Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £7,559,000, 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, 1930, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Labour and Subordinate Departments, including the Exchequer Contribution to the Unemployment Fund, Grants to Associations, Local Education Authorities, and others under the Unemployment Insurance, Labour Exchanges, and other Acts; Expenses of the Industrial Court; Contribution towards the Expenses of the International Labour Organisation (League of Nations); Expenses of Training and Transference of Workpeople and their Families within Great Britain and Oversea; and sundry services, including services arising out of the War."—[NOTE.—£4,600,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. CLYNES
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
This may well be the last opportunity which Members will have of discussing many aspects of the problem of unemployment. I hope, generally speaking, that Members associated with all parties will welcome this opportunity. The first word in this Parliament on unemployment is to be found in the Speech from the Throne in 1924, and, contrasting the miserable performances of the Government with the promises to be found in that Speech, the Debate will afford at least an opportunity to the Government of something in the nature of a deathbed repentance. In the King's Speech to which I refer His Majesty's Ministers declared to the country that they viewed the state of unemployment in Britain with the gravest concern and that the matter would receive the constant attention of Ministers. Coming definitely to schemes, and relating the conduct of 894 Ministers to Parliamentary or legislative action, this is what is to be found in the Speech from the Throne:You will be asked to make provision for the continuance and extension of all measures likely to alleviate the present distress. You will be asked to extend these measures, and to continue them, and all measures will be pursued likely to alleviate the present distress.We went on and on, year after year, and in each one of the succeeding years, until last year, some reference was made to this problem of unemployment. Then, as I have said, we reached the stage when the Speech from the Throne said not a word on the matter. Are we to conclude from that that the problem was regarded as settled, and that really no unemployment existed? The Prime Minister, speaking the other night, referred to the enormous amount of public money expended by this Government on what are termed "relief measures." The Prime Minister spoke of these measures as only palliatives and seemed to refer to them in rather slighting terms as being of little assistance in relation to this problem. I can assure the Minister of Labour that Members on this side of the House would welcome any measure which the Government might pursue which would restore men to their normal and ordinary work, which would afford them that permanency and security in employment which ought to be the object of some broad policy of any Government upon this subject. But, if we cannot have a settlement or permanency, palliatives must be accepted as the next best thing. A Government with no policy and no ideas upon which to found a scheme that will provide permanency of work should not in these days sniff at palliatives.
It is true that we have spent a considerable sum of money on palliatives or in relief measures, but it is also true that we have spent a much larger sum for absolutely no work at all. I would suggest, to illustrate what I have in mind, that it is far better to pay a man, say, £2 a week and get, it may be, only 30s. of value from it in the way of yield of commodities or goods than it is to pay a man £1 for doing nothing at all. You do get some yield of goods. The loss is not merely expressed in the total absence of any products or of any wealth which the labour of hand and brain tend to make. The loss is expressed in the de- 895 terioration in character and efficiency and position of the idler himself, and that kind of moral loss has quite repeatedly been referred to in recent years by local authorities which have had to deal with it as part of their local problem. We are spending, in supporting absolute idleness, three or four times the number of millions which have been expended in finding some sort of work in our various local centres.
The promises of the Government made during the Election of 1924 have often been quoted in this House, and naturally Members on the opposite side do not like to be reminded of them. I could understand Ministers if they would frankly and honestly declare that such a problem as we have is insolvable by any Measure which they can propose, that it is impossible for them to deal with it by legislation or by other means. That would be an understandable and an honest course to pursue. We appear to have two standards in these matters. One is the standard which hon. Gentlemen opposite pursue, and which, I hope, all of us pursue in our private relationships, the standard of honourable dealing, of truthfulness, and of frankness; but I say, with respect to public affairs and the real condition of things so far as they are affected by Parliamentary action, that truthfulness and frankness are not observed. Therefore, we have for public duty and for national concern a second standard clearly showing that which is declared from the platform by His Majesty's Ministers finds no reflection or expression whatever in the Parliamentary or public action which they take.
There has recently been some reduction in the unemployment figures. On the occasions when that fact has been referred to in previous debates we have had our attention called to the silver lining to the cloud. Indeed, in nearly every speech of hon. Gentlemen opposite, we find some statement that the clouds will roll away. They forecast better times. These prophecies have been falsified very soon after they have been uttered, and the figures have just risen and have fallen almost automatically; and now we see that in the last few days there has been some apparent, indeed some welcome, reduction in the figures of unemployment. Still, there are some 70,000 more unemployed than there were 896 about this time last year. The Government can, therefore, find little consolation in that. It is probable that if we looked up the speeches of 12 months ago we should find such references to the silver lining. Yet here we are 12 months afterwards with the numbers substantially larger than they were a year ago. An answer given during Question Time today was some indication of the methods pursued by the Government to reduce these figures. For our part, we decline to accept as representing all the unemployed of the country only those who are officially recorded on the list as being unemployed. Indeed, those who speak with authority for municipal bodies and public corporations have alleged that in addition to those on the list there are many thousands in our various cities who are not included. I allege that, as far as the Government have any policy, it is a policy of getting men off the list at any cost.
We are approaching the end, not only of the Session, but of this Parliament. There was a Labour Government for a few months in 1924, and before that Government had been not in power but in office for two months the present Prime Minister led his forces in demanding from that Labour Government why it was that they had not settled the unemployment question. Now, at the end of their term of office, the situation is far worse than it was when we left it, towards the latter part of 1924. The Government appear to have no policy, but two devices for dealing with this matter. One device is charity, organised, systematised relief for these victims of our industrial system: these victims of the neglect of His Majesty's Ministers. I do not want to dry up the well springs of one of the great virtues, but His Majesty's Ministers were not elected to be relieving officers. It is not a workhouse that we are asking them to administer. We are asking them to conduct the affairs of the nation. A substantial Fund, aided by His Majesty's Ministers, has been raised by all manner of appeal, particularly by the declaration, supported by the Government, that "Sympathy is not enough." It appears that the Government have no doctrine on this problem except sympathy. Therefore they agreed to go fifty-fifty. In effect, they said to the public: "If you will give one pound voluntarily of your 897 own money to this Fund we will give another pound of your money." In that manner they seek, by this temporary device, to deal with a problem which with ability, good will and determination they might have handled effectively during their five years of an enormous majority.
The second device is that of transference. Probably this idea, such as it is, did not occur to them in the first instance. They sub-let their tasks to all manners of commissions and committees, sending them roaming to find out in what way they could help His Majesty's Ministers to deal with the problem. A report was made by those who made the investigation, and the Government accepted the principles of the Report. At the end of August, the Prime Minister issued an appeal to employers, asking for their co-operation. Between the issue of that appeal and the 25th February last about 14,000 workpeople from the distressed areas had been transferred to work in other areas.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I doubt whether it matters much whether right hon. Gentlemen listen to me or not, for it is unlikely that they can, or will, be influenced by anything that is said; but we might have from them some little observance of the customary courtesy. The report was accepted by His Majesty's Government. What have they made of it? I have not the latest figures, but no doubt the Minister of Labour has them. I do not believe that as yet a total of 20,000 men has been transferred under the scheme. That is to say, about one in over 200 men out of work have a chance of transference, not a chance of a job without putting somebody else out but a chance of taking a job which, clearly, somebody else would like to have in that particular district. That is not a solution of the problem. It is simply part of the proved desperation of the Government, who appear to have been busy and doing something. It is a device which has involved the Government in the paying of certain allowances and fares and payments for the work of finding lodgings, which is a branch of service that the Ministry of Labour has undertaken.
898 It would be naturally thought that the opinion of two outstanding authorities upon the question of transference would be welcomed by the Government and would carry great weight with them. The two bodies which I suggest as being particularly interested are the Miners' Federation and the local authorities. Perhaps it may be said that the Miners' Federation is a Labour organisation and that it may be prejudiced, but it must feel a very high human interest in any proper and effective plan to find work for their members, so that such prejudice as there may be will certainly be on the side of the scheme or on the side of the Government which handles the scheme intended to find work for their members who are out of employment. They ought, therefore, not to be regarded as having any ill feeling against the Government on this matter. More than once they have pointed out how inadequate this measure is and how completely it fails in its alleged purpose. There was a report in the "Manchester Guardian" a few days ago of a delegate meeting of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation. That report said that the conference was of delegates drawn from the Lancashire and Cheshire Federation and that it transpiredthat unemployed Lancashire miners had been instructed to go to find work in the Kent coalfields, although the Federation had it on good authority that there is already considerable mining unemployment in Kent. It was stated that men had been sent there, and, as they could not find work, had had to tramp home again to Lancashire. The conference registered its emphatic protest against the action of the Employment Exchanges in the matter.From such a quarter the conclusion is that this is a wholly ineffective plan and one which involves the men concerned in a good deal of personal inconvenience and personal suffering which ought not to be imposed upon them. As to the local authorities, they are not Labour bodies, they are not trade unionists, but they are, unfortunately, as yet mostly dominated by Conservatives. Nevertheless, many of these bodies, overwhelmingly Conservative, have denounced this scheme of transference as being hopelessly unserviceable and almost useless for the purpose of finding men work. A conference of local authorities recently took place on the subject. Let me read its four conclusions, briefly expressed: 899The conference decided to draw the attention of the Government to the following points:The two bodies whose opinion should carry the greatest weight with Members of this House have been found strongly to condemn this part of the Government's plan. There has been a third line grudgingly and less effectively followed, and under that heading we are entitled strongly to complain. The Unemployment Grants Committee finds itself substantially interfered with by Government action. I will quote the conclusions of the Unemployment Grants Committee on the matter. This is what the Grants Committee said:
- (1) That in Lancashire and Cheshire there are, approximately, 273,536 unemployed persons registered at the Employment Exchanges.
- (2) That the state of unemployment is such as to render impossible the employment of transferred men by the Lancashire and Cheshire local authorities.
- (3) That, as a consequence of the unemployment of transferred men, unemployment in Lancashire and Cheshire would increase and so render nugatory the steps which the local authorities have in the past taken to relieve unemployment.
- (4) That, regardless of other circumstances, the local authorities are not in a position to provide suitable accommodation for transferred men."The policy indicated in the Circular issued to local authorities by the Committee on the 15th December last, at the instance of the Government, was accordingly designed to limit the making of further grants, exception being made in the case of districts suffering from abnormal unemployment, both as regards intensity and duration. The effect of this policy has of course been to reduce very appreciably the extent of the Committee's operations.4.0 p.m.
As members of the Committee well know, the Government have not modified or reversed their policy imposed some time ago upon the Unemployment Grants Committee—another instance of the failure of the Government to exhibit any foresight whatever, or to possess themselves of the knowledge for framing a policy which would be helpful to the unemployed. There is a further point with regard to Manchester that is really typical of innumerable cases up and down the country. The Manchester City Council declared recently that, during 900 the last eight years, it had made every effort to provide work for the local unemployed. In that period it had spent, roughly, £2,250,000, and towards that expenditure the Government contributed only £573,000. The Council further said:The Unemployment Grants Committee now require to be convinced that the unemployment sought to be relieved is exceptional, and by the standard they have imposed, Manchester, like most local authorities in the Lancashire area, is no longer eligible for Government financial assistance towards the cost of unemployment relief works.I have, in a former instance, cited this case and brought it before the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman, but I have failed to get from the right hon. Gentleman any statement of why he, in private, fixed a certain figure for the unemployed below which relief was not to be given. I have alleged, and repeated, that that action was arbitrary if not unconstitutional. It certainly was taken without the sanction of this House, and taken without the helpfulness of discussion or interchange of view which, at least, the right hon. Gentleman might have sought before fixing an arbitrary figure of that kind. Accordingly, the Manchester Corporation have very strongly criticised that action, and have put before him in speech and in writing on several occasions what they think, not only as regards their own position in that city, but as regards also the state of things in general in the counties of Lancashire and Cheshire.
Here I may remind the right hon. Gentleman that on 8th December he was good enough to indicate his willingness to receive a small deputation from Manchester, but it was found impossible for them to make arrangements for that date. A deputation was received by the Parliamentary Secretary on 8th January, and some reply to the statements, both written and verbal was promised. Within the last few days I have been informed that no reply has been received, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman for a moment to turn his mind to that question, and intimate some answer to the Manchester authorities, because their case, as I say, is not exceptional, but is like that of innumerable other centres in the Kingdom. If it is exceptional, the conditions which have made it so should have caused the right hon. Gentleman to have looked differently upon the situation. The exceptional 901 state of Manchester is that it has endured for longer than most other centres, and to a greater degree than many, not only a state of absolute unemployment in hundreds of thousands of cases, but a condition of under-employment and short time which has tended to make the state of the ordinary man out of work worse than it is in most other cases. Accordingly, the Manchester authorities not long ago expressed themselves in these terms:Experience of the unemployment problem has proved that its greatest evil lies in the demoralisation of the individual as a consequence of long periods of enforced inactivity, and any scheme of co-operation must primarily have for its object the prevention of this deterioration in character. This can only be accomplished by the provision of useful work, and under these proposals the task of providing such work devolves upon the Corporation.As I pointed out, they have strongly complained of the policy of the Government not to continue some reasonable degree of support for the efforts which the Corporation desire to make, for they, like other public bodies, have had schemes in hand, and indeed, gone through the preliminary stages and arrangements in relation to those schemes, and then found themselves deserted by the Government, and the support which was expected not forthcoming. There is one line along which the Government might have gone, and, as far as I know, little or nothing has been attempted. It may strike some hon. Members as a very small matter in a very great question. There is, for instance, the question of the development of electricity in rural areas.There is no instance, either at home or abroad, of any scheme of rural development which has been self-supporting. That is owing to the large amount of expenditure which has to be incurred for a small amount of revenue. You hear of cheap rural supply abroad. The explanation is that the electrical power is generated by water power, right away from the industrial centres, in some cases naturally adapted, and it has to be transmitted to the places where it is consumed. By that means they are able to give a cheap supply to the villages or houses along the line of transmission…. I feel that in this connection there must be some organisation for the distribution of the electricity. It might be possible, and I think it would be necessary, to form some subsidiary organisation, but that will have to be, to some extent, subsidised by the State. There might, for instance, be wiring of a house on something 902 like the hire purchase system. Our great idea is to adapt and adopt everything which may be necessary in order to achieve electrical power in the country districts for power purposes and domestic use."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1924; col. 2109, Vol. 176.]That, as I say, may strike many hon. Members as being a small matter, but it has not been declared in this House for the first time. What I have just read, and what will, no doubt, be taken as my own personal opinion, will be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Debate in this House on 30th July, 1924, for what I have just submitted to the Committee is the concluding part of a long speech on the whole problem of unemployment made in this House in exposition of Labour party policy on the question by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), and in it he dealt at length with problems of transport, canals, roads, land, railway construction, drainage, electrification works, work through the aid of Grants Committees, the use of export credit, trade facilities and many other very important matters all bearing on this question. At the conclusion of the speech of my right hon. Friend, the House heard a speech from a man who could speak in it at that time with great official authority—Dr. Macnamara. He had been Labour Minister in a previous Government, and having listened to this exposition of Labour unemployment policy, Dr. Macnamara said:Let the Government press on with these schemes for all they are worth. We shall back them up for all we are worth. This thing is very urgent. These people have suffered great hardship for a long time; they are now drifting on to the fifth winter of hard times. Therefore, my one last word to the Government is this: Press on with this; do not waste time, and you shall have all the support we can possibly give you."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1924; col. 2125, Vol. 176.]As all who hear me know, we got not support, but as foul a blow as could be dealt to the Labour Government by the two parties, making it impossible for the Labour Government to go ahead with the schemes which at that time received such warm approval. My right hon. Friend himself, I know, would not claim that all that he said in his speech expressed his own original ideas, for, indeed, the Labour Government, and the spokesmen generally of, the Labour party, had expounded their views on anticipated and 903 real difficulties years before my right hon. Friend made his speech. Eighteen months before the War ended there was an exposition in detail of the lines that we would pursue. Let me read what the Labour party formulated in the year 1917:That, in order to prepare for the possibility of there being extensive unemployment, either in the course of demobilisation, and in the first years of peace, it is essential that the Government should make all necessary preparations for putting instantly in hand, directly or through the local authority, such urgently needed public works as the re-housing of the population alike in rural districts, mining villages, and town slums, to the extent, possibly, of £200,000,000"—A figure which has recently received a good deal of public notice because mentioned in another quarter—the immediate making good of the shortage of schools, training colleges, technical colleges, etc.; new roads; light railways; the reorganisation of the canal system; afforestation; the reclamation of land; the development and better equipment of our ports and harbours; the opening of access to land by small holdings, and other practicable ways.And much more at greater length is to be found detailed in the report of the Annual Conference held in 1917 and the publication which immediately followed it. Again, in 1921, the Labour party called a special conference to attract national attention and the attention of the Government of the day to its proposals. The conference passed many resolutions and set out in much detail its policy, and it took what was then the very unusual step of sending to every Member of this House copies of the resolutions urging that national action should be taken by Parliament because of the degree of difficulty which had been reached on unemployment. We are asked by some people not merely to take an interest in unemployment, but to take a pledge upon it. I welcome that invitation, and I hope they will take a pledge, though in such a matter as this there are indications of an ill-spent life.
We are glad that our efforts, spread over so many years, have in some form been reinforced and that this great problem of unemployment is to be made the great issue in the coming General Election. I gather that the Leader of the Liberal party does not consider that 904 the stage is sufficiently set in to-day's Debate for him to take part in it, and the reason given in the "Daily News" is that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman would require legislation and, therefore, this is not the appropriate occasion to discuss them. Let us see. I turn to the two last Speeches from the Throne for which the right hon. Gentleman was responsible, and I see that in the Speech from the Throne on 15th February, 1921, read at a time when the Leader of the Liberal party was perhaps the most powerful personage in Europe and able to force through any policy he cared to adopt, there was this passage:The most pressing problem which confronts you is that of unemployment, consequent upon a world-wide restriction of trade, and this may be alleviated, but cannot be cured, by legislative means."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1921; col. 14, Vol. 138.]In 1921, when the right hon. Gentleman had the power and the opportunity, nothing could be done by legislative means, and it was followed up in the Speech from the Throne in the following year with a reaffirmation of that view. In that speech, on 7th February, 1922, there is the statement that:The only remedy for this distressing situation is to be found in the appeasement of international rivalries and suspicions, and in the improvement of the conditions under which trade is carried on all over the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th February, 1922; col. 7, Vol. 150.]True enough as far as it goes, and vague enough. It is sufficient to justify us in saying how that there is an enormous difference between a willingness to do anything when there is an opportunity to do it and a readiness to undertake everything when there is no opportunity whatever of doing it. I overheard from the other side of the House in the earlier part of my speech, the customary interjection, "What about 1926?" The troubles of this country seem to date from the year 1926, but I allege that the provocation then used and the failure to check the mineowners' lockout was the cause of the strike. The guilt of that trouble lies at the door of the Government. It may be said that the trouble began in 1925, when there was an opportunity by a skilful use of the subsidy, to obtain peace. Instead of that, the subsidy was used in a clumsy 905 way. We might have secured peace by some process of bargaining, which was never attempted, but in a state of fright in 1925 the subsidy was given, which afterwards turned out to be a waste of money, the lock-out, which could have been prevented, occurred, and consequently the general strike inevitably followed. We decline to accept the responsibility for the troubles which have flowed from the events of 1926.
The Labour Government, when it took office in 1924, inherited a vast legacy of serious industrial difficulties, but in that period it won the good will of those who were in conflict and, indeed, fewer days were lost by actual stoppages during the period of the Labour Government's life than in any corresponding period either before or since. In a public speech recently, the Prime Minister magnanimously claimed that, following what occurred in 1926, the Government might have dissolved Parliament and gone to the country and secured a great victory. Let me put that to the test of actual experience. One of the greatest victories ever won by the Labour party in a by-election was won two or three weeks after the end of the general strike. Hammersmith, which had never sent a Labour Member to the House of Commons before, which had been uniformly a Tory stronghold, elected a Labour Member whilst the lockout was proceeding, and only a few weeks after the general strike had terminated. It is since the end of the general strike—I do not say it is because of the general strike, but largely because of the Government's handling of it—that Labour has enjoyed its great successes in the by-elections of this country. The Prime Minister cannot very well claim any credit for having generously consented not to take political advantage of the Labour party by having a General Election in 1926.
I am glad to see the announcement in to-day's papers of what appears to be a whole-hearted continuance of the discussions lately entered by the representatives of labour and capital. I can claim for labour that in these matters they have given abundant and genuine proof of their desire to continue friendly relations with organised employers. I declare that we on this side of the House have a supreme interest in the peaceful conduct of British trade, and the many mischievous de- 906 clarations from Tory platforms of the desire of the Labour party to strangle British trade or do it a great deal of harm are beneath contempt. We are the first to desire its complete prosperity, and the first also, therefore, to condemn the policy of the Government in one region of foreign policy which has alienated so many of our markets and destroyed opportunities for overseas trade.
Let me summarise the Government's record in regard to the problem of unemployment. They begun by reducing the pay of the unemployed and by lessening the allowances previously given for the children of the men who were unemployed. They have increased the difficulties of various public bodies and corporations in their willingness to undertake relief works. They have lost many markets overseas, and have shut their eyes to opportunities of regaining them. They have robbed men of their savings by administrative persecution which has made it impossible for men to remain on the list.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give any proof for the serious imputation he has just made?
§ Mr. CLYNES
I think the Minister of Labour in his answers in this House has gone beyond an admission that men have been deprived of their unemployment benefit and have been struck off the list, after, I agree, undergoing the conditions of the various regulations and having their cases dealt with by the established authorities. I agree to that; but let the right hon. Gentleman go to any working class meeting and say that no man has been deprived of the benefits to which he is entitled—
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting, and I would not have done so if he had not made a serious charge. He used the words "administrative persecution." He has said that people have been cut off benefit by administrative persecution. I ask him to justify the charge that there has been administrative persecution. All the courts which administer unemployment benefit are independent statutory courts, and I ask him therefore to justify the term "administrative persecution"
§ Mr. CLYNES
I do not think the term is too strong. Men have been deprived of benefit because they have been pursued by processes of investigation and finally they have been told that they are not "genuinely seeking work," or in some other way they have been disqualified from receiving benefits which in our judgment they should have received. In these circumstances and considering the distress of the family and what it means to men who have to remain out of work against their will, I say that the term "persecution" is not too strong.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The right hon. Gentleman has made a definite charge against me. He used the words "administrative persecution": that is persecution by my Department. The courts which consider these cases are independent statutory courts outside my administration, and I challenge him to prove his statement that there has been administrative persecution.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The bodies to which the Minister of Labour refers are, of course, part of the administrative machinery. I certainly had not in mind any idea of charging the right hon. Gentleman with any personal persecution of the individual worker. I never said that but I do say that the manner in which the machinery of the Ministry is used entitles us to declare that men are being unjustly persecuted when they are deprived of benefits to which they are obviously entitled. The right hon. Gentleman was upset by the comparatively vague term that I applied to very real distress. The term is tame indeed in comparison with what is said of ourselves on many a Tory platform. I was reaching the end of what I wanted to say. I have cited several of the misdeeds of the Government. It is by no means a complete record. I have said that they have juggled with the number of unemployed. I can only add now that we await with a confidence amounting to a certainty a very great change in the unemployment problem because of the great change that will take place in the personnel of this House when a verdict is given upon these great issues at the end of May.
§ Captain CAZALET
Unemployment has been the subject of many Debates in this House. In the right hon. Gentleman's 908 speech we have heard once again many familiar arguments. With the exception of his use of a certain unfortunate phrase, of which I am certain that the Minister will be able to find a complete and absolute denial, there were sections of his speech with which we on this side agree. Certainly, we agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his hopes as to the result of the conference that took place yesterday. I think we may congratulate ourselves on the appositeness of the quotations which the right hon. Gentleman produced from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Again we agree with every word that he said with reference to electricity in rural districts. Indeed, we on these benches do not consider it a small matter that the power of electricity should be available in every cottage throughout the country, at a price which is within the wages of the mass of the people of the country.
On the whole, the programme of the Socialist party for dealing with the problem of unemployment is a very moderate one compared with that produced by the Liberal party. I should like to ask from some Member of the Liberal party answers to certain questions which we Conservative Members are constantly being asked in our constituencies and elsewhere throughout the country. I have given a good deal of time—I do not say as much as I should or all that they deserve—to the Liberal proposals dealing with unemployment, but I understand that the pledge as it stands now is to give work to 360,000 men in improving, enlarging and reconstructing our roads. I realise that these men are not all to be turned on to the roads. I understand that there are many different industries that are to be stimulated by the work that is necessitated by the improvement and enlarging of roads. But a very large proportion of the 360,000 must be put on the roads, and we would like to know what proportion. Is it 300,000, is it half, is it 200,000?
