Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,500,000, 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, 1931, for Grants to Local Authorities, &c., in pursuance of Part II of the Development (Loan Guarantees and Grants) Act, 1929, and for payments in respect of certain Grants made prior to the 31st day of August, 1929, in respect of employment schemes."—[NOTE: £750,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I make this Motion as a Parliamentary expedient which may secure for the Committee the widest possible opportunity of discussion within our Rules of the great question which it falls to me to introduce to the notice of the Committee to-day. It is in no sense from a desire to censure the Government that I move a reduction. Whether it will ultimately be the subject of a vote of the character of a Vote of Censure will depend, I hope, not on the tone and temper of the speech in which I introduce it, but upon what the Prime Minister or other representative of the Government may have to say in exposition of their policy. I feel myself in a little difficulty in approaching the task I have undertaken. In the first place, I am afraid I address a Committee many of whose members are somewhat tired and jaded by a long sitting, while the hours of careful thought which I had intended to give to put my material in order were rudely disturbed by a summons to resume my place in the House to take part in a sitting which was still continuing.
That is not all. On the last occasion on which the Leader of the Opposition opened a debate on the same subject the Prime Minister showed some irritation 412 and some unreason. He showed some irritation that so soon after a, previous discussion this subject should again be made a matter of Parliamentary debate, and he showed some unreason by complaining that my right hon. Friend's speech ended where he had supposed it was going to begin and before my right hon. Friend had unfolded a complete programme of his own for dealing with unemployment. I can attach no other meaning to the right hon. Gentleman's observation that his speech ended where he thought it was going to begin. He must remember, as I have to remember, the limits that are set by our rules of Order. They are the result of the long experience and wisdom of Parliament and I do not doubt that in the long run they work wisely, but there are occasions when they impose limits upon any speaker which are very inconvenient and which leave him open to the kind of easy retort which the right hon. Gentleman made.
I cannot unfold a programme which would inevitably in some portions, and probably in many, require legislation in the course of a debate on a Vote in Committee of Supply, but I can examine the measures which the Government have taken, or are even now proposing to take, and invite the Committee to consider whether these proposals, taken as a whole, offer any hope whatever of an escape from our present difficulties. It is the habitual retort of Ministers when questioned about their pre-Ministerial utterances, that in what they are doing or not doing, whether it be in accordance with their pledges or not, they are following the precedent of their predecessor, but a tu quoque of that kind always seems to me rather empty and meaningless and certainly does not carry us any further, and it is not on that ground that I would justify the invitation that I extend to the Committee again to review the position in relation to unemployment. Even since the last discussion there has been a very considerable change in the situation. When the Government came in, they had, or pretended to have, extremely definite ideas as to the proposals that were required to bring relief to unemployment and as to the methods by which they could be pursued. The Prime Minister, in the course of the General Election, said a Labour Government was the only Government that would deal 413 with the problem of unemployment with courageous determination. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is often over-sanguine but never over-modest, said just after the Election:In our first Session we shall deal with unemployment and bring relief and hope to the workers of this land. We will not disappoint those who have shown a belief in us.Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. The machinery that the right hon. Gentleman had prepared has been scrapped. He has started afresh. I know it is irritating to right hon. Gentlemen to have these earlier utterances rescued from the oblivion in which they would be only too glad to bury them, but I must contrast the confidence that the right hon. Gentleman displayed when he took office with the rather despairing attitude which has now become habitual to his public utterances on this question. He said:We propose, as it were, to organise a brain for thinking and acting for an industrial State.He complained that his predecessors had acted independently, as if they had no common concern in this great problem, or as if they could settle it by individual and not co-operative effort.I say the time has come for us to co-ordinate these by a Committee over which the Prime Minister himself must preside, and the Committee will consist of a nucleus of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Labour (the Departments that are concerned with the labour and the industrial life of the country) modelled exactly on the basis of the Committee of Imperial Defence.That Committee was never established. The organised brain is still to seek. The Prime Minister found himself wholly occupied with other important business and unable to take the chair of a Committee of this kind. He was engaged in doing a large share of the work of the Foreign Secretary as well as his other tasks as Prime Minister. He had no time to give to a detailed consideration of the problem of unemployment. Accordingly, he was not Chairman of the Committee as be had foreshadowed. Why the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not on the Committee I do not know, but for reasons which seemed good to the Prime Minister the Lord Privy Seal was selected, and all the Ministers named by the Prime Minister as those whose co-operation was 414 esesntial in order to make this an effective Committee were left off it. In place of them, the Lord Privy Seal was to be assisted by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the First Commissioner of Works, and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. What has become of them? The Lord Privy Seal has departed overseas. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has retired on to the back benches. The First Commissioner of Works is more occupied with mixed bathing than with the problem of unemployment. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland may still be concerned with the problem, but the result of his efforts has not yet been made apparent to anyone. After a year the great machine which the Prime Minister had clearly in his mind before he took office which was to produce a brain such as none of his luckless happy-go-lucky predecessors had ever possessed for dealing with this question has been put upon the scrap heap.
The Prime Minister has at last begun to cope with the problem. He is going to form a new and a different Committee. He is inviting, in regard to some aspects of the problem, the co-operation of the other parties, and yesterday, having summoned a great conference of the representatives of local authorities, he pleaded with them to conspire with him—a curious word—for a solution of the problem. It is worth while to have another discussion in this House in order that the Prime Minister may define exactly the nature of the co-operation which he seeks, the scope of the activities in which he asks us to take part, and the measure of freedom which will be allowed to any of us, if we accept his invitation, to put forward such contribution as we have to make and to get it considered without prejudice and without party feeling on its merits and on its merits alone. With regard to the desire for co-operation, I would point out that there have already been two conferences. There was one formed on a party basis to try and arrive at an all-party conclusion, and the other was a non-party conference dealing with the special question of agriculture.
What has been the history of these two conferences? I will first say a word about the non-party conference on agriculture. It met, it deliberated, and it formulated certain conclusions of high importance—whatever view you take of them—both because of the weight and 415 unanimity of agricultural opinion behind them and also because of their inherent import. What has become of it? No sooner had it begun to formulate conclusions than it was allowed apparently to perish away. As long as it deliberated and did nothing more it was permitted to continue, but the moment it formulated conclusions its work was arrested, and it has never been allowed to meet again. That is the history of the non-party conference. There is the three-party conference which had a definite and an equally important duty. It has not yet come to an end. It has gone on at intervals discussing the important questions referred to it. I refer to the Electoral Conference. While these questions were ostensibly referred to a conference constituted of members of the three parties who were invited to leave their party feelings at the door and sit down together, and see whether, as under the earlier Speaker's Conference they could not agree upon a scheme, another conference was begun outside the walls of that conference, behind the backs of its members, between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the Prime Minister.
When the right hon. Gentleman proposes a new conference, is it to be allowed not merely to deliberate but to formulate its conclusions, and, if it formulates conclusions, is the Prime Minister going to act upon them, or is the first moment that it makes a definite proposal to be the signal for its extinction? If any of us go into such a, conference, is the business of the conference to be done in the conference or on the back-stairs? My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs may perhaps not share my opinion of these proceedings since he took a part in them. He has indeed, in an interview which he gave to the principal organ in the Press of the Labour party, pressed for a conference of this kind. I am not surprised that the Prime Minister shows himself a little coy before my right hon. Friend's wooing, for indeed they do not mean the same thing. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs desires to share power without responsibility, and the right hon. Gentle- 416 man the Prime Minister desires to share responsibility while retaining all the power.
Before we go any further, it would be well for the Prime Minister to define his position exactly in relation to these invitations which he is throwing out to other people to co-operate with him and to say what measure of freedom, in the first place, he is going to allow to such conferences if they take place, and what measure of trust he is going to place in them, whether he is prepared to implement and carry out their decisions, if they arrive at decisions, or whether all that he wishes is to fill in time and distribute the responsibility while retaining exactly the same control of policy and imposing the same limits upon it as he would if there was no pretence of conferring with his political opponents?
The right hon. Gentleman, as I have said, has scrapped the old machinery which he announced with such a flourish of trumpets when he first came into power. He has substituted for it some other committee as yet undefined and of which we know definitely only that he proposes to preside over it. That is not a decision which I criticise. I think that it is right under the circumstances, unless the Prime Minister is going to take an altogether wider view than he or his colleagues have done up to the present, their new committee will be as futile as the old, and our last state will be even worse than our present. The right hon. Gentleman has attempted two excuses for the situation which everybody admits to be grave, which some of us feel to be anxious, and which all of us are desirous of preventing from becoming desperate. He and his colleagues from time to time have complained of the difficulty of Parliamentary machinery, especially for a Government that has not an independent majority in the House. That, in the circumstances of the case, is a hollow excuse, and is really not an honest one. The Prime Minister has not been refused by this House any powers for dealing with unemployment for which he has asked, nor can he fairly say that the fact that he is in a minority 417 prevents him from putting forward a policy which, in his heart of hearts, he believes to be a cure.
I agree that a Government in a minority must pay some degree of consideration to the general sense of the House which cannot be exacted from, and is not always given by, a Government which has a great and an independent majority, but, in face of a situation so grave as the present, if the right hon. Gentleman really believes that the policy of himself or his friends is the real solution, the true solution and the only solution, he is bound by his position to produce that scheme to the House, to challenge the House to take the responsibility of rejecting it, and, if the House does take the responsibility of rejecting it, to go to the country and to ask it to decide the question. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would deny that. I think that he himself would agree with the principle I have laid down, and that if he has not produced the policy of "Labour and the Nation," it is not because his is a minority Government, but because, faced with the realities of the problem, he and his colleague whom he has particularly delegated to the study of this question, have felt that not only did there lie no solution of the difficulties in the programme there set forth, but that any attempt to carry out those proposals would only aggravate the difficulties.
The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal, to whose honest and earnest services in the cause which was entrusted to his care, I, for one, desire to pay my tribute, has again and again warned us as to the narrow limits within which we can touch this problem without adding to and increasing our difficulties by the mere artificial expenditure of money. He has again and again warned the House against supposing that they can avoid aggravating the evil if they spend money on works which do not directly serve to increase the future efficiency of the nation. We are spending, and have spent under successive Governments, immense sums on public works in one form or another. I do not criticise Governments of which I was a member, or Governments of which I was not a member for having sought by these palliative measures to alleviate a distress the duration of which, I venture to say, 418 no one foresaw, and the depth of which none of us has fathomed. It was inevitable that confronted by a large measure of unemployment, we should turn at once both to examine the sphere of the central government and to invite and encourage the co-operation of local authorities to anticipate work which they would otherwise have postponed, to do work which they would otherwise have left undone, in the hope that though that was costly, and though, to some extent, it mortgaged the future, it would tide us over a time of special distress, and carry us through, without demoralisation, without undue suffering and without idleness, to the revival of trade.
The hope that you can carry us through by these palliative expedients must surely by this time have been abandoned by everyone. It may still be necessary to undertake work which is, in fact, relief work, but the more you do, the less there remains to be done. It narrows the field in which you can usefully operate, and two consequences follow, both of which are mortgages on future years. When you invite local authorities to bring into the present, work which would normally have been spread over later years, obviously it means that in those later years you have not merely to absorb the unemployment of the moment, but you have also to find enough work to absorb the men who would have been employed on the work which you have anticipated, and which is, therefore, no long available. You are, therefore, by every anticipation diminishing the amount of work which will be normally available in future years. You are doing more. With every work of this kind which you carry out, you are increasing the burdens which the future years have to bear. The right hon. Gentleman made an appeal to the local authorities yesterday which I have read this morning. Am I not right in thinking that from most of the representatives there came voices saying that they had nearly reached the limit both of the work which they could profitably undertake upon those lines, and of the resources which they can make available? And is it not the case, known to everyone who has discussed these matters with active members of our municipalities and county councils, that the wiser and more farseeing of their members are becoming 419 gravely concerned about the burden which the present is imposing upon the future?
Yet in all the utterances which the right hon. Gentleman has made since he began to occupy his present position, I can trace only two thoughts—a new committee in place of the committee which he has scrapped, and more work of the kind which we have already been doing. But of new thought, of new remedies, of something which is not merely a palliative for the moment, while an expense and a burden for the future, I can find no trace in any of his speeches, except in so far as he has repeated, in a sentence or two, the doctrine so wisely and so rightly propounded by the Lord Privy Seal, which he himself made the basis of his policy, that the future of industry needs a great reorganisation and a great recapitalisation, in order to place it in a position to find employment for our people, and to secure the share of the markets without which that people cannot live.
That is a grave problem. We continue with drugs, which may be necessary, but which have an injurious effect upon the constitution, which may sustain us for a moment, but weaken our resistance for the future. In spite of the millions that we are spending and have spent, we have made by all our public works no visible hole in the great mass of unemployment. The figures go on rising. The right hon. Gentleman says that new circumstances have intervened. I agree, but there has never been a sign of the position getting better since the right hon. Gentleman came into office. There were some signs before. There was some improvement in the figures. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] Yes, there was. Do not let us dispute that. It may be argued that it was accidental, but whether it was or was not, whatever signs of improvement there were, every return in the last 12 months has been the other way.
That is not all. Until to-night, we have discussed unemployment almost exclusively as if it were solely an industrial question. It has now become a question of agricultural unemployment as well. Where Ministries were seeking in schemes of reafforestation, drainage or whatever it might be, to draw out of the town some 420 of the superabundant and unemployed population and to put them back on the land, now, if we go on as we are going, every bit of those schemes, and much more, will be needed to absorb the agricultural population which is being thrown out of work, without bringing any relief whatever to the industrial population. What have the Government done for agriculture? Agriculture, they said, must be made to pay. Coal must be made to pay, even if it costs the consumer more. The agriculturist cannot expect to receive a living wage unless he can sell his produce at a reasonable figure in competition with the rest of the world. Coal is to be able to levy a tax upon the British consumers in order that it might find an export for its goods, but agriculture may not levy any tax upon foreign goods, although it might prevent subsidised goods from entering our markets. What remedy have the Government? Where in the schemes of the right hon. Gentleman or in the programme of the Lord Privy Seal is there any suggestion of any relief for agriculture? The only relief for which agriculture has to thank the Government is that the late Minister of Agriculture has been made a peer and that they have now a chance of trying their luck with another Minister.
The Government have no policy, or have revealed no policy, for dealing with agriculture. Except for the process of rationalisation, which is necessarily slow and which inevitably must to some extent increase instead of reduce the immediate burden of unemployment, the Government have no policy for industry or for agriculture, and it comes therefore, to a policy of continuing those measures of relief which the Prime Minister himself condemned as wholly inefficient and which he excluded from the programme which he proposed to carry into effect when he was making his pronouncements during the General Election. The more it is true, as the Prime Minister says, that our misfortunes are the reaction of what is happening elsewhere in the world, the more it is true that we shall have to face not merely the problem of industrial unemployment but also the problem of agricultural unemployment, the more imperative becomes the necessity not for a continuance of mere ephemeral palliatives but for a review of our whole national economic policy in order to see whether the prin- 421 ciples which we imbibed with our mother's milk and which we inherited from a world as different from this as the world of Columbus, really do apply in the conditions of to-day or whether we are not prisoners to fetters forged by ourselves which it is within our own power to shake off. The problem of unemployment is the problem of finding a market for the goods which we produce and have to sell. You cannot find a permanent market by inviting everybody to take in somebody else's washing.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Without any party feeling I am inviting the Committee to consider that, although that may have its place in this special emergency, it does not touch the real root of the problem and that we shall have to turn over a new leaf, that all of us will have to bring a new mind to the subject and examine it from quite a different point of view.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I was not referring to our own Governments in particular, but to every Government in the world.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Certainly, and it shows that there is a concensus of opinion in countries at any rate comparable in economic conditions to our own. Other countries are pursuing a definite policy to that end. Are we? I am obliged to the hon. Member for the interruption and perhaps he will permit me to use it as the text for the next part of my discourse. We can only solve the question of unemployment by finding a market for the goods we have to sell. Some of those markets are outside our control, but there is one market which is within our control—our own market. Is the Government, by its administrative action, by its influence on local authorities, by taking whatever statutory powers are necessary to make this policy prevail, securing that as far as possible in our present distress we shall consume our own products instead of throwing our own people out of work and thus fill our hands as we fill our bellies by the same process. Nothing of the kind is indicated in the policy of the Government. Perhaps that is too definite a statement, because an appeal has been made to local authorities to buy home produced goods. In some cases conditions have been imposed upon them that they should do so, but as a 422 national policy there is no trace of it. We are told that high economics demand that the consumer of any goods, of manufactured goods, shall have the right to purchase the cheapest article which serves his turn without respect to its effect on the general national wellbeing. We are told that the individual consumer if he is able to buy as cheaply as he can, no matter whether it finds employment for Britons or for foreigners in their own country, will in the long run found our society upon a firm basis, and, but for present conditions, I suppose we should have been told that it would have guarded us against our present distresses. I say again, that you can only cure unemployment—you are only playing with the subject having regard to the magnitude of the problem—if you set as your main task—
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
No. The main task, and the first task, is to find a market for what the land produces. It is no good talking about freeing the land until you have found a market for the produce of the land. The first thing to do is to find the market. We do nothing as a nation to secure our own market for our own people; we do nothing to give them a preference, or to secure equal treatment for them. We hold our doors wide open to competition, no matter what may be the conditions of labour or of society in which the product of that labour is produced. That is the first market we have to consider. The second market is the general foreign market. What are we doing, what can we do, in present conditions to secure a reasonable share of such trade as may be available to foreigners in return for the freedom which we give to foreigners in our own market. They negotiate one with another. They make terms, and although no commercial treaty is ever entirely satisfactory to both parties yet each gives up an endeavour to press for something in order to obtain something else. There is give and take. Our own Foreign Secretary is powerless in any such negotiations.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Listen to the voice of the middle of the last century! The old and exploded theories still find 423 a last home and refuge in what remains of the Liberal party to-day. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) says that we share in all the advantages—
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman is now preparing a second line of retreat and will probably claim that nobody gets any advantage. He will find no foreign country which holds such an opinion, and no Foreign Secretary, whether Free Trade or not, who is not of opinion that on many occasions he could have made a better commercial treaty if he had had the right to refuse as well as the right to give.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will allow me to deal with his first point and then I shall be prepared to give way. He says that we share in the advantages, if any, which foreign countries get. When tariffs were under a few headings, as they were in the early days of the Free Trade movement, that was substantially true, but the feature of tariff evolution in the end of the last century was the division of previous tariff headings which had for its purpose the prevention of a bargain made between "A" and "B" accruing to the advantage of "C." Again and again a heading which would have admitted us to a share in the benefit of any reduction which might have been made in any of the articles included under that heading, and in which British manufacturers were interested, has been split up and British manufacturers have been unable to share in any reduction which was made under the general heading. Now I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Very well, thank the right hon. Gentleman for his perfect courtesy in permitting me to resume. Our own market by common consent being the root of our trouble, have we any policy in regard to that? The foreign market—have we any policy ill regard to that? The Empire market— 424 have we any policy in regard that? I do not expect, with the growing development of Continental nations, that we can ever regain or attain, when general prosperity revives throughout the world, even the old position of supremacy or superiority which we formerly enjoyed in the European market. It is quite certain that equally in the Dominions market we cannot expect that they will allow friendship for us, sympathy with our difficulties or affection for the great conception of this Commonwealth of nations, either to destroy trades which they have established or to prevent their natural development, each in its own country. But surely, we have on every hand from the Dominions, of which the latest example is, I suppose, from Canada, the assurance that where they cannot fill their own needs they would sooner deal with us than from outside the Empire. If they say such a policy should be reciprocal, by our sacrificing something, meeting with opposition in our own country, facing some difficulties and obstruction, running some risks, and being prepared to make our contribution to this policy, are you prepared to make your contribution? What answer has the right hon. Gentleman?
At the present time, no concerted or organised effort to get us a fair share of such trade as is still obtainable and is passing between other protected countries, is being made, or to cultivate those ties between us and our Dominions which would give us an opening to the market of greatest promise, because of greatest possible development throughout the whole world.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I rise to a point of Order, and to ask if it is in order to discuss questions of Free Trade and Protection and also Empire Free Trade or Empire Protection? I have no objection—in fact, I think it very desirable that we should have a discussion—but I should like to know, if a speech is to be made in opening on these subjects, whether we in turn are to be able to put our point of view. We may be burking discussion on the one matter which seems to be relevant to the subject.
§ The CHAIRMAN
When the interruption came from the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) I anticipated that the right hon. Gentleman was not going to follow it up. I do not think 425 this is an opportunity where we should discuss the economics of Empire Free Trade, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not pursue it.
§ Mr. BEN TURNER
Would it be permissible to discuss unemployment as a general proposition and as affecting certain industries?
§ The CHAIRMAN
There are two Estimates on the Paper, the first is with respect to unemployment schemes, and Members should try to avoid discussing other subjects. Members will have an opportunity upon the general question when the Ministry of Labour Vote comes up.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I apologise to you, Sir, for having transgressed beyond the limits which it is your business to impose upon me, and I can only express my great appreciation of your failure to observe my error and of the kindness of the House in allowing me to proceed so far. I drop the subject. The right hon. Gentleman will see that if I have not sufficiently developed it, that is due to the enforcement of those limitations which I mentioned at the opening of my speech. To come back to what I can see is strictly relevant to this Vote. This is a Vote for dealing with unemployment. You may spend all your money, you may double or quadruple the amount and go on borrowing and issuing appealing applications, and forestalling work, but you will be no nearer to the solution of the real problem which concerns us than on the day that you began. If we are to deal as circumstances demand with a problem which has been growing more serious, and which the Prime Minister says is now aggravated by an act of God or foreign catastrophe beyond the control of those who were immediately responsible, we cannot do it merely by summoning the representatives of local authorities to add to their burden and to discover something that they call useful work on which they would never have thought of spending their local money but for the pressure of unemployment. You have to abandon the idea that when you vote an unemployment grant and a salary to the Minister of Labour you are dealing with unemployment. You have to put the question on 426 a wider footing, examine it afresh, and go to the roots of the evil.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)
If I have any complaint at all about the speech to which we have listened, it could not be at the width of field and the multiplicity of things that it attempted to cover. The right hon. Gentleman started upon unemployment. He then went to the Board of Agriculture. From the Board of Agriculture he went to the Board of Trade and from the Board of Trade he went to the Dominions Office. From the Dominions Office he did a slight sketch of the Foreign Office, and, if you had not intervened, Sir, I do not know where he would have landed. Your intervention was most providential. It brought the right hon. Gentleman back to a statement that we had to get to the root of the problem. With that I heartily agree. He started by saying that when the Government was first formed the charge of the problems of unemployment was assigned to a, body of Ministers. He pointed out that that body was not precisely the body that I had indicated some time before. That is perfectly true. It was not the body that I had indicated, but, in view of the work that the Government had to do, I considered that the body when it was ultimately chosen was a very good body, consisting of men of varied experience and of varied—I was going to say, education—or varied points of view, men who threw different emphasis upon certain things in life; and I believed and hoped that they would work in full harmony and co-operation together. I also believed that the custody of the work could be safely put into their charge. It is perfectly true that a resignation took place, and that, as a result of the resignation, changes have already taken place, but so far as the work done by the Lord Privy Seal, in particular, is concerned, he improved our industrial conditions so that there might be an efficient unit for delivering goods successfully in the future to the markets of the world. That work is being continued, and it will be continued, and no change that has taken place in machinery must be taken as an indication of any change in the purpose of the Government. Let the Committee be perfectly clear in its mind about that. With reference to the other point, the right hon. Gentleman 427 put forward the sort of view that has been quite properly pointed out year in and year out by hon. Members who have talked about unemployment.
There are two aspects. There is the long view, the view which prepares and looks forward through troublous times for us to take our fair share of the world's production and consumption as soon as conditions become a little more normal than they are now. That is one aspect and one duty. The other is that, while that work is being done and preparations are being made for the return to normality, there is the present problem of temporary unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to appreciate that problem at all. He asked, what is the use of summoning representatives of local authorities? Is he opposed to that? Is he convinced that that conference was not only of no use but was a waste of public money? As a matter of fact there is a good deal of work that can still be done by local authorities. During the last 12 months in particular, in fact for a little bit longer, we have had valuable experiences of the relations between the central Government and local government. We have carried on, sometimes jointly under conditions, sometimes jointly under practically no conditions at all, sometimes separately, schemes which were of undoubted public utility, but which were devised, pushed and financed as contributions to the immediate problem of unemployment.
