The Rushden Echo, 30th April, 1943, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Boot Manufacture After The War
Rushden Leaders Discuss the Future
Two interesting speeches, each throwing a somewhat different light on the question of industrial control, were made at the 35th annual meeting of the Rushden and District Boot Manufacturers’ Association. The speakers were Mr. Walter C. Tarry, the outgoing President, and Mr. John White, the new President.
Mr. Tarry mentioned that the industry had been told to prepare for reconstruction.
“From 1932 to 1938 prices of shoes gradually fell to their very lowest possible level. Many were the meetings held in this room, and many were the proposals put up as to the cause of it all. Some manufacturers claimed that the whole cause of the trouble was that some were on piece-work and some on day-work, and that the day-workers held an advantage.
“When the Federation brought in a new National Agreement making piece-work compulsory that did not stop the rot. Now the point I am trying to make is: Are we in this reconstruction going to allow ourselves to be back again in the old terms? The real reason for that slump was over-production,” said Mr. Tarry.
“Now let us compare conditions at that period with the present. Since the war began we have very steadily been brought under control, and materials, labour, profit, and also our production, are licensed.
Problems of Control
“I have heard quite a number of manufacturers say they are looking to the day when all this control will be taken off, but in my judgment it would be the height of selfishness to press for control to be taken off before those firms that have concentrated have had an opportunity of getting back to where they left off, and I refer particularly to those firms that have been absorbed by other manufacturers, and also those who are manufacturing under their own identity but in other buildings.
“All of you will agree, I am sure, when I say that some form of control is absolutely necessary during the war period, and on the whole it has been well done, and you can form some idea of the state we should have been in if no control had been done for us. It would have been a case of materials soaring sky high, as in the last war, and also of some firms getting more than their share and others probably having to close down.
“Out of control has come the utility range of boots and shoes, and although this is not a large range yet, it is large enough to cover the requirements of practically every manufacturer, who on the whole has had to make no alteration in lasts and patterns.
“He has been able to alter his original productions with very little trouble to conform to the utility range, and so far as I know we have had very little interference from the Board of Trade officials so long as the manufactured articles have conformed to the specifications, and prices kept within the ceiling prices.
“I do not consider that when the war is over we should press for control to be taken off too quickly, especially in the matter of control of production.
“I think on this important matter of reconstruction this large Association should frame its own policy, which it hopes is going to be a benefit to all its members, and not leave it to the individual thoughts of any one representative. This matter is not urgent at the moment, but I hope that before that day is too near we shall be able to meet and thrash out this policy so that your representative may attend these meetings with the views of the Association.”
Mr. White, after returning thanks for his election, said:-
“I believe that as a people and as an empire we have now passed safely out of the most grave, dangerous and perilous situation that ever menaced a freedom-loving race.
“Now that we can look back upon the peril in which we were placed, it appears indeed a miracle that we were spared. Thanks for this are perhaps due to the indomitable will and inspiring leadership of Mr. Churchill, whose confidence in final victory when everything seemed lost provided so great an example to us.
“We also need to offer the highest thanks for the deathless heroism of the few who fought against overwhelming odds and held the line until we gathered our strength to such an extent that I believe we may now look forward to victory for our arms within a measurable time.
“Should I be right in this surmise, we shall then be faced with the problems peace will bring problems that some people believe will be far greater than those with which we now have to deal. Strong and wise leadership will be required if we are to solve these problems as successfully as I feel those of the present have been overcome.
“Difficulties there will undoubtedly be, but since no one can possible forecast the post-war political or social structure of the country, I am afraid we cannot anticipate the nature of these difficulties.
“Believing as I do, however, in the high destiny and the higher achievement of the human race, I am confident the ultimate outcome of our present trials will be another long step forward in the march of social progress, and the entrance into a wide sphere of life generally.
“War is a dreadful thing, but to me it would be much more so if I thought that after all the sacrifices and suffering that have been entailed we shall have learned nothing, or that in the post-war world a great advance upon the conditions of 1939 will not be made.
“We hear a good deal about control being continued after hostilities cease. Whilst we agree as to its necessity during war-time and I believe as a body we have co-operated fully in carrying out the control orders I cannot but feel that the sooner the majority of them are taken off the happier we shall be. I presume amongst the ideals for which we are fighting is freedom of thought and action, and free expression of our views freedom from what is known as ‘regimentation.’
“There is, however, one form of control which I should like to see continued. I believe something in the nature of our utility scheme, with very rigid control, should be exercised over the production of cheap and shoddy footwear; in fact, if this were prohibited altogether, the trade as a whole would benefit.
“The manufacture of this class of footwear has been the cause of most of the trouble we have had. In the making of this class of goods it is difficult to maintain the standard of wages we wish to see established. It is a waste of good craftsmanship; no manufacturer cares to associate his name with its manufacture, and last, and worst of all, it is deceptive, disappointing and harmful to the wearer. I hope in this respect our Trade Union friends will co-operate towards its extinction.
“There is a kind of control being advocated by many people which would, I am confident, tend to stifle all initiative, incentive and ambition, whereas I would prefer to see the road left open for the full employment of all the many and varied talents with which the human race is so richly endowed. It would be as well to remember, perhaps, that the greatest empire the world has ever seen and, I think, ever will see, was built up by the free operation of the private enterprise of its people, and for all its shortcomings this empire is still the home of the most free and happy people in the world to-day.
“These critics of private enterprise talk also very loudly of the ‘profit’ motive in industry as though this was the sole purpose of business. To my mind nothing could be further from the truth.
“I believe that the motives that prompt most men to set out upon a business career are, first, the desire to become their own masters, and, secondly, the sense of independence experienced in the opportunity they have of employing their talents in their own way.
“The pride in accomplishment and success is often only attained if the individual is prepared to make great sacrifices and submit to years of self-denial and even hardship. To be successful it is essential, of course, to make a profit, but I cannot agree that the profit motive is the only incentive.
“In conclusion I would like to express the hope that the increased membership of the Association will continue after the war, as I am confident that only by a strong Federation and an equally strong Union can the best conditions for the trade be established.”
Mr. George H. Denton became senior acting vice-president of the Association, and Mr. C. A. G. Slater junior acting vice-president. Mr. Tarry had been president since 1938 and was previously president from 1932 to 1934.