provision in the Bill it is more than likely that the Government will wait seven years before taking any action, because Ministers will always come along to the Dispatch Box and say, "We are bound to review this at the end of seven years". That is a good alibi for a Government which does not want to do anything and the speech of the hon. Gentleman did not show a great deal of understanding of Parliamentary processes.
This subsection is really a testimonial to the outworn economic ideas to which the President of the Board of Trade gives expression from time to time. What really underlies the subsection is the argument which we have heard often from the right hon. Gentleman—namely, that private enterprise is all right, it can solve its problems, but it needs a little Government assistance now and then to help it along. The right hon. Gentleman seems to be a schizophrenic, because he says things and then tries to do something different when in office. What I expect is at the back of his mind is that, if only we give private enterprise some assistance now, it will solve the problem and everything in the garden will be lovely. That is a lot of nonsense, because it becomes increasingly obvious as we progress that private enterprise is to get more and more assistance, not simply one dose but an increasing amount of assistance.
I rise because this subsection is particularly unfortunate in the case of Scotland. I do not know what the Secretary of State was doing to agree to a subsection limiting these provisions to seven years. Even if the President of the Board of Trade does not know, surely the Minister of State knows that unemployment in Scotland is a long-term problem. This has been said so many times in Scotland over twenty-five years that I thought it would at least by this time have penetrated into the minds of a Tory establishment in St. Andrew's House. I cannot understand this. The Scottish Council (Development and Industry) has issued documents, the most recent one last year, in which it has stated that this is a long-term problem that can be solved only by long-term measures, and everyone knows that this is true.
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the Scottish Council, just as the Welsh and Ulster Councils, has powers outside the operation of this Bill which will be permanent. Those powers will be used to steer industry to Scotland, either within the provisions of this Bill or outside it.
The hon. Gentleman really does not understand the Scottish Council. In one sense it is powerless. At least it has no statutory power, and it has no power other than to assist industry in many ways. It has issued exceedingly valuable reports, the burden of which has been generally accepted even by progressive Tories—if there is such a thing as a progressive Tory in Scotland—namely, that this is a long-term problem. Certainly, in the case of Scotland, to specify a period of seven years is failing to face the realities of the situation.
This comes of trying to offer blanket solutions to the problem of unemployment. The Government are trying to think in terms of the country as a whole, whereas what the Government ought to be doing is to he thinking about different parts of the country and their different needs—I see the Parliamentary Secretary pointing his finger to something, I do not know what.
But the Bill does not do that satisfactorily, as we shall show later, maybe at rather considerable length. [HON. MEMBERS: "0h."] We do not mind obliging if hon. Gentlemen would like us to promise to do that. We should have had a separate Bill for Scotland but, not having had one, at least we expected that the Bill we have would recognise the special circumstances of Scotland, and those circumstances are of such a character that we must have a long-term programme. In view of this, I should have thought that the Minister would have put in a provision that this did not apply to Scotland.
There is the other aspect which my hon. Friends have mentioned and it is that, as we go forward, it becomes increasingly obvious that industry must change with increasing rapidity. It is also obvious that with increasing rapidity we must recognise and welcome change and take the necessary steps to bring it about. That being so, does not this provision seem to be a little uncalled for? There is no reason why it should be in the Bill.
The reason which has been given, that we shall then have a chance to look at the problem again, is not a very good one, because the Government could give us that chance any time they liked. We could do it on a Supply day whenever we liked. We could simply ask for the Votes of the Board of Trade to be put on the Notice Paper and debate this matter. Therefore, the reason given is no reason at all. It is just an excuse given by the President of the Board of Trade to justify a subsection that satisfies some of the outworn economic prejudices which characterise most of the right hon. Gentleman's speeches if not his actions.
In a few words I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, who, I understand, is to reply to the debate on this Amendment, if he can submit to hon. Members on this side of the Committee any logical reason why this subsection should be inserted in the Bill. If he can, we will put up both hands. But I am afraid that he will not be able to do that.
For the life of me I cannot understand why the subsection should be inserted in the Bill, because, if it is, many of the districts will find, both in the very near future and in the distant future, that it will operate against them. All the arguments which we have heard from the Government benches have been to the effect that unemployment will come to an end and that there will be no need for the Bill.
It is quite true to say that in Scotland there is every justification for the Bill being put on the Statute Book as speedily as possible. The position may not be the same in other parts of the country, but it would appear from the arguments advanced by hon. Members opposite that unemployment will come to an end. We have heard that for many years.
The Act of 1945 attempted to deal with unemployment, but the problem has not yet been fully dealt with. It is still with us, and as long as we have the present industrial system we shall have unemployment with us until the crack of doom. It is true that we may be able to reduce it to the least possible minimum by legislation and by industrial organisation, but I believe that we shall never completely solve the problem of unemployment. An hon. Member opposite, who I am sorry to see has left the Chamber, advanced the argument that every district was alike and that in a certain number of years the problem of unemployment would he solved.
Let us reflect for a moment upon our experience of operating the 1945 Act. If this subsection had been included in that Act many of the districts which have had the benefit of diversification of industry would never have had it. The matter can, and should, be analysed and examined by the Department. I know something about it because I happen to come from a district where, just like a bolt from the blue, whole collieries went out of commission in 1937. We could not get diversification of industry brought to us, to districts which go down and down until they become ghost towns and which had almost 80 per cent. unemployment in 1930–33.
If it was essential to leave such a subsection out of the 1945 Act, not because that Measure was sponsored by a Labour Government but because it was common sense not to tie the Government down to a specific period, then surely it is essential to omit it from this Measure If the subsection is inserted in the Bill, I have a vision of what will happen in south-west Lancashire. It may not happen in five, six or even seven years, but the subsection will, as I understand it, affect many of the districts which I have in mind.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to say why, if it was essential not to put a subsection of this character into the 1945 Act—we are dealing particularly with an unemployment situation in industrial areas which are becoming worked out—it is necessary to put it into a Bill calculated to solve or prevent unemployment. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to give hon. Members on this side of the Committee at least one logical reason why the subsection should be inserted in the Bill. I support the Amendment because I do not believe that the subsection should be in a Bill of this character which has for its objective the solution of unemployment in these islands and particularly Scotland.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade or the Secretary of State for Scotland will speedily rise and accept the Amendment, because if they do not they are supporting something that is really fatuous if not, indeed, rather dangerous. I do not know whether they heard the Leader of the House read out the business for this week. Yesterday we dealt with the Population (Statistics) Bill. That had its origin in 1938 and was to last for ten years. It was supposed to lapse in 1948, but every year for eleven years the Government have been bringing it forward and continuing it for a further twelve months. This week we are dealing with the Requisitioned Houses Bill. That was to lapse, too. I think that this is the second time that the Government have said that they need another few years in which to deal with the problem.
The hon. Member for Fife, Fast (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart), the former Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, will remember a Bill relating to the digging of potatoes by school children which was to last for three years. That Measure is still being carried on from year to year.
What does the subsection mean? It means that this much heralded piece of legislation, the Local Employment Bill, has got to come to an end after seven years. It is a proclamation on the part of the Tory Government that they are going to cure unemployment in seven years. But it took them eight years before they could give us any legislation at all. Just before the General Election we heard that they were to introduce a major Bill to deal with the problem of unemployment. We heard that they were getting down to the business of seeing what was wrong with Scotland and were to produce a Bill. They have now produced a Bill which will last for seven years.
Is it that the problem with which we are dealing will be wiped out in seven years' time and that therefore the Bill requires this subsection? Does anyone believe that? Does the Secretary of State believe it? It will take him about seven years to get any jobs made available under the Bill. One of my hon. Friends spoke about the need for speed in getting the Bill through for Scotland, but everything being done in Scotland is being done under the old legislation and can be done under that legislation.
We are convinced that the Government themselves know that they cannot cure the problem of unemployment in seven years. The Bill gives the people of Scotland the idea that the Government regard unemployment as something trifling which requires only temporary legislation, and we are dependent upon back benchers to raise these questions from, I am glad to say, both sides of the Committee. I was glad to hear the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) speaking for her area and talking about the failure of her Government in that area.
If the hon. Lady had taken the trouble to read the Amendment, she would have found ways and means of keeping in order.
It is the attitude of the Government that worries the people of Scotland. They get the impression that the Government do not regard unemployment as important. Since the Government introduced the Bill and made all their speeches about discovering how important unemployment was, unemployment in Scotland has risen from just over 80,000 to 98,000. I guarantee that there are now over 100,000 people unemployed.
This legislation will last for only seven years. Do the Government think that these weapons of attack on unemployment will be so little used that they will be rusty after seven years and might as well be declared dead? It is surely not the task of the Parliamentary Secretary to try to persuade us that the retention of the subsection means that the Government will give Parliament a chance to reconsider the whole position after seven years. As everyone knows, we can reconsider the matter at any time we like. The Government can bring forward legislation and we can press for legislation, certainly for debates. We will have debates, I assure the Government, on unemployment in Scotland long before seven years have elapsed.
Who convinced the Secretary of State for Scotland that it was sensible to specify the seven years? Would the authority of the Bill or of the President of the Board of Trade, the Secretary of State for Scotland or anyone be affected by withdrawing the subsection? It would make the Bill much more sensible. As it is, it gives the impression that the Government do not care very much about this temporary legislation and that nobody believes that they will cure the problem in seven years. To suggest that we must wait for seven years for a new Bill is quite wrong. One hon. Member opposite told us that we will get new legislation in seven years' time. Where is that stated in the Bill? All that will happen after seven years will be that this Bill will lapse and nothing will be put in its place. Let the Government save themselves from their fatuous and silly attitude. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will accept the Amendment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) made a good point about the seven years, because it is important that in matters of this kind we should be able to review the situation within a reasonable time. If we have legislation with an unlimited period, sometimes it is difficult to get the Opposition or the usual channels to agree to debate matters which are covered by an Act or Parliament which is in permanent operation. Therefore, I do not altogether disagree with the point of view put forward by my hon. Friend.
