§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The object of this Bill is to establish a living wage for all wage earners. I am sorry that an object of such vital importance and such great scope should be left to the responsibility of a private Member. Indeed, I am somewhat surprised that this House of Commons has not previously dealt with this matter and settled it once and for all. I do not know why there has been this disinclination to tackle this problem, unless it be that it is a difficult one; but the fact that it is difficult does not take away from the necessity, and in these days certainly does not diminish the urgency. There is a very wide agreement in this country that the problems of to-day are problems of superabundance, sometimes termed over-production. I am indebted to a pamphlet published by the Manchester and Salford Trades Council—presumably it is the work of its secretary, Mr. Purcell, who used to be a distinguished Member of this House—for a number of quotations showing how widely the view is now held that the problem confronting this country to-day is one of superabundance:It is very extraordinary and very odd' said Mr. Lloyd George in the House of Commons, 'that we should be suffering from the over-production of the things we all want. That seems to be the case now.''The modern world is suffering from the curse of plenty' was how Mr. Winston Churchill described the present situation in his Romanes lecture at Oxford. 'Who could have thought that cheap and abundant supplies of all the commodities should find the science and civilisation of the world unable to use them.''The paradox of impoverishment through plenty is not and cannot he permanent. … The notion that in the nature of things there is a fixed limit to human needs is a mere delusion and will be until the last Hottentot lives like a millionaire' wrote Sir Arthur Salter in a recent article in the Times.'Over production—the demon to be exorcised,' is how the Manchester Guardian described the position in a striking editorial.'I fully share the view that the rate of production of raw materials and machinery 2270 has been out of all proportion to the possibility of their absorption on the world market,' said Mr. Albert Thomas, Director of the International Labour Office.There are a number of other quotations from responsible politicians, from responsible newspapers and from distinguished public figures of all political parties. Although that is now generally accepted as the diagnosis of our national troubles and world economic troubles, each political party in turn, when asked to confront this problem with practical proposals for handling it, says, "Yes, this is our trouble, over-production and under-consumption," but thereupon deliberately turns its back upon that diagnosis and proceeds to devise schemes based on the assumption that the exact contrary is the fact. Each party in its different way proceeds to devise schemes for making production still greater and for making the purchasing power that has to face that increased production still less.
I do not claim that within the scope of a private Member's Bill it is possible for me to deal with this problem completely and fully. The Independent Labour Party, on whose behalf I speak, and on whose behalf I am putting forward this Bill, has, over a series of years, while the problem has been going on, worked out a complete scheme of social reorganisation based on the assumption that over-production and under-consumption are two facts of the present time, and that those two facts have got to be faced. The scheme is wide and all embracing. It involves the necessity of more adequate maintenance for our aged, for widows, for unemployed; it involves the setting up of a new social service to be termed "family allowances"; it involves the national ownership and control of the key industries—banking, power, coal and transport; it involves national control of our import and export trade. But this proposal for a living wage is a pivotal proposal round which all the others are arranged. We claim for our proposals, and for this particular item, that whatever criticisms there may be we at least are doing what none of the other political parties are doing, trying to provide a cure that is in conformity with the diagnosis of the disease; and, however difficult it may be in application, the difficulty has to be faced and has to be solved.
2271 When we are told that there is overproduction we reply that there is only over-production in a relative sense. There is only over-production in comparison with the purchasing power that exists to consume the goods produced. We say that there are masses of our population who, to-day, could be and ought to be consuming far more of all the essential things of life, who require better and more food, better housing accommodation, better furnishing equipment inside their homes, better illumination of those homes, and better sanitation. A large mass of the population are still consuming far less of those things which are regarded as being absolutely necessary to the middle and upper classes of this country. The consumption of all these things requires to be extended. All those goods which to-day are lagging on the market could be effectively disposed of, but the question whether these people will be able to get these additional goods or not depends upon whether the necessary purchasing power goes into their hands.
Recently I was visiting some mining villages in Wales. In one house I went into the wash-house and the people apologised for the fact that there was no wash-hand basin or hot water, because, they said, "you see this is only a miner's house." I have just left my own town of Barrhead, in Scotland, where my intimate friends are practically all engaged in the work of sanitary engineering, making wash-hand basins, baths, water closets and so on. At the present time they are all working short time, and they are just going back to work after the extended Christmas holidays, anxious to make baths, wash-hand basins, and other sanitary equipment. They are also very anxious to get coals for their fires. I leave Barrhead where my friends are unemployed, because there is no demand for baths and wash-hand basins, and I go to South Wales where I find the miners want wash-hand basins and sanitary equipment, and they are unable to get them. These miners are unemployed, because my engineering friends in Barrhead are unable to buy coal.
I know that in these matters the group with which I am associated are accused of being too sentimental, and it is said that our sentiments do credit to our hearts 2272 but no credit to our intelligence. I cannot imagine any man devoting himself to the interests of those who are engaged in this kind of life unless he is moved by deep human emotion. I say that about the Members of all parties, but I think it is a mistake to assume that human wisdom and human intelligence must always be in contradiction, and, if one can find political methods and devices whereby the right sentiment and public wisdom may combine in the right direction, then these are things which should be pursued with great energy and great courage.
I suggest to those people who are so fond of telling us in this House that the right cure for social disease must be very disagreeable and objectionable to large masses of the people that they are very much like my old Scottish schoolmaster friend who said that it did not matter very much what you taught the youngsters as long as the little devils hated it. It is very much like the doctor's patient who thinks that his medicine must be doing him good because it is poisonous stuff to take. Humanity has been driven to act by the goad of starvation, and, if in the future we are going to have a reasonably smooth-running of our social system, we shall have to recognise that the goad of starvation will have to be dispensed with. I hope that the incentive to common effort in the public weal will arise from the driving force of common-sense rather than from the driving force of fear. It is in that general broad spirit that I introduce this Bill to-day. One is tempted to tackle this question bluntly and to introduce a Measure declaring that the income of all the people of the country has to be on such a level, no more and no less, and proceed to reorganise the nation's industries with that object in view.
In drafting this Bill, we have endeavoured to bring within its scope every scrap of machinery that has been devised in the past to deal with this problem and to bring them together and to co-ordinate them. First of all, the nation should decide what is a living wage, having regard to the state of work and production in the country, having regard to the cost of living, having regard to the other demands that necessarily fall upon the national income other than the wages of the workpeople, having regard to what is necessary to maintain human beings in 2273 decent comfort, taking into account costs as they are at the given moment. It proposes, having defined that amount, to use all the machinery available to extend it so that every person working for a livelihood is brought within its scope. It proposes, where it is made abundantly plain that a particular industry, working on its present basis, is unable to pay the living wage out of its own resources, to place in the hands of the Government the power and the duty of stepping in to rearrange the affairs of that industry so that it will be in a position to carry out what is one of its basic duties, and to provide the people who are working in it with a reasonable standard of life.
§ Mr. ALBERY
Will the hon. Member, while he is on his feet, elucidate that point just a little further? Does he mean that the State is to supplement the wages?
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not say that in the Bill, but I can conceive of some one or two absolutely essential industries which it would be necessary for the State to support in various ways, and I do not exclude the possibility of a subsidy, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) was prepared in certain circumstances to contemplate the giving of a subsidy to the coal industry. But the Clause dealing with that matter is very wide indeed, and it might even contemplate the giving to a particular industry of special State protection and support to enable it to put itself on an economic footing.
I do not propose to weary the House by going into the details of the Bill; they are very fully set out in the Memorandum, and are very plainly stated in the Clauses themselves. We first declare what a living wage is going to be and we arrange for the setting up of a Committee which shall define the amount of that living wage at a given moment. We do not contemplate it as being a fixed sum for all time, and we make arrangements in the Bill by which that scale is to be revised periodically, on the assumption that, as the national income rises, as it is bound to do, the incomes of the individual members of the nation should rise pro rata. We proceed to say that this living wage should be extended immediately to all those persons who are engaged in public enterprise of one kind and another. 2274 It might be that very few of those engaged in publicly owned enterprises would receive much benefit from the living wage in the first instance, because it is generally true, though it may not be absolutely true, that, on the whole, public employés are on better standards of remuneration than those who are engaged in what are called unsheltered or competitive industries. There are, however, large numbers of persons in public services, particularly those who are doing absolutely necessary manual work, who to-day are on very low levels of remuneration, even though they are in the public service; and, where that is the case, this Bill lays it down that they should be raised at once to the level of the declared living wage.
Then we say that, alongside publicly-owned enterprises, there are large numbers of undertakings operating with some measure of public support or some measure of statutory standing, and we say, again, that, because their own prosperity is guaranteed and supported with the whole weight of public authority behind it, these also have a special duty to bring the conditions of their workers on to a defensible level; and we lay it down that all those who have public support of this kind—and it will interest hon. Members opposite to notice that I include among such firms or businesses all those who have the benefits of protected industries of one kind and another. It has always seemed to me to be a great defect in the propaganda of hon. and right hon. Members opposite that they always say they want to protect the industry—the abstract industry—but they have never yet brought forward any scheme for protecting what is really the important factor in any industry, that is to say, the men who keep that industry going.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am afraid that the hon. Member has not quite got my point. Safeguarding, so far as I know, in no way protects the wages of the workers whose industries are safeguarded.
Will the hon. Member agree that the safeguarding of an industry, whereby the products of that industry are able to be sold, does in fact assist in giving wages to the workmen, because, if those articles were not sold, then the workmen would not be employed, 2275 and, therefore, safeguarding is of direct benefit to the employés in the industry
§ Mr. MAXTON
If the facts were as stated by my hon. and gallant Friend, the safeguarding of the wages would be, not direct, but indirect. While the enthusiasts who associate with him, if there are any, make the protection of the capital direct and a State duty, neither in any provision that I have yet heard of in this House, nor in any speech by any hon. Member opposite, have I heard of any proposal to put into any safeguarding scheme a direct clause that would protect the wages of the workers. They say, "The benefit that we, the owners, are to have must be direct and guaranteed by law, but, so far as the workers' protection is concerned, they have to depend on our good will, after we have made profits out of the business." The working classes of this country know perfectly well that, when capitalism was most prosperous in this country, when profits were being piled up at an amazing rate, when our surpluses were being exported in the form of capital to the four corners of the globe, the workers were down on the starvation level.
The hon. Member is leaving entirely out of account the operations of the trade unions in regard to wages. The men are protected in that way.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am not leaving out of account the operations of the trade unions at all. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman reads the Bill, he will see that I have been very careful to maintain the trade union function, and to extend it in some directions. But I am bound to face the fact that in this very situation in which we find ourselves to-day, this over-production and under-consumption position in the most vital industries of the country, where the product of the industry is most vital to our national life, like coal, cotton, shipbuilding, wool, engineering, agriculture, and industries which actually keep the nation moving, there the problem of unemployment is one of trade stagnation, and you have exactly the situation which makes it almost hopeless to make an effective struggle to maintain wages.
With regard to the cotton position to-day, which I was endeavouring to get 2276 the House to discuss next week, it is a shocking shame to the people of Britain that these men in Lancashire who, more than in any other part of England, made British capitalism in the last century, should be asked to-day, in their own lives and in their family lives, to shoulder themselves the whole brunt of fighting for the continued existence of England. That is what we are asking them to do. We are saying to them in so many words, "To secure the stability of English commerce, you cotton operatives have to starve." A month ago we said it to the miners. The same to the engineers, the men who are more responsible than any of us for the maintenance of our industrial and economic position in the world. We are asking them themselves to shoulder the responsibility of a battle which ought to be the responsibility of the whole lot of us in combination. Therefore we say that the safeguards and the protection to the worker must not be indirect. They must be definitely there and must be of a statutory nature in supplement of what power the trade unions may have.
We proceed also to make the fullest use of the Fair Wages Clause that is at present in existence, to make it more clear and definite, to extend its operations not merely to those who are fortunate enough to secure direct contracts from the Government or from local governing bodies, but to those who receive contracts from these contractors. Then we proceed to make use of the existing trade boards, the agricultural wages committee and industrial councils where they exist for the establishment of the minimum wage in their particular field of operations. Then we lay it as a duty on the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Labour to set up industrial councils to cover all that large body of workers who have at present no machinery for dealing with their wages at all. In Clause 7 we propose to have set up by the President of the Board of Trade a body to be called the National Industrial Reorganisation Commission whichshall have the powers and duties set out in this section. If after the expiry of one year from the passing of this Act, the minimum rates of wages fixed by the Industrial Council or Trade Board or Agricultural Wages Committee in any industry does not at least correspond with the living wage, 2277 there shall be deemed to be a 'state of emergency' according to the provisions of sub-section (1) of section one of the Emergency Powers Act, 1920; and the National Industrial Reorganisation Commission shall be included among the persons upon whom regulations made by His Majesty in Council, by Order, may confer such powers and duties as His Majesty may deem necessary in accordance with the provisions of subsection (1) of section two of that Act.That, again, makes use of machinery and legislation which is at present in existence. Sub-section (3) saysIn the event of the National Industrial Reorganisation Commission receiving under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, powers in respect of any industry in which the minimum rates of wages do not at least correspond with the living wage, the Commission shall take such steps as it deems necessary to reorganise the industry in order to enable it to pay minimum rates of wages at least corresponding with the level of the living wage.That answers the point that was put to me by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. The powers conferred under the Emergency Powers Act are very wide and sweeping in their scope.
That, I think, will suffice for the presentation of the Bill. I should now like to deal with this argument, which I am sure will be used. In discussing these matters in private, I am always asked "what about foreign competition?" I think this whole question of foreign trade has got completely out of perspective. It has been concentrated on to an extent which has made the part seem much more important than the whole. It has been stated by responsible people to be the fact that, in so far as these things can be accurately estimated, home trade and foreign trade are in a ratio of something like 70 to 30. To concentrate our thoughts on the 30 per cent. to the neglecting of the 70 per cent. is a very bad mistake in thinking which is bound to lead us into many legislative errors.
It seems to me that it is well within the wit of this House to organise its national industries for the home market as its proper aim and object and that foreign trade should be a secondary thing. This is the difference that you have to make between the last century and the present. The foreign trade should only be operated to the extent that is needed to meet the absolutely necessary imports, and, if you work on that principle, then your ratio of 70–30 2278 becomes greater still; your export trade becomes a smaller fraction, and your home market becomes a bigger fraction. In these circumstances, it should not be difficult to devise methods by which your home market is satisfied by the sale of goods at the cost of production, and your foreign market is met, if competitive methods continue indefinitely in the international field, by selling your goods at the price you can get for them. I say that that becomes possible when your foreign trade becomes a relatively small proportion of your total trade.
In conclusion, I want to say that I have no doubt some will ask me where is the money to come from to pay a living wage? I can imagine one of my hon. Friends opposite having it in his mind to put that point when he speaks. My answer is that the living wage for the manual workers has to come out of the same pool out of which comes the living wage that we ourselves get, just exactly out of the same pool, a pool that is periodically emptied by us and periodically filled by the men for whom I am appealing for a living wage.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I beg to second the Motion.
In rising to second this Bill, I have one regret, and it is that in 1931 we should, in this House, be pleading for a living wage for the working-classes of Great Britain, particularly when you remember that it is a, Labour Government which is in control. I am quite sure that the Members of this House will agree with me in theory about the living wage. There are no objections as far as the theory is concerned, because my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has just finished up by stating that we have fixed that principle for ourselves. We have seen to it that we get £400 a year, and a great many are not even satisfied with that, and a great many do not require as much. It might appear to the workpeople for whom we are speaking this morning that we had acted selfishly, but here is an opportunity for us to demonstrate to those whom we represent that, while we have fixed the principle for ourselves, we believe that what is good for us cannot be bad for them, although when I put a question to the Prime Minister on Wednesday, 26th 2279 November, 1930—that is not so very long ago—and asked him when he would find time for the Government to introduce the Bill which we have brought forward to make a reduction of wages in this country illegal, the answer I got was to this effect:Wages, either real or nominal, cannot be fixed by legislation for the wage-earners generally. The Government's policy is to maintain standards of living and secure as equitable a distribution a wealth as is possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1930; col. 1338, Vol. 245.]I would ask the workers of Britain who will read my speech to-day to examine what the Prime Minister has said, that he cannot fix by legislation the wages of the wage-earners generally. We are here to contradict that, for it is against everything for which we Socialists have ever stood, because the Prime Minister, like the rest of us, has told the working-class of Britain that we could pass legislation in the House of Commons to safeguard their wages. There is the miners' minimum wage, and innumerable instances that we could give if time permitted, but we will let that "flea stick to the wall."
