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Post-War Reconstruction

Volume 388: debated on Thursday 22 April 1943

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I desire to raise two matters which I believe fall within the responsibility of the Minister without Portfolio. It is, I think, recognised that there is a widespread interest, not only in this country but in the Army, with regard to, what the Government are doing in order to make preparations for reconstruction after the war. In reply to a Question recently by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), the Minister expressed his willingness to make a statement on some of the matters with which he is concerned. It is clear that it would not be reasonable to ask those Government Departments which are most immediately concerned with the conduct of the war to take the first steps in the direction of reconstruction. It is rather those Government Departments which are not chiefly preoccupied with the war which may reasonably be expected to be getting on with the plans. It is largely for that reason that I want to ask my right hon. and learned Friend what is happening in his Department with regard to the recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee? You, Mr. Speaker, will appreciate that my task to-day will be a delicate one, since the Minister without Portfolio is largely concerned with making preparations for reconstruction which will involve legislation, but I hope I shall not transgress if I do no not go into details of any of the legislation which will be required.

At the end of this war one of the most urgent needs will be for the immediate undertaking of a large scale of rehousing for the people of this country. If that housebuilding is, to be undertaken, it will be necessary for the national plan to be already in existence, and if the national plan for which the Minister of Town and Country Planning is to be responsible is to be undertaken it is obviously necessary that that Department must be aware of the powers it will be, given in order to give effect to that plan. There is, I think, a widespread uneasiness both in this House land in the country that we have not been told what progress is being made upon those lines. There was two days ago a leading article in "The Times" which asked some very pertinent questions.

My right hon. and learned Friend when speaking upon this subject on 1st December said that the Uthwatt Committee made four principal recommendations. The first was with regard to the setting up of machinery for a central planning authority; second, the acquisition by the State of development rights in undeveloped land; third, wide and simple powers of compulsory acquisition of land by local authorities; and fourthly, a periodic levy on increases in annual site values. Since 1st December the House has passed legislation which has set up a Ministry of Town and Country Planning.

The first question I should like to ask is to what extent has the Minister without Portfolio transferred to the new Ministry of Town and Country Planning the responsibility for considering how far and in what way the Government should give effect to the other recommendations of the Uthwatt Report. Perhaps the most urgent and pressing of the recommendations that were then made was that the State should acquire development rights in undeveloped land. It seems to me that it will be very difficult for the Minister of Town and Country Planning to make his national plan for the redevelopment of this country unless the Government have come to some decision on whether they are prepared to accept the Uthwatt Committee's recommendation upon that matter. The third recommendation was that the Government should take wide and simple powers of compulsory acquisition of land by local authorities. I think I should draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend to what he said on that occasion. He said:
"It is, of course, no good taking the powers unless you have the wherewithal to exercise the powers. The Government consider that local authorities, when preparing their schemes, should have in mind the objective that they should ultimately become self-supporting."—[OFFICIAI REPORT, 1st December, 1942; col. 1093, Vol. 385.]
I suggest that there is a clear distinction to be drawn between the Government deciding what powers they wish to confer upon the local authorities in the post-war period and the degree to which in any individual case the taxpayer should be called upon to give assistance to any particular local authority. If I may give a concrete case, suppose that it were proposed in the redevelopment of London that there should be a wide open space from St. Paul's Cathedral down to the river. It would naturally be a matter for negotiation between the Treasury and the appropriate local authority or planning authority, as the case might be, as to how far the Treasury should come to the assistance of the local authority in meeting the cost of that redevelopment. But surely that is a matter to be dealt With at the time, and when each individual case arises. I would ask my right hon. and learned Friend what the view of the Government is as to the need for providing without any delay the machinery by which planning authorities would be able compulsorily to obtain possession of land. I am not going to press my right hon. and learned Friend upon the matter of a periodic levy on increases in annual site values, because I fully realise that that is a matter which will involve very anxious consideration by the Government, and it is obviously one, as he pointed out in that speech, which does not call for any immediate answer. But I feel that it would be of great advantage to the House and to the country if we had from my right hon. and learned Friend to-day an assurance that there is no intention of pigeonholing the Uthwatt Report and that these matters shall not, because they will arouse controversy, be postponed indefinitely.

I turn from the Uthwatt Report to the machinery which has been set up by the Government for implementing those recommendations of the Beveridge Report which they are willing to accept. I think that the locus classicus upon this subject is the speech of the Lord President of the Council on 16th February, when some of my hon. Friends and I were pressing for the setting-up of a Minister of Social Security. The Lord President expressed the view that in the reorganisation of so many branches of our social insurance and social security it was necessary that each individual Department which had experience of some particular branch should be left to consider how to reorganise that particular service. He went on to say:
"It may be found desirable to create the nucleus of the new combined organisation now by constituting a small body of experienced persons who will devote themselves, with the Departments concerned, entirely to the task of bringing the project, as a whole, into legislative form."
After an interruption from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), and his reply, the Lord President said:
"We will meet the necessities of the moment by putting the burden on existing Departments and setting up a small central staff of experienced people who will devote their whole time to the matter."
Then the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) said:
"To whom will the nucleus staff be responsible, and under whom will they act—the Minister of Health, the Minister without Portfolio, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer?"
The Lord President replied:
"The intention was that it should be under my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister without Portfolio."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1943; cols, 1677–8, Vol. 386.]
My hon. Friends and I deduced from that that the general set-up would be more or less on these lines: that, while the Ministry of Labour would be engaged upon considering the changes recommended in unemployment insurance and the Ministry of Health would be engaged in reconsidering national health insurance and the creation of a great national health service, there would be, in order to bring the work of these different Departments into harmony one with another, a small nucleus of six or seven experienced civil servants, who would sit and work together and co-ordinate the work of the Departments from which they themselves no doubt would have been drawn, and with which they would have intimate contact. It is understood that the Minister under whom they would work, and to whom, perhaps I might say, they would show up their work when it was done, was my right hon. and learned Friend. It was also made quite plain in the same Debate that there was a Committee of the War Cabinet which would take a very close and intimate interest in what was being done by my right hon. and learned Friend and his little nucleus of civil servants. It was on that assumption that we put upon the Order Paper a Motion, asking for a Minister—as opposed to a Ministry—of Social Security. We had in mind that the Lord President of the Council—I think it is an open secret that he is Chairman of a Committee of the War Cabinet which concerns itself especially with these matters—should be responsible for supervising the work of this nucleus of civil servants, who are themselves responsible for co-ordinating the work of the different Departments.

I confess I do not quite understand what useful function my right hon. and learned Friend performs. His long and distinguished career has been chiefly spent in the law courts, and his experience of the administration, of great Departments of State has been confined, as far as I know, to the Paymaster-General's office. It was for that reason that I thought it would be preferable that the Chairman of the Committee of the War Cabinet on matters of major policy should deal with the day-to-day work of this nucleus of the co-ordinating staff. I should like to ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether our understanding of the set-up is correct, and I would like to have an assurance from him that the various Departments are actively engaged in studying the proposals of the Beveridge Report and, in so far as they have been accepted by the Government, are attempting to translate them into legislative form. I am particularly anxious to know what the position is with regard to workmen's compensation. Certain hon Gentlemen on the opposite benches have frequently pressed the Government to grant a day for the discussion of workmen's compensation in its present form, and I feel that the reason why the Government have not been able to provide Parliamentary time for the discussion of any piecemeal amendment of the existing legislation is that they have under contemplation, perhaps between the different Departments concerned, the broad principles of workmen's compensation as laid down in the Beveridge Report.