Those are questions to which we should like an answer. If you are going to cure unemployment you have to transport these men from the districts in which there is to-day a large amount of unemployment. You have to bring 1,000 or 2,000, say, from South Wales or Scotland or Durham, and to put them in the district 909 where you are to construct or improve roads. You cannot bring the men alone you will have to bring their families as well. This is the first question: In what district in the whole of this country are there available to-day sufficient houses for the adequate accommodation of the men whom you are going to import from the unemployment districts? Are you going to build them houses, or are you going to put them into huts? You certainly cannot build sufficient houses, even subsidised as they may be by the Exchequer, within a few months. If you put them into huts with their families and children, the whole bottom of the scheme is knocked out, because it shows that this is to be only a temporary business, and that you intend to convey the people back to the districts from which they came when the roads are finished.
But, suppose that there is accommodation for these men and their families. What about the social services? You will bring the wives and children into a district. Schools will have to be enlarged, and health services will have to be created and the drainage and sanitary system altered to suit the new conditions. Surely this increase and improvement of social services must mean increased rates for the local ratepayer? I should indeed be very glad of answers to these questions. In my own constituency there are 15 men from South Wales working on the roads round Chippenham. Chippenham is not a very large place, but relatively speaking there are a good many unemployed there already, and the advent of these 15 men has not been very welcome—shall I say?—to the few unemployed who are there to-day. But when you are dealing, not with 15 or 50 men, but with 500 or 1,000, surely the problem is considerably aggravated. I say without fear of contradiction that the roads of this country to-day are better than the roads in any other country in the world, including the United States of America.
§ Mr. MORRIS
The hon. and gallant Member spoke of importing people to new places. Has he ever visited the South Wales areas and seen the condition in which the roads are there?
§ Captain CAZALET
I am aware that they are often extremely bad, but I do not see how that answers my question.
§ Mr. MORRIS
It answers the question to this extent, that you would not want to remove the men or their families and children. They could remain at home and deal with the roads there.
§ Captain CAZALET
Then I understand that the majority of the new roads are to be constructed in the areas where the unemployed are to-day? We are very glad to have that point. But it is an incomplete answer. There are many roads to be made which are not in the areas that are distressed to-day. As I have said, the roads of this country are better than those in any other country. Take such places as Chicago and New York. If you try to go by motor car to either of those places you will find level crossings and other bad conditions on the roads. The approaches to London are infinitely superior to the approaches to either of those two cities. The leader of the Liberal party also said that a great deal of improvement could be effected in the area of the London Docks. I know that area, not well, but sufficiently well to realise that there is a great deal to be done in accommodating the traffic. But surely that is not a task which you can fulfil in the space of a few months or even a year or two? You will have to knock down whole streets and to destroy factories that are probably employing thousands of people to-day. That cannot be done within a few months. Certainly if you started to do it to-day the state of traffic in that area would be confusion worse confounded.
I am one of those people who believe that the only permanent and practical cure for unemployment is the steady expansion and development of our trade and industry both at home and abroad. I believe that our trade and industries are gradually developing and improving, and for these reasons: Take the main industries of the country in which unemployment is the heaviest, coal, steel and cotton. In the coal industry, what is happening? I do not want to raise King Charles's head once again, but these are the facts: There are the markets, especially Scandinavian markets, that we lost during and after 1926. We are just beginning to get back some of those markets. The other day I visited the Polish Silesian coalfields, which captured practically the whole of the markets in Scandinavia and Denmark and else- 911 where. There was a slight downward tendency in the curve of the export from Polish Silesia during the month of January, but I understand that it has gone up again in the month of March. If we think that we have really regained those markets we are making a very great mistake.
As hon. Members probably are aware from figures quoted in this House and available elsewhere, these Polish coalfields reached a record production of 40,000 tons last year. If the production continues at the rate of January it will be 50,000 tons. The Poles have increased their production per man to 1.7 tons per day. They have decreased the cost of production per ton. The new railway line to the now Polish harbour will not be finished for a few months, but then they will have an additional advantage which will enable them to compete on better terms with our coal in the Scandinavian market. Their coal is excellent and the wages paid to the miners must be, in the opinion of everyone in this country, extremely unsatisfactory from every point of view. The average wage of the ordinary miner is 4s. to 5s. per day. Large numbers of women are employed at an average wage of 2s. per day, or even less in certain oases.
§ Captain CAZALET
Hon. Members say there is a good deal of English capital there Some of it is French, some American, some Polish and some German, but we are quite unable to discover any English capital. It does not make it any less disgraceful, but all the more disgraceful, if British capital is invested not only in an industry which pays such very poor wages but in one which is dealing a serious blow at our own coal industry.
§ Mr. PALING
The hon. and gallant Member mentioned a production of 1.7 tons per day. Does that apply only to the coal-getters or to everyone at the mine?
§ Captain CAZALET
I am not an expert in these matters. I understand that the figure is for the whole. It was 1.2 tons at the beginning of last year. The figure of 1.7 was for January. No doubt 912 the figure for February and March may be slightly lower, but it is in the region of 1.5 tons, and I think it is the average over all. Everywhere we went—in the Ruhr, in German Silesia and in Polish Silesia—we found a great desire on the part of the German and Polish mine owners to form some sort of cartel with our own producers in this country, and it seems to me extremely difficult to find any valid argument why an arrangement satisfactory to all should not be made along those lines. We suffer from this Polish competition, not only in the matter of coal but in other matters as well. Owing to the extraordinarily low rate at which Sweden can import her coal she is starting all kinds of new factories—steel and wood pulp and other industries—which, in their turn, are competing with us. It is not that I wish to use any argument against free competition but this coal is being produced at a wage which is not fair to our own workpeople or to any people who have to work in the mines in any part of the continent; and I think it is doubly unfair that we should have to suffer, not only in our coal industry but in other industries as well.
Although we have not progressed far in this country towards amalgamation or rationalisation or whatever you may like to call it—by which individuals can speak and make terms for the whole of the coal industry—yet certain steps have been taken. There is the Yorkshire Federation, and in Scotland and South Wales amalgamations are taking place. These amalgamations are on a smaller scale than the amalgamations which have taken place in Germany, Poland and elsewhere, but I hope and trust that they will develop into something of a larger nature and that it will not be long before we are able to enter into negotiations to secure a legitimate proportion of those markets in Northern Europe and elsewhere which can provide steady and permanent employment at reasonable wages for our people.
What is true about coal is, very largely, true about steel. Almost every week one sees in the papers in this country that various big steel concerns have had to combine in order to put their industry on a twentieth century basis. That, again, I think, is very satisfactory and is a step in the right direction. In 913 cotton, as in steel, America and Germany have completely reconstituted their industries since the War. Japan after the War was met with a situation very similar to our own, in regard to cotton. It is now five or six years since the problem of the cotton industry in that country was tackled, with very great success. I am informed, though I have been unable to find exact confirmation of the statement, that there are over 10,000 directors of the various cotton concerns in this country. The figure given to me was actually much larger, but as I was not able to confirm it I do not like to put it higher than that. I believe the arrangement which was agreed upon only a few weeks ago, and which is satisfactory, I understand, both to capital and labour, may do much to remedy the position of the cotton trade in this country.
§ Captain CAZALET
I do not intend to compare my knowledge of the cotton trade with that of the hon. Member, but those who learn of these matters from the newspapers gather that some arrangement has been come to, regarding the cotton trade in Lancashire, with the assistance of the Bank of England. That is the agreement to which I refer and while my hon. Friend knows much more about it than I do, I am given to understand that it is satisfactory to all parties concerned. I now turn to the motor ear industry. A certain American industrialist when asked the other day what he would do to remedy unemployment in this country replied that he would concentrate on the motor industry and that when the motor industry flourished it meant that every other industry flourished as well. That may be an exaggeration but, talking into consideration people employed as omnibus drivers and chauffeurs and people employed in garages and at petrol pumps and others, it is calculated that, in one way or another, there are more than 2,000,000 people in this country whose livelihood depends on the prosperity of the motor ear industry.
Here we get on to the old and thorny problem of the wisdom of certain methods of taxation and the merits or demerits of the present system of taxation in this 914 country. I know there are arguments in favour of the present system and that it has produced a reasonably priced car in this country, admirably suited to the needs and conditions prevalent in this country and cheap to run, and that we have excluded the cheaper kind of car which formerly flooded our markets. But one thing stands out—that we have been completely unable to capture the export trade in motors. I speak from a limited personal experience but in the Gold Coast, for instance, there are 6,000 motor ears and practically not one of them is of English make. You get people in South Africa desirous of purchasing English-made cars but they say that they cannot find an English-made car suited to the particular needs of that country. Germany five or six years ago had less cars almost than any nation in the world but to-day they have—
§ The TEMPORARY-CHAIRMAN (Lieut.-Colonel Spender-Clay)
I think the hon. and gallant Member is going rather far from the proposal before the Committee; and I would also remind him that his suggestion would mean an alteration in the duty on motor cars.
§ Captain CAZALET
I bow to your ruling, Sir. I believe we should go some way towards dealing with the unemployment problem, and certainly increase the number of men employed in the motor car industry, if some arrangement could be made between the Treasury officials and the motor experts to provide a method of producing a ear which would satisfy both the needs of this country, and the needs of our Dominions and other countries. In conclusion I would point out that for many years past the best brains both on this side of the House and on the other, have been devoted to the distribution of wealth, instead of the scientific production of wealth as in the United States of America. The blame in that connection falls equally, I admit, on our shoulders and on the shoulders of hon. Members opposite. But we have now indications of an advance in the right direction. Take, for instance, the amalgamations which have been going on and the rationalisation and unification of industries. The Imperial Chemicals industry to-day has a dozen or 15 or certainly not more than 20 directors. It has been amalgamated from various other com- 915 panies which formerly had between them over 700 directors. That change is a step in the right direction and shows that the people engaged in industries are determined to find a scientific method of producing wealth.
Then, again, we hope that the result of yesterday's conference may do much to improve the general condition of trade here and elsewhere. All these improvements, however, are founded upon a most delicate and highly scientific system of finance, and I cannot believe that, on the one hand, they will be accelerated or assisted in any way by plunging in with a pledge to extract £200,000,000 out of the industries themselves to give a temporary and artificial boom to certain sections of the community. Nor, on the other hand, do I believe that conditions will be improved by a system of nationalisation. I am certain that the unemployment figures which we shall see in the course of the next few months will show that, although we have not conquered unemployment, we are in process of conquering it steadily, and the opinion of the electors, when given on 30th May, will, I believe, endorse the policy of His Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
Although this Debate has not lasted long it has already reproduced one curious feature of our last Debate on this subject. Although, in form, this is a Vote of Censure moved from the Opposition Front Bench against the Government, nobody has thought it worth while to ask where is the Prime Minister. Nobody has asked where the Leader of the Opposition is to be found; but hon. Members have looked round eagerly and asked, where is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George)?
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
It is an amazing proposition that when the party above the Gangway put down a Motion of this kind, it is not their own leader who is to be present. It is not he who is required, but the leader of our party. It is the most profound compliment that could be paid to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs 916 because it shows that hon. Members realise that it is around his personality and his scheme that the hopes of the unemployed are centred at the moment. The Prime Minister in his Drury Lane speech took exactly the same course. He commenced his speech by mentioning my right hon. Friend. After that there was, I am afraid, little in that speech which could commend itself to any student of unemployment. The Prime Minister went on to prophesy the reduction of his party's majority by some three-quarters—and that was a conservative estimate, I understand. If that policy could be carried further, to the extinction point and beyond, as I hope it will, it might, indeed, be a genuine contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem. Then the Prime Minister could only proceed to discuss the export possibilities of a certain exotic vegetable which I understand is produced in the South of England, and he ended up by giving the general impression that as he and his party has been "grappling"—that I think was the word—with the unemployment problem for nearly four years, and had made no impression upon it at all, it was rather bad form of anybody else even to try to find a solution. I cannot think that such an attitude on unemployment will be satisfactory to the man in the street, which in this matter means the man outside the Employment Exchange. I think he will rather say in the immortal words of Gilbert slightly adapted for the occasion:If the Prime Minister is content with vegetable love,That will certainly not suit me.When we are dealing with the problem of these dimensions, it is merely playing with the matter to build up hopes on the export possibilities of broccoli. What is the real objection to the suggestion for the production of actual and immediate work—because that it what holds the field at the moment? Safeguarding as a means of producing work is obviously dropping out of the race. I have a Conservative pamphlet here which claims that the Conservative party's rating reform scheme is the only practical plan produced by any party for the revival of industry and I take that as meaning that Safeguarding is no longer accepted in that way. But no one supposes that de-rating by itself can do more than touch 917 the fringe of the problems. What are we to do? What is the objection to trying to cure unemployment by the obvious remedy the creation of work? It seems to me that we should first have regard to certain propositions on which I think we could all agree, with regard to the treatment of unemployment, and then see what kind of programme would best comply with those conditions.
In the first place, I should like to urge—and I am sorry that it is necessary to urge it—that this is a national emergency. Unless we are going to deal with it on that basis, Governments will go on playing with it year after year, and nothing will be done. I remember that during the War there was a certain French village which had a reserve of machine guns in the charge of its mayor, who had been told that he must not produce them except in times of national emergency. Time went on, and the Germans came and nearly surrounded the village, and a retreating French regiment wanted to use the machine guns, but the mayor said to the troops, "No, I can only allow them to be used in times of national emergency." That is the way in which people, even with these facts of unemployment before them, will not realise that a national emergency is upon us, and I am afraid that some of them regard my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs very much as that French mayor regarded his machine guns, as only to be produced in times of national emergency. When the last national emergency was upon us, they wanted him, and I venture to suggest that they will want him again now.
If it be an emergency, it is a growing emergency. I was an opponent of the Coalition Government formed immediately after the War, but I think it is only fair to recognise that when unemployment came, as it did very heavily, I admit, immediately after the War, it was not unreasonable at that time to suppose that it would be absorbed in the normal course of the revival of trade. At least, it was more reasonable to suppose that then than to suppose it at any subsequent time, because the record figure of 2,000,000 unemployed did very rapidly decrease. In fact, it decreased more in 12 months than even the Liberal 918 pledge claims to be able to reduce it now, and, therefore, in the face of that large reduction, it was, I think, reasonable to suppose that there was a normal revival of trade in progress which would, in the course of no long time, absorb the abnormal unemployment. But as time went on that hope naturally dwindled, and by the time that hon. Members above the Gangway and their tenure of what I must very carefully call "office" and not "power" arrived, it was quite obvious that some emergency measure was needed.
I am glad to have heard from their Front Bench that those measures were at least in their minds. It was very far from my thought or intention this afternoon to make any attack on hon. Members above the Gangway, who, I believe, desire, as we do, to meet this problem and to deal with it in an energetic spirit, but if accusations are fit to be made from the Front Bench, they are fit to be answered from a back bench; and when the right hon. Member complained of a foul blow dealt against his party, I should like to be quite clear as to what he is referring to. On three occasions when Votes of Censure on this very question of unemployment were moved from the other side of the House, it was Members who now sit on these benches who saved the Labour party and gave them an additional chance, hoping that they would produce their scheme. Were those the foul blows that were dealt? When, in the end, they abandoned office, I believe that history will say that no more voluntary act was ever performed by any political party.
At the very last moment of the Campbell prosecution, the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) proposed a Motion for an inquiry, which could not have been regarded as a Vote of Censure by any party that was not animated by some indirect motive, and I suggest that the loss of power and the loss of the opportunity to carry out these schemes which they said they had—and I accept it from them that they did have them—was their own act and that in order to save their dignity, their miserable dignity, on this matter of the Campbell prosecution, they were ready to sacrifice the hopes of the unemployed, which, on their own showing, were in their hands. Let them face that as the answer 919 to what they call the foul blow which they say was dealt them. It was not that that, as a matter of fact, did us harm. It was our forbearance, not our action against hon. Members above the Gangway, that did us damage, and I can only say, for my part, that I would never desire to see the Liberal party put in so humiliating a position again. I have dealt with what I did not expect to deal with, because I did not anticipate that the party on these benches would become to such an extent the centre of this discussion, but I have dealt, to the best of my ability, with the accusation from the Front Bench above the Gangway.
Afterwards, as time went on, and Members above the Gangway had lost their opportunity, it became increasingly impossible to look to the revival of trade alone for the absorption of the unemployed. One could look for it, we all look for it, as a hope in the future, but the point is that the unemployed cannot go on waiting year after year for this revival which is indefinitely postponed. As late as 1928, I remember, the Undersecretary for the Board of Trade reproved me as if I was guilty of some lack of patriotism in dwelling on the desperate condition of unemployment in this country. Even then Ministers were inclined to say, "It is only a temporary matter; it will pass, if we have patience, and all will be well." It is no longer possible to say that now. Two things have happened. One was the Report of the Industrial Transference Board, and the other was the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to the distressed areas, about which, even to-day, we know too little, and if we knew more, if we could only have, by some miracle, his own personal report, then I believe it would be even more impossible to pretend that this is not a national emergency which must be dealt with by emergency measures.
The Industrial Transference Board's Report is something to which we should continually go back when we want to find the very basis of this problem, because a great many of the criticisms that are made from the benches opposite against schemes produced from these benches and above the Gangway on this side could not be made by anyone who 920 had studied the Industrial Transference Board's Report with any kind of attention to what it says. I will return to that subject in a moment, but if it once be granted that here we have a national emergency that we have got to deal with, the number of ways of dealing with it is, after all, limited. You must either give work, make work, or find maintenance, for the only third alternative is starvation, and starvation is an alternative which this country will never accept with knowledge, though it may endure it for a time from ignorance. If you are to choose as between giving doles and providing work for wages, everybody will agree that it is better to pay and get some value than to pay out for nothing; and the unemployed will be the first to agree with that themselves. If you choose, therefore, to provide work for wages in preference to anything else, the only thing that remains is to select the kind of work suitable for your unemployed, and everybody will agree that if you can get men back to their own trades by the normal revival of industry, that is the best possible means. But it is just on that point that I want to remind hon. Members opposite, who make it a criticism against our scheme that we are going to employ clerks on road building and to take people from their own trades to do work for which they are not suitable, that in the Report of the Industrial Transference Board they will find this definite conclusion in regard to the mining industry alone:It would be unwise if, on the basis of the information in the possession of the Ministry of Labour and the Mines Department, any figure below 200,000 were taken as the permanent surplus in the industry.I do not want to press that word "permanent" too far. I hope it is too pessimistic, but it means that there is no prospect in the immediate future of getting these people back to work again in their own industry. The Report goes on, in regard to iron and steel and heavy engineering, to say that there are another 100,000 in the same position, and that in the textile industry there are probably a great many more. In another part of the Report it says:We do not see how the heavy industries will give a living to all those at present attached to them or to all those who would normally look to them for a livelihood during the next few years.921 And in yet another place it says:We regard the existence of a surplus of labour in some of the heavy industries as a fact, and we think that too much reliance should not be placed on a reduction of this surplus by measures taken within the industries.I quote that because it is again and again said by Conservative Members that all Liberal and Labour schemes are to be condemned off-hand because they do not put the miner at once on to mining or the iron worker on to the work he ordinarily does, and the answer is there, on the showing of the Government's own Report, that there are at least 400,000 who have not got this work to look to. They have to be transferred somehow, from one kind of occupation to another, and, after all, why have the Government started an industrial transference scheme at all? Poor, pitiful little thing that it is, it has not much prospect of doing very much, but the Government have recognised the principle, though, unfortunately, they have gone on an insufficient basis. They have been misled there, I think, by the pessimistic view taken by the gifted writer who drew up the Industrial Transference Board's Report and who tended to put down every kind of creation of work as being merely relief work, never recognising the possibility that the work, if once embarked upon, would itself be the creation of wealth.
I suggest that, in addition to the will to work in the worker, the will to be transferred to other work in the worker, and the will on the part of the employer to take him, and in addition to the Government's assistance in the movement, which are the three requisites laid down by the Industrial Transference Board, there is a fourth consideration, far more important than any of those, and that is the provision of some kind of work as a destination for the transference, as an object for the training. If hon. Members opposite would only realise the implications of their own industrial transference scheme, they would look on the scheme produced from these benches in a more sympathetic manner and would get more benefit out of it, and they would find that their own scheme, their own start in the matter of industrial transference, can only be made a practical reality if they will extend it by entering upon the active provision of work.
922 I desire to meet the objections that have been made, not only by the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet), who spoke last, but in various other quarters, against the provision of work. I do not think the housing difficulty suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham is really as great as he supposes. Everyone knows, as has been pointed out, that a great deal of this road building requires to be done in the very areas where the unemployed are already to be found in the greatest numbers, but, apart from that, we have had the experience of the war, when new industries, such as munition making, had to grow up in quite unexpected places, and very often the housing difficulty was dealt with then. Not the whole of this work will go on in the areas where the unemployed are already living. Some, of course, will have to go some distance to get work, but in these days of motor transport it is surely possible to provide for their transportation to and from the work; and it may be necessary, in the early days, to provide temporary hutments at some places—not for the whole of them, but only for a very small proportion.
It cannot be sufficiently emphasised that this provision of road work is not merely a matter of pick and shovel. I was asked what proportion I supposed would be indirect labour, labour in other industries, as compared with those actually on the roads. The estimate given in a leader in the "Times," which was obviously very well-informed, was that £1,000,000 would mean employment for 5,000 men for a year, and that about half of it would be indirect employment. Under those circumstances, there would be only 2,500 men going on the roads, and 2,500 would be in their own employment, in quarrying, in making the additional machines for making the roads, in providing concrete, in providing the work for bridges. All this kind of work will be work in the way of their own usual occupations, and thereby escapes from the ordinary criticism that is levelled from the benches opposite.
I remember that in the last Debate there Was yet another accusation, a most startling proposition, made by the Conservative Member for one of the Lancashire Divisions—I am sorry I forget which—who said that if we would hold 923 out any prospect of setting looms going in Lancashire by our proposals, he would at once support them. It is quite obvious that they will have that effect, not directly, but indirectly. If you can get this number of men, whether in one year or in two years, back into employment, there is no doubt whatever that they will have more wages in their pockets, and there will be a greater demand, therefore, for the goods produced in various parts of this country, including the textiles of Lancashire, and so you will get looms started again.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
Is the hon. Member not aware that it is overseas trade that Lancashire wants, not home trade?
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
I quite agree with the hon. Member's interruption, that the overseas trade is vital to Lancashire, and that is one of the reasons why mote measures of Protection and Tariff Reform would be no answer to their problem, but surely we do not despise any addition we can get in the demand from our own people, through having more wages in their pockets. I am not saying that by our scheme we could set all looms going, or that we could set them going full time—that would be too ambitious—but I do say that we would set some of them going, and I thereby answer the challenge of the hon. Member. It has also been said that to raise loans for this work is a wild proposition, because it would reduce employment by taking money out of other parts of industry. That is a mechanical and rigid economic theory which it is impossible to reconcile with the history of this country. If it were true that there is a fixed amount of capital and wealth, and that you cannot go beyond it, how have we managed to develop from the days of Queen Elizabeth or Queen Anne, or even from the days of King Alfred? As the population grows, the wealth of the country grows, potentially at any rate, because ultimately wealth is derived from the employment of labour on the land and, if you get the growing population to work upon the land, that increases wealth and national credit all the time. The only condition under which the growing population will not increase wealth is the condition in which they are kept out of work. 924 If they are kept out of work, and we try to produce more currency to distribute to them in relief, we shall have to resort to inflation, but, if we set them to work, creating work at the same time as we give them wages, our credit is expanding step by step with the movement. The whole history of the country shows that that development is continuously going on. We only ask that it should be carried a step further.
When people talk of the extravagance of this expenditure, I ask them to remember that we are spending now and getting nothing in return, and borrowing now and getting nothing in return, not only loans for the insurance fund, but money for guardians in the poorest districts which they have been unable to repay. If this be regarded as such a wild scheme, how is it that you get bankers, like the head of Barclays Bank, pressing for proposals of this kind? Great business men and experts pledge their word that it can be done. It is not the scheme of only one man. I do not claim for the leader of this party, nor for anyone on these benches, a sort of patent right to have invented the idea of bringing people back to employment by giving them work in a way that is obvious. What we are trying to supply is the drive and the energy which will bring this idea to an accomplishment. I think that it can be done.