I am not greatly concerned about the monetary figure of the living wage, whether it should or should not be fixed at a certain amount which will neither rise nor fall. We ask for some method to be adopted which will ensure that the worker will always have access to the means of a full life. You may tell me that there is not enough coin in the realm, or not enough paper money, but what is to hinder the Members of the Government from devising ways and means to make plenty of coin? What is the Mint there for? And what about paper money? What happened during the War? Your whole system went down like a pack of cards and you declared a moratorium. We were wage slaves in the workshops then. I was a wage slave then, but the workers liberated me from wage slavery and sent me here a free man to stand And defend them against all corners, not to make friends with the rich and powerful in and about this House, not to dine and wine with them, but to fight them on behalf of the class that sent me here.
What happened during the War? Where did Bradbury come from? Where 2280 is he now? Tell me, tell me, where is Bradbury? He must have retired on a living wage. Nobody seemed to know who this man was, not even Lord Inchcape, not even the Prime Minister, not even the ex-Prime Minister. Yet this person came forward and the Government issued paper money, backed by an unknown name, on paper, and caused it to be known that that name had behind it the economic resources of the greatest Empire the sun ever shone on. That was sufficient to give to the working-classes of this country comfort the like of which they never had before and they have never had since. That is where the money came from then and that is where the money could be got for purchasing power now. What is to hinder the present Chancellor of the Exchequer doing something of the sort in this tremendous struggle, which is just as hellish, if not more so, than the so-called Great War. A great war is raging to-day practically in every working-class home in the country, and raging with greater force than during the so-called Great War. The sacrifice of the eldest born in Egypt under the Pharaohs was a bagatelle compared to the suffering and the terrible tragedy that is being enacted in tens of thousands of working-class homes at the moment.
As the father of a working-class family, imbued with all the high ideals of a father, anxious to do the best by his children, struggling in a workshop to find means to give those children the very best that I was able to give them, I found in the midst of that struggle that strikes came along and the chance of being thrown out on the streets, with nobody to defend my children when I was deprived of my natural right, the right to work. That is going on to-day in millions of cases, and that is my reason for saying that the tragedy of soul that is in operation in Britain to-day is worse, a thousand times worse, than during the Great War. I say in all sincerity to those who ask "Where is the money to come from?" what did the Government do during the War? They put out Bradburys. What is to hinder the Chancellor of the Exchequer from doing something of the sort to-day. The great financiers boast of being great patriotic gentlemen and philanthropists, 2281 but the system that they are working at the moment does not fill the bill. There is nothing to hinder the Chancellor of the Exchequer putting out Snowdens instead of Bradburys.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Yes, Kirkwoods. Kirkwood is a name better known in the British Empire than the name of Bradbury was known. The name of the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) might be used, and surely those two names, having the backing of the British Empire and its great economic resources, would be able to get round the situation. We could issue plenty of Bradburys, but call them Snowdens or Churchills. [HON. MEMBERS: "Churchills?"] Yes, I will not quarrel about a name. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has quoted from the greatest authorities in all quarters of the House, all of whom state that there is a shortage of nothing in this country. There is sufficient to give to the people of this country a comfortable living—boots, clothing, shelter, that is, houses, and everything else. It is true that the past year has been the worst year for the building industry in this country and the worst for the last five years in Scotland, and that is under a Labour Government. There is everything that is necessary for the building of tens of thousands of houses. There is no scarcity, no Member of this House will say that there is a scarcity of anything. If there was a shortage of any commodity which was required in the country we should have millions of pounds for the purpose of erecting workshops and factories to produce that commodity. We do not want coins in order that the working-classes may jingle them in their pockets but to enable them to purchase what they have already produced.
What do we find at the moment? As we read the Press for this week we find that there has just been opened at Nice, in the Riveria, a casino erected at a cost of £1,000,000, and the paragraph finishes up with the statement that Nice is filled with American and English visitors. It would be far better if we did not allow it to be possible for men and women in this country to have the power to spend tens of thousands of pounds in gambling. The 2282 coins with which they gamble across the tables at Monte Carlo would be much better employed going across the counters in Selfridges, or in bigger shops up and down the country under the Cooperative Society. There is no shortage. The Government will not be able to burke the question which has been put by the hon. Member for Bridgeton.
Look at the picture, no dream picture, but a picture of actual facts. It is admitted that we have the finest workingmen and women in the world, the greatest asset of this great Empire, the finest raw material in the world. During the war my class in Britain, my trade, the engineers, sacrificed all their trade rights. I asked them not to sacrifice their trade rights, and I was imprisoned and deported for so doing. They were not ours to give away; they were ours to defend. What have the engineers, the shipbuilders, the miners, the cotton operatives, the woollen operatives, the agricultural workers—the working class—got in return? Think of it. Here is the finest race upon which the sun ever shone, which has produced all the wealth in this country, and it is up against it. It is the poorest section of our race, that section that is least able to withstand theslings and arrows of outrageous fortune,the poorest section of the community, which has to bear the brunt of the battle, not the very rich, not the well fed, not those who have had every advantage of education, not those who have had the chance to equip themselves mentally and physically for this terrible struggle, but the poorest section in the community, the ordinary working men.
Think of the wives and mothers in millions of homes, not in Russia but in Britain, in our native land, who are right up against it. The cry rises up to Heaven to-day in tens of thousands of cases: "What am I to do with my boy, what is going to become of him? Is it going to be a case that there is no hope for him? Is he going to be an unemployed man? Is there nothing in front of him but the Employment Exchange?" That is the tragedy, that is the position, to-day in this country. We have pleaded privately, and publicly, here in this House of Commons, which I believe to be the greatest platform in the world, that the powers-that-be would 2283 take a determined stand on behalf of those people who have sent us here to defend them against the ravages of capitalism. I am sorry that the President of the Board of Trade is not in his place.
I intended to see him last night and tell him that I was going to quote him but, unfortunately, I was detained and did not see him. The President of the Board of Trade has said that for the last ten years that the national income of this country has remained at approximately £4,000,000,000, while the wages of the working-class have been reduced by £700,000,000 a year. That shows where the money is, and that is one of the principal reasons for the bad trade and for a great amount of the misery that exists at the moment. You have reduced the purchasing power of 75 per cent. of your customers. The capitalist class is divided into the great industrialists and the great financiers, the men who, the right hon. Member for Epping claims, have all the brains. On one occasion the right hon. Gentleman said that he would as soon think of allowing a child to be in charge of an aeroplane as think of the Labour party becoming the Government of this country. He thinks that the class he represents have all the brains in Britain. It is the brains of the capitalist class of this country that have been in control, and we see the mess they have made of it. Instead of giving the working class a higher purchasing power, they have not only inculcated the idea of a reduction in wages, hut they have at last managed to inflict the microbe on America.
No one knows this better than the ex-Prime Minister. He has seen it in operation in America. The Americans had the idea inculcated in them to spend to their uttermost. Therefore trade in America boomed. Now they have spread the idea through civilisation of a reduction in wages, and not only wages, for they have gone one better with rationalisation, and rationalisation is the policy of the present Government. What does it mean in purchasing power? It means disaster. It is because we fear disaster that we are so anxious about this Bill. For whom are we asking a living wage? For those who by right have a claim to a comfortable life. I am speaking here for the engineers of Britain. It was my 2284 fellow-countryman, James Watt, who made the steam engine of commercial value and so made this great engineering age possible. From that invention has flowed all the great productivity with which we are surrounded to-day. And what is the fate of the engineers? Just the fate of the cotton workers in Lancashire; just the fate of the woollen operatives in Yorkshire; just the fate of the miners and of the agricultural workers all over Britain.
They are the great producing section of the community. They are "up against it" as they were never "up against it" before, and they are "up against it" not because there is famine in the land, but because we have not yet produced statesmen who can see that there is superabundance, who have the courage to face up to the situation and to give to the people the power to buy back what they produce. If there is a shortage is there not plenty of machinery lying idle? Are there not plenty of men and women able and willing to produce, and never more able than now? Is there not idle land fit for cultivation? We have all the resources that are necessary to give a living wage to the people in our islands now—not ten years or two years hence, but now. If the Government of the day has the will it has the power to give to the people a living wage. It is because of these things that I support the Bill.
§ Captain AUSTIN HUDSON
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now", and, at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."
I think everyone was struck with the sincerity with which the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) moved the Second Reading of the Bill. Also I think everyone was struck with how little the Seconder's speech had to do with the Bill in question.
§ Captain HUDSON
What we have to do in this House is not to decide whether or not a living wage shall be given to everyone throughout industry, but whether a Bill of this kind will accomplish that end. It is generally accepted by everyone in the House that as large a wage as is possible should be 2285 paid to every workman. I am moving the rejection of the Bill not because of the object of the Bill, but because of the means taken in the Bill to achieve that object. This is one of the most revolutionary and certainly one of the most extraordinary Bills that I have ever seen brought before the House. That it is revolutionary is not surprising when we consider its parentage. Its father—if I may put it in that way—and its uncles and aunt all come from the Clyde, from the left wing of the Socialist party. The Bill is an awful example of what may happen if anyone takes seriously that mass of vague platitudes called "Labour and the Nation." I looked in that book to find out what it said about the living wage, and, as I expected, it was delightfully vague. Let me quote one passage:The Labour party has always stood for the widest possible application of the policy of the living wage, and for such legislative and industrial changes as may be needed in order to enable it to be carried into practical effect. The Trade Boards Act, under which legally enforcable minimum rates are fixed for more than 1,000,000 workers, must be extended to include within its scope classes of workers who are at present defenceless, and the machinery of inspection, through which the payment of the wages fixed is enforced must be enlarged.They contemplate something very different from what is proposed in this Bill. In their suggestions about a living wage they merely contemplate an extension of the system of trade boards. This Bill goes much beyond that point. In my opinion it is based on two fallacies. The first fallacy is that rates of wages can be raised merely by legislative action in this House, and the second is that an unprosperous industry or business can be made prosperous merely by putting it under State control or under the control of a committee, such as that suggested in Clause 7 of the Bill.
As regards the first fallacy, this Bill lays down how the income of a business or industry is to be divided up, or in other words what the wages of the workman are to be, quite regardless of whether or not that business is making an income which will allow it to pay that wage. The hon. Member for Bridgeton and the supporters of the Bill say in effect, "We want everyone to have a nice large minimum wage." I think that that is generally agreed to be their 2286 view. Then they say, "There is a very simple way of bringing it about. We bring in an Act of Parliament to say that such large minimum wage is to be paid, and there you are." It is very simple. At the present moment we are agreed that the country is suffering from trade's stagnation. I might just as well come to this House with a Bill which I should call the Prosperous Businesses Bill and enact that every industry henceforth must be prosperous. That is exactly what is sought to be done by a Bill of this kind. I have read the Bill carefully from the first line to the last and there is not a single indication of how you are to make an unprosperous business prosperous—in other words where you are to find the money for this increase in the minimum wage. It must be agreed, although it is not expressly stated in the Bill, that that living wage is to be in advance of present minimum wages, otherwise there would be no object in the Bill. Therefore it also results that you have to find some further money in order that this increased wage may be paid. That is the first fallacy—that simply by laying it down in an Act of Parliament you can make every business throughout the country pay increased rates of wages.
The second fallacy is that if a business is not making profits, then merely by putting it under some kind of committee it will immediately become profit-making. I can never understand what the Socialist party mean by legislative proposals of this kind. One of the planks of the party platform is the nationalisation of mines. I have never been able to find out why, if the mines are not paying now—and the books are open to inspection—they should pay just because they are nationalised. The policy of nationalisation would be advanced many stages further by this Bill. There are many Acts of Parliament which can make prosperous businesses unprosperous—that proposition can be laid down with certainty—but there are very few, if any, Acts of Parliament which can make unprosperous businesses prosperous. If men who have spent their lives in the working of a business cannot make it pay, I do not see how any committee can possibly do it for them. The only thing laid down in the Bill on this point is that a National Industrial Reorganisation Commission shall be set up with power under 2287 the Emergency Powers Act to take over those businesses which find themselves unable to pay this living wage. I cannot see how any committee can do that, even if that committee is to consist of three working housewives, three trade unionists and three members of the co-operative society. I do not believe that this Soviet of nine would be more successful in working my business than any other type of persons.
We are told in the Bill—and this is fundamental—what is going to happen to those businesses so taken over under the Emergency Powers Act, if they still fail to pay the living wage. Only one thing can happen. They will have to be closed down and that is one of the reasons why I move the rejection of this Bill. Instead of making the standard of living better, a Bill of this kind, if it ever gained the Statute Book, would throw thousands of people out of work. Those thousands of people would not be able to get unemployment insurance benefit on the same scale as at present because, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton himself said, the whole idea of the Bill is to see that profits do not go to the rich people. Therefore there would be no money coming from taxation to pay these increased amounts of benefit and the result would be, if I may put it in this way, thousands more out of work and a much smaller dole. Turning to the Bill itself, we find that Clause 1 lays down what wages an industry must pay. In a case of this kind, where every sort of consideration must be taken into account, it seems perfectly absurd to determine that the only people who must be on the committee shall be three working housewives, three trade unionists and three members of the co-operative society. The Memorandum to the Bill refers also to competent economists, but there is not a word in the Bill as to competent economists. Further, no difference is made in the Bill between one industry and another. This living wage is apparently to be a flat rate throughout industry.
§ Mr. MAXTON
If the hon. and gallant Member will allow me, may I say that it is very important to me that he should not misrepresent me. Unless he is falling into the very common error of thinking that a minimum wage is a maximum, he has no justification for the 2288 suggestion that this would be a flat rate over the whole of industry.
§ Captain HUDSON
I do not want to misrepresent the hon. Member, but I take it he bears out what I say, that this minimum living wage is a flat rate. That is to say there could be higher rates throughout industry, but there could not be a lower rate. This is to be a comparatively high minimum wage, and no difference is made as between different types of industry. In other words, if an industry was not doing well you might have a position in which it could pay only the minimum wage and the same wage would have to be offered to the skilled engineer and to the dustman.
§ Captain HUDSON
The dustman, perhaps, is an unfortunate! example. That happens to be a sheltered industry.
§ Captain HUDSON
Another point which I think must strike anybody who knows anything about industry at all is that this minimum rate of wages is to be altered every year, and it would be utterly impossible to run a business if every year the minimum wage was reconsidered and might very well be changed. There is nothing laid down here providing that industries should be taken industry by industry. The rate of the living minimum wage is to be altered, merely considering, not the individual income of some business, but the national income and the amount of capital necessary for the national replacement of wasting capital. Therefore, although some particular industry in a particular year might be doing worse than it had ever done before, at the same time its minimum wage might be raised by this body of working housewives, etc. The Bill goes on to explain to whom it is to apply. First of all, it will apply to Government and municipal employés, then Government contractors, and then Safeguarded industries, and I am very glad that the party opposite at last realise that safeguarded industries can pay sufficiently well to be able straight, away to pay better wages.
§ Captain HUDSON
There is no guarantee in this Bill. Industries are singled out by the party opposite for a special rate, because they must be considered as prosperous industries.
§ Captain HUDSON
Then why single them out? Finally, there is something that was not made clear, either by the mover or the seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading. In a very short time every business and industry in this country is to come under this Bill. Why should you start with certain categories and then get on to the ordinary private industries? I do not know. The whole of the industries are then to come under this scheme, and under Clause 7, if within a year they are unable to pay this living wage, they are to be taken over by the National Industrial Reorganisation Commission. Of course, as this Commission will probably know less about it than the present owners of the businesses, hundreds of them—indeed, we might say thousands of them—will have to close down through the Bill, and thousands more people will be thrown out of work.
I think we can say that we on this side, just as much as hon. Members opposite, like good wages. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I think that can be said without contradiction. Good wages make for good work, but the point was made by the hon. Member in moving the Bill that it is utterly impossible to raise wages in this country unless you entirely eliminate foreign competition. Of course, it is. All that will happen with these raised wages will be that the prices of articles will go up, and foreign countries which do not at the moment pay our present minimum wages will be able to flood this market with their goods. That is one of the reasons why we have been asking so many questions, and are so exercised on this side, about the dumping of Russian goods—partly that, and partly humanitarian reasons. If these goods are allowed over here, they must tend, not to heighten, but to lower wages, and the hon. Member who moved the Bill realised this, and in fact said that if this Bill were passed, he 2290 must have national control of imports and exports. I think he is thinking in that connection of completely prohibiting goods made from what is called sweated labour.