I am, however, bound to say that, having listened to both Wales and Scotland, it is about time that England should have a chance to say a word. The Conservative Government have been in power, I am glad to say, for quite a long time and I want to know whether, if the period of seven years is retained in the Bill, we on the North East Coast can look forward to having a visit from the President of the Board of Trade, from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade and some of the Treasury officials, so that within the seven years we shall know that the people who are concerned with our future know what is happening on the North East Coast.
I do not want to get you up against me again, Mr. Blackburn—
I do not see why I should be out of order, Mr. Blackburn. I have listened to long speeches from Scotland and Wales and I do not believe that the affairs of one's area can be conducted merely by arguing generalities. The North East Coast is just as welcome to be mentioned in this Committee as Scotland and Wales.
I do not underestimate the importance of the North East Coast. I have been in the House of Commons with the hon. Lady for a long time and, therefore, I realise the importance of the North East Coast. We are not discussing that, however. We are discussing whether to retain the subsection, which means that the Bill will lapse at the end of seven years. We are not discussing any one area but whether the Bill will lapse after seven years.
I am arguing from the viewpoint of the North East Coast that it might be a good idea for the Bill to last for seven years only. In the meantime, I hope that within those seven years, if my right hon. Friend argues that it is a good period to insert in the Bill, he will be able to see something of the North East Coast. That was all I wanted to know.
The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), who moved the Amendment, was quite right in saying that Parliament has an opportunity of discussing the problem of local employment at any time in various ways if it so desires, but the effect of the Amendment would be to remove the requirement that Parliament should have a n opportunity of examining the principles of the Bill after a reasonable period to see what we have achieved under it and whether any changes are required.
There seems to be a good deal of misunderstanding about why the seven-year period was included.
If the hon. Member waits until I complete my remarks, I will be able to answer that.
I noticed in reading the Report of the Committee stage of the Bill, when, alas, I was prevented from being present, that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) used the same argument as he has used this afternoon. On 8th December, the hon. Member asked the reason for the period of seven years and said:
It means that the Government are convinced either that they can cure the evil in seven years or that after seven years they will dismiss it as incurable and arc prepared then to do nothing at all about it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1959; Vol. 615, c 388.]
That is nonsense. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock has a lively imagination, which leads him to see sinister motives where they do not exist. I have noticed this tendency in a great many of his speeches. He throws about adjectives like "silly" and "fatuous". They apply to his own speeches more often than he realises.
The subsection is not a statement by the Government that we consider unemployment to be of no account or that we shall have solved it within seven years. We agree with the right hon. Member for Battersea, North that there will be industries which are contracting and industries which are expanding. It is because we believe the problem may have changed and may require different solutions at the end of the seven-year period that we are suggesting to Parliament that the Bill should lapse then so that it will be considerd to see whether fresh powers are necessary.
There is no magic about the period of seven years. It might have been five, six, seven, or eight years, but we selected seven years because it usually takes three or four years before a factory is built and is in working operation. The site has to be selected, the factory has to be erected, the tooling up of the factory has to be completed and labour has to be trained. That usually takes three or four years. We do not think that another three or four years after that is too short a period in which to see if the benefits provided by the Bill are solving local unemployment problems. It is a reasonable period in which to see how the Bill is operating. It strikes me as odd that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) made the speech that he did. He first said that the Local Employment Bill was useless. Presumably therefore in seven years' time he would welcome the chance of passing a new Bill? Is it that hon. Gentlemen opposite have already given up hope that they will win the election which must take place before seven years expire? This seems to be a great confession of despondency in the ranks opposite. If we are re-elected during the seven-year period, we shall look at the Bill again to see if it requires change or amendment. If the right hon. Gentlemen opposite are in a position to form a Government after the next election presumably they will change the Bill and introduce new legislation.
Mr. G. R. Hitchison:
Do I understand from what the Parliamentary Secretary is saying that it is not intended that this subsection should ever come into operation? That is to say, it is never to be the case that all the powers are to be no longer exercisable, and that this is all merely a peg on which a review can be hung?
At the end of seven years it will be for Parliament to decide whether to re-enact the legislation or to pass new legislation. We consider that seven years is a good period in which to take stock, to see how far we have got, and to consider whether any new problems are emerging. I therefore ask the Committee to resist the Amendment.
I was about to ask that question because I am concerned about people who are now employed under the Board of Trade but who may be taken out of their positions by the management corporations. Are we to understand from the reply of the Minister that they will now have security for only seven years if they are employed by the corporations? Is that what the Minister is saying in reply to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)?
If the management corporations are to do their job properly they must have the best men. The right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) once paid tribute to West Cumberland and to the efficiency of the administration there. The men in the administration are very anxious about their positions. I hope that the Minister will reconsider his quick reply to my hon. and learned Friend. I want the people employed by the corporations to have a measure of security. That measure of security is not provided by specifying a period of seven years.
I do not want to wander into the arguments advanced by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). We in West Cumberland do not wait for the Minister to come to us. We go to the Minister. I am glad that the hon. Lady's hon. Friends have met representatives from my area, and that they will be meeting other representatives shortly. We are worried that these powers in the Bill will not be used effectively. It is a mistake to stipulate a seven-year period.
The Minister made a personal attack on my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock. My hon. Friend has been very diligent and vigilant, and has strongly criticised the Bill. I, too, believe it to be a bad Bill. Although many of my hon. Friends' arguments have been valid ones, they have been rejected. This is a bad Bill and I have said so not only in Committee but on Second Reading. While the powers are given by the Bill, the question arises how those powers will be used. Much will depend on the spirit in which the Government and the Minister concerned approach the problem.
I come back to my first point. I hope that the people who will be concerned with the planning of industry in the areas affected will have the security which they would appear not to have if one accepts the Minister's reply.
I submit that the Government are in a dilemma. If the Bill is a good one, why not continue it for a period which will enable it to be made really effective? Why not make it permanent? If it is a bad Bill, it can be repealed. Subsection (6) is therefore unnecessary.
May I draw the attention of the Committee to what Viscount Stuart of Findhorn, the former right hon. Member for Moray and Nairn, said before his translation to another place about the earlier Bill which is not an Act. It has been suggested that behind subsection (6) there is the idea that the Bill may never be put into force; it is window dressing. Also, at the end of seven years it may be used to repeal or alter the powers given by Clause 1. Mr. James Stuart, as he then was, said:
Great play has been made of the benefits which would accrue from the application of the Distribution of Industry Act, but to put it brutally, very little had happened and the Act had never really been put into force.
The right hon. Gentleman had been Secretary of State for Scotland for many years and the blame for not putting the Act into force rests on him.
That is what happened to the earlier Act, and it may well be that my hon. Friends who have suggested that this Bill may not be put into force are right. One has only to look at the Bill to see what has to be done in the seven years.
When the hon. and learned Member spoke in this House on 11th March, 1959, about industry and employment in North-East Scotland he referred to a statement made by Viscount Stuart prior to 11th March. I have looked up that record and I find that the only James Stuart who made a speech shortly before 11th March was a gentleman who was the chairman of the Scottish Manufacturers' Association. It is obvious that the hon. and learned Gentleman was confusing the former Secretary of State for Scotland with someone else. The hon. and learned Gentleman has now said that this statement was made by Viscount Stuart in the autumn. I am rather confused. Which is correct?
The hon. Member is trying to skate away on a quite minor point, for the obvious purpose of putting me off my argument. He will not succeed. He knows very well that I quoted the speech in a letter to the Scotsman some time ago. He then had an opportunity to contradict me, but he was afraid to take it. In his great independence, he failed to do so. Now he is trying to disturb my argument by introducing this comparatively irrelevant matter, and I shall give way to him no more.
One has only to look at the arrangement of Clauses in the Bill to see the many complications and the varied matters with which its administrators will have to deal in the short period of seven years. Subsection (6) says:
The powers conferred by this Part of this Act shall not be exercisable after the expiration of seven years from the commencement thereof unless Parliament otherwise determines.
What are those powers? Clause 2 deals with the provision of premises and sites; Clause 3 with building grants; Clause 4 with the general power to make loans or grants to undertakings; Clause 5 with derelict land, and Clause 6 with payments for removal and resettlement of key workers and their dependants. All those matters will have to be dealt with in the seven years. It is obvious that wise industrialists will not engage in those things, even under Governmental guidance or assistance, unless they are assured of a certain amount of continuity.
The administration of the Bill will involve the expenditure of money not only by the Government but by industrialists, who will be asked to build factories and roads, and houses for the workers. Are the key workers and their dependants to have a shake-up at the end of the period of seven years, and be forced to move to other places? Are families to be broken up? One has only to consider the possibilities which may arise within this limited period to realise how unsatisfactory the position is. I am sure that if the Committee considers this matter in a practical way it will realise that the period of seven years is quite impractical and wrong. I ask the Committee to accept the Amendment.
I agree with the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) that it is very important that the staffs of management corporations should have the highest qualifications, and should also have security of employment. The people on the estates should also have security of tenure.
In answer to the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) I would point out that at the end of the seven-year period it is only the powers which will lapse under the Bill, unless Parliament otherwise determines. The management corporations will continue. They are the 99-year lessees of the Board of Trade, and the firms on the estates are their tenants. Therefore, they will all go on. I want to make the position clear in order to remove any doubts which staffs of management corporations may have. It is important that they should not feel that there is a limitation of seven years on their security of employment.
Will it be as simple as that? One of the powers provides that the Board of Trade will defray the expenses of the management corporations. There is no other provision for their expenses, and if the Bill lapses they will have to go on without any money, and without any power to incur expenses. Can the Parliamentary Secretary deal with that point?
