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Orders of the Day — Industrial Affairs

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd April 1966.

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11.10 a.m.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I am sure that the whole House would like, first, to give a welcome to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour, back again on his bed of nails, and also to welcome the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), his Parliamentary Secretary, who joins the Ministry and the Government for the first time. If we have to have a Labour Government, we on this side will welcome opposing the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend because of their devotion to the country's progress.

We on this side naturally welcome, in industrial relations, the attention which is given in the Gracious Speech, at least in one sentence, to the theme of productivity and competitiveness and we also welcome the reference to at least a search for further means of dealing with the poverty which still exists and to which I shall be making reference in its industrial context later in my speech. On the other hand, we regret that the Gracious Speech as a whole seems to show a complete lack of evidence of any grasp of the real issues which will improve the productivity and competitive power of this country.

I will mention only in passing, before going on to develop that argument, that, although we realise that everything cannot be covered in the Gracious Speech, we regret the lack of any reference to training or to safety, both of which are vital issues falling within the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility. It might help him if I were to mention the six main subjects which I propose to cover.

The first is the economy itself and the employment prospects; second, the objectives which we on this side see as proper for management and unions; third, the paradox that, at the moment, the country seems to be suffering at one and the same time from over-manning and shortage of labour; fourth, the question of personal rights in industrial relations; fifth, the question of low earnings; and, sixth, the changes in the law on industrial relations which we believe should take place.

I should say at once, in case I am misunderstood in any way, what is common ground between all of us—that in many sectors of this country's economy there are first-class industrial relations and permanent industrial peace. Whether that means that there is always industrial progress and economic benefit for the country is a different matter. I would also say that some of our management is among the best in the world and that there is no reason to think that our workers cannot be the best in the world in the proper circumstances. It will also be common ground between us that our aim is a high-earnings, low-cost, economy with minimum unemployment but with constant redeployment towards efficient, expanding sectors of the economy.

My first question to the Minister is: does he accept that there is a connection between the economy as a whole and the level of demand in the economy and the problem of increasing the efficiency of the economy? I am not saying for a moment that the level of demand needs to be slashed, but if it continues in some sectors and areas as overheated as it seems now to be, we contend that that makes life far too easy for those who are inefficient and those who are shortsighted, whether they are on the management side or among the workers.

We believe that it is the job of Government to abate the fever, the overheating, which exists in some parts of the economy, and of which the Minister cannot be unaware. Only this morning, we have received further evidence. The Prices Index is up again. Yesterday the Wages Index rose again for the "umpteenth" successive month and this, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has emphasised again and again, is against a background of stagnant production. We know now that, last month, production fell by one point.

I contend that the bed of nails on which the right hon. Gentleman sits is to some extent made by his own colleagues who have allowed the fever to develop and remain in the economy. Of course, the point made by the Prime Minister during the election—that he welcomed the position that there are more vacancies than unemployed people to fill them—may represent the very opposite of what the Minister and his colleagues should be wanting to achieve, not that the Prime Minister's statement went very deep. The real situation is very different from even the position that he mentioned.

In fact, of course, the industrial vacancies reported by the Government are desperately understated, because so many employers, knowing the hopelessness of getting extra labour of the skills they want, do not even register their vacancies. It also overstates the position, because a number of people registered as unemployed and subjectively entitled to be so are virtually unemployable for one reason or another. We have to recognise that even at the height of the war effort, when the country was mobilised as probably no other free country has been, there was an unemployment percentage of 0·7 per cent. We have a percentage at the moment of 1·3 per cent.

There is a hard core who, for one reason or another—and not necessarily to their discredit—are unemployable. The only real reserve lies in two places—the activity rate, the participation rate, the degree to which married women can be tempted back to work—and the errors of the Ministry of Labour. Only last month, the right hon. Gentleman performed a notable statistical service to the country by discovering a quarter of a million extra workers who had not been suspected before. I am sure that he is as anxious as all of us that these statistics should be accounted as quick as possible.

Our simple point is that so many of the problems which we all know exist on the industrial front are made worse by the overheated nature of the economy. It may be that the economy's fever is already abating. That is a judgment which the Chancellor in particular and the Government as a whole have to reach over the next few days in preparation for the Budget. However, I want to ask the Minister: does he accept that good management and good performance by men and women in the economy will be made easier if there is a less overheated economy?

We believe that the Government can put so much to right by getting the level of demand nearer the proper level. This is a difficult matter to judge, because there has to be sufficient prospect of expansion to keep the confidence of both management and labour and to keep up the willingness of management to invest and of labour to get on with the job quickly because they know that other jobs are available, while the level of demand has to be such that the inefficient and shortsighted do not have their lives made easy. This is the very heart of the economic task of the Government and we want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman accepts that attitude to it.

We hope, despite all party politics, that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will preside over a British "economic miracle". We all want it to happen, but if this Government are to bring it about they will have to work as no Labour Government ever have before—with the economic forces and with human nature and not against the grain of both. Neither party makes the solu- tion of this great task of economic growth any easier. We make the task of the Government of the day more difficult than it is in many other countries. In this country we do not encourage the movement of labour from areas where there is labour without jobs to areas where there is a demand for labour. Both parties are wedded to policies of regional rehabilitation.

Most of our competitors, who are doing so much better economically, do not have any such scruples. They attract labour to their thriving areas from the declining areas. They do not try to bolster up the declining areas. But both sides of the House here have been committed to bolstering up the areas where unemployment makes men available for work. Not all other countries do.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the areas in which there is under-employment or a surplus of labour ought to be left in that situation and we ought not to do anything about taking industry there? Is that the essence of his argument?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

No. I am saying that both parties have been committed to moving work to the workers. This is much harder than the task given to Governments in most of our competitor countries where, without any scruple, workers are expected to move to work.

I am condoling with the Minister of Labour on the difficult task which he and his colleagues have been given by both parties. Indeed, it is even worse than that, because neither party in this country will stomach or tolerate unemployment except at minimal rates. But our competitors do not have this attitude. Not in the least. Other countries whose success we often admire have great pools of labour available on which they draw, and this makes their task very much easier.

In France and in Russia there is a great pool of inefficient low production-low consumption agricultural labour. Our forefathers eliminated that pool. We have the most efficient agriculture in the world. We have no, or virtually no, spare labour on the farms in this country, but our competitor countries have it and they use it. This makes their task easier. Italy draws on the unemployment in the South to bolster the miracle in the North. Germany and Switzerland do not keep their unemployed at home; they bring them in from overseas.

In this country, both parties are against making workers move to work. Both parties are against unemployment. Both parties are against the open door for immigrants. The task of the right hon. Gentleman in achieving the British miracle, which we hope he will achieve, is very much harder than the corresponding task in some of our competitor countries. But this makes it all the more important that the country as a whole, with its opinion led by the right hon. Gentleman, should accept what we believe is absolutely vital—I know that the right hon. Gentleman agrees—that is, the redeployment of labour. A great—no, that is the wrong word—a growth of short-term unemployment which is only redeployment, the movement of men and women from declining or inefficient industries towards the expanding occupations which this country has in abundance now and which we know lie ahead of us for decades of work to improve our environment and our standards.

Of course, no one believes that the evils of overheating, marginal overheating such as we have in this country, are anything like the evils of real unemployment. I know that the right hon. Gentleman will not misunderstand me. What we want is redeployment, and that means that we must look very carefully at the unemployment figures. I realise that, when a well fed man talks of unemployment in terms of statistics, it is a very hollow theme to those men and women who are out of work. The national figure may be 1·3 per cent., but to any unemployed man or women it is 100 per cent. But that should not stop us in this House having the realism to talk about these figures genuinely.

If the Government of the day accept this task as people want them to do, there is no risk of large unemployment. The great tasks before us today are so enormous and, if we improve efficiency, if the Government enable management and men to improve their efficiency, this will simply mean that more men and women will be released to get on quickly with some of the jobs which we all know have to be done.

The right hon. Gentleman's task will be made easier if, when he talks of them, he always breaks down the unemployment figures into two different categories, the longer term and the short term. The last figures I have before me are those in the Ministry of Labour Gazette for February, 1966. On 10th January this year there were 330,000 unemployed. Of those 330,000, 200,000 had been unemployed for under three months, 110,000 had been unemployed for one month or less and 80,000 for a fortnight or less. There were 130,000 only—I use the word "only" with great care here—unemployed for over three months and 80,000 only unemployed for over six months. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, both parties support the recent Government action in palliating or mitigating conditions for those who are unemployed for a short time, for under six months.

If the Government succeed in their aim of pushing up the unemployment figures—whatever the Prime Minister may have said at the election, this is the Government's aim and has been over the past 18 months—then their success will be judged on two grounds, the increase in the short-term figure and steadiness in the over six months figure. We shall not attack the Government provided, and provided only, that the increase in unemployment which they are seeking is limited to the short-term unemployed who are, in fact, only shifting and redeploying from job to job. If the long-term unemployed figure rises, we shall certainly wish to attack the Government because we shall claim they have misjudged the medicine which the country needs.

I want the Minister to tell us what the Government's attitude is to unemployment. It would be far better for him to state it now than to come along belatedly and retrospectively to defend what has happened. Let him and his colleagues explain that he agrees with what I have been saying, that, if we are to have more efficiency and prosperity, we must move people from job to job. Let the right hon. Gentleman explain that this is his Government's objective. Then, when the figures do move that way, as they will, it will happen within the programme which he himself has explained is the right one for the country. The only point about unemployment now is not whether it will rise, but when it will rise and by how much. The experts disagree. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research predicts that unemployment will rise by 100,000 over the next year. Is that the Government's objective? Is it enough? Is it a realistic estimate, in their view?

I come now to a number of other points. We believe that the economic objective should be efficient management and co-operation by willing workers with efficient management. Of course, as the Prime Minister and everyone else says, these are matters of human relations and they have ultimately to be left to management and men themselves. The individual workman cannot be expected to take a lone-term view. He has not the reserves in his pocket to enable him to take a long-term view. But unions and men can be expected to co-operate, and in many cases they do co-operate, in the pursuit of increasing productivity with efficient and enlightened management. We believe that this is the objective, that men should give willing co-operation to efficient employers, and we believe that this will be made more practicable if the Government take the fever out of the economy.

We believe that the approach of management should be to seek to reconcile their interest in profitable efficiency with the worker's concern for security. Any fair person looking at the country's industrial needs will recognise both those requirements, the profitable efficiency of the concern and security in the mind of the worker whether in his particular job at the moment or in the job next door which he knows is waiting for him. This means that management must be responsible for winning consent to the inevitable changes which we as a society face. I do not pretend that this is easy. It is not easy in the best of conditions. Sometimes managements have to face irresponsible, even malicious, opposition from within their own workplaces.

I do not underestimate the difficulties, but it can be done. Managements can win consent to change. We can all think of examples where they have won willing consent to change. It is done by sustained understanding pursuit by management of these two interests, efficient profitability and a sense of security on the part of workers. The choice that faces management is not peace at any price or a fight to the death. It is the persevering and understanding pursuit of a mutually acceptable relationship, not just a once-for-all bargain but a continuing relationship reconciling efficiency, security and flexibility.

The very opposite of these objectives is achieved where management is weak or vacillating or gives way to local pressures. In these circumstances, any hope of control of the men by their union vanishes. It is management's primary fault if in these circumstances it vanishes. Managements by their action can build up unofficial leaders of a militant and irresponsible nature, and weaken desperately those who are responsible and see the middle-term and long-term interests of their members. Militants are often bred by managements themselves.

Unions, on the other hand, have their task too. It must be for them to identify the proper grievances of their members, not every grievance, because every grievance is not justified, but the proper grievances, and seek a settlement with management, and when they have a fair settlement, sell it to their members. They must not just settle without trying to sell it to their members. That is another way of breeding militants and unofficial irresponsibles. It leaves power not with the unions, but with the pressure groups in the work place.

We contend that all these problems are made more difficult to solve and live with for management and union alike if the Government allow the economy to get overheated as it has done and as it is now. It encourages the fever in the economy, encourages management to give way, encourages men to demand what cannot possibly be sustained if the country's growth is to continue, and encourages the influence of the bad manager and the shortsighted militant who seeks rises which cannot be continued, all maximised by excessive demand in the economy.

I come to the paradox at the heart of our present economic situation, that we have at one and the same time overmanning and shortage of labour. In theory, one should cure the other. The men and women released on extinguishing the overmanning should move to satisfy the shortage of labour. But this is far too simple a view. There are various obstacles in the way, some of which can be overcome soon and some of which will take longer. The first is—I am back to the same theme—that, with the economy overheated, the less efficient, whether management or manpower, are not squeezed out of their present employments and are, therefore, not released for the expanding efficient sections of the economy. Secondly, the skills which are available and are needed do not match each other. We all know that both parties are wedded to the Industrial Training Act which will, we hope, fairly quickly improve this situation.

But there are other things. There are restrictive labour practices which must involve management as well as unions and men since managements acquiesce in them. The Government have a particular responsibility for tackling restrictive labour practices where they themselves are the employers. I pay tribute to the Government's resolution in some sectors. They have continued the Conservative policy of making some parts of the nationalised industries more efficient, but they have stopped short and have not gone as far as they should have done. In the railways they gave way to pressures and—to put it neutrally—allowed Dr. Beeching to go. In the coal mines, on the evidence of Mr. Aubrey Jones' Prices and Incomes Board, there is still a great deal of surplus manpower. I pay tribute to successive Governments and to Lord Robens for the resolve with which the coal mining manpower has been reduced and the men released for other work, but according to the Prices and Incomes Board there is still a long way to go.

We know that the Minister is tackling other sectors of overmanning and restrictive labour practices. He is at work on the docks. The experiment at Fairfields will, presumably, come up against its first difficulties fairly soon. We shall watch with interest what happens. We see that the Minister has called in the printing unions for discussion of the Southwark problem, and we note this morning that he is faced with the conundrum of what to do about the road haulage industry, where the final report of the Prices and Incomes Board is in flat conflict with the views of the unions. I say to the Minister and, through him, to the Government, that pious words will no longer serve. My right hon. Friend said yesterday, echoing a number of newspapers, that there are no alibis now and the Government have to show their guts when dealing with their own responsibility in their own sector before private employers will believe that the Government are dedicated to their professed policy.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. It is not in order for an hon. Member to read in the Chamber unless it is for the purpose of a speech which he is to make.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I tell the Minister that we shall watch with interest what he does with the Wages Council resolution on road haulage which is now before him, and what he and his right hon. Friends do in particular about the whole problem of arbitration within an incomes policy.

There was an interesting article in The Times on 24th January explaining the problems facing the Government in this field. I should be grateful if the Minister, while talking about restrictive labour practices, would explain what the Prime Minister meant yesterday in his very far-reaching statement during his speech: Our policy is that wherever a restrictive practice is uncovered, whether by independent inquiry or in any other way on either side of industry, we shall do whatever is necessary to secure the removal of any impediment which may be found to increased production or to lower industrial costs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st April, 1966; Vol. 727, c. 87.] That is absolutely fine. We only hope that the Prime Minister is as good as his words. We hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what exactly, other than a conference, the Prime Minister has in mind. We know about the famous conferences, but we do not think that a conference, unless the Government acts in relation to the Wages Council, the docks, the printing industry, Fairfields, the railways, liner trains, and all these other issues which the Government are already seized of their responsibility to tackle properly, will cut any ice at all.

So we have the problem of overmanning. But do we have the problem of shortage? Is there really a problem of shortage? If there were not so many restrictive labour practices, if there were not so much hoarding by employers, if there were not so much unnecessary overtime, if there were not so much waste by employers who are allowed to remain in business because life is not competitive enough, would there be any shortage of labour? There might be a shortage in some skills. There the Minister has a very good alibi for the next couple of years. The Industrial Training Act came late in the life of the last Conservative Government.

Is there really a shortage of manpower, or is there a shortage, which is serious if it exists, of some particular skills? Will the Minister tell us whether he and his colleagues are considering why the apparent shortage of labour is not achieving more of its classic duty of encouraging more investment? Or is it doing so? The theory is that if one has a sufficient shortage of labour, employers will rush to invest in capital intensive equipment. Is it happening enough? Or is there some blockage in the incentive system? I hope that this is a subject which the N.E.D.C. or the Government will examine and report on.

We on this side believe that restrictive labour practices, while being very difficult to solve, and while involving management, unions and men, would be helped in their solution by as much publicity as possible and possibly by changes in the industrial law. We have said that, had we been elected, we should have switched the emphasis of the Prices and Incomes Board more towards productivity, which the Board has, of course, already put in the front of its interests, and that we should have buttressed its reports by a change in the law or by the use of enforcement procedures before the industrial courts which we have proposed to set up. The right hon. Gentleman's answer will, of course, be that he is waiting for the Royal Commission. I can anticipate that one. But it is only right, when we are criticising the present position, to say what we ourselves would do.

Now I turn to the question of personal rights on the shop floor. Obviously, we must accept that the Director of Public Prosecutions found nothing legally offensive in what took place at Cowley at the beginning of the General Election campaign. It seems clear that some men and women in some industrial situations who have some evil to report may be intimidated from reporting it. I hope that that statement is sufficiently tentative. I do not know all the facts. Is the Minister to accept, as he would not if he were to deal with scandals alleged on the management side, that judgments are to be made by the D.P.P. without evidence coming forward because that evidence is perhaps frightened off?

If there are a series of episodes where ugly practices are alleged, will the Minister consider the use of a court of inquiry which can require evidence from people who would otherwise be too nervous to come forward with it? I do not want to reopen the Cowley incident. The D.P.P. has made his judgment on whatever evidence there was available. As far as I can judge from the Press, there was only one man, who is now quitting his job presumably because of the treatment he has been receiving, and there are men in hospital and wives who were frightened.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

So that I may not be misunderstood when I reply, perhaps I may point out to the right hon. Gentleman that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will make a statement in answer to a Question on Wednesday.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I had not noticed that.

Still, on the issue of personal rights, we must reiterate our view that the whole industrial scene will be healthier if the rules of trade unions have to be approved by a new registrar—rules to which the conduct of union business in those few cases where it may fall below the proper standard will have to conform for the protection of human rights. The evidence of the Minister's own Department leans heavily towards some such system. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not block all sensible reforms for years while the Royal Commission moves towards its report. Surely this is a matter he could consider acting on now in establishing a registrar and a system of approval for union rules.