You cannot take out of industry more than there is in it at the moment. You may fill the Statute Book with legislation such as this, but you cannot force a business to pay uneconomic wages. If the business is not paying, the money will not be there with which to pay the wages. This Bill is a wonderful example of muddled thinking. It is an absolute triumph of sentiment over common sense. I think that everybody should realise that in the end there is only one way in which you can make a business a success as against a failure, and that is by the individual enterprise both of those who direct it and those who work in it. If that is lacking, that business cannot be made a success; it cannot make any profits, and it cannot pay good wages. Government interference, or Parliamentary control, or control by any kind of commission or committee cannot take its place. They can destroy industry, but they cannot build it up. For these reasons, I move the rejection of the Bill.
§ Sir GERVAIS RENTOUL
I beg to second the Amendment.
The difficulty that I feel in discussing the Bill is to know whether it is really intended to be taken seriously as a constructive legislative proposal, even by those who have brought it forward, or whether it is merely another instance of that subtle and superficially attractive propaganda, which is carried on with so much success, by many hon. Members opposite, in order to appeal to the ignorant, the unthinking, and the unwary outside this House. If the latter is the case, then I must confess that it seems hardly worth while to discuss this matter, even on a Friday, which has come to be regarded in this House as the day of lost causes. But if it is intended to be taken seriously—
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
It is almost equally difficult to understand the point of view of hon. Members who bring forward a proposal that is so opposed to all industrial and commercial experience and so entirely divorced from economic truth 2291 and common sense. We are told that the primary purpose of this Bill is to provide a minimum living wage. We have heard a good deal about the primary purpose of other Bills that have recently come before this House. We heard that the primary purpose of one, among other things, was to kill two birds with one stone. This Bill, apparently, is designed to kill a number of birds, but I fancy that the missile that is proposed will not be a stone, but a boomerang, which is likely to come back and kill those who have brought it forward.
What is really the primary object of the Bill? Is it to suggest that there should be, or that it is possible that there should be, a minimum living wage for all the workers in this country, or is it simply that hon. Members desire to ventilate certain theories of their own, from what the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) considers the best platform in the world? Or can it be that they desire also to try to imitate their own front Bench, because one thing is clear above all else, and that is that the Labour party—not the Independent Labour party—will not have this proposal at any price. In fact, to many of us sitting on this side the main interest will be to observe the attitude adopted by the spokesman of the Government, when presumably he or she comes to address the House later in this Debate. These proposals have often been brought forward. They have frequently been discussed. In fact, this Bill is founded on a pamphlet that was issued some time ago by the Independent Labour party—a pamphlet that is suitably printed on green paper. I do not know whether that is a tribute to the mentality of its authors, or a delicate compliment to the sea-green incorruptibility of the hon Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), but the proposals it contained have often been discussed, and certainly nothing I could say, or anyone on this side of the House could say, in regard to them, would be one-half as severe or one-half as scathing as the criticisms of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other distinguished members of the Government Front Bench. The proposal is for a minimum living wage which is to beat least sufficient to meet the normal needs of the average worker regarded as a 2292 human being living in a civilised community, including the satisfaction of reasonable minimum requirements of health and efficiency, and of cultural life and the provision of reasonable rest and recreation.A pretty comprehensive definition! As I say, it is not a new proposal. The Independent Labour party, I am informed, set up a committee to consider this matter as far back as 1926—a committee to inquire into methods of giving effect to the principle of the living wage. That committee reported in October, 1926, and I would commend to the House the terms of the recommendation that it made in regard to what was described as "a minimum wage standard." The report says:In fixing the living wage, two lines of inquiry must be taken into account—the needs of a civilised life, and what the national income will yield.I invite the House particularly to observe the next phrase.To stimulate industrial reorganisation, the figure should be fixed slightly above industry's capacity to pay.The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs remarked in his speech that he was not particularly concerned about the amount of the living wage. I daresay not. I do not think he need be very much concerned about it, when we know that the recommendation is that it is to be fixed slightly above industry's capacity to pay. I notice, further, that the Independent Labour party pamphlet says:The method of the practical application of the proposals to secure the minimum standard is one very largely of details but it is necessary to point out that the determination a the standard is the essential key to the situation.It is well to observe that, because we know what the determination of the standard is to be, namely, slightly more. Why slightly? If the amount is to be fixed by industry's capacity to pay, it really does not seem to me to matter very much whether it is slightly or a great deal. I can find no parallel to that except the school boy's essay describing the man who fell down the stairs, and, unfortunately, broke his neck "a trifle". What is to be the amount of this minimum wage? The House will notice that those who have spoken in support of this Bill do not condescend to give any indication as to 2293 what, in their opinion, that amount shall be. They say it is to be fixed by a committee. The hon. Member for Bridgeton says that it is to come out of some pool, that remarkably mystic pool in which, apparently, it is possible to go on dipping and dipping, and which never grows any less. But the hon. Member for Bridgeton and his friends have, in fact, although they did not mention it to-day, very carefully considered this question of the amount of the minimum living wage, and they have suggested—and I assume that they have not altered their opinion—that the amount should be not less than £4 a week. That proposal was, in fact, made at a fairly recent Socialist conference. As the amount is to be beyond the capacity of industry to pay, it does not seem to me to matter very much whether it is £4 a week or £8 a week, and, really, I am rather surprised at their moderation.
§ Mr. WISE
The hon. Member appears to be basing his remarks on a wrong assumption. Over 30 per cent. of the national income at the present moment goes to the rentier class and others receiving dividends from War Loan and other fixed interest-bearing securities. That is the fund from which we are expecting to find the amount necessary for the increase of wages.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
I may be very dense, but I am afraid that I cannot follow the argument of the hon. Member. I prefer to take the words in the ordinary meaning which, I think, any person of common sense would put upon them, namely, that the standard is to be fixed slightly beyond the capacity of industry to pay. I am now dealing with the question of what the actual amount of this minimum wage should be. The proposal put forward, not to-day but on other occasions—and I assume that it is a proposal which they stand by—is that that minimum wage should not be less than £4 a week. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has expressed his opinion somewhat forcibly in regard to that proposal, because he has used these words:It never occurred to those responsible for this egregious resolution to make a simple calculation of the cost.Counting the cost does not seem to be the strong suit of some hon. Members 2294 opposite. The Chancellor of the Exchequer went on:If every wage and salaried worker in the country were reduced or raised to a uniform £4 a week, the wages bill would amount to over £4,000,000,000 a year, which is at least £500,000,000 a year more than the total income—wages, salaries, the value of the national product, interest, rents—of the whole country. And I might add, if the Labour Government established a legal minimum wage of £4 a week, that the week after there would be no wages for anyone.Personally, I fail to see how such a state of affairs is going to bring about that increased consuming power to which hon. Members opposite attach so much importance. Therefore, it is quite clear from the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that, at all events, the reasonable minimum requirements of the average worker of this country for health, cultural enjoyment, rest, recreation and so forth, will, perforce, have to be satisfied with a good deal less than a minimum of £4 a week. Therefore, it does occur to me that the three working housewives, the three trade union officials and the three representatives of co-operative societies are going to have their work cut out in arriving at what the proper figure of this minimum wage is to be. The present Prime Minister has no doubt whatever about the value of this proposal, which he describes asa programme of flashy futilities. … crude stuff which does not bear examination and which is often nothing but vain words.I would commend that opinion to hon. Members opposite. I go further, and suggest that this Bill in its essence is a dishonest Measure. Hon. Members opposite never tire of telling us that they have a mandate to represent the working-classes of this country, especially the poorer classes—a proposition from which I entirely dissent. If that be the case, it is not very creditable to throw dust in the eyes of the poorer and more unfortunate classes by introducing Measures of this kind. For example, Clause 1 states that a living wage is to be laid down and determined in the manner provided within three months of the passing of the Bill. Hon. Members know perfectly well that that is impossible. If they trouble to think about the situation for a moment, they will know that the collection of the data necessary in order to arrive at a reasonable and proper 2295 figure, such as the nation and industry could afford, would probably take years, because it would involve the investigation of the circumstances of every industry in the country.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I would like the hon. and learned Gentleman to admit that those who do the work of the country have a right to a living wage, and that if the country cannot afford to give them a living wage no one ought to be able to live in luxury.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
With all respect to the hon. Member, I fail to appreciate the relevance of his interruption to the point which I was endeavouring to make—even if I admitted the principle of the hon. Member—as to the amount of time that would be involved in arriving at a proper and reasonable and living wage. I was suggesting, what the hon. Member, if he thinks about this matter, must know as well as anyone in the House, that it is absurd and altogether deceiving to talk about it being possible within three months to lay down a minimum wage for all adult workers. I would refer the hon. Member to the words of the Independent Labour Party pamphlet.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
It was highly commended by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said that it was moderate.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
On page 6 are these words:We all agree that a general levelling up must take place, but an immediate universal standard minimum wage would seem to involve fixing a minimum so low as to be socially and political indefensible and useless in most trades. Or, if it were fixed at a satisfactory figure, it might involve in the present circumstances dismissals or closing down businesses of subsidies for whole trades or for individual businesses which claimed that they could not afford the minimum.1.0 p.m.
Having regard to the opinion expressed in that pamphlet, I again submit that it is dishonest to deceive the workers, and particularly the poorer classes, those who are facing the greatest difficulties, by telling them that this can be done in three months.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
I did not interrupt the hon. Gentleman during his speech, and I never do interrupt hon. Members, however much I may disagree with them.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
It is really impossible to define a living wage satisfactorily. I notice in the Memorandum to the Bill a reference to the fact that a definition would be based on Australian and other models. I wondered what these Australian precedents were, and I have looked some of them up. They consist of general definitions of the vaguest and most illusory kind. For example, in 1905 Mr. Justice Heydon, a distinguished Australian judge, defined it in this way:enough to enable the worker to lead a human life, to marry, and bring up a family and maintain them and himself with, at any rate, some small degree of comfort.I do not know whether that will be accepted as a satisfactory definition. In the West Australian Act of 1912, it is described as such as would allow the recipientto live in reasonable comfort.The South Australian Industrial Arbitration Act of 1912 described it assufficient for the normal and reasonable needs of an average employee in the locality where the work is to be done.In the Queensland Act of 1916 the definition isfair average standard of comfort having regard to the conditions of living
§ Miss RATHBONE
The definitions which the hon. and learned Gentleman is reading are not what actually guide the courts of Australia. It is well known that what has actually guided them in fixing the minimum wage during the last ten years is the Harvester Judgment, which was an estimated amount which would maintain a man, a wife, and three children. That is the practice in most of the States in Australia, and in some the standard is a man, wife, and two children.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
I am obliged to the hon. Member for her interruption. I am trying to discover what are the Australian precedents to which we are 2297 referred in the Memorandum to the Bill. There does not seem to be a great deal of help obtainable from Australia. In none of the definitions is there anything about civilised communities—which in itself is an extraordinarily difficult thing to define—or about cultural life, or matters of that kind. The wage is to be determined by three working housewives, three trade union officials, and three representatives of co-operative societies. It will be noted that nothing is said about representatives of employers, who would have to pay the wages.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
I do not know whether it is compatible with the hon. Member's sense of justice that a committee should be established in order to consider a vital question of this kind on which those who would be directly affected were not to be represented.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
Will the hon. and and learned Gentleman read the Clause. It says:shall include among its members
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
I should have thought that in all fairness, if representatives of housewives, trade union officials, and co-operative societies were to sit on the committee, some representation should expressly be provided for the persons who would be the most vitally affected in one way, namely, those who would have to provide the funds from which the minimum wage would have to come. There is a reference in the Memorandum to the Bill to competent economists serving on this committee. Attention has been called to the fact that in the Bill itself that is not repeated. Probably it is wise to have made that omission, because I think most of us would be extremely interested to meet any of those competent economists who would be willing to serve on a committee in order to set up a minimum wage that is to be beyond the capacity of industry to pay.
2298 I say, furthermore, that this is a dishonest Bill in the camouflaged references it makes to the fair wages clause. It talks about the extension of the fair wages clause to other industries. The fair wages clause provides for the payment of rates of wages and for the observance of hours of labour not less favourable than those commonly recognised by employers and trade societies in the trades in the district where the work is carried out. In other words, the whole basis of it is in the economic conditions, the particular conditions prevailing in a particular trade, and not only in a particular trade but in a particular locality or area. There is nothing in the fair wages clause providing for the payment of wages slightly or even greatly in excess of the capacity of the industry to pay. This Bill from first to last has nothing whatever to do with the general economic conditions.
In Clause 7 we are told that if any employer does not comply with the minimum wage, whatever it may be fixed at, within a year, then his business is to be taken over and reorganised; and we are now told—and I was very much interested to hear it—by the hon. Member for Bridgeton, that what is contemplated under Clause 7 are subsidies. I venture to suggest that it would not be competent for subsidies to be granted under the provisions of Clause 7, because what is said there is that this industrial commission shall take such steps as it thinks necessary to reorganise the industry in order to enable it to pay minimum rates at least corresponding with the level of the living wage. Therefore, under the express wording of his own Bill, subsidies would be ruled out. So it is useless for him to say that the way in which that Clause would be put into effect would be by the payment of subsidies. I daresay that what he and some of his friends may have in mind is that an industry, if unable to pay, is to be taken over and subsidised by the State, and that is the very mischief to which we mainly object. I am told that if it does not pay under private enterprise, after you have brought it to bankruptcy, after you have driven the employers, who have knowledge And experience, out of it altogether, that then this industrial commission is to undertake to run that business and to reorganise it, bringing into play 2299 the immense organising skill and ability and experience, presumably, of the hon. Member for Bridgeton and some of those associated with him. Speaking for myself, I have no confidence whatever in the prospect, and it is for that reason, among others, that I desire to oppose the Bill.
§ Mr. JAMES HALL
In seeking the indulgence of the House, I feel almost inclined to quote a story that was told by the late Will Crooks some years ago when he introduced a Minimum Wage Bill; but as there is every possibility that that story may still be in the minds of hon. Members, I shall content myself with merely touching on the moral that can be drawn from it. Will Crooks did show that the philosophy of the girl in the working-class home had made her realise in early life the inequality of the distribution of wealth. She said, speaking to the doctor, "Well, God may send the loaves to you; he only sends us the mouths." There is, indeed, a real tragedy in the lives of a number of the working class people on account of the unequal distribution of wealth. One does not need to be a mere tyro in social questions to realise that the poorest paid workers are essential to the maintenance of the fabric of society. It has been said that a dustman ought not to expect to get the wage of an engineer, but I submit that industry has a right to maintain a man, whatever may be the particular piece of work he is doing, because whatever the character of the work he is rendering a service to the community, and the community ought to reciprocate because of the work he does. The interdependence between various sections of society has already been pointed out in this Debate. I submit that agricultural workers and others who are generally regarded as coming under the term "unskilled" are condemned to a life of poverty simply because, for some unknown reason, it is believed that such people must always live on the line of poverty and destitution.
Since I have had the privilege of sitting in this House I have noticed that questions asked from the benches opposite reveal the fact that there are in this land of ours cities of the rich which know nothing of the conditions that operate in 2300 the cities of the poor. I feel sometimes that Kensington people may have a much greater knowledge of poverty in Paris than in Poplar. I sometimes think the picturesque poverty of Italy and other Continental countries may be much better known to and may have a charm for Westminster such as Whitechapel, Glasgow and South Wales will never possess for them. Listening to interminable questions relating to alleged slave conditions in Russia, I have felt that if only such deep concern and enthusiasm could be applied nearer home, if we could get a focussing of opinion upon the tragedies of life here, we should realise that there are people living in this country under conditions of hopelessness and despair which are almost comparable with those under slave conditions.
We have witnessed quite recently attacks on wages, particularly on the wages of the miners, and we are witnessing an attack on the wage standards of the railwaymen. I submit that, although we have not ascertained the figure that is hoped for as the result of the operation of this Bill, quite a number of railwaymen are to be forced to a position beneath the border line of the living wage Clause. The action that was taken by the mine owners, and is now being taken by the railway managers, is dictated by the serious position of both the mines and the railways. If I had my way I would nationalise both those industries at what appears to be the admitted bankrupt state of those two concerns, and the price I would be prepared to pay would be the bankruptcy price. The transference should be fixed on those lines, so that it should be possible so to reorganise those industries that both miners and railwaymen might get a living wage.