I am afraid the hon. Member is getting on very dangerous ground. I cannot see how workmen's compensation can be other than a matter for legislation.

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, my right hon. and learned Friend and his nucleus of civil servants are engaged in studying all these difficult and controversial matters, and it may well be that on almost every subject legislation will be required. But I do not wish to trespass any further. Since my right hon. and learned Friend is chairman of a sort of study circle of civil servants, I am anxious to know exactly what subjects are engaging their attention, and I venture to express the hope that such questions as workmen's compensation and industrial insurance will be fitted into their proper place in the general survey. I hope my right hon. and learned Friend will be able to give the House and the country an assurance that these matters, which are of such great interest for the post-war period of reconstruction, are really engaging his attention. I hope he may be able also to dispel the impression which is getting abroad that some of these Reports which have been presented to the House have been in some measure pigeon-holed.

My hon. Friend has made a searching and powerful reconnaissance of some sectors of the reconstruction front. I would like particularly to stress two points he made. He said great expectations had been aroused in the country concerning proposals for reconstruction, and he voiced the opinion that many people were disturbed at the fact that these proposals might have been pigeon-holed. If I may use the simile, the stage has been set, the footlights have been turned on, the orchestra has played the opening bars of the overture—the Anderson double bass, the Morrison cornet, the Kingsley Wood piccolo, together with the Scott-Uthwatt violins. But the audience are beginning to ask why the curtain is not raised. Is there, perhaps, after all a hitch? Has the back cloth stuck on its pulleys, or are the actors still discussing in the wings what roles they are to play? I hope my right hon. and learned Friend will be able to give some details of the transformation scene.

My hon. Friend the Member for the High Peak (Mr. Molson) also drew attention to the machinery which exists for the consideration of the Beveridge proposals. If I understood the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend on 1st December rightly, he said the appropriate Department puts up proposals, then it is studied by a committee of civil servants, then it passes to the Ministerial Committee presided over by my right hon. and learned Friend and finally it goes for decision to the War Cabinet.

In some matters I think that is the right system. If I can borrow an Air Force simile, the Ministerial Committee acts as a filter room, which collects information but only passes on essential facts to the operations room of the War Cabinet. But in relation to the Beveridge Report, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the High Peak that I cannot see what function my right hon. and learned Friend usefully performs. Could not the proposals, when they have been studied by these civil servants, pass direct for decision to the Lord President of the Council?

Now I will turn the searchlight of my inquiry to other problems and I would like to speak first of demobilisation. I feel that we must accept the proposition of the Prime Minister in his recent broadcast that in all likelihood the war against Germany and Italy will terminate before the war against Japan. If we accept the estimates of Mr. Hanson Baldwin, the well-known American commentator, the Allied Forces available to operate against Japan at that time will amount to about 500 divisions. If Russia decides not to break her neutrality in relation to Japan, that force would be greatly reduced, but at the same time it would be possible to arm Chinese divisions. If we are to credit the leading article in "The Times" of to-day, the United States and Britain will be able to put something like 20,000,000 men into the field. Then we have to fake into account the powerful two-ocean Navy which the United States will then have in existence as well as our own Navy and an overwhelming Air Force.

It seems obvious that it would be possible to send home a great number of men who are wanted in the essential industries. We could not possibly employ these great Forces against Japan alone. We have been told that the main principle on which demobilisation will be based will be age and length of service. I am not certain that I altogether agree with that. I think it is vital that our great industries should receive priority, and I would take first, our four great export industries, cotton, coal, iron and steel and wool. I believe that men who formerly worked in those industries should receive priority in coming home, because our export trade is vital. The shipping trade is already fully employed, but I would add to those industries civil aviation. We shall have a highly trained, competent body of men available, and we should have good transport planes. Next I believe the building industry should receive priority. You only have to go through the cities of the country—Coventry, Plymouth, London and others—to see the vast amount of rebuilding that will have to be done. I therefore ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether it would not be possible in a demobilisation scheme to allow men employed in these industries to have priority in returning home.

This brings me to the question of the export trade. I understand from the speech of my hon. Friend that a survey has been carried out industry by industry and that a committee of expert civil servants of the Department of Overseas Trade are now studying the export trade. At the end of this war we shall be in a very different position from what we were before. For a century and a half we have been the great exporting country of the world, but we have bought our industrial triumphs at a terrible price. In this industrial age we only have one raw material in this country—coal—which provides the basis of the iron and steel industry, but for everything else we depend entirely on our skill as a people to manufacture goods for export. If any nation lives dangerously this nation certainly does.

At the end of the war we shall find our great Ally, the United States of America, the greatest exporting country in the world. The great, benevolent Lend-Lease measure will have sent American goods into every corner of the globe. In this great country—let us face the facts—a young people, energetic, gifted with mechanical genius, the country of Mr. Kaiser, Mr. Ford, and the Farm Belt, will see great and glittering possibilities in the world round about them for an expansion of trade. We cannot carp and criticise if certain people on the other side of the Atlantic do not draw attention to these possibilities. I believe it is equally relevant that men in higher spheres, writers and authors of the stamp of Mr. Agar, should claim that after the war it will be for America a time of greatness, not of material greatness, but of moral greatness to realise the true interest of the United States lies, not in economic Imperialism, but in sharing equally the fruits of the world with other countries. I think it is true that the material interests of the United States are best served by co-operation with the British Commonwealth of Nations. No less than 42 per cent. of America's foreign investments are in the British Commonwealth, and this country in particular provides the best overseas market for American goods. In the past we have indulged in trade wars, rubber wars, oil wars, and shipping wars. This is the path of folly. If we look at the British Commonwealth as a whole and the United States, we find that we send each other goods in bulk which we can obtain only with difficulty from other sources. We send the U.S. wool and rubber and nickel, and they can send us cotton, copper and other very valuable substances. Surely it would be possible for the Commonwealth as a unit to come to an agreement with the United States on post-war trade policies and make our trade not antagonistic but complementary. May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether, in the course of his work, investigations are going on and talks are taking place with people in Washington to study the possibilities?

Finally, I come to the location of industry. When the war ends we shall find areas we knew as special areas enjoying at least a temporary phase of prosperity. Hon. Members like myself must be very familiar with those areas. I shall never forget my first visit to my own constituency of Oldham to find 22,000 unemployed, queues outside the employment exchange, sale notices on the mills, and to go from house to house and be met by that Lancashire colloquialism, "Yes, I have been playing now for two years." Anybody who saw such sights never wants to see them again. We all feel that we must make far greater efforts after the war to cure the problem of the special areas. Fortunately, if we look at the map, we localise the areas in single industries or export industries—South Wales, Lancashire, parts of Cumberland, the Tyne, and the Clyde. We can also see, also from our experience before the war, areas like the Birmingham area, where industries are mixed—light and heavy industries. These areas suffered less than the purely one-industry areas like the special areas. Before the war the Government had attempted to set up trading estates. One went to the Tyne and the other to South Wales. I feel, and perhaps other hon. Members do, that we shall have to take far more active measures after the war to keep the industries in those areas. May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether among his other activities that problem is being considered?