Instead of being here I ought to have been upstairs where the committee of representatives appointed yesterday by the joint conference at the Guildhall has been sitting all day and is still sitting or has only just separated. They are devising programmes and methods, and are considering whether the handling of the transfer question has been done in the best way. They are considering the question of the distribution of the responsibility for various types and classes of roads. They are considering the relations between schemes that have already been approved and are being worked under old conditions, and schemes that either have not, been approved but are in existence or have been approved but have not been begun—they are considering whether those schemes if launched and financed 428 under more favourable conditions, can be proceeded with at the present time without damage to those now in progress. A thousand and one very small things, no doubt, but everyone who has had experience of handling these questions practically will know these very important problems, and these problems are being discussed now with the idea of coming to definite conclusions regarding those experiences. I say that that conference which assembled yesterday and did its work yesterday, and the committee which is meeting to-day, ought to be one of the most important steps that have been taken recently from the point of view of short-time attempts to deal with the unemployment problem.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred as usual to "Labour and the Nation." Those proposals hold good. The right hon. Gentleman his leader, who had five years of office with an enormous majority, whose party gave great pledges in 1924—at least the organisation which was responsible for the campaign made the statement that the party opposite was prepared with solutions for unemployment—himself told us that he had a solution for unemployment in the shape of Protection, but that he was not in a position to apply it. Really the right hon. Gentleman, with that record, had better remember that in all these things there is a time element, and that after laying down aims and objects and policies Governments must have chances of developing them stage by stage and step by step. There was not a single right hon. Gentleman sitting on the Front Bench who did not make it perfectly clear to the electors that that was the point of view that he held, and that that was the policy which he was going to pursue if he was returned to office.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I challenge effective contradiction of the statement that no one ever said that within the first 12 months they were going to carry out everything in that book. The Noble Lady may accuse us of deceit, but we would be very much obliged to her if she would not accuse us of sheer folly. What has happened now is this: Some of the things that the right hon. Gentleman said are perfectly true. For instance, he reminded 429 us that we found ourselves in this position and that it may be impossible to get out of it—that when we deal with a foreign Government, say on the question of subsidised oats—a country with which we have a commercial treaty—it is very difficult to discover how we can free ourselves for action. But who concluded the treaty? The right hon. Gentleman himself, I believe, if the ordinary diplomatic process was resorted to in his time which would be resorted to now. In considering the interests of other industries in this country, artificial silk for instance, he came to the conclusion that on a balance it was far better for this country to be deprived of the power of negotiating for agricultural interests if it had a special advantage relating to the marketing of artificial silk. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. The right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) in Aberdeen or outside Aberdeen the other day said that if he were to come into office he would at once denounce those commercial treaties. I think it is far too much to assume that he would do anything of the kind.
He also referred to land settlement, to certain processes which were going to make it difficult to develop land settlement. I have taken the risk and my right hon. Friends will take the risk of land settlement from that point of view. But it was his Government which was responsible for depriving us of the opportunity of pursuing that policy. By the alterations that were made in the law in 1925 and 1926 the power to take land for settlement was taken away from the Government. If we are to have emergency legislation we will have to report that to the House. I am not going to be hustled. If it is necessary to take emergency powers in order to align agricultural policy with unemployment policy—my heart all goes in that way—one of the things that will be included in the emergency legislation is an annulment of the action that the right hon. Gentleman took three or four years ago.
The Canadian tariff happened to coincide with the life of a Labour Government in this country. I do not put it any higher than that. But I say this, that in the relations, the economic relations between the Dominions and this country, it would be very difficult for the right 430 hon. Gentleman to find a time when good will was better or when the desire to co-operate was stronger than it is now.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman also knows perfectly well, not, I dare say, from any information which he has, but from his knowledge of how things are done, that at this very moment, towards the middle of June, the Dominions and ourselves are in almost daily consultation about the scope of the discussions at the Economic Conference which is to meet concurrently with the Imperial Conference this autumn. I have said, and my colleagues have said before, and I say now, that I do not know whether it is to be called an agenda, but whatever is the document that corresponds to an agenda it will contain in its terms of reference—and whoever is to be chairman of the Economic Conference will follow the principle in his rulings—that every subject of mutual economic interest to the Dominions and ourselves will be eligible for the fullest possible discussion at that Conference.
Now so far as the unemployment situation is concerned, it can be stated in a very few words. The problem of unemployment has very largely changed. If it was a problem purely internal to ourselves, as it was up to five or six months ago, when the great issue, for instance as it was before the last Government, was, what is going to be done with a specially distressed mining industry?—if it was still that, then the Government would just proceed in the same way as its predecessor did. But it has gone very far beyond that. We have now got a world condition, accompanied by a lowering of world prices to limits which mean that industrial confidence for the time being has been shattered so as to make regular and steady trade an impossibility.
It occurred to me—I hope it was not a criminal idea—that it was well worth while considering the proposal that had been made by members of all parties and by newspapers of all parties, that this surely was an occasion when, if a certain phrase that I used earlier in the life of this Parliament—that Parliament should be a Council of State—had any meaning, this was the opportunity 431 and this was the subject on which the House of Commons might be regarded more than it has hitherto been regarded as a Council of State. I issued invitations to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) must know, surely, what that invitation covers. He knows perfectly well that this was not an attempt to form either a two-party coalition, or a three-party coalition. That was not the idea and that is not the idea—and I do not quite understand what the right hon. Gentleman had in mind when he talked about back-stairs influences. I do not know if it is necessary for me to assure him that the invitation which was sent to two right hon. Members of this House was not sent to one or to both for the purpose of promoting back-stairs influences. The invitation was sent for the purpose of getting the three of us to meet together with such friends and helpers as we might choose, within reasonable limits, putting our ideas into a common pool, and seeing whether from that we could come to a measure of agreement which would enable important legislation to go through the House of Commons, not under conditions of being blocked and delayed, but under conditions of special facility. I have said that so far as papers giving information are concerned they can be supplied. I have said that so far as technical advice is concerned, it can be given, but so far as the final decision is concerned, so far as executive judgment is concerned, so far as responsibility is concerned—that remains with us and will remain with us.
That is the proposal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham made some observations to the effect that there were some things about which he had not heard from us so far—that he had not heard any statements made about how the problem bad become much deeper than it was and that he had not heard any statements from the Lord Privy Seal or myself, regarding, perhaps, Safeguarding and Pro- 432 tection If he wants to force secrets that could easily be otherwise than secrets, I will tell him this. If his right hon. Friend will accept the invitation now, to join in that consultation, I will provide him with papers to-morrow morning that cover every one of the points on which the right hon. Gentleman said he never heard any of us say a word, and a great many more besides. The reason why the conference is asked now is that the information is ready. It is information which cannot be published broadcast. It is information which is still in the stage of lack of final formation. What is the use of humbugging each other? Anyone who has ever been a Minister In charge of a Department knows that a Minister gets his information in that way. He gets memoranda from this, that and the other point of view, and he has to study that memoranda, and make a final selection from a vast body of material. I wish, as a matter of fact, that it was not quite so vast, because then one's nights might be longer, and one's days shorter. But there is a vast mass of germane information, of ideas, of experiences foreign and domestic, of suggestions of other people published and unpublished. The poor Minister has to deal with all this information on the whole question of unemployment and on those other questions WIWI the right hon. Gentleman said he was under the impression we had never considered.
All that is there, and the proposal is to play upon that, to work upon that, and to see whether everybody in the House of Commons, both as regards agriculture and unemployment, can come to such a measure of agreement that without waste of time we can push through legislation and establish administration that will have immediate benefits—far more immediate benefits than would be possible if we have to fight things through in the ordinary way. For the purpose of making this effective we have taken a body of civil servants and temporarily seconded them from their own Departments, and they are directing the whole of their attention and their Departmental experience to this problem. The chief of them is Sir John Anderson, who is at the present moment, or was until yesterday, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office. There are very important representatives 433 of the Treasury, the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour and the chief adviser of the Economic Advisory Council has also been attached to the staff, so that the investigation and the sifting and the suggesting will be as thorough as the Civil Service and these very admirable civil servants can make it.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Will this body have a special title and premises and that sort of thing?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
This is the organisation brought together for the purpose of dealing with unemployment in its new phases, and enabling more use to be made of concentrated and co-ordinated experiences from the Departments which have been dealing with the subject in a more piecemeal way
Sir GEORGE HAMILTON
Is there any civil servant to represent the Ministry of Agriculture on this body?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Ministry of Agriculture is represented on the subcommittee. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we have to do with two sections of agriculture, namely, the agricultural department of the Scottish Office and the Ministry of Agriculture here in England. Both will be adequately represented, and their advice, criticisms, and constructive thinking will be made available.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of Sir John Anderson as having been until yesterday Permanent Under-Secretary of State to the Home Department. Do I understand that Sir John Anderson has not merely been seconded but has ceased to be Permanent Under-Secretary, and now occupies a new permanent position?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No. I am sure it was my fault if I conveyed a wrong impression, but I should like there to be 434 no misunderstanding, whoever may be responsible for it. These civil servants are seconded for the purpose.
In view of the enormous number of women unemployed, would there be any chance of having one of the women civil servants attached to this body?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I shall certainly take the matter into account, and I am much obliged for the suggestion. What I think we have to do is, not to consider the question of men or women, but to consider the experience and the efficiency that we want to lay our hands upon. But that is not saying "No" to the suggestion of the Noble Lady. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham that with a great many of the things which he says, especially his generalities, I quite agree. When he says that there is no use in spending money under the impression that you are solving unemployment, he is using a quotation from 20 or 30 or 40 of our Members on this side, but you have to spend public money in order to tide over difficulties.
Take the problem of Lancashire. At the present moment there is no use in taking people, recently uemployed in the cotton mills in Lancashire, and dispersing them all over the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "You could not!"] Even if you could, it would be very bad economy. What you have to do is to keep them in Lancashire until such time as you can see what is going to be the final word of Lancashire about its labour, and the use to which it is going to put its labour. That is not going to take very long, but it has to be done. Where we take credit and I think properly and deservedly take credit, is that the changes which we have made in unemployment insurance mean that while this is going on in Lancashire, the condition of the Lancashire unemployed is very much better than it would have been had this Government not been in office.
I quite agree, however, that you cannot and ought not to spend public money on relief work or anything like relief work, under the impression that you are solving unemployment. Ought you to do the same thing about Protection and Safeguarding? I am afraid, Mr. Chairman, I am straying, but I am finished. 435 [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has, I am sure, a great deal of experience in foreign industrial conditions. I have had a fair amount. I have wandered up hill and down dale. I have wandered East and West and North and South in protected countries, and safeguarded countries. I have been in placs where important men have held the theory which the right hon. Gentleman holds, that the way to develop the home market, to secure the home market for your own produce, is something in the nature of Protection or Safeguarding. I have never yet discovered in any one of those countries conditions different from our own other than this. I have discovered that wages are lower. I have discovered that hours are longer, and I have discovered that the incidence of unemployment is even worse in those countries over long periods. Therefore, I repeat that I offer him what he offers me. Let us get to the root of the matter. He and his party have been drifting dangerously during the present Session, and if they are not very careful they will land themselves in the camp of the Communists to say nothing of the Socialists. Let us go to that little conference. Let us get to the root of the matter and I will undertake that, as a result, he will find evidence that the line on which he is going up to now is false and that his road leads nowhere: and when he has discovered the root of the problem he will be a very very different person in his outlook from what he is at the present time.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not propose to detain the Committee very long, especially as the Prime Minister has indicated a more effective and businesslike method of examining the practical aspects of unemployment and the method of dealing with it. He has indicated that he is prepared to put into operation the invitation which he extended to both the other parties in the House of Commons some weeks ago, to co-operate with the Government in the solution of what is, after all, a national problem. He has sent invitations to the Leader of the Opposition and to myself. I understand that the letters which he sent were in identical terms. The conditions are laid down very clearly. They are the conditions which the Prime Minister has more 436 or less summarised in his speech to-day. In so far as the party that I represent is concerned, on their behalf I accepted, not merely the invitation, but the whole of the conditions laid down by the Prime Minister, before the Whitsuntide Recess. It will be exceedingly interesting to hear from the Leader of the Opposition before the debate is over what view he takes of that invitation.
I agree absolutely that the responsibility must rest with the Government of the day. They represent not merely the Sovereign, but Parliament, and they are responsible to Parliament. The others must necessarily be in an advisory position, and their responsibility must be to their parties, but the responsibility of the Government is a responsibility which is a legal and a constitutional responsibility, and they cannot abrogate it. In fact, as the Prime Minister himself indicated, the precedent of the Committee of Imperial Defence is to a certain extent one which would be applicable here. When we were present the other day, the Leader of the Opposition and myself, at the discussion on the Channel Tunnel, our responsibility was purely one of advice and recommendation, but the responsibility of action or inaction rested entirely with the Cabinet: and I take it that that will be the position of this particular Committee, and as far as we are concerned we accept that.
I was very hopeful from the speech delivered by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), which, if he will allow me to say so, was, in his examination of the unemployment problem, I thought, a singularly fair and a singularly able and searching examination. I naturally did not agree with his conclusions, but I thought his statement of the case with regard to unemployment and the dangers with regard to municipal authorities and others was exceedingly fair. I am not sure that we are concerned now with the discussion between the two Front Benches as to which of them can exhibit the widest gap between pledge and performance, because I do not think it is a profitable discussion. This is a very grave situation, and I hope we shall examine it, and that we shall rule nothing out. I would not rule out examination of anything, as far as I am concerned. I do not say that I am very hopeful on some subjects, but I certainly 437 would not, and I never heard the Prime Minister say that he would, rule any proposal out, whether he agrees with it or not.
I hope we shall examine the position. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we ought to examine the whole position afresh. I rather take his view in preference to that of the Prime Minister as to the position. There is no doubt that unemployment has been aggravated by conditions which, I hope, are temporary, but there is a permanent problem, or at least a pretty big problem, which has extended over a period of 10 years, and even if you did not run up to 1,700,000, you would always have 1,000,000 unemployed there confronting you, and that is a problem which some Government at last ought to consider from a national point of view, and consider it afresh, without any prejudices, and examine every proposition which is honestly put forward, with a view to solving the problem.
I am not in a position, under the Rules of the House, to enter into a full discussion of the problems raised by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate, but I might be entitled to make two observations. The first is that the right hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten that the greatest export trade in Europe is ours at the present moment. He talked as if, owing to our tariff and revenue conditions, we were at a disadvantage as compared with other Powers who adopted other methods, but we have still the largest export trade in Europe, and my recollection is that as far as manufactured goods are concerned we have certainly the largest export trade in the world. But in addition to that, if you take per head of the population, we are infinitely greater. I would like to point out to my right hon. Friend this, that if we had only the same export trade as the countries whose examples he recommends to us, our unemployment to-day would not have been 1,700,000; it would have been nearer 5,000,000.
The second thing that I would like to point out to him is this: Has he read the articles, even in Protectionist papers, with regard to what is happening in the United States now? [An HON. MEMBER: "They have raised their tariffs."] There is no doubt at all that they have followed enthusiastically the doctrine 438 which has been preached with geniality and avidity by my hon. Friend behind, and what is the result? It has been disastrous at the present moment from a financial and business point of view in the United States of America. Then everybody knows what has happened in Australia.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not agree with my right hon. Friend. If they had followed a different policy, it would not have been as necessary for them to borrow money outside. In this country, where we have pursued that different policy for so many years, we do not go outside to borrow money for our own industries. May I also point out this fact? The right hon. Gentleman taunted my hon. Friends around me and myself that we were harking back to the policy of the middle of the last century. The right hon. Gentleman wants us to go back to the policy of two or three centuries ago. However, I had rather that these things were not discussed, because if there are any practical proposals which are going to solve the problem of unemployment, let us have them.
Here is the very fair proposal made by the Government, that we should come together to consider the national situation, with a view to tendering our advice, first to the Government, and through the Government, to the House of Commons, with regard to the best method of solving the problem. There are only one or two observations which I should like to make before going into this conference, because one or two things have been said, and I think, before entering it, I should like to make my view quite clear. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the mere expenditure of money upon things which are not in themselves productive will not merely not solve the problem, but will aggravate the problem. The whole test of the expenditure of money is whether you are going to spend it upon something which is going to fructify, to fertilise—[An HON. MEMBER: "Roads!"]—If you had no roads, you would have no trade. It is no use talking about a home market unless you have some means of carrying your goods to market, but 439 I do not want to consider even roads from the point of view merely of unemployment. I simply want to consider them from the dominant principle of whether a road is going to be helpful for the development of agriculture and of industry and of marketing. If it is not, if it is merely for the purpose of enabling pleasure trips to be run and pleasure motorists to be satisfied, for my part I would rule it out at once. The only real test there is whether it is reproductive from a trade point of view, and if it is not, then I should certainly deprecate the expenditure of millions of money on roads; and I hope everything will be considered from the same point of view.
The right hon. Gentleman has talked about the difference between the short programme and the long programme. I do not think, as a matter of fact, there is a fundamental difference between them. The short programme, in my judgment, is no good unless it is going to help the long programme. Money ought to be spent with a view to reconditioning and re-equipping the nation. I believe it can be done, and done in such a way as to enrich the country, improve the home market, which the right hon. Gentleman has at heart and which we also have at heart, and enable us to get at it. I hope the Committee will approach it from that point of view, not from the point of view of saying, "Now if you spend so many millions of money, you can employ so many men." I hope it will be considered rather from the point of view of, to use the phrase of the Prime Minister, which I think is a good phrase, what are the reconditioning needs of the country? What would you do if you had a syndicate running rigidly on business lines?
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think that if there was a committee of one, and that one my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren), there would be no landowners to deal with. At any rate, I hope it will be considered from the point of view, without prejudice for or against any particular class, of what would be useful for the country as a 440 whole; and if we approach it from that point of view, I hope the Government will not always say, "You must not borrow, you must not raise money. If you do, it will disturb the market." I do not believe it. If the money is useful for re-equipping the nation, making it more effective for its purpose as a great industrial community—and in industry I include agriculture—then why should a nation not raise money as a corporation does? We boast every year of the money we raise for the purposes of companies and corporations for industry. There is a good deal of it raised for purposes not in the least reproductive, and having first of all considered what is necessary to be done for raising agriculture out of the slough in which it is at the present moment, having considered what can be done to recondition other industries, if there is anything to be done, I hope there will be no shrinking on the part of the Government, or of anybody in the Government, from facing the proposition of using the credit of the nation for the purpose of improving the condition of the nation.
After all, the old parable of the talents is very good political economy. There was the man who used his credit, and he was commended; and there was the man who, like a great many Chancellors of the Exchequer, buried his credit in the earth. This is still a very rich country. It is computed, by very reliable economists, that we are saving between £400,000,000 and £500,000,000 a year, even at the very worst. Why on earth should we not use the funds which we possess, and the credit which we have, for developing the resources of our own country? I hope that the Prime Minister will take the matter in hand and accept the responsibility, and see that we use our strength for the purposes of development. The right hon. Gentleman said that we have a market at home. I agree. The greatest market at home is the agricultural market. There is £200,000,000 or £300,000,000 worth of stuff which we could produce at home, and I hope that, whatever the Committee do, they will give very close and earnest consideration to the question of how that market is to be captured.
Up to the present, I do not think that any party has much to boast of in what has been done. The right hon. Gentleman 441 must not complain of spending money. The late Government spent £4,000,000 on the relief of rates; I always thought that it was the worst way of helping agriculture. One of the most prominent members of the party which applied that remedy comes here and says that agriculture is in a worse plight than it ever was before. I do not want to prejudge any of these questions, especially if I am invited to come on the Committee, and I trust that whoever comes on will come on with a perfectly open mind—including the Government. They have made declarations especially with regard to credit and expenditure, by which I hope that they will not consider themselves quite bound. I hope that they will consider afresh the whole problem. If they do it, if right hon. Gentlemen here do it, and if we also do it, I believe that we shall be able to evolve something that will rescue the country from one of the gravest conditions in which it has even been.
§ Mr. W. J. STEWART
I wish to submit a few points which I want to ask the Prime Minister to bring before the committee. There is the question of the Gold Standard and its relation to the Exchange. We in this country are under very many difficulties and we are particularly in a difficulty owing to the Gold Standard.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman must not widen the subject of debate, which he will do if we are to have a discussion on the Gold Standard. After all, the Estimate deals with grants in respect of unemployment schemes, and we are largely confined to this question and to anything that has been done or has not been done in relation to administration. The Vote has nothing to do with the question of the Gold Standard.
§ Mr. STEWART
I submit that if I can show that the question of the Gold Standard and its relation to Exchange is affecting unemployment, it is a question that can be raised in this debate.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member and others must try and remember what these Estimates are for. They are for the purpose of discussing the administration of the various Departments. If we make a rule whenever we have an Estimate such as this before the Com- 442 mittee that we can ramble over all the other things which we think affect the question under discussion, we shall never do what we are intended to do, which is to discuss and to criticise the administration of the Departments.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Will hon. Members on the back benches be able to ramble along the road which was taken by the three Front Bench spokesmen, and deal with the various matters which they raised? I am not specially concerned about the Gold Standard, but I hope, now that we have had these three contributions from the Front Benches, that the debate will not be limited so far as the back benches are concerned, but that we shall be free to travel in the same country as that in which the Front Bench spokesmen have travelled.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not know whether you are aware of what took place in the House when we asked for a Vote to be put down on this occasion. I then indicated to the Prime Minister that it was the desire of us on this side of the Committee to have the widest possible opportunity for discussion that could be allowed, subject to the Rules of Supply. I thought that as the Prime Minister had announced that he was going to take a special and supervisory charge of this question, his salary would be the Vote which would give us that wide opportunity, because it would embrace, not merely, as this Vote does, particular grants or the salary of a particular Minister, but the whole administration of the Government in this respect. I believe that it was in deference to the authorities of the House that the Prime Minister's salary was not selected, and that this Vote was put down instead. May I, recognising the great difficulty of your position, appeal to you to give the Committee the utmost latitude that the Chair can allow, a latitude which you allowed me generously, and which I feel on a subject of this importance, and in circumstances like the present, is really in the public interest.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to some communications across the Table. It is getting a habit of these communications to be passed against the authority of the Chair, and the Chair must protect itself against these arrangements, which are not in accordance with the Rules and the Pro- 443 cedure of the House. I am aware that hon. Members want the widest possible discussion on this Vote, and I have no objection to the discussion going on the lines followed by the right hon. Gentleman himself, by the Prime Minister, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). If, however, we are going into the question of the Gold Standard, we shall get away from the question of finding work and solving the problem of unemployment, and, if anyone on the Government side is called upon to answer the arguments about the Gold Standard, it will take up much of the time of the Committee to the detriment of the subject under discussion. I ask hon. Gentlemen therefore to keep away from particular issues which are not in any way closely related to the question under discussion.
§ Mr. TURNER
Will it be in order for any hon. Member to raise the question of the employment of women, and of the schemes now in preparation not including women?
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Johnston)
May I offer this suggestion to the Opposition? If they are prepared to give us the Vote, they can then discuss in the widest possible way on the Motion for the Adjournment, the subjects which they desire to raise.
§ The CHAIRMAN
In reply to the hon. Member for Batley (Mr. Turner), in so far as the problem of the employment of women is dealt with in connection with this Vote, it would be in order. There is another Vote on the Paper, however, and, if hon. Members want to go into details, that is the Vote on which to do it. I would remind all hon. Members and the right hon. Gentleman that, if they want a wide discussion, there are other opportunities for getting it without trying in any way to interfere with the regular Rules governing Supply.
§ Mr. TURNER
Will it be in order to follow the right hon. Gentleman in his excursions into Safeguarding?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Although the right hon. Gentleman entrenched on Tariff Reform and Free Trade, I must ask that it will not be pursued, and it would not be in order to go deeply into the question of Safeguarding and Free Trade in relation 444 to these schemes, because that would require legislation of a considerable extent.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The question of credit has been dealt with, and, if the Gold Standard is to be ruled out, does not that rule out the question of credit?
§ The CHAIRMAN
So far as the question of credit has been mentioned, I am not going to interfere with anything that has been said by the three right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken.
§ Mr. W. J. STEWART
If you buy a yard a material in Oxford Street and the measure of that yard is different from the yard when you buy material in Regent Street, how are you going to get a standard upon which to go? The difficulty with regard to the Gold Standard and its relation to Exchange is like that. This difficulty of exchange has a great deal to do with the question of unemployment, and I want to know whether it will come before the Committee mentioned by the Prime Minister.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Gentleman only desires to ask a question, I have no hesitation in allowing him to ask it.