I have had recently three remarkable resolutions sent to me by the Town Council of Middlesbrough, requesting that I should get some action taken on them. They are not wild wizards from Wales, or people pledged to any one party; they happen to be responsible for an area where unemployment has been bad for years. The first resolution demands that the Road Fund should be spent exclusively on the roads, and not on anything else. The next demands that the Road Fund should be extended so as not only to deal with the maintenance of existing roads, but to provide for great extension of roads. The last and most significant asks that part of the Road Fund should be definitely hypothecated for a national development fund to be spent in giving employment to people of this country. That is not a party programme, but the sane, sober, considered conclusion of a municipal 925 authority which has to deal with a heavy amount of unemployment. I rejoice to find agreement coming from such quarters, and I humbly suggest that these schemes are worth trying, and that they must be tried because they hold the field. They are better than broccoli, at any rate. They do give some hope of employment to people of this country. They must be carried out because, if we allow this situation to drift, when the trade revival comes, and when we are wanting all these people back in their own industries, we shall find that their capacity to work has withered and decayed with the passing of years, and that a new generation will have grown up which has not known the discipline of regular work, and it will be harder for us to take advantage of the opportunity when it comes. Up and down the country there are lying the dry bones of industry, and the question that is asked of us to-day, as of the prophet of old, is, "Can these dry bones live?" The answer is that they will not live unless some breath of inspiration is breathed upon them, and, if you leave it too long, the time will come when no inspiration is possible. If that inspiration does come, and I venture to suggest that we have it in our plan, then they will stand up an exceeding great army.
§ Mr. HAMMERSLEY
The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith) has given us a vigorous and energetic defence of the programme for conquering unemployment which the Liberal party has issued. The programme consists of two parts—a policy and a pledge. The policy is like the policy of celibacy; it is perfectly all right if you do not carry it too far. I maintain that the policy of the provision of public works, and everything that the Liberal party propose, is in fact being carried out within the reasonable limits of economy and finance by the present Conservative party. The remarks of Earl Grey on the pledge is sufficient to show that in the Liberal party there is a great diversity of opinion whether the pledge can be carried out. If the policy is divorced from the pledge, where is the programme? I would like to say a word or two on the economic issues of unemployment. The crux of the problem rests in three main staple trades—the cotton trade, the iron and steel trade, and the coal trade. If we could maintain our pre-War volume of exports, 926 we should be in a position of employing something like 700,000 more people than we are doing, and it will be agreed that then we would have solved the main difficulty of unemployment.
§ Mr. HAMMERSLEY
Yes, with 700,000. I am pointing out that we should have dealt with the main difficulty and have got into something like the region of normal conditions. I am now talking about the abnormal problem of unemployment. I agree that the problem would not have been completely solved. The main side of it is concentrated in these three export trades, and you can find their difficulty in the simple fact that these trades have to sell their commodities at world selling prices. Many of the costs of production are nationally determined, whereas the selling prices of the goods cannot reflect the national cost of production which come into the manufacture of the goods. Social services, unemployment, and health insurance, contributory old age pensions, Poor Law relief, and so forth, are nationally determined factors in the cost of production of our main export trades.
Another factor which is frequently overlooked is the cost of borrowed money. That is frequently considered to be a nationally determined factor, and, whatever view one may hold as to the policy of deflation which has been carried out by various Governments since 1920, there can be no doubt that for trades which find it necessary to borrow money in order to carry on the cost of borrowed money has been nationally determined. The policy of de-rating which has been put forward by this Government will materially assist in respect of the cost of nationally controlled social services, but it cannot help in reference to the overhead charges arising from the increased cost of borrowed money. The normal way, where a concern cannot pay the interest on the money that it borrows is for that concern to go into liquidation. There must he some method of wiping off these financial charges.
There is no trade in the country where the amount of borrowed money is so great as in the cotton trade, and we find that the solution of liquidation there is not feasible. I doubt if anyone would say that the solution of the problem in 927 respect of borrowed money in Lancashire is wholesale bankruptcy. That would be reflected in the closing down of the mills and losing to foreign competitors trade which Lancashire might never get back again. That is why, when last I spoke on this subject, I advocated the policy of amalgamation, not because I believe that by amalgamation you will necessarily effect great reductions in cost of production, but because by amalgamation you can deal with this problem of financial overhead costs, and put forward some scheme of liquidation. The Balfour Report said that in respect to our main export trades, we must look to the reconditioning of industry as a most fruitful avenue of exploration. When the Prime Minister was advocating amalgamation, and used the words, "Cut out the dead wood," he was thinking of proposals whereby some kind of liquidation can take place. Since I last spoke on this subject one amalgamation has come into existence. I refer to the Lancashire Cotton Corporation. It is appropriate in a Debate like this to examine whether or not the proposals of this corporation can reasonably be anticipated to give us some hope for a diminution of unemployment in Lancashire. Industrially, the policy of the corporation is a good one. They propose to link up the various sections, and form some kind of cohesion between the spinning section, the weaving section, and the various finishing sections, and no criticism can be brought to bear on the corporation from that point of view.
I would like the Committee to bear with me while I examine in a little more detail the financial proposals of this corporation. To give anything like an accurate picture, a certain amount of retrospect is necessary. During 1919 and 1920, that hectic boom period which everyone connected with the trade so much regrets, most of the Lancashire textile industry was reconstructed. In that process of reconstruction there were three partners—the banks, the loan holders and shareholders. The banks lent something like £12,000,000, most of it unsecured. I used the word "partners" advisedly, because if it had not been for the provision of that money it would have been impossible to have had that reconstruction. The loan holders lent 928 something like £20,000,000, and the shareholders over £50,000,000. What has been the state of affairs since? How have the various partners in this industry fared? If we allow for the increased value of money we find that since that time the banks have received in interest something like £5,000,000. Their overdrafts have gone down and gone up and gone down again, and they have reached a figure of probably over £15,000,000, and they are probably now less than they were when they originally started; but in spite of that, and bearing in mind that we have to allow for the increased purchasing power of money, the burden of the debt on the industry has not been sensibly diminished. The loan holders have had ample interest throughout this period. In the case of the shareholders, the capital value of their assets has decreased from £50,000,000 to less than £10,000,000, and in addition have had to face calls of more than £19,750,000.
I do not put forward this position in Lancashire as being unique, because it is the common experience of post-War businesses that shareholders have had to make very great sacrifices. They, after all, are the people who should bear the brunt, and it is a common experience to find that those who have lent their money at fixed interest rates have done very well by the national policy which has been pursued in the interest of the country as a whole. There is nothing unique about that, but there is one unique factor in the Lancashire cotton trade to which I would specially draw attention, and that is that there still remains a large quantity of uncalled capital, and it is in the light of the existence of this uncalled capital that I would like to examine the financial implications of the Lancashire Cotton Corporation scheme. The scheme embodies five classes of securities. There is a first mortgage debenture, which is to be given to the Bank of England. They are going to lend 4s. per spindle on every mill which is absorbed. Then there are income debentures, preference shares, ordinary shares and deferred shares. These will be divided between the secured creditors, the unsecured creditors and the shareholders, the shareholders naturally taking their place at the bottom of the list and getting, chiefly, deferred shares.
929 Part and parcel of this scheme is the proposal to call up the whole of the uncalled capital. If this scheme is to go through we shall ask shareholders who have put their money into the industry to pay in addition something like £14,500,000. I would like to examine the implications of this scheme in respect of one particular mill. How will the various interests share? In the Orme Ring mill, which the Lancashire Cotton Corporation propose to take over, the debenture holders will receive 20s. in the £, the unsecured creditors will receive 10s. 3d. in the £, the shareholders, whose shares are only 13s. 9d. paid, will be called upon to pay up 6s. 3d. and then will receive deferred shares to the nominal value of 1s. 7d. That is to say, of the three partners in the industry one is going to get 20s. in the £, the other is going to get 10s. 3d., and the shareholder is going to be called upon to pay 5s. If you examine that scheme in its financial implications it is clear that it is not one that will, in fact, help the cotton trade. It makes no appeal to those in the industry. It means that they are to be asked to make a choice between certain ruin and uncertain ruin, and in such circumstances they would naturally prefer the uncertain. What this scheme will do is that it will free the frozen credits of the Joint Stock banks. The Bank of England is to be called in to assist in the carving up of the body. When you have a proposal which is going to utilise the comparatively small amount of money which still exists in the trade not to benefit that trade but to free already frozen credits you can readily apprehend that this scheme is not going to obtain support in Lancashire, and because of that it is not going to lead us out of our present troubles.
The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) made a remark which I took the trouble to write down and which is particularly applicable to the point I am putting forward, namely, that you cannot get an industry of this character out of its difficulties unless you carry with you the goodwill of those in the industry. He saidUnder any system that may be adopted the industries will depend for management on those who manage them now and for workers on the present working class.930 If this scheme be generally enforced there is no doubt, in my mind, that it will deprive Lancashire of its birthright. It has no chance of success. It would require to embrace something like 150 mills before it could have any economic effect. There are already between 60 and 70 mills stopped, and at the present time the scheme embraces only one mill.
I would not like the Committee to consider that I am indulging merely in destructive criticism. I am very anxious for some scheme of amalgamation to take place, and I believe this scheme can be modified to make it a success. Individuals who have been responsible for the scheme have worked on it with goodwill and with a desire, I believe, not only to be just but, perhaps, to be generous. Sir William Plender, Sir Otto Niemeyer and the Governor of the Bank of England have spent a good deal of time and very much anxious thought in preparing and backing this scheme, but in my considered view they have made the grave mistake of not carrying the trade with them. I believe the scheme is actuarially sound and financially impeccable, and if it is got into working condition the policy it proposes to pursue would be desirable, but what I do say is that the scheme as at present drafted does not meet the practical situation. It should be modified in respect of this question of calling up uncalled capital. I contend that in the present circumstances in Lancashire no scheme of amalgamation should be put forward which does not let off some proportion of the uncalled capital. In very bad circumstances you might say we will call up 95 per cent. There is a reason for letting off the 5 per cent., because this Government, in the Finance Bill of 1926 I think it was, gave facilities to amalgamations in respect of stamp duties if they got in 90 per cent. of the shares. In other circumstances, where the financial position of the mill is not so bad, the capital to be called up should be on a sliding scale. But in all circumstances some proportion of the uncalled capital should be let off. Probably the best system would be to have a sliding scale dependent on the ratio between the claims of the creditors and the amount of the uncalled capital.
I imagine that it might be said that by these proposed modifications of the present scheme you are going, to ask the 931 joint stock banks to make even greater sacrifices, and that they have a duty to their shareholders. I quite agree that that is a legitimate and proper objection; and if one could know, if it could be made public, to what figures the loans of the joint stock banks to the Lancashire cotton trade had been written down in their books, I think no reasonable demand for greater concessions over and above those figures could be put forward. After all, when we deal with a foreign nation on such a delicate subject as the matter of reparations we do take into account ability to pay, and I think that in a matter of this character some similar consideration ought to be borne in mind. I know the Government are relying upon these schemes of amalgamation to benefit trade, and I am convinced that schemes of amalgamation will benefit trade, but the Government will be misled if they think this particular scheme will go through with that volume of support which is necessary if it is to affect employment. I believe that with goodwill and with some appreciation of the industrial situation a scheme of amalgamation can be put into existence. I am glad to learn from my information industrially that in the iron and steel trade employment is increasing week by week, and there is no doubt that the position is very much better in the coal trade.
§ Mr. HAMMERSLEY
It is better than it was. If we in the Lancashire cotton trade can get these large scale amalgamations through, then we too can look forward to the future with some hope.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I do not pretend to be able to follow the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Hammersley) in his details of the scheme for the cotton trade, but I have been struck by the fact that he, in common with other speakers on the Government benches, and, indeed, on the Liberal benches, seem to assume that unemployment, although it has now existed on a large scale for 10 years, is a passing matter and that at some time or other, in the ordinary process of industry, the unemployed will be absorbed. The hon. Member was candid enough to tell the Government that even if this amalgamation were in force in the par- 932 ticular industry with which he was dealing he does not pretend that it would solve the unemployment problem in that industry. In these discussions of rationalisation there is no recognition of the fact that rationalisation itself implies a quicker passing of men and women into the ranks of the unemployed. The trade union representatives who are now engaged in discussions with the employers, and, I think, have shown such a remarkable patience with the employers in reference to the discussion of rationalisation, have a fundamental argument when they say that by some amount of co-operation it will be possible to break the impact on the men and women who are now working, and that it may be possible to help those who are thrown out of work as the result of these schemes. [Interruption.] As my hon. Friend says, there ought to be compensation. I am surprised that the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) should give countenance to the theory that it was only reasonable to assume that the unemployed problem after the War was a passing phase. I am astounded to hear a statement like that from a good ex-Socialist such as he was, who ought to understand something of the fundamentals of present day industry.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
The hon. Member misunderstood me. What I said, referring to the abnormal unemployment which existed, was that it was reasonable to suppose at that time that that abnormal number of unemployed might be absorbed in the ordinary process of industry.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I accept the hon. Gentleman's correction, but that does not make any difference to the fact that the school of thought to which he once gave adherence believed that industrial unemployment would grow more and more until it would be absolutely necessary for the State, on behalf of the community, to have a permanent department to deal with unemployment. I have always been amazed at the assumption of the Government of the day that unemployment was a temporary matter. As a matter of fact we had last week 26,000 more men on the employment register than we had during the corresponding week of last year. One might be led to think from speeches of 933 the Prime Minister and speeches made from the Government benches that as a result of safeguarding and other proposals of the Government the unemployment question was settled, or at any rate was being settled, and yet, as I have said, we had last week 26,000 more men unemployed than there was at this time last year.
Hon. Members opposite appear to assume that unemployment is merely a temporary matter, but on these benches we have always held, and we have demonstrated this in Bills introduced before the War and during the last 10 years, that what we need is a permanent department to deal with the men and women who are continually being thrown out of employment. We require such a department in order to provide them with work and decent maintenance in order to ensure the preservation of their self-respect. It is claimed that employment is much better at the present time in the mining industry. I have seen the devastating effects of unemployment among miners more acutely than most hon. Members of this House, because they live all around me in the district in which I live. Hon. Members who claim that this small improvement in the mining districts is due to de-rating are either very ignorant of the facts of the case, or else they are wilfully attempting to mislead the public. The mines which have recently been opened have restarted upon longer hours and the men are being paid wages of which any community ought to be ashamed. As far as this system of working eight hours per day in the mines is concerned, I want the House to understand that if Labour comes into power there will be no difficulties placed in the way of adopting once more a seven hours day. I have never known anything so deep-seated in the minds of the miners as their bitterness, amounting almost to an implacable hatred of the Government, for increasing the hours of the miners.
The remarkable thing is that the Government have gone no distance at all in the direction of solving the unemployment problem in the mining areas, and their policy has only produced low wages for the miners. I have heard of one or two pits which have been reopened, and if the wages paid in those pits remain what they are to-day, I hope they 934 will soon be closed, because the miners would be much better off with unemployment benefit. I have seen pits where 50 per cent. of the men employed are not receiving the minimum wage, and the managers will not pay that wage. I know of cases where some good workers are receiving less than £1 per week for five days' work. This was happening last week and has been going on for a week or two. The only hope for those men is that they will be able to fall back on the Mansion House Fund. I do not know whether they can do that or not, but it is an amazing thing if men performing perhaps the most dangerous and disagreeable work in the world have to fall back upon charity in order to make up their wages.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am stating the case moderately when I say that there are miners in the county of Durham, who are not slackers and who belong to a good type of men, who are working to-day and for the past few weeks they have been working for less than £l per week for five days' work. I know that there is such a thing as a minimum wage on the Statute Book, but the Minimum Wage Act has so many "ifs" and "buts" about it that when the regulations are put into operation a man has almost to be a superman in order to get that minimum wage.
§ Mr. HAMMERSLEY
Does the hon. Member definitely say that the law is being broken in Durham as regards the payment of the minimum wage to miners?
§ Mr. LAWSON
I say so quite frankly, and I tell the Committee that the law is being broken, and if Labour comes into power we shall at once deal with the people who ought to be dealt with in regard to this matter. There are so many miners unemployed that they are told by the mineowners' representatives, "We will close the seam and we will select our men." That means that certain men have to go. As a rule they are not bad or weak men, but strong men. Unemployment has led to a meticulous sort of inspection of the men in the mines, and the result is that it requires almost a 935 giant to meet the ordinary standard which has been adopted in the mines.
There are various ways of intimidating a miner. I will tell the House what the Government have done as a result of placing the powers under the Eight Hours Act in the hands of the mineowners. When I was a coal-hewer at the face along with one of my colleagues on these benches, we could always have our place as long as we kept the regulations. We were decent working men, and no manager could challenge us although we had a certain amount of independence. At the present time any manager can challenge a man on account of his physical or mental condition, and he can threaten him with dismissal. I assert that at the present time there is a terrorism prevailing amongst the miners as bad as that which prevailed in 1926 because of the powers placed in the hands of the mineowners as the result of the 1926 stoppage. I do not wish to say more on that particular point, and all I will say is that Labour has always insisted that you must have a permanent Department to deal with unemployment.
In the year 1921, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said that there was no cure for unemployment, but now the same right hon. Gentleman has declared that he can cure it. I ask, is it fair to the public for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to deal with a matter like unemployment in a way which is likely to mislead the people of this country in regard to a grave and serious matter of this description? Unless we can have a permanent Department to deal with unemployment we shall never be able to take any effective steps in the direction of solving that problem.
Take the case of the North of England. The other day we had a conference in Gateshead to discuss a great road scheme for replanning the whole area of the North for road purposes. The scheme we discussed was not a relief scheme, but a very necessary business scheme to meet needs which will have to be met at some day in the future. It was calculated that the scheme would find employment for thousands of men, and we made efforts to get into touch with the Minister of Transport in order to obtain some assist- 936 ance from the Road Fund. This was not a question of a party scheme, but it was something which had the support of Labour, Liberal and Tory councils in the North of England. The chairman of the conference was a man who is running as an independent candidate for a constituency in the North and he is standing as an individualist, but neither the Liberals nor the Tories seem to be sufficiently individualistic to meet his views. Nevertheless this gentleman was most enthusiastic in pushing forward this road scheme as a business proposition. It was unanimously agreed that each council should bear its own proportion of the cost of the roads. In this case, there is no Unemployment Grants Committee, and there is nothing worth speaking of in regard to support from the Road Fund. The Government have no machinery for dealing with this problem and consequently nothing can be done to satisfy the real practical need which has been expressed by the councils and business men of the North.
One thing which I have observed during the past few days is the funereal aspect of the Debates in this House which appear to me a kind of continuous funeral service, and I am only longing for the time when we shall hear the pronouncement "Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust" regarding the present Government. As far as the industrial North is concerned, we have had some assurance that the Liberal proposals and the Tory Government proposals would give 50 per cent. to the people who need it least—50 per cent. for schemes in the South, with its small rates, in order that a few more men may be taken on. The experience of coalowners and managers of pits in regard to the transference scheme is that some of their best men are going out of the pits. I know a very good man who is now carrying plates in one of the great hotels here in London. He is a good pitman, and it has taken many years to produce him, but all that the Government scheme is doing for him is to get him a job carrying plates in a fashionable hotel. That is the result of transference in a city. Bermondsey, I think, asked for a few score men the other day, and 1,000 applied, and pitmen are being brought down into London to do some of the jobs which other people look upon with con- 937 tempt. All I can say is that I hope the funeral will soon be ended and the body deposited.
§ Mr. ELLIS
I do not want to follow the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) too much into the coal situation, but I should like to enter just a little disclaimer, because, so far as I know, nothing of the kind which he mentions as going on in Durham is taking place in my part of the country. I can go a little further, and say that, as far as I am aware, the relations between employers and workmen are very much better than they have been for a long time. I think that that is due to the fact that, quite apart from politics, the men, not only in the mining industry, but in other industries, have at length realised that the whole prosperity of this country is based on production, and mainly on production for export.
In examining any unemployment scheme, there naturally must be some considerable difference of opinion, and I, for one, am not quite in agreement with the Government as to the extent to which we might have gone in some of our important schemes in local authorities' areas. I have said that before, and all that I wish to say again is that, on examining the whole situation, I think we might have gone a little further than we have gone in the direction of improvements which would have come along, in any event, in perhaps three, or four or five years. That would have been justifiable economically, mainly on the ground that to-day those improvements would be carried out at a time when the labour market is overstocked, and not when, as will possibly be the case in the future, labour will be difficult to get, and therefore, the schemes themselves would be much dearer to carry out.
The root of the question is, however, whether we like it or not, that, in the end, we have to get back our people into the basic industries upon which this country depends. Everything else must be merely palliative treatment. Therefore, if unemployment is to be dealt with on that basis—and it seems to be generally agreed that it must be—those people who are now out of employment must be regarded as out of employment only for the time being in so far as they belong to basic industries which can take them back 938 again to the full extent. Looking at the economic history of the world, we see that the main thing that we have to watch is the possibility of future markets. Production in this country, in its basic industries, is useless unless we have markets, mainly abroad, in which to sell, That is our main difficulty to-day, and therefore, we should try as far as possible to work out in our own minds what the course of industry in the world is going to be for, say, 10, 15, or 20 years, and try to get a share in that industry and to get back into the markets throughout the world.
It is sometimes forgotten in this House that the real unit of work is not the individual, but the family. Hon. Members on the Labour benches know that, perhaps, even better than a great many who sit opposite them. One of the difficulties that we have had to face all along, particularly in the mining villages, is that they have been isolated, that there has been no other industry there, and that, consequently, when there has been depression and difficulty, miners have been unable to call upon members of their families for some contribution in labour which would, as a kind of insurance, enable them to keep going until better times returned. I claim that the Government have to some extent met that difficulty by their de-rating scheme, and they have met it in a way which I do not think is sufficiently realised in the country, and which I am sure some Members of this House do not realise. In many cases industries—new industries particularly—have been established in other parts of the country because people thought that production would be cheaper there. They were frightened by the high rates that had grown up in a good many industrial areas, and by difficulties of cost which became intensified as trade declined and industry and population left those areas. They have discovered, however, since they have gone elsewhere, that many of the conveniences which they thought existed did not exist, and that it is becoming very difficult for them in many ways to work as they expected to do. They have discovered difficulties which they did not suspect at the time, and which almost counterbalance the lower cost in rates and, perhaps, also in wages and living. Now comes this change in our rating system, 939 distributing the burden of rates and restoring equality in production so far as that is concerned, so that people who have gone away will, in making their surveys in the future, Bee that it would pay them to go back where the labour is and where the rates have been restored to something like reasonable figures.
Surely, some credit is due to the Government and to the Minister who has had the vision to make that change, which I believe will have a very considerable effect. It is helped to a considerable extent by the greater ease of transport, and I know that in my own part of the country—not only in my constituency, but in Yorkshire generally—people concerned with new industries are even now considering the establishment of those industries on the fringe of the coalfields, not only for purposes of power, but because they realise that there is an untapped source of labour in the mining areas which hitherto has almost entirely gone away in domestic service, although the families in the district would have been only too glad to retain it in their own homes for the purpose of such a common family fund as I have mentioned. What the family gains, domestic service will lose, and on this matter I can speak with some experience, because all those who helped me in my house have for some time been members of snob families, and I, perhaps, know a great deal more of what that means than hon. Members may think. What I want to impress upon the House is that this whole question is part of a great change which will work its way in spite of us, which we can affect only very little, and which is mainly due to world changes in which we took part, and which we, like the rest of the world, have to put up with.
There are two other questions that I should like to raise. The first is that of electricity. The right hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate spoke in very general and very glowing terms of what might be done in regard to electricity. I have known something of electricity in a practical way in connection with coal for a considerable number of years, and nothing has amazed me more, both in this House in all quarters and throughout the country, than the way in which some people talk about the great 940 ease with which electricity is going to be distributed for purposes of power and lighting throughout the rural districts. I honestly believe that there are Members of this House who think that you can run a wire from the generating station down to Cornwall, and that, if you want to move a little motor, all you have to do is to hang another wire over the top and attach it to the little machine and work it wherever it is wanted. Many people, I think, do not realise what the distribution of electricity, whether it be produced from coal or by water power, really means in the way of expense for sub-stations and getting away the power from the high tension mains through which it has to be conducted over the whole country. Unless the Central Electricity Board devises some scheme of ruthless cutting out of inefficient stations, whether private or public—a good deal more ruthless than they have devised up to the present—the cost of electricity, not only in rural but in urban districts, is going to be very much higher than was ever anticipated. I do suggest that, before hon. and right hon. Gentlemen put forward schemes for the relief of unemployment in that sort of way, they should consult some of the many technical authorities now attached, I believe, to every political party except our own—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—and that for the very good reason that some of us understand what we are talking about. In that way a great deal of trouble would probably be saved.