One last word. He has the vast task—he is almost Atlas bearing the World on his shoulders—of reconstruction after the war. I feel strongly that we can devise the machinery, but it is up to us to see that it works. It is for this country and for this House in particular to see that the new spirit which has been born in the war still persists after the war. I believe that during the blitz something like 3,000 tons of bombs were dropped a month and the City of London alone received 50,000 high explosive bombs. That was a high price to pay for the community of spirit which grew up then, and, as one American commentator said, the first and best propaganda our people received overseas were the flames which went up from our cities, for in that period was born the spirit—and my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) referred to it the other day—that "we are all in, it together." We in this House can powerfully effect reconstruction plans after the war if we maintain the spirit that "we are all in it together." Therefore, I hope my right hon. and learned Friend will be able to give us at least a glimpse of some of the thoughts passing through his head and of some of the plans the people in this country are hoping to see, and that we on our part will give a lead to the country in the spirit of "We are all in it together."

I would like to say with what particular pleasure I have listened to the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr). I all too rarely hear his speeches, and although I do not always agree with him, I very much appreciate the way he puts them over. Also I agree with the main burden of his speech. We all want to know what the Government are doing about it now. The hon. Gentleman dealt with the question of export. I am not going to quote a long list of figures. I have not them with me. When I came into the House I did not know that I was going to speak, but I would remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman to whom these remarks are addressed, of the events which preceded the present war. In the period 1932–39—as far as I recollect it was in 1932—when the tariff policy came in, our exports fell by about 50 per cent. It is well that he should appreciate that point when considering the policy that the Government will have to adopt when the war comes to an end. I, personally, hope some way will be found of continuing a form of international Lend-Lease whereby the peoples with exportable surpluses are prepared to export them to countries which have less than they have without expecting a quid pro quo.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman referred to the Beveridge Report. I do not propose to detain the House by indulging in criticism of that Report except to say this. All the main Government speakers in the three days' Debate—the Lord President of the Council, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary—and, on a previous occasion, the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself, gave a certain meed of praise to the Report but said it could only be carried out subject to financial considerations. With great respect to all four Ministers, I want to say that that is nonsense. It does not depend upon financial considerations, as such, at all. It depends upon our economic resources and I hope those Ministers will accept the view, if they have not already done so, that what is morally right is economically possible, that what is economically possible must be financially practicable and that the financial machine must be so amended as to enable us to make the maximum use of our natural resources. If application of the Beveridge scheme is morally right, then it is economically possible and ought not to be stopped by book-keeping entries which prevent us from getting at our natural resources.

I want now to refer to the Uthwatt Report. I am not satisfied with that Report. I agree that if is the habit of the Government to have reports, pigeonhole them and let them get dusty in the hope that the House will not exercise a watchful eye, but for four reasons I would ask that the Uthwatt Report should not be put into operation as it now stands. First, it states specifically in the terms of reference that one of the objects of the Report is to stabilise the value of land. Well, the person who drafted the terms of reference or made that statement, does not know what he is talking about. You cannot stabilise the value of land; the value of land constantly varies. What you can do is to stabilise the price of land, but it is physically impossible to stabilise its value. Even a Tory organisation like the Ipswich Chamber of Commerce has condemned the Report on that account. Secondly, the Report claims to put a tax on site values. It does nothing of the kind. It puts a tax on improvement, which is the very thing we want to avoid. I nearly got the same Chamber of Commerce to condemn the Report on that account, but they did not like to give approval to the views I hold about site values.

Thirdly, the compensation proposed in the Report will react entirely unfairly on the community. The proposal is that whatever land is appropriated should be compensated for on the basis of the 1939 valuation. But no valuation was taken in 1939, so how it is to be done I do not know. But even if it were possible, I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not forget that the 1939 values were grossly speculative, and that if that is to be the basis of appropriation, the landlords of the country will do what is vulgarly known as "Walk away with the swag." Fourthly, the Report does nothing at all to stimulate production which, after all, is an essential thing. By that I mean that in its approach to the whole land question, it places no penalty at all on those people who own or control land and who either use it badly or do not use it at all. For those reasons the Report stands condemned.

I wish to switch the Debate back to a point raised by the Secretary of State for War—whom I am glad to see here—after my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. McGhee) had spoken earlier in the day. The Minister quoted some remarks made by my hon. Friend in an election address and they prejudiced the Debate very much. I am not a pacifist and I am not really sure whether my right hon. Friend is a pacifist although the sentiments expressed were pacifist. Be that as it may, he had every right to express those sentiments. What I want to say to hon. Members opposite who jeered at those sentiments and "Hear hear'd" the Secretary of State for War is this, Let them not forget the part they played in arming Germany. I conclude with a quotation from none other than the Governor of the Bank of England. In a speech which he made in New York in the early days of 1932, in the presence of certain eminent bankers of that great city, he said:
"We may have to lend the German people £50,000,000. We may never get it back but it will be less loss than the fall of Nazism."

I think I should be ill-advised to attempt to follow the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) in his slight digression. What I would like to do is, briefly, to support as strongly as I can the case very well put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr). I do not want to go into matters of detail but I want to make out a case on general grounds and I hope the Minister without Portfolio will take advantage of this opportunity to make a really comprehensive and satisfactory statement on this subject. I can assure him that in the minds of many Members of this House and the great majority of the people of the country, this subject is second to none in importance and urgency. I am quite certain that the Minister has it in his power to contribute as much to the winning of the war in the shortest possible time as the most careful and elaborate planning on the part of the combined chiefs of staff, production boards and all the rest of the apparatus which is employed to plan and harmonise our war effort. These bodies can only achieve results if they have the wholehearted and unstinted support of the people of the country behind them.

People to-day are in what I might call a somewhat delicate frame of mind. We have been at war for rather more than 3½ years and although I am thankful to say there is not the slightest indication of war-weariness in the country, yet people are suffering from what is generally known as war nerves. In the first place, that sense of crisis which was aroused when acute and immediate danger threatened the country, and which prevailed during the time of Dunkirk and for some considerable time afterwards, no longer exists and there is a feeling that so far as the prospect of invasion and total destruction is concerned, the worst is over. On the other hand there seems to be a realisation that in some respects the worst is yet to come; that the real war has hardly yet begun, that a great deal more hard work will have to be done, great sacrifices made and great sufferings undergone before we are through, and that we shall need all our strength, inspiration and firmness of purpose from now on until the end. Alongside this realisation there is an undercurrent of uneasiness and dissatisfaction which even the Prime Minister, by his recent broadcast, has not altogether dispelled. I think recent by-elections have proved that conclusively. The curiously uninspired all-Party communications which have been going out in support of Government candidates, and which have invited the electors to believe that the verdict of a single constituency was flashed round the world as though it were the voice of Britain, have been increasingly disregarded. Even the Prime Minister's recently expressed hope in this House that people would take every opportunity of expressing their disapproval of truce-breakers seems to be falling more and more on deaf ears.

