§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Clynes.]
§ Mr. KEDWARD
I want to call the attention of the House to the failure, evidently, of the Government to provide us with sufficient business to continue until the normal time. I quite understand some Members do not desire to hear all I have to say, but it is not so very long ago when Members on my left were sending deputations to see the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who was then Prime Minister, chasing him to Scotland to put to him the urgency of the unemployment question, and there were Resolutions passed by hon. Members on my left asking again and again that the House should meet to consider this very important question. Yet here we are now, unable to provide sufficient business to continue until the normal time. I wonder what the thousands and thousands of unemployed will think. The Government have made promises to these people, indicating to them, if only they had the opportunity, they would deal with this matter straightaway, and now we find them impotent to do anything, or to carry on business until 11 o'clock.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I, too, would like to offer a few observations on this subject. During last Session, when the occupants of these benches were in opposition, the 835 programme put down to-night would have been a very heavy one. It was the duty of the Opposition to-night to fight the Measures that were brought before this House. They passed them all, because they had not sense enought to compel the Government to fight every inch of the way. The Opposition has completely failed in its duty to the country in not compelling a strict examination of every item of business the Government have brought forward.
§ Mr. MAXTON
My hon. Friend who has raised this question is a very new Member, otherwise he would know that the Government's business is to get through as quickly as possible, and the Opposition's business to delay them as much as possible. The one contentious business we had before us tonight was the Railway Bill, and the opposition was not from other parties, who, to assist this huge private enterprise to preserve its own privileges, powers and profits, were anxious to assist those people to get it through, and only here was a demand made that, under the new dispensation, a railway company would have to recollect that we were much more interested in the rights of the travelling public and the conditions of the railway employés than we were in the powers, privileges or profits of this particular private company. I hope that on many other occasions this contingency will arise, that our Liberal and Tory opponents Will be so satisfied with this revolutionary Socialist Government that the various proposals they bring forward will go practically without opposition, and we shall all be finished and away home before the hour of 10 o'clock.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
I cannot, as a new Member, allow the experienced Member who has just sat down to get away with his speech unanswered. If he had studied the Order Paper of the Supplementary Estimates, he would have found out that, so far from the Government having succeeded in getting the business through, they have abandoned their business. There was expected to be a discussion, not merely till 11 o'clock, but the Government, at the commencement of business to-day, got a vote for the suspension of the 11 o'clock rule.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. E. BROWN
The hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead) talking on the various platforms of the country in defence of the rights of free speech, attempted to stifle free speech in this House when at three minutes to 10 o'clock he drew attention to the fact that 40 Members were not present. I was observing, when the count was called, that, so far from the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) being correct in stating that the Government had got through their business, the facts were therwise. A very important debate was expected on the Kenya question, a question of immense importance, not only to the House, but to the country. I saw a Minister of the Crown leave the Front Bench just now in order to make one less than the 40. I should like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman who I see standing behind the Chair, that though I do not belong to his party, I had made arrangements to stay here till after 11, and, if necessary, to 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, in order to help the Government to get through their business. To treat a private Member who is not of his own party, and who is supporting his party in order that they shall get fair play in this House is not quite playing the game. Further, I should like to point out that, since I have been sitting on these benches, a rumour has reached me that the reason this business has not yet been got through is because of a spectacle now observed in the House, of the right hon. Gentleman in evening dress; the reason that the business has not gone through, I understand, is because there is a very sumptuous banquet going on at the Savoy Hotel—
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BROWN
I bow to your ruling, of course, but I should like to point out that I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary is absent on account of another engagement, and I wish to protest as strongly as I can against the assumption made by the hon. Member for Bridgeton that the Government have got their business through. I wish to point out that the fact that many 837 of us come here and listen to the Debates and take part in the work requires that the Government of to-day should take pains so to arrange their business that the private Members who sacrifice their time should know that arrangements are made. There should be sufficient Government business of an urgent importance in order to occupy the time of the House. I make my protest. I hope the Government will take notice of it. When we are referred to as the Opposition, the Government perhaps will remember that some of us have gone into the Lobby to support them. We do so because we believe they are in earnest in regard to the grave questions which the people of this country expect to have discussed here—questions of unemployment, of overseas settlement, of the resettlement of Europe, and the development, not merely of the great urban centres to provide work for the unemployed there, but questions of land reclamation and drainage in order to make the agricultural worker in the rural district have something of the advantages of the urban worker. The one receives unemployment, pay; the other does not. I want to make my emphatic protest against this mishandling and muddling of the business on the part of the Government, and I hope, from my point of view, it will not occur again.