It may be difficult until the ascertained figure is arrived at to decide exactly what is a living wage, and without wishing to be hypercritical I suggest that as far as my understanding of the Bill is concerned they do not appear to have taken into consideration that a living wage standard must necessarily differ according to localities because of the varying factors that will operate. I take it that the inference is that when the committee gets to work, those considerations will be taken into account. Hon. Members have asked for a more clear definition of a living wage. If I might 2301 be allowed to attempt a short definition, I should say that it ought to be a wage sufficient to maintain existence, plus efficiency. The conditions that exist to-day are such that, to a very large extent, men are expected to work for a wage which is quite insufficient to maintain themselves. In these circumstances we are placing upon the children an unfair disadvantage, because mothers and fathers are very often called upon to bring up a family upon a wage which is not sufficient for their minimum needs, or to provide even the minimum necessaries of life.
It really is the ruthless law of the survival of the fittest under which the children that are the weakest die, and those strong enough to live are predestined to illness and are unable to develop along the lines that would have been possible had they been surrounded by proper sanitary conditions, and the amenities of life which mean so much in the development of the life of a child. In my judgment, those sections of industry which do not pay a living wage are parasites on the community, because they militate to the disadvantage of those who would otherwise pay a decent wage. This undermines the intelligence of the workers, and creates a condition of life which throws an unfair burden on people in times of sickness and ill-health. I feel that sooner or later this country will be forced to reconsider the question of wages, and establish a minimum wage which will ensure a fair standard of living.
Recently we have been considering the question of trade unions, and one must realise that less than a century ago it was impossible for the workers even to voice their grievances. There used to be harsh and repressive measures taken against workers talking together concerning the difficulties under which they lived, and it was possible for men to be punished and transported if they dared to do those things. Since those days the standard of life has gradually been improved, and I want to say that that improved standard has synchronised with the development of trade unions. When one considers the fact that between 1920 and 1925 there were 11 Bills introduced by Tory Members of this House to reorganise trade unions, one wonders how far hon. Members opposite are anxious to 2302 assist in the development of the people of this country, as we are anxious to develop them.
In my own judgment the captains of industry to-day are concerned entirely with the question of profits, and in all these industrial concerns the principal aim is the possibility of making increased profits. If we are to have equity and justice introduced into the relationships between employers and workers, then a living wage standard is the first step towards doing such an act of justice. The first charge on industry should be the development and the creation of a living wage standard.
§ Major SALMON
Reference has been made by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) to the importance of the discussion in this House of the urgent matters to be dealt with on Wednesday next when, he said, the House would be occupied in an academic discussion. It occurs to me that to-day the hon. Member for Bridgeton might have used the time of the House to far better advantage discussing the question of how to help the unemployed than introducing a Bill which is called a Living Wage Bill, but which, in my view, ought to be called the Killing of Industry Bill. Anyone who studies this Bill will find that there is no regard paid to the possibility of what industry could do to meet the points provided for in the Bill. I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Bridgeton say that 70 per cent. of the trade was home and 30 per cent. was foreign and that in his view it would be better to have a larger percentage of home trade.
§ Mr. MAXTON
That is only very rough. What I said was that exports should be limited to what is necessary to pay for the imports.
§ Major SALMON
The point that I want to make is that at the present moment we have in this country a very large number of persons unemployed, and we find that there are two reasons for that fact. In the first place, we are not able to manufacture goods at a price competitive with that of foreign goods—[Interruption.] There are sent to this country year by year huge quantities of manufactured goods, worth from £200,000,000 to £300,000,000, which could just as well be made here. Instead of those goods being made here, they come here from abroad, and we are not finding 2303 work in our factories, so that, consequently, we have unemployment.
Let us try to look at this matter from a business point of view. How is it possible, by increasing wages, to find increased work for our people? The cost of living to-day is lower than it has been for years; unemployment is greater than it has been for years; trade is more difficult to get than it has been for years; and yet the hon. Gentleman comes here and suggests that we should, nevertheless, increase wages. That does not strike me as being a very practical suggestion for dealing with the problem which faces us to-day. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have come along with something that was of more real use to the workers of this country. There is no doubt that we have to face certain definite facts, and, although I do not like using the word, it is very dishonest to preach up and down the country to people who do not think, who do not give great heed to the real position of affairs, that, notwithstanding the fact that we have to-day in this country 2,000,000 unemployed, the country can afford to pay more wages than are being paid. That is a statement which has no right to be made by men who occupy the position of the proposer of this Bill, because it cannot be carried into practice. We are told that Australia is the basis upon which this Bill is built. It is a Living Wage Bill, and the Memorandum attached to it says:Clause 1 gives a definition of the minimum living wage—based partly on Australia and other precedents.Surely, we ought to benefit by other people's experience. The very unsatisfactory financial condition of Australia to-day is largely, in my opinion, due to the fact that far more money is being paid under the heading of wages than the country can afford. [Interruption.] It is purely a matter of opinion, but my view is that one of the main reasons why Australia and other Colonies are suffering so severely internally is that wages are not at an economic figure.
§ Major SALMON
I only mention Australia because the proposer of this Bill refers to the precedent that he wishes 2304 to follow in fixing a living wage. I suggest that it is rather an unfortunate example. Personally, from the day when a living wage was prescribed in Australia I thought it inevitable that there would be great trouble financially, because you cannot afford to pay more for manufacturing an article than you can get for it, and that is exactly the position in Australia to-day. I believe that this Bill, if it were passed, would have the effect, not of reducing, but of increasing unemployment, because it would add to the cost of production. The hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. J. Hall) referred to the question of our being a C.3 nation. I would remind him that the mortality rate in this country is lower than it has ever been in our history, and I think that, taken as a whole, the people here are living under much better conditions than are the people of any other country in the world. Our social services are better, our hours of work are less, and our wages are higher than in the case of any of our competitors—
§ Mr. J. HALL
Is it not true to say that from the benches opposite there is a general attack on the social services which are being developed on this side?
§ Major SALMON
I was discussing the question of the conditions in this country, which I think compare very favourably with those in any other country in the world.
§ Major SALMON
It also applies to the catering trade. Sometimes a little knowledge is dangerous. The hon. Gentleman who keeps interrupting presumably has very little knowledge, or he would not interrupt in the way that he does in that connection. To come back to the real position that is before us, hon. Gentlemen opposite are no more anxious than those who sit on this side to do the best that it is possible to do for labour. I have always held that capital and labour, to be successful, must co-operate together. It is, however, distinctly futile to talk of 2305 what can be done for industry by introducing legislation such as is here proposed. Speaking of trade boards, you Cave there the opportunity of dealing with what the industry can afford, and it enables the employer and the employé to discuss all the intricacies of any particular industry—
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The hon. and gallant Member is talking about trade boards, but he himself is one of those who refuse to have any trade board in the catering trade. What about Lyons, who pay their girls 15s. a week? The hon. and gallant Member should be ashamed to rise in this Chamber and make a statement like that.
§ Major SALMON
I am a little surprised at the hon. Member's interruption, although, perhaps, one need not be surprised after listening to his speech in seconding this Bill to-day. We heard a great many fine words and a great deal of rhetoric, which, however, really had no relevance to the Bill. The hon. Member's interruption at the moment is very similar to his speech in seconding the Bill. He never referred to the Bill, but said that this would be a very good place to advertise it. I am not here to do that., nor do I desire to deal with it on the lines that the interrupter has suggested. You have in this country to-day all the machinery that is necessary, and all those who have studied trade boards as a policy—I am not discussing any particular industry—will understand that it has taken, for industry alone, a considerable time to arrive at an equitable figure as a minimum rate. Both sides were satisfied also that there was a limit to what industry could afford. Surely no greater proof could be brought home than is afforded by the Coal Mines Bill. It was shown on investigation that the industry could only afford a certain figure, and that it could not reduce the hours from eight to seven and at the same time sell the commodity at competitive prices, and it was necessary for the Government to take powers to say how much coal should be sold and at what price. That was controlling it simply so as to meet, as far as they could, some electioneering promise that had rashly been made. I only give that as an example to show that it is no use thinking you can easily pro- 2306 pose a Bill in Parliament and suggest that industry can afford this or some other figure. You have to take each industry on its own and investigate it from all angles if you really want to do the people of the country a good turn.
The greatest disservice that could be done to the workers of the country would be to pass such a Bill as this. In my view, unemployment is nothing in comparison to what it would be if such a Bill were passed. I delight in listening to the hon. Member because, as a rule, he makes very excellent speeches, but when he says that it is not necessary to do an export trade and that we have no need to worry about it so long as we have good spending power at home, I cannot for the life of me follow him, nor do I believe that, when he gets down to it, he himself can justify some of the suggestions that have been made in the Bill. In reviewing the Bill he has not said what a living wage should be. He suggests that three housewives, the co-operative societies, and three trade unions should settle what the living wage should be.
§ Major SALMON
Why should it be necessary specifically to mention those housewives, trade unions, and co-operative societies, and ignore entirely the persons who ought to know something about the industry that is going to be considered? That is a mentality that I cannot understand. No doubt the matter has had years of consideration by the Independent Labour party, and one would have thought they would provide a figure Which they would consider a living wage figure. But they would rather criticise others as to what is a living wage figure than come out in the open and suggest it themselves. The moment they did that they would find how impracticable their suggestions are. If the existing minimum wage figures in the respective industries were sufficient, the introduction of the Bill would not be necessary. A minimum wage would have a maximum and, as soon as you fix a minimum wage, you are going to place everyone on the same level and to put a premium on laziness and incompetence.
§ Major SALMON
I have not the capacity of putting it across the House or the public like the hon. Member.
§ Major SALMON
I should like to have a, Scotch accent. The cost of living has steadily gone down in the last year. Unfortunately, unemployment has increased, and industry has not been able to find enough jobs at the present wages. How would it be possible, if wages were higher, to find more jobs? That is a position that hon. Members have to face. We have far too much sentiment in this matter. We want to come to practical business and economic facts, and, if hon. Members would deal with them, as they have not attempted to do up to now, in detail as to how it could be worked, it would be very interesting to listen to them. I congratulate the hon. Member who made his maiden speed. It was very charming. There were many points in it with which I agreed and obviously some with which I did not agree. I noticed he referred to certain omissions from the Bill which he thought would in time be remedied, but I am not quite so sure that those omissions were merely accidental. The House and the country would be ill-advised to pass such a Bill as this. If they did, instead of finding more work, they would increase unemployment and would do the country now and in the future irreparable damage.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LAW
I am very pleased to have the opportunity of speaking after the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Harrow (Major Salmon). I want to deal with the point he raised when he said that it was absolutely necessary that we should export commodities in order to pay for our imports. The position in our Lancashire cotton trade proves that the people who are making profits abroad are those in Lancashire. If one looks back a hundred years into the history of our trade, he will realise that it was founded on sweated labour. Children were brought over from Ireland, and taken out of workhouses and various other institutions in order to provide cheap labour for the cotton trade. As the trade has progressed and made profits—I am speaking of my experience of nearly 40 years—I have seen great engineering 2308 firms in Lancashire who make cotton machinery export that machinery to foreign countries. Mills have been built abroad in many cases by employers and capitalists in Lancashire who have made wealth in their own county, and the commodities which are now coming into this country from foreign countries are in the form of interest upon English money invested abroad.
Let me test it. Government documents prove that there is round about £5,000,000,000 owned by people in this country which is invested in foreign countries. The Board of Trade Journal dated 6th March, 1930, stated that in 1927 the excess of imports over exports was £386,000,000, in 1928 £352,000,000, and in 1929 £385,000,000. Thus, during those three years alone—the latest figures available—there, was £1,111,000,000 worth of imports more than exports to pay interest on English money invested in other countries. If any man can devise a plan for making it possible to find markets abroad in order to keep our people at work by sending cotton and other materials abroad to pay for imports it will simply mean that these people, of whom I speak, will not get their interest. It has been said that £20,000,000 worth of textile goods came into this country last year, and this fact is used as an argument that the wages of our people in this country must come down in order to meet the foreign competition which is due to low-wage-labour. But the £20,000,000 of manufactured goods imported into this country is in the form of interest to Lancashire magnates and others which has been earned in other countries. They brought child labour from Ireland, and from the workhouses and institutions of this country in the early days of cotton. At one time a distinguished Member of this House, Michael Davitt, was brought from Ireland to Lancashire by his father and mother. I have the honour, when I am in my division, of frequently visiting the house which was at one time the abode of Mr. Davitt. Large profits were made out of sweated labour in Lancashire, and these people and Lancashire textile machinery makers exported machinery to foreign countries so as to enable use to be made of sweated labour in other countries, because our trade unions had made attempts, not altogether successfully, to raise the wage standard in order to meet 2309 the ordinary requirements of life. Capital goes abroad where there is sweated labour, and we are now being asked to work more looms in order to reduce the cost of production.
Fifty per cent. of the workers are out of employment at the moment, and more and more are being thrown out of work. The only solution of the problem is State intervention in order to save the working-classes of this country from capitalist machinations such as I have mentioned. Surely, there is a nucleus of money to enable this to be done. It is not an unfair suggestion but elementary justice that some part of the interest upon money got out of cheap capital in Lancashire in years gone by should go into a common fund to help to subsidise such a proposal. It may not, at the moment be practicable, but I am confident that if people would set to work and draft a scheme to give back to the people of our day and generation some of the interest on the money that their forefathers earned and invested in other countries it would only be elementary justice. Last year there was £512,000,000 paid in interest to people in this country on account of money invested abroad and for services.
The ships owned by our shipping companies, somewhere near half the total shipping of the world, sail across the seas taking and bringing commodities, as the case may be. We will assume, for the sake of argument that a firm in the Argentine are sending meat across to this country. They do not pay the shipping companies in this country money for those services. The ships return with commodities of some description, and certain sums are credited to the account of the shipping company through the banks. The Board of Trade figures to which I have referred also show that there was a total of £512,000,000 brought into this country last year in raw materials and finished articles to pay the interest and other services rendered by our own people.
I will quote a case in order to show that the game is still going on. It consists of an extract from the Manchester "Daily Dispatch", of 8th August, 1930, which states that a mill at Heywood in Lancashire, which, owing to cheap labour abroad was not able to run successfully, was being dismantled. A mill of 6,000 2310 ring spindles, with all the machinery and engines, at the Albert New Mill and the Gregge Street Mill, Hopwood, was to be sent abroad where there was cheaper labour than could be obtained in Lancashire. Owing to foreign competition, so-called, which is our own competition in the main, bringing down the price of commodities, no Safeguarding or Protection could solve the difficulty. These are the same people. Wages must come down in Lancashire. Now they have got wages as low as it is humanly possible. There are weavers in my Division working six days a week for £1 2s. They have got wages as low as possible, and it would seem that they cannot reduce them much lower. They are, however, instituting a further plan. They are doubling the looms and sacking every other man, reducing the wages of operatives from £2 6s. for four looms to £2 11s. for eight looms. That is the position. I heartily support this Bill. One admits, perhaps, that as this House is constituted it cannot carry out this proposal, but I am confident that the day is not far distant when a Bill of this description will be absolutely necessary to save our people from starvation and degradation.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I am in warm sympathy, as many hon. Members who sit opposite realise, with the spirit which underlies this proposal. I even hold a view which I do not think is very common in this House, that the philosophy of those who follow the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) is based upon a much sounder foundation of economics than most of us in this House realise. But I think that, intentionally or unintentionally, the hon. Member for Bridgeton has glided slightly over a rock, which, on reflection, he must realise would split his Bill, if there were any deliberate attempt to bring it into operation. Let us imagine that the Bill becomes law and that this organisation is set up to determine the living wage. What is the first difficulty with which they would meet? The minimum wage is to bea wage at least sufficient to meet the normal needs of the average worker, regarded as a human being living in a civilised community, including the satisfaction of reasonable minimum requirements, of health and efficiency and of cultural life and the provision of reasonable rest and recreation".2311 Will the minimum wage, however, be based on the needs of the worker, or on the needs of the worker and his family? That is not stated in the Bill but I think the answer to the question is clearly indicated by the fact that the committee which is to determine the living wage is to include three housewives. I am sure it is not expected that three housewives would agree to any living wage which provided the wage-earner with all these things, with the requirements of "health, efficiency and cultural life" and "reasonable rest and recreation" but expected him to provide for his wife and family out of what he could pinch off his share of these amenities. Quite clearly the living wage, if it comes, is going to be a family wage.
