§ [SIXTH DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [3rd November] to Question [28th October],
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in. Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Mr. Charleton.]
Which Amendment was, at the end of the Question, to add the words:
But humbly regret the failure of Your Majesty's Government to propose any measures adequate to deal with the crisis in the industrial, agricultural, and commercial situation or to check the continued growth of unemployment."—[Mr. Chamberlain.]
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Viscount WOLMER
The debate so far has shown, I think, that all sections of the House are impressed with the extreme gravity of the situation now facing the country, and I feel that yesterday the House came nearer to its functions as a Council of State than it has done, perhaps, on some other occasions. My right hon. Friend who moved this Amendment was not merely content with criticising the policy, or lack of policy, of the Government but put forward what he and we believe to be the right lines on which the unemployment question should be tackled. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) foreshadowed the Liberal policy, which has appeared in the newspapers to-day; and the President of the Board of Trade regaled and charmed us with a brilliant economic dissertation ranging over practically every country in the world. As an academic tour de force it left nothing to be desired, but it did not contain a single announcement of any constructive act on the part of the Government. If I may say so with all 696 respect, his speech reminded one of the valedictory address of a distinguished professor who knew that his appointment was shortly to be terminated. What is the position with which we as a House are faced? Since this Government took office the unemployment figures have been practically doubled, trade returns were never worse than they are to-day, and the feeling is general that there will be no practical hope of improvement until there has been a radical departure in national policy. It is this feeling which makes the barrenness of the Gracious Speech so disquieting to every section of the House.
Analysing the Gracious Speech, one finds that the operative part of it divides itself into three portions. The first notes the "continuance" of unemployment, though it would have been more accurate to speak of the enormous increase of unemployment. The next portion of the King's Speech contains the following phrase:
"My Government will persist in its efforts to develop and extend home, Imperial and foreign trade."
I should like to ask hon. Members opposite to inform the House what are those efforts. Keeping for nine months the safeguarded industries in suspense; allowing the Lace Duty to lapse; allowing the Cutlery Duty to lapse next month; proclaiming a tariff truce, under which this country may remain the dumping ground of the world; threatening the great industries of this country, such as the cotton industry and the iron and steel industry, with Parliamentary interference. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh" and "What is a tariff?"] A tariff is an interference with foreign industries.
The Government are increasing the taxation of employers through the Income Tax; they are placing increased taxation on capital by means of the death duties, and they are making it profitable for the boys and girls to go on the dole. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Then they are surprised that the unemployment figures have increased. In the third part of the King's Speech, the Government make the astonishing suggestion that they are going to refer the question of unemployment insurance to a Royal Commission, and then they give 697 a list of party measures, which, if we were on the crest of a wave of prosperity, might very properly be debated and considered in this House, but which can have no effect on the unemployment problem except to aggravate it. The House of Commons has to bring the Government back to reality, and that reality is that we are now passing through the gravest crisis in industry, commerce, and agriculture that we have known since the War.
As an agricultural member, I want to draw the attention of the House for a short time to the crisis which confronts agriculturists at the present moment. What is the position? It was clearly stated by the deputation to the Minister of Agriculture from the National Farmers Union on the 15th October last. The facts which were put forward on that occasion have not been challenged by the Government or in any responsible quarter. I would like to draw the attention of the House to a statement which was made in a most interesting speech by the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) during the debate on the Address. On agricultural questions the hon. Member for Brigg speaks with knowledge and with great common-sense, and I am sure that he commands the respect of all hon. Members of this House irrespective of party. Speaking in the debate on the Address on the 30th October last, the hon. Member for Brigg said:Why is it that we are not facing unemployment insurance for agricultural labourers? It is because we know that not only is there a tremendous amount of unemployment in the countryside at the present time, but during the winter it is likely to increase on account of the economic conditions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1930; col. 278, Vol. 244.]If that is so, and I believe it is true, then the agricultural industry has to look forward to a terrible state of things. What are the Government doing? What are they prepared to do to help the agricultural industry in its present plight? What is the use of spending millions of money settling people on land on which even the most experienced farmers are unable to get a living? What is the good of reclaiming barren and moss land when some of the very best land in England is being farmed at a loss? We have all read with great interest the policy which has 698 just been put forward by the Liberal party, and I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) will explain that policy to us this after noon. We always listen with great interest when the right hon. Gentleman speaks on this question, because he has in the past had four or five agricultural policies, and I am sure that the policy which he has recently adopted will be as interesting as his previous policies. One of the principal features of the new Liberal policy is a proposal to establish 100,000 family farms. I have not a word to say against family farms. Under proper conditions and run by the right men, no doubt this is a very valuable form of holding, but why does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs attach so much importance to this form of holding? It means that the holder of a family farm employs only his sons and daughters, and consequently he has not to pay the statutory wages which are imposed upon other farmers. It means asking us to recognise the payment of wages in the agricultural industry on family farms which would not he permitted in other circumstances. By this new scheme the Liberal party are inviting thousands of farmers to employ their own children upon a scale of wages which we will not allow anyone else to adopt. That is simply a recognition of the fact that we are trying to force on the agricultural industry a standard of wages which it is impossible to maintain in a market which is the dumping ground of the world. Under a system of family farms it is claimed that the workers are not threatened with the prospect of unemployment like agricultural labourers, and they have more security of employment. The bon. Member for Brigg referred in his speech to the position in which the small farmers are placed at the present moment. Referring to the case of farmers having to dispense with the services of men because they had not work for them to do, Fie said:There is a case of a man with all his savings nut into a little farm, his wife has the poultry and the eggs, and the cow to keep the household going, as is usual in Lincolnshire. The condition was such last year and this year that, in order to pay his way he has had to sell the two cows that really were the wage of the farmer's wife. How he is going to face this winter he does not know. He was a man who was a farm fore- 699 man, and who had experience. He had 100 tons of potatoes and never sold one. Marketing did not do that."—[OFFICIAL PORT, 30th October, 1930; col. 278, Vol. 244.]When that is the position in which small owners and small farmers find themselves, what is the use of trying to put 100,000 farmers of that type on to the land, without making provision for enabling them to earn a livelihood when they get there? What is the use of spending money on large scale demonstration farms? I suppose the Prime Minister, whom we are glad to see with us this afternoon, has such a contempt for the efficiency of the farmers of this country that he is going to spend public money to teach people how to farm from Whitehall. There are plenty of large scale demonstration farms in this country already where every sort of farming can be learnt. The co-operative societies can show him a good few and there are farms of 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 acres under very efficient management in different parts of the country under different conditions, where every sort of farming is already being tried out. How on earth are farmers going to be helped by spending further money in running farms by Government officials, who are extremely unlikely to be able to do it better than the men who have spent their lives in the industry The experience of the Ministry of Agriculture in its farming operations in the past has been a very costly one to the taxpayer, and I am afraid that this experiment on the part of the Government is going to be costly to the taxpayer again.
Then we come to the Marketing Bill, and I should like to ask the Government why that has been put last on their agricultural programme? It is, of all the Measures which they are putting forward, the only one of any importance that offers the slightest prospect to the working farmer to-day. They are hurrying forward this land settlement scheme which is going to cost the taxpayer many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and the Marketing Bill is not spoken of at the moment. I should like to ask when it is going to be introduced, whether it is to be introduced before Christmas, and when he hopes to be able to pass it into law? I can promise him that we shall treat the Marketing Bill on its merits and not as a party Measure in any sense. 700 I quite agree with the Liberal party and with the Minister of Agriculture that marketing is a matter of the greatest importance to agriculture, and there is room for important improvements that may ultimately be of benefit to the agricultural industry. I should also be prepared to agree that if the farmers want to form a co-operative society, to combine together for marketing purposes by an overwhelming majority, they should be given some guarantee that their efforts are not frustrated by a small minority of their colleagues. That is only my personal opinion, but I am thoroughly in accord with the principle of the Marketing Bill in that respect. But what justification is there for saying that you are prepared to coerce a small minority say 10 per cent. of British farmers to conform to a stabilised price, when you are prepared to allow 100 per cent. of foreign farmers to sell in exactly the same market without any restriction what so ever?
The principle of the stabilised price is admitted by the Government's Marketing Bill; in fact, the Bill is based upon it. But are they prepared to apply the principle of the stabilised price all round? If they are not, then the Marketing Bill, for the great majority of branches of farming in this country, is going to be nothing but a hollow mockery to the farmers. But the Marketing Bill, even if it were amended, and even if it were improved in different directions, can by itself be of no immediate assistance to the agricultural industry. I am quite prepared to agree with some hon. Members in this House that the future development of British farming will probably be found in such products as meat, milk, pigs and poultry, rather than in cereal growing, but you cannot switch over from one type of farming to another in the twinkling of an eye, and the problem with which we are faced at the present moment is, what is to be done to keep on the land men who are farming to-day under the conditions in which British agriculture has grown up? We are passing through a transition stage. We are passing over from one type of farming to another, but I believe that it is the greatest mistake in the world to say that the farmers of this country to-day are changing their farming methods too slowly. On the contrary, they are changing them too quickly. It 701 is these great farming changes, such as 700,000 acres going out of wheat during the last few years, which are the causes of the dislocation, the unemployment and all the distress among the labourers with which we are faced to-day, and what we have got to do is to tide over the industry during this period of transition, so that the farmers can remain in business to develop those lines of farming which the future seems likely to show will be the most profitable. For arm-chair farmers to sit at home and tell the man who has lost his capital on the land that he has got to switch over to a totally different kind of farming is ignoring the real difficulty of the situation.
For that reason, we on these benches believe that the only measure that is going to save farming at the moment is to stabilise prices, and we believe that the most important direction in which that can be done is by giving a guaranteed price for wheat. That is dismissed not only by the Liberal party in their new policy, but also by His Majesty's Government, but I would point out that they have practically the whole weight, or a very great bulk of the weight, of agricultural opinion against them in this matter. Practically every important inquiry that has taken place during the last few years has recommended that cereal growing should be maintained, and that assistance should be given to the growing of wheat. The committee appointed by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs—the Agricultural Policy Sub-Committee of Reconstruction in 1918 recommended preserving the wheat acreage. The report of the Astor Committee on Production and Distribution of Milk in 1919 recommended that cereal growing should be maintained. The Linlithgow Committee of 1923 said exactly the same thing, and there was the report of the Agricultural Investigation Tribunal of 1924, which also said that the maintenance of wheat acreage was absolutely assential to the maintenance of agricultural prosperity. Finally, we have the recommendation of the Agricultural Conference in 1930. It was the unanimous recommendation this spring of the Agricultural Conference summoned by the present Prime Minister to advise him. I would also point to the Scottish National Agricultural Committee's report, which practically endorsed the policy of the Conservative party in 702 regard to agriculture, and supported the demand put forward by English agriculturists.
Therefore, this great weight of expert opinion, which has inquired into agricultural problems during the last 10 years or so, is in favour of the policy of maintaining the wheat acreage. That is entirely ignored by the policy of the present Government. We believe that the maintenance of the wheat acreage and the stabilisation of agricultural prices at a figure at which the farmer can earn a livelihood and the farm labourers maintain their present wages—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—they are in danger of losing them at the present moment—are the only measures which are of use to agriculture in this emergency. When that has been accomplished, we are prepared to go forward with hon. Members opposite in the improving of marketing, for settling the unemployed or other people on the land and for reclaiming the moss and barren land. But all those Measures are perfectly futile so long as well-farmed land in good agricultural districts is unable to make both ends meet, or maintain the labourers in their present wages on the soil.
I confess that I cannot understand the attitude of the Liberal party in regard to our Amendment. They profess to he disappointed with the absence of policy of the Government. Yet they have not themselves proposed any Amendment to the Address. Why? Are they afraid that we might vote for it? They explain that they cannot vote for our Amendment because we have put forward a positive policy with which they disagree. But this Amendment means what it says. It is not a motion for Protection; it is a motion for action. The Liberal party profess to have a policy to deal with the unemployment problem. Are they prepared to put that policy before the country? They can do so to-morrow if they will support us to-night. If the Government remain in office, they will do so by the votes or by the abstentions of the Liberal party. The President of the Board of Trade, in his speech, told us that he had a remedy for unemployment—full-blooded Socialism—but he was not going to bring it forward. He is going to sit still and do nothing. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs tells us that he has a remedy which he 703 is prepared to bring forward. But neither of them is prepared to put his policy into action. I would like to say to the Liberal party that they are incurring a very heavy responsibility by maintaining in office a Government who are unwilling to put into operation the only policy in which they believe, who are quite without resource to deal with the emergencies of the present situation. I ask the Leaders of the Liberal party, do they really care for the unemployed, or are they merely manoeuvring for political advantage?
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
In response to the great pressure which has been brought to bear upon him, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has given us a sample of his young blood. If he can do no better, I would say, if I happened to be above the Gangway, "Give me the old gang." The Noble Lord who has just sat down has been good enough to say that hon. Members sitting here have a policy, and he said that he and his friends have a policy. Since he wants to put it before the country, would he condescend to explain what it is? It is a matter of some importance. For instance, a good deal was said about wheat and about the farmer. Are we going to have a tax upon wheat or upon meat? He very carefully avoided telling us that. It is really rather important for the farmer to begin with, and it is a little important for the armchair farmer, because the armchair farmer does not want to interfere, but, if you go to him and say, "You must pay more for your food," he is entitled to make at least an observation. Therefore, we are entitled to know a little more, and I dare say we may hear later on from the Leader of the Opposition what the policy is with regard to the British farmer. So far as I can infer, it was merely a subsidy on wheat. It was not very clear. I dare say that was my fault—[Interruption]—I am sure it was. But Is would like to know what it was. The Noble Lord knows very well, I am sure, because he represents farmers and a farming constituency, that, as far as wheat is concerned, it is only 4 per cent. of the total agricultural produce of this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "It ought to be more!"] Well, 4.6 per cent.; make it 5 per cent. Would the 704 Noble Lord mind telling us what he is going to do for the remaining 95 per cent.? They are purchasers of wheat. A very considerable proportion of the farming population of the West of England buy far more wheat than they produce, and, in reply to the inquiry addressed to Sussex farmers the other day—I forget how many of them—about 90 per cent. said that they bought far more wheat than they produced. What is the Noble Lord going to do for the 95 per cent. who are left still in the wilderness? Nothing for them has been put before us. I think the Noble Lord had better make up his mind on these matters, which are rather vital matters, of very great concern to the farming community for whom he presumes to speak.
There is one peculiarity about this debate. I have heard a good deal of it, and have read the rest. It is that each party seems to make a case for the other. The Noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) did their very best to make it clear that the Amendment was a Protectionist one. That is not helping the case for the Amendment. On the other hand, the two spokesmen for the Government made it clear that, as far as they knew, they had no proposals of any sort or kind for unemployment. Therefore we here, who are in a middle position, are very perplexed to know what to do. I am going to have a try myself to disentangle it, if the House will put up with me for a short time.
Since the debate has really resolved itself—not the Amendment, but the debate—so far as the supporters of the Amendment are concerned, into a mere protectionist case, because I have read pretty well every speech that was delivered here, and it was pure Protection, let me say that in my judgment Protection and Free Trade are beside the mark; they have no relevance to the present problem of post-War unemployment; and I would emphasise that there is a real danger that the country will be taken away from a consideration of a world problem, it is true, and perhaps peculiarly our problem, by a fierce revival of an old controversy which, whichever way you decide it. will not settle that question.
Let us see what is happening at the present moment. Free Trade countries 705 and Protectionist countries alike are suffering from unemployment, and all the great Protectionist countries of the world are weighed down by the same anxieties as we are, and are considering exactly the same question as we are—how to provide work for the workless in the coming winter, and how to feed the rest. In the United States of America they are considering this question. President Hoover has summoned a meeting of industrialists and others to consider what he can do to provide work for the millions who are out of work. It is not a question whether the number is 12,000,000 or, as he puts it, 3,500,000. They are millions, and they are growing millions, and he is considering at this very hour for his own country the problem which we are discussing for our country—and that a few months after a great Tariff Bill has been carried by Congress. If you go to Germany you find exactly the same discussions going on there, between parties and inside parties, as you have here. In Italy you have the same thing. In France there are special conditions— [Interruption]. Does anyone doubt that, in the first place, the population is very much lower? It is a very much larger country, and the population is lower. We have here three times as many to the square mile as France has, and, in addition to that, as everybody knows, the population of France has been fairly stationary for a good many years, and they have actually had to import labourers for that reason. Their conditions are special conditions. May I point out also that their wages are 60 per cent. of ours?
There is no doubt at all that these three countries are very much better for the purposes of comparison. What is happening? The President of the United States of America, the Chancellor in Germany, the Duce in Italy, are all considering the same kind of schemes as we have ventured to submit to the public within the last few days, and which have been considered by the Government—I do not mean to say considered because we submitted them, but because they were considering them themselves also. Take the case of Italy, where, on the whole, the problem has been handled most effectively. I am not a Fascist, but, all the same, I am bound to recognise the 706 facts. In Italy, 400,000 men from among the unemployed have been turned by the Government on to what work? The very kind of work which has been sneered at by the Noble Lord—the reclamation of land, the drainage of land, the settlement of, not 100,000 families, but 200,000 families upon the land. Road-making has been undertaken—and anyone who has been in Italy knows that it is very much needed; and, in addition, housing and electricity and telephones—pretty much the same schedule of things as has been considered here. It is the same in the United States. There is not the same land problem there, because they have vast territories and there is no need for it, and, therefore, questions of reclamation do not loom large there; but road-making on a very considerable scale has been undertaken by the Federal Government and by the State Governments, as well as electricity and other schemes of work. In Germany also it is the same.
All of these are Protectionist countries, and that is why I want to emphasise the fact that, whether Protection or Free Trade is right, you do not settle the problem either by putting on tariffs or by taking them off, because it is a problem which affects alike Protectionist and Free Trade countries, and Protectionist countries have to consider the same kind of schemes as we have been putting forward. It is very important that we should not be misled by statements that Protection or Free Trade is going to settle this question.
The real danger of a fanatical devotion to any one idea is that everything else is regarded as worthless, and that nothing else is considered to be necessary. Whenever there is a controversy, and especially a fierce political controversy, we are all apt to become fanatical, and we therefore exaggerate what can be accomplished by the ideas which we are advancing at that particular moment, in a spirit of hostility and antagonism and combat. If anyone would like to know about that, let him enter into an argument with a single taxer. It is not merely that it provides a remedy, but that there is nothing else which is needful. Exactly the same applies to Empire Free Trade; and, with bated breath, I would say that I have even heard of Free Traders who took exactly the same view of their doctrine. It is the revivalist spirit, "Believe and 707 be saved." My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) is exactly the same with regard to his doctrines. The business of life is not as simple as all that. It is a little more complicated. One dose of anything does not quite cure you of all your evils, and, therefore, we have to look at the problem all round and see what can be done, and that is what I should very much like to see this House considering, if possible free from these controversies.
There are only two or three things I should like to say about Protection, without arguing on the merits but rather upon the point that I have been trying to emphasise, that really, even if it has advantages, it does not settle this problem. Protection at best is a gamble. You may be convinced that it may hit the mark, but there are elements of uncertainty in it. No one can quite tell how the balance will go, and it is all a balance. There is no case to guide us of a great Free Trade industrial country becoming Protectionist. [Interruption.] I was going to say that. I thank my hon. Friend. There is only a case of the reverse, of a great Protectionist country becoming Free Trade, and undoubtedly, whatever you may say about the present, for at least three-quarters of a century no one can doubt that it was a great success. There is nothing to guide us which would give us a sense of certainty that if you made this change you would achieve the necessary result. It is bound to be a question of the balance of advantages. Some trades might benefit. For instance, if you put a heavy duty on wheat, the wheat producer would undoubtedly benefit. It is idle to pretend that he would not. If you put a heavy duty on iron and steel, a duty to such an extent, as was pointed out by the President of the Board of Trade in his brilliant speech yesterday, as would exclude all the cheap iron and steel that is necessary for tinplates and iron and shipbuilding and that sort of thing, undoubtedly those would benefit.
On the other hand, do not quite forget this: Free Trade has been the system in this country for 80 years. Our industries have adapted themselves to free imports. The industries that thrive on free imports have developed very considerably, and, the moment you change that system, there is no doubt at all that the 708 industries that have thriven and grown fat on free imports will suffer. What I mean is that it is a balance, and you have to be very careful whether the balance is on the right side or on the wrong. You are entering into a great gamble and a very uncertain one. You are gambling on balances, and that is always a very dangerous thing to do.
Here is another consideration. All we know for certain is that there is no densely populated industrial country in the world which has based its industries upon Protection where wages are not lower than in our own country, and, of course, some Protectionists quite frankly tell me that is their argument. Some friends of mine who are very inclined towards Protection take the view that it is the only way in which they can reduce the level of wages to what. they ought to be without provoking strikes, lockouts, and trouble. They say that they must do it indirectly. In Italy, France, and Belgium wages are 40 to 50 per cent. lower than ours, according to the League of Nations report, and in Germany they are 20 per cent. lower. At any rate, in proposals of this kind there is a great element of uncertainty. That is the one thing you cannot face when trade is in its present condition. There are too many elements of uncertainty. It is the elements of uncertainty that are doing far more harm at present. No one knows what prices are going to be—down or up. No one knows what is going to happen in America and, if you introduce another element of uncertainty into it, it is not going to help to solve the problem of unemployment.
Another matter I should like to point out is that, whatever happens in the long run, there will be preliminary confusion, which we could not. afford, and the condition of every Protectionist country to-day teaches us that if you establish Protection, even if on the whole it benefits the country, you would have to consider some project of national development to find work for your unemployed; and, if that is true in countries which are not as densely populated as ours, it is bound to be true with regard to our own country. I am not trying to dogmatise about Free Trade and Protection. In my view, tariffs do not exhaust all the methods of helping the home market. I have already expressed my 709 opinion on the question of dumping, and I do not go back on it. I was also struck by Lord D'Abernon's very remarkable speech on Friday or Saturday about our not making the best use of even our free imports. We are the greatest purchasers of goods in the world, and we are not using our enormous purchases of goods abroad to encourage trade and to make the best bargain for ourselves. That is not Protection. That is a totally different matter, and it is one that is worth examining. There is a wide field for further consideration in this direction. In my opinion, a general tariff would be fatal to utilising our great purchasing power, because it rains on the unjust and on the just alike. If you are going to put your 10 per cent. on a good customer and nothing but 10 per cent. on a bad customer, I do not see what possible advantage you are going to get. You simply enter into the same old thing that is going on, a constant conflict of tariffs which have done no good to the trade of the country and have only increased production by a reduction of wages at the expense of the export trade.
I pass now from the debate to the Amendment. Of course, if no speeches had been delivered, everything I have said about Protection would be quite irrelevant, but inasmuch as every speech in support of the Amendment has dealt with the question of Protection I am bound to say a few words with regard to it. The Amendment calls attention to the failure of the Government to propose adequate measures. I do not believe there are 10 men outside the Ministry who disagree with that view. I may be asked, "If that is the ease, why do you not vote for it?" I will answer that question, which hon. Members are entitled to ask, and I will answer it with my usual candour. Every speaker who has supported the Amendment has made it quite clear that in his judgment it is a Protectionist Amendment. If we were disposed for other reasons to vote for it, that would have made it quite impossible for people who do not take that view. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member gets up and says that and persuades the House, that is another matter, but they do not know what that policy is. It must be interpreted in the light of the speeches that have been delivered.
710 I will give another reason. The Prime Minister invited both parties to cooperate on agriculture and on the problem of unemployment, which I think is the right course. I have never thought you could solve this tremendous national difficulty without the co-operation of the best minds that can be produced by all parties. It is no reflection upon his confidence in the ability of his own party that he is asking for assistance from men of all other parties. Anyone at the head of a Government in an emergency of this kind, whether in peace or in war, is bound to invite the assistance of the most experienced and best minds that any party can produce, because it is a national difficulty and a national problem, and, therefore, it must be a national solution if it is to be a good, sound and permanent one.
When the Leader of the Opposition refused to accept it he practically said, "I want a free hand; I have no confidence that this Government can deal with the matter," and he is perfectly free, but, if he had accepted this invitation and were engaged in co-operation, he would not be in a position afterwards to move and support this Amendment. That justifies from his point of view the line that he has taken. I have accepted the invitation. I have done my best to co-operate. I have been working very hard, and so have some of my colleagues, but I am bound to wait and see what the effect of that co-operation will be. I made that statement before this Amendment was put down. On Tuesday, when there was no Amendment down, I said I must wait until I see what the programme of the Government means before I act, and I am in exactly that position at present. We have made our suggestions.
