§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £10,535 be granted to His Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1910, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board for Scotland."
§ Mr. G. N. BARNES
I feel it to be my duty to direct the attention of the House to another matter which comes under the administration of the Local Government Board, which is not altogether unrelated to the Question the House has just been discussing. I refer to the Question of the unemployed. That is a question, as I have said both here and elsewhere, which in my judgment transcends all other questions so far as the interests of the working people are concerned, and which I suggest has not been dealt with adequately by the Local Government Board. I do not suggest for one moment that the Local Government Board can, as a matter 1488 of administration, deal with this question adequately so far as the solution of it is concerned, but I do think that they might have dealt in a more sympathetic way than has been done, and that they might have dealt with it in such a way as at all events to lessen the distress arising from unemployment in Scotland, and to give the authorities which have been set up under the Unemployed Workmen's Act of 1905 the assistance which I think is their due. In raising this question, or attempting to raise it, some few weeks ago, I was ruled out of order, but I remember that on that occasion—the occasion of the Vote for the Local Government Board of England—the President of the Local Government Board of England stated that he had dealt with all the applications that had been made to him by the Distress Committees in England, to the satisfaction of those bodies in the sense that they were granted all the money for which those bodies asked. I am sorry that that cannot be said of the Local Government Board for Scotland. The Scottish Board has dealt with the distress committee at Glasgow, for instance, unsatisfactorily and unsympathetically, not only during the last year, but during the whole three years the present Government has been in office. Why is it that the distress committees of Scotland cannot be dealt with so satisfactorily by the Local Government Board of Scotland as the distress committees in England have been dealt with by the English Board? I cannot believe that it is because the distress committees in Scotland are more unreasonable than the distress committees in England. I suggest that the need in Scotland, and especially in Glasgow—for which I speak more particularly—has been greater than the need elsewhere; but that need has not been recognised and dealt with as we should like to see it dealt with now, and as we think it ought to have been dealt with before.
Let me say a word on the Act and the interpretation put upon it recently in contradistinction to the interpretation of two years ago. I suggest that there is nothing seasonal about the Act. It does not lay down that distress committees shall deal with unemployment only during the winter time. That interpretation has been given to it recently, but it is not in the Act. It ought to be apparent to any man that unemployment if it exists in the summertime is just as calculated to create distress as in the winter-time—modified, of course, by the more moderate weather. But when 1489 a man is out of work in the summer-time the rent man comes for the rent, and the children have to be fed just the same as in the winter. Moreover, we are now, I hope, at the fag end of a severe industrial depression, which has put to the test the staying powers of thousands of workmen throughout the industrial centres of the country, and inasmuch as there are workmen now who have been out of work for a longer period than perhaps was the case a year and a half ago in the depth of winter, I suggest that the need at the present time, from that point of view, is more acute than it was two winters back. As an example, I put forward the claim which Glasgow has made for the consideration of the Government. Two or three weeks ago, having found it impossible to deal with the Local Government Board in Scotland, a deputation came here and put before the Secretary for Scotland the very reasonable claim that they should have sufficient money granted to enable them to carry on the work which they had been carrying on for some considerable time, and in connection with which they had been able to supply work to 700, 800, or 900 men, the number varying with the circumstances of the time. That request was refused. They were told that the Act was a seasonal Act, and that it would be suspended during the summer weather—at all events, they should try it, and the Government would wait and see what happened. Within a very few days something did happen. The unemployed of Glasgow got out of hand, and forced their way into the town hall in spite of the police and other authorities. For my part—and I am sure I speak for all my fellow Members for Glasgow—we do not want a recurrence of that sort of thing; but we want more sympathetic consideration by the Government so as to prevent its taking place again. It may be said that Glasgow has had more money during the last year than other industrial centres in Scotland, and that therefore her needs have been generously met. That may be so: I am not denying that it is so. But Glasgow's needs have been greater than the needs elsewhere, and Glasgow has not been dealt with in a manner appropriate to those needs. As proof of that, I would remind the Lord Advocate of a Report issued within the last few days by the Poor Law authorities of Glasgow, in which it is pointed out that the number of people in the poor-houses of the Glasgow area have increased during the last year by no less than 344. Moreover, so 1490 acute is the present distress in Glasgow that the poor rate has had to be raised, and the statement is on record from the distress committee that large numbers of the men who had applied for assistance and registered their names as unemployed, when the committee made inquiry with regard to them, had disappeared, having been evicted from their houses, and had found asylum in the poor-houses. That is a striking illustration, and, to my mind, a convincing proof of the present acute and abnormal distress in Glasgow.
Then take the unemployed figures themselves, in connection with the contention that the Act is a seasonal Act. In February, 1907, the Glasgow Distress Committee were expressly reminded that the Act was not a seasonal Act, that their duties did not end with the advent of spring, and that they had to make application with a view to providing for the whole summer. The number of unemployed, as given by the Board of Trade figures in regard to the trade unions was at that time 4.2 percent. Since then the figures have fluctuated a little, but, on the whole, they have gone from bad to worse, until taking the whole country they were 7.9 at the end of May, or just about double what they were in February, 1907, when the distress committee were told that they were not to stop their proceedings because of the advent of spring. The position at Glasgow, however, is much worse than is indicated by the figures for the whole of the country. The recent deputation to the Secretary for Scotland submitted figures of a most alarming character in regard to Glasgow, indicating that the eight per cent. for the whole of the country was absolutely doubled in Glasgow. There is no mistake in these figures, because they are collected carefully from the trade unions in the Glasgow area. We have a number of tables, first of all, from 30 local trade unions, showing, not eight per cent., but an average of 16.7 per cent. of unemployed. Other unions are given even worse than that, where the percentage comes out at something like 19. I have made inquiry in regard to my own trade of engineering, and I find that the figures at the end of June are actually worse than those I have just given, and that instead of 742 men out of work at the end of May, we have 800 men out of work at the end of June. And, further, another fact which comas out of these difficulties is this: If you take what may be called the primary employments in the engineering and shipbuilding industries of Glasgow, and upon which the 1491 city largely depends, you will find the striking fact that in the pattern-making, for instance, and in the moulding—specially represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson)—that the average of the unemployed in the month of June, at midsummer, was actually 19 per cent. So far as I see, these figures show exceptional distress in Glasgow and the Glasgow area over other parts of the country. The figures in regard to the primary occupations show that unemployment is not likely to be very much better in the immediate future. Another word with regard to the plea which, I understand, has been set up by the Scottish Office in regard to inactivity. It has been said, and with some show of reason, that there are a large number of men out of work in Glasgow—many thousands, in fact—and that the number dealt with by the distress committee is a relatively small one. It is therefore said that these 700 or 800 men—or whatever the number may exactly be—dealt with by the distress committee at any one time are simply men who stick like limpets to the rock of the distress committee, and are not going to let go while they are provided for. I say there is absolutely nothing in that. It is proved by the figures submitted to the Scottish Office only two or three weeks ago. What do we find in the official figures? We find that the men dealt with during the spring of this year, to the number of no less than 14,000 of the applicants, were men who did not apply last year. We find, when we come to analyse those 14,000 men, this further somewhat striking fact, that of them no less than 10,000 were those who had applied for the first time to that or any other local authority to be relieved from distress through lack of employment. The fact indicates that the men you are now dealing with are men who have found themselves in a difficult position owing to the long-continued depression. Many of them, as the figures show, are not the ordinary labouring man who goes to the distress committee because he is in necessitous circumstances as soon as he gets out of work. Many of these men are tradesmen who, two or three years ago, would have scorned the idea of going to any distress committee, but who, owing to stress of circumstances, now have been obliged to go to this local authority for the first time in their lives. It shows, therefore, the extreme need of a more liberal and sympathetic considera- 1492 tion than hitherto given to the demands of Glasgow.
