HC Deb 22 July 1936 vol 315 cc473-941

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [21st July]: That the Draft Unemployment Assistance (Determination of Need and Assessment of Needs) Regulations, 1936, dated the eighth day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, made by the Minister of Labour under the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said eighth day of July, be approved:"—[Mr. Ernest Brown.] Which Amendment was: In line 5, to leave out "be approved," and to add instead thereof: will, besides reducing in many cases the present insufficient allowances, be altogether inadequate to ensure the maintenance of unemployed persons and their dependants in health and physical efficiency, and will unjustly penalise other persons who happen to reside with them,".—[Mr. Greenwood.]

Question again proposed, "That the word 'be' stand part of the Question."

3.59 p.m.

Mr. N. MACLEAN

The Minister of Labour, in putting forward his explanation of these Regulations, made many statements and issued many challenges, and the Minister of Health, who closed the Debate last night, was equally provocative as to the position of the Opposition in regard to them. The existing Regulations were withdrawn, and they were withdrawn because of the feeling in the country against the distress that was being caused by the assessments of the Board's officers. The statement made by the then Minister of Labour was that the standstill arrangement, which was agreed to by the House, would mean a continuation of the higher scales to those who had been paid on the higher scales, and that those who had been paid lower scales would have increased allowances. The natural assumption of everyone who then heard the Minister of Labour was that if the Government's promise was translated into effect a large number of people were likely to benefit materially by the withdrawal of the old Regulations. As a matter of fact such a result was not reached. From the very time when the standstill arrangement was put into operation Members of this House who paid live attention to their constituents found that many cases of distress were occurring even under the standstill arrangement.

The Minister of Labour when he introduced the old draft Regulations tried to placate the House and those who had been opposing the idea of a means test by saying that there would be an increased payment, amounting to £3,000,000, made to those who were being assisted by the public assistance committees. The very fact that the stand-still arrangement was made, and that there was that provision of an increased sum of several millions was an acknowledgment of the criticism of hon. Members on this side of the House, who had held that instead of £3,000,000 more being given to the unemployed there would be an actual decrease in allowances throughout the country. That happened, and there has been little or no amelioration of the condition of the people concerned.

The Minister of Labour took great pains yesterday to convince the House that these new draft Regulations were to be a great advance upon the old Regulations. He said that there was likely to be greater elasticity in the operation of the Regulations, and that because of the new scales and that greater elasticity in administration which he emphasised, there would not be distress amongst those who had to get public assistance. If we examine the statement that has been issued by the Unemployment Assistance Board and the statement made by the Minister the net increase which is provided under the new Regulations is something like £750,000. In the explanatory Memorandum the Board and the Minister of Labour say that increases are likely to be given in a total of 200,000 cases, and that there are bound to be some reductions but that it is yet too early for the Minister to say how many will suffer reductions. If the net increase is to be £750,000 and that is to be spread over the 200,000 applicants mentioned by the Minister, that will work out at an average of less than 4½d. per applicant. As a matter of fact one might say that it is approximately 6d., nothing more. That is a Woolworth increase, "Nothing more than 6d.," from a Woolworth Government, and the unemployed of the country are expected to be enthusiastic because 200,000 amongst them are likely to receive an average increase of 6d. per week.

Mr. J. JONES

A Coronation tanner.

Mr. MACLEAN

I think the Minister was rather too long yesterday when he took an hour and 45 minutes in trying to make the country believe that there was going to be peace throughout the distressed areas because an increase of that amount was to be given to them. I want to ask the Minister of Labour why it is that he and those who advise the Board believe that they can bring peace into the industrial world by fobbing off in this way those who have been for years unemployed. Roughly about five-sevenths of those who will be drawing allowances under these Regulations have been unemployed for more than six months and only two-sevenths, on the Board's own figures, who have been less than six months unemployed. Those people, some of whom will not receive any increase and some of whom are likely to receive reductions according to the Board's own statement, are expected to remain pacific and to accept what the Board will give them without any complaint whatever. I think that without any agitation on the part of any Member of this House the very application of these scales and the withdrawal of the standstill arrangement of to-day will mean a renewal of the agitation which we had 18 months ago. I hope that the Minister and those associated with him in the administration of these draft Regulations will be prepared to yield to the storm and withdraw these Regulations also when he finds that they are not meeting with the reception and have not the result in application which he evidently desires that they should have. The Minister said yesterday that he did not desire to be provocative—

Lieut.-Colonel C. KERR

The hon. Member made a calculation just now. We have worked out the figures with great care, and we find that the increase is 1s. 6d. a week and not 6d.

Mr. MACLEAN

The Government are now promoted to Marks and Spencer. After the Debate I am prepared to show my calculation to the hon. and gallant Member. I am not prepared to accept his figure across the Floor of the House in this way. The Minister of Labour when speaking yesterday went deliberately out of his way, I thought, to be needlessly insulting to local authorities. He stated that some of the local authorities carrying out the administration under the standstill arrangement had been deliberately lavish with the funds because they were not themselves responsible for those funds. The right hon. Gentleman was challenged upon that statement. In reply to the challenge he named certain places, one of which was the public assistance committee of Glasgow, and he cited a particular case from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). I leave my hon. Friend to deal with the details of that case. The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to make a point that the public assistance committee of Glasgow had taken into consideration the sum of 17s. paid to a son, and I asked him whether he wished the House to believe that it was 17s. paid through the Unemployment Assistance Board or standard benefit?

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Mr. Ernest Brown)

Paid through the Board.

Mr. MACLEAN

Then if the Minister considered that the public assistance committee were doing something they ought not to have done, his duty, when he discovered that case, was immediately to draw the attention of the public assistance committee to the matter and to have it put right. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. He did not draw attention to the case but he used it yesterday in this House; he had stored it up. To use his own phrase, when he discovered the case he "pricked up his ears." I do not know where his ears were at the time. He stored the information away in his memory to be thrown across the Floor of the House when the opportunity arose, and he tried to make out that the Glasgow public assistance committee are unduly generous when their own rates are not to be affected, and that they are prepared to take everything they can get from the Government and spend more than is right if the Government will only allow them to do so.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that Glasgow pays considerably more to the Unemployment Assistance Fund than any other city in the United Kingdom? Is he aware that Glasgow, with its population of a million, is asked to contribute £406,000 to the fund? London, Birmingham and Manchester, three cities with approximately 7,000,000 inhabitants, pay only £378,000. That is to say that, with a much larger rateable value those three cities are paying less than Glasgow to the Unemployment Assistance Fund. What right has the Minister to say that Glasgow is not generous? He is trading upon the proverbial generosity of the Scottish people.

Viscountess ASTOR

I agree.

Mr. MACLEAN

I get support even from Plymouth in that respect. The Glasgow public assistance committee has received the commendation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the manner in which it has operated the fund. After investigation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed that the money paid out by Glasgow in the operation of the scales was the correct sum and passed that sum for payment. There has never been any challenge made against the operation by the Glasgow public assistance committee of these scales or of the payments until the right hon. Gentleman made it in the House yesterday. I would ask him whether he meant that the public assistance committee should disregard that sum. If he makes the plea that it was wrong in assessing the sum of 17s. in its determination, then he infers that he is in favour of the Glasgow public assistance committee disregarding that sum. Is that so? The Minister does not answer, but that is the obvious conclusion to be drawn from his statement yesterday.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in the presence of the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Health, whether he is prepared to advise the Prime Minister that in future, when assessing for public assistance needs any applicant who comes before it, the Glasgow public assistance committee shall disregard Unemployment Assistance payments in the same manner that the law at present makes it disregard disability pensions and National Health Insurance? Is he prepared to make that recommendation? If he is not, what was his purpose yesterday in making that statement slandering a town when he is not prepared to back up his statement with a proper recommendation? And the right hon. Gentleman said he did not wish to be provocative. Is he aware that every man, woman and child in Glasgow, including the unemployed and those who will receive this payment from the Unemployment Assistance Fund, will pay 7s. 9d. each to the Unemployment Assistance Fund, whereas in Birmingham they will pay 6½d. per head? Is he aware that the average number of persons in an unemployed family in Glasgow is calculated as being husband, wife, and 2.5 children, and that on the above figures the family will pay 33s. 6d. to the unemployment fund, a sum equal to one week's benefit to that family? The family will pay one week's benefit back to the fund out of which it is paid.

The Minister tries to justify that sort of treatment and talks about being generous, but I would ask him and his colleagues on the Front Bench, who I understand are equally responsible with him for these Regulations, whether he and they are prepared to pay over one week's salary to the Unemployment Assistance Board to help the unemployed, in the same way that they are asking the unemployed families to pay one week's benefit to the fund out of which they receive payment? It is absurd for any Minister of Labour to try to make the House believe that the Government are unduly generous, and that we ought to go down on our knees and thank them as though they were bringing to us blessings from Heaven. The Government are continuing to fleece the poor, the very poorest of the poor. Moreover, let it be borne in mind that the families whose rents are to be assessed under these draft Regulations are required to pay their rates along with their rents, and that they are paying in rates the sum which the cities have to pay into the Unemployment Assistance Fund. Being under the Unemployment Assistance Board and in receipt of payments from the Board, they can get no relief from the public assistance committees with regard to rents unless they are actually out on the street. The Minister of Labour comes forward with a scheme of this kind and expects the House to be very enthusiastic about it and very appreciative of the Government which have brought it before the House.

Let me give other figures. The right hon. Gentleman said that when Glasgow was paying out other people's money it was generous, but was not so generous with its own money. If most of the scales in these draft Regulations are compared with the scales of the Glasgow public assistance committee, it will be found that Glasgow is more generous than the Board. The scales in Glasgow are from 1s. to 5s. per family more than those of the Board, and in only one case that I have had submitted to me is the difference in favour of the Unemployment Assistance Board's figures. In the Regulations three cases are cited for the purpose of giving comparisons which illustrate the effect of the changes between the old and the new Regulations. In the old Regulations the determination is 21s. 8d. and in the new Regulations it is 28s. The Glasgow scale for that particular set of circumstances and for such a family is at present 30s.—2s. more. In the second case, the sum is 15s. 11d. under the old Regulations and 20s. 6d. under the new Regulations, whereas the Glasgow scale is 22s. 6d. Only in the third case, where under the new Regulations there was a determination of 37s. 2d. and under the new Regulations 51s., does the Board give a larger determination than that of the Glasgow authority, and then it is only a question of 1s., since Glasgow pays 50s. in similar circumstances.

Mr. SCRYMGEOUR-WEDDERBURN

Can the hon. Member inform the House of the number of people concerned?

Mr. MACLEAN

I am quoting from the Regulations, and if the hon. Member had read them he would know. I am not quoting Glasgow scales.

Mr. MABANE

The figures quoted by the hon. Member are not benefit scales, but are the amounts to be retained by the wage-earner for his personal requirements.

Mr. MACLEAN

They illustrate the effect of the changes.

Mr. MABANE

In the amount of earnings to be retained.

Mr. MACLEAN

If the hon. Member wishes to give a larger sum, he will support the Glasgow scales, instead of those of the Board. I apologise to the House for citing Glasgow cases, but, after all, it is better to criticise these Regulations by dealing with cases and scales with which one is familiar than by dealing with the Regulations in an abstract manner. With regard to rents, assuming that the household means, according to the scale, are 40s., the basic rent allowance is calculated at 10s. If, in fact, the rent actually paid is only 5s., there will be a corresponding reduction in the household allowance. When it is borne in mind that in Glasgow at least one-half of the working class population lives in houses with rents of less than 7s. 6d. per week, and consequently will in most cases suffer a reduction in the scale allowance by the Board, in addition to the cut in the scale itself, it can readily be understood that this feature of the Regulations will be resented. In Glasgow 24 per cent. of able-bodied cases are paying rents of 10s. a week and over. The rent scales will not deal very beneficially with the people in Glasgow. Take the scales: father, mother and son, the father earning 40s. a week and the son idle; the reduction to be made, Unemployment Assistance Board, 30s.; public assistance, 5s.; the net amount payable by the Unemployment Assistance Board under these Regulations, 4s.; public assistance committee, 5s. I have worked out all the scales and the differences between them, and, as I have stated already, the differences range from 1s. to 5s. in favour of the Glasgow Corporation's public assistance committee. That is the case throughout these scales.

Mr. McCORQUODALE

Is the hon. Member satisfied that the finances of Glasgow as a whole are in a very good condition?

Mr. MACLEAN

If the hon. Member had followed the questions I have put in the House from time to time, I think he would agree that I am not satisfied with that condition. The reason I am quoting these cases against the Minister is that yesterday he was gibing and sneering at Glasgow and the manner in which it conducted its affairs. He endeavoured to make the House believe that the scales he is proposing in his draft Regulations are better than those being operated in Glasgow, and I am proving that that is not so. What is more, I am proving that in Glasgow we are paying to the Unemployment Assistance Board more than three large English cities together, although they have six or seven times the population of Glasgow. I think that is a case of tyrannising over Glasgow and extracting from Glasgow more than it ought to pay. We have been fighting this question for 18 months and can get no relief even from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We can get no abatement or no satisfaction. That amount must be paid.

When it is considered that there are in Glasgow close upon 150,000 people in receipt either of unemployment benefit or public assistance relief, I think it will be agreed that Glasgow is being asked to pay far too much in comparison with London, with a population of over 4,000,000, Birmingham with a population approximating to that of Glasgow and Manchester also with an equal population. They are being asked to pay 6½d. per head as against 7s. 6d. per head in Glasgow. It is preposterous that we should be robbed of this money, because it is nothing else but sheer robbery on the part of the Board. Edinburgh protests against it. Even the town represented by the Secretary of State for Scotland sends a telegram of protest against these scales. But the right hon. Gentleman will stand up and defend the Government's scales against the constituency which sent him here. That will be his duty as a Member of the Cabinet. We shall have a united front on the other side as far as robbing the poor is concerned.

The Minister of Health yesterday tried to prove that everything was delightful or was likely to become delightful in connection with these scales. He was very good at quoting averages, and he told us that the Labour Government had paid only 21s. whereas the present Government were now paying 23s. He forgot to tell the House, however, that when the Labour Government were in office he used to sit in that corner seat and jibe at the Labour Government and accuse them of extravagance because they were paying 21s. He was supported then by the present Minister of Agriculture who assisted him in jibing at the Labour Government. We received very little assistance from the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Labour. His support was very uncertain—both his own and that of his colleagues who then sat below the Gangway. When the Minister of Health tries to make us believe that the present Government are doing much better than the Labour Government did, he should bear in mind that he is partly responsible for having prevented the Labour Government from being more generous. We cannot forget that he offered severe opposition to the Labour Government on that matter, nor can we forget the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour at that time.

These Regulations, in my opinion, ought never to have been presented. When the standstill arrangement was introduced one would have been led to believe, if one were sufficiently credulous, that the country was about to solve its unemployment difficulties by the standstill arrangement and the new Regulations which, it was said, would be on a more generous scale than the old Regulations. At that time we had just concluded the prolonged debates on the Government of India Act. India had been exercising the attention of the House for weeks and it had occupied the attention of a Royal Commission for a long time before the Bill was even drafted. I said at that time that India was not the question which would cause the greatest trouble to the Government of the day. I said that the dominating question for that Government would be unemployment. Unemployment is going to be the dominating question for this Government also if they administer these Regulations, as now submitted, in the manner in which they have administered similar Regulations in the past.

Let me give a final instance. The Minister's statement yesterday suggested that the officials of the Board, in making determinations, would not fall into such errors as those of the Glasgow public assistance committee. We were told that they would make correct assessments, that they would have sufficient instructions and regulations and circulars and advice to enable them to make their determinations in the fairest possible manner to the people concerned. A week or two ago a man came to see me in my constituency. He was in receipt of unemployment assistance under the Board. He had two lads, both at work, each earning 12s. a week. One of these lads who had been employed as a vanboy was dismissed and received 14s. unemployment benefit. That was an advance of 2s. on the income of that household. When the father next applied to the unemployment assistance committee he stated that his circumstances had changed to the ex- tent that one of his sons was now receiving 2s. more in standard benefit than he had previously received. What did the right hon. Gentleman's officials do? They deducted 2s. 6d. from the man. They were mean enough to take off 6d. more than the extra amount which was going into the household. In a family of that nature whose expenditure has been cut to the bone by these Regulations, 6d. means a considerable reduction. It may mean nothing to Members of this House but it is a considerable amount to a family whose total income may be 40s. a week or even as low as 26s. a week. In face of a case like that, the Minister asks us to believe that Glasgow is the only city where that kind of thing is done.

Unemployment is occupying three days of our time this week. I am not threatening when I say to those Members, in whatever part of the House they sit, who represent industrial areas that so soon as these Regulations begin to operate they will be inundated with requests to interview the Minister and have changes made in this and that respect. Of course, the Minister of Labour says that the question ought to be taken out of politics altogether. What a cowardly way of getting out of it. "Do not," he says, "let us make party capital out of this question." Who made party capital out of it at the General Election, when the manifesto issued on behalf of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite told the unemployed what they intended to do for them, and the generous provision which they were going to make? Was that not making party capital? We had the Prime Minister's splendid face gazing down at us from every hoarding in our constituencies, smiling at us, with the inscription "Trust me." The people trusted the right hon. Gentleman, and their trust has been betrayed by the issue of these Regulations. It is all very well for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to assume that things are going to be pacific in this connection. They are not going to be pacific. They cannot be. You can only give an increase of £750,000 a year to close upon 1,000,000 unemployed, five-sevenths of whom have been unemployed for more than six months, and some for more than five years. But you can spend scores of millions of pounds on increasing armaments. More money for armaments, less for the unemployed. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, there are millions for the armaments which we are told we need to defend our country.

Tell the unemployed in the distressed areas that they have to defend their homes, out of which, perhaps, the furniture has been removed to the pawn shop. Tell them that to defend those homes you will provide them with glorious new battleships, well-drilled troops, and splendid aeroplanes. The aeroplanes will be flying over our cities while down below in homes in working-class areas there will be people calling out for food. The Minister of Health told us of all the things that could be obtained in spite of malnutrition which exists in this country. Lectures are given to us in this House about the unemployed man's wife and the working man's wife, who cannot spend their money as they ought to spend it and therefore cannot live within the means provided by this or that scale. I would like to see wives of some Members of this House trying to keep a household going for a fortnight on 26s. Then you would have a real revolution, more particularly if hon. Members felt that they were going to be kept under those conditions for any considerable length of time and it would only be right that they should feel rebellious in such circumstances. But I often wonder why it is that while they would be rebellious in those circumstances, they expect other people to exist under those conditions and not to be rebellious. I hope that before the Debate closes tomorrow night the Minister of Labour will have gained such an indication of the feeling in the House that he will withdraw these Regulations. We are definitely opposed to a means test. The Glasgow public assistance committee has passed a resolution against the means test and all over the country people in growing numbers are rallying to the belief that this country can be maintained and that even those in distress can be maintained, without the application of a means test.

I submit that the Government ought to take their courage in their hands and abolish the means test. Let them go forward with a strightforward scale, so that each family will know what it is going to receive and that it will receive that amount, until such time as the country is in a better position with regard to employment. We claim that this should be a national charge, and the Government in part admit that it is a national charge. These transitional payments do not come out of any fund; they come from taxation, and if you can take a certain proportion from taxation, what is to prevent your taking the whole from taxation? You take the whole of the amount which you are paying for armaments out of taxation; why cannot you take the whole of the amount which you require to maintain the unemployed out of taxation? Armaments cannot produce anything; they can only destroy. The unemployed, given access to work, can produce and enrich the country. We believe, therefore, that the policy of the Government should be work or maintenance and no means test. Let them take that as their slogan, scrap the Regulations, and bring forward in this House a Bill that will give justice to the unemployed and, as well, heart and encouragement to go about and look for employment.

4.47 p.m.

The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir Godfrey Collins)

The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) made great play with the amount of money which the Government are spending on armaments. Not only will that money enable this country to get her defence forces in proper order, but it is today finding much work, more especially for those in the distressed areas, and I am sure hon. Members opposite will bear that in mind when they come to consider that particular problem. The hon. Member, in his opening sentences, referred to this as being a Woolworth Government and a Marks and Spencer Government. So far as I know, both those stores are growing in numbers and in popularity.

Mr. LAWSON

They are cheap.

Sir G. COLLINS

The hon. Member says they are cheap, but they serve the interests of the public, and that is the one desire of the Government—to serve the interests of the public in various ways. The hon. Member then went on to give certain figures about the cost of able-bodied relief in Glasgow. They were no doubt accurate, but he omitted to give the full picture. I do not charge him with any inconsistency, but in reply to an hon. Member opposite, when I was challenged on this point on a former occasion, I brought out—and I must repeat it to-day—what advantage the financial Sections of the Unemployment Act of 1934 have brought to Glasgow. The hon. Member spoke of the burden, but he omitted to state the very considerable advantage that that Act was to my native land. Let me explain it again to the House. The average sum given in relief to the local authorities in England and Wales was 1s. 11½d. per head of the population, and in Scotland it was 6s. 4d.—that is, from the National Exchequer, from money collected by this Government—but the sum for Glasgow was, not 1s. 11½d., nor even 6s. 4d., but 16s. 11½d.

Mr. MACLEAN

But you have taken 7s. 9d. back.

Sir G. COLLINS

It is true that under the provisions of that Act Glasgow are paying £406,000, but they are being relieved to the extent of £990,000, and I think that on balance my countrymen will think they have not done badly. No doubt they would like to see the total sum paid by the local authorities abolished, but when they come to strike a balance as to the situation which has arisen as a result of the financial proposals of that Act, I think they will see that Glasgow in particular should be the very last town to complain, for Glasgow has received more towards the cost of able-bodied relief than any other city in Great Britain.

Mr. MACLEAN

Is it not the case that when it was first proposed by the Government to take over the unemployed, the full burden was to be taken over by the Government, and is it not the case that in the 1929–31 Labour Government, that is, in the Act of 1930, all those who were out of unemployment benefit were brought back on to unemployment benefit without anything being charged upon the town itself?

Sir G. COLLINS

I can only answer for the Government's policy, but the Government at no time ever promised to take over the total cost of able-bodied relief. The statement made at this Box two or three years ago, clearly stated that it was subject to adjustment of finance between the central Government and local authorities, and at no time has this Government ever promised to take over the complete cost of able-bodied relief. The hon. Member went on to refer to the present practice of the public assistance authorities in Greenock, and there was some good-natured interruption from the back. Well, we will take our troubles when we have to face them. I am anxious to submit these scales, not only to the House of Commons, but to the people of Scotland, and even to the ratepayers. The House of Commons is always anxious to do the very best it can for the people for whom it is responsible. The ideal naturally is a fully employed nation, but until that day arrives, provision must be made for those who are unable to work for themselves. The issue before us to-day will not be solved ultimately by Government supporters or even by the Opposition. It will be solved by public opinion in Great Britain, and by public opinion I mean, not the opinion of the unemployed person—

Mr. S. O. DAVIES

They do not matter.

Sir G. COLLINS

Oh, yes, they do. It will be solved, not by the opinion of the unemployed person or the keen party man on either side, but it will be solved, as all questions are solved, by the British instinct for fair play. The British people in some inscrutable way have an unerring instinct to do the right thing, and they will be the ultimate judges of the scales which we are submitting to-day. We shall confidently appeal to them when the time comes. The problem to-day is a human problem. The House of Commons is concerned, not only with the scales, but with how they will be operated, and I suggest, first of all, that it is not fair to judge the Board solely by the scales laid down in the Regulations, but by the way in which they are applied. Let the House of Commons picture to itself an unemployed person. He has long wished for work, he has searched for work, he has seen shipyards closed and factories shut down. Is it unnatural that sometimes bitterness enters his soul? I often wonder, I often marvel, at the patience of these people. If he also feels that he is being unfairly treated in comparison with his neighbour, a keen sense of injustice is created.

Mr. S. O. DAVIES

Why exploit him?

Sir G. COLLINS

If, for instance, one woman feels that her husband is not being treated like her neighbours in the same town or street, a keen sense of injustice quickly arises, and I think it would be the wish of the House of Commons, as much as the wish of the Board, to see that even-handed justice is done between these people in the different towns and villages of our country. Having come in contact with the officials of the Board, both at the centre and at the circumference, I am confident that we have an organisation which is capable of accomplishing that desirable result, and personally I do not regret the stand-still arrangement. It has allowed an interval for the officials to get in touch with their public, it has allowed the public to get in touch with the officials, and a spirit of contact has resulted. If I am not much mistaken, up and down our land the applicants and the Board's officials have come in contact with each other, and I am glad, therefore, that there has been this stand-still arrangement, to allow that spirit of contact to arise before the national scale is put into operation. When speaking on this point of the relation of the Board to the applicants, I am reminded that the "Manchester Guardian," which will appeal to hon. Members below the Gangway opposite and which is always economical in its praise of the National Government, spoke two days ago of the "experience of the Board's work having been by no means unfavourable." It may have been faint praise, but it is praise that seldom comes from that quarter.

Let me now turn, not to the scales of the Board, but to the rates of transitional payments. Prior to the coming into operation of the Board, the rates of transitional payments were fixed by as many as 55 local authorities in Scotland and a much greater number in England, and I desire to pay my tribute to the public work done by men and women on these authorities. These authorities did not all fix the same scales; some fixed scales higher than others. That is only natural, having regard to the different composition of these different local authorities, but the total amount so fixed by these local authorities was met by the Treasury. These amounts were paid by the Treasury from the national taxes, and not by the ratepayers. The local authorities, therefore, were granting sums to the inhabitants of their areas and did not have the responsibility of raising the necessary revenue. The local authorities, to use the old phrase, called the tune, but the State paid the piper.

The system of varying rates has been continued under the standstill arrangement, and in Scotland 80 per cent. of the Board's applicants are being paid in accordance with the old transitional payment scheme. I should be surprised, however, if any one would defend the system which I have described; and the present trouble which the Government are anxious to remove has largely arisen through the causes I have indicated. I suggest that the Board in fixing the scales have had regard to what is just and reasonable. The only way to avoid making any cuts whatever was to choose not only the scale of the highest paying authority in Great Britain, but the highest item in the scale of any authority. That was the only way the Board could have avoided any cuts had they so desired. That, however, was naturally out of the question.

Mr. BUCHANAN

Why?

Sir G. COLLINS

I shall submit my full reasons in the course of my speech. The Board had to fix a scale in keeping with the needs of the people, having in mind the cost of living, the rates of wages and the general level and nature of the local scales which had been fixed by the numerous local authorities composed of public men in different parts of Scotland and England. In politics nothing is easier than to out-bid your political opponents. One offers 20s., and another comes along and offers 25s. The Government and the Board have been anxious to fix a reasonable standard of assistance. Nothing makes a greater appeal than the appeal of a skilled man who has taken a long time to learn his trade and who is unable to find work.

I do not want to spend time discussing the advisory committees at length, but yesterday in the Debate it was suggested that these committees would be a smokescreen and nothing more. I know something of the type of public men who have agreed to serve on these committees, and they are not the men who are content merely to be a smoke-screen. It is true that they will have no statutory responsibility for decisions, but they will have a statutory power, through the Regulations, to influence the decisions on important points.

Mr. S. O. DAVIES

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman be frank and straightforward with the House? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] Certainly, after the deliberately prevaricating speech of the Minister of Labour yesterday, it is time we protested. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House that the only power the advisory committees have is merely to recommend, and none whatever to adjudicate?

Sir G. COLLINS

I was very clear when I said that they have no statutory responsibility for decisions, but they have statutory power, through the Regulations, to influence the decisions on important points. Moreover, some hon. Members seem to forget that there are the appeal tribunals, which are the final authority between the Board and the applicant.

Mr. T. SMITH

But the advisory committees will not appeal for the applicants.

Mr. MORGAN JONES

May we get it absolutely clear that the advisory committee has only the function of advising and that the inspector or officer of the Board reserves to himself complete right to reject the advice?

Sir G. COLLINS

That is perfectly accurate, and nothing that I said is contrary to it. Appeal tribunals have been in existence for a long time, and I have not heard, and I do not know whether other hon. Members have heard, that these bodies, which consist of an independent chairman, a local man of public standing appointed by the Board, and a representative of the workpeople, do not and cannot do justice to their cases. Moreover, it is the intention of the Board to summon, as occasion requires, a regional conference of the chairmen of advisory committees for the discussion of matters of more than purely local interest. This will apply in Scotland and elsewhere. I regard this introduction of the local informed element through the advisory committees as a big step for- ward in the attempt to combine the efficiency of a Government Department with the knowledge and understanding of local problems which can come only from those at the circumference. I am sure that Scottish Members in all parts of the House will value that policy.

Now I come to the means test. I suggest that it is often misunderstood. It has been described as a factor in breaking up family life. The officers of the Board in their Report show that there has been little evidence to support that view. I have been making inquiries myself in two directions. During visits to different parts of Scotland I asked at many centres whether members of families had left their homes because of the means test. When I asked how many cases there were, I have been met with vague statements. Not content with that, I asked my own officers during the last two months to make inquiries from 250 single unemployed men in different parts of Scotland to find out why they were living by themselves. They were chosen from the cities in Scotland. The result was that in 85 per cent. of the cases the men were living by themselves independently of anything to do with the means test. The remaining 15 per cent. had left their homes because of all sorts of family quarrels. [HON. MEMBERS: "Through the means test!"] Sometimes it was associated with the means test—[Interruption.]

I am giving the House the benefit of my own experience through my officials. I put it to hon. Members opposite that the principle of the means test can remain permanently on the Statute Book only if it is accepted with a fair measure of support, for it is a truism to say in this case as in others that the will of the people must ultimately prevail. Let me turn to the size and nature of the means test. From a test made in April, 1935, the results of which were published in the Board's Report, it was estimated that of the 725,000 applicants to whom they were then paying allowances some 324,000, or 46 per cent. had resources coming into their homes amounting to about £24,500,000.

Mr. GEORGE GRIFFITHS

How is that made up?

Sir G. COLLINS

I am coming to that. I assure hon. Members opposite that I will not shirk it. To-day there are not 725,000 applicants but 620,000. On the basis of the 1935 test, there are actually to-day 285,000 persons to whom the means test will apply, and into their homes there is coming a sum of £20,000,000 a year. [HON. MEMBERS: "Analyse it!"] I am trying to tell the House quite clearly the size and nature of the means test. There are 285,000 persons coming under it who possess earnings from all sources of about £20,000,000 a year. It is wrong, of course, to take the whole of the resources into account. The Regulations do not propose it and the Act does not allow it. For example, the first 5s. of sick pay, the first 7s. 6d. of Health Insurance, and other points are completely disregarded, but the Regulations also provide for the making of ample allowances for the income of earning members of the household to meet the personal requirements of the members. The point I put to the House is whether it is unreasonable—

Miss WILKINSON

Yes, very unreasonable.

Sir G. COLLINS

—unreasonable for the State to pay regard to sums amounting to £20,000,000 going into the households of the people who come to the State and say they are in need. It is not unreasonable and public opinion will support that view.

Mr. E. DUNN

That £20,000,000, I understand, includes wages, and, therefore, the correct position is that the wage going into the households of these people is less than 25s. a week.

Sir G. COLLINS

I said definitely that it took account of earning members of the household.

Mr. ROWSON

Would that figure include widows' pensions as well?

Sir G. COLLINS

I had intended to state the whole sums of sick pay, maternity benefit and so on, which were completely disregarded, but, in deference to hon. Members opposite, I refrain from doing it. The further point I am anxious to put to the House is, Is it not a human privilege and a deep-rooted instinct in life for relatives to assist their kith and kin?

Mr. S. O. DAVIES

For a blind man to share his pension?

Sir G. COLLINS

I am speaking in no provocative manner.

Miss WILKINSON

You are. I have brothers and sisters. You talk about human privilege and you take half a soldier's pension when he has fought for you.

Sir G. COLLINS

I am trying in no provocative manner—

Miss WILKINSON

You are provocative.

Mr. LOGAN

Why do you not say to the House that this scheme is not a fair proposition and chuck up the job?

Sir G. COLLINS

I am submitting certain points—

Mr. J. JONES

You are submitting nothing.

Sir G. COLLINS

—why the Committee—

Mr. S. O. DAVIES

Put the Government benches on the means test.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)

Order! I would point out that there are a good many Members who wish to take part in the Debate and interruptions only lengthen speeches and make it more difficult for more hon. Members to take part.

Sir G. COLLINS

In stating this question I well recognise that the marked tendency of modern life is for every member of the household to have complete liberty. Such freedom is now demanded as a right. But there is no inconsistency between liberty and freedom on the one hand and the due discharge of family obligations which underlie the principle of the means test. Let us see how these Regulations compare with the present practice of local authorities when dealing with the ablebodied poor. I choose for comparison the two largest cities in Great Britain, London and Glasgow, both under Labour rule. Moreover the Glasgow scale is higher than any other scale in Scotland except in Greenock. Before coming to the exact scales in these two areas I would remind the House that the fixing of local scales of relief and the local means test was, subject to the general law of public assistance, within the discretion of the councils concerned, and that in each case these councils had a Labour majority.

Mr. LOGAN

Owing to the interruptions and as the Prime Minister is now present, is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to ask leave to withdraw these Regulations?

Sir G. COLLINS

It was as a result of the exercise of their discretion by these predominantly Labour bodies that the scales and the means test now in operation in Glasgow and London were framed. Let me turn to an objective analysis of these scales, to see whether I cannot show, as I am confident I can, that the scales in these two areas under Labour rule do not compare unfavourably with the scales of the Board.

Mr. BUCHANAN

On a point of Order. I understand that there is a Standing Order against repetition in this House. In the Debate last night we got the London scale, and the Minister yesterday dealt to some extent with the case of Glasgow. Again, in the concluding speech, the Minister of Health went very fully into the scale in London. In view of the fact that a lot of Members wish to take part in the Debate I wish to ask whether the rule against repetition is not to be enforced?

Sir G. COLLINS

On that point of Order. My right hon. Friend last night did speak about the position in London and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) asked for the exact scale, and it is now my purpose to give the exact scale.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) is perfectly right in saying that there is a rule, Standing Order No. 18, against repetition, but I am afraid that it is one which is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Furthermore, I did not myself hear either of the speakers referred to last night, and, therefore, I am not in a position to judge as to repetition.

Mr. BUCHANAN

I am not going to say more than that I congratulate you on not having heard those speeches.

Mr. F. ANDERSON

Can we have a guarantee that the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) will not repeat anything said by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton)?

Sir G. COLLINS

Let me give some figures to illustrate the amounts payable to typical families without resources under the Glasgow and London scales of benefit for the able-bodied poor, and the amount which will be payable to them under the Board's Regulations. In giving the figures under the Regulations I am assuming that no rent adjustment has been made. Take the case of a man and wife. The allowance in Glasgow is 26s., in London 18s. plus the rent actually paid, and under the Board it will be 26s. including rent up to 6s. 6d. [HON. MEMBERS: "24s.!"] I am taking the case of a family without resources. Then take the case of a man and wife with three children, whose ages, for the sake of my argument, I put at three, six and nine years of age. They receive in Glasgow 35s., in London 28s. plus the rent paid, and will receive 35s. under the Board.

Mr. MacLAREN

Comparative figures are being used. The figure was 35s. in Glasgow and then there was another figure given for London. Is that exclusive of the rent? What were the amounts payable to those persons?

Sir G. COLLINS

They are paid more in London if the rent is more, and so it will be under the Board.

Mr. MACLEAN

Is it not the case—

Viscountess ASTOR

This is like Farringdon Hall.

Mr. MACLEAN

Is it not the case that the public assistance allowance in Glasgow for a family such as you are quoting, father, mother and three children, is 35s., and under the Unemployment Assistance Board, with rent at 6s. 6d., it is 33s. 6d.?

Mr. BUCHANAN

We did not hear the figures, quote them again.

Sir G. COLLINS

A man and wife with three children aged nine, six and three, receive 35s. in Glasgow, in London 28s. plus the rent paid, and will receive 35s. under the Board.

Mr. MORGAN JONES

Would it not be fairer if the right hon. Gentleman would take some basic rent, say 7s. 6d., in London? I have in my possession comparative figures for London taking 7s. 6d. as the basic rent, and according to them the claim which the right hon. Gentleman makes is utterly unjustified.

Sir G. COLLINS

The hon. Member will no doubt have an opportunity of putting his case. I have endeavoured—

Mr. SILVERMAN

Will the Minister say what exactly he hopes to prove by this comparison of the Board's Regulations with the relief of destitution under the Poor Law?

Sir G. COLLINS

If hon. Members will bear with me while I make my speech they will be able to see whether the conclusions I draw from these figures agree with theirs. I am not giving the basic rent or a particular rent. Hon. Members opposite will know that the practice varies, and under the new rent rule it is so adjusted as to meet the needs of each locality.

Mr. COVE

In London they meet the individual needs of each recipient.

Sir G. COLLINS

In the case of a man and wife and a child of three, the allowance is 29s. in Glasgow, 22s. plus rent in London, and 29s. under the Board. In the case of a single man living in lodgings the allowance in Glasgow is 17s., in London 10s. plus the rent, and 15s. under the Board. This 15s. allowance is subject to adjustments to meet the circumstances of the particular case and the allowance is also subject to the right of appeal to the Appeal Tribunal.

Mr. COVE

They asked for bread, and you gave them an appeal.

Mr. MACLEAN

Even on the last figures that the right hon. Gentleman has quoted to the House, Glasgow is 2s. better than the Regulations.

Mr. COVE

He does not understand it.

Sir G. COLLINS

The position of a man living in London—

Mr. COVE

The right hon. Gentleman does not know what he is talking about.

Sir G. COLLINS

—is worse off.

HON. MEMBERS

No!

Mr. ELLIS SMITH

This is important. The Minister has made definite statements, and has repeated what the Minister of Health said last night. I have furnished myself with the official publication that is presented to members of committees when they are administering Poor Law relief in the London district. It is true, as far as the Minister has gone, but they also have the right, under this administration, to take into consideration the granting of coal in the winter, paying doctors' bills, and paying the whole of the rent.

Sir G. COLLINS

The right hon. Gentleman went fully into these figures and into that question—[Interruption]—in the case of people with no resources—[Interruption.]

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

Hon. Members must give the right hon. Gentleman a hearing. I cannot permit the Debate to be carried on in this way.

An HON. MEMBER

The right hon. Gentleman is not in possession of the facts.

Mr. LOGAN

I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. [Laughter.] Well, the Minister of Labour is accustomed to it, but I am not trying to interrupt the Secretary of State for Scotland. I am asking him to tell the House, if he wishes to be reasonable, whether the statement that he made in regard to the London district is not incorrect, and that the amount which is allowed in that district is greater than the amount which he has stated. The Minister of Labour need not grin about it.

Sir G. COLLINS

I am merely anxious—

HON. MEMBERS

He has misled you. He has given you the wrong figures.

Mr. LOGAN

You are too honest.

Sir G. COLLINS

The object of my statement and my comparison is to show that the rates fixed by the Board and settled by the Government compare favourably with those—

Mr. SHINWELL

On a point of Order. [Interruption.]

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

I have been unable to hear what the hon. Gentleman's point of Order is.

Mr. SHINWELL

I want to ask your guidance. In view of the difficulty in arriving at a considered conclusion upon these disputed figures, would you accept a Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate until hon. Members have been provided with a White Paper by the Minister, setting forth the whole of the facts?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

I might consider a Motion, if it were made by an hon. Member at the proper time, but I cannot accept it during a speech.

Mr. SHINWELL

Do I understand from you that at the conclusion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, without any further reference to these disputed figures, you would accept such a Motion?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

I did not say that. I said that I might consider a Motion by an hon. Gentleman if he happens to catch my eye.