I should like to answer the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). She asked whether the President of the Board of Trade and I will visit North-East England. I cannot speak for my right hon. Friend, but I have already written to my hon. Friend to say that I intend to visit the area and North-East England generally as soon as possible.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for telling me that he will be coming up. I hope that he will not take it amiss if I say that it is much more important to know that the President of the Board of Trade is coming up. Will he send a message to his right hon. Friend to ask whether he will empower the Parliamentary Secretary to tell the Committee that the President of the Board of Trade will come up?
I think that my right hon. Friend has already heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth has said. There is no need for me to pass any messages.
Many of the remarks that have been made show that a wrong interpretation has been placed upon the spirit in which the words relating to the seven-year period have been inserted in the Bill. It is our belief that at the end of the period of seven years it would be good for Parliament to review the position in order to see how far the exercise of these powers has helped solve the problem of local unemployment, and to decide whether any new power or strengthening of the existing powers is required.
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the procedure of a Select Committee reporting on the structure of Development Areas and powers in relation to them, should be followed here? Two Committees have investigated the working of the powers provided by the Distribution of Industry Acts. That is a much more satisfactory way of proceeding.
The one thing that is perfectly clear is that the Government never intended the subsection to come into operation. If they are in power in seven years' time they can easily bring in amending legislation. The only conceivable reason for putting in the subsection is that in some way or another it will oblige the next Labour Government, which they anticipate will get in at the next Election, to take some action in this matter.
Let us see what effect the subsection would have if it came into force. It is such an idiotic supposition that one wonders why the Government have chosen this remarkable—and as far as I know unprecedented—method of obliging themselves and any other Governments to take action which they can already take quite easily. If the subsection came into operation the Bill would not lapse, but Part I would. The powers given to the Board of Trade under Part I would no longer be exercisable, but all the machinery in connection with industrial development certificates would stay.
Before the war, powers were taken in the positive sense—the type of powers given under Part I—but they failed because there were no corresponding powers to enable the Government of the day to keep people out of places where there was no need for them and in that way to encourage them to go to what were then called the distressed areas. That was the position under the 1934 Act.
Ever since then, during and after the war, Governments have recognised that there powers are complementary. If it is desired to persuade people to build factories in particular areas—distressed areas, or whatever we like to call them—there must be a complementary power, given these days by an industrial development certificate, to prevent the setting up of factories in some places where labour is not available, where there is no need for a factory and where there should not be a factory.
In this subsection, if one takes it seriously, the Government are proposing to take away one power and leave the other. If we consider how it will work out we find the most absolutely idiotic result. A management corporation may let premises. Is it to be confined to lets for no more than seven years? If not, what happens when the management corporation no longer has powers at the end of seven years? It is not to have any expenses because the Board of Trade will not have power to pay them?
We really get the most absurd position. As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), it is sometimes the practice to pass temporary legislation. I could add several other instances to those given by my hon. Friend. What happens then is that what is passed as temporary legislation proves to be required either permanently or for a much longer period, and has to be renewed again and again.
I have never heard of a Government including a subsection in a Bill and defending it by saying, "In no circumstances is this subsection coming into operation. Either we shall continue the Bill as it is, that is to say, repeal this subsection, or bring in some amending legislation." If the Parliamentary Secretary wishes to say that that is not what he said, by all means let him do so. But it is what I understood him to say and what I think the Committee as a whole understood.
If that be the position, what is the sense of this? If the Government are still in power they can bring in amending legislation when the time comes. If it is desired merely to continue the legislation, they will still have to take up the time of Parliament with a little Bill designed to repeal this subsection. Surely the sensible thing to do is to accept the Amendment and not to put this highly unusual provision in the Bill. not to clutter up a Measure with statements so bad and uncertain that the Government feel sure it will have to be revised in seven years' time. They should let it go in the ordinary way and bring in amending legislation either at the end of seven years or earlier.
After all, the preceding legislation was amended from time to time and there was no difficulty about that. No one ever said that Clauses should be included which would lapse in three or five years. No one introduced this extraordinary provision when bringing in amending legislation. I have never met anything like it in any previous Act of Parliament. I challenge the Parliamentary Secretary to quote any instance where a Government brought in a subsection of this sort and then defended it by telling the House that in no circumstances could or would such a subsection come into operation, and that one of two things would be necessary, either to continue the legislation or to amend it. I will gladly give way to the hon. Gentleman if he can quote such an instance. If he cannot, why do the Government require this extraordinary goad on their own activities? Cannot they be relied on to be sufficiently awake to do something when the time comes? Do they intend so thoroughly to allow this legislation to become a dead letter, and to forget all the problems of the human beings for whose relief this Bill is supposed to have been introduced, that they need some provision of this sort to remind them that, at the end of seven years, like some sleeping beauty, they have to wake up and do something about it?
What is the object of this kind of nonsense? Is there any conceivable reason for persisting with it? Does the Parliamentary Secretary or any other member of the Government, having had the opportunity of looking calmly at the reasons they themselves have given for the inclusion of this subsection, suppose that it serves any other purpose than to make them and their Bill look uncommonly silly?
The Amendment and the speeches in support of it seem to me to imply that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are satisfied that this Bill as amended in Committee will be so good that it will remain on the Statute Book for ever and ever. That may be so. But we hope so vigorously to use the powers contained in this Bill that in seven years' time the whole situation may have altered and that new and changed powers will be desirable. Our past experience in this connection has shown that although some hon. Members have referred to the 1945 Act as the "Ark of the Covenant", a great many changes have been required since it was passed. It may well be that had we had this provision in 1945 we might have done much better. We think it a valuable provision that Parliament should be obliged at the end of seven years to review the whole working of this machinery.
I understand the whole of the argument of the Parliamentary Secretary to be that at the end of seven years it may be desirable for Parliament to examine the situation again in order to deal with this problem. It is not proposed by this subsection to end the whole of the Bill after seven years, but only Part I. If the Bill be passed in its present form, Part I will cease to have effect at the end of seven years unless Parliament decides otherwise, but the other parts of the Bill will go on.
There are references to Part I in other parts of the Bill. Assuming that this Bill becomes an Act in its present form, at the end of seven years Part I will cease to have effect, but the rest of the Bill will remain an Act of Parliament containing references to Part I which at that time will no longer exist. Is it not a curious thing that one part of the Bill comes to an end in that way? Can the hon. Gentleman explain why the Government are providing for one part of the Bill to terminate at the end of seven years while the other parts are to continue?
The provision in this subsection does and would mean that at the end of seven years the powers under Part I would lapse. But the whole object of the subsection is not only to review the powers in Part I of the Bill but also to make it obligatory on Parliament to examine how the Government have used the powers. We believe that in a period of expansion in industry when we are using these powers vigorously, in some areas—we hope in all of them—the economic position will have changed considerably so that the situation should be looked at again
I have explained to the Committee as carefully as I can why we selected a period of seven years. It may be that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would argue that the period should be six years or eight years, but we still feel that the principle behind the subsection is right.
Let us assume that the Bill becomes an Act in its present form. There are sixteen Clauses in Part I which will cease to have effect after seven years. The title of Clause 18, which is in Part II and which will still exist is:
Determinations under principal enactment to take particular account of purposes of Part I.
If the Amendment be rejected, that part of the Bill will still be an Act of Parliament and contain a reference to the present Part I which will then cease to
exist. Do the Government think, even from their own standpoint, that this is the best way 10 deal with the matter?
I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman that it will not be dead, but merely inanimate, unable to move, a kind of semi-corpse suspended in midair. The hon. Gentleman has been unable to tell us of any other case in which this or any other Government, however misguided, have been quite so foolish as to bring in a subsection of this sort and to defend it only by saying that we must look at things again in seven years' time.
The hon. Gentleman is even more certain than I am that he will not be in power in seven years' time, for if he were he could make abundant opportunity to carry out any review and bring in any amending legislation. He would have to bring in some legislation because, as he admits, this subsection cannot possibly operate. Is not the more sensible and dignified thing to do at this stage to let this subsection go? It is utterly indefensible, a piece of constitutional idiocy which I did not think even this Government could think up. Could they not recognise that and accept the Amendment to drop the subsection?
The Parliamentary Secretary has made five or six attempts to convince the Committee of what he means by this subsection. Even after that, all of us on this side remain absolutely unconvinced that he is doing the right thing by retaining it. I am sure that any sensible hon. Member of his own party would also press upon him the desirability of dropping this subsection from the Bill altogether.
What worries me more than the mechanics of the question is the attitude of mind shown in the approach by the Parliamentary Secretary. He seems to think either that the problem of unemployment in local areas will be solved within seven years, or that the Government will have time after seven years to bring in something which will solve the problem. No one in his right mind would believe that we shall solve this problem within seven years. What is likely to happen under the Bill is that we may be able to deal with a pocket of unemployment in one area, but that as soon as we do that it will pop up somewhere else. Consequently, the Government will be hopping about with first-aid measures to deal with unemployment locally and not getting to the roots of the problem.
It is clear to us that the cause of unemployment is fundamental. It is not something we can solve by bringing diversified light industry from London to the North-East, to Wales or to Scotland without, at the same time, tackling the underlying causes. To do that we obviously need a long-term plan affecting the location of our basic industries. No matter how successful we are in bringing in small light industries, if the basic industries upon which the industrial areas depend are going down there is no solution to unemployment in those areas.