Just another word as to the effort made by the Glasgow Corporation through the distress committee, and which has not been met in the way I think it ought to have been met. I refer to the effort to employ the men nearer to the city than at Palace Rigg, which is some 12 or 13 miles out of Glasgow. Having regard to the fact that the fares of the men totalled up to a large sum, efforts were made by the Glasgow Corporation to provide work nearer home. After a great deal of negotiation they fixed upon some land immediately on the borders of Glasgow, and proposed to buy it for the purpose of raising food products. This ought to have been looked at sympathetically by the Local Government Board. As a matter of fact, when application was made, and the Board were expressly told for what purpose the money was applied for, the corporation were encouraged to go on, and they did go on. Then, after two or three months' delay, after various letters had passed between the parties, it was found, forsooth, in November of last year, by the Local Government Board, who came down upon the distress committee, that the work could not be sanctioned because it was an industrial undertaking. We all know the extreme danger of all these relief works. We are not at all unmindful of the fact that most are uneconomic; many of them compete with ordinary labour in the ordinary market. But a great deal of that work has been sanctioned by the Local Government Board, and carried out. I do not defend the relief works of this sort which produce for the market. I do not like them. But I want to say, with regard to this particular work, that the distress committee had made careful inquiry and careful provision whereby the stuff raised from the land would not come into competition with the produce raised in the immediate neighbourhood. On the other hand, the produce raised was to be of such a character as would have prevented the importation from foreign countries of produce which constantly passes that particular area into the city of Glasgow, and is sold there every day. Having regard to that fact, I think the effort has not met with that sympathetic consideration by the Local Government Board that those concerned had a right to expect.
A word with regard to another matter of a more general character, but having special reference to Glasgow and the Glasgow area. There has been something said 1493 already with regard to the work of the Congested Districts Board. I want to guard myself against saying anything that might be construed into lack of sympathy with the work of that Board. I know there are some areas in the Highlands of Scotland which are not sufficiently large for the people to live in, and it is therefore, I suppose, necessary for the Congested District Board to make some arrangements whereby the population may be spread out. But surely the very last place they ought to be spread out to is Glasgow—the very last place, industrial centres like Glasgow and Dundee! These places are congested areas in themselves, and the only justification for sending people from a congested area into Glasgow would be that there was a demand for their labour in Glasgow. There has been no demand in Glasgow for labour that Glasgow, for a considerable time, could not itself amply supply. At the same time, we have the singular anomaly that, while men are actually contracting from Glasgow for work in the shipyards of Eastern Austria to build ships to compete against Glasgow-built ships, we have boys serving their apprenticeship on the Clyde, and, being assisted by public money, brought up to trades with the full knowledge that after they have served their apprenticeship the only prospect for them is to be relieved in this miserable manner by the distress committee, or obliged to contract for their labour at Trieste or somewhere out of the country. That is, I suggest, the last way in which a Congested Districts Board can deal effectively with the wants of these people in the congested areas. I suggest that some more reasonable method might be found. For instance, the mercantile marine seems to me almost an ideal occupation for those people. Reared, as they have been, in the open air, many of them accustomed to getting their living on the sea shore, some accustomed to getting their living by fishing, it does seem to me that the mercantile marine is a good occupation for them, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, so far as he has any influence with the Congested Districts Board, to use it with the view to placing as many of these lads as possible on board ship, and thereby enabling them to earn their living in a way appropriate to their rearing, and to the needs of the country. Then something might be done also by the Agricultural Departments, or some other Department, to place some of these young people somewhere between the extreme Northern Highlands and Glas- 1494 gow, whereby they may be able to get their living on the land to which many of them have been accustomed. To turn to Glasgow itself, just let me read a telegram I received only an hour or two ago from the town clerk of Glasgow. Probably many of my colleagues have also received the same telegram.The Corporation of Glasgow at meeting to-day unanimously resolved—Corporation earnestly urge the Government to make some immediate provision for the relief of the deserving and the unemployed under the control of the distress committee.Let me just add a word in the way of appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate to deal a little more sympathetically than he has yet done with this distress committee, and with the needs of the City of Glasgow. From my knowledge of that city, and of the industrial conditions prevailing throughout the length and breadth of the engineering and shipbuilding industry, I can assure him the needs of Glasgow have never been so great as at the present moment, right away from the time of the Bank failure many years ago. I think the condition of things in Glasgow, and in the shipbuilding areas, and in the general shipping of Scotland, has not been equalled in my time. We have a number of men unemployed, whose patience, I venture to say, has been marvellous in the last two or three years. I appeal to him not to put that patience to a more severe test, but to come to the aid of those men, and to help them by giving some promise that local money spent now will be made up from the money which will probably be granted next month or the month after for the necessities of the coming winter. I have been asked to say a few words in regard to another matter. It seems that in Aberdeen there have been some works going on in connection with the extension of the harbour there, and I am afraid that this work, not work of relief character, but work that ought to be done in the ordinary way, and which I believe is absolutely necessary, is being done under the conditions of the distress committee. As a matter of fact, a question was already asked on the 29th of June by the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Keir Hardie) in reference to this matter, and the Lord Advocate replied that the Board would certainly disapprove of any proposal which would have the effect of displacing any ordinary labour, and the Harbour Commissioners stated that their scheme would not have that effect. Might I direct the attention of the Lord Advocate to the minute of the sub-committee of the Harbour Commissioners, which was accepted by the 1495 Harbour Commission, and which shows that this was just the intention. One of the clauses is this:—If unemployed labour is used it can best be introduced by displacing the present workman gradually, and making a careful selection of men for the special work to be done, and by keeping them in the employment of the Commissioners for the full period allowed (12 weeks). When the men are employed on ordinary labouring work, such as the excavation of soil, they may be replaced by others every fortnight or three weeks, as desired.I have a letter here indicating that that is just exactly what has taken place, and I suggest that it is very unfair to the workmen of Aberdeen that it should take place. A correspondent of mine, who is a Member of the distress committee, says:—I may also inform you that men procured through the labour exchange and distress committee register have been taken on at this work. A careful selection has also been made and no man over 40 years of age has been taken on by those authorised to engage the men, and I have it on the authority of the men employed that the rate of wages paid them was 4d. per hour, or 18s. per week. This statement was also verified by the clerk of the distress committee, when the question was put to him at a meeting of the applications committee, held on Thursday, the 23rd of June. The rate of wages is what the distress committee paid for relief work at the corporation quarries for breaking stones when distress was at its worst during the winter months.I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman it is very unfair, as it has the effect of utilising the distress committee and the machinery of the Unemployed Workmen's Act of 1905, not for the legitimate purpose of the distress committee, but for something having an injurious effect upon the standards of living of the Aberdeen workmen. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to say that this is not the purpose of the distress committee, and to see that the distress committee and the unemployed register and the other machinery of the Act of 1905 are not prostituted for this purpose, and are only used for the purposes for which the Act was intended to apply.