There are many questions connected with this problem of unemployment which cannot be raised in a Debate like this, but I could not help thinking, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) opened the Debate, that most of his speech had been carefully staged, not as part of a discussion in this House to get at the real root of the matter, but almost as a beginning of what was going to be set before the constituencies later. In fact, he seemed to be speaking to a brief for the Labour party at the General Election. I should like to make one further remark on a matter of which I have personal knowledge. I was grieved to hear the right hon. Gentleman talk about administrative persecution, and I was-pleased to see the way in which he was 941 taken up. I do not think we had a very clear apology from him, or any proper explanation of his use of the phrase. It meant, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, that the Minister himself was, through his Department, definitely and of set purpose persecuting out-of-work people, and not giving them the opportunity that they ought to have by the law of the land. That is a very serious charge to make, and I would like to know if the right hon. Gentleman really believes in such a charge. I should hope that he would not make it unless he did believe it, and I should hope that he would not make it unless he had some definite facts to give to us.
§ Mr. LAWSON
If the Ministry sends men to the houses of unemployed people in order to investigate, and practically to act as spies, would the hon. Gentleman say that that is administrative persecution? The Minister admits that.
§ Mr. ELLIS
As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, there are people outside the administrative control altogether who are concerned in these things to whom proper application can be made and to whom complaints can be made. I myself have sat on those bodies, and I know the sources of complaints, and I can assure him that if anything of that sort was really happening there would be such a row made about it that the Adjournment of the House would be moved in about 24 hours. It is behaving in a very unsportsmanlike way to come here because of the General Election without any facts or figures.
§ Mr. J. BAKER
May I remind the Committee that in 1925 the Minister himself assented to the House giving him power, not merely to do what we believe to be persecution, but to enter the homes of the people and institute an inquisition. I think it was the administration of extended benefit, and the Minister took discretion to withhold it in thousands of cases where we believe he was unjustified in doing it. I should not like to charge the right hon. Gentleman with not playing the game. He has played the game.
§ Mr. ELLIS
I am not dealing with 1925 but with to-day. If the right hon. Gentleman feels that the course that was being taken was wrong, what does he mean to propose in place of it? Is it really suggested that these grants are to be made 942 without any inquiries into the circumstances and, if not, is not the reasonable thing to say: "This, that or the other is what we complain of and this, that or the other is what we shall do?" Our complaint generally in these and other matters in relation to unemployment is that we never get anything definite, and we are always purposely left in the dark.
§ Mr. POTTS
In respect to the point put forward by the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Ellis), I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether the Minister did not stop the extended benefit of William Barraclough, of Barnsley, last year? I will supply him with details if he would like to look into it.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
I want to understand the hon. Member. Is his charge that the Minister stopped extended benefit to this gentleman at some recent date, and, if so, when?
§ Mr. POTTS
The point I am putting is that we had a man called William Barraclough in receipt of unemployment pay. The pay expired and he was put on extended benefit, and received it for three weeks. I want to ask who stopped that man's pay at the end of three weeks? It was in May last year, and I had correspondence with the right hon. Gentleman. I do not agree with all the points put by the hon. Member for Wakefield. He took up the prior speaker with respect to the North of England, but the mining situation around Wakefield is not very rosy.
§ Mr. POTTS
The hon. Member knows more about the law than I do, but I know more about the mines in his constituency than he does. There is not a mine in his constituency that I have not either been down or dealt with in disputes. The mining industry is in a most deplorable condition and the Government are more responsible than anyone else 943 for that condition. It arises, to a large extent, out of the Eight Hours Act. We opposed that Measure and endeavoured to prevent it getting through. I know the effects of it. I am the individual who put the information at the disposal of the Royal Commission which agreed to the shortening of the hours. We succeeded at that inquiry and, a few years later, the Tory Government, at the request of the employers, put back the hour, and people to-day are even working extended hours contrary to the Act of Parliament. It is not only the restoration of the hour that the miners suffer, but the value of that hour to the miners was 1s. 6d. on the average. Not only was the hour put on, but the wage was taken away from them. When I submitted that evidence to the Royal Commission, I stated the number of accidents in proportion to employés. I said that with shorter hours fatal accidents would be fewer, and that turned out to be true. They fell from 1,600 to 1,200 with the same number of employés. Today the are slowly increasing. From that point of view, the sooner the Act is taken off the Statute Book and shorter hours reintroduced the better for the nation, and especially for those whose lives are being lost.
Unemployment, in the mining industry in particular, is an important matter. Since the Tory Government came in, both before and since Labour, it has continued to get worse. The Tories are going about the country telling the people that trade is improving and that times are better, and the Liberals are trying to do the same thing. I see no prospect of improvement in the mining industry from any point of view. What we claim for the miners, and for other workers, is that a man who cannot have work ought to have a proper living. He is entitled either to work or to remuneration, and not starvation remuneration. He is entitled to live. If the miners fixed their own wages, as we do in this House, they would not be working for the wages they are getting now. If Cabinet Ministers had no voice in fixing their salaries at about £100 a week, and someone else fixed them for them, they would not get what they are getting now.
May I quote a few figures to see where we stand? Facts speak louder than words. When I look hack at 1921 I see 944 some very peculiar statements in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I was a member of the Miners' Federation when they met him during the stoppage, and what he is stating now is not what he stated at 10, Downing Street in 1921. He then made this statement, which is in the verbatim report, that if the collieries were not economic and could not pay the wages that had to rule at that time, they might go out of production, and we asked what about the workpeople. To-day he is shouting about them being out of employment. Then he said they might go out of employment. That is his position as ex-Prime Minister and as Leader of the Liberal party, which to-day, to my mind, does not exist. In 1922, when the Tories were in, we had employed 1,162,754. During 1924, when Labour was in, the figure increased to 1,230,248 employés in and about the industry. I will take 1927. There we get down to 945,480. Last year we got down to 899,453, and for this year, as far as we have gone, up to April the number is 933,013, a comparatively small increase. I will take Yorkshire, which I know even better than I do other parts of the country. I want to show the position of Yorkshire, because the Tories are going about the country saying that more people are being employed, and that trade is improving, whereas there is no change in any shape or form as far as Yorkshire is concerned. When I look at the figures I find that, in 1928, 169,013 were employed in and about the mines of Yorkshire. The figures for to-day—taken from the "Gazette" this morning—are 169,616, so that they are practically stationary.
§ Mr. POTTS
There is no better guide than the taking of a complete year. I can select months out of any year and show an improvement, and I can select months out of any year and show a fall. The hon. Member must accept what I am telling him. I ask him to take the figures for 1927 and 1928, and he will find that the export of coal from this country was slightly less in 1928 than it was in 1927, and it has gone down since. Nothing has a greater effect upon the working people of our country, not only in the mining industry but in industry as a whole, as the wages which they receive for their labour. When we see the wages reported in the newspapers without any explanation, it must not be forgotten that the period of time during which a person works makes all the difference in the matter. Last year, in South Yorkshire, the average working time of the men in and about the mines Was 4.52 shifts per week, and in the West of Yorkshire the figure was down to 3.85. The average wages for the whole year amounted to about 10s. per shift, and if a calculation is made it will be found that the average weekly wage of the miners in Yorkshire last year was £2 3s. 4.6d. When the men have had deductions made for stoppages at the colliery, paid rents and rates, light and coal—the insurance deductions are in the stoppages—amounting in all to 13s. 6d. per week, the average wage works out at 29s. 10½d. per week all the year round. How would Ministers and hon. Members on the opposite side of the Committee like to go home to their families with 29s. per week? They could not live upon it. Although the county of Yorkshire is assumed not to be a badly paid county—I agree that it is the best organised county—there is a great deal of destitution in it to-day.
I want to appeal to the Minister of Labour and to the Government to do something in this matter on behalf of our people. Talk about the Lord Mayor's Fund! It has scarcely reached Yorkshire yet. We were told by the President of the Board of Education that they thought there was little need for the fund in Yorkshire. I will give a case, though I will not give the name. I am prepared to take the Prime Minister to the house of a man in my constituency who had to rise at half-past four o'clock in the morning in order to go to his work, a distance 946 of five miles. He had not a bite of anything to eat before he went, as there was no food in the house. There are three children. He did his work as best he could, and when he came home there was nothing to eat in the house, and he collapsed. When I heard of the case I was inclined to send a wire to the Prime Minister and ask him to come to Yorkshire, because we have been told that there is no poverty. That is not the only case. There are hundreds of such cases in every district in the mining areas. The sooner the Government look into these matters and see what can be done to help and to stir up the Lord Mayor's Fund, the better. There is a sum of something like £900,000 lying in the fund, and, in view of the poverty existing in this country, particularly in certain areas, it is a scandal and a disgrace that the money is not being distributed. The fault is not due to the local people not discharging their duties in regard to distribution, but due to the fact that the money has not reached the areas.
It is also a scandal and a disgrace that we should have to reply upon voluntary contributions. What we want and expect is justice, fair-play and a living for our people. In 1924 there were 1,230,240 employés in the industry. Labour was in office at that time, and not the Tory party. Last year I find that 899,978 persons were employed in the industry. This means that 330,270 have gone out of the industry, whereas we are told that there are only between 100,000 and 200,000 as far as the Employment Exchange registers are concerned. This goes to prove that the guardians and the people are having to bear the burden of the maintenance of those who have been put off the Employment Exchanges. It is that which very largely accounts for the difference. What we want is a change of Government, and when we get a change of Government I hope that we shall get a change of administration in this matter. Since the Tory Government came into power there has been no peace in this country [Laughter]. Hon. Members opposite may laugh at a statement like that. Hon. Members on the benches opposite do not know what hunger is, and that is why they laugh. If they had to work for their living under the conditions in which miners work and had nothing but what they were able to earn, they 947 would not laugh for very long; they would be starved to death in a month. I am telling the Committee what I know to be the facts. That is why hon. Members opposite have no fellow feeling for the unemployed.
We are told that Parliament has no money to do more than what is being done. The money is available if you will only look for it in the right place. I can tell you the way to find the money. Look for a moment at the War interest. You have cut down unemployment pay. I do not want to enter into points outside the scope of this Debate and be ruled out of order, but I would like to say in passing that you have cut down the pensions of the people whom you promised should have justice. You have not carried out your promises to these people since the War, but you have not failed to carry out your promises to the rich men of the nation. Take my advice and cut that War interest clean in two. You ought to stop these people from getting all this money out of the country. The money ought to be used to assist people to find employment, instead of starving them as you are doing to-day. I hope with many other people that there will be a change in the country before very long. Under this Government there can be no change. Consider the position as far as export trade is concerned. In 1924, my right hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. R. MacDonald), who was at the head of affairs, made more trade by international good-feeling and fellowship and more confidence abroad than has been the case since. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh. They cannot laugh me down, and I am sure they cannot shout me down. No man on the other side of the Committee has been in industry longer than I have, and you cannot get me down by that sort of means. The statistics year after year, leaving out the year 1926, show that more trade was done, as far as value is concerned, in 1924 than in the two years preceding under Tory rule, and more than in every year since. And if the Tories go out and a Labour Government comes in, it will be found that more trade will be done, more international trade; there will be internal good feeling and increased trade within the country, and the wages of the people will advance. It is 948 the low wages of the people at the moment which make the internal trade of the country so bad.
We have broken off relations with Russia; we do not want their trade. Now, not only this country but other countries are seeking friendly relations with Russia. It is coming, but I hope it will be the Labour party, not a Tory Government, which will have the honour of renewing relations with Russia. I see no prospect for the country under the present Government. They can say what they like about unemployment, but there is no doubt that the various industries of the country and large business people are beginning to feel its effect; tradespeople and shopkeepers are beginning to talk about it. Things have got to such a pass that there must be a change. The hon. Member for Wakefield rather inferred that the Conservative party were likely to come back. I know his constituency well, and may I tell him respectfully that he will not come back if I can stop him, and I live next door to him. I know many influential people in Wakefield. He can have a go at me in my constituency if he likes, but if I can stop him he will not come back here. The people of this country are disgusted with the present Government, who will not come back to power. It will be a Labour Government which will have to put these things right.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
We have had rather a remarkable afternoon. We have just heard the hon. Member's election address. The Debate has been remarkable for what we have not heard as much as for what we have heard. There was one thing to which I think every hon. Member was looking forward, and that was that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) would have been present in order to discuss his policy in this House. The last time unemployment was debated the right hon. Gentleman was unavoidably prevented from coming because he had a speech to make elsewhere.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
To-day, again, we are deprived of the counsel of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. When I think of that group 949 of Liberal candidates numbering about 450 at a luncheon at the Connaught Rooms listening to the original plan I can think of nothing like it since the days of the 450 prophets of Baal who met in similar session. They were ready also to cut themselves with knives, and all the time the great person did not appear. The explanation was thatEither he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked.One would have imagined that the House of Commons would have been the first place in which the right hon. Gentleman would have made his proposal, because it is the place where it can be subjected to real examination and where its true value can be accurately estimated. That is one of the things we have not heard. We have heard, however, the remarkable utterance of the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). We know him generally in this House as a responsible person using responsible and moderate language, but to-day he has made a speech in which he has made certain statements which are not in the least degree moderate in language; which I have already challenged and which I am bound to challenge again at once. He accused me in my administration of the Department of being guilty of "administrative persecution" in the matter of unemployment benefit.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
It would not have been surprising if the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) had said it, but it is surprising that a responsible ex-Cabinet Minister should say it. Let me deal with the point at once. At the present moment we have an independent system, dealing with unemployment benefit, of the Umpire, Courts of Referees, and Insurance Officers. It is the precise system that was asked for by many witnesses before the Blanesburgh Committee, including members of the Trade Union Congress General Council, amongst them being the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) and the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. A. Greenwood). The condition of "genuinely seeking work," to which hon. Members opposite object, was the invent- 950 tion of a member of their own party, the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) when he was Minister of Labour. They have the system which they wanted, the Courts which they wanted, and the condition which they themselves set up; and the right hon. Gentleman to-day says that I am guilty of administrative persecution. If he makes a charge like that against any person at the head of a great Government Department he is bound in honour to produce the instances upon which he makes the charge.
I put the following figures before the Committee to start with in order that they may see how flimsy are the facts upon which responsible leaders of the party opposite make their charges. Since the right hon. Member spoke this afternoon I have had the actual statistics got out of disallowances of claims to benefit in 1924 and since April, 1928, under the transitional provisions; and I find that, taking the percentage of disallowances to the total of fresh and renewal claims, in 1924 it was 8½ per cent. and that in the last 11 months it was 7½ per cent. This, if you please, is the evidence of administrative persecution. May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman, if it is necessary, that this is an extremely serious charge to make without it being backed up by any facts. He expects to be head of a great Government Department in turn and he will realise I hope what it means; in view of his experience in 1924 he probably does realise what it means. Unless he has actual evidence the only thing he can do is to withdraw the charge amply and fully. I ask him at this moment to withdraw it or give me definite proofs of the charges he has made.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I informed the right hon. Gentleman earlier in the Debate that I made no personal charge against him whatever. I pointed out that the different bodies and authorities deciding these cases had in my view been guilty of acts of personal persecution in that they have deprived men of benefit to which in our judgment they are entitled; and I referred to that great group of disqualifications where men are deprived of benefit because they are told that they are not genuinely seeking employment. That group numbering thousands of men in the main constitutes a case of personal persecution in view of the condition of 951 the men and the terrible suffering imposed upon them when they are deprived of benefit.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
It is not a question of myself personally; it is a question of the great service of which I am the head. The right hon. Gentleman is now bringing a charge against the Department. That is worse than bringing a charge against the Minister of the day. They are people who cannot answer for themselves; and the right hon. Gentleman repeats the charge when it is the system which his own friends asked to be set up, when it is the test which a Labour Minister of Labour created, and when actually the percentage of disallowances in the last 11 months is not greater but less than the percentage of disallowances during the year when the right hon. Gentleman was in office. All I can say is that it is the most contemptible charge that I have ever heard made in this House, and I can only repeat what was said by the right hon. Gentleman himself when he said thatperhaps the standard of honourable dealing, frankness and truthfulness is different in political life to what it is in private life.7.0 p.m.
The next point to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded was the idea that the Government's policy was to cut men off the list at any cost. I am not sure whether he meant disallowances or whether he meant that we were tampering with the live register, and I ask him to let me know which of those two charges he meant to make. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he did not mean tampering with the live register.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
With what everybody who is cognisant of the facts calls the live register. A similar charge was made by the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he said:The Minister of Labour has admitted that tens of thousands of men, who would have been included in the unemployment figure five years ago or four years ago, are not so included in the register of unemployed.If anyone states for one single instant that there has been any attempt to falsify the figure of the live register, I challenge 952 him at once. If any responsible leader on the other side, if the Leader of the Opposition wishes to take up this challenge, I shall be glad to have it put to the test. The live register to-day is a more comprehensive figure of unemployment than it has ever been in the past, and certainly more comprehensive than during the time the party opposite was in office. There is no foundation whatever for any insinuation of that kind.
The right hon. Gentleman raised again one point with which I certainly had not intended to deal, but of course, if he issues a challenge to me, I shall deal with it at once. It is perfectly true that the recovery of industry and employment in this country received a grievous setback from the General Strike, a set-back of three years or longer. I had not intended to deal with that this afternoon if the right hon. Gentleman had not gone out of his way to say that, because no agreement was reached in the mining industry, the General Strike inevitably followed and that the fault for the General Strike lay with the Government. That is what he says now. Perhaps he might listen to the considered opinion of the leader of his own party within a month of the General Strike when he said:If there are any people at fault, then the blame must rest on those responsible for saying that a General Strike was going to help you to victory.And again:The real blame is with the General Strike itself, and those who preached it without considering it, and induced the workers to blunder into it.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I say that in our judgment that statement, which has just been read, is quite consistent with our other statement that the general lock-out of miners provoked the general strike.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am quite content to let the right hon. Member rejoice in his own judgment.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
In the "Socialist Review" of June, 1926. Everyone knows that, though there may have been faults committed on all sides in that unhappy period, the chief responsibility lay with the type of man who, 953 away back in 1925 before ever the trouble began, said he was out for a revolution and who said the same thing in Moscow when the strike was over. They are the people who, as the Leader of the Labour party said, are finally responsible. I have never laid great blame at the door of the trade unionists. I do not believe that many of them realised how a general strike was a cut at the root of all democratic government, whatever the merits of the particular dispute for which it is called. Besides the extremists, there is one other set of men who are particularly responsible, and they are the leaders of the party opposite. They had been in office, they had had experience of office in a constitutional government, they knew that it cut at the roots of real democratic self-government, and, when a single honest, courageous word from them at the critical moment would have stopped it, they not only said nothing, but the Leader of the Labour party went to the meeting at the Farringdon Hall and said:We are there in the battle with you.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Will the right hon. Gentleman now tell the Committee what he and the Government said to the mine-owners to stop the lock-out?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am perfectly willing at any time to defend the whole of our action with regard to the eight-hour day. Everyone who knows the industry knows that is one reason why in the end it is recovering its position. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to criticise the Government with regard to its policy of transference. I wondered whether he was in favour of the principle of transference or not, and this afternoon he has come out as an opponent of the policy of transference, not merely of its application, but in principle.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Hear, hear, from the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey)! The right hon. Gentleman gave us his reasons for opposing it in principle and, among others, he said that the miners themselves did not want it. If he had read the OFFICIAL REPORT or had been present at previous unemployment Debates, he would have seen, or heard, the quotation from the resolution from the Miners' Federation 954 themselves asking for the transfer of unemployed miners in derelict districts "to-areas where a reasonable prospect of employment exists." The Miners' Federation pressed it then, and they pressed it again on the Prime Minister at a deputation later on, but the right hon. Gentleman comes here to-day and says he is against it in principle because the miners were against it.
§ Mr. CLYNES
During a large part of the time when I was speaking the right hon. Gentleman was engaged in conversation, and clearly he did not hear much of what I said. I never said a word about the principle. I quoted from a quite recent decision, of only a few days ago, of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation bitterly complaining of the way in which the system of transference is being carried out.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I was careful to listen to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman. I made one aside, and I put one question and one question only to the Secretary of State for War. I listened to what the right hon. Gentleman said about transference, and I submit it to the judgment of any impartial men that, if they will read his speech as to principle, they will find it is a general attack upon transference as a whole. Am I to understand that the right hon. Gentleman is in favour of it in principle, but is against it in practice?
§ Mr. CLYNES
I do not think any question of principle comes into it at all. I described it as one of the two devices to which the Government have resorted instead of proceeding upon principle.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
This is not a matter of principle, says the right hon. Gentleman, but still he gives no answer as to his general approval or general disapproval of it. Does he give a general approval to the principle? At any rate it is a device, he says, to which the Government have resorted. When I look at page 27 of "Labour and the Nation," I find them advocating it as a principle of the Labour party. Now what are we doing? Some of the hon. Members opposite say that we are not transferring the men to districts where there is a fair chance of employment. According to them, it may be a very good thing in general, but each and every application 955 of it is to be resisted. Everybody who knows this country knows that there are districts where trade is good and unemployment low.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The great district which includes the whole of London, the district where unemployment has gone down from 9½ per cent. to 5½ per cent. since we took office. To transfer men to places where unemployment is low—we say that this is the right thing to do, that it is a policy recommended by all parties, asked for by the miners and recommended in "Labour and the Nation." I am not sure whether this is going to be another instance of the gentle art of repudiation or not. Transference is described as part of the Labour party policy on page 27 of "Labour and the Nation."
The policy of transference does not mean that jobs are taken away from anyone. Suppose you have new motor works erected at Dagenham and that all the engineers come from outside, this does not mean that there will be less employment in the rest of London. This has been proved in the case of the factories which are being put up at Slough or on the Great West Road out of London. Where you have had them set up, although the people have come from outside, the London area has not been the poorer, and there has not been less employed; London has been better off, and there has been more employment. That is the reason why we are going on with transference. If I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give proof of his statement, he does not give me an answer.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The right hon. Gentleman, of course, must choose his own lines for making his speech. My main argument against this transference device was that the Government had had nearly a year in which to conduct this method and that in that time not one man in 200 of the unemployed had been able to get a job by means of it, and that those who had been able to get a job had displaced others. Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with that?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Not one man in 200 has been able to get a job through it! That is the statement of 956 the right hon. Gentleman. We have already transferred since the Prime Minister's appeal 20,000 persons. Over 15,000 of those, at least, have been adult men, and they have been the cause of at least half of that number, or more, transferring on their own account. Take the figure of 15,000 men transferred, and compare it with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that not one in 200 of the unemployed has been able to get a job through the scheme. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman had made a mistake in his figures, and I did not want to quote them in case he had been mistaken. Now that he has quoted them again, let us do a little simple arithmetic. What is 200 times 15,000? According to the right hon. Gentleman, the number that ought to be transferred is 3,000,000, to reduce it to the absurdity of his own calculation. I find on reference that actually not 15,000 but 17,000 adult men have been transferred since the Prime Minister's appeal, and the process is going on.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The result of this transference, by Government agency, has been that the men who have been transferred into jobs have, in many cases, written to their own friends and I have individual instances which show that they have secured jobs for their friends also, so that in those areas the actual number of jobs secured has been much more than the official figures. That is the reason why there is a hiatus, for which the hon. Member opposite cannot account, between the present figure of unemployment in the mining areas and the decrease in the numbers recorded as belonging to the industry. It is because bit by bit we are doing what is the really healthy thing to do, and that is that where an industry is depressed and everybody is agreed that in no circumstances can it again employ the same number as before, the men should be transferred and absorbed into other industries which are growing, and in which they can find work. [Interruption.]
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. James Hope)
A speech on this question is, of course, controversial and one can expect interruptions, but I would ask hon. Members not to carry interruption to the point of making the argument unintelligible.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I want again to emphasise the fact that not a single man has been thrown out of a job to make way for these men who have been transferred. That is the policy of transference that we have been carrying on and that we are going to carry on. One of the worst blots on the record of any party is the blot on the record of the party opposite, part of whose acknowledged programme transference is, and yet, by barren bickerings, they have been trying to stop a process which they know is a right one, and for which so many of their own friends, like the Miners' Federation, have asked.