Something analogous to the issue of personal rights is the question of the right of appeal against dismissal. From time to time there are stories in the Press where men have been dismissed by employers allegedly under pressure from other employees—for instance, the man dismissed may have refused to come out on unofficial strike, or have produced more work than the agreed standard. There are stories of managements giving way to pressures and, of course, this is encouraged by an overheated economy. These stories should be brought out into the open.

Why is it right for this country to be about the only industrial Power that gives no right of appeal or of damages for dismissal in this sort of situation? Such a right of appeal would put the employer to his defences. It would stiffen the back of an employer under pressure for quite improper reasons to get rid of a man whose only offence is that he tried to put his best into his work. Is the right hon. Gentleman to wait for the Royal Commission in this case as well? We need greatly increased productivity and output and yet we allow men to be victimised in this way.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

I would like the right hon. Gentleman to clarify one point. He has raised the question of personal rights of the individual on the shop floor who may be proscribed or alleged to be proscribed by fellow workers. Is he prepared to take the argument a stage further in dealing with trade unionists who, on entering a factory which is perhaps not organised, are dismissed by the employer because they participate in union organisation?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

In our document "Putting Britain Right Ahead"—with which I am sure the hon. Gentleman is familiar—we committed ourselves to movement in the direction of giving recognition to trade unions under certain protective conditions. There have to be protections, but, certainly, we committed ourselves to some movement in that direction.

Now I turn to the question of strikes and the threat of strikes. Damage is not done only by strikes. It is also done by the threat of strikes. No one can calculate how much the country might have achieved in output, prices and earnings if managements—even good managements—were not so weary and wary of obstruction by shortsighted men using the threat of strikes. The law at the moment makes it only too easy. We have committed ourselves to making the dispute procedure element of any collective agreement enforceable between management and men and, of course, we would have to see that all such dispute procedures were apt, quick, well understood and well known.

Here again, however, we must presumably wait for years for action from the Government until the Royal Commission has reported. But taking this course would mean that we were moving towards the practice in most other industrial countries—and here again the Minister's Department goes a long way, in its own Report, towards such a solution.

Of course, in any such use of industrial courts not only the conduct of the men would come under examination. It would be open to men to claim that their action, precipitate and wrong though it was, had been provoked by the management. The court would have to take that into account in assessing any damages that might be payable.

What does the Minister intend to do about low earnings? These lie behind evils mentioned in the Gracious Speech, in the passage: My Ministers … will seek further means of dealing with the poverty that still exists. We all know of the campaign of the Family Poverty Action Group. The Minister cannot give exact figures, but we know that in a number of cases—about 150,000—men are working for rewards which bring their household income, since the wife does not go to work, below the level the family would receive if it were on National Assistance. That puts a desperate burden on a mother trying to bring up a family properly.

Of course, there are all sorts of difficulties. There are the economics of the job concerned, the problems of mechanisation and one is tempted to say the "sacred" differentials and other complexities of great difficulty. This problem has been defined with full accuracy only in the last two or three years. The Labour Party complained about the "wage stop" as one evil, but that was only a small part of the much bigger issue of low earnings. Does the Minister intend to take any action, or to probe the situation?

Let no hon. Member think that this is a problem for private enterprise only. I could give the right hon. Gentleman figures from public enterprise, in the local authority and nationalised industry world, showing surprisingly large numbers of adult men with families on very low earnings. Let no one think that this is an easy problem to solve, but we would like to hear from the Minister what he is to do about it.

Finally, I come to the main question in the answer to which we are all most interested. When does the right hon. Gentleman expect the Royal Commission to report? We have seen the statement by the Commission that it is hard at work and still has a mass of oral and written evidence to absorb and that it is starting on its inquiries abroad and proposes to make all this coincide with its preliminary consideration of the evidence which it already has.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that there is no case for some sort of interim report? Does he think that he should press these busy men, who have their own jobs and who are giving their spare tine to the Royal Commission, to produce an interim report? My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has made it plain that he would not be satisfied with a part-time Royal Commission—not that he questions the competence or good will of the individual members. But here we are paying for a traditional use of a traditional instrument by a Government who promised modernisation, and the country is paying in years and years of delay.

Does the right hon. Gentleman yet know when the T.U.C. will put in its own evidence? I understand that it is privately seeing the evidence of all the unions. I have a file full of published evidence from academic sources, management sources, trade union sources and other interested bodies, but the one body which should know where it is going has not yet produced its evidence. It is not the Minister's responsibility, but can he tell us when this evidence can be expected?

What about action? The Minister has told us that he wants a rounded picture and, of course, we understand that. He does not want to attack this complex problem until he has all the answers. However, with five years' power supposedly before him and his right hon. Friends, is he so sure that we have to wait until probably what will be a preelection year for legislation on this subject? Will the Government then take action, or shall we be deferring this whole set of problems until the 'seventies? The right hon. Gentleman himself made an interesting reference when, at Harrogate on 7th October, having said that he wanted a rounded picture and objective reflection, he went on to add: That is not to say that we can sit back and take no action on any of these matters until the Royal Commission has reported. Hear, hear. We all agree. Will he explain what he meant and tell us whether he contemplates asking for an interim report, or taking any action before the Royal Commission reports?

We hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not burke the big issues of the prospects of unemployment and the link between an over-heated economy, the efficiency of industry and the other matters which we have raised.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

On a point of order. I should like to ask you to clarify the Ruling which you gave a little while ago to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Fortescue), Mr. Speaker. On page 460, Erskine May says that the reading of books, newspapers and letters by hon. Members is not permitted, but it goes on to say that even this rule must be understood with limitations. They ought not to be read for amusement or business unconnected with the debate.

My hon. Friend was reading the OFFICIAL REPORT containing the Queen's Speech and yesterday's debate. I was doing the same thing myself. I hope that it can be understood that that is perfectly in order.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising the matter, especially as I am the last who would want to cause embarrassment to a new Member. I did not know that the hon. Gentleman was reading HANSARD.

For the benefit of the House, may I just underline the reference which the right hon. Gentleman has quoted: … although it is still irregular to read newspapers, any books and letters may be referred to by hon. Members preparing to speak"— which is what I said— but ought not to be read for amusement or for business unconnected with the debate. I doubt whether anyone would read HANSARD for amusement. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

11.55 a.m.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

I should like, first, to thank the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) for the manner in which the subject has been approached. It will be no surprise to him if I say that I agree with a tremendous amount of what has been said. The right hon. Gentleman opened with a reference to one of our major problems which relates to the subject of unemployment and the redeployment of labour. As he rightly said, this is one of our greatest dilemmas and both parties are together in the right belief that unemployment should be mitigated as much as is humanly possible, because of the suffering which it entails. I was very glad that the right hon. Gentleman said that, whatever the percentage of unemployment might be nationally, to the man who was unemployed it was 100 per cent.

Our great dilemma is connected with the form of society which we now have. It is very easy in an authoritarian society to deal with redundant men. In the short term there are tremendous advantages which accrue to the totalitarian State which can order this or that. But in our society inevitably we have to move with caution and we have to give very careful consideration to whatever legislation we may consider to be desirable to deal with any situation in industrial relations.

The right hon. Gentleman was quite correct to say that the redeployment of our labour, which must inevitably involve a measure of short-term unemployment, is at the nub of our problem in this country. It is true that there is over-manning—we can go into the reasons for that—we have the paradox of over-manning in many industries and the inefficient use of manpower in many industries, while at the same time so many other industries are screaming out for skilled workers.

The significance of this situation has already been accepted by the Government and that is why we felt that one of our first tasks would be to see how we could create at least as good an atmosphere as possible in which the sharpness and bitterness of change might be removed from the individual. In particular, the Redundancy Payments Act was passed so that the real sting might be removed when men are thrown on the ash tip because of the introduction of new methods of working or new machines. Similarly we are proceeding with wage-related unemployment benefits so that the standard of living of men who are made redundant shall not be too catastrophically reduced over a period of weeks.

While I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that these are things which the Government may do, in the end they do not solve the problem. I have said it before in the House—and I do not want anybody to start singing "Tell us the old, old story"—that we are dealing with human beings who do not like change. None of us likes change. I have said that before and I repeat it now. I do not care whether it is the doctors, or the legal profession, or whoever it is—we all have a devoted love of the things we have always done and the way our fathers have lived.

What I am trying to say is that we can never effect the necessary changes in our industrial life without some hardship and some inconvenience somewhere. Management and work people delude themselves if they believe that any Government, or any other organisation, can order affairs in these matters so that nobody is hurt. We may as well face it. I repeat that that is why we have gone along the road of the Redundancy Payments Act and wage-related unemployment benefits, so that at least we can mitigate the hurt.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the fever which exists in the economy. We must all remember—and he has openly and honestly said it—that both parties are dedicated to the proposition that we do not want unemployment, although we agree that it must occur on a short-term basis. I am not an economist and I am therefore not in a position to judge how we arrive at the assessment. I do not know who makes these gentle judgments. All I know from my industrial life is that once one starts on the path of deflation, as it were, very often nobody is able to control it in the end, and it just gathers pace. Let me say again that I agree with so much of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, North-East has said. He mentioned that we are possibly the only country which wants to take work to the places where the workers are. We are a small island, and I do not think that anyone wants to see the North-East or South Wales suffer. We do not want to see South Wales wither away and die and it is a reasonable proposition that we should be moving fresh work into these areas of traditional and historic basic industries. In any case, the capital costs involved in moving hundreds of thousands of workers to other areas, in terms of housing and social services, are of great magnitude.

I do not believe that it is a reasonable proposition that areas such as these should wither and die away. We do not want it and it would be uneconomic. Therefore, we will proceed with our present methods of bringing industry to these areas. Leaving aside what the parties say, when we are dealing with human beings I do not think that as an industrial society we, or any other such society, have yet found the answer to the disciplines of unemployment. There was a crude law that operated and I do not think that we have yet evoked the moral responsibilities and the voluntary disciplines necessary if one is to maintain and sustain full employment.

The next point raised dealt with restrictive practices. This leads me to the Royal Commission. The Leader of the Opposition is present and I have a feeling, although I know that he will not nod his head in assent, that he agrees that there is no place like the Ministry of Labour to teach one how much one does not know about human nature. In other words, at the Ministry of Labour one comes to understand that things are never simple, that restrictive practices are so various in kind and are so bound up with complex traditional practices that it is almost impossible to sort them out.

I have always been interested in one aspect—and this is where the Leader of the Opposition may even agree with me—that there have been Ministers of Labour who have thought deeply and have brooded over the question of unofficial strikes and restrictive practices. Most of them have arrived at conclusions, be- cause they are on record. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) has said, it is a very moot point whether legislation to deal with restrictive practices would be effective. If I remember rightly, he went on to say, last October or September, in The Spectator that, of course, we all accept that the real initiative for coming to terms with restrictive labour practices must rest with management. There are large areas of British management which would bear comparison with those in any other part of the world. There are large areas of industrial relations which are very good. Unfortunately the area where that is not true is still too big and I concede immediately that we have to face that.

I should like to say a word on management—it is the easiest thing in the world to blame the other side. Sometimes I feel almost childish, particularly at election times, when one gets up and is asked a question on unions and one blames the management. Then somebody else gets up and asks about management, and one blames the trade unions. It is so silly. The real initiative for change and for bringing about good industrial relations must come from management. This is particularly so in an area in which I think management has failed so far. I have come to the conclusion, maybe wrongly, that the biggest weakness of British management is not at the top level. It is that insufficient attention has been paid to the training and selection of men with the necessary qualifications to work at the lower levels of management.

These are the men who have contact with the people on the workshop floor. Time and again I find that it is accepted by some of our industrialists that there must be better methods of selection for the lower levels of management, for those in the supervisory grades. So far management has not paid the proper rewards at this level. Our wage and salary structures have become hopelessly distorted by productivity bonuses, work study bonuses, and incentive bonuses, which have left a residue of people working in industry who are unable to qualify for any of these bonuses. As a result there are in the lower levels of management men responsible for handling workers, but who are taking home less money than those whom they supervise. I hope that British management will turn its attention to this problem.

Before I deal with the Royal Commission, I want to say a word about the personal liberties and freedoms of men in industry. I would be as anxious as anyone to safeguard the freedoms to which we always claim we are entitled, freedom from intimidation, from fear, and all the rest of it. And I would have no hesitation in taking the necessary steps if violations of these freedoms took place. As I have indicated in an earlier intervention on the notorious affair at Cowley, I do not want to say anything more at the moment, because the Attorney-General will be saying something. I think that it would be the wish of the House that he should do so rather than let the affair die, as though the Director of Public Prosecutions had succeeded in burying the whole affair.

Running through the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was the question of the Commission. I do not want to be naughty, but it is a tragedy that this Commission, or inquiry, was not established a few years ago when the opportunity was there. If, when the Rookes-Barnard case revealed the utter chaos and confusion, the Commission had been established, then we might have been receiving the results now. It is insisted that there was the suggestion of an inquiry but it was not on very favourable terms—

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I think that we must get this clear, because the right hon. Gentleman has said this on a good many previous occasions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), who was then Minister of Labour, put quite specifically to the T.U.C. the proposition that there should be an inquiry or a committee, the type of which should be discussed with it. It refused to have this unless it first obtained legislation to reverse the Rookes v. Barnard decision. We took the view that it was not right that this legislation should be anticipated if one was going to set up a Royal Commission.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

All that I am trying to say is that I considered it right, and I still do, that the confusion should be cleared for a short period as a holding operation, so that the laws as they had stood for 60 years could operate, only until the result of the inquiry had been made public. I will deal later with the question why I would never have had an inquiry such as was in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber). This is the difference between my approach and that of the right hon. Gentleman. Never believe that one can put the law right in that sense unless one looks at all the facets of industrial relations and all the issues involved. I am talking about unofficial strikes, the closed shop, demarcation disputes, dismissal procedures. and so on.

The argument is that we should have had a full-time inquiry or commission. That is the last thing on earth that we want. What we want is men who know industry, who are actively engaged in industry, lawyers who know industrial law, and outside people of eminence who hold responsible positions within society. If we had said to them that they had to throw up their jobs—and the work could not have taken less than a year because of the evidence which had to be heard—we should never have got the people that we wanted.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could explain how the First Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs has got people seconded from industry for longer than a year to help him to do his work.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

That is a different matter altogether.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

That is a different matter entirely. Those men have come in to do a specific job connected with industry itself. We wanted a range of different people. I do not think my right hon. Friend the First Secretary would necessarily want the same type of people we have got.

A large amount of evidence has been taken, as Lord Donovan has announced. He said in the statement which I understand the right hon. Gentleman had before him: Moreover, the inter-relation of many of the major problems is a serious obstacle in the way of any interim report in advance of the full consideration of the particular issues and the repercussions of the various suggested remedies". I think that we have to leave it at that. I want later to say how we are dealing with certain aspects of these matters which are separate from the Royal Commission's task. I do not think I can be expected to give an answer as to when the Royal Commission will make its report, which I hope will be of a very fundamental character.

The right hon. Gentleman wondered what we would do with the report when we received it and whether there was the possibility or danger that we would do nothing about it.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I merely pointed out that it was likely that the year after the report was received and debated would be a General Election year.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

I do not think that you are right in your timing, but the general suggestion was—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The Chair is neither right nor wrong in its timing.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker.

The right hon. Gentleman indicated that his feeling was that nothing would be done about the report. He might do me the honour of looking at the record of what I said before. I said that any Government which did not have the courage to act, and act quickly, apart from any of the vested interests of the employers or trade unions, should not be the Government, and I went on to say that I wanted to be no part of a Government which did not have the courage to do what had to be done once they had the guide lines before them.

Meanwhile, we have been getting on with certain industries which have caused us most worry over the last few years. We have been conducting experiments in some of these industries to see how we can come to terms with bad industrial relations.

I should like, as I think I am entitled to do, to make special reference to the docks which have been a running sore for so many years and whose present inefficient state is so serious an impediment to our export trade. We are determined—and, by heavens, the road is difficult—to try to come to terms with and to eliminate the causes of bad industrial relations and inefficiency in the docks. Following Lord Devlin's Report, which I received last August, we proceeded, by experiment, to set up a modernisation committee of the unions and employers with an independent chairman and other independent members. I do not wish to delay the proceedings of the House by giving a detailed account of what transpired, but I recently published a draft revised dock labour scheme based on the principles which the unions, employers and independent elements agreed in the modernisation committee. This provides for the introduction of regular employment for dock workers and for the maintenance of their rights under the present scheme. Publication of the draft scheme will provide an opportunity for detailed discussion and comment on the proposed arrangements. I think that there may well be objections of substance on particular points. They will be fully examined by an independent inquiry, as is required by the Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1946.

I am glad to say that we have made very good progress on the issues of sick pay and pensions in the docks. Better welfare amenities in dockland are being accepted as part of the general short-term objective. As is announced in the Gracious Speech, we shall introduce legislation at an early date to provide for the licensing of port employers. This will be designed to ensure that those employers able to meet the requirements of management in a modernised and efficient port will remain in business.

There is also the crucial point of the new pay structure and the level of pay to be set up with the introduction of permanent employment. While the modernisation committee has made very substantial progress on this matter, it has not proved possible to reach a final agreement. I have, therefore, appointed an independent inquiry to look into this issue. Some sections of the Press have suggested that this is another wide-ranging inquiry into the whole of dockland. It is not. It is confined to the narrow point of the pay structure and the level of pay on decasualisation. I hope that its work will not take too long. I am happy, too, to say that Lord Devlin, to whom we are already indebted, has agreed to act as chairman.

I wish to say a few words about the motor car industry. I suppose that, apart from the coal mining industry, this is the industry worst afflicted by unofficial stoppages. There are various reasons for it. This industry has grown up and expanded very rapidly. Perhaps there are not in it the roots which we find in other industries. We called the unions and employers together to see how we could come to terms with the difficulties. We conducted the experiment of setting up a council of the employers and trade unions with an independent member, Mr. Jack Scamp, in the chair. This has met with success. I am not suggesting for a moment that it is now all paradise in the motor car industry, but this body has had, and is increasingly commanding, the respect of both the workers and employers. Under the leadership of Mr. Scamp, it is investigating various parts of and firms in the industry and making recommendations. The object is to promote better relations in the industry and to conduct an inquiry into disputes.