The speeches of the Parliamentary Secretary have shown that he is not making a fundamental approach to the problem. They were shot through with complacency from beginning to end. Where basic industries such as coal mining and shipbuilding are in decline, over the next seven to ten years changes in technical ideas, the atomic energy programme, and so on, will have a tremendous effect on all our industries. All this needs looking into quietly by experts who can bring forward plans and solutions. It will take much more than seven years to go to the root causes of unemployment. It would be much better to leave out a period and to let the Measure run until such time as a Government, of whatever complexion, are in a position to deal with the matter thoroughly, than to tinker with it as this Government are doing.
The only argument the Parliamentary Secretary brought forward is that by putting in this date we shall have a chance to examine the position and to see what needs doing. I shudder to think what would have been the position if we had had a provision of that kind in the 1945 Act. No industry in its right mind would have accepted any inducement whatever to go to a Development Area if it knew that at the end of seven years the whole thing might be scrapped and all the security wiped away. We had another look at the problem. We did not need a provision in an Act of Parliament to tell us to look at it. There were frequent examinations of the working of the Act, another Distribution of Industry Act in 1950 and another Act in 1958. We did not need a Clause in a Bill telling us that the Bill would come to an end in order to help us to decide whether to continue the Measure or to put something in its place.
It is an extraordinary doctrine that we cannot consider the effect of an Act of Parliament unless we put in a date when the Act is to come to an end. If we adopted that procedure in relation to every Measure brought before the House we should be continually occupied in revising Acts of Parliament and not getting on with the business before us. The real significance of this proposal is the effect it will have, not only upon existing concerns in the present Development Areas, or whatever areas may be selected under the Bill. The Government started thinking about the Bill just before the last election and we started putting it into legislative form in November-December last year. It is expected to be on the Statute Book, all being well, by April. That will be something like six months in which it has been before the House. If, in seven years' time the Act comes to an end, probably it would take another six months, depending on what the Government had in mind—perhaps longer—to get another Act on the Statute Book. In all that time there would be uncertainty and no movement. It is completely idiotic to think in those terms.
The Government would lose nothing at this stage if they said that they were convinced by the arguments put to them and accepted the Opposition Amendment. If they wanted, they could easily guarantee a review. There would be nothing in the world to stop them, or to stop us if we were the Government, from doing that. To stick their toes in and say, "All will be well, everything will be cured", when all sorts of things may happen, and to insist that the Measure shall come to an end after seven years, does not make sense. If the Parliamentary Secretary cannot do better than that, I hope he will not come to the North-East, because it is quite clear that he will have nothing in the way of encouragement to offer us. We should much rather that he kept away. We could perhaps look forward to the day when the President of the Board of Trade might come along. I hope that he will say to the Parliamentary Secretary, "Stop all this nonsense." If he wants to make a sixth intervention, I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will accept the Amendment.
Could my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary give an assurance that this subsection was not put in at the request of the Treasury? I begin to wonder whether the Treasury is the nigger in the woodpile. I am very suspicious of the Treasury. Could my hon. Friend give me an answer?
When he last intervened the Parliamentary Secretary made a statement which startled us more than anything we had heard previously. In reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), he said that after seven years the situation would be that although Part I remained on the Statute Book, all the powers in it would have disappeared. Is that the case? If so, it is a new situation. Are we to retain legislation on the Statute Book on the strict understanding that it means nothing and that, although Part I will remain on the Statute Book, none of the powers in it will be operative? If we are to do that, it is a most alarming situation.
Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary has had an opportunity to refresh his mind on the point. If his statement is correct, it makes a mockery of the Committee for the Government to insist on this subsection remaining in the Bill. May I ask whether this point was clear to the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary when they included in the Bill this principle that the legislation would disappear in seven years? It appears to me that a point has arisen which may not have been seen at that time. Will the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary tell us whether they then understood that this was the effect of the subsection and that, in that knowledge, they nevertheless legislated as they have done?
What will happen to these management corporations if this subsection comes into effect? They will remain in existence, for there is no power to dissolve them or to defray their expenses. Since even members of the management corporations are not immortal, in due course there will be management corporations without any money and without any members but incapable of being dissolved without further legislation. Will the Parliamentary Secretary deal with that interesting point?
The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) gave one of the compelling reasons why the subsection should be retained. It is that past history shows that after 1945 it was necessary to review the legislation and to introduce new legislation in 1950, and that it was again necessary, within a few years, to produce new legislation in 1958. It therefore seems a very sensible course to say that Parliament should have the opportunity in seven years to review how we have used these powers and whether the powers need changing.
I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) that the Treasury is not the nigger in the woodpile. The Treasury has brought no pressure to bear on us to include subsection (6).
I can assure the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) that we envisaged what has happened. What right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite assume is that Parliament will decide in seven years to let these powers lapse. That is not necessarily the interpretation. What probably will occur is that whichever party is in office will review what has happened to see whether the powers should continue unchanged or whether new powers should be introduced. It is a red herring to say that the powers would lapse.
I rise to support the Amendment, because I represent one of the areas most afflicted with the problems with which the Bill seeks to deal. I think it a very sensible Amendment and I am at a loss to understand the arguments advanced by the Parliamentary Secretary against it. Indeed, I say that he has not given a single solid argument why he should not accept the Amendment. I admit that we have been given several excuses, but no reason has been adduced. I suggest that he should reconsider his attitude to the problem.
The Amendment is clear. It asks that the subsection should be deleted, and this would delete from the Bill any reference to the expiration of the powers after seven years. That will give some hope in certain parts of the country in so far as their industrial future is concerned.
May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary a personal question? Has he experienced the unemployment problem in his constituency? Has the President of the Board of Trade experienced it? Do they realise the social destitution which it brings? Do they realise that it saps the moral fibre of our community? If the hon. Gentleman saw these unemployment queues growing year after year, as we see them in our part of the country, he would apply a much more reasonable attitude to the problem. I thought that it was facetious of him to make comparisons between the Act and the Bill. It is regrettable that he should make any comparisons, because it shows the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government in a very bad light. I ask him to look, for example, at the results achieved by the Labour Government's Act which he hopes to replace.
I will do so.
The Parliamentary Secretary went to great pains to make comparisons, but I will restrict myself to the Amendment and say frankly that it is not practicable under the existing economic system—and I am not becoming a sociologist in using that term—to solve in seven years a problem of more than forty years' standing. That is why the Amendment has been moved. For example, how is it possible to solve a long-term chronic illness by an immediate treatment? Those of us who come from parts of the country suffering from this problem are seriously perturbed at the lack of activity on the part of the Board of Trade. I do not think that the issue is being tackled as it should be tackled—in a successful way.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Parliamentary Secretary cannot accept the Amendment. I have heard the Government say repeatedly, "We can review the matter in seven years". The Parliamentary Secretary has said that. He could easily accept the Amendment and still review the position at the end of seven years. Indeed, it is obvious to some of us that we may be asking for a review long before the seven years have expired, because there is no doubt in my mind or that of my hon. Friends that unless we are earnest in our attitude towards developing full employment, we are wasting a good deal of time debating this and other Amendments. It has been made clear by some of my hon. Friends that it is folly to talk about terminating the Act before we have introduced it.
I earnestly appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to think again about this matter. If he is willing to face up to the country's economic situation and the industrial potential of the nation, he is bound to come to the conclusion that the Amendment is not only reasonable but should be accepted with a view to strengthening the Bill. Its intention is to strengthen the Bill and in no way to belittle it, and I very much regret the Parliamentary Secretary's fatuous utterances in dealing with the problem. It is too serious for facetious remarks to be introduced into this aspect of the debate. If the Parliamentary Secretary represented a constituency which had an unemployment problem he would realise how grave it can be for an hon. Member who is faced with such a very serious local problem. He still has time to recant and regain the prestige he has obviously lost this evening. He can do do quite simply by agreeing to accept the Amendment.
I am rather surprised at the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary to the requests and demands made from this side of the Committee. I was especially surprised at his rather personal attack upon my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). I am always shocked when an hon. Member makes a personal attack rather than answers propositions put by the person whom he attacks. I always feel that when people do that they have no argument against the propositions.
This is a very serious matter. The hon. Gentleman is no doubt speaking on behalf of a large element on his side who believe that this intervention by the State or this pseudo-State planning in a very mild way is only a temporary proposition. I do not believe that it is. I believe that the time is coming when the State will have to intervene more and more in the economic affairs of our country. I believe that laissez faire has finished and that the State must be in partnership with industry.
The provision to end Part I seven years from its passing, which will be 1967, means that if the Government are in power that is the end of State intervention in the movement of industry. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) that for fifty years there has been a movement of economic activity and population which has caused a complete lack of balance in the distribution of people.
The absurd situation exists in 1960 that while the Home Counties and London are choked with traffic other parts of the country are denuded of traffic loads, economic activity and population. The flow to the Metropolis must be checked and reversed. I shall never believe that it can be done in seven years, except by ruthless dictatorial action at the centre, which no one wants to see. If it is to be done by democratic methods, by debate and gentle persuasion, it will not take seven years, but at least two or three decades. Legislation is called for which will be regarded by the electorate not as temporary State action to deal with a temporary situation, but as legislation, the long-term effect of which is to try to redress the balance of economic activity and the redistribution of population.
We in Scotland know full well that if the powers conferred in Part I are brought to an end after seven years the benefit to Scotland will be minute. Far more persuasion than that will be necessary. It is fair to assume that the standard of living and the level of economic activity will increase. It must if we are to survive. If it does not, we shall be in a very bad position indeed. Unless there is a stimulation of the production of capital goods in Scotland within the next five years it will be a terrible condemnation of the Government after eight and a half years in power. There must be more economic activity in Scotland. That will bring about an increased distribution of purchasing power. Unless there is a move by the Government to bring to Scotland light industries of all kinds to offset a regional pressure in the South for an increase in purchasing power in Scotland when there is no consumer product in Scotland to meet it—
I am sorry, Sir William. I do not want to range too wide. I am trying to show that if the present economic expansion in Scotland, which is very moderate and is still in capital goods, continues over the next four years it will result in further stimulation down South. If it continues over the next four or five years it is obvious that an Act which comes to an end in seven years will leave the Government powerless to give further stimulation and direction to move more durable consumer industries to Scotland.