§ Mr. MILLS
If the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Brown) consulted the Whips of his own party he would discover that what is known as the usual arrangement is sometimes made by the Government Front Bench and the Opposition, that certain business shall be taken, and other business left. The Whips of the Liberal party will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that it is correct to state that it was agreed that after the Agricultural Vote has been taken no further business would be transacted. In order to expedite that, the Scottish Members agreed to restrain themselves, so that the matter might go through in that way. The hon. Member for Rugby, so far as my information goes, has not, with all respect, quite understood the position.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
There seems to have been a slight misunderstanding in what the last speaker said on this matter. I was interested in this particular Kenya Debate, and I was sitting in the House waiting for it to come on. I was informed by a kind friend of the Labour party that the Supplementary Estimate in connection with it had been withdrawn. That is the first I knew of it, and I think the first our party knew of it.
§ Captain W. BENN
Having been a Member of this House for many years I think I am entitled to congratulate the Government of the day on the rapidity with which they have adopted this capacity for management. I do not take the situation at all seriously. I can remember many occasions on which this same has happened. I congratulate them on the skill with which they have joined with their allies in attempting to frustrate the natural desire of Members of Parliament to continue the Debate at all times, when required, and for which duty they were elected. But it is not the Government business I complain about at all. I understand there was some arrangement made. I have not a word to say about that. What has happened is that the rights of private Members have been affected. Private Members have very few opportunities in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I can understand the jubilation of hon. Members sitting behind the Government Front Bench, and if I may say respectfully, speaking for myself, I share in their delight. In what has occurred they have my sympathy. This is a question of private Members. If it so happens that Government business is finished, there should be an opportunity for private Members. Private Members had on the Notice Paper several notices of Bills and Motions which might have been dealt with if the Whip had not risen to move that the House now adjourn. There is one particular thing which might have been done. We might have got the assent of the House to a Resolution dealing with the thrift limit in old age pensions. This is a quite serious point. It would not have been a bad thing if we had utilised the time available to passing, no doubt without any opposition, and putting on the Minutes of Proceedings of this House the determination of the House in respect to the removal of this disqualification. 839 Perhaps the Treasurer of the Household might see his way to withdraw his Motion just for the necessary few minutes to enable this Motion on old age pensions to be carried. If he would do so I think it would meet the wishes of the House.
§ Mr. PERCY HARRIS
I wish to rise to take the first opportunity of allowing the Minister of Transport, whom I am glad to see in his place, to explain the attitude of his Department towards electricity in the County of London. We have waited for a long time for a statement as to what the Government policy is in regard to this very important problem. The Minister on many occasions has placed on the Table and moved Resolutions with reference to electricity in several districts of England and Wales, but in London, where the problem is most important, no progress has been made. He has the advantage of the advice of three very able Commissioners, one a civil servant, another an electrical engineer, and a third an old controller of the county council. We have been moving, as he knows, for the last 15 years, that this long overdue problem should be solved. We have a scheme put forward for London and the home counties which was prepared by the Commissioners after a delay of two or three years. We had also a scheme put forward by the London County Council and the local authorities. I am not blaming the Minister, because I know he is anxious to find a solution of this problem; but the late Government, although they had the advantage of the elaborate machinery of a highly organised Department, have been moving first in one direction and then in another, with the result that the industry of London has suffered. God knows, trade is bad enough in London, but if it is to be revived one of the most important things is that it should have cheap power. Progress has been made in the provinces towards having co-ordinated schemes, but in London nothing has been done. The position is gradually getting worse. Owing to the delays the various power companies are extending their stations, sinking large sums of money, which prejudices the proper solution of the problem. If you are to get electricity cheap and efficient, you must have a supply of power for as large an area as possible.