Although it has met with success, it is a bit premature to give a definitive assessment of the council's work. But I should like in the House to pay tribute to the energy and good sense with which it is carrying out its task. Since the council was set up last November, there have been six inquiries into individual disputes. The speed with which these disputes have been investigated has undoubtedly helped to halt the loss of production and the possibility of unemployment in other establishments. I am hopeful that in the coming months Mr. Scamp and his colleagues will not be too absorbed by handling individual disputes but will be able to turn their attention to the longer term problems of industrial relations in the motor car industry on which much remains to be done.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

As one who represents the motor car industry, I know only too well that this is a very difficult problem. Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that Mr. Scamp has adequate staff to get on with the job as quickly as we wish?

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

I do not think that this is entirely a question of staff. If my hon. Friend is thinking in terms of manning the committee, I do not think that that is the problem. I am bound to say that I should like to see more Scamps rather than more staff, but that is a difficult thing to bring about.

Another industry with which we have been in serious trouble is the railways. I bring this out to show that all this is distinct and separate from the Royal Commission and that the Ministry of Labour is trying to come to terms with problems in these separate industries. For reasons which are known to the House, the railways are in trouble. One cannot have an industry which is contracting as rapidly as is the railways without meeting difficulties. Insecurity always makes men less rational than when they are secure. There is a problem of human relations in British Railways at a time when the railways are running down rapidly, in terms of manpower, that is, not in terms of efficiency.

On the other hand, there can be no doubt that the railways pay structure in terms of salaries and wages is a little out of date. To return to the point which I made originally, it is a trifle distorted by incentive bonuses and other things. We have, therefore, asked all the unions and the management to come to the Ministry for discussions. I doubt very much whether they would get very far if they went to their traditional place of warring. We have invited them to come to the Ministry, and for a period at least under my chairmanship we shall try to establish how we can get a pay structure which is modern in outlook and related to productivity. I do not know how events will emerge from the first few meetings, but it would be our intention to talk about the negotiating machinery, the pay structure and the absolute necessity of relating the pay structure to productivity. This is another way in which the Ministry are trying to come to terms with industrial problems.

The last industry which I shall mention is shipbuilding, and I shall be brief because the Geddes Report is only just out. There are some pretty revolutionary ideas and some very good ideas in that Report about the industry putting its house in order, the tasks of management and particularly about industrial relations. In the first place, it is for the industry to decide whether it is prepared to commit itself with determination to the far-reaching programme of re-organisation and modernisation laid down in the Report. Discussions have already started between the Government and both sides of industry. Here, again, the Ministry of Labour in this field of industrial relations may, and probably will, find itself with a difficult task of trying to create the atmosphere in which the far-reaching changes suggested in regard to the negotiating machinery, the unions and all the rest can be carried out.

I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman please not to suggest that everything is being hidden under the umbrella of the Royal Commission. The Ministry has been most active and it looks as if we shall be even more active. The Ministry has shown fresh ideas in trying to come to terms with the problems which are about us. Further than that, although the Leader of the Opposition knows it, often very little is known generally of the tremendous work done by our industrial relations officers up and down the country in their conciliatory capacity. This work often passes unnoticed. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to believe me when I say that legislation is not a solution. We are probing in this period of great change to try to come to terms with the problems. I see no easy solution to the problems because they involve human beings, but I think that by experiment, and by helping the employers and the trade unions, we can do a great deal.

I want to deal in the last part of my speech with what I think is inherent in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about incentives to mobility and particularly about lower-paid workers. We all know that if our prices and incomes policy could be made to work as we want it to work, many of the problems which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind could be eased. In other words, most of the fever could be taken out of the situation and the lower-paid workers who, as he said, are rightly entitled to a considerable advance in their standard of living, could be helped.

I think that neither side of the House would disagree with the objective of maintaining full employment without inflation or of achieving the maximum utilisation and development of our economic resources, together with a steady advance in real incomes. I do not think that these things are in dispute between us. The Government's policy on productivity, prices and incomes is an integral and important part of social and economic planning.

Critics of the Government's present policy on prices and incomes must say whether the objectives of the policy are either undesirable or unattainable and, if they are, precisely which other objectives and means to attain them are envisaged. Mere criticism of the attainments of the Government's policy is very unhelpful in the circumstances in which we live. The Government claim, and I claim it here today, that the aims of our policy and the methods used to seek its fulfilment are right—though that is not to say for one moment that we can achieve everything in a short space of time. The Government have given a clear lead. At the same time, the policy is an agreed policy to which Government, employers and unions have all subscribed in the Declaration of Intent. Unless they meant it they should not have signed the Declaration of Intent. This policy is, therefore, voluntary and tripartite. Nor is the policy essentially a negative policy of restraint. On the contrary, by using the voluntary efforts of all those concerned in making the economic decisions which govern our economic fortunes, in my opinion the policy offers the prospect of sound, continuing expansion.

Increasing emphasis is being laid by the Prices and Incomes Board—and the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right here—on the fact that efficient productivity and the better use of manpower is a key to all. our pesent problems. Increasingly the Board is and will be attaching importance to productivity. This is one of the most helpful developments emerging from the continuing dialogue within industry which the policy involves in getting our people to understand that if they want more wages, higher salaries and pensions and profits and all the other benefits they have to earn them, and that it can be achieved only by more efficient production and economic production. The Board has proved a most valuable instrument in examining the relationship of costs and prices and pointing to ways of absorbing costs and increasing productivity. It has an invaluable educational rôle in the development of the policy.

May I say something about the early warning system, to which many people object. If timely action is to be taken to see that considerations of the public interest are brought to bear on proposals for increases in wages or incomes, it is essential that there should be early warning of the proposed changes. With the co-operation of both sides of industry a voluntary early warning system is now in operation.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about my rôle in the field of conciliation and arbitration. The dilemma in the past has been that the last people to be heard were the public. We have long had arbitration courts and industrial tribunals within the negotiating machinery of industry, before which the side of the unions was put and the side of the employers was put while somebody stood in the middle and said where best they could resolve the cockfight. The last people to be heard were those who paid at the end of the settlement—the public, the consumers.

I want to say emphatically from this Box that whatever may be the developments in this field of industrial negotiations it is right and proper that from the lowest form of negotiation to the highest the views of Government, the word of the public interest, shall be heard in them.

There has been great misunderstanding about the Prices and Incomes Bill, a lot of misunderstanding and misrepresentation. It gives a statutory basis to that valuable institution, the National Board for Prices and Incomes, which is all to the good. It also makes provision, although not immediately, and not without further Parliamentary consideration, for notification of information about proposed prices and incomes changes, and for reasonable time for their consideration by the Government, or by the National Prices and Incomes Board, before they are put into effect. It is not in any sense a Measure for attempting to fix either prices or incomes. It merely provides that decisions on these matters should be subject to the light of public scrutiny and debate. That is a desirable objective. I see nothing wrong with it. I see in it no infringement of the freedom or rights of citizens of this country. It is a desirable objective, and one which I hope we shall continue to seek by voluntary means and without the need to call upon the compulsory provisions of the Bill at all.

A word about the results so far. This is inevitably a long-term policy. The Government do not claim that the goal has been reached, or even nearly approached. We must remember, however, in considering the figures for 1965, that so far as wage settlements are concerned they were most strongly influenced by the effects of hours reductions coinciding with pay increases, and many of the settlements represented instalments of long-term agreements concluded before the policy was promulgated. There have been successes, and I know there have been failures. The Government's hope and intention is that there shall be increasing success accompanying a growing realisation of the common interest we all have in attaining the aims of this policy.

I turn to the last point the hon. Gentleman made. This Prices and Incomes Board was never intended to restrain the lower paid from getting more. What was in our minds was this, that we felt that the better-off had better hold back while the lower-paid caught up. We never intended that the norm should be for the lowest paid in the country. Therefore, we believe that through this means inequality will be reduced.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He is drawing to a close. I wanted to ask him why he challenged my estimate of the timing of the Royal Commission. I wondered if he could tell the House when he would expect to receive its final report. He obviously has an idea, since he challenged by estimate. He has forgotten to mention that he knows when the T.U.C. evidence will be brought forward.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

I was just going to wind up on that. I have been dealing with the lower-paid. I will now turn to the point about the Royal Commission. The right hon. Gentleman must know that I could not give an estimate. The Chairman of the Royal Commission has said in his statement that the Commission is aware of the urgency and that it hopes to present its report as soon as possible. I cannot press the Chairman of the Royal Commission on this—he is far too august for me to bring pressure upon—but I have talked with him about the considerations in our minds. As for the Trades Union Congress submitting its evidence, I did read that it was hoping it would be done by midsummer. I am hoping that means June.

I conclude by again expressing my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for the way in which these matters have been raised. Again, I had better be careful, in the presence of the Leader of the Opposition, but I find more and more that the longer one is Minister of Labour the less political one becomes; in other words, one has the desire to get away from the arguments of politicians.

12.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Raymond Mawby Mr Raymond Mawby , Totnes

I join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) in stating that if we have to have a Labour Government, then indeed the right hon. Gentleman is just the man we want to see continue at that Dispatch Box. From his speech it is obvious that he is aware of the great problems, which, of course, are coupled with the great advances which are being made.

Nevertheless, as he pointed out early in his speech, we have not yet really, even under successive Governments, found a good alternative to the old system which was brought about by the level of unemployment, which was the whip—the system of the whip; we have not yet found any real alternative to that sort of thing. Yet, of course, it is terribly important to remember that, unless we do find an effective answer, we in this country, being extremely vulnerable, having to rely upon a large amount of exports to the rest of the world, may by sheer indolence bring about the sort of thing which it is the desire of all of us should never happen in this country. In other words, by sheer indolence in not trying to find an answer to these problems we shall get a high level of unemployment regardless of what our policies may be, whichever party is in office. Therefore, I believe it is right and proper that we should ask ourselves seriously whether there are matters which can safely be left till the Royal Commission reports.

The right hon. Gentleman said, and I think a number of people share his view, that it was a pity that the Royal Commission was not set up before. All that I would remind him of is that his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, even as late as the T.U.C. meeting just before the 1964 election, talking about the demand for a Royal Commission, asked why we needed a Royal Commission, because, after all, a Royal Commission takes minutes and wastes years. That was the view, even at that late hour, of the present Prime Minister. Obviously, he made his statement advisedly. Either he felt that all the facts were known and he was going to take action, or that the problem did not exist. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that it was not long after he made his statement that he came into office and he then desired the Royal Commission, and it is quite right and proper that that Royal Commission should be given every possible support and evidence from all quarters we can find, so that it can give us a very valuable report.

I believe, however, that the main question we have to ask ourselves at this moment, and in this debate on this Motion for an Address in reply to the Queen's Speech, is what is meant by that paragraph in the Queen's Speech regarding the prices and incomes policy. It says quite clearly: Proposals for legislation to reinforce this policy, while preserving the voluntary principle on which it is based, will be laid before you. This is obviously contrary to the terms of the Bill which was presented in the last Parliament and did not get through all its stages and, therefore, died. Therefore, the first question I think we are right in asking is whether the legislation referred to in the Queen's Speech is a Bill similar to the Bill which was presented in the last Parliament, or whether, for instance, the penalty provisions—Clause 14—will be dropped before the Bill is brought before the House again. It is important that this point should be made.

I admit that I heard the Minister say that he hoped that the voluntary system would continue to work so that compulsion would not be required. That may well mean that the principle of the Bill, including the penalty Clause, would be reintroduced into the House, with the Minister's fervent hope that it could be carried out by voluntary arrangement, seeking only to use the penalty Clause in the last resort. The House really deserves to be told what will be the form of the legislation and whether it will differ from what it had before it in the last Parliament.

There have been some pretty ominous signs. We all recognise the tremendous amount of work done by the First Secretary over the whole of last year. His efforts in getting the various people together to sign the voluntary Declaration of Intent were obviously nothing but a move forward in the right direction. The difficulty is that, at the end of the year—and all these figures were bandied about during the election—one found that while apparently all were seized of the problem and were desirous of putting it right, in their own individual capacities they were taking actions which were bringing entirely the contrary results. One has seriously to ask whether the relegation of the First Secretary down to what is perhaps the second division and the whole prices and incomes policy being taken away from him and spread over the Ministries which have the respective duties is a matter in which the Prime Minister has given up the ghost and decided that the policy shall continue in name only, because basically he believes that it has been a failure. That may well be the line.

On the other hand, it may well be that he has felt that the First Secretary has got it off the ground and that he can now be sent into new pastures to look after other matters which are probably more pressing. We have not yet been told the reason why the First Secretary was given the task originally and now, suddenly, it has been taken from him and spread across the board.

We noticed with interest during the election that the General Secretary of the T.U.C. made a public statement which said, in effect, "Whatever any future Government does, I am warning them now, hands off the trade unions. Leave us alone." In other words, we, as a group of people—and I include myself in that group—are saying to every political party in this country that we wish to contract out of the obligations that any section of the community expects to carry. That was the line that he was taking. If he was not taking that line, obviously he was satisfied that there was nothing wrong with the trade unions and that each trade union executive had complete control of all its members, was able to carry out its day-to-day duties of interpreting the rules of the union on behalf of its members and was never in the difficult position of having unofficial disputes which it had to step in and try to stop after announcing that there was no need for the dispute anyway.

No one, except someone living in cloud-cuckoo-land, could say with his hand on his heart that the trade unions are in that happy position. As the right hon. Gentleman said, they are the scamps, with a small "s", of industry, and they cause a great deal of damage.

Many of the problems which face us are very often the result of a wages or incomes spiral, the bottom of which has been a rise, a bonus or anything else obtained by nothing short of blackmail by a small group of people in a strong position who, by the threat of withdrawing their labour, could have caused their employers such damage that the firm was prepared to pay what was demanded. That is the kind of thing which begins another spiral. Once one gets into the sphere of wage differentials, it is obvious that everyone is concerned with making certain that each differential remains the same. If someone at the bottom gets an increase in income, it is immediately pointed out that previously existing differentials have been narrowed and there must now be increases all round to restore the differentials to what they were before.

Obviously, that is a problem, and it is one which I believe cannot be left until the Royal Commission reports. The Government also agreed that that could not happen. If they had not agreed that, they would not have put the penalty Clause in the Prices and Incomes Bill which was introduced last Session. They accepted that there may have to be compulsion upon people, because statutory power cannot be given to the Prices and Incomes Board if nothing is provided for the right action to be taken against people who thumb their noses at decisions of that new statutory body.

The Government decided that there were problems and, speaking for myself, I am very worried about the whole position of the number of disputes, the size of those disputes, particularly the damage that they cause in relation to the number of men involved, and especially about unofficial disputes which have no trade union backing at all.

No trade union leader can be happy about the position. In negotiation, he would like to be able to assure an employer that any arrangement entered into not only included a higher bonus, higher wages or anything else, but also a quid pro quo that his members would change certain practices or do certain things that they had not done before. He would like to be able to tell an employer that he would see that that assurance was carried out. As so often happens now, he can give no assurance at all, in which case negotiations become a little empty. I believe that trade union leaders themselves cannot be happy about the present situation.

The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the Cowley incident, and he has said that the Attorney-General will make a statement next week. In view of that, I do not propose to say anything about the incident until we know exactly what the facts are. All I would say is that it is certainly not an isolated incident. Other instances have been reported in the newspapers.

The question which one has to ask is how many trade unionists feel that they are coerced into taking part particularly in an unofficial dispute with which they do not agree because they believe that if they do not do so they will be treated as outcasts by their fellow men? A trade unionist is in a very difficult position if, on the one hand, his trade union executive says, "This is a matter which is going through the machinery, there is no need for a dispute at this moment, therefore do not go on strike", and on the other hand his local shop steward, the father of the chapel, or whatever his title may be, says, "This is a matter on which we have to take action now, and we are going to walk out". It is therefore important to take whatever steps we can to change this situation.

I believe that the penalty Clause in the Prices and Incomes Bill which was introduced last Session is not the answer. After all, this has all been tried before, whereby it is laid down that virtually any strike is illegal on pain of a fine of up to £100 for anyone taking part in it. This was tried during the period of the Labour Government from 1945 to 1951. It was done by Statutory Order, but nevertheless it had as much effect. On two occasions the Attorney-General of the day found that he could take men to court and fine them, but if they refused to pay the fine he had either to send them to gaol or to forget the whole thing and so bring the law into disrepute. On the two occasions when action was taken the men refused to pay their fines. They were not sent to gaol. Everybody forgot about it, and so far as I know those fines have still not been paid. I do not, therefore, think that this system will work. Secondly, such a system is a basic infringement of the liberty of the subject. The majority of strikes would be covered by Clause 14 if it operated, and I do not believe that the proposed step is the right one to take.

I believe that our policy is more likely to achieve the results which we want to see, because, first, it does not set out to make illegal the normal withdrawal of labour by a group of men. It does not try to differentiate between an official and an unofficial strike, because in law there is no difference between the two. Our policy has enough commonsense to accept the right of a group of people, if they wish, to take industrial action, but it provides for the recognition of the sanctity of the contract into which people have entered in the course of their employment. In some cases it may be that only a week's notice is required on each side, but it is, nevertheless, as much a contract as a procedure agreement which has been drawn up after long consideration between a union and employer or a group of employers. It is a contract, and if the trade union expects the employer to carry out his side of the bargain, surely it is not asking too much to expect the trade union to carry out its part of it? The whole point, therefore, is that where men take action which is contrary to a contract the industrial court will deal with the matter. I believe that this is an important provision which we must operate as soon as possible.

Our proposal is also designed to protect the rights of an individual member, and I think that this is very important indeed. If a trade unionist feels that he has been ill-treated by any other member of his union, or by a union official, he can go to a court to seek retribution only if he can prove that he has been treated contrary to rule. If the union or the official concerned can prove that the trade unionist has been treated in accordance with the rules, no court in the land can give that man any succour. It is, therefore, important to have someone who can satisfy himself that the rules of each union conform to a reasonable standard and pattern of behaviour. A number of unions study this matter seriously, and their rules cover the question of disciplining members, with a right of appeal to a higher body, and so on, but this does not necessarily go right the way through. I therefore believe that on registration the registrar ought to require a number of conditions to be fulfilled, one of which is a standard of rules which will conform to a proper pattern.