But I mean to take advantage of this discussion to ask the Government whether they propose to act. The speeches of the President of the Board of Trade and the hon. Gentleman who spoke last night, and of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke the other night, are not very encouraging. They are three very able men. I have great admiration for their sincerity and their ability and, when they fail to give a clear, definite indication of what the Government means to do, it is not because they are unable themselves to do 711 it, but because it is quite clear that the Government have not yet made up their minds what they are going to do. Therefore, I am not criticising them, but it gives me an uneasy feeling that even now the Government have not made up their minds. The President of the Board of Trade, and the Chancellor of the Duchy last night defended the Government on the ground that it is rot their fault; the whole capitalist system is wrong and you cannot make anything of it. Then they ought not to have taken office. If the capitalist system is so bad and they succeeded in their policy, then they would simply be strengthening and perpetuating it. On the other hand, if in their conviction it is so bad that nothing can be made of it, they ought to have left its defenders to tackle the problem. No man can make the best of a system in which he does not believe, and, therefore, to that extent I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). If that is their line, I am very much afraid that we are not going to have a real, energetic, convinced attempt to deal with the situation within the confines and boundaries of the existing system.
The second thing I want to put is this: There has been a suggestion by two or three Ministers that their failure is due to the fact that limitations have been imposed upon them. Imposed upon them by whom? [Interruption.] The Coal Bill? No one will call that a Socialist Bill. I hope not. That was a most reactionary Bill. Besides, as a matter of fact, our business was to carry it very much further, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was good enough to acknowledge some of the things which we got inserted in that Bill and which we pressed the Government to insert. As a matter 'of fact, up to the present the whole of our energies and such influence as we may possess have been in the direction of widening policy and in inducing the Government to go forward. We have pressed them on. In this place I said last year that if they put into operation the policy for dealing with unemployment in "Labour and the Nation," which they declared would be theirs, we would support them. It is months and months since 712 I made that statement, and to say that any failure on their part to take action is due to any restraining influence which we have imposed upon them, is a thoroughly dishonest statement. When statements of that kind were made—they have been made since this Session began, they were made at the Trade Union Congress by a Minister, and they were made by, I forget whom, a third Minister elsewhere—there was nothing left for us but to publish the suggestions which we had made in order to show that, at any rate, if there is any hanging back it is not due 'to the fact that there is a lack of support of very strong action for dealing with unemployment coming from these benches.
I should like to say another thing upon this question. The Prime Minister seems to be very amused—[Interruption.] That is the policy which we have been pressing upon the Government in this House and out of this House, and we have put it into print. If that policy is the policy of the Government, there is no point in anything I may say, but I have been urging the Government ever since they came into office to do the kind of thing which I am hoping now, at any rate, they will begin to do. I do not know of a single case where they have been restrained from taking any forward movement with regard to any of these things by any action of ours. There are three tests of the King's Speech. One is, what is meant by the agricultural paragraph? The second is, what is meant by the paragraph about town planning, and the third is with regard to site values, though with regard to that I think a Bill has been published, and therefore it will not be necessary for me to dwell upon the matter. The same thing applies to marketing.
I come to agriculture. There are several things that can be done here and which are indicated in the King's Speech. There is reclamation which can be included in the word "re-conditioning." There is settlement, there is equipment, and there is housing. I should like to say a word with regard to what fell from the Noble Lord. He seemed to be very doubtful about the policy of family farms. He seemed to think that they were a failure. If he had made the slightest inquiry, he would have found that that is absolutely inaccurate. The 713 family farms are the farms which have weathered the storm best of all.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
What is the point of giving one instance to the contrary? [An HON. MEMBER: "The two cows!"] Yes, the illustration of the two cows. He gave the illustration, and I think that he gave the illustration to indicate what a failure family farms had been. If not, what on earth was the point? But still that is the Noble Lord's form of argument. As a matter of fact, in our part of the country they are mostly of the family farm type; they are small farms, and they are about the only farms which have weathered the storm. The Noble Lords says that everybody has to work; the wife has to work and the son has to work. That is true. Is that really such an oppression and a hardship? There are no happier people than those family farm people in the part of the world from which I come. That is the case wherever you have a number of small holdings. If the Noble Lord would go to a Protectionist country like Germany where there are some of these small farms he would see sights which you will not see on family farms in this country—women carrying manure and spreading it on the land and doing work of that kind. That is a thing which you do not find in Denmark, which is a Free Trade country, and you do not find it on family farms in this country at the present moment. [Laughter.] I fail to see what hon. Members are laughing at. That is so. I say that that is the difference between the two systems.
Let me put a question to the Government. You have at the present moment, I think, about 35,000 smallholders, and the failures have been a very small percentage. They have been an unquestionable success. The Noble Lord talked as if this were a futile policy. It is very futile, if it means the same sort of legislation as the Noble Lord's party attempted on small holdings—the Small Holdings Act—which has had the effect of stopping the process which was going on by means of the county councils. A county councillor in the east of England, in this very district where I am told it is a failure, said: 714That Act completely stopped the process that was going on in our area."I think it was the Isle of Ely.We were going to buy an estate there and set up small holdings, but that Act stopped it altogether.What has been the result? You have set up about 300 smallholdings while thousands of workers have been leaving the land year by year. I know that the Minister of Agriculture is not going to copy that kind of legislation, at any rate.
With regard to marketing, I am substantially in agreement with them that it is necessary that it should be done in a very firm, strong way, and I think that an element of compulsion is essential. I think that the Scottish farmers have taken a very much wiser course than the English course, and they have shown far greater vision. There is no doubt at all that the Bill will have to be moulded in Committee, and I have no doubt that the Minister of Agriculture will not be too rigid in that respect. On the whole, I think it is a very bold attempt to deal with a difficult problem. I go beyond that. I am not at all sure you cannot help the farmer beyond mere organisation. For instance, there is the organisation of transport which is vital. I go beyond that; there is assistance to transport for home produce. I go to that extent because the difference between that and Protection is that it gives food more cheaply to the consumer instead of making it dearer to. the consumer. It helps the home producer, but it also helps the consumer. Therefore, I hope that, when the Minister of Agriculture comes to deal with that problem, he will be able to persuade the Minister of Transport and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to assist him. It was the one thing in the de-rating scheme which, I confess, I thought was good. A certain sum of money was set aside out of the Petrol Duty for the purpose of cheapening transport for carrying material to the farms and for carrying produce from the farms. I hope that that process will be incorporated to a very large extent in this Measure, but I am going to wait until I see the Bill. I should like to ask the Minister of Agriculture when he hopes to bring it forward?
In a scheme of the kind indicated there is a good deal of work for the unemployed. There is work, not merely in the 715 settlement of people on the land, but in the reconditioning and the reclamation of the land. In Italy there are 80,000 engaged on the task of reclamation. There is no doubt at all that if you look at the quantity of land which has been waterlogged through neglected drains in this country since the War, land which has been spoilt by our great rivers not being properly cleaned, there is work there for a very considerable number of unemployed people in improving the conditions of the drains.
With regard to town planning, I wish the answer were more satisfactory. Here you have at the present moment 80 regional town planning committees under the Act of 1919, which, I think, was carried by the Minister of Agriculture, for all our great towns and cities. About 30 of them have schemes which they have prepared under the best expert advice in this country. A great number of them are ready to be put into operation. Surely, this is the time to do it, in order to give the workers the same opportunity of living under healthy conditions outside the towns as the well-to-do enjoy at the present moment. All that we ask for is this—I do hope that the Prime Minister will direct his attention to it, because I have had a conversation with him upon the matter and I would ask him this question now—cannot the Prime Minister consent to the preliminary suggestion which we made that a number of expert town planners—they are all very well known, there are six or seven first-class men who are known everywhere to every municipality—who have been preparing these plans, should form a Committee with representatives of the municipalities, picked men, and also with representatives of the Government. Departments, coming together to consider these schemes, selecting them and deciding which of them he can put into operation? If he does that, there is work for a very considerable number of people in putting the schemes through. The Government could not possibly object to set up a Committee, seeing that they are already going to set up a Commission.
I do hope that the Government are not going to allow the officials to turn down schemes of this kind. I am a great believer in the Civil Service. I have 716 worked with them for 17 years, and there is no better Civil Service in the world, but it is not their business to proclaim policy. That is the business of the Government. The business of the civil servant is in the engine room and not on the bridge, working the engines and seeing that the ship is getting to work all right. Policy must come from the Ministers. I know perfectly well that there will be the usual difficulties and that they will say: "We have examined these things before, and we have turned them down over and over again," but it is for the Ministers to decide the policy. I do hope that the Government will do it, and put some drive into it. Everything depends upon that. Unless you have real energy behind you, your proposals or your schemes—it does not matter what they may be—will fail.
It is because I am going to wait until these plans are developed that I cannot see my way to vote for the Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I have said so before. I am going to talk quite frankly to the Leader of the Opposition. His interest and the interest of the party behind him I can understand. They are fidgeting to get back. The right hon. Gentleman was responsible for putting right hon. Gentlemen on the Government bench. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] He was. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who keeps them there?"] The right hon. Gentleman decided, without consultation with Parliament, when there was an anti-Socialist majority in the House, that he would take the responsibility of doing so. He said: "They cannot last long." He regarded the present. Prime Minister as a kind of warming pan, a friendly warming pan. I have no doubt that he preferred him there to having either Lord Beaverbrook or Lord Rothermere. His view and the view of his party, naturally, is that the time has come when they ought to come back. I do not blame them for taking that view. They see the results of the municipal elections, where their party has had very striking triumphs, and they have come to the conclusion that if we had a General Election—I do not know whether they are right or wrong—probably they would be returned. Naturally, they are most anxious that this thing should come, and come quickly.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
On some things I would take the opinion of the right hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) but democracy is not one of them. Democracy has chosen this Parliament for five years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Why should it be assumed that democracy chose the last Parliament for five years and this Parliament during the pleasure of the right hon. Member for West Woolwich? That is not the case. Whatever the interest of the Leader of the Opposition and his party may be, and I am not blaming them for considering their interests, they must not blame us if we also consider our point of view. We have just as good a right to do that as they have. None of us on these benches owe our seats to any other party except our own. We fought right hon. and hon. Members opposite, and right hon. and hon. Members on this side, and the Labour party and the Conservative party fought us. We have only two or three seats here where it could by any chance be said that we got in by the tolerance of any other party. We fought every other party. I fought Labour and I fought Conservative, and that is the case with most of my hon. Friends.
We are, therefore, not beholden to any party, and we are bound to consider our own point of view. Our view is that every opportunity ought to be given to the Government to develop a policy which we regard as a progressive, advanced policy, although it may be one of which hon. and right hon. Members of the Conservative party do not approve. We are in favour of giving every opportunity to the Government to press forward. We are urging them to do so. We think this is the greatest opportunity that any Government has had, because unemployment is not merely in itself a great infliction upon the country; it is a great opportunity for putting things right. I am going to ask the Prime Minister to-night to give hope not merely to Members on these benches, for whom he is not responsible, but to the millions who are behind him in the country and who, undoubtedly, are full of disappointment at what is happening, to give hope to the country, which is very anxious and very worried, that at last this great problem is going to be tackled.
§ The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
At one point in the 718 speech of the right hon. Gentleman I began to be a little afraid that he had become infected by Communist psychology. He took the view that if the Labour Government believed that capitalism was thoroughly bad and that Society would not be reasonably well organised until capitalism had been abolished, the Labour Government had no business to take office. That is to assume that to-day we can be in capitalism and to-morrow we can be in Socialism. That ignores the whole process of transformation from the old order to the new order of things. That is the Communist view, the view of smash up to-day and Heaven to-morrow, but it is not the organic view of Society, and I would recommend the right hon. Gentleman to peruse a volume written by the Prime Minister, entitled "Socialism and Society," which will give him the true faith and keep him away from the dangers of Leninism towards which he appears to be drifting.
No one is more glad than hon. Members on this side of the House that unemployment is being prominently debated in Parliament from time to time. It is but a limited time ago that both the older political parties in the State took the view that the problem of unemployment and, indeed, the problem of poverty was no business of the House of Commons or of the State.
§ Mr. MORRISON
—he was repeatedly told by hon. Members on both sides of the House that it was going beyond the legitimate function of the State. The fact that the State nowadays has undertaken considerable responsibility in connection with unemployment is in defiance of the will of the older political parties of the nineteenth century, and is solely the result of Labour and Socialist agitation in the country. In these debates we have seen the attitude of the two political parties on the Opposition Benches. While the Liberal party are making a contribution to the common stock of ideas upon this subject and have put up proposals 719 upon which they can stand criticism, the Conservative party have not made a single constructive, practicable suggestion, so far as I know. That party stands condemned as a party utterly unfitted to deal with the economic troubles which face the country to-day. Of course, they have raised the King Charles' Head of protective tariffs.
§ Mr. MORRISON
That is a policy which has been repeatedly condemned at general elections, and therefore it is one which this Parliament is not entitled to adopt. The Conservative party on the subject of tariffs is hazy and changeable. The Leader of the Opposition issues a new edition of his policy every week, running like a serial story in the newspapers. So far as I can see, it is not a question of what is good for our country, what is good for our people, but what is good for the political party which the right hon. Gentleman leads. Even the right hon. Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain), arch-Protectionist though he be, in his endeavour to be definite yesterday was hopelessly indefinite. He said:We who sit on these benches have a plan which we are ready to put into immediate operation, a plan which I might describe in a sentence as immediate Protection in one form or another, by one method or another, of the home market, and the ultimate attainment of economic unity throughout the Empire."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1930; col. 508, Vol. 244.]That statement appears in Column 508 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, but by the time we get to Column 510, even the word "immediate" has gone, for there he indicates that tariffs could not be recklessly imposed, as he had implied in Column 508, that we are not to have the emergency tariff straight away, but that each commodity is to be examined upon its merits. He said:I recognise that there are articles, and that there are conditions, to which a tariff is not the most applicable method and our general position here is that every article ought to be examined on its merits and the conditions that attach to it, and that we should apply to each article that form of protection which is most likely to achieve the object that we have in view."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1930; col. 610, Vol. 244.]It is perfectly obvious that by the time they have done inquiring into each one 720 of the articles the immediacy of this great policy will have frittered away to the winds a long time before. The right hon. Gentleman finished with a flourish. He said:I submit to the House that a Government which is afflicted with such a paralysis of the brain and will is a danger to the country, and I ask the House to accept this Amendment with all its implications."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1930; col. 513, Vol. 244.]That of course is utterly untrue; I repudiate the statement as being in any way accurate. It is untrue as a description of a Government which, despite its minority position, has done the following things: In its first Session it passed legislation for the reorganisation of two great industries: the problem of the coal mining industry, which had been evaded by the Conservative party for a number of years except when they were making the situation worse, and road transport; and a Bill was passed for the assistance of the building industry—the Housing Act of last Session. In the second place, this Government, through the activities of the late Lord Privy Seal and the President of the Board of Trade and other Ministers, has helped to encourage industrialists to achieve greater efficiency. It is not a subject one can shout about, but it has been done with some benefit to British industry. In the coming Session of Parliament we shall proceed with vitally important Bills for placing agriculture on an organised basis, and for the economic co-ordination of London passenger traffic. In the fourth place, we have put in hand in little more than twelve months what, constitutes the greatest programme of economically advantageous works for the stimulation of employment of any Government. It is really nonsense for people who have been responsible for previous Governments, who on this matter have not done as well as this minority Government has done in little more than 12 months, to suggest that this Government has no drive, no energy, and no push, when in fact we have done better in this respect than any previous Administration. It may he said that we ought to have done much better because the times are worse, but when times are bad it does not make the situation any easier to handle. The description which the right hon. Member for Edgbaston gave of the present 721 Government would really be true if he applied it to the last Government, and I suspect that the sentence he used at the end of his speech has in reality been lifted from criticisms by Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Rothermere upon the present Leader of the Conservative party and the incompetence, particularly of the Central Conservative office.
It is my duty in this debate to tell the House what the Government have done to assist in the reconditioning of industry and to secure the putting in hand of public works, primarily on grounds of their economic advantage to the nation and in a limited number of cases on grounds of public amenity. We started in office not with advantages but with a great number of disadvantages. I am not trying to make excuses. We have no need to make excuses, because our achievements are so considerable. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but, if they will recall the record of their own Government, they will really recognise that they have nothing to laugh at, and if they take the record of any previous Government before the last they will find that this Government comes out of the comparison very well indeed.
§ Mr. MORRISON
There is no need for us to make excuses; I want to state facts. It is true, generally speaking, that the slow-down policy deliberately adopted by the previous Government left us with very few schemes ready for commencement, and it may interest the House—it is certainly material to the present discussion—if I give the record of the development schemes, excluding road schemes, of the previous Government. From July, 1925, to June, 1926, there were approvals totalling £17,566,000. From 1926 to 1927 they dropped to £792,000—less than £1,000,000. In the next year they further dropped to £319,000, and then, when the General Election was coming on, between 1928 and 1929 they went up to £5,687,000, making a total of £24,364,000 during a period of four and a-half years. Already the present Government, for works which are substantially analogous, and again excluding 722 road works, has approved schemes totalling, roughly, £50,000,000, as compared with £25,000,000 during the whole four and a-half years of the late administration with a big majority in the House of Commons. And we are expected to apologise! We are going to do nothing of the kind.
Secondly, they applied the brake to works of local authorities by raiding the Road Fund and by the instructions which they gave to the Unemployment Grants Committee. We have tried to infuse into local government a new go-ahead spirit. We have applied the drive and the energy, to a considerable extent successfully, though not universally. The Local Government Act had put the machinery of local government into the melting-pot, and the derating and other provisions had left municipalities with a materially smaller rateable value than before. That is the kind of disturbance which made it difficult to get local authorities to move, but we had a great measure of success, and, substantially speaking, local authorities have not been unwilling to co-operate with this Government. Moreover, in Parliament and in the Conservative Press substantial local government unemployment schemes have been gently discouraged by the Conservative party. I quote a statement made by the right hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) in this House on the Second Reading of the Public Works (Facilities) Bill, in which he said:The danger of undue pressure on local authorities at the present time is that it may lead to temporary works which not only do not help but actually aggravate the problem of unemployment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1930; col. 816, Vol. 241.]That is not a helpful statement when the Government are trying to secure the co-operation of local authorities. So far as work by statutory companies and public utility trusts is concerned, the dismal Jeremiahs of the Tory party were busily engaged in spreading, not a spirit of courage and progress, of facing our problems and getting on with our job, but a spirit of depression and economic defeatism. That does not help the Government nor British industry. It almost amounts to sabotage of the efforts of the Government. Many of the statutory companies and public utility trusts, fortunately, were superior to these political 723 influences, and have been willing to cooperate with the Government of the day, whatever its political complexion may be.
Finally, it must be remembered that this unemployment push is the last of a series which have been made following the Great War, with the State heavily burdened with unproductive debt and unfortunately with no public and little private capital reserved for bad times. Any Government was bound to be faced with great difficulties in launching as we did a really bold programme of economic works, irrespective of world economic depression which is affecting all countries, and which is outside the control of any individual Government. The fact that we have made definite agreements for works of industrial advantage and public utility in little more than 12 months, greater than those of any other Government, constitutes a conclusive answer to those who allege that there has been a lack of drive, a lack of initiative and a lack of determination on our part. The Lord Privy Seal, in his speech last Wednesday, informed the House that the development expenditure definitely approved totalled the very big figure of £135,000,000, including roads. This figure will continue to grow, and it is likely, ultimately at any rate, to approach the figure of the Liberal party in connection with a National Loan which they proposed in 1929. It is, of course, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not for me to argue the merits or demerits of a loan policy, but we can say that we have achieved the practical ends of the loan policy in terms of work already, and without raising any national loan.
No Government have given to the question of unemployment the constant and unremitting attention which the present Government have given to it. [Interruption.] That is perfectly true, and it has been done despite the important and inevitable interruptions of the Naval Conference, the Imperial Conference and the India Round-Table Conference, which will shortly take place, not to mention the persistent harassing of the late Lord Privy Seal in debates which were initiated repeatedly in this House by the official Opposition, but which were not conducted in any helpful spirit. So far as the proposals of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd 724 George) are concerned, there is really no fundamental difference between us and him as to dealing with the present emergency. One can agree in principle with the statement made in the preface to the Liberal Book on Unemployment, that it is broadly accurate to say that the Liberal proposals are accepted in principle by the Government. There is nothing surprising in that. In fact, the original Liberal proposals on unemployment bore a great resemblance to the policy which the Labour party had been urging in the country for years.
There is a. difference between us on matters of detail. For example, it is claimed in the Liberal pamphlet and in the Liberal policy that you can start all these works within four months, and complete them within two years. I am sorry to disagree with the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, but really he has never proved that, and I cannot believe—if he tells me it is so, I must believe him—that he has behind him the technical engineering schemes and solid advice which tell him that, in fact, you can start within four months.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I can give the right hon. Gentleman the figures and the names; and the Minister of Transport knows it. It is no use the Prime Minister smiling. I am prepared to give the names if I get the permission of the Minister.
§ Mr. MORRISON
The right hon. Member is assuming that I am quoting the opinion of his engineers. I have done nothing of the kind. I say that, in my judgment, he has not proper engineering advice to warrant his assuming that he can start them all within four months, and that they can be completed within two years. I said, and still say, that, in my judgment, he has not got the proper engineering preparations and advice which warrant him in being sure—after all, these predictions ought not to be made without his being absolutely sure—that you can start them in four months and complete them within two years.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The right hon. Gentleman has again repeated that statement. He said that I had no solid engineering advice which would justify me in making that prediction with regard to the two years. I tell him that I have actually shown him the document. He knows exactly who passed it and approved it, and he is putting me in a very great fix in not giving the names to the House of Commons, and he knows it.
§ Mr. MORRISON
I can only say, in the first place, that I think the right hon. Gentleman is misinterpreting the advice that he had, and, secondly, that there are people whom I will not put into the cockpit of debate in the House of Commons. But the fact that I will not do that does not prevent me from having my opinion and beliefs. I did not say that in any controversial spirit or spirit of captiousness. I have said it as a matter of belief. What the Government have to try to do is what they believe they can do, and out of respect for the unemployed themselves not to promise to do things unless convinced that they can do them. Therefore, with every respect, I cannot accept that belief as to the time within which the programme can be completed. There are some other points of detailed fact on which we are in some disagreement. For example, it was proposed in the Liberal pamphlet, or it was assumed, that the trunk roads would be all of 30 feet width, whereas the common thing in open country is to make them 20 feet and to allow for subsequent widening. It would be wasteful to do otherwise.
There is the other point that it is assumed in the Liberal pamphlet still, that is in the new edition, that the number of men who would be employed for every £1,000,000 of expenditure is 5,000, whereas the figure in our judgment, on advice, is 4,000. I believe that to be sound. I can only say that I think it is desirable that we should all be meticulously accurate in statistics on this question, because none of us, I am sure, wishes to hold out expectations which cannot be realised. The East Lancashire Road, which will mean a total cost of £3,000,000, as a matter of fact will employ, so we are advised and as far as we can see, not more than 1,000 men directly at any one time. There are physical limitations to the number of men that can be kept on a job at one time, 726 unless you simply go in for methods which make the men fall over each other. That is recklessness in the expenditure of public funds, and it is the duty of a spending Minister to be just as careful in the spending of public money as is the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the watching of public expenditure.
Nevertheless, I quite agree that on the general broad policy there is no fundamental disagreement between us and the Liberal party. That is why in these discussions there should be on both sides a spirit of helpfulness as far as possible. Whilst as a Socialist I cannot for one moment under-estimate the useful field of operations for the State in these matters, there are, of course, limitations. I remember that when the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, as Prime Minister, was good enough to meet me and other Metropolitan Labour Mayors at Gairloch on 22nd September, 1921, he said that there were limitations to the activity of the State. I have always remembered the words of warning which he, as an experienced Minister, gave to me on that occasion. I reminded the House of it some months ago and the right hon. Gentleman's words are on record.
I desire to review substantially the whole of the economic development schemes of the Government, including, with the concurrence of my colleagues, schemes passing through Departments other than the Ministry of Transport. My own Department is involved in about £100,000,000 out of the total of £135,000,000. Approximately half of the £100,000,000 represents Road Fund schemes, and the other half schemes aided under the Home Development Act. Nobody would defend a highway policy based on the doctrine of "Roads, roads everywhere, and never a stop to think." I am perfectly willing to accept the statement of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in this House on 18th June with regard to that point. He then said, and I think accurately: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, f it is merely for the purpose of enabling pleasure trips to be run and pleasure motorists to be satisfied, for 727 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th June, 1930; col. 439, Vol. 240.]That represents the attitude of the Government. When we came into office we took over from the last Government certain outstanding large schemes which they had left in progress, and there are still schemes, including the Mersey Tunnel and the East Lancashire Road, both very big schemes, which are being carried on.