I spend a good deal of time in my constituency and the impression that I have formed is that this uneasiness and dissatisfaction centres almost entirely round the doubts which people feel with regard to the Government's reconstruction policy and their anxiety as to the future. Memories of 1919, with its chaos, disillusion and frustration, are still too near at hand and too vivid for people to be able to feel any assurance that history will not be allowed to repeat itself, and they are looking for some tangible sign that the Government have no intention of allowing it to repeat itself. Unless the Government can do something to dispel that anxiety, it may prevent people putting forth that last ounce of energy and effort which is so urgently required. For example, members of local authorities tell me they are being impeded in their plans by the fact that they have no knowledge of the Government's intentions and attitude to planning problems and what power they are likely to be given, and I think the same is true of other parts of the country. Also there is a general feeling that the Beveridge Report, if it has not been quietly shelved, is, at any rate, no longer regarded as a matter of urgency.

I think it is most important that this feeling at the present critical time should be dispelled and I should like, as strongly as I can, to re-inforce the hope which my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Molson) expressed, that the Government will not be deterred from dealing with these matters by the knowledge that they are controversial. Every Measure during the last hundred years which has achieved anything worth while has been controversial. Some have been bitterly and violently controversial and, if it is possible for matters of this sort to be vetoed simply because certain groups of people who do not like them can get together and call them controversial, it means that we are not going to have any planning or progress at all till the, war is over and that the history of 1919 will be allowed to repeat itself. There are those, I know, who take the view that we should "keep our eye on the ball" to the ex- clusion of everything else, and that it is premature to discuss these questions. They say: "Let us win the war first and then start to talk about these things." I cannot too strongly dissent from that view. Winning the war and planning for the future are not inconsistent but are complementary one to the other. All my contacts and association with people outside convince me that people will work harder, fight better and endure more if they have the assurance that concrete plans are being drawn up to ensure that, on this occasion, their sufferings and tribulations shall not have been in vain.

I should like to take the opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the very serious manner in which this matter has been discussed by several Members. The greatest danger that the country is faced with at present is the growth of cynicism. There is, undoubtedly, a mass of cynicism regarding the Government's intentions, real or otherwise, in relation to post-war problems. Take the two matters which are uppermost in the minds of people to-day. The Beveridge Report will attain importance only if the Government fail in other respects. If the Government do their real duty there will be no need to bother about the Beveridge Report. It has attained such proportions in the minds of people because they do not believe the Government are serious. I represent a division which suffered more than any other area in the country after the last war, and I would do anything rather than go through again the experience of the last 20 years. Unfortunately, instead of evidence of provision for the immediate post-war period, we see evidence of the opposite. That will not do. When we have disposed of the enemy abroad the people of this country will deal with the enemy at home, and they will regard those people as enemies at home who have failed to make provision for them after they have defeated the enemy abroad.

Let us, therefore, see to it that no cause shall be given to the people, who will have fought and bled and died and sacrificed, to believe that there is left at home a greater enemy than they defeated abroad. The only way to do that is to make provision. To-day people may be offered two things. One is a great constructive scheme of social legislation in- tended to meet the needs of our people arising from whatever cause—unemployment, sickness, poverty, or ill-health. The great evil that our people in South Wales have suffered from is unemployment. I do not care what your vision may be about social legislation, I prefer work. Before Beveridge, give me work. I ask my right hon. Friend, therefore, to give me some hope for my people. At present they are employed, men and women alike; to-morrow, when the war ends, tens of thousands of them will be returning from war industries to poverty-stricken homes. Poverty will overwhelm them where there is no work. I know it is a gigantic task, and I sympathise with my right hon. Friend in the immensity of the problem, but I urge him to use all his energy and to bring in all the genius possible in the nation, to ensure that our people will not again go through the horrors of the last 20 years.

I am so wholly in agreement with my hon. Friends who have spoken, that I rise only to say a word on behalf of the body of men who are affected by demobilisation and for whom I have especial sympathy. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Kerr) referred to a remark of the Minister without Portfolio in December last that, subject to military needs, the broad principle on which demobilisation should proceed and on which plans had already been drawn up, was that discharge would be based, in the main, on age plus length of service. That principle does not do justice to our Forces in India and the Middle East and I invite him to make it clear, if not to-day, at the earliest possible moment, that service abroad will be taken into special consideration. I know it is true that those who have served in this country since the beginning of the war have been doing their duty and that nothing whatever can be said by way of criticism of a person who has so served, but that is not the only point. The point which has to be borne in mind is the effect of foreign service upon the young man who is continuously subjected to it, and particularly to service in the desert.

I know young men 10 and 11 years younger than myself who, at the critical age, when they come upon manhood, have been serving in the desert continuously for perhaps 26 or 27 months out of the last 30. I know what they feel about the question of demobilisation because I have been there. I am in constant communication with them by correspondence and I want to refer to two letters which I received only recently from officers serving in the Eighth Army. The first said, "Mind you ask stinking Questions in the House if the 'rats' out here do not get home leave." The second said, "The chief after-the-war 'grouse' you hear out here is the fear that the Eighth Army may be sent further east instead of being sent home." After what my right hon. Friend has said, that danger is a real one, because in order to give justice to those men who have been serving in the Far East and the Middle East there must be a definite recognition of the effect of the unnatural conditions to which they have been subjected. The absence of home comforts and home life and of the effect of the extreme lonliness upon young men, should give them a definite priority in demobilisation over those who have been serving at home and living in their own milieu. I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to say that what some of us desire as a mere measure of justice, should be accorded to these men.

This Debate has covered a wide field and has attained a measure of unity because it has been actuated by concern about the future of our people after the war. I want to re-echo what my hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) said. What the men in the Forces and the men in the factories are worried about is whether they will be able to get a job after the war and be able to earn wages in order to keep themselves. That is the thing above all others that is really concerning the people of this country, because they have not forgotten what they had to go through after the last war. We are in a country which is dependent upon international trade and, therefore, we are dependent upon the arrangements which can be made with other countries after the war, in order to promote the well-being of ourselves, our Allies and the whole world. I hope that the Government are not forgetting the pledges which have been given to the world in the Atlantic Charter and that they will be carried out in the spirit in which I believe they were entered into, without qualifications or reservations of any kind.

We must have a system under which the products of the world can be exchanged freely and equally between all countries. Unless we have that, we shall gradually drift into the position in which we were before the war, in which unemployment continued at very high levels and in which continuous uncertainty and anxiety prevailed. The whole of Europe became a closed area to imports from the United States and the rest of North and South America and from other parts of the world which were engaged in producing foodstuffs and other primary materials. In the attempt by European nations to create self-sufficiency other countries were brought into a condition of depression and despair, and that had its reaction also upon Europe. We have to get away from a system which produces such results. We have to get away from the idea of trying to make each country a closed economy. We have to recognise that we live in a world in which every person, every nation, is interdependent upon every other and in which the greatest production of wealth and the fairest distribution of it, can only be attained on the basis of producing it in those areas in which it can be produced best and most economically, instead of attempting to foster in an artificial way industries and production in areas which are not suited for them.