I have dealt with only one aspect of the Queen's Speech, because it is the one in which I am most interested. The right hon. Gentleman said that in speaking in this debate we ought not merely to confine ourselves to attacking the Government's policy, but we ought to say what we would do, or what we think they ought to do. I hope that in my short speech I have done what the right hon. Gentleman requested, namely, not only attacked where I think he is wrong, and asked for information where I believe the House is sadly in need of it, but tried to show the way in which I believe we can move nearer towards the goal which is the aim not only of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour but of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House so that, before we get into serious difficulties, we can find this elusive alternative to which the Minister referred, and to which I referred earlier, which will replace that old nasty whip we saw in the past and which, as inevitably as day follows night, will return unless we address ourselves to the problem and do something about it, not next year, or the year after, but now.

12.57 p.m.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Croydon South

I was pleased to see in the Queen's Speech a reference to the housing position. It has been said, and I think with a great deal of justification, that housing hardship today is rather like what unemployment was before the war. It produces the same degree of misery and hardship, and the same feeling of personal inadequacy as those who have suffered hardship, and it is also my view that the housing hardship today tends to affect the same type of person as unemployment did before the war.

I should like to illustrate, if I may, the sort of family which is hit hardest by the housing shortage. Usually, it is a family on the local council's waiting list, whose chances of being rehoused are rather slim because the local council has a tremendous number of applicants for houses. Such a family is not able to solve its housing shortage by buying a house, because the husband's income is considered by a building society to be too inadequate, and, at the same time, there is no way in which, in the private sector, it can get unfurnished accommodation at a rent which it can afford. For this sort of family there does not seem to be any solution to its problem, which cannot be solved by getting a council flat, or by buying a house, or by becoming tenants of unfurnished accommodation.

Where do such people end up? During the last few years as a member of a housing committee of a north-west London borough I have found that many of these families end up in furnished rooms. It is not unusual in some parts of London—and I am sure the same is true of certain other overcrowded cities and towns—to find a husband, wife and two children living in a furnished room. They are entitled to go to a rent tribunal to get their rent reduced, but they do not do so because they are frightened of losing what accommodation they have.

It is also not unusual to find a number of landlords saying in their advertisements of furnished rooms, "No children". The result is that a family which has found a furnished room, or perhaps two furnished rooms, no matter how inadequate they are, and no matter how excessive the rent may be, is reluctant to go to a rent tribunal because it is happy to have found some kind of roof over its head, although the accommodation is most inadequate.

Others live with their in-laws, which causes a tremendous amount of domestic stress and worry. It is not unusual for a housing department, on a Monday morning, to receive many letters, or to have wives coming along personally, begging for housing accommodation and saying that their marriage is virtually "on the rocks", and that the only possibility of its being mended is by their being able to obtain a council flat. These are genuine cases.

I know that when one is addressing the House for the first time it is not customary to make controversial remarks, or to indulge in party polemics, but I should be dishonest to myself and to many others if I refrained from making the point that the Rent Act, passed in 1957 by the Conservative Administration, caused a great deal of added hardship to that which was already existing in housing. I was pleased that in the last Parliament it was found possible to repeal this Act and to give tenants some degree of security, and to establish machinery for fixing fair rents. That was an excellent move.

Croydon has about 3,300 people on the housing waiting list. In my constituency, Croydon, South, which I have the honour to represent in this House, there are many people who form part of this overall total. A few weeks ago, since the General Election, I went to see a family in my constituency which had asked me to visit it. I suppose that it is better off than many other families, in certain respects. It consists of husband and wife and two children—the children being of different sexes. It is important to note this, because it so happens that owing to the cramped accommodation the mother has to sleep with the daughter and the father with the son. Although this family is better off in some respects than many others of which I know it shows how acute the housing problem is, and the amount of hardship and misery that many of our fellow citizens now have to suffer.

We must ask ourselves what we can do about this problem and what solution we can find. I am pleased that the Government are to make it easier for local councils to provide council accommodation, and also for people with modest incomes to purchase their own homes. There seems to be a feeling that more council dwellings are not so necessary. I disagree. Many people are in urgent need of such accommodation—far more so than in need of the ability to buy their own houses.

It is not simply a question of an overall target of houses and flats; what we want is the right type of accommodation—council dwellings and homes which people can buy through mortgages—which will help to solve the housing problem. It is no good anyone writing to me about his housing problem and my telling him that a new flat has recently been completed at a price which he cannot possibly afford. When we consider our housing target we must think not merely of the overall figure; we must bear in mind the type of accommodation that we believe will best help to relieve people of their personal housing problems.

In many respects local councils can be more enterprising. I would like to see them buying up houses—not slum houses, but old houses which have fallen into disrepair and which they can convert. This would help to relieve the housing shortage in boroughs and constituencies. Many local councils could be far more enterprising in this respect. In my constituency a Roman Catholic organisation does this sort of work on a modest scale. It buys up a limited number of houses and converts them to let at rents which can be afforded by people with modest incomes who cannot obtain council dwellings at the moment. I would like to see councils doing the same.

Building societies and perhaps even local councils could be a little more enterprising in the matter of granting mortgages. Many people who are now paying large sums of money for furnished accommodation could buy their own homes, although they are not in a position, and will not be in a position for some time, to obtain council dwellings. The former London County Council, and, I believe, the Greater London Council now, have been willing to grant mortgages to people without laying too much stress on their incomes. This is a good step. It should be repeated by many building societies and other local councils.

I also feel that instead of a mortgage being granted for 20 or 25 years, in suitable cases the period could be extended even up to 40 or even 50 years in order to help people to buy their own homes. I know that there are certain technical difficulties, concerning repayments and the rest but, faced with this very acute housing problem, if a person cannot obtain a council dwelling and has to pay £5, £6 or £7 a week for a couple of quite inadequate furnished rooms, it would be better for him to pay this amount each week in buying his own house.

I hope that the Government will consider the matter not only in respect of their proposed new scheme of option mortgages, but also in respect of the possibility of extending the amount of time during which a person can buy a house.

It is also important to recognise that in London and other overcrowded cities and towns we are most unlikely to solve the housing problems, and there is, therefore, a tremendous need for the provision of many more new towns. It is very disappointing to note that in the last few years hardly any new towns have been built. We know of Harlow, Basildon and Stevenage, and when distinguished people come here from overseas we have a tendency to show them around such new towns, although they were built 10 or even 15 years ago. I hope that we can go ahead on a large scale with new towns and extended towns, because this is an important way of relieving the housing shortage in the Greater London area.

We need to create a tremendous sense of urgency in our effort to deal with the housing shortage. We need a housing crusade. We must realise the amount of suffering that many people experience, through no fault of their own—in many cases simply because they have very modest incomes. To a large extent this Parliament will be judged by the degree to which they can solve the housing problem and give practical help to the people in greatest difficulty in respect of housing. That is all that I wanted to say. This is my first speech in the House and I have tried to keep it as short as possible.

1.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Elliott Mr Robert Elliott , Newcastle upon Tyne North

It is a very great pleasure to congratulate the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) on his maiden speech. The fact that he is one of the first new Members to make a maiden speech made his task even more difficult. We all join in congratulating him upon the manner in which he made it. We all remember the hurdle of our own maiden speeches. I was particularly reminded of my own when he was speaking so fluently, because he made his speech from exactly the place at which I stood to make mine, some years ago—when I did not speak very fluently, I am afraid.

In his completely non-controversial speech, made in the true tradition of this House, the hon. Member rightly emphasised the problem of housing. He feels very deeply about it, and it is obviously a problem of great magnitude in his constituency. I am sure that he will go much further into this difficult subject during the time for which he is a Member.

The hon. Member's predecessor was a friend of many of us, on both sides of the House, and my hon. Friends and I regret his departure from our ranks. But the constituency of Croydon, South can at least feel that it has a most able successor to Richard Thompson, and one who will advance its desires and needs most forcefully in this House. We look forward very much to hearing more from the hon. Member in days to come.

This section of the debate on the Gracious Speech is very important to us all, because the questions of labour relations, full employment, restrictive practices in industry, and the modernisation of the trade union system are of crucial importance of the future prosperity of all our people. All of us in the House this morning will have appreciated the straightforward and honest approach—I call it that without hesitation—of the Minister of Labour. He was right to stress that we have not yet found the answers to the disciplines which are suggested in unemployment itself. Both sides of the House are firmly resolved that unemployment shall not be an answer, but that some other form of answer to our immediate economic problems must be found.

The right hon. Gentleman stressed something else which is common to both sides. He said that both parties are opposed to the movement of workers from particular areas. As a Member from the north-east of England, I wish strongly to emphasise those words. We do not wish any area, be it South Wales, Scotland or the north-east of England, to die. We want these areas to be revitalised and redeveloped. Perhaps we should not be too unhappy about movement within areas.

If I may again refer to the excellent maiden speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, South, of course we need new towns, particularly in areas such as my own. One of the major criticisms which the Conservative Party has made of the Labour Party's policy on development areas is that, particularly in the North-East, the area which shall receive extra assistance has been greatly widened. We disagree with this, because we had thought that the case for the growth area as such had been not only well made but proved by its initial success in the north-east of England. It follows that, if the growth area principle as such is accepted and adopted, new towns become essential.

I therefore suggest that within areas we should not be afraid of moving those who have to seek employment in places other than those in which they were born. I wholeheartedly support the Minister's suggestion that we must seek to continue to revitalise those areas in which basic industry is contracting and has been contracting and in which new forms of employment are highly desirable.

I wish to refer to the passage in the Gracious Speech which is directly associated with full employment in the future: In consultation with industry, the National Economic Development Council and the regional Economic Planning Councils. My Government will take action to stimulate progress in implementing the National Plan and in securing balanced growth in all parts of Great Britain. We on this side wholeheartedly agree with that aim, but I want to re-emphasise that which many of us said during the recent campaign, particularly in development areas. The time for high-flown phrases and vague suggestions, such as many which are made in the National Plan is over. We want now action which will have results similar to the results which were achieved before the last election. We shall hope for distinct action on revitalisation.

The north-east of England has been revitalised. We are very pleased about that. Wherever one goes in the north-east of England, there are new factories and a great deal of constructional work going on. Anyone visiting the area for the first time is inspired by this. Those of us who have known the area, in some cases for many years, are greatly heartened by this because only a few years ago there was a grave danger that this area would become a dead area.

What I seek to emphasise in this debate is that all this revitalisation did not take place in the last 17 months. The much-heralded National Plan has not yet had any material effect, but one would not have gained this view for a moment from listening to the speeches made by Labour spokesmen during the recent campaign. With only 17 months behind them. Labour spokesmen from platforms, and in one particular instance during a B.B.C. regional programme, merrily laid claim to the Labour Government, in a period of only 17 months, having solved the area's unemployment problems. Many of us, on hearing this over and over again, suggested that we believed that Labour politicians in the north-east of England would stand on their heads to get votes during the recent campaign.

We were told from every hoarding that we knew that Labour government worked. This may be so, but in 17 months it had not had time to work. All the revitalisation of the north-east of England was achieved before Labour took office. Every single new job created was created by the action of the Conservative Administration. Every new factory constructed was constructed through the efforts of the Conservative Administration. Every single new machine, which is just as important, and every single new piece of equipment, every bit of renewal of existing industry, came through Conservative financial encouragement.

All that happened during the past 17 months was that progress was considerably slowed down in areas such as my own. This happened, first, because of higher interest rates. Any right hon. or hon. Gentleman who doubts that is welcome to access to my files, because it has been a continual complaint from those responsible for employment in the north-east of England—the employers themselves—that these higher interest rates considerably curtailed their development plans.

It happened, partly, because of indecision on the part of the Labour Government of 17 months on the form of investment encouragement which they were to introduce. We had months of delay before, finally, the former Labour Administration came out with their investment proposals. Those of us who know the north-east of England and who have of necessity looked very hard at its future know full well—Members of Parliament, of whatever party, will surely agree with this—that a great deal of existing industry has now been revitalised, is now in a condition to compete, and is now in a position to create new employment as well as maintain old, because of the excellent effects of investment allowances and free depreciation.

During the past week we were as heartened as we always are to learn, once again, that the magnificent ship-building firm of Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Ltd., employing 10,000 men in a very short piece of the bank of the Tyne, had obtained yet another major order. One knows from association, from visits to the yard and from constant attention to this firm's excellent record, that the firm was able to obtain the order because, through the encouragement of the investment allowances as such, the yard has re-equipped itself to face the problems, to face the challenges, and to face the foreign competition of the present day.

Yet for months during the period of the former Labour Administration we did not know what we would get at all in place of the investment allowance encouragement. We now know that we are to get investment grants. I want to make this comment on investment grants as against investment allowances. It is true that they will assist the smaller firm more, perhaps, than investment allowances as such did. Investment allowances were, we know, of major use only to the firm which was making considerable profits and the smaller firm which was not will in all probability benefit from the grant as such.

However, if one faces the country's great needs with regard to full employment, if one faces what will be necessary to maintain full employment, one must come at once—and this is very much in the context of this morning's debate—to the need for efficiency. The great advantage of the investment allowances and the free depreciation proposals which we had, as I saw them and as I see them now, is that they encourage the efficient firm.

This is what this Government must constantly strive and continue to do. We must encourage efficiency if we are to survive industrially. I should like to propose to the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary this straight question. Will the grants as such mean more aid to industry or less in straight financial terms? There is some considerable doubt in the minds of industrialists on that point.

Secondly, another paragraph in the Gracious Speech states: My Government wil continue to develop, in consultation with management and unions, the agreed policy for productivity, prices and incomes. Of course, the full facts of the complete failure of the previous Administration's incomes policy have yet to be felt in the north-east of England. We have very great prosperity at this time. A 9 per cent. rise in incomes has temporarily brought this situation, but I appeal to the Labour Government, as they have won the day, to recognise that this prosperity will be very short-lived if this Government, like the last, fail completely to face the incomes problem as such.

Fourth, I suggest that there is very little hope by any of us on this side and I believe by the majority of people in the country that the nationalisation of the steel industry promised in the Gracious Speech will do anything at all to ensure the future full employment and prosperity of our people.

It was said so often during the election campaign that the Labour Party was now a modern party, that the new image of the Labour Party was so unlike that of the old. We knew by way of television debates and encounters with opposing candidates in our constituencies that to mention nationalisaton at all was to get one's opposite number somewhat aggravated. This was old-fashioned Socialism which was to be no more. We were to hear very little of Clause Four of the Labour Party's constitution, even if it were to be retained. I see only old-fashioned Socialism, a pandering to the Left wing of the Labour Party, in the suggestion that the steel industry shall be nationalised.

So, too, I would suggest that the proposal for a Land Commission to acquire land for the community and recover part of the development value realised by land transactions gives rise to the greatest doubts on this side, on, first of all, whether this Land Commission will provide one extra plot of land for building the essential houses we need. The hon. Member for Croydon, South, has left the Chamber, but we all agree on both sides unitedly that the housing shortage remains an immense social problem.

We do not see the Land Commission helping in the provision of new houses. Just as its threat has substantially reduced the amount of land coming forward for essential building, so its existence will continue to slow down that provision. Its high cost will do nothing to comfort the taxpayer in this coming year or in the Commission's coming years.

My remarks on the Address are, I believe, essentially brief, and I would complete them by referring finally, slightly out of the context of the general line of today's debate on employment and trade union relations, to a paragraph towards the end. The paragraph reads: My Ministers will complete further stages of their major review of social security. Here again, there will be the most wholehearted support from this side of the House during this Parliament for any effort by Her Majesty's Government which is a sound one, aimed at bringing greater security to those most in need. This also is a joint aim.

My final word is that it is our sincere hope that any further social legislation will be sound in this respect—that it will give benefits which will not be immediately undermined by taxation, which at once must essentially raise the cost of living. We knew this in the last Parliament. Let us hope, as we approach the first Budget of this Parliament, that the lesson which we hope that Her Majesty's Government learned in their first 17 months will be seriously heeded and that sound legislation will be aimed at increasing the well-being of those most in need.

1.26 p.m.

Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness

Since this is my maiden speech, I ask the indulgence of the House which is customary on such occasions. I am proud to be the successor to Walter Monslow, who represented Barrow in a manner which was both able and conscientious for nearly 21 years. He was always extremely aware of the special problems of Barrow-in-Furness and it would be remiss of me not to refer to some of those problems today.

Barrow is an isolated industrial area. It is isolated by particular transport difficulties and by some of the loveliest mountain and lakeland countryside in Great Britain. Its isolation produces transport problems which were a major factor in the closing of an iron works in the constituency only three years ago. Today, in this constituency, docks stand almost idle. In fact, during one week of my election campaign, only two ships sailed into those docks. Industrial sites stand vacant. The inevitable corollary of this situation is, of course, that over the years we have had higher than average unemployment.

I believe that it is both tragic and ludicrous that, in a country needing a substantial increase in production, this situation should exist in any constituency with such a long tradition of engineering and production skill and so much resourcefulness in production on the part of its people.

There lies a very imaginative remedy for this problem in the proposed Morecambe barrage. This barrage would not only contain a great deal of much-needed water behind it, but would provide the foundation for a road and a railway across Morecambe Bay to the Furness Peninsula. It would replace the long, circuitous and slow road around Morecambe Bay which any M.P. who travels from London to my constituency would find. It will replace it with a short, direct and quick road into the Furness Peninsula.

If this barrage is constructed, it will enable a major road to be carried to other industrial towns in this part of the North-West and, moreover, it will make possible the continuation of that road over a Solway barrage into Scotland. I have no doubt that hon. Members from Scotland and other parts of the North-West will fully appreciate the need for such a project. Those who have seen industrial vehicles held up on either side of Shap Fell, not just for days, but sometimes for weeks, will be well aware that there is here a bottleneck impeding our country's transport and industrial production.

In view of these facts, it is only reasonable that I should ask the House to accept that the Government must now take a very much wider look at the possibilities of the barrage scheme. To judge it solely on its ability to conserve water is just not good enough. I am always rather amazed that the representatives of Manchester should be so concerned to have more water when, every time I go there, the Lord seems to send it to them in abundance. Nevertheless, I am told that they want ultimately another 86 million gallons of water. As far as the people I represent are concerned, they are very welcome to have it behind the barage, so long as that barrage is built and a road and railway run along the top of it.

Such a broader view of the barrage scheme is in keeping with the Government's proposal to encourage development where it is nedeed most. What better way is there to encourage development than to remove a physical barrier to that development taking place? The poor road and rail communications into this part of the country are precisely such a barrier.