§ Mr. STEWART
I bad an idea that we were going to get at the root of the question to-day, and I do not see how we can do that unless we get at the basis of how people are paid. The Exchange in such stabilised countries as America and in Canada has varied by as much as five per cent. If the Exchange varies that much, it varies the price and value of your goods. I therefore submit that the question of the Gold Standard in its relation to Exchange has an important bearing upon unemployment, and I ask the Prime Minister if this question will come before the Committee. I also want to ask whether the money which to-day is distributed as unemployment pay cannot be put to better advantage. The chairman of Armstrong, Whitworth's, referring to some orders which had gone to German firms, said that if they had had the use of the money which was paid in unemployment pay, they could have got those orders and would have paid in 445 wages £348,000. I wish to know if this question also will be considered by the committee, that is, the use of unemployment pay in endeavouring to help employment. I submit that we can do a good deal under present conditions, and that we do not require a great many changes to improve the position, but if we are to be told that this is politics and that is politics immediately we make a suggestion then I am not very hopeful.
The most hopeful sign is the suggested appointment of a non-party committee. According to a report published in the "Times" on the 13th instant, the chairman of J. and P. Coats, Limited, stated that it was found that goods which it cost 100d. to manufacture at Paisley could be produced for 55d. in one of the company's mills abroad. I submit that is a question which ought also to come before the committee. How can we compete if there are mills in foreign countries where they can produce at 50 per cent. of the cost of production in this country? That matter ought to be examined into, and the cause found. Another aspect of the unemployment question is concerned with the provision of British capital for use in foreign countries. In December last, I wrote to the Lord Privy Seal and the President of the Board of Trade a letter in which I said:In the City"—that is, the City of London—I have seen bills drawn by German firms, under the authority of German banks, on English banks in virtue of credits granted by the English to the German banks, and such bills are discounted in the London market. Under to-day's conditions the total cost of discount plus London bank's acceptance commission, is under 6 per cent.That was in December:Thus money is being obtained in London under 6 per cent. by foreign firms to finance foreign industry in competition with British industry and at a rate under bank overdraft rate. I understand that at any moment there would be outstanding about £250,000,000 of these bills, and that probably 30 per cent., certainly 20 per cent., of these would be foreign. Thus at any particular time there would be from £50,000,000 to £70,000,000 being lent in London to finance industry.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Really, the hon. Member is getting as far away from the question of unemployment as he can. 446 The hon. Member must get nearer to the problem than he is at present.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not want to rule too tightly, but if the hon. Member goes into these subjects, the area of debate will be so widened that unemployment may not be discussed at all. It is that of which I am afraid.
§ Mr. STEWART
I want to get at the root of this problem. If you have a cancer you must get it diagnosed, and I suggest that we have not got this problem diagnosed.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must remember that this is the Ministry of Labour Vote and that the Ministry of Labour have very little influence in remedying the particular point which he was putting. I thought he was merely going to raise these questions in order to ask whether the committee would take them into consideration. I am anxious that hon. Members who want to speak on unemployment shall not be debarred from taking part in the debate by long speeches on these very abstruse subjects.
§ Mr. STEWART
I wish to know whether the Committee will take into consideration the question of money being raised in the London market to finance foreign industry in competition with our own industry, which money will not be lent to British firms under any conditions. I hold that these are root problems of the whole question of unemployment. We talk round the subject, we talk about Free Trade, or Safeguarding, or Protection, but let us examine the position to-day. We are lending money to aid foreign firms in competition with our own firms, throwing our own men out of work. I also want to discuss the question of rationalisation. I shall not take very long.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I can see another large subject of discussion being opened. The trouble is that if one Member raises a question of this kind at any length, other Members wish to reply to him. I must point out that the Ministry of Labour are not responsible in that sense for rationalisation. The hon. Member can certainly bring in a reference to it, but I am afraid he wants to discuss it.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
On a point of Order. The Prime Minister gave us some details of the Committee that is to be set up, and I take it that the Committee will consider the reconditioning and the re-equipping of industry, and consequently that we shall be allowed to discuss the possibility of the Committee doing this and what questions we would put to the Committee in connection with reconditioning and re-equipping, which is rationalisation.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If I were to say "Yes," I can see where it would lead to. We cannot have a full discussion on rationalisation.
§ Mr. STEWART
I have been only 10 minutes on my feet, and I have been talking for only five minutes out of that 10. If I were left alone, I should soon finish. These points have been brought into the discussion by Front Bench Members, and surely we back-benchers are to be allowed the same rights.
§ Mr. STEWART
I submit that rationalisation is a matter of very serious import, and as one who does not agree with rationalisation, because it is only knocking workmen out of employment, making a machine of business and casting aside the human element, I submit that rationalisation ought to be examined by the Committee. I do not wish to detain this Committee any longer, because it seems to me that all the points I wish to bring forward cannot be discussed. In my view the questions of exchange and foreign loans and rationalisation are at the root of unemployment.
There is one other matter, but I feel rather diffident about mentioning it. In all our discussions here, we forget that during the War we had to rely upon a power that was beyond ourselves, and I think that in connection with this question of unemployment there ought to be a desire to bring in some reference to the unseen element that guides and directs this country. I feel very diffident about bringing this forward, but to-day we are approaching this matter in a new spirit, with a desire to get at the root of the problem and with no 448 wish to make party capital out of it. In that way, I think, we shall go a long way to bringing about its solution.
§ Mr. L'ESTRANGE MALONE
The most important pronouncement during this debate was the statement by the Prime Minister that he was going to set up a permanent staff of civil servants seconded from the different Departments to work under the Cabinet. That is really a big new principle. I only wish that had been done many months ago. The position is very much analogous to what it was during the Great War. Half way through the War the Admiralty, and I think other Departments as well, realised that it was not possible for the administrative officials, who were engaged in the day-to-day administrative work, to do any long-range thinking. Exactly the same thing applies to the Ministers and permanent officials in the Departments to-day. They are engaged in day-to-day routine work and have not been able to do what I call long-range thinking, the planning-out of schemes for dealing with unemployment. But I do hope the powers to be given to the committee will be adequate. I hope they will be in the closest touch with all the Government Departments, and will be able to obtain all the information they require from the Government Departments, the Economic Advisory Council and any other source. I presume the committee are to work directly under the Cabinet, and I hope they will have the fullest possible Powers to enable them to get on with the work of bringing all possible pressure to bear on Government Departments to carry out what work has to be done. I welcome the decision of the Government to set up this planning staff solely concerned with the development of schemes of employment and seeing that they are carried out.
The debate to-day has ranged over a wide field, and the reason for that is that unemployment is not one problem but a whole series of problems. I want to approach the question from rather a different angle. We know that the causes are world-wide, but we ought to know where the crisis hits us most in this country and where the unemployment is greatest. If we look at the latest returns of the Ministry of Labour we find that nearly half the 1,750,000 unemployed are concentrated in four industries—textile, coal, building and the distributive 449 trades. No fewer than 828,000 of the 1,750,000 unemployed are concentrated in those trades. What has happened in the cotton industry, the biggest section of the textile trade? The Government appointed a committee earlier in their period of office to inquire into the cotton industry, which previous Governments had allowed to go to ruin since the appalling speculation following the War. That committee has just reported. I hope the Cabinet will treat the report of the committee as a matter of supreme urgency and deal with it as soon as possible. There are rumours floating about that the report is so bad, that it constitutes such a serious indictment not merely of methods but of persons who were concerned in the industry, and condemning the attitude of the "Big Five" and the over-capitalisation which they allowed during the boom period, that nobody dares to publish it. I urge upon the Government not to allow any considerations of that sort to stand in the way of their publishing this report and taking action on it. It is too grave an issue to put on one side in that way, because the lives of the men and women employed in that industry depend upon it. Anyone who has read the report of such experts in the cotton industry as Mr. Bernard Ellinger know the very grave defects which have hampered that industry. The defects are to be found on two sides, namely, out-of-date marketing and obsolete mills. To-day the cotton industry has too many middlemen. I believe there are at least five or six different agents between the mills in Lancashire and the buyer in Shanghai, or wherever he is. Under the system of private enterprise a change can only be brought about by the industry itself. Of course, the Government may be able to help on the marketing side by appointing additional Trade Commissioners and by helping to modernise the industry. Sooner or later you will have to modernise all the obsolete mills in Lancashire. You will have to replace mule by ring spindles and have to face the introduction of automatic looms.
How is this to be done in a way which will not injure the workers, who have already been injured and who are suffering by years of work under individualist methods? Financial assistance is required 450 to equip and recondition the obsolete mills, and I would like the Government to consider very carefully how that is going to be done. Is it going to be done directly by the Government or by the new company under the auspices of the Bank of England Securities Management Trust? I hope the Government will treat the present condition of the cotton industry as an urgent matter, deal with the recommendations contained in the report which has just been issued, and put them into operation at the earliest possible date. It is perfectly clear that the cotton industry has to be tackled. The number engaged in that industry is over half a million men and women. We have also to consider those engaged in the subsidiary trades and industries, in which the sufferings and miseries have been terrible ever since the crash came 10 years ago.
The next trade with which I wish to deal is the coal industry. The present state of the cotton industry and the coal industry demonstrates to the world that business men do not always know what is best for their own businesses, and the Government cannot allow this state of things to continue. I am hopeful that the Coal Mines Bill will be a very great help in re-establishing the coal industry and will help us to regain, to some extent, our foreign market. The coal industry is still impeded by some of the obstacles which we have put there ourselves during the last 10 years. We are still suffering from the Treaty of Versailles. Only two or three days ago we lost an order for 200,000 tons of steam coal for the Swedish State railways. We lost that contract to Poland for reasons which everybody knows. We divided up the industrial areas of Silesia, and this order went to Poland, where the wages paid are between 4s. and 5s. per day. That is a very serious state of things which is still affecting the available markets for our coal industry, and I hope that this House and every party represented here will push forward the Coal Bill, and put it into operation as soon as possible.
§ Mr. MALONE
I was only enumerating those four trades in which unemployment was the greatest. I have made researches in order to find out why we are losing 451 our markets. I was in Silesia a few weeks ago, and I met there some of the leading coalowners. They came to this country last autumn to discuss with our coal-owners the possibility of coming to an international agreement, but they found that there was no body in this country to speak for the coalowners, because they were not organised. The consequence was that they went back without coming to any agreement, and they are waiting until the. Coal Bill is passsd when a national organisation will be established with which they will be able to make an international agreement. I will not deal with the coal question any further beyond saying that, as the number of unemployed in the coal trade is second only to the cotton industry, it is an industry which we have to watch very closely indeed.
I come to the third industry which has the next biggest number of unemployed, that is, the building trade, which at the present time has 160,000 people unemployed. In this instance something tangible can be done at once. I suggest that the Slum Clearance Bill ought to be treated as a matter of prime urgency. Many people speak about spending money on roads. Roads are very important, but if we are going to raise a loan of £100,000,000, I would rather see that money spent on houses than on roads. The conditions under which our people are living to-day are a disgrace to civilisation, and those conditions are at the root of most of our social evils. The ill-health which is bred in our slums is an appalling waste of the work done by our social services. It is also responsible for the appalling high rents which people have to pay because of the shortage of houses.
Why should we not set ourselves a goal? We have not to go all over the country making maps and roads or to find out where roads can be constructed in order to deal with this great problem. We know where the slums exist. Here they are. Here is overcrowding staring us in the face in every town and village, and on the countryside. Here are the slums and these appalling conditions under which people live three, four and five in a single room under terrible conditions, and conditions in which the people in the West End of London would not keep their pet dogs. All these 452 terrible conditions exist, and at the same time 160,000 men are unemployed in the building trade. Why should you not aim at abolishing these terrible conditions in one or two years? Why not have a great housing and slum clearing campaign? We are going to spend money on constructive work, and surely there can be nothing better to spend that money upon than in sweeping away the foul areas in which our people are housed.
While on this question of housing, I would like to say that I do not think enough has been done by the Ministry of Health to inquire into what our local authorities are doing. Local authorities are apt not to look far enough ahead. I will give an example in my own constituency of Northampton. Northampton has been ruled for some years by a reactionary council, and the state of affairs to-day is that there are over 1,100 applicants for houses and only about 70 houses for them. No new houses are being built, and the reason for that is that the reactionary council omitted to look ahead and extend the borough boundary. I know that ale Northampton council are now preparing a Bill to extend the borough boundaries, but that will fake some time, and there will be no new houses built during the next two years. I am giving this as an example to show that some central authority has got to deal with the backward local authorities, and see that they are doing the necessary work, and, if they are not doing it, those reactionary councils ought to be pilloried in order to keep them up to the mark.
The cotton trade, the coal industry and the building trade are the three industries in which there is the largest amount of unemployment. The fourth trade with which I wish to deal is the distributive trade. I believe ale state of that trade is, to a large extent, responsible for much of the economic trouble in this country. There are too many people handling things, and there are too many fingers taking a little bit out on the way. The people engaged in distributing are not contributing anything which is productive. There are too many people continually handling our goods. This causes a great increase in the price of the goods, and it is one of the principal causes of unemployment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
These illustrations are getting too numerous. If we are going to deal with the distributing trades, we shall require legislation to carry out what is suggested, and a Bill has been introduced dealing with that subject.
§ Mr. MALONE
We have had inquiries into the cotton trade and the iron and steel industry, and I think the Government would be well advised to have an inquiry into the distributive trades. I have been considering this question recently, and I know that if I go into it any further at this stage I shall be discussing rationalisation. That, however, is only one side of the question, and it is an object which will take a long time to achieve. On the other side we have to see what we can do to bridge the gap until our industries and our markets revive, so that we can provide a decent livelihood for the great mass of our workers. What ought the Government to do? The Government have set up a Committee to deal with this question. That is one step, and. I hope that committee will have adequate powers to do its work.
What about scheme for work? We have been told that up to the present the policy of the Government has not been to spend money on making work. Surely nowadays, the very fact that experts are agreed that trade depression is not permanent, and that we are going to get over it sooner or later, makes the argument that we ought to spend money on making work all the more important, and that we should try to bridge over the gap by examining every possible scheme whereby we can provide work and provide a livelihood for the men and women who are unemployed, a livelihood which will preserve their moral and social status, and, at the same time, enable the country to obtain a decent return for the money spent. There are some things which have emerged to which I would like to refer. One is the difficulty in regard to the payment of grants and the transfer of labour. I hope the Government will consider very carefully whether the whole system of percentage grants and the transfer of labour cannot be modified. I am sure that that is one of the great causes of delay for certain local authorities not putting forward schemes for providing useful work. The Govern- 454 ment ought to see at once whether the system, if it cannot be abolished—and I know the difficulties of abolishing it—cannot be modified very materially.
The whole examination and consideration of schemes of work put forward by local authorities is very unsatisfactory. There is far too much divided responsibility. When a scheme was sent up to the Lord Privy Seal under the old system, what happened? It was referred to the appropriate Department or Departments for consideration. The Lord Privy Seal had no staff to follow up that work, and to see whether the Departments were looking into the scheme, and, consequently, unless somebody else was always writing to the Lord Privy Seal, schemes were very often put into the background. I hope that the new staff about which the Prime Minister has told us to-day will keep to the fore all schemes of work brought forward by local authorities, and see that there is no delay.
I will give the Committee an example. I submitted a scheme from the Water Engineer's Department of my own constituency of Northampton at the end of last year. In the middle of January, I was informed by the Lord Privy Seal that the scheme had been referred to the appropriate Department, namely, the Ministry of Health. A month later, I arranged an interview between the water engineer of Northampton and the Ministry of Health officials, and at the end of March, I wrote to the Ministry of Health to find out what had happened to the scheme. I was told that conversations were going on. Nothing more was heard until the end of May, when I again communicated with the Lord Privy Seal, and the result was that last week an inspector from the Ministry of Health was sent down to go into the scheme.
I give this as an example of the sort of attention that was given to this scheme, in order to give the Committee some idea of the attitude towards what is called a national emergency. I do not want at all to imply that all the officials employed by the Ministry of Health operate in this way, but I feel compelled to draw attention to the way in which all the schemes which have been put forward from Northampton have been treated. The gentleman to whom I have referred is an inspector of the Ministry of Health. I will refrain from giving his 455 name in the House of Commons, but he retired from the Ministry of Health only a week or two ago, and opened a, private practice as a consulting engineer in London. When he wrote to the water engineer to make the appointment for his inspection and investigation, he sometimes wrote on Ministry of Health paper, and sometimes on his private civil engineer's paper. He came down to Northampton last week for a day's fishing, and said he supposed that he could go into the scheme in a few minutes. He went into the scheme and spent a short time with the water engineer, and then he proceeded on his day's fishing. I hope he had a successful day.
I submit that this is a most unsatisfactory manner of investigating and dealing with such schemes. I cannot pretend to give an opinion on the technical merits of this scheme, but I do say that I am able to give an opinion on the dilatory way in which such schemes are handled. Here is a scheme which has been considered for six months, and then a man comes down and treats it in this way. I want to compare this with another scheme. We have a scheme under consideration for a new sewerage system, involving an expenditure of £181,000. It has been considered by the Ministry of Health for some time, and the last communication that we received a few days ago was a notification from the Ministry of Health that a public inquiry will be held as soon as the engagements of the inspectors permit. Comparing that with the engagements of the previous inspector, it does not give the locality the impression that the Department regards these schemes as matters of national emergency. There are 43,000 Government employés out of work. Surely, some of them could be employed so that schemes are not hung up because of a shortage of staff.
There are many other matters which I should have liked to raise, but which I am afraid would come outside your Ruling, such as the question of developing trade with Russia, and other questions of that sort. I content myself, however, with saying, before I sit down, that the most important point that I intended to make was that the Government should be urged to set up a planning staff to co-ordinate all the unemployment schemes, and I am extremely 456 glad that the principal announcement which was made by the Prime Minister in his speech this afternoon was that a planning staff had been set up. I hope he will see that the Planning Department has the right men, and also that it has the right powers, because that is what matters. It must have powers to get information from every Government Department, from the Economic Advisory Council, and from all other sources, and it must have powers to follow up all plans and schemes and see that they are put into operation. It must see that the schemes do not get put into the pigeonholes of the Ministry of Health, or the Ministry of Transport, or whatever other Department may be concerned, as they do now. If this Planning Department has the power and the ability to provide the brains for the Government, to do for the Government what the Planning Department of the Fighting Services did for the Admiralty during the War, we shall go a long way towards solving the question of unemployment.
In conclusion, I would appeal to the Government not to be too apologetic. It is admitted that unemployment is an international question, that it is part of an international crisis; but more and more, as the time for a General Election approaches, we shall be told that it is the fault of the Labour Government. I ask the Government to face the facts, to tell the country the true nature and causes of unemployment, to tell the people frankly what they can do and what they cannot do. Let them put all the energy and all the staff that they can into carrying out what they can do. If they do that, the country will thank them for the way in which they have brought it through this international crisis.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I hope that the Committee will allow me to say a very few words on this problem, as it touches so closely the Department of which I was in charge, namely, that of transport and roads. I had hoped that the Prime Minister, or at any rate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), would have given us some light and leading this afternoon, but neither of them has given us any plan at all or made any suggestion. The only thing that we have been told is that the Prime Minister has set up a Committee, that he is setting up an Im- 457 perial General Staff to co-ordinate all the energies of the various Departments, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has said that he may come into the conference and do what he can to make it a success. Where is the great plan of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, which was going to solve unemployment at the General Election? Where is "We can cure Unemployment"? Where is that wonderful Yellow Book, which, with the full authority of the right hon. Gentleman, and the full force of his organisation and funds, was broadcast up and down the country, and which we poor people, at any rate, who disagree with the right hon. Gentleman, thought was a genuine expression of his views? To-day, instead of coming back to us here and saying that, if we had taken his advice and had followed the Yellow Book all would have been well, he has scrapped his Yellow Book. [Interruption.] He has often scrapped his plans in the past, and now he has scrapped his Yellow Book, and all he can say is that he will come into conference and see whether he can agree with the Prime Minister as to what should be done.
I am quite sure that no conference, no general staff, is going to do anything to solve our problem of unemployment as it exists to-day. I disagree, with great respect, with the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Malone) when he says that the organisations, both in the time of the late Government and under the late Lord Privy Seal, were not able to do with it. They have dealt with it extremely well. There must be delays if you are going to do a thing economically and well. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, when, as far back as the days of the Coalition, he started these relief works on roads in order to cure unemployment, never considered finance, and he has made an appeal to us to-day to vote more and more money, and thereby cure unemployment. The consequence of his policy then was that the works which the Ministry of Transport first put into operation under his régime were the least successful of all the works undertaken by that Department. They were by far the most expensive, and they took by far the longest to carry out, simply because the right hon. Gentleman thought that by the wave of a wand you could dispense 458 with the proper formalities for getting out designs, that you need not have proper tenders, that all the people who lived by the side of those roads could be turned out of their houses and that it was not necessary to re-house them properly.
The present Government are not waiting; they are carrying out many large schemes now. They have already carried out 35, and they have 15 in hand.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
It may be said that we waited too long, but you have no right to turn a person out into the street in order to make a road until you have made proper provision for finding another house for him. The fallacy is to think that by spending money, whether on roads or anything else, you are going to cure, or even to alleviate unemployment. I read with great interest the wise words of the Minister of Transport the other day, when he said—he will correct me if I am quoting him wrongly—just what I am saying, namely, that you must not imagine that you are going to cure unemployment simply by spending money. My experience at the Ministry of Transport, in regard to the majority of the plans put forward by the Government for the relief of unemployment, was that three or four years ago we had eliminated and exhausted all road schemes which could be legitimately anticipated from the transport point of view. Of course, if you simply say that you are going to make new roads, whether they are wanted or not, in order to relieve unemployment, you can, as long as the Road Fund lasts—if no Chancellor of the Exchequer raids the Road Fund—carry on for a very long time; but I do not conceive that the House of Commons or this Committee would agree definitely to depart from the principle for which I always fought, and for which I am sure the present Minister of Transport in his heart would fight, that you should not anticipate any road work, or bridge work, or transport work generally, unless you are convinced that it is sound to do so. You are doing it now instead of two or three years hence to tide over an emergency and bring you to a time when 459 you will be better able to find work for people.
I join issue with the Minister of Transport on one point, which illustrates the difference between us. Hon. Members may have seen the very interesting correspondence in the "Times" newspaper lately, about certain works which it is proposed to carry out on the Bath Road in Wiltshire. Under great pressure from the hon. Gentleman's Department, the Wilts County Council have agreed, for the purpose of relieving unemployment, and for no other reason—because no one can say that from the traffic point of view it is required—to spend £360,000, spread over five years. That, on the basis that £1,000,000 spent in a year should result in the employment of 4,000 people, would result in the employment each year, on this scheme, of 250 people. Is it worth while spending public money, Road Fund money, local money, on works which I am sure the hon. Gentleman cannot honestly say are justified from the road point of view, and which are certainly not justified from the aesthetic point of view, simply to give employment to 250 people directly and indirectly in Wiltshire?
§ The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I do not agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
The hon. Gentleman thinks it is worth while. He is perfectly entitled to his opinion, but I think he will find that a great number of the local people, at any rate, entirely disagree with his view of the question. One over-riding point that the Committee ought to keep in mind is the tendency, which has been very much accentuated and, in fact, made a cardinal point of the Government policy, to offer bribes to local authorities to spend money out of the rates in order to get things done. That is a most vicious principle. This is a time in which we ought to try to conserve public money. We ought to try to prevent public money being spent either from taxes or from rates. We ought to practise the most rigid economy. We have in many instances the central Government, on the plea of curing un- 460 employment inducing the local authorities to spend money. With my own county council the Ministry of Agriculture is doing exactly what the Ministry of Transport is doing in Wilts. They say, "If you will do certain things in regard to agriculture, we will find 80 per cent. of the money," whereas before they only found 60 per cent. Is that fair? Is it right? What is more, they say, "Unless you accept our grant within three months, we will withdraw it." If the purpose for which the grant is to be given is a good one, they ought to be allowed to say "yes" or "no," but to compel local authorities by a bribe to spend local money is not a thing of which any Government should be proud.
§ Mr. HERBERT MORRISON
I should not have intervened in the discussion had it not been for the general observations on road policy which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I should say I endeavoured to let the hon. Gentleman know that I was going to mention it, but I could not find him.
§ Mr. MORRISON
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. The Committee will, of course, appreciate that I am speaking on the spur of the moment, and I do not propose, therefore, to become involved too far in matters of detail, but I think it would be useful, having regard to what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, and to the very important statement that was made in regard to road policy by the leader of the Liberal party, if I indicated the spirit in which I am facing the contribution which road construction can make, not to the solution but to the mitigation of the unemployment situation. I do not blame the right hon. and gallant Gentleman exclusively by any means, because I think he was treated somewhat badly by the Treasury. Fortunately, I have had a much more broad-minded Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has taken a more rational view of these matters. In so far as we may, even now, be suffering from the limitations of the resources at our disposal, one may say with perfect fairness that the causes of those limitations are not the present Chancellor of the 461 Exchequer, but the very dangerous precedents that were set up by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). Perhaps if my predecessor had been a little quicker in spending the road money, there would not have been so much money there to tempt the late Chancellor of the Exchequer and, of course, it was a standing temptation to him to take it, for wherever any State Department had any money they had not spent, the right hon. Gentleman took it straight away, whether he ought to have done so or not, and he was very vigorous in the way he confiscated the funds of the Ministry of Transport which ought to have been used for road purposes.