§ Mr. J. W. CLELAND
I desire to associate myself in the fullest possible way with the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division in his description of the present state of affairs in the city. I also desire to put the case of the distress committee and the case of the unemployed in Glasgow, because, after all, they are one and the same, in the most temperate language I can, although it is difficult for any Member who represents that city, and particularly difficult for one who happens to be a native of that city, and who is compelled day after day to pass through some of its streets and to meet hour by hour respectable people out of work, some of them 1496 practically starving, at their wits' end to know what to do; it is particularly difficult in such circumstances to view that problem with the same calm judicial aspect which should prevail in this House. What is the problem? I will restate in one sentence what my colleague has said. What is the problem which concerns us in Glasgow to-day with regard to our trade unions? A most careful and accurate census has been taken, and, out of thirty which pay idle benefit, with 24,900 members, over 4,000 are idle, or over 16 per cent. In the case of another 12 trade unions, who do not pay idle benefit, with a membership of 15,800, there are 1,790 unemployed, or slightly over 30 per cent. The total of trade union members works out that out of 30,000 you have always 6,000 idle, which is over 19 per cent. That, I think, in itself constitutes a claim on the part of Glasgow for exceptional treatment. I can say this on the authority of the "Board of Trade Gazette," because —on trade union figures—they give as the average for unemployment over the whole of the United Kingdom 7.9 per cent., whereas it is almost 20 per cent. in Glasgow to-day, and yet we are continually put off with the plea that we are getting the same percentage as other places. So far as these figures are concerned, they do not touch that vast mass of unorganised labour in Glasgow connected with the building trade. I do not wish to use the language of exaggeration, but at the present moment—within the city of Glasgow —I do not think there are less than 50,000 working men unemployed, and many of them have been unemployed for many weeks.
I will take the building trade. The average earnings for the 13 years up to 31st March, 1906, was £1,749,000. Taking the years 1907 to 1908, it works out at only £800,000, or rather less than one-half. In addition to that, over £36,000 subscribed to the Lord Provost's fund had been exhausted some few days ago. Various charges have been brought against the Glasgow Distress Committee. I am not here to say that that committee is perfect, because I know that no human institution is perfect. I do however, desire, to say that I think the Glasgow Distress Committee are a body of men representing every shade of opinion, political and religious, who, in a time of great difficulty and stress, conscientiously and seriously tried to grapple with that problem which, so far as Glasgow is concerned, is absolutely unprecedented in its magnitude. 1497 We have been told that they have employed time and again men who came merely to get a little money, went away, drank it, and then came back again. Taking the number of applicants for the year 1908, they number 7,900. Taking the number of applicants up to 15th May, 22,900 applied for relief, which is surely a very startling increase in this industrial area. Of those 22,900 over 10,000 applied for the first time, and when the distress committee instituted its inquiry they found that over 5,000 of these men had been working continuously in their last place of employment. I have been a member of the Central (Unemployed) Body for London, and for a number of years I was a member of the London County Council. We used to employ a considerable number of unemployed. Having made a very close and minute personal investigation into some of the charges which have been made against the Glasgow Distress Committee, I say unhesitatingly that what they have done will bear more than favourable comparison with many other distress committees.
Last year we had much the same trouble, although the problem, acute as it was then, was nothing like what it is to-day. This year the distress committee applied for £18,000 to carry them on to the end of September, and they gave chapter and verse, and justified the expenditure of every penny piece. Unfortunately, the Local Government Board have, without rhyme or reason, reduced that £18,000 to £5,250. It was not a question of there not being funds sufficient, because out of the £300,000 granted by Parliament to solve this problem there is a substantial balance, and the Prime Minister has stated that if £300,000 was not sufficient it would be increased. Of that £300,000 voted by Parliament £18,000 had been retained by the Treasury on 31st March, and yet our appeal was reduced to a figure which is a mere mockery and a sham. The distress committee had an interview with Lord Pentland, but it was most unsatisfactory. Later on we asked to see the Prime Minister, but the right hon. Gentleman declined to receive a deputation. I can only express my sincere regret that he thought fit to take that course.
The Lord Advocate is here to answer for the Scottish Office, and I want to put to him one or two questions. I want to know what is the policy of the Government with regard to this problem of unemployment in the industrial districts of Scotland where it is most acute. The English Local 1498 Government Board and its President made a boast that they had given every penny-piece they were asked for by the various distress committees throughout England. Why are we constantly being treated differently in Scotland? Why are our demands being put down without rhyme or reason? Is it the policy of the Government to administer the Act in one way in England and in another way in Scotland, or is it their policy to drive these unfortunate men into the workhouse? If so, I may say that they are succeeding. During the last year the increase in the inhabitants of the workhouses in Glasgow is 344, and the local authority is now facing the necessity of erecting one or two additional workhouses. Is that the policy of the Government? Is it economical? Is it wise to crush out of those poor people the last remnant of manliness they may have, and thus drive out all that self-respect which used to be the pride of the Scotch race. Is it the policy of the Government to provoke trouble? Last year they adopted much the same policy. Distress committees transgressed some technical rule of the Treasury and, therefore, nothing could be done. On this occasion, however, I make an appeal to the Secretary for Scotland to give me a sympathetic reply. A little later, the Members of the Committee will recollect, there was something in the nature of serious riots in Glasgow, and then something was done. Is it the policy of the Government—surely a most unwise and short-sighted policy for any Government to pursue—to teach people that when their demands are reasonably and temperately put forward they will not be listened 1o, but that the moment disorder and violence ensues then they have only to ask and their request will be granted? I cannot believe that that will be the policy of the Local Government Board, and yet I say, with all sense of responsibility, knowing the state of feeling in Glasgow to-day, knowing what is happening and what happened a few days ago, and recollecting what happened last year, that I very much fear the patience of many of those poor people is rapidly becoming exhausted, and I look with hope and confidence to the Lord Advocate to make such a statement to-night as will show them that, although apparently the official mind has been unsympathetic, their needs will receive some consideration at the hands of the Government. We are told it is not the policy that relief works should be carried on in the summer. What is the test you are 1499 going to apply for the necessity of relief works? Is it a seasonal test? Is it a test of the number of people who happen to be out of work and the length of time they have been unemployed? Surely nothing would be more unwise than a seasonal test. A man is not less hungry because it happens to be warm and not cold, and a man does not feel the necessity less when he contemplates his wife and children starving simply because it happens to be July and the sun is shining. This was the policy foreshadowed in the circular issued by the Scotch Local Government Board some time ago. I appeal to the Government not to lay down the hard and fast rule that nothing will be given simply because the season is summer; rather let them apply the wiser and more humane test of what the needs of the locality are. I do not wish to over-colour the picture, but I wish I could take some of the officials of Dover House into the East of Glasgow and show them the pictures of suffering and misery there. I am certain of this, the official reply would then be very much different in the future from what it has been in the past.
§ Major ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
I do most earnestly urge the Government to look into the very great and appalling distress that at this time prevails in Glasgow. I do not think I need enlarge on it. We have heard two most eloquent speeches from hon. Members who are better able to speak of Glasgow even than I am, although I have some connection with the city, and I claim to know something about it. The fact that there is something like 19 per cent. of men out of employment among the general trades speaks for itself. The distress is far greater than in England, and the need is far greater. The whole building trade, the shipping trade, the engineering trade, and trade generally, I may say, in Glasgow is almost at a standstill. Men are afraid to buy, afraid to sell, afraid to build, and afraid to spend. There never has been such a slump, certainly not in my recollection, and I remember the days when the Glasgow Bank broke. That is the only time which will compare with the distress which now prevails. The Scotch people, and I am speaking to a majority of Scotchmen, are a patient race, but there is a limit to their patience, and, if they are pressed too far, they will make their voice heard in no uncertain tone, and I most earnestly urge and supplicate the Govern- 1500 ment to look into this matter before more harm comes.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
I have not the slightest desire to stand long between the Committee and the Lord Advocate, more particularly because what I wish to say is rather on the lines of what has been so ably said by the hon. Member for Glasgow. It has reference to the dispute which has arisen between the Town Council and the Distress Committee in Edinburgh. The amount of money which was allocated to the use of the Distress Committee was not anything like what was anticipated. A promise was given that whatever was locally raised so the amount would be which was granted by the Local Government Board. It was a matter of very great surprise to find that notwithstanding that promise a certain proportion of the fund, I think £18,000, was handed back to the Treasury. It seems to me that in view of the fact that in Edinburgh there was raised relatively a much larger sum locally than in other districts in Scotland, it was a great pity that the Government promise was not fulfilled and that a larger amount was not granted. I understand that one of the difficulties in the way has been that there has been a dispute between the Town Council and the Distress Committee, and that there is a case coming before the Quarter Sessions. It is just possible that until that case has been decided the Local Government Board may not be able to take decisive action in the matter. It has been a matter of very great disappointment to the Distress Committee that the matter has been allowed to stand as it is.