Sir G. COLLINS

rose

Mr. MAITLAND

On the point of Order. Is it not a fact that many hon. Members are anxious to hear the figures given by my right hon. Friend but cannot do so on account of the persistent interruption by hon. Members?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

Secretary Sir Godfrey Collins.

Mr. KIRKWOOD

Tell him that that is not a point of Order.

Sir G. COLLINS

I shall also show what, in each case, the total family income is, including the amount of unemployment assistance. As before, I am assuming that, in the cases under the Regulations, no adjustment is made on account of rent.

Miss WILKINSON

That invalidates the comparison.

Sir G. COLLINS

Take a man and wife, with three children over 18, earning respectively 30s., 25s. and 20s., a total of 75s. In Glasgow the amount of the contribution which they are regarded as making to their parents' keep is 20s., in London 22s. 6d., and under the Board only 11s. 6d. The second case is that of a man and wife who have a son and daughter over 18 years of age, earning 30s. and 20s. respectively, a total of 50s. In Glasgow, their contribution to their parents is taken as 10s., in London 11s., and, under the Board, only 7s.

Miss WILKINSON

And the rent.

Sir G. COLLINS

Lastly, take the case of an unemployed man and wife with a son over 18 earning 30s. In Glasgow the contribution to his parents is taken only as 5s., in London 8s., and, under the Board, 7s. In that case, the Board's figure is not so favourable as that of Glasgow but is better than that of London.

Miss WILKINSON

What about the rent?

Mr. COVE

He is making up fictitious cases.

Sir G. COLLINS

No. The figures I have given are calculated on the basis of the full family earnings. The figures will in practice under the Regulations, be modified. This is very important. The amount of the contributions will be lower and the income higher, as a result of the allowances in respect of insurance and reasonable and necessary expenses connected with employment. Figures are cold things, when dealing with the needs of these people, but I submit that, without any doubt whatsoever, tested by the comparisons with London and Glasgow, both under a Labour rule, the Board's scale for dependants, which is supported by the Government, compares not unfavourably—

HON. MEMBERS

No!

Viscountess ASTOR

Hear, hear!

Mr. LOGAN

Ask the Noble Lady whether her old man could live on it.

Viscountess ASTOR

I might say that I am not married to an old man.

Sir G. COLLINS

Now let me turn from a controversial subject to a subject of more general agreement. The new rent rule is flexible, adjustable, suited to the different needs of each locality and peculiarly adapted to the needs of Scotland. One of the chief reasons—I am sure that hon. Members opposite will agree with me—which brought about the standstill was that the old rent rule did not make sufficient allowance for the low rents in Scotland. We have, for the first time, accurate knowledge of the rents being paid by unemployed persons in Great Britain. The figures which have resulted are very startling. In England, about 26 per cent. of the households pay rents of under 6s. per week. In Scotland, about 48 per cent. of them pay rents under 6s. per week. The House will observe the much higher percentage of persons in Scotland paying a low rent than in England. The proportion is nearly double that of England.

Mr. MacLAREN

Does that include the rates?

Sir G. COLLINS

Yes. The comparison is the reason why the percentage of people in Scotland in receipt of transitional payments is much higher than in England. The rent rule is now a pliable, adjustable rule, peculiarly adapted to meet the neds of Scotland. I have endeavoured to place the issue fairly before the House. I have not chosen ground favourable to my argument, but have deliberately selected common practice in the two great municipalities of Great Britain. I have attempted to cover the ground which will be of most interest not only in the House of Commons but to the great public outside. What are the Regulations?

Mr. MORGAN JONES

May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman to ask whether the advisory committees will be entitled to give advice upon individual cases or only upon classes of cases? For instance, will they only be able to say: "The rent usually paid in this neighbourhood is X shillings per week," or will they be able to deal with the rents of particular individuals?

Sir G. COLLINS

Not with particular individuals but with a locality; with an area, a whole area, Yes; with a specified area in a locality, but not here or there. I think I have answered the question of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. G. GRIFFITHS

Does the right hon. Gentleman state that a single man will have dependants only if he is living in a household?

Sir G. COLLINS

No. I was coming to that point. I am dealing with the general standards to which the Board must have regard, in discharging that part of their duty which is concerned with meeting the material needs of the unemployed. While the Regulations prescribe a certain standard, they allow the utmost flexibility of working to preserve to the Board its right to deal with individual cases—and this answers the question of my hon. Friend opposite—in the light of individual requirements. All parties in the House desire to see work more plentiful, wages higher and conditions of life improved, and all parties are striving, in their various ways, to attain that end. The National Government have not approached this matter in any party spirit.

Great Britain compares favourably with the world. I say, not with any measure of self-satisfaction, but solely to state a simple truth, that Great Britain, under these Regulations and during the last five years, has treated her unemployed persons better than has any nation in the world. When the whole of the facts are known, I have no doubt that not only will the House of Commons support the Government to-morrow night, but that the public will decide and decide rightly, that the Board have taken much time and thought in order to tackle this terribly difficult problem, and that the Regulations which I now commend to the House are just.

Mr. T. SMITH

On a point of Order. Would you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, at this juncture of the discussion, accept a Motion, "That the Debate be now adjourned," in order that we may have a White Paper on the figures which the right hon. Gentleman has given, so that there may be no misunderstanding?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

Mr. Dingle Foot.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. DINGLE FOOT

The right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House showed a surprising knowledge of the scales of public assistance in Glasgow and in London, but, although those scales have a certain collateral interest in this discussion, he did not throughout his speech throw the faintest gleam of fresh light on the Regulations with regard to which the House is called upon to decide. We are sometimes told that it is necessary not to miss the wood for the trees, but it seems to me that the great danger in this Debate has been the danger of missing the trees for the wood; and, particularly in the discussion yesterday, the House appeared to be in danger of losing itself in a great mass of general principles of more or less relevant application.

One right hon. Gentleman above the Gangway traced the history of un- covenanted benefit since 1920, hon. Members opposite went closely into the events of 1931, and contrasts were drawn by various speakers, particularly by the Minister of Health, between the scales proposed to be paid by this Government and the scales which are now paid by various Socialist local authorities—a fine distinction which, at any rate to us in this part of the House, appeared to be of purely academic interest. It seems to me that these matters are not particularly related to what we have to decide. We have not to decide whether there is to be a means test, or what sort of test there is to be, because that is decided, not by the Regulations, but by the Act. Nor have we to pass a Vote of Censure on the actions of local authorities in any part of the country. What we have to decide is simply whether these Regulations should be passed or not, and the submission which I shall try to present to the House is simply that, in judging these Regulations, it is not necessary to call in aid any general principle of legislation or administration, but that these Regulations stand condemned by the faults which they themselves contain.

I propose to examine what I conceive to be the interpretation of the Clauses of the Regulations, but before doing so I should like to make one or two brief preliminary observations. In the first place, so far as my hon. Friends and myself are concerned, we have not retreated in any way from the view that the service of the able-bodied unemployed should be a national service. The criticism which many of us directed against the Unemployment Bill of 1934 was not that it nationalised this service, but that it left a substantial number of able-bodied unemployed outside the scope of the Bill even after the second appointed day—all those, in fact, who were not normally in insurable occupations. Secondly, hon. Members, in referring to the last set of Regulations, always spoke as if the break-down of those Regulations was in the nature of what lawyers call an act of God. They always spoke as if it was something which could not reasonably have been foreseen. In my submission, that is complete nonsense. The Minister, speaking yesterday, said: At the end of the third week it became obvious that the scheme was not working out as had been anticipated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1936; col. 287, Vol. 315.] Anticipated by whom? It was not working out, I agree, as had been anticipated by the Board; it was not working out as has been anticipated by the Minister of Labour of that day; but it was working out precisely as had been anticipated by many in this House who had taken the trouble to go to their constituencies and find out what the operation of the scheme would be. A great many of the blunders of that time would have been avoided if the Board and the Minister of Labour had taken the trouble to obtain the information which was available to any Private Member of the House who cared to ask for it.

Thirdly, we sometimes hear it suggested, or hinted, that the difficulties which arose on the last occasion were difficulties due to some rigidity in the administration of some one Department. After the break-down last year, I heard speeches of hon. Members opposite and I read newspaper articles in which it was stated that the Regulations were being too rigidly administered. The argument used was that it was not intended that they should be so harshly applied. That is an argument which has been either used or hinted at on a great many occasions, but it seems to me that to use an argument of that kind is a singularly mean way of evading responsibility for votes given in this House. The difficulties that arose were not due to any lack of sympathy in the administration. The Minister of Labour yesterday paid a tribute to the officials of the Board, and I should like, if I may, judging from what I have been able to see in my own constituency, to associate myself with that tribute, because I do not believe that what happened last year was in any way the fault of the officials. In my experience, for what it is worth, the officials of the Board have been sympathetic, and have done the best that it was possible for any body of men to do in a wholly impossible situation. The fault on the last occasion did not lie in any rigidity or harshness in the administration; the fault lay in the Regulations themselves. They were mandatory in form; only a very small measure of discretion was given; and the results which followed were results which were inevitably bound to follow from the Regula- tions which this House passed in December, 1934.

There is one observation that I should like to make arising out of the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland. He said that he made his inquiries into, I think, 250 cases in the whole of Scotland, and he found that in only a small proportion of them could it be supposed that people had left home because of the means test. That may be true, because it has been the custom of a great many authorities in the past to assess the proportion of the income of a son or daughter that was to be taken into account even when the son or daughter went away from home, if it was supposed that they had left home because of the means test, and that in itself would deter them from leaving home. I should like to quote one sentence from the Board's Report. It is on page 263, in the report of the district officer for my constituency and the surrounding districts. He says: Although there are few cases where the 'means test' is the sole or main reason for departure from home, it is necessary to remember that, in a home where there is overcrowding"— a very common circumstance, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, in Scotland— incompatibility of tempers, a parent or guardian of doubtful worth, a member guilty of misbehaviour or misdemeanour, or a worthless, shiftless person, it is not difficult to imagine the 'means test' aggravating the position to breaking point. As was pointed out yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White), the harm that may be done, and has been done, by the test as administered up to the present in family life, has not necessarily lain in the number who have left home, but in the strained relations that exist within the home. We are dealing here, and I think we must be perfectly clear about this, with an arrangement intended either to be permanent or, at any rate, to last for a considerable time. That is made clear by the second proviso of paragraph IV of the Regulations, which lays it down that the reductions that will be made are to be spread over a period of 18 months. If that is to be the preliminary period, it is quite clear that we are dealing with something that is intended to last for a considerable time. Therefore, it is not enough to be content simply with a general survey of the Regulations—to say that on the whole they may effect an improvement; it is for the House to examine each Clause of the Regulations, and satisfy itself that they do in fact represent an improvement.

I am not going to deny—and I want to make this concession in order to be perfectly fair to my right hon. Friend opposite and those responsible—that these Regulations are an improvement on the last set of Regulations. It would be remarkable if they were not. The last set of Regulations were withdrawn because they were too harsh, and it would indeed be remarkable if, after 18 months' examination, no improvement was shown. I ought in fairness to acknowledge that, in one or two features at any rate, the present Regulations embody suggestions which I have made from time to time in this House. I am glad to see, for instance, that school meals are to be ignored; I am glad to see that the expenses of going to work—tram fares and so on—are to be ignored; and I am glad to see that, at any rate in dealing with one section of wage earners, namely, those over the age of 18, provision has been made that, if they earn more, they shall have more in their own pockets, and that there shall be a minimum below which the sliding scale shall not slide. It is only fair that, having urged in debate that such provisions should be made, one should be prepared to acknowledge it when the suggestions have been carried out.

It would, however, be interesting to know, though I suppose we never shall know, how much of such improvement as there is is due to the Minister, and how much is due to the Board. The Minister has not in fact used his statutory power to amend the draft Regulations, but perhaps one may be forgiven for thinking that the fact that he possessed that power to amend must have been of some value to him when he was going round the country and when he was collaborating in the preparation of the Regulations. It is clear that there was some form of collaboration. I know that the Act originally envisaged the preparation of regulations by the Board, and an independent examination by the Minister, but nobody, I suppose, really thinks that that took place in this case, and I do not suppose that even some future chronicler of the National Government, if such there be, will conjure up the picture of an expectant Minister waiting eagerly in ignorance of what was to come, and, on receiving the Regulations, saying to the Board, as one who had received a birthday present, "This is just what I wanted; how did you guess?"

I want to deal with one or two of the Clauses of these Regulations. I would refer hon. Members first of all to paragraph III, which provides that: Where by reason of the fact that the amount is small doubt arises whether the applicant is in need, regard shall be had also to the relation of that amount to the amount at which the applicant's needs would be assessed if he had no resources and to all the other circumstances of the case. This is very similar to a provision which was included in the last Regulations, and it is explained to some extent in the Board's explanatory Memorandum; but it seems to me that this is a singularly mean part of the Regulations. Supposing that a man, when the scale has been worked out and when the various available resources have been taken into account, has only 6d. or 1s. due to him, it may not be very much, but, if he thinks it is worth collecting, why should power be taken to deprive him of it? If he is prepared to take the trouble to go to the Board and ask for this small sum week by week, why should not the Board take the trouble to pay the money? In the Memorandum supplied by the Board the sort of case is given where there are considerable resources in the family, and they say that perhaps a sum of 2s. might be ignored, because it would not be much in relation to the whole resources of the family. That may be true, but that 2s. may be the only money that the applicant can call his own. It may mean a great deal to him. I cannot see why this provision should be made to deprive, it may be only a few applicants, of very small sums that are due to them under the Board's own scale.

I should like to call attention to a point of interpretation which I think has not yet been touched on. Paragraph IV (2) deals with special circumstances. The next paragraph deals with needs of an exceptional character. There is a proviso which says that where there are no available resources as calculated in the terms of the Schedule in the first place, and also where the needs of some other person are included, the appro- priate benefit rate shall be paid. Paragraph 2 on page 5 says that if in any case special circumstances exist, the amount calculated in accordane with paragraph 1 may be adjusted by way of increase or decrease. The next paragraph says that If in any case needs of an exceptional character exist, whether arising from prolonged unemployment or otherwise, the amount calculated in accordance with the foregoing provisions may be increased. One is calculated in accordance with paragraph 1, and the second calculated "in accordance with the foregoing provisions." As I read the section, this discretion to give money for special circumstances only applies to a scale calculated in accordance with paragraph 1, and there is no power to give that addition under the proviso. That is to say, supposing a man and wife are assessed at 24s., under paragraph 1 there is power to give them money for either exceptional needs or special circumstances under one or other of these paragraphs, but the moment you put them on the 26s. scale you have no power to add to it at all. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to correct me if I am wrong.

Mr. E. BROWN

It will be cleared up in the Debate.

Mr. FOOT

I am not asking the Minister to reply now. I am only saying that it is a matter that should be cleared up.

Mr. BROWN

It is a matter with which I intended to deal but I detained the House too long yesterday.

Mr. FOOT

As it stands, it appears that you are unable to add to any amount paid under this proviso. If that were so, it would reproduce the very worst features of the standstill arrangement. Under the standstill arrangement you had in some cases this ridiculous result. Supposing an applicant was assessed at 30s. on the transitional scale and 25s. on the Board's scale, if he fell ill and wanted something for special circumstances they said, "We will give you 3s. extra, but we can only add the 3s. to the 25s. and not to the 30s." It seems to me that that system is being reproduced by the terms of these provisions and this particular proviso. These matters are technical, but they are of some importance. The proviso is mandatory. It says that where these circumstances exist, the scale shall be raised. If I am right, it would not be open to the officer to say, "We will keep you at 24s. and add whatever the amount may be," because the proviso says that the sum shall be increased. I would ask hon. Members on both sides to read very carefully the terms of the first proviso on page 5, because there are two conditions which must be observed before it comes into operation. In the first place, the needs of some other member of the household must have been included with those of the applicant, and there must be no available resources calculated in the terms of Schedule 2. That is to say, the moment you have any available resources coming in, no matter how small they may be, this proviso falls to the ground and he goes back to the lower scale. Supposing you have a man and wife, with a son earning 20s. a week. The 20s. is to be disregarded. There are no available resources and they are entitled to 26s. But supposing the son's wages rise to 20s. 6d., the 6d. is available resources, and you have no power to put this proviso into operation. That may be an extreme case, but it can happen. However small the resources may be, if it is only a matter of a penny or two, coming into the house, as long as there are resources within the meaning of Schedule 2 they put the man back on the lower scale instead of the higher.

I turn to the first schedule. It is provided that the committee may make recommendations, and then the officer of the tribunal, or the appeal tribunal, may act on them. There are two hypotheses there. A great deal will depend upon the constitution and working of the advisory committees. Are the deliberations and decisions of these committees to be private or public? Are they to arrive at their decisions in secret and communicate them in secret, or will they sit in public and will their decisions be published? Supposing you have them just giving advice without any publicity and the officer of the Board turns down their advice, as he is perfectly entitled to do, it would be an impossible situation, that a member of the advisory committee should be saddled with the responsibility of a decision against which he has himself voted. I know that there are objections to publication but they are altogether outweighed by the objections to secrecy.

Paragraph 2 seems to me to raise one of the most objectionable features of these Regulations. The allowance for a single man is to be only 15s. as against 16s. for a man in a household. I find that extraordinarily difficult to understand. The argument for having a means test is that a man who is living in the household, sharing the same life, the same fireside, and the same food, has not such great need as a man who is living by himself. That is the whole argument, and I am not prepared to say that there is not a certain amount of substance in it. Here you are reversing that principle. You are destroying the only sound argument that you have, because you are saying that the man who is living in lodgings, who has to pay for everything, who gets nothing, and can expect nothing from any member of any household, for he does not belong to a household, is actually to be paid upon a lower scale. Whatever the differences may be between Glasgow and London, in my own constituency and in many others the rate for a single man is now 17s. and it will be 15s. under the new scale.

Turning to the Second Schedule, I welcome the deduction of expenses, and I associate myself with what was said yesterday by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) on the subject of capital expense. At a time when it is so necessary to increase the number of small capitalists, or small property owners, it seems a most remarkable thing that we should introduce these entirely artificial provisions. We are all concerned with the way in which a man with a disability pension will be affected by these Regulations. The first 20s. is to be disregarded. It follows from that that amounts of over 20s. will be taken into account. I called at the house of a man with a disability pension of 20s. He was married, so they added 5s. for the wife, therefore, his income from that source was 25s. I assume that the 5s. will be taken into account. Under the present transitional scale that man gets 21s. in Dundee. Under the new scale he will get 19s., a considerable reduction from his point of view.

Part II of this Schedule is, I think, the most important part of these Regulations and one from which the most trouble will arise, particularly in Scotland and in districts where textile industries are situated and where you have women in work and their husbands unemployed. Under paragraph 1 the maximum that may be ignored for personal allowance is 8s. either from the applicant's own earnings or from those of his wife, father or mother. In addition, the scale rate may be allowed if the persons concerned have not been scaled together. I want to see how that will work out in one or two cases. Supposing a wife earns 24s., which is the Trade Board rate. Under the present transitional payments scale the husband gets 14s.—17s. less the 3s. that they take into account. The total income of the man and wife at present is 38s. In future, supposing the man and wife are scaled together, the applicant will get 24s. minus 16s., making a total of 8s. The total income of the household will be 32s., as against 38s. now. Supposing they are not scaled together for this purpose. The wife has 8s. plus 9s. according to the scale, making 17s. That deducted from 24s. leaves 7s. The total income of the household will thus be 33s. as against 38s. to-day. So that in one case there is a reduction of 6s. and in the other of 5s. There will be a great many cases like those, not only in my constituency but in others where women are working.

I will give one case which I came across last week-end in Scotland, of a husband and wife paying a rent of 6s. 1d. The wife earns 19s. at the present time. The transitional payment rate for the husband is now 17s. in Dundee, and if my estimate be correct, under the new scale, he will get 13s. instead of 17s., assuming that there is no particular allowance for rent one way or the other. That is not quite so drastic, but even he gets a cut of 4s. upon a very small income. I want to make this point: The allowance to the father or mother of the applicant is only 8s., plus the scale rate, and the balance goes into the pool. I congratulated the Minister just now because, in dealing with wage-earners with sons or daughters, he had introduced the principle of a sliding scale. I think that that was an advance, because it means that if a man earns more, he has more to put into his own pocket, and the whole amount of the increase is not taken off the assessment of his unemployed relatives. The system of not having a sliding scale and disregarding the fixed amount and taking the balance, whichever it should be, was a perfectly indefensible system. They have abolished it in the case of the son or the daughter, but curiously enough they have retained it in the case of the father and the mother.

If the principle of a sliding scale is correct in the case of a son or daughter, why is it not also correct in the case of a father or mother? A great many hon. Members have been misled about these Regulations because they have looked down the last page and have seen what has been done for the children. They have not realised, and I do not think that public opinion in this country has yet realised, that, where it is a question of considering the father's or the mother's earnings, the means test is being retained in its most vicious and indefensible form.

I want to make one other comparison. At the present time everybody points to the treatment of the wage earners, and says that it is more generous. It is true in the case of a son who is over 18, but it is not the case when you are dealing with a son under 18. Let me take the case of a boy of 17 in my constituency who is earning the trade board rate of 20s. His parents now get 26s. In that case they are to receive two cuts under the new scale because the boy's earnings are held to be available resources, and the income of the father and mother will go down from 26s. to 24s., and another 4s. from his pound is to be taken into account, bringing that income down from 24s. to 20s. There is another case, which I do not think anyone will deny, where a small household on a small income is 6s. worse off than before. Finally, there is the feature in paragraph (3, c), in page 9, which says: If the earner is the householder an additional 5s. shall be allowed. That looks all right at first sight, but when you examine it, it is not nearly as generous as it looks. Five shillings is allowed for the earner if he is the householder, but if the applicant is not the householder he would only get the scale 10s. instead of 16s. Where the earner is the householder, you may have the household worse off than if he were not. Let me make it clear. Supposing you have two brothers, one earning 30s. a week and the other unemployed. If the man with the 30s. is the householder, you must disregard 23s., plus 5s., making 28s. That is to say, 2s. will be knocked off the 10s. rate and the applicant will get 8s. If the unemployed man is the householder, you only deduct 23s. You then deduct 7s. from 16s., leaving a total of 9s. So you have this peculiar result, that different amounts are payable according to who is the householder. That will lead to all sorts of jugglery as to who is to pay the rent, and who is really the householder, because it makes a small but nevertheless appreciable difference. Lastly, the schedule deals with the question of dependants. They are to be allowed their scale rates, plus the present allowance of one-third. What does that mean, taking it in actual figures? I have seen a good many cases in my constituency of boys leaving school and getting jobs at 10s. They will get scale allowance at 6s., and in addition they will get a personal allowance of 3s. 4d., leaving a balance of 8d., which is taken off the father's assessment. Again, this is not a large sum, but it is just this cheeseparing of small sums which might very well be left out of account without mattering much to anybody.

It is just that system which has brought the whole conception of the means test into disrepute. I apologise for keeping the House for so long, but I want to say a few words about paragraph 4, which says that Where special circumstances exist the amounts allowed under this part of this Schedule may be adjusted by way of increase or decrease in such manner as is reasonable ill the circumstances. Do not let hon. Members opposite attach too much importance to that particular Clause. The particular term "special circumstances" means, and must mean exactly what it says. It must mean something which is exceptional and which does not prevail in a large number of cases. If the scales are wrong, and the machinery working out your assessment is wrong, then it is no good relying upon a Clause like this as a sort of machinery to get you out of all difficulties that might arise. You cannot expect your officials to invent special circumstances where none exist, and it stands to reason that special circumstances cannot exist in the case of the great majority of applicants. If the machinery and the scales are wrong, this Clause is an entirely insufficient buffer against that position.

This Clause was referred to in one connection by the Minister yesterday and by one or two other hon. Members as affecting the case of a nil determination, and it was suggested that where there would otherwise be a nil determination the allowances to the wage-earners might be increased, or that some small sum, at any rate, might be left to the applicant for his own use. That, as far as it goes, is no doubt a concession worth having, but again, do not let hon. Members opposite run away with the idea that this is going to get rid of nil determinations. This is a matter which is of concern to hon. Members in all parts of the House. I sat through the Debate yesterday and heard my right hon. Friend refer to the case of the man left without any money which he could call his own. I believe that the House was greatly moved by the narrative told by my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White), who told us of a man who said that his children were all around him and that he had to rely upon them for every penny that he received.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey), in the speech he made yesterday, also referred to this question of the nil determination. I believe that if it were possible to deal with these Regulations seriatim and to amend them, hon. Members in all parts of the House would agree, that there should be no such thing as a nil determination, but in every case, even if you are to have a means test and a household means test, there should be some minimum sum, even though it were only a few shillings which a man might take for his own use, or as the Minister put it, to afford him dignity. I think that they feel as strongly as we do on this side. Let us see how it is proposed to meet this problem. I call the attention of hon. Members to what I think is the most remarkable paragraph in the Memorandum of the Board on page 24. In paragraph 39, half way down, it says: The Board also contemplate adjustments on a more general ground where the applicant is an elderly man"— he has to be elderly first— with a long industrial record in the past but with poor prospects for the future. If his sons have been supporting him for a long time out of wages which, though sufficient for the purpose, do not leave a large margin for their own lives, the Board would in appropriate cases"— I should have thought that every case like that was appropriate, but apparently we have not diminished that class sufficiently yet— so increase, under this paragraph of the Regulations, the amount allowed to the sons for their personal requirements as to secure a small allowance to the applicant and thus ease his continuous and complete dependence upon the earnings of his children. That is one of the most vexatious paragraphs that I have ever read in any official publication. In the first place, it must be an elderly man, and he must have had a long industrial record. In the third place, his sons must have been supporting him for a long time and, lastly, out of wages which, though sufficient for the purpose, do not leave a large margin. When all those four conditions have been fulfilled, I wonder how many applicants will be saved from the indignity of a nil determination? I think it is one of the most grudging concessions of all, if it can be described as a concession at all.

I again apologise for having kept the House so long and also for having gone into the matter in considerable detail. It is difficult to argue figures on the Floor of the House, but hon. Members will realise that these things are of intimate concern to the people who are to be affected. I have quoted comparisons with my own constituency. There we have a non-Socialist authority and at any rate up till now—and in the days of transitional conditions—it has endeavoured to administer the test humanely and sympathetically, but nevertheless keeping within the law, and I do not think that any Government Department has ever suggested that they have broken it. I think that I have said enough to make it quite clear that in a constituency like that, which I think is typical of a good many other constituencies in Scotland, there are going to be substantial cuts under these Regulations. I remember very clearly the havoc that was caused among my constituents by the last set of Regulations. It may not be so widespread this time, but there is going to be the same sort of thing in a good many households when this scheme comes into full force and effect.

I am not one of those who at an election has ever promised unlimited benefits. I have always endeavoured—and particularly during the last election—to exercise a certain amount of prudence about the promises that I have given where State legislation was concerned. I have never said that there should be no inquiries into circumstances if I had my way, and I do not put my opposition to these Regulations on these grounds at all. These Regulations stand condemned upon their demerits. One of the main objections when I voted against the Unemployment Bill under which these Regulations are made was that I could not tell in that Bill—and it was impossible for anyone to tell—how the people that I represented would be affected, whether they would be better off or worse off under the Bill. The same objection applies to these Regulations. We are told that there will be 200,000 cases in which the allowances will be raised, and that there will be 60,000 reductions in the first month or so. That leaves 360,000 cases unaccounted for. In those cases are the allowances to be raised or lowered? We have no means of telling, and I shall be very reluctant to give a vote affecting a great number of my constituents without being able to tell more closely how they are going to be affected.

In the Debate yesterday it was rather difficult to listen calmly to hon. Members opposite posing as pillars of financial orthodoxy. They used a perfectly sound argument when they said, in effect, that we must hold the scales evenly between those who receive the money and those who have to pay it, and that we must have some regard for the people out of whose pockets these revenues are raised. I entirely agree with that proposition. It was a perfectly good and sound argument, but it is an argument which comes very strangely from supporters of the most profligate Government of modern times. They do not give us that advice when we are asked to vote money for some section of the agricultural industry. At Question Time to-day we learned that when we have finished to-day's Debate on these Regulations we are to pass the Committee stage of the Cattle Industry Bill. When these frequent subsidies are put forward by the Government—very substantial subsidies—hon. Members from agricultural constituencies tell us that they are not enough and that the subsidies must be more. Therefore, it does not lie in the mouths of hon. Members opposite to gibe at hon. Members on this side of the House, in whatever part they sit and to say that they are insufficiently scrupulous in spending public money. At a time like this when day after day we have these subsidies voted and we hear demands for fresh subsidies, do not let hon. Members on the other side be too ready by their votes to-morrow to impose substantial reductions upon many thousands of the unemployed.

6.33 p.m.

Mr. RICHARD LAW

The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) has certainly made a most interesting speech, some part of which he devoted to a consideration of the kind of case that might be expected to arise in his constituency if the House decides to confirm these draft Regulations. That method of argument, as he pointed out quite clearly, has certain disadvantages. Is has one great advantage from the point of view of the speaker, and that is that it is very difficult to answer on the Floor of the House, because of the calculations involved; but it has one great disadvantage from the point of view of the speaker, and that is that it is extremely unconvincing. One would want to know a great deal more than the hon. Member has told us about the particular circumstances attached to the hard cases which he says will arise in his constituency, and one would need to know much more of the conditions of the household and of the age of the people involved. All that we have to go upon is the word of the hon. Member against the word of the Minister and the Board.

It is true that the hon. Member, with the most commendable frankness, has taken us into his confidence and told us that on the last occasion he was right and the Board were wrong. That is true, but I do not think that it is very likely to be the case now. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because the hon. Member in the last few years has made so many prophecies that have proved to be inaccurate that the mathematical chances of his being right twice on the same subject are rather small. It is fair to suggest that the Minister and the Board have had a lesson, and that they are very unlikely to fall open-eyed into the same kind of error into which for one reason or another they fell in the past. The hon. Member pointed out, very justly, that a good deal of this Debate is in a sense irrelevant to the Regulations. He pointed out, for example, that the question of the means test is not really an issue so far as these Regulations are concerned. In opening the Debate to-day the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) said the Government had no right to bring in Regulations of this kind. But the Government were bound to bring in Regulations of this kind. Everybody knows that. The Government were solemnly pledged to bring in Regulations which would embody the particular disadvantages to which the Opposition so much object, because they were pledged to bring in new Regulations under the Act of 1934; in other words Regulations which would involve the means test, the calculation of earnings and so on, which is the main subject of objection from the benches opposite. Therefore, it is not fair for the hon. Member to say that the Government have no right to do this. Not only the Government but every hon. Member on this side is categorically pledged to bring in and support Regulations of this kind.

The only thing that is really relevant in this matter is the question: Are these draft Regulations superior to the existing Regulations and superior to the Standstill Order? There is no question that the Regulations are very vastly superior to the existing Regulations. I do not think that hon. Members on the Liberal benches or the Socialist benches do justice to that degree of superiority. The hon. Member for Dundee admitted, quite frankly, that the Board had fallen in with some suggestion that he had made in earlier Debates on this subject, but instead of being grateful to them he almost seems to take that as an additional cause of offence. He made enormous play with the Clause which allows to an elderly man who is wholly dependent on his sons a small sum of money, as dignity money. The hon. Member rather implied that that was more an insult than anything else, and nobody listening to his speech would have thought that that concession was one asked for by a distinguished Member of his own party.

Mr. FOOT

I am sorry that I did not make myself clearer. I was trying to show that there could be very few cases in which this concession would apply. Under the terms of the Board's arrangements the matter is so hedged about with conditions as to the man being elderly, about his sons having supported him for a long time, and the rest of it, and I said there would be very few people who would get the concession. I did not say that the concession was not worth having. I said that very few people would get it.

Mr. LAW

I am sorry if I misrepresented the hon. Member, but certainly he gave me the impression that he did not think much of the concession. I think it is a concession which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, East (Mr. Mander) asked for on behalf of these elderly people, and it is fair to say that the Liberal party in receiving the new Regulations has not shown the gratitude which one might have expected from them. I hope that I may say without offence to the hon. Member for Dundee that whenever he or any of his colleagues speak in this House there is always one question which springs to my mind, and that is: "Is he still sitting on the fence?" I think the hon. Member and his party are still sitting on the fence in this matter. When the existing Regulations were debated the hon. Member gave the impession that he was not opposed to the household means test, that he gave the Government full credit for good intentions, that he was sure they meant well, but because it was impossible to amend the Regulations and because the allowances were not high enough, he felt bound to vote against them. In that Debate he gave the Minister an indication of the kind of thing which he would regard as reasonable, namely, that the first 20s. or 21s. of a son's earnings should not be brought into account. The Board has now granted that.

Mr. FOOT

I said that, to start with, you should only count a proportion over the first 21s.

Mr. LAW

That is exactly what has been done.

Mr. FOOT

Only in regard to sons or daughters who are over 18. It does not apply to others. It does not apply to those under 18. Moreover, the point at which you start is 16s. and not 21s. a very considerable difference.

Mr. LAW

The hon. Member asked the Minister to arrange that the first 20s. or 21s. should not be taken into account and only a proportion of what followed afterwards, and that has been done. It is all very well for him to say that that only applies to sons and daughters over 18, but if he believes in any principle of the means test, and I understand he still does, he must admit that there is a distinction between a young man who is just starting to work and a young man fully grown up and who may be, as he said in his own speech on the Unemployment Bill, waiting to get married and is saving up for that purpose. There is a distinction between the boy who is just starting and the adult man, and that distinction has been met by the Board.

I think the time will come when the hon. Member and his party will be compelled on this question of the means test to come down on one side of the fence or the other. They will not be able to get away and say: "We do not like this small thing or that small thing, and we shall have to give our vote against the Government on this question." They will have to decide whether or not they accept the family means test.

Mr. FOOT

rose

Mr. SPEAKER

The hon. Member has taken considerable time.

Mr. LAW

The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), speaking yesterday, gave hon. Members on this side full credit for having a great deal of sympathy with the case of the unemployed, but said that from the very nature of things we could not have the same intimate knowledge and experience of the lives of the unemployed as hon. Members had on his side of the House. That is a perfectly fair point for the hon. Member to take. It is quite true that we cannot have the same immediate and instinctive sympathy and experience which hon. Members opposite in the main have, but I think we derive a certain advantage from that, and the advantage is that we are able to look at the problem perhaps a little more objectively than hon. Members opposite. They feel this problem with so much passion that they land themselves in a position which is really impossible for them to maintain in logic and in reason. They say that they object very strongly to the family means test. One can respect that objection. They object to it for certain specific reasons. They say that it is unfair for a brother to have to contribute to the support of his brother who is out of work through no fault of his own. If that is the basis of their argument, then surely it is unfair to ask somebody who is quite outside the household altogether to contribute to the support of those inside the household. That is an important point. I do not think that hon. Members opposite in their efforts to support the claims of the unemployed quite realise, or are as sympathetic, to the claims of those in employment.

It may be true that we have not the same experience as hon. Members opposite of working-class conditions, but we have many friends among the working people with whom we talk freely. I have spoken to a great many working men and I know that they would be extremely indignant if they thought that an unemployed man who has exhausted his benefit was going to receive his allowance without any test of need at all. Hon. Members opposite, I am sure, forget that point. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), speaking yesterday about the London County Council scales, said that the London County Council only paid so much as the funds had to be provided out of the rates. Hon. Members opposite are inclined to forget that the allowances of the Assistance Board have to be provided from somewhere; they do not just happen every week. They have to be provided out of the taxes, and just as the allowances paid by the London County Council have to be provided by the rates. And just as the London County Council are limited by their rateable capacity so the Unemployment Assistance Board and the Government are limited by the taxable capacity of the country.

Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS

Assuming that the hon. Member had a brother who was farming, would he consider it just that he himself should be called upon to pay part of the subsidy?

Mr. LAW

The answer surely is this: It is one thing to make payments for which there is no claim except the claim of need, and another thing to make payments which will strengthen an industry, prevent it collapsing; payments which will keep people in work and put more people in employment. Surely that is a position which we on this side are quite justified in maintaining, and all this talk about subsidies does not alarm me at all, because I think it is entirely beside the point.

6.51 p.m.

Mr. BUCHANAN

To-day and yesterday we have been discussing these Regulations brought forward by the Government and we shall be discussing them to-morrow. I must confess that to-day I feel a bitter resentment which hitherto I have not felt. When we were discussing the previous Regulations and also the Act, I got rather annoyed with the Attorney-General who was piloting the Bill through the House of Commons. He had everything documented. It was there, and there, and there. I got angry, and said that it was impossible to document things in that way when it came to dealing with the actual requirements of the unemployed. That was a totally different problem. To-day I feel angry because we are not arguing a concrete problem; indeed, it is almost a phantom. Every time we raise an issue we are immediately told, "That is not the point; the Board have a discretion." It is said, "That is not what is meant." All the time we are arguing our case we cannot speak about realities because we are suddenly told, "That is not what is meant; it is something else; there is an overriding rule." The hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law) claimed that hon. Members opposite had as much sympathy for the unemployed as hon. Members on this side of the House. I hope I shall not be unfair to anyone, but, in my opinion, they are guilty of most contemptible conduct. They are guilty here of meanness. I am not thinking of the scales, but of the way in which this matter has been dealt with.

Look at the position. I listened to the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) when speaking on the subject of their children and Income Tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed certain provisions dealing with trusts for children. Hon. Members opposite were annoyed and spoke with feeling, and when we on this side criticised them they said, "We feel for these children just as much as you feel for yours." I accept that. They pressed the Chancellor of the Exchequer for more generous treatment and the right hon. Gentleman said, "I will consider your views." We on this side of the House sneered, whereupon the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "Am I not entitled, when I am making certain changes in the law, to listen to Members of Parliament before I make those changes?" The right hon. Member for Horsham thanked the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was right. Before making a change in the law it is right to listen to what hon. Members of the House of Commons have to say. That was done in the case of the children of the well-to-do. I have always been told that those people who have been to good schools have a higher conception of what is a gentleman and that they will never claim treatment for their own which they will not accord to other people. Last month they claimed the right that hon. Members of the House of Commons should discuss the case of their children, but to-night they are not allowing us to discuss one comma of Regulations which will affect poor children. Is that fair? Hon. Members opposite cannot defend it, because they know it is wrong.

We cannot discuss these Regulations. Who can discuss them? The Board. They can say what the conditions shall be; after they have drafted the Regulations, met the Minister of Labour, the Parliamentary Secretary, and the officials of the Ministry and if my information is correct also the Parliamentary Private Secretaries. The Parliamentary Private Secretaries knew all about these Regulations before we did. I am not blaming them; it was part of their work, but they saw them weeks and months before we did. Will the Minister answer that? I think that I may claim, and not unfairly, that I know these things as well as anybody. Just look at these Regulations and documents for a working man to understand. I could have picked out little bits of mistakes which the Minister made yesterday. The best man on Unemployment Insurance on the Government Front Bench is the Minister of Pensions, and I say that without offence to any of his colleagues. But I give the aristocracy a present of it.

Lord DUNGLASS

I did point out to the hon. Member earlier in the day that I noticed on the Order Paper yesterday evening that he suggested in his Amendment 17s. for a lodger, whereas to-day he has altered it to 20s. I said that I would bring that point up, and I thought it fair to give him warning.