840 In London you have a number of conflicting interests. In the County of London you have a large number of local authorities owning small power stations. Such districts as Kensington, Westminster, and Chelsea are supplied by companies. Outside London are great power companies which are taking advantage of the delay to sink large sums of capital in new plant and prejudicing the final settlement of this programme on sound and satisfactory lines. The Minister has had great experience. I believe he has the majority of the House behind him on this question and, if he will grasp the nettle and have the courage to insist that the Commissioners should put forward a scheme on sound lines, he will be able to give it the force almost of an Act of Parliament by administrative action. But time is vital. There are Bills in another place put forward by the various vested interests. But if there is delay in administrative action there is a danger that Parliament in despair will allow them to get the powers they ask. Unfortunately, most of the time of the House up to Easter has been mapped out, and there is very little chance of this question being settled. In London electricity is dearer than in almost any other part of the country. You have local authorities such as Stepney, where you have a cheap supply and Poplar as well. I will give that credit to Poplar. We have the Act of Parliament and no legislation is required. The Act of Parliament requires that you should map the country into electricity areas and that electricity authorities should be set up on which will be representatives of all the interests concerned. That has been done in other parts of the country, but, for some reason that we cannot fathom, there are all kinds of delays in London. Let the Minister insist that the scheme shall be put forward. If that scheme is put before Parliament, I believe he will be backed and very soon something will be done. If there is delay we are gradually arriving at the time when the London County Council will have to face the question whether it is to buy out the companies at a very high price or give them a fresh lease of power. Time is ripe in the matter, and the right hon. Gentleman has now ample time to put forward his scheme, and then we can discuss it and get a move on in this very vital problem.
§ Mr. FOOT
For a long time I had been anxious to put before the House a question which has been dealt with once or twice at Question Time. I have simply to make a suggestion, and I may say that it is not being made by way of criticism of the Government. My question is in relation to perpetual pensions. I had an opportunity in the House that met before 1922 of putting certain questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon a subject which, while it does not involve a largo annual sum, is still one of importance. The answers I got were quite inconclusive and unsatisfactory.
§ Mr. FOOT
I can assure the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley that the answer I have got from the present Government has not been any more satisfactory. In the last Parliament there were some further questions put in relation to these perpetual pensions, and I was given an answer by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer which led me to think that inquiries were really made with a view to these pensions being terminated. I followed that up by a question to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer only a few days ago, asking him if his Government would take steps to terminate the perpetual pensions now being paid, and his answer was almost the same as that given by the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he said the Government were prepared to enter into negotiations to terminate these pensions upon satisfactory terms.
I would like to remind the House what are these perpetual pensions. As a matter of fact, there are pensions being paid at the present time to the descendants of the Duke of Schomberg for services rendered before the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Another pension is being paid to the descendants of Lord Rodney because of a battle fought in the West Indies in 1782, and another pension is also being paid to the descendants of a brother of Lord Nelson on account of what was done in 1805. I think the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) will agree with me that two families have already been amply rewarded by the payment of some £850,000 for services rendered more than 100 years ago. Although this matter is being raised at so late an hour, I think there will be practical unanimity 842 in this House, and, perhaps, in present circumstances, more than I could secure on any other occasion, if I press upon His Majesty's Ministers, and those who are now at the Treasury, that the Members of this House and the people of this country think that the services—most meritorious services—rendered so long ago have now been amply rewarded, and that these pensions ought to be brought to a conclusion. I do not think there should be any harsh treatment of those who have been led to rely upon them, but I think it would be fair if we came to some terms under which, when the lives of those at present enjoying the pensions should cease, the pensions should then terminate.
§ Mr. D. G. SOMERVILLE
Does the hon. Member suggest that the descendants of these gentlemen should be paid compensation?