I confess I feel myself in considerable difficulty in speaking on this question. The vote before the Committee is for the Local Government Board of Scotland, and of course the question we are now considering can only be raised as one of administration. The Local Government Board, of course, has to work under the conditions which are laid down by the policy of the Government of the day. I associate myself entirely with the view expressed by the hon. Members who represent divisions in Glasgow, and who have spoken so far as their needs of Glasgow are concerned, but I hope the Committee will not regard the question as one affecting Glasgow alone. I think the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh who has spoken, certainly knows, as I do, the needs of Edinburgh, too, and it undoubtedly affects Dundee. I am sorry 1501 there is not a representative of Dundee present as one would expect. There is the hon. Member who sits below the Gangway, and there is a greater than he who might have been here on an occasion when the needs of the labouring classes of Dundee are in question. His efforts in enforcing the position we take up might have had much more influence with the Government than any we can expect to make. I am quite certain the question of unemployment is not one that relates solely either to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, or even to large centres only. It is spread over a much wider area. The policy which the Government have decided to carry out is one which suits us on this side of the House exceedingly well, and, so far as I am personally concerned, I trust they will continue it; but I do not think it is a wise or a proper policy in the interests of those who are more directly concerned in the men out of employment. The hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) referred to the fact that there are only two alternatives before the apprentices in the trade to which he referred, and for which he is well entitled to speak, when they have gone through their apprenticeship and have become full-fledged tradesmen. They must either apply to the distress committee, or go abroad to get employment. The hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Mr. Cleland) drew attention to the distress in the building trade, but I do not know that any other trade is better off than that at present. While we are criticising the Local Government Board we have to remember that they must work under the limitations imposed upon them by the policy of the Government. I confess I have the greatest sympathy with the Board. They have but a limited amount of money to dispose of. I have never been able to understand why out of that small amount it was found necessary not to expend £18,000. But the question we have to consider is whether, under existing conditions, the best is being made of the efforts for the relief of the distress arising from the enormous amount of unemployment in the country. No doubt, so far as the discussion has gone at present, the voice of Glasgow has been predominant, but, after all, that is only indicative of the unemployment which prevails in many other districts. The hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division wanted to know whether the policy of the Government was to increase the number of workhouses or to provoke trouble. I 1502 am perfectly sure it is neither one nor the other, but I do think the Government are not adequately facing this question of unemployment. They are not taking means, not to relieve it temporarily, but to reduce it permanently in such a way as to prevent its constant and persistent recurrence, with worse effects and increasing demands for relief and for remedial measures. I associate myself entirely, so far as Glasgow is concerned, with the views submitted by the hon. Members that have spoken (Mr. Barnes and Mr. Cleland), but the questions we can raise upon the Vote now before the Committee—the Vote for the Local Government Board—is far too circumscribed as to enable us to arrive at any reasonable, proper, or just judgment as to how the matter is to be dealt with. I am quite aware that the action of the distress committees in Glasgow and Edinburgh have been the subject of very severe criticisms. But, while different views are taken as to some of the measures they have adopted, I must say I have been exceedingly struck by the telegram received by many Members of this House from the Glasgow Corporation this afternoon. It certainly deserves the consideration of this Committee They ask that Parliament shall make some immediate supplementary provision for the relief of the deserving unemployed, and a request such as that, coming from a great corporation, calls for not merely sympathy, but practical sympathy. The question is— what are the Government going to do? I confess, so far as I understand the position, I rather sympathise with the Local Government Board, and rather than vote for the Motion to reduce the Vote I would pass a vote of sympathy with that Board, because they are compelled to work under impossible conditions.
The situation is one which urgently calls for some declaration by the Government as to what practical measures they are going to propose. I am aware it is said that Glasgow received more than, on a fair division, it is entitled to. That may be so, but the fact remains that Glasgow has not received anything like sufficient to meet the difficulties that have to be dealt with. I venture to think that the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Price) will say the same of that City, and I have no doubt that, if the President of the Board of Trade were here, he would make a similar declaration in regard to Dundee. These four large communities are not exclusively places where the results of this tremendous evil of unemployment 1503 are being experienced; they are representative not only of other communities in Scotland and of large districts in Lanarkshire, which cannot be called urban, but also of large districts in England as well. The point I want to make is—have the Government anything practical to propose? I am not entitled, of course, to go into that matter. But I should like the Committee to be told if they have any particular and really effective solution to put forward. Of course, I do not know what the Government solution is to be. I know what my own would be.
It cannot be worse. I think, and at any rate hon. Members below the Gangway who laugh will agree with me that the present condition of things is eminently unsatisfactory. What is asked by serious people is, what are the Government going to do to try to ameliorate the condition of things, which I do not think has been depicted in any too lurid colours by those who have preceded me? At the present moment things are bad, and they are not likely to get better, but likely to get worse. At any rate, it is high time that we knew what the position of the Government is. If the present policy is persisted in there will be trouble, and that shows how immediate and urgent the necessity is. I urge this question upon the attention of the Government with the most unselfish motive, because I think the present position of things is serving those with whom I am politically associated uncommonly well; but I would ask the Government whether they have a remedy, and if they have to state what it is, and to take some immediate steps to remedy what is undoubtedly a most regrettable state of affairs.
§ Mr. H. A. WATT
I desire to associate myself with the three Members for Glasgow, who have already spoken on this subject, and have, indeed, so admirably put the case to the Committee that it would be very unwise of me if I repeated the case they made, even if I were able to do so. The facts to which I want to allude are these. Firstly, that the position of the unemployed in Glasgow is a very serious one; and, secondly, that there is no improvement showing in the condition of the unemployed in Glasgow. On the contrary, it is worse than it was when 1504 the interview took place with the Secretary for Scotland two or three weeks ago. If the Government are not in a position to grant money at the present time to the distress committees of Glasgow and Scotland, I think those committees will be satisfied with a promise that any disbursements made at the present time and at the present serious juncture will be replaced by the Government at a later date.
§ Mr. A. R. RAINY
I wish to associate myself with what has been said about the amount of distress in this district. Unfortunately for Glasgow the chief industry is intermixed with all the other industries, and, therefore, it is not the ordinary case where a group of industries are suffering and others, which are not affected, come to their relief. The consequence is that a burden is thrown upon private charity, which it is totally unable to meet, although there has been extraordinary generosity displayed By those who have endeavoured to meet the necessities of the case. The Government have a scheme in their mind connected with the whole of the organisation of the Poor Law, but we want help now. I went down the Clyde the other day and it was pitiable to see the number of empty shipyards, although there were some yards with Government contracts who were relieving the necessities of the position to some extent. I do not think I should be doing justice to those whom I represent if I did not press upon the Government that in the cause of common humanity something should be done under present circumstances to relieve the situation, which is almost deplorable.