Mr. BUCHANAN

We made a mistake. But I ask, is it fair that the Board can amend these Regulations? Officials can amend them, and after they have amended them they can go back to the Board and the Board can amend them again. Officials and the Board can amend them, but the elected representatives of the people can do nothing. On certain issues I would take advice from the people who may be on the Board. I do not know things that other men must know. But on this issue is the Board capable of being better than we are? Who are they? There is Lord Rushcliffe. I know him. I sat with him for years. Who is he? He was the Minister of Labour, but on Unemployment Insurance no more capable than the ordinary man in this House. There are his colleagues. One of them was a Treasury expert, but he knew nothing about this problem. Another was the chief of the Glasgow Parish Council. He made his reputation by cutting everybody down. He knew Poor Law relief, but he never knew Unemployment Insurance. The Board can alter and amend. We cannot. Not one sentence of these Regulations can we change.

Let me take the Minister's speech. We were guilty of a good deal of interruption of his speech. When I was a boy we lived in a very poor working class district on the south side of Glasgow. We had a neighbour, a big, strong woman, who was married to a small man whom she used to hammer on occasion. Every time she hammered the man she would call "Murder," so that she was always protected. I was reminded of that yesterday. Every time the Minister was provocative he would turn round and say that he was provoked into saying something. I sat with predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman was guilty of making charges yesterday. I would not have done that to a colleague without giving notice to him. He made three anonymous charges without having the decency to give the details. He said that there were Members who had not visited their local boards. Who are they? I or any other Member might be one. Why not say who they are and before you make the charge tell the hon. Member you are going to make it? He said that there are certain local authorities who defy the law and when we interrupted he said, "I did not intend to tell you who they were, but I was provoked into it." Then he said, almost like a sort of Edgar Wallace, "I know a lot of cases where they are getting too much." He did not tell us the name and address or anything by which we could investigate these cases. He makes anonymous charges which a lawyer would be flung out of court for trying to make. A judge would have said, "Who are they? Let us have the facts." But he can come down here and think that he can deal with us differently.

I am not going to be drawn to-day into either a defence of or attack on Glasgow. I could have told him of worse cases in Glasgow if he had come to me. He told us of a case in Glasgow of a man and a woman who had a son with them and the son got 17s. I think I happen to know the case because I got the fellow the 17s. Suppose Glasgow had given the mother and father 26s., the Board would have paid only 10s. That is the fact, because where the son under the standstill agreement lives with the mother and father, all that they can receive is 10s. if they receive the scale. What Glasgow did was this. They said, "We will give you 7s. less than the scale, and you can take the Government money in order to save our rates," but actually it was the same to the family. It meant that instead of getting 26s. from the parish council and 10s. from the Unemployment Assistance Board—36s. in all—they got 19s. from the council and 17s. from the Unemployment Assistance Board. And that is his case. I get irritated often in these Debates because I know what the people in Glasgow who claim to be Labour sometimes do—things they should not do, things that are wrong, often indefensible. But when the Minister is going to do this, do not let him claim things in which he himself is an equally guilty culprit. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) wishes for a debate on Glasgow he can have it. Do not provoke me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] As a matter of fact, as the Member for one of the Glasgow Divisions has spoken already and has not made a defence of the 26s., I have done it. It was because I wanted to be fair to Glasgow that I defended them on it. If the hon. Member for West Islington wishes to defend the Minister, I will give him the pleasure of his company.

In his Regulations the Minister claims that £750,000 more will be given to the unemployed. First of all there is not one inch of proof given that that will be so. We ask for the facts and for proof and they say that they can only give an estimate. They promised to give the unemployed £3,000,000 more before, and, of course, that was not done. Somebody challenged the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) about his figures. There are 620,000 applicants and they are to get £750,000 among them. Divided up among 620,000 people it comes to as nearly as you can make it 6d. a head per week.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

I understood the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) to say that there were 60,000 who were to receive deductions, 200,000 were to receive improvements, and that was only 6d. a week.

Mr. BUCHANAN

Here are the facts: they are to get £750,000 between 620,000 people. Let us be generous to the so-called Board, and say that the unemployed are to get £750,000, although there is no proof of that. It means that the same amount of money is to be available as was available before. To-day what you are passing is the same amount of money as was available before. I want to question even that. According to the Memorandum issued by the Minister of Labour, the expenditure in 1934 for 950,000 was £48,000,000. In the year ending 31st March, 1935, the expenditure for 761,000 people was £42,199,000. For this last year the expenditure for 705,000 was £42,400,000. That shows that if there had not been the standstill agreement the payments, far from being £3,000,000 extra, would have been considerably less. We were promised £3,000,000, but the fact is that, without the standstill agreement, far from our getting a penny piece more, we would have received a smaller aggregate sum. Now £750,000 more is to be given.

What are the facts? I do not intend to follow the Minister in the technical details for the obvious reason that I do not believe anybody in this House, including the Minister, knows the details. They will be known only when the Regulations are put into operation. Then certain bald facts will be known. You will know that the man who is ready to fight for his country—having nothing to fight for himself but ready to fight for other people's property—will have a chunk of his money taken from him when he comes back. You may be sure of that, and you may be sure that of the old age pension paid to the mother of an applicant some portion will be taken into account. You may be sure that in the case of every man who marries a widow and takes over children, the widow's pension will be taken into account. You may be sure that in the case of every man who earns wages, all above a certain amount will be taken into account. Those are facts, but there is not anybody who can tell what the technical details will be.

The House has no right to hand the control over the lives of 620,000 applicants to the whim of any Board or any person. These men are as much entitled to their benefits and rights as hon. Members opposite are to Income Tax adjustments and rebates. What is our case against these Regulations? It is the family means test. The hon. Member for South-West Hull said that he had met a great many people who would be angry if this money were said out without a test. I do not know where he meets these people, but I meet a great many people, and I confess that I have not met any of that sort. Let me point out to the hon. Member that Governments of which his father was the leader and Governments of which the present Prime Minister was the leader paid benefits without there being a means test, and not a single dissentient note was heard. As a matter of fact, in 1922 or 1923 there was a small means test; the Labour Government in the following year abolished it, and the Conservatives rejected it. Why was the means test introduced? It was not because it was demanded by any working-class people or asked for by the Tories. It has its origin in 1931, when we were told that there was a crisis and that the country had no money. It was not a question of the means test being just or unjust, but we had to start to save money because we were hard up. The means test was one of the economies. It was an economy cut for which no one asked, and it was started because we were hard up. One of the charges I make against hon. Members opposite is that they claim to have restored every cut, but I deny that they have restored the cuts imposed upon the unemployed.

Let me leave the question of the means test and deal with those who draw standard benefit. Before the economy cuts were made, every man having 30 stamps in two years could draw one year and four months of standard benefit. To-day a man with 30 stamps is limited to 26 weeks of benefit. That is a terrible cut, far exceeding in some cases a percentage cut; and it has never been restored. What is my case against that? It is that a man with 30 stamps gets standard benefit, but a man with 29 stamps does not. Let us suppose that a man comes back from the Army and goes to Birmingham, where trade is good; he gets a job and gets 30 stamps. But if he goes to Glasgow and does not get a job, he will not get the 30 stamps, and for that he is punished. What is the difference between a man with 30 stamps and a man with 20? There is only one difference, that one man has been unfortunate enough not to be able to get a job which will allow him to get the stamps. He happens to live in one place and cannot get 30 stamps in two years, and because of that you say to every person related to him who has an income, "What is your income?" You do that simply because the man has been more unfortunate than others. It is indefensible.

The hon. Member for South-West Hull defended subsidies. Hon. Members opposite are to-day handing out millions of pounds in subsidies. They have subsidised shipping, they have subsidised beef, sugar beet and wheat. Am I to take it from the hon. Member's remarks that he believes industry to be more important than human life? Hon. Members opposite are prepared to give millions if it can be proved that they are given to industry, but they deny them if they are for life. I have the facts and figures before me, and I believe that to abolish this test would call for less than £10,000,000. I say to the hon. Member that the State insurance scheme ought to be subsidised with £10,000,000 so that these people shall not have the means test inflicted on them; but he will not agree to that, because it is not industry—it is only life. We ask for £10,000,000, less than one-thirtieth of what hon. Members are preparing to spend on munitions, and they will not give it. For the first time hon. Members on the other side really appear in my eyes to be contemptible and low. One hon. Member has said that it is wrong for one side to outbid the other in getting votes by handing out public money and by promising more to the unemployed. Let me point out that hon. Members opposite hold almost every one of the agricultural constituencies, and they hold them by handing over millions of pounds to them. Yet we are told that it is wrong if we hand over some millions to the poor.

To me this is a crucial issue. I have seen this House trying to get away from the unemployment question, but always it has been driven back to it. To-day, even with the fall in unemployment which has come because of the £300,000,000 being spent on armaments, unemployment is a crucial issue. Hon. Members opposite are doing things that I believe to be wrong. To me, the unemployed man who comes to the exchange with his books and his cards denoting that he has 30 stamps and the other man who comes along with his card showing that he has fewer than 30 stamps, are just the same. One man is idle for a year, another for a month—what is the difference? But in the case of the man who is idle for a year, his relatives are searched more minutely than a detective searches a criminal. What is the difference between the two classes of men? I am chairman of a trade union and what do we find? That men from the North-East Coast who have been out of work for years are not wanted by the employers. They are not regarded as being in the same class or category as the other men. Why should they be treated differently?

Let any hon. Member try tramping the streets for 12 months or two years in search of work and see how he would like it. My wife's relatives in the city of Glasgow are poor people and one of my wife's brothers tramped the streets for four years searching for work and, at the end of it all, his most humiliating experience was when inquiries were made at the place where his girl of 21 was employed and her employer and all her fellow-workers got to know that her father had walked the streets for four years. That is what your means test is doing. You go to the employer of a girl like that to make your inquiries, and within 24 hours it is known that that girl's father is receiving national pauper relief. That is what you are doing. You quote Glasgow and you quote London. London is paying pauper relief. That is all it is.

To-day the boast of the Secretary of State for Scotland is that he is going to put another 600,000 on to pauper relief. Well, you are welcome to boast about it. I do not know how the future will go or what will happen. I have lost my faith in almost everything. Sometimes I even feel that it is not worth while bothering about human-kind. I see these struggling, poverty-stricken people and I reflect that it is only an accident that has put me here. If it had not been for that I would have been standing with them shivering in the wind, and my lot to-day would have been poverty like theirs. To-night I ask the House of Commons, whether Tory, Liberal or Labour just to look at these men, to look at their shrunken faces. Why should you inflict hardship upon them? If you want to fight, choose an enemy who can fight back. Do not choose defenceless men; do not choose women and children. You are strong in education, knowledge and wealth. Use those things to uplift the people, but, for God's sake, leave the poor alone.

7.34 p.m.

Mr. SCRYMGEOUR-WEDDERBURN

The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) can speak on this subject with exceptional knowledge and as one who by his own exertions has done a great deal to assist unemployed men who are in difficulties over the amount of their benefit. Some of his remarks implied that he felt a doubt as to his usefulness in public life, but I am sure that hon. Members who are acquainted with his part of the country will agree that his usefulness in this respect is very much appreciated. The hon. Member has always been consistent in upholding the view that, in determining the allowances which ought to be paid to an unemployed man or an unemployed family, there should be no test of need and that the scales of relief ought to be substantially higher than those to which we have hitherto been accustomed. He has not been afraid to be explicit. He has done what I think few private Members would care to do in putting on the Order Paper the scales which he himself would suggest. As he knows, we are not infrequently asked what we would regard as the right sum to give to an unemployed man. The real difficulty in giving a definite answer to that question is that the general standard of living among large numbers of those who are earning wages as well as those who are unemployed is much lower than we would wish it to be.

As the hon. Member for Gorbals said, this is a problem of human beings. When we are asked how much we think ought to be paid to an unemployed man are we to state an ideal figure, openly regardless of existing wage levels and acting on the principle, more than once raised in this House, that since there is a surplus of labour and since labour-saving devices are still being developed, we ought positively to encourage well-paid leisure in this country? Or are we to approve of some scale in which the allowances in every case will be less than the wages earned by those in employment; or are we to approve of a scale in which the allowances will be greater in some cases than the wages earned and less in others? I think the scale which the hon. Member has put on the Paper has been conceived with considerable regard to the standard of life which exists at present. I am sure he would not suggest that the sum of 40s. a week would be sufficient to maintain an unemployed man with two children on anything like the optimum standard. The scale proposed by him is, therefore, not wholly unrelated to the existing wage level.

Mr. BUCHANAN

We took this scale as the best scale which was likely to have the approval and support of all people of good will. I hope I am putting that quite fairly. The question was gone into by the Trades Union Congress and by various experts. When I want to get a reform, I wish to have as many allies as possible. I took the scale to which the hon. Member refers, not necessarily as being the best scale in my opinion, but as the best scale to which I could rally public opinion so as to bring about an improvement.

Mr. SCRYMGEOUR-WEDDERBURN

I am obliged to the hon. Member for his explanation, and I take it that he does not dissent from my statement that his proposed scales are not unrelated to the existing level of wages. Let us consider the case of an unemployed man with a wife, and three children aged 13 years, 11 years, and nine years respectively. Under the hon. Members proposed scale, that family would receive 45s. a week. Under the Board's Regulations they would receive 37s. a week, so that the Board's proposal in that case is worse than the proposal of the hon. Member.

Mr. BUCHANAN

That is, of course, provided that they satisfy the rent condition and other conditions. There are qualifications.

Mr. SCRYMGEOUR-WEDDERBURN

I hope if there is time to refer to the rent rule a little later. Suppose that the man had five children, the eldest of whom was 14 years and the youngest eight years. Under the Board's Regulations he would be scaled at 47s. Suppose that if, when he were in full time employment, he would be reasonably likely to earn 48s. or 50s. He would then receive 47s. from the Board, so that his income would be 2s. higher than that which would be received by the man with three children under the hon. Members proposed scale. In the case of the larger family, the eldest of whom was over 14 years, I think the hon. Member's proposal would give 60s. assuming that the hon. Member would not apply any wage stop. But of course, if the man were successful in recovering his employment he would only receive a wage of 50s. irrespective of whether he had five children or three. I should, therefore, say that the main difference in principle between the hon. Member's scale and the Board's scale is that the Board have paid a stricter regard than the hon. Member has thought right to do, to the standard of wages which prevails at present.

The hon. Member said a great deal about the inadequacy of the scales. I know he would not argue that 5s., the figure which he puts in his scale, is enough for a growing boy of 13. The real point that we have to consider is that, whatever we may think of the Board's figures in relation to our optimum standard, there are enormous numbers of lowly-paid or moderately-paid wage earners, with several dependants, who would have difficulty in paying out of their wages a greater amount, in support of one particular dependant, than the sum allocated in respect of a similar dependant to an unemployed man under these Regulations.

If more time were available I should like to follow the hon. Member's comparison between sums paid to the agricultural industry and the sums which are paid to the unemployed. I would only say in passing that the industrial depression from which this country and the rest of the world have suffered and which has caused so much unemployment, was mainly due to deflation and falling prices which affected, most of all, the primary producers, that is to say the agricultural industry. Although we have begun to recover industrial prosperity the primary producer, owing to the disproportionately low price which he still receives, has naturally lagged behind. I think the best way in which to tackle the fundamental problem is to revive—necessarily, in the monetary circumstances of these times, by artificial means—the primary industries of the country.

Before returning to the general argument of the hon. Member I wish to refer to the particular questions which both he and the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) raised about the practical effect of these Regulations in comparison with the existing practice under the stand-still arrangement. There has been a great deal of controversy about Glasgow and earlier in the Debate some Members took exception to continuous references to Glasgow on the ground of repetition. I hope the House will agree that, since Glasgow contains no fewer than 40,000 applicants to the Board out of nearly 100,000 in Scotland and 600,000 in the United Kingdom, it is of great importance, and it is not inappropriate to spend a few moments in trying to work out a true picture of the effect which these Regulations will have in that city. I do so, not with the intention of arguing with the hon. Member for Govan, or of suggesting that the Glasgow public assistance committee are either mean, or generous, or anything else, but simply because I am, as I suppose most of my hon. Friends are, exceedingly anxious to ascertain what the facts are likely to be.

The hon. Member for Govan quoted three cases from the Board's Memorandum, all of which were "resource" cases, but may I first give one or two examples of "no resource" cases, about which there has been some dispute, and I do so only because I am anxious to try to get the facts clear. Take, first of all, the man and wife with no children. At present I think they receive in Glasgow 26s., and under the Board's Regulations they will also receive 26s. If there are a man and wife with one child under 14, they will receive under the new Regulations, if I interpret them rightly, 29s., and in Glasgow also they will receive at the present time 29s. If a married couple have one child between 14 and 16, they will receive under the Board's Regulations 30s. a week, as compared with 29s. at present in Glasgow.

Mr. BUCHANAN

I think I ought in fairness to Glasgow to say that they pay a little extra over 14. If the child continues at school in general they pay extra for that child. It is not in the scales, but it is a discretionary power.

Mr. SCRYMGEOUR-WEDDERBURN

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. But the Board have equally the power and the disposition to give a discretionary increase where it is needed. If there is another child, one 14 and another 12, I calculate that the Board would give 34s. 6d., against 32s. in Glasgow at present; if there is a third child, aged 10, I think the Board would give 38s. 6d., against 35s. in Glasgow; if there is a fourth child, aged seven, I think the Board would give 42s., against 38s. in Glasgow; and if there is a fifth child, under five, the Board's scale would work out at 45s., compared with 40s. in Glasgow. I think I am right in saying that Glasgow has a limit of 40s. in the amount which may be paid to an unemployed man with a family of children. So that, in every one of these "no resource" cases of men with families of children, it seems to me that all the way up the scale the Board's proposals will be either as good as or very substantially better than those which are paid at present by the Glasgow Corporation.

Now, if we take the "resource" cases and suppose there is a wage-earner earning 20s. or less, under the Board's Regulations that will be disregarded and will not, I understand, count as available resources, so that the parents will still be on the 26s. scale. But coming to the "resource" cases, which were the only cases quoted by the hon. Member for Govan—I rather needlessly interrupted him, because I was not sure of the document from which he was quoting, but it was from the Board's Memorandum—he quoted three cases. In the first two there would be a reduction, he calculated, of 2s. Actually it would be only 1s., I think, because I understand that in Glasgow they take gross earnings, whereas the Board's calculations are always on net earnings, so it is the case that where there is only one wage-earning member of a family, earning a substantially higher wage than 20s., the Board's scales will be 1s. worse than the present amount in respect of the earnings rule, and 2s. worse in respect of the scale rate which, it being a "resource" case, will be 24s. instead of 26s.

Therefore, if you had a father and mother with one adult son earning 40s., whereas their present income is 56s., under the Board it would be 53s. I am anxious to cover all the cases I can in which there are likely to be reductions. If there were more than one wage-earner, the family, instead of having a reduction, would have an increase. In Glasgow they only allow half the wages of the second earning member of the family, subject to a minimum of 15s., so that if there were a second member earning 30s., Glasgow would deduct 15s. from the unemployed parent's allowance, against 6s. deducted by the Board, operating on net earnings—that is, 9s. better—and I think the net result would be that that family, whereas they now have a weekly income of 71s., under the new Regulations will receive from the Board 77s., or 6s. more.

I have, for the reasons which I give, followed the examples quoted by the hon. Member for Govan in Glasgow, as Glasgow is the most important place in Scotland from the point of view of unemployment, but if I might for a moment glance at other places in Scotland, I understand that in Lanarkshire the earnings rule is to deduct the whole of the excess over 20s. in respect of the first wage-earner and the excess over 17s. in respect of the second. Certainly, that is true in the county of Renfrewshire. In Ayrshire, they deduct half the excess over 15s.; in Dumbartonshire they deduct, I think, the unemployment benefit scale rate, plus 10 per cent. of the whole earnings which would be the excess over 21s. on a 40s. wage. In the burgh of Dumbarton they deduct everything over 17s.; and in Clydebank, I think, they allow the first 12s. plus one-third of the total wage, making an allowance of 25s. 4d. on a 40s. wage as against 28s. under the Board. If we go further afield, in Edinburgh they deduct the whole of the excess over 14s., and in Aberdeen the whole of the excess over 12s. 6d. If my calculations as to the Board's Regulations are correct, the effect is that the earnings rule will be substantially more favourable than that which prevails now under the stand-still, in almost every Scottish area, and very much more favourable than in some.

The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) expressed some doubt about whether the local advisory committees would make recommendations which would in fact be accepted by the Board. Of course, we must allow discretion, but in the Board's Memorandum they make quite clear what they will regard as reasonable. They say they would regard it as reasonable to disregard 3s. difference between the basic and actual rent, and they say they would regard it as reasonable, for the purpose of calculating whether any deduction should be made, to take one-sixth instead of one-quarter as the basic rent. I think that, from the Scottish point of view, that is a very valuable provision. Take, what is not an uncommon case in Scotland, a family with a scale rate of 48s. One quarter of that is 12s., and I think most hon. Members would agree that to assume that a working-class unemployed man in Scotland, whose family is of such a size as to give a scale rate of 48s., would normally be paying a rent of 12s., would be quite ridiculous. But if we take the proportion at one-sixth, it would mean that the applicant would not be liable to suffer any reduction unless he were paying a rent of substantially less than 8s.

Mr. BUCHANAN

You can only apply that to a class of cases, a group of cases; you cannot make an exceptional case, and apply it to that.

Mr. SCRYMGEOUR-WEDDERBURN

You might take a number of cases with a certain scale rate, or a number of houses in a certain area, or you might take a number of houses of a certain type. For example, it seems to me that it would be open to an advisory committee to recommend that in the case of slum houses of a certain type, that the inhabitants were put to considerable additional expense by reason of the bad quality of their houses and that for that reason a further amount of rent ought to be disregarded.

There is one point which the hon. Member for Gorbals brought forward on which I would like to comment, and that is as to the estimated cost. He said he doubts whether it is true that this scheme will cost £750,000 more. The hon. Member will agree that while it is easy for hon. Members to calculate the effects of these Regulations on a number of cases with which they are familiar, we have no means whatever of checking the Board's financial calculations, which I imagine must be based very largely on guess-work. I have made an attempt to do it by looking through several hundred cases in my own and neighbouring areas, trying to work out in each case what the difference would be and multiplying the net increase by the total number of applicants in the country, divided by the number of cases I have examined; but, of course, I could not be sure that the cases which I have collected, although they seem typical to me in my own area, represented an accurate miniature of the country as a whole or indeed of my own area. I think the Board's estimate must be based largely on guesswork, but I should be surprised if on this occasion the Board have again over-estimated the cost as they did last time, and I would add that those of us who represent distressed areas where it is plain that discretion should be widely exercised ought to be the last to complain if the Board's estimate does not prove to be correct.

I want to touch on what I think is not the least important part of these Regulations, namely, the provision for meeting exceptional needs. Both in the old and in the new Regulations there is contained what has always seemed to me perhaps rather a finicky distinction between exceptional needs and special circumstances. We are informed that cases of special circumstances arising under Regulation VI (2) are most usually met by an addition to the weekly allowance, while exceptional needs arising under paragraph (3) of the same Regulation are more frequently supplied by a single payment. In these new Regulations the same provisions are made in rather more elaborate form. Regulation IV (3), which deals with exceptional need, reads: If in any case needs of an exceptional character exist, whether arising from prolonged unemployment or otherwise, the amount … may be increased by such amount as is reasonably necessary. I am in some little doubt, which, judging from the Debate, seems to be shared by other hon. Members, on the precise interpretation of the word "exceptional." It may be true to say that the additional need arising from prolonged unemployment is exceptional in relation to the country as a whole, but I do not think that it is very exceptional in certain areas. If we take the whole country, out of the 1,700,000 registered unemployed, 620,000 are applicants of the Board, and even if we add the additional number which will be taken over on the second appointed day, I think that we shall still find that more than half the registered unemployed are on standard benefit. By way of contrast, may I draw an illustration from my own constituency? In Port Glasgow last December there were 3,200 registered unemployed, which represented about 40 per cent. of the insurable population. Of that number, only 600 were on standard benefit, the remaining 2,600 being off insurance. So that, while in the country as a whole more than half the unemployed are on standard benefit, in Port Glasgow only about one-fifth are in that position.

I think that it is reasonable to claim that while need arising from prolonged unemployment may be exceptional in the country as a whole, it is not exceptional in an area of this kind, and that the Board's officers ought to bear that fact in mind in their interpretation of this Regulation. The justice of that will be obvious to hon. Members when they consider that, if it were not so, an exceptional need in Bournemouth might be met, because it was really exceptional there, while a precisely similar case might not be met in Jarrow, because it was not exceptional in Jarrow. My reason for stressing this point is a sen- tence in the report of the Glasgow No. 1 district officer, on page 272 of the Board's Report, in which he says: Regulation VI (3) is one of the most difficult sections of the Regulations to administer. The difficulty is that needs which are common to a large section of the community in a particular area can hardly be regarded as exceptional. Here is evidently a case where the Board's officer has found himself in difficulty over the interpretation of the word "exceptional" and has doubted whether he was justified in regarding as exceptional needs which were not exceptional in a given locality. But the officer in the Glasgow No. 2 district refers to the same point in rather different terms. He says: Regulation VI (3) provides one of the most important avenues by which the welfare of our applicants can be advanced. … The need for a grant may arise from various causes, among which he includes prolonged unemployment. The House will have observed that in the old Regulation to which this Report refers no specific cause of exceptional need is mentioned, but in the new Regulations, prolonged unemployment is specifically laid down as a probable cause of exceptional need. I hope that there may be no further room for doubt on the point and that the Board's officers in their interpretation of this provision will not feel themselves under the necessity of considering whether such needs are exceptional in those areas where all the consequences of poverty which we are most anxious to prevent have already been heightened by their long continuance.

In deciding whether to accept or reject these Regulations, the main question we must ask ourselves must be whether they will establish a standard of life among the unemployed which we are willing to contemplate at the present time. I hope I may take it for granted that all sections of the House are anxious to raise the standard of life of this country, and that no section of the House would consider that either these Regulations or any other regulations which would be possible now can achieve the standard which we wish to see. I have already tried to show that under these Regulations an unemployed man with a family of children may receive substantially more than a low-paid wage earner. The question of the standard of life is more a problem of wages than a problem of unemployment benefit. The question of how to raise wages, or rather how to accelerate the rise in wage levels, which has been proceeding for several generations, would not be strictly relevant to our discussion now. I am willing to accept these Regulations because I think that they contain that flexibility which is necessary to meet a great variety of need. They are, in every respect, an improvement on the old Regulations, the defects of which have been removed, and they at least represent a more careful and comprehensive provision for the unemployed than is to be found in any other part of the world.

8.7 p.m.

Mr. JAMES GRIFFITHS

While I have sat in the House listening to the discussion on this important problem, I have contrasted the scene in the House with the scene six months ago, when I sat not on these benches but in the Gallery. The Minister of Mines had made an announcement and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) was speaking for the Opposition. The atmosphere was tense and every Member strained with expectation because there was the possibility that in a day or two 600,000 miners might come out on strike. Yesterday and to-day I have found none of that strained feeling and no tense atmosphere. The benches opposite have been empty almost all the time. Why? Because we are now discussing only the livelihood of 600,000 men who cannot come out on strike.

Mr. FLEMING

Are your benches full?

Mr. GRIFFITHS

These benches have been so full for part of this Debate that we have had to send some Members to the other side. I would urge the House to consider what we are doing. We are settling the standard of life of 600,000 people. We ought to give the gravest attention to it because, though they cannot come out on strike, there are other things they can do. I had some associations with the Minister of Labour when he was Minister of Mines. At one time together we bent our energies to settle a grave industrial crisis. He paid tribute yesterday to the Unemployment Assistance Board. I wish he had first of all paid a tribute to the vast army of un- employed who are behaving with such fortitude and patience. If anyone deserves the thanks of this House it is the army of unemployed who for years have gone on hoping against hope, whose women week by week have had to face the hopeless problem of making ends meet. I hope that when hon. Members vote tomorrow they will realise that they are determining the livelihood of people whose numbers are equal to those employed in the great mining industry.

The hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law) said that Members on the other side had one advantage compared with those on this side, and that was that they could look at this problem more objectively. Of course they can, and I will give the reasons why. The unemployment percentage in Great Britain on 25th May this year was 13.5. In the county from which I come it was 32 per cent. It is far easier to look objectively at the problems of unemployment if you come from a place where it is only 6 per cent. than if you come from a place where it is 32 per cent. How can you look objectively, coldly and calmly at the problem if you come from Brynmawr with 75 per cent., or Ferndale with 69 per cent., or from a country like Wales where, according to the Minister's statement in the White Paper, out of 160,000 unemployed 100,000 will be affected by these Regulations? By the time the Regulations come into operation, and after we have had the 18 months period of slimming and the full force of the Regulations are felt—if this Government is still in power—the whole 160,000 in South Wales will come under the scales. Therefore, if we speak sometimes strongly and with feeling, it is because we realise that on what we are doing to-night depends the livelihood of people each one of whom is as good as any Member of the House. A statement has been issued by the Minister of Health, who spoke so eloquently for these scales last night, and made a very clever debating speech. In that statement, which shows the number of persons seeking public assistance—parish relief was the old name—on 1st January, we find that, whereas the number in England was 328 per 10,000 of the population, in Wales it was 541, and in Merthyr Tydvil 1,123.

Those who have been compelled to seek parish relief are in the main people who have been unemployed so long that they do not even come under the Ministry of Labour schemes. This is essentially a problem of the distressed areas, where men are not unemployed for a week or two, or for six or nine months, but where it has been true to say in the last 10 years that to lose a job is to be condemned to perpetual unemployment. Our vote to-morrow will be a vote to decide the livelihood of those areas. The Minister said in his speech yesterday that he had paid a visit to South Wales. I wonder whether he knew South Wales 10 or 20 years ago?

Mr. E. BROWN

I knew it well.

Mr. GRIFFITHS

Then the Minister needs no statistics. Compare the South Wales of to-day with the South Wales of 20 years ago, a South Wales full of virile people, people full of the joy of life, people contributing in no small measure to the songs and the poetry of our nation. Compare Tonypandy 15 years ago with the Tonypandy of to-day. We did not need to discuss unemployment benefit then. What we were discussing was the money spent on sending police there to keep those people quiet. Now we have valleys condemned to perpetual unemployment under the policy for which Ministers are responsible. Ever since 1920 the South Wales coalfield has been condemned to ever greater misery every year because of the policy of successive Governments. The Dawes Report, tariffs, indeed almost every measure taken in dealing with Europe in the last 15 years has meant more pits closed, more men unemployed, more poverty and more starvation in South Wales.

I speak as the Member for a division which is least affected, though it has 25 per cent. unemployed. That shows the picture of South Wales when I can say that though my division is the least affected, we have 25 per cent. of our insured population unemployed. I speak not merely as Member for Llanelly, but I speak as I spoke in leading a deputation to the right hon. Gentleman on Monday afternoon, as the chairman of a council that was set up in South Wales 17 months ago and which led the agitation against the old Regulations. It woke the public conscience of this nation to the indignities of those old Regulations, which were made by the same Board as issued these. As chairman of that council I shall continue to fight against these Regulations until either they are withdrawn or both the Board and the Government are destroyed. I want to come to what is the central feature of these Regulations, not to details concerning a penny here and a penny there. The Minister of Health spoke last night. What was the message of that speech? He tried to score debating points by contrasting these scales with Poor Law relief. Is that your message to the unemployed? Is that what you tell 100,000 men in South Wales? Is that your message to the 600,000 of the unemployed—that henceforth they will be treated as paupers? That is what it means. The hon. Member who has just sat down devoted a great part of his speech to contrasting these scales with Poor Law relief. Poor Law relief was established primarily for vagabonds. These men are not vagabonds, but decent citizens guilty of no crime, merely guilty of the fact that circumstances over which they have no control have overwhelmed them and put them on the road. We on this side, when we speak in the country, will tell the people that almost every speaker from the other side has contrasted these scales with public assistance scales, which by implication is to tell the unemployed that they are paupers.

What is the central feature of these Regulations? It is the household means test, the family means test, the treating of a family as a unit, the counting up of the resources of a family and making every unemployed member of that family depend upon those resources to keep him—however those resources can be raked together. We on this side used to be accused of breaking up homes. I am not sure that I have not read or heard a speech by the right hon. Gentleman in which he rejected Socialism because he said it would break up homes. I invite him to make that speech in South Wales. He will get a reply, not in words, but he will be shown the countless homes which the Government and these Regulations have broken up in South Wales. So far all the consideration has been given, and quite rightly so, to the people immediately concerned, the people immediately hit. My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar), coming as he does from Abertillery and other townships condemned to poverty by the decline in the coal trade and the financial policy of the Government, spoke elo- quently of the effects upon the unemployed.

The Minister of Labour was Secretary for Mines in 1934 when I was President of the South Wales Miners' Federation. Together we sat for hours in the Mines Department to try to avert a crisis, and eventually we did. The right hon. Gentleman asked us, "Do not strike. I know your wages are low, I know your wage standards are indefensible, but there is a better method than striking. I will set up a tribunal to decide your wages and you will submit your case to that tribunal." He set up the tribunal, and we submitted our case, which was that our wages were so low that men could not exist upon them, and that unless they were raised the men would be driven in desperation to make the last fight of their lives. The tribunal, which was appointed by the Secretary for Mines and the Minister of Labour, fixed what is called a subsistence wage, not a wage based on the ascertained results in the industry, nothing to do with the economics of the industry, but a wage which the tribunal regarded as a subsistence wage required for miners in that coalfield. They are working under that agreement now.

I wish to draw attention to the effect of these scales on the men who work under that agreement, and I will give two examples. The subsistence wage is 8s. 1d. per day, £2 8s. 6d. for a full week. Take the case of a father and mother with an unemployed son. The father is working in the pit, it may be as a labourer, an engine man or a haulier. There are 50,000 men working in that category. If the father works a full week he gets £2 8s. 6d. gross wages, which will give him, on the average, net earnings of 44s. That 44s. has been awarded by a tribunal which regarded it as being the minimum subsistence allowance which a man ought to have. If that father has an unemployed son at home that son will be denied any allowance under these Regulations, because the father is getting the subsistence wage. That unemployed son would now be receiving 17s. per week from the Monmouthshire County Council or from the Glamorganshire County Council, both of which have been attacked. I speak as one who does not live in either county, but as one who has been associated with them. My blood has boiled sometimes as I have heard hon. Members talk about men like the hon. Member for Neath (Sir W. Jenkins), who has given a lifetime of service to Glamorganshire, or the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. A. Jenkins), who has given a lifetime of service to Monmouthshire. I would remind the Minister of Health, if he were here, or the Home Secretary, who is responsible for law and order in this country, that if it had not been for the salvage work done by those authorities we should have had civil war in South Wales.

It is those authorities which have saved this country from the consequences of this poverty and starvation, and it ill becomes the Minister of Health or any hon. Member on the benches opposite to accuse people of extravagance one day and then, as last night, to hold up their scales to admiration. The hypocrisy of it! Almost every day we get questions calling the attention of the Minister of Health to extravagance and nepotism and other things in Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire, but last night the Government were pleased to say "We are doing as well as they are in Glamorganshire." The Minister of Health knows perfectly well that every scale fixed in Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire has been fixed with his knowledge and approval. He could have stopped the payment of those scales any day. He has not stopped them, because he knew the consequences of stopping them. Hon. Members opposite should be the last to talk about Labour administration having been extravagant. In South Wales that administration has stood between the people and stark naked poverty. One of our tragedies is that, on the second appointed day, that administration will cease, and South Wales will be handed over to the tender mercies of this Government and the Unemployment Assistance Board.

I want to say a further word about this household means test. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) spoke of the meanness of taking into consideration widows' pensions and soldiers' pensions. Shall I tell you what affects us very much, in our industry? It is the taking into consideration of compensation. There are men in my constituency, in the anthracite coalfield, who have been pro- ducing coal for which you have to pay 75s. per ton in London. These men are broken, doomed to a living death, with 25s. per week compensation. Some of them I know, who are lying on their backs with broken spines, fated never to rise from their beds. I see them at weekends. They have 25s. per week for compensation. That is all they get, after having risked their lives to provide comfort in the lives of hon. Members. Now this rich, gracious Government, with its scales, and the Unemployment Assistance Board, say: "You poor broken men, who get 25s. per week; 12s. 6d. of that must go into the family pool." [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] It is more than a shame; it is a scandal. May I call the attention of hon. Members on these benches to the fact that there are three or four Members who represent the Government in South Wales not one of whom has dared to appear on those benches? Why do they not stand up there, or in South Wales, and defend these scales?

I am not merely a Labour man. I am more than a Member of the Labour party. I am sure that my hon. Friends on these benches will permit me to say this: I am also a Welshman. I love my nation. I love my native tongue; I speak it, and so do my children. My wife is an English woman who loves the Welsh nation and people. I know that we have faults, as has any other nation, but at any rate we have the capacity of giving ourselves in service, in song and in sacrifice. This country has sometimes rung with the courage of the Welsh colliers, the same Welsh colliers for whom you are passing these Regulations. They are the brothers and the kith and kin of the 265 who are still below ground in Gresford Colliery. They are the kith and kin of the men for whose dependants you are subscribing your money, and whose praises you have sung; the men of whom you have been proud.

When I heard the President of the Board of Trade speak the other day I was tempted to remind him of the first occasion upon which I ever saw him. It was in 1915. The Welsh miners believed, as I believed—I was one of them, working in the pit at that time, and delegate to a conference in Cardiff—that they should fight to get their rightful share of the immense wealth which the owners were making out of the national necessity at that time. The President of the Board of Trade came to South Wales with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), both sent by the Coalition Government, to plead with and to ask the South Wales miners to go back to work. "Go back to-morrow. The coal you produce is essential to us, absolutely necessary to carry on the War. If you go back, we will look after you. When the War is over we will see that the miners get a fair wage. You stay in the pit; if you work hard and produce more, and if you do not strike but go back to work, then, when the War is over, we will look after you." They gave pledges that at the end of the War this nation and Government would mete out decent fair play and treatment to those miners. Remember that you are voting these scales for 100,000 of those miners, to whom you gave pledges.

We shall be defeated in the Division Lobby to-morrow night. People who have not been interested enough to come and listen, will come and vote. They will roll up. They have regarded these three days as a splendid chance to get away from this House. There was no Division last night. There will be no Division to-night; a Division only to-morrow night. They have arranged it. They have parties. They are out. They will come here to-morrow night to vote, and to cut down the allowances, to half starve and to reduce the standard of life of men and women whom I know, who are as good, multitudes of them, as I am, or far better than I am, and far better than many hon. Members of this House.

I want to warn hon. Members who sit on the opposite benches, and this Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour has gone out now, but he knows that whatever reputation I have it is for trying to avert industrial crisis. I have risked my reputation with 130,000 men very often by asking them not to do the thing they wanted many times to do. Therefore, when I utter a warning, I am entitled to do so as one who has done his part to try to maintain peace and order in South Wales. I warn the Government that the end of this is not at Eleven o'Clock to-morrow night. When you tramp through those Lobbies, do not believe that you are disposing of this. You cannot dispose of 600,000 men in that way; you cannot dispose of 100,000 Welshmen in that easy way. When you think it is over, it just begins for us. We leaves these benches, and go back to those valleys to light a flame which will never be put out, and which will devour you and your Regulations.

8.33 p.m.