Intelligent economic planning must include special consideration of the peculiar problems of every area where industrial development is needed. I recognise that regional planning machinery takes this into account, but, until there are elected representatives in the regional planning machinery, I shall contend that it is the job of elected Members such as myself to bring these special considerations before the House.

Investment grants applied over large development areas are undoubtedly very valuable, but they are not enough in themselves. Indeed, I go so far as to suggest that, if we were to rely solely on these investment grants, there might well arise particular development areas or parts of them which, because of their favourable position, would attract development in the way that London attracted it before the investment grant procedure which we now know existed. This is a real danger, but one which, I am sure, we shall be careful to avoid.

Grants alone will not suffice for the placing of new industry in development areas. There is a special rôle in these areas for publicly owned enterprise, and I hope that the House will have an opportunity to consider this aspect of the problem in the very near future. The need in our economy is to gear its expansion to rising social standards in our country. This is one of the greatest challenges facing us today and in the near future, and I trust that this Government will measure up to it.

1.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , Basingstoke

Having listened to the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth), I am happy to fulfil the duty which normally falls upon the hon. Member on the other side of the House who speaks next, on this occasion not only a duty but also a pleasure, to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his maiden speech. I listened to him with the greatest interest. It is not every new Member who has the courage to make a maiden speech so soon atter his election, and such an excellent one as well. I certainly did not have that courage.

The hon. Member displayed a very detailed knowledge of his constituency and its problems, speaking so clearly of them that all of us now appreciate the problems of Barrow very much more than we did before. The solution to them which he urged showed vision and forward thinking. I have no doubt that all hon. Members will look forward, as I do, to hearing the hon. Gentleman's future contributions to debates in the House.

I hope that it is in order for me to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your presence in the Chair. I know that you have a personal interest in Basingstoke, the constituency which I have the honour to represent. Hampshire as a whole takes considerable pride in the reappointment of Mr. Speaker, a Hampshire man, and I hope that you will convey to him the sense of pride and pleasure which Hampshire feels on this occasion.

Before coming to the Queen's Speech, I draw attention to a matter which has caused me considerable concern. I refer to the statement made by the First Secretary of State on Wednesday of this week to the South-East Economic Planning Council, when he warned of a tougher deal for the south-eastern region and policies which "may seem harsh and restrictive". I hope that the Government will give some explanation of this, particularly as it affects Basingstoke and Andover. I can well understand the overall concept of the Minister when he says that he wants to pressure people into expanding business in other regions of the country where there may not be so great a labour shortage and where there may be under-utilised facilities, but Basingstoke and Andover are two towns in the South-East which are designated as expansion towns to take London overspill. It would be of great assistance if we could be clearly told whether it is the intention to apply restrictions of the sort suggested to these two towns as well as to other parts of the south-eastern area, and I hope that the Minister or one of his colleagues will soon give us a little more information.

The Gracious Speech speaks of the Government renewing their efforts … to increase the productivity and competitive power of British industry". What efforts? One of the most serious charges to be laid at the door of the Government in office during the past 18 months is based on the way in which they made British industry less competitive, not more competitive. I am well aware that the export figures last month were good, but it is not the exports which took place last month which are a real indication of future prosperity and competitive ability; it is the amount of new sales and new orders booked last month. Yet last month and in the months before that we saw a depressing trend in new orders and new business as opposed to what is now being delivered and paid for and coming into the export figures.

Do the greater efforts spoken of in the Queen's Speech include more increases in taxation such as those which have put up the costs of British industry so much already? How can the Government have the audacity to say in the Gracious Speech that they have made our industry more competitive when, with rising petrol taxes, rising vehicle licence duties and rising insurance stamp charges, all along the line, the costs to manufacturing industry have been and are being increased? This is one of the reasons why the figures for new orders booked are rather depressing at present.

Does it mean the continuation of the so-called "temporary" surcharge on imports? When the Gracious Speech refers to the competitive ability of industry it must be realised that the surcharge has been on so long that it is beginning to act as a prop and industry does not have to be so competitive because its competitors are locked up and its production costs can rise. Instead of finding foreign competition cutting away at its markets, it is finding itself protected by the soft advantages of rising tariffs.

Does it mean more rising prices calling for more wage demands? Over the last 18 months there has been tremendous encouragement for wage demands in spite of speeches nobly made by some Ministers. There is, for instance, the First Secretary. What enters into one's mind immediately is whether he has tried to prevent a flood of wage demands. One might say that when the Prices and Incomes Bill is brought forward the Government will have closed the stable door after the horse has bolted.

We have seen the First Secretary standing beside the open door, rattling the bolts, and saying, "Come along with your wage demands now before I have summoned up enough courage to shut the door." The wage demands have come along. We have seen a greater increase in wage demands in the last 12 or 18 months than in any comparable period that I can remember. Either we must have a real incomes policy which balances supply and demand, or we shall continue to be like King Canute holding back the sea.

The First Secretary is now to be assisted by other Ministers in dealing with this matter, and I am glad to see one of them present. There has been a 9 per cent. increase in wages over the last 12 months, with some very small increase in industrial production.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

I said in my speech that everybody was entitled to criticise the prices and incomes policy of the Government, but that there was a responsibility laid on them to suggest a substitute. The hon. Gentleman referred to a real incomes policy. I hope that he will now develop what he means, and say not only what he means in theoretical terms but how he would enforce it.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , Basingstoke

I shall be happy to do so. Indeed, I had intended to do so. I hope that the Minister will allow me to develop the point that I am making.

I see the grave danger—I hope that the Minister will elucidate for the House what the solution is—that voluntary restraint in the Prices and Incomes Bill, when laid before the House, will not be sufficient to prevent increases against the wishes of the Ministers concerned. What happens then? Will the Minister ask for compulsory powers? Will he apply extra pressure? If he gets the compulsory powers, tinkering with the wages which one pays to people will have some inevitable results.

Some sections of wage-earners will be caught within the powers that the Minister seeks, but others will not. Some who are not in major trade unions, but in some small industries and workshops will obtain little private arrangements and agreements of their own. Therefore, some sections only will be affected in reality by the policy which one sees outlined in the Queen's Speech.

If compulsion is used, insufficient wages will be paid in the industries in which the Government policy is having an effect, and then there will be a shortage of labour? What does one do then? Does one allow the market forces to come back in and pay higher wages to attract labour, or does one recognise that the voluntary system is not working, that one has to use compulsion, that one has a shortage of labour in some industries and so has to go back to direction of labour? That would seem to be the probable result of the slippery slope on which the Government find themselves.

I say that this is not the answer. The Minister asked for my view. My view is that the answer is to go all out for increased productivity. There are many measures which could and should be taken. They have been outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) and by the Conservative Party during the General Election campaign. There are three keys. The first key is undoubtedly incentive and award for effort. People do not work for love of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if we are about to have another Budget as depressing as the last one in its effect on incentives and in reducing the final reward that people get, I can only say that this is another instance of the Government's policy being gravely at fault.

If the Minister could persuade the Chancellor to reduce the taxes which affect incentives, one might hope to see a surge forward in the economy. But we have one of the highest taxed economies in the world and one of the most sluggish economies, and those two things are interwoven and inter-connected right down the line. The second key is a drastic reduction in restrictive practices, and the third is a reduction in strikes.

The Prime Minister yesterday, in an unworthy, if not uncharacteristic, attack on my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) said: Indeed, taking the whole of the year and a halt in question when the right hon. Gentleman— my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley— and the Minister who preceded him were in office, one finds a pretty heavy record of industrial disputes …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st April, 1966; Vol. 727 c. 86.] It might have been a little fairer if the exact figures had been quoted, so I will now fill in the picture.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley was Minister of Labour from October, 1959, to July, 1960. One could not expect him to have had much influence on the figures for 1959, which amounted to 5,270,000 lost working days, whereas in 1960, when one could expect him to have some effect on them, they had been reduced to 3,024,000. That substantial reduction indicates that the Prime Minister was less than fair to my right hon. Friend. By 1964 the figures had been reduced to 2,277,000, but last year they rose to 2,933,000.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

I tried to deal with this in my speech. All these statistics are irrelevant. I suppose the hon. Gentleman intends to refer to the period when the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) held the office, when we had more than 8 million days lost?

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , Basingstoke

I was merely going to refer to the fact that a very substantial number of days was lost. I was trying to go back to the theme which the right hon. Gentleman asked me to develop, which was what we would do.

I say straight away that there is scope for a reduction in the number of strikes. I believe that if the Minister would listen to the advice which has come from my right hon. Friend and from the Conservative Party during the General Election, and would introduce enforcement of procedural agreements, he would find a substantial reduction in the number of strikes.

This is an important aspect. More than 90 per cent. of the strikes are unofficial. A very large proportion of them are in breach of procedural agreements entered into between unions and managements. Most serious consideration—I deplore the absence of reference to this in the Queen's Speech—should be given to introducing legal enforcement of procedural agreements.

As an aside, perhaps I may add that one notices that there is unrest in the docks. I do not want to say anything which could in any way make the situation more difficult, but I wonder why the Minister does not send his colleague, Frank Cousins, down to the docks to hold a meeting.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

Order. It is not in order to refer to right hon. Members by name.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , Basingstoke

I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I wonder why the right hon. Gentleman who is on leave from the post of General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union is not sent to hold a meeting and explain the facts on the spot at the docks so that it is not left entirely to Jack Dash and his colleagues to put over their own points of view. I have some confidence—perhaps more than the Minister of Labour—in the ability of the General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union to have some influence on members of the union when he appears among them.

Returning to the theme of reducing strikes and ending restrictive practices, could we not bring about an increase in fringe benefits to people observing the terms of their contracts? I would like to see the "executivisation"—if one may call it that—of ordinary trade union contracts whereby the kind of approach used in executive contracts was also used in employees' contracts. Thus, if the terms of such a contract were adhered to, additional fringe benefits could perhaps be introduced in relation to sickness or redundancy payments or to pensions or holidays. A man adhering to his contract would gain, but would lose if he breached it. Far too many men take part in irresponsible strikes and suffer no loss.

We hear a lot about international "league tables" and how Britain is not as high up in these tables of productivity as some of our competitors. This is a serious matter. But let us take the cases of West Germany and France, which are frequently quoted. For many years West Germany had a massive supply of additional labour from East Germany to add to its labour force. Similarly, a massive number of people returned to France from Algeria. But both France and Germany also have agricultural industries which are far behind our own and have, therefore, been able to gain industrially from the drift of labour from the country to the town. Our agricultural industry is much more advanced and therefore we do not have such a pool of labour to call on.

We have only one source to which we can look for extra labour that we so desperately need. The National Plan makes it clear that there will be a shortage of about 200,000 workers. That being so, it is essential to go to the places where extra labour is available. The first is by a reduction in the number of strikes, so that more use is made of available labour, and the second and more important is an attack on restrictive practices. There has been plenty of talk from the Government about that, but not much action.

There are four types of restrictive practices and it would be possible for the Minister to do something about them all. First, there is the restriction on entry into a craft. This means, in many cases, that, unless a man has started an apprenticeship before the age of 17 and served five years, he is not eligible and is not allowed to use his skill in that craft. There are even instances of men retrained in Government centres in a certain skill who have not been able to enter the appropriate craft.

Secondly, there is the problem of demarcation—I am not talking about disputes—whereby a man available to do the next piece of work cannot get on with it but must stand aside until someone else who has a specialised piece of skill comes and does it.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , Basingstoke

It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to say "Like the lawyers". That is the usual cry. But I am not defending the lawyers. I would point out, however, that, if lawyers got rid of all their restrictive practices, it would not make a massive difference to the productive power of industry. We shall not get a lot more industrial workers out of the legal profession.

We would have a massive increase in productivity if we swept away our restrictive practices in industry, particularly in the older parts of industry. In the nationalised industries large numbers of men are tied up because some of these industries have labour forces in excess of their economic requirements. This situation arises partly because of restrictive practices and partly because of the slowness and inability to hasten modernisation and progress.

Photo of Mr William Wells Mr William Wells , Walsall North

Is the hon. Gentleman trying to give a lead to my profession and the world in the matter of demarcation disputes by leaving his own position on the Opposition Front Bench and speaking from the back benches today so as to conceal from the country the absence of other hon. Members opposite?

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , Basingstoke

I would have thought that an hon. and learned Gentleman who has been here so much longer than I would have appreciated that the normal position for Whips to speak is from the back benches and not from the Front Bench. I am carrying out normal practice.

The third type of restrictive practice is ceilings on output which apply in some parts of British industry, and the fourth insists on over-manning—for instance, in the printing, engineering and shipbuilding industries.

These four groups of restrictive practices could be attacked by the Minister of Labour if he really wanted to. Time does not allow one to go into great detail of how this could be done, but here are the sources from which we could get increased productivity, and it is increased productivity that will allow us to have the rising wages which the Minister and the Government and, indeed, all of us would like to see. Rising wages with rising production would not mean inflation of the sort we have seen over the last 18 months, with wages rising and production stagnant.

If we could have increased productivity we could afford to have high wages without the restrictions which I fear will inevitably follow from the Government's proposals. I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman believes that the voluntary principle will succeed unless there is an overall incomes policy balancing supply and demand. If we do not have such a policy but continue with the situation of the last 18 months, voluntary appeals will fail and the Government will be on the road to compulsion—which will inevitably lead to the slippery slope to the direction of labour, and that is something I would deplore.

During the election campaign I mentioned from time to time the great importance of restrictive practices and of securing an end to them. I have had a letter from a constituent who writes: I wish you the best of luck and hope that the Opposition will be 100 per cent. behind any move that the Government may make to end restrictive practices, if they can pluck up enough courage to do so.I feel this very strongly and fear that the present Government has got its head firmly stuck in the sand over this matter. Therefore, I must rely upon the Opposition to prod those parts of the anatomy which are protruding from the sand. I shall certainly do my best to do so.

2.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Listening to speeches such as that of the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) one gets the impression that the solution to our industrial problems is merely a matter of passing legislation in the House of Commons. That is utter nonsense. The problems in industry, and certainly those of industrial relations, are very complex. We did not get that sort of attitude from the Opposition Front Bench, from which the hon. Gentleman has temporarily transferred himself, for right hon. Gentlemen opposite equally understand that these problems are much more complex and much more difficult than the hon. Gentleman suggested.

For example, there are the issues of demarcation. Demarcation questions arise because of the great fear of industrial workers in the past that if they did not seize the particular job for their union or their craft, they would find themselves unemployed. We have to guarantee full employment to workers and to start from that premise to remove such problems as demarcation.

But the issue is even more complex than that. The motor car industry has been mentioned as an example. The tragedy of the motor car industry is the tradegy of our own historical development. There are too many trade unions in that industry which ultimately have to reach a decision which can be reached only by the trade union movement and by no one else. It cannot be reached by legislation. The unions in the motor car or any other industry cannot be told that they must amalgamate. Only the unions, through their own machinery and their own decisions, can finally decide that it is necessary to have one union in the industry. That will take time. That is a serious and difficult problem. These matters cannot be solved overnight and the suggestion that procedures can be enforced so as to solve unofficial strikes is to get away from the basic problems which are involved. We have to look deeper to see what are the reasons for unofficial strikes and we have to tackle them in that way.

Having made those comments on the speech of the hon. Member, I want now to make some comments about the Queen's Speech itself. This is undoubtedly a document of historic importance and we clearly have a great programme of Parliamentary work ahead of us, particularly in the next 18 months. This is obviously only the first step and because it is I find it somewhat vague on certain questions.

I have to say this in all honesty. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke at great length and referred to the need to modernise Parliament. I am sure that it is right to modernise, as is required in other directions, but I hope that in transforming and modernising our industry and society we shall not be so efficient and so modern that democracy is sacrificed on the altar of efficiency and modernisation. It is very important to guard against that. I do not want our society to be transformed into a bureaucratic, technological soulless system in which everyone has a position, like the parts of a computer. We in the Labour movement must be very concerned about that.

Politics is about people. Today's discussion on industrial relations is about people. It is not merely a matter of how much legislation we pass, or how efficient a system we get. We are dealing with people and it is about people that we have to be concerned. I do not want us to build a sort of democratic corporative State. I do not have that in mind and I am certain that it is not what the Government have in mind. When we are talking of modernisation and efficiency, we have to think of people as well.

There are some weaknesses in the Queen's Speech. It says nothing about any new initiative in Europe along the lines of a European security pact so that we can ultimately get a nuclear-free zone in Central Europe and, in the long term, the disbandment of both N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact. Yet we have to work vigorously towards a European settlement.

The Gracious Speech says little about ways of seeking a settlement in Vietnam. Surely the recent efforts in Vietnam, the stepping up of the war and the fact that the people of South Vietnam have shown quite conclusively that they want a political settlement to this problem, show that we must intensify our efforts in this direction, and the Queen's Speech should have indicated ways in which we could have extended the ideas of a peace conference to include all the Powers which are interested and at the same time bring in representatives of the National Liberation Front. Equally, it is high time that the British Government said unequivocally that they do not accept the present policy of the Americans in bombing Hanoi and Haiphong and stepping up the war as they have done. This has to be said and it must be said by a Labour Government.

It is unfortunate that it appears that we are still far too heavily committed overseas. I would have liked to have seen something much more positive in this connection. Those are some of the weaknesses which I have found in the Queen's Speech, but I want now to return to some of the fundamental questions which are facing us.

This period in the life of the British people is historic and equally historic for my party. It has been said that now that we have a substantial majority we have no alibis, and I accept that that is perfectly true. It is, therefore, vital to consider precisely where we are going and what perspectives we must have as a Labour Government based as it is on the principle of democratic Socialism.

It has been said that the year 1966 is a make or break year for both the country and the Labour Party. That is slightly exaggerated, but it is true that this is a year of great decisions. We have a great opportunity, not merely to begin to solve the problems of the British economy, but to transform society so that it evolves stage by stage into the democratic Socialist society which the Labour Party was formed to make. That is the prospect at the beginning of this Parliament. That is the way in which we have to see the next five years and, I hope, the five years after that and the five years after that of the Labour Party in power.

One can measure the real progress of any society only on the basis of how far up the ladder those from the bottom of that society have come—in other words whether one has changed the status and position of the ordinary man-in-the-street. This is what I believe and this is what I think we have to do in this great Labour Party and in the Government who represent it. Aneurin Bevan said: This is the real crisis in democracy. People have no use for a freedom which cheats them of redress. If confidence in political democracy is to be restored, political freedom must arm itself with economic power. Private property in the main sources of production and distribution endangers political liberty, for it leaves Parliament with responsibility and property with power. These words are as true today as they were when they were written in 1952.