I would particularly like to mention the position with regard to housing after the war. There is a need of an exceptional and urgent character. There is not only the fact that a great many dwellings have been destroyed by the action of our enemies. There is a complete cessation of building and a wear-and-tear and lack of repair of existing buildings which have produced a great shortage of housing accommodation, particularly in London. When the people who have been evacuated during the war come back, there will be a clamour of a most alarming character for accommodation. It is a problem which will have to be faced and faced very energetically. We have had some mention today of the report of the Uthwatt Committee. I press upon my right hon. and learned Friend the view that the Uthwatt Committee did not cover a large part of the field which has to be considered in connection with housing and replanning. One of the greatest obstacles that our local authorities have had to face up and down the country is the enormous price they have to pay for land for housing, street widening and other replanning purposes. The Uthwatt Committee did not touch that problem because it was outside their terms of reference; therefore, this is a problem which I hope—indeed, I venture to feel sure—that my right hon. and learned Friend is examining.

We cannot go on under a system in which land is held up against the demand for housing and other purposes, at exorbitant and outrageous prices. I hope that some attention will also be paid to the adverse effects of our system of local rating, which is imposing a heavy burden upon the provision of housing accommodation. If we want to get housing more cheaply, we must consider whether some change will not have to take place in that respect. I hope some plan will be made by which questions of the valuation of land and the incidence of rates, and all the other economic factors which bear upon this important industry, which is capable of giving a great deal of employment after the war, will be dealt with in a manner calculated to raise the barriers now opposed to the building of houses.

I had no intention of taking part in this Debate when I came down to the House, but I should like to say that I rather regret that more hon. Members have not found it possible to be present to hear the really remarkable unanimity of opinion which has been expressed from both sides. I should like in the name of my hon. Friends opposite, with whom, frankly, I am associated in this matter, to thank my hon. Friends on this side, the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and others, for the very generous tributes they have paid to the speeches made by my hon. Friends opposite. It just shows how frequently in the House of Commons, on what appears to be an unlikely occasion, when not much interest is evident, speeches of vivid interest are made.

In the few words I have to say I should like, in the first place, to point out the extreme inconvenience of the system which has grown up—I do not say the Government are to blame—in connection with the offices both of my right hon. and learned Friend sitting opposite and of the Minister of Town and Country Planning. What is the situation? Those Ministers have practically no administrative duties in the ordinary sense of the word, they have no great Departments to control, and what they are engaged upon, as we hope we may hear from my right hon. and learned Friend, are very extensive plans for the future rehabilitation of this country both during this Parliament and afterwards. All that will require legislation, and therefore, unless some special occasion is given by the Government, it is almost impossible to discuss the work of their offices. If it is discussed on the Adjournment, you, Mr. Speaker—I say it with respect to you—like every other occupant of the Chair, will naturally rule it out of Order because it would involve legislation. If we asked for the administrative Estimates to be put down, we should doubtless be told again that this question is one which will require legislation and one which we cannot discuss on Estimates. Therefore, I would suggest to my hon. Friend opposite who is one of the Assistant Whips, indeed to the Whips of both sides, that they should consider whether there should not be put down some Motion which would bring a discussion of both offices and a discussion of legislation into Order, so that we might discuss both what my right hon. and learned Friend is doing and what the prospective Minister of Town and Country Planning is doing. It is easy to be satirical about this, but I have no hesitation in saying that the average Member of the House, quite apart from the average member of the public, is in almost complete doubt as to the intentions of those two right hon. Gentlemen, as to the differentiation between them, and as to what they are going to do.

I associate myself most strongly with the speeches made from the Benches behind me, and with speeches made from the Benches opposite, on one aspect of the question, and far the most important aspect. An hon. Friend of mine on the Benches behind, who represents one of the divisions of Wales, said it was just too dreadful to contemplate what will happen in this country if a condition of affairs arises after the war similar to that which arose after the last war. I want to say in the simplest possible terms, not having prepared any statement in advance—and I would ask my hon. Friends on this side to accept this from me as an earnest expression of opinion—that it really is not a question of class or party or of youth or age. No person in the country with any decent feelings can contemplate without horror such a condition of affairs as arose from 1920 onwards. I can assure the Government, and I can assure the Prime Minister also, that not only will my hon. Friends who normally sit on this side of the House but some of us also will have a great deal to say after the war which might be described as of a revolutionary character if we are faced with that sort of situation.

There is a less important but pertinent point in connection with this matter. I hope my hon. Friends on this side will not mind my mentioning it when it is for them in a rather delicate state of suspended animation, for certain domestic reasons connected with their party. I want to see, and I think a great many of my hon. Friends want to see, this form of Government continued during the war, and, I must add, after the war; but let me warn the Government and warn my right hon. and learned Friend that mere statements of a somewhat banal character that we must all support the war effort, that we must all believe in the Prime Minister and everything will be all right, will not win many more by-Elections. There will have to be some fuller statement of what the Government are going to do during the war and after, and if my hon. Friends on the Right—if there be any on the extreme Right, and I do not say there are—or my hon. Friends on the extreme Left say "We object because that particular statement is a Tory doctrine or a Socialist doctrine"—then the Government will have to face up to that position. If the extreme Tories or the extreme Socialists do not like, we cannot help it. The Government will have to go on. We cannot have the Government saying "We cannot do this because the Socialists do not like it," or "We cannot do that because the Tories do not like it." No Government can be carried on in that way.

I therefore beg my right hon. and learned Friend to be as explicit as he can. It does not matter, if he does offend some of us who are Tories and some who are Socialists. I use the old-fashioned terms which they use in the country. Why should a Conservative not call himself a Tory? Let us call ourselves what everybody else calls us, Tories and Socialists. What is important, and I agree on this point with my hon. Friend who represents one of the divisions of Wales, is that the public should not get into the cynical state when they say, "We have heard these people talking, these Tories and Socialists. They have been years in power. What do they mean to us? They talk a lot of things, they say this and that and they say a lot of things, but what are they going to do?" There is another point which all of us who are practical politicians in this House should never forget, and it is that a great number of people are growing up, and are going to join the Army this year, who have never had any ordinary political instruction of any kind. They know nothing about the policies of the Socialist party or of the Tory party. Those are the people upon whom, after the war, we shall largely depend to govern the country, and the Government will have to convince them that the policy put forward will be for the benefit of the country. I apologise for standing between the House and the right hon. and learned Gentleman for even a few minutes, but I hope that I have not been unhelpful. I am speaking, I believe, for many sections of opinion, almost the House as a whole, in saying that we want to know more than we have heard about the present and the future policy of this Government.

I should like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman a question before he replies, and at the same time I should like to add my humble word of congratulation to the tributes which have already been paid to the hon. Member opposite. Great responsibility hangs upon the Minister without Portfolio.