§ Mr. URE
It did not require the speeches of the various hon. Members who have spoken to convince me of the acuteness of the distress in my native city. As a Member of the Local Government Board during the whole period of the distress, I am extremely familiar with all its conditions, and I recognise that the position of Glasgow is exceptional. The distress has been most deeply felt in those communities in which the leading industries are ship building and house building. Glasgow has been exceptionally treated, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember the conditions under which the Local Government Board does its work. He did not mention what those conditions are, but let me remind the Committee that they are the conditions laid down by the Government of which he was a Member; they are the application of the remedy 1505 which the Government, of which he was a Member, thought was appropriate. Those are the only proposals which were ever at any time put forward by the party opposite for the relief of unemployment, except the proposal to tax ourselves into prosperity and make everything cheap by making it scarce. What are the conditions under which the distress committees work? They are only to be allowed to give relief by providing work and paying wages, and they are only entitled to draw from the rates for certain very limited purposes. They are to entirely rely upon voluntary subscriptions for the purpose of paying wages. Those are the conditions deliberately laid down by the party opposite as the only conditions on which they would set up distress committees throughout the country.
I need scarcely say that that was not our remedy for unemployment, but we have taken the remedy which we found in our hands, and we have administered it loyally, and with the earnest desire to give it its most efficient result, and the Government of which I am a Member, unlike the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member, which framed this machine, have supplied the steam and made it work by supplying money, hard cash down upon the nail. His Government never dreamt of such a thing; they never dreamt that you should go elsewhere than to the citizens' pockets for the purpose of dealing with unemployment. The question before the Committee is, as to the administration of funds which this Government has provided, and which are to be used exclusively as a voluntary subscription. Do not let it be forgotten that it is a voluntary subscription from the Central Government that these distress committees are administering. Let me take the case of Glasgow, which has been most prominently before us. Glasgow in September last informed the Local Government Board that distress would be extremely acute in the coming winter and so widespread that it would be totally impossible for the distress committee alone to cope with it. They represented to the Department that the request for voluntary subscriptions would be generously met with, but that every penny which was subscribed would be required for the relief of necessities to which the work of Distress Committees did not extend. On receiving that assurance, the Local Government Board for Scotland, which was in full sympathy with Glasgow, undertook that they would, with money supplied from the Treasury, keep the distress work going which 1506 the Distress Committee of Glasgow had then in hand, and that there would be no necessity to resort to the pockets of the citizens for the purpose of carrying on distress committee work in Glasgow. That was not an unsympathetic way in which to meet the demands of the distress committee. Glasgow did receive exceptional treatment when that undertaking was given, and it was not only given, but loyally carried out. Throughout the autumn and winter the distress committee received grants of money from the Treasury for the purpose of keeping the work going. You cannot expect even to make both ends meet, much less to make a profit, in carrying on distress work; but I have no doubt whatever that the Committee did its very best with the material in hand. They had an extremely difficult task to perform, and I have no criticism to make on the way they performed it. Until 15th May the Local Government Board, by grants from the Treasury, kept the work in full swing. The Local Government Board informed the distress committee that it was not the policy of the Government to apply money from headquarters to keep the Distress Committee's work going throughout the whole of the summer. They did not regard the work of the distress committee as seasonal work, but they did say that while the distress committees were to remain in existence throughout the year and discharge their duty, the Central Government did not think it would be advisable or expedient that they should have grants from the central fund to keep up the work, and though men are hungry in warm weather, everyone recognises that the conditions of employment are different in summer from what they are in winter, and it was not an unwise policy for the Government to lay down that the distress committees, while supplied during the winter with funds from the Central Department should during the summer, if they found it necessary to continue their work, of which they were to be the sole judges, carry on the work as the Act intended it should be carried on, as the party opposite determined that it should be carried on, and as they deliberately resolved that it was right to carry it on, with voluntary subscriptions. Down to 15th May the work was kept going, and so was the municipal work in connection with the Edinburgh Distress Committee—work which was admirably done by a distress committee which was altogether unexceptionable in its methods, 1507 and most efficient we thought. But from 15th May onwards we let both distress committees understand that whilst money from the central fund would be forthcoming to keep the Colonists there, that is to say, the men who were resident in the place, and in full swing, they must look to sources which the Act of Parliament provided for the money necessary if they found it necessary to carry on the work at full swing.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
May I ask whether, whilst it was the fact that they were to rely on local subscriptions to raise certain funds to meet certain expenses, they were to receive an equal amount in order that they might carry on the work?
§ Mr. URE
No. I know the view that Edinburgh held on that subject, but they were wrong there. They had forgotten entirely that the case of Glasgow was exceptional, and Glasgow collected an enormous sum of money from voluntary subscriptions but kept it separate, inasmuch as Glasgow assured the Local Government Board at the commencement of the winter that every penny that the citizens subscribed would be required for purposes to which the distress committee could not, acting under the limitations, apply it. That was the reason why Edinburgh was dissatisfied. They did not understand the arrangement which had been made with Glasgow, and the very large draft which had been made on the pockets of the citizens of Glasgow for the purpose of accomplishing work altogether outside the range of the distress committee's operations. That was the position of matters in June. The distress committee in Glasgow found that, instead of employment becoming rife, unemployment was becoming rife, and they accordingly represented to the Secretary for Scotland that additional money was required. The Secretary for Scotland had no funds at his disposal, and it is altogether a mistake to suppose that the sum of £18,000 had passed back into the hands of the Treasury at the end of the year. In point of fact, it never emerged from the Treasury and 1508 never was in the hands of the Local Government Board. The money had never left the Treasury, and to the extent of £18,000 money which undoubtedly might have been available was not made available. It was not because the Government proposed to treat England differently from Scotland. We treated both countries alike.
My hon. Friend says the President of the Local Government Board took credit to himself for not having refused the demand of any one of the Distress Committees in England and Wales, but he failed to observe that what the President of the Local Government Board meant was that down to the end of the year all that they had asked to supply their needs for that period was given just as it was given to the distress committees in Scotland. The complaint which the Distress Committee in Glasgow now make is not that they would have all their needs supplied, like the English distress committees, to the end of the year, but that the Government refused to give them a grant in advance for work to be done during the summer. The Members for Glasgow have asked me if I can offer any assurance that money spent during the summer will be taken into consideration. I am not in a position to say if the money spent during the summer will be taken into consideration if a Government grant is again voted. I am not in a position to offer an assurance of the kind, but I am in a position to offer some gratuitous advice to the distress committee. That advice is: Let them remain in a saddle, let them perform their functions with care and frugality, let them expend what they deem to be absolutely necessary throughout the summer, and no more, and when a Vote of money is granted, as is inevitable, for this special purpose of supplying the needs of the distress committees, let the distress committee of Glasgow come and, with its accounts properly audited, demonstrate to the Government that they have been compelled—I use no less strong word—to expend this money for the relief of immediate distress, and I should think that the matter will meet with very favourable consideration from the Government. My right hon. and learned Friend asked me: What is your immediate remedy for unemployment? If I were to give a complete answer to that question I should be as completely out of order as he was in asking the question. All we are concerned with is the question: What money is the Local Government Board going to give? 1509 It is an open secret that a temporary additional grant of money before the Session comes to an end must be voted if unemployment continues, and it looks very much as if it will continue, although not I hope, with the same acuteness at at present. I do not put that forward as more than a mere temporary arrangement, I am not a believer in this Act of Parliament as a means of relieving distress. I am in favour of the more comprehensive method, which has been fully sketched out by two of my colleagues on this Bench, and I do not need further to refer to it.
In regard to the distress committee of Edinburgh, I have to say that their administration was good. They mingled the policy of contributions from the citizens with contribution from the central fund. They used both funds for the purpose of keeping their works going, and they found it necessary to give these up at the middle of September. Of course, Edinburgh thought it a hard case that they should not have from the central fund all the money necessary to keep the works going. It was impossible that they could have it, administering the money as they did. There was no fault with the administration, but for reasons of their own they mingled the two funds, and it was clear when it came to an end, following the policy pursued in every other case in the United Kingdom, it was impossible to give them a grant which would be sufficient to repay what they had expended out of the voluntary fund. I hope that in the coming year they will pursue a different policy, having learned a lesson from the experience of the past year.