The Parliamentary Secretary knows my opinion on this, because he has heard it many times. I hold it strongly. If the Government wish to give any impression of their faith in playing a part in redistributing population and industries it is absurd to put in a period of seven years. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said, some Amendments refer to the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, yet Part I will be repealed in 1967. This will lead to frightful confusion. Furthermore, under this Part of the Bill a grant may
be made in 1966 to finance an industry to go to Scotland and erect buildings. Under the terms of the grant the firm will have to
continue to serve the purposes of this Part of this Act",
which twelve months later will be repealed. What will be the position then, What will be the position of management corporations?
The Government in 1965 or 1966 may provide a great deal of finance to build a factory and then may let it on a long-term lease. Local authorities may provide houses for key workers. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of public funds may be used. Yet the obligation to serve the social purpose of solving the local unemployment problem will cease in 1967. I hope that I am wrong about that, but Clause 3 (3) says that the object of all this is to serve a social purpose.
Is it right that under Clause 3 (3) a condition of the grant is that the firm receiving it
will continue to serve the purposes of this Part of this Act"?
Part I is designed to help to solve the unemployment problem. If it goes, is there still an obligation on the part of the firm which has received the taxpayers' money to continue to serve that social and economic purpose? If it fails to do so, will the Government have any power to take back the grant? If they cannot, what does the provision that the firm
will continue to serve the purposes of this Part of this Act
I hope that I am wrong in all this, but I should like an answer to my question. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will meet the argument from this side of the Committee with far better resource than he has met our arguments in the past. I am absolutely certain that no one in Scotland, irrespective of political views, believes that any Government can solve in seven years inequality between economic activity in Scotland as compared with the Midlands and the South without taking absolutely dictatorial powers.
Each time I have listened to the Parliamentary Secretary replying to parts of the debate I have become more and more suspicious of the reason for the inclusion of subsection (6). At no time has he advanced a convincing argument for its retention. The hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) suggested that perhaps the Treasury had insisted on it, but from what has so far been said during the passage of the Bill I have no doubt that there is a group of the hon. Gentleman's own back benchers who do not like the Bill or anything in it. Perhaps the subsection has been inserted to appease them.
What are some of the reasons that the Government have given for it? The Parliamentary Secretary said that at the end of seven years they want to see how far they have succeeded in dealing with local unemployment. On another occasion, he has said that the Government would be vigorous in using the Bill's provisions and that at the end of seven years the whole face of those places would be changed. He has also said that it was right that the House should have a chance of reviewing what the Government with their various powers have been doing.
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that when the Bill is an Act we shall have it consistently under review. There are very many chances for the House to inquire into whether or not the Government are using their powers vigorously. That can be done by Parliamentary Question, by debate, by using some of our Supply Days. The Government's work can be reviewed in those ways without the need for seven years to elapse. Both the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade must be well aware that if, at the end of two or three years, they came to the conclusion that the powers contained in the Bill were not sufficiently strong, they could bring in another Bill without any time limit at all.
As I say, on one occasion the Parliamentary Secretary said that the Government would use the provisions vigorously and might change the face of local unemployment in these places in seven years. The President of the Board of Trade has recently been in my constituency. It is an area which, I imagine, will be covered by the Bill, and an area that will be named. For more than seven years the Government have been very well aware of the needs of that area. They have known that its main industry was dying out. Had they vigorously used their powers under the 1945 Act, parts of the area might not have been in their present state.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) that so serious is the position in Scotland now that even after the most vigorous action the Government will not be able, in seven years, to solve the fundamental problems facing them. I also know that if they use the powers they are acquiring by the Bill—or even if they use those they already have under the 1945 Act—they could do a very great deal to improve the position.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give us a cogent, convincing reason for the Government's determination to retain this subsection. I do not think that any of my hon. Friends accept the case he has put forward, but regard with very great suspicion the Government's insistence that subsection (6) should remain.
The Amendment seeks to remove subsection (6). I am completely at one with my hon. Friends' arguments. If the Government really mean to deal with unemployment in Scotland—and I think now of the areas in my constituency where there is at present very severe unemployment—they will need more than seven years. My reason for wanting the deletion of the subsection is that I believe that in trying to solve unemployment the Government should be looking further ahead.
The Board of Trade should prepare a blueprint showing trends of employment, and trends of dying employment, in various areas. Such a blueprint would bring to the attention of the President of the Board of Trade the areas where industry is fading. A blueprint of future activities would show where we are geared far too much to the present heavy industries, where they will go out completely, and where the Board of Trade, if the Government mean what they say, will have to provide alternative employment.
There will be no chance of eradicating in seven years the unemployment that will undoubtedly arise. I have in mind areas that are already sick with unemployment, and show tendencies of becoming even more sick—the coalfields, in many areas, and shipyards that are no longer getting orders. Do the Government think that that situation can be cured in seven years? Such a blueprint as I have mentioned would help the President of the Board of Trade to avoid, in advance, higher unemployment in those areas.
The Scottish unemployment position is getting worse. The worse it gets, the longer it will take to cure. Between December and January, the Scottish unemployment figures have gone up by more than 5,000, and the overall figure now verges on 100,000. The Board of Trade is thinking of tackling the matter within a period of seven years, but that is a very short time in the economic life of any nation. To think in such terms is too curbing. It must have a cramping influence. I am delighted to know that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland has been devoting some of his time to jumping around Scotland to try to get a balance in providing employment in the areas which are very sick at present.
I read a speech of an hon. and gallant Friend of his who, speaking at the annual meeting of his Conservative association, said that there was very little high unemployment in Scotland. I am amazed to hear that. Seven years is what we must stick to and I do not believe that seven years will enable us to cure that problem. I believe that there is an overemphasis by the Board of Trade on certain industries in certain areas of Scotland. Unless that overemphasis is materially altered within the next seven years we shall undoubtedly run into heavy trouble.
I believe that we shall have overemphasis in the next seven years on certain industries which we think we are attracting into Scotland from England. I think that that is a very unsafe and dangerous way of building up our future security in Scotland. I hope that the Secretary of State will think of a period much longer than seven years It is all very well to say, thinking in terms of only seven years, that if we attract the car industry to Scotland we shall be all right for the future. I know of no industry which can be more badly affected in a space of seven years than that industry. It is an industry that needs a high volume of home consumption, and immediately. If, within the seven years, the balance of home production is destroyed by too many people being unemployed, the car industry will be in a difficulty.
If the Board of Trade wants to attract industry to Scotland, and more particularly, the car industry, it will have to think in far greater terms than a mere piffling seven years. I believe that this period of seven years as written into Part I of the Bill will undoubtedly create uncertainty, and possibly stop the very thing that is wanted by the President of the Board of Trade. If we are to be tied to seven years, shall we get industries to uproot themselves if they really want to take part in the social betterment of the country, and are they going to branch out from London into Wales and Scotland when they know that the first-aid help which is now to go into the distressed areas will be swept away because the provisions of the Bill will have come to an end at the end of seven years?
If hon. Members opposite think that this is merely a smiling matter, then they are not in favour of it at all. It is merely a propaganda gag going out to the country because of something which the Prime Minister said when he visited Scotland during the election campaign. I believe that there are many areas in Scotland to which, quite honestly, I think that the Government will not be able, under the present inducements in the Bill, to attract industry. I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that if he finds during the course of the seven years that in certain areas of Scotland—and the Secretary of State knows the position very well—he is not attracting industries there will be further depopulation from the Highland counties. Industries will not go there. In places where heavy industries are dying out and to which new industries are not attracted what action will he take? Will he stick to the present provisions of the Bill? Will he wait for seven years?
If the Government are serious in their intentions in the Bill we know that they will take remedial action long before seven years. If it is true that they will take action before then because of the Bill's failure when it becomes an Act why must they have this provision about seven years, when they can come to the House and take effective action to deal with this problem even before the seven years expire? I do not think that the House of Commons will be willing to wait for another seven years, before doing something about the present Clauses in the Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary ought to be more forthcoming than he has been in the pronouncement which he has already given to the Committee. I think that he needs to give himself a shake and, at the same time, shake subsection (6) out of the Bill, so as to leave himself elbow room to deal with the difficulties which may arise within the period of seven years.
A great many hon. Members have spoken about this period of seven years and I think that it will be salutory for all of us if I read the exact words of subsection (6). They are:
The powers conferred by this Part of this Act shall not be exercisable after the expiration of seven years from the commencement thereof unless Parliament otherwise determines.
There is no suggestion that we think that either we shall completely solve the problem in seven years or that these powers will automatically lapse.
The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) said that it was odd to introduce power to terminate an Act even before we had passed it. I think that it was the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), who is not at present in his place, who challenged me to produce any comparable Bill which had such powers in it. There are many such Measures—the Cinematograph Films Bill, Bills dealing with the borrowing powers of nationalised industries, and perhaps the most closely comparable of all, the Army Act, 1955, which lasts for five years unless Parliament otherwise determines and which has to be renewed from time to time. I think that a complete red herring has been drawn by hon. Members opposite in attempting to make constituency speeches.
I certainly did not say that. I said that we had to be careful when attracting it in that we kept up the level of home consumption to use the products coming from the motor car industry. Of course, I welcome the car industry to Scotland.
In view of that rather curious intervention and the Parliamentary Secretary's attacks on my hon. Friends, I really must ask him to clear up the position of the management corporations if the Bill is to expire in seven years. It is no good the hon. Gentleman saying that it may not expire. He asks us to pass the Bill in this form, and we are entitled to ask what the position will be if it goes through in the form he recommends. We are guardians of the public purse, and the management corporations will own public property certainly worth £50 million, perhaps worth nearly £100 million, by the end of that period. We ought to know what the conditions will be.