We set about devising a programme of trunk and classified road development with a view to undertaking road works which would develop our transport system, and we judged the road programme, first, on what was reasonably necessary to provide a more efficient transport system, and, secondly, we had to take into account the limitations to which the highway authorities would go. Any Minister of Transport must decide in his own mind both upon the magnitude of the programme and upon the percentage grants which he will give, whether the highway system is going to be nationally administered direct by a State Department or through the existing system of local government. I have been nurtured in local government. I do not want unnecessarily to decrease the field of local government. I like the self-reliance and the initiative of British local government as part of our constitutional system.
§ Mr. MORRISON
Of course, some difficulties arose under the policy of the late Government. They had some of their resources taken away under the rating policy of the last Government. But, if the local authorities are going to be the highway authorities, they must have a voice in the magnitude of the road programme and, secondly, I must insist, as a local government man myself, that they must make such a financial contribution to the highway system that they themselves have an interest in the economical way in which that work is executed. Of 462 course, there are factors which have to be taken into account. I had to consider the policy, on the one hand, of building roads merely for the sake of building roads and expending money on highway construction merely in order to provide someone with employment. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that that is policy which you cannot defend. As Minister of Transport my business primarily is transport. It is not primarily to solve the unemployment problem. It is to provide an efficient system of road and rail transport and, to consider the various forms of transport in relation to each other. While one must not be pro-railway, one must not be pro-road, and one must balance the various systems of transport one with another, because if we get a transport system which is top-heavy, with too many railways or too many roads, and the two systems are cutting each other's throats, we do not solve an economic problem but we accentuate the economic problem with which industry is faced.
I say that a road is a means of transport. It is a physical thing upon which goods and persons have to be carried, and the commercial use of a road—here, again, I agree with the admirable observations of the right hon. Gentleman—must be put in a category in front of the purely pleasure use of a road. I want the gentleman who goes with his wife to Brighton on a Friday to get there with all reasonable comfort and speed, but really if too many gentlemen go with their wives to Brighton, by the same trains, or using the same road, purely on pleasure, and they make the problem of transport congestion, I do not think it is one of my primary duties to solve congestion of that kind. I am much more interested in securing adequate roads for omnibus traffic and the transport of goods, and certainly, up to a point, for purely pleasure purposes. Motor cars have brought great pleasure not merely to the aristocracy but to the whole of the middle class, and to a good many of the working-classes themselves. That is a perfectly legitimate factor to be taken into account and, of course, it produces revenue though the more revenue it brings us, and the more cars there are the more need there is to spend money on highway obstruction.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
On a point of Order. I should like to know if we are discussing the Ministry of Transport Vote or the Ministry of Labour Vote. Your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Dunnico, ruled very strongly against an hon. Member opposite, who happened to mention the Gold Standard. Now we seem to be wandering all over the roads.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dunnico)
I have just come into the Chair, but we are discussing neither of the Votes. I understand that we are discussing grants for unemployment schemes.
§ Mr. MORRISON
They are, of course, involved in a general way. I understand that the Departments that are involved in the proposed Committee are involved in the Debate. I have no intention to speak at any material length, but there has been some discussion which has raised the basic economics of our road policy. I view a road as a physical thing upon which transport operates. The next point that arises is this, and here I think the late Minister is taking far too narrow a view. Is one to look upon the needs of the highway system of today, or is one to look ahead? He gave us the case of the Bath Road, which has been discussed exhaustively in a newspaper which is one of the greatest destructive forces in modern journalism if one wants to get anything done. It is true that discussion took place as to this road. The county council in the end took the view that it ought to be done, and this perfectly illustrates the need, not only for looking at the needs of the highway system to-day but of looking ahead, and not merely two or three years but even longer, in order to see what is necessary to be done. To-day we are spending large sums in compensation and the purchase of property, because some highway authority or Government in the past did not look ahead long enough in the construction of roads of a sufficient width.
§ Mr. MORRISON
I am not sure that that is as simple as it sounds. I am not sure that this power can be operated as simply as it might be. The road illustrates the practical point up against which we come. I took the trouble, by disappointing my wife and my mother-in- 464 law, whom I was going to take into the country, of going with my officers on Sunday to see this road.
§ Mr. MORRISON
A lovely country and a lovely day. This road is approximately 19 or 20 feet wide. It is the London-Bath road, but it must also be remembered that it is part of the London-Bristol road, and any Minister who takes up the position that he can take a short and narrow view of road transport between London and Bath and London and Bristol, is a person who ought never to be Minister of Transport. Part of that road is in difficulties. The local authority, within the next few years, will have to spend money on repairs of substance. Faced with that position, and with an unemployment situation, it is legitimate to accelerate work and to anticipate requirements, especially knowing that the traffic census in each of the last two three-year periods shows that there has been a 50 per cent. increase in the traffic on that road.
§ Mr. MORRISON
Really the hon. Member possesses the Tory mind with a vengeance. I say that during each of the last, two trienniums there has been a 50 per cent. increase in traffic on that road. The hon. Member says, "Do not worry, you have not reached your crisis yet." The Ministry of Transport is not a Department which should wait until a crisis comes. In running a Department like mine you must anticipate a crisis, and that is what I am doing in regard to this road. I said that it was a scheme which ought to be carried out in order that the local authority should be saved the cost of repairs of substance, that traffic requirements might be anticipated, and in order to accelerate employment, because if employment is provided for even 100 or 200 persons it will mean the mitigation of somebody's sufferings. It is a beautiful and a lovely spot. There is an idea in some quarters that the Ministry of Transport sails around looking for scenery to destroy. Nothing of the kind takes place. The chief engineer and other officers of my Department are enthusiasts in the preservation of beauty. There will be no beauty destroyed along 465 this road. Practically not a tree or a hedge will have to be touched, but in so far as any tree or hedge may be touched, we shall re-plant and see to it that in due time the beauty is restored. There will be no interference with the amenities of the road.
Yet we have a Conservative Member of the House, holding a responsible position in one of the local government associations, after his party has said that the Government are to be condemned for not providing more work for the people, starting an agitation, with the result that I am faced with additional difficulties in putting this particular road scheme into operation. What is the good of hon. Gentlemen opposite condemning the Government for not employing people, and then starting agitations which interfere with schemes when they are started? [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman will, no doubt, have his chance later on. I only wish to say that I am not going to allow these agitations to begin and these obstructions to our work to proceed without making the facts public and without protesting against them. The responsibility for these difficulties will be placed where it ought to be placed.
I agree entirely with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to road programmes. They have to be balanced. A policy of £100,000,000 and that sort of thing I do not like. I do not think that it is justified either on transport or on financial grounds. The case put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) expressed what was practically my point of view. You have to see what is needed, but in seeing what is needed it is essential and important to take a long view and to look ahead as to the probable requirements of the future.
§ Sir JOHN FERGUSON
It is not my intention to take up the time of the Committee for more than a few moments for two reasons. The first is, that there are so many Members who are desirous of speaking, and the second is that I think that this House is suffering not a little from over-employment. I have listened with the greatest attention to speeches which have been delivered, hoping that something might be said regarding the enormous and increasing number of unemployed, who, it seems to me from my long con- 466 nection with the Unemployment Grants Committee, lack general sympathy from the public. The position of unemployment in the country to-day is quite different from what it was two or three years ago. To-day it permeates every industry and every class. Reference has been made more than once to the inattention of certain Government Departments to work put forward for the alleviation of distress. I should like to enter a protest. I have been connected with a great many Government committees during the past 10 years, and I desire to say, particularly in regard to the Department which is dealing with the unemployment proposals sent forward by local authorities, that those proposals are being dealt with in the most prompt manner possible. The difficulty is that the local authorities submitting works for the Government grant frequently put them forward in a way which leaves out many important details which the Department must have before they can deal with the proposals.
Frequently the department will take upon themselves a very great responsibility, believing that their action will be endorsed by the committee at the earliest meeting. During the last two months we have made a point of meeting once a week. If it is necessary to meet oftener than once a week, we are quite willing to do so for the sake of the unemployed. We draw a big distinction between revenue producing and non-revenue producing schemes. We are clear that the revenue producing scheme is the one to which we ought to give our utmost sympathy, but we are desirous, on the other hand, of encouraging that which would be of great benefit to the country. We hope and trust, while we undertake schemes which are not revenue producing, that by the time those schemes have been carried out, the trade of the country will be better than it is at the present moment. To look at the unemployment figures rising every week really brings one's attention to certain factors which are at work in our country at the present time. I have in this House on more than one occasion entered almost a protest against work going from our own Dominions to Continental countries while we have such a large number of unemployed on our hands. There must be some method or manner whereby such 467 work can be given to our people in this country and so relieve our Unemployment Grants Committee from making grants on behalf of people who are unable to obtain employment. This is a question which really ought to exercise the minds of the Ministers, because they are all of one great family. Surely a member of the family should not be allowed to go outside the family for goods which can be supplied within the family.
I am watching the course of unemployment very closely. It has become a much more severe thing than many hon. Members seem to realise. I have personally visited many of the unemployed. I know the great difficulties they are up against in their family life. If their position was properly appreciated by the people of the country, we should find a very different temper when we were talking of the unemployed. It is absolutely impossible for them to get employment in this country until a certain action takes place. I am not permitted to refer to that action, but I will say that you may attempt through the unemployment grants or by any other grants to alleviate the distress, but it will be like trying to fill a great lake by throwing small stones into it. Unless and until we get some betterment in the export trade of this country, unemployment will still be one of our most distressing evils.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I congratulate the hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir J. Ferguson) on the brevity and clearness of his speech, and I will, at any rate, endeavour to follow his brevity. I really rose to ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour if she will be good enough to answer one or two specific questions which were not dealt with by the Prime Minister in his very interesting and important speech. I hope that the right hon. Lady will make a note of these questions and reply to them, as it is of the greatest importance that those of us who support the Government should have the information. I do not rise in any captious spirit. I think that the significant thing about the debate, apart from the speech of the Prime Minister, was the opening statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) in which he said that 468 he was not moving a vote of censure on the Government. It was a different spirit from the vexatious opposition we have previously received in regard to this question from the other side.
It is realised on those benches—we have had a reflection of it in other speeches from the Opposition side—that the Government—I am taking all the risks in saying this—have had extremely bad fortune in dealing with unemployment owing to the abnormal slump in world prices which every business man both on that side and on this knows to be a fact. Everything has been slumping and dropping in value and traders have not known where they are. The primary producers have been unable to sell their crops or whatever they produce, so they cannot in their turn buy manufactured goods. This is one of the great causes of the trouble. It is the unprecedented slump in prices of wheat, cotton, rubber, tin, etc. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister talks of taking a long view, I know, and he knows, and the Minister of Labour knows, that that long view is not rationalisation, but is the solution of the problem of consumption, so that we shall no longer have men starving in the midst of plenty. That is the policy we ought to carry out. I hope that it will be discussed by the three party leaders when they meet and that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will have sufficient patriotism so as to be able to support us, as I believe they will, in a really longe-range policy in dealing with this extraordinary situation in which we have people cold in winter and not allowed to go down the pits and dig for coal, and agricultural labourers' children starving and hungry and the labourers themselves not allowed to till the fields. The boot-makers with their boots in pieces are out of work, and unemployed tailors and textile workers are in rags.
The pronouncement which we heard from the Prime Minister was important in this respect. He hinted at some new organisation of Government and administration for dealing with the problem. He told us that a number of civil servants had been seconded from their respective departments to be formed into a kind of committee or general staff. He spoke of a co-ordinating committee. "Co-ordination," like "Mesopotamia," 469 is a blessed word, and I have heard it used in many debates in this Rouse during the last Government, the Government before it, and the Government before that. I remember hearing the word when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was Prime Minister of this country and unemployment first became acute.
I want to know from my right hon. Friend what are the answers to these questions, and I hope she will realise that this is a very serious matter and that those of us on these benches who are supporting her feel strongly about it. It was referred to by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Malone). What exactly are to be the functions of this new Committee? Is it to be executive, deliberative, or advisory? Who is to be its chairman? Is it to have day-to-day administrative work? For example, Sir John Anderson, a very distinguished civil servant, has been mentioned. Is he to be divorced from his responsibilities at the Home Office and to devote his whole time to this question? Is he to be chairman, or is the right hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn), the new Lord Privy Seal, to be chairman? What are the functions of the new Lord Privy Seal? What is the new Chancellor of the Duchy going to do in the matter? I have heard statements that the Prime Minister is to be the head of a new Cabinet. Committee, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Labour and other Ministers connected with unemployment. It is said that they are all going to be formed into a special Committee under the presidency of the Prime Minister. Is this the Committee that is going to consult and confer with the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, who has accepted, and the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin), who may accept the invitation of the Government to come into conference?
This is really what is disturbing us on these benches. Overworked Cabinet Ministers—and all Cabinet Ministers ought to be overworked, if they are not—and this Cabinet does overwork themselves in the public interest, will not be free for thinking if they are engaged in 470 day-to-day administrative work. Now the administrative side is very fascinating, and is apt to get hold of and overwhelm busy Ministers, so that it is terribly hard for them to rise above it, and be able to think of great policies ahead. The Prime Minister will have to devote himself to great subjects in the near future, to India, to foreign politics, to the Imperial Conference and to other important matters. He will not have much opportunity to devote himself to this great question of unemployment. These are the questions I want cleared up. With regard to the Committee of civil servants, we have not had information about that, and I ask for whatever information my right hon. Friend is able to give us. She may say that these matters are still under consideration, and that it is only yesterday that Sir John Anderson was seconded. What is in the minds of the Government in regard to this matter? What are they aiming for?
The hon. Member for Northampton referred to the Planning Division. Some hon. Members opposite seem amused because he referred to a war time organisation, but the conditions are not very different to-day in principle. I do not like military metaphors, but this is, after all, a war against unemployment, and I would like to see the patriotism of the whole people mobilised towards solving this great problem, which is quite as serious as, if not more serious than, the War. If it is not cured, it will reduce us to a third-class Power which the War did not do. That Planning Division was set up because the Board of Admiralty had no thinking department in the early part of the War. I speak of a matter of which I have knowledge. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for North Paddington (Mr. Bracken), who was not old enough to take part, will no doubt be able to ascertain them from his spiritual leader, the right hon. Member far Epping (Mr. Churchill), who knows about it, and will tell him I speak of actual facts. Everyone in the Admiralty in the first two years of the War was engaged in administration, in the day-to-day operations of the handling of the Fleet, the directing of the present conduct of the War, and they had no time to think ahead. That nearly led the country to disaster, and it was got over by appointing people who were forbidden to take any part in day-to-day 471 administration and operations and only had to think out policy ahead. As a result, the naval situation improved, and we were not beaten.
It is impossible to divorce the heads of the Government from administration entirely. But I should like to see the institution of the War Cabinet revised, an inner Cabinet. That was the original intention when the sinecure posts, the Lord Privy Seal, the Chancellor of the Duchy, the First Commissioner of Works when he is not engaged in making the parks safe for democracy, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, though his post is no sinecure—all those Ministers supposed to be holding sinecures—were organised into a kind of policy committee. They were supposed to devote themselves to policy. That organisation has been dissipated, and I would like to know what has been put in its place apart from this Committee of Ministers, which, I believe, existed under the late Government. I think there was such a committee under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister in the late Government. What has been done along these lines? I ask this of my right hon. Friend in the most friendly way. She is the Minister most intimately concerned with the subject, and I beg her to realise that we appreciate her difficulties. We must see a way out. I believe the most important thing is machinery to deal with the many alternative programmes possible, and to solve the greatest problem that has faced this country in recent times.
§ Mr. MOND
I agree with so much of what the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) has said that I should like to commence by reinforcing a great deal of his appeal. As a matter of fact, this problem cannot be solved by any isolated or spasmodic action on the part of any of the Departments, and can only be solved by the concerted action of the Government as a whole, backed by the various Departments concerned. Although this has been pressed on succeeding Governments for a very long time, no attempt has ever been made by any Government in recent years to set up an over-riding body, whose sole duty is to attack this great national problem. As a matter of fact, when one talks about 472 war measures, and the emergency of the present moment, very few people realise in what a condition we are to-day. Possibly—I hope it is not the case—we may be debating this subject on the eve of one of the greatest national crises which we have ever faced. There are many reasons for optimism, many reasons for hope, many reasons to believe in the eventual soundness of the position of this country, but there is no man so bold as to say that we are not on the verge of what may turn out to be a very grave situation, a position unprecedented in the history of this country and possibly in the history of the civilised world. That being the case, it is not my desire to put forward the many points that might be put forward in criticism of the Government's actions in the past. I only wish to say that it is no use this House and the Government of the country not facing the facts as we know them to be. It may be unfortunate, but it cannot be denied that the presence of right hon. Members opposite on the Front Bench which they occupy has had a very serious effect upon the morale of the country, and that, when a Socialist Government holds office in England, it has a world effect which is very disturbing in all the major countries of the industrial world. It is no use denying that fact. It may be unpleasant, it may be unpalatable, but it happens to be true.
§ Mr. MOND
I do not say you are responsible for Hatry or anything else, but this country happens to occupy a key position in world industrial and financial relations, and, when the great masses of population who occupy the other great industrial centres of the world see a Socialist Government in office in this country, their confidence in world stability is shaken, and you get a condition of affairs that turns out very badly. As things happen to be at the moment they could not be much worse. It is not necessarily due to anything the Government may have done but merely to their presence here. As a matter of fact, there are many actions which the Government have taken, apart from their general attitude, which have not conduced to removing unemployment or to improving trade, but have tended in the opposite direction of producing an 473 unsatisfactory and unsettled state of affairs, thus sending up the unemployment figures.
If we were only as a country to concentrate on a single objective, I believe the unemployment problem could be fairly successfully dealt with, but we do not concentrate on unemployment. We do a number of very contradictory things. We do certain things which are supposed to be for the benefit of the manufacturer, export credits, trade facilities, and things of that kind, and then entirely counteract the benefit of them by adopting a financial policy which, so far from benefiting trade, restricts trade, and we go in for Debt redemption, high taxation, conversion or attempts at conversion, deflation, and the reduction of the Floating Debt. Anyone who has studied finance knows that all those things together will lead to reduction of employment, to the unemployment figures going up, and to bad trade. We have seen from the unemployment figures that they had that effect. We might have known it before we started. I am not only blaming the present Government for the fact. It has been the policy of the country since the War, carried out by successive Chancellors. As long as we pursue a policy of trying to set our financial house in order, while trying to restore our manufactures, we will never do one or the other.
I turn to another aspect of our national life—our social services. Many say that they should be improved. So they should; and I am all in favour of improving them. But the question is, when? It is no use to improve our social services by putting an additional burden on industry; that does not help the problem of unemployment. The real fact is that we shall have to make up our minds what we are really trying to do as a matter of national policy. We have been sent here with the one duty above any other—that of trying to solve the unemployment problem. Why do not we say that there is one thing which matters more than anything else, which is the very foundation of our national life. Why do not we say that we must get our manufacturing interests going again as fully as we can; that we must get the men back into the factories. If we do that first the rest of our policy is settled. When we have got the men back into the 474 factories then we can start on the admirable and estimable policy of improving our financial position; setting our financial house in order. We can then proceed with Debt redemption, with deflation, and with all the other things which are necessary for placing the finances of the country in that condition in which we want to see them. But we must postpone that action until our manufactures are thoroughly established again. When our finances are in proper order we can then proceed to increase our social services to the greatest point that we can afford.
But let us do these things sensibly, not try to do two or three things which counteract each other at the same time with the result that there is an increase in the unemployment figures. Nothing will bring them down until we concentrate on our manufacturing position. The business community of this country is abused for many faults which it has and for many which it does not possess but it has attributes which the Committee should understand. It has personality like an individual and if you deliver it a number of blows you shake its confidence, make it depressed and miserable, and it will not produce those results upon which the recovery of the country depends. We in this House cannot produce the wealth of the country; we cannot bring back prosperity. The only part of the community that can do that is the industrial and business community. What do we do as a national policy to stimulate employment and bring ourselves back to a prosperous condition? We give them one blow after another. We abuse them, call them names, pass all kinds of restrictive legislation, suggest that our business men endeavour to evade taxation—a thing which the ordinary business man does not do. If you treat them badly, give them a series of shocks such as they have had of late, they will not work for you and you will not get the best possible efforts out of them on behalf of the country.
At the bottom of nearly all of our trouble you have the orthodox Treasury view which has taken a stranglehold on this country since the War. It has made it absolutely impossible for any policy to be developed which will get our manufactures going again. We have always put financial interests first. We have said: "Let 475 us put our financial house in order and our manufactures will follow." That is entirely wrong; indeed, the opposite is the truth. Get your men back into the factories and your financial house will soon be put in order, and the task of hon. Members opposite in the matter of unemployment will be very much lightened. The other ultra-orthodox point of view, held by many hon. Members as though it was a matter of pure religion instead of practical politics, is the orthodox Free Trade view. I am not going into the question of Free Trade and Protection, but I do say this, that it is no use making these matters an article of faith. If we could get back to this country the markets of England, apart from those anywhere else, if we were not the subject of dumping under cartel conditions, real dumping conditions, in which people are able to put their surplus output on the markets of this country at a price below the cost of manufacture, we should immediately restore a great proportion of the industries of this country.
We have an unemployment position which differs entirely from the unemployment position in any other country in the world. People say, "What is the use of talking about Protection because in Protectionist countries they have unemployment," and they quote the figures, but an examination of the figures shows that our position is very different to theirs. Since 1920 to 1928 the average unemployment in this country has been 1,275,000, or 2.75 per cent. of the population. In Germany for the same period the average unemployment figure has been 645,000, and as they have a larger population it is about 1 per cent. of their population. Our unemployment is a chronic and violent condition which has lasted for 10 years, theirs is a condition which sometimes becomes acute but at other times disappears to normal proportions. They have not been burdened with the same things as we in this country, and they are making much more progress than we are. We have to find, in addition to our home market, markets in other parts of the world, and the more obvious markets are those of our Dominions. It is somewhat difficult to discuss this subject sectionally, but let me in passing say, that whereas in every foreign market in the world—as the world is now progressing 476 commercially—we are liable to be excluded at any moment by manufacturers starting in the country and getting enormous barriers put up against us, the Dominion markets are those which we are most able to hold, and for which we are most able to effectively negotiate.
We have discussed the policy of spending large sums of money in order to stimulate employment and provide trade for our manufacturing interests. I am one of those who believe that we could rightly spend large sums of money in this way, and that we ought to have been doing so a long time ago. It is not necessary to spend all the money in this country; a great deal of it might be spent in the Colonies. The right hon. Gentleman who was lately Lord Privy Seal mentioned a great many items, including that of the Zambesi Bridge, upon which money might be spent in order to give employment. I have not heard very much regarding that particular project for some time, but I know that it has been under consideration for at least 10 years. When I was in South Africa it was being discussed but up to now it has not been carried through. Without question we must get a co-ordinating department which is not subject to the many obstructions which have so far existed; we must have someone with authority over the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport and the Colonies, who is not subject to Treasury control; who will be able to concentrate the whole of his time and attention on the one prime object of doing things which can reduce unemployment and prevent those things being done by other Departments of the State which have exactly the contrary effect.
I know that work has been done by the Government within the prescribed limits of its policy to bring about a better position in the industrial world. That policy should be pursued more vigorously. Rationalised industry should have extended credit; unrationalised industries should have as little credit as possible, in order to induce them to bring about a better state of affairs in their industries. Unless we concentrate upon making this a matter of national policy in reality not in words our unemployment figures will reach 2,500,000 and we shall be faced with a position we have never known in the history of this land. Party 477 politics will not cure it. Some other body than this House will be necessary to cope with the grave national situation which will arise.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
The Committee will agree with the hon. Member for East Toxteth (Mr. Mond) that we cannot over-estimate the gravity of the problem with which we are confronted and that every hon. Member has been returned with the duty in imposed upon him of making some contribution towards its solution. I also agree with the note he struck in his closing remarks, that the time has come when we must view this question from the point of view of establishing a national policy, and I understand that the steps which are being taken to overhaul the whole machinery of unemployment relief are going to be associated with an effort on the part of the various sections of opinion in this Parliament to co-operate in trying to secure some agreed policy. I welcome the plea for co-operation, and I think hon. Members will appreciate the manner in which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has responded to that appeal and is prepared to marshal all his resources and to offer to the Government every assistance in his power. But such assistance and co-operation must be on fair and honourable terms, and I am sure it is understood that the Liberal party will have an opportunity of placing fully and frankly their proposals before the Government with a view of carrying them into effect as far as the Government may be able to do so.