§ Mr. MORRISON
Yes, they have done something, the general policy being to do as little as they could. They carried on with certain things that the Labour Government of 1924 left, and when they went out of office all the schemes of the Labour Government of 1924 were not quite finished. My right hon. Friend reminds me that the Mersey Scheme itself was authorised by the Labour Government of 1924, and I am not at all sure that the East Lancashire Road was not in the same category. So that you see the speed with which the late Government set about its work! We left them a glorious inheritance in 1924, and they did not finish the programme by 1929. I am not sure that they ought not to have been disqualified for "not genuinely seeking work." Since the beginning of 1925, when they put forward a road programme involving a total expenditure of some £5,000,000 the late Government had launched no road programme specifically earmarked for the relief of unemployment, but they had an annual programme for works of improvement of classified roads and bridges, and made provision just before they went out of office for Road Fund grants which would cover a 1929–30 programme of expenditure of some £5,000,000 to £7,000,000, including the local authorities. The late Government's annual programme is absorbed in our improvement programme for classified roads and bridges, which is a comprehensive five years' scheme of £27,500,000, coupled with an annual programme allowing for £4,000,000 of expenditure each year, and representing in all the very big sum of £47,500,000 over the five years. Our trunk road programme of £21,000,000 is 728 a further and entirely new addition to the old Government programme.
These are figures of broad programmes, but the actual schemes approved to date are £50,000,000. These schemes cannot be set going by drawing a line across a map. They have to be worked out; the engineering surveys must be made; and the local authorities must put up their proposals. The actual approvals for grant, which is the final process so far as we are concerned, at the end of September were £23,000,000, and the figure is growing daily. The list includes over 50 schemes of widening and reconstructing important roads to stand up to modern traffic conditions, and a score of important by-pass schemes. I am aware that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs attaches, and I think rightly attaches, very great importance to rural roads. My sympathy is entirely with him on that point, as is the sympathy of the Minister of Agriculture. It must be remembered that under the Local Government Act the maintenance grants in respect of these roads were included in the block grant formula. Therefore that money is fixed, and it comes out of the Road Fund.
We are willing to make, and in fact have made, grants through the Unemployment Grants Committee towards the reconstruction of a number of rural roads, and whenever a rural road becomes a road of great importance we are willing to consider it for classification either as a Class II or Class I road. I agree that it can still be said that many rural roads are not in a satisfactory condition, but I am hoping that the county councils, with their new powers, will improve them. We are encouraging them to put up schemes, and they can rely upon it that they will be handled with sympathetic consideration. But it would be wrong to assume that you can set a great army of men to work at once on rural roads, or on a great majority or great proportion of rural roads. If you block too many roads at one time the trouble to traffic is very serious.
It must be remembered that none of these roads is very far from a classified road. It is suggested in the Liberal pamphlet that there should be tar-spraying twice in each year over such roads pretty generally. We are advised that 729 agriculturists have very different opinions on the subject of tar-spraying roads and making the surface too smooth. Agriculturists do not like such roads for their horses and other purposes, and of course we must keep their point of view in mind. We have encouraged the local authorities to make proposals. The Unemployment Grants Committee is willing to consider, with our advice, applications made, but I think it is best for the initiative to come to some extent from the local authorities and for us to see whether it is justified. Wherever the traffic does increase to the necessary extent we shall be perfectly willing to classify the roads. That is indeed the policy of the Ministry of Transport.
Outside these specific unemployment programmes we have approved important London traffic schemes such as the Dartford-Purfleet Tunnel, a £3,000,000 job, the Elephant and Castle scheme, and further schemes which are coming along. The Unemployment Grants Committee have also, under the Development Act of last year, approved schemes for the improvement of unclassified roads, mainly in urban areas, to a total of over £6,000,000, in addition to the sums I have mentioned. There are other grants under the Development Act which are borne not on my vote but on the votes of the Treasury and Ministry of Labour. They include grants for transport and electricity schemes and they total no less than £50,000,000. Towards the interest on this capital expenditure on the part of the undertakings concerned, the Exchequer is finding grants which represent the equivalent, on average, of a capital contribution of between one-quarter and one-third of the total cost. Under Part 1 of the Act which deals with statutory companies the Treasury, on the advice of the Committee under Sir Frederick Lewis—who has given us great assistance—has approved schemes of some £12,000,000 for the London Underground and Metropolitan Railways, of which details have appeared in the Press. These schemes are going forward notwithstanding the confident prophecies of Conservative Members in the discussions on the London Traffic Co-ordination Bills.
Schemes of over £10,000,000 have been sanctioned in connection with the reconditioning of the main line railways. We have said to the railway companies, "If 730 you make proposals for really accelerating expenditure which will improve the efficiency of the undertakings and their usefulness to the public, we shall be pleased to assist you towards the interest which will be involved on that borrowed capital." Within the last few days approval has been given to a further extension of the Southampton Docks involving an expenditure by the Southern Railway of some £3,000,000 and the Great Western Railway have put in hand a scheme at a cost approaching £2,000,000 for the development of modern handling appliances at the South Wales Docks. The London and North Eastern Railway have in hand schemes approaching £500,000 for various improvements at Middles-brough, Hull and Grimsby.
A substantial programme of reconstruction involving an early expenditure approaching £1,000,000 has been approved for the Grand Union Canal Company so that even the canals have not been left out of the picture. There is, as the House knows, another Committee sitting under the chairmanship of Lord St. Davids, who for many years has given the State great assistance in these matters. We put that Committee on a statutory basis under the Development Act. It deals with local authorities and trusts not trading for profit. That Committee has approved dock schemes involving expenditure of approximately £5,000,000 including a comprehensive scheme of modernisation on the Mersey of over £2,000,000 and a number of improvement schemes on the Clyde, the Tees, the Wear and at Aberdeen as well as a number of smaller schemes. The total of the schemes for docks—which represent a very important development and one which is very necessary in the interests of our export trade—amounts to £11,000,000.
In regard to electricity we have urged the companies and the municipalities—the industry is still run on a local basis—in very much the same terms as those used in the Liberal pamphlet. The Electricity Commissioners have made proposals for a vigorous development policy with which I have every sympathy and every opportunity has been taken by speech and otherwise to urge that policy upon the undertakings concerned. It must be remembered, however, that neither the Commissioners nor the Minister of Transport run the electricity industry because two-thirds 731 of it is to-day in the hands of the municipal authorities, who have done very important work, and one-third is in the hands of private companies, over whom there is no effective public control as far as development is concerned. This encouragement, which to some extent has been responded to, and the very fine and vigorous work of the Central Electricity Board which was set up by the Act of 1926, represent considerable achievement, and the amount of the schemes which we have assisted aggregates £12,500,000, including a very important scheme for the standardisation of frequency on the northeast coast.
That scheme is of importance to the consumers there in connection with the purchase of fittings, and it is of importance to British manufacturers of electrical plant in reducing the number of types of plant which they have to manufacture. It is a kind of industrial reorganisation which is having a lasting effect. If we could reduce the number of standards of manufactured plant and articles down from the unnecessary multiplicity that we have now, it would be one of the finest blows that we could strike for British industry. But that standardisation was started by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924. Why was it not completed by the late Government, whose members are so vigorous now in saying that we cannot do anything? The scheme was nearly ready for them, but, in the result, we have had to assist the scheme now at a greater public cost than would have been involved had the work commenced by my right hon. Friend been completed by the last Government in the earlier stages of its career. We have done it, however. We have not merely favoured the electricity industry.
We have not forgotten the gas industry, schemes to the extent of £2,300,000 being assisted. In addition to the schemes relating to transport there were other schemes considered by the two committes under the Development Act, with which the Minister of Transport is not directly concerned. The approvals under these, in respect of gas 'and water schemes, sewage and various town halls, baths, wash-houses and land drainage, represent some £20,000,000 of the sum which remains to make up the 732 £135,000,000. It should be remembered that, in the main, these are schemes of accelerated work which will definitely improve the economic efficiency of British industry and leave us stronger than we were before.
The Prime Minister on 30th October said that at the moment 160,000 people were directly and indirectly employed on these schemes. I am not going to make prophecies. He would be a foolish man who would prophesy about these figures because something may come in to upset them, but I think it likely that at the end of the year between 200,000 and 250,000 men may be directly and indirectly employed on schemes resulting from the policy of the present Government. Had there been no world crisis such as brought the latest swell in the unemployment figures we should have been able to say that as the result of this Government's efforts, in all probability by Christmas the unemployment figure would have been reduced by between 200,000 and 250,000.
The right hon. Gentleman in dealing with unemployment has mentioned men, but he has not said one single word about any scheme affecting women.
§ Mr. MORRISON
I think about the human race and I would beg the Noble Lady to think about the same subject. In so far as women are unemployed in these occupations to which I have referred, women are affected. My main point is this. Had we not experienced the economic blizzard to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) referred, we should have had a figure of unemployment now, materially less than the figure when we came into office. The programme which we have achieved is a very big programme of accelerated national work. It has only been done by constant drive, by means of circulars, by the Guildhall Conference, regional conferences, meetings with industrialists by the ex-Lord Privy Seal and others, and the efforts of the Civil Service and the district officers who work under the various Ministries. I invite the House to com- 733 pare this record of achievement with the record of the last Government. It is a record with which we are not going to stop. The work will go on. As Lord Beaverbrook would say "we go marching on." We have not finished, we go on with the good work.
§ Mr. MORRISON
We are going on. We are not going to stand still and, as I say, I ask the House to compare our record of achievement with the policy of drift, makeshift and muddle of the last Government. It had no economic policy and the party opposite has no economic policy now and is not likely to have an economic policy. It is split from top to bottom on the question of what its economic policy ought to be, and I ask the House to take the view that this Amendment is a fatuous Amendment coming from a party which dare not put on the Order Paper an Amendment incorporating its Protectionist policy, because it does not know what its Protectionist policy is. I ask the House to reject the Amendment as fatuous and irrelevant and to give the Government the confidence and encouragement which they ought to have for the continuation of their efforts to grapple with this problem.
§ Sir SAMUEL CHAPMAN
Some of us older members do not think it necessary to thrust ourselves upon the attention of the House except at long intervals. I happen to be a Member for the City of Edinburgh and we had a very brilliant speech yesterday from the President of the Board of Trade, a colleague of whom we are all proud, the most painstaking Minister on the Treasury Bench and a gentleman whom we all immensely respect. I only desire to detain the House for ten minutes or perhaps less because the right hon. Gentleman's speech contained a statement which, of my own knowledge, I presume to rectify. It touches the heart of the fiscal question and therefore I propose to devote some short time to discussing it. The right hon. Gentleman said:There is hardly any part of the line—and, believe me, I have analysed it impartially during recent months—at which we do not stand to lose on the transaction, and, therefore, this country has to make up its mind whether it is going to play the game 734 of tariffs and retaliation or whether it is going, however great the difficulties, to try to support fiscal freedom in another way." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1930; col. 520, Vol. 244.]6.0 p.m.
I am not going to discuss what the right hon. Gentleman means by "fiscal freedom." He knows the statesmen of Europe better than I do but I venture to say that he does not know the business men of Europe as well as I do. I can go to 20 towns on the Continent and converse with business men of high standing there and I know that the view they take on the question which would arise if we in this country should think it desirable to put on a tariff in our own interests. When the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) did better than he knew in putting on the Silk Duties, I had four of the largest silk manufacturers on the Continent sitting in that gallery and asking my advice. They came over within three or four days of the right hon. Gentleman putting on those duties. They rather misunderstood his position. I remember the right hon. Gentleman saying, "These are revenue duties; they are not protective duties. I am going to balance the duties." But some of those gentlemen on the Continent misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman's plan, and they came over here and took my advice, and I did not disabuse their minds. They came over, not for the purpose of grumbling at all—they are all good-natured—but for the purpose of opening silk factories in this country and employing British labour. I had them all there, and with unanimous voice—they were opponents—what did they say? If any hon. Gentleman likes to have a bit of dinner one day soon, I will bring him to them, and it will do him good—not the dinner, but the talk!
One of them said to me, "My dear fellow, we have been preparing for this for a long time, and the wonder is that you have been such fools all these years not to have done it before. I have had 20 years' good trade in the English market, and my father and his father had years of good trade in the English market before me. We have nothing to grumble about, and now that you think it necessary, in your own interests, to put on duties, we are coming over here to open factories in your country." I directed one of them to Scotland 735 wanted to get him to Edinburgh. In spite of the duties not being protective, he said, "Sooner or later those duties will come." He is now in Dunfermline, making every class of real silk that is made on the Continent, and proving that our girls in Dunfermline and elsewhere are just as clever with their eyes and fingers in manipulating real silk as they are in Como and Zurich and elsewhere on the Continent.
The right hon. Gentleman has absolutely mistaken the tone and the temper of the manufacturers on the Continent. They are not the disgruntled people that he thinks they are, neither would the Governments on the Continent act in the way that he suggests they would, in getting excited and saying they would put greater tariff walls against Britain. Nothing of the kind would happen. They are all prepared at this moment, and watching what takes place in this House, for the purpose of coming over, here, employing their capital here, maintaining this market, employing our own people, and making those ladies that the right hon. Gentleman has been talking about wear the silks which are now being made in Lyons, Como, and Zurich. I could give conversation after conversation which I have had, sitting in their own offices in Lyons. Let me give you one.
I went into a Lyons office in February, and there saw two beautiful old photographs of two good old Frenchmen. The manufacturer there said, "That one is my grandfather, and that other is my eldest brother. The eldest brother, you know, is now in the United States." "Oh," I said, "why did he go to the United States?" He replied, "When the United States put on Silk Duties, we were not going to lose the American market, so we moved part of our works from Lyons to the United States, and we are doing a bigger business there now than we ever did in Lyons." Then his other partner, a younger man, cut in and said, "Yes, and only three years ago we did the same thing in Canada. The Canadians put up their duties, and we found by our books that we were going to lose the Canadian market. We were not going to do anything of the kind, and as there were two or three of us in the firm, we sent one of the partners to Canada, and we put up works there. 736 We are employing Canadians there, of course, but we are keeping the business in the family. One brother is there, one is here, and another is in America, and we are just keeping the trade going." Does my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, who is not here now, think that any trouble has happened in Canada since June, when they put up the Silk Duties there?
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
Does the hon. Member think so? Then I am glad I am in a position to enlighten the hon. Member, who knows more about engines than about silk. I hold in my hand a cutting, which the hon. Gentleman shall see if he takes an interest in the matter, from the "Montreal Gazette." Nobody got very excited in any part of Europe when they put extra duties on textiles in Canada, but the great manufacturers in Canada themselves came to the conclusion that it was a good thing for them, and they did not hide their opinion under a bushel, because they put this advertisement in the "Montreal Gazette." Let my hon. Friend opposite, who says there is less employment there, listen to this:Canadian Celanese, Limited, made certain pledges to the Government. They now repeat those pledges to the public. Canadian Celanese, Limited, agreed that if the tariff were increased, the company would undertake the construction of new plant. Work has already been commenced on plant extension which will involve the expenditure of over $2,000,000 and give employment"—Perhaps my hon. Friend will listen to this—to an additional 2,000 people. Canadian Celanese, Limited, agreed that the company would not increase its prices. The company has not done so, and will not do so.That is Canadian Celanese, Limited, and I have the authority of the other great company there, Courtauld's, to say that within a week they did the same thing, although they did not talk so much about it. Therefore, both of these companies, on account of the increased duties which the Canadian Government put on in June, are doubling the size of their plant and employing between them 4,000 extra people.
§ Mr. BROMLEY
Will the hon. Member give me and the House the figures that he said he would give as to the general position of employment in Canada?
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
I did not say any such thing. I am here to talk on a specific subject. It is all very fine of the hon. Member, but we are pretty old hands at this game, and alive to it. I could go on all night answering interruptions, but I do not wish to do so. I have made my point. I said I would not be more than 10 minutes, and you, Mr. Speaker, have been kind enough to call upon me. Hon. Members opposite need not worry themselves about the Continent getting excited and doing terrible things against us if we feel it our duty to look after the interests of our own people.
Two things, and two things only, I ask hon. Members opposite to be good enough to remember, and they are those two great words in the English language, "Security" and "Production." Give our people security, and they will produce the goods. Buying and selling are nothing. There is nothing in them; there are no wages in them. It is producing something out of the land or off the looms that pays wages, and so long as we produce goods, so long as we make something in our factories, we are doing well. Weaving only, say, £25,000 worth of silk fabrics in a year in a district means that there are wages in that little countryside which keep many a happy home going. Production is the great thing, and in all these discussions which we are going to have, the one word "Production" and the other word "Security" should be in the forefront of all our thoughts.
§ Mr. WISE
We are constantly being told from those benches that the only thing that matters is production, but we should all like to know what it is that industry or agriculture is expected to produce at this moment which can be profitably sold. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to talk, and talk, and talk about the necessity of production. It was persuasive enough 10 years ago, when there was an unlimited market waiting for goods, but so long as the world position remains as it is, I am afraid it does not carry this problem very much farther.
We have listened to-night to two or three very interesting speeches from the front benches. We listened to the Minister of Transport, who acquitted himself with his habitual competence, and as one listened to him, with that long and effec- 738 tive catalogue of all the things that the Government have done which other Governments have not done or would not do, one almost forgot the essential fact and figure in this controversy, namely, that despite all these activities on new roads and new bits of work here and there, the unemployment figures mount steadily up. As I listened also to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Llgyd George), I could not help thinking that, as between the Minister of Transport and that ex-Prime Minister, in their approach to the problem there is very little to choose. Nearly all the things that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs proposed in his original pamphlets are obviously already in hand, and reading rapidly through his latest publication—because that is all that I have had the time available to do—it does not seem to me that he carries his proposals very much farther.
I am bound to say that, though I frankly admit that I have pressed on the Government all these months that it is necessary to put in hand these emergency works, of roads, arid public works, and all that sort of thing, as an ambulance measure, a palliative, to reduce the immediate pressure of unemployment, it is pretty obvious that they do not go near the real centre of the whole difficulty and that they do not touch the problem with which the country is faced. Indeed, at the beginning of that new pamphlet of the right hon. Gentleman, and in the peroration of the admirable speech from the President of the Board of Trade last night, we have a frank admission that, valuable though these emergency measures may be, we have to do something very much more fundamental if we are either immediately and effectively to reduce unemployment or to avoid the recurrence of these terrible crises.
I wish that the President of the Board of Trade, instead of giving us—as he does after those admirable analyses of facts and figures, produced, arranged and sorted with masterly skill—his tributes to the need of Socialist reorganisation, with which he invariably favours us, and with which we entirely agree, at the end of his speeches—I wish that he would start off with that declaration of faith, and then proceed to tell us what he 739 really means by it. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite laugh, but I am sure that the President of the Board of Trade is very clear in his own mind what he wants. I am quite certain, too, that it would help this House in facing its problems, and it would help the Government in facing the country, if, instead of meandering along with schemes and proposals which they know are not really effective, they took their courage in both hands and told the country what they think and what, given the power, they are prepared to do.
I disagree with some hon. Members who sit on these benches, including the hon. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley). I do not think that this country can maintain its population with its present standard of life, or find employment for its workers, merely by attention to these emergency schemes for providing work. It is quite true that the home markets can be developed, but there is a much more direct and effective way of doing it than by building roads, which have reached a degree of excellence, and which, from the commercial point of view, are now largely wasted. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs talks in his new report about economy. It is no economy to build roads which are really in their effect and for their purposes luxurious. If you want to spend money just for the purpose of putting people to work, which will be really as effective from a permanent point of view, we might as well undertake the suggestion made by one of my hon. colleagues to dig up Ben Nevis, transport it to Leicestershire, and re-erect it. I can imagine the eloquence of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in defending that project, and the magnificent perorations we should have about dawns and suns and evening mists, and about the thousands of people who would go by chars-a-bancs and so on along the roads in order to see this great miracle. Such a scheme would 'be as effective as a good many of the schemes, from the national point of view and for dealing with our real and fundamental national problem, as many of the schemes which are proposed in the right hon. Gentleman's new pamphlet.
After all, we come down to the centre of this problem. There is no doubt 740 about it—for everybody agrees—that the problem is not primarily at home. All on the Front Bench and other benches defend themselves by saying that this is a world problem, and that we cannot expect a solution unless we can deal with the world causes. But the point which we ought to face in this House is, are these world causes absolutely outside our control? Are they some visitation of God or nature which we cannot avoid? Have they been caused by a mishandling of human affairs? Can they be put right, or can the process towards putting them right be undertaken by the present Government, or by any Government of this country? In their immediate symptoms, we are faced by a glut in the supplies of most of the primary raw materials—tin, copper, rubber, wheat, wool, cotton and jute. All these goods ire piled up in the countries of production,?and the consumers are unable to purchase. Consequently, those who would otherwise have supplied them with manufactured goods are unable to find the market for their goods.
That is the essential problem. It is no way out to say that this is due to simple over-production. It is nothing of the sort. The figures and charts produced recently by the Royal Economic Society show without any doubt that the extra stocks of commodities arose after the crisis. They are a result, and not a cause. Until the middle of last year, there was no surplus of the main commodities; in one or two there was an excess supply. The glut and the heavy stocks of commodities are the direct and obvious result of restriction in the world's power of consumption. It is not over-production, but under-consumption, and the extra stocks are a result, and not a cause. The figures prove that, and if anybody challenges me on the point, I will be glad to refer him to the facts and evidence.
What is the cause? It is familiar to everybody. There are two causes. One cause is that over a period of years a policy of steady restriction of credit has been pursued by the central banks, reflecting itself in a steady restriction of the powers of absorption of goods, which has inevitably at last, after having been pursued over a period of years, produced this result and a lack of 741 balance between production and consumption. The other cause of the immediate exasperation of the situation is undoubtedly that the trading and financial organisations, by which the exchange between the producing countries and the consuming countries should be effected, have broken down. The process was started by the general restriction of credit over a period of years, but in the last year or two we were faced with an almost complete breakdown of the machinery of exchange. How serious that breakdown is is expressed in the glut of supplies and the tremendous drop in prices. How serious it is on the trade of this country and, generally speaking, on the trade of the world, the House perhaps scarcely realises.
I have taken the trouble to estimate the effect on the purchasing power—the power to buy manufactured goods—of the great agricultural countries caused by the drop in prices in the last year. Canada will have £50,000,000 less to spend in this year on account of the drop in wheat prices. Australia will have £25,000,000 less to spend on account of the drop in wool prices, and £10,000,000 less to spend on account of the drop in wheat prices. Similar figures could be furnished in respect to South Africa, New Zealand, Malay, India, the Argentine and Eastern Europe. The total effect on the power of the world to absorb manufactured goods in this present year on account of the drop in prices, after making all allowance for the corresponding but much smaller drop in the prices of manufactured goods, cannot be less than £300,000,000 to £400,000,000 sterling. That is the real essential fact of the situation. That is the fact which causes the slump, not only in Free Trade England, but in Protectionist America, Germany, Italy and a dozen other countries, and no bandying of the old party arguments across the Table in regard to Free Trade and Protection has any real relevance to the problem with which we in this country, as the country mainly dependent on foreign trade, and the world as a whole are faced.
The effect of all that is that these countries cannot buy because they have not the exchange with which to buy, they cannot furnish the foreign exchange 742 with which to buy, and the effect on the individuals concerned is absolutely disastrous. I saw some figures in an authoritative German paper the other day to the effect that the Rumanian peasants have to sell 32 pounds of barley in order to purchase one box of matches. I was given figures from an authoritative source as to the effect in Canada. I suppose that it is literally the case that tens of thousands of Canadian and Australian farmers are faced this year with bankruptcy, unless the banks will carry them on, helping them on gently over a period of months or perhaps years. Actually the present price of wheat yields on an average to a West Canadian farmer something like 16s. per quarter, yet the average cost of production, according to the Canadian Government estimate, is somewhere about 26s. per quarter. Some of the Canadian wheat, which dates from 1928, coming forward now is yielding several shillings less than the cost to the cooperative organisation of storing it during that period.
This is a fundamental fact, and it is a fact which will prevent any early and easy recovery of trade in this country to which, as I gather, the Government are still, after a year of disappointment, still hopefully looking forward. If I felt that there was the smallest chance that in the next few months there would he any real change in the demand for manufactured goods from ourselves and other countries, I should find some justification for this marking time and the half measures in the King's Speech, but there is not a single clause in the King's Speech which seems to me to touch in any sense the real essentials of the problem; I also find no greater appreciation of it, and as few practical proposals, in the speeches that have been made from the benches opposite.