Then comes the next difficulty. What kind of family? What size family? There, I have no doubt, that this committee would do what has been done by all other bodies which have tried to estimate a living wage in actual terms of pounds, shillings and pence. They would probably found it on a supposed standard normal family of man, wife and three children. What would be the result? One is able to estimate precisely what the result would be if it had been done at the moment when the last Census was taken. I do not think that anyone has denied the figures which I put forward four years ago and which showed the actual result of paying a living wage at the time of the last Census, based on the needs of that type of family, would have been to provide for 16,500,000 imaginery children, while leaving about 60 per cent. of the real children unsatisfactorily or insufficiently provided for for five years and upwards of their childhood. I do not think that any wage could be called a living wage which failed to provide for the needs of those who had to live upon it.
There is another result which I do not think has even been denied by anyone who has studied the figures. If you were to attempt to work out such a living wage, even leaving out of account the children in families of more than three, who form the majority of the children in the community, at the time of the last Census, even if you limited it to the one type of family, and, if you fixed it at a figure 2312 which would be acceptable to the kind of committee which it is proposed here to set up or any other committee which would be likely to be set up, it would reach a figure so enormous as to make it quite impracticable to pay that wage. I do not know whether those responsible for the Bill deny the figures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who declared that if the figure fixed were £4, it would eat up the entire national income.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I will come to that point later. I wish to refer, at the moment, to the result of the same calculation in Australia. There, a body was set up on similar lines to the body contemplated under this Bill. It was composed of three representatives of the great federation of employers organisations, and three representatives of the federation of trade unions. There was no housewife I regret to say. That body worked for a long time and produced a unanimous report. They fixed what the wage should be to provide for this supposed normal family, and they reported to the Federal Commonwealth Government. Immediately the State Statistician was asked to give his opinion and his opinion was that it would swallow up the entire produced wealth of Australia. A similar calculation made in the United States showed that a wage which would be acceptable to American workmen, based on American standards, for the same type of five-member family, would swallow up 82 per cent. of the entire produced wealth of America leaving only 18 per cent. for all the purposes of Government for the provision of wages above the standard and so forth. But there is worse. This calculation only supposes that this wage should be paid as a minimum wage to all male adults. In the Bill nothing is said about different wages for men and women. If the minimum wage is to be a five-member family wage, and is to be paid to adult women as well as men, then you nearly double the amount required. The supporters of the Bill have assured us that it is not to be a maximum wage but is to be a minimum wage. Do they seriously say that there is money enough in this community to pay a five-member family wage to all adult men and women in the community leaving a margin to provide for higher standards of remuneration? I suggest that they do not 2313 seriously imagine anything of the sort. I believe that the Hon. Member for Bridgeton is indulging in that form of argument known as the reductio ad absurdum. He wants to show the situation with which Parliament would be faced and with which his own party would be faced, if they endeavoured to introduce a minimum wage unaccompanied by family allowances.
§ Miss RATHBONE
It could be brought within the scope of the Bill by altering the Title. There is nothing whatever in the Rules of Order against producing a Bill to provide both for a living wage and for family allowances and calling it by the name which the party opposite invented—a Living Income Bill. Thus you would be able to bring in both the standard wage and the possibility of supplementing it by family allowances. I wish to call attention to the difference which that would make. In the first place, instead of being faced with an arithmetical absurdity you would he faced with arithmetical and economical possibilities. I do not know of any figures—I do not believe that figures have ever been calculated—attempting to show that there would be any impossibility about paying an adequate minimum wage, based on a fairly satisfactory standard of life for two adults—that is assuming that every man, if he had not a wife, had a mother or a landlady or somebody else to look after him. Assume the minimum wage to be a two-member family wage and then provide for the children by family allowances. I am not prepared to assert that this would be the best way of providing for minimum wages and family allowances, but I wish to point out that those who are making the proposal now before the House, have made their case appear much worse than it is by basing it on something which they know in their hearts is not really practicable or possible.
I have here the original pamphlet on which the Bill is drafted, and it says quite definitely that the minimum wage should provide amongst 2314 other things for the unit of a man and wife. That is the unit in the Bill, with family allowances.
§ Miss RATHBONE
That may be the intention of the Bill, and I am glad to hear that it is in the minds of the promoters, but is it satisfactory to begin by securing a minimum wage for a man and wife and make no provision for the children?
§ Miss RATHBONE
This Bill would be better propaganda if it contained the whole of the case, and not that part of the case which is quite inadmissible without the other part. I want to point out the difference there would be if the suggestion that the normal wage should be based on the needs of two persons is considered apart from the question of family allowances. What would be the immediate effect on the economic situation if we were able to supplement a living wage by family allowances? The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) laid stress upon what I believe the difficulty of the present situation, although I do not describe it, as he did, as overproduction. I prefer to call it the excess of productive power in the community as compared with the effective demand for consumable commodities. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the difference?"] Let us suppose that we had a system of a, living wage supplemented by family allowances. I think the promoters of the Bill are perfectly right in saying that it would give an enormous stimulus to the wheels of production, and I claim that I have behind me, economic authorities which hon. Members on this side of the House will be much more likely to respect than the authorities referred to by hon. Members opposite.
Many of us no doubt listened to Mr. Maynard Keynes on the wireless the other evening when he told us that this was the time for spending, not for saving, and urged all housewives to go forth and spend and replenish their stocks of household goods. It would have been interesting to picture the feelings of the fathers of families when listening to such advice. Suppose the housewives had taken that advice. It would have meant, no doubt, 2315 that many legitimate necessaries would have been bought, but it would also have given an enormous stimulus to purchases of quite unnecessary luxuries. Suppose Mr. Maynard Keynes had said something like this—At present there is need for something to stimulate those productive industries that are engaged in the production of necessaries and I suggest that a family allowance of 5s. for each child should be paid to the mother, and that it should be supplemented by a living wage sufficient for the needs of the two parents. The effect of such a proposal would be to immediately stimulate demand for all the commodities that are produced by the most depressed industries. A demand would have gone forth for more coal, more cotton frocks, more woollen jerseys and better boots. I wish Mr. Keynes had substituted a proposal like that for the one he actually made. These economic experts are not agreed on the necessity of spending rather than saving.
After listening to Mr. Maynard Keynes on the wireless I was inspired to write an article pointing out the effect that his proposal would have upon industry, and then I turned for a little refreshment to the wireless again, and there boomed forth the voice of yet another economic expert speaking from Geneva. What was his remedy for unemployment? His remedy was that the workers of this country should recognise that a demand for necessities was quickly satiable and that what they should do was to think less of the distribution of the cake and more about increasing the amount of the cake, and especially were they to bear in mind that the demand for luxuries was changing and fluctuating and that both workers and employers should be more mobile and ready to meet the changing demands for changing types of luxuries. What a picture; the British working man and British employer reconciling themselves to lower standards of wages and rationalising industry in order to keep in touch more readily with the changing and fluctuating demands of the consumers of luxuries. I prefer the economic doctrine of Mr. Keynes.
What is standing in the way of some kind of stimulus of production such as Mr. Keynes proposed? I suggest that it is not the selfishness of one class only but an unreadiness of all classes to recognize 2316 that if we are to reorganise the distribution of the wealth of this country, all classes, not only one class, must be prepared to take risks and possibly to make some sacrifices. When the question of a living wage and its accompaniment of a family allowance was brought before the joint committee of the Trade Union Congress and the Labour party, what was the result? There was a committee which dealt with the subject of family allowances agreeing by a majority of nine to three in favour of a report recommending a State system of family allowances, but when that report was referred to the Trade Union Congress itself it was turned down because they feared some possible menace to their wage rates, that if the workers of the country were made too comfortable by assistance for their children you would lessen the stimulus to effective trade unionism. I wish hon. Members on this side of the House would realise how much of what they consider unreasonable in the demand of hon. Members opposite, how much of the stimulus to revolutionary doctrines, comes from the lack of a reasonable system of distribution of the wealth of this country to provide an adequate standard of life for the workers and their children.
An hon. Member opposite who is a leading trade unionist, speaking on the subject at the Trade Union Council, said that what he disliked in the proposal of the Independent Labour party for a living income for all, with family allowances, was that it was merely padding the shackles of capitalism. Many trade union leaders are prepared to distribute a portion of the wealth of the community in family allowances, they are willing to secure a higher standard of comfort for the workers, but they make one condition, and that is that no member of their trade union is to be asked to risk anything or sacrifice anything. I suggest that what is really needed is a scientific inquiry into the better distribution of the wealth of the country. There is a very great deal in the proposal before the House, but the Bill is not likely to reach the Statute Book in its present form, and if it did it would prove completely unworkable. The Government have appointed a good many Royal Commissions. I would suggest that here is a very good subject for another Royal Commission. It could investigate the 2317 whole question of the distribution of wealth and how it is possible to secure a living wage for all accompanied by family allowances.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
There is one consideration which, I think, is common to the great majority of Members in all parts of the House, and that is that we all desire that the workers of every industry should have the highest possible wages that industry can pay. I suggest to the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, and who is the foremost advocate of "Socialism in our time," that this is a timid Bill, and that instead of introducing a Living Wage Bill he should introduce an Equal Income for All Citizens Bill. I would suggest to him that he should collaborate with the distinguished Socialist, Mr. George Bernard Shaw. No doubt he has read Mr. Shaw's book "An Inteligent Woman's Guide to Socialism," in which he lays it down that the intention of the Socialist is that every citizen shall have the same income. That book was answered by a very able woman, Mrs. Le Mesurier, who called her book "A Socialist Woman's Guide to Intelligence." She clearly proved in that book that this first principle of Socialism inevitably involves the penalising of thrift. That follows quite clearly.
It seems to me that the mistake made by hon. Members opposite is that they forget the world outside. They are always speaking of remodelling and altering the machinery of this country, and they forget what is going on in the big world outside. They say that the country is suffering from over-production and under-consumption, and that is quite true. But why is it so? They say it is because of the capitalist system. It is not. It is because of the competition between the workers of this country and the workers of other countries who have a lower standard of life. Let me give an example.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
If the hon. Member were in Australia to-day would he use the same argument? There they have a 100 per cent. tariff against foreign trade.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
To go into that matter would be a long story. There are other economic factors in Australia.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I was about to give an illustration from my own experience. I was driving with a friend through the outskirts of San Francisco, where we passed through a succession of market gardens. The workers in the gardens were Japs. My friend, who lives there, told me that these market gardens were originally worked by Americans, but then came Italians, who worked longer hours and had a lower standard of life and lived on less, and they ousted the Americans from the gardens. Then came the Japs, who worked all day and part of the night and lived on a little rice, and they ousted the Italians. That is an example of what is going on in the world to-day. For the life of me I cannot understand how it is that the Labour Party, representing, as they say, the workers of the country—the claim is only very partially true—can allow our market to be flooded by the products of labour that is worse paid and has to endure worse conditions than labour in this country.
I have given an example of how the lower standard of life brings down the high one. You see it going on in Russia to-day. If the Five Years Plan succeeds in Russia it will bring down the standard of life in every civilized country in the world. Another cause of wonder to me is that the workers in this country can sit still and not realise the terrible state of things in the timber trade of Russia. I speak from evidence that I have obtained from friends, though it has not been published. My informants have seen the timber ships loaded by convicts, and the treatment of those convicts. The workers of this country do not realise what is going on. But this is a generous country, and when it realises what is happening in Russia there will be retribution.
I may be asked what is my remedy. My first remedy for the present state of things is the strictest economy. I should be quite ready to see the salaries of Members of Parliament and of the whole of the Civil Service cut down by 10 per cent. What would I do with the money? I would employ it for the relief of taxation. Then it would be possible to bring 2319 down the cost of production, and begin to bring life back to industry. The next thing I would do would be to protect the home market, protect the countryside and the factory. Instead of being defenceless in a world of tariffs, I would say to the rest of the world "If you do not treat me fairly, you will have to pay a tariff on your goods coming into this country." Instead of bringing in a theoretical and impossible Bill like this, let the workers realise the real state of things and protect the home markets. Let us all economise, and do something real to make this country prosperous again.
I do not intend to follow the last speaker into the Russian timber camps, but I do hope that there will be an opportunity given in this House at an early date for us to discuss that subject, because I am convinced that the House would be interested if it knew a little more about what the Russian attitude really is to convict labour, and how instead of the confinement which is the kindly method in this country, it is the deliberate policy of the Russian government, when men are in prison for all kinds of social offences, to make them do work of some kind. The men are thus definitely trained to go back into civic life in a fit state, which is much better in theory, and much better so far as I saw it in practice, than prison life in this country.
§ Mr. A. SOMERVILLE
Is the hon. Lady aware of the terrible condition of things in the timber camps in Russia?
I am aware of the conditions, but I must confess that at the present time most of my thoughts and most of my activities are directed to some of the terrible things that are happening a great deal nearer home. I wonder if the hon. Member is aware that in Bethnal Green, if I am informed correctly, men who are completely down and out and who apply for assistance to the local boards are offered 6s. per week in return for the equivalent of 32 hours labour. I wonder if the hon. Member is aware of the conditions under which the miners in Lanarkshire and other parts of Scotland have to work and live. I wonder if he is aware of the wages and the conditions of men who are working on road schemes, and other occupations of 2320 that kind. I suggest to him that if we are moved by deep humanitarian sentiments we can best express them by turning our thoughts to those evils in our own country with which it is in our power to deal.
The primary object of the Bill is that we should make bad working conditions the first things to receive our attention in this House. The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) spoke about padding the shackles of capitalism. It would be sheer romanticism for us to come into this House and suggest that you can take the national income and divide it up in proportion to the population, so that you can get a resulting figure for each individual, or for each unit of two individuals. It would be romanticism for us to suggest that that can be done simply by legislation. Instantly, we should be up against vested interests, which would refuse to allow the national income to be redistributed in that way. When we bring forward a Bill of this character we are not doing it because we imagine for one moment that we shall get revolution by agreement or by arrangement in this country, but because we believe that, sooner or later, the organised workers of this country must have the courage of their own convictions and must put forward their demands and compel the present vested interests either to concede those demands or to get out of the way and allow us to reorganise our national life and our national resources in such a way that, if we cannot immediately establish a high standard of luxury for all, we can at least get rid of the worst poverty on the one side and the greatest excesses of luxury on the other side.
We believe that there is a cleavage in this House, not between the official Conservative party, the Liberal party and the Labour party but a genuine cleavage more and more as between those who agree in principle with everything which we like to introduce but object to it in practice. We all agree in principle with a living wage, with disarmament, with reorganisation of industry, but the answer always is that if these things must be done they cannot be done now, but at some future date. I hope that when we receive the reply from the Government on this Bill it will not be that they agree in principle with us but that it cannot be put forward except at some future time.
2321 We believe that the economists are in an impossible position at the present tune in trying to bring forward solutions for our present problems. They are like the ancient Israelites who were asked to make bricks without straw. Our economists are asked to bring forward solutions while they are still in bondage to vested interests, and to try and solve our unemployment problem and our poverty problem while at the same time allowing present society to remain intact, to leave the miners dependent on the efficiency or inefficiency, the good will or the bad will of the coalowners and to leave the cotton workers in Lancashire dependent on the efficiency or inefficiency of what is called the economic facts of their particular industry, instead of saying that we should work out our solutions in a very much bigger way and, as this Bill suggests, build our national standard of life not on one industry or any industry in any part of the country but to build it on what our country as a whole can afford to do.