A subject of this kind should not be discussed in an atmosphere of party. The country is not interested in the slightest degree in party recriminations. It wants us to get on with the job. I want to bring before the Committee one or two practical points on indicating how further progress might be made in overhauling the machinery of our unemployment relief. I have had some experience of the working of the unemployment relief schemes in my division in Fifeshire and elsewhere, and I am convinced that the time has come for the overhauling of that machinery and for the abolition of the conditions in regard to the transfer of labour that are at present attached to schemes financed by loans. I have had a good 478 many representations addressed to me by local authorities on this subject, and conferences have taken place at which the difficulties which have arisen have been expressed. I should like to have an opportunity of voicing to the House to-day what I believe is the view of many local authorities all over the country, that the present system works out most unfairly, and, in fact, is retarding the work of unemployment relief instead of accelerating it.
I was interested in the speech delivered the other day by the hon. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) in which he pointed out that in his experience any progress that had been lately made in the Unemployment Grants Committee schemes had been due to a modification of the transfer conditions and practically by that alone. He went on to say that the results could be trebled if we did away with transfer altogether. I am prepared to substantiate that from my own experience. In the depressed areas, where there is the greatest need for the expenditure of money for unemployment relief, and where unemployment is over 10 per cent., the financial assistance, in the case of the non-revenue producing work, is limited to 75 per cent., for the first half of the loan period up to 15 years, whereas in the case of the other areas where unemployment is under 10 per cent. and where transfer labour is accepted, additional financial terms are provided up to 37½ per cent. of the remaining 15 years of the loan period.
Let us consider for a moment how this operates. It means that in the areas that are most depressed, where it is most difficult to raise rates and where there is most urgent need tort action being taken, there is a distinct limitation placed upon the financial terms that are afforded. They are afforded less favourable terms. In the areas where the unemployment is under 10 per cent. the transfer terms are afforded under certain conditions. There, again, the effect of these conditions has to my knowledge, in a number of cases, prevented the operation of these schemes as they would otherwise have been carried out. The condition is insisted upon that there should be a percentage, in some cases a large percentage, of transfer labour 479 taken from other areas, depressed areas. May I refer particularly to the provisions of Section 16 of the Unemployment Grants Committee's circular number 25. There Chas no doubt been a slight element of elasticity introduced in a recent period, but the fact remains to-day that the local authorities, who are concerned to see the absorption of the unemployment in their own immediate areas are forced to take labour from other areas, and are only given full financial terms in order to induce them to take transfer labour.
As our object is to reduce the total unemployment and to give as much employment as we can, I think it ought to be possible to enable the local authorities to absorb first the unemployed in their own particular areas. The Prime Minister and other Ministers on the Front Bench ought to take into consideration that the local authorities are very much concerned to see that there should be no outside workers brought into their own district until they have exhausted all the possibilities in their own immediate area. There are many good reasons for that. They have a duty thrown upon them to deal with their own unemployed in their own districts. The local authorities have to pay poor relief and able-bodied unemployed relief, and they ought to be able to relieve their own people first as far as possible. The outside labour which is introduced is often expensive. I have known a case where the expense of bringing men from outside was so great that it was difficult to carry out work which otherwise would have been undertaken. There is a difficulty of bringing a large number of unemployed men into a place where they may become settled eventually and have to be maintained. I submit that it is only fair that this matter should receive further consideration, and that the machinery should be overhauled. I hope the Minister of Labour will be able to give us a favourable reply to make it possible for all local authorities to carry out their schemes on the fullest financial terms. The additional financial assistance should not be offered as a mere inducement to bring unemployed from one area to another. It ought to be part of the scheme to enable local authorities to carry out their work.
480 I will give the right hon. Lady an illustration of how the present regulations work. In my own Division, where I have a number of agricultural and fishing communities, there have been works carried out in certain parts, and, when application was made to the Unemployment Grants Committee for grants on the full scale, we were told that the unemployment was over 10 per cent. in these particular areas. What is the standard of the 10 per cent.? Is it of the insurable industrial workers of the area? I would like to point out to the Minister of Labour that 10 per cent. of the unemployed workers is an entirely misleading basis when you are dealing with an area where you have agricultural labourers and fishermen at work, both excluded from the unemployment insurance. In this case, I got out the figures, and I found that there were only 11 unemployed in that burgh which was going to be excluded on account of being a depressed area. That shows how absurd the present situation is. We must have regard to the actual number of unemployed. I submit that the regulations are far too cut and dried at the present moment—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I should be glad if the hon. Gentleman would deal a little more fully with the case that he has just mentioned.
§ Mr. MILLAR
I am going to deal with it. In that particular case, what happened? Information was brought to the authorities, who were prepared, in the circumstances and having regard to the nature of the scheme, to recognise that full terms should be granted. I would like to say that in another similar case I have not been able to get the full terms, because there is still the regulation standing. I am not suggesting that the right hon. Lady is not sympathetic, but the regulations as they stand make it very difficult for the Unemployment Grants Committee to afford adequate assistance in such cases. I make a special appeal for both classes of areas.
May I point out that there have been frequent references in this House to the effect that the Scottish local authorities have not done their share in working out unemployment relief schemes or in applying for grants. This is not due to any lack of interest on the part of our Scot- 481 tish local authorities, but they have felt themselves handicapped. They have to face heavy rates; in many of the Scottish counties we have reached the limit, and the local authorities are not in a position to face the heavy burdens which are thrust upon them and which will be increased in many areas under the operation of the Local Government (Scotland) Act. The rating area is going to be very much diminished under the provisions of that Act, and the smaller ratepayers will have a very substantial burden thrust upon them.
We have in Scotland at the present time a number of important schemes which have been the subject of consideration. We have had several schemes brought forward in connection with the Forth Road bridge and the Tay Road bridge. It is well known and recognised throughout Scotland that the facilities for transport across the Firth of Forth are entirely inadequate to cope with the traffic. A number of these schemes were put forward, and I want to make an appeal to the Government in this respect. Let them come to a decision in regard to these great national schemes. The local authorities have been invited to confer time and time again, and they have come into conference quite willing, but the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and the Prime Minister know perfectly welt that the local authorities are not in a position to put their hands very deeply into their pockets in order to provide a large contribution from the rates. I for one think the Government should make up their mind as to the grant they are going to give and let the local authorities know exactly where they stand in the matter. There is a great deal to be said for those great road schemes, but even more for schemes that are much less ambitious in character, such as for reconditioning our secondary and farm roads in our rural districts—in agricultural areas particularly, and in making our bridges satisfactory.
I was glad to see the Minister of Transport at yesterday's conference discussing a new programme of work in connection with our roads. He mentioned specially the case of weak and dangerous bridges. In my own Division, we have some bridges that are dangerous in character. One is an ancient histori- 482 cal bridge, at Guardbridge, which is only a one-way bridge, although it is on one of the first-class roads in Scotland. Two vehicles cannot pass at the same time; they have to wait for each other, a situation which ought not to be allowed on any main road to-day. I hope the Minister of Transport will take into consideration the proposals put before him in regard to these bridges. I trust that the interest of the Prime Minister in the fishing industry will help to bring home to him the need for the immense amount of work to be carried out in connection with our piers and harbours throughout Scotland. That is a piece of work that could very well be immediately proceeded with. If the result of this debate is to create a new desire on the part of all sections of the House to get further forward with a fresh programme in regard to unemployment relief, we shall allow no consideration of party advantage to prevent us from doing our very best.
§ Mr. TURNER
I am sorry that a Ruling of the Chair has limited this discussion. In connection with schemes of work for local authorities, I sometimes wonder whether the big authorities are not getting their undue share of unemployment schemes while the lesser authorities, the small urban district councils and non-county boroughs, are being somewhat overshadowed by the schemes that are sanctioned by the Departments concerned. Many of the smaller urban councils and non-county boroughs are very much overburdened with rates—far more than some of the county boroughs that get the assistance. I happen to come from an area that has had unemployment and under-employment for the past seven or eight years incessantly, and very heavily in some parts. We have nearly exhausted our financial possibilities in connection with any schemes, unless the Government can raise the amount of assistance to be given to such depressed areas. In the area from which I come we are semi-mining and semi-textile. Out of 12 pits, seven are closed. In the town from which I come, of 30 mills one-quarter are closed. We not only lose the rateable value—that does not matter much after the de-rating business—but we lose the opportunity of being able to finance schemes that would be very useful in our boroughs. We 483 cannot afford to increase our rates when they are already 18s. 6d. When you have a house assessed at £10 and pay £9 in rates, it is a very heavy burden.
It is no good offering us help unless it is big help. Trade is very bad in the cotton industry and in the woollen and worsted industry. In the place from which many of our clothes come we have had as many as 30 per cent. of persons signing the unemployment book, but because they were not fully unemployed, or were partially employed, they were not reckoned in the calculations for a depressed area or an area needing special assistance. We happen to be an area Where a considerable number of women are in industry. It is a regrettable fact—no one is to blame—that one cannot see any possible schemes of work for unemployed women. You cannot put women on the road. Schemes of afforestation will not touch the women's problem. We have, therefore, to wait and pray for the mending of trade before the women can be absorbed. That seems to be the only possibility at the moment. I thank God that there has been Lloyd Georgeism in operation for some time. The people do not call it health insurance, but "Lloyd George." Thank God for Lloyd George! He may have made mistakes in days gone by, but he is willing to take his part in dealing with this as a nonparty question.
Anybody who has seen the misfortunes due to unemployment must pray that this House will divest itself of party feeling and passion and come down to help the 1,360,000 unemployed, the 2,000,000 who are on short time, and the 7,000,000 who are dependent upon them. The problem is too big to be the plaything of politicians on one side or other of this House of Commons. There are hundreds of thousands of women for whom we cannot find schemes of work. The country must try to understand what is the best plan to make trade. Our dear old friends the Safeguarders are to-day representing the point of view of the old Fair Traders, of the Protectionists of the later 'eighties and the Tariff Reformers of the 'nineties. They have been putting before various committees their points of view as to what Safeguarding should be. Take textiles first. Two-thirds of the woollen and worsted cloth trade of Great Britain 484 would not have been affected one iota by the Safeguarding proposition that was put forward in 1929.
§ Mr. T. SNOWDEN
Can my hon. Friend give some figures which would substantiate that statement? There are those who hold rather a different view.
§ Mr. TURNER
I do not dispute that there may be different views, but if I go through the Halifax area from Todmorden, and the Collie Valley area from Saddleworth and Marsden down to Leeds, out of the 200,000 odd in the woollen and worsted trade, not more than one-third are situated in the Bradford district, where the Bradford trade is concerned, and in the Bradford district there is also a considerable number of cloths that are above the 11 ozs. Then take rationalisation. It has been going on for over 50 years, even since I started work 57 years ago. I have seen the change of machinery and again the change of machinery. There are no finer textile mills in the world than the big textile mills in Bradford and Yorkshire, and, may be, in Lancashire as well. There is no finer and more skilled body of men and women in the textile trade than is to be found in the county of Yorkshire. Yet trade is bad. How is it to be mended? Various plans have been suggested. One hon. Member said that it must be either Safeguarding or lower wages. Lower wages have been tried and they have not mended trade.
Twelve months ago it nearly broke my heart in trying to stop our people from going on strike in the district in which I live. It was not an appropriate moment to strike. The employers had proposed a 9½ per cent. reduction in wages. The people took my advice and accepted the reduction. What has been the result? In that particular district there has been a worse condition of trade and more unemployment than in any other part of Yorkshire. We are short of two things in this country. One is a standard minimum income below which no family shall go, and for the safety and wellbeing of the other people a standard maximum to stop them from wasting national substance as they sometimes do in riotous and other ways. Our home trade is the worse hit. Why? This Whitsuntide there could have been 10,000,000 yards more of woollen textile fabrics sold if the women had been able 485 to buy it. Why could they not buy it? Because, unfortunately, their husbands had not the wages to give to them for the purchase of the goods. There is something wrong. We must get a standard of living for these folks. There have been many heartbroken women this Whitsuntide. I know them, for I live among them. They want the help of this Parliament, if they are to be lifted out of their depressed condition.
There is another matter that calls for attention—pensions for displaced persons When rationalisation is proceeding there should be consideration of the human element. If persons are displaced by a policy, provision ought to be made for allowances until the change-over has been made. It will be said that all this will cost industry something. But who makes industry? All of us. People cannot be allowed to starve to death when displaced by rationalisation. I am glad that there is to be a Council of State, that the Under-Secretary for Scotland will be able to advise his colleagues in the new organisation that is now created and ought to have been created 16 months ago, and that the Mond-Turner document is to be considered in regard to the proposal for special pensions at 60 years of age. Of course all this will cost money. I heard it said by someone the other day that £400,000,000 of extra profits were made last year. I say let some of that be invested in these folk. That is the proper thing to do.
I have not so far heard anybody say much about the land question, but we will have to bring the landless men and the manless land together somehow. The quidnuncs of my own party and the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works are, I am certain, considerably interested in this question of the land, and I hope they will give it their full attention. Another point which I would emphasise is the great need for national, local and personal economy. In local affairs expenditure has been largely due to the rulers of the past, but the rulers of the present must be more economical, must spend well and wisely and not follow all the bad examples of the past. In national economy our Government must do the same. As regards personal economy I suggest that we have too many Ascots 486 and [...]Denbys, too much dog racing and dirt track racing. These things are all destroying the manliness of the people of this Kingdom. I want to see these irrational pleasures minimised. I do not mean that all sports should be abolished, but sport should not be made a seven days' job. Let us have honest pleasure. I want to see consideration given by each person to the question of wasteful expenditure. We are all perhaps to some extent guilty. Let us start doing the right thing now.
The hon. Member for Batley (Mr. Turner) referred to honest pleasure, but what is honest pleasure for one may be real misery for another and I think it would be difficult for the House of Commons to legislate for honest pleasure. I agree with a great deal of what he said about waste and extravagance at this time, but why does the hon. Member say that the only things we are to do about the unemployed women is to "wait and pray." We want to do something more than that. Why should we only wait and pray in the case of the women while we are working in the case of the men? I realise that that is the trade union point of view.
That is what every trade unionist says, but that is not what they do in practice. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will join with the Prime Minister in trying to go to the root of this question of unemployment. I am sorry for the Prime Minister and for the whole Labour party. It must be very mortifying for them to have to come here and say to the other parties, "We are in a mess, help us out." I do not want to be controversial, and I want to help the Labour party out of the mess, but right hon. Gentlemen opposite must have had to swallow their pride when they ask the House of Commons to help them in this matter. Ever since the War a section of people have been saying that the only way to solve unemployment is to do away with the capitalist system.
Does the right hon. Gentleman really mean that? He knows perfectly well the true position, and he is just uttering a vacuous "hear, hear" with no more intelligence about it than about his mixed bathing in the Serpentine. The right hon. Gentleman once told us that he was going to organise the workers of the country in battalions and put them on the land and march them from all over the country to London. When some marched from Plymouth he met them with open arms, but now when workers come from all parts of the country to London the right hon. Gentleman is having his picture taken opening some bazaar. It would be a most comic situation, were it not that the tragedy of unemployment is so appalling. For 10 years or more, we who realise the misery caused by unemployment just as much as hon. Members opposite, felt that we were up against a dead end because we always had to fight with the Socialists whose one solution of the problem was to kill capitalism. Now we do not hear so much about killing capitalism. Hon. Members opposite, on the contrary, are begging the capitalists in all parts of the House to help them to solve the problem. I hope very much that they will do so but hon. Members opposite are asking the capitalists to act far more nobly than they did when they were in Opposition and we were in office.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Will the Noble Lady permit me to remind her that on two or three occasions when we were in Opposition we officially moved a Resolution in favour of a joint committee of this House being put in control of unemployment and the Noble Lady voted against it.
Hon. Members may have moved such a Resolution in the House but we know what they went about the country saying and we know also that there is a good deal of hanky panky on both Front Benches. Hon. Members have moved a good many Resolutions in the House and at the Trade Union. Congress which have meant absolutely nothing. At the same time I feel more hopeful about the prospects of dealing with unemployment now, than I did when the Labour people and the Socialists were preaching that appalling doctrine of killing capitalism. That is just class hatred and it is as poisonous as inter- 488 national hatred. Anybody who preaches hatred whether class hatred or international hatred is an enemy of the country and hon. Members opposite know that it is the cheapest of all appeals.
I could bring forward many tragic cases of unemployment just as hon. Members did when they were in Opposition. We remember the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health almost sobbing over the cases that she brought forward, and the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) made heart-rending speeches about unemployment. Hon. Members opposite said that they had a remedy for it, but now they have been forced upon their knees before the country. They have had to confess that they have no remedy and they are asking the help of the other parties. As I say, I hope very much that they will get it and I am certain that the country as a whole is not so much interested in what party settles the unemployment problem as in getting it settled if it is within the power of the House of Commons to do so. If unemployment had not been made a party and political question there would probably be less unemployment in this country now. It is an economic question but right hon. Gentlemen opposite have made it a political question. I ask them to put aside party politics in facing this appalling problem.
I wish to bring before the Committee particularly the question of the unemployed women. There are 400,000 women unemployed, which is 200,000 more than this time last year. It is true that there are over 1,000,000 men unemployed, but the rise in unemployment among women has been far steeper than the rise among men, being 92 per cent. in the case of the women as against 48 per cent. in the case of the men. Most of the unemployment among women is in the textile industries, mainly in the cotton trade. The question before us is whether these trades are ever going to absorb both the men and the women, and, if not, what are we going to do about it? The ex-Lord Privy Seal, when I tried to raise this question, told me that unemployment was not to be treated as a sex question, and that men and women were to be treated the same, but in the 110,000 persons who have got work through various Government grants and schemes, I do not believe you will find 489 100 women. I am certain that the Government are making this a sex question, in that they are not facing the particular problem of the women in the cotton industry. They ought to be made to do so. We talk about transference schemes, and it may be possible to transfer some of the women, but we have found great difficulty in the country on account of Socialist women saying, "Why go into domestic service?"
Then the hon. Member's daughter does domestic service, and I do not suppose that she is ashamed of it, and I would rather see my girl doing domestic work than many other kinds of work. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, there are a good many jobs more dishonourable than domestic service, as right hon. Gentlemen opposite know, but when we wanted to get girls into training for domestic service we had a terrible time with the Labour people, who said, "Why should you be domestic workers?"
Apparently, some hon. Members still say so. I have fought against members of my own party who have wanted to put all girls into domestic service. I do not think that all women are fitted for domestic service, any more than all men are fitted for being husbands, but there are a great many women who would be better off in domestic service. We have tremendous success at our training centres, but we have always had to fight against this kind of Socialist propaganda. One cry was, "Do not go into domestic service," and the other was, "Do not emigrate," but we do not hear that now.
Evidently the hon. Member does not agree with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health.
I was about to point out the success which attended these training centres. Courses of training were provided for 2,700 women and 1,500 girls, and 83 per cent. of the trainees found suitable work. That is enormous. I do not think you can say that any men's trade can find such a high percentage. Last year we sent overseas 14,000 women trained in domestic science, and one of our real problems, when we talk about Empire and the rest, is that the Empire only wants women trained in domestic science. I do not agree with it, and I think they ought to be prepared to take women trained in other walks of life as well. I would say to the Empire development people, "If you want us to invest our money in the Colonies, you must at least be willing to take our women trained in other than domestic service." If you have an intensive campaign in the cotton industry and give the girls domestic science, if they want it, and really urge them and tell them that that is one way out, I do not think they will all take it, but a great many of them will, and there is an opening there.
There is another way—in agriculture. I want to bring this before the Minister. There is an opening for women there. I do not believe the Committee realises that agriculture is the third greatest industry for women in this country. We have 124,000 women occupied in agriculture, and this figure includes 19,000 women farmers, but it does not include the wives of occupiers and of agricultural workers, so that many more are directly interested. I want to urge the government, when they set up a committee to go into agriculture, that they should look at it from the point of view of the women as well as the men. I have seen women on the land, and some of them 491 like it and do extraordinarily well. We have a great opening there.
One of our real difficulties is the trade unions. I am speaking as a woman who, ever since she has been in the House of Commons, has put women's questions above and beyond party. But you cannot say that for a single Member of the Labour party, so far as the women are concerned. They realise all about the unemployed women, but not one of them dares get up and mention it here, because they know that in the Labour party, if you begin talking about what you have not got, something happens. It was a most astonishing thing the other day at the Labour Women's Conference. They talked about family allowances, about the rich, about the poor, about inequalities, and about the idle rich, but they did not talk about unemployment. Just think of it, with this enormous increase in unemployed women, and not one of them dared talk about it! It is a very alarming thing, and I say that if the women of the Labour party do not look out, they will find themselves in trouble, because the Labour party is greatly ruled by the trade unions.
Directly after the War the trade unions began trying to debar women from jobs which they had not had previous to the War. The first result was that legislation was passed to get women out of the engineering trades; and well might they have done it, because women learned in six months what the trade unionists had stated would take them three years.
Because I had three friends who passed the test in six months, and Lord Eustace Percy's wife was one of them. She learned in six months.
I beg your pardon, Mr. Dunnico. I should have said the wife or the late Minister of Education. She and two other friends of mine went into the engineering, and it was very interesting and instructive, because they learned in six months what, as I say, the trade unions said would take them three years.
§ Mr. T. SNOWDEN
The Noble Lady need not go back to the War. Miss Amy Johnson, a Yorkshire girl, has proved her ability, not only as a mechanic, but in scientific skill.
If she came back, she would find it difficult to get a job because of the trade unions.
It would be a bad day for England if women who could fly as well as Miss Johnson took to weaving. Only the other day there was a Conference of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives at Bournemouth, and a resolution from the Leicester women's branch was put in urging that provided the same wages and prices per operation were paid, all departments in the boot and shoe trade should be open to women. Norwich moved an amendment reaffirming determined opposition to female labour being engaged on operations hitherto performed by male labour, and instructing the executive to strengthen the clause in the national agreement giving effect to this principle. The Leicester resolution was defeated by 124 votes to 8, so that that is what is going on in the trade unions.
What makes me very nervous is that this Government is pre-eminently a trade union Government, and here you have the labour women meeting in conference, and not saying a single word about unemployed women, not daring to say a word, because they know they belong to a Government that is more or less controlled by trade unions. I really think it is very alarming and discouraging. I know the hon. Member for Sunderland (Dr. Marion Phillips) occupies two jobs. She is a Member of Parliament and a trade union official. She is a two-job woman. [Interruption.] I am not paid to do two things. I am paid to do one thing, and that is to represent the Sutton Division of Plymouth in the House of 493 Commons. You have got these trade union women who are using the trade unions themselves, not to get work for women, but for political purposes. That is a danger. I would like every woman in the country to join the trade unions, but if those trade unions are going to join the Labour party, then I think the last state of those women will be worse than the first, and I hope they will not do that. I would like to see them organised.
I hope that hon. Members opposite will bear in mind the point of view of the women, not only in the cotton industry, but throughout the country. I think it is time we all put aside party prejudices. I do not believe that anybody who has not been unemployed or who has not lived among the unemployed can realise the horror of it all. I do not believe that any party has got a solution of it. I do not believe that there is even any national solution of it, became it is a world-wide thing. Communism has not settled unemployment, Capitalism has not settled it, and I venture to say that the party opposite now know that Socialism will not settle it.
But no hon. Member in the House has gone back more on what he talked than has that hon. Member. There are the hon. Member and the First Commissioner of Works sitting there, the wild men of the party, like caged squirrels running round! But I do not want to talk politics. It is easy enough to hit people when they are down, and I do not want really to make party capital out of them. I want the Members of the other parties to help you, but if they do, I think you should have the honesty to go back to your constituents, and tell them what you know to be the truth, that for 10 years you have been lying to them.
§ Mr. TOOLE
We always enjoy the Noble Lady's intervention in our debates because we succeed in securing a little diversity from her. It is a little difficult 494 to follow her, however, because she moves about so quickly from one spot to another. I once knew a man who claimed to get any kind of weather he wanted, and he persuaded three friends to join in his new cult, but they all wished for different weather, and that burst the organisation. When I hear the Noble Lady I think of that little society, for when she is speaking it is raining and snowing and the sun is shining all in ten minutes. She has shown but an academic acquaintance with the unemployment question. One speech from the other side provided us with a solution of the problem. It was that the Zambesi Bridge should be produced at the earliest possible moment. I propose going to my constituency, where we have 9,000 unemployed, and announcing that fact. It will be a great consolation to them to know that we are to proceed with the Zambesi Bridge.