This Debate has been remarkable for some things that we have not heard. There is one thing that I thought we might have heard something about today. I refer to a specific proposal of hon. Members opposite. I was interrupted when I calculated—[Interruption.]
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
When I calculated the cost of some of the specifics recommended by the party opposite. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) said that he did not agree with my figure of £290,000,000, and he reduced it to £250,000,000, and was content with that.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
In addition to those specifics, there was another scheme of the party opposite in regard to which, while there was no definite statement, a pledge was given, and that was work or maintenance. Now, that scheme has been officially added to the list by the Leader of the Labour party. That is an extremely important addition, and the extra cost of it would be £60,000,000 to £60,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman has said that unemploy- 958 ment is to be an issue at the election. We are, therefore, entitled to ask for some information from him with regard to this new item in the Labour programme. What is to be the scale of maintenance and what is to be the scale of payment?
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
On a point of Order. Is the right hon. Gentleman entitled in reply to deal on this Vote with matters of possible legislation?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to reply to what happened in a former Debate, but he cannot enter the field of legislation.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
May we ask the right hon. Gentleman to say that we shall have on an early opportunity, and he can make the opportunity as soon as he likes, of obtaining some idea of what the cost is going to be of the proposals which his party advocate, and also how that cost is to be met? Unless we get that information we are-entitled to come to the conclusion that a speech which was once made by the Leader of the Opposition, contained a most profound truth. I refer to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, made just before he left office at the end of his administration, in which he said:If I were Prime Minister for 50 unbroken years, 50 years packed with work as the last eight months have been, I have given you pledges from my heart that would still be unfulfilled.We have been administering our policy in regard to unemployment. Whatever our policy has been we have been ready to give our figures, and we are entitled to ask for figures from the party opposite.
Now, I come to our general policy for dealing with unemployment. The only real cure, I think we all admit, is to try to get men and women to work in their own trades. Incidentally, that furnishes a real test of the practicability and the genuineness of the scheme which has been advocated to-day by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Griffith), one of the few speeches which we have had the pleasure of listening to from the Liberal benches. A month ago, I pointed out, first, the real impossibility of getting people to work within a year, which was part of the 959 pledge and of the scheme promulgated in the Liberal programme, and, secondly, that even if that were possible it could be no permanent cure, because when the two years were over the men would come back from road work to swell the ranks of the unemployed again. There is one further aspect of that scheme to which I would draw attention. Hon. Members above the Gangway opposite and I differ, but at least they and we face the music in the House of Commons. We have had no chance of asking the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) whether he will explain some of the difficulties of his own scheme.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
Why is it taken for granted that the Leader of this party should be in the House, when the Leader of neither of the other parties is in the House?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Although the Leader of the Liberal party is absent, a most picturesque substitute, the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), sits in his place. If a person tries to hold the attention of the country with some great new scheme, in which he believes in every detail, and he gives a pledge in regard to it, he ought not to stand on points of etiquette but should come straight away here to explain it.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
There is an additional reason, besides those which I have stated, why it is quite clear that the authors of that scheme do not really understand the unemployed, or rather who the unemployed are.
§ Mr. ERNEST EVANS
Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell the Committee whether his Department or the Government have submitted these proposals of the Liberal party to the experts of their own Department for their advice as to their practicability?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
We always, naturally, take the advice of our expert helpers and assistants, and, having taken that advice, we profoundly disbelieve in that scheme as much as, or more than, before we took this advice. 960 Let me give the Committee one reason why. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has pledged himself that he can set 700,000 men to work within a year. I ask anyone to take the live register to-day and analyse it and see how far that proposal is possible. On the live register to-day there are 1,153,000 persons. There is, first, the large number of women, girls and boys whom you could hardly set to work on these public works. There are 262,000 of them to be deducted straight away in order to arrive at the total from which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs can get his 700,000. That leaves him with 880,000 from which to choose. The right hon. Gentleman in his scheme says distinctly—I think it is on page 59—that he is not going to take away half-timers from employment, and therefore they must also be left out. There are 151,000 of these. That reduces the figure from 888,000 to 737,000, out of which the Liberal leader is to get his 700,000. I next come to the class of casuals. There are 77,000 on the register to-day, and the greater proportion of these are men employed on docks, canals and rivers, men who may have two or three or four days' work each week. You cannot take those right away and put them on a road miles away.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
About 30 per cent. of these might possibly be taken away for these public works. That reduces the possible figure to 683,000.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Of the remainder of the unemployed we have ascertained by our tests how many are over 50. We find that 23.7 per cent. are over 50 years of age. I have consulted doctors and men who have had actual experience of works of construction in making roads, and I am told by practical men that because of the strain involved only a small proportion of these men over 50 could be employed on roads. A man over 50 in an ordinary trade to which he is accustomed may be at least as good as a man of any age, but here we have to consider first of all the per- 961 centage of the infirm and then the fact that if a man over 50 is taken and put on strenuous public works—
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The great bulk of those taken during the War were under 40. I am referring now to people over 50 who cannot stand being put suddenly on strenuous work. A practical man to whom I put a question gave 15 per cent. as the number who could stand the strain of road making under commercial conditions. But suppose that I increased the percentage to 25, there is a further deduction of 123,000 to be made. That brings the figure down to 560,000. We have taken samples of the unemployed in order to find, from amongst those under 50, how many for example have not got a limb or are in some way physically defective. The total would be 19,500. That reduces the field to 540,500. On going further we get to the people in trades that are obviously unsuitable in this connection—tailors, dress and mantle makers, boot and shoe makers, the jewellery trade, the watch trade, the light metal industries, and so on over a wide range, including the distributive trades. It is quite clear that a very large proportion of those could never be employed on these public works. It is just a matter of opinion as to how great that proportion is. But even without reckoning those there are only 540,000 persons from whom to pick 700,000 men. It is quite clear that only a proportion of those could be taken, and that to get the maximum number it would be necessary to have some measure of industrial conscription. That is the actual analysis of the live register as applied to the proposals of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. It makes their impossibility apparent.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
The total in the Liberal scheme for road schemes is 350,000. That is in the plan to which I referred. The Minister has ignored that altogether and assumed a figure of 700,000.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am quite well aware of that fact and have allowed for it. Part of the rest of the scheme refers to ditching and draining, and that is heavy work. Building is also included, but I have already left in the 962 whole of the unemployed builders. So far as the other items are concerned, the people in the electrical trade tell me that it is absolutely impossible from their point of view to expand it at this moment so as to take in 60,000 fresh men within a year. What I have said does not mean that the unemployment is unreal. It is very real indeed. It means that the kind of hasty scheme to which I have referred is perfectly impossible.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
When I ask why the author of this scheme could not come to the House to-day, I recall that he is the person who says he pins his faith in Parliament. I recall his celebrated article to the American Press at the time of the General Strike, and there I find that his concluding words are: "I put my faith in the British Parliament." Yet when it comes to the examination of his scheme he shuns Parliament like the plague.
Now I take the Government policy. We have been accused of a policy of drift or something of the sort. I claim that it is a policy that has both a positive basis and positive justfication so far as the facts and figures are ascertainable. I said just now that employment is improving continuously. So it is. The signs of improvement seem to be greeted with wonderfully small enthusiasm by hon. Members opposite.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I for one shall not be satisfied until we get back to the normal position of pre-War experience and even below the normal. That is the first thing to aim at. When one examines the problem one finds that there must be some deep underlying cause of trouble for the evil to be so intractable. There is an extraordinarily regenerative power naturally in industry. There was, of course, the set-back of three years or more owing to the coal strike. Industry has a regenerative power, but meanwhile, until the time is ripe, palliatives must be applied. We cannot get back to real health until we are at least back to normal and until people are employed at their own trades with the hope of continuing in them.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The cause of the trouble, as I said the other day, is the decrease in the volume of our foreign trade and the decrease in migration. The recovery was retarded for some three years by a trouble to which I have already referred—a trouble which, in view of the meeting which was held to-day, we pray may never occur again. Let me say something as to the Government policy. Firstly we have applied all the ordinary palliatives—afforestation, drainage, roads, telephones, the application of electricity to country districts, housing and slum clearance. All of these palliatives I detailed on the last occasion when we discussed the question, and I then gave the amounts that we have actually spent on each item. A little less or a little more might be practicable in given instances, but broadly speaking we have acted up to the limit of what was economically right. Those are all ideas that are advocated by the parties opposite. We are acting on them now.
We are also tackling the problem from other points of view. There is training. Whereas there was not a single adult training centre for the ordinary civil population before we came into power, we are now taking men and training them so that they may not lose their skill of hand if opportunity offers. We started in a small way, but have extended the work until 12,000 men can pass through the training centres yearly for work at home or overseas. Transference I have already dealt with.
Then there are the boys. We have been dealing with the boys and girls and have tried to keep them from losing their industrial quality through idleness. Two hundred and fifty thousand boys and girls have been helped by the centres during the last five years. In most districts there is very little unemployment amongst young persons. In the mining districts our work has gone on, and now there is not a single boy in any of the depressed mining areas who will not be able in the next few years to get a chance of a decent job that will give him continuous employment. There was a shortage in the birth-rate during the War and a corresponding shortage in the number of boys and girls entering industry. We had a survey made two years ago throughout the country, 964 to find out where boys would be needed, in order that boys in depressed industrial districts, should their parents consent, could be drafted to the places where places could be found for them.
In the matter of industrial relations, I have said that all of us welcome the negotiations that are now beginning. For months my own Department has been adjusting small local differences. Where success has been achieved it has not been mentioned in the Press, but it is the cumulative effect of this success that has helped to make the last two years show the lowest number of days lost through industrial disputes for many years.
Safeguarding meets one of the causes of the problem of unemployment. When we have men, so to speak, left on our hands, who under pre-War conditions would have emigrated, but who to-day are on the labour market, we contend that it is by our policy of Safeguarding that we can get these men employment, which, otherwise, would not be available in this country. Similarly, by the policy of de-rating, we meet a cause of the disease. A great cause of the disease is the falling-off in the volume of foreign trade, and de-rating is one thing that can really help the British manufacturer to decrease his costs without decreasing wages, and thereby to compete more successfully in international markets. That is the policy on which we are going.
Hon. Members opposite have asked me why I am optimistic. May I give the Committee the actual figures which form the positive basis, and positive justification for the belief that the lines on which we have proceeded and are proceeding are those most calculated to bring unemployment at least back to normal. The figures are these. They are almost like a Budget balance sheet. The normal figure of unemployment, based on pre-War experience, below which we think it should be brought and below which everyone wishes that it should be brought, is a figure of 600,000. Since the War, an additional burden has been cast on the labour market here, and there has been an accidental aggravation of the evil, through the decrease in foreign trade and the decrease in emigration. There is a slight set-off to that owing to the increase in the school-leaving age but despite this set-off these two addi- 965 tional burdens involve a net addition to unemployment of 900,000 persons in the insured trades.
Therefore, unless an advance had already been made, if to normal unemployment had been added that net addition of 900,000, the figure to-day would have been 1,500,000 instead of 1,150,000. As it is, the figures show that industry itself, with the aid of the palliatives which have been applied, has, during four actual years—because the coal stoppage meant a set-back of three years—absorbed some 350,000 of those who would otherwise have been unemployed. That is what has happened in the past four years, and it gives a guide for the future. The figure of unemployment published to-day is 550,000 above normal. How can that figure best be tackled. During the next five years there will be the natural relief due to the decrease in the birth-rate during the War years. That means that the new entrants into industry will be something like 280,000 short of the normal. That in itself will meet more than half of the additional excess over the normal. I refer to a figure of 280,000 over the next five years in all and not per annum. That 280,000 was the figure accepted by the Balfour Committee, though the latest reports show that it should be rather larger. In other words, that will be a relief which will come in any case, and which will bring the total excess over normal from 550,000 to about 270,000.
In the four years of regeneration we have, with the aid of the palliatives which have been applied, actually absorbed 350,000. We are applying all the old palliatives. We are adding safeguarding. We are adding de-rating. The task for the immediate future is less than that which has been done in the past four or four and a-half years, and that is the reason why I, myself, am quite confident that if we go forward, quite steadily on the policy which we are pursuing, by those means unemployment will be brought back at least to its normal under a Conservative Government and by Conservative policy, and that it can only be made worse by any rash specific, such as that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, or by the nostrums of the party opposite.
§ Mr. MORRIS
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken for 50 minutes or more, and has spent the greater portion of that time in denouncing, either the policy of the party above the Gangway, or the policy of the party on these benches. He reserved only five minutes for the policy of the Government, and what has he to offer, on behalf of the Government, as a solution for unemployment? He first tells the Committee the figures of people unemployed and analyses them to show that nearly 600,000 of them are incapable of employment at all.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
No, I quite explicitly safeguarded myself against that construction. I said they were capable of employment and that some of them would be as good as anybody else in their own trades, but that they were incapable of transference to such artificial employments as would be provided by the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs.
§ Mr. MORRIS
Then the position of the right hon. Gentleman is that 600,000 are incapable of transference to any other employment?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
No, I said that 600,000 were incapable of transference to the schemes which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs would provide, and that it would be perfectly impossible for them to get their living out of such work.
§ Mr. MORRIS
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the 600,000 can be transferred to other forms of employment if there is no employment for them in the trades in which they were formerly engaged?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I would say at once that some of them are capable of transference to other employments, and that is what we have already done in the case of the miners, but what we propose is to improve employment in their own industries so that transference for a great many of them would not be needed.
§ Mr. MORRIS
The position of the right hon. Gentleman then, as I understand it, is that these people can be re-absorbed in their own industries, if there is employment there for them, but that they are not capable for being transferred to other employments such as those sug- 967 gested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and that, until employment arises in their own industries, they will, for the greater part, remain unemployed. Yet the only solution which the right hon. Gentleman offers is that he hopes there will be a fall in the birth-rate in the next five years.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The hon. Member has not understood me. The birth-rate in the next five years has nothing to do with it.
§ Mr. MORRIS
I was referring, not to the birth-rate, but to the results in the next five years of the birth-rate.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The hon. Member said the birth-rate in the next five years, but I referred to the results in the next five years of the birth-rate from 1914 to 1919. Let me only add that the person who does not take account of these facts is not fit to produce or to administer any scheme.
§ Mr. MORRIS
Let us see how far the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in dealing with the problem. During the period that the Government have been in office with the exception of the last three months the figure of unemployment has been steadily mounting upwards. Yet after that record of the last four years the right hon. Gentleman comes down here and congratulates the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) on making an electioneering speech. The right hon. Gentleman himself will have to make a far better electioneering speech than the speech which he made this afternoon if his party is to succeed. He tells us, first of all, that the one hope of solving the problem is to deal with foreign trade. I agree with the proposition that you cannot reabsorb these people into employment unless you recapture the foreign trade of the country, but what does the right hon. Gentleman offer with regard to the recovery of foreign trade? Safeguarding and safeguarding only. He does not deal with the position of foreign trade in Europe, or with the position of our trade in relation to the European market. There has not been one word about it.
§ Mr. MORRIS
I will deal with that point in a moment. I am dealing now with the position in European trade today as compared with the pre-War position. The last figures issued by the International Labour Office show that there are 3,000,000 unemployed in Germany. The figure of unemployed in Russia is given as 2,500,000, but there may be more, and in the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe there are over 1,000,000 unemployed. These people are unemployed in the very places which provided the markets for three-quarters of our goods before the War. These people bought our goods in the pre-War period and unless they themselves are reabsorbed into employment, we cannot hope to reabsorb our own unemployed in this country. What is the cause of that position? We have been told that some economic law is responsible for the position which has obtained throughout the world during the post-War period. I do not believe that for one moment. The position throughout the world after the War has been the result of the outlook of the different peoples of the world on post-War issues. It has been largely a psychological issue. There was the desire, a very just desire, to make Germany responsible for the damage done during the War, but the reparations payments dislocated our markets and the European market generally. The Geneva Agreement which transferred the Polish coalfield from the jurisdiction of Germany to Poland converted Poland from a coal-importing country into a coal-exporting country, subsidised very largely by French capital. These matters have been controlled not by any economic considerations, but, in the main, by fears and the desire for revenge on the part of the victorious Allies. The result has been a very large unemployment figure in Europe and in this country. Unless we change our outlook—not only we in this country but our Allies on the Continent—unless we have a change of heart towards one another, there will be no hope for the solution of the problem either in this country or in Europe. [Interruption.] I did not quite catch 969 the "aside" of the hon. Member opposite, but I will say that if I were slinging out one Minister as being responsible more than another for the unemployment problem I should single out the Foreign Secretary. The foreign policy which he has pursued for the last four and a half years has been responsible, more than the policy of any other individual Minister, for the large figure of unemployment in this country.
§ Mr. GROTRIAN
I was only expressing the view that the schemes of road making of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs would not change the hearts of the Allies.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MORRIS
I am not at the moment dealing with the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman for Carnarvon Boroughs—for which at any rate there is this to be said, that it provides a practical solution of a very acute problem. [HON. MEMBERS: "Temporarily!"] Has any thing else been proposed except temporary solutions? If the scheme provides even a temporary solution is not that a justification for it? What I was about to say was that France ought to be told plainly that we are not going to stand by and allow her to subsidise our competitors, and give them a favourable position in our markets. That is what has been happening in Europe, and it is being done—[HON. MEMBERS: "With our money!"] Yes, with our money, with France's money and, to some extent, with American money. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour said there had been a depression in the foreign trade and that Safeguarding was to be extended as a consequence. Two or three years ago there was an Economic Conference at Geneva, which the present President of the United States attended, and he warned Europe, and the smaller European countries in particular, that if they pursued the policy they were then pursuing of seeking to protect their own industries at the expense of every other country, they were heading for bankruptcy. They admitted it, and their only justification was this: They said, "Look at Great Britain, which has hitherto been a Free Trade country, but which has now departed from that policy and is pursuing a Safeguarding policy." In that way, they justified themselves in pursu- 970 ing a policy which they admitted would ultimately involve them in bankruptcy. That is the gravamen of our charge against the Government. It is not that they have put paltry duties on this and that article, on lace and motor cars and other things, but that they have justified other countries in pursuing a policy which depreciates the whole volume of trade. That is the Government's contribution to our foreign trade. They say it is vital to us, but by their example they are responsible for justifying these other countries in a course which will bankrupt them.
The Minister of Labour spent an hour criticising the policy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), but not a word did he say about one important paragraph in our scheme. Foreign trade is not omitted from that scheme. When we come to the provision of work at home, it may very well be that it cannot all be done in a year, but that does not matter at all. If you can do something to absorb a number of people into employment in the course of a year in order to arrest the deterioration of character which goes on among the unemployed, then the scheme is amply justified. The real trouble about the unemployment problem is that while these people are unemployed, particularly the younger generation, you are creating an army of unemployables and wasting a national asset. The Government themselves talk about palliatives and about extending them here and there. The Minister comes down here and says the Government are prepared to go in for more afforestation and land drainage, but is not that exactly what the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is putting forward in his scheme? What we want is not merely a criticism of my right hon. Friend's scheme. We want the Government to make a solid contribution to the foreign trade market, and they can only do that by reversing their present policy. If they do not do it, the country will insist upon it being done, and the Government will be turned out, merely for their action in relation to the foreign market.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I desire to refer to the scheme propounded by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. 971 Lloyd George). At one time, when the right hon. Gentleman was strong and had power, he confronted the unemployed and the weary on the roadside and, instead of offering help, he administered them a nasty punch and left them unattended and uncared for; but when he himself was discredited, he passed the same way back, and offered a glass of water to his victims. The people of to-day must not judge his action in proffering a glass of cooling water to restore consciousness as discounting his original act of neglect.
Towards the end of the speech made by the Minister of Labour this evening, he said that within four years 350,000 more people have become employed. How does that tally with the figure of 550,000 given in the wireless talk by the Minister for War, who said that now there are 550,000 more persons employed than there were in 1924? Whichever of the two figures may be looked upon as representing the view of the Government, I want to contest those figures. I have never heard any explanation as to how they are arrived at, and I can only assume that they mean that 550,000 more persons have entered into insurable occupations and taken out their cards. That is the only basis of judgment, and, that being so, I want to refute the statement made by the War Minister and to say that there are not 550,000 more persons working full time now than in 1924. The Minister of Labour asked my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) if he accused him of faking the live register. Of course, we need not in any way suspect either the Minister of Labour or his Department of faking what is termed the live register, but the fact is that the live register does not represent to the full the volume of unemployment in this country. I have asked several times—
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I was about to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour whether his Department can say how many thousands of cards have been taken out of the two months' file and never taken up again and are at present somewhere in the Employment Exchanges representing the unemployed holders of those cards, but that are never 972 counted in the live register. There must be many, many thousands of those cards. When a person has been unsuccessful in a claim for benefit or has deposited a card that does not give any claim for benefit, even in a transitional period, it goes into the two months' file, and at the end of the two months all the cards that have been there for two months are taken out. They never enter into the tally again, and, as I say, there must have been many thousands of those during the period of four or five years that have been discarded entirely, either because the holders of them have died or because they have never been able to get employment again. I would rather suggest that the figure of 1,153,000 on the live register, if you included all other sections who do not register at the Employment Exchanges, but who are in non-insurable occupations, would be nearer 1,400,000 or 1,500,000. That is why I feel that my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting was quite correct in saying that the live register does not represent to the full the volume of unemployment in this country. We need not say that the figures have been faked, because it is the method of registration that counts in these matters.
The Minister of Labour became quite ill-tempered and brimming over with indignation because my right hon. Friend said that the unemployed were being subjected to constant persecutions. I will go further, and say that they are hunted and harried and persecuted. The answer of the right hon. Gentleman was that it is the same machinery that the trade union movement and the Labour party submitted in their evidence before the Blanesburgh Committee. But the court of referees and the insurance officers can only act in accordance with the regulations that are issued from time to time. You can have a perfect piece of machinery but if it is wrongly handled, and if grit is introduced into the oil, there will be no smooth running.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
This is a rather serious matter. Will the hon. Gentleman say to which regulations issued to the court of referees he is referring, because there are none?
§ Mr. HAYDAY
But there is a lot that happens long before a case gets to a court of referees—such a lot. You know the secret circular. It is unobtainable 973 and even Members of the House of Commons cannot have it. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that there are visitors to the unemployed persons' home. If that is not hunting and harrying, what is? The unemployed person is subject to have his home visited by somebody from the Exchange. If he is at home, they want to know why he is at home; and, if he is not at home, they want to know why he is not at home. Then they question members of the family in his absence as to where he has gone, and what he is doing. Surely that is not playing fair. A person who has been successful in establishing his claim once by the regulations ought never to be subjected to visitations from officials from the Employment Exchange. Will my hon. Friend deny that persons are sent to jobs that do not exist? Is not that persecution? Will he deny that persons are sent distances without a certainty of being employed and without fares? Is not that persecution? Is it not persecution to disqualify a person because his wife happens to be in some form of employment?
Is it not persecution that, after an interviewing officer has seen an applicant, the insurance officer disallows benefit? Perhaps benefit is restored when the case is finally heard by the court of referees, but sometimes two or three weeks elapse between disqualification and the restoration of the benefit. That means going to the Poor Law guardians, and the able-bodied person has to go without any income for that period because of the restrictions of the Ministry of Health that no relief is to be given to an able-bodied person. Is that not persecution? The answer of the Minister of Labour is that the proof that they are not acting in a bad spirit is the fact that disallowances were only a certain percentage over a period, and that that percentage was less than the percentages of disallowances during the brief period when the Labour party was in office. Surely, the explanation is that, if, unfortunately, employment prevails much longer, the percentage of disallowances is bound to become less; for four years you have been taking people out and disallowing them, and there will not be many more left for you to disallow. Surely, these things are persecution. It has been doubted times without number, and invitations have 974 been given to the Department to go into some of the unemployed areas and talk to the persons who have been disqualified. I would bring it nearer home to the Department and emphasise the point, because 90 per cent. of the cases disallowed by the insurance officer in my own area, and which have been handled by me, have been restored by the court of referees. Is there, therefore, not some ground for saying that persecution has taken place by the unnecessary disallowances that have been made? Ample evidence could be obtained from any area.