In spite of what may have been said about opinion in the country, I still feel that the public are most anxious to know what the plans of the Government will be, and it is vital that those plans should be worked out as quickly as possible. As I say, it is a great burden that hangs upon the Minister, and the question I want to ask is whether some of the outside organisations which have been working on various problems of reconstruction are to continue to do so. I have heard that some departments of Universities are now being discouraged from continuing certain work which they have been doing in the past. It is a great pity if that is so. I hope they will not be discouraged, but on the contrary given facilities for carrying on independent research. It seems most desirable that independent research into many aspects of this vast question of reconstruction should be continued, it may be for some time, even though it may not always follow quite the lines which the Government Departments like. I do not think there can be a very good reason for discouraging them, and I am sure it would not be one that would appeal to the Minister. It may be that to some extent they duplicate the work, but I am not sure that that would not be of value. We have not to make the mistakes that we made after the last war, and the solution of these problems is very difficult. The question I want to put to the Minister is whether he will encourage these outside organisations to continue their research on the special problems on which they have been engaged.

Several hon. Members who have spoken have found it rather difficult to keep within the rules of Order and to avoid discussion of legislation. I find it rather difficult to reply to a good many of the matters which have been raised both for that reason and also because I am called upon to deal with a number of matters which are quite plainly within the province of some of my colleagues. After all, as I pointed out before—and I do hope the House has got this plain—what are these functions which I have to carry out? I am leaving out Beveridge, if I may for the moment, because I will discuss it presently. It would be absolutely impossible for me to make myself responsible for all the matters which have been mentioned, such as the export trade, the provision of work, the Uthwatt Report, and a good many others, and I do not try to do it. Each of these matters is the concern of some other Government Department, but it very often happens that something which concerns one Government Department also concerns some other Government Department. One Government Department may like a particular method of approach, which method may be unfortunate to the interests of another Government Department. You have to get a policy which everybody agrees to, and therefore my task is to see that the proposals which the Ministers of particular Departments put up are so moulded or modified, if necessary, as to fit in with the interests of the Government and of the country as a whole. That involves that I get to know a great deal about what is being done in those Departments and the lines of approach which they are taking. I see their papers and I can consult with the Departments, but I must be a little careful in making replies in this House lest I should be accused by my colleagues of trespassing on their territory; but, subject to that, I shall do the best I can to deal with the various topics which have been mentioned.

May I take those topics in the order in which they were mentioned? In that way I shall not forget any of them. The first question I was asked by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) related to the Uthwatt Committee. When I spoke on 1st December last I said that we had determined to set up a Minister of Town and Country Planning. The noble Lord will realise that he had a chance then of having me on the mat, but he was kind enough on that day to let me off, I think. In my speech I announced to the House that we were going to set up the Minister. For some weeks previous to that I had, in fact, been doing the work of the Minister of Town and Country Planning. Of course, when we set up the Minister I handed over to that Minister all those matters which fell within his Department. The Uthwatt Report and all that it embraces fall within the primary responsibility of the Minister of Town and Country Planning. I do not know whether his Bill is yet available to Members, but he is bringing in an Interim Development Bill which protects the position of interim development. Although he proceeds by steps, with true Scottish caution, he is a pretty determined sort of person, and he means to get up the staircase even though he goes one step at a time. His next step, I imagine, to which the Government have announced their approval, is to give local authorities ample powers to purchase land. We have indicated that we were in favour of such a provision, so that if land of any sort is involved in a reconstruction plan the local authority may buy the land and develop the land as a whole.

Then, of course, will come the Uthwatt Report. That Report has certainly never been pigeon-holed, if "pigeon-holed" means put in a hole and left there disregarded. On the contrary; it has been very actively canvassed one way and the other. The Minister of Town and Country Planning is looking into this matter and giving a great deal of attention to it, and in due course he will present his conclusions, I have no doubt, to the Ministerial Committee over which I preside dealing with reconstruction matters. We have not yet got his conclusions—and indeed he has not been in his office a very long time. I do not think he has wasted any time at all in doing what he has, and I expect he will shortly let us have his views about it. So that I answer the hon. Member by saying, when he asks to what extent I have transferred, that the primary responsibility is transferred entirely. It is entirely now with the Minister of Town and Country Planning to make his proposals, and it remains for me in this matter, as it does in any other matter if conflict, controversy or difference of view arises between that Department and any other Department, to do the best I can to help to find a solution.

Some of us are probably a little dull. Would the Minister tell us exactly where the line of demarcation is between his office and the office of the Minister of Town and Country Planning?

The whole matter of town and country planning, the existing Acts, the Uthwatt Report, all those things, are entirely the concern of the Minister of Town and Country Planning. There is no question of overlapping. I stand in relation to his Department in the same position as I stand to half-a-dozen other Departments, namely, when he has some proposal which he wants to put in, in order that that proposal may be looked at from all angles to sec how it affects other Departments, he puts that proposal up before my Committee. If necessary, we have it looked at by the Official Committee, then it goes on to the Ministerial Committee and then we pass it on to the War Cabinet.

We are the co-ordinating Committee, but there is no question of conflict between us. We are absolutely distinct.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has more or less answered the question which I wanted to put to him, and from what he says it appears that he has really no function of initiation. Other Departments may or may not initiate plans, and he merely has a co-ordinating function. If that is so, I must say it is quite different from what we understood.

That is substantially right, and that is what I stated in plain terms on 1st December, subject to this, that there were certain topics where there was no Department primarily concerned or where so many Departments were equally concerned that you could say that the topic did not fall into the ambit of any particular Department, for example, civil aviation or demobilisation, with which many Departments are concerned. When that happens, I play a primary role. If the hon. Member will do me the honour of reading my speech again—I am sorry to ask him to do it, but I took some trouble with that speech—I think he might find it absolutely plain. When a matter which is primarily the concern of one Ministry comes up from that Ministry to my Department, I act merely as a coordinator, or as chief co-ordinator, except that in regard to those matters for which there is no Minister primarily responsible, I myself take the primary role.

Certainly, I can, and I very often do. I encourage all sorts of research. I cannot understand the frame of mind of a person who does not encourage research because he thinks he is going to get an answer he does not like. The more research that I have, the better. Very often in the light of that research which people are good enough to send to me there is some problem which occurs to me, and I write to the colleague in whose province it falls.

Does not that mean that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is a sort of inverted Poo-Bah?

I should be an inverted Poo-Bah if I was foolish enough to try to take responsibility for all those things. I should be Minister of Town and Country Planning, President of the Board of Trade, etc. It is just because I am not an inverted Poo-Bah that I take care not to overlap with the various Departments in whose primary responsibility these matters arise.

I now come to the Beveridge Report. It was actually published on the same day as my speech when I set out the reconstruction machinery. Therefore the Beveridge machinery has arisen since that speech. I am anxious to make clear what the Beveridge machinery is. It is different from the machinery I have indicated for reconstruction, and different in this respect: When reconstruction problems come before a committee it is a Committee of Ministers over which I preside. When Beveridge problems come up before a committee of the War Cabinet it is not a Committee over which I preside. When we had the Beveridge Debate the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) made a most interesting and informative speech, and he indulged his fancy by picking the names of the ideal Committee of Minister he would appoint in the same way as in times of test matches we amuse ourselves by picking the English team to play against the Australians. There is an inveterate rule by which I am bound, and which I heard the Prime Minister repeat recently, that names of members of Cabinet Committees must not be disclosed. Therefore, I must be very discreet. Perhaps I might say that if the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon compared our list with his, he would not be altogether disappointed. I am afraid I must leave it at that.