Our Parliamentary democracy is government by discussion and this puts us apart from the totalitarian régimes. It makes us different even if they are labelled "Socialist". This is the basic difference between us and them. But discussion must be quickly followed by results, and decisive action, and as Bevan said again: If the deed follows too tardily on the word then the word turns sour. I regard Parliament as a weapon, a weapon to transform society on the basis of Socialism. I realise that this is a fairly strange speech for someone to make in a debate on the Gracious Speech, with all the detailed legislation which is contained in that Speech. But it is essential that these things be said now.

I want to see us create a genuine classless society and to do that the power must be transferred from those who have it, in economic terms, to the community as a whole. That is why I am glad to see mention in the Gracious Speech of the extension and expansion of public ownership in some of our basic industries. I want to see the steel industry brought under public ownership, and I want to see that done as quickly as possible. I want to see the docks publicly owned. We have talked about the conditions and problems in the docks and about why the dockers are discontented.

One of the reasons for this is that over the years the dockers never had a square deal either from their employers or the country. The real answer to the problem of the docks is not merely to cut down the number of employers, but to bring the docks under public ownership, as we have suggested in the Labour Party manifesto. I do not expect the Government to do that tomorrow but I hope that it will be done reasonably quickly. I also want to see them intervene in the building industry, by establishing a public building corporation, which will not only compete with private enterprise, but ultimately, I hope, will take over most of the construction industry, particularly housing, which is absolutely vital.

We have had a first-class speech this morning on the question of housing from the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr.Winnick), one of our new hon. Friends. I want the Ministry of Public Building and Works to set up this public building corporation, geared to industrialised techniques, so that we can enter into comprehensive building, concentrating our work in the areas where it is most needed, and at the same time giving the workers in the building industry the security which they have never had under private enterprise. I believe that Socialism is a little more than public ownership. It is public ownership plus, and this plus is the establishment of genuine industrial democracy. The party manifesto upon which I and my hon. Friends fought this election had a section concerning industrial democracy.

I want to see industrial democracy running parallel and complementary to our Parliamentary democracy. I have long believed that only half the battle for democracy has been won in Britain, and that we keep that half only by eternal vigilance. I want to see the other half brought in as early as we can. I do not mean just joint productivity committees or works committees of the type established in Western Germany. I want to see the formation of democratic management. We in the Labour Party should have the courage to experiment in this direction. We could start with the steel industry, which we are about to nationalise, and we could introduce democratic forms of management in the mines and other publicly-owned industries.

We could do this by having half the boards appointed as they are at the moment and the other half elected at various levels by the workers in those industries. This is a revolutionary concept, but we are talking about transforming society; we are talking about advancing democracy, about solving the problems of industrial relations. We are talking about giving the people a real stake in the running of their country. This is the way we have to proceed.

I have said enough to indicate where I stand on these issues. I want to conclude by saying that recently some people have been saying that the Labour Party is now a party of the entire nation. I have always believed that the Labour Party was the party of the majority of the nation, composed of both workers by hand and by brain. But if we at any time became the representatives of the big bankers, the monopolists, then it would no longer be the Labour Party. We would be an Americanised Democratic Party and we would not be able to transform society on the lines that we want to. In the last election my opponent. a very courageous and forthright Tory, said that he thought that the people of my constituency would not want the brand of Socialism which I represented. Well, they did.

I believe that the people want to see the Labour Party evolve stage by stage, and transform society so that ultimately we have entirely new personal and social relationships. That is the prospect, and that is the way we have to go. That is why I support, in general terms, the Gracious Speech, merely as the first step. Let us keep our sights always on that future, so that we build a new Jerusalem, here in Britain, and finish once and for all the class-ridden society we have inherited, which gives rise to the type of industrial conflicts about which we have heard so much this afternoon.

2.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas McMillan Mr Thomas McMillan , Glasgow Central

I have the honour and privilege to rise to address this Chamber as the Member for Glasgow, Central. The one consolation I have is that everyone who passes this way suffers the same ordeal. My predecessor, Mr. James McInnes, when he came to this House, brought with him a great knowledge of local government, and a great knowledge of the housing problem. I am quite sure that the House enriched itself through his presence. At a very early stage on coming to the House I discovered another thing about my predecessor, and that was that he had won the respect of the House. I feel that one of the targets at which I should aim is to try in time, in my own way, to win the respect which he won.

I take this opportunity to describe my constituency. It is where the great City of Glasgow was born. Within its boundaries, alongside the old Molendinar burn, the patron saint of Glasgow built his church. The great City of Glasgow grew from that beginning, and the great Cathedral of Glasgow is one of the few pre-Reformation churches where worship still continues. The reason that that church has kept its beauty and is still a place of public worship is that in troubled times the City of Glasgow maintained and protected it.

There is also the great teaching hospital, the Royal Infirmary, which has produced many great men. I know that my colleagues in Glasgow will forgive me when I say that, in my view, one of the greatest was an English surgeon, Joseph Lister, who, on taking the chair of surgery at this teaching hospital, became the founder of antiseptic surgery, which has made a truly great contribution to the welfare of mankind. We in Glasgow are very proud of that fact.

The University of Strathclyde is within the boundaries of my constituency. Surrounding it are the new modern colleges which are being built. It is a rightful place in which to put these colleges because in 1541 the first university in Glasgow was built near to this area.

Although the constituency is steeped in history and tradition, new things have taken place. The twentieth century is thrusting itself forward. Work has started in my constituency on the new Glasgow ring road. Also about to be built is one of the finest culture centres in Europe.

I have mentioned some of the good things in my constituency. I feel that I should also mention some of the bad things. We have a slum problem which is greater than the slum problem anywhere else in Great Britain. I have no doubt that many Members representing Glasgow constituencies have said that in the House, but the tragedy is that, as a new Member, I have to say the same thing.

I am happy to note that there is proposed in the Gracious Speech a new system of Exchequer subsidies. Coming for local government, I know that that will assist greatly. But it is not enough. A city which is trying to rebuild itself and which has a planned programme for 29 redevelopment areas needs more help than this. The planning permission procedure is the most sluggish machinery with which local authorities deal.

It is so sluggish that in my constituency, after waiting a long time for permission in respect of a vacant site, we decided to make parking sites until that permission was granted. This sort of thing slows down house building in great cities like Glasgow which need all the help that they can get. In 20 years' time, we shall most probably have a man on the moon and space travel will be a normal occurrence, but, if nothing is done, we will still have slum dwellers in the great City of Glasgow.

Glasgow has a wonderful housing record. Since 1945, 133,715 houses have been built. Yet there are more than 80,000 people on the housing list. It is, therefore, obvious that we need to tackle the problem in a different fashion. My view is that Glasgow should be designated a special area for housing needs and there should be a study into extending her boundaries so that land is provided to enable the authority to carry out its housing programme.

There are two main-line stations in my constituency and a large railway workshop. I was a little disappointed that the Gracious Speech did not mention an integrated transport policy, but I feel confident from the statement which the Minister made recently that the railwaymen's interests are in good hands. Being connected with the railways, I can say that during the short time she has been in office she has won the confidence of the railwaymen.

Another item in the Gracious Speech about which I am glad is the mention of a Measure to promote greater safety on the roads. In view of the cargoes which are being transported by heavy lorries today, I have no doubt that one thing which would ensure greater road safety would be to take the large loads off the roads and put them on the railways. In 1965, a spot check on heavy lorries in this country was carried out. Of those inspected, 46 per cent. were found to be defective. This is wrong and serious. When the necessary Measure is put forward, I hope that full cognisance will be taken of the fact that the railways have a heavy haulage job to do and that these loads should be taken off the roads where they are a danger to everyone.

In conclusion, I thank hon. Members opposite and my hon. Friends for the great consideration which they have shown to me.

2.27 p.m.

Photo of Mr Francis Pym Mr Francis Pym , Cambridgeshire

It is a privelege for me to congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Tom McMillan) on his admirable maiden speech. I assure him that it was well received by the House. He delivered it with confidence and in a very agreeable style. He can rest assured that the electors of Glasgow, Central, who sent him here will feel that they have a worthy and forthright Member of Parliament.

The hon. Member spoke about his constituency in a heartfelt way, and his constituents can feel absolutely sure that in him they have an excellent Member of Parliament. All of us here look forward to hearing him speak in our debates in future. My maiden speech had one peculiarity about it in that it was interrupted from the Gallery. The hon. Member, by comparison with that, at all events, made his speech to a somewhat quiet House, but it was, none the less, appreciated and well understood.

The hon. Gentleman was preceded by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), who described the Gracious Speech as "historic" in a way which made one feel that he was proud of it. He then went on to criticise it in a sweeping manner. He explained that he was against legislation generally. But the Gracious Speech is mainly concerned with legislation. He criticised the sentences in it about Europe and Vietnam. He listed a number of omissions of things which he would have liked to have seen included. Therefore, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is very proud of the Gracious Speech.

The hon. Member said that 1966 would be a make or break year. A year ago the Labour Party said that last year would be a make or break year. It certainly was not a make year; it was very nearly a break year. At any rate, at the end of the year, our economic position was much worse than it was at the beginning. I only hope that 1966 will be a very much better year than 1965.

My attitude to the Gracious Speech is rather different. I am disappointed in its contents, and so are my hon. Friends. Indeed, I have in mind a sticker on the back of a car seen in my constituency during the election which read: "Come back Guy Fawkes. All is forgiven." I feel that the contents of the Speech are a disappointment of that order.

My constituency is very different from Glasgow, Central. It is rural, and farming is the principal industry. I was, therefore, very glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) included a passage in his speech dealing with agricultural workers. He explained that there is a shortage of them in this country and that in other countries there is a reserve pool of agricultural labour which can be called upon to work at any time. He explained how much more difficult this made it for our industries and farmers to work when there was such a shortage of labour.

I hope that the words in the Gracious Speech referring to farms and horticulture mean that it will be possible for those engaged in that industry to enjoy a fairer and better return and that this will enable farmworkers to receive more money. Both right hon. Gentlemen who opened the debate referred, in particular, to the lowest-paid workers. We all know that farmworkers are included in that category in spite of the fact that they are among the most highly skilled people working in the country.

My right hon. Friend focused attention upon the real issues in industrial relations facing the country. I felt much sympathy with and considerable support for many of the remarks made by the Minister of Labour. In particular, I was interested in what he said about management and the need to encourage and to improve the standard of the middle range of management. This is entirely right. He said that it was necessary for training to be better and that we must give more attention to this side of our work.

In view of those remarks, with which I agree, I find it rather surprising that the Government's policy during the last 18 months has been anti-business. It seems to me that they have been discouraging industry, trade, commerce and business in general when they ought to have been adopting precisely the opposite policy. I also feel that the Gracious Speech is similar in this respect. It is concerned almost entirely with dividing the cake and with how various matters should be adjusted in our home affairs. It contains practically nothing at all about how the size of the cake should be made larger.

This is a very serious omission, because we shall not be able to pay for all the things and all the development which we want in this country unless we do it out of prosperous trade. I am, therefore, disappointed that the only proposals mentioned in the Gracious Speech are the investment incentives. which we have recently debated in the House, and which my party has criticised in a number of respects, and the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation which was also the subject of a debate towards the end of the last Parliament.

These measures are nothing like adequate to give the encouragement which industry needs. We know how taxation has hit industry and we know the confusion brought to industry and commerce by last year's Finance Bill. I hope that in a fortnight's time, when the Chancellor introduces his new Budget, he will be much more sympathetic, hopeful and helpful towards industry and will not throw industry into the confusion which we have seen in the past.

I hope that we shall begin spreading the gospel and the understanding that profits are absolutely essential to the development of the economy. Profits for too long have been an Aunt Sally in British political life. Today, they are at a much lower level than for many years and businessmen generally take a very gloomy view of the outlook. We must lose no opportunity of explaining to everyone in the country what, in their hearts, they know to be true—that unless businesses earn profits it is impossible for them to expand and develop. That is one reason why I am sorry that the Government have been so anti-business.

The Gracious Speech states that the Government intend to take action to stimulate progress in implementing the National Plan. I do not know why they did not do that when the plan began. It has already shown itself to be out of date. The facts and figures upon which it is based are no longer relevant. There is no possibility of some targets being achieved. I hope that the Government will have a new look at the National Plan.

On the back page of my copy of the Gracious Speech there are two references to education about which I want to say a few words. It first states that the Government intend to promote further progress in the development of comprehensive secondary education. Later, it states that Higher and further education will be expanded to meet increasing demand. The first is a highly controversial proposal. The second is a proposal with which every hon. Member would agree. But why is there no reference to primary education? This is a part of our educational service which ought to receive very much higher priority. In my constituency there are many primary schools awaiting rebuilding and in need of expansion, but the Gracious Speech makes no mention at all of primary schools. I hope that the Government will start the reorganisation of our primary education which I think is very necessary.

I feel that in this country there is a great lack of confidence. This lack of confidence exists in the business world in particular, whether we are considering large firms or small—and confidence is a vital factor in getting that expansion and the increasing business which we need so badly. It would help a great deal to restore confidence if the Government would stick to the promises which they have made. In debates we have drawn attention to a number of promises and pledges which they made and did not fulfil. This is very damaging. Certainly, any promises in relation to the incomes policy and the Declaration of Intent they should support by acting in accordance with their own words. The Minister of Labour said this morning that the three parties signing the Declaration of Intent fully meant to implement it. I do not think that the Government have yet shown that they themselves intend to implement it, and if they are to continue with this policy in its present form, I hope that they will lose no opportunity of implementing it and indicating to everybody else in the country that they intend to implement it. Other people might then follow their lead a little more readily.

A return of confidence is a vital factor, and if the Chancellor is able in a fortnight's time to be more encouraging and helpful to industry, and if the Government fulfil their pledges and promises and do not make rash statements, and if they implement the Declaration of Intent which is part of their own voluntary incomes policy, I feel that the future will be much more hopeful and the prospects for 1966 and 1967 altogether better.

2.38 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Margaret McKay Mrs Margaret McKay , Wandsworth Clapham

I will confine my remarks to one short reference in the Gracious Speech to stimulating the implementation of the National Plan—and, indeed, to one very narrow aspect of that issue. I think that all appreciate that the fulfilment of the National Plan within the next four years—because it is a five-year plan and one year has already passed—is our primary task as a nation. But the Plan itself visualises obstacles. It visualises an obstacle which has been mentioned in the Chamber today but not from the point of view from which I want to deal with it.

The issue concerns an estimated manpower shortage of 200,000. Certain measure are proposed in the Plan to deal with this shortage, and one of them is the employment of older people and of more married women. I feel that in the circumstances this may be a little presumptuous on the part of the Government. Perhaps they are taking just a little too much for granted because both of these groups suffer very serious disincentives to responding to any appeal to rally to the nation and to the National Plan. Indeed. I must confess that I see on the part of the Government very little appreciation of their difficulties, and no plan of action to alleviate those difficulties. In fact I see rather a contradiction in policy. On the one hand, there is a holding back of both those groups of workers and possible potential workers. On the other hand, without appreciation of their problems, we are asking them to leap forward into a National Plan.

First, I would mention, not at too great length, the problem of the older people. I am assuming that they are old-age pensioners, otherwise they would probably be still at work. What is the main disincentive for them? It is the very real financial worry of the earnings rule. Human nature has been mentioned quite a lot in the debate today. I am sure there is a great deal of human nature in the older person who has served the country all his life and contributed to his pension and who is being called again to rally to the national effort and who, when he does, finds his wages are docked quite substantially, or that substantial amounts of his earnings are deducted from his pension, if he puts in a full day's work. There is, therefore, a major disincentive, and consequently a contradiction in the National Plan, which calls on older people to work.

The intention may be, of course, not to call older people to work a full day for a full working week. It may be visualised that they should undertake part-time work only, and I am sure there are thousands of old people who would really appreciate the opportunity to work part time, but, again, I see no evidence—I most regret that this is not mentioned in the Gracious Speech—of any proposals to develop part-time work even for older people, or for another group to whom I shall refer in a moment.

This is what worries me, that on the one hand we are calling people forward but, on the other hand, simply making no provision to take care of their difficulties. This appears to me to be not only bad economics but also heartless. I feel that if there were more evidence that the Government appreciated their difficulties in this respect that would be helpful. Therefore, I would propose that there should be studies, and really adequate studies, for older workers, and some recommendations in this respect.

I come now to the major problem which concerns me, and this is the call to married women to go to work to help the nation. I do not think it is fully appreciated that the older women constitute probably the only major reserve of labour until now untapped in the country. They constitute a special form of labour in so far as they provide in the labour force a certain amount of elasticity which is to some degree required in our economy. I refer again to my feeling that this is a little presumptuous on the part of the Government. Women are already rendering the nation tremendous services and they are doing it without any recognition at all.

I refer, for instance, to their work as housewives—labour not merely for their families but for the nation. It has been estimated by competent authorities that if the services of housewives were to be evaluated with equivalent services which local authorities are contributing to the nation the housewives' services would be valued at something like £7,000 million a year, which is about one-third of our total national production. They are doing this in an unpaid capacity and the nation is benefiting by it, and now we are calling on them to give additional services.

I refer, in passing, to them as consumers: two-thirds of the national income passes through women's hands. Then again, in the democratic process, they comprise the majority of the voters. I think the House would be the first to appreciate that, as mothers, women are filling a self-sacrificing rôle in the bearing and upbringing of the nation's children. This is a great and inestimable service to the nation.

In addition, one-third of all women work in the labour force, and indeed, not only do women comprise one-third of the nation's entire labour force but in the main they are the older women, since over 50 per cent. of the women at work are married, and that figure is rising and it will in a short time approach 60 per cent. So the Government, in calling married women back to work, are calling a group of people who are already making tremendous sacrifices for, and giving tremendous labours to, the nation, and they are people with problems and disincentives which I really feel the nation is perhaps indifferent to, perhaps even ignorant of.

I feel that the difficulties which I am about to outline increase in complexity and importance as women's rôle in the national life, particularly in the national economy, is enhanced; and, furthermore, the problems I am about to outline are not solely personal problems, not even solely family problems but are fundamental, far-reaching problems concerning society as a whole. In consequence of this there is a hiatus between their potential economic rôle and the means in the nation to utilise it, and that, from my point of view, is a hindrance to the realisation of the National Plan, if we are looking to married women as a reserve labour force.