Dealing with the transference scheme, the Minister of Labour said that no one had ever been transferred to a position which meant the displacement of another man. Six men in our own organisation at Bethnal Green were discharged one night. The next morning six transferred miners were started in their place on the same building. The collecting steward of the union attended the next lodge meeting to make these men members of the lodge, and the six men who had been discharged reported that they had been discharged from that job to make room for the six miners. They are working on a building not far from here. Does my hon. Friend agree that in some cases the transference scheme has been used for another purpose; I will not say to any great extent, because I do not know of it to any great extent I have the case of a man whose benefit was disallowed on the ground that he was not genuinely seeking employment because 300 miners had found work in Manchester; and, if the 300 miners could find work there, this man was told that he ought to have been able to do so. Therefore, because men are transferred into areas where there is unemployment, and others are discharged in order that the transferred men may take their places, men are disallowed benefit on the ground that if miners can find jobs in that area so ought they.
The Minister said in another part of his speech that he was an optimist, and that his optimism had been justified. Has it? In 1927, when we were discussing the Unemployment Insurance Bill, the Minister said that the 30-stamps qualification would operate on the 19th April, 1929, and that by that time we should have reached the normal. He also said 975 that had it not been for their method of finding work and promoting a condition of things that led to an absorption of workers into their own industries, there would have been, not 1,153,000, but 1,500,000 out of work to-day. Why was he not nearer justifying the optimism which he expressed in 1927, when he said that by April, 1929, there would be less than 700,000 out of work, and that consequently the 30-stamps regulation would inflict hardship on no one? His optimism is out by over 400,000, and yet he would have the country believe that by his action optimism has been justified and that there has been a great improvement. He finished that passage by saying that in four years 350,000 more people had been absorbed back into industry.
I know the right hon. Gentleman can say, "What is your scale of benefits?" I remember him calling across the Table to my right hon. Friend, "We know what the scale of benefits is as here reduced, we know what the cost is, we know what the cost would be if it were increased. Now, what is your scale?" The right hon. Gentleman, who quoted evidence given before the Blanesburgh Committee, must know that in that evidence there is a general outline of the Labour party's policy for unemployment insurance and the scale of benefits is fully set out. It is only playing the fool with the people of this country to pretend that this is a most humane administration and that really the unemployed have nothing of which to complain. I do not suppose that out of the 1,153,000 unemployed more than 995,000 are receiving benefit. The proportion would run to something like 870,000 to every 1,000,000 the Minister shows on his live register. While I cannot refute the official figures, they are drawn up so that they can be used to give a wrong picture of the actual volume of unemployment, and I say the real figure is much larger than the Minister of Labour stated in his speech.
I cannot see much hope of a more sympathetic administration of unemployment insurance for the unfortunates already out of work unless there is a change of Government after the General Election. I am afraid the Minister of Labour is wrong in his estimate as to the availability of men for such work as road 976 work. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken £30,000,000 from the Road Fund which ought to have been used in providing work on roads, the purpose for which the money was taken from road users. He also eased Super-tax payers of about £12,000,000 a year. In five years that has meant a relief of £60,000,000 to Super-tax payers. The debt of the Unemployment Fund must be more than £33,000,000 by now, and there has already been charged against the Unemployment Fund £5,000,000 or more as interest on that debt. It comes to this, that you rob by £30,000,000 a useful source for providing employment in order to lend the money through the Treasury to the unemployed, charging interest on it in doing so, and that money is then used to pay unemployment benefit, out of which the country gets no return at all. Men are willing to work and would prefer to work, in order that they might have an augmented income to enable them to live in reasonable decency, rather than submit to the sneer of being described as "dole drawers" by people who ought to know better.
If that £60,000,000 had not been withdrawn from the national income, if the £30,000,000 had not been taken from the Road Fund, if the grant to the Unemployment Fund from the Government had not been reduced under the economy scheme, and if the grants to other social services had not been reduced in like manner, I estimate that we might have opened up 500 miles of arterial roads. It is estimated that 400 men would have been put to work on every mile of road. That is what contractors and men in public works have told me. We could also have started bridge rebuilding, and that would have created a demand for iron and steel which in turn would have brought about an increased demand for coal production, and then there would have been a demand for wearing apparel by those who are not now in a position adequately to clothe themselves. The 200,000 thus absorbed into industry would have set going another 150,000. In that way 350,000 would have been set on the way to employment. But no! £60,000,000 is given to Super-tax payers and £30,000,000, taken from the Road Fund, is diverted from useful work to be lent to the Unemployment Fund, and, in its turn, the fact that that Fund is 977 in debt allows the Minister to tighten up the regulations so that fewer unemployed are in receipt of benefit. Thus it goes on. No one can be satisfied with that state of affairs.
The suggestion was made some time ago that instead of the problem of unemployment being drawn into the vortex of political controversy all parties in the House ought to select the best from among their number to consult together to see if some generally accepted scheme could not be devised and put into operation. The unemployed workman and his wife and children are too good to be made the shuttlecocks of political controversy, too valuable to be left wasting while points are being scored in debate. They are too good to be insulted with expressions of an optimism which has never yet fructified. That consideration does not apply only to the present Government. I remember that in 1906 there was an unemployment problem affecting, particularly, the East End of London. At that time I was one of a deputation which waited upon Lord Gladstone, then Mr. Herbert Gladstone, and I cannot forget the Liberal promise "If you put us into power we will see to it." In 1906 the Liberals came into power with a majority of more than 300, but nothing was done until that little experiment in unemployment insurance was started in 1911, the schemes then embracing only a few trades. I remember, too, that we had severe unemployment in 1903 or 1904.
I know that this is not a new problem. After the Napoleonic wars Lord Byron said in another place that he had never seen in the most infidel country in which he had travelled such squalor, wretchedness and suffering as he saw in this Christian country of ours. He said then that the war had survived its dead to remain a curse on the living. That is true to-day. The war is surviving its dead and has become a curse on the living. We are left with this legacy of war, this legacy of hatred. He also spoke in another place of men willing to work but who found the spade in other hands. There are men to-day who are willing to work who find the means of providing that work in other hands, in the hands of people who made no physical sacrifice during the War, and now refuse to make any financial sacrifice in order 978 to come to the assistance of those who are suffering bodily anguish and despair in consequence of the grievous unemployment that prevails throughout the country.
§ Mr. BARKER
Once again the Minister of Labour has been ignoring the main facts in regard to the unemployment problem. During the whole life of this Government no opportunity has been lost by the Opposition of forcing the unemployment problem upon the attention of the Government. This question has been raised over 20 times during the lifetime of the present Parliament, and every time it has been ignored by the Government. We have three parties in this House, and two of them have produced schemes, or profess to have schemes, to deal with this great problem. The Liberal party within a few months of the General Election brought forth their scheme, and there is one thing to be said for that scheme, namely, that it has arrested the attention of the whole nation and has made the unemployment problem the main issue of the General Election.
The Labour party embodied their their scheme to deal with unemployment in a Measure known as the Prevention of Unemployment Bill, which has been introduced into this House on no less than three different occasions. That Bill will eventually find its way on to the Statute Book, and it will be placed there by the Labour party. The 30th of May next will be the judgment day for the present Government. I am not going to make any predictions about the result of the General Election, because no one can predict with any certainty what the verdict will be. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that this country will not endure for another generation a Conservative Government. The present Government have left a terrible legacy behind them. The Minister of Labour and his Department have been engaged during the whole time they have been in office in digging the grave of the Government, and to-day they are deservedly held in contempt by the entire nation.
The question of unemployment will destroy the Government, because they have done their best to destroy the moral of one of the finest industrial populations on the globe. The action of the 979 Government towards the miners has been callous in the extreme. At the eleventh hour the Government brought forward their de-rating proposals, but what have those proposals done for the coal industry? It is claimed that they will give the coal industry the benefit of 7d. per ton. but before that money reaches the pockets of the coalowners the shipowners are going to put up their freights by 2s. per ton. Since the de-rating proposals have come into operation the price of coal has gone up 2s. or 3s. per ton, which shows that those proposals have had nothing whatever to do with the revival of the coal trade. The Government have no plan or scheme to deal effectively with unemployment, and they have inflicted incredible and indescribable misery upon huge masses of the population.
Not only this, but they have forced into bankruptcy many necessitous areas, and they have done nothing for those areas. The Government have found money to relieve the landowners and rich capitalists like the Courtaulds and the Coats, but they have done nothing to help the necessitous areas. In the area in which I live the rates have gone up 1s. 6d. in the £, and they are now over 26s. in the £. The assessments have also gone up during the last seven or eight years by over 40 per cent. By their inactivity, the Government have so burdened the necessitous areas that it is now quite impossible for people to live in them. Hundreds and hundreds of people are brought up at every police court for neglecting to pay their rates, and they are let off because they have no money. That is the result of the work of the Government. We have heard a good deal about the transference scheme inaugurated by the Government. The Minister of Labour was indignant to-day because he had been charged with administrative oppression, but the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) dealt very amply with that point, and he has proved up to the hilt the charge that has been made against the Minister himself and against his administration.
The condition which has been in force about "genuinely seeking work" is a disgrace to any Government. The result has been that men living in an extensive area 980 are expected to walk as far as 50 miles in search of work, or else they are liable to have their unemployment benefit stopped. I think that is oppression in the worst sense of the word. That is what has been done, and it is being done at the present time. The Labour Department have actually sent men to the allotments in order to find out if any of those in receipt of unemployment pay were digging their allotments during certain hours of the day. What a stupid thing that is from an economic standpoint. By working on their allotments these men could add something to their unemployment pay. Not only that but they would be enriching the country because, metaphorically speaking, they would be "making two blades of grass grow where only one grew before." I have been amongst these allotment holders and I know that they are afraid to go to their allotments during the scheduled working hours and they are obliged to go there only in the evening. I think that is persecution and tyranny, in fact, it is despicable tyranny and the Minister of Labour knows all about it. The right hon. Gentleman is bound to know of this kind of tyranny because it is going on continuously.
With reference to the transference scheme, I have given the right hon. Gentleman one or two cases. He has one before him now, and I hope he will deal with it quickly, because it is a very serious matter. A man and his wife went from Abertillery to Norfolk, a distance of nearly 300 miles, taking their goods and everything that they had, on the strength of the assurance of the Ministry's officials in Abertillery. When they arrived, there was no one to tell them where to go, and at last they found that the place was five miles from the railway station. There was no water, the house had not been inhabited for 12 months, and it was damp and unfit for human habitation. There was nothing for them to do but return at their own expense, bringing back their goods to Abertillery, and last Saturday they came to my house to ask me what I could do for them, because the railway company would not liberate their goods as they had not paid the whole of the fare. I told them that the case was in the hands of the Ministry of Labour. I have told the right hon. Gentleman of the urgency of the case, and I hope that, as a result of the representations which 981 have been made to him, he will find out the rights and wrongs of this matter and bring speedy relief to these people.
The transference scheme is all moonshine. It is a mockery to try to deal with a problem involving 1,200,000 people by such a scheme. The Minister himself has to admit that he has only found employment for 17,000, and he cannot tell this Committee how many have been displaced by those people. It is absurd to say that you can draft unemployed men into an area where there are already thousands unemployed and not displace some of these. In the mining areas of South Wales our people are being martyred by this Government. It is an awful disgrace that the Government should have gone on for years until they have reached the eve of a General Election, and then dispense charity in the shape of a Mansion House Fund. They are utterly bankrupt of ideas. All that they can say is that trade will revive. They have been saying that for five or six years, and during that time our people have been starving. The Government have occupied the benches opposite, they have drawn their salaries, and they are the accredited Ministers of the Crown, but they have scandalously neglected their work. They have looked on unemployment with absolute indifference, if not disdain. In my opinion, under a Conservative Government the country will go from bad to worse. It will only be when the country gets a change of Government and a new social order that it will be possible to deal with a problem like this.
Every improvement that is made in the process of production under the present system throws people out of employment. In the mining industry, coal-cutting machines, conveyors, electric haulage, and other improvements are being introduced, throwing men out of work, because the working man is not allowed to get any benefit from the machine. The Government go on year after year preaching these obsolete, worn-out ideas in this House, but they have no vision and no intention of doing anything for the country. They are rapidly bringing this country down to the lowest level that it has reached for a century. I have heard nearly the whole of this Debate, and have heard 20 982 Debates of the same kind, but I did expect that at the eleventh hour the Government would make some attempt to deal with this problem. All that they can do, however, is to jibe and sneer at the two Opposition parties. At any rate, we can say that we have a scheme. We have brought it before this House, and the Government themselves have turned it down, but the Government, upon whom the responsibility lies, have never brought an alternative proposal before the House. Their own record would condemn them, even if no one on the Opposition side of the House said a word to the country about them. The country itself is thoroughly disgusted with them, and even their own supporters know very well that to contemplate another period with this Government in office is utterly impossible. "Ye shall know them by their fruits," and at long last, at any rate, they will have their reward.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
We have listened to a very helpful speech from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and from its tenor it is very obvious that we are getting near the election day. A long succession of carping criticism and airy condemnation of the Government does not help this problem very much further. The hon. Gentleman objects to the policies of the Opposition parties being jeered at by the party on this side, but he really must not expect very much more after delivering a speech of that description. The hon. Gentleman referred to the principle of transference, and said that transference is a mockery. An hon. Member who belongs to a party which has subscribed to the principle of transference, and which realises that there is a surplus of labour in a particular industry with no chance of employment in the future, has the audacity to say, because, possibly, of isolated instances of hardship, that the policy of transference is a mockery. He has nothing to put in its place; he has no other suggestion to make; he simply condemns the policy which not only the Government, but both the other two parties, agree is necessary and essential if we are to deal with one aspect of this problem.
The hon. Member asked what was being done for the distressed areas. Surely, 983 after listening to the Debates on the Local Government Bill, he need not have asked that question. One of the objects of that Bill—an object which we believe will be most beneficial to those particular areas—is so to spread the burden of the rates over a larger area as to relieve the heavy burden which is cast upon the industries in those necessitous areas. I have not the least doubt that that object will be accomplished, and will bear its fruit in the near future. I leave the hon. Member, because in all his speech there was very little that one could fasten upon as a concrete criticism of any particular aspect of Government policy, and I pass to the speech of the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday), the essence of which was the distinction which the hon. Member drew between the Government policy and the policy of the Opposition. He condemned the Government for their attitude towards unemployment, and pleaded for more sympathetic administration as a means of relieving the hardship which unemployment entails. That, I am afraid, is the only contribution which Members on the opposite side of the House have to make. They ask for more sympathetic administration, or, in other words, a wholesale scheme of doles and bribery to the electors. [Interruption.] I am not talking about the present unemployment benefit, but about those vast schemes of distribution of public money which are embodied in the Socialist programme—schemes which the Ministry of Labour has pointed out will cost something in the neighbourhood of £290,000,000.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
And even the National Debt is a very heavy burden which some hon. Members opposite would like to see got rid of—another case, perhaps, of repudiation. But we are not concerned in this Debate with repudiation. We are concerned with a party that goes to the country with such an attractive programme as the Socialist party puts forward to deal with unemployment. We deserve to be told exactly how these schemes are going to work and how the money to pay for them is going to be raised, and we are still waiting in 984 the dark for that knowledge. Unemployment provides a very good example of the fundamental difference of outlook and attitude of mind of hon. Members on this side and on the other side. I cannot imagine a better method of defining the mental outlook of Members on the other side. On the one hand, you have an attitude of mind which is prepared to mortgage the future, which is prepared to add to our already heavy burden of taxation in order to bring about a temporary alleviation of distress, and on the other side of the House you have a party which is prepared to face the unattractiveness of their programme to a certain element of the population, but which believes that it would be fatal to the future prosperity of the country to make further inroads upon the taxpayer and, in other words, upon the industry of the country.
If you admit that one of the greatest difficulties of the present time is the fact that our manufacturers find it exceedingly difficult to compete in the markets of the world, you are going to make that task for more difficult if you are going to put on their backs another £290,000,000 of taxation, and the Government has proceeded in exactly the opposite direction. Instead of adding to the cost of production, instead of making the task of the manufacturers more difficult in competing in the markets of the world, the Government has sought to take the shackles off industry and to decrease the cost of production, and that we have done by the safeguarding of industries, which has brought substantial benefits to every industry that has come under its provisions. That has been the means of increasing employment and of safeguarding our industry from that unfair foreign competition for which Members opposite are prepared to wait for the gradual raising of the standard of living among our competitors.
We prefer to keep our feet upon the ground and achieve something in the near future rather than wait for the millennium when the Belgian and the German and the Frenchman and the Chinese will maintain the same high standard of living conditions as prevail in this country. The other road of approach has been by the de-rating scheme, at which Members opposite profess to sneer. That has taken 985 some of the shackles off industry, it has oiled the wheels of industry and has enabled manufacturers to lower their costs of production. When you find that our industries are competing with countries where the wage costs are 40 and 50 per cent. below those that prevail here, no one opposite can say the Government has done nothing towards a solution of unemployment by the de-rating scheme.
We are entitled to have a little more information as to the details of the schemes the party opposite are prepared to launch upon our unthinking electors. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate should have taken credit to his party for having thought of the great schemes of national development which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has outlined, and for having been the first in the field with those proposals. I do not think any party has a copyright of those proposals. It seems to me that the very first thing that would enter anyone's mind when we had a large number of unemployed was the provision of works of national importance in order to provide temporary relief. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has gone further than that. He has made this the outstanding feature of his programme in dealing with the problem and that, to my mind, is where he has gone wrong. He has coupled with this policy a pledge. Without the pledge the policy means nothing at all. Anyone who has thought about this problem at all can visualise a great improvement in the roads, or in the telephone service, or in any direction of national development, but where the Liberal party have gone wrong—
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
I agree that it is a pitiful thing that the Leader of the Liberal party should have carefully abstained from being present on every occasion when the subject has arisen. I notice that the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith) was very anxious to defend his leader from the charge of deserting the House on this occasion, but I thought his defence was 986 somewhat weak. He said the reason why his loader was not present to give us the benefit of his wisdom, and to expound the policy which he believes is going to cure this problem, with which we have been struggling ever since the end of the War, is that the leaders of the other two parties are not here to-day. I think the excuse loses some of its weight when one remembers that the leaders of the other two parties have at least been here and expounded their case on other occasions, whereas the leader of the Liberal party has never taken the trouble to visit the House once since his proposals were first put forward. I cannot help thinking that the leader of the Liberal party has a very good reason for not coming to the House. I think he made a very great mistake in launching his proposals as early as he did. Had he put them forward a fortnight before the Election, when the House was not sitting, and taken the electorate by surprise, I have not the least doubt that there would have been a considerable number of unthinking and credulous people who might have been taken in by the attractiveness of his policy.
Unfortunately for the Liberal party, and fortunately for the Government, and possibly for the Opposition, we have had ample time to explore the possibilities of the policy and to destroy the foundations on which it is built. That policy is quite useless unless it is coupled with the pledge. It is the pledge that makes it distinct from the policy that is being pursued by the Government. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has reminded this Committee that there is not one single proposal which the Leader of the Liberal party has put forward which has not received the support of the Government and which has not been put into practice to a limited extent. Where we differ from the Liberal party is that we do not pin our faith upon a gigantic scheme of national development. We believe that it would be a great mistake to draw upon our future reserves, to draw off from industry the capital which it requires for its expansion, and to embark upon a temporary palliative such as has been outlined by the Liberal party. I repeat that I am surprised that no member of the Liberal party, or no prominent member of the Liberal party, has condescended to go 987 into the details of this great scheme out of which they hope to rehabilitate their sunken fortunes.
We are approaching, it is true, the General Election, and I have thought throughout this Debate that Members opposite might have made a very much better case out of this Debate than they have been able to do. I would remind the Committee again that the fundamental difference between the policies of the two parties is this: We believe that it is only by removing the shackles from industry, by assisting industry, and by creating a revival of trade that we can really attack this problem at its roots and provide a permanent solution of it. On the other hand, Members opposite, who, I am bound to say, are not so free with their promises in this House as they are on the public platform, wish to approach the problem in a diametrically opposite way; they wish to produce a temporary alleviation of distress—and it is, and can be, only a temporary alleviation of distress—by raising the purchasing power of the people of this country. That is the great object which Members opposite have in view, by a more sympathetic administration, by a more lavish use of pensions, of insurance benefits—
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
—by raising the school age, or, in other words, by a great system of increased benefits to all so to raise the purchasing power of the people that they will be able to stimulate the whole home market. That, I am quite convinced, is not the way we should approach this problem. Our last state would be worse than the first. When we have restored the position of the markets of the world, then we can afford to launch out on more lavish schemes of social reform. Until this is done, it is fatal to embark upon a course which would increase the burden of taxation, which, even at the present time, industry is hardly able to bear.
§ Mr. WHITELEY
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Culverwell) endeavoured to put the Labour party in the dock for the serious state of unemployment in this country during the last five years. It is his own party 988 who have to face that situation. He was also very anxious that the Labour party should disclose all that they had in their minds with regard to dealing with the unemployment problem in the future. Surely he has not attended the Debates during the last five years very regularly or he would have in mind the things which we have suggested. If his Government had accepted them and put them into operation, the unemployment situation would not have been half as serious as we find it to-day.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour made great play this afternoon as to whether my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) agreed with the principle of transference, or disagreed with it, and he declared that we on this side are actually trying to stop a system to which the Miners' Federation had agreed. There is not a single Member on this side who would put anything in the way of a single man being put into employment by any kind of system. We are anxious to try and assist. It is not against the principle of transference but against the application of the principle that we have had great complaints to make ever since the principle was accepted by the Government of the day. The right hon. Gentleman also claims that there have been 20,000 people put into occupations by this system of transference, and that 17,000 of these were adults. I want to put two questions to the right hon. Gentleman. How many miners were included in this 17,000? Are cases which are turned down by the Department under their transference scheme also included in this figure of 17,000?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The hon. Gentleman refers to cases turned down by the Department. What does he mean?
§ Mr. WHITELEY
I mean this. This is an actual case which the Department has had in hand. One of our leading trade unionists in the North of England has been unemployed for a number of years. His son was also unemployed. They have travelled hundreds of miles in search of employment, and they have written hundreds of letters in an endeavour to secure positions. The son, who is a married man, was successful in securing employment near Derby, and he also secured, through a friend, a 989 house in the area where he had obtained employment. The father, anxious to help the son all he could and in order that his son should not miss the opportunity of a permanent position, obtained a loan in order to pay the removal expenses and the train fare of his son to the place where he had secured employment. The Ministry of Labour said that, because the man did not get work through the Employment Exchange and because the work was not actually approved before he went, the son was not entitled to any expenses under the scheme. There are three conditions laid down. The first condition is:The applicant must be a genuinely unemployed person insured under the Unemployment Insurance Acts and residing in one of the depressed mining areas.This man was a genuinely unemployed person insured under the Insurance Acts and resided in one of the depressed mining areas—the county of Durham. The second condition is:He must be a married man intending to remove his household permanently to the place where he has obtained employment.He obtained the employment, and he removed to Derby, and he is there now. The third condition is:This employment must either have been found for him, or must otherwise be approved for the purposes of the grant by the Employment Exchange.This is where the man and his son did not carry out the whole of the conditions. In his eagerness to secure work and a house the man failed to carry out the third condition, and the Ministry of Labour have turned the man down, and he cannot get the benefit. That is one of the applications of this principle with which we cannot agree.
§ Mr. WHITELEY
The Ministry has all the facts. Here is a letter from the Ministry, dated 21st March, turning the man down.
§ Mr. WHITELEY
On the 19th of February of this year. This came within the scheme in every respect except that no approval was given by the Employment 990 Exchange in the county of Durham. The man made his application at the other end all right, but because he did not take steps through the Employment Exchange in Durham he is not entitled to any payment. His father has therefore been mulcted in the sum of about £4 7s. through his eagerness to get his son into regular employment. There is another class of case which has arisen in the Division of the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), who will probably not have an opportunity of taking part in this Debate, and he wishes the case to be brought forward. It relates to five men from the Crook area, in Durham, who were transferred under the transference scheme to do work in the London parks. They were told that when the work was finished, if permanent work could not be found for them, they would again receive their unemployment benefit. During the first few weeks of idleness, after the work had finished, they applied for various permanent jobs, but were not successful. On the 26th March of this year they were offered temporary work at Bromley, navvying work, at 1s. 2½d. an hour, for 49 hours a week, but with no guaranteed week. They refused it on the ground that they could not move their homes to such a job, because it was not permanent work. Two days afterwards all these married men were paid off their park work, and, naturally, they had to go home. After signing on at Crook for three weeks, they were informed that their unemployment benefit would be suspended for six weeks, on the ground that suitable employment was available for them. They have appealed against this decision, as they feel that it is very unfair. Up to the present time they have not been able to secure their unemployment benefit. These are classes of cases to which we take very strong exception.