I do not pretend that this Bill could be carried into effect without great stress and great difficulties in the country. I believe that it would mean that we should have to go in for controlled prices, and once we get on to controlled prices we shall have to control the banking system. It is much better, in our judgment, that we should hasten the time when that real conflict comes than that our own party should become entangled in various schemes whether it be rationalisation or anything else, brought forward by hon. Members opposite, which will not really help us. The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities spoke of the suggestion of Mr. Maynard Keynes that we should spend more. There are those who say that even if we had a redistribution of income we shall be doing no good unless we increase the aggregate amount of the annual income. We challenge that. I agree with the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities that the husband would have a lot to say about the suggestion of spending more, and I should like to know what the housewives in Lanarkshire or Lancashire and other such places where there is the greatest need for goods and the greatest difficulty in getting goods would say, "I am sorry that the hon. Member started by being kind to us and finished by trying to kill us with her kindness." She sug- 2322 gested that all classes should make sacrifices. I was in Cumberland a few weeks ago and I stayed in Whitehaven, where the great mining disaster took place. I was staying with a miner who, after working in the pit all week, spent his Saturday afternoon in going to the foreshore, with a bag, to pick up enough coal to keep his own fire burning. The hon. Member talks about sacrifices. That man worked in the very pit where so many men have lost their lives.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I did not mean to suggest that the sacrifices of all classes were commensurate. I merely wanted to point out that the trade union body itself aften makes the mistake of refusing to examine scientifically into these questions for fear the examination should result in showing that certain members of their bodies might possibly lose something, or the body itself might be less an effective fighting force if those who are its members were affected.
The hon. Member's explanation leaves us in common agreement that we do not want these miners to sacrifice anything more. I think she would agree with me that already they are doing more than their share of sacrificing. I believe she would agree with me that that statement applies to other industries. Some of us are very interested, and I think she will be, in the attempt to make the women in Lancashire work eight looms. I am informed that where that experiment was carried out it was found physically impossible for numbers of those women to stand the racket that was involved in the eight loom system. There, again, I am sure the hon. Member would agree with me that large sections of the working class are bearing too many burdens and making too many sacrifices.
This Bill is an initial attempt to level up. It is an attempt to get one step forward, one step beyond merely stating the evils that we see around us. This Bill is saying to the workers of this country, "We believe you are entitled to ask for at least a minimum standard of protection and of life. We know, and we warn you, that when you make that demand, it will have many implications. We know that all the vested interests will be combined in opposition to you, that you will be forced to go on to the control of prices, that you will be forced to go on to the reorganisation and control of in- 2323 dustry, the control of banking, and the control of investments, so that if you want money for your home industries you may get it and not have your home industries starved for some useless or second-rate foreign investment that is of no use to anybody here." It has all those implications, but our party means nothing at all if it does not mean that the workers of this country are organising to accept that challenge; and I would far, rather that our time in this House should be given to furthering objects of this kind than that we should spend our time in co-operating with hon. Members opposite in mere schemes of rationalisation or reorganisation, which, however worthy in themselves, so far from bridging are widening the gap between consumption and production.
I feel that, just as the usual debates in this House are unreal and irrelevant to many hon. Members in it, so is the subject that we are now bringing forward unreal and irrelevant to many hon. Members in this House, but it is extremely real and relevant to the large masses of workers outside, on whose behalf we are speaking, and we hope that a Second Reading of this Bill will be given, and not given in the sense of merely postponing it indefinitely to some future time, but given in the sense that we really mean to go forward and to honour the obligations that are set forth in this Measure.
§ Major TRYON
While the whole House enjoyed the speech with which this Bill was introduced by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), at least the last speaker, the hon. Member for Northern Lanark (Miss Lee), put the point which really matters, when she asked whether this thing is going to be done now or at some future date. I venture to re-address that question to the Government. Are the Government going to put forward this Bill now or at some future date? It reminds me of the scene at the end of our sittings when, on somebody objecting, a Bill is ordered to be taken at a later date, and I think we shall find that this Bill also will be relegated to some later date by the Government. I say that for the reason that we are all aware of the programme of this Parliament. We are all aware of the relative importance which the Government attach 2324 to the various Measures. We know that the Government are pushing on the arrangements for abolishing University representation, under which plan we should have been deprived of the very interesting and, if I may say so, well-informed speech to which we listened just now from the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone). We know there is an arrangement proposed which will make it more difficult for extreme Members of the Labour party to secure re-election and which will make it possible for Liberals and Conservatives, under the alternative vote, to combine against them. We know that the Trade Disputes Bill, which greatly adds to the chances of another general strike, is to be taken now. Trade Disputes Bill now, abolition of University representation now, but, from what we see of the Government's programme for this Session, this Bill, in spite of all the eloquence of its back bench supporters, is not to be taken now, but at some later date.
We have had one or two speeches couched in terms of extreme sentiment from hon. Members who have obviously been moved by the poverty and distress which exist in districts with which they are familiar, but those eloquent speeches do not do any good, and I do not believe that the Government are going to do anything serious with this Bill at all. When I hear proposals for piling more taxation upon those who are better off, as has been suggested in this Debate, I would remind the House that that experiment is already in progress, and that it has been accompanied by devastating unemployment among the very working classes whom it is thought to benefit by those means. I do not wish to speak in a spirit of antagonism. There were certain points in the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton with which I found myself perhaps more in sympathy than many would feel if they belonged to the old-fashioned Liberal party. The Conservatives have never been a party throughout their history which has opposed social reform in the form of certain restrictions. Many of the early Acts conferring benefits on the working classes and taking the form of State restrictions were initiated by the Conservative party and opposed by Free Traders, and it is significant that in his most interesting speech the hon. Member for Bridgeton 2325 should see close connection between the restriction of foreign competition and the possibility of improving the conditions of the workers in this country.
I should like to deal now with one or two points in the Bill itself, and the first is the extraordinary composition of the body of nine people who are to undertake the colossal task of deciding what is to be a living wage for the whole country. There are to be three working housewives, three trade unionists, and three co-operatives. The figure 3 appeals so much to the hon. Member that he did not think it necessary to think of another number, and they are to do the whole job in three months. There has been nothing like it since seven maids with seven mops with a difficult task, which I believe they were not expected to carry out successfully. What is to be the relation of this body of nine people to Parliament?
§ Mr. MAXTON
This has been said so frequently by other speakers that it is necessary for me to point out that the proposed Committee is not exclusively confined to those nine people. I only felt it necessary to put these in, because I have found from experience that they are usually expressly excluded.
§ Major TRYON
I am obliged for the hon. Member's perfectly fair interruption, but at all events these are the particular people whom the hon. Member has in mind for undertaking this great task, and it does not seem to have occurred to him to have given any chance of a say at all to the distributing classes, who may not be concerned directly with the co-operative societies, or to those people who, of course, count for so little on the other side—the people who actually have experience of conducting productive enterprises.
§ Major TRYON
I am not aware that there are any very exceptional profits that are being made by them at the present moment, but the point that I want to make is this: We do not know the relation of those nine people, to whom others may be added, to Parliament. Is there going to be a Minister who will supervise them? Are they to answer to 2326 Parliament? Is there going to be some Minister who can put up the living wage—just before a General Election, for example Is the living wage to be a matter that is to be dealt with in Parliament and on which we are to vote? Then there will be a very interesting point, when Members of this House are asked to decide between a living wage which everybody knows cannot be paid and a lower living wage which might possibly be realised. That will be one of the implications which the hon. Member opposite will have to deal with, when he rises to the position of haling to administer this Measure. We have never heard a word on the subject of unemployment. I do not think a Bill about what the living wage should be, if they happened to get it, would be much consolation to the 2,500,000 unemployed who are not getting a wage at all, but it would be interesting to them, because if it were carried through, it would tend to add to the numbers of the unemployed, and, therefore, they are to that extent, and to that extent only, interested. Then there is another point.
§ Major TRYON
There is a, reference in this Bill to Australia. I have been there, and I have discussed on the spot, many years ago, the question of the minimum wage; and one of the things that I was told there—it may be right or wrong—by working people was that there was a danger of the minimum wage becoming the maximum wage. There is to be one living wage, I understand, fixed for the whole country and for every industry. I submit that in a few occasional cases only would that be the correct living wage which the industry could stand. In some cases it would be below what the industry could pay, and, in those cases, I do honestly see a danger, when questions of wages are discussed, that it might tend grievously against the claims of those seeking to retain wages which they had before the standard was fixed.
Then, what are the trades which cannot stand the burden of these higher wages? The hon. Member meets with a good deal of sympathy from me in speaking of the advantages to this country of some form of control of trade and of exports and 2327 imports. Those who framed this Bill evidently realise that there is more chance of paying a decent wage in trades which are protected than in those which are exposed to foreign competition. They are the class in which they think it would be more easy to pay a living wage, such as those in Government employment, or special lists of trades which are receiving protection from the State at the present moment. It is interesting to notice that the efforts of Members in all parts of the House to retain the Dyestuffs Act have enabled those who work in the dye industry to come into this Bill. If the Government had succeeded in abolishing the Dyestuffs Act, the hon. Member, on his own argument, would have had to leave the workers in the dye industry to get the benefits of this Bill, such as they are, a year later.
The Bill says that if certain trades cannot pay the living wage, there will be at the end of the year a state of emergency declared. I should say that the passing of this Bill would bring about a national emergency in a good deal less time than one year, and I should think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would agree with me. At all events, there is to be an emergency—not a natural emergency, but one brought about by the legislation of this House, a deliberately created emergency, and after the damage which this Bill has done to any one of these industries, notably agriculture, the State is to take it over, and the industry is to be managed by another body of persons. I do not know whether the three working housewives are to be on the body which will take over trades reduced to chaos by the operation of this Bill, or whether it will be the trade union leaders who may have contributed to the chaos. I cannot help thinking that the business knowledge of the co-operative members may be invoked to carry on the trade ruined by this Bill. I should think that the most devastating effect of this Bill would be upon agriculture, which is already suffering enough at the hands of the present Government. At any rate, here you would have a great industry taken over by the commissioners, who have nothing in common except that they know nothing about the industry. Probably the leading people would be the co-operators. What is to be the duty of these people? To re- 2328 organise the industry in a way which will make it pay. But the co-operators have already been engaged in this industry. The co-operative societies have tried their best to make farming pay, and have failed utterly. Yet the people to be called in to make farming pay are the very people who have already met with the most ignominious failure.
I must apologise for having addressed arguments against the case put forward in a speech which I sincerely enjoyed. It all turns on what the Government are going to do about it. I cannot help thinking, with the greatest respect to the Minister present, that it is a pity we could not also have had here the President of the Board of Trade. I am sure that the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading will agree with me that a great deal of his speech was directed to trade, and the answer ought to come from the President of the Board of Trade. I should have liked to have heard the reply of the President of the Board of Trade with special reference to the dye industry, and to have heard his Free Trade views in opposition to the much sounder Protectionist views of the hon. Member for Bridgeton. The answer, however, is to come from the Labour Minister, and the question I wish to put to her is a question which was put by the hon. Lady who preceded me: Is this Bill going to be taken now or at some future date?
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Miss Bondfield)
I respond at once to the invitation to give the Government's point of view. This is a private Members' day, and this is a private Members' Bill, and it deals, according to its Title, with the subject of the living wage. Wage regulation up to the present time falls to be administered for the most part by the Ministry of Labour, and, therefore, in the ordinary routine of business, it falls to me to be on the Bench to-day. I do not propose to follow the last speaker in his analysis of the Bill. I can, however, give the House some facts with regard to the history of this question of the living wage in connection with the proposed legislation. The great body which is the basis of the Labour party, the Trades Union Congress, has had this subject under consideration not once or twice, but many times. In 1922, the 2329 subject was considered after a, very careful and very thorough inquiry upon the very same basis of a national minimum wage, and the result of that inquiry can be summed up as follows: The conclusions of the committee were that a single national minimum wage is impracticable; and that legislation, other than for particular industries, could not be profitably pursued at the present juncture.
That was the result, not of any desire not to have a national minimum wage, but of the special inquiry that was made throughout the trade unions with regard to the possibility of its practical application. Every time they were stumped on what figure was going into the Bill. That is the difficulty before us to-day. There is no figure in the Bill itself, and the more my hon. Friends behind me go into this question of trying to fix a figure, the more they will find how impossible it is to fix a national figure. But that is not the end of it. Both the Labour party and the Trades Union Congress, I think, are almost without cessation searching to find some different methods, some improved methods, by which we can prevent the lowering of the standard of life of the workers. It is the unanimous wish of all sections. There is no opposition to the idea of some national basis, but those who have to try to get down to anything like the flat rate principle are immediately faced with the extraordinary differences between the categories of trades and the opportunities certain categories of workers have of going ahead a little faster than some other groups. It may be that it would be a very ideal and Utopian view to take that those who were able should wait a little until everybody could come up to their level. We are, however, living in a world of human nature, and I do not think that it is practical politics.
Therefore, on the matter of legislation on minimum wages, the Government would undoubtedly have to proceed after the closest consultation with the official bodies which make up the Trade Union Congress. The Congress have still under consideration the question of how far it is possible to proceed with greater rapidity in the formation of joint industrial councils, the acceleration of the 2330 development of trade boards, and so on; and they are considering, with reference to agreements voluntarily entered into between organised groups of employers and workers, to what extent it is possible to go a stage further and make those agreements legally binding on the whole trade. Those questions are under review now, and, apart from the congestion of public business, it would be quite impossible for me at this stage to give the slightest hope that the Government would be able to find time for the further stages of this Bill.
§ Mr. WISE
I can only express the regret of those on these benches at the unhelpful attitude of the Minister of Labour. I recognise the importance of carrying the trade unions fully with us in a matter of this sort, but in no respect is it desired in the Bill to cut across the work of the trade unions. The whole purpose of the Bill is to supplement and assist them in their task by putting behind them the resources and power of this House. When the trade unions are taking a positive line and pressing the Government to do something which requires the passing of a comprehensive and effective Bill, the Government are not afraid to take their courage in their hands and come to the House with proposals which fall very far short of what the trade unions desire and have asked for. The Unemployment Insurance Bill and the Coal Mines Bill were certainly not, we know, in the form in which the trade unions desired them. We hoped that, so far as it was within their power, the Government in this case might have found it possible to go a little ahead of the opinion of some trade union officials in the task of carrying out the policy as expressed in the last election in "Labour and the Nation," for there is nothing in this Bill which was not contemplated in the party's programme.
The purpose of this Bill is in essence to drive into the front rank of political objects the use of the legislation of this House to give a better standard of life to our people, and to make the provision of a satisfactory minimum wage the first charge on industrial reorganisation and on the profits and resources of industry. I admit that in that respect the Bill is in a sense revolutionary, because this House in its legislation and this country 2331 3.0 p.m.
in its attitude towards industry have never regarded wages—better wages and fair wages—as the first charge upon industry. It has regarded the rights of property first, and insisted that the yield to bondholders, debenture holders and the shareholders must first have its way. No consideration by this House of the problem of real wages has ever started off with the assumption that if, for example, the railways cannot pay a decent wage to some tens of thousands of the men employed, the first thing to be looked at is whether it ought to pay so much for the use of capital—much of it dead capital. We on these benches think, with the growth of Labour representation on these benches, that it is time that a new principle was introduced into our legislation: that is to say, the payment of a satisfactory living wage to every worker in industry should be the first charge on industry, both on its profits and on its resources, including that very large portion of the resources which at this moment go to the holders of fixed interest bearing stock; and that the problem of using the resources of the nation, as far as practicable directly, for the purpose of improving the standard of life, should be the main objects of a Labour House of Commons.
In the method which the Bill adopts, since we have to operate within the limits of the system of private industry as it is at present, the Bill is perfectly constitutional and evolutionary. Various Clauses are designed to apply that principle where in part it has already been applied in other legislation. The principle that in Government and municipal employment it is the responsibility of this House to see that those employed are paid a fair wage, is one which this House has already accepted. I doubt whether anybody would say that there is anything unreasonable or unusual in the definition of what we regard as a living wage or that anyone would dare to attack it. The phrases in that definition are not new. We have not invented them. They were established in a decision of the Commonwealth Court of Appeal in Australia as far back as 1907, and they have been constantly interpreted by the Australian courts and by Wages Boards in Australia in the years that have 2332 elapsed. An hon. Member opposite said how impossible it was to find out what these words meant, but the Australians have found no difficulty over a period of 20 odd years in constantly interpreting them. In 1907, when money had a far different purchasing value from what it has at the present time, they decided that the lowest wage that should be paid in any industry was 7s. per worker per day. In present values, the amount would be 50 to 60 per cent. or perhaps 100 per cent. greater.