Subsection (6) provides that
The powers conferred by this Part of this Act shall not be exercisable after the expiration of seven years …
The management corporations are set up and given their powers under this Part of the Bill. Clause 8, which is one of the provisions in this Part of the Bill, says that there shall be three management corporations. Clause 9, again in Part I, says:
It shall be the duty of the Management Corporations to manage land leased to them by the Board …
Apparently, they will no longer be able to manage it.
Later, in Clause 9, it is provided that
Without prejudice to the foregoing provision … the Board may give general directions to a Management Corporation
Apparently, the corporation will still be there, but it will not be able to manage
land and the Board of Trade will not be able to give it any directions. The expenses of the corporations may be defrayed by the Board of Trade. That, also, is in Part I. It is provided in Clause 10 that
A Management Corporation shall keep proper accounts.
Apparently, it will not be able to keep proper accounts when Part I has ceased to operate.
The Parliamentary Secretary is asking us to pass a Bill which sets up corporations which will own at least £50 million worth of public property, and he tells us that at the end of seven years, if the Bill goes through like this, the corporations will somehow continue to exist but will not be able to carry out any of their functions. He ought really to give us a better account of the matter than that.
The Bill and this Clause in particular are of great importance to the country. They will affect the position of nearly half a million people. At least, the Bill is designed to improve the position of about half a million people. To begin with, one assumes that when the Government decided that Clause 1 should last for seven years they regarded Clause 1 as an important part of the Bill. Although it has deficiencies in it, perhaps, the Government thought it worth while at the beginning of the Bill to provide that the Clause should last for at least seven years.
As I understand it, from the discussion we have had on the Amendment, the Government's attitude is that, after seven years, if Parliament does nothing about the Bill itself, this Clause and Part I will come to an end, but that the rest of the Bill will continue in operation. Clause 1 lays down one of the fundamental principles of the Bill. It defines what a local area shall be and it gives the percentage which will be regarded as the regulating figure in considering whether something should be done to eradicate a certain level of unemployment.
Clause 7 provides that
Where it appears to the Minister in charge of any Government department that adequate provision has not been made for the needs of any such locality as is mentioned in subsection (2) of section one of this Act in respect of a basic service for which that department is
responsible, and that it is expedient for the purposes of this Part of this Act that the service should be improved, he may with the consent of the Treasury make grants or loans towards the cost of improving it.
The Minister can do that, as I understand it, only so long as Clause 1 operates. If it is not to operate at the end of seven years, the powers of the Minister to enforce the remaining provisions in the Bill cannot be exercised. If that be the correct interpretation of Clauses 1 and 7, we shall, in effect, be doing away with the powers of the Minister where the Board of Trade has not recently exercised its functions in any locality to reduce unemployment recognised as being high. We are thereby also weakening the powers of Ministers under Clause 7.
The problem we are discussing is one of very great general social importance, although it may vary in intensity as time passes. If all the people who seem to know about these things are anything like right, unemployment is likely to become more troublesome as time goes on, and things will become worse. On the other hand, to introduce a provision like this into the Bill is to assume that it will have had such an effect that, at the end of seven years, the problem of unemployment will have disappeared. That must be the assumption.
I hope that it is right.
The other point made by the Minister was that, by putting subsection (6) into the Bill, we make it easier for Parliament to introduce new powers to deal with unemployment. In my view, we shall not thereby give any greater facilities at all to Parliament to adopt new powers or to amend the law in this respect. It is universally recognised that Parliament can bring in another Bill within the seven years if it finds that this one is not working satisfactorily and can introduce new provisions more beneficial to the country
Would there be any harm in obliterating subsection (6)? Will it affect the question whether the Bill will be successful in operation? I cannot see any harm in deleting subsection (6). The deletion of it would not prevent Parliament from making a change, if it were necessary. If the subsection is taken out it will not make any difference to whether the Bill will be fruitful or whether there will be little unemployment after seven years. I believe that the Government are being very optimistic with regard to the period of seven years. They seem to be accepting a situation which is not likely to arise. The deletion of the subsection will neither help nor hinder the Government in introducing legislation to improve the employment situation.
I do not propose to keep the Committee long, and I apologise for intervening having heard so little of the debate. However, I heard the speech of the Minister and the speeches of one or two of my hon. Friends. I find the Government's attitude completely incomprehensible. I do not know why they resist the Amendment. Nothing that the Minister said gave any rational ground for resisting it.
I think it a pity that, in a Bill of this kind and on a matter which arouses so much controversy, however unnecessary, the President of the Board of Trade is not here to deal with the Amendment. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not feel it offensive or disrespectful if I say that, quite clearly, he does not understand the argument directed to him.
No doubt he should do by now, but he should have done so before the discussion started. If he did not understand it then, I suppose that it is understandable that he does not understand it now. The hon. Gentleman must try to face up to the argument a little more squarely than he has done so far.
If the hon. Member had been here for the whole of the discussion, he would know that I have made at least four or five speeches on this matter. I do not think it fair of the hon. Gentleman to judge what I have said by my last speech.
All I can say is that if, after four or five speeches, the hon. Member was still so incomprehensible to the Committee that he had to make the speech that I heard, it does not seem that I have missed very much by missing the other four or five speeches.
The argument has not been answered. In 1951, my constituency was made a Development Area. Until 1959, the Board of Trade did not know that anything serious was happening in the constituency at all. We gained nothing whatsoever for eight years. It takes the Board of Trade, on past experience, more than seven years to know what is going on. Why it should regard seven years as the maximum period for exercising powers which it always exercises at least seven years too late is something which the Committee finds difficult to understand.
On looking at the subsection, I find it absolutely impossible to understand why the Government insist so obstinately on retaining it. The subsection reads:
Why do the Government obstinately insist on retaining the subsection? The answer is that they are not serious in any of their policy dealings with the matter. They put a colourable gloss on things. They want to be able to pretend that they are doing things, that they care and that something is happening; that is all. Suppose that the subsection stands as it is. To get the benefit, such as it is, of any of the Government's powers under Clause 1 an area has to submit itself to a number of quite stringent tests. Unless it satisfies every one of them the President of the Board of Trade is not able to exercise any of the powers in its favour.
Suppose that at the end of seven years, whether by reason of a change of Government, change of policy or the manifestation of Providence, an area is not able to satisfy any of the tests under Clause 1. It will do the Government no harm if the Bill, when it becomes an Act, remains in force. On that hypothesis it will not cost them a single farthing, because, although the powers will remain with the President of the Board of Trade, there would be no one entitled to have them exercised. If the most optimistic dreams of any member of the Government or hon. Member were fulfilled, if there were 100 per cent. employment everywhere seven years from now, it would do the Government no harm whatever if the Board of Trade retained the powers against the day when there might be a further deterioration. It would not cost the Government anything.
On the other hand, suppose that at the end of seven years there are still patches of unemployment, that there is still a drift of population from some areas and industries dying or migrating, or that there is a change in our own affairs or world affairs which makes it necessary that such powers as the Government have could still be exercised in favour of some areas. If the Clause remains as it stands the Government will have no power to do a darned thing about it unless, in the meantime, Parliament has stepped in and has otherwise determined. But why wait? Why deprive oneself of powers which cost nothing so as to leave one without powers at a time when somebody might be entitled to call upon one to exercise them if they were available?
I know that the phrase "unless Parliament otherwise determines" has been used in other Acts, but the other Acts provide a quick, easy method that will enable Parliament otherwise to determine. There is nothing like that here. "Unless Parliament otherwise determines" in the Clause means "unless Parliament passes another Act of Par-
The question that the Government have to answer is why they wish dogmatically, as a matter, apparently, of doctrine which has not been explained to us, to deprive themselves absolutely of these powers seven years from now when to retain them costs nothing and might give them powers with which, if they were to lose them now, any decent Government would have to come to Parliament to re-equip themselves.
Why is the time of the Committee being taken up in this way? The Minister will say that it is because we are making so many and such long speeches. What else can we do if we find a Government so obstinate or so stubborn that they either do not appreciate the force of the argument that is addressed to them or do appreciate the force of it but, nevertheless, are unwilling to meet it, relying on their big battalions in the Division Lobby when the time comes to divide the Committee?