§ Mr. PRICE
What I want to bring under the notice of the hon. and learned Gentleman is that Edinburgh raised between £12,000 and £13,000 by voluntary subscriptions. A promise was made by the Prime Minister that if they raised an amount by voluntary subscription they would get the same amount from the Central Fund. It was on that basis that they went forward with their works. The amount given by the Local Government Board was something between £3,000 and £4,000, and the result was that they had between £9,000 and £10,000 less than anticipated. May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman what is the position of the case which has been raised in the Court of Session?
§ Mr. URE
My hon. Friend is under a total misapprehension if he supposed, or if the distress committee supposed, that they would receive from the Government 1510 penny for penny of the voluntary subscriptions. I may remind the Committee that there was a difference between the corporation and the distress committee with regard to the payment of the money necessary to defray the railway fares of certain unemployed men. It amounted to a considerable sum, and the question whether or not the distress committee was entitled to raise it out of the rates or whether they were bound to pay it out of the voluntary contributions. The corporation of Edinburgh refused to raise the money out of the rates, and the distress committee, on the other hand, held that they were well entitled to take the money out of the rates. That has been disputed, and the question has been referred, in a friendly case, to the Court of Session. It is set down for hearing on the 14th of this month.
In regard to Aberdeen, I have to state that in the beginning of January a grant was asked by the Aberdeen Harbour Commissioners. Certain conditions were stipulated, and, these conditions not being complied with, a grant was not made, Subsequently, and not long ago, the Aberdeen Harbour Commissioners made application again, and that also has not been conceded. My hon. Friend may take it from me that the Local Government Board will see that no money is granted by them, and that no money over which they have any control will be expended for the purpose of depressing the rate of wages. We recognise how wrong is the principle which the Aberdeen Harbour Commissioners are said to have adopted. I do not say whether they have done so or not. We recognise how wrong is the principle of using these funds on what otherwise ordinary workmen would be employed at ordinary rates of wages. The Local Government Board will give no countenance to anything of that sort, and will give no grant, if they have reason to believe that the money is to be so employed.
§ Mr. BARNES
So far the Lord Advocate's answer is quite satisfactory. It seems to be admitted that men are being employed at less than the standard rate of wages. Does the Local Government Board disapprove of that?
§ Sir J. H. DALZIEL
I should like to elucidate the exact import of what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. Two points of interest have been raised 1511 to-night. In the first place, we have been able to consider whether or not unemployment in Glasgow and other parts of Scotland is of an acute and exceptional character. I think the Committee are unanimous that the position is pressing and urgent, and that further and exceptional steps are required to deal with it.
The other point which has been raised is whether the Government have been as sympathetic with regard to the pressing part of the situation as they might have been. I am bound to say I think the Government have not been as sympathetic and alive to matters in Scotland with reference to unemployment as they ought to have been. I cannot for the life of me understand the position of a Minister responsible for the administration of Scotland knowing that £18,000 was waiting for him in the English Treasury and refusing to ask for it. That is the sort of offence against a Scotchman which is absolutely unforgiveable. A moment when the situation was of such a pressing character with regard to unemployment was not the occasion for standing on the mere technical view of the matter. You can lay down rules, but you can alter rules. I venture to say that a simple amendment of the law in regard to this particular Bill, which was passed unanimously by this House, would have altered the whole situation. I hope, as we know the Lord Advocate to be so sympathetic, that something will be done. We must acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman has shown extreme sympathy to-night with what I may say is the view of the whole Committee. You have the telegram from the Corporation of Glasgow that the situation is such that it cannot be set aside. They are responsible for the good government of the city of Glasgow. They unanimously declare that the situation is of such a character that some exceptional steps must be taken by the Government of the day. The Government of the day accept a grave responsibility if they do not take extreme and prompt action with regard to the matter. I would like to know exactly what the statement of the Lord Advocate means in regard to the future. It was certainly a sympathetic statement, and I believe as far as Glasgow is concerned, as I understood, it amounted to saying to the distress committee, "Go on working in a frugal manner for the advantage of the unemployed of Glasgow; make out your accounts; come at a later period and we will grant you relief.
§ Sir J. H. DALZIEL
If it does not mean that it means nothing at all. You cannot have a situation that the Distress Committee is to meet and discuss things and go on from day to day and incur liabilities, and not know whether or not they are going to be met at a later period. You can have all the sympathy you like, but unless you can give a certain pledge that that bill will be met when it is presented to this House, I am afraid you will get no Committee to incur the responsibility which is expected of them in that regard. I might suggest to the Lord Advocate a simple way out of the situation. Why wait until the end of the year? Why not bring forward before the Committee in view of the special circumstances a demand for a special grant? At the present time Glasgow has a special case. In my opinion there is no comparison with it in any other part of Scotland or England. Why not come forward at the present time and ask for a special inquiry in view of the exceptional circumstances. Then the Committee would know exactly where it stood, and it would do away at once with the anxiety which would otherwise prevail. I hope before the Debate closes that the Lord Advocate will be good enough to undertake to use his influence with the Treasury and Government in order that that special action may be taken.
§ Mr. T. H. COCHRANE
I venture to say that there is as great distress throughout other parts of Scotland as in the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, although they are not able to give the same articulate expression to their feelings. What position do we find ourselves in? It appears to me that a sum of over £18,000 was voted by Parliament for the purposes of the distress committee, and no application appears to have been made by the representatives of Scotland on the Government side to acquire this sum of £18,000 for Scotland. I notice some inarticulate contradiction from my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate, who says that some application was made. The Prime Minister represents a Scotch constituency, and has found an asylum in Scotland, and a home in Scotland; and you have the Lord Advocate, the Secretary of State for War, and the Lord Chancellor, and I do not know how many other Scotch representatives. They jostle one another on every day except when Scotch Estimates are under discussion. They are all here when measures are under dis- 1513 cussion, from which they can obtain some political advantage, but when the interests of Scotland are under discussion those benches are occupied only by the no doubt capable figures of the Lord Advocate and his newly-appointed assistant. Why did they not make some effort to get this £18,000 for Scotland? What happened to it? It was practically thrown into the sea. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, unexpended balances go to reduce the National Debt. What effect will £18,000 have in reducing the National Debt which goes up by millions every year? That £18,000, had it been applied to reducing the distress in Scotland, might have done some good. But owing to the slackness of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, or owing to the lack of earnestness in laying the applications before the Prime Minister, that money has been lost for purposes for which it would have been extremely useful. The Lord Advocate says "our limitations are obvious. We are limited by Bills brought in and passed by the Tory party. We are bound down and tied by the restrictions of that Bill, and I regret that we can do no more." What are the facts of the case? The Tory or Unionist party are the only party to take any practical steps whatever to deal with unemployment through distress committees.
§ Mr. COCHRANE
It is not the question of money the right hon. Gentleman is inquiring into. It is the machinery. He says: "We have to work with the Tory machinery, this antiquated useless machinery set up by the Tory party." He is not complaining of the money. He can give more money to-morrow if he chooses to do so. Though the right hon. Gentleman says that the machinery is bad, yet, after all, the Bill has not been altogether condemned by hon. Members below the Gangway. I have heard them candidly acknowledge that the Bill was a step in advance, and has done a great deal of good in relieving distress. But the right hon. Gentleman opposite says the machinery is bad. If so, why have they not altered it? What did they do in 1906? They introduced a Bill in that year to amend the Unemployed Workmen Act. Why have they not proceeded with it? For the same reason that they did not get the £18,000. They mentioned a Bill in the King's Speech, and then they twit us with having passed a measure which was an experi- 1514 mental one, and which was passed before the Radical Government had made trade so bad and so depressed that unemployment assumed the acute aspect that it possesses at the present moment. When we passed the Unemployment Act it looked to us as if unemployment was only a passing phase with which we were dealing, and that as we gathered experience we might from time to time amend the measure and make it better. This Government, which came in to set everything right, introduced a Bill in dummy, and they have done nothing else, but yet have the audacity to twit us with what we have done. I have been led into these remarks by what I consider the very unfair attack made on the Unionist party by the Lord Advocate, who says that all his sympathies are with the unemployed throughout the country. He said that he sympathised with the Glasgow Distress Committee, who were doing their best, and what he advised them to do was this, to go on with their noble work and come to Parliament, and if they made out a good case Parliament, he hoped, would give them something.
