Catalogue description Royal Commission on the Distribution of the Industrial Population (Barlow Commission): Minutes and Papers

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Details of HLG 27
Reference: HLG 27
Title: Royal Commission on the Distribution of the Industrial Population (Barlow Commission): Minutes and Papers

This set of the Commission's numbered papers comprises written evidence submitted to the Commission, memoranda by the chairman and members of the Commission, and oral evidence taken at a private meeting of the Commission. The set is incomplete and it is uncertain whether the papers were weeded or were destroyed by enemy action during the Second World War. Minutes of oral evidence and memoranda submitted by witnesses giving oral evidence at the twenty nine public meetings of the Commission were published in a series of Stationery Office Non-Parliamentary Publications between 1937 and 1939.

Date: 1937-1940
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Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Royal Commission on the Distribution of the Industrial Population, 1937-1940

Physical description: 128 file(s)
Administrative / biographical background:

The Commission was appointed by Royal Warrant dated 8 July 1937 under the Chairmanship of the Rt. Hon. Sir Montague Barlow (later known as Sir Anderson Montague-Barlow) to investigate the causes of the existing distribution of the industrial population, future trends and the social, economic and strategic disadvantages of concentration and to propose remedies.

The immediate stimulus for the enquiry came from the Third Report of the Commissioner for the Special Areas published in 1936. This report related the Special Areas to the problem of the distribution of industry, drawing attention to the imbalance in industrial production and the distribution of industrial population arising from the decline of the older industrial areas on the coalfields and in the hinterland of ports and the artificial concentration of light industry and distributive trades in the Greater London area. It also suggested the restriction of factory construction in the Metropolitan area and the institution of financial inducements to attract industries to the Special Areas. Concern from other sources over the concentration of industrial population in London and other large cities and the industrial, health, communications and defence problems led to the institution of a comprehensive enquiry.

The Commission's Report (1939-40 iv 263; Cmd. 6153) recommended the decentralisation of industry from congested areas, and indicated that the problems were of national urgency and proposed a central national authority, a board for industrial location responsible to the Board of Trade, to deal with them. The Commission's Secretary was a Treasury official, while its Assistant Secretary was drawn from the Ministry of Health. The latter department was at first given responsibility for consideration and implementation of the report and this set of Commission papers seems to have been preserved in the Ministry of Health and its successors, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. In May 1940, responsibility for the report was transferred to the Board of Trade, but wartime conditions prevented its implementation.

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