This is wholly irresponsible. The Government are not serious about the Bill. They never have been serious about it. Unless we can get a much better answer than we have had, I hope that my hon. Friends will continue the discussion until we do get a better answer. If that turns out to be finally impossible, I hope that we will vote against the Government and I hope there will be enough common sense and decency on the other side of the Committee to enable us to beat the Government when they so obstinately and stubbornly resist the Amendment.
|Division No. 30.]||AYES||[17.14 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Bingham, R. M.||Chataway, Christopher|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bishop, F. P.||Chichester-Clark, R.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Black, Sir Cyril||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)|
|Allason, James||Bossom, Clive||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bourne-Arton, A.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Cleaver, Leonard|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Boyle, Sir Edward||Collard, Richard|
|Barber, Anthony||Braine, Bernard||Cooke, Robert|
|Barlow, Sir John||Brewis, John||Cooper, A. E.|
|Batsford, Brian||Bromley-Davenport, Lt. Col. W. H||Cooper-Key, Sir Edmund|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Bryan, Paul||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Bullard, Denys||Cordle, John|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Burden, F. A.||Corfield, F. V.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Costain, A. P.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Coulson, J. M.|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)||Channon, H. P. G.||Crowder, F. P.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Percival, Ian|
|Curran, Charles||Iremonger, T. L.||Peyton, John|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Ivine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Jackson, John||Pilkington, Capt. Richard|
|Deedes, W. F.||James, David||Pott, Percivall|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Jennings, J. C.||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Doughty, Charles||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Drayson, G. B.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ramsden, James|
|Duncan, Sir James||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Duthie, Sir William||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Rees, Hugh|
|Eden, John||Kimball, Marcus||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Elliott, R. W.||Kirk, Peter||Renton, David|
|Emery, Peter||Kitson, Timothy||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lagden, Godfrey||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Erroll, F. J.||Leather, E. H. C.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Leavey, J. A.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Farr, John||Leburn, Gilmour||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Fell, Anthony||Legge-Bourke, Maj. H.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Roots, William|
|Forrest, George||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Lilley, F. J. P.||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Freeth, Denzil||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Seymour, Leslie|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Loveys, Walter H.||Simon, Sir Jocelyn|
|Gammans, Lady||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Gardner, Edward||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Smithers, Peter|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||MacArthur, Ian||Speir, Rupert|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||McLaren, Martin||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Godber, J. B.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Stodart, J. A.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Maclean,Sir Fitzroy(Bute & N.Ayrs.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Goodhew, Victor||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Gower, Raymond||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Talbot, John E.|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||McMaster, Stanley||Tapsell, Peter|
|Green, Alan||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Teeling, William|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Maddan, Martin||Temple, John M.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert||Maginnis, John E.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Maitland, Cdr. J. W.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Gurden, Harold||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||[...], Major Sir Frank||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Marlowe, Anthony||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Marshall, Douglas||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Turner, Colin|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hay, John||Mawby, Ray||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Mills, Stratton||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Montgomery, Fergus||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Hiley, Joseph||Morrison, John||Wall, Patrick|
|Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Nabarro, Gerald||Watts, James|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Neave, Airey||Webster, David|
|Hobson, John||Nicholls, Harmar||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Holland, Philip||Noble, Michael||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hollingworth, John||Nugent, Sir Richard||Wise, Alfred|
|Hopkins, Alan||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Page, Graham||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Woollam, John|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Partridge, E.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Hurd, Sir Anthony||Peel, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Whitelaw and Mr. Sharples.|
|Ainsley, William||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Darling, George|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Beaney, Alan||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Deer, George|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Callaghan, James||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Benson, Sir George||Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Delargy, Hugh|
|Blyton, William||Chetwynd, George||Dempsey, James|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)||Cliffe, Michael||Diamond, John|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Collick, Percy||Dodds, Norman|
|Bowles, Frank||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Donnelly, Desmond|
|Boyden, James||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lipton, Marcus||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Logan, David||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Loughlin, Charles||Ross, William|
|Finch, Harold||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Fitch, Alan||McCann, John||Short, Edward|
|Fletcher, Eric||MacColl, James||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Forman, J. C.||McInnes, James||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Mackie, John||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||McLeavy, Frank||Small, William|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Ginsburg, David||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Snow, Julian|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Grey, Charles||Manuel, A. C.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mapp, Charles||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A||Steele, Thomas|
|Grimond, J.||Marsh, Richard||Stonehouse, John|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mason, Roy||Stones, William|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mayhew, Christopher||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mellish, R. J.||Stross,Dr.Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Mendelson, J. J.||Sylvester, George|
|Hayman, F. H.||Millan, Bruce||Symonds, J. B.|
|Healey, Denis||Mitchison, G. R.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis)||Monslow, Walter||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Moody, A. S.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Morris, John||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hilton, A. V.||Mort, D. L.||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Holman, Percy||Moyle, Arthur||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Holt, Arthur||Neal, Harold||Timmons, John|
|Houghton, Douglas||Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derhy,S.)||Tomney, Frank|
|Howell, Charles A.||Oliver, G. H.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Hoy, James H.||Oswald, Thomas||Wade, Donald|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Padley, W. E.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Warbey, William|
|Hunter, A. E.||Pargiter, G. A.||Watkins, Tudor|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Weitzman, David|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Paton, John||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Pavitt, Laurence||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Janner, Barnett||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Peart, Frederick||Whitlock, William|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Pentland, Norman||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Popplewell, Ernest||Willey, Frederick|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Prentice, R. E.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Williams, Rev. Ll. (Abertillery)|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Proctor, W. T.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Kelley, Richard||Randall, Harry||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Rankin, John||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|King, Dr. Horace||Redhead, E. C.||Woof, Robert|
|Lawson, George||Rhodes, H.||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Ledger, Ron||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Cronin and Mr. Probert.|
One of the disadvantages from the point of view of the Government Chief Whip in recommitting a Bill is that the Chair has to put the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". As that Question is put I rise to debate it, and as, I think, the Chief Whip is saying, "Why not?" I would add that that is normally the purpose of putting the Question and it is for that reason that I should like to address some observations to the President of the Board of Trade about a matter which arose during the Christmas Recess relating directly to the powers to be exercised under Clause 1 in my constituency in Cardiff.
We should like to know, both in relation to the time, the period over which the Bill is due to extend and the nature of the unemployment—its imminence or otherwise—what is to be the policy of the President of the Board of Trade in relation to Cardiff. Both these matters have been discussed today and I wish to relate them to a particular case. What we fear in Cardiff, and indeed what is alleged there, is that the Board of Trade has a particular view about the future of the city which it intends to enforce upon us and that it will not allow us to use the powers which the right hon. Gentleman is obtaining in the Bill for the purposes for which they were designed.
I will be more specific, and I quote this merely as an illustration of the way in which the purposes of the Clause and the Amendments which have been moved and accepted can be frustrated. Between 1945 and 1950–55, or thereabouts, a great many new factories were established in that area, but certainly since 1955 there has been a withdrawal and a contraction of industry in the Cardiff area. If has taken many forms and I can give a number of illustrations of it. As the Minister of State, Board of Trade, knows, we had a very good Royal Ordnance Factory which was dispersed and one of the best skilled teams of engineers in the country disappeared. The B.S.A. tools factory returned to Birmingham. All these things have happened within the last three or four years. We have also had the closing down of a furniture factory, and there have been closures in the foundry industry.
In the past few years, there has not been development in Cardiff industrially but a contraction and a withdrawal to the Midlands. What is feared in Cardiff, and what has been put specifically by the chairman of the Cardiff Development Committee, Councillor Turnbull, is that the Board of Trade believes that Cardiff should develop as a commercial and administrative centre. It is the capital of Wales, and I am delighted that it should be, but we are not ready to see the city develop on a lop-sided basis, and we have not had any help from the right hon. Gentleman's officials over the last few years in bringing or, indeed, in retaining industry in the Cardiff area.
The purposes of the Clause and of the Amendments will be frustrated if this policy is followed. I go further and say that there has been a bias on the part of officials of the Board of Trade during the last few years against bringing industry to Cardiff. This is a very serious matter and is something about which the city and the surrounding area are beginning to feel very strongly. I am very glad indeed that West Wales has, over the last few weeks, secured a motor car factory. The level of unemployment there justifies it, but in Cardiff itself and in the area surrounding it we feel that there is a heavy unemployment problem which is being neglected.
The town clerk of Cardiff has given me figures to show that within a 20-miles radius of the city 9,300 men and women are out of work today. This is serious, and Cardiff is the catchment area and gathering ground for the surrounding valley. My right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) has told me that 9,000 men and women travel to Cardiff from the Caerphilly and the Rhymney valleys every day to work. We want the President of the Board of Trade to consider the needs of this area which we believe has been overshadowed by what may have been regarded as the greater needs of West Wales.
We want the right hon. Gentleman to consider this area within a radius of 20 miles of Cardiff and we believe it vital for our future welfare that he should do so. We can offer the facilities. A large number of these 9,000 men and women are skilled. We have coal and steel on the spot and port facilities which every-body knows are half-used, and we have an extraordinarily good technical training college at Llandaff. The Cardiff College of Advanced Technology is one of only eight in the country and it has been short of students for some courses—
You will see, Mr. Blackburn, that the Clause provides that the power shall be used
… for the purpose of providing, in any such locality … employment appropriate to the needs of the locality.
The complaint I make about the Board of Trade is the specific one that it regards employment appropriate to the needs of the locality in this case as administrative and clerical employment and not industrial employment, and I want politely to put to the President of the Board of Trade that we are not getting any clear answers to our private representations.
The Department says that it will keep our representations in mind and so on, and I had a letter using that very phrase only yesterday, but we want the right hon. Gentleman to come off the fence and we want his intentions made clear. I want to have it made clear that over 9,000 people who are out of work in the area are considered in the matter of bringing industrial works into the locality. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that there is a great deal of anxiety about this. The editor of the South Wales Echo published an editorial only last week in which he said—I paraphrase his words—that we do not want Cardiff to become another Canberra.
I say this because there is this feeling, so far as the Board of Trade is concerned, that provided that it is the capital of Wales and the administrative centre and has some Government Departments, that is all that matters. The British Transport Commission is on the point of closing two more docks—the East and West Roath Docks; and this is in addition to all the other buffets and misfortunes that we have had over the last few years.
I will not carry on with my speech, because I do not want to delay the Committee, but I think it is right that we should use the rules of order in so far as we are able to represent to the Minister the very deep anxiety that is felt. I should like him to do three things. First, to talk to his local officers to find out whether our feeling in Cardiff—not mine alone—is right that there is a bias against Cardiff and against industry coming to Cardiff; secondly, to give an assurance that the whole area will be considered for new industrial development; and, thirdly, that he should receive a deputation from the Cardiff Development Committee, not only so that its members may put their views to him, but, more satisfactorily, hear from him what his views are, and whether this feeling that has grown up about the attitude of his officials in South Wales is right or not. I would ask him if he would give that assurance, which would set our fears at rest, and if he will use his best endeavours to ensure that new industry comes to this area of 10 or 15 miles around Cardiff.