I have listened to many debates on unemployment, and some of them have made me very sad. When I was in the House last in 1924, all parties—and I do not exclude our party—tossed the ball about from one to the other on the question of unemployment. There seemed to be a fear that somebody would steal this question from one particular party. If you take the OFFICIAL REPORT and read the last nine debates on unemployment, you need not waste time listening to another, for the same old speeches, the same old themes, and the same old nostrums—Protection on the one side and Free Trade on the other. [An HON. MEMBER: "And Socialism, too!"] That is a different proposition. When the Noble Lady repeated the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works that Socialism was the cure, I believe that she really found the right solution.
We talk in this House as if it were a new problem. It is a very old problem. Before the War 5 per cent. of the industrial population was unemployed, and that 5 per cent. was always used at the works gates in order to keep down the wages of the men inside the shop. Wherever you go under Free Trade or Protection, so long as a system known as the capitalist system exists, it has its unemployment problem. It is in the nature of the case that capitalism and unemployment become almost synonymous 495 terms. This Government will never solve unemployment; a new Government will not solve it, and anybody in the Committee who is honest must admit that no Member of this House can solve it. This new Cabinet Committee will not solve it. All that we can do is to find work for as many people as we possibly can upon schemes of general public utility. Just because the Lord Privy Seal said on one occasion that you cannot solve this problem by spending money, all the parrots have taken up the cry and said the same thing. Nobody said that you could solve it by spending money, but you could solve it if everybody had money to spend. When we speak of spending money, it is not so much a question of spending it as what it is spent upon.
The spirit of this debate is the best in my experience for many years. There has been less party rancour, and, outside the speech to which we have just listened, nobody has indulged in party propaganda. I referred to the Noble Lady having an academic acquaintance with the subject because I have been an unemployed man. I have known what it was to look for a job in the days when there were no social services. It is to be said of the Labour Government that if they have not solved unemployment, they have made it easier for the unemployed to exist. In those days of which I speak there were no social services, and, if a man were unemployed, he had to depend on the charity of his friends. There was no such thing as insurance which is a good feature of modern politics and administration. A well-known American journalist who was in this country six months ago said that there were 7,000,000 unemployed in America and they have to take pot luck, while in England the 1,100,000 unemployed were being fed, and it could not be said that a country was down and out when it could feed its own unemployed.
I welcome the spirit which has been exhibited to-day in this debate, particularly from this side of the House. If I were an unemployed man, it would not matter to me who promulgated an idea, whether it came from the Liberal "Yellow Book," or from "Labour and the Nation," if it found me a job, that is all I should want. We have had a manifestation of sincerity in this matter 496 to-day, and that augurs well for the unemployed. I agree with the late Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that with real drive and force we could find work for 300,000 or 400,000 men. When anybody mentions roads in this House there is always a tendency to titter. We have not yet taken full opportunity of the possibility of road construction. The Minister of Transport was talking to-day about building roads that nobody wants, but nobody outside a lunatic asylum would build roads which nobody wanted. When we talk of building roads, we mean wide roads which are essential for the moment and for the future. If such roads were built, they would be an asset. Our roads are out of date, and were built very largely in the days of the Romans. When we are told that the money cannot be found, I do not believe it.
The trouble in this House is this. Somebody makes a proposal, the Chancellor of the Exchequer says a word, and that is the end of it. That applies to all Governments. All the wisdom is not on the front benches of the House of Commons, and all wisdom and knowledge is not in the House of Commons. It is a mistake, when a chief official of the Ministry of Transport answers an ordinary departmental question declaring that such and such a scheme is no good, to regard that as the end of it. There are many people outside the House with as wide knowledge of transport and road problems as anyone in the House, and as any of the officials attached to the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) claims, as he has done on several occasions, somebody else's scheme as his own. The road scheme of the Liberal party, excellent as it is, was adumbrated long before the Liberal party thought of it. I have here the Annual Report of the Automobile Association for 1922, in which they recommended, after a thorough investigation and inquiry on the part of experts, that the Road Fund should be capitalised for the purpose of building roads. We are told by financiers and experts inside our own Government that that scheme is impossible. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs would not have put it forward if it were impossible.
497 According to the experts outside, it would not be difficult to capitalise that Fund for £200,000,000 or £250,000,000, guaranteeing interest out of the Fund itself without raising any new taxation. That money could be used for constructing roads, which would in themselves become an asset. They would increase land values in the neighbourhood and minimise accidents, and their construction would provide work for many thousands of men. We need not raise the money all at once. It could be raised at intervals of 12 months or two years. If the people were asked to invest money in a loan to find employment, and interest on the money were guaranteed from the Road Fund, I am certain the money would be raised, in spite of what some of the financial experts tell us. The railways of this country were not built out of revenue, but out of borrowed money. The whole of the roads in America have been built out of Road Bonds, and what they can do in America we can do here. All we need is the will to do it. If a war occurred next week we could soon raise money.
Somebody has said that the present position is more serious in many respects than a war. No one comes into closer contact with the present situation than I do. I have known many young men who have been out of work for eight years The sorry thing about the whole thing is this, that when men have to live upon a restricted income for so long a period they get accustomed to being able to live upon it. They economise, they cut out many personal desires, they cut out luxuries, and in many cases they have now come to the point where they do not have a hope of getting a job and are becoming more demoralised every day. The demoralisation of these young men and young women is the worst feature of the problem. We have talked about the position in Lancashire. I come from Lancashire and am convinced that cotton is finished. I am convinced the cotton industry will never "come back." Every day we find good, old-fashioned firms of good standing closing their doors. In Lancashire we have been making machinery and sending it abroad and teaching the people abroad to weave, and yet we expect to sell them cotton goods as before! The cotton machinery trade is doing wonderfully well—
§ Mr. TOOLE
—but in my opinion the cotton industry will never come back to what it was before. It has been said by somebody that if the Hindus were paid a penny a day more in wages it would solve the unemployment in the cotton industry. Many years ago, in his early and propaganda days, the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a speech in which he said that if you put half an inch on to the tail of every Chinaman's shirt the cotton industry would be on full time for ever. All that has changed. Why? Because the fashion has changed. We are eating our own tails. We are holding "cotton frock weeks," all kinds of "weeks," and it is doing no good. The fashion has changed, and I do not think cotton will ever come back again.
This has been an aside, and now I want to express my feelings about this debate. I think that with a little more common honesty on this question and a little less regard for party we can find work for many thousands of people. We cannot solve the unemployment problem—I have said that before—but we can introduce schemes of public utility which will not waste money, will put wages into the pockets of working men and women who are willing to do the jobs, and, in addition, will leave us with some great national assets. We have done something in a small way in our own city. We built by direct labour a road costing £1,500,000. It is one of the finest roads in England—the Kingsway of Manchester, 4½ miles long, leading from Manchester to the main London Road. When we introduced that scheme in the Manchester City Council all the economists said we were wasting money. They do not say that to-day. That scheme found work for nearly 3,000 men for something like 18 months, and at the end of it we had as an asset one of the finest roads to be found in Great Britain. That is what I call useful, economical construction work. If that can be done by a municipality I am certain it can be done by the country.
Over and over again we have said from these benches that if there is one thing worse than another it is to give a man money for doing nothing if he can possibly he found a job. I would 499 rather give a man £3 a week for doing £2 worth of work than give him 30s. for walking about and doing nothing. That is the principle that ought to be adopted, and if the spirit manifested on both sides of the House to-day can be utilised, and that drive and force put behind it which we, should show in any national emergency, I am certain that the unemployed of the country will get more out of this debate than they have ever got out of any other debate.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
There has been a certain vein of hypocrisy running through some parts of the debate this afternoon. We have had hon. Members on both sides of the House talking about sinking party differences and all joining together and working together on this problem. I am sure that every hon. Member is anxious to see the end of this problem as quickly as possible, but in our new found enthusiasm let us not forget what are our functions in this House as politicians in a democratic country. We were not sent here entirely because of our intrinsic intelligence or beauty, but because we managed to persuade a number of electors that the other fellow was no use at all, or, at any rate, that we were better than he was; and we exist here through our ability to continue to impress the electors with that fact. It may be a delusion or it may not, but if the electors decide that the other fellow will be of more use, we shall have to retire. We are all fighting political animals, and if we are to discard all the weapons of party controversy and join together in a united effort to solve the unemployrnent problem, while that might be very nice for us, and might stabilise our position in the House of Commons for ever, I fear we shall have to make some fundamental changes in the constitution of the country before we can persuade the House of Commons to adopt such a policy.
I think the hon. Member for South Salford (Mr. Toole) was guilty of a little hypocrisy when he was contending that under Capitalism there must always be unemployed, that unemployment is inherent in the Capitalist system, and that there is no hope of 500 solving our problem until Capitalism is abolished. If those are his beliefs he really ought not to be supporting this Government, because they are trying, though I agree very feebly and halfheartedly, to bolster up the Capitalist system. If he really believes that we shall never solve the unemployment problem under a Capitalist system, he ought not to support any administration which is not prepared to accept the responsibility of abolishing the Capitalist system altogether. He is on the horns of a dilemma.
The Prime Minister came down this afternoon and, after explaining, not for the first time, that he must have time to consider the proposals he was going to make to the House of Commons, and that he would not be hurried or flustered, begged the House to get down to the root of the unemployment problem. We have been asked what are the root causes of unemployment. It has become the fashion now to ascribe the great increase in unemployment to world causes, and this fact has been discovered by the Government in the course of the last few months. We heard very little of that argument a few years ago. I am prepared to admit that the principal cause of the recent rise in the unemployment figures has been the fall in the level of wholesale prices throughout the world, but I claim at the same time that the Government has done absolutely nothing to check that fall and that certain things which they have done have aggravated it.
The fall has amounted to 22.5 per cent. since 1925. During the same period taxation has not fallen, but it has risen, although it should have fallen at a corresponding rate. Nominal wages have fallen by 2.3 per cent., and the cost of living by 5.2 per cent. Consequently you have a spread of 40 points between the wholesale price level, the retail price level, or cost of living in this country. We are now getting down to the root causes of unemployment. How can you expect any producer, whether he is an agriculturist or a manufacturer, to make a profit when he has to face a steadily falling level of wholesale prices. It is absolutely impossible, because his stock steadily depreciates on his hands the whole time. The effect of deflation for the last two years, and especially during 501 the last nine months, has been to transfer wealth from the active producer in this country to the inactive "rentier" class. This checks enterprise on every hand, and it also does what hon. Members opposite so frequently talk about, it contracts demand and decreases purchasing power.
How many times in these debates have we heard right hon. and hon Gentlemen opposite complain that the contraction of purchasing power was the main cause of the trouble of unemployment, and they have urged us to increase the purchasing power of the people. I ask the Government what they have done to increase the purchasing power of the people? Crushing taxation will not increase purchasing power, especially if the results of the increased taxation are devoted to wholly unproductive expenditure; an increase of £40,000,000 in direct taxation will not increase the purchasing power of the people. And, in addition, the monetary policy pursued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer has intensified the process of deflation, which more than anything else has tended to decrease purchasing power.
Expert opinion in the city has recently reaffirmed the fact that by the policy of reducing the floating debt at all costs, and restricting the issue of Treasury bills, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has increased the deflation, contracted credit, and prevented the industries of this country from receiving the long-term financial accommodation which is absolutely necessary for the reconstruction of industry. I could quote Mr. McKenna to this effect. The Government have been asked to give their opinion on this question, which is fundamental, and up to the present they have never condescended to make any reply. I affirm that there are very substantial grounds for supposing that the financial policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has aggravated the fall in prices, and has still further restricted the supply of long term credit. And on those points I should like some expression of opinion from the Government.
There is another question which is of equal importance, and that is the supply, or rather an increase in the supply, of gold in the world for monetary purposes. The supply of gold is notoriously inadequate, and does not keep pace with the increase in production. At the present moment nearly every important country in the world is on the Gold Standard, and 502 competent authorities are agreed that unless and until you can get some measure of co-operation between the central banks of issue in every country on the Gold Standard, you cannot hope to check this devastating fall in wholesale prices, which is more responsible for the increase in the unemployment figures than any other single factor. We are entitled to ask the Government whether they are doing anything to achieve co-operation between these financial centres, because until you can stabilise the value of gold in relation to commodities, I see no way out of the difficulty of the fall in prices.
I ask the Minister of Labour to tell the Committee whether the Government has in mind the furthering of such international co-operation. It was laid down as axiomatic by the Genoa Conference which was held in 1922; and the Genoa resolutions proposed an international conference between the central banks of the world in order to effect economies in the use of gold. That conference has never been held. I would like to ask if the Government contemplate the holding of that conference. And if we cannot achieve international co-operation, I would like to know if the Government has considered the institution of an imperial scheme to achieve some measure of co-operation in the use of gold between the Dominions and ourselves. If we could co-operate with the Dominions, I think we could manage to get along very well between ourselves, for we produce most of the world's gold supplies. I think that is an aspect of this question which deserves great attention at the present time.
I would like to say a word or two on the subject of unemployment grants. I have not had very great personal experience in regard to this question, but I will give one instance of the sort of thing which is going on in Scotland. A very important scheme was drawn up for the construction of a slipway and the deepening of a dock at Peterhead which was regarded as essential. The Treasury were willing to grant £39,000 for the completion of that scheme, but they made a condition that a loan of £39,000 should be raised by the local authority at Peterhead, making a total of £78,000. So far the local authority and the harbour board at Peterhead have been unable to raise the £39,000 and the whole scheme has been held up in conse- 503 quence. That is not right and I am sure that it is not the wish of the Government.
Nevertheless, I am certain from the correspondence, that the Public Works Loans Board is absolutely determined to be of no assistance whatever in the matter. They have resolved not to assist this scheme and I think, under these circumstances, that the Government should bring pressure to bear upon them, or in the alternative, set up some machinery under which, in cases of this kind, which have passed their own test, local authorities should be able to raise loans on good security. This scheme has been held up for weeks and months, although it is obviously necessary and desirable, and would give work to a very large number of unemployed men at the present time.
The hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Millar) referred to the question of small third-class roads and accommodation roads in agricultural districts especially, in Scotland. I do not want to labour the point, but in my constituency the chief transport trouble at the moment is that of these accommodation roads to the farms. It is not a question of the main roads—the trunk roads. They are quite all right. They are like racing tracks, and you can get along them with the greatest of speed; but these accommodation roads, actually leading to the farms, are in a most shocking state of disrepair, and the position at the moment is that the farmer is required to repair them himself before the local authority will take them over and look after them. The farmer, however, simply has not the capital at the moment to do that; and I suggest that that is a point which requires the serious consideration of the Government.
Before I sit down, I should like to make one or two observations on the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) the other day. I think that too much attention has been paid to the short-term proposals which he advocated at the conclusion of his speech, and with which many of us on this side of the House cannot agree; and I think, also, that the oratorical effect of his speech rather detracted from the real interest of the first part of it. The first part of his speech raised three questions to which 504 I think the Government ought to devote their very serious attention. After all, he did resign because he could not agree with them; and the Government at any rate ought to pay some attention to the fundamental questions with which the dealt in his speech.
The first was in relation to the policy of rationalisation, upon the necessity of which we are all agreed. The point which he made, and which was of interest to some of us on this side of the House, was that our banking system at the present time is ill adapted for carrying through this policy of rationalisation in regard to certain industries. He said that in Germany the banks are closely connected and interwoven with industry, the directorates of many of the large banks in Germany and of many of the large industries being identical. They are hopelessly—or rather, I should say; hopefully—interconnected, and, if an industry comes down, the bank comes down; the banks therefore are concerned to secure that industry is kept as efficient as possible. In this country the system is entirely different. It is in some respects an admirable system, but there is no doubt that, as far as the cotton industry, for instance, is concerned, it has operated to the detriment of industry during the last few years. In many cases the banks have bolstered up and kept going thoroughly inefficient concerns, rather than cut their losses and advance the necessary money for carrying out schemes of reconstruction and rationalisation, which must inevitably involve a great deal of scrapping. Here is a case in which the Government should consider very seriously whether it would not be possible, in conjunction with the Treasury, to set up some new authority—it might well be that the board which has been set up, with the Governor of the Bank of England as chairman, would fulfil the function, which I hope will be recognised as the primary function of this new institution, of affording financial facilities to these depressed industries, and particularly the cotton industry, the woollen industry, and the iron and steel industry, for carrying through the reconstruction, both financially and on the industrial side, which is vital if we are ever to recapture our export markets. I think it is quite plain that the banking system of this country, admirable as it has been and is in many respects, is, 505 for this purpose, inadequate; and has been proved to be inadequate during the last four or five years.
The second point to which some attention ought to be paid is the point made by the hon. Member for Smethwick that we cannot look to our export trade in the future to solve the unemployment problem, or even to restore in any substantial measure the prosperity of this country. We on this side of the House do not agree with that. We believe that there is a tremendous market awaiting development within the British Empire if we used the necessary means to achieve that development—and there is no shadow of doubt that the means must be very drastic indeed, because it cannot be expected that the Dominions will take our manufactured goods in preference to those of other countries unless we are prepared to take their raw materials in preference to those of other countries. If there is going to be a big forward drive, so far as the Empire is concerned, this basic fact has to be accepted. But we say, in contradistinction to the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick, that there is, if we care to use the only means that are available for the purpose, a great potential market within the Empire waiting for our exports. At the same time, we quite agree with the hon. Member for Smethwick that the home market is capable of enormous development and expansion; and we believe that we should concentrate, above all, on the home market; but in taking that point of view you are driven back upon a policy of Safeguarding or something analogous to it.
I am not a theoretical Protectionist or a theoretical Free Trader, but do hon. Members opposite realise that we have a completely different economic situation during this post-War period from that which prevailed before the War? Before the War, consumptive power all over the world enormously outran supplies. Now we have exactly the opposite state of affairs; and productive capacity, greatly exceeds potential demand. Under these conditions, I cannot see how we can possibly expect to develop a great home market in this country if we allow it to become the dumping ground for the surplus products of every manufacturing country in the world. I do not see how 506 we can ever expect to develop a great home market unless we introduce some measure of safeguarding manufactured goods in this country. If the premises of the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick are right, this problem can never be solved without the adoption of safeguarding control of imports, or something along those lines. If the fundamental premises of the hon. Member for Smethwick are right so far as the home market is concerned, we can never hope to solve our unemployment problem unless we protect our home market.
Lastly, the hon. Member referred to a topic which I believe to be absolutely vital to this country at the present time, namely, the question of the actual machinery of government. What machine have we in this country at the present time that is capable of dealing with so vast a problem, which has such enormous ramifications in every direction? The Prime Minister has come down to this House this afternoon and told us that he has set up a committee presided over by Sir John Anderson, and consisting of three of four civil servants. I should like to ask the Minister for some explanation of the functions of that committee. Is it to supplant the present Secretary of State for the Dominions, and are its members civil servants merely because they are unable to resign? I should like to ask whether they are armed with any executive authority whatever, and whether the Prime Minister really thinks that they provide a sufficient and adequate machinery with which to deal with the problem of unemployment?
Take, as an example, the question of which I referred a little time back, namely, the organisation of our Imperial trade. What is the position at the moment? There is complete disorganisation in every direction. You have the Board of Trade, and you have the Department of Overseas Trade, which also has control over the whole of the consular service. You have the Empire Marketing Board, and you have the Imperial Economic Committee—a completely separate body. None of these is armed with any authority or executive power at all. They are all arguing, and all wasting their own time and everybody else's. There is no co-ordination, there is no co-operation, there is no central authority of any kind. I would 507 ask the Minister to say whether she really thinks that a committee of four civil servants, presided over by Sir John Anderson, of the Home Office, is going to solve the problem of the machinery of government in this country, and of unemployment? I cannot think that it is possible.
With regard to the Prime Minister's appeal for a conference between the Leaders of the three parties in this House, I am not, I hope, unnecessarily or unduly cynical, but I can only say that while in 1924 I might have held high hopes of a conference between the Leaders of the three political parties in this country, I cannot now say honestly, after having spent six years here, that I can regard such a conference with any great enthusiasm, nor do I think that the Leaders of the three political parties in this country can hope, by the very nature of their duties and positions, to solve the unemployment problem, or even to produce a coherent or logical policy for dealing with it. The responsibility must rest, under our Constitution, with the Government of the day, and it is no use getting three political Leaders, who are known to be fighting each other, who only exist because they are fighting each other, to come into conference for a short time and try to produce a great policy when they disagree on almost every subject. The point is to get a really sound economic council to advise the Government of the day, and to give the Government of the day the best possible information.
That is what the present Government have to do—to reorganise the administrative machinery, and to give it a really sound economic foundation. These luncheon parties which take place once every three weeks at the Prime Minister's house are not going to solve the problem, nor is the Economic Advisory Council, which goes to No. 10 Downing Street occasionally, going to solve it. What is necessary is an absolutely independent economic body in this country to consider these extremely difficult questions. This question of unemployment will not be solved by party politicians, and, indeed, I doubt if it can be solved by politics at all. It certainly can never be solved by this House. It is a question of economics, and economics is a 508 science. You want the truth, and you will never get the truth from politicians. Naturally, they are incapable of telling the truth, because they exist through exaggeration, and it is about time that the truth was told about them. What politicians can do is to encourage and help to bring about the tremendous national effort that is required in order to combat this evil.
I agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick. It is just as grave a crisis as that which we faced in the War, and it is far more insidious, because it is much less spectacular. Unless we have a tremendous effort from the Government, from the leaders of industry and from the workers themselves, we shall slide down slowly and almost imperceptibly to the level of a second or third-rate Power, and every sacrifice that was made between 1914 and 1918 will have been made in vain. There is no doubt that in the new industrial era the Government has a vitally important part to play. Every action a modern Government takes must affect industry for good or evil. But the leaders of industry and the workers themselves have also a part to play, and if any one of these three elements fails to make that effort, we shall go down. It is because we do not see any signs of effort coming from the Government to-day that so many of us are profoundly troubled and anxious and uneasy.
§ Mr. DICKSON
In the opening speech, we were told several times that the Government had not grappled with the problem at all, and in speeches from the other side we have had submitted to us a number of cures to be applied to the evil. They have varied from the bargaining power of tariffs to a suggestion that, in approaching the problem, we should not leave out of our calculations that unseen Power who will guide us. I believe it is a good law in dramatic construction never to introduce the Deity in the working out of a play if it can be achieved by human agency. On the ground of dramatics alone, I think the hon. Member should leave out of his calculations any bringing in of the Deity to a job which humanity can very well do, and ought to do. The right hon. 509 Gentleman who introduced the debate, and suggested that we might achieve something effective and permanent from the bargaining power of tariffs, seemed to forget entirely that in America they have had this bargaining power of tariffs for many years, and they have, and we might have, six or seven million unemployed instead of 1,750,000, making allowance, of course, for the difference in population.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
The general standard of living in the United States is still very much higher than here.
§ Mr. DICKSON
The general standard of those who are working is much higher, and of those who are not working, much lower.
§ Mr. DICKSON
My authority is that there is no insurance, there is no unemployment relief, and they have to be very largely dependent on their own savings, on their own friends, or on the bread queues.
§ Mr. DICKSON
I have not been to the sun or the moon but I know they exist. The hon. Member for East Toxteth (Mr. Mond) introduced the first really nasty note into the debate. We have had many reasons given for the aggravation of this problem, but the hon. Member, looking over here, said the real cause was to be found in the very fact that a Labour Government was in office. That, in his opinion, was enough. If he believes that, he must believe that sometimes the effect comes before the cause, because ther was a larger number of unemployed in 1921 than there is now. The recently ennobled father of the hon. Member was a Member of the Government of that day, so that if a very high number of unemployed follows from lack of confidence consequent upon the installation of a Labour Government, apparently there was a worse effect following the installation of 510 the Government in which the hon. Member's ennobled father sat. [An HON. MEMBER "It was a Coalition Government."] It was a Government of all the talents. [An HON. MEMBER: "Including Labour."] Including Labour—perhaps some of the unwisest of them. The hon. Member said that simply because of our coming into office there had been a widespread destruction of world confidence. I was glad to notice from his demeanour that he apparently has escaped the plague. I did not notice any diminution of his confidence to-day or for some recent months. When the destroying angel was passing over, his lintel must have been splashed, but he escaped and, in view of his confidence, we might safely leave the solution not only of the unemployment problem in this country but of all problems at all times to be solved by him.
