HC Deb 30 April 1913 vol 52 cc1218-20

I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to establish a Minister of Labour, to make provision for the prevention of Unemployment, to provide for the proper treatment of unemployed persons, and for other purposes connected therewith."

The Bill is divided into two parts. The first seeks to create a Minister of Labour, and to co-ordinate under him many of the functions now performed by various Government Departments. The Home Office, the Board of Trade, and the Local Government Board, all at the present time exercise powers in connection with the administration of the Factory Acts, the Mines Acts, the Shops Acts, the Care of Able-Bodied Poor, Labour Exchanges, the Unemployed Workmen Act, the National Insurance Act, and the like, which it is proposed under this Bill to commit to one officer, the Minister of Labour. Then it is proposed to endeavour to mitigate the hardships arising from unemployment during the time of bad trade by so arranging that all public work which is not presently urgent, whether for local authorities or for the State, shall be put in hand and carried through during times of bad trade, so as to ensure that the national aggregate demand for labour of all kinds shall be maintained at an approximately uniform level. We submit that it is entirely a matter for arrangement. There is no reason why unemployment should commit such terrible havoc during bad trade if only a little business capacity and a little common sense are brought into the placing of Government orders. We ask that this Bill be considered now when trade is good and booming. The treatment of the unemployed hitherto has been haphazard, spasmodic, costly, and ineffective. We desire that that state of things should be removed, and that a systematic and business-like method should be substituted to make provision against unemployment.

The proposals in the Bill are that every local authority, rural and urban, with a population of over 20,000 shall be constituted an authority for dealing with unemployment. It will have an unemployed committee with power to co-opt outsiders, both employers and employed, in equal numbers. It shall be obligatory upon local authorities to provide either work or maintenance for the genuinely unemployed. Where work cannot be provided, the authority will be under obligation to maintain such unemployed person and his dependants in a state of physical efficiency. The cost is to be distributed between the local authority and the State—the local authority to be responsible for all expenditure in carrying out this Act up to the limit of a penny per £ on the rateable value of the area. Everything beyond that is to be borne by the State. Such are the main provisions of the Bill. It makes someone definitely responsible for the care of the unemployed, and it imposes upon the State the responsibility of providing either work or maintenance for every genuinely unemployed person. This Bill will not produce the Millennium, but it will tend to mitigate somewhat the hardship and demoralisation which periods of unemployment always bring in their train.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Keir Hardie, Mr. Barnes, Mr. Arthur Henderson, Mr. O'Grady, Mr. Wardle, Mr. Tyson Wilson, Mr. Crooks, and Mr. William Thorne. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Tuesday, 10th June, and to be printed. [Bill 138.]

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