asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can say in what manner he proposes after the war to continue manufacture in factories owned by the State in Swindon and district, in view of the special consideration to be given by the Government to factories now established in the former distressed areas?
asked the Minister without Portfolio whether plans now being made for the period following the war include the disposal to private enterprise of factories acquired by the Government for war purposes?
I have been asked to reply to the Question addressed to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister without Portfolio, and with my hon. Friends' permission, I will answer both together. I have at present nothing to add to what I said on this subject in the Debate on Economic Policy on 3rd February last. I then stated that I was most anxious that we should explore well in advance, before final decisions are taken, what are the best possibilities for these factories after the war, particularly for those which are situated in pre-war distressed areas, where it has been found that employment was not sufficiently diversified.
In order that private firms may prepare to co-operate with the Government in the transition period, will my right hon. Friend give them some guidance as to what the Government have in mind?
I think that in the first instance it is desirable that we should have preliminary discussions such as are now taking place between the various Departments in London, and reports as to possibilities submitted from the different areas. No decisions have yet been taken. We must get the materials first.
Are industrial organisations heing consulted in this matter?
As I have already said, inquiries have been sent to a number of industrial organisations in the trades with which the Board of Trade is concerned, asking them to express their views to me upon all these post-war problems.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that Swindon and district is not a distressed area, but that if plans are not made quickly unemployment and distress may occur there after this war?
The Government are committed, as has been announced, to full employment so far as it can be achieved in all areas. Swindon was very fortunate before the war in not being a distressed area. Other areas were not so fortunate. We will endeavour to see that misfortune befalls no area.
Will the right hon. Gentleman hold fast to the view that those areas which were distressed areas 10 years ago get better consideration than they got before the war?