It is obvious that you want for Beveridge, where you may have frequently to take very important decisions, or at any rate a number of decisions, some authoritative body who can take them. What have we done with regard to Beveridge, because I do want to protest as vigorously as I can against the idea that we are pigeon-holing Beveridge or putting it to sleep? That simply is not true. Oddly enough, the point on which that accusation is very often based is that we have not immediately appointed a Minister of Social Security. People who say that very often forget, I think, that Sir William Beveridge himself, when he was indicating how this thing was to be worked out, contemplated that it should be done either by a Minister, a group of Ministers, or a body of Commissioners for this temporary period, because I am only dealing with the temporary period during which we are working out the proposals. We think it better, and have deliberately come to the conclusion that it is better to work on those lines, namely, to leave, for instance, to the Minister of Health those various problems arising out of sickness insurance, to leave to the Minister of Labour those various problems arising out of unemployment insurance, to leave to the Home Office those various problems dealing with workmen's compensation, because, after all, in those Departments there are the officials who are experienced and who have given many years of time to working on those problems. If you were to appoint a Minister of Social Security—and he has got to be a real Minister; he has to be able to function efficiently and quickly—you would have to perform a surgical operation by cutting away from those various Departments the staffs they have got, and be it observed how extraordinarily difficult that would be in war-time.

I will tell the hon. Member why. Because you do not in a Government Department, especially in the case of senior civil servants, work in completely watertight compartments, or confine yourself to one particular aspect of things, but are engaged on various matters that concern your Department. Some of those Departments are very busy. If you tried to provide the Minister of Social Security with the staff that would be necessary both to administer the current work, because I suppose that would have to be done, and all that staff with skill and experience you want to advise you as to the line you are going to take, I believe you would have very great difficulty indeed.

I would like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to answer this question, which I believe he will think is a fair one. What many of us feel, to use a colloquialism, is that the Government have put the cart before the horse. They have set up a Ministry of Town and Country Planning. We believe that the difficulty in setting up a Ministry of Social Security would not be greater than that which was faced, for instance, by the Coalition Government in the last war when they set up several new Ministries and that in any case the difficulty would not have been as great as it will be now owing to the creation of these two Ministries which will only deal with part of the question of social security.

I do not think the Ministry of Town and Country Planning has anything to do with this at all. I put this to the House. We want to get this Beveridge scheme through as soon as we can. We want to be able to get our legislation as soon as we can. Looking at it as a purely practical business matter, is it not better to use, for example, your Ministry of Health who can get on with the job and get people working on that, and have perhaps some strong Cabinet Committee—a very strong Cabinet Committee—to whom you have to make progress reports from time to time, and if you have not done this or that within a certain time you will get your knuckles rapped? Similarly with the Home Office as regards workmen's compensation. To take my province, for instance, children's allowances are a new thing, which are not within the ambit of any existing Government Department. There is death benefit. That is a new thing. Therefore, with regard to these two things, I have taken them over, and I am working on them, or a staff is working on them under me. I have been lucky enough to get seven very highly placed civil servants to deal with this work and to co-ordinate the development of the work as a whole. We make our report to this Cabinet Committee where we can get authoritative rulings and instruction. No doubt in really important cases the War Cabinet would be consulted.

That is the machinery. I suggest that if hon. Members will look at it, it is a far more efficient and practical business method of getting results. It is one of the methods which Sir W. Beveridge himself contemplated. I am quite satisfied that if you had torn away from these Departments—what you would do with current administration I do not know—blocks of civil servants, you would have had no quicker speed but much more delay in coming to your final conclusions.

Does the Minister mean that, in this mummification of the Beveridge Report which he has just described to us, he has co-ordinating powers, or is the work still to be carried out in the various Government Departments?

I am not mummifying the Beveridge Report at all. I am telling the House the arrangements which we think are the best business arrangements—it is all a matter of business—for translating as quickly as possible the Beveridge Report, or those parts of it which my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council told the House the Government had accepted, into legislative form.

This throws an entirely new light upon the matter of organisation. I still find this quite impossible to reconcile with the explanation given by the Lord President of the Council, when he spoke of the setting up of a small central staff of experienced people to devote their whole time to the matter, which would be under my right hon. and learned Friend. I understand that the actual task of co-ordinating the work of the Ministry of Labour and that of the Ministry of Health is under a War Cabinet Committee, and that my right hon. and learned Friend is concerned only with the matters which do not fall within the ambit of these Departments.

Substantially, that is right. Let me explain how I have been working. It occurred to me that the first thing was to get a clear line of demarcation, so that everybody knew exactly what he was to do. I suppose you can call that co-ordination if you like. I took it upon myself to prepare twenty heads, most of them sub-divided under three or four sub-heads, which could be allocated to the various Departments. When I say that I did it, it was, of course, the staff that did it; entire credit is due to them. Then we discussed it with the various Departments and got them to accept it, so that we were able to present to the War Cabinet Committee an agreed plan, under which each Department knew what its job was. Each Department will in due course present its progress reports to the War Cabinet Committee. We do not work in any spirit of hostility to one another. We all tell each other what our plans are. I see the reports which go to the War Cabinet Committee, and I sometimes say, "Cannot you modify this here or there?" Each Department has a clearly defined sphere. I have given illustrations of the more important spheres. Each of the Departments goes direct to this very high-powered Committee. [An HON. MEMBER: "And each Department has warned other Departments off its own sphere."] It is not a case of warning off. We are not warning each other off. The point is that you do not want a lot of people working on the same problem at the same time.

What is troubling us is the question of what control this House has over the whole matter. Is there any Minister to whom we can address questions on the whole subject?

Questions relating to unemployment should be addressed to the Minister of Labour, questions relating to sickness to the Minister of Health, and questions relating to children's allowances and death benefits to me. Any major question affecting the scheme as a whole can always be addressed to the Prime Minister. I think that is right. That is the arrangement we have made to deal with the matter and in that way I think the House can keep control.

My right hon. and learned Friend says that questions relating to civil aviation, children's allowances and death benefits should be addressed to him. This has been revealed in this Debate. What other questions can be addressed to him?

Civil aviation has nothing to do with the Beveridge Report. I gave that as an illustration of a topic which had no Minister specially responsible for it. Let us stick to Beveridge. I gave two main illustrations of new topics which were not covered by any existing Department, because we do not have children's allowances or death benefits. I said I was taking on responsibility for them, and that I should report to the War Cabinet Committee. In regard to other matters, other Ministers will report to the War Cabinet Committee. That we believe to be the most expeditious way of coming to a conclusion. I am dealing only with Beveridge now. I have tried, to the best of my ability, to deal with the question. I hope I have been able to remove some misapprehension. I would like to give some assurances, if I may. I am quite satisfied that this thing is not being lulled to sleep, put on one side, or pigeonholed. I have seen the work that is going on—very active work is going on. I personally can assure the House that I shall make my contribution to the best of my ability; and I shall remember the old Latin proverb that he gives twice who gives quickly. Some of the problems are really very difficult, and when you get down to the details you come up against difficulties which you never knew existed; so it is not going to be an easy matter or a quick matter.

