Leeds's Plea For Government Aid
Opportunities Taken And Missed
The ups and downs of many large industrial cities is exemplified in the pitiful condition of the engineering trade in Leeds.
South Le'eds was formerly one of the busiest centres of the industry in the country. To-day there are acres of empty engineering sheds and workshops, a condition which is responsible for two-thirds of the Leeds unemployment figures.
A plea that Leeds engineering works should have some share in the extra work involved in the reconstruction made possible by the government grant has been made by the president of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce, Major Geoffrey H. Kitson.
It should be pointed out, he says, that while Leeds is not scheduled as a Special Area, there are many lirms engaged in the engineering trade in Leeds which have suffered almost as much as a number of firms in the Special Areas.
The history of the engineering trade in Leeds is a story of opportunities taken—
The fame of Leeds engineering products is known the world over, and locomotives made in. Leeds are found in India, China, Japan, South Africa, and the South American states, and Leeds textile machinery in Russia, France, Germany, and Japan. Leeds skilled labour was exported freely, and generally remained abroad to keep the machines in running order. In many cases this same skilled labour was ultimately employed in the manufacture abroad, thus becoming a double loss to the home country.
Loss of Export Trade The main factor in the decline of the industry was the loss of export trade due to economic disturbances after the Great War and the imposition of heavy tariffs.
There have been other factors, however. It has been said of old-established firms that they stuck too long to old-fashioned methods and ideas: that they were slow to take advantage of scientific developments and new processes, and were content to jog along while more enterprising firms were setting the pace.
Certainly Leeds missed its way in the development of electrical engineering and in the construction of motor-cars and wireless apparatus.
The first Rolls-Royce engine was made in Leeds, but the inventor, owing to lack of financial support and encouragement, transferred his skill and ingenuity elsewhere.
Brighter Outlook There is a brighter outlook to-day. Recently the Blackburn Airplane Cornpany, which closed its Leeds factory a few years ago, has reopened it and the manufacture of aeroplane parts will again be seen in full swing presently.
In the manufacture of diesel engines, agricultural and textile machinery, power engines, hydraulic presses, and printing machines Leeds stands as high as any centre in the country.
Forges' Bad Time
It is the heavier branches of the iron and steel trade that arc still languishing, and it is here that government aid would be appreciated, particularly in connection with undertakings of national interest and importance.
The Leeds Forge and Hunslet Steel Works, which formerly employed several hundreds of men, closed down shortly after the Great War, and another forge has been transferred to Manchester.
The engineering trade has been responsible for the foundation of mechanics' institutes in various parts of the city. They were among the first centres of technical instruction in the country and gradually developed into institutions for general culture.
The Leeds Institute of Science, Art and literature was formerly the Leeds Mechanics' Institute.
It is related that Cardinal Manning was invited to give a lecture, and it was not until he arrived in Leeds that he discovered that instead of an audience of working-men he would he faced with a learned gathering of critics.