Sir ROBERT ASKE

Probably hon. Members in all parts of the House will have been impressed with the speech which the hon. Gentleman has just made. Those who, like myself, come from depressed parts of the country, no doubt appreciated it all the more. I agree with what the hon. Member said that this is more essentially a problem for the distressed areas than for any other part of the country. Our people, who have passed through so many years of prolonged and intense unemployment with such resignation, have an interest which must be essentially different from the interest of those from more fortunate parts of the country. I do not appreciate why so great a part of the discussion has been taken up by the question whether the scales in the Regulations are as much as the public assistance scales in various parts of the country. It is a very poor tribute to any Regulations to have to test them by whether they are or are not equal to the public assistance scales. That is not my test. They have to be tested and regarded upon their own merits, and probably they will be judged differently in one part of the country from the way in which they are judged in another.

So far as my district is concerned—and I have no doubt that we are all deeply influenced by the effect that these Regulations will have in our own districts—few people should receive less than they are receiving at the present time under the standstill arrangement, and a great many will be receiving payments substantially greater than they are receiving at the present time. Personally I must express my deep obligation to the Minister on behalf of those people who will receive more money than they have been receiving hitherto; it will bring much-needed comfort into very needy homes. I am certain that the Minister has had a very difficult task in getting the Regulations approved in their present form, and I have no doubt, too, that, if the Minister had had a free hand as to what Regulations he could have put forward, they would have been of a very much more generous kind than are these.

When I say that in many cases these Regulations will not mean any reduction, I am really referring to the Regulations coupled with the explanatory Memorandum, but it is necessary, of course, that we should all appreciate that the explanatory Memorandum is not part of the Regulations. The House is not being asked to approve of the explanatory Memorandum, and nothing in that Memorandum is in any way binding, so far as I can see, on any of the officers of the Board or on the appeal tribunal. There is nothing, within the limits of discretion given to the officers of the Board, which they are not fully entitled to exercise entirely regardless of the explanatory Memorandum. It has been suggested that there is a right of appeal to the appeal tribunal, but I am not aware of any right of appeal; there is only a liberty to appeal if the chairman of the appeal tribunal gives leave. Therefore, the position really is that anybody applying for any discretionary relief of the kind mentioned in the explanatory Memorandum is subject to what is termed a discretion, but which is nothing more or less than the will of a local dictator, either in the shape of an official of the Board or of the chairman of the appeal tribunal.

When, therefore, one has to consider such matters as the rent rule, the reference to the figure of 3s. in the Memorandum is in no way binding. I would ask the Minister who is going to reply on these matters why, if it is really intended that that 3s. limit in the case of the rent rule shall be disregarded, that intention is not expressed in the Regulations themselves? Whatever is in the Regulations gives a right to the applicant; what is not in the Regulations is purely discretionary. Exactly the same point arises with reference to the single householder, for whom a sum of 15s. is fixed by the Regulations. It has been stated that the single householder will get more than 15s. If it is intended that he should have more than 15s., why is not a higher sum put into the Regulations themselves?

The Minister of Health stated last night that undoubtedly there had been a great improvement in certain parts of the Regulations and statutory provisions dealing with unemployed people who had run out of benefit. That is perfectly true, and we have to recognise the fact. There can be no doubt that under these Regulations the average rate per week payable to applicants is 3s 5d. more than was the average rate under the Labour Government, and it is 2s. more than it was before any Unemployment Regulations came into force. That is a fact which we have to recognise. But it does not follow from that that the present situation is what it should be, because, while a large number of people will receive increases beyond what they were getting before, another large number of people will suffer reductions. The explanatory Memorandum states, perfectly correctly, that the efforts of the Government and of the Unemployment Assistance Board have resulted in a redistribution of the unemployment pool; in other words, that the troubles and difficulties which have arisen have all been due to efforts to distribute, not merely the same amount, but a larger amount, yet to distribute it in a different way.

Of course, one of the chief advantages that many of our families are getting is in larger and more humane allowances for children. On the other hand, the disadvantage under which they are suffering lies in the means test; and, when one has to judge Regulations of this kind, one cannot approve of them unless one is satisfied that they are going to work without injustice to anyone. The mere fact that regulations are even generous towards large numbers of people is no reason, to my mind, why one should approve of regulations which operate unjustly, even though it be to a very much smaller number.

I ask myself, is it right that a married man earning 42s. a week should have his spending power reduced to 32s. merely because he has an unemployed son living in his home? To my mind, there is only one test in a case of that kind. The father is being subjected to a payment of £2 a month for his unemployed son, and the test is, what would be the assessment on that father upon an application to the courts of the country by the Poor Law authorities? In my judgment, there is not a bench of magistrates in this country who would impose on that man an obligation to pay a quarter of that amount. If that be the case, I would ask, on what standard does the Unemployment Assistance Board pre- sume to assess the liability of people in these circumstances? There is only one answer: it is the standard of the Poor Law mind. Again, that a widowed mother left with 25s. a week should have to be subject, under these Regulations, to a liability to pay 6s. a week in order to have the comfort of the presence of an unemployed son in her home, appears to me to outrage one's conscience.

Such are the provisions of the scales so far as applicable in those cases. When one turns to the case of brothers and sisters, what justification can there be for the fact that a brother, earning 50s. a week, should become liable to pay 17s. a week for the maintenance of his brother merely because he lives in the same house? If he lives in any other place he is under no liability to pay a penny piece. Why should the fact that a brother lives with a brother subject him to any penalty whatever, unless, that is to say, the Unemployment Assistance Board wish to prevent brothers from living with each other. When one goes still further down the scale one finds that that precise rule applies to even far more remote relationships, to a wife's cousin or a husband's aunt, and there is exactly that liability to contribute 17s., subject only to these vague and possibly benevolent words in the Regulations, that it is subject to their receiving some other sum which is reasonable in the circumstances. How can one say what sum is reasonable in the circumstances? It must be such a sum as the officials of the Board or the Appeal Tribunal think, in their absolute discretion, should be paid.

It is suggested in the explanatory Memorandum that in many of these cases the earner will be treated on the same footing as if he was a boarder or a lodger. If it is the intention to treat them in that way, why on earth is that not expressed in the Regulations? In my opinion the only logical basis for people in relationships of that kind is that they should be treated in every way on a strict footing as boarders or lodgers. That is my simple outlook with regard to these Regulations. Representing a depressed area, and knowing intimately the conditions of life of our people, I regard it as absolutely impossible to give any support to Regulations which would impose upon those who have undergone privations for so many years a family means test so administered.

Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS

On a point of Order. May I draw the Prime Minister's attention to the fact that, out of hundreds of Government supporters, fewer than 20 have supported these Regulations?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

That is not a point of Order.

8.49 p.m.

Mr. S. O. DAVIES

I wonder if we can get Members and supporters of the Government to appreciate the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). Over and over again on these benches we are absolutely baffled by the reactions of Government supporters. My hon. Friend's history is known to many of us. He had no alternative in his young days, like many of us, but the colliery, and that at 12 years of age. The appeal that he made to the House would never have been turned down by any Government which had the least claim to the title of Government in any accepted civilisation. There is no answer to the case that he made. In South Wales thousands are going to receive very substantial reductions under these new scales. That cannot be explained away. The Minister, with all his flippancy, yesterday failed ignominiously to do it. What reactions in South Wales can the Government expect in view of the unchallenged fact that thousands of our impoverished homes are going to be far more impoverished as a result of these scales than they are at present?

Imagine how we must have felt when the Member for South West Hull (Mr. Law) asked us if we did not believe that a brother who was in employment should be called upon to support a brother who was unemployed. Fancy anyone having the effrontery to put a question of that kind to us. An obvious question came to my mind. Who supports you in your luxurious idleness? [An HON. MEMBER: "Speak up."] It is all very well to shout "Speak up." It is the kind of speaking up that hon. Members opposite cannot understand. They might as well have it, that a travesty and an atrocity of this kind perpetrated at the expense of our people is an atrocity against us on these benches. Who is supporting Members on the Government Benches? Do they rely on brothers and sisters? Have they a means test thrust on them? Are they subject to what these scales pro- pose, that a collier who works six days a week brings home to an impoverished family £2 a week, and 12s. of that is to be taken away from him? Can they support that? Will any supporters of this Government go into a mining area or face the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, which is in conference just now, and say, "You deserve 12s. or more of a reduction in the rotten wages that you are receiving at present"? That is what the Government are asking.

It is all very well to talk about a means test and about these scales on a Board, whose Chairman receives £96 a week. There is no means test there. I am sorry that I am driven to make such a mean comparison between the Chairman of that Board and the men who work. There is the Vice-chairman receiving between £50 and £60 a week, and we have a Minister who receives £38 a week getting up to justify a means test. I know that our men are not going to stand it, and certainly not from a Government of this kind. They will resist it. If the coal-owners came along and said, "We are going to effect a reduction of 12s. a week in wages," the Government know very well what would happen. No leader, not even one with the influence of my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly, and certainly not this Government, would prevent those miners from expressing themselves in the only way that a Government of this kind can understand.

Yesterday we listened to superficial and flippant rhetoric from that Box for an hour and a half. It may speak well for the courage of some Members on these benches that they have also read most of that speech. Among other things, I want to be certain of what the Minister had in his mind when he spoke about "dignity payment." This is how the dignity payment applies in cases of which I know. A father at work—in that coalfield of ours at an exceptionally good job—receives about £2 12s. a week, but, unfortunately, he has two sons over 21 years of age at home, each receiving 17s. on the basis of the old transitional payments. Under these generous scales and Regulations they will receive nothing, and I am still looking to see where the dignity payment comes in. What about those two sons, who are men with excellent reputations as coal miners, steady, sober, and having a considerable measure of culture? What is to happen to those young men?

By post this morning I received a large number of cases which had been sent on to me. I am not going to weary the House at this time by reciting these cases, but perhaps one or two will suffice. Here is the case of an unemployed householder, a widower, with two sons over 21 years of age, both of whom are unemployed. At present they are receiving 51s. Will the Minister or the Government say that 51s. is too much for three decent men, excellent workmen when work is provided for them, to keep a home going? Will the Minister get up at that Box and say that 51s. for three adults is substantially too much? Under the new scales and Regulations there will be a cut which will reduce the 51s. to 35s. Will hon. Members on the Government Benches go into the Division Lobby to-morrow night and cast their votes in a way that will tell these and thousands more that a reduction in an appallingly low income from 51s. to 35s. is a right and proper thing for a Government of this kind to do? I could weary the House for hours with cases of this nature, but I cannot assume that Members on the Government Benches are hopelessly and palpably ignorant of working-class conditions in the depressed areas to-day. I have been wondering why the Government did not face this House merely on the household means test apart from any scales or Regulations.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

The hon. Member has made a statement that there will be a cut from 51s. to 35s. I want to ask him whether the 51s. is a legitimate payment under the present arrangements?

Mr. DAVIES

Absolutely.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

I wanted to have it made quite clear.

Mr. DAVIES

Absolutely legitimate. There is not a Member on the Government benches who dare say in this House, knowing that a record of the statement will be taken, that 17s. a week for an adult is too much. These two sons are receiving 17s. under transitional payment in a perfectly legitimate manner. There is no one who will gainsay that. As I have said, I could take up a great deal of the time of the House in giving examples of this kind. I have a number of them here, and I have many more in my locker. The Minister yesterday appeared to be somewhat concerned that we were going to agitate against these new scales and Regulations. Of course we are going to agitate against them. Is there any reasonable, sensible Member in this House who expects us to do other than that? What would we say if we were subjected to these indignities and humiliations? Would we not agitate? Surely, anybody with the least sense of justice or who has the least spirit of sportsmanship will agitate with us and will not attempt to explain them away, but will go into the Division Lobby to-morrow and vote in the way that one should.

Last night the Minister of Health made reference to the county borough of Merthyr Tydfil. He told the House that Merthyr Tydfil, with other boroughs, had fixed their Poor Law scales on the statutory benefit scales. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not present. He knows in detail the circumstances that obtain in that county borough to-day, and he should have been the last man to have mentioned Merthyr Tydfil. Not very long ago the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the conditions of local government in Merthyr Tydfil. What happened to the findings of that Royal Commission? The Minister immediately ran away from those findings and has refused to this day to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission. My best answer to anything that he has to say about Merthyr Tydfil is that he should re-read the recommendations of that Royal Commission and then appreciate the ignominious way that he ran away from the very Royal Commission that he appointed.

It is no use the Minister of Labour attempting to get hon. Members on these benches to say anything disparaging about the staffs who are called upon to do this vile piece of work for the Unemployment Assistance Board. I have nothing to say against them. I have worked with them in the closest harmony that is possible in the circumstances. They have been called upon to do a job that they hate and detest, prying into the most intimate details of the unemployed person's domestic life, instructed to ask an unending series of questions, knowing that those questions mean humiliation to those who are being questioned, compelled, driven by instruc- tions to pursue every half-penny that goes into the house, called upon to cut the compensation of workmen in half under these scales, driven to pursue the poor, helpless, blind person's pension. It is an act of abject cowardice on the part of the Government and its supporters to drive decent men to do such vile, dirty work. They would not like to do it themselves, or if so, then my opinion of the Government supporters is far too high, and it is pretty low at present.

I will not worry the House with the examples galore that I could quote. They are known to us only too well. I am glad that the Prime Minister is present. I want to ask him quite sincerely whether he knows that the belief is spreading in South Wales that this Government has deliberately abandoned it to its poverty and destruction. That conviction is spreading. I get it from men and women who are not in any way associated with me as far as politics are concerned. They are people who voted for the Government at the last Election. The reply of the Prime Minister to the Welsh Members of Parliament, irrespective of party, was the last word in despair. His speech in South Wales last Saturday gave no encouragement, none whatever. The conviction that is gripping the minds and the hearts of the people in South Wales is that you have wantonly, for some reason or other, made up your minds that it will be to your comfort in some mysterious way to permit that nation to be destroyed. That is the conviction. It is not a conviction that has grown in their minds as the result of anything that we have told them. They are people who are not generally given to despair. We have been criticised and condemned for many years on the ground that we are too optimistic, too buoyant in our hopes and aspirations, but the belief that is gripping the spirits of the people in South Wales is that for some reason you have deliberately turned your backs on that coalfield; a coalfield that has made such a valuable contribution towards building up whatever is great about this country.

What will be the reaction of these scales? The Minister of Labour cannot deny that they will further impoverish the people in the South Wales coalfield, that they will increase the depopulation that is taking place there, that they will make our churches and chapels emptier, that they will continue to disintegrate the cultural life that is in that coalfield, that they will hurtle hundreds of business men into the bankruptcy court, in addition to thousands of others who have gone there. They are to be told that further impoverishment is to be imposed upon the people in that coalfield. There is one thing that I must say. We are not accepting quietly the destruction of that coalfield and what amounts, I say deliberately, to the crucifixion of a people and of a little nation that has made its wonderful contribution in every sense of the word to the best that has been assimilated into the life of this group of nations which make up Great Britain. They are not accepting it. They will express themselves in no unmistakable way. They have warned the Government already. That nation is not going to be destroyed. It will fight for its culture, it will fight for the amenities that have been established there, it will fight for the idealism that has been a part of its life for centuries, it will fight for its language, it will fight for anything and everything that is worth fighting for in its life and its traditions.

I warn the Government. Not long ago we used to hear one country referred to contemptuously as "John Bull's Other Island." Some of us are old enough to know the deliberate, wanton, fiendish acts that were responsible for the depopulation of that island. But this little nation in Wales is not going to accept its immolation in that way. It will fight for the personality that is its own and will express it in such a way that this Government will be sorry for the harsh and brutal way it has been acting towards a little nation of that kind. The Secretary of State for War says that he cannot get recruits for his Army. There is a very good reason why he cannot get them from South Wales. There are 500,000 ex-Service men in the ranks of the unemployed and 40,000 disabled ex-Service men unemployed. We of South Wales believe—we are forced to believe—that it is the deliberate policy of the Government to impose starvation conditions on the young men of this country, and these scales are our justification for saying that. What is the objective? Is it not to drive them into the armed forces of the country? Is that the type of soldier you are to depend upon to defend this Empire? I warn the Government to be careful how many of this kind of recruits they take, because they will wake up one day and find that they have recruited the wrong type of person.

I am not going to appeal to the Government at all. The classes which are dealt with in these scales and Regulations are not the friends of the Government. The Government can spend £50 every minute of the day in various forms of subsidies for their friends; they can throw millions of pounds away lavishly to people who have more than they are really entitled to. I hope no one will attempt to blame us if we tell the full story as to who are receiving these subsidies, who are benefiting most lavishly by them. I hope that no member of the Government or supporter of the Government will come here in a state of righteous indignation when that truth is told to people who are to be subjected to scales and Regulations of this kind. I shall not appeal to the Government to withdraw these Regulations. Some 17 or 18 months ago we appealed for the withdrawal of the Regulations and not only were we not listened to; we were scoffed at by hon. Members who are still in the House. While that Debate was going on the scoffing and jeering were very prominent, but when the storm broke out in the country the very same Members who were scoffing and jeering appealed to the Government to save them, because the Government had perpetrated something which would destroy all chance of their being returned at the Election. I have not a shadow of doubt in my mind that history will repeat itself, but with this difference, that next time these hon. Members will not be returned to this House, because the present Regulations are not an attack on the unemployed alone, they are an attack on the employed as well.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

It is you who are attacking the employed.

Mr. DAVIES

May I tell the hon. and gallant Member something that obviously he does not know. It is all very well to talk about these scales being generous but I noticed yesterday that the Minister of Labour deliberately refused to take the House into his confidence on one of the fundamental restrictions which are laid down. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), speaking about the wages in Lancashire some time ago, said the men were working a full week for 18s., and that 30s. a week was considered a very substantial wage. Why did not the Minister of Labour in his hour and a half of deliberate prevarication yesterday tell the House that these Regulations laid down that whatever be the size of the family, however many members there are, the head of the household must not receive as much in allowances as he received when last in employment? Why did he conceal that fact yesterday? He did so because he knows very well that he is a mere tool in the machine of the Federation of British Industries.

Viscountess ASTOR

Oh!

Mr. DAVIES

One doubts really whether the ignorance of hon. Members opposite who are so articulate is as profound as one would be forced to believe it is. The Noble Lady would not have jeered at the appeals made on these benches earlier in the day.

Viscountess ASTOR

I have not jeered.

Mr. DAVIES

The Noble Lady places a different construction on jeering than I do.

Viscountess ASTOR

I have been misrepresented enough. I was not jeering. When the hon. Member said that we are under the tyranny of the Federation of British Industries I was laughing at that.

Mr. DAVIES

The Unemployment Assistance Board, in fact, is nothing but a sub-committee of the Federation of British Industries. [Interruption.] If I dreamt for a moment that hon. Members opposite were as ignorant as they would persuade me they are, I should have brought with me the instructions given a few years ago to this Government by the Federation of British Industries, instructions which the Government are slowly and deliberately implementing, but before the Debate ends I have no doubt they will be read to hon. Members. I must really again suggest to the Noble Lady that she is certainly the last person who should attempt to justify the means test. I shall not repeat what I said earlier in my speech unless I am persuaded that it needs repeating in order to get it into the somewhat addled heads of hon. Members opposite. At this time of the night it sometimes happens that spirits change on that side of the House—

Viscountess ASTOR

And on your side, too.

Mr. DAVIES

We shall certainly not be backward as agitators in letting the people know how the Government and its supporters reacted to these fiendish and humiliating scales and Regulations. Not one hon. Member who will go into the Division Lobby in their support could subsist for three weeks upon them.

9.25 p.m.

Miss HORSBRUGH

Over and over again in the speeches to which we have listened the subject has been brought up of subsidies given to industry and the amount of money spent on armaments, and it has been inferred that this money could have been added to the amount that will be distributed to the unemployed. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) says that the Government have given these subsidies to their friends. [Interruption.] I have not interrupted any speaker on the opposite side. My spirits may be low, but I have sat here waiting to speak since four o'clock, and there will be a greater chance for other people to speak if hon. Members opposite will allow me to develop my argument. Many of us believe that the subsidies have been given in order that industry shall be kept going and men and women kept in employment.

In judging the policy of this Government in connection with unemployment, we must take into consideration its policy in helping to keep people in employment and in getting them back into employment. Hon. Members have criticised the subsidies, but if these subsidies were withdrawn do they not consider that many industries, including agriculture, would not be able to continue, and that there would be a larger number of unemployed in consequence? I believe also that because these industries would not be able to continue, and because men and women would become unemployed, we should gradually find that there was less money with which to help the greater number of unemployed. It has to be remembered that it is the taxpayers who are providing the money to help these unfortunate people, and the taxpayers can only have that money if industry is prosperous. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who makes the profits?"] The profits are made by all those in industry. If industry cannot carry on the men and women engaged in it will be unemployed, and if profit is not made by industry there will be no money to pay unemployment benefit. [Interruption.] I am not going to give way to anybody. There are other people wanting to speak, and it is not fair to them that there should be so many interruptions. Hon. Members have sat on these benches and been unable to hear what was said on the Front Bench on this side because of the interruptions of hon. Members opposite. It has been suggested that hon. Members on this side were absent because they took no interest in the Debate, but it has been difficult for hon. Members even to hear what a speaker has been saying because of the interruptions.

It has been suggested that another way of dealing with the unemployment problem would be a policy of public works. There are two schemes suggested. One is a form of subsidy to existing industries to keep them going and to keep the people in them employed. The other is to provide money for creating work which is not absolutely necessary, and work in which the unemployed are not necessarily skilled. It is far better to help the industries in existence to carry on, and so give a chance to skilled men and women to carry on at their own work than to give large sums of money for public works. Hon. Members have also discussed the amount that is to be spent on making our defence more secure. They have said that this money should be given to the unemployed. But a large percentage of the money is being spent in giving work to the people of this country. About 80 per cent. of the money spent is going in wages to the people. Are hon. Members supposing that if that money were not spent it would be distributed among the people of this country? If so, their opinion of the workers is rather different from mine.

If there is one thing above all others that these people want it is not merely an extra shilling here or there, but work. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad I have agreement from hon. Members opposite because there is one factor that cannot be disputed, and it is that the policy of this Government has brought more work to these people. But even with this increase of employment there remains this tragic army of people unemployed. Many hon. Members opposite have seemed to infer that hon. Members on this side did not feel so keenly the plight of these people. Some of them have told us that we seemed almost to delight in saying that the allowances cannot be bigger. Do hon. Members opposite really think that a single Member on this side would not be anxious to make these allowances bigger? Hon. Members opposite have talked of people who, they say, are not in contact with the unemployed. I know the conditions in my constituency. The people there are my friends, I go into their houses, I know what they are feeling. Do hon. Members suggest that I would not rather go back to Dundee and say, "There are larger allowances for you, you are to get more money"? Do they not realise that it is far more difficult for us, who care for these people, to act in a way which we believe will help them more but which they may not understand, and which hon. Members opposite misrepresent?

We do not impute motives to hon. Members opposite, and I would ask them not to impute motives to us. I think it should be realised that we know these people, have worked among them, and have put our point of view to them, and realise their difficulties. After all, they have placed a certain amount of confidence in us. At the General Election I did not shrink from speaking on the family means test, and there was not the slightest misunderstanding about my point of view concerning it. I referred to it in my election address and I spoke about it on every platform.

Mr. E. SMITH

You promised to abolish it.

Miss HORSBRUGH

No.

Mr. SMITH

The Prime Minister did.

Miss HORSBRUGH

I do not wish to weary the House by reading my election address. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it!"] I will let the hon. Member see it.

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER

I would remind hon. Members that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) was listened to without interruption.

Miss HORSBRUGH

I wish to make it clear that in my election address I said I stood by the family means test. I said I wanted better arrangements with regard to family allowances, and I made that clear. There was no misunderstanding, and at every meeting that I addressed those who were vocal and opposed me declared that they opposed me because I stood by the family means test. My hon. Friend who shares with me the representation of Dundee (Mr. Foot) also stood, I believed then, by the family means test, and after hearing him speak to-day, I think he still maintains that attitude. I make that statement because the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith), speaking a few days ago, said he had made it clear that the whole of his party was in favour of a means test for the individual, but not for the family.

Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH

indicated assent.

Miss HORSBRUGH

I see that my hon. Friend agrees with me, but I fancy that the hon. Member for Dundee, perhaps because of what he has seen and heard from the people he has mingled with in Dundee, thinks differently from the rest of his party, and still stands for the family means test. I think it will be within the recollection of hon. Members that my hon. Friend, when we were discussing the Unemployment Bill on 5th December, 1933, twitted the party above the Gangway opposite because they were against the family means test, and said that his party was entirely in favour of it. He told hon. Members that they brought it out only at by-elections, and he gave an instance of what he meant in the following statement: I think that we have a right to say to a man who is bringing home wages that he shall make a reasonable contribution to the upkeep of those of his family who are unemployed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December, 1933; col. 1544, Vol. 283.] The hon. Member went on to explain that he felt very personally on the matter. At that time his father was a Member of the House and was sitting beside him, and the hon. Member gave an example which has been quoted to me again and again in Dundee in praise of him. He said that if he was a man in employment he would certainly think it was right, and his duty as a son, to help his father if his father was destitute. I can only say that when at one time I was informed that the hon. Member had changed his mind, I thought that, instead of absence making the heart grow fonder, it had in his case made it grow harder. Therefore, I am glad that to-day the hon. Member has shown that he is in favour of the family means test and would not be willing to leave his father without a share of his earnings.

My hon. Friend also made some criticism of the figures in the Regulations. He pointed out various cases in which he thought the amount was below the standstill amount that people in Dundee are at present drawing, but he did not give the details of any of the cases in which they would get more. I believe the root of this problem is, above all, the unemployed family, where there are no resources and no earnings whatever. I think it is with them that we have to deal, because they have no help. It may be that there will be hardship in cases where the earnings of other members of the family are taken into account, but in those families there is at least some help and support. I think the families where there are no resources should be considered first. Hon. Members have spoken on the subject of the health and nutrition of children, and in that connection I would say that I consider that the best thing about the Regulations is the graded scale for children. I believe that is a great advance. I am sure that all hon. Members realise that growing boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 14 need a larger amount of food. During the time the party opposite was in office and during the beginning of the present Government, there was a flat rate of 2s., and then it was increased to 3s. Now we have an increased assessment for the older boys and girls, and I hope that in Dundee, where we have so many large families, they will all benefit from this. My hon. Friend did not point that out, but he told us of the cuts that are made. I believe he is reported as saying in Dundee that the people who have to suffer cuts would not be consoled by the knowledge that larger amounts would be given in other cases. I would like to ask my hon. Friend, who I believe will vote against these Regulations, whether he will go to Dundee and say to those families which, under the Regulations, will get an extra 5s. or 7s., that he voted to deprive them of what they could get under the Regulations.

Mr. FOOT

I did not intend to interrupt the hon. Lady, but I will point out that I am perfectly prepared in my next speech in Dundee to deal with such increases as there may be under these Regulations if my hon. Friend on her side will go and explain in detail the deductions that are made.

Miss HORSBRUGH

I think my hon. Friend knows that in a letter which I sent to the Dundee Town Council, and which was reported in the Press, I mentioned the deductions and what I hoped would be the increases. I notice that in the letter sent by my hon. Friend he made the mistake of stating that only 24s. would be given to a man and wife. Another good point about these Regulations is the increase in the earnings allowance. The man or woman drawing a larger wage is to get a larger percentage of the earnings. Here, again, I have always disliked the flat rate. It has seemed to me entirely wrong that when a man or woman is working overtime, has a job giving a greater amount of money or is getting more money from piece work, no percentage of that money should be retained.

There is, however, one point of difficulty to which I would like to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. It is the question of the man who is unemployed and his wife who is at work. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee has already said something on that matter, but he did not point out that where the woman has a large family the deduction would be wiped out by the increase in the children's allowances. I agree with him that in the case of the man and wife without children, where the wife is working, it seems as if there would be less money under these Regulations. I believe that in the case of women workers some allowance might be given in respect of particular expenses relating to the family arising out of their work. I realise that there is a personal allowance in respect of a man and wife of eight shillings but very often if a married woman is working, extra expenses have to be incurred in connection with the household. Take the case of mothers in Dundee who go out to work and who have to take their children each morning to a day nursery, before going to work and leave them there to be looked after during the day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] Do hon. Members suggest that it is a shame that a married woman should go to work?

Mr. KIRKWOOD

It is a scandal and a disgrace.

Miss HORSBRUGH

I hope the hon. Member will come to Dundee some day and tell the married women there that it is a scandal and a disgrace for them to be at work. In any case there are expenses incurred by those women in having their children looked after, and there are other expenses connected with their work, in respect of which some allowance ought to be made to them especially in the cases we are considering where the women with small children will have less under this scheme. It may be said by hon. Members opposite that sons and daughters in a household ought not to be asked to contribute part of their income. It may be argued that those people have their own lives to live and should be treated accordingly.

I know that the argument becomes very difficult when applied to the woman who is married. It may be said that the woman's income always goes in support of the household and that she has the same personal allowance as the man. I think that the woman in such circumstances is faring worse under this arrangement than a man in corresponding circumstances. If a woman is to be treated exactly the same as a man in the matter of allowances, she ought also to be treated the same as a man in the matter of wages. There are women who are getting, always I think under trade boards, lower wages than men in respect of the same kind of work and that differentiation ought to be recognised. If the woman is not to be treated on an equality with the man on the one side, she ought to receive some additional help on the other side. In some cases, I am glad that the women's allowancs have been increased and it will make a considerable difference, especially to young women in lodgings whose difficulties are very great.

I have not time to mention other good points which there are in these Regulations, but I would say this in conclusion. I agree with hon. Members on both sides who have told us that it is impossible to say exactly how these Regulations are going to work out and, therefore, I find it difficult to understand the out-and-out condemnation of the Regulations by hon. Members opposite. There is a power of discretion; it will be possible to give help in many ways in special circumstances and I believe that that provision will be appreciated. Hon. Members have spoken of the work of the Board's officials and of what they have already done in, trying to meet special needs. It is those officials who will have to meet special cases of difficulty in the future under these Regulations and while we do not know with certainty how the Regulations will work out, I believe that under them we shall have more chance than we had before of securing better conditions for the people of this country. Therefore I support the Regulations.

9.50 p.m.

Mr. SEXTON

The last two Members who spoke from this side were Welsh, and I cannot hope to emulate their oratory, though I believe I can emulate their sincerity. I come from the cold, calculating North and, like my colleagues who spoke earlier, from a Special Area, and before dealing with the Regulations I wish to refer to a sentence which fell from the Secretary of State for Scotland. He spoke about the defence programme of the National Government helping the Special Areas. I received this telegram yesterday: Government state £24,000,000 orders placed in distressed areas. South-West Durham Development Board on behalf of this area dissatisfied that no work has come here. Why? Signed, Middlewood, Vice-Chairman; Thompson, Secretary. I have the honour to represent a large part of that South-West Durham area and I shall be pleased to have an answer to the question why none of the defence work has gone to that area. As to these Regulations they are based upon the means test. They are a result from a cause and the cause is the system of society under which we live, with its differentiation of human values. If society were based on a sane foundation and if the nation were regarded as a family, then the whole of the family income, meaning the national income, would be distributed among the whole of the people more equitably than is the case at present. That would mean, I understand from the economists, at least £2 per week for every man, woman and child. Instead of the family ideal, the capitalist state of society means, as I say, a differentiation in human values and these Regulations emphasise and will perpetuate that differentiation.

The present state of society means that we think only of the minimum upon which the worker can exist, when, in a world of plenty and potential plenty, we ought to be thinking of the maximum which could be given to the workers, to enable them to live fully and abundantly. We call in the statisticians and they produce strings of figures in favour of preserving the status quo. We call in the chemists to work out tables of calories, which, to the hungry, are tables of stone. Those unfortunates, the unemployed, ask for bread and are fobbed off with calories. Every hon. Member knows that a good pork chop is better than a "Dissertation on the Origin of Roast Pig" and that food in abundance would be far better to the unemployed than tables of calories or these Regulations. I have had some experience because early in life I was "passing rich" on £70 a year as a school master. That approximates nearly to 26s. a week, and I am almost ashamed to confess that I was married on it.

Fortunately for me, I married a wife—[Laughter.] I am glad to see that hon. Members appreciate the fact that there is a distinction. I married a wife who could bake, sew, and cook, a wife who could give points to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because she had 52 budgets in the year, and sometimes she could not balance her budget, and we had to go into debt. I am tired to death of hearing the working-man's wife lectured by women who try to teach them how to bake and cook. Our wives could give points to professors, and we do not want lectures for our working wives at all. We do not want to be rationed by Regulations either. There ought to be a reckoning up of the whole of the rations and then a sharing out according to need. Why should people be stinted by Statute? They are stinted, physically and in their clothes. Our working wives, as I have said in this House before, have to go to jumble sales to buy the cast-offs of the rich because they cannot afford anything better. They are worth something better.

Nobody can pretend that these Regulations give that fullness of life which is the due of every person, and the idea that they do is too fantastic to be talked about. The truth is that they are ridiculous Regulations. Let us put them to the test. What hon. or right hon. Gentleman or hon. or Noble Lady would like to be put under these Regulations? Take the most generous scale in the Regulations. There is not an hon. Member in this House, man or woman, who could not prove that they are inadequate. Compare them with the cost of keeping a prisoner in penal servitude—two guineas a week. Compare them, if you like, with the cost of keeping a person in the workhouse—£1 2s. 6d. a week. Compare them with the cost of keeping a child in a Poor Law home—19s. 8d. a week. We have an example in these Regulations of the poor helping to keep the poor. Some are going to benefit at the expense of someone who will receive a reduction. It is the case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

One of the conditions laid down in these Regulations is to emphasise the difference between rural and urban areas. I live in a rural area, and I protest against the differentiation. Why should it be supposed that living in the country is cheaper than living in the town? I live in the country, and I challenge anyone to go on to a platform and debate the question. They could take the side of the town, and I would take the side of the country. We in the country pay for our food as much as, and in many cases more than, you do in the town. Beside that, in the country we have not the social amenities that you have in the towns, nor the social chances of education. I consider that there should be no difference at all between the dwellers in the rural districts and the dwellers in the urban districts. There is another condition in the Regulations which says that assistance should not equal the wages received, and it is also stated in another place that allowances shall not be too low—two different points of view altogether, and how you can reconcile them I do not know. In my constituency I have miners who are working five days a week and taking home less than 30s. In the village where I live I have quarry-men working for 5s. 3d. a day, and their average weekly wage is based on four and a half shifts, so that some of these people will have about £1 0s. 8d. a week. What I demand for my own child is the prerogative of every child in the country. What I demand for myself is the right of every man in the country, and I say that if the country can afford to do something better than 17s. a week for me, it is not beyond the bounds of human possibility that something better should be done for the unemployed.

It is only the accident of opportunity that I am standing here to-day, and I hope I am doing my constituents justice and representing them. It is not merit; it is the accident of birth and opportunity. Perhaps the unemployed have not been insistent enough. If they had been as insistent as I have, and as other hon. and right hon. Members of this House have, they would not have been submitted to the ignominy of these terrible Regulations. I have heard hon. Members talking about the tax on industry, but where do all taxes come from? The vague answer is "From industry," but the correct answer is "From the worker." When I was a boy in a country district an old miner said to me, "Remember that everything comes from the pick point." That was my first lesson in economics, and I have not forgotten it. My salary, your salary, your big incomes, your millionaires' incomes, all come from the workers. I have heard it suggested by hon. Members opposite that those who are fortunate enough to be at work do not care about carrying the burden of their unemployed fellows. It is a lie and a libel. What they object to is to carrying you people on their backs.

Away with your despicable means test. Let the floodgates of plenty be opened wide for all, and then happiness and joy will come instead of misery and sorrow, distress and degradation. If you do that and give them real Regulations, you will find that the unemployed will not consider themselves as outcasts and Ishmaels. Remember the story of Ishmael of old, who was cast out into the wilderness, "his hand … against every man, and every man's hand against him." That is how the unemployed are feeling at the present time. If you were unemployed, you would not stand for these Regulations at all. You would follow the example set on a historic occasion in Ireland—"Shoot, and be damned." That was said by men who became prominent members of the Government Front Bench, and if I were an unemployed man and society could only grant me 17s. a week, I would say "Damn your society," and I should do my best to bust it. Many of these men who are suffering rallied in the country's hour of need in 1914 to the aid of their country. Is it too much to ask the country to reciprocate now, when its protectors are in dire need? The country ought to rally to their aid. Because the National Government rallies to their aid with Regulations that retard human aspirations, I shall have much pleasure in voting against them.

10.4 p.m.

Mr. McCORQUODALE

We have all enjoyed, though we cannot agree with, the last speech, but I do not think some of us enjoyed so much the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies). I wondered why he was so violent in his attack on these Regulations, but I happened to look up particulars of the General Election in Merthyr Tydfil, and I saw that he was then opposed by an Independent Labour Party candidate, who obtained a very substantial number of votes, and I have no doubt he was endeavouring to steal some of his opponent's thunder. I represent an industrial constituency where at the present time, I am thankful to say, there are fewer than 500 people who will come under these Regulations, and I would like to pay my meed of gratitude to the Government for having brought about that favourable result. The figure is the lowest in my area for many years. As far as I can calculate, the majority of these 500 unfortunate people will get more under these scales than they have done in the past. I am, therefore, on their behalf, supporting these Regulations. During the Election I made my position on the family means test perfectly clear, and on that I was returned. I believe that the close relatives of an applicant who are living with him should, if they are in a position to do so, assist him before strangers are called upon to help. Decent sons and daughters will do this for their parents.

On this question I would like to put a specific point to the Minister and ask him to bring it to the notice of the Board. Decent sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters are, I believe, prepared to do their best to assist an unfortunate relative before he appeals to the general public, but a young man obliged to support a father who has little or no chance of ever getting work may see an unenviable vista before him of having to go on doing so for many years. I am sure that the country would welcome a proviso that when a young man or woman has helped to support a relative for a period of, say, five years, that man or woman should be entitled to say to the Board, "I have done what I can and I think I ought now to appeal to the general public to pay for me." Such a proviso would greatly help a young man in that position. On page 26 of the draft Regulations I find the words: If the assessment, after necessary adjustments, is equal to or greater than the unemployment benefit rate, the rule would not, of course, apply. That means—and it will be agreed that it is necessary—that the unemployed under Part II of the Act cannot receive more than he would if he came under Part I. I suggest that if the needs of this man under Part II as assessed come out higher than he would get under Part I, the allowance paid to him as benefit under Part I must be too low. It is comon knowledge that the Unemployment Insurance Fund is again collecting a large surplus, and we hope and believe that the Minister will be able to tell the House shortly about the surplus and to give us further details of how he proposes to deal with it. I hope that he will be able to tell us that he is going to use it to increase the benefit allowances and to increase the period of time allowed to an unemployed man before he comes out of standard benefit, rather than to reduce further the contributions of employers, employed and the State. In that way we shall, I believe, be able to raise the amount of allowances granted under these Regulations while still keeping the rule that an applicant under Part II cannot get more than under Part I.

The success or failure of this scheme largely depends, not entirely, on the amount that people will get, and on the sympathetic, helpful and friendly handling of the unemployed applicant by the officers of the Board and the Ministry of Labour officials. I hope that the senior officials of the Board will continue in the future, as they have in the past, to choose the very best type of man available for this arduous work, and I am convinced that in future the lot of the unemployed will be better for the Regulations we are now considering.

10.11 p.m.