Several Members have already commented on the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr), and, if it would not be an impertinence, I should like to associate myself with the tributes. I agree with every word of the speech, and I liked the powerful way in which it was delivered. The hon. Member spoke of problems of demobilisation, as did the hon. Member for Oxford City (Mr. Hogg). I am certain that the first essential of a demobilisation scheme is that it should not only be a fair scheme, but that it should be a scheme which the men think is fair. If you get a scheme which men think is not fair, that scheme is broken at the start. If you were to consider merely the claims of industry, there would be something to be said for the principle of last in, first out. The hand of the man who has left the workshop for the shortest time is perhaps less out of practice. But that would be a monstrously unfair scheme. On the other hand, to be too rigid in making a man take his place in the queue when he is a key man, whose demobilisation would give work to other people, would be obviously wrong. We have to try to hold the balance. We must not have so many exceptions to the scheme that we really do away with the principle of age and length of service, but, on the other hand, we must not be so rigid that we retain men who in the interests of trade as a whole ought to be back in civil life. The broad principle is age and length of service, but there must be a latitude so that some men may come out before their normal turn, subject always to the proviso that exceptions must not be so numerous that the scheme breaks down.

Then comes a question to which I have given consideration but to which, after hearing the hon. Member for Oxford today, I will give consideration again. But I must tell the House that it is difficult. It sounds easy if you compare, for instance, a man in the Eighth Army with a fellow who has been sitting at home all the time—though very often, mark you, the man sitting at home wished he had had the chance of being with the Eighth Army. But when you get to intermediate cases they are very difficult. Take the Air Force as the example. Fighters and bomber squadrons are at home. Are you to compare them with the Army of occupation in Madagascar or Iceland? It is very difficult. Should you have a different grading for each of these classes, analysing the nature of service and so on? I am not going to attempt to give an answer to-day, but I do say that the matter having already received some consideration I will see that it is considered again.

May I put one point to my right hon. and learned Friend? A calamitous decision was reached in the last war—I do not think it was altogether the fault of the Prime Minister although he was primarily responsible—to demobilise key men. Men were released who had only just joined the Army, instead of men with three or four years' service. Incidents of a most serious character arose very largely from the grievance felt by men who had served three or four years. Even though the release of men with short service might lead to the employment of thousands of other men, it did cause trouble.

I agree that in exceptional cases it may be done and should be done, but if you open the door wide and bring out a lot of people who have only served a short time in easy conditions, to the prejudice of men who have served a long time, then men will say they are not having a fair deal, and the whole thing will break down with most unfortunate consequences.

May I ask my right hon. and learned friend, who is to adjudicate on these cases when they arise? It is only when the moment arrives, that we shall be able to get equity. Who will hear the cases and decide whether or not they fall into a particular category?

In some cases it will be done by instructions given to commanding officers, and in other cases the matter will be dealt with by departmental chiefs at the War Office.

I do not want to go into the matter in any detail at this moment. I would like in the ordinary case to have notice of that question, so that I can ascertain what really is the answer. I am not satisfied with my answer.

The next question referred to by the hon. Member for Oldham was the position regarding exports. On that the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) made a speech which I think we all liked. He said, and I believe it to be profoundly true, that what is far more important than the Beveridge plan or anything else is the provision of work. Provision of work for men at decent wages is the one aim we must have in view. Is is very easy to say that, but I believe that I am right when I say this is not only a question of economics, but a question of morals. We have gone through this war together in a spirit which I hope will continue after the war. We are going through a difficult time after the war, but the fact that this country has had the courage and ingenuity to get through the difficulties of war, makes one believe that we shall be able to get through the difficulties in regard to employment.

The export trade is, of course, of vital importance. I am speaking now of a subject which concerns the Department of Overseas Trade and the Board of Trade so I must be careful and the House must protect me, if I get my knuckles rapped by those Departments. It is important that we should not waste time after this war. It will be so easy to look to the home market that we may make the mistake of not concerning ourselves, immediately, about exports. We must be very careful not to fall into that error. Immediately the opportunity arises we must do everything we possibly can to win back and increase our export trade. For my own part, I believe that international co-operation is very necessary. I believe the greatest freedom of trade will suit this country best. I believe that we ought to have, and I hope that we shall have, much wider international cooperation than we had before the war, but the difficulty is that, at the moment, we do not know what will be the nature of international co-operation. Until we have a definite idea about that, it is difficult to say anything about it.

I was asked questions about the location of industry. That concerns the Board of Trade. I was asked about housing. That is a matter which concerns the Ministry of Health. I was asked about various other matters, but I have already occupied too much time and I cannot go into them all. I hope that I have dealt with the bulk of the questions put to me. I want the House to believe that this Government, from the Prime Minister down to its humblest member, does regard this question of getting through the peace and providing employment as of the most vital importance. If one could get out of the difficulty by making revolutionary speeches, I would go about making revolutionary speeches, but the trouble is that we should then only get deeper into the mud.

No, but the Noble Lord said that if we did have mass unemployment he might make revolutionary speeches. If that would do any good, we would all do it. We have, however, a great advantage over those who had to deal with the period following the last war. We have a knowledge of what happened then. We have a better appreciation of the function of money than people had then. We pay more attention now to the provision of goods and services and less attention to a mere piece of paper with "One Pound" printed on it. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) will realise that if I am not becoming his pupil, I am, at all events, willing to learn from his utterances. I am discreet, I do not take in everything he says necessarily, but I listen and I try to winnow the chaff from the grain. We must try to increase our productive activity so far as we possibly can. That is far more important than trying to divide up what we have got. We must increase our efficiency. Our plans must be efficient and our workers must be efficient. They must have good health and conditions. Factories must be in suitable places. We must apply modern, up-to-date methods and we have to show the same ingenuity and skill in getting over the troubles of the future, as we showed when we got over the troubles of the Battle of Britain. If we do that, there really is no fear that we shall drift back into that frightful unemployment, which, I agree wholeheartedly, was a tragedy for millions of people in this country between the two wars.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree with me to this extent, that the fulfilment of all the promises he has mentioned depends not, as is often stated, on our financial resources, but on the proper application and use of our economic resources?

I agree that they depend on the proper application and use of our economic resources.

I have listened to this Debate with great interest and we are all very anxious to know what steps the Government are taking to deal with the many problems which will arise the moment the war terminates. These problems are of two kinds, long-term problems and short-term problems. Nearly all our discussions are about long-term policy, and most of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to concerns long-term problems, but before any long-term policy can be implemented in this House there must be a critical period after the war when various temporary emergency policies will have to be put into force to carry us over the interim period. There will be in all probability—although I do not say this with any wish to deter people from making plans—a considerable period during which long-term policy plans can be matured, an interregnum period. What I am worried and concerned about—and my right hon. and learned Friend in his speech has not relieved me in any way, and I am not blaming him, as it seems to be a matter of major Government policy—is that I have not heard a single thing about steps which are being taken to deal with that critical interregnum period which will come immediately after the war and before a long-term policy based on international agreement can possibly be put into operation. Are the Government doing anything about it? Are they making plans? Is it a charge upon any particular Minister to co-operate in these plans? Are we going to furnish the country with an immature long-term policy, not yet conceived, and have no plans made for the interregnum period?

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly till Tuesday, 4th May, pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.