§ Mr. COCHRANE
The right hon. Gentleman told them to make a clear statement to the Local Government Board as to how they are to apply their money, and he added that if they did that he thought something ought to be done, but he could give no pledge. What has the Distress Committee of Glasgow to do? They are responsible business men, who know what is what, and they have incurred considerable liability. Money must be found somewhere. The Lord Advocate says, "Go on with your work." How are they to go on with their work? Are they to go to the bank and ask for money? And on what responsibility? On the vague statement of the Lord Advocate in the House that the question will be considered? I see no reason why the Prime Minister should always be absent from this House. Had he been here during this Scottish Debate, on a subject of the greatest interest at the present moment to a large section of the population in the position of the un-employed, he could—on behalf of the Government — have given a definite pledge, and if the Committee had spent a certain amount of money, and it was 1515 thought it had been properly expended, then the Government could see that they suffered no harm. But the Glasgow Committee, who have done a great deal already to find the money, are invited to incur the liability on the vague statement of the Lord Advocate that he thinks if they do so, they would make out a deserving case for consideration, though he gave no pledge. The last thing I would wish to do would be to in any way attribute words to the right hon. Gentleman which are not justified. I think I have made an accurate statement of what the Lord Advocate has said, and I think it was one of the most unsatisfactory and weakest statements on a question of this magnitude that could possibly be laid before us.
§ Mr. A. C. MORTON
I heartily agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in what he said as to the absence of Scottish representatives on the Front Bench when Scottish questions are being discussed. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate advised the Committee to work, but there is no money. That is of no good. There is no doubt at all on the part of any Member who has studied the matter that Scotland is not fairly treated with regard to supplies. She does not get her fair share of the equivalent grant. I see that local government in Scotland costs £16,000 per annum, while in Ireland it costs £80,000, five times as much. The Local Government Board in Scotland have not got sufficient force to carry on their work properly. I cannot accuse the Government offices in Scotland of extravagance, and no doubt it is largely because of their economy that they have suffered in the matter of supplies. They have suffered because they are economical, and they are deprived of what they ought to have. I should like to know why Scotland should only get £16,000 a year for local government while Ireland should have as much as £80,000. Whatever part of the United Kingdom we happen to represent we cannot help taking an interest in such a place as the City of Glasgow, a place of which the Empire has cause to be proud. We are bound to take an interest in its welfare, and it really becomes important to know why the £18,000 voted for this purpose has been allowed to slip away somewhere else. My hon. Friend, the Member for the Black-friars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes), rather accused the Congested Districts 1516 Board of having expended money on boys and girls in the North in teaching them a trade and to earn a living.
§ Mr. BARNES
I said nothing of the sort. I would not object to any public authority spending a great deal more money than they are doing now on education. My point was that they were spending money in shifting boys from one congested area into another.
§ Mr. MORTON
I do not know why they shifted from one area into another. The only way we can do with young people in the North is——
The question to which the hon. Member is referring has been disposed of, and the Vote passed.
§ Mr. MORTON
I trust the Government will endeavour to settle this unemployed question in some way, so that it may not become a scandal to the Government of this country.
§ Mr. HUGH BARRIE
It is altogether an unusual state of affairs at the height of the summer to find a distress committee of the great corporation of Glasgow making a special appeal to the Government to enable them to meet some portion of the great expense falling on that corporation in connection with unemployment. I am not concerned to follow the Lord Advocate in the reflections he made on the political party to which I belong as regards the responsibility for the meaure under which these distress committees exist. The seriousness of the position of affairs in Glasgow is not only causing concern to the corporation but to many thoughtful citizens quite outside the corporation. I hope that the unanimity which has prevailed this evening in dealing with this matter will have such an effect that although the Lord Advocate used most careful language, I hope the corporation will interpret that language as meant to encourage them to go on with the work which they are at present responsible for, and which they are conducting with the most economy, and with a full reliance that when the time comes for the encouragement to which the Lord Advocate referred that it shall take the shape of the necessary amount of a grant. It is impossible to exaggerate the seriousness of the state of affairs at present existing in the great city of Glasgow. I hope the Government are fully impressed with the seriousness of the problem.
§ Mr. W. P. BEALE
I was very much impressed with the obvious difficulty of the Lord Advocate in making anything like a general promise. The question that has arisen has been accentuated by the telegram coming from the city of Glasgow. It has been quoted as if it were desirable, and I think it is desirable, that special steps should be taken as to Glasgow. But in that event special difficulties may arise as to other places. My colleague in the representation of Ayrshire (Mr. T. Cochrane) stated that Glasgow is not the only place where distress of this kind might and did arise. That is the case, and the distress is quite equal in other places to that which has arisen in Glasgow. I wish the Glasgow case met, but if you are going to grant money for this purpose you will have difficulties raised by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. H. Cox), by the "Spectator," and by inspired philosophers of that calibre. I can quite understand that the Lord Advocate sees a difficulty in making a definite promise. I want to see the Scottish Department take a strong part, and to be supported by all the Scottish Members in dealing with this unemployment question generally. I regret there were not more Scottish votes when the occasion did offer. Although there were many possible reasons for not voting in favour of a particular Bill, yet this subject is a serious one. I am glad the question has been raised even in this way; but I look for a solution in a form—which I hope the Scotch Office will do their best to back up—which will meet the needs of the United Kingdom, and not of Glasgow alone.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
The Lord Advocate said that the difficulties between the Edinburgh Distress Committee and the Local Government Board have arisen through a misunderstanding. I shall not attempt to allocate the blame as between one side and the other. The point is that the Edinburgh Distress Committee has been left in a very difficult position, and it is important that there should be no misunderstanding now as to the attitude of the Government with regard to expenditure which may be entered into in the future. Assuming that the distress committees go forward and spend money, upon what basis are they to do so, where are they to look to meet the obligation, and what will be the position of the Government in regard to any expenditure that may be incurred?
§ Mr. WEIR
I feel very strongly indeed this loss of £18,000 through sheer carelessness. Scotland, with its many thousands of suffering poor, ought to have had the benefit of that money. The Lord Advocate can make no definite statement on the matter. He will have to go to the Secretary for Scotland, and then to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister ought to have been here; he could have given a promise. An hon. Member opposite expressed a hope that, after the statement of the Lord Advocate, something would be done for the unemployed. I have not much faith in these half pledges, or, indeed, in any pledge at all; I have known so many of them to be broken. Therefore the semi-pledge or sympathetic statement of the Lord Advocate is no comfort to me. Thousands of poor fellows, driven from the northern parts of Scotland, are going about the streets of Glasgow starving, and this £18,000, which might have provided employment for them, has been thrown away. I feel that loss very keenly, but I feel even more keenly the absence of so many Scotch Members, especially on the Front Bench, from the Debate to-night. Why are they not here? Why is the Prime Minister, a Scottish Member, enjoying himself elsewhere?