I do not want to go into any broad aspects of the problem at all. I am Scottish, and I believe that every mickle makes a muckle, and I want to turn my mind to one particular mickle in the hope that it will aid towards a muckle. I want to ask the Minister if he will convey to the Prime Minister and the Committee that he is setting up the very great necessity, in the opinion of some of us, for this new Committee to take an entirely new point of view in regard to the treatment of the unemployment problem in the depressed areas, particularly with regard to transfer and non-transfer terms I come from Lanarkshire, the blackest spot in Scotland so far as unemployment is concerned. We were treated formerly as a depressed area and were entitled to ordinary unemployment grant conditions. Under the transferred conditions, an area outside Lanarkshire, if it carried through a relief work scheme and took a certain percentage of unemployed labour from Lanarkshire, was entitled to better grant terms than we were entitled to. It was intimated towards the end of the year that Lanark was to be a financial unit within which both transfer and non-transfer terms would be operated, that is to say, the authorities would look upon Lanarkshire, not as an entirely depressed whole but as a thing of shreds and patches—patches that were very black, and shreds which could be taken as grey or white areas which would be eligible if the work were carried out in those areas under transfer conditions.
511 That was a step forward, but it was not sufficient. It leads to many incongruities, and sometimes to stupidities. It really means that a local authority, in order to get transfer terms, has to carry out work in a white patch of its own area, and to convey its men from the blacker or the depressed areas by omnibus or other methods of transport. In order to get the better grant conditions for the relief of unemployment, the county council may be compelled to carry out unemployment relief schemes, not where they are most needed and most desirable, but in places where they are least needed and desirable, in order to get better terms than they would get if they carried them out where the schemes were most necessary and desirable, and most convenient for the men unemployed in the particular area.
I suggest that the welfare of the unemployment scheme as a whole can be improved if the Government cast down this very artificial barrier in the work of the local authorities and say to them, "We will readjust and raise to the highest possible financial point the percentage grant, and we will allow the local authority, being a financial and administrative unit and knowing their own business best, where they most need relief schemes, and where men can be used most effectively and rapidly, to carry out their work in their own way and under general conditions." That was what I rose to say, and I hope that the new committee which is being appointed will take this question into very serious and deliberate consideration. I am certain that the snag in the question of the larger and the smaller grant for transferred and non-transferred labour has very largely been responsible for the holding up of a very great deal of work which could have been done both in the county of Lanark and in many similar counties throughout the country.
§ Mr. HURD
I ought not to allow to pass unnoticed the reference which the Minister of Transport thought fit to make to me, because of a certain action which I have taken in the matter of road policy. He also thought it right to launch an attack against the "Times" newspaper for opening its columns to a discussion of this question and, presumably, for sending its own commissioner 512 down to my part of the country in the West of England to see for itself in an independent way exactly what traffic there is on this main road upon which such a large sum of money is about to be spent. The Minister of Transport and I for some time have been associated with each other in an administrative capacity which has nothing whatever to do with politics, and I do not think that we have unfriendly feelings towards one another, but I do not see what legitimate occasion he can have to rebuke me because I happen to hold a different view as regard's road policy from the view which he holds and tries to carry out. As to his attack upon the "Times," I can only say that when he refers to the "Times" as he did on this occasion he must have a singular forgetfulness of the many great progressive causes in which the "Times" has led public opinion of this country, and also a singular forgetfulness of the great indebtedness which he and other Ministers, and Members of all parties owe to the Press of this country in bringing their opinions before the large electorate to whom we have to appeal to-day.
What is the test in this matter of an effective and proper road policy? I would go to the test which has been established by the Minister of Transport himself, the test which was adopted this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). It was expressed in an excellent way by the Minister of Transport in a speech which he delivered at Letchworth on 31st May, in which he said:It a false idea to suppose that a solution of the unemployment problem is to be found in the spending of hundreds of millions of pounds on the construction of roads. When we get beyond the point of a highway system adequate for the purpose, it follows that the money spent involves charges upon production which are not productive in themselves. When we get to that point, we are not adding anything to the solution of unemployment.I maintain that the road policy which the Minister is now following, especially in connection with the local authorities who were called into conference yesterday and to-day, cuts across the test which the Minister himself had previously set up. The local authorities gave their reply yesterday, and we know in how many cases they pointed out that 513 the expenditure now being forced upon them went beyond the normal road necessities of this country. One would really imagine, from what has been heard this afternoon in various parts of the Committee, that we were stinting ourselves in the expenditure on roads. Nothing can be more fallacious. This year of grace, under the programme set out by the late Conservative Ministry and not by the Labour Ministry, we are spending 58.8 millions of money, and if we compare the expenditure with previous years we find that it is £8,000,000 more than in 1923–24 on maintenance and improvements and all the rest of it. If you carry the comparison back to 1914–15 it will be found that the 58.8 millions of to-day compares with £18,000,000 of that comparatively recent year.
§ Mr. HURD
Questions have been put down during the last few days to try to find out how much money is spent on maintenance and how much is spent on new construction, and the Minister has confessed that he cannot dissect the figures in order to give that information. This new expenditure is being thrust, upon the local authorities beyond their resources and against their will by a series of bribes. That is what has happened in my county. It goes far beyond the necessities of the case or, in fact, the justice of the case. Is this really necessary? The Minister in his reference to me made a great point of the fact that traffic upon the main road to which he and I have referred had increased by 50 per cent. in a certain period. What does this percentage business mean? Anybody who has had anything to do with the tariff question knows what a fallacious thing the percentage criterion really is. If you had five motors on a road the year before last and the number has increased to 10 to-day, it is a tremendous increase. It is a shocking percentage. The same 514 sort of thing applies to the trunk road to which reference has been made. I have consulted leading authorities with regard to the traffic upon this road, especially in the busiest times at the week-end. I have consulted the mayor of the town of Marlborough and one or two medical authorities who are continually moving about, and they say that there is never any occasion whatever even for slackening speed on that road. Therefore, why should we, when we are spending nearly £60,000,000 on road maintenance and development and on the work of cutting off dangerous corners and making bypasses where they are needed, launch out and drive local authorities into this fresh expenditure beyond their resources?
There is one other point to which I must refer. The Minister said we must, in the interests of employment, expedite this road work. We have been doing nothing else but expediting it for years past. It was the policy of the late Ministry. If the reports of the speeches made yesterday, including that of the Minister of Transport, are examined, you will find how far that work has been expedited in recent years. The right hon. Gentleman has already mortgaged the future and even in some cases taken second mortgages on the future. Now the Government are coming forward to push local authorities on to take a third mortgage on the future. In the present economic condition of the country that is not a wise policy. In spite of the threat that the Minister in charge threw out against myself—and it leaves me quite cold—I intend to persist in resisting a policy which is unwise, uneconomical, and entirely opposed to the best interest of the rural life of the country.
If we have more money to spend, let us try and tackle, through this new committee, the water supply problem in villages. The terms offered by the Ministry—and this is not a party matter—are not adequate for the poor communities where the water supply is very bad indeed. If I were given to sob stuff, I could distress the House by describing the conditions in some of the villages with which. I am familiar and the inadequacy and almost the absence of any water supply for even the normal domestic needs of the home. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says we should not drink water. Well, we have a very good substitute for water in Wiltshire, 515 but we do need water, and, if we have more money to spend, we should give greater encouragement to the local authorities for a better water supply in the villages. If we have more money to spend, do let us also concentrate upon getting back on to the railways some of the heavy traffic which throbs along our roads and ruins the houses, and is destructive to the roads themselves. I hope the committee will take a large view of the problem and try to turn the roads to their proper use while making more use of the railways, for, if we have more money to spend, let us have more de-freighting and reduction of rates, so as to bring back upon the railways, which are the most efficient in the world, some of the heavy traffic which does so much damage in the countryside.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The hon. Member for East Toxteth (Mr. Mond) made reference to the presence of this Government as being the basis of to-day's troubles, but I think there might be ground for a similar charge that there is a definite organised effort in operation in order to defeat any possibility of the recovery of industry by withholding the ordinary method of ordering goods forward and hampering the work of the Labour Government. The right hon. Gentleman who initiated the debate made a statement regarding the need for re-organisation and recapitalisation in industry. I am one of those who held that reorganisation was necessary even before the War. Since the War we have had this word "reorganisation" flung about until no one pays the slightest attention to it.
In my opinion, the whole trouble rests in the industrial field. We have had in this House debates dealing with banking, credit, and loans, and interest, but we have never had a proper examination of what is taking place in the industrial field. Reorganisation and recapitalisation mean one thing. The right hon. Gentleman implied in his speech that there was a need for recapitalisation. There might have been some possibility of considering recapitalisation if those in charge, who are the owners of industry in this country, had been running industry for the benefit of the country and never making any profit, but, when we know the reverse is the case and that the majority of owners of works, instead 516 of applying profits to bringing the work scientifically up to date, allow time to pass, work without the foresight, and never had the foresight in the early days of industry to see the possibility of other countries doing for themselves and closing the world markets on which the industry of this country was built, I charge those people who call themselves the captains of industry with having failed. Since we on this side are in the position of not having a majority to take over industry and run it for the benefit of the nation, we should say to those owners, who have failed to organise industry so as to employ the people, that, unless they are employed, then those who can afford to pay taxes should be taxed to whatever amount is required in order to give a competence to those for whom they fail to find work.
The right hon. Gentleman made a further statement which seemed to me to be a great admission. He said that he agreed that the fetters had been forged by ourselves. I have just stated how that forging has taken place. We have had no foresight in industry and have never kept up with progress in the scientific laboratories in our country. We have always been 25 years behind. There are four firms in this country to whose great credit it is that they have always been ready to take the very latest developments of science and apply them in industry and bring things up to a modern standard. The lack of foresight has meant a great deal of trouble in this country. If we had had foresight, we would have had to-day what has happened in reconstructed Germany with its increased powers of production. The reply which is made to that is that increased unemployment would result. I am not afraid of that as a Socialist, because I want the application of every improvement to industry. I do not care where it is or what it is, because I believe that, just as you increase the application of scientific knowledge to industry and increase production, the nation is bound to face a reduction of hours in proportion, because that is the only way in the end that you will be able to absorb all the people displaced by these inventions. I hold that the owners of industry are entirely responsible for unemployment conditions as they obtain to-day.
§ Major BEAUMONT THOMAS
Does the hon. Gentleman not know of any case where labour has refused to accept modern machinery?
§ Mr. HARDIE
In the past, when machinery was put in, before the working men had the education they have to-day, they thought that the machinery was against them, but not to-day. That question reminds me of the fact that the suggestion the hon. and gallant Member makes is true of the employers. It has taken years to get the better employers to understand the need of rationalisation—a word which I detest because it is not a word which should be so applied. The slack employers have not been paying attention to their industry. And do not forget that every one of these defects means an addition to the cost of the article. Take the position of this country on the question of heat, which is the basis of all industry. Apart from a few of the recent big power stations the average amount of heat taken out of coal is only about 52 per cent. All the rest of the heat in the coal is wasted, and it goes to add to the price of the article. I want to see every unit of heat in coal used. If it is not used it becomes an absolute loss to the nation, adds to the price of the article and hampers you in competition with other parts of the world.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I hope the hon. Member will address his remarks to the Chair and that he will use the personal pronoun "we" instead of "you."
§ Mr. HARDIE
With regard to the question of credits and loans, it is possible to have a system whereby we 518 can use credits, but when it is a question of loans it means that we have to face an increased debt and increased interest. What the country is suffering from most is the heavy interest bill we have to face. We are being held up by the interest which has to be met on the National Debt, and any loans would still further increase the weight of interest which the nation would have to face. We ought to tax those who have the money to meet our expenditure every year and keep down the burden of interest which is constantly growing. If this was done by a direct tax on those who are able to pay it would leave the country free to go on with the great improvements we ought to undertake. I have never been enthusiastic about expenditure on roads. As you make roads you only increase another value which is taken from the social growth; you only provide bigger land values for those who own the land on the side of the roads.
I favour an expenditure on housing first, because a house is something which is of much greater value than a road. What is the use of this continuous expenditure on roads? It is only to increase the smoothness of the surface so that speed merchants may fly about the country at week-ends. Those who are most enthusiastic about expenditure on roads are those who want to show that their special car can do a little more than another car. I have watched them on some of our roads. This expenditure is not so much in the interests of what is called transport as in the interests of those who can afford to run about the country in cars. I hope the Prime Minister, when he is laying out the work for this new committee, will not forget that the industrial field is the basis upon which this question will have to be tackled. I hope he will begin at the proper place, that is, the industrial field, and that we shall have a real reflection of industrial conditions to-day and thus be able to deal with those who have been keeping up to date and also with those who have not been keeping up to date.
§ Major MUIRHEAD
The Prime Minister, when replying to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), said that my right hon. Friend went from unemployment to the Board of Agriculture, and the tone in 519 which he said it implied that it was a long journey. I disagree entirely. Unemployment and agriculture seems to me the most natural things to connect one with the other. One of the features of this debate, and it is characteristic of all debates on unemployment, is the almost complete disregard of agriculture by hon. Members opposite. It is essential that the question of agriculture in relation to unemployment should be raised, particularly the effect of agricultural depression not only on agriculture itself but on the vast mass of manufacturing life which depends a great deal more than it thinks on the fortunes of its rural neighbours. Agricultural depression is not merely a question of lower rents for landlords, smaller cottages for farmers, or poorer wages for agricultural workers. It hits vitally the manufacturing industry and the urban life of the country. It has been stated that 40,000 regular agricultural workers are now actually unemployed. The figure was contested, but I am prepared to accept it; it enables me to make a short examination of the figures of unemployment in agriculture.
I suppose that if one was to say that unemployment in a wide sense has been as acute in agriculture during the past 10 years as it has been in any other industry in this country, hon. Members opposite, most of them connected with urban districts, would disagree, but I think if I analyse the figures in a particular way I can show the Committee what I mean. The figure has very often been quoted in this House that there are just over 100,000 fewer agricultural workers employed in the industry today than there were in 1921. They are not visible, definite unemployed agricultural people because they have very largely drifted away into insurable occupations. But supposing that agriculture had been an insured occupation. These people would have remained as definitely agricultural unemployed people. That would mean that the unemployed rates at the present moment in agriculture would be 10 per cent. The general level of unemployment in insurable occupation is only 9.7, so that we actually would see in the course of the last 10 years, in a wide sense, the depression in agriculture causing a 520 higher rate of unemployment than has been the case in the insurable trades. That is leaving out of account 40,000 people who are said to be actually unemployed at the present moment in agriculture. I cannot help thinking that there are reasons. In these figures between 1921 and 1929 there is one remarkable feature, that the number of men over 21 has been rapidly stabilised; the decrease in these years has been actually under 1 per cent. With the people under 21 the decrease has been very heavy.
The time is surely coming when it will not be possible to maintain that stabilisation with the older agricultural workers, and if you have not been getting the young men into the industry, it will be in a bad way. Just as with battleships, so in agriculture, there is an urgent question of replacement. I foresee a very great crisis in employment in agriculture in the next two years. I have been taking the last census figures of 1921. I looked up two counties with which I am connected, Oxfordshire and Somersetshire, and I found that in the rural districts of these two counties there were in Oxfordshire 15,000 engaged in agriculture out of a total of 31,000, and in Somerset-shire 31,000 out of a total of 72,000; on the whole, about 50 per cent. in each case, and with the whole of the administrative county of Somerset there is a quarter of the population engaged in agriculture. In any rural county there is an enormous number of people who vitally and absolutely depend upon the stability of the agricultural industry for their life, industry and employment.
I have no doubt that when we get the next census, we shall see in those rural areas an increased total population. There will be a decrease in the agricultural workers, but any unthinking person looking at the figures would say, "All is well in the countryside." But, in point of fact, that would be a perfectly specious conclusion to arrive at. That increase of population in the rural districts would be due to modern transport. A great deal of the increase is due to the increase in tourist traffic, garages, petrol stations, etc., which cater for a purely passing traffic from urban areas. The rural districts are rapidly 521 becoming great, spending areas for urban money. That is all very well in a way, but all is not well because rural areas ought really to loran the biggest and one of the most important sections of the home market for our manufactured goods. The only way that section of the markets for manufactured goods can be put upon a really sound basis is to base it on the capital which is invested in agricultural land and agricultural equipment. You want to make rural districts not merely a spending area for urban money. You want to have the converse—the rural society definitely based on the capital that is invested in the land, so that the rural society can become great and a purchasing area for the manufactured goods of this country. Any increase in the prosperity of the population of the rural districts in this country that is not based on the highest utilisation of the capital in agricultural land or agricultural implements, is a specious prosperity so far as the manufacturing districts of this country are concerned.
I believe that some time ago the late Minister of Agriculture said he considered that drainage was a most important thing in agriculture at the present time, and there was suggestions of big drainage schemes to help unemployment. I would like to draw one more moral on the question of drainage. In the country you often get a slight slope of the land, and you get all the boggy land at the bottom, and extending up to the hill. To set about draining that land many people would think that the only thing to do was to put in pipes at the bottom, but practical people know that very often the best thing to do is to put pipes at the top to get the water before it gets down to the boggy part. It is just the same with unemployment. We are putting in the drain pipes low down, instead of putting a much smaller pipe much further up and doing the job with much less trouble. The rehabilitation of agriculture to-day should not be a temporary short-time palliative to find employment that has already been created, but it should definitely stop at the source one of the most considerable factors in our unemployment problem to-day.
§ Mr. W. B. TAYLOR
I should like to associate myself with the very able and 522 clearly expressed view of the hon. Member who has just sat down. Standing here as the representative of an agricultural constituency, it seems to me almost like a red-letter day so far as unemployment is concerned, because in my recollection since coming into this House, this is the first unemployment debate in which agriculture has really been definitely referred to from all sides. That is a very admirable spirit. The tone of the debate gives the outlook a hopefulness that some of us had not entertained before in regard to this terrible problem. Perhaps the hon. Member in basing the elements of success in the industry upon capital, might perhaps have remembered that we on this side believe that the first charge upon industry should be a living wage for the people who work in that industry. Perhaps if some Government on some ealier occasion had been courageous enough to tackle the whole agricultural problem along somewhat bolder lines, we might have had a foundation of prosperity as well as an increased population on the countryside, which I hope this Government may find it worth while to attempt before they leave office.
In facing this problem there are one or two avenues which seem to me to be worthy of exploration. In the current news to-day we find on the one hand that we have 150,000 working builders unemployed. I am sure that there must be Members of this House who know the housing conditions of rural areas in their constituencies, and who would suggest that in those areas is an opportunity for builders to erect more cottages. That would mean considerable aid in finding employment in the building trade. I do not know whether it would be thought impracticable, but it appears to me that the Ministry of Health might well consider making just as bold a survey of the housing problem in the villages of Britain as of land and drainage and other forms of development. Could not a return be insisted upon from every rural district council, and could these councils not be advised or instructed to issue public invitations in every village, so that applicants requiring cottages could make their needs known? I believe that such an inquiry, resolutely made, would reveal a tremendous need for new cottages and would provide a vast amount of building work in the countryside.
523 Speaking as a representative of a constituency in which there are some 25,000 acres under afforestation, and with just about as much land of better quality lying unused or waterlogged, it seems to me that it might be worth while to make an attempt to recapture that land for the purpose of food production and as a means of providing work for our people. In linking up the unemployment problem with agriculture we might find ways and means not only of increasing production but of adding to our employment and population and of recovering some of the wasted acres which are now down to grass or waterlogged. It is certainly true that, so far as arable Britain is concerned, there is a terrible slump, and that we have not got past the worst of it. We are under-capitalised as an industry. There is not adequate employment for the men, having regard to the financial position of the farming industry on the second-class land. I know that in certain parts of Great Britain farming even to-day is paying its way; its prospects are not rosy, but it is at least keeping its head above water. Yet there are vast tracts of second-class land where it is impossible economically to face the existing position, to maintain cultivation and to produce more home-grown food as a business proposition.
Therefore, I hope that the spirit displayed to-day, not only in relation to unemployment, but also in regard to a definite forward policy, may mean that not only will prices be tackled but also wages. I am bound to say, after 12 months of a Labour Government, that I cannot stand here as a representative sent to this House largely by the votes of agricultural workers without once more making a strong appeal to my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench seriously to examine the grounds upon which up to the present they have felt unable to give the agricultural worker some form of Unemployment Insurance. A more deserving class of worker is not to be found. A patient, plodding man is the English labourer. Why should he be selected as the last victim of an old system which means only parish relief or the public assistance committee in his old age? I believe that the sentiment and spirit of this House would welcome any practical measure 524 that would on reasonable terms provide a form of Unemployment Insurance for the farm worker. I earnestly appeal to the Government to give that matter their urgent and most sympathetic attention.
§ Sir JOHN GILMOUR
As has been repeatedly said, this Debate has been conducted in good temper and with an earnest desire in all parts of the House to deal with a serious problem in an adequate manner. I find myself compelled to ask a few further questions of the Government in order that I might clarify my mind upon the situation as we find it at the moment. I have looked back upon a number of previous debates upon this subject of unemployment, both when I was and when I was not in office, and I recall that on almost every occasion the party which is now in power laid the blame for any difficulty that might have occurred on the shoulders of those who were in office at the time, and they totally neglected to make any concession or reference to what they are now pleased to call "world causes." Of course I am in agreement with those who say that no small part of our present problem is due to world causes. But when anyone says that world causes did not operate in 1924 and 1926, I reply that surely they have not read their history.
I observed in the Press this morning the reports of two meetings that have a considerable bearing on this problem. One was a deputation received by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, representative of all the great industries, and the other was a meeting of representatives of local authorities in the City of London at which the Prime Minister and a number of his colleagues attended. From some of the speeches made there and also the speech of the Prime Minister to-day, one might be led to assume that a new era had begun and that something fresh had taken place but those who have followed the course of events in connection with this matter must recognise that, both as regards the reception of business people by responsible Ministers, and the meeting together of the representatives of local authorities, these are no new things.
We listened to-day to the story of how the Prime Minister started out with the idea of forming a certain kind of Com- 525 mittee to deal with this problem; how on coming into office he found it inconvenient to take that course, and how he set up another form of Committee over which the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs presided. It was explained with great care that the members of that Committee were selected for their knowledge, their independence, their education, their diversity of views upon this problem. That Committee has disappeared. It has failed, and now we are asked to accept the explanation that the Government propose to deal with the problem by means of a Committee of civil servants. When the Prime Minister told us the other day that he was going to take the chairmanship of a Committee and that the Ministers of the various Departments concerned with this problem would answer questions in the House of Commons I understood that he proposed to return to the former system and that the Departments primarily concerned with these matters, the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Labour and, also, I think, the Ministry of Agriculture, with their staffs, would now after a lapse of time turn their minds adequately and determinedly to their own peculiar problems. But I find that in this new Committee it is proposed to second from certain Departments a number of, no doubt, very able men representing the Home Office, the Treasury and other Departments, and that they are to do no more than has been done in the past without so much advertisement, and certainly without so much dislocation of the ordinary routine of these Departments. If the Prime Minister with a Cabinet Committee is going to turn his mind to these problems and co-ordinate them, that procedure no doubt is on the right lines, but the country in ray view would be wrong if it were led into the idea that what is proposed here to-day is anything new or is a wide departure from the procedure adopted by Governments of the past. The truth is that it maters not what kind of a Committee you have: what does matter is the spirit in which you approach these problems, and the knowledge which you apply to them.
I should like to ask something further. Some indication has been given that we are expected to abrogate our rights and duties as political critics and parties in the House of Commons; that because the Labour party have discovered that they 526 have not got the immediate cure which they promised at the General Election, the problem is now to be treated as a national problem and as a problem requiring more than the brains and the thinking power of the special Committee that was to solve it originally. We are now invited to come into a conference—one of the many conferences to which we are being invited. I do not quite follow all the details of that invitation, nor is it for me to give a reply which will be given by my right hon. Friend the Leader of my party, but I would say this. In my judgment the real responsibility lies with the Government of the day, Men, inspired with goodwill, as I trust we all are, and with a desire to solve the problem, can on the Floor of the House of Commons and in public, give our views and put our policy before the country so that the country may know what we think. We can do so through the interchange of debate across the Floor rather than by going into any conference the terms of which I do not know—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is speaking for his Leader, with whom we are in direct communication, or whether he is speaking for himself?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I have made it quite clear that the answer to the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman must be an answer by the Leader of my party. I said so definitely, but I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman this: Supposing we go into a conference of that kind, on what footing is it to be? If I understood the right hon. Gentleman aright, in speaking of the problem of agriculture in which I am deeply interested, he ruled out any possibility of dealing with dumped oats. But I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has repeatedly said that something must be done to deal with that problem. On what kind of terms are we to go into a conference, if a fundamental matter which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has, I understand, committed himself to deal with in some way, is to be debarred? I think the country has a right to know the answer to that question.