The major problem, of course, is that industry is geared to the labour of man, or to the labour of the single woman, but we are now calling into industry people who are not men and not single women but women with family responsibilities and quite often mothers of families with a very great double burden. There is a very general misunderstanding about this group, a misunderstanding which I see in the Press and in reports, and so on, that this problem of women with a double burden is largely a problem of mothers with small children, and it is said that we are asking for nursery schools and day nurseries on a massive scale to cope with that problem.

This is not, however, the main problem. Generally, after her school days a girl works for a short time and then marries young—today—because, thanks to the original Labour Government and their National Health Service we are now able to rear boys who did not previously have such chances in life, and so there are more husbands available now than there were in the past. The point is that today girls are marrying younger. Then at first after their marriage they stay at home, for 10 or 15 or even 20 years, and then again they go to work. When the children are very small, the mothers, on the whole, remain at home, taking care of the children. This is the general pattern. So the problem of the double burden is not so much the care of the children who are babies or infants but the care of the schoolchild—the child who is motherless, as it were, after school hours and during holidays, which, on occasions, are quite long.

It appears to me not to be beyond the ingenuity of the Government to visualise the development, maybe, of after-school clubs. They would be a very good thing, because they would help to induce children to move into youth clubs later when they are old enough to do so. Certainly the Government might consider the development of residential holiday camps, with financial contributions from parents, to meet the needs of those children during school holidays. Without going into too much detail, I hope that the Government will look at that aspect, because it is a disincentive to women to rally to the National Plan, and it is a problem which should not be looked at as an emergency measure. This is not war, but peace, with women here as a permanent feature of our industrial life.

Nor are we asking for a special favour for working mothers. I have in mind that there ought to be an intelligent arrangement between the Government and the working female community for mutual and permanent advantage.

Again, it has occurred to me that the Government might look more closely at the question of part-time work, not in relation just to older people but to married women. If one groups the two together, there is a vast source of manpower available, providing that some positive policy is propounded and organised to enable them to enter part-time work. In the Government's manpower studies, I am well aware that they have referred to that. It was said in August, 1964, that employers will increasingly need to encourage part-time work and to alter their arrangements. But that can be conducted only as a national drive, and with positive proposals. It has been done in the United States, where there has been a greater development in that direction as a result of a national policy.

Another and very important disincentive to women entering industry and making a really worth-while contribution has been the lack of vocational training. That has been mentioned in the debate already. It should be Government policy to plan seriously to extricate the women who are already in work from the relatively small range of occupations and low level of skills in which they are confined and offer them wider prospects.

It is worth while considering the skills of women in industry today. I would remind the House that women comprise one-third of our national manpower. If they are short of skills, it reflects badly on the whole of our manpower position. Two-thirds of our manpower are either entirely unskilled or only semi-skilled. The remainder are not highly skilled, by any means. The majority of them are either in the retail or distributive trades or have professional status. Of those who have skills, it is rather frightening to learn, especially in relation to the National Plan, that one out of 14 girls takes an apprenticeship and that of those who do, two-thirds are taking apprenticeships in hairdressing or in beauty salon skills, which have very little relevance to the National Plan, although I may say that they give a moral boost to the unskilled women working under all the disadvantages that I have outlined.

The present vocational training facilities are lamentably inadequate, and employers too, are not particularly forth-coming to develop those facilities. In fact, they are manifestly reluctant. I appeal to the Government to give some lead on that, because it must be remem- bered that women whose lives are now full may wish to go back into industry at a later date, and it is advisable in the interest of the nation's economy to expand the occupational horizons of girls when they are young, taking into account that they will leave industry early but will probably go back later on. I wonder if it is not possible by some structure of vocational training to lay a new kind of foundation for female vocational training so that it will be easy for them to pick up their old skills 15 years or so later when they go back into industry and possibly undertake some form of retraining.

In that connection, I feel that the biggest problem in relation to training is that of older women. We intend to call them back to work in thousands to meet the manpower needs of the country. We know from examinations and reviews which have been undertaken that they are as easily trained as anyone else of similar age, physique and intelligence. There is no innate difficulty about training older women, but there is a lack of training facilities, and a woman may not be so keen to go back to work if she feels that she is not going to have a worth-while job and earn a worth-while salary with skills in relation to her intelligence.

I see that my right hon. Friend is smiling, but, after all, he is an old-fashioned trade union official.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

I was smiling because I agree with every word my hon. Friend says. Far be it from me to raise any dispute between the sexes, but our biggest problem is getting young and even older women to be trained. They do not like it, and will not have it. In defence of employers, I might point out that the best of them have gone out of their way to offer training. It may be that the minds of women are set on higher things. They certainly do not appear to want to be trained.

Photo of Mrs Margaret McKay Mrs Margaret McKay , Wandsworth Clapham

My right hon. Friend has experience of these matters, of course, but I would remind him that for 11 years I was the T.U.C.'s chief woman officer dealing with the problem. In addition, during the war I was a welfare officer in the Admiralty, where I dealt with that specific task. I found that women readily responded to training if it was offered to them in the right way, and that is what I suggest is wrong. We have not got the right type of occupational training presented in the right kind of way. That is one of the disincentives.

Another disincentive is the problem of equal pay, and I want here to say a word on behalf of the Government. That is a rather strange position for me, because no one has campaigned more for equal pay, and I still think it is a scandal that a woman in engineering, however skilled, should be earning 30s. a week less than an engineer who is merely a male labourer.

We have not got equal pay, simply because the employers have not paid it. Secondly, and again I speak with my trade union experience behind me, we have not got it because, although the T.U.C. has been committed to a policy of equal pay since 1887, when it submitted this matter to the Government in 1963 it failed to give it the priority it deserved.

I know that yesterday the Minister went to see the T.U.C. about this, and I am appreciative of the work which has been done by his Committee. I appreciate that he has seen the T.U.C., and that he is seeing the employers on 5th May. I think that it would be unfair of the trade unions to criticise the Labour Government who have been in office for only 18 months for not doing what they have not achieved in 80 years. Nevertheless, while I have some sympathy with the Government in this respect—I would not say it is overdone—the ball is now in the Government's court, and I hope that they will assist the trade unions by ratifying Convention 100. I know that one is inclined to implement a convention before one ratifies it, but I suggest that there should be some flexibility about this, and that the Government should lay down some guide-line to assist employers and unions to bring in equal pay for men and women. I am sure that a higher rate of pay will he a good incentive to get women to return to work to help to implement the National Plan.

Having said all that on behalf of women at work, may I now back track and say that, having made those proposals, I feel that it may be necessary to study the whole question of women at work, even if by doing so we produce results which may deter us from suggesting that more women should enter employment. It worries me that some women are doing a double job. A woman may not be fully employed if her children are at school and she has a houseful of modern gadgets, but a woman doing a double job has too much to do, and what worries me is that there have never been studies on a number of matters to which I shall refer in a moment, and in respect of which I have searched hard to collect the necessary data. No information about them is available from any authority.

To the best of my knowledge, no information is available about the number of mothers at work, how many children they have, the ages of the children, how many children are under five, and what is more important, how many pregnant women are at work, and in which industries. Do pregnant mothers suffer accidents at work, and does the fact of their working affect their confinement? Does it produce miscarriages, abnormal confinements, premature births, and so on? What about the babies? To the best of my knowledge, there has never been an examination of the effect on babies of their mothers going out to work. We do not know the infant mortality rate amongst children of working mothers. What is the physique of the working mother's child, and how does it compare with that of a child whose mother stays at home? Those are some of the real and serious problems which I feel are not even being looked at.

My right hon. Friend grimaces, but back benchers sometimes feel that the various Ministries—and particularly the Ministry of Labour—are inclined to shroud themselves in a deep cloak of security, and no matter how many intelligent, clever, or cunning questions we devise we find that they are much more clever at disguising the information than we are at getting it. I promise myself an interesting Session of asking the Minister difficult questions in the hope that we may get the information which we need.

I look forward with the sincerity of a Socialist to the full realisation of the National Plan, in the interests of us all. I hope that it will be possible to co-ordinate working women into this very difficult male world of the economy, in the interests of us all, and in the interests of the future of our country.

3.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Doughty Mr Charles Doughty , East Surrey

I am sure that the hon. Lady the Member for Clapham (Mrs. McKay) will forgive me if I do not follow her. She has given us an example of what a skilled woman worker can do when given full rein, with no one to interrupt her, and unlimited time at her disposal.

As I have only a limited time at my disposal I shall deal with only one or two matters. I am aware that today we are discussing industrial relations, and that the Gracious Speech refers to consultation with management and unions. I am not here to attack managements, unions, the Minister, or anybody else, but what has surprised, and to a certain extent shocked, many members of the public is the apparent—and I use the word apparent, and repeat it—lack of discipline applied by these bodies, which are great powers, to their own members when they misbehave, or apparently misbehave.

I speak as a member of a profession which exercises discipline on its members, and very strict discipline, too, when necessary. I am certain that if we are to have a new registrar to deal with the powers and liabilities of trade unions, we must provide compulsory powers for disciplining people who do not conform to the spirit of their obligations.

I know the difficulties of trade unions. They are elected bodies, and if the leaders turn down certain requests they will not get the votes next time. This aspect of the matter should be checked. But when 20 people working in a car factory, or 20 tally clerks in the docks, hold up and drive out of work thousands of other people, everybody rightly says that there is something wrong. That is all that I shall say today on a subject which has been the main subject of our discussions. This is a day, however, when it is open to anybody to raise any matter referred to in the Gracious Speech.

I do not want to be controversial, because I realise that this is a very difficult subject, but I wish to refer to the Rhodesian situation. The Gracious Speech contains proper references to a negotiated settlement of the conflict in Vietnam and the bringing of peace to that area, and the taking of further steps in the Colonial Territories so that they can reach independence, but it then goes on with the blunt statement that the Government will pursue the policy of bringing the illegal régime in Rhodesia to an end. One notices the very unfortunate contrast. The present methods used, and voted by this House, and which are now law, will not bring that régime to an end. Therefore, I say without hesitation that unless the Government change their outlook they will be pursuing a policy of drift. In the present position this means that the Rhodesian situation will get worse and not better. I therefore appeal to the Government to enter into negotiations, at both high level and low level, to bring the matter to an end.

There are many other matters about which I wanted to speak, but owing to the limited amount of time remaining I will mention only one. The Gracious Speech contains no reference to transport, either road or rail. At this moment, we are suffering from a great dearth of new roads and a total failure to improve the old roads, although the demand upon them increases every day. During the life of the last Parliament a restriction was placed on plans for building roads. That restriction must be reconsidered. The roads must be built. Our roads must be brought up to a condition in which they meet the demands of a modern transport system, both in towns and outside them.

I represent a constituency in which an enormous number of people travel to work every day by train. Except for a certain amount of new rolling stock, those train services have remained unimproved for as long as I have been a Member, which is 15 years. There is a demand for new housing and new building, and to some extent that is being satisfied, but that, in turn, means that there is an increased demand upon the transport services. They must be improved. This means building new lines. They must also be speeded up, and this means new rolling stock. The question must be dealt with and not allowed to drift, so that people continue to stand like sardines in the rush hours when getting to their work and back in the evening.

I hone that the Government will look into this question, because the longer it is allowed to drift without anything being done the worse it will become. If it is allowed to drift the problem will be much more difficult for some future Government to solve than will be the case if it is dealt with in time.

There are many other matters to which I should have liked to refer. I shall not refer to the highly controversial question of steel nationalisation, because during the Session we shall be hearing a great deal about that matter, which involves a complete dispute between the parties. I have dealt with one or two matters, and I hope the Government will bear in mind what I have said. If they do not, I am sure that my hon. Friends and I will continually prod them and chide them about their failings in that respect.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. I remind the House that every long speech deprives an hon. Member who has sat here all day of the privilege of catching my eye.

3.10 p.m.

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

I am most grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) for curtailing his speech, because I am conscious that he wished to address a number of other remarks to the House.

I am conscious, in winding up the second day of the debate on the Loyal Address, that the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), who will be discharging her first duty at the Dispatch Box as a Minister—I am delighted to see her there—will be at rather a disadvantage, because somehow the batting order on the Front Benches has become slightly confused.

As the House will know, I am charged more with speaking on science and technology, although I am sure that the Minister of Labour will agree that the more spirited development and application of technology is more a human problem than it is either a scientific or a financial problem. So to that extent the division of duties which has to arise in Whitehall between Departments can be forgotten this afternoon.

Equally, I recognise that the hon. Lady will not be in a position to reply to some of the more detailed points which I shall raise. If I may relieve any anxiety she may have, as I have already indicated to her I should be most distressed if she attempted to reply to them. I understand that on Monday the substance of which I am supposed to be the shadow will be at the Dispatch Box. Having had the weekend to digest the questions that I shall put to him, no doubt he will be able to give a reply.

Today, three hon. Members have taken the plunge into the waters of full membership of the House by getting their maiden speeches off their chests. I congratulate all three of them. They will have the advantage over their colleagues who came in at this election, in that they can now feel that they are established Members, whereas those who, possibly more prudently, wait rather longer before making their maiden speeches always have the feeling that they are not full Members until they have got rid of that duty, which is obviously much more painful to the person making it than it is to those who have to listen.

I was most impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick), who spoke movingly and with knowledge about housing problems in Greater London. My heart warmed for the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth), because when I was at the Board of Trade I took an interest in the Morecambe barrage, although the hon. Gentleman will no doubt say with pretty poor results in the matter of getting the barrage built. I shall listen with great interest to what the hon. Gentleman has to say in the future. If he succeeds in persuading the Government to build the Morecambe barrage, he will have achieved a very great deal, not only for his constituents, but for the North-West of England.

I was sorry that I missed the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Tom McMillan), but I understand that he, too, spoke with knowledge and sympathy, in his case of the acute housing problems in the centre of Glasgow.

I want to comment briefly on one or two of the points made by the Minister of Labour. He said that human beings do not like change. I think that this is only partially true. It depends on who one is and of what generation. A great number of younger people today go to almost the other extreme; change being the fashion, they are apt, rather, to ignore that which is good in the past. I know that what the Minister meant was that what most people want is change in the other fellow, but not change in themselves. Manufacturers want retailers, wholesalers and suppliers to change. We are all against restrictive practices, except our own restrictive practice, which is maintaining professional standards, stopping exploitation, etc.

The Minister also said that, as we all know, restrictive practices are very complicated and that the real initiative must come from management. Having gone from the Services to industry, where I have now spent nearly 20 years, I still think that civil industry can learn a lot from the Armed Forces on man management and, above all, on the number of men directly under the first line of supervision.

The right hon. Gentleman pointed out the whole question of how we train our lower levels of supervision, the immediate level of supervision which the ordinary man has to deal with, the foreman and the first-line shop superintendent. However, the Armed Forces, in perhaps the last half-century, have made far greater efforts and been more successful on selection and training in this respect than the mass of British industry.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned—quite rightly—the question of salaries. However, the question relates not only to salaries, but, in the best sense of the word, to privileges which are earned and the erosion which has taken place here is a matter which many firms should take more seriously.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the docks. Speaking purely personally, as a manager myself rather than as a Member of Parliament, I would say that there are two main faults, which, I think, accord closely with his own thinking. I do not believe that we will get people working in the docks to co-operate in the way in which we want them to on modern methods and modern handling machinery as long as there is a casual labour system. I mean that not only in terms of job security, but in terms of establishing a proper personal relationship between a set of men at work and a set of managers.

For all that one reads in the Ministry of Labour's Industrial Handbook, any of us who has been involved in industrial relations and negotiations and in negotiations to change methods radically know that it is, above all, a matter of establishing personal confidence between the people initiating the change and the representatives of the people who will experience the change.

From that follows something which I feel strongly about—that we have in these great service industries very elaborate negotiating machinery, which looks splendid to a law don sitting in a common room in Oxford, but which looks different on the ground. Take the docks. Human beings being what they are, men go in on the early shift on Monday morning to find that the cargo is dirty and the ganger or foreman has a blinding hang-over and the men are out. However, this need not be a real industrial dispute. If authority is given to the lower levels of management in the docks and the first level of trade union officials, the matter can be settled by noon and they are back working on the ship before the shift is over.

However, as long as there is the elaborate system, about six months later a decision comes down from London, by which time, what started as simply a little expression of temper, liver and hang-over has become a major industrial dispute, with both sides so dug in that a good solution becomes almost impossible.

I should like to turn to science. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out yesterday, the Gracious Speech is particularly flat on this subject. We read the phrase The development of science will be continued. What does this mean in precise terms? I believe that that phrase would have done justice to the Delphic Oracle. It is about as illuminating a statement of Government policy as if the Government had stated in the speech: Sex will be continued. Where now is the Prime Minister's promise of 1964 … to forge a new Britain in the white heat of the scientific revolution."? Where indeed?

I can only reflect that the second law of thermodynamics has applied rather rapidly to the Prime Minister's white heat. Over the last 18 months, I have been trying to elicit from the Government their intentions towards science. We turn to the National Plan—all 474 pages of it—and to the First Secretary as well, and we know no more. There was no chapter on science and there was none on technology in the Plan. Indeed, in my researches into that great "Brown" book, the best I can do for science and technology is to assume that they were lumped together with what are described as other miscellaneous central Government activities". Of these activities, the National Plan tells us that some will probably have to be slowed down to make room for the high priority services". On this side of the House, we are jealous of this country's scientific record because under Conservative Administrations the percentage of our natural resources devoted to science advanced far faster than the advance in the gross national product. I remind the House that, between the financial years 1955-56 and 1964-65, total national expenditure on scientific research and development in Britain went up from £300 million a year to about £750 million a year. During the 13 years of Conservative administration, Government support for civil science rose six times. Moreover, a recent O.E.C.D. Report showed that, in 1962, Britain's expenditure on research and development was markedly higher than that of any other European country. I shall not detain the House by quoting the figures.

That is what happened under our Administration, yet we were severely criticised by right hon. and hon. Members opposite for not doing enough. What more are they offering? The development of science will be continued". As I said, there is very little of the white heat of the scientific revolution here, and the brain drain is in danger of cascading. Therefore, during the course of this Parliament, we on this side intend to encourage, to exhort and, if necessary, to harry the Government into doing better for science than they envisage in the Gracious Speech.