Mr. E. DUNN

I am reluctant to enter into the Debate at this time of the night, realising that there are complexities that one would have liked closely to analyse. I am not proposing to analyse the Regulations very deeply. It has been my lot to be connected with the practical administration of public assistance, with county council work, and with the administration of transitional payments. Therefore, I come to the Debate with rather a different point of view from that of many hon. Members who have taken part on the other side. Many hon. Members have treated the subject in the abstract rather than with a full knowledge of the real work of public assistance, the work of transitional payments and the work that is being carried out to-day. I want to take rather a closer view of the picture. When the Regulations were issued I made it my business not only to analyse them myself, but to have them analysed by men whom I regarded as experts, who had been for much of their lives associated with public work of this kind. I am somewhat alarmed to find that of the authorities to whom I sent a copy of the Regulations—men who have spent their lives in administrative work and responsible officials of county authorities—not one has yet given an opinion in favour of their working out one whit better than the Regulations that have had to be withdrawn.

I have submitted these Regulations to one of the principal county authorities, or at least to one of the principal officials who dealt with more than 800,000 cases under the administrative scheme for transitional payments. I claim that the opinion of a man who has been responsible for dealing with and advising upon transitional payments in nearly a million cases is an opinion to be followed wth some amount of confidence. That opinion was expressed with the greatest reluctance and the greatest doubt, and he is of opinion that these Regulations will share the same fate as the Regulations of 18 months ago. In addition I sent these Regulations to the chairman of one of the principal public assistance committees in this country, the second largest to London itself, and I have his report in my possession. Case after case has been worked out, and he is perfectly satisfied that these Regulations will prove to be no more in favour of the unemployed than the Regulations did more than 18 months ago. I should like to take the opportunity of correcting a statement made by the Minister of Health last night, a statement which surprised me. He said: I hope that the House realises that since the Unemployment Assistance Board took over this matter the average payment per head has risen from 21s. 10d. to 23s. 7d."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1936; col. 400, Vol. 315.] That is per head. I think that if that were so there would not be the revolt in this House and this country that there is at the present time. He said "23s. 7d. per head." We have never asked that; we have never suggested anything of the kind, and I think that what the Minister of Health really meant to convey was 23s. 7d. per family, and not 23s. 7d. per head. I see that the Minister of Labour is shaking his head. I am reading from the OFFICIAL REPORT the statement made by the Minister of Health in this House last night. If that were the position then I do not think there would be any revolt either in this House or the country. I have gone further and asked the men who are in receipt of unemployment benefit at the present time, because they are the people who ought to know something about this matter, ought to know more than anybody else about it. Although I have had these Regulations examined by principal administrators and officials in the country and by the people in receipt of unemployment benefit, I cannot find a single one who is not overwhelmingly of opinion that these Regula- tions are definitely against the interests of the majority of the people who are in receipt of Unemployment Assistance Board benefits.

I have been impressed with another point of view which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Sexton). I have before me the figures of the West Riding Public Assistance Committee, issued in their report for last year. The hon. Member quoted the figures of the amount per person per week provided from public funds for the maintenance of the inmates of hospitals, scattered homes and casual wards. Is it suggested by the Minister of Labour or by the Minister of Health that 24s. a week is adequate for the maintenance of a man and wife and a household in decency and in comort?

This is a very serious matter. The amount allowed in the Regulations for a man and wife, with rent and all that goes against the home, is less than the average amount for the maintenance of a pauper, a prisoner, a child in a scattered home, or a vagrant off the streets. If this is regarded as an adequate amount for the maintenance of a man and wife, to say nothing about the children, I am sorry that I cannot agree with the contention of Members opposite. This is a standing disgrace, and it is not in the best interests of this country to foist these Regulations upon us. I come from a district in one part of which the collieries closed down in 1921, and from that time until the present day not one individual has been employed in that district. Young men have grown up, have married and their families are growing up, but the collieries are derelict, and have been so since 1921. I was with one of my hon. Friends in his district two years ago, and when we talked in those valleys about the question of unemployment, the people looked, at us in astonishment. They did not know that the problem of unemployment existed.

I was amazed at the provocative speech made yesterday by the Minister of Labour, who charged the public assistance committees with not giving out of the county rates to people who were sick or poor, benefits commensurate with the figures which he was incorporating into his Regulations. Let me put it back at him. I remember that we, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, attempted to give adequate relief and to deal with transitional payments upon a humane basis. The present Minister of Labour did not occupy that position at that time, nor did the present Minister of Health, but there are hon. Members in this House who remember the occasion when the then Minister of Health sent inspectors. It is no use the Minister shaking his head. There are at least two Members sitting on these benches who were there when an inspector came, and we met him in the county hall. He was responsible for the West Riding forcing down their scale. The Ministry of Health then compelled the West Riding County Council to force down their standard, and now we are charged that we would not use the money from the rates to give adequate relief to the people at that time.

In one part of my constituency there are from 10,000 to 15,000 people who have never worked for years, and I am not going to that part of my constituency to defend these Regulations; I am going there to condemn the Regulations, and I do not think there ought to be any misapprehension on the part of the Minister on that question. Is the only answer from the other side of the House to the problem of unemployment to be the same as that which has been given in Germany and in Italy, and which is being given in Spain at the present time? Hitler's answer to the problem of unemployment in Germany was preparation for war; Mussolini's answer to the problem of unemployment in Italy was exactly the same; and the same applies to Spain at the present time. Is your answer to the problem of unemployment going to be preparation for war?

With regard to the means test, I do not think there ought to be any misunderstanding as to where we stand. In every part of my constituency, and in various parts of the country where I have been, I have made it perfectly plain that, at the first opportunity I had of speaking and voting against a Government that imposes a household means test, I should do so, and if hon. Members think they are going to keep the people of this country quiet by Regulations of this kind they are living in a fool's paradise. I put these Regulations to a body of miners in my constituency, and miners have a wonderful way of expressing themselves in very flexible language. My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) gave us last night a sample of the language used by a lady about the Regulations, but that was very mild indeed compared with the way in which the miners of this country look upon the Regulations which are now before us.

The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate on behalf of the Government this afternoon told us how many people there are in Scotland who are subjected to the means test. I gather that the number is 285,000 at the present time, and that the total income from all sources coming into the households, affected, including wages, National Health benefits, pensions, and all other items, amounts to £20,000,000 in the year. Let me put it straight back now to hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. Can you expect to apply a household means test where the total income of the household is less than 25s. a week? I say that an attempt from that side of the House to impose it upon the country is disgraceful. I submit that there is no argument for these Regulations. There can be no quietude in this country while it is sought to impose them, and to continue to ask the poor to maintain the poor. That is a wrong policy. This country is wealthy enough to maintain the by-product of this system—for unemployment is a by-product of the present capitalist system; and we on this side of the House stand, not only to condemn that policy, but to smash down the people who seek to force it upon the country.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. MORGAN JONES

The House has just listened to a Member who has discharged an onerous task of administration in Yorkshire for a very large number of years and who is, therefore, entitled to speak to the House with authority on the subject of these Regulations. There is no doubt that they have given rise to grave anxiety among all classes of people. The recipients look upon them with anxiety because their standard of living is being menaced. The business man entertains anxiety because he sees his potential customers being deprived of the means of buying his goods. Local authorities entertain anxiety because they see the rate position in their areas being threatened. Other people, such as social workers and ministers of religion, have anxiety because of certain moral considerations which they feel are involved in the effect of the Regulations. Whether they think that anxiety justifiable or not, it is the business of the Government to be aware of it and to take note of it. In order to arrive at a final decision upon the matter, we must agree upon some fundamental principles to guide us. The Minister himself yesterday invited our attention to the fact that we in this House, and the Government in particular, have a concern, as he put it, about this matter. He used these words: I will not delay the House by recounting the stages which led up to the recognition of the principle that the care of the able-bodied unemployed, who are without work through no fault of their own, is a matter which should be, to use that great Quaker word, the 'concern' of the nation as a whole. As he proceeded with his speech he was particularly careful to make it clear to us all that, however disturbed we might feel, our concern was to be limited by this consideration: There was to be no interference with the means test. That was the Ark of the Covenant. No one must put an impious hand upon it. A few sentences later the right hon. Gentleman said—I thought rather jauntily: I should like to know how those who so glibly advocate the abolition of a test of need would justify to the ordinary citizen, who has every sympathy with the unemployed and every desire to see that they do not suffer hardship, the payment of money which is not needed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1936; col. 284, Vol. 315.] That clearly is his standard of what a means test must fulfil. There shall be no payment of money which is not needed. It is not a very adequate definition of the means test, but it is good enough with which to get on. I propose to argue for a few minutes upon this central principle of the means test. No one can deny that the State expresses concern in regard to individuals or classes in one of two ways. It may take abnormal measures in respect of classes and individuals, and say, "You are an exceptional difficulty; you are the subject of special distress, and therefore, while you are and because you are in this special difficulty and distress I, the State, will come to your assistance." That is the abormal type of assistance which the State gives. But there is also the normal activity which the State takes and the normal relief that it gives. For instance, we give, through the medium of public funds, State relief by way of non-contributory pensions to civil servants and to judges. These are normal things. But whatever the State does in the matter of expressing its concern for individuals or groups, this, I think, must be the cardinal principle, that whenever the State does give relief, either normal or abnormal, it must do it by convincing its citizens that it holds the scales evenly as between groups, classes and individuals. I ask hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House who are to answer this question—and I will examine it in a moment—is the State holding the scales evenly as between class and class when it insists upon this means test? I do not like to use this kind of argument normally but I must do it to-night.

Mr. COCKS

Hon. Members opposite do not know what the argument is yet.

Mr. JONES

Every Member of Parliament normally receiving the Parliamentary allowance, as it is called, would, unless there were some sort of allowances presented to him or made available to him, be subject to Income Tax—every one of us, never mind what our private incomes might be. The fact that we get £400 a year would make us normally subject to Income Tax, but the State gives us allowances, and it makes those allowances without any means test. Every Member of Parliament—and I make this statement deliberately—who takes his Parliamentary salary does so without the imposition of a means test upon him, and every hon. Member who votes to-morrow night in favour of these Regulations will be voting for imposing upon other people a test which is not applied in respect of his own Parliamentary salary.

Mr. BAXTER

rose

Mr. JONES

This year—

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

On a point of Order. There has been a definite charge made against Members of Parliament that they are not subject to certain tests in regard to filling up a form. I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Am I not within my rights in answering that charge as applied to myself?

Mr. SPEAKER

Unless the Member who has possession of the Floor of the House gives way, an hon. Member is not entitled to interrupt.

Mr. BAXTER

On a point of Order. Our position as Members of Parliament has been challenged. It would appear to me that our salaries, our stipends of £400 a year, are paid to us for services rendered. Therefore, they come under the category of wages or salary, and in no way do they come under a scheme of support, which is now being discussed.

Mr. SPEAKER

That is not a point of Order.

Mr. JONES

If the hon. Member puts that point to the Comptroller and says that our allowance is a salary or a wage, he will quickly be disabused on the point. The Comptroller will refuse to concede the point. It is an allowance. On the Budget which we have carried this year we had a special discussion dealing with the question of children's allowances, and provision was introduced for dealing with the evasion that had been going on for years. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury took good care to say that the evasion had been strictly legitimate. We increased this year the allowance in respect of children to £60 per child, and there was no means test. The allowance was given to the £400 a year man, to the £4,000 a year man and to the £40,000 a year man. There was no distinction. Therefore this year we have endorsed a proposal whereby we who happen to have children, and people like us outside, receive a financial benefit from legislation which we have carried, without any means test. I have not noticed any signs of any deep sense of moral obliquity on the face of any hon. Member.

Sir DAVID REID

May I ask the hon. Member—

Mr. SPEAKER

If the hon. Member in possession does not give way, the hon. Baronet is not entitled to put his point.

Mr. JONES

We have raised Income Tax this year from 4s. 6d. to 4s. 9d., and therefore those who receive this exemption of £60 at the rate of 4s. 9d. receive an allowance to the tune of over 5s. per week, without a means test. The Regulations do not provide for an allowance in respect of children to that degree until they have passed the age of 14 years, while allowances through the Income Tax can be given to children, sons and daughters, up to almost any age so long as they are being educated. Poor children are to be allowed less through the Regulations than this House allows to Income Tax payers by way of remissions through children's allowances. Let me put another point, because I am still on the question whether hon. Members opposite stand by what they say when they urge a means test. Are they applying it fairly? In regard to Income Tax it is the income which is taken into account, but under the Regulations it is the capital assets which are taken into account, not income. If the capital assets of an applicant amount to £300 in respect of property apart from his own residence, the Regulations say that the first £25 is to be excused and that in respect of every other subsequent £25 they will estimate an income of 1s. per week which, on £300 of capital assets, means 11s. per week, or £28 12s. per year, or 9½ per cent. I ask hon. Members opposite where they can find normally an industry to-day which will give them a return of 9½ per cent.? Yet they are charging these poor people at the rate of 9½ per cent. in estimating the value of their capital.

Sir D. REID

rose

HON. MEMBERS

Name!

Mr. SPEAKER

Unless the hon. Member in possession of the House gives way the hon. Baronet cannot interrupt him.

Mr. JONES

I had not observed the hon. Member rising before, but I give way to him.

Sir D. REID

If the hon. Member in possession of the House asks a question is not another hon. Member not entitled to answer him?

Mr. SPEAKER

The hon. Member is entitled to answer when he makes his own speech.

Major COLFOX

On a point of Order. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the hon. Member on your left is allowed to insinuate that an hon. Member is other than sober?

Mr. SPEAKER

I did not hear the insinuation.

Mr. JONES

I did not notice that the hon. Gentleman was on his feet or I would gladly have given way. I beg his pardon. I turn to the abnormal form of assistance. The Government have given abnormal assistance to industry. I am not called on to discuss the merits or demerits of that assistance. Hon. Gentlemen know that the Government have said to agriculture, "You are distressed; the State cannot afford to allow agriculture to become distressed." Therefore the State comes to the assistance of agriculture, but in doing so it has never imposed a means test. Under the de-rating proposals there was no means test. They gave it to the rich and to the poor. Various subsidies—for sugar, wheat, milk, beef, bacon, and shipping—have been given without any sort of means test. I submit, therefore, that the Minister has to answer the question: On what basis of justice is it argued that industries shall receive subsidies without a means test and people attached to one or two other industries in certain areas be subjected to the rigours of this means test?

I want to add one other observation to show to what degree Income Tax payers have received relief in the last few years, and I quote from an official document. There has recently been published this year's copy of the Statistical Abstract of the United Kingdom. Will hon. Gentlemen deny that those who pay Income Tax have been exempted from taxation in the three years, 1931–32, 1932–33, and 1933–34 to an aggregate sum of £4,000,000,000? An hon. Gentleman shakes his head. If he will look at page 195 of the Statistical Abstract he will find that in 1931–32 the exemptions from Income Tax amounted to £1,400,000,000, in 1932–33 to £1,347,000,000 and in 1933–34 to £1,346,000,000, an aggregate of over £4,000,000,000. I submit that hon. Gentlemen have no right to be insisting that the State cannot afford to allow the means test to be abolished. I take these three years because they happen to be the years in which the means test was applied with its fullest rigour, and in that time exemptions to the tune of over £4,000,000,000 were enjoyed by Income Tax payers, while the poor were mulcted under the means test.

I turn from that to discussion of the Regulations themselves. Yesterday the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health seemed to agree to tell this com- mon story: That, however bad these Regulations might be in effect, they were on the whole better either than the provision made by the Labour Government or by Labour Councils. That was the point of the contention both of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health. In passing, I would say that I am not sure it was fair of the Minister of Health to make the oblique charges which he made of deliberate intention to exaggerate the burden upon the State with a view to lessening the burden upon local authorities, but in support of his contention the Minister of Health—and I believe the Minister of Labour as well—cited three areas, Glamorganshire, Monmouthshire and London. I would like to take the first of those areas, because Glamorganshire happens to be an area which I represent, and one with which I am therefore more closely connected and which I know more accurately.

Whatever may be true about the rightness or wrongness of the standards set up by the appropriate body in Glamorganshire, it cannot be true that the Glamorgan county authority has been able to avoid heavy responsibilities in this matter. I have before me a copy of the minutes of the finance sub-committee of the Glamorgan County Council, dated 15th July, 1936, and these minutes disclose that, if one compares the statement of out-relief for the month of 13th June to 14th July, 1935, and the equivalent dates of this year, one finds that, in fact, the Glamorgan County Council has had to shoulder an additional burden since last year of £997 a week, roughly £50,000 a year. I ask the Minister, even if his charge be true—and I am not conceding that it is—is there anything very wrong in an overburdened area, such as the area of the Glamorgan County Council, seeking as far as possible to stave off a substantial additional burden of nearly £50,000 a year? Do not the Government themselves at times try to shove the burden from the taxes on to the rates? Therefore, if local authorities properly feel that a national burden should more appropriately fall upon national funds than upon local funds, I do not see that the charge is proved, and I do not see that the county authority of Glamorgan ought to be subjected to such severe censure.

I now turn to another point which was the subject of discussion this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland, speaking no doubt from a brief—I do not complain if he found some difficulty with it—referred to London, as did the Minister of Health last night. I apologise if my interruption of his speech caused him any discomfort, but I intervened to ask him whether, in comparing the London County Council standards with the Unemployment Assistance Board Regulations, it would not be fair to make the comparison upon some basis that could be applied to both. I have before me the results of an examination of the effect of these Regulations, as compared with the London County Council regulations in cases where there is no income and a rent of 7s. 6d. a week. That is a common basis for both, and I submit that comparison can only be made on a common basis.

Let us see which is more generous. Take first the single man living alone who has to pay a rent of 7s. 6d. Under the Unemployment Assistance Board Regulations of 1934, the grant would be 15s.; under the Board's Regulations of 1936 the grant would still be 15s. The London County Council's summer grant in that case is 17s. 6d. and the winter grant 19s. 6d. In the case of a man and wife, under the Board's Regulations of 1934 it would be 24s., and under the Regulations of 1936 it would be 26s. The London County Council regulations in that case provide for 25s. 6d. in the summer and 27s. 6d. in the winter. In the case of a man, wife and one child aged three, the Board's Regulations of 1934 provide for 28s., and those of 1936 for 29s. The London County Council grant in the summer months in a similar case is 29s. 6d., and in the winter 31s. 6d. Similarly, a man, wife and two children aged three and five, would receive under the Board's Regulations of 1934 30s, 6d., and under the Regulations of 1936 32s., while the London County Council figures are 32s. 6d. for the summer and 34s. 6d. for the winter.

The same differences, to the advantage of the London County Council standard, are present in other cases. I could go on applying the same comparison in respect of families with household incomes, and here again, with, I think, one exception, the London County Council scale is clearly more advantageous to the applicant than the Regulations scale. We on this side have consistently taken the view that the State must be concerned about the able-bodied unemployed, who are unemployed through no fault of their own. We have stood for the simple principle of work or maintenance, and if the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will give work to my people in South Wales, they can make what savings they like on unemployment benefit. We prefer the work if we can get it. But I would remind hon. Members that our people in South Wales are unemployed not because of any demerit on their part, but because of national policy. Do hon. Members opposite deny the proposition of my hon. Friend who spoke earlier, and who said that the miners of South Wales are not responsible for the economic conditions which have led to their unemployment?

I am arguing that the miners of South Wales are not responsible—[Interruption.] If the Noble Lady opposite asks who are, I will content myself by saying that it was a part of the national policy to impose those charges upon the Germans, and the effect was the first staggering blow at the coal trade in South Wales; and of the imposition of those charges Tory Members shouted as much approval as did anybody else. Therefore, why must the miners of South Wales have these conditions from which they are now suffering if the original cause is national policy, rather than policy over which they themselves had control? Hon. Members opposite sometimes entertain rather unkind feelings concerning the South Wales miner and the South Wales mining industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Oh, yes, but they will not deny this proposition, I know, that the greatness of Britain which was established in the last century was made largely possible, was founded in considerable part, at any rate, upon the industry of South Wales. Indeed, your export trade depended to an extraordinary extent upon the industry of the South Wales miner. Having created the national wealth, having contributed to the national greatness, they are entitled therefore to say to you, "Since we gave a contribution in such generous measure in the days of prosperity, we are entitled to come to you for some generous con- sideration in the days of adversity." Hon. Members opposite have not given us work; they have not provided industry. The defence of the agricultural subsidy was that it created work. Very well, why could you not find money for us to create work? But you have left us. If you will not find work for our peple, then you are driven to the only alternative; you must provide them with maintenance.

I will turn, if I may, to one element in the Regulations to which I want to draw attention. What is the effect of de-rating upon these areas? We excused those industries that were of the creative kind, manufacturers and so on, three-quarters of their rates. Many pits have closed down owing to the conditions which I have already discussed, and the effect has been that the people for whom these Regulations are being devised have had much heavier rents to provide than they otherwise would. We say that the national action has pushed the burden of providing rates through rents upon the poor and taken it off the shoulders of the better-to-do, and now that the problem has become so heavy the Government have had to devise some better formula for dealing with the rent proposition in connection with allowances. I am still in the dark as to what the effect will be. The advisory committee, I gather, will be entitled, judging from an answer given earlier in the evening, to give advice, but although advice is given, the officer of the Board or the Board itself is not bound to take the advice. It remains independent in its judgment and in its decisions. The consequence is, or it might be, that if there is great resentment about this matter, the Government have provided themselves with a nice position. They will be able to say, "It was not we who did it, but the local advisory committee." They will shelter behind the committee whenever adverse criticism arises. It is possible for the advisory committee to give general advice about classes of tenements or the rent concerning tenements, and still leave considerable injustices to fall upon individuals. Can the advisory committee give advice, not in respect of the class of house or type of building, but in respect of the difficulties of a particular applicant in a particular house? As I understood the right hon. Gentleman yesterday, he spoke of classes of houses or housing in given areas. You can speak of houses in that way and overlook the particular difficulties of particular applicants.

I want to turn to another point, and I hope the House will forgive me for making this observation. The worst that can be said and the biggest criticism that can be made of the Regulations is their effect upon youth. When my hon. Friends and I come up from South Wales on Monday mornings from Bridgend, Talbot, Cardiff or Newport, they see a steady stream of young people coming from these areas up to London or to other large cities. I wish that they were all people of mature age, but they are not. A lady who makes it her business to follow the lives of some of the young girls who come from South Wales to London horrified me with stories that she recounted to me from her experience. I do not charge the Ministry of Labour with this—[Laughter.] The man who laughs at this point is a bit of a fool. If hon. Members listen, they will see how foolish the laughter was. I do not charge the Ministry of Labour with this because I know that when they bring young girls up they do their best to look after them. But we see girls of 14 and 15 and less driven to London, taken into houses which are doing nothing else but exploit them. I heard stories of girls who have no other place and have lived nowhere else but the kitchen for three years. They have not had a place to put their small belongings, not even a cupboard. Some of them have had to barricade their doors at night. These are children, school children almost, driven here by the effect of these Regulations, or others like them. Poverty is making the parents drive them somewhere to earn a few shillings to keep the home going. We are creating a social problem in some areas of the magnitude of which hon. Members opposite, with all their good will, have not a glimmering. I am not exaggerating. I hope the hon. and gallant Member for West Dorset (Major Colfox) will spare me that grin.

Major COLFOX

As the hon. Member appears to have referred to me, I should like to be allowed to interrupt him to say to him that I am not so much amused at the tragedy which he is relating but at himself, because I can tell him that he is an extremely comic figure.

HON. MEMBERS

Withdraw.

Mr. JONES

The opinion of the hon. and gallant Member opposite as to my appearance does not concern me.

Mr. WESTWOOD

A sober man would not have made that statement.

Mr. JONES

Let us treat the observation with the contempt that it deserves. After all, my way of presenting my case—

Mr. SPEAKER

I think the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) is quite right. The observation should be treated with the contempt that it deserves.

Mr. JONES

I do my best to present a case for people who are not able to present it themselves. If in my concern for these people I am tempted to exaggerate, a little exaggeration in such a case is justified. What is going to be the effect of these Regulations in these areas? You insist on this means test and as sure as you do it—though I know the Minister would not like it to be the consequence, I tell him it will inevitably be the consequence—he will drive further forward this most distressing social consequence which many of us know to be taking place. Last Saturday I heard a working-class woman make a speech at Cardiff. She made a better speech than I could ever hope to make, for she told her own story. She said that she had a neighbour who had a sick daughter among a number of children. The doctor had told her, "Take your child up to the top of the mountain for fresh air, and when she comes down give her eggs and milk." What was the reply? The woman said: "I can't do it. If I give this one eggs and milk, the younger one will want the same, and I can't afford it." That is a human story, a story of happenings in a working-class home, under existing conditions. She told us of a young man of her acquaintance who moved from one house in a street to a house at another point in the same street, to avoid placing a burden upon his family. You accuse us of breaking up the family; I tell the Government that there has been no influence in South Wales for half a century so menacing to family life as the influence of the Regulations that have been in operation for the last year or so, and that will be in operation for the next 18 months.

We are told even that lodgers who enjoy an income beyond a certain figure ought to contribute to the home to which they happen to be attached. Why should John Smith, who is entirely unrelated to Jones, but may be a lodger in Jones's home, and who enjoys an income beyond a certain figure, be called upon to pay a contribution beyond what he would normally pay a lodger to the maintenance of that home? I ask hon. Members this: How would the landlords of this country like to be called upon to make a contribution to agriculture, merely because they happen to belong to the agricultural household? That is the sort of conception that these Regulations have of what is fit and proper to fall upon these people in these homesteads.

I want to make one further observation. I hope hon. Members will forgive me for making it, but I do so upon my own responsibility entirely. I commit nobody here. We are busy with armaments. Who knows—God protect us from it—whether, perhaps in less time than most of us anticipate, this State to which we belong may be in danger, and the Government will turn to these young men and say: "The State is in danger, in perplexity; come to its aid." If those young men turn to the State and say: "When I was anhungered, did you give me bread? When I was thirsty, did you give me drink?" When my people suffered, did you come to their aid?" What has the State to say? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, we did."] What has the State to say to the young man who has been driven from his home so as not unduly to burden his parents? What answer has the State to give? What claim have you upon him? Have you any right to appeal to him? You have destroyed in him, by these Regulations, the very ground upon which you might have made a personal appeal to him.

Hon. Members on this side of the House hold the Minister responsible. We have told him quite plainly. I hope he does not misunderstand the situation. To-morrow night we shall be beaten, I know, in the Lobbies, by people who enjoy privileges without a means test, who enjoy benefits without a means test being applied to them, and who now, by the approval and dictation of this House—young men who have never been called upon to make a contribution to their own home—will vote to-morrow night to make other young men make contributions to their homes. Never a sacrifice have they personally made; never have they been called upon to make any financial contribution, because of their fortunate circumstances. The hon. Member need not hold his head so high; he knows it is a fact. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not here!"]

After all, the vast majority of this House—there are exceptions, of course—the vast majority of young men in this House have come here straight from the nursery, without having done a day's work or made a contribution to the family income; indeed, the family income has made a contribution to them; but tomorrow night they will troop into the Lobby to vote that other people's sons shall go through and do what they themselves have not been called upon to do. They must not complain if people draw distinctions between class and class; they must not forget that we live in days when men draw their own conclusions from facts that they see. I warn the right hon. Gentleman and the Government that, though we are beaten to-morrow night in the Division Lobby, the fight against these Regulations must go on, for we cannot accept the standardisation of these benefits and the placing of them permanently upon the shoulders of our people. We shall carry on this fight, and in the long run right will triumph over wrong, and those who do the work of this country will enter into their share of the recompense.

Lord DUNGLASS

rose

11.28 p.m.

Mr. LOGAN

On a point of Order. I want to ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the question of procedure. I understand that, if a semi-official Member or back-bencher on the Government side replies, that is practically answering all those who have taken part in this discussion. I am anxious to know from you whether, if others take part in the discussion, as they are entitled to do, after another speaker has spoken, we shall have any reply from the Government benches, or will a semi-official Member be put up to answer? I am asking your guidance, but I consider that it is absolutely out of Order practically to close to-day's discussion when the vast majority of us have put in 15 hours yesterday and to-day waiting to get in, and we shall determine, on your decision, how we shall act to-night to see that we get the opportunity to make our point of view known, on account of the long time we have been waiting.

Mr. SPEAKER

Dealing with the last point that the hon. Member has raised, he is not the only Member who has been waiting all day. With regard to the question of procedure, it must be remembered that this is a three days' Debate, and it is not by any means necessary that the Debate should be wound up at the end of each day.

Mr. T. SMITH

Would it be in order to ask the spokesman of the Government whether the hon. Member who rose to reply will be replying for the Government, or whether he will be expressing his own opinion?

Mr. SPEAKER

Obviously the hon. Gentleman is not in a position to reply for the Government.

Mr. GALLACHER

I should like to take exception to the reproof given to my hon. Friend. He sat here all day yesterday and to-day. Very many have got into the Debate who did not sit yesterday, and did not sit very much to-day.

Mr. SPEAKER

That is a reflection upon my conduct which I will not allow.

Mr. COCKS

Is not the Home Secretary supposed to be wound up?

11.31 p.m.

Lord DUNGLASS

However much we on this side might be disposed to disagree with the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, we are all, who have known him for some years, ready to make allowances for the heat which he himself will agree he introduced into his speech. Some of us who know the Special Areas and know the conditions under which he has lived for most of his life have been tempted at times to despair at the problem that they present; therefore we forgive him any heat. I hope hon. Members will give us credit on this side, who have sat through two days of this Debate, that we honestly believe in supporting these Regulations we are doing the best we can for the able-bodied unemployed. Those who have sat through the Debate will agree that, in spite of the advertisement that it has received, it has not in any way affected the heroics which have been spoken in certain places outside. The hon. Gentleman did not mention the meeting at which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) was present when it was suggested that every Labour Member might resign his seat and fight a by-election in protest. No doubt, he did not mention it because, in fact, the proposal has been discarded and the much more drastic action taken of holding a Sunday open-air meeting.

The attack that has been delivered from the Opposition benches has in the main developed along two lines. There has been a general attack upon the scale rate, and they have labelled that rate as totally inadequate. The second line of attack, which has been repeated time and again, and in particular by the hon. Gentleman, is that the principle of the means test must go. Those speeches could have been made with more conviction if only hon. Members had been able to conceal some of their own record on the subject. I do not want to be provocative. [Interruption.] If hon. Members want it I can be. I did not interrupt hon. Gentlemen opposite. The question of the principle of the means test is very important. It influences every by-election, and it certainly will play a great part in the next election, whenever that may come. So I think it is important, both from the point of view of this House and of the country, that people should be absolutely certain exactly what is the attitude of each party in this House with regard to the means test. Let me put the case of this side of the House absolutely and categorically. Directly we introduced and passed—[Interruption.] Surely I can interpret at any rate the Act of Parliament for which I voted.

Mr. JAGGER

Is not the Noble Lord speaking for the Government?

Lord DUNGLASS

No, Sir, I am simply expressing my own interpretation, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me to do so.

Mr. JAGGER

The Noble Lord said that he was speaking for that side.

Lord DUNGLASS

I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite will quarrel with what I am going to say. Directly we passed the 1934 Act through the House of Commons we were committed as a party not only to bring in the present Regulations, but to the fact that they should contain the household means test. We stand by that. We have produced the Regulations, and they maintain the principle of the household means test. That is our position, and I am anxious that the position of hon. Gentlemen opposite should be cleared up. There seems to be some doubt about their position, and lately there has been a fundamental change in their attitude towards the Means Test. I hold in my hand—and this will be within the recollection of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and other members of the I.L.P.—an account of the proceedings of the Labour Party Conference in 1931, when the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) was moving a resolution which called for the improvement of the case of people on Unemployment Benefit. At that time the members of the I.L.P. moved an amendment, to which I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will give attention, and in particular moved to put in these words: It pledges the Labour party to raise the benefits to the scale endorsed by the party before the last Election and to abolish the means test for those on Transitional Benefit. The same hon. Gentlemen sitting on those benches who voted to defeat the amendment of the I.L.P. are now clamouring for the abolition of the Means Test.

Mr. N. MACLEAN

Will the Noble Lord read the resolution which was moved by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps)?

Lord DUNGLASS

If the hon. Gentleman desires it, I will. I have it here. It is: This Conference reaffirms the long-established principle of Labour policy that proper provision for the unemployed is a social duty and should be treated as a national responsibility. It protests against the recent reduction of rates of unemployment benefit, the increase of contributions, and the introduction of Poor Law Tests and Poor Law machinery into the administration of Unemployment Insurance.

Mr. MACLEAN

On a point of Order. May I ask the Noble Lord—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]—The Noble Lord has given way.

Lord DUNGLASS

I am not in the least reluctant to give way; but the hon. Member got up to put a point of Order and began to ask me a question. He should have raised the point of Order with Mr. Speaker.

Mr. MACLEAN

I thought the Noble Lord was not giving way. That was why I wanted to ask a question. There are several ways of getting information. Did not the Resolution which was moved by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), the manner in which it was moved, and the way in which it was couched, state the policy of the Labour party, which was work or maintenance?

Lord DUNGLASS

I do not think that I need embark upon that matter now. I shall talk of work or maintenance in a few minutes. The point is, that hon. Members who now sit below the Gangway opposite moved an Amendment to abolish the means test for transitional payment and it was refused by hon. Members opposite.

Mr. D. GRENFELL

rose

Mr. SPEAKER

Both hon. Members cannot be on their feet at the same time.

Mr. GRENFELL

On a point of Order. The hon. Member has by implication made a charge against us on this side of the House. It is not simply that he has made the charge on his own account, but he has produced a document to back up his charge. He knows that the means test against which objection is made was passed by hon. Members on the other side of the House and not by hon. Members on this side; therefore it is against his own party.

Lord DUNGLASS

It is immaterial to me who passed it. I am saying that the party opposite defeated an Amendment to abolish it. However, I am going to accept the hon. Member's statement that his party stands for the abolition of the means test.

Mr. MACLEAN

Of course, we do.

Lord DUNGLASS

I am not sure that a good many of the members of the Labour party agree with that view, and the Country wants to know the position of the Labour party in this respect. I hope that before the debate finishes the leader of the Labour Opposition, or whoever speaks to-morrow will tell us exactly whether they stand for an individual means test or for no means test. I am not going to quote from speeches but I will quote from two written statements of hon. Members opposite, on this subject. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), writing in the "Yorkshire Post" last November, said: The Labour party stand for the entire abolition of the test. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) said that when the Labour party come to power. they will abolish the means test: Labour will give either work or proper maintenance, free from investigation of the private affairs of the unemployed. I hope that if the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street speaks to-morrow he will tell us how you can arrive at what is proper maintenance if you have no idea of the needs of individuals and the resources they have.

Mr. LAWSON

I am surprised that the hon. Member is so ill-informed. I made a statement three years ago in which I said that we would abolish the Means Test lock, stock and barrel, without any qualification.

Lord DUNGLASS

I accept that as the view of the Labour party. It is clear that whereas five years ago they refused to consider an amendment of the Independent Labour party to abolish the means test, they have now changed their mind [Interruption]. I believe it to be perfectly true of our people that if an unemployed man falls out of the insurance and comes on to public assist- ance and has therefore to be kept at the public charge they realise that in such a case information as regards resources is essential. I believe it to be equally true that the family instinct and pride of the working people of this country is extremely strong, and that they do not wish to be relieved of their proper family responsibilities [Interruption].

Mr. SPEAKER

One of the most priceless possessions of this House is its reputation for fair play, and I hope we shall do nothing to destroy it.

Mr. KIRKWOOD

I am not going to be talked to like that. Do not try to bully me. You must not try and domineer over me. You cannot do a day's work.

Mr. SPEAKER

If the hon. Member addresses me in that way, I shall deal severely with him.

Mr. KIRKWOOD

You can deal with me as you like. I do not care a button.

Lord DUNGLASS

Family instinct and family pride in this country are very strong and there is no one who wishes to be relieved of proper family responsibilities. Hon. Members opposite have criticised the scales of relief. Obviously every item in the scale is a proper matter for debate, and the only deduction we can draw from the sweeping condemnation of hon. Members opposite is that if they were in power the rates of assistance would be very much higher.

Mr. GRENFELL

We will apply a means test to you.

Lord DUNGLASS

I hope that I am not unreasonable in my statement of the case. The scales of assistance paid by different authorities throughout the country vary, and have been compared with the scales in the Regulations. They have been compared with the rates which the Unemployment Assistance Board will pay. I have here the Glasgow scale. If the two scales are compared it will be found that in the case of a man and wife with no resources the payments are equal, and that if they have resources the Glasgow scale is better by 2s. The other case in which the Glasgow scale is more favourable is that of the child between 17 and 21, to whom Glasgow gives 10s. and the Board 8s. On the whole range between 5 and 17 years of age the Board's scale is higher.

Mr. MACLEAN

Is it not the case that in all the assessment's given, as compared between glasgow and the Regulations, in only two cases in the Board's scale higher than that of Glasgow? For a man or woman in lodgings the Glasgow scale is higher than that in the Regulations.

Lord DUNGLASS

If the hon. Member had allowed me to continue I would have come to that. The scales are—for a child between 5 and 8, Glasgow 3s.; the Board 3s. 6d.; a child 8 to 11, 3s. and 4s.; a child 11 to 14, 3s. and 4s. 6d.; a child 14 to 16, 3s. and 6s.; and a child 16 to 17, 5s. 6d. and 8s. I grant the hon. Member's point that for a single man living in lodgings the Glasgow practice is to give 17s., whereas the Board give 15s., with discretion. If hon. Members will look at the Regulations they will find that in the case of a man and wife with two children the level of assistance is higher than the insurance benefit. That is deliberate in the case of a man and wife with more than two children and no resources, but hon. Members will notice that the margin between assistance and insurance benefit is very narrow in many cases. If you make a general policy of raising the scale by 3s. or 4s. you are inevitably going to undermine the whole of your insurance.

Mr. BEVAN

That point was put last night by the Minister of Health. Does the hon. Member realise the implication, that if the local authorities pay higher scales of public assistance than the benefit rates, which is the accusation he is making, then the rates of all local authorities in Great Britain will have to be raised to pay an additional amount to every person on insurance benefit that is, 1,750,000 persons, and that therefore the rates of benefit will be ruined in a fortnight?

Lord DUNGLASS

The hon. Gentleman will perhaps develop that point tomorrow.

Mr. BEVAN

But that is the answer.

Lord DUNGLASS

The other observation I wish to make concerns wages. It is true that here we are giving assistance to the unemployed, but the working man has to be thought of as well. I hold that it would be absolutely wrong for the Government to put forward such a level of assistance that it would either discourage a man from taking work or tempt him to leave work and live on the public charge. Yesterday I heard an hon. Member opposite say that wages are too low, and ask why they cannot be raised. I hope hon. Members opposite are not suggesting that the Government should use the general level of unemployment assistance as an instrument with which artificially to raise wages. I can imagine no more irresponsible proposal than that the Government should dislocate the whole of the industrial machinery by doing that. There are one or two points of detail I would like to mention, and here I will turn my attention to the smaller and more select band of hon. Members below the gangway opposite. The House will be interested to see on the Order Paper an Amendment down in the names of hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, and I think for the first time—certainly in their Parliamentary experience—they have committed themselves on paper to certain rates of assistance for which they would vote in the Division Lobby.

Mr. BUCHANAN

Not for the first time.

Lord DUNGLASS

Well, it has been done before then. I was particularly interested to find that for the rate of 16s. 0d. proposed by the Board for a single male lodger, they moved that 17s. 0d. should be substituted.

Mr. BUCHANAN

rose

Lord DUNGLASS

I will give way in a moment. I do not intend to make a political point of this, because I know the hon. Gentlemen made a mistake. We cannot amend the Regulations, but the hon. Gentlemen are in the privileged position of being able to amend their own Amendment. All I will say on this point is that when this class of men in the constituency of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) read that the only difference between this wicked capitalist society in which we live and the great new world which is going to be built up by the hon. Member for Bridgeton was represented by 1s. 0d. a week, they must have suffered such disillusionment.