§ Mr. FOOT
I suggest that we should not go on for another 100, 200 or 500 years paying these pensions. I think it would be arbitrary, without, some adequate notice, to bring these pensions to an immediate conclusion, and I do not desire that hardship should be caused, because we must have some regard to what has been done by the community all along; but I do urge upon the Government that some negotiations might be entered into in order that we might bring to an end what some people in the country regard as a real scandal, at a time when, according to the announcement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, we have difficulty in meeting the claims of the old age pensioners. It is impossible to go to poor people in this country who are receiving less than 10s. per week and tell them that, while at the same time we are paying out to one gentleman, who is not a descendant of Lord Nelson at all, but is a descendant of his brother, not 10s., but £100 per week. I believe that that is indefensible, and that, as soon as Parliament comes to consider it, some arrangement will be insisted upon; and it might be wise if the Financial Secretary could get into communication with those who have been so favoured in the community, and assure them that, unless some reasonable arrangement can soon be made, these pensions may be brought abruptly to an end.
§ Mr. JOHN HARRIS
I avail myself of the short time that remains to-night to raise a question which I have long been wishing to raise in this House. I understand that an appeal is shortly to be made to this country to contribute a quota to the erection of what is called the Labour Palace at Geneva. The International Labour Office at the moment is situated in an out-of-the-way place outside Geneva, but I understand that the Swiss Government has given a piece of land for the erection of a new International Labour Office, which is to be a rather palatial building, and all the nations who are members of the League of Nations are being invited to contribute to it. I would ask whether the Financial Secretary has looked into the terms of this so-called gift. I understand that it is a condition of that grant that the architect must be a Swiss architect, that all the materials must be bought in Switzerland, and that only Swiss workmen must be employed in the erection of the building. I would appeal to the hon. Gentleman to consider before making that grant whether, as all nations are contributing to it, all nations should not be allowed to compete in the work of erecting what is going to be a memorial to labour.
Mr. VIVIAN PHILLIPPS
I understand the suggestion has been made that there has been some breach of faith on the part of those who sit with me in regard to an arrangement for the termination of business to-night. I wish to say most clearly and emphatically that, owing possibly to my unavoidable absence from the Chamber at the time, I have no knowledge, nor have my colleagues, of any arrangement, nor were we, in fact, directly approached by the Whips of the Government party in regard to the conclusion of business this evening. I wish to give my assurance that had we been approached and made any such arrangement, we should most faithfully have fulfilled any bargain we entered into.
§ Mr. STRANGER
I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to the private Members to raise a question which is most interesting to his own constituents and which has the most important bearing upon their lives. Mine happens to be an agricultural constituency which 844 I think more than any other in the Kingdom at present is suffering from the acute depression in agriculture generally. It is suggested by the Government that they are going to introduce Agricultural Wages Boards for the benefit of the agricultural worker, and, of course, it is a fact that if the Agricultural Wages Boards settle a fair wage the agricultural worker is going to benefit very considerably, provided always that there can be an assurance that he is going to be kept at work. At present, farmers in many parts of the country find the greatest difficulty, not in making a profit, but in saving themselves from losing money, and the danger to the worker is that the farmers will put their farms from corn into grass. The result of doing that will be a large dismissal of agricultural workers throughout the kingdom if the Agricultural Wages Boards work without any guarantee that the worker will be kept in employment. What will be the effect of that? There will be unemployment amongst farm labourers far more serious than at present. The farm labourers have no unemployment insurance. [An HON. MEMBER: "Whose fault is that?"] It is not my fault, at any rate. This being the first opportunity I have had of raising the matter, I want to urge on the Government the importance of including in the insurance scheme the insurance of the agricultural worker. I can see no reason why he should be treated differently from the artisan.
§ Mr. CLIMIE
Should I be in Order in asking the hon. Member if he is speaking for himself or his leaders?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think both hon. Members are out of Order. It is administrative and not legislative matters which are open on the Adjournment.
§ Mr. STRANGER
I am sure you will understand, Mr. Speaker, that I am a new Member, and it is quite unintentional if I have raised a matter not open on this Motion. I thought that I should have been in order, having regard to the proposed introduction of a scheme for agricultural workers, to make the suggestion which I have put forward. I want something to be done for the improvement of agriculture in this country. Nothing is being done at the present time as far as I know. I am afraid this will not be quite so popular with hon. Members on my left 845 —the farmers of this country should have credits to improve their position. We cannot expect to get from the farmers money to carry on their farms in the interest of the farm workers, unless, at least, they are guaranteed against absolute loss.