Are we absolutely powerless in this matter Is there no way by which this enormous disparity between the prices of agricultural produce and the prices of manufactured goods can be bridged? World trade consists in the exchange, in a broad way, of the produce of the land for the produce of industry, and, as the economic conference at Geneva pointed out three years ago, When the situation was not nearly so bad as it is to-day, the gap between the prices of 743 agricultural commodities and the prices of industrial goods was sufficient then—and the margin is much wider now—to account for the industrial ills from which the world is suffering. Is there no way out? The wheat trade, the wool trade and the City generally, if you press them, will say that there is only one way out—you must let what they call nature take its course. What does that mean? That means that throughout Canada, the Argentine, Rumania and Australia tens of thousands of farmers, large and small, are going into bankruptcy. It means untold suffering in all these agricultural countries. It means that the progress of the last 20 years is going to be thrown away and destroyed.
It means more than that. It means that we in this country and the other industrial countries have got to be prepared to let events take their course for two, three or four years at least. With unemployment at its present enormous figure, even after you have built all the roads that this country requires, you will still be faced with difficulties such as exist. It means attempts—we are beginning to see signs of them in the press, in pamphlets and in the speeches of hon. Members opposite—to get what they call an equilibrium between industrial prices and agricultural prices by forcing down wages. Hon. Members know the difficulties, suffering and fighting which that process will introduce, and I do not believe it will succeed. I do not believe that right hon. Members opposite believe that it will succeed and I am prepared to grant that they would desire to use any other means which would avoid the old pre-War method of adjustment, that is, bankruptcy in the agricultural countries, and an economic pressure on the workers and on industry to reduce costs by continuous and accentuated suffering in the industrial countries. Since the War, the growth of great combinations of cultivators and the greater strength of trade unions has made that method infinitely more difficult, even if it could be effected within a period of years.
Is there no other method? I would like to draw attention to what I regard as one of the most significant movements in Europe in the last few years. Faced with precisely the same problem as Canada; 744 Australia and other agricultural countries are faced with, Rumania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria have come together in the last few months in an attempt to find some basis upon which their agricultural products can be exchanged with the industrial products of other countries. Not only have there been conferences between countries which, since the War, have hardly been on speaking terms—Rumania and Hungary, for example—conferences into which they have been forced by the common pressure of impending disaster to their agricultural populations, but there have been conferences also between these agricultural countries and some of the industrial countries which supply them with goods. Hungary, Rumania and Yugoslavia have, in effect, said to Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland, "If you will buy our grain we will buy your textiles, your motors, your machinery. We will place with you the orders that at present go to England and to America."
§ Mr. WISE
Not quite in that form. The hon. Member should read his speech a little more closely. And they have gone further than that. In their respective countries they have set up the organisation with which to deal with the situation. It is true to say that in half the European countries projects are under consideration at this moment, and legislation has been passed or is in course of being passed, for setting up State national boards to deal with the export of cereals and other agricultural produce, or to deal with its import into the consuming countries, and an attempt is being made to provide a direct and an effective means of exchange now that the ordinary exchange has broken down. I ask the Government, faced as we are with the present world situation: Is it quite impossible to attempt to apply this same method to our own problems? Representatives of Australia, which is carrying a grain crop that is, I understand, a record in size, and is facing a price situation which will mean ruin to half the Australian farmers, and representatives of Canada, heavily burdened with stocks of wheat of which it cannot dispose, are already in this country; and we are the largest consumer of the wheat 745 that is produced in all the world. Is it not possible to try—if you like, by calling a conference of all the great wheat-producing countries—to find some way out of this disastrous situation, in which we are putting our best customers into bankruptcy without any advantage to ourselves, because although the wholesale price of wheat is seven or eight points below the pre-War figure retail prices are still far above that? Is it not possible to find some method by which their power to buy our goods can be restored and stabilised and by which we can relieve our heavy burden of unemployment
I would go even further than merely calling them together. It is practically certain—at any rate, it is a risk that is worth while—that the price of wheat will not stay as at present 10 or 15 or 21 points below—more than 20 below-30 points below—the average price of other agricultural commodities. There will be a process of adjustment. It has happened before and it must happen again in regard to the selling price of this staple agricultural production. Can we not ante-date that and try to get a basis of stability? Can we not have the representatives of Canada, Australia, the Argentine and other countries concerned around a table and say to them, "We will give you a definite and steady contract for two years at a price based on the average wholesale prices of all commodities"—which is the figure at about which the price of wheat has fluctuated for several decades—"on the understanding that you use the resources coming to hand by these means in order immediately to restart our export trade to your countries"?
As far as the British farmer is concerned, I share the view put forward by hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite and by hon. Members on the back benches here, that, in the present state of the country, with unemployment growing, with no certainty as to the future of agriculture in this country, to let East Anglia go out of cultivation is an act of folly. If it involves guaranteeing, as it does involve guaranteeing, to the East Anglian farmer a price above the bankrupt price he is receiving for his wheat at this moment, it is worth while to do it from the national point of view; and with proper organisation, with a really effective central control of imports 746 and of purchases from the farmers, having regard to the wide margin between the wheat import prices and bread prices, there is ample scope to give the farmer a chance of a livelihood and to give decent wages to the agricultural labourer without any definite increase in the price of bread.
Here, at any rate, is a practical proposal, and I commend it to the Government, because I believe it would provide the way out of a disastrous mess, a deadlock which is disastrous to us and all the rest of the world. If it be said, "We cannot do this; this requires international arrangement; we must get everybody together before we can move," my answer is that the initiative rests with us. We purchase a third of all the wheat that moves in the world, we are infinitely the most important market for all those other countries, and if we take the lead I am perfectly certain that the rest of Europe, which is already stepping forward in that direction, will follow suit. If hon. and right hon. Members opposite say, "This is a Socialist Measure, which involves the entrance of the State into regions of trade and commerce where it has never penetrated before," my answer is that there are ample precedents for it, even in their own legislation. Only last week we found on the Order Paper of the House a proposal that the Government should come in and do what the insurance market used to do in respect of the insurance of ships. In the crisis in which we find ourselves we cannot afford to refuse any methods which are directed to the solution of the problem on account of the political labels that attach to them. The truth of the matter is that the whole of the industrial and commercial system is in a state of rapid flux, and it is useless to suppose that any of the old nostrums will cure our diseases.
One last point before I sit down. It is not sufficient to deal with the great raw material trades. I cannot say how disappointed I was when listening to what the President of the Board of Trade had to say with regard to the cotton industry. Everybody knows that the cotton industry is in need of drastic and fundamental reorganisation. The committee which the Government appointed said so, with the politeness that one expects of such a committee. Everybody knows, also, that it is hope- 747 less to continue to expect that the trade will find from within itself the means for those drastic changes. One cannot expect that several hundred, shall I say, superfluous directors of companies and the accountants and the lawyers and managers of the 1,500 spinning and manufacturing firms in Lancashire and the 900 or 1,000 merchanting firms in Manchester will take decisions which, if they are just decisions, will be tantamount to an undertaking more or less to commit commercial suicide 8 We cannot expect them to vote themselves out of office and out of a job; but with half the population of Lancashire unemployed it is vital that somebody should do it, and the only authority in this country that can do it and is prepared to do it should take the responsibility and the initiative of leadership. The banks will not do it, and cannot do it.
It is no good supposing that we can settle that problem on a national basis. There are half a dozen other countries in Europe, including Germany, Czechoslovakia and Italy, which are also great exporters of cotton goods, and in all those countries something like 50 per cent. of the workers are out of work. We have to face that problem on an international basis. We have to be prepared to visualise an international trade, a replacement of the old methods of competition, in reality blind and wasteful, by new forms of international competition. We cannot do that until we have put our own house in order and have provided ourselves with the means by which we can, at any rate, speak with the representatives of the industries of those other countries. If the task is performed, as it ought to be performed, by the Government, if the Government take the initiative, we can ensure that the processes of reorganisation and of rationalisation are carried through not only in the interests of shareholders and the owners of industry, but with a full and proper regard for the interests of the workers concerned.
This country, I believe, is faced with difficulties of an industrial kind such as it has not had to face for a century, but I do not regard those difficulties as insoluble. So far as those difficulties are due to world causes, the only country in the world that can take the initiative is this country. We built up our 748 prosperity in the 19th century on the fact that we led the world in the processes which have produced a great expansion of industry. We took our risks, and we held the lead. If we want to regain our prosperity in a world in which the old forms and methods are changing, it must be based on co-operation rather than competition, and it is only by that means that we shall be able again to take the lead.
§ Mr. W. S. MORRISON
I am sure that all those hon. Members who are interested in agriculture will rejoice after hearing the statement of the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise) that he agrees with our proposal for guaranteeing the price of wheat. It is admitted on all sides that it is a great advantage to have some measure of agreement in regard to agricultural policy on both sides of the House. In the past it has been one of the great difficulties of agriculture in this country that whenever a practical policy has been brought in by one Government the successor of that Government is very apt to upset that policy. Much of our trouble in the past has been due to the adoption of rapid changes in Government policy regarding the agricultural industry, and it is a matter of great satisfaction to hear the hon. Member for East Leicester signify to the House that he is not averse to the proposal to guarantee the price of wheat which we have put forward, and I wish him every success in converting his own Front Bench to that enlightened proposal.
The hon. Member for East Leicester has enumerated, with his usual force and clarity, a number of the disadvantages from which we are suffering at the present time, and he indicated briefly, but in my view very correctly, the main lines upon which the situation might be improved. The hon. Member invited us to look at what was taking place in Central Europe where Rumania, Hungary and other nations were meeting to consider suggestions how disparity in value between their agricultural products and manufactured products might be overcome. The hon. Member for East Leicester suggested to us that we might imitate the manner in which the countries of Europe were coming together and trying to arrange some more mutually satisfactory method of exchange between agricultural and manu- 749 factured products. While I adhere to that principle, I would like to ask the hon. Member why he goes so far afield as Rumania. Surely our proposal to do the same thing within the British Empire instead of European nations is more pertinent to our domestic policy.
We differ entirely as to how the regulation of that interchange of products should be brought about. The hon. Member for East Leicester believes in bulk purchase, and the establishment of import boards, whereas those sitting on these benches prefer the more elastic method of preferential duties. In regard to both those policies we are faced with the dear food cry. May I point out that the hon. Member for East Leicester proposes to restrict the flow of free food into this country just as much as any tariff reformer. A policy of bulk purchase and import boards which excludes the free imports from other countries is a policy which restricts the wide field of imports just as much as the proposals of any tariff reformer. Although I make that statement, I do not offer any criticism of the principle which the hon. Member for East Leicester has put forward, but, if the hon. Member agrees that there is a necessity for having some control over imports, surely the method suggested by a tariff or a preferential duty is far more elastic and more in accordance with common sense than the method which the hon. Member has put forward.
I would like to point out the advantages which a preferential duty would have over the method of establishing import boards for the organisation of bulk purchase. The cost of establishing import boards to carry out bulk purchase would involve considerable expense out of the Treasury funds, whereas by adopting the method of imposing tariffs you would actually bring more revenue into the Treasury instead of incurring additional expenditure upon officials. There are other difficulties in connection with bulk purchase into which I do not propose to enter at the present moment, and which are inseparable from any attempt to forestall a produce so variable in its output as wheat and raw materials. A civil servant charged with the duty of buying wheat could not afford to buy too little, and he would be bound to buy too much. Buying too much, he would pay too much. 750 The price he would have to pay would be more than the product was worth. Loss to the taxpayer would result. The difference between a system of import boards and bulk purchase and the operation of a preferential duty seems to me to be that the former is more expensive and more dangerous than the latter, but I rejoice that the hon. Member for East Leicester has come to the conclusion that we can do good to the people of this country by adopting a judicious selection of the countries from which we should draw our imports and to which we should send our manufactured goods.
There seems to be an agreement among Members of the House as to the real nature of the crisis with which we are confronted. We have heard the word "crisis" used so often in this debate that. I almost hope it were a true description of the situation. If we were faced with a real crisis I believe that the people of this country would react, and the Government would react, and give way to the will of the people, or else resign and give place to a Government more in accordance with the wishes of the people. The trouble is that we are not yet at the crisis. The tough, old, skeleton of our national polity is still sufficiently strong to bear the burdens cast upon it. But the real crisis is coming fast and with it the advent of very severe times such as we have not had the least idea of in the past or have now in the present. At a time like this it is worth while going back to consider whether those who, from these benches, opposed the rapid industrialisation of our country were not right. No doubt, in their day and generation, their opposition was put down to their selfish preoccupation with agriculture and the landed interest, but, looking back, it seems to me that they had an instinctive knowledge that the rapid industrialisation of England was the merest gamble, and that the gamble might not come off. Looking round to-day we are able to say that the gamble has not been such a success as those who were devoted to that policy predicted in those days. It is obvious that if you suddenly change a country from an agricultural to an industrial country, if you succeed it may be a good thing; but if you fail, and if the foreign markets, on which such a gamble depends leave you, the country will be 751 left with an overcrowded urban population with very little to sustain them. That is the position in which we find ourselves to-day.
That being so, and there being a great deal of agreement on this point, one would have expected in the gracious Speech some recognition of the position which we have to face. We expected the announcement of some measures designed to retain our home markets until we regain our foreign markets or find others to replace them. We expected some measure which would develop our export trade in new directions, but what do we find? We find in the King's Speech a number of little Bills which cannot affect the situation in one way or another. The Bills which have been promised, as was stated by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) show a sort of Liberal tendency. But he did not reveal the full pathos of the situation. We have before us not only a Liberal King's Speech, but it is a pre-War and obsolete Liberal King's Speech. What has happened reminds me of what was said of a famous statesman, that he found the Whigs sleeping and got away with their clothes. I do not think that the Prime Minister has been so successful. No doubt he found the Liberals sleeping, but he failed to get away with their clothes. He only got away with their old clothes. The Liberal party has moved since these measures were representative of them.
We find in the King's Speech measures promised to deal with electoral reform and compulsory attendance at school. There is also a measure promised to restore trade unions to the position which they occupied in pre-War days. I would remind hon. Members that in regard to the Trade Disputes Bill, many Members of the Liberal party voted in favour of the Act which it is now suggested should be repealed. The Liberal party to-day is, month by month, producing a sort of serial periodical dealing with the various difficulties with which we are beset, but not one of those schemes has been adopted in the gracious Speech.
The proposals of the King's Speech will not only bring discredit upon the Labour party, but they will have an adverse effect' upon the prestige of the House as a whole. We are faced with the fact 752 that, at the present moment, we have over 2,000,000 unemployed, and our trade is rapidly disappearing. We have to face grave difficulties on every hand in many homes, and yet we are being asked to devote the whole of the time at our disposal to the discussion of Measures dealing with trade union Bills, attendance at school, and electoral reform, arid controversies which are only fit to be stuffed and put into a glass case. There is not one of those subjects likely to find a man a job, or improve our trade or our agriculture. It seems to me to be a monstrous thing to ask this House, in this great national emergency, to waste its time discussing a lot of academic subjects which cannot affect the real situation, about which there is no dispute at all in any part of the House. We need a temper other than that if we are to face up to our difficulties. Liberalism of any kind and certainly pre-War Liberalism is not going to help us at the present time.
We should all try to free ourselves from slogans. It has been often said that it would be an excellent thing for this country if we could do so, if we could only examine the fiscal question on its honest and true basis, which is one of expediency and not of faith, if we could look at the facts of the situation in the concrete instead of in the abstract. No doubt it is amusing to hear hon. Members opposite poking fun at what is called the free hand. Is there anything intrinsically funny in a Member of Parliament asking for a free hand, asking to be free to use without prejudice his best endeavours to examine the matters brought before him and to give his decision with a sense of responsibility? Far from the policy of the free hand appearing humorous, it appears to me that it is an endeavour to arrest the process of the decline from representative government. It seems to me that we are becoming more and more a house of delegates, and that we ought to insist on freedom of judgment on matters which come before this House and be prepared to discuss them in a friendly and reasonable manner and not in all the heat engendered by trying to stick to pledges given long before the question comes up.
On this question of food taxes alone, it is quite obvious that, if you elect a 753 Parliament pledged to put taxes on foreign food no matter what happens, then you are electing a Parliament incapable of properly bargaining with the Dominions or with any other Powers with whom we enter into agreements. It is like going to a man with horses to sell and saying, "I am pledged to pay you £50, and I do not care what sort of old screws you give me." If, on the other hand, you elect a Parliament pledged not to tax anything that goes down a man's throat, you elect a Parliament which, when it comes to examine the question on the spot, finds itself precluded by pledges from giving that decisive lead which is required at the present moment. I would like to see other parties adopt the policy of the free hand so that we can meet in this Parliament prepared to co-operate as we should with any man with a suggestion to make. The difficulty is to get a free hand. I heard an hon. Member opposite say when I was discussing the question, "It depends to whom the free hand is given.'' I ask him to have some courage. It may be that his sense of humility is such that he thinks no one will give him a free hand, but if the people know him to be sincere they would trust him. The people are looking for something stronger from us than we are giving them. They are quite prepared to give this House of Commons its old power and to let it do its best to solve the difficulties. If the House had that power it would do a great deal to advance the prosperity of the nation.
It is obvious that any policy to get back to stabler conditions must include a policy for agriculture. The hon. Member who last addressed us is agreed on that point also. When we deal with agriculture, let us, if possible, try to face up to the basic fact about that great group of trades, which is that., unless the price to be obtained for the article produced is adequate, the industry must go down, no matter how many inspectors you appoint or what marketing arrangements you make. What is the good of settling men on the land if the conditions of agriculture at the present time are such that the price of agricultural products will not allow them a living when they are settled there? What is the good of talking about reclaiming land when the land already adequately and assiduously cul- 754 tivated does not yield a return to those living upon it? Until we are prepared to face up to this root question of prices we shall never really face the difficulties of the agricultural situation. One can look through the Gracious Speech from beginning to end and not find a single word which promises any better prices for agricultural produce. In that way it promises nothing at all for agriculture.
§ ANEURIN BEVAN
During this debate we have heard a number of speeches from the Front Benches which have attempted to place before the House some of the solutions for the difficulties with which this country is confronted. I was especially interested in the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), particularly when he was reminding the House of Commons of the statement he had made recently, that there was a majority in this House for the proposals brought forward by the Government which would deal fundamentally with the unemployment problem. He made the challenge that on no occasion has he stated that he would bar by Parliamentary opposition any proposal merely because of its political complexion. I am compelled at the very outset to deny that situation and to try to show that the Government, despite its many other disabilities, has also laboured under the difficulty of not knowing what Parliament is prepared to do or what powers Parliament is prepared to give it. It is, in the circumstances, exceedingly unreasonable to blame the Government, not being able to look forward for a reasonable length of time to Parliamentary power, because it has not brought the proposals in which it fundamentally believes before the House.
I went to a theatre on the day before Parliament met and heard a "talkie." Following the "talkie," a change of programme was announced, and we were told that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) were giving a chat. I thought that the results of the election had been so disastrous to the right hon. Gentleman that he had gone in for the screen, but this chat consisted of a conversation between the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady. She asked the right hon. Gentleman what his attitude was going to he towards the Labour Government, 755 and he replied that his attitude was that he was prepared to support the Government for ameliorative legislation, that he was prepared to support it if it brought in immediate measures to deal with unemployment, but, the moment the Government brought in any proposals based upon the peculiar economic doctrines in which they believed, out they went. It is unreasonable, in the face of a statement like that made with the very greatest definiteness, for the right hon. Gentleman to argue that the Government have not the right to go to the country and say they have not had a chance to put forward their programme.
My first desire is to show that there are definite Parliamentary limitations upon the power of the Government and that it is not political realism to argue that those limitations do not exist. I am not, however, going to say that I consider the Government have made the most use of their Parliamentary opportunities. I do nevertheless say that to ask this Parliament, limited as it is, and this Government, limited as it is, to solve the unemployment problem is an unreasonable thing to do. It is perfectly true—and Members of this House free from party bonds will have to agree—that there never has been a luckier minority Government, lucky in its Parliamentary numbers and lucky in its opposition. Ever since this Government has been in power the chief opposition has been embarrassed by domestic differences. Hon. Members may disagree, but it is making a very great fuss over its difficulties. It has been from the very beginning of this House unable to present to the House of Commons or to the country a coherent policy for a fortnight on end. I admit that an Opposition is perhaps best with no policy at all. It has been said on more than one occasion that no policy is best for an Opposition, that it has only to wait for the unpopularity of the Government to grow and to help it to get back to office. Again, it cannot be said that the smaller Opposition has embarrassed the Government considerably. From the very beginning, the Liberal party has been prepared to examine the proposals of the Government and to support the proposals which the Liberals themselves put before the country and which they said that we put in "Labour and the Nation."
756 I want to ask the Government this: Is it not a perfectly just statement that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has made when he said that he had placed before this House an offer—and in this matter he can probably speak for the whole of his party—that there was a Parliamentary majority for the immediate unemployment proposals in "Labour and the Nation"? I want to ask them and to ask my hon. Friends behind me, in the circumstances of the case, what prevents the Government from bringing them forward.
§ Mr. BEVAN
It cannot be the immediate impracticability of the proposals, because they were proposals that we put in "Labour and the Nation," and, if we did not think they were practicable, why did we put them there? It is not the slightest use for any Member in this House to make speeches which ignore the realities of the situation, because we shall hear them outside if we do not hear them inside.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I am making the same speeches outside as inside. These proposals are therefore practicable or they would not have been made. The Minister of Transport has told us that the only reason why they are not being carried out is not because of the absence of money, but because he cannot get the local authorities to adopt them quickly enough, because Tory majorities on local authorities are opposing them, and because it is not possible to put men to work quickly in large enough numbers. It is the duty of His Majesty's Government to get over the opposition that is put up against its own schemes, and, if there are Tory majorities on local authorities opposing its schemes, why does not the Minister of Transport come to the House of Commons and ask for powers to set aside the power of those majorities. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Certainly; why not?
There is no local authority in this country which objects to the Government spending money in its own area. What the local authority objects to, and rightly objects to, is the Government compelling it to spend money which it has to raise from its local ratepayers. It would cer- 757 tainly be against the canons of local government in this country if we attempted to compel a local authority to raise money from its local ratepayers and spend it in the way that Parliament dictates. The local ratepayers have the right to govern their own expenditure, and there always will be that opposition of the local ratepayers as long as the Government has not the power, in the case of main arterial road schemes, to give 100 per cent. grants.
Those local authorities which have Labour majorities have not the money to spend, because, to a very large extent, it is only when the condition of the people becomes distressed that we are able to secure a Labour majority, and so, in those local government areas where we have majorities, there are not the funds available to attract grants from the Ministry of Transport or the Ministry of Health. In those other areas where there are Tory majorities there is, of course, opposition to the scheme. If Parliament is going to treat this unemployment problem as a matter of crisis, if it is an emergency as Parliament is saying, if these schemes are desirable—and they would not be desirable had the Minister of Transport not sanctioned them, and he has told us that he has sanctioned £135,000,000 worth of schemes over a period of five years—and if, consequently, the Government will find the money necessary for the carrying out of these schemes, there is nothing intrinsically impracticable in the proposals of the Liberals. It certainly is necessary, however, that Parliament should grant the power to carry them out, and it is necessary for the Government to ask Parliament for that power before the Government have a right to say that Parliament will not grant powers. Up to now, no application of that kind has been made.
I do not want to be misunderstood in this matter. I do not want it to be assumed that I want the foundations of local government in this country to be uprooted. But I am suggesting that the limits of local government expenditure have been very nearly reached on these schemes, and that it is idle in the extreme to allow the expending capacity of local authorities to determine the practicability of national unemployment proposals and schemes. Consequently, 758 I hope, and I see nothing to prevent it, that the Government will adopt the work scheme proposal of the Liberal party. It may be necessary to raise a development loan. Have we on this side of the House ever been against a development loan? [HON. MEMBERS: "The Chancellor of the Exchequer!"] I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to reply to this Debate this evening, and to tell the House of Commons why it is that he objects to raising a loan to put men in work more than he does to borrowing money for unemployment benefit. We have told our people, and have been telling them for five or six years, when the Tories were in power and when the right hon. Gentleman the member for Carnarvon Boroughs was in power, that it was fantastic for the State to find money in order that men might be idle when there was plenty of work to do.
I put it to the Government, with all respect, that in this matter they have a case to answer, and it is no use the Minister of Transport getting up and making a provincial debating speech in the hope that that would convince us. I submit with all respect that, although the Minister of Transport was able to record a tremendous amount of work that the Government have done, a Government is judged, not by what it has done, but by what remains to be done; and when we go to the electorate and face the 2,000,000 people who are unemployed we shall be asked what we are doing for the men who are idle, not what we have done for those who have been set to work. This is the first time that I have spoken critically of the Government on the Floor of this House, but I submit that there is a case to answer, and that Parliament has a right to expect an answer from the Government. The Prime Minister at the party conference said that there is no shortage of money. I want to know what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to say in reply to the Prime Minister. If there is no shortage of money—and we are told in the City and we are told here that there is plenty of money looking for investment, but that the only thing for which money cannot be found is the reequipment and reorganisation of the basic trades, and there is a reason for that—the Government can find the money. Why do not they find it? I 759 submit that the case put forward from the opposite benches in that regard is sound, and that we are entitled to an answer.