Mr. BUCHANAN

I am amazed at the Noble Lord. I would point out that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer once made a mistake about figures, which I corrected, I did not talk about how I had corrected the Chancellor. We simply wrote 17s. 0d. instead of 20s. 0d. by mistake. Has the noble Lord got it now? If that is all the noble Lords of Scotland can get, God help them.

Lord DUNGLASS

I accept the hon. Member's statement that it was a mistake, and I am glad to think his constituents will be relieved. I want to mention one or two points that were raised by hon. Gentlemen opposite because I agree with them that these Regulations must be judged not by what is said in this House, but by how they are applied later. I should not vote for them unless I thought that they brought considerable advantages to the people in industrial districts, for one of which I sit. I want to mention the household test, the earnings rule, and the question of rent. When the standstill was introduced people felt that many people were drawn into the household and asked to contribute who really could not be supposed to have any real responsibility for the applicants' welfare. All these relatives have now been taken out of the family circle. The same is true of married sons and daughters, who will now be responsible only for their own dependants, except in exceptional cases. The earnings rule has been improved in respect of young unmarried sons. Many people felt that under the last regulations the sum left for these young men from their wages for their personal use was not enough. I have a table here showing the actual advantages gained by an unmarried son in a household.

The biggest hardship in industrial Scotland was caused by the super-cut taken together with the rent rule. A feature of industrial Scotland is large families in areas with very low rent charges. There might be a large family with a large determination of 50s. or 60s. who could have suffered cuts of 1s. in respect of each child over five and anything up to 8s. in respect of the difference between their actual rents and the basic rent. Therefore, there was sometimes a cut of 13s. or more in respect of these two factors alone. I hold that that would have been an intolerable and impossible position. The super-cut has now gone and proper elasticity has been introduced in regard to rent. The Board in dealing with rent have used the only possible method and one that was dictated by common sense. The method which the Board will adopt is to call in the Local Advisory Committee consisting of people who know the local conditions, and ask them to say what flexibility should be introduced into the normal rule in order to cover the exceptional case. In reference to one point which was put by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) I would say that in the case of an individual in exceptional circumstances there is nothing in the Regulations to prevent the Board from making allowance for the whole of the rent payment. I support the Regulations because I feel, first, that this time there has been thorough preparation, secondly because the administration by the Board in the earlier months has been characterised by a very human spirit and by a spirit of understanding and thirdly, because I know, from my own knowledge of people, that help and co-operation in the localities will be forthcoming from those three conditions, I believe that these Regulations will add a very valuable part to the structure of our social services.

12.12 a.m.

Mr. LOGAN

I have listened, not with pleasure but with astonishment, to the Noble Lord who has just spoken, dealing with the means test and the needs of the poor who are to come under these Regulations. I must also refer to the hon. Member for South West Hull (Mr. Law) who acknowledged that his was only an academic speech. He said he had knowledge of the poor to the extent that he was acquainted with a few people who knew poor people and that he had come in contact—

Mr. LAW

I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent me. I never used the word "academic".

Mr. LOGAN

I do not mean to say anything that is not absolutely correct. I said you made a speech which was academic. You said you had acquaintances—[HON. MEMBERS: "Address the Chair."] I am addressing Mr. Speaker, and through Mr. Speaker, the Members of the House but it is not necessary that I should say "Mr. Speaker" in every other sentence. I want, through you, Mr. Speaker, to let hon. Members know my point of view. The hon. Member said that as far as his knowledge of the poor was concerned he had come in contact with few poor people and if he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT he will see that he also said he had acquaintances who knew poor people. I have been looking up "Who's Who" and I would say that the hon. Member will not find many poor in the club to which he resorts, namely the Carlton Club. The Member who spoke last will not find many in the four clubs with which he is associated. I do not know that many of the people who frequent those clubs are on the Means Test. I should imagine that the smoking of two Corona Coronas would immediately do away with the whole of the weekly allowance of a person on the Means Test. I know that the Noble Lord and the hon. Member for South West Hull generally go to dinner in the evening and both those hon. Members would find it exceedingly inconvenient if all they received by way of allowance for a week was a sum such as those we have been discussing here as payments to the humble and the distressed. One meal of the kind to which they are accustomed would be as much as they would be able to get in a week and for the rest of the week they would have to go without. It is most absurd for habitues of West End Clubs to come into this House and talk about the poor and the Means Test to hon. Members on this side who have lived their lives amongst poor in industrial districts many of which are absolutely "finished" at the present time.

I wonder whether hon. Members read in the "Times" on the day before yesterday two whole pages devoted to a wonderful garden party which was held in London. Those two pages described the wonderful dresses worn and mentioned the various firms from which those dresses came—the latest Paris and London models. Having handled many such dresses in my time, I have some idea of what they must have cost. I do not begrudge to those who could afford it, the pleasure of wearing those dresses and any fun they can get out of going to the garden party. I am not saying that they have not a right to the clothes which they wear and I know that the less they wear the more expensive it is to dress them. But I ask the Noble Lord opposite and other hon. Members to recollect that there is another aspect to this mosaic of life that we see around us, which must be considered too, I ask them to take their minds off the garden party and to consider the Caledonian Market where the poor of this city go to pick up bargains—not like Noble Ladies who ought to know better than to interrupt so much. Whether the Noble Lady is inside or outside the House she is never in order. The people with these small allowances have to go to the various markets to buy their food and clothing. You will find them in the Caledonian Market on a Tuesday or a Friday, picking up little bits of rag, odds and ends, to cover their children. You do not find them going to Debenhams stores or to Worth's. The Customs do not have to examine the things to see whether they come from Paris. They pick them up out of the gutter. That is what covers the workers of this city and my own, the people who make the wealth, while those who get wealth without having to earn it, like the Noble Lord, come to this House to tell the workers that although they work they are given too much when they are unemployed.

I want to be charitable to the hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) and say that I think the observation she made was indiscreet. I think she did really mean, though she did not explain it very correctly, that there is nutriment to be found in the carrot, not that water and carrots are sufficient nutriment for the poor of Dundee.

Miss HORSBRUGH

Perhaps the hon. Member will look at my speech. I asked if we could be told whether it was the case that carrots and other things were good as part of the diet. The words were "part of."

Mr. LOGAN

I not only read the speech, but I heard it, and if ever I heard a lady utter words that she will remember, and that other people will remember, it was those indiscreet words. I hope that on reflection she will be a little more careful in opening her mouth. The Minister of Labour told us that "there is nothing so queer as politicians—except, perhaps, other politicians." Looking round the House, I feel it is no wonder he made that qualification. They are politicians with no statesmanship at all. I looked at the Government Front Bench to-night and saw eight gentlemen sitting there, and I totalled up their allowances, their gratuities, their pick-me-ups, and found there was £25,000 represented there. And not one of them wants to give any of it back. Those eight gentlemen say "We stand for the sanctity of public life, the protection of the public purse, and to see that the people are not overpaid."

Mr. MABANE

What was the amount when the Labour Government were in office?

Mr. LOGAN

With all due respect to my hon. Friends, I am quite orthodox, and not concerned with the Labour party in regard to this particular question. I am loyal to the Labour party, but I exercise my right to give my opinion in the House without consultation. If I feel inclined and have to disagree, I will leave the party altogether; but I do not.

I want to call the attention of the House to the speech of the Minister yesterday. He seemed to take umbrage if anybody objected to anything he said. He was rather flighty. I do not know how the shorthand writers followed him, but I noticed that when he tried to go slowly he seemed to get very irritated. When any intervention took place, he thought he would have a walk-over. He had forgotten that the Minister who occupied the post before him had honourably retired. Of course, the Church Militant tried to make him a politician and force the House to accept him. I hope that the Minister will just remember that there is a little Christian charity to be exercised, and that in trying to push forward the Means Test in this House, all that it means is that it would be better if we had less of the politician and a little more of the dual capacity of the right hon. Gentleman, in introducing business in this House.

The right hon. Gentleman is dealing with the means test. He asked us: "What is the position of the Labour party?" Ever since I came into this House, and up to this moment, I have advocated and voted against the opinion of many in this party, on many points, but I have been consistent, right throughout the piece, that there should be no means test whatever, applied to our people. I want to give my reasons for that. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have said in this House: "What do you mean when you say you would not apply a means test?" I will give the reason; hon. Members may not accept it, but to me it is quite satisfying.

Take two men with the same occupation in life, for example, boilermakers, fitters, scavengers, engineers—[An HON. MEMBER: "Cabinet Ministers".]—No, I am speaking of men. Take two working men in a similar job. One man does not go to the pictures, have a drink or smoke. He says: "I want to save", and he is very economical. The other man has a drink—less money to save—and goes to the pictures in moderation. Out of the small savings of his life, one man is able to have a little accumulation. The other man, being paid only one wage, and spending it in small ways upon himself, has no savings at the end of 40 years. Then what do we find? We find this honourable House and the Minister saying, "If you have any means saved, we want to know what you have got, and why you should not forfeit those means and help to keep yourself." My contention is that, if a man has savings, he has a right to them, just as others have a right to the things that belong to them.

I want to call the attention of hon. Members to an article I came across this week. It was a radio talk, published in the "Listener", in which Dr. Julian Huxley gave some very valuable advice. He spoke, from the physiological standpoint, of the necessity for proper nutrition. He said that what was necessary was 2 lb. of grapes, 2 lb. of apples, six bananas, three oranges, some rhubarb, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, carrots—that will interest the hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh)—half a loaf of bread, which I suppose is better than none, one ounce of butter—that ought to tickle my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths)—one or two eggs, a quart of fresh milk, tubercule-free, half a tin of condensed milk, a little porridge, and some weak tea. In addition, he recommends boiled chicken or meat three times a week, and various vitamins and special health preparations. That is a kind of diet that one would think ought to be in every family; but the remarkable thing is that Professor Julian Huxley is advising this as food for gorillas. This was a radio talk published in the "Listener" of 3rd June. I have heard of the Darwinian theory. I do not believe in it, but, if gorillas are to be fed like this, I do not wonder that Darwin formed his theory of the evolution of man when we see the scales that the National Government are laying down. The Minister felt very much hurt yesterday because I intervened, but I should feel very much hurt myself if I had not intervened.

The Minister has the consolation of knowing that he is well paid for all the assaults and afronts he may get, but I am in that unenviable position that I do not know whether I am paid or not. I came here not to represent myself nor to please any hon. Members of this House. I take it that this is a forum where every man has equality, whether he be the son of a belted earl or the son of an earl who ought to be belted, or whoever he may be, and that we come here to put our point of view. Some, you will find, are educated at Oxford and Cambridge, and then if you will look at "Who's Who," you may find your humble servant may have been educated in Borstal. At least the art of arithmetic is taught at all three establishments. Therefore I was anxious to get some idea of the meaning of this particular measure that is now before us.

I am aware that these Regulations were thrown up; it was suspended animation, I am told, and now these new Regulations are being brought before the House. We have no right to move any Amendments; we can only reject them, and we cannot make any alterations. The Minister is only a puppet, and in regard to these Regulations we, the House of Commons, are only an automaton. That is the position in which, with all its intelligence, the House is asked to manage the affairs of the nation, and to be able at times, when there are grievances, to regulate them. Yet the House of Commons, with one of the greatest Governments of modern times, fails to govern. They give to somebody else, a statutory body, the power of life or death over the people, and there is no right in the British House of Commons to say "Aye" or "Nay" in making any improvements in the Regulations. We find, sitting on those benches, men of intelligence in the ordinary walks of life, lost in the Party machine when they come into this House. And if the voice of this House, which should be the voice of the nation, were given honest expression to, regulations in the present form would never be tolerated. Hon. Members have been debating all kinds of things. They have gone from one end of the country to another, and there have been many irrelevancies in regard to the matter we are discussing. We are discussing this morning whether we are in agreement with the draft regulations or not. There is agreement, and we say in toto that we are in disagreement with the Regulations, and that we want to reject them, which is the only possible way in which we can deal with them.

I will not now deal with the various items in regard to the amounts which are allocated. I have been a member of a public assistance committee for 10 years, and on four days a week before I came here I used to attend the committees. What I want to point out is that here is a special case without ambiguity that I placed before the Minister. There was no question of surprising or taking advantage of him. We had a discussion in the Map Room in regard to certain things. There was a doubt, and I put this doubt before the Minister. I thought the Regulations had a certain meaning, and I put it before him, and I got the answer that he could not give me an answer straight away. He said he would have to go in and consider the matter and let me have the answer later. He did, and this is what I got. I may be a matter of 4s. out in the computation, but I got a de- finite conclusion given to me which I take to be authoritative. I want the House to understand that this is what the Minister took offence at yesterday. He said I had got the information and that there was no need for me to have intervened in the Debate. There was no discourtesy meant; I am not apologising for it. I was intervening just to get my point of view put before him yesterday. I am not concerned with analysing the whole of the Regulations. I only want to deal with something that is definite, and I submit that this is definite. I asked the Minister about the position of a father who was at work, with a wife living at home. The father is earning money, and the wife is staying at home to spend it for him. They have two sons, who are not working. We will take the ages of these two sons to be 30 or 32 and 35. It is a Liverpool family. There are four adults in that house, and I want to know how those four adults are treated under these Regulations. The father is earning money, with wages of 46s. coming in. The two sons and the mother are not working, and therefore the two sons make application for relief, and this is what happens. The two sons may both be ex-service men; it is one household. The sons may have given their labour and service to the country, and yet they are included in the earnings of the father. The father and mother would no doubt be asked later on to make some savings for their old age, and yet it is by the very exigencies of this particular Act that they have to see nothing else but pauperism unless the sons get employment.

We find the parents' allowance would be 24s.—the mother's and father's allowance on the scale. Then 8s., which would be 50 per cent. of the greater amount of the 16s., and so there would be an allowance for the father and mother of 32s. This 32s., deducted from 46s., leaves 14s., which is the amount available for the household. Under the Act the two sons, if there is no income coming into the house, would be entitled to 10s. each. The need of the son is computed at 20s., and the amount available for the resources of the household is 14s. The excess of their need over resources is 6s. What you have to face is that the two sons of 35 and 32 would be entitled to 3s. each. Where do we get? Here we find in the actual calculations laid down under the Act that the two sons are to be handicapped at home. The father and mother under the law are compelled to keep their sons in that home. The amount placed at their disposal would be 52s., and if one divides that by four, exclusive of rent—and I take the rent at 10s.—one finds that a sum of 10s. 6d. per head is allowed without any requirements being met inside that particular home.

I have listened with curiosity to the speeches of men who are supposed to know something of poverty. Is there one of them that dares go into the Lobby and thus say that he feels that decent men and women living in a home and getting 10s. 6d. are being honestly and properly dealt with by this Government such as it is? The Government is inefficient in its administration and derelict in leadership in all capacities. Here you sit in a British House of Commons and tell them that this is good enough for them who returned you into this House. But it will have its repercussions. I asked a question yesterday and got a reply. My question was to the Minister of Health, and it was whether the boards of guardians were likely to be taken out of the hands of the elected representatives and put into the hands of a body of relieving officers. Now here is a remarkable coincidence. Here we have, in the House of Commons, a Government practically in collusion with the health authorities of the City of Liverpool and that the arrangements for domiciliary treatment must be adjusted to the amount of the reduction in these Regulations. Yesterday the guardians were called. Today there was a row with the Tory party and the Labour members on both sides. The police were called for and the meeting postponed. It broke off at 3.30 and would not allow a vote to be taken. There is a deficit of £70,000 affecting 21,000 in the City of Liverpool. They say economies are to be effected in relation to that heavily burdened city. The only economies I find are at the expense of the poor.

I condemn the system which thinks of the deification of Hitler by the German people, just as some hon. Members think of the deification of dividends. There is something greater in this land. In the unrest all over Europe, with the various dictators that have come to the front, there is an evil system that pays no attention to the growing needs of the poor. I want no revolution of swords but a revolution of mind. I want constitutional rights to be exercised by the ballot box and the use of the knowledge which God has given us to be applied to the only things that count, the bodies and souls of the men and women of this country. Let us rise to the occasion. Forget your dividends. Recollect that to-morrow the whole scene may be changed. Dynasties come and go, but the people remain. Let this land be what it should be if you want constitutional law respected by all sorts of people. When you do that, you will be noble men, you will have the right to your estates, but if you fail in your trusteeship, you have no right to the things you own. The common people shall call to God for the things they require, not only for themselves, but for their children.

12.51 a.m.

Mr. E. SMITH

Until nine months ago I was working in a factory. It was a common thing when trade went slack for the foreman to go round with a list and for men to wonder if their time had come. I used to go home, Friday after Friday, and speak to my wife about it. There was a little girl listening to our conversation, and she used to ask me, "How have things gone to-night, Daddy?" I have observed sneers and smiles during this debate. We have been listening with as much respect as we could to Noble Lords speaking on behalf of the class in which they were born. I am speaking on behalf of the class in which I was born. The last Election was the second which I have contested. During those two Elections I only made one promise. It was that, if I was returned to this House, when the opportunity presented itself I would speak on behalf of the unemployed, and those on the Means Test in particular. The reason I made no other promise was that, although relatively young, I have had a long experience. I saw through the man who is now Lord President of the Council in 1924, and I had the courage to speak against the policy he was pursuing. I passed through many dark days as a result. What some of us said ten years ago was proved true before a tribunal in this city a few months ago. What we said ten years ago was proved true in 1931, when people who could betray this great movement which the common people have built up went over to the other side. People capable of betraying great principles in that fashion are capable of betraying at any time the people to whom they have gone over.

I want to put before the House some evidence of the responsibility for the means test. Some hon. Members have said that the National Government first suggested it. That is not a statement of fact. Some hon. Members have said that this Party first suggested it. That is not a statement of fact. The people responsible for first suggesting the means test were the Federation of British Industries and the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations. I have two pamphlets published by them in 1931. These are the people responsible for putting into the minds of right hon. Gentlemen the imposition of a means test. In that pamphlet, on page 13, we see it suggested for the first time that the means test that had been administered to destitute people should be applied to those unemployed through no fault of their own. They stated: Those at present drawing unemployment benefit who cannot satisfy the above test shall be dealt with through a special fund provided by the Government and administered locally on a means test basis. Those are the people who first suggested the introduction of a means test, and the Government loyally carried out the instructions of the people they represented and in 1931 introduced the means test. It is to the everlasting credit of the late Arthur Henderson that when that suggestion was put to him by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who had worked with him for years, that he took his loyal colleagues the other way with him. This Government has been responsible for setting back the clock of social progress by carrying out the suggestions of the Federation of British Industries. The Federation of British Industries and the National Confederation of Employers' Associations are composed of all the big employers, including the British Chambers of Commerce. I have here an invitation to a dinner to be held under the auspices of the British Chambers of Commerce. There are to be present the Right Hon. Walter Runciman, Capt. Euan Wallace, Dr. Leslie Burgin—and so one could go on. They say on this invitation: Dinner tickets are now available, price two guineas, inclusive of wines and cigars. The people responsible for invitations of that character, people who think nothing of spending two pounds on one dinner, are the people responsible for putting my class through the humiliating experience of a means test. Four or five years ago I was lining up at the exchange where men as good as any in this House, some of them the finest craftsmen in the world, some highly trained, high-class tool-makers like my hon. Friend here, some high-class turners and fitters like my hon. Friends on my right and my left. All that had happened was that the trade had gone slack, and as a result they were signing on. The hon. Member sitting over there and smiling is trying to provoke us. I would like to ask him how he would like to go through a means test?

Mr. TURTON

My hon. Friend is not suggesting that the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) is a fitter or a turner, is he?

Mr. SMITH

The hon. Gentleman asked if my hon. and learned Friend is a fitter or a turner, and I will say my hon. and learned Friend has sufficient principles in life, sufficient ideals, to join with us to bring about improvement in the class in which I was born. The Minister of Health, speaking last night, quoted several districts where there happened to be Labour majorities and where they administer Poor Law relief. I must admit I was impressed by his statement. I said to my friends, "I do not like that", and I went late at night to a friend of mine who is sitting on the London Public Assistance Committee. I got from him the official publication from which they administer, and while it is true that the story that the Minister told was accurate as far as it went, yet he did not tell the whole story. Under this administration the Council not only have the right to pay the benefits he spoke about, but they can also make allowances for rent, for extra fuel for persons over 65 years of age, and for sick persons and expectant and nursing mothers.

Hon. Members on the other side have spoken about the policy of this party. I am not concerned about what right hon. Gentlemen have said in years gone by, but what I am concerned about is what they are saying now that the official policy of this party is that we are against the means test and have always been against the means test. No one doubts that, and I have here an official publication of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, and this is what they say: They declare that the policy of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress has always been opposed to the means test, believing as they do, that it will never work effectively and result in the penalisation of decent people. If that is not going back enough, I have an official report of the Conference held on the Blanesburgh Report in 1927, in which there is a definite statement that there should be no connection between the administration of unemployment benefit and Poor Law relief. This is an instance of how the clock has been put back in social progress. I remember in 1920 this party moving scales of benefit when, at a special conference of the Trades Union Congress and the Labour party, resolutions were passed suggesting that £2 a week should be paid to a householder and 25s. a week to a single man with additional allowances for dependants. These were not moved by back benchers but by the respectable Mr. Frank Hodges, and it was supported by the respectable Mr. Ben Turner and by Mr. J. H. Thomas.

The Minister, in introducing his statement, said the main purpose of the 1934 Act was to make unemployment a national responsibility and also to bring about uniformity in the administration of the Unemployment Fund. I want to produce evidence to show that this is not going to make for uniformity and to show that this is not going to be administered on a national basis. I want to produce evidence to show that it is wrong in principle and also that it is a denial and betrayal of the General Election pledges. I have here a speech by the Prime Minister in Sheffield on 7th November, in which he said: In the needs of the applicant for unemployment assistance, since taxation falls on all classes of the community, including the wage earner, all classes have a right to insist on knowing that their money is not being paid away where it is not needed, but to be fair to the applicant, indeed to be generous to him; but no fair-minded man with any sense of responsibility would claim that assistance should be given without any regard to the resources properly available to the applicant. The only interpretation that can be put on those words is that the right hon. Gentleman stood for the abolition of the means test. He went on to say that the question was not whether there should be a means test but what test should be employed, and I think he then stood for the abolition of the household means test. He added that modifications in the present arrangements might be required and that in particular they should see that the necessary importance was attached to maintaining the unity of family life. I want to suggest that the Regulations that are being introduced are a betrayal of the speech made by the Prime Minister during the General Election, just as there was a betrayal of collective security and the League of Nations. I was listening to an hon. Member on the other side of the House, and afterwards I listened to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and my mind went back to a speech made by the late Mr. Bonar Law. He said: Never let it be said that you willingly gave up your sons and withheld your money. We gave up our sons. I was 17 years of age at that time, and 80 per cent. of my generation were wounded and maimed and lost their trades as a result of that war. The fathers and mothers of my generation gave up their sons willingly. Many of them came home wounded and many of them maimed for life, and now we find that after being willing to give our sons it is this Government that is withholding the money for the support of these people who are in this position through no fault of their own.

Let us admit that on the face of it—and I want carefully to qualify what I am saying—it does appear to be an improvement over the last Regulations that were withdrawn, but the household means test is exactly the same. It is the principle of the means test which is wrong. The principle ought never to have been introduced into public life, because unemployment is not the fault of an individual. I know of friends of mine and of women friends of ours who have tried to do everything that is right in life. They have tried to serve the employer and tried to do everything that they would be expected to do. But when trade becomes slack and the export trade of the Lancashire cotton industry has gone for ever, as it has—and it is the same with the engineering industry, which, had it not been for the armaments programme, would still have been in a serious position—then these men, through no fault of their own, and these women, through no fault of their own, find themselves after six months subjected to this humiliating means test.

It is not the fault of any individual, nor is it the fault of a household. It is the fault of the social system under which we are living. We know that we have gone to the country time after time. I am only relatively young, but I have spent 20 years of my life organizing and educating my class by carrying on propaganda work. Many have worked at this until they have grown grey, and many of them have given their eyes to this movement. As bad as things are in this country, we realize that we can still use the constitutional machine if only we can get the backing of the people. We go to the people time after time, and they have not yet decided to support us. Surely it is not asking too much that the victims of the social system should be decently maintained if they cannot be provided with a livelihood. Therefore, if it is not the fault of the individual nor the fault of the household, and if it is the fault of the social system, surely it should be a national responsibility to maintain the victims of this social system, and the responsibility should not be put on to any individual or any single household.

This is mostly a Northern problem. I see hon. Members sitting over there with smiles on their faces, but if they carry those smiles and sneers too far, they will find the same feeling produced as some of them have found in the past six months during which this House has been carrying on this business. It is, as I have said, mostly a Northern problem. In the four Southern areas the unemployment percentage is only 9.8 according to the latest "Ministry of Labour Gazette," whereas in the four other areas, South Wales, and Scotland, it is 26.4. It is a very serious problem for the people living in the North in particular, because it affects them not only directly, but also indirectly. The rates in Merthyr Tydvil, in South Wales, in North Staffordshire, on the North Coast, and in Scotland are mounting up year by year. It has also a serious effect on rents, a serious effect on rates, and on the shopkeepers and on the cost of production. Many of the people living in these areas are beginning to despair, and many are beginning to feel there is no hope for them. I believe, as the result of these Regulations, if they are passed by this House to-morrow night, that there will be a beginning of resentment being organized and harnessed in this country, just as on the last occasion when the Regulations were forced to be withdrawn, and the Government will have to face a situation similar to that which took place before.

Why is the North in this position? We have seen engineering shop after engineering shop closed, and pit after pit closed, and in the district where one hon. Member resides in many of the areas there is only one pit working where there used to be 15 or 20 pits working 10 years ago. An hon. Member speaking over there told us a few weeks ago about protoplasm and how life was developed. He traced the development of life throughout India and in many parts of the world. As he spoke, I sat thinking about the districts in South Shields and North Shields and along the Tyne, through Durham, and in the valleys of South Wales. Never did the hon. Member mention these people who are our own people, but he devoted a great part of his speech to dealing with the tribes in India and in other places. Our people are suffering because of an economic earthquake. If you go into the valleys of South Wales and to many parts of Lancashire, Durham, and the North East coast, you find that pits are lying idle, shipyards have been closed down, and cotton mills also. And who have been the victims? The victims have been, on the one hand, the directors. In some places these machine-wrecking organizations have been at work, like the Lancashire Cotton Corporation, the National Shipbuilding Securities, and the big coal combines and cartels. A hundred years ago our fore-fathers were sent to prison because they organized riots against the Luddites. But in these days the machine-wrecking organizations can use these areas in order to legalize their activities for wrecking. Who is it who has suffered? Many of them are directors—many of them sitting on the other side of the House. What has been the treatment meted out to them? They have been compensated to the extent of many thousands of pounds. I am not asking the House to accept my word for it; you have only to read the official publications. There you will see that directors have been subsidized to the extent of thousands of pounds. And what has been the treatment meted out to the other people, the ordinary working people? The means test—living on their fathers and mothers and on the people in the district.

If there is a fire in the poorest district where we live, the fire engine comes to the house as quickly as it possibly can, puts out the fire, and saves the occupants and the furniture in the house. If there is a fire in the biggest house in Hyde Park, the fire engine renders the same service. If that is good enough to save houses, surely it is not asking too much that the social system should be saved in just the same way. It used to be said that there is a law for the rich and a law for the poor, and that is still true. We can carry that a stage further—now it is a law for the South and a law for the North. In the South there is relatively regular employment, better housing, and better conditions. The law for the North is that the Unemployment Assistance Board is concerned with half of the country and not concerned with the South at all. The right hon. Gentleman, the Minister of Labour, when he was introducing these Regulations, said that the main purpose of the Unemployment Assistance Board was to bring about uniformity of treatment of the unemployed and also to bring about national administration. Instead, it is bringing about a situation where the people living in the North are subject to this harsh, humiliating means test, while in the South there is regular employment. Four out of five cases going to the Board are men and women from the North and from Scotland and Wales, while the Board deals with one out of five in the South. In South Wales it deals with more than half of the unemployment. Why this differentiation in the treatment of the unemployed? For years and years wealth has been taken from South Wales, Lancashire, and the North-East Coast. Our forefathers have for years and years toiled in the mines and factories. Why should the North be treated in this way?

In the "Times" of 1st July, 1936, there is a leading article dealing with the "hidden needs of the people", in which an analysis is made of the Unemployment Assistance Board's report. This article said there was a general awareness that housing was not what it ought to be; that it was much worse in some places than in others was disclosed when a comprehensive report was published like that of the Unemployment Assistance Board. The article mentioned that in the Hanley area, which some of us represent, cases have been found of 32 people living in a two-bedroomed house and 17 people living in one room; that many houses were infested with vermin, rats, mice, and crickets. These are the conditions under which our people live. That is not said by us, but by the Board in their report and repeated in a leading article in the "Times."

The main purpose of the 1934 Act, so far as Part I was concerned, was to put unemployment Insurance on an actuarial basis. Any hon. Member who has studied this problem will agree that it is impossible to put unemployment insurance on an actuarial basis. If that could have been done, you may be sure the Prudential would have done it long before now. The reason that it has been dealt with in this way is that the unemployed may be made subject to these regulations. The officers of the Board are to be given universal discretion. The Minister did not say that secret instructions are issued to them as to how they are to administer the Regulations. The fact of the matter is that most of these men are "safety first" men, and if it is a question of whether a shilling shall be paid out in a generous way or economised, that economy will be affected by the administration which these men will carry through.

I have had a discussion with my wife about this matter. We have gone through what it costs to keep a man, wife, and child in a fair way. In the first place let us remember that most growing children, when they reach 10 years, are eating more than the father and mother. I have here a table of what it takes to keep a man, wife, and one child under decent conditions: Food, 12s.; bread, 2s. 7d.; milk and eggs, 3s. 7d.; rent, if you are living in a council house, 15s.; insurance, 2s.; newspapers, 6d.; shoe repairs, 3s.; coal, 2s.; meat, 3s. 6d.; for the club, that you may pay weekly for your clothes, 3s.; a music lesson for the child, 1s.; sewing, 1s., etc. Altogether it is a total of, say, £2 12s. 7d.—not on a munificent basis, but just for the necessaries of life. Let us be reasonable. We reduce this to the minimum. We will cut out some of the food, and the child's music lesson, and the newspapers, because we realise that most of the unemployed have got to go to the reading rooms and read the papers. Let us cut down the rent and cut down the shoe repairs, and we find that it comes out at £1 17s. We will cut it down even more, and we get £1 14s., or 5s. above the scale that is going to be administered in these Regulations. I was expecting that carrots and water would be mentioned in this Debate. I have said here several times that the hon. Lady insulted the women that we belong to. I sat here one day when the question of malnutrition was being discussed in order to have an opportunity of taking part in that Debate. I came in before prayers and never went out until 10 o'clock and did not have an opportunity of taking part in that Debate. I am not complaining; I am only stating a fact. I was inclined to interrupt the hon. Lady because of the provocative way in which she spoke about our women. I did not do so, because I did not want anyone to have the excuse that I had interrupted. I did not want anyone to have any excuse of keeping me out of the Debate because I had interrupted the hon. Lady. But she insulted our women.

I have had conversations with a number of women, and I have here other order books. Here is the book of my sister-in-law. Her husband, a highly skilled craftsman, was out of work two years, but is now working overtime because of the improvement in the armaments industry. She had a great experience of how to manage, and what she cannot do no other woman can do. Her book is here. There is nothing about greengroceries, nothing about shoes, nothing about the child's music lesson. The average over 12 months is 18s. a week of food alone for a man, his wife, and two children under 12. I thought some hon. Members might doubt it, so I got other books, and find that the cost of food does not vary very much. The hon. Member here played a big part some time ago in using his influence in certain directions. I went to Clydebank and saw thousands of men signing-on at the Exchange because what is now the "Queen Mary" was going rusty while work on her was suspended. The men were rusting too. They were the same men who have since produced a ship that is the admiration of hon. Members and of the world. If these men are out of work another six months, they will again be subjected to the means test. You cannot wonder at hon. Members like the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood) feeling a little resentful some time ago when they heard the complacent way in which a real live lord was talking about these Regulations.

My main purpose is to plead with hon. Members to do what they did on the last occasion. It is not yet too late. Many hon. Members opposite know that what we are saying are statements of fact, that we are not exaggerating. Hon. Members representing big industrial centres know that if these Regulations are administered in the way they have been in the past, the resentfulness shown on the last occasion will occur again. In one cotton town where a big percentage of people are unemployed there was a well-painted placard not long ago. It was on a big butcher's shop, and it said: The means test meat shop. Test your means here. The cheapest meat in town. What a tragedy that people are living in circumstances like that. In 1936 we shall again be putting back the clock of social progress if these scales are passed. The scales are altogether too low. Read the publications of Julian Huxley, and of the ministers of the Church of England and other denominations who were sitting up there this afternoon. They say that these scales are 8s. below the scales that should be introduced. I want to quote again the "Sunday Observer". I am sorry the Noble Lady is not in her place. On 12th July it said: As for the means test, if there is to be any fairness to the household, and the whole community, the needs of a lesser number of households must be tested. All that remains now is for the Government to stand like a rock. I turn to another part of the "Observer" and find advertised there trips in the "Queen Mary," 76 guineas; cruises all over the world at 12s. and £1 per day. I turn to another part, and find there are sales in some parts of London, and that coats are on sale at £49, £35, £29, and this is at a bargain sale.

People who "toil not, neither do they spin," who live on the backs of people among whom I was born, who sit there and jeer at us, ask this Government to stand firm like a rock because the Government is introducing Regulations to deal with our women and children and men. Sometimes we see hon. Members go through the lobbies with their ladies, and we see the silks, the plumes, the jewellery, the pearls, representing luxury such as this world has never seen. We do not envy them. I often look on them with admiration. But what is good enough for your women is not too good for ours. It is asking too much that the victims of the social system in which we live, our women, the wives of our people, should be subjected to the administration of this means test. Tariffs, subsidies, luxuries, Rolls-Royces, Daimlers are for their class, while my class are subject to humiliation.

The "Observer" said that one of the Unemployment Assistance Board's first duties is to check the ramp of full relief by some local authorities. Who are they? They are the districts where they have a real Labour majority, and as a result Labour men and women have introduced scales of benefit which were reasonable and humane, and consequently their fellow workers had confidence in them and returned them time after time until they represented the majority of the people. These are the local authorities that were administering unemployment benefit on a humane basis. I believe that if this movement would unite with all the progressive forces in this country on proposals of a specified character which the common people of the country realised and knew what they were standing for, and they went to the country as they did in France, the common people of this country would return a Government which would undo all the harm that has been done in foreign and domestic politics. Not far from my home in Manchester, in Mount Street, a woman carrying a child in her arms marched in the Chartist demonstration, not for a revolutionary purpose, but only to ask for representation on local and national affairs. There were 60,000 in that demonstration, and the local magistrates ordered the Yeomanry to ride into them. The woman carrying the child in her arms—

Mr. SPEAKER

The hon. Member is straying a long way from the Regulations.

Mr. SMITH

I thank you for the generous way you treated me, and I shall treat it with the respect I should do. All that I was trying to say was that this woman gave her life for the right to vote, and as a result of that sacrifice, we have been given the chance to come here. This movement represents that sacrifice, and if we prove worthy of it, I believe that we shall have an opportunity of translating that sacrifice into great realities and bring justice for the people whom we represent. I have letters here from many people. One is a police report, and anyone can examine it. It is about a man who committed suicide, and in his waistcoat pocket was a note "Nothing to live for." That is typical of what is taking place throughout the country. I should like hon. Members to read these letters. It has been brought in at several inquests that they have been insane. I want to say that they were as sane as anyone here. Domestic friction was the cause at the beginning; they lost hope, and they ended their lives in that way. The result of the inquest should have been, not insanity, but that they were murdered as a result of the social consequences of the means test introduced by the Government.

1.47 a.m.

Mr. FLEMING

I listened with great interest to the speech we have just heard as to what is happening in Manchester. I also listened with great interest to the Minister of Labour yesterday when he introduced these proposals to the House. I could not help thinking when I listened to him of the first time I heard him speak, which happened to be in a Cheshire village shortly after the War. He was then speaking on behalf of the Liberal candidate, and his theme was not to trust the Tories. He gave illustrations of what Tory leaders did, and the burden of his speech was summed up by a slogan which I can even now hear ringing in my ears. The slogan was with reference to the Tory leaders, "About Turn." I wonder if he remembers that phrase. I did not agree with him then, and I do not agree with him now. I spoke on this matter when it was before the House in the last Parliament, and I made it clear that I never did agree with the household means test. I do not intend to tire the House by repeating what I have said, because it has been well put by the hon. Member for Birkenhead East (Mr. Graham White.) I am satisfied now, as I was then, that these Regulations, which do not remove the household means test, are of no value to those working men who fought with me during the war, because they come from households which I know very well in my own city of Manchester and in other parts of Lancashire.

I listened yesterday to some hon. Members on the other side of the House who have got rather a false impression of some of us on this side. They have jumped to the conclusion that just because we may be fairly well-to-do to-day, we have either always been so or that we have sprung from very wealthy families. That is not so in my case. I know quite well the privations that men and women have gone through in Lancashire, from direct experience, because after the war, when I first started at the Bar in Manchester I lived for over 18 months in lodgings in one of the poorest quarters of Manchester. Anyone who knows Manchester knows that Chorlton-Medlake is not a wealthy part of Manchester. That is where I lived. I know very well what those households have to go through in that area. I know exactly what they think of sixpence or even of a penny. That is why I agreed with what the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said yesterday afternoon, that there seemed to be some right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench who did not realise how these people who had become unemployed do know the value of an extra sixpence a week coming into the house. I know, because I have seen it. It is for that reason that I think these Regulations will be more successful than those introduced at the beginning of 1935. On that occasion I remember quite well that the then Minister of Labour, for whom I have great personal respect, was under the same impression as the right hon. Gentleman who occupies his position has to-night, that they were undoubtedly going to be a success. (Some of us were warned beforehand by those who had had experience of public assistance bodies in large cities like Manchester, that those Regulations, which were dropped, would not be a success.

When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), on one occasion during those Debates, moved to report progress, I thought it was a splendid opportunity to the then Minister of Labour to withdraw for a while and consider what was happening. That is why I followed the right hon. Gentleman into the Lobby and voted on that occasion against the Government. It is well known on the front bench here that ever since I came into this House I have taken an independent attitude on this question. I have been warned in quite a friendly way by some occupants of this side of the House that I ought not to be doing so and that I am not doing myself any good in doing so. They have no need to advise me on that matter. I realise quite well—I am not so ignorant as I look—that I am certainly not doing myself any good by the attitude that I have taken up on certain occasions, but I also realise that every time I have been compelled to oppose the Government I have believed that I was doing my duty, and that is what I intend to do as long as I have the honour to be a Member of this House, in spite of what it may cost me or anybody belonging to me. I am perfectly satisfied that the division that I represent is also satisfied with what I am doing in this Debate, because I am not changing by one jot the attitude I adopted in the last Parliament, with regard to similar Regulations which came before this House.