§ Sir J. H. DALZIEL
Before, the decision is taken, I hope the Lord Advocate will not consider that we are undulypressing him if we ask him whether he cannot see his way to reply to the questions addressed to him. This has been a very useful and interesting Debate, but its ultimate importance will depend to a large extent upon whether any effective result is going to take place in Scotland. So far as I judge the Debate to-night, unless we have a little clearer statement from the Lord Advocate, I fear that no good result will take place in Glasgow or elsewhere. My hon. Friend has spoken with regard to misunderstandings in the past. Let us have no misunderstandings in the future. In the interests of the unemployed I would ask the Lord Advocate whether he can make the situation a little clearer than it has been left?
I do not think after the discussion we have had to-night, that we ought to allow this matter to stand where it is. We ought to have a clear view of the position as to whether the Lord Advocate can give the pledges or not. To endeavour to attain this object I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £100.
Mr. JOSEPH POINTER
Is it unfair to suggest that the Prime Minister ought to be in his place after the complaint by the Lord Advocate that we are asking him something that he cannot do, but the Prime Minister can?
§ Mr. URE
That is an unfair reflection upon the Prime Minister. I do not think it would be fair to ask him to offer a pledge beforehand. As regards Glasgow, it is not, I think, altogether unfair to suggest that at least during the summer months the distress committee should appeal to the citizens for contributions sufficient to enable them to carry on their work. If the distress is as acute and the committee as efficient as I hope the citizens think, if its work is as useful as we believe, it is not surely asking too much that the distress committee should invite the city to help them in the manner I have described with this essential work. I would suggest that the hon. Member for the Central Division of Glasgow should put himself into communication with the distress committee. In regard to the question put by the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh, I say the time has not come to make arrangements. When the time comes, when the distress committee and the Local Government Board meet at the commencement of their year, which will be in September or October, I hope the distress committee will put the case fairly before the Local Government Board, as the Glasgow Committee did, and point out to the Board that the citizens are generous, and that their generosity will be required for the purposes of meeting the objects which the Committee have in view. Let them put the case fairly before the Local Government Board, and press the Board as the Glasgow Committee did, and come to a definite understanding at the commencement of the winter. But it would be premature at the present moment for me, who am not a Member of the Local Government Board, to consider a question which is 1520 singularly appropriate for consideration between the Local Government Board and the distress committee.
§ Mr. A. C. MORTON
The Lord Advocate does not seem to understand how sincerely we deplore the loss of this £18,000.
The question of the £18,000 has been referred to repeatedly by speakers, and I think that question must now be regarded as settled.
§ Mr. MORTON
On a point of order, we have had no answer. What we want to know is why the Prime Minister does not come here to deal with this question?
§ Sir J. DALZIEL
I do not think we desired to censure the Lord Advocate by pressing him for a pledge. No discourtesy was intended to the right hon. Gentleman. We know if he could give a pledge he would have given it, and save the time of the Committee. I do not blame him for that, but I blame the Secretary for Scotland, in view of the alarming state of affairs, for not equipping the right hon. Gentleman with authority to promise a definite grant if the Committee so desired. I do not think we would have been asking too much of the Noble Lord if he had been within the precincts of the Committee, where he might have been consulted by the Lord Advocate.
§ Mr. A. C. MORTON
Without alluding to the £18,000, I want to emphasise the fact that somebody ought to be here to represent the Secretary for Scotland——
No; the hon. Member did not move it, and it was moved from the Front Opposition Bench.
§ Mr. URE
Let the Committee not misunderstand. I stated I was not in a position to give a definite pledge, but I intended to express myself as entirely in favour of the view that all distress committees' expenditure during the summertime should be most favourably considered by the Government when the grants come to be considered; and I gave an 1521 assurance, as far as my personal influence goes, it shall go to secure that none of the distress committees shall be out of pocket for moneys prudently and wisely spent.
§ Mr. WEIR
I have a few other matter to which I wish to call attention. It is not the first time I have called attention to them, and I charged the Government with gross neglect. I hold in my hand Dr. Dittmar's Report, published in 1905. I shall always be grateful to the late Lord Advocate for that Report, because it shows up a state of affairs in the island of Lewis which is disgraceful in any civilised country. The Report says that with the exception of six, all the 120 houses in the township of Brager are uninhabitable. The population of that township was 704. My complaint is that during all these years no effort has been made to put these things right. The only good houses in the township are built of stone and lime. In another township, with a population of 347, Dr. Dittmar says the houses are grossly insanitary and could be certified as a nuisance under the Public Health Act. Apparently nothing is to be done in Lewis. Years go by and nothing is done. What arrangements have been made to secure sanitary sites? The medical officer for Lewis has for years urged that sanitary sites for houses should be provided. Has any effort been made in that direction? Has the landlord been approached? There are many parts of the island which would provide sanitary sites, yet I believe not a
§ Question put, "That a sum not exceeding £10,435 be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 5; Noes, 46.1521
|Division No. 259.]||AYES.||[10.35 p.m.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Cochrane, Hon. Thomas H. A. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Scott-Dickson and Mr. Cleland.|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)|
|Armitage, R.||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-sh.)||Richardson, A.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Laidlaw, Robert||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Lamont, Norman||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Barnard, E. B.||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Seddon, J.|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Lynch, H. B.||Shackleton, David James|
|Beale, W. P||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Bowerman, C W.||Menzies, Sir Walter||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Weir, James Galloway|
|Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Murray, James (Aberdeen, E.)||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Dalziel, Sir James Henry||Nuttall, Harry||Williamson, Sir A.|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Pointer, J.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Glen-Coats, Sir T. (Renfrew, W.)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Fuller and Mr. Whitley.|
|Glendinning, R. G.||Rainy, A. Rolland|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
§ single one has been secured. We are often told that the District Committee has no money, but is that a justification for subjecting the population of the island to all kinds of fevers and to the loss of education through the closing of the schools? This would not be accepted as an excuse if the place were within easy reach of London; tout it is 750 miles away, and so the people can starve and die, in insanitary dwellings because no one except the landlord and his agent goes near them. I have visited many parts of the world, but I have never seen such terrible places as are to be found in Lewis—insanitary, without drainage and without water—surface water supply only. The District Committee have no money to dig wells, we are told, and when I put a question on this subject a year or two ago I was informed that there was plenty of water in the highlands. I think it was the most cold blooded reply I ever had. I suppose there is plenty of water in the sea, but it would not supply water for the population. In future, will the Local Government Board act in these cases as they would do in England? If there are difficulties of the kind encountered here, there is an immediate inquiry, and the matter is not allowed to go on year after year. The medical officer 1523 refers to the matter in his Report again and again, but nothing is done. Years go by, and still the Local Government Board simply do nothing, and the result is that there are fever outbreaks, the schools are closed, and the children are deprived of their educational opportunities. That is a very serious matter. The medical officer of health makes various suggestions in his report about sanitary matters, education, drainage schemes, and the supply of water, but these administrative matters which could be dealt with if the Local Government Board took the trouble are not dealt with. The medical officer has declared that some of the houses at Aignish, Lewis, built during the last three or four years, are practically uninhabitable owing to smoke and damp, and I, when I went over the houses myself, never saw such desolate places in my life. If this sort of thing is going on with houses recently built, what about the other houses? An indication can be got from a Report, for which I shall ever feel grateful to the ex-Lord Advocate. I should never have got it from the present Secretary for Scotland. The water pours in in pailfuls during storms, and these things are not attended to. The medical inspector refers to the infectious diseases hospital and the ambulance—no rubber tyres on it. That is a very small expense for an ambulance which may have to take persons for 45 miles from Stornoway. It is no joke for the poor inmate, racked with pain, to be jolted along the roads. I know whether a house is sanitary or insanitary, and if I knew nothing about it I have this Report of the medical inspector to the Local Government Board for Scotland, a most able and conscientious man. Not the slightest attention has been paid to any of his recommendations.
§ Progress reported; Committee to sit again on Monday next.