Being a mere tyro in, politics, I would ask the Government, if support from the Liberal benches is to be accorded them if these schemes are adopted, and if, consequently, while these schemes are being carried out the Government are to be kept in office, why do not they accept the scheme? If there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the schemes, if they are themselves practicable, if they add to the general economic equipment of the country, and if the Government will be given a longer life in which to realise their more ambitious proposals—if that be the condition for prolonged power, why do not the Government accept it? We are not asked from the Liberal benches to adopt any proposals which are against our election pledges; we are not asked to accept any proposals which are in themselves anti-Socialist. I have always thought that for a public authority to spend more and more money on public works was good Socialism—[Interruption]—on public works, on necessary public works. I do not know of any public authorities that spend money on unnecessary public works. We have no right to attribute more wisdom to the House of Commons than the local authorities themselves possess, although we know that many of their objections to these schemes 'are because of political reasons. Here, from the point of view of the immediate political situation, is the chance for the Government to get a Parliamentary majority at the moment and a continuation of power.
I want now to draw the attention of the House to a much more important matter. There are now in the country 2,000,000 men who are unemployed, and who make a very formidable army; and not only do they make a very formidable army, but they are bringing about a condition of cynical indifference to the House of Commons which is likely to undermine the prestige of this Assembly for years to come, and those who are devoted to the cause of Parliamentary Government must be exceedingly anxious and concerned at the feeling which has been aroused in the country. This matter can be treated as an orthodox, 760 conventional, constitutional matter, in the way in which it is, unfortunately, being treated now; or it may be treated as a means of mobilising national energy and national enthusiasm for the purpose of a broad attack on the whole problem. One must admit that in the King's Speech there is no apprehension of the reality of the crisis in the country, and it is merely party cheering on this side of the House to suggest that there is. I would ask, therefore, why does not the Government approach the problem in a different spirit and a different attitude of mind?
I suggest to my friends on this side of the House that we are exposing ourselves to the very gravest dangers in consequence of this position. You cannot leave 2,000,000 men unemployed all the while, with the terrific burdens that that involves on industry and society generally, without there being some retaliation, and what is the character of the retaliation? We have had speeches about Free Trade from the Liberal benches, and we have had speeches about tariffs from the Conservative benches, but in both sets of speeches there has been a note to which we ought to give attention on this side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) on more than one occasion recently has spoken about the necessity for national economy, about the immobility of labour, about the necessity for dealing with the problem of Employment Exchanges paying unemployment benefit in concert with employers who are working short time. How is it going to be done? There are indications that, as a consequence of governmental helplessness, those who have power in the country are going to turn in other directions in their distress, and they are going to turn in the direction of bringing down the standards of life 'of unemployed workpeople. The suggestion has been made that we ought to try to break down the rigidity of labour, that there are indications of a move towards economy such as always presages an attack upon the workers' standard of life.
The President of the Board of Trade said that tariffs were a conspiracy against wages, and that is perfectly correct; but does Free Trade exempt us from reductions? Is there any evidence 761 of that? If we continue in our present position, is it not perfectly true that, in the face of governmental helplessness, employers will resort to attacks on the workers' standard of life. Already in my own industry such attacks are being made; there are notices at the pit tops. I would ask the House, and I would ask my friends here, what possibility is there, what hope is there, that the Government will defend the workers' standard of life and prevent these attacks upon working-class standards unless they immediately tackle this unemployment situation and secure a Parliamentary majority for a sufficiently long time? I sincerely hope that they will do so, not because I believe that schemes such as we have here wilt do permanent good, for I do not think they will, but because I know that they are in themselves intrinsically desirable, and because I believe that, if the Government adopt them, we shall have some hope of keeping an umbrella-over the heads of the working class during the time of industrial re-organisation, since we shall be able to keep our Government in power.
We do not believe that a reorganisation of our fiscal system is needed. Arguments about Free Trade are now, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said, quite irrelevant. There was one significant passage in his speech, to the effect that we are not ma-king the fullest use of the powers that lie in us as the largest purchasers of goods in the world. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman meant that he was gradually coming over to the philosophy of import boards, because how is a nation going to secure control over its purchases unless it is able to have import boards? I am going to submit to the younger Members of the House that, if we are going to emerge from the present situation, it will have to be done by entirely ignoring outworn shibboleths. The economic life of this country will not be reorganised if it is exposed to the ebb and flow of world conditions. You cannot secure order and security and peace for the economic life of the country by tariff walls. The political life of the House would be occupied all the time in putting a brick on and taking a brick off the wall. I agree also that tariffs 762 necessarily involve an element of corruption in political life. It must also be agreed that we cannot build up a higher standard in this country on the basis of free and unrestricted trade between private persons here and private persons abroad.
Is there a Free Trader who can point to any industry in the country that is capable of such unlimited expansion, producing goods that the rest of the world will require and that no other part of the world will be able to produce with such cheapness and that other parts of the world will continue to buy all the while and put into work our 2,000,000 unemployed'? Is there any line of commodities where that can be done? I suggest that there is not. Therefore, if the readaptation and redistribution of the energies of the country over different industries is to result, it can come only from shelter, protection and safeguards and can only be given by elastic machinery such as St-ate import boards and, therefore, I suggest that in that way only is any hope for the future economic development of the country.
We who have not been in the House for very long have been listening to the speeches of the elder statesmen with quite a great deal of hopelessness and despair, because we know that in the course of time we shall have to return to our people in the constituencies, and we shall have nothing to give them except this pedestrian piece of luggage that we have put on the Statute Book. I hope this House will realise that outside people are prepared to give it a chance if it is prepared to find new unconventional expedients and will try to get rid of the cynicism that comes over people in the House, try to destroy the atmosphere of enervation and tackle the problem in the spirit that the country expects from the House of Commons.
I have either heard or read the whole of the unemployment debate and, the more I read and the more I listen, the more I rejoice that the prosperity of the country 'does not depend on the House of Commons or on politicians, because anyone can see how divided all parties are when it comes to dealing with certain fundamental questions. But at least our party has never had any illusions about the House of Commons being able to settle this ques- 763 tion of unemployment. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite are in a most unfortunate way. They have preached about Socialism and what it would do for the country, but we see that they are unable to deal with a world of ordinary men and women. I have no doubt that Socialists could deal with a world of Christian Socialists. I have no doubt it would work perfectly. Anyone could do that. But when it comes to our ordinary problems, we find the Government absolutely at sea. I had to sit here for 4½ years behind my own Government, and, being impetuous and anxious to get on, sometimes I thought they were a little slow, but I have learned to appreciate them by watching the Government now in power. For four years we had to watch the Labour party in opposition. We knew they were bad in opposition, but at least we thought they were planning something. The only thing they were planning was to get into power. They had not any plans once they got there. Their work was done outside the House. They were a very feeble Opposition. If they had been better in opposition, our Government would have been even better than it was, but it was a Government of angels compared with the Government of Socialists.
I listened to the Minister of Transport. I thought it was a glorious speech. He told us what the Prime Minister had said about Socialism, and he told us about his faith. But it is not faith we want. It is works. Faith without works is no use to the country. When I hear the Labour people, not in the House but outside, boasting about their foreign policy, I want to remind hon. Members opposite that when we were in power the Labour party was always encouraging extremists in every country in the world. It is easier for them now that they are in power to have an Opposition that is thinking of the country and not going behind the Government to encourage extremists throughout the world. Not only were they encouraging extremists in every country in Europe and in China and India and Egypt, but they were encouraging extremists here in England.
I remember perfectly well in 1924 when the unemployed marched up from Plymouth and round about and the present First Commissioner of Works told 764 them to go on agitating. He said, "Make yourselves a nuisance to all the local authorities." What do the Government do when they march up now? They do not even see them. That is what is the matter with the country. World causes have a certain amount to do with it, but the real cause is that, ever since the War, hon. Members opposite have been trying to break down what they call the capitalistic system. They have preached it at every street corner, they have made promises to put a spoke in every wheel in which capitalism tried to work, and now we have the sorry spectacle that they not only cannot make the capitalistic system work, but they will not even try to make the Socialistic system work. [An HON. MEMBER: "No one can make it work."] You have never tried it! You are a Communist. The hon. Member' has no business to be in the House as a Labour Member. There is something in Communism. I do not see anything in Socialism. I can see something definite in Communism. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Wise) also has Communist leanings, and he thinks the Government can do in peace time what it very well did in war time. When it comes to bragging of what the Government might do, of course they can do it from the point of view of a Communistic Government or a bureaucratic Government, but the country would not stand it.
The right hon. Gentleman told us how splendid England was in the 19th century. By her enterprise she led the world. But it was private enterprise and not Government enterprise. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite used to speak beautifully. They almost persuaded me at times. But anyone can talk. It is talking that has landed you in the mess that you are in now. I thank Heaven that the country is beginning to find out that it is not the people who talk who can do things. It is the strong silent men. It is a splendid thing for the country to be in the mess it is in. I believe honestly that, until the country finds out the sham of Socialism and Socialists, she will never get on her feet. Even hon. Members themselves are finding it out. We have heard the gallant young Member from Wales talking about us becoming cynics. We are not cynics on this side. You are cynics, because you put your 765 preaching higher than your demonstration, and you feel disappointed, and you will go on being disappointed, but your disappointment will be small compared with the disappointment of the country.
I want to get back to the Minister of Transport. He spoke about the different plans that the Government made, and he has boasted that they have spent £120,000,000, far more than the late Government did, in trying to re-start works and so on. It is very misleading to put it in that way. Anyone can spend money. That is the right hon. Gentleman's way of solving our industrial troubles, to spend money—of course someone else's money. [Interruption.] Although the Government get it, it is my own money. I am not spending your money nor am I likely to. We should all be perfectly safe in saying that we shall not spend the money of hon. Members opposite, because most of them are not likely to make money. That is why they want the State to run everything, because they cannot make money themselves. You do not find that hon. Members opposite ever made a good business for themselves. Some of them have inherited it, I admit, but very few of them have really been good business men. It is nothing against you. I think you are perfectly right. [Interruption.] That is a personal question. I am not afraid. If you turned me and the hon. Member out, I guarantee that I would make a living, and I would not lean on anyone else, and I would not tell my children to lean on anyone else. I would tell them not to lean on the State. I would tell them that the State depended on their enterprise and not they on the enterprise of the State. [An HON. MEMBER: "How much are you earning now?"] I am not earning enough to drink. It is very foolish of hon. Members to interrupt me, because my tongue is just as sharp as theirs. I do not want to be offensive. Anyone can be offensive, but it is very difficult to be polite. We must keep our tempers and not lose them.
I want to get back to the Minister of Transport. The £120,000,000 that he mentioned is going to bring work to 100,000 men, but I want to ask a question about the women. When I get up to ask the Government what they are going to do about the women, the Minister of Transport passes it over and says that he looks 766 on humanity as a whole. I would point out to the House that, although we have this enormous increase in unemployment, the unemployment among women has increased by 100 per cent., and is 240,000 more than last year. Most of these women are in the textile and cotton trades. Last Wednesday the Lord Privy Seal painted a very gloomy picture of the cotton industry and said that nobody could expect the industry ever to absorb the people who had been engaged in it. If that be the case, what are the Government going to do about some of these women? I think they have a very grave responsibility. I do not see any thinking going on. Labour women are going round the country talking, but they do not venture in this House, to attempt to deal with one of our most terrible problems, that of the unemployed women. The Government as far as I can make out are not facing it. They have not a single plan. They talk about men, but they have no plans for women. They talk about the central committee, but they have only given £25,000 more than was given by the late Government. According to what they promised the women, and in view of the increased unemployment among women, they ought to give much more than that sum.
The right hon. Lady comes down and says that the late Tory Government only wanted to put women into domestic service. I would ask: What other plans have the Government for training women? We did not want to put all women into domestic service, but we did say that it would be far better to train women and put them into domestic service than that they should be unemployed. I think that the right hon. Lady the Minister of Labour agrees with that view, but she is alone in trying to encourage women to go into training, because other Labour women go out and speak in quite another voice. What she is trying to do on the Front Bench, they are trying to discourage throughout the country. That does not seem to be fair. I know that there are a great many difficulties. The problem of the Lancashire women is a terrible one, but you never hear anything from the women in the House of Commons. They never mention women. One would almost think that they were men; they do not seem to care at all. They have a very grave responsibility. I will tell them 767 another thing. There are twice as many married women unemployed now than when the Government came into office. These women are either genuinely unemployed, or there is a mistake in the Act. If they are genuinely unemployed the Government have a real responsibility concerning them. If it is a mistake in the Act they ought to correct the mistake. We know well that they hesitate to deal with unemployment insurance; it is so unpopular. They -dare not do anything unpopular. The country is longing to see them take a lead in some way or other. I should like to receive an answer to-night about these women.
The Government, last year, said that they were going to set up committees to deal with a scheme for training unemployed women over 35; some vocational training. How is this proposal going on, and how many committees are there? Are they going on in the same old way putting aside the women and saying that they will treat men and women as a whole? Are they providing relief work for men and not paying any attention to women? I beg of the Government to do something. I am not saying that it is an easy question. It is not an easy question; it is very difficult. But I ask: Could we not get together the best brains from all parties and try and devise a scheme? When the Government introduce their agricultural policy cannot they find some way of training some of these women who, all their lives, have been in the cotton mills and know that they cannot get back again—they are hard working, splendid women—in order to get them upon the land in group settlements? We did this sort of thing during the War. The best women in the country went on to the land during the War and did extraordinarily well. Only a little imagination, courage and vision are necessary.
An awful apathy seems to have overtaken the Government. I do not want to be hard or to hit a man when he is down, but I wish the Government would come out in their true colours. They are no more Socialist than I am Communist. They do not believe in Socialism. They know that it will not work now that they are in power. If they had the courage to tell the country so and tried to make eapitalism work even better than 768 it has done, I believe there might be a chance of their coming back again. They say that capitalism will not work. Under capitalism the workers in this country are enjoying a far higher standard of living than the workers in any other country in the world. Where you have capitalism flourishing you do not have to have doles. In Canada and the United States of America where there is talk of unemployment they have never had to have social services. One of the great difficulties of this country is the enormous amount of money we have to spend on social services. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nursery schools!"] You do not spend half enough on nursery schools. One of the reasons why I am against Socialism is that it ruins industry, and if you ruin industry you will have nothing to spend on social services. If I thought that under Socialism you could produce any results, I should not mind, but the more I look upon Socialism, the more certain I am that you will produce nothing hut despair and disillusionment. I beg hon. Members, no matter what they may do with the men, at least to take a little interest in those thousands of women for whom no woman in the House of Commons on the benches opposite dare get up and speak. Their plight is really pitiful.
§ Dr. MARION PHILLIPS
The House, perhaps, will not mind if I spend a few minutes dealing with the subject which has just been raised, but which is, perhaps, not very strictly within the terms of the Amendment. It has been said by the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) that we have done nothing for the women, that the women Members on this side of the House have taken no interest in the problem, and that the Government have given no help except a small addition to the grant to the Central Committee on Women's Employment. I have been a Member of that Committee since 1914. I and many of my colleagues have worked for that Committee all these years, and never until this Labour Government came into office have we met with such sympathy, such readiness to let us go ahead with plans, and such substantial grants. It is true that the increase in the grant at the present time is £30,000, but that sum is almost a 50 per cent. increase.
§ Dr. PHILLIPS
We have a sympathetic Minister, a sympathetic Cabinet, and, as our plans expand, we shall be able to get more money. But? there is no problem more difficult to deal with than to find some means of training women for trades in which there are openings. I have said outside this House, as the Noble Lady remarked, that the late Government sought to restrict training to training for resident domestic service, and that happens to be a fact. At the present time, however, we are training for a more varied field. We have reinstated an individual training scheme and we are also trying—the scheme may not succeed but we are trying it—some experimental workrooms for what is really the reconditioning of women who have been out of employment for so long that they have lost hope and have lost energy. We are trying to get them back into fitness for the labour market, and even if we do not succeed in getting these women placed in industry we shall have done some good to them by giving them more suitable surroundings and some work to do for the period of their training. It is not a case of simply spending money. You have to find how to spend money and find the people on whom to spend it, and you have to try to fit your spending of the money to some useful industrial work. I have both written and spoken on this subject many times, and I have always put the point that, if anybody can suggest training for openings which exist in the industrial market for women to-day, let them come forward and say what they are. The central committee have, over and over again, examined with the greatest care every suggestion put before them, and we would certainly strain a point in pressing upon the Ministry of Labour even the most experimental scheme that had in it any hope of success. These happen to be the facts about that subject.
I hope that when the Minister of Agriculture introduces his Bill for land settlement it will be possible to settle women as well as men upon the land. I am sure that there is no reason why they should not be so included, but it would at the present time be quite use- 770 less to train women in agricultural work, because without fresh legislation and fresh plans there are no openings for the women when they are so trained. Unfortunately, it still remains the fact that resident domestic service is the profession in which there are most openings. That means that it is a particularly difficult task to find alternative employment for women in the textile trades, for it is not a. reasonable thing to ask those women to change entirely the whole condition of their existence and invite them to go into domestic service or, what is more important, force them to go into domestic service. The problem of the textile industries is a problem which now occupies the present Government. I only hope that they will within the next few months come to some point at which they will either get the reorganisation of the industry which they arc seeking or step in themselves to secure that reorganisation. But I do not believe that we can ever expect to find, until general industry improves and the consuming power of the people is greater, a satisfactory solution of unemployment among women. They are mainly occupied in the food, clothing and similar trades, and whenever there is any improvement in trade, the lot of the unemployed women will also improve. I hope that until that time comes the provisions under the Unemployment Insurance Act will remain and that there will be no lowering of the standard of benefit and no lowering of the conditions under which benefit is given. I have heard it complained that too many women are drawing benefit to-day. I hope that when inquiry is made it will be made as carefully into the cases of those who are not drawing benefit as it will be into the cases of those who are drawing benefit. There is one subject on which I should like to say a. few words, because it affects so closely my own constituency, and that is the question of shipbuilding. In the many speeches that have been made from the opposite benches advocating in more or less vague terms Protection as a. remedy for unemployment, no speaker has dared to mention the problem of shipping and shipbuilding, and for a very good reason. The Government have done some helpful things in connection with shipping. It has recently set up 771 an inquiry through a committee into the problem of old cargo steamers, and that committee is inquiring into the suggestion that we should have a kind of lethal chamber of old ships, not pensioning them off, but breaking them up and paying forfeit for doing so. There is a scheme for doing away with old tonnage which has been over a certain number of years in use, instead of selling it at cheap rates to shipping companies abroad.
That scheme, if it proves to be practicable, might be of help to areas like Wearside, where small tramp steamers, cargo steamers and oil tankers are the main shipbuilding in the yards. It is extremely urgent to press on with that matter, and to see if there are any other means by which we can do something to improve the shipbuilding position during the winter. The Cunard liner on the Clyde will be very valuable to the Clyde, but the small yards on such rivers as the Wear are feeling very badly the slump which follows a General Election. I am told that within six months of an expected General Election there is always an improvement in shipbuilding, that those owners who would build a ship a year or two hence will probably put it in hand during the six months before the General Election, and that others who build a ship on "spec" now and again, consider the period before a General Election to be a suitable moment for building. That has happened, whether for the reasons of a General Election or not I cannot say, but that little spurt has finished, and it is an urgent matter to see if we can possibly find any means, by credit facilities or otherwise, of finding some fresh employment for the smaller shipbuilding yards on the North-East Coast. One of the things that I would urge very strongly is the fact that we have a very important and highly skilled nucleus of workers in every shipyard, and it is urgent that these workers should be kept together even in slack times. There are two kinds of loss that we can make. We might by giving a large and extended credit facility for shipbuilding build some ships that would not be of very great trade value immediately, and we might lose on the other hand the skill of the groups of workers. These workers are a little 772 cheered by the fact that they are now receiving unemployment benefit, whereas until the new Unemployment Insurance Act came into operation they could only get Poor Law relief, and they hated getting it. We must realise that this fact has cheered them, because in many cases they have not had a job at their own trade for eight or nine years, and we realise also the importance, if the skill of these men is to be retained for the service of the community, of doing anything that is possible with respect to the small tramp and cargo steamers, as well as great liners like the Cunarder at Glasgow. I wish, therefore, to put in a word for the small shipyards as well as the great shipyards where thousands may be employed.
I am and always have been since the War in hearty agreement with the policy of Import Boards, but I think hon. Members opposite are very mistaken when they think that there is any close relationship between Protection and the policy of Import Boards put forward in the Labour programme and described this afternoon and on many previous occasions by the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Wise). We do not, for instance, propose that an import board for wheat should leave the manufacturer and the retailer of bread without absolute, firm and drastic control. We do not propose that there should be a stabilisation of the price of wheat or any other important commodity without equally a control over its distribution. It is obvious that the Government cannot at this moment put in the King's Speech a reference to that particular form of dealing with the question, but I hope that the House will have an opportunity of discussing more in detail the possibilities of such a policy when the report of the Imperial Conference is before us. We are in a position to-day of facing a new situation, and every speech that has been made shows that hon. Members recognise that fact, even though they do not always say it. We are doing the Red Cross work in regard to unemployment, and no speech from the Opposition below or above the Gangway has been a serious criticism of the Red Cross work that is being accomplished.
There is a further problem that has been brought so much before us by the fall in world prices, and no one who has listened to the speeches in the debate on 773 the Address can say that that problem has yet found a solution. You cannot blame a Government for not being in front of the economists. The economists have not yet made up their minds on this matter, and it is not to be expected that the Government can have ready and prepared a policy, which must be in accordance with economic truth, and which would go in front of rather than follow the conclusions that they have worked out. In this Session we shall have before us many important Bills affecting the people of this country, but that does not mean that the Government and the Members of this House will not also have the duty of thinking again and again until they have come to a solution of the problem of world prices and the best way of solving it for the suffering people of this and other countries.
Mr. FRANK OWEN
If the Gracious Speech had been designed to achieve that unity of purpose which the Prime Minister has sought from every Member of the House it could not have achieved a greater success than it has done. We have had seven days of debate on the Address, and, apart from the Front Bench opposite, there has been only one dissenter upon the Socialist side to the proposition that the main proposals of that speech are utterly inadequate for dealing with the emergency of the time. It is a measure of the failing confidence of Socialist supporters of a Socialist Government that only one out of something like 200 back benchers can be found to say a kind word about that programme, and that one undertook the ordeal because he was marked down and, in the American phrase, "put on the spot" by his own Front Bench to second the Address. In every quarter of the House the contents of that programme have been received with the contempt which belongs to such a cartload of political rags and bones. There are only two Measures in the whole programme which can have the slightest bearing upon the present grave position of our trade. For the rest, there are fresh social reform experiments, fresh bureaucratic experiments, and a Measure designed to further sectional interest and certain to provoke serious class division in the country at the very hour when, unless we preserve national unity, this country may not recover and may not survive.
774 There is no kind of harmony between the provisions in the King's Speech. We have the Minister of Agriculture telling us that he proposes to settle men upon the land. In what does he propose to settle them? In what kind of habitation does he propose to shelter the 100,000 men or more who are to be settled on the land? Is he going to shelter them in stables, in one of which, last week end, I found one of my constituents living with his family? There are as bad, as plenty, and as foul slums in the country districts as there are in the towns, and they are due to the same cause. If you have insufficient habitations in the countryside now, in what kind of position are you going to be when you settle another 100,000 famlies in the rural areas? There is nothing in the King's Speech about a national building programme. That is a very unfortunate and very significant omission, because it shows that Socialism and Socalistic Governments have not yet got beyond the paper planning and the word pictures of a propagandist movement. There is not a single Socialist in the length and breadth of the land who would dare to stand up and face the electorate on the programme contained in their manifesto in the King's Speech.
I have come back from a by-election where we have heard precious little of the King's Speech. If one supporter so foolish could be found he would not collect a hatful of votes. The Government are fighting in that by-election today, as they have fought in other by-elections, on the fiscal issue; that the traditional trade policy of this country is in danger. We may frankly recognise that. There is not a single word or line in the whole of this King's Speech designed to strengthen the structure of that system which they are defending so halfheartedly. They are bankrupt of ideas and are shelving the problems of unemployment and unemployment insurance because they are too timid and too frightened to face them. But they will not scruple to revile and slander their successors for attempting to grapple with them when their term of office comes to an end. They are drifting, and this House and nation are drifting with them, into a common disaster.