I explained quite frankly when I put up at the last election that I was not in favour of a household means test, in spite of any manifesto that was put abroad on behalf of the National Government. I made it quite clear, and I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman the Member for West-houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) is not present to-night—I am not blaming him for not being present—but he happens to be a constituent of mine, and he knows better than anyone that that was so and that during the election I made that statement. That being the case, how can I pretend to be a follower of the Prime Minister, who is upheld as a honest man unless I am going to break my word to my constituents on as I take it, the chief plank on which I was returned to this House last year? There is no doubt in my mind that this particular matter is a burning question. I have been about a good deal in different constituencies, and I have found that people whom you might have thought had no interest whatever in it are very interested in it in the North of England. They have no wish to see any household injured in the way that I feel these Regulations will injure them. That is why I am opposed to these Regulations.

Unless I was mistaken, I also heard a Minister on the Front Bench say that he was keen to maintain the unity of family life. I may be slightly mistaken in the phrase, so I put it broadly and say that he gave me the impression from his remarks that that was so. I think that is right, and I believe we are all anxious that it should be so. I am certain of one thing and the right hon. Gentleman who spoke on behalf of the Government yesterday, the Secretary of State for Scotland, certainly gave me that impression, because he went to great trouble to show that throughout his investigations in Scotland there was not a single case brought to his notice where a home had been broken up directly owing to the means test. I think that was the gist of what he said. It must be so, because the right hon. Gentleman is now leaving the House. I take it for granted that he agrees with what I am saying. It may be that those who have spoken for the Government have had a negative result in regard to this matter of breaking up homes through the means test being in operation, but there are other hon. Members in this House who represent constituencies not far from where I come from who may have had a different experience. I see the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Cary). Will he get up and say that there are no homes in his constituency which have not been broken up through the means test? I know for a fact that in every constituency in and about Manchester there have been homes broken up through the operation of the means test. I know for a fact that young men have been advised to leave their homes because they would be better off. I frankly admit that in my own division I have given that advice myself to young men because I did not agree with the way in which the means test was being administered. I have never believed in the household means test and I see no reason for altering my belief.

I have no intention of breaking the promise I gave to the Chief Whip when he asked me not to speak. I said that because of my position being rather peculiar, I would speak, but that I would not take long about it. When I make a promise I keep it, and although I would have liked to speak longer, I shall keep my promise.

2.2 a.m.

Mr. T. SMITH

I want to congratulate the hon. Member on what I regard as a very courageous speech. That speech is exactly the kind of speech I would have expected from him. I remember his attitude towards the household means test in the last Parliament and I can concur in all he has said. I know what he has promised to his constituents, and that he will carry this out at all costs. At this time of the morning I make no apology for intervening, I wish the Noble Lord were in his place. I understand he is Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I was rather of opinion he was speaking on behalf of the Government. I heard nothing in that speech which was not quite fair, and I think some of the points he has made certainly deserve a reply. He spoke of the heat engendered by the speech of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). May I say that upon this question of the means test some of us on this side of the House do feel a good deal of heat because we know how that means test operates.

When the Noble Lord asked what was the Labour party's policy on the means test he was asking a perfectly fair question. When he quoted the resolution passed in 1931 he was quite fair except in two things. First he had not acquainted himself with the discussion that took place and he forgot to say that the means test had not then started to operate. The household means test goes back to the Economy Bill of 1931. I want the Minister of Labour to listen to a little bit of history. He got away with some of his high speed stuff yesterday. I do not intend to let him get away on some matters before I sit down. I will tell him what is the Labour party's attitude towards the means test. We believe that it should be abolished, lock, stock and barrel. But we are not so foolish as to say that if we did that we should get hold of the taxpayers' money and throw it out to anybody. We would entirely remodel the method of relieving the able-bodied poor.

What is the history of the means test? In 1931 we were told it was economy. From 1931 until after the General Election what took place? You had a means test in operation then which was even worse than now. I wish the Lord President of the Council were in his place. We had a means test in 1931 which continued for about two years, and which was so vicious in its application that every decent-minded person connected with public assistance committees in Yorkshire, irrespective of political parties, was ashamed of it. When I was returned to the House of Commons in 1933 members of the Conservative party told me that they were so ashamed of the means test as it was being practised that they could not defend it from a public platform. The means test took into account the whole of workmen's compensation. You had to bring in a small amending Bill to cut it by one-half. Does the Minister of Labour forget the attitude of public assistance committees at that time? He has been talking about the meanness of certain local authorities in their scales of relief.

Does he remember what took place right away from the Armistice up to the present time with regard to the relief of the able-bodied poor? When the different local authorities set up scales of relief various Governments, both Coalition and Tory, insisted on some of these local authorities reducing those scales, as other Sheffield Members here will not deny. I had as large responsibility as any man in the city of Sheffield for administering relief scales. I was chairman of the Labour group. I remained on that board of guardians until after the inquiry of the Minister of Health took place because I had a moral duty to do so. We were told by the Minister of Health that unless we cut down our scales he would refuse to allow us to borrow any more money. Comparing these Regulations with those of certain progressive local authorities is, therefore not playing the game. That means test went on until the Act of 1934.

I want to make a challenge to the hon. Members opposite and even to the Leader of the House. There has never been a considered vote taken in this House on the means test. Hon. Members who were in the House in the last Parliament know that when the 1934 Bill was in committee the means test clause was put under the guillotine, and it was passed without a moment's discussion. I will pay this tribute to some of the hon. Members opposite. I know that there are many of them who if they were free agents in this matter would vote for the abolition of the household means test. I think the time has come, in view of the feeling in the country and the experience we have had of the means test, that we should have some free expression of opinion as to whether this House stands for the household means test. We feel tremendously keen about the means test because we have, perhaps, closer communication with the poverty of the people than the average Member on the other side of the House.

I represent a fairly safe industrial seat with a consistent record of 50 years Labour representation in this House. That constituency, like others, is suffering a good deal of poverty, largely as a result of the decline in the mining industry. We have in that constituency more than 4,160 people on the means test, apart from those drawing standard benefit. One case against the means test is that it tends to break up family life. I have read carefully in the Board's report what the Leeds officer had to say about breaking up homes in his district. The Leeds area is very big, with prosperous and poor areas in it. The right hon. Gentleman boasts about having been to hundreds of homes. He never addresses this House without one eye on the Press Gallery. Does he deny that in my constituency the means test has broken up family life? It is a fair challenge to him. Is he aware that there are urban district councils in my constituency that have passed unanimous resolutions against the means test and have definite evidence that family life is being broken up? There are large numbers of people there under the means test who gave good service in 1914–18. I come in contact with them in sport and politics, I talk to them frankly and know how they feel. Scores of these men are feeling very bitter about the way they have been treated.

The Secretary of State for Scotland put his finger on one spot when he said he knew that the means test caused bitterness inside homes. It does. You have a father unemployed, and a son, say 25, working, who brings home two pounds or three pounds a week. Merely because he is a good worker and earns decent money it means that his father gets nothing. I know scores of cases where sons have left home rather than see their parents suffer. I will give another example. A young man hears of a job 30 miles from home. He goes for the job and earns a decent wage. When he leaves home his father is at work. While he is away from home the father falls out of work, and passes through the period of standard benefit to the means test. Because the son has left, the father and mother get their full allowance. The son hears of a job in his own trade nearer home, and he wants to be nearer home. He is faced with this position, that if he takes the job and goes to live at home, because he is earning between 55s. and 60s., his father gets no allowance at all. I ask any hon. Member with experience of working class life what they would do in such a case? The lad did not go home, he went into lodgings. Another complaint we have against the means test is that it stabilises poverty and never gives the family a chance to live above the poor standard. That is one of the rotten things about it. The harder a young man works the less his dad gets in allowance. We had a typical example of that in the increase of wages of miners. The moment some of the lads got an extra 1s. per shift, they found that when they handed over the money down went the old man's allowance.

We make no apology for protesting against the means test, and we shall vote against the Regulations, which are inadequate. It is stated on page 4: Except where special circumstances or needs of an exceptional character exist, the said sum shall be so adjusted as to be less than the amount that would ordinarily be available for the support of the household out of the earnings if they were at work in their normal occupation. How much less than normal? Does it mean 1s., 5s. or more? How are the normal wages to be calculated? Does it mean in the case of a man working three days in a pit and three days off that his short-time work is to be regarded as his normal earnings, or is it to be averaged over a period? What does this mean if an applicant resides in a locality which is predominantly rural in character. We ought to know what that means. I have in mind a colliery where the men live in a city, an urban district and a rural district and all working in the same pit with large numbers of them out of work. Does it mean because one man lives in the City and the other in the rural district that they are to have similar allowances or is the reduction to be one purely of rent? I think we are entitled to an answer on that. Then with regard to the advisory Committee and the Unemployment Assistance officer, I want to know if he has got the power of taking into account the recommendations and ignoring them. If that is so, I have a legitimate complaint against the right hon. Gentleman.

I have been particularly anxious for some time to know how many cases have had discretion exercised and how much money has been spent on these cases in the Pontefract district. About four months ago I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman and he informed me he would inquire into the matter and let me know. I heard nothing for three months and then I put the question down again and I received the same answer, and I have not been able to ascertain how discretion is used in that area. I am bound to say the conclusion I draw is that if they had been favourable the information would have been sent to me fairly rapidly. I think because discretion has been exercised that is the real reason why the information is not revealed. I will be perfectly frank with the Minister as one who has been concerned for 10 years with the Poor Law. I have little doubt how this discretion is going to be exercised and that once these Regulations begin to operate the tendency will be for the discretion to go down rather than to go up. It is administration by the Board's officer as a relieving officer without the supervision of the relief committee. I have never known a relieving officer give more money in between relief committee meetings than was just necessary to keep the applicant alive until the relief committee met. That was because the relieving officer was scared of coming before the committee and saying he had spent so much money. The view of the Poor Law was not to make people happy but to keep them alive. I am afraid that this discretion will rather tend to be downwards and not upwards.

I was watching with a good deal of interest to see how these things worked out, and I am prepared to admit on the question of earnings there is some slight improvement, but they are still not good enough. The electors at the last Election believed that they would get some modification of the means test in these Regulations. I remember a speech of the Prime Minister's in Leeds and I think the mass of the electorate thought that there was to be some considerable modification of the household means test. As far, as we are concerned, we shall do our best to defeat the regulations, and we shall do our best to get a storm of protest against them. The Secretary of State for Scotland said that the unemployed of this country had been extraordinarily patient. They have been, and for the first period of unemployment they are, but at the end of two years they will tell you pretty smartly what they think about it.

This House has got to face up to a number of things. The hon. Member for Central Sheffield (Mr. Boulton) said in his speech yesterday that he faced up to the means test and got in. He knows as well as I do the reasons for that, Sheffield City Council demolished a number of slums and moved the people into adjoining constituencies. He should remember that we won the Brightside, the Park, Attercliffe and Hillsborough, divisions of Sheffield. Some of these people have been out of work for such long periods that they are almost despairing of ever getting another job and they are men, as a rule, of from 45 to 50 years of age. They are men who are still skilled colliers, they are still craftsmen and they can still turn out coal whenever they get the chance. These men are not criminals. The only crime they have committed is that they have been out of work longer than six months.

Whether the House believes it or not, it is largely a question of luck to-day as to who works and who does not. When a pit stops, it stops the young men and the old men, and it is a matter of luck as to who happens to be working in the district when it stops. If we had a Government facing up to the problem, as it ought, there might be some justification for these Regulations, but it is not facing up to them. Tell the House how you are facing up to the unemployment problem in mining areas. You are not. It is perfectly true that in certain other industries you are improving, but you are not in mining. We have got to a very low point in the number of men employed, and with increased mechanisation I do not see any more being taken on. Would it not be far better to have a sensible pension scheme for these men at 60 years of age, so that they can spend the autumn of their life in something like security? Would it not be better to give these chaps at least a feeling of security, because there are still men who would like to come out of the pits at that age if there were a decent pension scheme?

The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour has something to his credit. He used to be Secretary for Mines and he swotted up briefs as no Secretary for Mines I have known has swotted them up. But he also has something to his discredit. He is the one man who stood up in this House and reduced the levy from a penny to a halfpenny. When a reorganisation took place it was said quite plainly why he was sent to the Ministry of Labour, and take it from me it will get him down. He will be thrown to the wolves. He is a fighter, and he gives hard hits and does not mind being hit hard himself. He is now defending these Regulations and I say we are not facing up to the problems in the mining industry. We shall soon be the most reactionary country in Europe so far as hours are concerned. I have just made an inspection of some pits in Soviet Russia and I found a good many things there that rather surprised me. I found that piece-workers—hewers of coal—were working six hours a day, bank to bank. I found that others worked seven hours, bank to bank. We work nearer to 8 hours, with 7½ and one winding turn.

Colonel BALDWIN-WEBB

Does the hon. Member suggest that conditions are comparable in Russia?

Mr. SMITH

There was not the same loss of life by explosions, and I saw some of our own research plant in their pits, so do not start to make comparisons with regard to safety and working conditions, because I am prepared to put that to you on any platform you like. In this country, in these mining localities, this long-term unemployment has got to be tackled and it has not been tackled fairly in these Regulations.

It is because we know how the means test has almost burned its way into the homes in our constituencies that we do on occasion speak with heat. I feel keenly, as most hon. Members feel, about this problem. I believe that these Regulations are not good enough and not adequate enough, and I would like to see many more hon. Members on that side of the House have the same courage as the hon. Gentleman did, because I believe that in their hearts a large number of Government supporters would like to see the household means test abolished. I hope that many of them will be big enough when to-night comes, to show that they believe that the household means test ought to be abolished. Even though, as a Labour party, we are beaten we shall go on preaching that the labourer is worthy of his hire, and that after years in industry, when he is out of work through no fault of his own, and the State cannot find him work they must give him decent maintenance.

2.37 a.m.

Mr. R. J. TAYLOR

I believe that the Ministry of Labour and the Government have missed a glorious opportunity of bringing the people of this country together on this important question. I can speak on this matter with very intimate knowledge. I am not sure whether there are any other hon. Members in this House who have experienced the means test. I have. I have experienced the means test for 18 months. Therefore I think I am in a position to describe in a limited way the means test. I want to say at once that my vocabulary is not sufficiently wide to say all I would like to say and to describe it as adaquately as I would like. If there was one reason more than another which should have persuaded the Government to abolish the means test, it should have been this annual report. From front to back this annual report is a recommendation, clarification, and advertising of the voluntary services of this country. On page 188 you have the Society of Friends, the British Red Cross, the Salvation Army, St. Vincent's, the British Legion, the National Institute for the Blind, and allied organisations, poor children's holiday association, and that is how we go on. What have they been doing? What is their purpose in this country under the system of society that is supposed to have regularised the care of the unemployed?

Let me give one particular instance. A married applicant with six children employed casually by a firm was offered full-time employment if he could learn to drive a motor car. The employer gave a written offer of this employment. The case was submitted to a voluntary organization which arranged for the applicant to be put through a motor-school driving course at a cost of £2 12s. 6d. I draw attention to that case because I believe it is altogether beside the point for these reports to make our people believe that the employed in this country are being entirely looked after by means of the Unemployment Assistance Board. It would not be necessary to bring these voluntary organizations to its assistance in such a wide measure as they have been if it was doing its job as thoroughly as it ought to. The pages are full of things which show the entire inadequacy of the scales which have been put on our people since 1934. If there is one thing more than another that we ought to encourage in this country and which we are supposed to have encouraged in the past, it is surely that sterling British character of thrift and independence. What are we doing in these Regulations about that? Are we doing anything in the Regulations to encourage thrift? A man may be in employment and have a thrifty wife, and if they have been wise, they have been members of a co-operative society. In bringing up a family they may not have been able to put a penny piece away, but they may have been able, as the result of a thrifty and careful wife, to let the dividends accumulate, and at the end of 20 years—during the whole of which time the man has been paying into insurance—they have accumulated perhaps £300. Yet these Regulations are so mean in that respect that because the man has £300, he has 11s. a week deducted after he has had 156 weeks' ordinary benefit. He has pounds to his credit in that fund if it were not for the Regulations as they are operating. I do not object to that because I have always been brought up to believe that the strong should help the weak, and I have no objection if he has money in there to his credit which he is unable to get under the Regulations, but it does seem to me a shame that you should take 11s. a week from him because of the £300 which he has been saving up for his old age. It is a penalty on thrift. If he has managed to save £350, you make him spend £50 before he can get anything. That has been done, and is it an encouragement for thrift? Not at all.

Let me deal with another side of the matter, in regard to which I have had many complaints. Take the service pension. The first pound of a disability pension is excused. Why have you not extended the same opportunity to the man who is broken on the wheel of industry? Surely the Government and the Minister of Labour ought to know, for there is a Commission sitting now which is endeavouring to find a way out where men have been broken and to see if there is a possibility of reconditioning them so that they can be found employment again. In the coalfields of this country, silicosis and nystagmus men who have once contracted the diseases are marked for life, and it is nearly impossible for them to get a job. Then take another side of the matter. You people on the other side of the House want recruits for the Army and the Navy. You have set on a poor way of going about your business. I know you think you will deal very quickly in the next four or five months with the young men who you say are getting excessive scales in the hope that you will drive them in, but I will tell you something else which you have missed out. A man came to me the other day who had served in India—that place where it was necessary for Lord Londonderry to draw attention to the need for aeroplanes and bombing. This man served in India and fought through the Boer War and in the last War. He has a pension for service, but that is not excused when he is under the means test Regulations. It is taken into account, and there is no exclusion under that head for him. He served his King and country, and he has fought your battles imperialistically, and yet when he comes back here after bearing the heat of the tropical sun, marching through damp jungles and enduring the variations of climate that all men experienced in the South African War, and after having patriotically gone over to France—after all that, a grateful country cannot find him a job, and even the pension he has you are not prepared to excuse him when he goes down to visit the Unemployment Assistance Board's offices. Then there is that other chap, who is on the Reserve and who gets his money quarterly. The week-end that he gets it there is a little bit of calculation down in the Board's offices, and he gets nothing for that week and part of the week after. You do encourage them! You are on the right lines to encourage them!

I said that I was not going to deal extensively with the scales, but there is one part of these scales that intrigues me very much, and it is that part which deals with rural areas. The point is stressed time and again in the Regulations that men are not to receive more under the scales than they would in their ordinary employment. I wonder why that is so. Somebody has talked about living being cheaper. Personally, I do not believe that. I honestly and sincerely believe that the reason is that in the rural areas where the agricultural workers predominate wages are low. These Regulations bear the imprint on page after page of the old philosophy which goes back in my mind for many, many years. I remember years ago the fixing of the minimum wage rules in Northumberland, when it was laid down very definitely that the minimum wage had to be low—5s. 6d. for the piece men and 4s. 9d. for the day men. That is the philosophy you have here, that there must be of necessity a gap between the unemployment scale and the wages the men are getting in our industry. You have some difficulty, I agree, in maintaining the gap.

The first evidence I had was when the Minister came down to the House with his eyes twinkling, and he was walking along like a man with nystagmus. If I were a miner, I would have him to an expert, and I could guarantee I would have him certified. He ought to be told to keep his eyes from this side of the House, or he will get nystagmus and there will be no compensation. The first time I noticed this was when he came down a week or two ago and told us how pleased he was that there was a surplus in the fund and that he was in a position to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer he would be able to make a contribution of £2,000,000 towards the armament plans, and 1d. would be deducted from the contributions of the men. Had the minority report been accepted and the scales raised, it would have brought the ordinary benefit rate to within a shilling or two of what the miners in Northumberland are earning at the present time. That would have been a dangerous thing. You are very sympathetic and benevolent to the working men, but you believe that the wage must be at such a low level that they will be continually kept at work with starvation round the corner. That is good enough for the working man. The wage levels denote this.

Let me turn to the breaking up of homes. It is no use hon. Members on the other side saying that homes are not being broken. If there was one thing more than another which disgusted me it was the report from Cardiff. I thoroughly believe that the report from one end to the other could have been written in London and sent out to the districts to attach their names to it. The Cardiff report says that many of the wage-earning children, children who were applicants themselves, have returned home, but this has not been so in all cases. It adds that it is difficult to resist the conclusion that in some instances the coming of the Act provided the justification for a chance which was desired for other reasons. What a mean thing to write! Even if it were so in some Cases, it signifies such a small number that in the interests of our own national characteristics it should not have been mentioned. It is so small to put it in the report that our people wanted to leave home and that the means test gave the excuse for leaving home. It was not the excuse for leaving home—it was the reason.

We all know the standard of life in our homes. I am not going to say that our tables are anything like yours when set for dinner. Our ambition in my home is that our children, my wife, and myself shall maintain ourselves with that decency that will enable us to look any man in the face and not be ashamed. That is plenty high enough for anyone. When you have 18 months' unemployment and there is not the slightest chance of getting a job, you go gradually down and down. Any little reserve you have is gone, and the reserves in the drawer are going. Everything that you wear, everything you use, is going. It has been well said that a cup or saucer broken when we are working is of small account, but what a serious thing it becomes when we are not working and wonder how to replace it. These are the things that count.

When your boy gets a job and after a long apprenticeship can earn £2 10s. a week, and you are told, "There is nothing for you", your boy has to keep you, is it not reasonable to tell the boy to leave home? Is it not only right that you should think you have a claim on the country that you have worked for for years? There is another reason why a boy leaves home. If he has to keep his father and mother, what is his future. I have a case in mind on the female side, where a girl has given her life nursing a member of the family and now reached an age when everything a woman holds dear has practically passed her. Is it right that a young man shall be compelled to keep father or mother, sister or brother, because the State is prepared to shirk its responsibility? That is what is happening. You may say that homes are not being broken up. A man came to see me on Saturday. He has worked 48 years in a Northumberland pit. He is 62, and he has had nine children. One was killed in the War, and seven daughters have died. His one son that is left has been in and out of work. When he has been in work they have deducted 6s. a week for the father. The son has decided to leave home and come to London. Their mother was broken hearted last week-end when the last of her nine children left her. Is not that breaking up homes? Do you want any more tragedy than that? There are scores of such cases.

We do not know what the officers of the Board can do, whether they will live up to their human instincts. The only thing they have been able to demonstrate has been within the limits of the Regulations, and my experience has taught me that, no matter how plausible a Minister is, it is when an Act has left this House that we get to know. There are too many considerations as far as the advisory committees are concerned—considerations, recommendations, discretion—but above all there sits the officer of the Board. If these Regulations are once on the Statute Book, I have no hope but there be will be the utmost rigour in their application. In regard to the money side of the Regulations, I do not believe we shall be one whit better off. In the week ending 13th December, according to this annual report, the average amount paid was £1 3s. 4½d. When the £750,000 is included, it only works out about £1 3s. 6d. per week, 1½d. or perhaps 2d. more benefit per applicant. I know that on paper it appears that there is 6s. benefit to a son at work. He had 21s. 8d. before if he was earning £2 and had to maintain himself. Do you not feel ashamed of your Regulations? One of our men is filling 12 tons of coal a day for about 8d. a ton. If he goes home with £2, he will have 8s. left for himself.

The Government ought to be big enough to withdraw these Regulations with the abominable means test in them. What are they afraid of in regard to the household means test? The man on unemployment benefit is not on the means test; the man on assistance would be willing to work if he could get it, and we are all responsible for this. In the constituency which I represent, if you take up the Northern papers, you will see that the shipping port of Blyth has been breaking all records in the shipment of coal. In the first six months of this year they have increased their shipments by over 300,000 tons, and it looks as if there will be a new record. At the same time 20 per cent. of the insured population are unemployed, and for the whole division I have 1,619 on the standstill and 751 on the Unemployment Assistance Board. There is one class of people who ought really to be with us, and that is the shopkeeping class. If I were a shopkeeper, I would have a private traders' association and would call a march in my district on account of the conditions prevailing there. The right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary has the most brilliant legal mind in the country, and he knows that the problem of this age is not that of production, but of distribution. What we should do is to give our people greater consuming power, but instead of that you are taking something away from them, and I think you are making a grave mistake.

I want to tell the Minister of Labour something about his reference yesterday to dignity money. I do not wish to be offensive, but some time ago he said that as a lad he used to walk among the boats on the sea shore, and I want to tell him that he has never grown up. When he used the phrase, it came from the days when he touched his hat to patrons. Dignity money for our people who are being broken on the wheel, dignity money when we have to give them sixpence for tobacco! The Minister ought to be ashamed of himself. The Prime Minister is wise. Probably he is in bed, but I have been looking at a book in the Library called the "Torch of Freedom." It contains a series of speeches which the right hon. Gentleman has made at one time or another, and the torch of freedom is held in the hands of Britannia. Some of the speeches were delivered to delegates from oversea and to anyone who cared to come from the far-flung British Empire, and he spoke on the subject of our national character. Sympathy with the underdog, he said, was one of the national characteristics. I hope the day will come when Ministers will refuse to be servile and will resign rather than do things they do not want to do.

I am not going to say that there will be a general election, but the days of the National Government are done, and if the right hon. Gentleman believes that he is playing a card which will enhance his future prospects he little knows the mind of the people. They use you, play with you, and having served their ends, they throw you away like a spent match. I am not going to say that that is his doom, but if these Regulations go through, he deserves it. I am not going to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, but I want to say that he is committing a crime for which he will not be put into the dock, but he will be put at the judgment of the public conscience of this country, and I want to tell him that he will be found guilty. You believe, with all your ignorance, that you are going to work these scales differently from last time. Last time they came on the people like a plague. This time you are going to do it gradually and gently. This time you are going to take two neighbours and you are going to give that one a reduction and miss this one, and yet expect that the one is going to say nothing. But we are going to tell the people that while you have not touched them this week, they will get it next week, and the whole thing is that you are going to do it gradually in the hope that you will delude our people. When I was a boy there was a man who had a horse, and he conceived the idea of feeding it on nothing. He cut a little bit of its food off daily, and he thought it was getting on nicely, but it died. This is what you think you will do. But we are going to tell our people that the end is inevitable, and it is only 18 months away, and when once it comes it is there to stay. If I have any influence at all, I shall, in the name of humanity and common justice, in the name of sympathy and for the love or home—to use the words of the Prime Minister—try to get these Regulations withdrawn and brought back without any means test.

3.24 a.m.

Mr. EMERY

I would like to preface what I have to say by paying a tribute to the Minister of Labour for what I consider to be the very able way in which he presented these Regulations, although it is a matter of regret to me, as a keen supporter of the Government, to find myself not in complete accord with the Resolution. As one who can claim to have spent the whole of my life in an industrial area, and one who can claim to have had much experience of the evils of unemployment, as one who can claim also to have had 15 years' experience in the administration of public assistance, I want to say, first of all, that I am in complete sympathy with the observation of the right hon. Gentleman that the greatest and most important, and yet the most difficult and complex problem we have to face in our national life is that of unemployment. I readily admit that within the scope of the Act of 1934—I particularly emphasise that qualification—the Govern- ment, by these Regulations, have done something to lessen the hardships of the unemployed and have taken, I consider, a forward step in humanizing the examination of an applicant's family position, or what is often referred to as the means test. But whatever little satisfaction I try to derive from this accomplishment, whenever I analyse my own conscience on the matter I feel compelled to admit that these Regulations do not go to the heart of the real issue.

I feel that in two major respects they fail to deal with the essentials of the problem. To my mind, the first and most important is that, in the main, they only mean what the last Regulations meant—which is that the limits of our ability to deal with our able-bodied unemployed is restricted to paying to those victims an amount of money each week which is only sufficient to keep them in a state of semi-starvation. I know that it can be argued that the Regulations are no such admission, but they deal with the happening which is inseparable from any social system, and that it may be only necessary as employment increases, for the Regulations to operate in a comparatively narrow sense. But even if I could feel justified, the fact would not be affected that we are seeking by these Regulations, in my opinion, to deal with the effects of a social evil in such a way as to create further evils of an even worse type than the first. In the last ten and a half hours we have heard quite a lot of the means test and of a detailed examination of the Regulations.

I want to try to look at this question from quite a different point of view from what has been debated. The day before yesterday the right hon. Gentleman claimed, in presenting the Regulations, that he was not dealing with a departmental issue but with one of the biggest social problems of the day. That is exactly the proportion in which this matter should be viewed and treated. That there should be adequate provision for our able-bodied unemployed is, I think, generally undisputed, and if our social system was functioning as it should function, I feel that the actual casualties of our industrial world would be comparatively small, and the looking after them in such circumstances would be a departmental matter. Again, in such circumstances I am certain that in looking after them they would be able to provide them with far more generous scales than are suggested at the present moment. But as there is undoubtedly more than one screw loose somewhere, causing the number of our unemployed to fluctuate between such figures as 3,000,000 and 1,500,000, even when the country is presumably prosperous, it does bring us face to face, not with a departmental matter at all, but with a basic issue and with the fundamental structure of our social and national life. That is why I cannot agree that these Regulations are capable of dealing satisfactorily with such a big question. If they were intended, as I say they should be intended, to deal with a very small proportion of our able-bodied unemployed, say, if we were suggesting dealing with 50,000 men instead of 1,000,000 men, then I would agree with the very carefully thought-out and praiseworthy efforts of the humanized administration. But, as I have said, it should never be intended, in my opinion, that such Regulations as these should seek to deal with what the Minister himself admits is one of the nation's biggest problems.

I would like to deal with one or two details of the Regulations. The Act of 1934, as far as scales were concerned, was shipwrecked because, broadly speaking, of the lack of attention to the peculiar needs of localities. I think it can be said that it is satisfactory to notice that the Government are now seeking to remedy this fault by bringing into closer co-operation the activities of local advisory bodies. I am certain that this step will materially help in the understanding of the conditions in the local areas, though I am not too sure that it is going to remove any great number of the difficulties which have existed for some time. One part of the tragedy of unemployment is that in its first stage it sets a problem to the mind of its victim as to what scale he is going to be classified under, because it must not be forgotten that the scales do not deal with all the able-bodied unemployed in this country, but only with the able-bodied unemployed within the scope of the 1934 Act. There is still left a very large number of young, strong, able-bodied men who are regarded by the State in this particular instance as not belonging to the State at all. They do not recognize them as able-bodied unemployed, but they throw them on to the resources of the local areas to deal with. What is the position if the able-bodied man does become unemployed? First, he has his insurance benefit, if he is an insured person; then, of course, after a period he falls on to the Unemployment Assistance Board; and then quite possibly in many cases there is the third stage of public assistance relief, if he becomes subject to an interpretation by the referees that he is not then an able-bodied unemployed. The scales of these three different bodies are nearly all different.

We cannot wonder at the anxiety of mind of these workers when only a few coppers each week play an important part in the type of foodstuffs which they are able to purchase. When they are faced with those conditions, how can we wonder that there is anxiety in their minds as to which scale they are going to be subjected to? The man's position is not changed at all. He is still unemployed, but he is subject, of course, to the vagaries of the system as to whether he will receive the higher, the middle, or the lower scale of relief, and whether in some cases he is not to be subjected to the decision of the Unemployment Assistance Board. I know that an attempt has been made in these scales to bring them into closer relationship with the amounts paid under the Insurance Act. Personally, I think that is a very dangerous thing to attempt, because it is bound to create anomalies and to lead in the very near future to further demands being made upon the Insurance Fund. At first glance, looking at these scales, it seems very peculiar that an unemployed man with a wife and a child of 15 receives more from the Unemployment Assistance Board than he got previously from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, while in another case, where there are a man and wife and five children under 16, the regulation scale from the Assistance Board comes into conflict with the wages which that man would earn if he were working. That becomes very pronounced in the case of a man and wife with six children of ages from five to 22—not an uncommon thing to happen in the industrial areas. The Unemployment Assistance Board scale in that instance is 60s. per week, and it is quite probable that the man never earned that during the whole time he was working.

I know, of course, that there is provision made in the Regulations in regard to a man being paid more than he would usually earn, but what I am concerned about and what I would like to know exactly is this: At what point are you going to connect that man's earnings and the relief? Are you going to make it a shilling less than he normally earns, or he would earn when working. If you are only going to make it a small amount it is in direct conflict with the wages he would earn when working. If you are going to make it a large difference, you are facing a man with the position of having eight persons to keep on less than 45s. a week. A different type of difficulty is this: One of the most pathetic jobs I have to perform is that at week-ends I have young men to see if I can help to get work for them. It is very pathetic to gee virile men anxious to work who cannot find it. They even offer to work for no wages in order to get a start in some undertaking. In my industrial capacity I have met a number of young men who have either worked very little in their lifetime or, perhaps, never worked at all. They have married. Some little crime they have committed has brought them into the police court, and they have admitted that when they married their only source of income was what they were receiving from the Unemployment Assistance Board or the public assistance committee.

Many people would say, and say with a certain amount of truth, that before a man marries he should be in a position to support a wife and that he should not expect the nation or the municipality to support him; that if everybody attempted to push their responsibilities off on to somebody else, any social system and family life would collapse. I also admit the argument that there is a danger to our national life by the growth of the philosophical opinion as to the claiming of rights from society to the detriment of the acknowledgment of personal responsibility to the State, which these Regulations, while very inadequate, do a great deal to foster. Everyone will admit that every citizen has a right to claim, as a matter of citizen right, help in time of trouble, but I did not think that this claiming of rights would develop and grow to the extent it has done. It is a sad commentary on any social system that it allows the best part of its manpower to fall into that category. I admit all these facts, but I do not blame a young man for getting married and claiming what he can under these Regulations or any others. He is fit and able to work, and, because these Regulations are inadequate in their arrangements for offering him work, then he is perfectly entitled to claim what he can under the Regulations and arrange his social life as he thinks best. Nevertheless it must be regrettable to every man in this House that these one-time national characteristics of ours, characteristics of independence, enterprise, and initiative, are in this generation being forced to a tendency of decay. Forced, I say—brought about to a great extent by the opportunities that are now being offered by legislation of the very type we are considering.

If we take another view of the Regulations, I am convinced there is very little material difference, if any at all, between what is suggested and the system which has operated for many years—the one which has operated under the old boards of guardians and, later on, through the public assistance committees. We are told that the object of the Act of 1934 was to divorce the problem of unemployment from the Poor Law. I think we can say that that object has been achieved, but it has only been achieved by a change of name—the name only of the administrative body which deals with these matters. As to rendering any real assistance to increased benefits to the unemployed, there is practically no change. The Poor Law authorities had to deal with the able-bodied unemployed on the basis of need exactly in the same way as is to be done under the new Regulations by the Unemployment Assistance Board—to deal with individuals according to their need. Further, the necessity for the help of local advisory bodies simply proves that the new system must absorb the virtues of the old to become efficient. There are many rearrangements in the Regulations, but the point I want to emphasise is that the Regulations have not to a measurable extent, so far as the victims are concerned, improved their lot from the position they occupied under the old arrangements operated by the local authorities. I am a little concerned whether they will not find themselves in a worse position in a year or two by reason of the fixity of these scales as compared with the flexibility of the scales operated by the local authorities. We are told that the scales are flexible. I agree that they are, within limits. The local advisory committees are able to manipulate the scales according to individual need, but the scales are fixed so far as general standards are concerned.

This is a point about which the Minister who will reply might give us some information. We know that since 1931 the retail prices of commodities have been continually rising. I often wish that we might see a true picture of the rise in the cost of foodstuffs which the unemployed are compelled to purchase. If that rise continues, as seems likely, and leads to an increased cost of living all round, how is it supposed that the able-bodied unemployed can meet that increased cost if the scales we are being asked to approve are to be regarded as fixed for a period? Is it intended that the local advisory committee shall have so much discretion that it shall have the power to increase the scales to the unemployed? If not, does it mean that new legislation must be introduced? If that is so, and it takes anything like the time these new Regulations have taken, what is to happen to the unemployed in the meantime? I know that under the Regulations provision is made for fluctuations of rent, but no provision is made for dealing with the standard scales in a contingency such as I have referred to.

My objection to these Regulations is not about the scales at all, but is more concerned with the fundamental issues involved. The benefit of the experience which we have gained during the past 18 months while the standstill has been in existence is not reflected in the new Regulations. While there may be some virtue in attempting to deal with one phase of our social life, we should not fail to consider what we are doing in relation to the whole. Any measure of success which the Regulations may achieve is at best incomplete, as it can only be the success of the complete service that can set the seal to the success of the whole unit of social life. The Regulations show a lamentable failure to visualise the scope of the subject as a whole, with the result that they are unproportioned. The amounts of relief being paid out are not sufficient to maintain an able-bodied man able bodied. It adds dignity neither to the individual nor to the nation to perpetuate a system of paying out public money for which there is no return. The Regulations should have carried out an extension of the powers conferred in Section 15 of the Poor Law Act, 1930, which is now part of the Unemployment Act, 1934, and which states: It shall be the duty of the Council of every county and county borough— (a) to set to work all such persons, whether married or unmarried, as have no means to maintain themselves, and use no ordinary and daily trade of life to get their living by. That is one of the most important Acts ever placed on the Statute Book. It is being carried out in many parts of the country. In my own town it has been carried out for years. But it is limited in this respect, that it only provides work and training in some relations to the amount paid for relief, and that is where the scheme is not complete. The principle is undoubtedly a right one, and I would like to have seen the Government take a bold and vigorous lead on the lines of a carefully organised system of paying to the biggest possible number of these men, if not to all of them, the trade union rate of wages for a full week's work, and that the chief concern of the local advisory committees should have been to formulate schemes for providing that work instead of seeing how a shilling or two should be allocated.

I know well that the suggestion of providing work for the unemployed has been debated ad nauseam, but I have preached this for some years, that this generation is not incapable of solving this problem to the point of ensuring that the greatest asset of our country, its virile man-power, shall not be wasted. It has been said in this Debate that any increase in the scales might go beyond the economic and financial position which this country will stand. I want to say that I do not agree with that point of view, although I am quite prepared to express agreement with the school of thought which says that our social system is one which has been moulded through centuries of hard en- deavour and that if any reform is to be suggested the surest method is by the harmonious adoption of existing tendencies rather than by abrupt efforts to change the stream in which flows the current of human endeavour. I agree with that, but only to this point, that if the slowness of the flow of the stream is causing mischief to a very large proportion of our people, as it is at the present time, then I say that methods of acceleration must be tried and placid orthodox methods pust be placed on trial. After all orthodoxy has been placed on trial in many aspects of our social life in recent years, and in cases where it has failed to stand the test unorthodox methods have been followed.

I do not want hon. Gentlemen opposite to think for one moment that I am in agreement with their policy. Where I differ from them is in this way. I believe that our present social system is the finest in the world, but I can also see its imperfections and its faults. It has many imperfections and many faults, not the least of which is what I have referred to as the breach in the structure which allows a considerable part of our man-power to run to waste. This is the greatest imperfection, and I wish to see that breach healed and the structure strengthened into one that will make it bring a still greater measure of happiness and contentment to the greater number of people. I have faith in the Government. [Interruption.] I am expressing candidly and honestly my opinion. I say that in my honest and conscientous opinion I have faith in the Government that they will see the problem in the light in which I have been trying to present it, and if before this debate is ended I can find any hope that these Regulations are not being adopted as all that can be done to mitigate this evil, but that they can be regarded as only marking a stage in efforts of a great character to ensure fair and honest treatment for our people—if I can gather that and that there is any hope of what I want taking place, then and only then, I will support the resolution.

4.6 a.m.

Mr. GALLACHER

The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken informed us that independence was a national characteristic. I have heard that said often, but if the hon. Member will study the history of what are called our noble families he will find that this is something that is very clearly lacking. If he will make a study of political history, especially of current political history, he will find that hypocrisy and humbug and not independence are national characteristics. The Government and its party as a whole in the discussion on the King's Speech were not prepared to defend the means test as it was being varied at the General Election. Everyone agreed that it was too harsh and that it was causing tragedies, and it was to be modified, and according to the Minister it is modified. I would like to say that with all the inventive genius this world has got you could not have had a lower minimum of modification. Do you call this modifying according to the pledges at the General Election? Women are starving and children are starving and they cannot get clothes.