§ Mr. STRANGER
I will then deal with the question of railway rates. My constituents suffer, from the fact that the rates for the carriage of goods from my constituency, South Berks, to London are very high. At the present time you have to pay a higher figure for the carriage of goods from a district which is only 50 or 60 miles distant from London than for the carriage of the same class of goods from Continental ports to London.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is now anticipating a Motion which stands on the Order Paper for the 7th of March.
§ Mr. STRANGER
There is another question to which I should like to draw attention, and that is the position of the ex-service men who are suffering through a difficulty in getting their pensions dealt with by the Government Department. I, and other Members of this House, have cases brought to our notice where ex-service men have been for weeks and months unable to get the question of their pensions dealt with by the Government Department. Again, the way in which, constantly, examinations and reexaminations of the disabled go on is a great burden upon and injustice to many who are ex-service men. I had a case brought to my notice the other day of a man who had been before a medical board six times in the past 14 months. He had, first of all, been classed as permanently disabled; he was injured with gunshot wound in both hands. Then he was reduced to 80 per cent. disablement, then to 70, then to 60, and afterwards he was put up to 70 per cent. and again to 80 per cent. The uncertainty in being brought from board to board in that way works Very much to his disadvantage. The Government should consider the granting of an award in cases of that kind, which would be permanent and not temporary.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
Although a great number of subjects have been raised to-night, not one Minister has deigned to reply. The subjects have varied from electricity in London to land reclamation, Geneva and so forth, and it is terrible that Ministers are either unwilling or unable to reply. Some, fearing lest they should be called on to reply and being incapable of doing so, I have retired behind the Chair. I would like to take advantage of the fleeting moments to call attention to a very important fact. I do so because in many things the Labour party require education. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Liberals do not!"] Liberals also, but for the moment the Labour party is in the responsible position of administering the affairs of this country. The subject to which I should like to call attention is the relation of vaccination to small-pox. [Laughter.] This is not a laughing matter. There are one or two things of a very elementary kind as to which there is a great amount of ignorance prevailing, especially in the Labour party, and much nonsense is talked and much evil is done because they do not understand the elementary basis on which these great scientific truths stand. Everyone in the Labour party is cognisant of the fact that there are certain diseases of childhood which give immunity through the whole of life. Vaccination is a preventative against small-pox, and the administration of the Vaccination Acts to-day is a scandal of civilisation. There are certain diseases which once contracted give immunity for the rest of life. Measles is one. That is the great fundamental fact. [Laughter.] After all, I am trying to be serious, and you are trying to be stupid, and I find it less difficult to be serious than you do to be stupid. There is another disease which gives immunity—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member might wish to discuss the incidence of insanity, but we are here to discuss the administration of the Government, and not things in the air, and not to listen to a lecture.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
I thought that I was in order in discussing something in relation to the administration of the Vaccination Acts. There are so many of the Labour party who think that vaccination in itself is an evil.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
How does the hon. Member know what the Labour party think? It does not follow that because the hon. Member is a doctor he knows everything.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
Am I not in order in discussing the administration of the Vaccination Acts and in justifying the Vaccination Acts by showing how vaccination is a remedy for small-pox?
§ Mr. B. SMITH
Is it part of the duty of hon. Members to be subjected to a lecture on a number of matters with which they are thoroughly au fait?
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
I want to establish the fact that vaccination is justifiable, that it is ignored and treated with contempt in the great centres of population, and that, in consequence, we are in daily dread of an epidemic of small-pox. Epidemics in different parts of the country are spreading because of the fact—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is attacking an Act of Parliament, and that 848 is not open to him on an occasion like this.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
With respect, I am not attacking the Act but the administration of the Act. The Act requires that children should be vaccinated. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
I was about to make that qualification when I was interrupted from the Labour Benches. The exceptions are very largely abused. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are legal!"]
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Sixteen Minutes before Eleven o'Clock.