The right hon. Gentleman claimed that employment was improving and that probably had it not been for the setback of the coal stoppage it would have been much better to-day. It is very singular how things work out. The right hon. Gentleman may have seen the returns under the various ascertainments in the mining industry, showing the number of employed during the year 1928. In Northumberland and Durham there was an increase during the year 1928 in 991 the number of people employed. In Northumberland, in December, 1928, compared with January, 1928, there were 400 persons more employed in the mines. In Durham, there were 4,000 more miners employed in December, 1928, compared with January, 1928. I have the latest ascertainments for Durham which shows that there were 735 more men employed in January last than in December, so that the situation from that point of view is improving, but when we come to wages we find that in January they were 1½d. per shift down compared with December of last year. Therefore, the position of the employed is becoming worse than that of the unemployed. The general secretary of the Durham Miners' Association, who is also treasurer of the Miners' Federation, Mr. W. P. Richardson, made a very strong declaration to that effect during the past week in the northern Press.
There is another matter to which I would call attention, and that is that in those coalfields that are new and developing the situation is becoming rather serious. Take South Yorkshire. There, they had greater unemployment in December, 1928, than in January, 1928, to the extent of 9,000 persons. In West Yorkshire the number of unemployed was 10,000 greater in December, 1928, than it was in January, 1928. In Lancashire and Cheshire the number of unemployed was 6,500 greater, in Derbyshire 3,000 greater, and in Notts and Leicester 5,000 greater. In South Wales, one of the distressed areas, there were 12,000 fewer people employed in the mining industry in December, 1928, than there were in January, 1928. Therefore, from the point of view of the mining industry, despite the claims that the right hon. Gentleman makes, it does not appear that there has been much improvement taking the situation all round. It was much worse in December, 1928, taking the situation all round, on the ascertained figures than in January of that year.
§ Mr. WHITELEY
I have not the recent figures. The last figures that I have were issued in March, 1929, and deal with the January-December position.
§ Mr. WHITELEY
That is one of the most distressing things that we have to face in the mining industry to-day. I have pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that there has been a steady progressive increase in the men employed in Durham county, according to the ascertainment, and a steady decrease in the wages, step by step with the increase in employment. One of the most heartbreaking things that we have to face today is to see the pay bills of our people, and one wonders very often how on earth they get over one week after another on the wages that they are receiving. I do riot know whether the right hon. Gentleman realises that during the present week, according to the statements in the Press, coal prices are again being reduced by one shilling to two shillings per ton. Talk about cheap coal, it is one of the great scandals in this country that we are reducing the price of coal when the wages are not sufficient to prevent men having to apply for out-door relief, even after a full week's work. I can get a ton of the best coal in Durham put into my coal house for 25s. 6d. The price of coal is ridiculously cheap as compared with years previously, when one knows the terribly low wages that our people are receiving.
The right hon. Gentleman claims that safeguarding has done a great deal for this country. I have not yet heard any Member of this House who has had the courage to say that they would safeguard the mining industry. It is not the basic industries that are being safeguarded, but new industries that were doing exceedingly well before safeguarding was put into operation. I say to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government that their time is about up. I do not think that there is any possibility that they can save themselves, but it would be more decent if during their dying days they made some little effort to bring into operation some of the suggestions that we have made during the past five years 993 for dealing with basic industries that would bring a flow of trade that would absorb unemployed people, and give our people an opportunity of getting a little of the security which is absolutely wanting at the present time.
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member in regard to the mining industry. The logical outcome of what he has been saying is that the slogan of the Socialist party should not be "Work or maintenance," but "Work and maintenance." The more I consider what has been done in the lifetime of this Government to tackle unemployment, the more prepared I am to meet the accusations of hon. Gentlemen opposite on any platform. Incidentally, it is not always in the most conspicuous lines that we find openings for making useful employment. There is an example in connection with one of the great features of the Budget, namely, the abolition of the Tea Duty. Hon. Members opposite may not be aware, and may be interested to know, that out of every two cups of tea that they drink, the tea in one of them has been either rolled or dried in tea machinery made in my constituency. We are very proud of it, and we hope to increase the proportion. If, therefore, there is any truth in the oft-repeated cry of free-traders that by removing duties you increase consumption, then it is reasonable to say that we have here something which will help towards better conditions in the distressed district which I have the honour to represent. That is the kind of side-way in which employment is being assisted by the present Government.
Let us take the larger issue and try to analyse what are the fundamental principles for ensuring a good period of employment in this country. I put aside the suggestion of the last speaker who asked why we did not safeguard the mining industry, because he knows perfectly well that we do not import coal in any appreciable quantity, and therefore it is an absurd suggestion.
That was in circumstances which, I think, the hon. Member had best forget. If you analyse the essential conditions for improving employment in this country, you find there are four fundamentals. If you take each 994 of those four fundamentals, you find the present administration is the only one of the alternatives which are before the country which can bring about improvement. Take the first essential. Everybody will agree that one policy which we have been evolving during the past year has been to take rates off productive industry. We have had some encouraging support from the Opposition about that, but certainly no great paeans of joy. The second fundamental is that other essential part of our policy which we have gradually developed and hope to increase still further, namely, the safeguarding policy. In so far as that has increased employment, it is obviously good for the general community, but it is the one thing which both Opposition parties are agreed to do away with. Taking that as a test, we are helping to create conditions of employment, and they are both prepared to destroy them.
Take the third fundamental, which is economy in national expenditure. Everybody who studies it from a dispassionate angle—and we cannot accuse hon. Gentlemen opposite of studying it from that angle—is quite agreed that it is essential to reduce the overhead costs on industry, and that means reduction in taxation. If you take that test, we can look at the opposition parties and say that what they propose would be diametrically opposite to economy. If you take the fourth essential for a proserous state of employment in these islands, it must surely be to have industrial peace. On that, the record of the official Opposition is indeed very grim, and, judging from their programme and public pronouncements, we have no reason to think that they have radically altered their minds about it. Taking these four tests of de-rating, safeguarding, economy and industrial peace, you find the four essentials for improving the conditions of the whole working community in this country, and you find the Opposition would be very dilatory in assisting us in any of these four directions. On these grounds alone, there is no question that the present Government, and the policy for which they stand, are best adapted to the general interests of the workers of the country.
The policy which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has been so forward in advocating, namely, industrial transference, is quite clearly, to any impartial mind, the obvious way of bringing 995 about an improvement. What he has stated to-day can be borne out by many other hon. Members. If you transfer people from the distressed areas, the tendency is—and it has been the case very frequently—that before long they will find some way of bringing their friends and relations to the more prosperous areas. I have had many cases brought to my own notice and there is no doubt that by a greater development of industrial transference, and by assisting it in every kind of way, such as is now being administratively done, we shall certainly improve conditions. I say quite definitely that we can put aside a great deal of what is said by hon. Members opposite, because we are quite certain that by the increased development of a policy carried on in the four directions I have mentioned, we shall before long see even greater results achieved than we have had up to now.
§ Mr. E. EVANS
I have always understood that the purpose of discussion of this character in this Committee was to enable hon. Members to criticise the policy of the Government when they considered criticism was called for, and to demand elucidation of the Government's policy where they considered such elucidation was desirable. I must confess that that impression, which I believe to be correct and judicious, received a rude shock to-day in the course of the discussion, and particularly from the speech of the Minister of Labour. He spoke for over an hour, and the greater part of his speech was devoted, not to any defence of Government policy, but to attacking speeches and statements and the policy of the party above the Gangway.
§ Mr. EVANS
It was not in replying to this Debate, but to statements of policy and speeches made in other places, and following that up with a very ineffective attempt to emulate the powers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in cross-examination. Having done that, he proceeded in a feeble style to pay a little attention to the party on these benches, and particularly to comment on the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). The right hon. Gentle man will forgive me for saying that his 996 previous interventions in Debates in this House have not been such as to encourage even humble Members like myself to make a special effort to be present, and certainly not to encourage men of infinitely greater eminence, distinction and experience than myself. The whole point is that the right hon. Gentleman was not here to attack the policy of the Labour party or of this party, but to give a statement on the policy of the Government in dealing with what is the greatest and gravest of all the problems confronting the country at the present time. After talking 50 minutes in his feeble attempt at cross-examination and criticism of the speeches and policies of other people, he was good enough to devote about five minutes in a feeble attempt to show what was the Government policy.
What was the Government policy? We do not know yet what it is, except for the statement just made by the hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank). He divided it into four parts. The first part he said was de-rating, and he seemed to think that we on this side of the House were all opposed to the principle of de-rating. I can only speak for myself and I am not opposed to the principle of de-rating in the sense of relieving industry from the heavy burden of rates, but I do say emphatically that the policy which the Government inaugurated in order to accomplish that purpose is most unsatisfactory. The second part of the Government's policy, according to the hon. and gallant Member, was safeguarding. He is perfectly entitled to say that as far as the Liberal party is concerned we are opposed to that policy, and I have yet to be convinced that it is making any real and substantial contribution to the solution of the problem of unemployment. It is quite possible, in regard to a particular industry, to say, "Look what is happening in this industry. It is having a wonderful effect "; but in dealing with the problem of unemployment you cannot consider safeguarding in its application to one or two industries, you have to take its reactions on the whole industrial and commercial life of the country.
The third item to which the hon. and gallant Member referred—and I heard his remarks with considerable surprise—was economy in public expenditure. I 997 should have been most delighted if he had taken five minutes, 10 minutes, or an hour, in order to inform the Committee of the achievements of the Government in the direction of public economy. That is one of the last items in the record of the Government to which a loyal supporter would desire to draw the attention of the country. The last thing we wanted, according to the hon. and gallant Member, was industrial peace. Does he think the Government has contributed very materially to the promotion of industrial peace in the course of the last four and a-half years?
Can the hon. Member point to anyone who did more than the Prime Minister at the time of the general strike and to anyone who did less than his own leader?
§ Mr. EVANS
There is no difficulty in answering a question like that. The fact of the matter is this, that the only real substantial contributions which have been made in the course of the last four or five years to the cause of industrial peace have not come from politicians on either side of the House, but from certain leaders in industry and the trade union movement who have seen the wisdom of trying to promote industrial peace and have come together with that object. That is not a matter for which the Government can claim any very great credit.
§ Mr. EVANS
The hon. and gallant Member will forgive me—the Prime Minister is not the only one who has said that. I do not suppose that there is a single hon. Member out of the 600 Members of this House who has not said precisely the same thing. It is not a question of what you say, it is a question of the steps you take to achieve what you say ought to be put into practice. I have listened in vain to the speech of the Minister of Labour. At the end of 50 minutes he made the thrilling remark, "I now pass to what is the Government's policy." Honestly, if the 998 right hon. Gentleman's speech meant anything it meant that there is no such problem as unemployment in this country. The marvellous way in which he reduced the 1,300,000 people who are at present on the register, and who do not represent the total number of unemployed, down to about 350,000 was one of the most amazing statistical juggleries which this House or any other body has ever been called upon to consider.
§ Mr. EVANS
He said that is a figure you must wipe out at once. Why? There is no reason for doing that. The right hon. Gentleman went on from one thing to another, wipes them all out, and in the end there is really no problem of unemployment if the right hon. Gentleman's figures are accepted. Really, we are not discussing here the programme of the Liberal party or the Labour programme, but the programme of the Government, and the fact remains that however optimistic may be the views of the right hon. Gentleman he cannot say that the problem of unemployment is better to-day than when the Government assumed office. The figures are not better, the problem has not been solved, it is no nearer a solution. These are elemental facts which cannot be disputed by the Government. I agree that I was guilty of an interruption, and I apologise for so doing. When I interrupted I laid myself open, as any interrupter does, to a retort from the Minister of Labour; and I got it. I make no complaint. But with due respect the right hon. Gentleman did not reply to my question. The question I asked was this. Our policy contains certain proposals by which we say that a certain number of people can be put in employment, whether in the course of a year or a longer period I am not going to discuss now as it does not matter from the particular point of view I am putting before the Committee.
999 The point is this—I am going to take the road scheme as an illustration. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has been accused of running away from the question to-day, but as far back as November of last year he made a suggestion in this House that a large number of unemployed men could be used for the purpose of road-making. The Secretary of State for War was put up to reply to him, and he said "I have made inquiries, and I am advised that for every £1,000,000 which is spent on road-making the number of people who will be employed will be 2,000." That statement was made by the Secretary of State in the hearing of this House. Quite recently an hon. Member belonging to the party on the Government side addressed a question to the Minister of Transport and asked how many men would be employed for every £1,000,000 expended on a scheme of road-making, and his answer was that in urban districts or large cities the number who would be directly employed would be about 2,000, and that in rural districts the number who would be directly employed would be 2,500; but, he added, it was always understood and always calculated that for every man directly employed there would be another man indirectly employed. In other words, therefore, in urban areas the number would be 4,000 employed for every £1,000,000 expended, and in rural areas the number would be 5,000 employed. That is substantially the case that we have put forward.
To-day the Minister of Labour has adopted quite a different attitude towards these proposals. The Secretary for War said in effect, "The thing is impossible; it cannot be done; you will not employ the men," but the argument of the Minister of Labour to-day is not that we will not employ the men but that the men are not there to be employed. It really comes down to this—that there are only two aspects from which you can approach this problem. One is that things will right themselves in the ordinary course of the natural development of trade. As I understand it that is the basis upon which the Government frame their policy. The second is that, owing to the extremely large number of unemployed amongst us and owing to the 1000 long period for which they have been unemployed, the State should say, "This is a matter of extreme urgency and of exceptional difficulty, and for that reason the State should take exceptional means for dealing with it." Those are the only two matters of principle in this problem. I think the Government have missed a great opportunity in confining themselves to the first principle, and that they would have done a great deal to solve the problem and certainly would have done a great deal to reduce the number of unemployed if they had adopted the second principle, and if they had devoted the whole resources of the State to that purpose.
I agree with the last speaker that there are really only two angles from which we can approach this problem, and before I sit down I shall try to point out that the difference between the two angles constitutes the difference beween us and the Liberal party. But I must say that it was with a certain amount of disappointment that I did not hear from the hon. Gentleman an authentic indication of why his leader is not here to-night.
Nobody is in a better position to speak on that subject of his leader than the hon. Member for the Welsh Universities (Mr. E. Evans). Was he not a little unkind in his criticism of the principle of safeguarding and in his view that it had never been vindicated? He was private secretary to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) at the time the principle of safeguarding was introduced.
§ Mr. EVANS
I refute that statement. I was merely my right hon. Friend's private secretary for a time, and as far as I know a private secretary is not responsible for the political opinions of his chief. As a matter of fact at the time referred to I was in the House, and I declined to support the policy of safeguarding when it was introduced.
The hon. Member was in the House, and that rather makes it worse, because I do not remember any resignations at that time.
However that may be, perhaps it is a pardonable offence in one who is so loyal to his leader to find an excuse for him when to-night, above all nights, we might have expected that his grandiose scheme might have been threshed out. But I want to turn to something a little more general. I think there must have been many people in different parts of the House who were swept into public life in this country because of the difficulties they felt regarding this very pressing problem of unemployment, which has been with us in one shape or another ever since the War. I do not think it does any good to misread that problem, to misunderstand it or to over-emphasise some of its features. We are very often in danger of completely misreading the situation as regards unemployment, and in no respect more than in the casual and sloppy way into which we have fallen, largely owing to the bad example of successive Ministers of Labour in talking about these large figures that appear every week as the unemployment returns.
To look at those figures as an index of unemployment in this country is entirely misleading, and prevents us from sorting out the problem into its elements and doing anything to treat it. Those figures are not any index of any unemployment at all. They are really, in a sense, an index of industrial efficiency. They are figures the like of which exist in no country in the world. They represent an analysis of the people who at any given moment are not being maintained by industry, who are not being maintained out of savings which they have reserved from the wages received from industry, who are not being maintained by their families, but who are being maintained by the State. So far as I know there is no country in the world and there never has been any country in which there has, at any given moment, been a body of people who are being maintained wholly by the State, although they may have been out of well-paid industry for only a very short time.
In every other country in the world and every other time in our own country people have 1002 made their own provision for maintaining themselves when out of work. That is a fact that has to be faced, and not only from the point of view of the wage-earner, but from that of the employer too, because the employer, the whole organisation of industry, is relying on this kind of State subsidy to employment and industry, which is an entirely new thing in the economics of the country.
That does not touch my argument at all. I am saying that you have something in post-War England which you have never had in the history of this country or of any industrial country before. No good whatever is done if succeeding Governments, to whatever party they belong, are faced with a problem that is not seen in its proper perspective. Take the example of the building industry before the War. That is an industry which, in general, was carried on from contract to contract, with intervening periods during which the firm was not dependent on any particular contract. During the War, the skilled men in that industry were practically salaried men. They were carried by their firm during contract time, and when there was no contract a job was found for them. Now they are not. The common practice of employers undoubtedly is, when a contract finishes, to stand these men off and to place them on unemployment insurance, and thus the State subsidises them until they are re-absorbed by another contract. I think that is a very important matter to realise because any policy which does not face that altered state of affairs is of no use and is really beating the air.
In these large figures which we see every week, the fact of this mobile population, which is in a sense being subsidised, the fact of this insensible subsidy in industry in a way obscures the real problem—which was described in the Blanesburgh Committee Report as the "stagnant pool of unemployment"—the hard core, the residue which is not affected by the propositions that are being enunciated. It is no good if we confuse the two entirely different propositions which co-exist within the figure of 1003 1,150,000 appearing every week. I, personally, do not believe that in this country we shall ever get back to what has been frequently described as a normal figure of unemployment. We shall have to find a new standard of normality—a standard based upon that altered relation of the State to the individuals employed in industry, and to the individuals who control industry. The real criticism of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is that he has failed entirely to appreciate the way in which these figures ought to be sorted out, if any scientific approach to the problem is to be made. In the minds of the right hon. Gentleman, and the people to whom his specious programme is deemed to appeal, it is thought that this is a great mass of people, who can be shifted from place to place and used for any purpose whatever—quite independent of any proposition to the effect that they are really, to a very large extent, "ins and outs," and, to that very large extent, are people who in other times or in other countries would be maintained by the industries to which they belong.
I may give one small example from my own constituency which very fortunately has not been the victim of any great degree of unemployment in recent years. A couple of months ago there was a somewhat acute spell of unemployment, and the figures for the time being were fairly high. How would any scheme, such as that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, have affected that problem? Those concerned were mostly young girls who at this moment are working overtime. The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, from whatever angle one approaches it, would be of no advantage in a situation where the proposition was that girls who were working short time in one industry should be removed from that industry and placed on the roads. This Debate has followed orthodox political lines and is such as one might expect in the last days of a Parliament when each party is trying to establish a platform for itself. It was good fortune to the Conservative party that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) should have redeemed from 1004 oblivion a speech which, I think, its author would rather have seen remain incarcerated. The right hon. Gentleman referred in eulogistic terms to a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, so eulogistic were his references, that—with the sincerity which animates me—I was impelled to refer to the Library to see what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley had said. Had we not the assurance of the reporter that it was a speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley, one might have thought that it was the election address of my leader the Prime Minister, and, when I have made some quotations from that admirable speech, I think there will be considerable agreement on that point. One of the first remarks of the right hon. Gentleman was this:The more positive the remedy the slower is its effect.That is a principle which could be carried to logical extremes, and I have no doubt that, had the Socialist party been in office now, they would have been repeating that profound saying. What followed was of enormous interest to me, because the right hon. Gentleman said:If we are going to maintain and increase our foreign trade, we must secure a reduction in the cost of production…. We are bound to do everything we possibly can now by cheapening methods of production.All of which I beg hon. Members to observe is going very close to the method which is being adopted by this Government in the de-rating scheme. Do hon. Members opposite really think that what the right hon. Gentleman said was not what he meant? If so, I think they are misleading themselves because he went on to dot the i's and cross the t's of hip previous statement. He said:What are the causes of the present high cost of production? They are many. There is taxation and especially local rates. I think the burden of local rating is heavier even than the burden of national taxation." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1924: cols. 2092–2095, Vol. 176.]It is a matter of regret that some of the chroniclers of the party to which I have the honour to belong did not recall that interesting passage, at the moment when we were treated to the proposition that "rates as such are not a burden." 1005 However, history often catches itself up, and I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will find some method of either repudiating the one phrase, or correcting the other—though he may find it necessary to do a little "bilking." When I heard the various schemes of a purely palliative nature adumbrated today by the right hon. Member for Platting, and when I recall the palliatives equally cogently adumbrated by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, I recall this even more interesting statement of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley.You are never going to settle the unemployed problem, you are never going to mitigate it to any extent, by making work.That is a very sound proposition, which I think has been said on more than one occasion by the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman), who, I regret to see, is not now in his place. Of the schemes under the Unemployment Grants Scheme, this is what the very critical right hon. Member for Colne Valley said:We are not under the illusion that we are doing something to solve unemployment. We are not. As a matter of fact, in a sense we are aggravating unemployment, because we are making unemployment in the future.I challenge any fair-minded person to read through that speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman on the 30th July, 1924, and fail to find that it afforded the most cogent reasons for not adopting any of the policies put forward by the Opposition to-day, or the most cogent justification for every step which the Government has taken in this matter. As regards the whole gamut of relief schemes put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, you have the same things that we have heard to-day about electricity. In those days there was no electricity scheme, and as a great leader who came to the service of the Socialist party during 1924, the late Lord Haldane, says in his book, it is to the credit of this party that it was they that took the initiative and put that great scheme of electrical generation in this country into operation. Apart from that, there was roads—the same old story. The roads have a constant fascination for every person who suggests a palliative for unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman devoted half a column of the OFFICIAL 1006 REPORT to talking of the glories of the Liverpool to Manchester road, which he proposed in due course—and I say advisedly "in due course"—to set on foot. He was not as precipitate as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, who is going to set 1,000,000 people at work on the roads in a year. [Interruption.] I beg pardon; it is only 750,000.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
Would it not be better, if the hon. and gallant Member is criticising my right hon. Friend's scheme, that he should do so correctly? It is only 350,000.
I know that successive exponents of the scheme have found it necessary to modify it from time to time. The right hon. Member for Colne Valley said that the Liverpool to Manchester road would be constructed, and he said:We are quite determined that two and three years more shall not elapse until this scheme is either off or on.That is the road contribution proffered by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley, who left office with a great reputation for caution and reticence, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I venture to say that he never exhibited greater caution or reticence, or less desire to commit himself, than he did in that phrase. He wound up with this remark:We find that intensive development of electricity on sound business lines will help probably more than any other way in achieving the objects which we have in view."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1924; cols. 2092–2104, Vol. 176.]Nobody can have listened to or read the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on, I think, the last occasion on which he spoke in this House before to-day without having been convinced that upon that one aspect at any rate of our policy there is no practical scope for any real advance. It is common knowledge, now that the capacity of the electrical industry is being taxed to its very utmost by the demands that are being made upon it through the schemes that were set on foot by the Government. I think we can say with some justification in these dying days of this Parliament that much of this criticism is captious and is put forward from the usual party point of view, with an idea of either adumbrating some wild cat scheme and capturing a few votes, 1007 or discrediting a Government that is faced with figures of unemployment that are of very much less meaning than they would be if they were correctly analysed by the people of this country. There is a real issue, and it is an issue between principles, as has been said. Are you going to face this problem by the regeneration and reorganisation of industry, thus enabling industry to absorb in its own way the idle hands that there are in this country, or are you going to depart from that sound practice, to which we have devoted ourselves, in favour of expanding the slender national credit which we have got at this moment over a wide area and utilising it in the purely palliative schemes put forward by the other side? Upon that issue, we shall not fear to face the country.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
We have listened with considerable amusement to the hon. and gallant Member for Luton (Captain O'Connor), who is evidently quite incapable of understanding in the written word the sarcasm of my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden). Those who were in the House when that speech was delivered know very well what the allusion meant. I may also make another slight correction and say that when my right hon. Friend was dealing with the question of taxation, it was that taxation as such is no burden, and not rates as such. But our point of view has always been—and you will find it reiterated in all these debates—that the problem of unemployment never ought to have been a burden on the rates at all; it should have been a burden upon the central fund, borne by the country as a whole. The idea of letting up the rates on a few brewers and people who can well afford to pay them is no solution of the problem whatever. I was astonished at the hon. and gallant Member speaking of the insurance system of this country as a system by which people are maintained by the State. He must surely have entirely forgotten the enormous proportion of the contribution made direct from industry and the very small and mean proportion which the State at present contributes.
