Orders of the Day — Budget Proposals and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th April 1960.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire 12:00 am, 6th April 1960

Yes. I have not the slightest objection to that. In fact, I am all for it. But let us admit it and not go on with some sort of pretence that the Government do not interfere with industry and industry does what it likes.

If we accept that, we have to plan how the economy can work most effectively. Private enterprise depends on making ends meet to start with and on making a profit. I thought that the Chancellor was going to quote from Dickens about 6d. above and 6d. below income—Mr. Micawber. We recognise that if someone has a business and runs it in an area where it loses money, the business comes to an end. It can run only if it makes a profit, which is a condition of private enterprise.

If for geographical or economic reasons industry in the North and in Scotland cannot make a profit, it is ridiculous to expect private enterprise to set up there and make a loss. That is commonsense from any businessman's point of view. We therefore have to face the fact that if it is left to the free working of the profit-making system, industry will drift more and more towards London, Birmingham and Manchester, because there the markets are economic and there the profits can be made. Hon. Members will realise that it is not only Englishmen who drift South. Scots capitalists drift South as well, because they have an eye to profit, the same as anybody else.

Therefore, as a country we have to decide whether we want the whole country populated, or whether we want shooting resorts and wildernesses in the Highlands with the population all congregated round London. Any sensible Government will say that we want the population properly distributed.

One has only to think of the difficulty of travelling in London. A friend of mine, who was one of the managers in the works where I was employed for 25 years, was a manager in an engineering works in London. He found that by the time he got home at night he had time only to have a meal and then go to bed. He came to Edinburgh, where he found that he could leave work at five o'clock, go home, have a cup of tea, and be on the golf course by half-past five.

The attractions of living in the country where one can do that sort of thing are obvious, and they are not open to people who live in conglomerations like London. After all, people flock from London to Scotland to fish in the lochs. Why should we not have industries in areas where people can have all those delightful recreations instead of having to spend hours in the tubes and trains, as they do in London? I say that it is desirable that we should spread industry throughout the country. The question is how it is to be done.

The Government have discovered a method for doing it in Malta, and I should like that method to be tried in Scotland. When I was Secretary of State for Scotland, we had a development area around Inverness. Cheap rentals and other inducements were offered to persuade firms to come to the area, but those inducements were not sufficient to overcome the handicaps. Will Darling, who used to be an hon. Member, used to advocate this idea of a tax-free holiday. Will the Economic Secretary ask the Chancellor to consider this idea? If it can be used to induce industry to go to Malta, would it not be equally valuable for inducing industry to go to those areas of this country which are threatened by depopulation and economic crisis?

Industries might be induced to start up in Scotland if they had such economic assistance. I appreciate that the Government have already given about £9 million to motor car firms as an inducement to go to Scotland. The trouble is that there are too few of such firms and that their arrival will not be a major contribution to the solution of the problem, because there are 92,000 unemployed, with about 24,000 people leaving the country each year, and only 10,000 new jobs are to be provided.

The Chancellor's problem in the South of England is that there are too many jobs for too few people, so that he is having the pressure of inflation in the South. If he could get some of those jobs transferred to the North, he would find that they, like honey, attracted the bees.