I say straight away that if the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) would care to come to see me and bring with him some of his local supporters or local representatives, I would be very glad to see them. By local supporters, I do not mean party political supporters, but supporters of the interests of Cardiff.
Having said that, may I next say that I must refute at once the allegation of bias on the part of Board of Trade officials. I think that that sort of accusation should not be made on the Floor of this Committee, because the implication is that civil servants who are devotedly trying to carry out Government policy are not acting properly. I do not think that is what the hon. Gentleman meant, and I am sure that, on reflection, he will think that it was a rather hard word to use.
There is no question of bias against Cardiff in any way. We must apply the same principles in one city, one locality or one district as we apply in all the others. In answering the hon. Member, I must, first, apply myself to the use which we shall make of these powers, and what the hon. Gentleman is really concerned about is the question whether Cardiff will be on the list. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, I cannot at the moment say that; but in deciding whether or not to include Cardiff on the list, we shall have to take into account what the Bill tells us to do; that is, to consider the possibility of unemployment, and whether it is imminent and likely to persist.
The question whether Cardiff is a capital or an administrative centre does not arise. This is a question of the amount of unemployment, whether it will happen in a certain time and whether it is likely to persist. A distinction could certainly be drawn at present between the level of unemployment in Cardiff itself and that in some of the surrounding areas to which the hon. Gentleman referred. I must make it clear that we must look at the district on the basis on which we have been discussing the Bill—that we have a large area or a small area, and that Cardiff may be in a different position from that of some of the surrounding districts.
May I say, on the question of bias, that I am not saying that they are biased in the sense that they are not doing their jobs properly? I mean that they seem to have reached a conclusion about what Cardiff's future should be, and, having reached that conclusion, have become biased in their feelings in favour of other areas, as against Cardiff, for industry. On the question of the percentage of unemployment, there is 3·5 per cent. of unemployment in the city itself, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will not overlook the point about the very large number of people who come into Cardiff from the district outside.
I can assure the hon. Member that this is a matter in which we must not particularise. We must deal with all areas on exactly the same principles, and not only on the nature of the place, but the nature of unemployment, probable or persistent.
I want to ask whether, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) having made a full speech on behalf of Cardiff without interruption, I might now talk in general about England and about the North East Coast in particular.
If the hon. Lady relates her remarks to the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill", she will be in order. I heard the hon. Member for Cardiff, South East (Mr. Callaghan) interrupted by the previous occupant of the Chair, and I also heard the hon. Member say that he quoted what was happening to show how the provisions of this Bill can ge frustrated. Possibly, if the hon. Lady can relate her speech to the same point, it might be in order.
You set me a very difficult task, Mr. Blackburn. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not at all."] I do not want to get into controversy, because I know that sometimes I do stray beyond the rules of order; but after the way in which the hon. Member opposite presented his case, which was what I was trying to argue on a narrower Amendment, I thought that perhaps I was entitled to take full advantage of the opportunity. If I do not argue about a particular place, if I argue about the North East Coast, which is a general argument, perhaps I might be in order.
Perhaps it might also be in order to say to my right hon. Friend that one of the problems connected with this Bill is to know how in fact we can make the machine operate fairly. I think that would be in order, and I want to say to everybody present in the Committee that Wales has a very great advantage in having a Secretary of State for Wales— [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—to argue over and above the general case put by hon. Members in this House. I am not arguing about that. I think that both Wales and Scotland are very lucky to have got the motor-car industry, which comes within the purview of this Bill, and are to have factories established in Scotland and in Wales. We are not niggardly or mean on the North East Coast. We cannot all have the same industries or advantages, but I have found that one very great difficulty with regard to this Clause is that Scotland has a Secretary of State—
I quite agree, Mr. Blackburn, but the hon. Gentleman opposite has made his case on Cardiff. That is Wales. I am not making my case on Newcastle. I am making a general case that if the powers of the Bill are to be operated fairly, and this is what we all desire, it is absolutely essential that somebody should speak for England. I do not see why, if the hon. Gentleman opposite can speak for Cardiff—and whether it is in Wales or not, I neither know nor care—I should not be allowed to speak for England. I want to know from the President of the Board of Trade how, when we try to operate the policy which has been laid down in this Clause, we are to give a proper balance when the right hon. Gentleman is operating Clause 1, and, in addition to that, we have a Secretary of State for Scotland and a Secretary of State for Wales.
That is all I am saying. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have not got one."] That is what he calls himself; whether he is or is not, I really do not know. On the North East Coast we are already faced with a decline in the employment to be found in the mining industry. Therefore, it looks as if the North East Coast will be covered by Clause 1. We also have the great anxiety of a decline in shipbuilding and in shipping, so it is of great importance to us that we should know who will protect our interests when we are arguing generally for employment to come to our part of the world.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East conveyed an invitation to my right hon. Friend to go to Cardiff. I have conveyed an invitation to him to come to the North East Coast. My right hon. Friend got up—
On a point of order, Mr. Blackburn. I did not give the President of the Board of Trade an invitation to come to Cardiff, but I now do so, and I hope that he will accept.
That, Mr. Blackburn, is a discrimination against the North East Coast, because the hon. Gentleman asked if he could take a deputation to the Minister and they then discussed the personalities. Since my right hon. Friend replied, I think it would be a gross discrimination against the North East Coast in particular, and against England generally, if I were not allowed to make my request to him. I kept on asking him, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that he had already written to tell me that my right hon. Friend would come to the North East Coast. We shall be delighted to receive him and I will not say anything about how he should try to apply the powers under Clause 1—
Order. There is nothing in Clause 1 about the President of the Board of Trade visiting the North East Coast. I certainly do not want to discriminate, or to appear to be discriminating against the North East Coast, but I hope that the debate on the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill", will not be dealt with by a succession of speeches on the problems of particular areas. If hon. Members will look at the purpose of the Clause they will see that such a debate would be out of order.
I have sat here and listened, Mr. Blackburn, and I will not have England discriminated against. If I cannot invite anybody to come to the North East Coast I will only say that we can try to get Clause 1 put into operation by a series of letters and by Questions in the House. However, I want to make the point that the money which is embodied in Clause 1—because money is implicit in the Clause—must be found by the Treasury.
May I also return to the fact that there is a period of seven years embodied in Clause 1, which I think I am in order in mentioning. It might well be that by putting seven years into the Clause my right hon. Friend wants to stimulate industrialists to get on quickly with the erection of factories. If we had not left seven years in the Bill, industrialists might have thought they had all the time in the world. Well, they have not got all the time in the world, because by putting Clause 1 into operation we shall be in a position to deal with unemployment that will develop in the mining industry, perhaps all over the British Isles. This, of course, does not take into account any discrimination. Since we cannot always rely on the operation of Clause 1—
Then, Mr. Blackburn, we have an extraordinary Clause. If unemployment develops in certain parts of the country we can discuss it, and can perhaps bring ourselves within the orbit of the Clause, but the Treasury has no interest in it at all. I will wait until we reach the appropriate Clause and then perhaps I shall be able to argue for England and for my part of the world. However, I want to know from the President of the Board of Trade when he intends to deal, under Clause 1, with the difficult situation of the closing down of coalfields which, for one reason or another, are beginning to be worked out, and how he will deal with the unemployment developing on the North-East Coast and how he intends to deal generally with the decline in shipbuilding and shipping. May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will be meeting all the appropriate employers in the shipbuilding industry, the ship repair yards and the shipping industry, and whether he has already had his attention directed to the speech made by the President of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders —I hardly dare say of the North-East Coast Institute, although it was so—asking whether we could have an acceleration of naval shipbuilding, and whether that will come under Clause 1?
I have no objection to an hon. Member using an area merely as an example for some point which is being made, but it is not in order on this Question to argue in detail about any one area.
I do not want to try you too far, Mr. Blackburn, because I know how difficult it is. I will now resume my seat, but it is extremely difficult in a debate when Front Bench speakers are allowed to make their speeches and I am not, and I think it is a discrimination against the North East Coast.
I am concerned with the purposes of this Clause. I do not believe that the hon. Lady is concerned with them, because she said she was indifferent to the needs of Cardiff. I am not. I hope the purposes of the Clause will be such that they will apply fairly to every area in England, Scotland and Wales, and it is disgraceful for any English Member to say anything to the contrary. It is all very well trying to obtain cheap publicity for one's own area, such as the North East Coast—
Of course I defend the interests of west Cumberland, but I would like to think that this Clause will be applied fairly to all those parts of the country affected by unemployment. I do not wish to prolong the discussion. I hope that the Clause will be administered and applied fairly and that no priority will be given to any area, be it Cardiff, north-east England or my own area. The Minister in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said that there would be no bias. Although we in west Cumberland have a very real problem, we appreciate that unemployment affects other areas as well. An example of that is the unemployment caused by the contraction of the coal industry.
I hope that the Minister will resist "backwoodsman" talk from an hon. Member behind him who does not know the Ministers of the Government and that the Minister of Housing and Local Government is the Minister for Welsh Affairs and not the Secretary of State. We in our area do not wish to have a special Minister to look after us. We desire no special Minister to come to our area. As I said during the discussion on the previous Amendment, we asked to go and see the Minister in London. That is the advice that I would give to the hon. Lady.
I do not know whether the hon. Lady will accept it.
The Minister has said that he will administer the Clause fairly. I am certain that he will. I am sorry that we were not successful on the previous Amendment over the seven years' issue because I have always felt that if we were to review the purposes under that Clause we could do it through the procedure of a Select Committee. That is by the way, and I hope that the Minister does what I have suggested.
I entirely agree that it is important that the power conferred by the Bill should be exercised without bias or discrimination. The active way in which the representatives of one part of the country react to representations made from other parts of the country ensures that any Minister who shows bias is reprimanded in the House.