I was rather interested in the analysis of the figures made by the Minister of Labour in connection with those who he anticipates will help to relieve the stag- 1008 nant pools in the course of the next few years on account of the War birth reduction. He said that 280,000 less would enter industry, and he appeared to think that was going to be a matter of tremendous relief to the present problem. I am inclined to think that in connection with the whole analysis of these figures there is one factor which is continually overlooked, and that is the factor of the mechanisation of industry, which is outstripping the power of absorbing the labour displaced by the new means. We are in an age when, I was going to say every day, certainly every month, sees some new invention patented which will make an enormous impression upon the availability of jobs for individuals, and that is a sad matter to which very little attention is being paid, because the whole policy of the Government in the last few years has been a hand-to-mouth policy of temporary expedients, from the point of view that trade will revive and the problem cease to exist.
Our point of view was entirely different. We believe that this is a problem that has gone beyond the power of private competitive enterprise, and that this mechanisation of the processes of production will inevitably change the very nature of the work itself, and will more and more throw the burden of tonnage, as it were, of the output of the machines on the side of lessening the human element; that the business of government will have to be to recognise that that means a complete reorganisation of the whole of the industrial operations; that it means a new outlook upon what is going to be the ultimate result of this mechanisation. The idea seems to possess the minds of many hon. Gentlemen on the other side that a large proportion of our population are to continue to live in conditions of absolute uncertainty as to where their bread is coming from a few months hence, and that as a small section of the community are in a position of economic security, everything will settle itself if you leave the thing alone. We are convinced to the contrary, that you dare not leave this thing alone if you hope for the survival of our country in the economic life of the world.
We are reaching an era when the only possible way by which we can solve the unemployment problem is by recognising the necessity of organising on a com- 1009 pletely co-operative basis certain of the basic industries of the State, and many of the contingent industries which are dependent upon them. It is not until we get to that attitude that we shall be within speaking distance of a solution of the problem. I have never been a Liberal and never shall be a Liberal, but I found to my surprise in the "Liberal Magazine" of November, 1921, an echo of my own sentiments with regard to the proposals put forward by the Leader of the Liberal party. I want to share that surprise with the Committee, if they will permit me to read two quotations:Mr. George appeared to be consumed with pride over the fact that, as he said, £18,000,000 had been distributed in unemployment insurance benefit between August, 1920, and October, 1921. It was like a shopkeeper boasting that in the course of 12 months he had consumed the whole of his savings in keeping himself alive.It goes on to say:No doubt the Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George) will presently utter one of his clarion calls to the nation. We shall be exhorted to brace ourselves for a supreme effort. We shall be invited to range ourselves behind his leadership, weary as he is with the lash and willing as he would be are only too familiar with these melodramatic appeals, but all this stage thunder and lightning will not divert public attention from the cold fact that, if the responsible Government had put its shoulder to the wheel two years ago, the country would not now be in a state of such anxiety and privation.Finally, the "Liberal Magazine," of 1921, went on to say:As Mr. Asquith said at Tunbridge Wells, 'No one has a cooler or more innocent manner in stealing other people's clothes than Mr. Lloyd George.'As far as the second quotation is concerned, I feel that the reference to the Government putting its shoulder to the wheel and trying to recognise its responsibility in the matter applies both to the party below the Gangway and the party on the other side of the House. The new view point to take seems to me to be that if we are to have any future for our industrial policy, indeed any security in the long run for the leadership of our country in the economic life of the world, we must frankly recognise that the time has arrived when this mechanisation process is going to be a positive danger to our national life unless it adds something to the consuming power of the great 1010 mass of the people. That is the only safe line for us with mechanisation. We are not against the development of machinery, we are only against using that development for the greater starvation and the greater uncertainty of our people.
We welcome the coming of machines, because we believe that is the way by which the creative work of the world can be carried on; that they will lift the burden of harassing, dirty work from the backs of all our people, so that instead of "a leisured class" we may see "a leisured community" in which all work is carried on under decent conditions and with a shorter working day, and all will be able to share in the culture and beauty which up to now have been the privilege of a small section of the people. I think it is economically sound to look in that direction, but instead of trying to bring us nearer to the ideal of a leisured community, instead of trying to lift the burden of toil, the Government have added to the anxieties of the unemployed and-added to the burden of the hours of those who have been lucky enough to get employment in some of our basic industries. That has been a step backward in the progress of our country.
I think we also make a mistake, and it is a common mistake which we all make, in placing too great reliance upon weekly figures or monthly figures. I personally do not attach the slightest importance to an increase of 20,000 one month and a decrease of 20,000 another month, because we have our seasonal trades, and the weather affects our trades. We have to look below those merely surface movements; in a normal condition of economic health they would not matter at all, because the Unemployment Insurance Fund would step in to ease those short breaks in the continuity of employment. The terrible thing with which our country is faced to-day is the problem of a very large proportion of our people suffering definite deterioration because of the length of time which they have been compulsorily unemployed, and it is from that standpoint that I think the strongest criticism must be directed against the negative policy which the Government have followed right up to the last few months, when we have had such a stir of declarations as to what they are going to do. The General Election, however, 1011 will arrive before they will be called upon to make good their promises, and they may never be called upon at all to make them good. I think myself they will never be called upon to redeem them.
It was only last year that the Minister told us in this House, and told me personally in the Lobby, making a point of pride of it, that he did not believe in palliative work, that he did not believe in relief work. To-day he is claiming credit for having established that relief work since that wave of feeling went through the country when the terrible conditions under which many of our workers were living was revealed. It is that dot-and-carry-one policy, it is that system of taking up a thing when the pressure is great and dropping it again before anything has been accomplished, that has very largely prevented the results which ought to accrue with a policy steadily pursued. We have the Minister taking credit to-day for the number of persons who are passing through training centres. I would remind him that I made myself a nuisance begging imploring and beseeching the House to take notice of the importance of developing training centres. If we had had a steady development of training going on from the time when the Government came into office without any slowing down, we should have had a different tale to tell about the adolescents and the young men between 18 and 21 compared with the miserable picture which we see to-day. It makes one feel almost heartbroken to go into areas such as the Tonypandy district, and listen to the tales told by the women about the deterioration of their children. It is heartbreaking to hear what they have to say about their sufferings at a period in life when they ought to have been doing something—I do not care what it is as long as it is some kind of mental or physical exercise—that would have kept them fit and alert. At the present time, in this country there is a very high percentage of the workers who have fallen much below the working-class standard of stamina to which we have been accustomed in the past, and this deterioration will be a trouble to us for the next 25 years or more. It is because of that awful waste of human capacity that we are bringing these accusations against the Minister of Labour.
1012 There is another side to the question. We now find that many of the people who are unemployed, or who have been unemployed for a very long time have deteriorated to such an extent that they have been rejected by the emigration authorities; those authorities prefer to select the men who are in employment and who are up to date and fit. I do not know whether the House realises that during the last seven years we have lost to America by emigration no less than 35,000 skilled engineers. We have also lost a large number of skilled bricklayers who have gone to America because they can get more money than they can earn in this country. It may be said that we are very glad to be relieved of those 35,000 engineers, but I would like to point out that in that case we are losing people at the wrong end and we are losing the very people we can least afford to lose. They are people who have been trained in this country and we are not training other people to take their places. That is the way in which our economic life will suffer from this policy in the future. It has been estimated that the capitalised value of a skilled engineer to this country is £10,000, and viewed from that standpoint it is a stupid waste of our resources to allow the present generation to grow up compulsorily idle without having far more extended training schemes than those which the Minister of Labour has been so proud to announce to us to-day.
Take some of the criticisms which have been made of our training schemes. I have brought forward one or two cases which have been taken up by the Minister of Labour for which I desire to thank him. I wish, however, to ask specifically that the Minister should pay attention to the criticisms which have been made about the Dudley training centre. I am not personally acquainted with the facts but I am told there is a serious complaint that men are being sent from the Dudley centre to take on jobs at less than the ordinary trade union rate of wages. In some cases they are jobs for which the men who are sent are not at all fitted. The result being that they get dismissed and this throws discredit upon the training centre. I ask that these complaints should be investigated in order to find out whether there is any real truth in them or not. I think the 1013 Minister should avoid allowing the idea to get abroad that our training centres are going to be used to enable employers to get cheap labour instead of paying the men the full trade union rates of wages. Nothing could be more fatal or suicidal from our standpoint than that.
My last point is in connection with the transference and relief work. In this matter there is a great deal of stupidity. I sometimes wonder whether it is merely stupidity, or whether it is the kind of superficial cleverness which desires to make debating points and likes to obscure the issue. It must be clear to the Committee that we do not raise these criticisms of transference schemes because we dislike the idea of any of our unfortunate people getting jobs anywhere. It is because we want to see the thing properly carried out, and we are afraid that in many oases, it may be because there is such great pressure on the Exchange officials, that they accept anybody's word that a job is going. We hear continually of eases of men being sent long distances to jobs. I had a case the other day in which a man was sent from Wallsend to the South of England, and the job lasted a fortnight. At the end of that time he was unemployed. Surely it is not the intention to waste money by sending a man from the north to the south of England for a fortnight? Cannot something more be done to ensure that there is a greater degree of permanence about jobs to which men are going to be transferred when they are taken to places hundreds of miles off?
With regard to the Lord Mayor's Fund, I feel quite sure that those who contributed to that Fund never anticipated the kind of mind that would be put upon its administration. I have been shocked at the regulations that have been issued in connection with the South Wales Divisional Committee, and I should like to read some of them to the Committee. It may be that hon. Members approve of these regulations, but I cannot believe that they will. The Fund was raised in the depths of winter, when the weather was exceptionally cold, and when it was found that our people were under-fed, under-clothed, and without proper boots, and the immediate necessity was to feed and clothe them. Now, however, that the winter has gone by, the money, although it was there, has not been distri- 1014 buted to meet those needs. The position is shown quite clearly by this circular, dated the 11th February, 1929:Assistance to the families of the unemployed can be given only in cases of acute distress.Apparently, the people who had to decide what was or was not acute distress had the real, orthodox, Charity Organisation Society mind, and thought that acute distress must mean that the people must be absolutely down and out and nearly dead of starvation before they could be allowed to have a penny. Another regulation is:The relief to be granted in such cases cannot be on such a scale as to place the families of the unemployed in as favourable a position as the families of the employed.I should support that sentiment if the conditions of employment were normal, and if it were a question of men who had been employed for months and were only out of employment for a fortnight or three weeks, and still had their clothes and boots, had their rent paid, and so on. But who are the employed who are referred to here? They are the miners whose cases were quoted just now. Men in my own Division have shown me their pay-sheets, asking me not to mention their names because they have accepted work at rates below the legal minimum, that being the only condition on which the work was offered. They were told that, if they liked to take work at rates below the legal minimum, they would be allowed to go down the pit, but that, if they were going to make a fuss about the legal minimum, the pits would not be opened at all. In these cases, although the men are technically employed, they are as badly off as, and in some cases worse off than, a man with three children drawing unemployment pay, so that to include that in the conditions applicable to necessitous areas was perfectly preposterous. What we wanted was to try to bring up the level of general nutriment—and that was the object for which the Fund was subscribed—to a point which would be nearer normality. But that is not the worst. There is another clause in the circular, which reads as follows:(c) By the issue of food vouchers of 2s. 6d. a week to mothers. This covers not only expectant and nursing mothers, but the mothers of children who are school fed, and distressed mothers of children who are below school age. In exceptional circumstances it may cover other distressed mothers also.1015 That is all right. That is Clause (c). Now turn to Clause (g) and you find:It must he clearly understood that these vouchers are issued as an alternative to, and not in supplement of the voucher referred to under (c). And, in arriving at the actual amount to be issued to each family adjudged eligible, local Committees should have regard to the amount of assistance being given under other headings. For instance, the family voucher issued to a family whose mother is receiving 2s. 6d. a week under (c) should not ordinarily exceed 2s. 6d. Alternatively, if the full 5s. voucher should be issued, the issue of the 2s. 6d. voucher under (c) should be discontinued.Is that what the charitable fund was instituted for? There is some £900,000 and they were doleing out half-crowns and five shillings to families who had been on the verge of starvation for months. That is the kind of thing we complain about in connection with the administration of the Lord Mayor's Fund. I am certain that those who contributed to that fund expected every penny of it to be spent during the period of great distress in the winter.
Here is another thing. This is 2nd March:The previous circulars authorised the issue of clothing to the unemployed where such issue was necessary to enable fresh employment to be taken up. It should be understood that such provision for adults cannot normally be regarded as necessary except where the man or woman concerned has been unemployed for a continuous period of at least six months at the time of taking up the fresh employment.That again is in necessitous areas, where everyone knew that the clothing had gone down to the minimum, that the things they stood up in were threadbare, but before a man could get clothing from the Lord Mayor's Fund it had to be shown that he had been unemployed for six months, and that they were necessary in order for him to obtain employment. It is too terrible. In addition to that there is something about youths.I am to emphasise strongly the fact that it is intended that these issues to youths and men shall be on a distinctly severer standard than issues of new clothing and footwear made to women and children. Every effort is to continue to be made to meet the needs as far as possible from the supplies of new and partly worn clothing received as gifts, and new clothing or footwear should not be given to any man who has not been unemployed for at least six months continuously at the time of the application.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
This is the Divisional Committee of the Lord Mayor's Relief Fund. It is over the signature of J. B. Abraham, Secretary of the South Wales Divisional Committee.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
The point I am making is that, in connection with the distressed areas, the Government has had an opportunity of utilising the Lord Mayor's Fund. It could not even do that decently. It has adopted a miserable, mean, niggardly attitude towards the distress existing in that area. I make my protest here against the way in which the distressed areas were treated. In those distressed areas the greatest indignation is felt that they have been brought into the position of having to have doled out to them other people's cast-off clothing and half-crowns and five shillings to keep them from starvation. At Tonypandy and other places work requires to be done on the doorsteps of where they live, yet not a penny could the Government give to get them occupation in the place where they have their houses. The Minister is only one party to the Government Departments represented by that fund, but this is the occasion on which we can bring this to the House.
The question of allotments has been referred to. I have a case in my Division where, in connection with the urban district council, they have allotments in which some 150 men have found wholesome work. Many of them were employed in pits which have been closed for the last time. Only one or two have been opened. These men have been unable to meet the rents of these allotments. One would have thought that at a time like this a matter of this sort could have been taken up, that they could have cut through any existing red-tape and made it possible for these men to retain these allotments. I was told that the district council had been informed that they must give up these allotments because they themselves were greatly in debt. They had had to borrow money in order to carry on, on account of the absolute impossibility of collecting rates or rents from the district. They were in such a 1017 parlous condition that they were liable to have to give up the very thing that was giving life to some of these men, and giving them something like an hobby and an occupation.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
The last I heard was that the district council had not been able to meet their obligations to such an extent as to be able to pay the rent.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I am not in a position to say. I hope that my protest has had effect. That is merely an illustration of what might have been done, not merely where allotments existed, for surely it would have been worth while to create allotments, as we did during the War, by taking over any waste land and putting men to work upon it for the sake of giving them healthy exercise and a sense of self-respect. None of these things have been done, and now we come to the eleventh hour in the life of this Parliament, and we may discuss these matters here, and hon. Members opposite may make what fun they like of the necessities of the people. I warn hon. Members on the opposite benches who appear to take a delight in the policy of the present Government that that feeling is not reciprocated in the country. When they go into the country, as I have gone into the country, and meet these people, they will find that they have long memories and that they are not going to forget the sufferings which might have been avoided and which they themselves have had to undergo. They will not listen to the people in this House who raise a laugh or a jeer when they talk about the 1926 strike. Hon. Members will find that the country as a whole has a far greater knowledge of the whole of the incidents of that strike than many hon. Members in this House, and when it comes to a question of deciding who was right and who was wrong, however wrong we may have been, they believe that the original wrong lies at the door of the Government. The consequences of that mistaken policy, begun in 1920 and carried on right away through, are not obscured from the electorate of this country.
1018 In a very interesting speech from the Government benches by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Hammersley) we had a very interesting analysis of the difficulties of the textile trade, and we accepted the particulars which he gave in regard to finance. What he did not say and what he failed to recognise was the fact that if they had been in the position of getting orders, when they had put the financial difficulties right, the position would not be so bad, even if we could get 50 per cent. of the trade that we used to get with India and China. It is because there has been no coordination of policy in the direction in which we believe the Government will have to move in order to handle this unemployment problem, that this Government stands condemned, and we believe that the country will endorse that condemnation.
§ Captain FANSHAWE
The hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield) has made a very forceful speech, but she was not quite fair when she said that we are making fun of the distress of the people. It is very easy for an Opposition to make charges against the Government on this most serious question, and it is easy for an Opposition, just before the General Election, to make promises. While those promises are being made, the fact remains that the Government have been setting themselves seriously to work to provide the solid foundation on which the prosperity of the country might be built up. Trade prosperity is the only way to meet the great problem of unemployment, and to secure permanency in the prosperity of our people. The hon. Member for Wallsend was a very distinguished Member of the Blanesburgh Committee, and we give her credit for putting her pen to the findings of that Committee. She has not had an easy part to play since she took that course and had the honesty, the foresight and the fortitude to meet this great question. I would ask hon. Members opposite to follow the example of the hon. Member for Wallsend in that respect. In the speeches that have been made by hon. Members to-day, and particularly by the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), an attempt has been made to use this great question of unemployment, on which the lives, the 1019 prosperity and the homes of the people depend, as a sort of electioneering platform.
§ Captain FANSHAWE
On this side of the House, at any rate, we are not, as suggested by the hon. Member, attempting to use this question as a political platform at the General Election. All that we are doing—
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
Two hon. Members must not be on their feet at the same time.
§ Mr. THORNE
I will do nothing of the sort. It is a Parliamentary expression. If you like, I will say it is a perversion of the truth.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
It has long been held by many occupants of the Chair that the word "lies" is unparliamentary, and must not be used. I must ask the hon. Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne) if he will withdraw the expression "lies."
§ The hon. Member withdrew accordingly.
§ Mr. THURTLE
On a point of Order. Is the Chair aware that the term "lies" was not applied to any person in this House?
§ The TEMPORARY-CHAIRMAN
I am quite aware of that fact, but it is out of order to make any insinuation about any party in this House, and the term "lies" is an unparliamentary expression, and has been so ruled on numerous occasions.
§ Mr. THURTLE
May I ask, Captain Bourne, if you are seized with the fact that the term "lies" was not applied to anyone in this House, but to posters on the hoardings?
§ The TEMPORARY-CHAIRMAN
I cannot help what object the term was applied to. The word is unparliamentary, and must not be used in this House.
§ Captain FANSHAWE
When I was interrupted, I was trying to put before the Committee the point of view of Members in this side. We are not trying, and we do not intend to try, to use this great question of unemployment as a sort of political stunt. What we intend to do is to show what we have done in the lifetime of the present Parliament, and what we intend to go on doing in the next Parliament. Representing an industrial constituency, I very much resent the attitude taken up by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. In opening the Debate he said we had had administrative persecution. I think he based his whole statement on the fact that sometimes we find an official going into the home of a man who is claiming unemployment benefit. I can only speak for the unemployed in my own constituency, but I can say on their behalf that the official going into that home does not enter it as a spy. He enters the home with a very grave responsibility of which he is very conscious, and he goes there to find out the plain facts of the case. If by chance—and it does not very often happen—somebody is trying to get unemployment benefit when he should not have it, does any hon. Member uphold that point of view? This official goes into the house to find out the facts of the case, and in 99 cases out of 100 he turns out to be a very great help to the man claiming unemployment benefit.
§ Captain FANSHAWE
This man may go before the court of referees if the insurance officer has not allowed his claim, and surely it is a good thing for 1021 somebody to be with him at the court to present his case. [Interruption.] I cannot understand why hon. Members opposite think that officials, who are men placed in a certain position to do a certain job of work, must always be wrongdoers. Why cannot they give credit for honest intentions?
§ Captain FANSHAWE
Are hon. Members opposite the enemies of these officials, as they seem to be the enemies of about three-quarters of the population of this country? Who are the friends of hon Gentlemen opposite? We hear everybody in this House blackguarded in turn by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Now we find that these officials, not employed by any particular Department—they will be employed under any other Government—are to be blackguarded by hon. Members opposite, because they happen to be in opposition, because they are doing their utmost to carry out their duties.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
I do not think the word is in order, and I must ask the hon. and gallant Member to withdraw it.
§ Captain FANSHAWE
I most readily withdraw it and will substitute the word "abused" instead. It is a great pity that this great question of unemployment should be made a party cry. After all employment depends on the state of trade, and during all the years after the War the trade and industrial machinery of the country has been interfered with
§ by a series of strikes and lockouts, call them what you like, Hon. Members opposite may sneer at the idea of industrial peace. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate paid a tribute to the negotiations which are taking place at the moment, but, while paying that tribute, he could not help a little suspicion of the two sides entering into his observations. Why cannot hon. Members opposite realise that before we can get prosperity and a solution of the unemployment question that there must be a better feeling in the country between the two sides? Why cannot they get away from party prejudices and all that sort of thing and give credit where it is due, to the Prime Minister himself? They may laugh and jeer as they like and prophesy as to the result of the next General Election, but the credit for bringing some peace to industry must go to the Prime Minister. It is due to the action of the Prime Minister that we have had far fewer industrial disputes during the last two years. The contribution of hon. Members opposite to the great question of unemployment has been to put one-fifth of the whole industrial population out of work for eight months in the year 1926, and to place more than 600,000 people permanently on the unemployment roll. That is their contribution to the problem of unemployment. They do not like it, but they will have to face the music. We are prepared to stand by our record in this matter and beat them in the country upon it.
§ Question put, "That a sum not exceeding £7,558,900 be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 113; Noes, 176.1023
|Division No. 280.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Fenby, T. D.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Cape, Thomas||Forrest, W.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Charleton, H. C.||Gardner, J. P.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Clarke, A. B.||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Cluse, W. S.||Gillett, George M.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)|
|Barnes, A.||Compton, Joseph||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)|
|Batey, Joseph||Connolly, M.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)|
|Bellamy, A.||Dalton, Hugh||Griffith, F. Kingsley|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Dalton, Ruth (Bishop Auckland)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Blinded, James||Day, Harry||Groves, T.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Duncan, C.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Dunnico, H.||Hardie, George D.|
|Broad, F. A.||Edge, Sir William||Hayday, Arthur|
|Bromfield, William||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Buchanan, G.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Murnin, H.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Hollins, A.||Naylor, T. E.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Oliver, George Harold||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Owen, Major G.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Palin, John Henry||Taylor R. A.|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Paling, W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Potts, John S.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Kelly, W. T.||Riley, Ben||Townend, A. E.|
|Kennedy, T.||Ritson, J.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Viant, S. P.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Sakiatvala, Shapurji||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Lawson, John James||Scrymgeour, E.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Lindley, F. W.||Sexton, James||Westwood, J.|
|Longbottom, A. W.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Lowth, T.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Lunn, William||Shield, G. W.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Short, Altreo (Wednesbury)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Maxton, James||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Mr. Hayes and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Montague, Frederick||Stephen, Campbell|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Albery, Irving James||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Radford, E. A.|
|Apsley, Lord||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Hamilton, Sir George||Rentoul, Sir Gervals|
|Balniel, Lord||Hanbury, C.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Harrison, G. J. C.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Hartington, Marquess of||Ropner, Major L.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Berry, Sir George||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Bevan, S. J.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Blundell, F. N.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Sandon, Lord|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Herbert, S. (York, N. R. Scar. & Wh'by)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hills, Major John Waller||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hohier, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)|
|Burman, J. B.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hurd, Percy A.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S)||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Starry-Deans, R.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Loder, J. de V.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Christie, J. A.||Long, Major Eric||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Looker, Herbert William||Templeton, W. P.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lougher, Sir Lewis||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Thomson, Sir Frederick|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Tinne, J. A.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lumley, L. R.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Macintyre, Ian||Waddington, R.|
|Cope, Major Sir William||McLean, Major A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Macquisten, F. A.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Margesson, Captain D.||Wells, S. R.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yervil)||Meller, R. J.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Wilson, Sir Murrough (Yorks, Richm'd)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Ellis, R. G.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Withers, John James|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Fielden, E. B.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Gates, Percy||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Mr. Penny and Captain Wallace.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY rose—
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.1026
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.