In this debate there have been speeches of a helpful character, but I must confess 527 to a little disappointment that we have heard so little of efforts to stimulate and encourage the ordinary industries of the country, and so much about the admittedly difficult problem of dealing with the mass of unemployed which we have upon our hands. A policy of palliatives is not one which goes to the root of the problem. I observe again that there was a much advertised council of leaders of industry who were called into consultation by the Prime Minister. The general public might assume from the manner in which that conference was described that it was something new and unusual, but every Government of the past has had conferences with leaders of industry. I would only say in passing that I think the right hon. Gentleman has had the advantage of the advice of leaders of industry, irrespective of party, placed at his disposal.
We have talked to-day, in my judgment, far too much about a policy of roads, of trying to find some palliative and temporary measure. It is not incumbent upon me to-night to go into any details as to the methods to be followed, nor is it my job to prescribe the particular remedies by which we think we must solve these problems, but one of the chief problems which lies before any Government is not only to stimulate employment and production in industry, but to make certain that you will be able to produce goods in this country at a price at which the rest of the world can purchase them. That has not been spoken of to-day, and we seem to have had little indication as to how the Government propose to deal with that problem. On the contrary, I observe that the Prime Minister to-day reasserts his support of "Labour and the Nation." If he is committed by that to the kind of idea that he is going to take over the Bank of England and that he is going to run that ancient business institution as a Government Department and make as great a success of it as the last Committee made in dealing with the fringe of the problem, what security is there to be for the business community in this country?
The truth is that the Government came into power committed to a policy in which no doubt they may have believed at one time or another, but, on the other hand, I am satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the Cabinet 528 know perfectly well that they cannot, without devastating results, attempt to put that policy that they preach into practice. If they did, there would be an end of confidence and security, and it is essential, if you Are going to build up your businesses in this country, not only that you shouild have that confidence, but that you should create more wealth in order to develop those businesses.
I look at what has happened in the last years in Parliament, and I am not going to say that some measure of blame may not rest upon all parties, and even on my own party, in the matter of expenditure in this country, but it is clear that, unless you can have a period of prosperity, unless you can ensure your works running in a manner in which they are not running at the present time, it is impossible for us to afford the expenditure which we have been making, either upon these palliatives or upon the social services which we all desire to see carried into effect. When I was responsible for affairs in Scotland, there is no doubt that we expended large sums of money upon endeavouring to find work for our people upon schemes of great variety, housing schemes particularly, and we have materially assisted and improved the condition of the people by those schemes.
Those are productive schemes, and in so far as they improve the health of the people, I am in agreement with proceeding with those schemes, but when you come to the other problem of roads or drainage, those are things of limited possibilities in practice, and, in my judgment, we have to-day enormous sums expended upon our roads. We have some of the best roads in the world. If anything is to be done in future, it ought to be more in the way of assisting local authorities in the maintenance of the second class roads than in spending further money upon the great main arteries. By expenditure of this kind we are mortgaging the future. It is impossible for local authorities, loaded as they are with responsibilities which they have to meet, to place further burdens upon the ratepayers, and I beg the Government to remember in dealing with this problem that, while it may be an easy road at the moment to encourage and to bribe local Authorities to proceed to further extravagance in these matters, it is likely 529 to bring back upon this country a burden of increasing weight. There is the proverbial story of breaking the camel's back, but, having had some experience of dealing with camels, I will say to the right hon. Gentleman that you can only load a camel when he is lying on the ground. If the right hon. Gentleman and his friends go on overloading the camel, it will not actually break his back, but he will not get up. It is essential for the right hon. Gentleman's purpose that the camel should rise.
I say to him with all seriousness, while I wish him well in regard to the conference with the local authorities, that he will only succeed there by giving the local authorities larger sums of the taxpayers' money. I was happy to hear one of his colleagues say that he believed it essential that the local authorities should contribute in some measure towards expenditure. I hope that that will be observed, and that too open a gate will not be made when these grants are given. I come back to this. The country recognises that this is a large problem, but it is essential for its solution that there should be encouragement of the real trade of this country, that we should do what we can by arrangement with our Dominions to ensure that they will buy from us and that we shall buy from them. I observed in the interview which the late Lord Privy Seal had with business men that it was pointed out that the local authorities were going to the extent of buying British goods, and penalising either the ratepayer or the taxpayer by something like 40 per cent. owing to the difference between British produced goods and foreign goods. We cannot go on doing that without grave risks of breaking the machine, and we can only get over it if we give reasonable protection and security to the producer of the fundamental goods in this country.
If we are to maintain the general security of our people, if we are to keep the standard of living that we desire to see, it is essential that we should keep our people in work. More and more we have been turning our minds towards schemes of taking old men out of industry, but many of these elderly men are the most skilled men in industry, and many of the businesses are sorry to lose them. This is a mere palliative. At the other end, 530 we are thinking of dealing with the youth of this country by raising the school age. I am one of those who believe in education, and I can conceive nothing which will be of greater help in industry than improvement in education, but I would say, and I say it with knowledge of the circumstances in my own country, that to attempt to do that at this moment is an impossibility from the point of view of the school buildings, and it is a fraud upon both the parents and the children, because we cannot give them that adequate education which they require.
I will conclude by saying this. The right bon. Gentleman has changed his attitude of mind. He has spoken in very different terms from any we have heard in the past. We on our part will, in conjunction with every local authority in the country, turn our minds to any method by which we can assist in this difficulty; but if confidence is to be secured, if money is to be free for industry, people must have the assurance that industry will not be attacked in the manner indicated in "Labour and the Nation," that the basic management of our banks and of our securities will not be attacked on the lines announced on public platforms by Socialists. Unless and until we can get back to a true realisation of the factors which govern these things, which I believe the right hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues have learned since they came into office, I do not believe that confidence will be secured which is necessary to ensure the future progress of industry in this country.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Miss Bondfield)
We have had to-day a very fine debate, and my task is made the easier in replying to it. If I do not deal with every point that has been raised by hon. Members, I ask them to believe that I shall take up every point as it appears in the pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT and give it due consideration. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pollok (Sir J. Gilmour) appears to be a little forgetful of what the Prime Minister said in his speech in the earlier part of the debate. If he reads it in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow morning he will find that most of the points he raised were answered at the time. For example, the Prime Minister said very distinctly and definitely that whatever 531 conference was entered into between the leaders of the different parties, the responsibility would remain with the Government of the day. As regards the terms of the conference, I will only refer the right hon. Gentleman to his leader, who knows the terms contained in the letter. He referred to the question of the stimulation of industry as having been ignored to-day. Here, again, he will find that the Prime Minister very definitely emphasised the fact that, whatever was being done in the short-term programme or in connection with the Unemployment Grants Committee, there would be no relaxation of the efforts already put forth for the stimulation of industry. Of course, it is perfectly obvious to anyone connected with business that the kind of stimulation that industry needs cannot usefully be discussed in public in detail. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Questions of the amalgamation of firms, and firms who are not adopting up-to-date methods—they do not care to have that kind of thing debated on the Floor of the House.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
The final point the right hon. Gentleman made was that the subject of the Vote did not particularly and expressly refer to that side of the matter. All I have to say on that to hon. Members opposite is that the subject of the Vote was their own choice, and I do not think anyone can complain that we have been restricted in debate. The warning the right hon. Gentleman gave against Socialism seems so quaint and archaic in the light of this fact, that the amazing thing in this period of cur history is the growth of Socialist control exercised by Conservative Members on Local Authorities. Those who are acquainted with these forms of service realise that that kind of talk about Socialist control is a mere bogey, and has no foundation in fact. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Malone) raised one or two specific points affording a very good illustration of the difficulties with which we are constantly faced in connection with the Unemployment Grants Committee. I have no knowledge whatever of one of the schemes to which 532 he alluded. As regards the sewage scheme to which he referred, he criticised the delays which have occurred, and that is the other side of the picture. Originally, the sewage scheme amounted to £108,000, and further details were asked for by the Department on the 13th February. The council replied after one month's delay. Further details were asked for again on the 21st March, and the council replied at the end of May. Points of that kind cause delay in dealing with these matters, and we are trying to get into touch at the point where the delay actually occurs.
The hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Major Muirhead) dealt with the statistics of unemployment and gave some pregnant facts dealing with the present system. I think he pointed out that the proportion of those below the wage-earning age is decreasing, and the proportion of wage-earners is increasing in the several groups. I will not delay the House by reading the new form, but I would invite every hon. Member carefully to study the new form of stating the figures which appears in the June issue of the Ministry of Labour Gazette. This new form has been the subject of inquiry by the Economic Advisory Council, and I think it gives an analysis of the figures in a manner which makes them far more intelligible, and it makes it easier for hon. Members to trace the various groups than was the case with the old form of figures.
The hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir J. Ferguson) put to me some questions with regard to the proportion of British goods used in the various schemes which are being carried out. I am glad to be able to assure hon. Members on all sides of the House that that is one of the points which is being specially emphasised in connection with all grants-in-aid of schemes for works. In regard to the total amount of £36,000,000 which has been approved for grant, there is not more than £2,000 of material which is not British in connection with the works which have been entered into. Even that amount is only due to the fact that either the materials required cannot be got here, or can only be got by holding up the whole of the work concerned.
533 With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for East Toxteth (Mr. Mond), with much of what he said we are in complete agreement. No one who has studied the situation from the standpoint of almost any of the staple industries of this country can be under any illusion as to the gravity of the position and the seriousness of the situation which has to be faced next winter. When, however, the hon. Member went on to say that the gravity of the situation was largely due to the fact of a Socialist Government being in office, he very largely nullified what I agree was otherwise an excellent speech. We have only to look round the world and see that all these countries, with the changes of Government that take place, are steadily moving towards the left—[Interruption]—and I think it would be extremely good for the spiritual health of the hon. Member for East Toxteth if he could hear some of the comments that I myself have heard from people who are living abroad, when they view the situation from that standpoint and compare what is going on in Great Britain with what is going on in other parts of the world.
I should like the hon. Member to hear the comments of some of our trade competitors with regard to what they consider to be the obsolete methods of British traders in essential trades. The existence of such obsolete methods is very lamentable, though no one in this House would assert that it applies to all British traders. Quite obviously it does not. We have probably in this country some of the finest examples of business efficiency that can be found anywhere in the world, but it would be simply foolish to shut our eyes to the fact that, when it comes to the question of trying to compete in the markets of the world, we do not show that amount of enterprise, of co-ordination, and of mutual co-operation which the circumstances of the case absolutely require. So far from the Labour Government being a deterrent to the business men of this country, there has never been in the history of the British Parliament such cordial and close co-operation between groups of business men in this country and the Government as exists at the present time. [Interruption.] No one who knows about the conferences that are taking place now can deny that perfectly simple statement. The shocks to British industry referred to by the hon. 534 Member for East Toxteth have been of the type of the Hatry shock, and others of that kind. It has been suggested that Germany and France have not the burdens to bear that are placed upon the shoulders of our taxpayers, but surely hon. Gentlemen opposite must remember that both Germany and France have got their Capital Levy by inflation, while we have still an inflated debt hanging round our necks. If hon. Members opposite had accepted our suggestion of a Capital Levy at the time when it could have been made effective, the situation would have been very different. [Interruption.]
The hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Millar), and my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mr. Dickson), both referred to the question of the transference of labour. That is a matter in which I myself take a very deep and personal interest, and I should like to say, apart from the general question, that the Local Government Conference, and the subcommittee appointed by that Conference, have these same points under review, so that it will not be possible for me tonight to give the results of that Conference. I do, however, want to clear up—I have tried to do so two or three times, and I want to try again—what I believe to be a very real misunderstanding on this question of transference. In the first place, it has been exaggerated out of all proportion to the place which it occupies in connection with the Unemployment Grants scheme. I will give the Committee the actual figures with regard to the present position. The transfer condition attaching to certain Unemployment Grants schemes has been worked elastically in any case. From the 1st June, 1929, to the 11th June, 1930, 1,794 schemes, of a total estimated cost of £36,600,000, were approved. The transfer condition was attached to only 505 of those schemes of an estimated cost of £8,750,000. The total number of men, women and boys transferred, from August, 1928, to June, 1930—that is to say, since any transfer began at all from the mining areas—has been 56,000. When I give yon another set of figures, you will see how perfectly unreasonable it is, viewing the circumstances under which those transfers take place, remembering that they were only asked to take transfers from waterlogged areas which have suffered consistently with anything 535 from 30 to 50 per cent. of unemployment for years. There were comparatively wealthy boroughs which were not in debt, which were able to raise loans if they wanted to, and when they were asked to give help to waterlogged areas we got all this talk about the burden of transfer.
I put this to all parties in the House. This is not a party question. This has not been a matter of penalisation. It has been a matter of trying, if you like, to offer a premium to those Authorities that were willing to come to the aid of distressed areas in that manner. I have always regarded it more from the human point of view of the men who are compelled to remain in these distressed areas, men who are, as it were, given a life sentence in an area in which they have not a ghost of a chance of getting work, and it is a terrible business to say no one is going to help them to move out into other areas. When Local Authorities talk about the cost, I ask them to remember this. I have figures to show that there is a reduction in the number of persons on out-door relief to the extent of something like 150,000. A very large proportion of the reduction has been since the new Act has come into force, and a very large proportion of those figures has been transferred to the live register and to the central responsibility and taken off the shoulders of the Local Authority. Therefore, from the standpoint of adding a burden to the Local Authorities, they have not a leg to stand on. This matter has been raised by the Local Authorities and we have undertaken to re-examine the question in all its bearings.
I want at this stage to give some figures which I promised to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) and which I am now in a position to give. He asked me if I could differentiate between the number of men employed on schemes sanctioned by the late Government and on schemes sanctioned by the present Government. I have here a table showing that the schemes that were approved before 1st June, 1929, and are still being worked out number 82, and on 25th April, 1930, there were employed on those schemes 4,525 persons. Those approved after 1st June, 1929, number 852 schemes. The number of people working on the same date, 25th April, was 26,793. The 536 additional schemes which have been approved in the period 1st June, 1929, to 12th June, 1930, which started after the 25th April, 1930, or are still to commence numbered 656, and the estimated men-months employment on these schemes is 426,971. I have not been able to get the same set of figures for the road schemes, but I understand that the Ministry of Transport are endeavouring to get them.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
It is the estimated number when the additional schemes start. The 656 schemes, some of which have just started and some of which have not yet started, are estimated to give employment for 426,971 men-months. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) probably thought that a little cynicism thrown into our happy gathering would be welcomed. Anyhow, he gave us a very interesting but a rather cynical speech. Incidentally, he dealt with certain questions of finance and credit. All that I can say on that point is that the Macmillan Committee has been specially charged with an examination of finance and currency, and we are anxiously awaiting their report. On these high matters of policy, upon which economic experts so violently disagree, I would not attempt to enter combat with the hon. Gentleman.
With regard to the construction of the slipway at Peterhead, the hon. Member seemed to suggest that they were being very badly served because the Government offered a 50 per cent. grant. I will look into that question, but I venture to suggest that the remarks which immediately followed that complaint were extremely inconsistent. He appears to be entirely in favour of increased taxation for Peterhead, but not for the rest of the country. He raised another point about unclassified roads. I think that the Committee cannot be aware of the fact that the Unemployment Grants Committee does, in fact, make grants for unclassified roads, for footpaths, bridges, and surface water drainage. We hope to be able to do more in that direction if suitable schemes are brought in.
It is obvious that the hon. Member either did not hear the speech of the Prime Minister or he did not listen to it when it was delivered. I suggest that, he reads it to-morrow morning, because 537 he said he saw nothing in it. A great many people see nothing if they do not want to see it. The question of unemployment grants requires to be taken in relation to the intensity of the problem in the various districts, not merely the intensity in regard to the percentage but in regard to the length of time. It must be obvious to anybody who has had to deal with the matter in a distressed area that the problem presents itself in a very different way in that area compared with the problem in a town which has only just begun to realise the fact that it can reach 10 or 15 per cent. of unemployed.
In the analysed figures it is very interesting to see that there are towns that may be suffering from 15 to 20 per cent. of unemployment. It sounds very terrible and very bad, but if you examine the length of time for which they have been suffering you find perhaps it is entirely due to the fact that a factory is undergoing reconstruction, or that some great central point of employment, giving work to 4,000 or 5,000 men, has closed down for a new boiler to be installed and that these men will undoubtedly go back again to their employment. That problem is not at all the same problem as you have when the same number of persons are unemployed in a mining town where the whole of the pits are closed down, perhaps for good. It is in connection with that matter that the Local Government Authorities and ourselves will be able to come probably to a more useful working formula in connection with the allocation of assistance than any attempt at giving what may be described as a flat-rate grant on a flat-rate principle. If in the circumstances in any district we can ease the situation in any way by giving greater consideration to those factors, I am sure we shall all be very glad to do so.
In conclusion, may I make a very strong appeal to those who are interested in the question of developing the labour of our country to help in every way they possibly can in their own locality what is a very growing sentiment in favour of training in relation to unemployed men and women. We have been able to do a little and to get an increase in the number of places in the training centres. We are very anxious to get young men and women into training, as we believe they require to be trained from two points 538 of view. First of all, there is the point of view of physical condition. They ace very frequently so much weakened and deteriorated by spells of compulsory unemployment that they need to have restoration physically by means of the training centres. That is from the standpoint of purely physical interest, but there is another reason. They require to be more adaptable in this changing world of industry where a very great many of the hereditary jobs are being entirely displaced by the coming of machinery. Take, for example, the position of Lancashire. We all know that the cotton industry must undergo a, radical reorganisation, and that it is very improbable that the same proportion of men and women will be able to be permanently employed in Lancashire, if it is properly rationalised, in relation to the output as was employed before. It is only in relation to the growth of the output and capacity to get it sold that we shall be able to maintain the same ratio of individuals.
§ Mr. HAMMERSLEY
Does the right hon. Lady suggest there is going to be an alteration in the ratio between men and women employed by reason of the changes?
§ Miss BONDFIELD
No, I was not concerned with that at all. What I was concerned with was the total number of persons employed in industry in relation to output, just as in the iron and steel and the coal trades, and some other export trades, there is a permanent displacement because of the coming of new methods of production and the supersession of old processes by new processes. I should have thought that was a proposition which did not need to be argued. But it creates a tremendous social problem. They look upon it as an hereditary trade, for generations men and women, boys and girls, have gone, as a matter of course, into the cotton industry. I recognise the difficulty we have to face, and perhaps some of my hon. Friends will not agree with me because they recognise the strong appeal which a home industry has upon individuals in a particular industry. But what sort of a future is before those children if they are not helped to adapt themselves to go into some other trade or industry in which 539 they may find employment? I ask for the co-operation of all hon. Members in strengthening local opinion in regard to training centres in order to help boys and girls to become more adaptable, to have a wider experience of using their hands and brains, not to train them for any specific job but to train them to do anything which may turn up and give them employment.
My last word is in connection with agriculture and unemployment. I endorse what has been said as to the importance of recognising the place which the development of agriculture must play in the solution of the problem. I was specifically asked about the extension of unemployment insurance to agricultural workers. I have said before, and I repeat it to-night, that one of my main reasons for wishing to see agricultural workers brought within the insurance scheme is because I am convinced that we must try to break down the wall of separation between workers in industry and workers in agriculture. Whether we like it or not there will have to be an interchange of labour between the towns and the countryside. And why not? It is a most wholesome thing that there should be this
§ interchange, and all we require is that the wages and general conditions shall be as applicable to the agricultural worker as to the town worker. I hope we shall go ahead with the discussions which have begun and get some agreed scheme which we can present to the House. It is obvious that there are two parties to the scheme, in fact, there are more than two parties, but the primary parties are the farm workers and the farmers, and I am hoping that the negotiations will enable us to get somewhere near to an agreed scheme. I think I have replied to all the points which have been raised and I ask that I may now have the Vote.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
I beg hon. Members to remember this outstanding fact. We are importing over £300,000,000 of manufactured goods, and if £200,000,000 of those goods were made in this country we should be able to absorb over 1,000,000 persons into employment. If the Government go on as they are now they are merely fiddling while Rome is burning.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,499,900, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 230: Noes, 259.543
|Division No. 375.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Duckworth, G. A. V.|
|Albery, Irving James||Butler, R. A.||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Butt, Sir Alfred||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Elliot, Major Walter E.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s. M.)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Ferguson, Sir John|
|Atkinson, C.||Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Burton||Fermoy, Lord|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Fielden, E. B.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Fison, F. G. Clavering|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Chapman, Sir S.||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Christie, J. A.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.|
|Balniel, Lord||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Berry, Sir George||Colfox, Major William Philip||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Colman, N. C. D.||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Colville, Major D. J.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Cranborne, Viscount||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Boyce, H. L.||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Bracken, B.||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd'., Hexham)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Buchan, John||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Hanbury, C.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Clrencester)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Muirhead, A. J.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Nleld, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||O'Connor, T. J.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Stewart, W. J. (Belfast South)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||O'Neill, Sir H.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Peake, Capt. Osbert||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Penny, Sir George||Tinne, J. A.|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Train, J.|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Purbrick, R.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Ramsbotham, H.||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Llewellin, Major J. J.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handtw'th)||Remer, John R.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Long, Major Eric||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Lymington, Viscount||Reynolds, Col. Sir James||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch't'sy)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Macqulsten, F. A.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Ross, Major Ronald D.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Withers, Sir John James|
|Margesson, Captain H. D.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Marjoribanks, E. C.||Salmon, Major I.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Meller, R. J.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.||Savery, S. S.||Major Sir George Hennessy and Sir Frederick Thomson.|
|Mond, Hon. Henry||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Church, Major A. G.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Clarke, J. S.||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Cluse, W. S.||Hardie, George D.|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Compton, Joseph||Haycock, A. W.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Daggar, George||Hayday, Arthur|
|Amman, Charles George||Dallas, George||Hayes, John Henry|
|Arnott, John||Dalton, Hugh||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Henderson, Arthur, junr. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)|
|Ayles, Walter||Day, Harry||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Herriotts, J.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Dickson, T.||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Dukes, C.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Batey, Joseph||Ede, James Chuter||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Edge, Sir William||Hopkin, Daniel|
|Bellamy, Albert||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Horrabin, J. F.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Elmley, Viscount||Isaacs, George|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N. (Cardiff C.)||England, Colonel A.||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Benson, G.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Unlver.)||Johnston, Thomas|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Foot, Isaac||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Forgan, Dr. Robert||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Blrkett, W. Norman||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Blindell, James||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Gibbins, Joseph||Jowltt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Gill, T. H.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Bromfieid, William||Gillett, George M.||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Brooke, W.||Glassey, A. E.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.|
|Brothers, M.||Gossling, A. G.||Kinley, J.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Gould, F.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Knight, Holford|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Lang, Gordon|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Granville, E.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cameron, A. G.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Lathan, G.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Groves, Thomas E.||Law, Albert (Bolton)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Grundy, Thomas W.||Law, A. (Rosendale)|
|Chater, Daniel||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Lawson, John James|
|Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Noel Baker, P. J.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Leach, W.||Oldfield, J. R.||Snell, Harry|
|Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Sorensen, R.|
|Lees, J.||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Owen, H. F. (Hereford)||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe|
|Lindley, Fred W.||Palin, John Henry||Strauss, G. R.|
|Lloyd, C. Ellis||Paling, Wilfrid||Sullivan, J.|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Palmer, E. T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Longbottom, A. W.||Perry, S. F.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|Longden, F.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Lunn, William||Phillips, Dr. Marion||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Potts, John S.||Tillett, Ben|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Price, M. P.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Quibell, D. F. K.||Toole, Joseph|
|Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Tout, W. J.|
|McElwee, A.||Rathbone, Eleanor||Townend, A. E.|
|McEntee, V. L.||Raynes, W. R.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Richards, R.||Turner, B.|
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Vaughan, D. J.|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Rltey, Ben (Dewsbury)||Viant, S. P.|
|McShane, John James||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Ritson, J.||Walker, J.|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Mansfield, W.||Romeril, H. G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|March, S.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Markham, S. F.||Rowson, Guy||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Marley, J.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wellock, wilfred|
|Marshall, F.||Sanders, W. S.||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Mathers, George||Sawyer, G. F.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Matters, L. W.||Scrymgeour, E.||West, F. R.|
|Messer, Fred||Scurr, John||Westwood, Joseph|
|Middleton, G.||Sexton, James||White, H. G.|
|Millar, J. D.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Milner, Major J.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Montague, Frederick||Sherwood, G. H.||Williams Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Shield, George William||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Morley, Ralph||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Shillaker, J. F.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Simmons, C. J.||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Mort, D. L.||Sinkinson, George||Wise, E. F.|
|Moses, J. J. H.||Sitch, Charles H.||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Muff, G.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Muggeridge, H. T.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Murnin, Hugh||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles Edwards.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ 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.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.