I come now to the province of the Ministry of Technology, and, in so doing, I wish to pay tribute to my predecessor as spokesman on this subject, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), of whom it can be said that, if anyone has shown emotional enthusiasm for technology and, above all, for the computer, it is he.

As the House knows, I had considerable doubts about the necessity and the validity of creating this new Department, but I shall not repeat the doubts which I developed on the Second Reading of the Science and Technology Bill, in the last Parliament. I observe merely that nothing which has happened since has removed my doubts. But, for the present, I accept the Ministry of Technology on the Government's own terms and I shall judge it accordingly. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that that is fair.

What is the rôle of the Ministry of Technology? Its main duty—I take this from various lectures and speeches which the Minister of Technology has made and from the departmental literature—is The general responsibility of guiding and stimulating a major national effort to bring advanced technology and new processes into British industry". On those terms, this is not a separate function but a function ancillary to the general management of the economy. This is why, in my view, there are not conditions separately created for stimulating technology which are different from the conditions needed for the general stimulation of the economy as a whole. In other words, the right conditions for promoting technological advance are, broadly, the same conditions as are needed for general economic advance. Economic advance and technological advance are two faces of the same coin. To put it in another way, firms will automate more when it pays them to do so, or, alternatively, they will find themselves compelled to automate when their competitive position begins to slip if they fail to do so.

I now put briefly to the Government a number of important aspects of economic management which I regard as essential to create the conditions in which technological change takes place faster. The first is incentive, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) spoke earlier. Second, there is the need for a competitive climate. When he was talking about the difficulty of assessing the rightness or wrongness of a particular wage settlement which employers and workpeople were suggesting, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour asked who represented the public interest.

I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that under a really competitive system it is very largely the market which determines the public interest. If an employer finds himself giving money away too easily, his labour costs per unit of output go up, and if the situation in his market is competitive he finds his position slipping. We need far greater emphasis on creating competitive conditions in our economy. Incidentally, I would apply this within management. We need far greater mobility of management, with younger up and coming managers being prepared to leave their present firm when they are not given opportunities and moving to try to improve themselves and in so doing improve British industry.

We need a whole new approach to human relations in industry. It is not for me to develop the point today, but I would just say that I think we must have an entirely different view in many industries of our wage structures. The right hon. Gentleman and I would agree that it is nonsense to talk about those who are productive workers and those who are not productive. The progress chaser, the salesman and the draughtsman is as productive as the man working the machine. When one gets into numerically controlled machine tools it can be argued that the man on the shop floor is less productive than the person who has been planning and working it all out. This is not yet reflected in our wage structures. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the opportunity of persons on traditional productive jobs of earning bonus acts against many of the people who are servicing the production. It is urgent for us to have a new approach right across the field. This involves not only the unions and individual managements, but the Government.

I disagree with the Minister on the matter of trade union law and the whole law of industrial relations. One cannot by law create good industrial relations, but what one can do is to have a legal framework in which those who practice good relations can be fortified more in their efforts by the law.

Photo of Mr Raymond Gunter Mr Raymond Gunter , Southwark

I am very interested in what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and I do not disagree, but I have always argued that the basic law must be put right. What has worried me about the Conservative Party has been its indication that it wanted to introduce the lower levels of the law, apart from the basic law, into our industrial relations.

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

We can argue about this, but I think that the right hon. Gentleman has misinterpreted what we have been saying. As I have always envisaged it, one has to get the basic framework of one's law relevant. At the same time, one cannot make industrial relations good by law. One can pretend that they are good, but they will remain bay unless relations are good at the working level.

The next urgent requirement is revision of the fiscal system, a point touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott). This is particularly relevant to the industries for which the Minister of Technology is the sponsoring Minister. I do not think that many smaller firms have yet understood the effect of the Government's changes in fiscal allowances—the change from the old investment allowance to the investment grant. Under the old system, with the standard rate of Income Tax at 8s. 3d., the value of the allowance on a machine tool costing £1,000 was £731, and the net cost of the machine was, therefore, £269.

Under the proposed investment grant procedure, with Corporation Tax at 40 per cent.—that is a fair figure to take; in a few days we shall see whether that is right; I should be very surprised if it were any lower, and it could even be higher—the value of the grant will be considerably less. The calculation I have is that the value of the allowance will be £320 and that the net cost with a grant of £200 will be £480. One has to compare £269 with £480. I hope that the Chancellor will have another look at this matter.

There is also the necessity for Britain to get into the great Europe. I do not believe that we shall really succeed in creating the necessary degree of competition which comprises not only sticks but carrots as well—in other words, firms and organisations which do well will not be able to gain the bigger prizes to the extent they deserve—unless we go into the great Europe. I use the term "great" Europe not merely in the sense of our being the seventh member of the E.E.C., but in the greater sense of the whole of Europe. For Britain the great Europe is becoming an economic, technological and scientific necessity.

When one reflects on the industries for which the Minister of Technology is responsible, many questions need to be asked. We want to know what progress has been made with the National Computing Centre announced on 1st March, 1965. What is his Department doing with the universities and, above all, with management consultants to spread the management thinking and training that is needed if a computer is to be of any use? Merely to buy a computer can be a great waste of money if one does not know how to use it or does not know what consequences it could have on the whole of one's organisation.

During the General Election campaign we had the trenchant criticisms by the Machine Tool Trades Association, headed by its President, Mr. Denis Kearns. There is also the electronics sponsorship. We have not yet heard from the Minister of Technology what his relationships are with the Ministry of Aviation, which is the major Government customer of the electronics industry. One of the sensible catalytic rôles that the Government can play in stimulating technology is as a purchaser.

We have also been told nothing about the telecommunications industry. What are the Government's plans for it? Any hon. Member who has had to listen over the years knows that I can be an intolerable bore about satellite telecommunications systems. I believe in them. Are we to get a coherent space programme from the Government? How are the Departments closely involved—Education and Science, the Post Office, Aviation and Technology—to work together? Who is to be responsible? Again, after a year of his Ministry's existence, the Minister of Technology was handed the mechanical engineering industry as well. We have heard nothing on that score and about how he intends to discharge his duties.

There is the whole question of the Government setting an example in efficiency and technological thrust. In a mixed economy the Government's ability to preach efficiency successfully will largely depend upon the example it sets in the public sector. I hope that, in the next few months, the Government will tell us a great deal more about how they intend to deploy the public sector resources in support of the National Plan.

Who is to be charged by the Prime Minister with the overall responsibility for improving the efficiency of the Whitehall machine? Is it to be the Minister of Technology, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the First Secretary of State? We would like to know, for this is vital to our economy. What do the Government propose? Or is Parkinson's Law to remain supreme?

The Estimates for 1966-67 show that the Ministry of Technology has "pinched" certain industries from the Board of Trade and one would, therefore, expect to see the figures for the staff of the Board of Trade being reduced, while those of the Ministry of Technology went up. Not a bit of it. The old law—"that work expands so as to fill the time available"—seems to remain the irresistible law of Whitehall.

I declare an interest to the right hon. Gentleman in that, as he knows, I am a management consultant. I do not offer my own services, but I offer the services of all my competitors, because I am sure that they would make a great impact on Whitehall. Let the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues come forward with a five-year plan for management efficiency within the public sector. How many Government Departments can do a management audit, as opposed to a Treasury cost audit?

Those are the questions to which we want to know the answers. I end by saying to the Minister of Technology, who is not here, through his right hon. Friend that he and I will encounter each other quite a lot during the course of this Parliament. On this side of the House, we shall judge the right hon. Gentleman's stewardship by the acid test of the public interest. No doubt from time to time we shall disagree in our relative interpretations of where the public interest lies. That is our duty and that, after all, is what politics is all about; that is why we are here.

We shall support the right hon. Gentleman whenever and wherever we can, but I can promise the Government that we shall not be jealous when right hon. Gentlemen opposite adopt our suggestions or policies. On the contrary, we shall applaud them for it, because the public interest is more important than the rights of authorship. Equally, we shall oppose, and oppose vigorously and vigilantly, where we must. We shall oppose not for opposition's sake, but for Britain's sake. That is our clear duty which we intend to fulfil.

3.37 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Shirley Williams Mrs Shirley Williams , Hitchin

May I begin, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, by congratulating you on your position and by saying what pleasure it gives me to come to the Box when you are presiding over the House? I am grateful to the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) for having indicated to me in advance that he did not expect me to comment on everything he said. I should make it clear that I have no intention of attempting to be Parliamentary Secretary to every Minister in the Government—I am more than satisfied with the Ministry I already have. However, we welcome his remarks about the docks, which were both trenchant and appropriate and which we were very glad to hear. I should also like to express my gratitude to the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) for being present at the end of the debate with his right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph).

We have had a number of maiden speeches which have reached an extremely high standard. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) showed a very great consciousness of the human dilemmas involved in the housing problem and indicated, as most of us on this side of the House deeply believe, that the answer to the problem lies in a much larger quantity of low rented and low cost housing. He will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is endeavouring to meet this need. He will also be aware that the proposals for more new towns have gone ahead rapidly in the last 18 months and, in view of his great interest in housing, I am sure that he will feel that this will make a substantial contribution to the solution of the problems of his constituents and those of many other hon. Members.

I want also to refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth). We remember my hon. Friend's predecessor with both respect and friendship and we are sure that my hon. Friend will prove a worthy successor. It is obvious that if anybody can get the Morecambe Bay barrage, it will be my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness.

I want finally to refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Tom McMillan). I am sorry to have been unable to be present to hear his speech, but my right hon. Friend tells me that it was exceptionally good. We shall hope to hear more from all three hon. Members.

The hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) tried to suggest that there was some discrepancy between the views expressed by my right hon. Friend in the debate and in the Gracious Speech on the one side and those of my right hon. Friend the First Secretary on the other. He tried to suggest this primarily with respect to early warning legislation. It is only fair to make it clear that there is no contradiction at all between the position taken under the last Administration by the First Secretary and the position as expressed by my right hon. Friend during the course of this debate.

The Government have made it clear that they are consulting both sides of industry on the basis of the text published before the dissolution of Parliament. It has always been the Government's intention that the second part of the proposed early warning legislation would apply only in the event of the voluntary system proving inadequate. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Totnes is not present, but I would say to him that his attempt to say that there is some difference in the Government has certainly not succeeded.

Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House are very well aware that the achievements that any party can make in respect of a more rapid pace in terms of the social service, education, housing and all the other things that we want, depend upon our capacity to reconstruct and modernise British industry. There are many Departments involved in this. There is the Department of my right hon. Friend, there is the Department of Economic Affairs, the Board of Trade, and the Ministry of Technology. All of these Departments are bringing together plans, methods and schemes devoted to the major and over-riding purpose of creating a strong economy.

My right hon. Friend indicated the work which his Ministry is attempting to do in bringing this more modern attitude into industrial relations. In the course of his speech he said what we all know, that change can bring insecurity with it, that people are often frightened of the consequences of change. We can say quite clearly that in our approach to this problem there is a single and absolutely straightforward principle. It is that if one asks men and women to alter their relationships and change their working methods, to get rid of traditional and restrictive practices, one can do so only if one is prepared to offer them a degree of security. In short, we feel that we must offer men and women, when we ask them to change, a recognition of the strain of altering from one job to another, of redeployment during the course of their working lives.

This is the purpose of the Redundancy Payments Act, which goes a long way to recognise the investment that men and women put into a job, particularly one which they have held for a number of years. It was also the purpose of the National Insurance Act, 1966, which does a great deal to limit the effects of unemployment or sickness.

We want to take this position, this offer of greater security to men and women during their working lives, several stages further. With this in mind the National Joint Advisory Council is looking into safeguards against arbitrary dismissal, from whatever source. A committee of the National Joint Advisory Council has recently reported with regard to the preservation of pension rights. Many of us are aware that there is a serious gap in the provision for retirement. This presents many grave difficulties and we hope to deal with them further through the National Joint Advisory Council at a very early stage.

I thought that there was a certain ambivalence in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, North-East. On the one side, he said very fairly, that he would not like to see any reduction in the level of demand. He made it clear that he would not want to see a sharp rise in unemployment figures but I do not think that he had any clear policy to put forward as an alternative to that which my Government stands for—the policy of trying to advance security in exchange for a modernisation of method and approach by both sides of industry.

We should like to see him go further in his future contributions and not stop short at the possibility of new legislation, because we do not believe that this approach is as fruitful as that which tries to meet the fears which understandably many people have. Anybody who passes through the older mill towns or pit villages of Great Britain must be well aware of the impression which the past has made on many people who are being asked to modernise their attitudes in industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mrs. McKay), in a very moving speech, spoke about the position of those to whom we look to make a contribution towards easing difficulty about the supply of manpower. In particular, she referred to older workers and married women workers. The National Plan indicated that there was a gap which would be difficult to close between the supply of manpower and the demand for it over the next five years. Clearly, if this gap is to be closed, we need not only higher productivity from the existing labour force, but a greater contribution from those at present outside the labour force and from those who might play a larger part in it.

My hon. Friend might like to know that the National Joint Advisory Council, at its next meeting, is to consider very carefully the question of older workers, particularly their training and re-training, and special arrangements which can be made for them by employment exchanges. The older workers make a very substantial contribution in terms of experience and steadiness at the job, and we want to encourage management to take the view that they have a large part to play in industry.

A social survey is going ahead which we hope will throw light on the attitudes of married women both entering and re-entering employment and will take cognisance of their special needs in respect of such things as child-minding facilities and working hours. The Department promises to look very carefully at the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham in the light of these special problems which, as a married woman, I am well aware every married woman has to meet in trying to satisfy the requirements of employment and of family life.

There is another extremely crucial respect of the overriding demand for manpower which we should consider. I refer to the regional policy of the Government of which I have the honour to be a member. I was pleased that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott) referred to the Government's regional policy. The hon. Member hoped that he would see action similar to that taken before the last election. I can promise him that he will see action similar to that which took place before the last election, and I am delighted that he paid such a tribute to the Government across the Floor of the House. He did not refer perhaps as much as he might have done to the fact that regional unemployment has been consistently falling under the present Government and that from this source we have had a considerable contribution to easing the pressure on the labour supply.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East referred to what he regarded partly as a burden but also as a basic principle on which both sides of the House agree—the need to encourage the less well off regions, the less highly employed regions. I think he will agree that indications from abroad are that we are being increasingly followed in pursuing a regional policy. In recent years, Italy, France and Sweden have much increased their interest in regional planning and this may not be as competitive a burden for us as it has been on some occasions in the past.

I want to refer to the effort which my right hon. Friend is making not just to ease the manpower supply by bringing in more elderly people and more married women and by increasing employment in the less-well-off regions but also in improving the employment service itself. The House will welcome the scheme which started last month to try to introduce into the employment service occupational guidance for adults. The Conservative Party in its manifesto suggested that this would be a very good thing to do, and I am glad to say that the Government had already embarked on doing it before that manifesto appeared.

The new scheme, which started on 1st March, covers eleven centres. At the moment it is an experimental scheme, which we very much hope will, if it proves successful, be extended to cover the whole country and to give adult workers the same sort of occupational guidance as that which in the past has been the prerogative of young people under the Youth Employment Service. The Youth Employment Service, in turn, is very much increasing its effort to train its own officers and its own staff, and we are glad that the Central Youth Employment Executive is setting up a training unit with a view to assisting the training of new recruits and prospective officers.

But, as hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out, it is not enough to bring more people into the work force or to improve the fitting of the job to the man or woman, important as both of these are. It is also crucial to upgrade those people who are already working in industry. Both my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham and the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East referred to the Industrial Training Act. Progress under the Act is going ahead very rapidly, and 13 boards have been set up covering about one-third of industry—the third which makes most use of training. Some boards, in particular, are breaking new ground. I refer to the Engineering Board, for example; it has some extremely interesting ideas when it comes to setting up temporary workshops for the training of apprentices. The House will be interested to see its report on the first year of apprenticeship training, which contains a number of constructive and useful ideas.

We hope to press on with the setting up of boards and we hope that in the chemical, oil, plastics processing and rubber industries, and in civil aviation, fishing, leather and clothing boards will be set up in the next few months or the next year. It would be appropriate here to pay a tribute to Sir John Hunter, Chairman of the Central Training Council, for the very energetic way in which that Council has started on a major job which should go far to improve and modernise the attitude and practices of British industry.

May I say a few words about equal pay, a subject which was raised yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) and today by my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham. After my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax had seconded the Motion for the Loyal Address yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition commented: The hon. Lady said that the Government's incomes policy is neither fair nor just if it does not include equal pay. She has stuck gamely to her guns. I am sorry that the Chancellor will not allow her to be heard again. She will disappear into limbo."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st April, 1966; vol. 727, c. 57.] I am pleased to be able to tell the right hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend will not disappear into limbo. On the contrary, she will increasingly feel able to blossom forth as we advance towards the principle of equal pay.

The Government have already made it clear that in principle they fully accept equal pay and we have started discussions on the implementation of equal pay. This raises many problems—problems for example, of the definition of equal pay, as was only too clearly indicated in the discussions, of which the Leader of the Opposition is well aware, on the implementation of equal pay by the member countries of the European Economic Community. It raises questions of method—whether the method is to be legislative or voluntary or a combination of both. It raises questions of cost in the light of the productivity, prices and incomes policy. The Government are clear that this is a principle of justice and it is one into which we are looking with real urgency with a view to seeing the best possible methods by which it can be achieved. We shall be discussing the period over which it can be achieved with a view to meeting points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax.

Occupational health is, I know, of special concern to my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham, and I should like to say a few words about safety and health. She will be interested in the Report of the Industrial Health Advisory Committee on the appointed factory doctor service and the suggestions made in that Report about the possibility of beginning to develop towards a more expert service in respect of occupational health.

Finally, I would say that my right hon. Friend is determined that both sides of industry shall make the maximum possible contribution towards the strengthening of the United Kingdom economy, that in doing this he recognises that it is absolutely vital that we shall have a longterm reconstruction of a sort which will make it possible for this country once again to lead the world both in industry and in social and other services which depend on the health of the economy. But we are determined to do this in a way which is humane and which recognises the particular position of men and women faced with an age of change. Already an attempt has been made to meet their natural worries and natural concerns. We will achieve this. We will achieve it with humanity, we will achieve it with sympathy, we will achieve it without high unemployment. But achieve it we shall.

Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Howie.]

Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.