With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Brighton that minimum wages are apt to become maximum, he would be aware, if he studied the Australian experience, that the living wage as they define it is the basic wage which the trade boards and wages boards mainly spend their time in fixing, but the actual wage is composed of the basic wage and the secondary wage, that is, the amount that is added to the basic wage, having regard to the circumstances, skill, environment or other things affecting the worker or the prosperity of the industry. When the hon. Member says that the minimum wage is apt to become the maximum wage, I venture to say that is entirely contrary to the whole trend of Australian experience, and to our experience in this country in the administration of the Trade Boards. I remember that when the Trade Boards Bill was first under discussion in this country that argument was constantly used against it. I was very closely in contact with the administration of that Act for several years, and I think I am right in saying that in all, or almost all, the existing Trade Board trades there is a whole range of wages well above the minimum rate. That particular dictum is not supported by experience, here or elsewhere.
What we propose to do is to determine first the principle that wages shall be the first charge on an industry, that every worker shall be entitled to at least a living wage, having regard to the needs of the human being and the great resources of this very rich community in which we live—still very rich, still probably the richest in the world, including America; and then proceed to apply that principle as closely as we can within the limits of the situation as it exists at this moment under a capitalist State and 2333 with a Parliament which is still very far from Socialist in its attitude. I understand that there are many tens of thousands of workers in Government and municipal employment who are still paid a wage which is a great deal under £3 a week. We do not think that is reasonable; we do not think it is human and just; and having determined the right we propose to apply it there. Then we propose to extend and improve the fair wages clause. It is nearly 30 or 40 years since Parliament decided that for any work on contracts for which this House was responsible there should be paid at least as a good a rate of wages as that paid under trade union terms in the locality. The trades thought of at that time were mainly those which were inadequately organised, and in which the trade unions were very weak. We propose to go further, and say that fair wages as at present interpreted, plus fair wages in the light of opinion and the development of ideas in the last 30 years, should be applied in such cases.
Moreover, and here is a point which seems to have intrigued and raised a quite wrong opinion among hon. Members opposite, we propose to deal in the same way with those trades which enjoy special privileges or special assistance under our legislation. Honorable Members opposite constantly say that if we safeguard various trades they will pay higher wages. We are just calling their bluff. We say that if a trade gets protection, if, at the expense of the consumer, it is safeguarded from competition in this market, then it is the business of this House to see that every worker in that trade gets fair wages to start off with, and that all the profits, if there are profits, from their being able to exploit consumers in this country under conditions which restrict competition shall not go to the owners of the industry. If you protect a trade you should also see that the men employed are paid a decent living wage, and we are trying to secure by this Measure a minimum living wage to the workers. We are proposing that this Bill shall apply to those employed in the dyestuffs industry. If this House confers upon this industry special privileges it is not unreasonable to provide that this House should also protect the interests of the consumers and the 2334 workers in that trade. I am aware that hon. Members opposite have shown no special enthusiasm for that idea.
Trade boards were set up very early in the history of wages legislation. It will be recalled by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench that they had something to do with the early development of trade boards, and they took a very prominent part in the discussions in which they tried to set up a vague standard on which to base the minimum wage. We propose by this Bill to do what was done by wage boards in Australia, New Zealand, the South American States, and France; that is, to fix a standard below which wages shall not go. I think that is a perfectly reasonable development of trade board legislation. We propose to do the same with regard to agricultural wages. I doubt if there is anybody in this House prepared to defend the present level of agricultural wages, and one of the first duties of the House at this moment ought to be to consider the appalling position in which agricultural workers find themselves in many of the counties up and down the country.
Having included the trades in which the working machinery exists and is operated through the agency of trade unions, we now propose to include the range of trades which are not directly under control, and to apply to them workmanlike and satisfactory machinery for giving effect to the principle of the living wage, allowing a reasonable period of delay for them to adjust themselves to the new circumstances. I would like to remind the Minister of Labour that this is a very different proposal from that which was considered and rejected by the trade unions in 1922, when the suggestion was that we should pass a one-Clause Bill fixing the wage to be paid then by every trade and in every employment up and down the country. We rejected that proposal, because it was simply a short cut which would not lead anywhere. This Bill contains practical proposals for utilizing the efforts of trade unions, and securing what we regard as a very tardy measure of justice to the workers in those trades.
We propose to give the trade boards further powers. It is admitted that if some initiative could be taken with regard to reorganisation in many trades a 2335 much higher minimum wage could be fixed, but the boards have not the power to consider the reorganisation of the trade because it is outside their terms of reference. Consequently, they have to take things as they come at the present time. Under this Bill, we propose to give the trade boards and the representatives of trade unions and workers the opportunity of suggesting and initiating, and, in the last resort, of enforcing schemes of reorganisation which will make a living wage possible in those trades. That is nothing revolutionary or unreasonable, and there is nothing unconstitutional in the proposal.
Having given a reasonable time for these Measures to proceed, and as I hope in a large range of trades to achieve their ends, then we have merely got to the case in which it is not possible to deal with the situation without some vast scheme of reorganisation. That is the position in which the cotton trade finds itself, and that is the position in which half-a-dozen other great trades are also placed at the present time. In the cotton trade, in the steel trade, and in other trades, it is plain to everyone concerned that these trades will neither be able to maintain their previous measure of employment nor even afford a reasonable return on the money invested in them; and, as we can judge from what is happening in Lancashire and elsewhere, they cannot, in the cotton trade, in the view of the employers, pay a satisfactory wage.
In the cotton trade, as the right hon. Lady will remember, there was a Government committee a few months or a year ago, which said that it was vital, if the trade was to be preserved at all, that drastic reorganisation should take place. That Committee, in their report, which was signed by two of the right hon. Lady's colleagues eight months ago, said that immediate action was necessary, but are still awaiting such action, because the employers concerned—those who control the trade—cannot by themselves make up their minds to take the admittedly drastic measures which are necessary to put the trade into a reasonable and satisfactory condition. The report indicated that, if the employers could not do it, the Government should, after a reasonable period, come in and do it themselves. That is exactly the pro- 2336 posal in this Bill, although, whereas the Government do not in this matter seem to be much concerned with the disastrous delay that is occuring, we lay down a definite time within which, if the employers are not able, with the assistance of the trade unions and their existing powers, to effect the reorganisation that is necessary, the Government should step in, by an appropriate commission. Such commission would not, according to our proposal, be constituted in the manner suggested by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Brighton (Major Tryon), who apparently got the first Clause and the last Clause of the Bill inextricably mixed up, which is rather unusual for one who as a rule displays such clarity of vision and judgment. It would be an appropriate commission with wide powers of reorganisation. This is what the Government have done for other reasons, which, however, are connected with this matter, in the case of the coal mining industry.
Our conception is that, in order that industries may be able to deal with the new world situation, they must be reorganised, and, if that cannot be done from inside the industry, someone must come in from outside to do it. That conception has already been accepted, not only on this side of the House, but on the opposite side also—on that side in the case of electricity, and on this side in the case of the coal industry; while the Bank of England is doing it in the case of the shipbuilding industry and various other industries. The new principle that we suggest in this Bill is that, instead of the Government coming in to protect the interests of shareholders, to protect the rights of property owners, or even to provide better services and better supplies—which, at any rate, is a proper object for a Government—is that, when a trade cannot pay a reasonable living wage to the persons employed in it, the Government should regard it as a primary duty, as one of the main purposes for which a Labour Government exists, to come in and drastically reorganise the trade, assist it, and enable it to pay a satisfactory wage.
We regard wages and the standard of life as a supreme test of the Measures which a Labour Government should introduce. This Bill is intended just to be a first step, designed to put the wages question in the very first place in legisla- 2337 tion in the present distressful circumstances in which we are living, and with the organisation and control of industry as it is. I would say to the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) that this is only one Bill, and that we have lots of other Bills ready to produce at the right moment, carrying the process further. The right approach to the problems of industry and the problems of reorganisation is through the question of wages, at any rate for a Labour Government, and, as the hon. Member rightly stated, referring to the opinion of Professor Keynes and other distinguished economists, these principles, which I am glad to see they have now adopted, were laid down in our living wage proposals at least four or five years ago.
In the present circumstances of the industry and commerce of this country, the vital need is to increase the purchasing power of the mass of the consuming classes. Industry is not suffering from shortage of capital, but from a shortage of customers, and it is suffering from a shortage of customers because the 70 or 80 per cent. of the population at home who are of the working-class have not the money with which to buy the goods they need. Children's allowances, which are outside the scope of this Bill, were one part of that policy. This proposal to put the improvement of wages as the first objective of trade boards, governments, and councils, and the whole machinery that is at the disposal of the House, is another. Reorganisation of industry, involving the control of finance, the control of key industries, the control of import trade and some branches of the export trade, is the next step. Within the limits of this Bill we put forward what we regard as an evolutionary, reasonable proposal which is exactly in accord with the words and spirit, as far as we are aware of the Labour party as set out in "Labour and the Nation." I hope the House will give it a Second Reading and enable us to push it forward in its later stages.
§ Mr. ALBERY
The right hon. Lady who replied on behalf of the Government gave us several very adequate reasons why they are unable to support the Bill. She did not, however, tell us the main reason. The Government's policy in this matter has been to get some form of international agreement on wages, and it 2338 was stated from the Government Front Bench only the other day that, up to the present, it has not even been possible to get agreement as to what is the meaning of the words "sweated labour." That, presumably, is the method by which the Government hope to prevent wage earners from being underpaid. They have had that policy for a great many years. They appear to have made singularly little progress with it, and we seem to be no nearer a solution along those lines than we were before. It is obvious that, so long as the Government can obtain no international agreement, they cannot agree to or recommend a Bill, such as this, to institute a national minimum wage. It is quite impossible.
Another thing occurs to me. We have probably the oldest, the most progressive and the most efficient trade union movement in the world, and I am quite convinced, and I should hardly think trade union leaders would be prepared to deny it, that they do in the main obtain for the workers in industry as much as can be obtained in the existing conditions of industry. It is their job to try to obtain for the workers as high a wage as industry is capable of paying. I doubt whether they themselves, at any rate the more responsible members of trade unions, would be prepared to state that they do not obtain as high wages for the workers as the industries are able to pay.
§ Mr. ALBERY
I am not discussing the method by which it is obtained, though I should be inclined to say that, when a trade has been prosperous, increases in wages have been obtained, frequently without the necessity of a strike. Unfortunately, when times are bad, and industries cannot weather the stress and storm of the times, we frequently have lock-outs and trade disputes, which inevitably occur when some reduction in wages appears to be necessary. We on this side of the House have no belief in the policy of the Labour Government. We do not believe that within a measure-able time you can solve these difficulties by international agreement. We know, for instance, that conditions are different all over the world, and, even if you could 2339 get that international agreement, it would work out differently in different parts of the world.
We want to safeguard labour in this country, and the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), when he spoke at the beginning of this debate, suggested that the object of Safeguarding was not to protect wages and was not to protect the workers, but was merely to protect industry. That is quite untrue. The majority of us on this side regard Safeguarding, first and foremost, as a method of protecting the workers and for bettering wages in this country. I represent an industrial constituency with some big works in it, and I have no hesitation in saying, in so far as it concerns myself, that I would never recommend Protection or Safeguarding for any industry in my constituency except for the sake of the workers in it. If in the ordinary competition in the world, an industry cannot make good the people who run it should, as far as I am concerned, try somewhere else or get out, but, when a great many people depend upon it for a livelihood and they are being put out of a livelihood because of the unfair conditions under which they have to compete, then I am prepared to safeguard industry. We wish to do it for the sake of the workers and in order to protect and better their wages and their employment.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton the other day attacked the Government, quite rightly—I agree with him, and we all agree with him—because during the whole time that they have been in office they have not introduced a single Measure or a single Bill which is really going to help employment or help the condition of the workers in this country. He referred to several of the Measures which they have introduced and which have occupied the time of this House, and he deplored that they should have occupied the time of the House with Measures of that kind. I believe that the hon. Member for Bridgeton, in introducing this Bill, wished to raise a question about which he and his friends undoubtedly feel very deeply, but I cannot, in my turn help regretting that he did not take the opportunity to introduce a Measure which was in some way practical and which could help, or, at any rate, offer help in some practical way, towards a solution of the difficulties 2340 under which this country is labouring at the present time.
I looked through this Bill carefully before it was introduced. After all, it really amounts to this. It is an expression of what he would like to do for the workers in this country, but neither in the Bill nor in the speeches which have been made about it since is there any practical method shown by which those benefits could be realised. The main Clause of the Bill is Clause 7, which says that some Department of the State has to do the thing which he wants doing, but he explains in no way how they should do it. The hon. Member seems to agree with us about safeguarding, and, if that is so, then from this debate to-day something practical may survive, for he certainly would have our co-operation along such lines. If on the other hand, which was rather suggested by the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise), he means that industries which cannot pay their way should be subsidised by the State, he certainly will get no help from this side. I am sorry that the hon. Member for East Leicester has left his place, because he made one statement which, coming from him, certainly amazed me, if I understood him correctly. It was in an interjection during the course of the debate that he suggested that the necessary funds for paying these higher wages, if not forthcoming out of the industry, could be taken from Debt interest. As far as I can make out, it appears to be the opinion of the hon. Member for East Leicester that the greater the Debt of the country the greater the amount of money it will have available to pay higher wages.
§ Mr. MARLEY
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for one idea which keeps running through the minds of hon. Members opposite. It is assumed by hon. Members opposite that we on this side do not know that wages are cut down because those who control industry say that industry cannot afford such wages. It is precisely because that is the principle upon which industry is run that this Bill has been introduced. It is the duty of everyone, especially in the 20th century, not merely to permit certain industries to be run but to interfere when the running of any industry compels slave conditions to be imposed upon the workers in that industry. If the leaders of an industry say, "The only 2341 wages that we can pay are such that people cannot afford to live," it is the duty of the Government to say: "There may be unemployment for a period if we force you to close down, but we are going to examine your industry and see whether under any scheme of reorganisation we can raise wages, and, if it is impossible so to reorganise the industry that it can pay proper wages, the sooner the industry dies in a civilised country the better for the people in that country." Let us suppose it to be true that it is impossible for the cotton industry of Lancashire to pay an adequate living wage, in face of cheap labour abroad. In those circumstances, it is the duty of the Government to see whether it is useful to keep the cotton industry going, or to devise a scheme under which that industry would be replaced by another which could afford to pay a living wage.
A further objection which is raised by hon. Members opposite is, that those who control an industry in the interests of shareholders are the sole judges of what the industry is able to bear. We dispute that argument. On every occasion in the history of trade unionism whenever a trade union has made a demand for increased wages or shorter hours it has always been argued that the industry could not afford it, and that it would mean ruination, but when the union has been strong to enforce its claim, the industry has not gone back but has usually gone forward, and better conditions have been maintained. We are told that the people who run a particlular industry pay whatever they can afford. The assumption is that every time a trade union has been able to bring about an increase in wages or a decrease in hours, the money has had to be drawn from sources outside the industry. That is not true. We want the Government to find out whether an industry can pay higher wages. If it cannot do so, the Government ought to examine the industry and decide whether the industry ought to be continued, because it is the first duty of the Government to see that the citizens are provided with adequate wages.
What happens if they do not receive adequate wages? Hon. Members opposite talk of the continuous growth of expenditure on social services. These are additions to wages. If under a system of society you pay wages so low that the 2342 family cannot be kept reasonably out of the wages paid, then the State has to come in and subsidise the wages through social services. I do not think anyone could deny the logic of that argument. When we give allowances for children in the shape of clothing, boots or milk, or assist in the education of a man's children, we are in an indirect way assisting wages. Social services and the demand for them are created by the inadequacy of the wages paid to the average workman in industry. That is why we, in conjunction with the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) think that we shall have to extend our social services to the maintenance of children as a State charge.
The Bill says that minimum standards of wages should be laid down. Is that an unjust or unreasonable proposal? Hon. Members opposite agree that minimum standards should be laid down, but they ask what is to be the minimum standard. It certainly ought to be the maximum that the industry can afford. Who is to determine what is the maximum that an industry can afford, whether that industry is essential, and whether we should continue it? Surely it will not be said that those who run the industry in the interests of profits should be the sole people to determine what the industry can afford to pay. We ask that others shall be considered. I believe that large numbers of people are being deluded into the belief that Protection will give higher standards of life for the work-people of this country. In my opinion, it is a delusion; but I give hon. Members opposite credit for sincerity in their belief. If a Commission after investigating the matter said that they were quite convinced, with world prices as they are at present, that the cost of clothing and food and commodities demand that a man and woman should have so much monetary income in order to keep up their efficiency and it was said that 60 per cent. of the industry could not afford to pay that minimum wage, it would be a sad commentary on the capitalistic organisation of industry.