For those who come down to this House and propound and propose plans 775 and policies there is no thanks whatever. In the official organ of the Labour party there are travesties and misrepresentations, obviously from an inspired source, of the people who are working in close co-operation with them. At least the party above the Gangway have propounded their remedy. It is this; it is to favour selected producers in the markets by restricting the trade of their competitors. Whether the sphere of that protection is limited to the shire or to the borough, whether it is extended to the nation or the Empire, whether the chosen method of dealing with it is by tolls, tariffs, licences or quotas, the same theory underlies it; that trade is a form of strife and not an operation of exchange. Upon the acceptance or denial of that fundamental proposition fiscal opinion has long been divided, and properly divided. The hon. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) assured us that Free Trade and Protection were irrelevancies and that his own doctrine was the one vital economic doctrine of the times. He dismissed Free Trade and Protection as irrelevancies. In fact, he has ranged himself on the same side as his instinctive allies above the Gangway in a common cause in the restraint of trade. Hon. Members above the Gang-way were very grateful indeed to find this unexpected support outside their own ranks and have accepted his proposition with little criticism. When they understand that the regulation of imports involves and implies the direction of manufactures, and the control of sales and distribution, their welcome may be a little less cordial. I would advise them, if I may, to scrutinise very carefully any treaty they may be contemplating with the hon. Member for Smethwick. He may profess great readiness to go tiger hunting with them against Free Trade, but it may not be the tiger who will fall into the trap. Free traders on these benches will face with equanimity the prospect of being hunted by the hon. Member for Smethwick and his allies and will not fail to make it plain that the furious onslaught now being directed by other reputable friends of the Conservative party, the Press lords, against the fiscal system of this country has no more relevancy to the root causes of trade depression than an onslaught against the educational system of this country.
776 We have had popular education in this country for 60 years, and if in that time we have not succeded in overcoming and subduing ignorance and prejudice, as we have not, it is no argument that popular education has failed. The measure of its success is the darkness in which we should still be languishing without popular education, and the measure of the value of Free Trade is the degree of poverty we should have reached without it. We have had peace in the world for 12 years. No notable miracles have occurred in that time. The Kingdom of God, which the party opposite said would come in after the General Election, has not been established. That is no reason for at once engaging in a new war, and no argument for indulging in a new international strife. Peace and free education, and Free Trade, are not the ends of good living; they are merely essential conditions. Free Traders on these benches still hope that international trading is still an operation of exchange; but just as communities have placed a limit on dealings in the market, just as local communities have prosecuted for fraud and have prevented the selling of harmful goods and penalised goods produced by the bucket shops, so in exactly the same way the conscience of civilisation has placed certain limits on international trade.
It was this Free Trade party which first of all assured that labour should not be the cheapest commodity in the production of goods, and it was this Free Trade party which recognised that a healthy peasantry on the soil as well as the smoking stacks of the great factories supported the industrial population of this great country. It was this Free Trade party who put in the forefront and made it the basis of their programme a radical land reform. Free Traders have recognised that the march of science has now made the production of goods possible by artificial means in countries not suited naturally to the process. That is a modification of the great Free Trade case which has long been accepted by Free Traders, but it is discovered as a fresh inspiration in the year 1930 by Protectionists. It was noted and provided for in legislation by this effete party over 20 years ago. Take this fact of the advance of science; the hon. Member for Smethwick believes it is an argument in 777 favour of the abandonment of the traditional trade policy of this country, whereas, in fact, it amplifies and fortifies the case of its defenders. He says that the proximity of our new rivals in those markets which were once our own has now destroyed our former great advantage. It was explained to me by an American industrialist that the development of modern science and transport by annihilating space between the great steel works areas of the United States and the coal pits had overcome the disability under which they formerly laboured as against their English competitors whose pits adjoined the works.
If space has been annihilated in the United States it has also been annihilated between this island and its far off markets and the march of civilisation will make less effective any geographical advantage. Distance has been annihilated in this country also by the same march of science, and a ready, active and energetic Government would take this factor of a decreasing distance between the producing centre and the ports and would quicken transport, make it more simple and cheapen it. Any Government worthy of the name would seize upon this fact, that in this compressed and packed island within a very small space there are contained all the great and varied industries of this country within a compass hardly larger than a single great American industrial field. Then they would build broad wide roads and ensure swift and certain transport. They would build electrical equipment radiating cheap and abundant power over the countryside and over the towns. Then, re-equipped and reorganised and revitalised, we in this country would be able to stand up to the world and with our goods beat it in competition.
That is what I call intelligent Free Trade, the policy accepted by the Government in theory but not in practice. Instead of sitting down and taking in one another's washing or waiting for a customer to drop in, we would go out and look for orders and compel orders, and would deserve orders. The hon. Baronet drew cheers from his friends for the way in which he discovered the menace of coolie labour. We cannot blink the fact that the threat of sweated goods in the East or of slave labour in Russia—a supreme example of the benefits of 778 economic isolation—does constitute a serious menace to our own goods. In the industrialised order of to-day child labour and women labour as well as man labour is undercutting our goods and driving us out of the markets. The manufacturer, the great industrialist of the East, is to-day reaping that harvest with cheap labour which was garnered by our industrialists in the years of the industrial revolution. But if the problem has become intensified, so the means of solving it have become strengthened. You have your own particular international authority for dealing with this international menace—the International Labour Office, set up to deal with this very threat to international trade. You have what you never had at any time before, an instrument for approximating if not equating the various standards of living, hours of labour and rates of remuneration in the great industrial countries.
How much misery we could have saved our own people in this land if while our fathers were building the engines of the industrial revolution they had created this machine at the same time! How much time and how much suffering we would save our people yet if we could persuade other countries to adopt the international conventions of Washington! [HON. MEMBERS: "They are in the King's Speech!"] I have mentioned that fact. How much suffering we would save ourselves! We in this country claim to be the leaders of a great industrial civilisation, and we owe a debt not only to ourselves but to the enslaved masses in the industrialised world. We want to be able to spare them hours of arduous toil, ill-paid labour, and days and perhaps years of wretched living. We have yet to realise how nearly our interests and our duties join.
From the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick—I am sorry he is not here—we heard nothing of these things in the new industrial gospel. We heard a new sermon on the Mount. Or was it a sermon from the Mount? If I remember rightly, Saint Matthew records two sermons in two successive chapters. In the sermon that we heard we were taken up to a high place and were shown the kingdoms of the world. I caught no glimpse and had no vision in that speech of the city of peace, and Geneva was 779 passed over with a gibe. The hon. Baronet has been the apostle of many movements, which movements and which apostalates I shall not specify. But there was a time when he was glad to mobilise behind him all the great force of English public opinion, which does believe in these international instruments. There was a time when the great internationalist, from these benches, lashed with invective and scorn the members of the late Administration, who doubted the efficacy of these instruments and applied them only with hesitation. In those days these instruments were to be the levers of a new social, economic and political reconstruction of our broken world. But when the Foreign Office should have been enlightened the Foreign Office was never illumined. Experience of the office of the Duchy of Lancaster educated and instructed its late administrator.
We used to hear that wars and revolutions sprang out of the greeds and fears of economic nationalism. Now we on these benches hear from, the same fount of truth that peace and plenty are the fruits of economic nationalism. It is true that the hon. Baronet himself did not make use of that phrase. The phrase fell from the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Strachey), who asked if, in a period in which the world is growing into an economic mad house, might not economic nationalism be no more than a measure of self-preservation? He said in a neighbourly or comradely way, "Since the world is all going mad, let as all go mad together." The hon. Baronet was not present at the time when the immortal phrase was coined. [HON. MEMBERS: "He was present!"] Then perhaps, like the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) he will have to acquiesce in a very convenient telescopic phrase which expresses his policy. In fact economic nationalism does exactly sum up the policy of the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick. He calls it insulating this country against electric shocks from the rest of the world—a very glib and convenient phrase. Before he deserted his Front Bench he imparted a legacy of insulation to them. So well have they been insulated since that nothing in the world has been able to galvanise them into any kind of action. 780 He preaches the crudity of economic nationalism in a world in which the predominant features are the interlocking of finance and banking and industry, and he asks us now to give up the delicate weapon of negotiation and to go back to the bludgeon play of the embargo.
But there is nothing new in the theories of the hon. Baronet. Pharaoh bought wheat in bulk and stored it, and he employed slave labour. The hon. Member for Smethwick is 4,000 years behind the Egyptian in his great darkness. He is six months behind the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) with his Development Board, and three months after Hitler with his National Socialism. In 1930, when a revolution in Brazil or a war in China can throw out of work thousands of operatives in Lancashire and cause acute distress, the hon. Member comes down to this House and takes us right away from the responsibilities of civilisation and hides behind the barbarity of economic isolation. The great commonwealth, the great society that your Socialist visionaries foresaw, is almost within view, and now the hon. Baronet comes down and teaches this doctrine of economic nationalism according to the gospel of Russia—two great economic blocs in the world, with not a ring fence but a ferro-concrete wall dividing them—Stalin, the Dictator of -Russia, and the hon. Member for Smethwick, the Napoleon of the new empire in Birmingham? The world divided into two great economic blocs, with two dictators? A general rationalisation of the superabundance of dictators in the rest of the world! The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) sent to a new Elba! Then, credulous people are asked to believe that the world will be half-way towards the world commonwealth. But when we have divided the world in this way, we shall be more than half-way to a new and a more frightful world conflict.
Many things have come out of Birmingham, none of them remarkable for moderation. When Mr. Joseph Chamberlain in his early days preached Radical Republicanism and when in his later and more unregenerate days, he preached Jingo Imperialism, Birminghamism was always distinguished for its extremism 781 and Birmingham and Birminghamism have been true to type in this case. Smethwick and Aston have been true to type; and Birminghamism, more rampant and more virulent than ever, has been let loose upon this country. You in that great party, a party built up in days of adversity by the generous idealism of nobler and greater men than those who now direct it—you are asked to be parties to using that great instrument as an instrument of national aggrandisement and personal ambition. It is a melancholy thought that this Government is the last repository of democracy, but such it is. On what it does, on its conduct in these next few anxious months will depend whether or not free government and liberal thought are to survive in England. There will' have to be a great change of mind and of heart if it is going to be equal to that responsibility.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
We heard this afternoon a very optimistic speech from the Minister of Transport who gave us a long catalogue of schemes outlined by the Government, which are to cost the large sum of £135,000,000. I did not hear him state how many people would be put into employment owing to these schemes. [HON. MEMBERS: "He did."] Perhaps he did, but in any case I understand that the number is probably about 100,000 which is not a very great number in the circumstances. I have come back to this House after 18 months' rest. During that time, as a spectator, as a man in the street, as one going about the country, I have been able to hear what the man outside has to say about these things. I was nursing a constituency in which I had been beaten, owing to the fact that my Socialist opponent was capable of making more promises than I could make. In that constituency, daily and hourly, I heard people who voted for that Socialist candidate and his promises, becoming more and more pessimistic. Those people will read with surprise, I fancy, the optimistic speech of the Minister of Transport. When the Conservative party were in power, no allowance was ever made by hon. Members opposite for the effects of world depression, of which they are now making so much. What party claims to be more internationalist than the Socialist party? Do not many of them continually attend 782 conferences in foreign countries? Yet with all their internationalism they are showing themselves quite unable to cope with this world crisis.
The King's Speech, I imagine, must have been composed during the holidays by someone who quite forgot that the country was passing through a terrible crisis. Will the unemployed man who is going to the Employment Exchange get any benefit, or imagine that he is going to get any benefit from this King's Speech? I do not think it will put any courage into a single soul among those who are unemployed. The Socialists talk about protecting the working man. Why do they not protect his work?
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
The hon. Member wishes to be protected from me. He tried to be, and his party tried to be a fortnight ago, but they did not succeed. The policy embodied in this King's Speech, as I say, will not give hope or courage to anybody. I have been a trader for many years and I ask what encouragement is there in the Speech, for the trader, for the man engaged in commerce who has great schemes in his locker and who is only anxious to get some encouragement from the Government in order to launch those schemes? Is there one word of economy in the Speech? We hear of glorious plans which are going to cost many millions of pounds. It is very easy to spend money and those who have the least money are the most capable of spending other people's money. [An HON. MEMBER: "You know something about that."] I do indeed as every Scotsman should know, but as I say no gesture of economy is indicated in the King's Speech nor is there any encouragement for the commercial person to embark on new enterprises. There is no encouragement to anyone who is really keen, either on his own job, or on getting others into employment. I am convinced that if I were considering the formation of a company for any purpose I would not regard the present as an opportune moment.
Why are the Socialists who, when I was last in this House, were on the Opposition side, now occupying the Government side? It is because they 783 promised all sorts of schemes for dealing with unemployment, but we have seen month by month the figures mounting up. We have seen extravagance; we have seen our prestige going in India and China and Egypt, and as our prestige has gone, our trade has also gone. I have lived, as many hon. Members know, for 21 years in the tropics, and I know that when the prestige of this country goes down, so does our trade diminish. What have this Government done to enhance the name of the good old country in which we live and of which we are all so proud? I suggest that it is high time that the Government of the day, instead of spending time on the Measures mentioned in the King's Speech, should use their best energies and brains to tackle this great question of unemployment. It is the only thing that matters to-day, and I consider that the schemes which have been put forward are absolutely inadequate and are unnecessary at the moment. All of us, on all sides of the House, have pet schemes which would undoubtedly benefit many of our countrymen, but we have to consider the times in which we live, and we have to consider that we have this terrible number of nearly 2,250,000 unemployed; and, as far as I can see, there is nothing in this King's Speech that will diminish that number. On the contrary, I think it is more likely to increase than to decrease.
I think the Liberal party are taking a very big risk in supporting and bolstering up the Socialist party. I have, as hon. Members know, just fought a by-election. If any party has ever had an opportunity of winning a seat, the Liberal party had the chance of winning the seat which I have just won, but why did they not win it?
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
A very nice compliment, and yet I feel that I must continue my sentiments. The reason they did not win the seat is that they are continually playing for tactics instead of looking after the interests of the country. If they really believe the Socialist party are wrong, they are doing wrong in keeping it in power, and that is what the electors think. When the electors know that over 50 per cent. of the times the Liberal party 784 have not voted at all, and that when they have voted they have voted 80 per cent. of the times for the Socialists, how can they believe that these gentlemen are really anti-Socialists? We know the Socialists, and we may respect them or we may not, but we know what they stand for. Nobody knows what the Liberals stand for, and I am sure that when the Socialist party fall, the Liberal party will fall with them, and while the Socialists may bob up again later on, the Liberals will not.
We have been asking for a constructive policy. One of the first things for the Socialists to do is to tackle the unemployment problem with all their might, and the second thing is not to bring forward any Bills that are going to cost the country any more money. We cannot afford any more schemes which are not going to be for the benefit of the country as a whole. There is not one of the schemes in the King's Speech that is going to bring in one penny to the coffers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, therefore, I urge the Government to consider what they can do to tackle this terrible problem of unemployment. Many of the hon. Members opposite are better able, possibly, than I am to talk on these matters, but the question is, Who can tackle them? We have proved in the last Parliament that we had remedies, such as the Safeguarding of Industries, on which many trade unionists are very keen. In fact, one might almost say that in the party opposite the one man who is not keen on it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am convinced that if the Prime Minister were to-morrow to bring forward a scheme of Safeguarding, he would get 99 per cent. of the Members opposite to vote for him. That is my contribution as to what is best for the country.
§ Major CHURCH
If I may be allowed to reply immediately to the speech of the hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. Campbell) on the question of Safeguarding, I happen to represent a constituency which has a safeguarded industry—I refer to the gas mantle industry—and I had to fight an election against many exaggerated statements made by my opponents. That particular industry, with all its competition from abroad, did not meet that competition by the Safeguarding Duty. It met it by a price 785 agreement, or by an agreement with its competitors abroad. Instead of increasing the efficiency of its production in this country, instead of lowering its overhead costs by amalgamations in this country destined to bring down the costs, it met the competition by buying up some of its most successful competitors, one of whom was once a Member of this House on the opposite benches. It provided him with a pension for a number of years, on the condition that he would not re-enter the industry. Then the big firms left in had to come to terms with the opposition from abroad, and they had to pay a subsidy and to grant concessions of territories, which was further restricting their market, with the result that the employés in that industry never got a penny of benefit from the Safeguarding, and the industry has declined.
I do not give that as a general argument against Safeguarding. I would say this with regard to any protective measure that is ever introduced in this House, by whatever party, that I do not object to restrictions, I do not object to regulation of imports, I do not object to Safeguarding. I do not care under whatever name you restrict the entry of goods, made under certain conditions, from abroad, but you must have at the same time definite control and regulations imposed upon the people of this country who are producing. If adequate safeguards can be applied, quite conceivably it will be possible to have Safeguarding, but the safeguards must be adequate. I would remind hon. Members opposite that the safeguard which would have to be introduced would have to be nationally controlled industry. When hon. Members opposite are prepared to recognise a national emergency and the whole system under which at least two-thirds of the people of the world are living at the present time, when they are prepared to consider that the breakdown has been almost complete, and that our monetary system is collapsing, or at any rate wants radically overhauling, then possibly they will be prepared to concede the need for national control of practically all our industries, and international control of the money situation.
I will turn to a less controversial subject, on which there seems to have been general agreement among those Members who have read the rather striking contribution 786 made to economics by Sir Henry Strakosch, which appeared as a supplement to the "Economist" of 5th July. Several references have been made to it. The general thesis of it is that at the present time the world production of gold, upon which currencies of 1,200,000,000 of the world's peoples depend for their trade and exchanges, was increasing roughly at the rate of 1¾ per cent. per annum, but that for the five years from 1923 to 1927, upon which his calculations were based, the general production of goods throughout the world was increasing at a compound rate of 3 per cent. per annum. It was increasing more rapidly as regards certain classes of goods, particularly raw materials and foodstuffs. In other words, the shortage of foodstuffs and raw materials which once threatened the world has apparently passed away. We have now rather a surplus of our capacity to consume those goods.
The lag of gold production behind, the world production of goods is at the compound rate of 1 per cent. per annum. That, however, obviously would not account for the enormous drop in prices between 1920 and 1925, soon after the introduction of the gold standard in this country, and since 1026, when practically the whole of the peoples to whom I have referred had adopted the gold standard. Actually, the general drop in world prices, according to Sir Henry Strakosch, between 1925 and 1930 was roughly 35 per cent. on the pre-War basis—an extraordinary drop. That is not accounted for by this lag of the gold output. It is accounted for by the fact that the United States have an impassable trade barrier between it and the rest of the world, that it has accepted nothing but gold and monetary gold in return for reparation payments from this country, and that it has continued in its economic isolation, that is, isolation as regards imports. It has continued to hoard gold, and it has not increased its currency or its credit to its own people in relation to its stores of gold, although its statutory basis is considerably higher than that of this country. In the last two or three years France has been adopting a similar policy. France has actually taken considerably more than the world gold output during the last two or three years, and that is lying sterilised owing 787 to the operations of the French banking system. There we have two large monetary groups sterilising an enormous amount of the world's gold, and in this country and the British Empire the gold currency—in other words, the credit and currency available for trade—has steadily declined. There we have two countries which apparently agreed when the gold standard was re-adopted, that it was necessary that there should be a co-ordination and co-relation of the demand for gold in order that there should be stability of price of the gold itself and stable world prices of the principal commodities. The general agreement was there, and the general desire was apparently there also, but since 1925, when we adopted the gold standard, the hopes based on the general return to the gold standard have been falsified by events owing to the operation of these two countries. They are not doing themselves any good, and are doing the rest of the world incalculable harm.
What are we to do to counteract this general drop in the level of prices? I would draw the attention of hon. Members opposite to this important fact. A great deal of play is made about the tremendous amount we are spending yearly on keeping 2,000,000 people from starvation. Nobody suggests that there is any shortage of world goods or that there is not enough food being produced in the world to go round, or that there are not the commodities available in this country for these people. Nobody suggests that the world's supplies are inadequate to meet their needs. The only thing that concerns hon. Members is that these people are doing nothing useful and are getting demoralised, and that they are getting hopeless and tired of doing nothing at all.
When we talk about the expense of it, we have to consider what proportion of the national income these people take. What, after all, is the proportion of the national income that is being absorbed by this enormous army of unemployed which dispirits everybody? Let us assume that there are no contributions by employers and employed, that the whole burden is piling on the national Exchequer and that it is £100,000,000 per annum. Then let us consider what has been happening to the National Debt 788 since 1925, the year when we reverted to the gold standard. We have been paying back a certain amount each year of Sinking Fund. I am not prepared to argue at the moment whether the paying back of a certain amount reduces our currency, but I can take it on the authority of the economists of to-day that what has happened owing to the general drop in the level of commodity prices in the last five years, is that the National Debt, although normally £250,000,000 less than in 1925, is now worth £1,300,000,000 more to the people who hold it than it was before we started the Sinking Fund operations. There has been an enormous appreciation in that Debt, and we have been making a present to the holders of it, in terms of world commodity prices, of roughly £200,000,000 a year in the last six years. Somebody has benefited considerably, at any rate, and, if we have given to the bondholders this large amount a year, it ill behoves hon. Members on the benches opposite to complain that we are doing our best to keep the unemployed from poverty at a cost of less than half that amount.
§ Major CHURCH
The right hon. Gentleman asks what we suggest. On that point the Government have a certain amount of reason to congratulate themselves. When they came into office they realised that the question of currency and finance was one of the gravest problems of the moment and no one supposes that it could be settled in five minutes. The Government appointed a Committee to consider it, and no one can suggest that on that Committee there are not men of international reputation, the best brains that could be brought to bear upon the problem. There are Members on all benches who are anxious for a report from that Committee, and I am one of them, but do let us remember that this is a problem which has faced the world ever since we have had any currency based on gold. The only time when the gold standard worked satisfactorily, as far as one can gather, was during the years when world production was equated to gold production, a period of about 30 years during the last century. Since then there has been comparative chaos owing to the incapacity of the world supply of gold to keep pace with world production.
789 The moment, however, that anyone suggests even a slight degree of inflation, the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young) shivers and says he is appalled at the idea of what would happen if we adopted any measure of inflation. We need not call it inflation, however. Let us call it the scientific management of the currency, and under such a guise, although it would be practically the same thing, perhaps he would be prepared to agree to some slight measure of equitable re-arrangement of the burden of the national debt which, according to the economists whom I have already quoted, would give supplies of credit in abundance for useful work to be undertaken and enable us to get a large number of our industries going again. At present they are suffering not from an actual lack of currency in the country, because we are now in the depths of depression, but they are suffering from a lack of credit because credit in the hands of the bond holders is not flowing towards capital undertakings, but flowing into short credit operations. Once that field of investment is closed to it by its unproductive terms, money will again flow into capital investment, and so we get the trade cycle which so many economists are so fond of throwing up before Members of this House. They always speak in terms of trade cycles and say that something is bound to turn up. I remember once hearing Sir William Beveridge talking about the relation between trade cycles and sun spots, and I was informed afterwards that he based his calculation upon the composition of sine curves without knowing anything about them.
Where is it suggested that the tide will turn? We can agree with the economic committee of the League of Nations that we must look to our new industries. This country owes its greatness to the rise of new industries. I would remind hon. Members that during the nineteenth century we had indulged in a high degree of specialisation and that the knowledge upon which he based those new industries was not new knowledge, but was the special application of knowledge which had been gained for the world largely during the seventeenth century. In other words, we applied the knowledge of the discoveries made during the preceding two centuries, with the result that we made a tremendous 790 advance in industry. But while we were applying the knowledge gained by scientists in the preceding two centuries, we did not attempt to build up a social ethic at the same time, and one of the main causes of trouble during the nineteenth century—and one hopes it will not be the cause of many of our troubles during the present century—was the absence of a social ethic keeping pace with our immense gain in material prosperity. I congratulate the compilers of the latest edition of the Yellow Book upon one thing. They do suggest that it would be a tremendous advantage to the country if something equivalent to the Mellon Institute were set up here, something adequately supported by State funds but more fitted to give closer expert aid to industry than the Scientific Research Association which we have at the present time. I thoroughly welcome that suggestion. In 1924, when the present Secretary of State for the Colonies was my chief at the Board of Trade, I remember suggesting, when he set up a committee on industry and trade, that he should put on it one scientist. Eventually he did put on one applied scientist, the hon. Member for Harwidh (Mr. Pybus), but I wanted something more than the hon. Member for Harwich, I wanted several scientists on the committee, in order that they could bring to bear upon the economists and the business men the necessary expert scientific and technical knowledge. I wanted the scientists to be in constant consultation and not merely serve as assessors to the committee. Unfortunately, I was only able to carry the point to the extent of getting one applied scientist included, but one hopes the time will come when Governments, instead of merely calling scientists into consultation when there is a great national disaster, will realise that though this country is still stages behind others in applying scientific knowledge, its scientists will bear the most favourable comparison with the scientists of other nations, and that if our scientists had the opportunity of bringing their knowledge and experience to bear upon the problems of government and the formation of policy, there might be a greater hope for the development of the newer industries upon which we must depend in the next few years.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
We have listened to an interesting speech, but one which has little relation to the Amendment we have moved in order to draw attention to the inactivity of the Government in dealing with this important problem. No doubt the hon. Member will address his strictures on adherence to the gold standard to his own Chancellor of the Exchequer, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not have been more rigid or more dogmatic on that point. We have had some most remarkable speeches in criticism of the Government, but so far I have not heard one word in defence of their policy or the means they have adopted to cope with the problem with which we are confronted. We have heard to-day of the new edition of Liberal policy, the new yellow book which is going to take the place of the little yellow book which failed so dismally to win votes at the last election.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
H that proved to be a winner at the last election I am rather doubtful about the new issue of this policy being adequate to deal with the unemployment problem. The Liberal party has always advocated the flotation of a huge loan in order to secure the future prosperity of this country and to meet present needs. By adopting such a policy it may be possible to tide over our difficulties for a time, but in years to come we may find ourselves so heavily burdened with taxation that we may not be able to take advantage of the opportunity which presents itself. I think hon. Members below the Gangway might be satisfied with the progress which the Government have made in the direction of adopting their policy, because they have not done very badly in that respect. According to a statement made by the Lord Privy Seal the Government have sanctioned the expenditure of £135,000,000 on various schemes.