The argument on the other side of the House is that large numbers of industries will not be able to pay the minimum standards laid down by hon. Members on these benches. They cannot 2343 have it both ways. They cannot say that a capitalist organisation is the best if after a long period of free play they are not able to guarantee a minimum standard of life to 60 per cent. of their workers. We say that if such is the case the sooner we get hold of the industry and take the responsibility of running it the better. I want to argue this matter fairly. If we lay down a minimum standard of life in the matter of food, clothing and shelter, with very little other comforts to the workers, and the industry says that it cannot afford to pay that amount, that we shall be ruining the industry, then we have a right to say, let us have a chance, let us have a try. Hon. Members opposite say that in that case the position would become worse. I do not want to discuss the question of Australia, but if we had treated Australia as generously as we have treated France and Italy she would not be in the position she is to-day. They have met their debts up to 100 per cent. There has been much talk about France, and the difference between France and Russia. It is only a difference of degree. Russia repudiated 100 per cent. of her debt while France repudiated 80 per cent. That is the difference, yet we have heard a great deal of praise for France, which repudiated 80 per cent. of her debt, and a great deal of condemnation of Russia which repudiated 100 per cent.
If hon. Members opposite object to this Bill and say that it is impossible for British industry to guarantee a minimum standard of life to the workers under the present organisation of society they have no reason to complain of those who say that the community should step in and organise the industry upon a better basis. If the Bill is not as good as it ought to be, and here I appeal to the members of the Liberal party who always say that all Bills from this side are not as good as they ought to be, let them take it upstairs to Committee and improve it. We appeal to them to support the Bill in order that it may be improved in Committee.
§ Mr. MARLEY
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I am in just the 2344 same position as the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and that I am not in a position to commit anyone. We maintain that the proposals of this Bill are possible, given good will, and that if there are industries which are not able to pay a living wage, the sooner the Government and the country realise the position in those industries and set to work to reorganise them, so that they will be able to pay a living wage, or to replace them by industries which do and can pay high wages, the better for the country as a whole.
§ Sir PHILIP CUNLIFFE-LISTER
With what other industry would the hon. Member replace the industry of agriculture?
§ Mr. MARLEY
You cannot replace the industry of agriculture. I have no intention that it should be done. But I would remind the right hon. Gentleman of the historic fact that with the growth of manufacturing industries in every country you have a falling off in agriculture. We on this side want to maintain the agricultural industry. To debate that matter, however, would take a great deal longer time than is available this afternoon. I would not desire to replace agriculture by any other industry. It is a. natural effort of man to feed himself and his family with the produce of the earth as near his own home as possible.
§ Mr. MARLEY
I think that the industry of cotton, in which neither the raw material nor the chief market is near the centre of production, is an industry which will gradually go away from this country and go nearer to the source of supply of the raw material and the actual centres of consumption.
§ Mr. MARLEY
I am not going to give the hon. Member a lesson in economics in the House of Commons. I will do that at the Working Men's College, where I have met him before. The cotton industry has been regarded by big economists as an industry which will drift away from this country to the centres in which the cotton product is ultimately consumed and to the sources from which the raw material is obtained. We ought 2345 to face that fact. We ought also to face the tremendous effect of the rapid growth of machinery, which makes men less intellectual and more mechanical, in order to be able to reach the position in which men will be more important as intellectual beings and less important as machines. Wherever the intelligence of the workers is raised, they have a higher standard of life. I hope that the Bill will get a Second Reading, if only for the purpose of showing the country that Members upon all sides of the House hold the view that the workers are entitled to an adequate living wage from the industries of the country.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I think it would be a thousand pities if this House were to endorse a principle which is economically wrong. It is interesting to note that the hon. Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. Marley) recognises the fact that one result of the passing of this Bill would be the destruction of industries like the cotton industry.
§ Mr. MARLEY
In case there should be any misunderstanding may I say that you could save the cotton industry by bringing in a system of children's allowances, which is allied with the proposal in this Bill. I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman has heard the whole of this Debate.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I have not been here during the whole Debate, but I know enough about the cotton industry to laugh at the suggestion—if I may put it that way—that you could save it by children's allowances. And if you are going to kill the cotton industry by this Bill, what about the woollen industry? I do not know if the hon. Member followed the two inquiries which were held into the woollen industry, and into the cause of the gradual destruction of that industry. As the committee found, the cause was that the French wages were only between 50 and 60 per cent. of ours, and the German wages only 70 per cent. of ours. Yet the hon. Member wants to fix a minimum wage in that industry, and he has the audacity to say that if the industry cannot pay that wage, that is evidence of its inefficiency.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I am arguing on what I myself heard the hon. Member say, and he certainly said, because I took it down at the time as something staggering, that if an industry could not pay this minimum wage, then it was inefficient and the State ought to take it over. With the very greatest respect I say that that is nonsense. When there are competitors all the world over running their industries with a standard of living which is about half of ours, how can it be said that our industries are inefficient, if they cannot hold their own with such competition? The evidence given at the woollen inquiry was quite conclusive. It showed that the industry was being run as efficiently as it could be run. There was practically no attack upon the industry's efficiency. It all came down to this, that, if a new cloth was put on the market here at the minimum price, before you knew where you were, the same cloth was being produced by foreign competitors at 25 per cent. less. That was entirely due to the difference in wages.
The fault which I find with the Bill is this. I think that the picture which it discloses of the point of view of Labour is hopeless. How can there be any hope for the future if Labour, as a whole, is going to take this view of what a wage means. From first to last in this Bill there is no recognition of the fact that wages must have some relation to the value of the work done or the services rendered. That, which seems to be basic, is ignored altogether. After all, the value of anybody's work is the price it will fetch. The seller unfortunately does not fix the price. The price is fixed by what the buyer thinks it worth while to pay. It is useless for a man to say "I have a wife and three children; I want to live in comfort and pay rent; I want a certain amount of pleasure, and the least on which I can afford to do all that, is so much. I want so much, and I mean to have it, and if the industry cannot give it, then somebody else must give it. I must be on pay-roll of somebody who will see that week in and week out I get that sum of money. Everybody wants wages to be high, but to fix a minimum wage which is calculated without any regard to the value of the work done must be wrong. As far as this Bill is concerned, even the capacity of the industry to pay is regarded as wholly irrelevant. If one 2347 takes the definition of a living wage here, it is simple a definition of what a man wants and not what he is worth.
Further, the Bill only indicates one living wage for everybody. It would apply equally to the skilled and the unskilled, to the married and the single, and I suppose that means that there is to be the same wage for all. That implies that everybody's labour is of the same value. The minimum wage is not fixed with any reference to what they are worth or what they can do. It is simply fixed with reference to what they want, and even when you come to the third Sub-section, it says that the committee shall have regard to the retail prices and other costs of living, the amount of the national income, and the proportion of the national income for necessary replacement and extension of capital. There is not a word to suggest there that this precious committee is to take any consideration of the value of the work done or the capacity of the industry to pay. I cannot see why some thought is not given at times to the other side of the picture. Why cannot somebody sometimes say, "Let us consider what a man ought to give for his wages"? But under this precious Bill there is not a word said anywhere about what is to be given, how many hours' work, nothing about output, nothing about the skill brought to bear, or anything of the kind. There is to be a living wage fixed for a man, without regard to what he does or gives in exchange.
I am certain that, until we recognised that increased wages can only go with increased output, we are proceeding on a wrong basis. You can look throughout the world and see reorganisation going on with one thing in view, and that is increased output. How can the cotton industry, for instance, compete when you have one man to four looms, and when, as I saw the other day, in the latest mills in Canada there is one man to 96 looms? They are different looms, but that is what we have to compete with. There is a strike or a lock-out in our cotton industry because the operatives even refuse to negotiate or consider the question of working more looms per man. You concentrate on more money and less work. Let us concentrate on the other side of the picture, and let us recognize 2348 that more money must go with more work, if we are to make any advance. I think the dispute in the cotton industry is typical. It is raising a tremendously vital principle, and that principle, as I see it, is whether you can put these artificial restrictions on output. If a man is to have a living wage fixed in this way, there ought to be something else recognised, and that is that every man and woman should be bound by law to give of their best, and not give what some trade union permits them to give.
With regard to the cotton dispute, the principle that ought to be applied is that employés in a weavers' shed should operate as many looms as they can, not as many as they choose to fix; and when you have trade unions absolutely refusing to experiment or negotiate or to deal with the question in any way, and at the same time you have this House discussing a question like a living wage, I say that you are absolutely in conflict with realities and that the higher wage will only come when you get your increased output, through the recognition by the unions of the duty of everybody to give the best that they can do, not some limited amount. This Bill is wrong from beginning to end, because it does not recognise a single economic principle. It must be wholly wrong to suppose a wage can be fixed by reference to what a man wants, without reference to what he has to give or the ability of the industry to pay. A Bill which is so utterly wrong in principle ought to be thrown out by this House without hesitation.
This Bill is completely divorced from the conditions in industry and does not take into account the merits or demerits of the worker. Everybody is to be paid the same. The Bill is divorced also from the varying conditions in industry as between this country and other countries competing in our markets. We all wish most sincerely to see wages increased in this country in all industries and the only possible way is to sell more of our own goods. We are suffering to-day from being unable to sell our own goods. Bates and taxes are one of the first charges that go to provide the social services in this country, and the greater those social services are, and the greater the taxes, the less is it possible for in- 2349 dustry to pay higher wages, or even to sell its products. The Socialist party do everything they possibly can—quite rightly—to safeguard the position of the workers in this country. The only thing they do not do is to safeguard the product of the workers' industry. We are struggling to-day to compete with articles produced abroad under totally different conditions, in countries which have not nearly such high taxation, where the workers work much longer hours and do not receive anything like the wages men receive in this country. They have a protected market at home in which to sell their goods, and a free market for those goods here. Our products have to compete with their products, which are made under totally different conditions.
How is it possible to keep up the standard of living of our people unless we take some measure not only to safeguard the worker, but to safeguard the product of his labour? We must either protect the product of labour or reduce the standard of living to the level existing in other countries competing with us. The Socialist party must make their choice. There are no two opinions about it. You must either protect the English market
§ against goods sent over here in competition, or reduce the standard of living in this country. I propose to keep up the standard of living, to raise it as much as possible; but that can only be done by ensuring a market for our goods, both agricultural and industrial, and I, personally, stand for protecting the agricultural labourer so that the products of agriculture may be sold in this country, and that the agricultural labourer may have as a great a measure of protection as the industrial worker. You cannot have a prosperous country if you have agriculture in the state in which it is in this country at the present time. An hon. Member remarked just now that it did not matter about agriculture—
§ Mr. MAXTON rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 136; Noes, 50.2351
|Division No. 132.]||AYES.||[3.59 p.m.|
|Adamson. W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Marley, J.|
|Albery, Irving James||Glassey, A. E.||Marshall, Fred|
|Alpass, J. H.||Gossling, A. G.||Mathers, George|
|Arnott, John||Gould, F.||Maxton, James|
|Ayles, Walter||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Melville, Sir James|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Groves, Thomas E.||Messer, Fred|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Mills, J. E.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Morley, Ralph|
|Barr, James||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Morris, Rhys Hopkins|
|Batey, Joseph||Hardie, George D.||Mort, D. L.|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Haycock, A. W.||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Blindell, James||Hayes, John Henry||Naylor, T. E.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Isaacs, George||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Perry, S. F.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Potts, John S.|
|Buchanan, G.||Kelly, W. T.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Cameron, A. G.||Kirkwood, D.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Lathan, G.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-la-Spring)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Ritson, J.|
|Chater, Daniel||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Romerll, H. G.|
|Clarke, J. S.||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leach, W.||Rowson, Guy|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Sandham, E.|
|Daggar, George||Lees, J.||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Davison. Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Day, Harry||Longbottom, A. W.||Shield, George William|
|Duncan, Charles||Longden, F.||Sh[...]llaker, J. F.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Shinwell, E.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||McElwee, A.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||McShane, John James||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Mansfield, W.||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||March, S.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Markham, S. F.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Tinker, John Joseph||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Viant, S. P.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Snell, Harry||Walker, J.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Stephen, Campbell||Watkins, F. C.||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Strauss, G. R.||Wellock, Wilfred||Wise, E. F.|
|Sutton, J. E.||Welsh, James (Paisley)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Thurtle, Ernest||West, F. R.||Mr. Kinley and Mr. McGovern,|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Astor, Maj. Hon. John J.(Kent,Dover)||Gulnness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Atkinson, C.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Ross, Major Ronald D.|
|Bai[...]lle-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.|
|Bracken, B.||Marjoribanks, Edward||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Meller, R. J.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Campbell, E. T.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Peake, Captain Osbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Mr. Charles Williams and Captain|
|Ferguson, Sir John||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Austin Hudson.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."2352
§ The House divided: Ayes, 122; Noes, 51.2353
|Division No. 133.]||AYES.||[4.8 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Perry, S. [...].|
|Alpass, J. H.||Hardie, George D.||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Arnott, John||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Potts, John S.|
|Ayles, Walter||Haycock, A. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hayes, John Henry||Ritson, J.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Romeril, H. G.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Isaacs, George||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Barr, James||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Rowson, Guy|
|Batey, Joseph||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Sandham, E.|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Kelly, W. T.||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Kennedy. Rt. Hon. Thomas||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Kirkwood, D.||Shield, George William|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Lathan, G.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Shinwell, E.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Lawther. W. (Barnard Castle)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Leach, W.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Buchanan, G.||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cameron, A. G.||Longbottom, A. W.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Longden, F.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Chater, Daniel||McElwee, A.||Snell, Harry|
|Clarke, J. S.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cluse, W. S.||McShane, John James||Strauss, G. R.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Mansfield, W.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Daggar, George||March, S.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Day, Harry||Marley, J.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Duncan, Charles||Marshall, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Mathers, George||Walker, J.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Maxton, James||Watkins, F. C.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Melville, Sir James||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Messer, Fred||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||Mills, J. E.||West, F. R.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Morley, Ralph||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs. Mossley)||Mort, D. L.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Gossling, A. G.||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Gould, F.||Muggeridge, H. T.||Wise, E. F.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Naylor, T. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Groves, Thomas E||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Mr. Kinley and Mr. McGovern.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Albery, Irving James||Atkinson, C.||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Baill[...]e-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Bracken, B.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Knox, Sir Alfred||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Campbell, E. T.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ross, Major Ronald D.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Courtauid, Major J. S.||Marjoribanks, Edward||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Meller, R. J.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Morris, Rhys Hopkins||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Ferguson, Sir John||Peaks, Capt. Osbert||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wardlaw-Mline, J. S.|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Mr. Charles Williams and Captain|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James||Austin Hudson.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House."—[Mr. Campbell.]
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.2354
§ The House divided: Ayes, 35; Noes, 94.2353
|Division No. 134.]||AYES.||[4.17 p.m.|
|Albery, Irving James||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Marjoribanks, Edward||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Bracken, B.||Meller, R. J.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Peake, Captain Osbert||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Mr. Campbell and Captain Peter|
|Ferguson, Sir John||Reynolds, Col. Sir James||Macdonald.|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hardie, George D.||Romeril, H. G.|
|Arnott, John||Haycock, A. W.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Hayes, John Henry||Rowson, Guy|
|Batey, Joseph||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Sanders, W. S.|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sandham, E.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, central)||Kelly, W. T.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Shield, George William|
|Blindell, James||Klrkwood, D.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Bowen, J. w.||Lathan. G.||Shinwell, E.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Leach, W.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Buchanan, G.||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Smith, w. R. (Norwich)|
|Chater, Daniel||McElwee, A.||Snell, Harry|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Daggar, George||Mansfield, W.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||March, S.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Duncan, Charles||Marley, J.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Ede, James Chuter||Mathers, George||Viant, S. P.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Messer, Fred||Walker, J.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Morley, Ralph||Watkins, F. C.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Mort, D. L.||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Granville, E.||Paling, Wilfrid||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wise, E. F.|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Pole, Major D. G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Potts, John S.||Mr. Kinley and Mr. McGovern.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring[...]|
Bill committed to a Standing Committee.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Twenty-five Minutes after Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 9th February.