I notice that there was a remarkable inconsistency in the speech of the Lord Privy Seal, because he boasted of the fact that the Govevrnment had caused to be spent so many millions, notwithstanding the fact that in his speech he said that it was a great mistake to think that such expenditure was any real contribution towards the problem. The Lord Privy Seal told us that in the past the 792 Government had concentrated so much on schemes of public works that they had been drawn aside from dealing with the real problem with which we are confronted. I recommend that statement to hon. Members below the Gangway. The late Lord Privy Seal, who started this expenditure on relief works, told us that any fool could spend money. I suggest that the Government by their vast expenditure upon public relief works have not contributed anything towards the solution of this problem, but that, on the contrary, they have aggravated the problem which they set out to tackle.
We have heard an interesting duel between the Minister of Transport and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). The Leader of the Liberal party advocates the raising of a loan of £250,000,000 to be spent on works of national development, but which I prefer to call relief schemes. The Minister of Transport told us to-day that not only was the Government following out the policy which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has advocated, but they were actually spending the money which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to raise in the form of a loan. I can understand the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs looking glum when he sees the Socialist Government carrying out his policy, but no doubt he is satisfied that his policy is being carried out. I suggest that in carrying out expenditure on vast relief works connected with the grandiose schemes to which the Liberal party has puts its name the Government are undermining the efficiency of local administration.
We all know that the great object of municipalities is to attract as large a grant as possible from the national Exchequer. I would like to say to the Minister of Transport, in particular, that the proposals for the expenditure of money upon works of development for improving the amenities of cities, building roads, and so on are not discussed to-day in the various council chambers or committees of those municipalities on their merits, hut they are discussed and decided solely on the question of how much grant they will attract, and how many men they will put into employment. That policy is sapping all economy and efficiency from local administration. If a 793 member of a local council votes against a certain project because, in his opinion, it is not necessary, or because he thinks it should be postponed for several years or that the project will not prove remunerative, his view will be overborne by those who support the scheme because of the Government grant.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
That bears out the criticism which I have made. The Minister of Transport drew a comparison between the money spent on relief schemes by the present Government and the comparatively small sums of money spent by the late Conservative Administration. During the Conservative Administration it was found that the usefulness of these schemes had been exhausted, and, instead of anticipating the carrying out of public schemes by five years, such schemes were postponed. I am very grateful to the hon. Member for having reminded me of that point, because that is the answer of the Minister of Transport, who has stated that when the present Government came into office, owing to the "go slowly" policy of the late Administration, they found a number of schemes in the pigeon holes. That accounts for the delay in spending more money on those schemes.
It is a fact that the usefulness of those schemes came to an end, and the Conservative Government very wisely restricted the grants to such schemes. The Socialist administration is now trying to show the people of this country that it is employing through public expenditure on these schemes as many people as possible, and those grants are being distributed with a lavishness which is destroying the efficiency and economy of local administration. I know of an instance where a piece of ground had to be levelled, and in order to employ more money and spin the job out, manual labour was employed instead of machinery. Is that the sort of economy and business management which is supported by hon. Members opposite? That is what is being done up and down the country.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
I can tell the hon. Member how I voted in regard to that particular case, and I do not think hon. Members of this House will doubt my statement.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
I do not know that I object to mentioning the scheme. It does not reflect great credit on a corporation of which I was lately a member, but, when the aerodrome at Bristol was being constructed, the corporation of Bristol decided that they might spin out that work longer by employing manual labour and employing more men than if they employed machinery.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
I do not see that that has any connection with the argument which I am bringing forward. Naturally, any party will take advantage of the bait which the Government hold out. That is one of the dangers of this use of public money for relief works. Not only is the money spent inefficiently and uneconomically, not only are the Government to-day paying for works which the municipalities would have undertaken themselves if the Government had not come along to help them, but that money is being wasted in the way I have described. Excuses are put forward that the present Government are in office but not in power, but, after the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to-day, those excuses cannot hold water any longer. The Government have the power of doing anything they wish; they can carry forward schemes of public expenditure as far as they like: they have received the encouragement of hon. Members below the Gangway to be as spendthrift as they possibly can. It is a remarkable fact that, in spite of this huge expenditure of public money on relief works, the Government have suc- 795 ceeded only in preventing the unemployment figures from rising by another 150,000.
There has been universal agreement during the course of this debate that the Government have done no good, but I should like to congratulate them upon not having done as much harm as they might have done. After all, they might have listened to the exhortations and urgent requests of hon. Members sitting on the "Mountain," as I believe it is called now, to repudiate the National Debt, to increase pensions all round, and to grant full maintenance; in other words, to pay a man as much for doing nothing as for being in work. All these proposals have come from hon. Members who sit below the Gangway opposite, and I can only congratulate the Front Bench on not having responded to those calls for extravagance. I must confess, however, that I have the greatest sympathy with those back bench Members of the Socialist party. If I bad been elected on promises which I gave at the election, if I had paved the way for victory by my efforts, my propaganda and my activity, and had so enabled the members now on the Front Bench to occupy office and have emoluments, I should be a little annoyed if those members on the Front Bench went back on everything I had promised to my constituents. I should complain if a Government which I supported had gone back on their word and broken their promises in the wholesale manner in which the present Government have broken them. I sympathise with those hon. Members. They are still soaring in the clouds, while the members of the Front Bench have at last come down to earth. Look at them. They are like pricked balloons, inert, lifeless, unable to rise to this or any other occasion.
I was rather struck by the remarks of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, who suggested that the Government were acting in a very curious way in trying to mould the capitalist system more into conformity with Socialist ideas. They have been abused by members of their back benches because by adopting a reformist policy they have delayed what appears to those members to be the inevitable breakdown of the capitalist system. I am not quite 796 sure, however, that the inaction and inactivity of the present Government cannot be explained by the fact that they are adopting the same policy which was adopted with considerable success not many years ago in the minefields of this country—the policy of ca'canny. There arose in those years after the War a school of thought, which, I regret to say, was backed up by many hon. Members in this House, with the idea that by a process of ca'canny, by doing as little work as possible, by making things as difficult as possible, and by refusing to help in any way, the coalowners of this country could be ruined and the inevitable revolution brought nearer. That is one interpretation of their inaction, and I wonder if the Government, believing as they do that the capitalist system is a failure and doomed to end, are adopting this policy of ca'canny, and are trying by deliberate inaction and inactivity to bring the breakdown a little nearer. It is an interesting speculation, and it is one interpretation of the inaction, lassitude and lack of will power which is otherwise almost inexplicable.
What did the Prime Minister reply to the Leader of the Opposition when he asked what schemes he would first deal with before Christmas? The Prime Minister said he would press forward with those schemes which related to unemployment, the Education Bill and the Land Settlement Bill. We have discussed at considerable length the question of farming, and I would only remind hon. Members opposite of their promises at the last election that farming must. be made to pay. When you have the suggestion from the Government, apparently supported whole-heartedly by Members below the Gangway, that you are going to contribute something towards this problem of unemployment by increased settlement upon the land, I would ask hon. Members opposite to come down to earth, and to remember that you cannot possibly settle more people on the land unless you enable them to charge a sufficient price for the goods which they produce to give them proper remuneration for the labour which they have expended upon producing them. That is what farming is suffering from at the present time, and hon. Members opposite have no suggestion whatever, except 797 measures such as better marketing and closer co-operation, for relating the price of agricultural produce to the labour involved in its production.
As to the Education Bill, I should imagine that any real educationist in this country would be filled with shame and disgust that an Education Bill should be made the object of solving unemployment rather than promoting education. Of what use will this Education Bill be except to conceal the volume of unemployment? Obviously, if you raised the school-leaving age to 20 and lowered the pensionable age to 50, which some hon. Members opposite seem to think is a desirable object, you would reduce the apparent volume of unemployment. At the same time, by this Education Bill, while you reduce the apparent volume of unemployment, you are casting the maintenance of these potential workers upon the costs of production of industry. You are not really reducing unemployment, any more than you are by lavish expenditure upon relief schemes; you are merely concealing its volume and making your later conditions worse than your present.
I was surprised at the animosity which the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) aroused in the breast of one hon. Member below the Gangway on this side. In my opinion, the hon. Baronet was one of the few speakers from the benches opposite who struck the right note in this debate. He really seemed to approach these questions with an open mind, unprejudiced, ready to discuss any and every means of getting us out of the difficulty in which we find ourselves. He recognised that we have definitely lost our industrial supremacy, a fact which does not seem to have been brought home to hon. Members opposite; and not only that we have lost our industrial supremacy, but that we are today struggling to maintain our standard of living. What reply have the Government to give to this self-evident fact? All that they have done is to heap fresh burdens upon industry. They have allowed the Safeguarding Duties to lapse, and they have refused to exempt the reserves of companies from tax. That was a measure of assistance which the Government might have given to industry without upsetting their Budget, and which would, to a certain extent, have 798 complied with the criticisms of the hon. Member who spoke last from these benches.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick was quite right when he said that trade unionism and Free Trade are incompatible, and the sooner hon. Members recognise that fact the better for the industry and trade of this country. If you protect labour, if you restrict the hours of labour and lay down factory conditions and the conditions under which, workers live, then you must logically protect the products of labour itself. You have the absurd state of affairs that in the agricultural industry, which we have been discussing to-day, you fix the minimum wage below which an agricultural labourer may not work—in other words, you fix to a large extent the cost of production of agricultural produce—and at the same time you allow agricultural produce produced under entirely different and inferior conditions to enter this country in competition with the very conditions which you have laid down. Surely, this is inconsistent and contradictory. The Government have not the strength of mind to have the courage of their convictions. If they would tell the people of this country that the old dogmas are done with, that trade union conditions and restrictions have completely altered the conditions under which trade is carried on to-day, I believe that the people of this country would congratulate them on their sincerity and courage, and that they would be doing more for the industry and trade of this country, and more to solve the unemployment problem, than any of the expenditure of public money and waste of our resources which they are carrying on at the present time.
§ Mr. LANG
I shall not detain the House for more than a very short time, as I know that it will desire to have full opportunity of hearing the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister. There will be no need for me to follow the great mass of irrelevancy that has come from the hon. Member who has just sat down. I would, if it be necessary, remind the House that, while we are dealing with this unemployment problem, and must have regard to statistics and the why and wherefore of things, we are also dealing with a problem of human life. Men and women are suffering, and suffering 799 acutely, and, if we have that in our minds, we may be able to forge out a real contribution, rather than a mere discussion of academic questions.
The Amendment deplores the failure of this Government, and we have heard a great deal about that question. We have heard a considerable discussion with regard to Protection and Free Trade, but it seems to me that neither of these is of first importance just now. The question of Tariff Reform and Free Trade has been battled out many times. Most important references have come from the Conservative benches, from which one speaker to-night announced with pride that this country was the only country which had been able to pay good wages and keep prosperity during recent years. That seems to me to be a particularly cogent argument against any attempt to use the present emergency to alter the fiscal policy of this country. What we have to be more concerned with is the immediate question of dealing with the tragedy of unemployment.
We have heard in this debate a great deal about agriculture, and I should be the last to wish to rob agriculture either of any advantage which has been achieved for it or any benefit which is proffered to it; but there are industries in which the problem of unemployment is even greater. I am surprised that we have heard next to nothing, throughout the whole debate on the Address, about the cotton industry, and I am hoping that in the two final speeches to-night we may be given some sort of assurance in that regard. I should like to think that the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition will be able to tell us something as to how any proposal that he has in mind with regard to tariffs will help us in Lancashire, where we are now in a position that is almost too bad to think or talk about. I should be glad, too, to hear from our own Leader if we are able and likely to have soon some definite reply from the Home Secretary and the President of the Board of Trade as to their negotiations, or as to when they will be coming to Lancashire again.
The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), after she had turned this grave and anxious debate into a perfect farce 800 for 20 minutes, did say something serious about the question of women, and I want to ask whether something can be done for the tremendous number of unemployed women that we have. The present position is being used as a means of forcing women cotton operatives into service in military canteens and into domestic service. Women and girls who have contracted for the payment of unemployment benefit are being denied the honourable fulfilment of their contract, and are being forced into uninsurable jobs. That is a position which cannot long be tolerated, and which I hope the House will have an opportunity of thoroughly ventilating. I should like to know whether the Government are prepared to expedite the consideration of the report of the cotton inquiry with a view to relieving us from that difficulty, and in order that we may know where we are with regard to the future prospects of employment in the cotton industry, and whether it is the policy of the Government to use the present depression as a means of conscripting these girls to this undesirable service.
We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) a speech in which he has formulated again his policy, a policy very little of which is new to us on this side, and much of which we have advocated and would desire to see put into effect. He did, however, say one thing which seemed to me to be serious. He said that it would be thoroughly dishonest to say that he or his party have placed any obstacle in the way of this Government doing all that they desired to do with a full policy even of Socialism. All I desire to do is to remind the House of the speech which the right hon. Gentleman made at the beginning of this Parliament, on 3rd July, about electoral reform in which he said it would be a discreditable thing if any Government without a majority in the country were to bring forward the ideas of its own particular followers, and he went so far as to say that, if that were done, it would discredit not only the Government but the whole of Parliamentary and Government institutions. If that was not a very definite pledge to the Government as to how far they might go and no farther, 801 I am at a loss to understand the English language.
It would be idle to pretend that any one of us is satisfied with the position of things. Those of us who sat on the Committee dealing with the Consumers' Council Bill, which would have gone a long way towards levelling up—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) is amused. I have been disappointed not to hear him in this debate. I was particularly anxious to hear what his attitude was to be in the new Session. At any rate, it has been stated on the right hon. Gentleman's own side of the House this week that there is a tremendous difference between wholesale and retail prices. A manufacturer in a very large way with whom I stayed the other day, who is a member of a political party not my own, told me that when he comes to London and sees his own cloth in West End shop windows, he is scarcely able to recognise it for the tremendous difference between the retail price and the price he receives. Our Bill would have gone a long way towards dealing with things like that. If there is this enormous discrepancy, that might be put right rather than a tax on wages, which either tariffs or Safeguarding proposals are. I am obliged to the House for listening to me for this short time before the important speeches. I hope and believe this debate will have again seized our minds of the gravity of the issues and that we shall go forward boldly. The fate of the people of the country is quite as important as the good will of any section of the Opposition, and I hope we shall have that in mind and shall go forward with the task that is entrusted to us.
§ Mr. STANLEY BALDWIN
I should like to thank the hon. Member who has just spoken for his courtesy in curtailing what promised to be a very interesting speech in order to give me time to ask a few questions, which I think it is desirable should be put by the Opposition to the Prime Minister before he finally replies. Perhaps, before I begin, I might make one observation about a remark that fell from the Leader of the Liberal party. I listened with interest to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) said yesterday. He is about as good a 802 skater on thin ice as I am, which is not a very high compliment. If I might deduce anything from his observations it was this. "I disapprove very much of what the Government are doing. They have not treated me as a gentleman. But there is no chance of my policy being carried in the country. It is obvious that if there was an election, gentlemen above the Gangway would be returned. I do not want to see them returned. I am going to vote for the Government." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) put the explanation of this course of action on the only ground he could, and I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen did not do the same. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said in effect, perfectly truly—and I find no fault with what be said—" I am at present an ally of the Government, and I am helping them in their unemployment policy. As such, it is not open to me to criticise them in the same way that it is open to hon. Members above the Gangway, and, therefore, I cannot oppose them." That is a perfectly proper and understandable position. So long as the Liberal party rest on that they are on velvet for the present.
In case any one carried away a false impression, which I do not suppose they did, it was no question of leaving my hands free from criticism that made me decline with much regret to take part in the three-party Conference on the unemployment question. It was simply that I felt that a conference in which the subject of tariffs would be completely barred would not be a useful conference, ruling out one subject on which there is certainly a great amount of disagreement, but which I thought the thing was worth considering. I may point out that, when I had an opportunity of assisting the Government and joining in, with the assistance of the Liberal party, on the matter of unemployment insurance, I was only too glad to help and provided two extremely able men among my younger colleagues to take part in the deliberations. The result of that conference, which merely led to a Royal Commission, has not given me very much hope of the result of another conference. I hope the efforts the right hon. Gentleman is making with the Government will not terminate in six 803 months time in another Royal Commission.
But, after all, we are not here to discuss the policy of the right hon. Gentleman or the policy of this party. The Amendment that is down is a very simple one. We regret the failure of His Majesty's Government to propose any measures adequate to deal with the crisis in the industrial, agricultural and commercial situation, or to check the continued growth of unemployment. I propose to ask a few questions, as I have done before. I bad the pleasure in the summer of asking a very large number of questions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I did not get a reply to a single one of them. I did not expect it. I am going to ask some more to-night, and I do not know whether I shall be more fortunate.
Before I ask my questions, I should like to call attention to the replies that have been given by the Government so far to questions that have been addressed to them as to what the Government are doing. We had a speech, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs described as brilliant, from the President of the Board of Trade. The impression it left on my mind as a, middle-aged Parliamentary hand—not quite the old gang yet—was that the right hon. Gentleman had had very little notice that he was expected to speak. We will leave it at that. It was a good speech in the circumstances. But, after all, what was it that he said had been done to help unemployment? He first mentioned the Coal Mines Bill. That may or may not be a good Bill. It has to be tried yet. It is a Bill that we expressed great fears about. I hope sincerely—I hope the House believes me—that we were wrong. We do not know and the Government do not know. Whether that Bill is going to help unemployment or not is in the lap of the gods. But when he added the trade mission to China and the mission to Scandinavia, that is really playing with the subject, with unemployment mounting by leaps and bounds and practically doubling itself since we left office. Nor, indeed, have we heard very much more from the Minister of Transport. I enjoyed his speech, because he spoke as a man who was still full of courage and boldness, 804 two attributes which appeal to me. But what he had done seemed to point mainly to having spent more money in relief work. That, in itself, is no great mark of credit compared with what we did. It merely means that there has been more unemployment, and that they have had to spend more money, and, in spite of what he said, it has not checked the growth of unemployment. But he did utter words so novel and so beautiful that I propose to read them to the House, and for the purpose of greater accuracy I have procured a copy:We will not, out of respect for the unemployed themselves, promise to do things which we are not sure that we can perform.Perhaps I have few qualities, but I always pride myself on one quality, which, perhaps, some of my friends behind me do not regard as such. I have patience. I have waited for years for a declaration of that kind, and I have got it, and I am going away a happy man to-night. It is well worth having this debate merely to obtain it. He concluded with the words:None of us"—and that commits the whole of the parties—ought to hold out expectations which cannot be realised.What a Sunday School treat of an election we shall have ! There is one observation which the President of the Board of Trade made. I do not know whether he meant it, but I think that the House might very easily draw the wrong inference from what he said. I should like to correct him here, or, if I am in error, perhaps he will correct me. It is this: We might have inferred from what he said, when he was stressing the question of commercial treaties, that those treaties would have to be denounced before we could make any changes in our fiscal system. I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman shakes his bead. If my information is correct, whatever treaties may do or may not do, they do not prevent us for one moment, if we think it desirable, from imposing a general tariff in this country. The only thing that could prevent the speedy imposition of such a tariff would be the ratification of what is commonly termed the Tariff Truce. I want to say only one word upon that. I understand—and I speak here 805 subject to correction—that that ratification has not yet taken place, and that a meeting is going to be held in Geneva this month at which a decision will be taken as to whether sufficient countries are parties to this Agreement to make it worth while ratifying. Is that correct?
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. William Graham)
As the right hon. Gentleman has appealed to me, the latter part of his statement is correct.. A meeting will be held to consider the number of ratifications, but we ourselves and other countries have already ratified.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, because the matter is very difficult to follow, and we are not quite clear on this side. It is obvious, then, that that Treaty will be subject to denunciation if the country sees fit to denounce it at such times as are provided for in the Treaty. It does mean, in effect, that the right hon. Gentleman and his Government, having during their term of office seen the unemployment in the country double in quantity, have so queered the pitch that if the country should decide that they wish to change their fiscal system, it will be unable to do so until that Treaty has been denounced. Is that not so?
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
I should be very sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman if he had not addressed a question to me. There are two sides. There is the obligation which the other countries undertake not to alter their treaties. There is the obligation we undertake not impose tariffs in this country. But it only runs to the 1st February of next year as regards notice, and may, in fact, be terminated on 1st April next year, unless progress is made in any specific groups of commodities by way of tariff reduction.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. The question has been asked because the situation is one of the greatest importance, if not of complexity. It is very difficult to follow exactly what these treaties involve. I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I think we have the position quite clear now. While on the subject of that Treaty, I want to put one or two suggestions to the House, 806 and to touch upon one aspect of international trade which, as far as I know, has not been dwelt upon during this debate, and upon which I should like to put one or two questions to the Prime Minister. I always see a very great difficulty in entering into any kind of agreement, whether it be disarmament, on the one hand, or whether it be in connection with trade on the other, which leaves out any important nation or group of nations. I must say, having regard to the industrial position of this country, I feel the greatest alarm about any kind of treaty which hampers us and ties our hands at all when two countries so different and so important as the United States of America and Russia are outside it.
It is about Russia that I want to say one or two words. Let me admit at once, as hon. Gentlemen opposite will admit, that we hold fundamentally divergent views about Russia. There are certain views which I hold about Russia which hon. Members do not hold, and there are certain views which they hold which I do not hold. I want them to try to consider the point I am going to put purely on economic grounds, and as affecting this country, and I think I may possibly take them with me a little way. One of the things which cause a difference between hon. Members opposite and myself, is that I believe, and always have believed, the statements of the Government in Russia as to their desire to impose their system on the world. Hon. Members opposite do not believe it, or, at any rate their conduct looks as though they do not. In other words, I believe them in that respect to be truthful men, and hon. Members opposite believe them not to be truthful. But believing that, as I do, and believing that the Government of Russia. as at present constituted, desire to sow the seeds of dissension and revolution in the. other countries of the world, I believe that they have been endeavouring to disturb our markets for several years past, and that they have been successful. I believe, also, that behind that present commercial policy there is an attempt to carry out the same work in this country and other countries. I wish to state, to be perfectly candid, that I do not expect hon. Members opposite to agree with me, and that is why I ask them to consider what I am going to say by entirely banishing from their minds, 807 for the purposes of argument, any such ulterior motive, and let us examine the trade position as it is.
We in this House know about the new commercial policy in Russia. They desire, rightly or wrongly, to make Russia self-supporting. They desire to make it a great manufacturing country under the most modern conditions, and they propose to raise the money or a great deal of the money that may be required for the industrialisation of their country by selling as they can such products as they have, that is to say, primary products this year and, if they can do it, manufactured goods next. I have never been one of those who believe in the value to this country or to any other country of a trade agreement. There, again, I differ from hon. Members opposite. My reasons have been explained in this House. The countries that have no trade agreements have been able to do a great deal more business than we so far have succeeded in doing even, with an agreement. The Russian Government controlling all their trade can do business with whomsoever they please. They have a complete monopoly and no one outside Russia knows where the trade may be going at any given time. They have placed enormous contracts, if newspaper reports be true, in America, infinitely bigger than any that have been placed in this country, and some of the money to pay for those contracts has been obtained by dumping primary products into this country and other countries.
What has been the effect of that so far? I will tell the House what I think has been the effect. While their own population is in a state of semi-starvation, by exporting dumped grain they are causing increasing poverty and resultant discontent in the states that lie alongside Russia, in the Danube Valley, in the great grain-producing states of Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary, and by the trade which they are doing by means of dumped timber, they are disorganising the staple trade of Latvia, Finland, Estonia and the Baltic States. This dumping, which is only in its elementary stage at the present time, and which has been mainly of grain to this country and of anthracite coal, in small quantities so far, to America and Canada, which has been 808 sold at less prices than Welsh coal, may well be a very serious problem for this country to contemplate before many months or certainly years have elapsed. Do the Government regard this method of doing trade as a method likely to damage our industries at home and cause more unemployment? If they do, what steps are they going to take to stop it? The prices at which this dumping has been carried out have been far below world prices and bear no relation to the cost of the articles that have been dumped. I refer to anthracite coal, grain, textiles in the east and the sale to a limited extent of butter and eggs, poultry and soap.
We are told by the Russians themselves that next year they are going to export manufactured goods. What, we do not know, and we do not know that they may not be exporting more primary products. I want to know whether the Government feel any anxiety on this score. If not, why not? If they do, what steps do they propose to take to check it, because other countries, the United States, Belgium, and others, for all I know, are all very anxious on this subject and are examining now what steps they can take to stop this kind of dumping. Ordinary dumping arises from the surplus production of mass production, which is intermittent and seldom goes far below cost price. This particular dumping is something quite new in the world's business. It may be right or wrong of them to do it, I am not criticising them, but I know that it is wrong for this country to allow these goods to enter into our markets to the detriment of our industries. There is one thing with regard to which we shall put a good many questions to the Foreign Secretary, and that is as to the wages, hours and conditions of labour in which the timber is being cut and worked up in Russia. We want some general information on that point. Although we think that it will be extremely difficult to get it, we want more accurate information than seems to have been obtained so far by the Woodworkers' Union, if we are to accept the reports in the Press.
There is one other rather interesting thing; I do not suppose the Prime Minister can answer it to-night, but perhaps we can put a question about it to the President of the Board of Trade. I 809 have it on very good information that while Russia has been buying sugar from Cuba on credit supplied by this country and that sugar has been sent to the Black Sea, she has also been exporting sugar, while she buys through us on long credit, to Latvia for cash, and sugar is going up from the Black Sea into the States alongside Russia. If that be so, it seems hardly wise, to put it no higher than that, for this country in a time of financial stress to be financing business between two foreign countries that can perfectly well do it for themselves. So far as wheat dumping goes, there is no one who makes anything out of it except the importer into this country. While the consumer does not get much benefit out of it, the importer makes much more than his normal profit, and the country suffers. I want to know what the Government are going to do about it.
The whole of this debate has been extremely interesting and one of the most remarkable facts has been that while ideas, good, bad and indifferent have been poured on the heads of the Government from all quarters of the House, not one single idea has emanated from those benches during the whole course of the debate. Nothing has interested me more than to trace the feet of the young men. I will give one or two quotations which are very interesting. Unfortunately, I did not hear the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) but I have read it with great interest, and I find that the result of much seclusion and thought has been that he is now producing ideas which I remember giving voice to in the year 1903. When he was probably in a short coat I was uttering these views in Kidderminster, and did so for two or three years. It is very interesting to find what he said. He spoke of Free Trade and Protection, of new ideas—I will not weary the House with quotations, because I do not want to delay the Prime Minister for a moment—but the interesting feature is this, that almost exactly the same observations came from these benches, from the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. 0. Stanley), the hon. Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor), and the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot). Whether there was collusion or not I do not know, and I make no objection to it, 810 but it shows that whatever we of the old gang are thinking about—the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself—these young men are thinking in this particular direction. If I happen to fail in my task and my life is prolonged I hope that when I am sitting by my fireside in my old age I shall read of the hon. Member for Smethwick carrying out all the things which I believe are necessary to-day for the welfare of this country.
One other thing on which they spoke interested me very much, and that was the general concensus of opinion among a great many of the younger Members of this House that the Parliamentary system is effete. That is no new cry, I have heard it pretty often. I remember when I was about 18 years of age being thrilled to the marrow when Lord Randolph Churchill called Mr. Gladstone an old man in a hurry. I do not think it at all funny now; I am not sure that it does not border on the vulgar. But then I thought that he was an old man in a hurry. Now we have the hon. Member for Smethwick and other hon. Members all complaining of the tools with which they have to work. That opens up a very large and interesting subject which I should like to discuss, but on which I will only take a minute or two. Surely it is a bad thing, although it is a natural temptation, to lose faith in the Parliamentary institutions of this country. It is the implement with which we have to work, and we must make the best of it. The same thing is true of democracy. The fact is, and we all know it although some hon. Members opposite may not admit it, that owing to the War we have come into a full-fledged democracy before we are ready for it, and it is a difficult thing for us in our respective positions and parties to have to work without faith and hope and try to make democracy a real thing. If people do not believe in it and lose faith in it there is no alternative to democracy and Parliamentary representation except anarchy, which you will not get in this country, or some form of dictatorship, which I think is still a long way off.
Just as a loss of faith in our institutions and in the environment in which we have to do our work will cripple us as politicians and as statesmen, so a 811 loss of faith in the principles and philosophy of the Socialist party is at this moment crippling the whole of the Socialist Government. I was struck by the speech made the other night by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), with whom I do not agree very often, but I think the inference to be drawn from his speech is the true one. The great difficulty in this House is the position of the Government, who have been brought up in a party which many of them helped to found and in which they have worked from the beginning. The Government owes its growth entirely to a tremendous faith and belief in the possibility of bringing about that complete change in the capitalist system which they believe will lead to the promised land. They owe their own position to the growth of their party, and their position on those benches to that spirit. It was the driving force of the whole movement, and to-day they are in the position of fundamentalists who have begun to read Darwin. We on this side of the House have always felt that, however beautiful your dreams, in practice there is a chasm which you cannot get across, and the evolution has to be mighly slow. It is the facts they have come up against in having to govern. I believe it was Herbert Spencer who said that the greatest tragedy in life was to see a theory killed by a fact.
Faith on the Front Bench has waned, but faith is still alive on the benches behind. That is why the Government are all hesitating and paralysed. The men behind are saying, "Go forward," and the Front Benches are saying, "Backpedal there a bit."
The paralysis that has come on the Government has made them ineffective for this purpose, and it is for that reason that we are moving this Vote of Censure to-night. It is quite true that in their various efforts to keep pace with those behind them they have succeeded in increasing the expenditure of the country and the taxation of the country, and by that very means have made the problem which they are attempting to solve insoluble. I do not think there is any more striking instance of what I have been saying than for any candid and impartial reader to study the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, written 812 30 years ago, and compare them with his conduct—which I admire so much on the whole—at the Exchequer to-day. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but it is perfectly true. It is because of that loss of faith that the steam and the life and the energy have been running out of the party all over the country. [Interruption.] The enthusiasm caused by belief has gone, and depression is taking its place. I shall be very interested and very curious to hear from the Prime Minister to-night what, in the face of unemployment that has been very nearly doubled in 12 months, he proposes to do, because in our view there is not one single item in the whole of the King's Speech that is calculated to relieve the unemployment in this country and bring down the figures by one single unit.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)
How can I do otherwise to-night than emulate the example of the two right hon. Gentlemen who lead the other two parties in the House? Both of them have said, at. very critical points in their addresses, that they were going to be candid. I must also be candid. I must say that I have never listened to a speech which has given me more surprise than that to which I have just listened. The speech was occasioned by a Vote of Censure on what has been done or not done. The bulk of the speech has related to the nefarious purposes of the Soviet Government of Russia, not regarding the past, but regarding the future—not as to what has happened, but I have been challenged to give my opinion, in reply to this Vote of Censure, upon what in my judgment the Soviet Government are planning for the days that are to come. That has been reinforced by a story which, I confess, I am perfectly tired of hearing, about some sugar transaction. I have heard that story already in about half a dozen forms and I have been so full of leisure during the last six or seven months that I have pursued at least four of the forms and asked for authoritative information about them. The form which has been used to-night is a new one, and, as I always like to do anything which the right hon. Gentleman asks me to do, I pledge myself now that to-morrow morning I will put a Minute into the Department and find out if his story is any more truthful than the four that have been exploded by similar inquiries.
813 The right hon. Gentleman has been full of charming reminiscences. What delightful people we all are when we leave the arena of party politics and talk carelessly about ourselves, but what an awful example and warning we are to the young men. Just imagine the barbed shaft which the right hon. Gentleman has thrown at my hon. colleagues below the Gangway on this side—that they, now speaking as up-to-date men, now speaking as those who wish to spur on those of us who belong to the old gang, are uttering, in almost the same words, precisely the same thoughts as those which the right hon. Gentleman uttered in 1903. What I say to my hon. Friends behind me, who are still operative and vital, is, "Behold and take warning."
Another curious thing has happened to-night. Really I seem to have been beset to-day by two very great tempters, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs tempted me to inquire into the condition of his soul. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley tempted me to take up the time of this House by an exposition of my enduring faith. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has chided me for taking office, because I believed that capitalism was going to come to an end. He said, "In those circumstances you have taken up an absolutely impossible task." The right hon. Gentleman is on a very very slippery slope. I have had a great deal of experience of those opinions, and they have always come to grief, because the right hon. Gentleman really must remember—and this warning I give him in the most friendly way—that the argument which he has used against the taking of office by me and my colleagues is an argument against political action altogether. He has, I am sure quite unwittingly—and therefore I will do him the service which I hope I am doing him, by warning him against this danger—taken up the position this afternoon that we have taken office believing that capitalism is going to be transformed whereas we ought not to have done so. He has made a declaration of his faith, in substance and in reality, that he does 814 not believe in political notion at all. How can one believe in political action if the opportunity of making political action effective, namely, taking office and moulding the transformation from one state of society into another, is not to be used? I have believed in political action all my life. I continue to believe in political action, and the faith that I have expressed again and again, of evolution, of change, I hold still; and if I did not hold it, I should not be here to-night.
The right hon. Member for Bewdley has told us that Herbert Spencer has said that it was a great tragedy when theory killed fact. [HON. MEMBERS: "Fact killed theory!"] I was anticipating my own remarks. I should have said "fact killed theory," but it is a much greater tragedy when theory kills fact, as has happened so frequently in the debate from the other side during the past few days. What are we faced with? [An HON. MEMBER: "Two million unemployed!"] Certainly, and the arguments and comments made upon the fact. But what is the fundamental commonplace about it Two million unemployed, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the hon. Members behind him have the assurance to say that the only explanation of that is that they are in Opposition and we are in the Government. They have cloaked it, and they have paraphrased it, but the simple and plain fact is that the claim made by hon. Members opposite is that if they were in the Government and we were in Opposition, there would not be anything like 2,000,000 unemployed. Such a statement is a palpable absurdity. They have their friends, those who share their views to the utmost extent, in Governments in other countries. As a. matter of fact, those countries, governed by their tariff policies, governed by their ideas of economy, and governed by Tory reaction, are in a worse industrial state to-day than we are in this country.
They have talked about certain agreed facts. During the last few months I find, in my reading regarding the condition of affairs and the explanations of why they have come about, that there is a complete agreement, irrespective of party, irrespective of tariff theory, that one of the certain contributors to the unfortunate position in which we find ourselves to-day was the restoration of the 815 gold standard. The gold standard, whatever may be said for it, according to common agreement contributed to the difficulties of our export trade, and by ossifying the money conditions of this country, added very substantially to the increase in unemployment that has happened since. Who is responsible for that?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There is at least one hon. Member whose political knowledge enables him to say that it was our Chancellor of the Exchequer—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Tory intelligence amounts to this, that, if a man assents to it, he is the cause of the change. As a matter of fact, if facts are required, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved a Motion in favour of the postponement of the operation.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Will the hon. Member, before he interrupts, do me the respect of informing himself of the facts?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There is another consideration which is constantly being urged. That is, that some attempt should be made—and this undoubtedly is one of the fundamental reasons for the large volume of unemployment, not only here but elsewhere—to bring into closer relationship the nominal value of money and the real value of money. We have been told from time to time—as a matter of fact, it was contained in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate—that one of the great problems which this country has to face is a reduction in the standard of life of the people. Whether you explain it in terms of wages, or in terms of social services—it can be explained in various ways—substantially and finally, it comes to this, that this country cannot afford to maintain the high standard of life that is now enjoyed. [An HON. MEMBER: 816 "Under present circumstances?"] Yes, under present circumstances. One of the arguments used is that in the Ministry of Labour Gazette it was shown the other day that the unemployment allowances, owing partly only to increases in amounts, but owing mainly to the increased value of money, are nearly double to-day what they were about 1920; and the suggestion is made—it is urged upon us—that we ought to adapt wages and unemployment allowances to meet these circumstances. Do right hon. Gentlemen understand to what course they are committing themselves in urging that policy?
Is the right hon. Gentleman charging me with having made any suggestion of that kind? I beg to say that I said nothing that could possibly bear that interpretation.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I said that that contention was latent in the right hon. Gentleman's argument. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] His argument was very largely based upon the change in the exchange value of money that had remained fixed in its nominal value. It is not only wages that have benefited in this way; incomes from debts, from State debts, have benefited in the same way. Since 1924 the National Debt payments, although nominally remaining the same, have in reality increased by 30 per cent. and I would venture to say to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in the conduct of their propaganda that wages alone cannot be expected and will not agree to making that accommodation unless the accommodation is made all round. "But," said the right hon. Gentleman "I want to propose tariffs in order to avoid that." Tariffs in order to avoid that! If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen want to advance the cause of Tariff Reform that is not an argument which they ought to use. Everyone must know perfectly well that in facing the details of problems, as we are doing, of international markets and international exchange the most difficult point to deal with and the most difficult to counter is the fact that wages are falling in protected countries far more than there is any chance of their falling in this country for a long time. Only last week representations were made to me by Members of a leading industry in this 817 country that they must have Protection because the wages of labour in Germany in their industry had fallen. What is the use of talking about Tariff Reform, of tariffs of any kind helping labour to keep up wages when in not a single country in the world enjoying the blessing of tariffs are wages doing anything except falling?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman ought to be allowed to continue his speech without interruption.
Sir F. HALL
Yes. On a point of Order. The right hon. Gentleman is criticising what has been said—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] What proposal has he to make?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I ask the right hon. Gentleman what he would have done if he had been in office. At the General Election the right hon. Gentleman made promises—[An HON. MEMEER: What did you promise"?]—and he said last year:We pledged ourselves at the last Election that there should be no protective taxation proposed, and that there should be no general tariff. We have kept to that pledge and we renew it.If the right hon. Gentleman had been in office while the unemployment figures were rising from 1,000,000 to 2,000,000, I would like to remind him that he could not in face of his pledges have done one single thing which he now criticises us for not having done. It is perfectly true that on the 21st of October last, in a letter which he wrote to Lord Beaverbrook, the right hon. Gentleman said:You will see from what I have said that I am asking the country to give me a completely free hand to discuss between us all the alternative methods, including taxes on foreign foodstuffs, by which our common object may be achieved.Has the right hon. Gentleman now changed his position? Even now—although I admit that I have not the same right to put a, question to the right 818 hon. Gentleman as he has to put a question to me—I am very much tempted to ask when he moves a Vote of Censure upon the Government on account of the tariff policy—that is the only ground upon which it has been done—-I am very much inclined to ask him now if, in spite of all his revisions of opinion, and all his letters to one neighbour and then to another, and then to an outsider, he really has made up his mind whether he is in favour of the taxation of wheat or not? I repeat that if the right hon. Gentleman had been in office in June last he could not during the intervening period have pursued one item of the policy which he has blamed us for not pursuing in the course of the debate on the Vote of Censure.
There is one point which the right hon. Gentleman has pressed very urgently in the report which has just been published. That is the question of economy—not only the question of economy, for I regard the question as a little bit larger. It is a question of how we are going to get an agreement between all classes who recognise the national need to co-operate in meeting it. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the proposals for a national conference. Can he imagine a national conference representing a thousand and one varieties and differences of trades meeting together, discussing details and coming to arrangements? I cannot. Therefore, the only way to approach this problem is to take trade by trade or groups of trades by groups of trades, and that is being done. So I am glad to find that we are not so far in disagreement on that matter as he seemed to think. There is the question of cotton. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about unemployment"?] I am very sorry, but if hon. Gentlemen do not think this is unemployment, then I pity them. That is being done with trade after trade. Take cotton, for instance. The question of the revival of the cotton trade is a question of co-operation between rival interests, rival organs and capital and labour, and the only way in which that can be done is to bring the trade together in all its various aspects and organs, and get the trade to organise itself.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am very sorry. I am perfectly prepared to stand 819 here and take item after item and Department after Department, and stand any racket to which hon. Gentlemen care to submit me, but I agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that if he would take one part of the time, I should take the other and finish at Eleven o'clock. The hon. Member knows perfectly well what we have done. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nothing!"] There is no man in this House who ought to be more grateful to this Government than the hon. Member. He knows perfectly well that when the last Government went out they were absolutely indifferent to this cotton situation, and that absolutely nothing was done to deal with it till June of last year. [HON. MEMBERS: "What have you done?"] What we have done is to create financial 'assistance for the reorganisation of the trade. We have done everything we could do to bring pressure to bear on the trade to reorganise itself, and upon the plea of the trade itself we have given it time to do the reorganisation. I am bound to say that the experience has not been a very helpful one. If the trade will not reorganise itself, and if members of the trade seem to hold out for financial assistance in order to pay capital that has been lost, and to hold up the reorganisation of the trade in consequence, they are not going to succeed. If the members of the trade imagine that, by holding up reorganisation, they are going to get better terms than they deserve to have on sound economic foundations, they are not going to get those terms. As soon as the trade knows that, I think they will move much more rapidly than they have done, and, if their rapidity of movement is not sufficient, we are prepared to come to this House and ask for powers to make it so. [Interruption.]
I am sorry that the interruptions have taken up so much time, but I must just say a word, although I regret that some of the things that I intended to say have had to be cut out, on the subject of[HON. MEMBERS: "Unemployment"]—the retention of Dominion markets for exports from this country. I listened with great interest to the very delightful description given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite yesterday of inter-
|Division No. 2.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Albery, Irving James||Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)|
§ Dominion relationship. So far as it went, if he will allow me to say so, I agree with every word that he said, but as he was speaking I thought of what would have happened this morning if I had taken down the OFFICIAL REPORT, containing his speech, to one of the Imperial Economic Conferences, and had said, "This is the policy of this Government." I will tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House what would have happened. They would have risen from their places and said, "If this is all that you have to say, we had better go home."
§ We are discussing a programme of mutual helpfulness. But preference is not a formula; preference is a programme of interchange of trade; and, when hon. Members in this House talk about preference, I hope they will face the facts. We get a big order for an English firm. The order is secured; preference makes it possible; and then we discover that, owing to an industrial agreement, they cannot take advantage of the preference, and the order is lost. There are thousands of men in this country at the present time who are out of work on account of industrial agreements made internationally, which have the effect of limiting production in this country and hampering us in our trade. It is not the result of Free Trade, because some of the cases are the subject of safeguarding preferences.
§ I am sorry if I have had to rush my argument. We have seen a Vote of Censure to-day carefully drawn for the purpose of displaying and discovering nothing, a mild Vote of Censure. The fact of the matter is that the Opposition thought that by making an innocuous declaration they would probably catch innocent persons. They have failed. The question which the House has to settle is, is it going to put hon. Members opposite into office in order to try an experiment in Protection which the experience of every country in the world shows is able to do nothing except increase the volume of unemployment? I leave the House to decide.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."825
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Ferguson, Sir John||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Fermoy, Lord||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Fielden, E. B.||O'Connor, T. J.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Fison, F. G. Clavering||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Ford, Sir P. J.||O'Neill, Sir H.|
|Atkinson, C.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Saline-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Peaks, Captain Osbert|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Penny, Sir George|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Balniel, Lord||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Gower, Sir Robert||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Grace, John||Preston, Sir Walter Rueben|
|Berry, Sir George||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Purbrick, R.|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Bird. Ernest Roy||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Remer, John R.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Boyce, H. L.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Ross, Major Ronald D.|
|Bracken, B.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Hammersley, S. S.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hanbury, C.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hartington, Marquess of||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Buchan, John||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Savery, S. S.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Simms, Major-General J.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Butler, R. A.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfast)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Heare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam,|
|Campbell, E. T.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n amp; Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Somerset, Thomas|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hurd, Percy A.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Iveagh, Countess of||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Burton||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Chamberlain Rt. Hn. Sir J.A.(Birm.,W.)||Kedward, R. M. (Kent. Ashford)||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Chamberlain. Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Steel-Maitland. Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Stewart. W. J. (Belfast South)|
|Christle, J. A.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Colfox. Major William Philip||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Train, J.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Cranborne. Viscount||Long, Major Hon. Eric||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Lymington, Viscount||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Wardlaw. Milne, J. S.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Macquisten, F. A.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Dairymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Davidson., Major-General Sir J. H||Marjoribanks, Edward||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Mellor, R. J.||Withers, Sir John James|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Dixey, A. C.||Mitchell-Thomson, Rt, Hon. Sir W.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Mond, Hon. Henry||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Taylst'k)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Eiliot, Major Walter E.||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.M.)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Captain Margesson and Major Sir|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Nelson, Sir Frank||George Hennessy.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Middleton, G.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Mills, J. E.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Milner, Major J.|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C)||Montague, Frederick|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Harbison, T. J.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Hardie, George D.||Morley, Ralph|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Angell, Norman||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Arnott, John||Haycock, A. W.||Mort, D. L.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hayday, Arthur||Moses, J. J. H.|
|Ayles, Walter||Hayes, John Henry||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Treat)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Muff, G.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Barr, James||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Murnin, Hugh|
|Batey, Joseph||Herriotts, J.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Bellamy, Albert||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Hirst, W. (Bradford. South)||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Hoffman, P. C.||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hollins, A.||Oldfield, J. R.|
|Benson, G.||Hopkin, Daniel||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Horrable, J. F.||Palin, John Henry.|
|Bevan, Aneuris (Ebbw Vale)||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Palmer, E. T.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Isaacs, George||Perry, S. F.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neeth)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Phillips, Dr. Marion|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Johnston, Thomas||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Bromfield, William||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Potts, John S.|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, T. I. Nerdy (Pontypridd)||Price, M. P.|
|Brooke, W.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Brothers, M.||Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)||Raynes, W. R.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Kelly, W. T.||Richards, R.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Kennedy, Thomas||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Burgess, F. G.||Kinley, J.||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. V,. R. Elland)||Kirkwood, D.||Ritson, J.|
|Caine, Derwent Hall-||Knight, Holford||Roberts, Rt.Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)|
|Cameron, A. G.||Lang, Gordon||Romeril, H. G.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Lathan, G.||Rowson, Guy|
|Charleton, H. C.||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Chater, Daniel||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Church, Major A. G.||Lawrence, Susan||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)|
|Clarke, J. S.||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, John James||Sandham, E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Leach, W.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lee, Frank (Derby. N.E.)||Scurr, John|
|Compton, Joseph||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Sexton, James|
|Cove, William G.||Leas, J.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Dagger, George||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Dallas, George||Lindley, Fred W.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Shield, George William|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Logan, David Gilbert||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Day, Harry||Longbottom, A. W.||Shinwell, E.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Longden, F.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lovat-Fraser. J. A.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Dickson, T.||Lowth, Thomas||Sinkinson, George|
|Dukes, C.||Lunn, William||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Duncan, Charles||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)|
|Ede, James Chuter||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Edge, Sir William||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Edmunds, J. E.||McElwee, A.||Smith, H. B. Lees. (Keighley)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||McEntee, V. L.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||McGovern, J. (Glasgow, Shettleston)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Egan, W. H.||McKinley, A.||Snell, Harry|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||Mac Laren, Andrew||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Freeman, Peter||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Sorensen, R.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||McShane, John James||Stephen, Campbell|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lanes, Massley)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Gill, T. H.||Mansfield, W.||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe|
|Gillett, George M.||March, S.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Gossling, A. G.||Marcus, M.||Sullivan, J.|
|Gould, F.||Markham, S. F.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Marley, J.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Marshall, Fred||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne).||Mathers, George||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derdy)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Matters, L W.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maxton, James||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Messer, Fred||Tillett, Ben|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Tout, W. J.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Townend, A. E.||Wellock, Wilfred||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Welsh, James (Paisley)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Turner, S.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Vaughan, D. J.||West, F. R.||Wise, E. F.|
|Viant, S. P.||Westwood, Joseph||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Walkden, A. G.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (firm., Ladywood)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Walker, J.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Wallace, H. W.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES. —|
|Wellhead, Richard C.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
|Watkins, F. C.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)||Paling.|
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the tinned Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's House-hold.