I was in Bermondsey the other Saturday and I went to a street market and saw the women with their children going around the barrows and buying garments at twopence each. Threepence for this pair of shoes which have been worn and worn and nobody knows how many feet have been in them. And the means test is applied against them and the Minister comes and says "Would you abolish the means test or where would you draw the line—the £6 family, the £8 family, the £10 family or the £15 family?". So we have not only got the fable of national independence. We have now got a new fiction—the wealthy working-class family. Hypocrites and humbugs! I remember not so long ago when we used to come out and advocate nationalisation of the railways, what that argument was. Any number of the hon. Members on the other side said that you dare not do it. Think of the widow's mite. The guardians of the widow's mite. To save the wealthy shareholders you brought forward the talk of the widow's mite. But now, in order to get the widow's mite, and to enforce the means test upon these unfortunate people, you produce the wealthy working class. What a transformation. I have never in my life heard in such blatant fashion the depths of meanness to which men who claim to be honourable gentlemen can sink in order to rob the poor.

One hon. Member from Sheffield told us in the course of the debate that he had been in the homes of people in Sheffield and wherever he had gone into the homes of workers he had never come across one who was not prepared to agree to his arguments that a means test should be imposed. Think of it, inciting jealousies and endeavouring to create dissension. Let the hon. Member go into homes in the constituency of the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) and start this game of creating dissension and telling the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash that the Member for Paisley (Mr. Maclay) does not deserve to get any share of the shipping subsidy, and then go into the home of the hon. Member for Paisley and start to tell him that he is a fine fellow, but the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash has got so much coming in from this source and the other that he does not deserve a penny for the subsidy. What would he do? He would kick him out of his home. You would kick him out of your home. I say to the workers of Sheffield that if this man or any other man enters their homes with this attempt to create dissension and animosity between employed and those unemployed, kick him out of the house.

Mr. LOUIS SMITH

The hon. Member has mentioned Sheffield, of which I have the honour to represent a part. May I tell him this: during the last fortnight, while these Regulations were well known in Sheffield, I and my colleagues on this side of the House have received no complaints and no serious criticism of these Regulations. Yet the hon. Member is saying that the people of Sheffield are teeming with discontent at the present time at these Regulations.

Mr. GALLACHER

We will do our best to see to it that the hon. Gentleman receives complaints, and more than complaints, but in the meantime I am talking about going into one home and trying to create dissension between that house and the one next door.

Mr. LOUIS SMITH

The hon. Member started his speech by saying that on this side of the House there is great hypocrisy and humbug. I am saying that when it is a fact that in the industrial cities of this country during a period when these Regulations were well known, there has been no such complaint made as hon. Members on the other side are trying to show, then there is nothing but humbug and hypocrisy on their side.

Mr. GALLACHER

I can understand it may be difficult to waken some hon. Members. I was not discussing whether they protested or not. I was discussing the question of an hon. Member going into homes and trying to create dissension. Try it in the homes of the shipowners and see how it will work. Regarding protests, I am quite certain that the hon. Member is not a reader of the most reliable daily newspaper in this country, the "Daily Worker," or he would see that these have been very many and very mighty protests, especially in Wales and up in Scotland and in various other parts of the country, and the protests will grow, make no mistake about that. What is it that we are discussing when we have these Regulations before us? We are discussing the lives of men, women and children. We are not discussing agriculture or shipping or tariffs or quotas or anything of that sort. We are discussing men, women and children. We are laying it down as the basic principle of our discussions that these men, women and children have the right to live. Do you accept that? The Regulations are designed not for men, women and children, who have a right to live, but for those who are being allowed to exist because you do not know how to get rid of them.

Some hon. Members may perhaps have read Shakespeare or have been to the theatre. There is a play by Shakespeare entitled "The Merchant of Venice". Shylock is before the court and the verdict of the court is against him. The Duke who is sitting in judgment informs him that half of his goods shall go to Antonio and the other half to the State but that he will be merciful—just like the Minister of Labour—and, says he, "We will spare your life". Shylock says: Nay, take my life and all, pardon not that: You take my house, when you do take the prop That doth sustain my house; you take my life, When you do take the means whereby I live". You have deprived these men and women and children of the opportunity for maintaining life. Why have you done it? You have done it in order to maintain profits. You have had the process of the concentration of a good deal of industry going on. Some mention has been made of Russia. In Russia the working class, which is the great constructive class—

Mr. SPEAKER

This has nothing to do with the Regulations.

Mr. GALLACHER

It is a great industrial country. Here in this country there used to be individual enterprise and free trade which, it was said, built up the country.

Mr. SPEAKER

That does not appear in the Regulations.

Mr. GALLACHER

I am only wanting to draw a certain lesson in connection with the present situation.

Mr. SPEAKER

I think the hon. Member had better not.

Mr. GALLACHER

I accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. J. J. DAVIDSON

On a point of Order. In view of the fact that the Minister, in introducing the Regulations referred to the social insurance schemes of other countries, is it not in order for members of the Opposition to refer to conditions of workers in another country?

Mr. SPEAKER

There are limits to which some can go and others cannot.

Mr. GALLACHER

We have here men and women who are suffering terrible hardship and from what cause? Monopoly capitalism of industry. Monopoly capitalism destroys—

Mr. SPEAKER

The hon. Gentleman said he would accept my Ruling. I should be very glad if he would do so.

Mr. GALLACHER

I understood your Ruling was in connection with the reference I was making to the earlier stages of capitalism and private enterprise and so I wanted to deal with the fact that we have millions of men and women towards whom these Regulations are planned. I want to ask the cause of these people being in the position that they are unable to earn a livelihood. I understood that I was entitled to say that it was the concentration of industry that had thrown them on the scrap-heap.

Mr. SPEAKER

We are dealing here with particular Regulations.

Mr. THURTLE

On a point of Order. May I submit that the hon. Member is entitled to argue that the reason why people are now in need of public assistance is because of the operations of industry, and that therefore industry ought to be prepared to allow decent allowances to be paid to these individuals?

Mr. SPEAKER

That is a very roundabout way of getting at the Regulations. What we are now discussing are the Regulations before the House.

Mr. LANSBURY

On that point of Order, it seems rather hard to some of us, after having heard the speech of the hon. Member for West Salford (Mr. Emery) who went over the whole ground.

Mr. SPEAKER

The hon. Member for West Salford was making a maiden speech and it has always been customary in this House not to call a maiden speech to order.

Mr. LANSBURY

I am sorry I mentioned the hon. Member's speech but it happened to be the last; but other hon. Members on the other side have really discussed the cause of unemployment and argued from that to the Regulations, dealing with the causes which made the Regulations necessary. Other hon. Members have really gone into the same kind of argument that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) was using.

Mr. SPEAKER

I cannot see how these Regulations raise the whole issue of capitalism, tariffs and so on.

Mr. LANSBURY

Other speakers have been doing it.

Mr. GALLACHER

I am sorry I misunderstood you in the first instance. I have heard member after member saying that he was not going to deal with the Regulations. I thought I was correct in trying to generalise on this question. If we agree that people have a right to live that must be based on the right to work. If that right has been taken away from them by the system the system should supply them with the right to work. The Government have defined the means test on the basis that the brother or son has more right to support the father than strangers. You are all strangers when it crones to supporting him, but not strangers when it comes to taking a profit, nor when the bugles are blowing. When it is a question of meeting your responsibility and providing a right to live you are strangers and have nothing to do with the matter. That is the thing I want to expose. What else can you call it but the grossest hypocrisy? You can appeal to the workers to go into your army to defend your profits, and yet you refuse a crumb necessary to keep body and soul together. There have been far too many tragedies already. Hon. Members opposite have never appreciated the fights that mothers have had to keep a roof above the heads of their children and to ensure that the children shall live. These Regulations are of a character which will go to worsen in every part of the country the miserable standard that has been imposed on the unemployed.

I have letters here from my own constituents—from men and women and young lads who are going to face serious times. Young lads are going to be very heavily affected. They are being affected for the purpose of driving these young lads into the Army. I know that we will get sympathy for the unemployed, for the miners and the seamen—sympathy all the time, but never any cash. An hon. Member opposite says we have to take into account the situation that is around us; that we must accept the Regulations.

Mr. MABANE

I was making the point that we must accept these circumstances; that we on this side are thus enabled to do a great deal more than hon. Members opposite would be able to do for them if they were in power.

Mr. GALLACHER

The hon. Member discussed for a considerable time the ideal method. Then he said we must take into account the situation. He reminded me of the old gentleman in one of Dickens's works who was of benevolent appearance and manner and had sympathy in abundance—but we must have regard to the circumstances around us. The circumstances are such that they are not going to allow the men, women and children to get what they are entitled to get. We must change the circumstances. What is being said about 1929 and 1931 is entirely wrong. There was warning of the crash for years before, but the Government prior to the Labour Government took no notice. Warnings were given that the crash was coming in America. In 1929 a terrible economic crash came in America, and by 1930 the whole of Europe was affected. The Labour Government had to face the crisis, and could have dealt with it, but what kept them from dealing with it was the leader that Government had. Instead of solving the crisis in the interests of the poor at the expense of the wealthy he walked over to the other side, and then participated in bringing in the Regulations. They went to the country with an appeal for a doctor's mandate, and got it. They performed an operation for blood transfusion, and the Regulations represent the instrument for effecting the transfusion of blood from the veins of the poor to feed the bloated bodies of the rich. If there had been a leader with character in the Labour Government, banks would have been taken over and the poor would have been saved.

These Regulations cannot deal with the situation that exists now, and as time goes on they will be more useless still, for the National Government has solved the crisis by making a more terrible crisis. The whole of the forces of the Crown, instead of being devoted to doing away with the Regulations and giving work or maintenance to the unemployed are being tied up in other ways. You must use them or close down industry. It means crisis—the crisis of war or the crisis of economic collapse.

I want the Regulations withdrawn and the money spent on providing the unemployed with work of social value. I have suggested to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury a work scheme that could be undertaken right away—the reorganisation of every mining village. That is the very best of work. It would give you beauty all round, strong men, healthy mothers, happy children. Do you not want that? Let us build a palatial maternity home in every district.

Mr. SPEAKER

It is not necessary to go into all these other subjects.

Mr. GALLACHER

There are many directions in which money could be spent for providing work if we got rid of the Regulations. Hon. Members on this side will be able to bring forward proposals that would ensure that every unemployed man would get work, if you withdraw the Regulations. It may not be anything that hon. Members opposite are prepared to take on, but it will be something we are prepared to take on. We have been asked whether we stand for the means test. We are pledged against a means test of any kind. For every man and woman we stand for the right to work or full maintenance. When the proposition was made of the right to work an hon. Member said that is the genuinely-seeking-work clause. Is it possible for an hon. Member to make an interjection like that?

We are going to rouse the country on this question, we are going into the districts, we are going to unite the employed and the unemployed in the fight against the Regulations, and we will do everything possible to prevent the Regulations from working, and will force the withdrawal of them. Once we get the necessary unity in the movement in the country the eighteen-months' period that has been talked about will show a very big change in this country. If you were going to the country now in an election there would be a slaughter; there would be few of you left. These Regulations as they penetrate to the different parts of the country will be utilised by us to arouse the workers to fury against the National Government and all it represents. We are certain that we can win the masses of the workers of the country from the illusions that allowed them in the first place to be subject to the Regulations. We are certain that in all parts of the country, Sheffield included, even in the sacred precincts of the business and residential centres, we can get such hatred towards the National Government, towards the general application of poverty upon the masses that these Regulations represent, that before eighteen months are over we can get rid of them and bid them a glad farewell.

The Financial Secretary spoke about the need for new roads, but above all we want a new road in national policy, not the road of starvation and death. Your Regulations mean a living death for millions. The workers have been starved for generations. Of course you are not workers and have never experienced starvation. I have experienced starvation in my own home and I have seen it in the homes around me. I want to say that the workers have had to suffer starvation, the workers have been slaughtered in war after war, and these Regulations are to continue the starvation, while the solution of the present crisis will lead you into a new and terrible slaughter. We are against starvation and slaughter. We are against the Regulations, and we say, "Not a man for starvation and not a man for slaughter." We want a better world; we want a broad highway leading upwards and onwards for all who give service to society, and not these Regulations, which condemn men, women and children to hunger and want.

If you have any regard for the men who have given service in industry as well as service in the war, if you have any regard for those who have been handicapped from their earliest years, the cripples and the blind, do not pass these Regulations. The hon. Member who spoke before me said he believed we were capable of handling and dealing with it and we can only get a solution if these Regulations are gone. This is not the road of solution of the crisis. We want the better and brighter road that leads to peace and security. This is the task that lies before those who want to serve the people of the country. You cannot follow that road, and there is but one thing to do—I hope you will do it—and that is to get out and to get out quick.

5.0 a.m.

Mr. THURTLE

I want to deal, very briefly I hope, with two material considerations of these new Regulations. The first is the question or the retention of the family means test. I must assume that the reason why the Government have retained this test is a financial one. I can think hard things of this Government but I cannot think it is just being purely malicious and vindicative in imposing this penalty upon the unemployed. The reason for its retention is, I imagine, a sordid, econo- mic one. I want to draw attention to that remarkable statement which the Minister made two days ago, when he said it is only common justice to all who pay taxes, including the ordinary working man, to see to it that the proceeds of their industry are not wantonly and needlessly frittered away. Audacity is said to be a good thing in politics. You, Mr. Speaker, sitting in that Chair must listen to some remarkable statements, but I do not think you have ever listened to a more audacious statement than that, coming from a member of this Government. It goes beyond the limit of audacity; it is just sheer effrontery in the mouth of a Minister of this Government, in view of this Government's record.

Is this the Government that has lavished tens of millions of pounds on the sugar beet industry, an industry which has been paying 20 per cent. free of Income Tax and putting to reserves in three years more than the amount of capital invested in the industry? Is this the Government which has been giving millions of pounds to maintain the industries of its friends? It is this Government, and it does not lie in the mouth of a Minister of that Government to talk in a chesseparing way about needs of the unemployed. I want the House to remember the miserably mean consequences of this family means test. What the Government is doing by persisting in this test is to put grit in the machinery of working-class family life, and I say it is a very low and unworthy thing for any Government to do that, but especially low and unworthy for a Government representative of the rich, such as this Government is. The last thing any Government with a sense of social responsibility would want to do is to poison the atmosphere of our family life, but that is exactly what is happening as a result of this family means test. The Government, by adopting this test, is adopting the role of disturber of domestic peace, so far as the working-class of the country are concerned.

This test is having a very bad effect indeed upon working-class family life. The Unemployment Assistance Board's report makes out that there are only a comparatively small number of cases in which homes have been broken, but we know that that is a distorted and un- true view of the facts. We know that there are many more homes being broken up than are spoken of in this report. But there is something more important even than the physical breaking up of homes—there is the moral and social breaking up of homes which is taking place. This means test is souring and poisoning the atmosphere of family life. Let me quote something from the report itself. It says that there are very few instances of this having happened, as in practice unless the earner is getting a high wage he cannot expect to find lodgings with the amenities and privileges he would get at home, for much less than the amount he would be contributing to the household. The cases in which sons and daughters have left home are usually those in which they were the principal earners, who can expect to obtain lodgings for considerably less than the household contribution. Their point is that in many cases children do not leave home because the test is being imposed on them, but they have the desire to leave home. It is that kind of thing which is poisoning family life in this country. Let me give another quotation from the report. It says in the first instance: There was the son of a mature age who imagined that his liberty in the household was being deliberately restricted because he was unemployed or that he was expected to give some personal service to earning members of the family, or perhaps his desire to obtain work was doubted. This impression created an attitude of resentment on the part of the son which the father construed as a challenge to his authority as the head of the household with the result that relations became strained. Under the circumstances the son probably thought that the difficulty would be overcome by leaving home and going into lodgings if he could thereby obtain an increased allowance. These are just typical cases, and they show the kind of dissention and ill-feeling which must of necessity arise in families as a result of this mean family means test. The parents, on their part, do not want to be a burden on their children. They are poor but they have their pride and their self-respect. The parents likewise do not expect to have to support their grown-up children. It is unreasonable to expect them to do so. They have made their sacrifices and brought their children to maturity. But if the children are unemployed through no fault of their own the obligation to look after them is no longer that of the parents but of the State. Then, so far as the children are concerned, they resent the State placing responsibilities on them for keeping their unemployed able-bodied parents. They have got their own lives to live and they have future homes to provide for. Even young men and young women of the working class may dream dreams and see visions. Young men of the working class may even want to get out of wage slavery and to save up a certain amount of capital in order that they may escape from the drudgery and monotony and uncertainty of working for an employer. Is such a young man to be denied the opportunity of doing that because his father happens to be unemployed? There is no doubt at all that this family means test, which represents the shifting of the burden of the State on to the shoulders of the individual, is unjust in its incidence and definitely anti-social in operation and there is every reason why it should be abolished.

The other point I want to deal with is the general issue of the test of need. We stand for the abolition of the test of need and I think I can demonstrate that we have got a just case for asking for its abolition. We ask for its abolition on the ground that it is an act of injustice to the working classes. What is our justification for saying that? I will tell the Minister why we contend that this test ought to be abolished. It should be abolished because it is not necessary on economic grounds, and unfair on grounds of social justice, and because the great mass of the people of this country do not want it to continue. Our people have their faults and their defects, but they have got one quality, and that is that they have a sense of fair play. Our people do not like to see an individual and a Government kicking a man when he is down, and they feel, and feel rightly, that the imposition of penalties on the unemployed men and women just because they have been unemployed a long time is in effect kicking them when they are down. Our case for asking for the abolition of the test of need is, broadly speaking, based on the fact that provision for the able-bodied unemployed is a national responsibility.

Consider the position of the individual workman. In this complicated society of ours he is not free to go and get his living anywhere and anyhow he pleases. He is bound within the limits of our industrial system, and he knows that normally the only way in which he can get a living is by finding an employer to give him a job. If he cannot get that job, through no fault of his own, there is clearly a responsibility upon the State as a whole to see that he is looked after. As a matter of fact, in principle this conception has been conceded by every post-war Government since 1920, in one form or another, either by extended benefits or uncovenanted benefits or in some other way. Ever since the war, in fact, broadly the Government has accepted this principle of responsibility for the maintenance of the able-bodied unemployed. What is the justification for the cruel and punitive differentiation which is now taking place? It is just this—and I invite the House to consider this from the point of view of elementary justice. The reason why you single out these people for punitive treatment is because they have been unemployed longer than the others. There is no other reason. They are being punished for this fact, through no fault of their own—punished for circumstances outside their control and for the uncertainties of the present economic system.

What kind of justice is there in a differentiation of that kind? It cannot be argued, and I defy any hon. Member in the House to get up and argue, that this punishment is because these people, who have been unemployed so long, are work-shy or lazy. It cannot be that, because there is a remedy lying to hand all the time for those people who do not want to work. Put them to the test and offer them a job and if they do not accept that job, then stop their pay, as you will be entitled to do. But until you can put them to the test in that way you are not entitled to suggest that because they have been unemployed a long time they are work-shy and seeking to avoid work. As a matter of fact, anybody who knows anything at all about the industrial areas and about unemployment, knows that this is a cruel libel to suggest that there are any considerable number of unemployed who do not want work. Take my own limited experience; I represent a very poor part of London, where there are large numbers of unemployed and what do I find? When there is a job of road work starting which involves heavy shovelling, using picks and heavy hammers and really hard work, as soon as it is known that this particular job is about to start along they come and ask me if I can use my influence with the borough surveyor; they worry the local councillors and everybody they conceivably can in order to try and get a job. They have often been out of work for months and their hands have got soft, and when you go to the job after a week you find they are working with bleeding hands. Yet there are people who suggest that these people are work-shy and do not want work.

Let me deal with another point. There is a lot of talk about the Unemployment Insurance scheme being a scheme in which you hear about contractual rights, as though it is a contract freely entered into by all parties in which the terms have been discussed and agreed upon. It is just sheer nonsense. This is not a voluntary contract in any sense of the word. The workers enter into these arrangements not in a voluntary way but by compulsion as a condition of being permitted to earn their living. Force of circumstances drives them into the system and there is no question of a contract at all. When there is compulsion it is not a contract; it is forced. Force of circumstances drives these people into the system, and now under this means test force of circumstances is going to drive them out of the system.

What kind of justice is there in a system of that kind? We are going to impose punitive measures on these people. If we were just, instead of punishing these victims of misfortune and affliction, we ought to consider whether we could give them some special kind of reward. They are the victims of a long period of economic attrition and have got down to the lowest level. They ought to have compassion rather than punishment. The Minister of Labour is somewhat of a theologian. I am not, but I have some remembrance of the old doctrine of rewards and punishments. There is the Biblical story of Lazarus. It seems to me that Lazarus was rewarded for his affliction and his suffering by some very special treatment later on. Under this new dispensation, and under the National Government, that kind of idea seems to have been reversed and our modern Lazarus, condemned to a long period of unemployment, instead of getting any kind of reward for his suffering is really being punished. If I had to choose between the old dispensation and the new I would prefer the old.

It is argued by the Minister of Labour that this differentiation is necessary or the whole system would go wrong. His suggestion is that people would take advantage of it and that there would be a general tendency not to want to work. He says that there would be a burden on the insurance system. I suggest that there is nothing in that at all. If there is any danger of imposing on the scheme there is always the remedy of the offer of work. The more this is examined the clearer it becomes that it is a cruel act of injustice to the genuine unemployed men and women of this country. It is the penalising of the innocent victims of this industrial system of ours. I know that the mind of the Government is made up and that it is useless to appeal to them to take a broader and more humane view of this matter and do away with this anti-social and unjust penalty on the genuine unemployed.

5.23 a.m.

Mr. McGOVERN

I do not intend to spend much time on the Regulations. This is a complete travesty of Parliamentary and constitutional Government. Members must confess to their constituents that they have no power to alter the Regulations and that is Fascism in its most extreme form. It is a Fascist Measure by a Fascist board created by a Fascist-minded Government. It is a confession of the Government's inability to find useful employment for the millions of human beings in this country who have at present no employment. The Order is being piloted by one who is performing the dual role of a Liberal in politics and a Tory in office. He also appears in the nature of a lay preacher. He has transformed what he propagates in the pulpit from "Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven" into "It will be done in Heaven for it will never be done on earth." We see this Minister who has climbed into office by condemnation of those with whom he has associated. He has jumped, as some of the previous leaders of the Labour party jumped, into the National Government because there was big money going there, and prospects.

We are told that under these Regulations more is to be spent on the unemployed, but if they were going to spend much additional money on the unemployed the continuance of the Board and the means test would be of no value to the capitalist classes. These new Regulations are largely brought in not with the object of lessening the hardships of the unemployed but of continuing them. The final tribunal will meet in places where men and women congregate; they will tell of the sufferings, and develop a unity in action that will defeat the Government and the Regulations, and forge a weapon that will be used for the advantage of the common people. The Regulations are not even accepted by the rank-and-file of the Conservative party. I came from Glasgow yesterday with the organiser and agent of the National Government candidate in my division. He talked of the havoc that was being played by the Regulations. He had tried to understand them, and believed there was no more humanity in them than in the previous Regulations. He said he was prepared to support a personal means test but would certainly Vote for the abolition of the family means test. That was typical of the views of the rank and file if the Conservative party.

The leaders of the National Government gave what we intended, for electioneering purposes, to be a pledge that the family means test would be abolished. They have double-crossed the electors, and in that respect they are cheap frauds and liars. The leader of the Government conveyed the pledge in his broadcast address and in his speeches, and it was his intention to convey that impression. Even in the division I represent I could fight an election on the simple issue of the means test, and double the majority I had at the General Election.

Mr. BUCHANAN

I challenge the Minister to resign. I will take him on in Leith.

Mr. McGOVERN

I could go to Leith and get an overwhelming majority for the abolition of the family means test. I admit that I might not get a majority for the abolition of the personal means test. If hon. Members were honest with themselves, their consciences and their constituencies, they would go into the Lobby against the application of the family means test in every form. These Regulations will of course go through with a docile, whipped majority brought in from the clubs and institutions and the first-class homes in the London area—a gang of sheep, cudgelled by threats of what will happen to them if they do not obey the party machine. The trouble we are faced with to-day is that the Government recognise that there was a demand for the abolition of the Board, but having created the Board they were afraid to demolish it because that would mean a tremendous loss of prestige. They would have been wiser and more astute political leaders if they had abolished the Board and cut out the means test.

I listened to the speeches made by Members on the Government side of the House, and they were not so enthusiastic as the hon. Gentlemen suggest. I have heard since seven o'clock some of the most critical speeches made in this House against the means test. Two Government supporters denounced it in every shape and form and declared their intention of going into the Lobby against it. That does not show me that they are very enthusiastic for it. I say to the Minister that this policy of the means test is condemned by every single body of intelligent people throughout the country. We do know that the members of the Board will minimise the evil effects of the means test, but those in active touch with the working-class life know that homes have been broken up, that bickerings have broken out as a result of it, and that the children themselves have been denied the ordinary amenities of life that they ought to expect and enjoy. We pass the means test for those who provide the means for others to live in parasitical luxury.

Contrast to-night with what happened a few months ago when the Royal Family allowances were under discussion, when £70,000 a year was provided. No means test was suggested for the parasities of society, but a means test is applied to the workers who create the wealth. You are pursuing a policy of the destruc- tion of the home by the application of cuts and niggardly means tests and you have entered into a policy of preparing for war. You hope to use the victims of the means test to defend your bank balances and the wealth which you have wrung from the workers. My advice to the unemployed is to resist the means test, to resist low pay and scales, and when the time comes, when they are handed weapons to defend the ruling classes, to remember who their enemy is, that he is the enemy within the shores of this country and to take these weapons and use them on the ruling classes.

I hope that before these Regulations are over every progressive section in the working-class movement will unite on a common basis to destroy the Regulations, because if they are united they can stop the Regulations.

Mr. BAXTER

May I ask a question, not to score a point over the hon. Member? He has spoken about the breaking up of the family by the means test, and I want to ask why life in this country is so different from that in Canada. In Canada, where I was brought up as a boy, if our brothers or our parents fell by the wayside, it was a matter of honour for us to look after them. I believe that is why family life in Canada is so strong. Why is it so different at home?

Mr. McGOVERN

The hon. Member has brought me from this House to Canada, and I could point out that we are dealing with those who have wealth. Could not a certain amount of that wealth be used to keep those without means?

Mr. BAXTER

How would you know wealth without the means test?

Mr. McGOVERN

I can only say to the hon. Member that if there is a desire by Members of this House to have a complete statement from the Government as to the whole of the resources of Members for the purpose of assisting those who are at the bottom I am prepared to assist. In regard to the position in Canada, I can only say to the hon. Member who raised this question that in this country we believe in a policy that if, even with declining capitalism, there should be a shortage, then those who create the wealth should receive the goods rather than those who create no wealth at all. I am prepared to reduce correspondingly in order to help others. An hon. Member said he thought persons should be concerned with the man at the bottom, and I am prepared to give my quota to any attempts that the hon. Gentleman and his friends will make to that end. I believe that these Regulations will be defeated eventually. I believe that the Minister will be sacrificed like many other Ministers in the National Government in the past. I observe that whenever a singularly dirty piece of work has to be done by a member of the Government, it is the Liberal and Labour Members who are selected for the job. In the case of taking away the Government of Newfoundland, it was the former Member for Derby who was responsible, and in the case of breaking up family life and imposing a means test it is the right hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown). He is the Man Friday of the National Government on this occasion. His job is to try to put these Regulations through. My job is to try to put him through it by means of the people in the country, and if we can, with the Labour party, the Independent Labour party, the Communist party, and the trades unions united on this issue in this country, we will defeat your Regulations and your National Government, and we will forge the weapons which can take power and suppress you, as you have suppressed the working classes by these Regulations.

5.52 a.m.

Mr. L. SMITH

It may be of interest to the House to have another point of view from that of those hon. Members on the other side best qualified to exaggerate.

Mr. COCKS

On a point of Order. The hon. Member is throwing challenges across the House. We are ready to answer his challenges, but he will not give way.

Mr. SMITH

Not only do we hear exaggerated criticisms, but there is a feeling of great disappointment which is entirely on that side of the House. We who have the discomfort of sitting up all night have the consolation of realising that these Regulations are so much better and more acceptable to the work- ing people of this country. Had it not been so this demonstration which we are experiencing from the other side of the House would certainly never have taken place, because they would have realised that they could have left it to the workers of the country to bring to them complaints about the Regulations, rather than for the speakers to-night to have to go into the highways and byways of the country and rake up people to find fault. We on this side of the House are told that we are hypocrites, that we are responsible for employing wage slaves, that these Regulations are a punishment and not a benefit; and we are told that we are grinding the faces of the poor, and that we are a gang of sheep. I think it is high time, if hon. Members on this side of the House are accused in this sort of way, that we stood up and pointed out to those who have so terribly exaggerated about these Regulations that they are grinding the face of the worker.

I have spent the whole of my life in engineering works, and I have, for the last 30 years, devoted my time—other than that which I have spent in this House in the last eight years—in touch with workers in that industry. For the first seven or eight years of my life in engineering I was working with them. I know the problems, as well as any hon. Member on the other side of the House, with which we have to deal in the Regulations, and when we hear the criticisms which we have heard, I ask myself, What country is there in the world that first of all can find the means for giving about £40,000,000 in this branch of help for the workers, which is only a small percentage of the total social services which we are giving in this country. What country is there in the world that can compare with what we are doing? Not only is the benefit in this country so very much more than in any other country in the world, but to-day we are doing very much more than was done a few years ago when hon. Members on the other side of the House were in control.

What do we find in these Regulations? I say most deliberately that the hon. Members who have spoken to-night have, to use a colloqualism, "missed the boat" entirely. They have stated definitely that, though a few years ago they were not in favour of abolishing the means test or the test of need, to-night, with very few exceptions, they are all in favour of abolishing the test of need. They have also told us that they are advocating the same amount of maintenance or benefit under the Regulations as men are working for in industry. In the case of the previous Regulations the necessity for their withdrawal was certainly not because of the test of need but because of certain details of the Regulations, particularly connected with the rent rule, the super-cut, and several other points which have been altered in these Regulations. When hon. Members opposite go into the country in the course of the next week or two and tell the people—a great many more of whom are obtaining employment every month—that they are in favour, not only of abolishing every test of need, but of paying to a man who unfortunately has no work the same as a man who is in full work, then the 10,000,000 or 11,000,000 workers will turn round and say, "We do not believe in that, and we are certainly not going to stand for it." Moreover, there is no doubt that whatever the men say, the women are not going to stand for it.

Miss WILKINSON

How do you know?

Mr. SMITH

They will oppose men who are in full work receiving no more recompense for their labour than those who, unfortunately, at the present time have no work at all. The women are not going to stand for the test of need being done away with, when, as in many cases, they see money coming into a home—three and four times as much as is coming into the home of a man and his wife, the man being in full work. The wives of the workers are certainly not in favour of there being no test of need and of payment being made regardless of the seven or eight pounds frequently coming to the home.

Under these Regulations the scale rates are higher, the super-cut has been abolished, and the rent allowances, which in the past have been a matter of considerable difficulty, have been adjusted. The earnings rules have been made much more easy, and we are told by the Minister of Labour that the increased cost during the first period will be at the rate of £750,000 per annum. There are also under these new Regulations arrangements made for very much more sympa- thetic and humane treatment of all those who unfortunately are in this position. One can only say how pleased we are that officials of a Government Department are taking such humane and sympathetic interest in the details of the lives of these individuals. We have seen a great change towards these Regulations since they were first presented, and I feel sure that when those who have spoken to-night go back into their constituencies in the next month or six weeks and attempt to waken the country, as they say, to the revolt that they anticipate, they will be bitterly disappointed, and the Regulations will be accepted by the workers as a real and useful way of getting over the difficulties of this great problem.

6.6 a.m.

Mr. LANSBURY

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is not possible for someone on the front Bench representing the Government to reply to the many questions which have been put to them? There has been no Government spokesman since early yesterday. The Home Secretary was expected to reply. We were led to suppose that one representative of the Government would speak after the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). Apart from that, we have had no reply, not only to the criticisms from this side, but from the Government's side. Is it treating the House with courtesy for the Government to take up the attitude that they can treat with contempt not only the Opposition but hon. Members on their own side?

Mr. SPEAKER

If the right hon. Gentleman is appealing to me, I have no control over speakers. The only control I have is in regard to catching the Speaker's eye.

Mr. STEPHEN

On a point of Order. May I ask you whether, in view of this long discussion and of the fact that there are so many question that have been asked in regard to these Regulations, if an answer could be given to some of them it might not have the effect of shortening the discussion. I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, as guardian of the House, and through you to the Government, that if some of these questions were answered, it must cut out some of the other speakers.

Mr. KELLY

On a point of Order. We have noticed that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has been in and taken great interest in the discussion. We feel sure his only purpose in being present was to deal with many of the questions put with regard to Lancashire. Surely we are going to have some reply?

Mr. SPEAKER

That is not a point of Order.

6.8 a.m.

Mr. PRITT

The hon. Member for the Hallam division (Mr. L. Smith) accused some of my hon. Friends of exaggeration. Having listened with attention to his speech, I think he will concede that we have not the monopoly of it on these Benches. Like everybody in the House, except the hon. Member for Hallam, I want to attack the means test, but in doing so I want to see it in its proper setting. To begin with, as has been said, we are perhaps the wealthiest country in the world. As the hon. Member said, what other country could afford to spend £40,000,000 on this particular form of supporting the capitalist system? The answer is that if necessary the U.S.S.R. could do it and, if it had the sense, the U.S.A. could do it. The important thing is that this country could spend £80,000,000 or £120,000,000 on it without feeling it. It can enrich the friends of the hon. Member for Hallam by preparing for the next war, and it could just as well spend the money on a productive service. I shall refer in a few moments to a document emanating from great industrial concerns like those with which the hon. Member is associated, which describes the maintenance of the unemployed as an unproductive activity. Some of us regard it as productive. Not only are we dealing here with a country of this great wealth, but with a period of the greatest potential productivity in the world. This unemployment problem is partly the result of that great productivity. Some hon, Members, who seem to own this country and manage or mismanage it, have discovered that they can get all they want by only using about two-thirds of the proletariat for work.

If this were an intelligently arranged country, the problem of these unemployed would be called the problem of leisure, and it would be solved. It is simply regarded of a problem of people we could manage to get on without, and the question is whether you should let them starve or half starve. The Government have boasted that we have reached such a state of civilisation that no less than half our population have got enough to eat. Now we are facing the problem of the extent to which we should allow the other half to live. This is not a question of a sudden emergency. It is being accepted on the other side of the House as a permanent and stationary feature of what they call our civilisation that there should be these unemployed people getting slowly or rapidly, nearer and nearer starvation. Fine words do not butter parsnips, or, as one hon. Member would say, water carrots. These people and their dependants are somewhere round about two or three millions of the population. What have the Government done? After a prolonged period of gestation, longer than is required by an elephant, they have produced these Regulations, and here and there somebody gets a bit more and here and there somebody gets a bit less. The fundamental thing behind the whole business is still Bumble—how little can we give them? As the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has said, we must keep it going as an insurance against revolution. The bankers, industrialists, and merchants control this country and the Government and dictate the spirit in which these Regulations have been drafted.

No one knows how many times these Regulations have gone backwards and forwards between the Board and the Minister. The industrialists, bankers, and merchants to whom millions spent in preparation for war are at once a dividend in themselves and a hope of insurance against loss of their properties—they are people to whom the worker's home is an item in the cost of production which must be cut down in order to compete with other people in other parts of the world. I was going to say that the industrialists were the paymasters of the Government. They are half burglars and half remittance men. If they do not make a profit by themselves, they go round to Whitehall to have a lot of money given to them, and the unemployed are given enough to prevent a revolution. There have been many negotiations in the course of years between the Government and the federation of employers' organisations. Sometimes you find the Government are getting their orders how to deal with trade unions. You find some of these very frank. The means test must be applied, allowances must not be too large, the sons of the unemployed can go into the Army. We cannot afford to allow £8,000,000 battleships to go short of powder and paint.

In 1931 they came out naked and unashamed. They pointed out that by fixing higher rates of unemployment benefit, you in a large measure undermine the general standard of wage levels and make it difficult, if not impossible, to rectify maladjustments. The true motive for keeping the means test and keeping the Regulations down as much as you dare is that you may not find it difficult to rectify maladjustments. A wage is maladjusted when it rises from £2 10s. to £2 17s. 6d. You will be able to meet the trade unions across the table so much better. You will not have to complain, as you did before, that having regard to the high rates of benefit it is only natural that trade unions are disinclined, in wages negotiations, to take some account of the necessity of adjusting wages to levels at which industries—does it not sound sweet?—can absorb the unemployed, and pay dividends. What these gentlemen described in 1931 as "the progressive demoralisation of the system"—they were having regard, not to capitalism, but to the fact that the dole had almost approached being enough money to live on—had for many years been sapping enterprise and initiative. With a series of ramps in 1931 they managed for a time to put an end to a progressive demoralisation of the system, and the 17s. was reduced to 15s. 3d. by the same spirit that grudges every penny of the money for boots, butter, margarine, dignity, and cigarettes.

These profound economists said that continued State borrowing on a vast scale would quickly call in question the stability of the British financial system. No hon. Member on the Government side had called attention to the fact that vast expenditure on armaments would quickly call in question the stability of the financial system. The authors of this document can claim to be at the bottom of the means test. They demanded that existing rates of unemployment benefit should be reduced by one-third, that unemployment insurance benefit should not be paid unless there were six contributions for every benefit, and that there should be a special fund administered on a means test basis. I do not know whether it would be right or proper to question the appropriate Minister about how many baronetcies followed that book.

Mr. L. SMITH

Is the hon. and learned Member taking his text from the Regulations we have been discussing for three days, or a pamphlet of three or four years ago?

Mr. PRITT

I am taking my text from the document which was the overture to the grand opera which led up to fastening of the means test on millions of citizens, which has been fastened on them from then until now, and which will disappear in an unexaggerated hullaballoo of public indignation before next November. The spirit that informed and inflamed the authors of this document, which has been breathed in from them to the Government, is a spirit that would restore the women chain-makers of Cradley Health. Is there anybody who supposes that if public indignation prevents these Regulations from coming into force, so that new Regulations to be brought in under which another £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 a year will be spent, and that will shake the financial stability of the country—even if you added £300,000,000 or £400,000,000 extra in preparing for the next war which your foreign policy is helping to cause?

Major PROCTER

How was it then that the last £20,000,000 given for the specific purpose mentioned by the hon. and loyal Member did bring disaster to the country, if it were not for the fact that the Labour Government was in Office?

Mr. PRITT

I do not think I should answer that at great length. I can explain it to the hon. and gallant Member by means of pamphlets costing from one penny to sixpence, or in a half-crown book. The silly lie that the Labour Government caused the criis of 1931 was openly repudiated by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and other leaders of the Government before the year was out, and as soon as it had done its dirty work. I wish the Labour Government had been powerful enough to cause a crisis. If it had, it would have been powerful enough to build a decent England. The crisis of 1931 was caused by the ulceration of capitalism in America, Vienna, Berlin, and London. It hit England a little less badly than other countries, this being a rather rich country, and it is even now—in spite of the National Government—recovering so well from the crisis that some impartial economists state that in the list of countries that have recovered Great Britain stands sixth.

Since the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) is alive again, I will say a word to him about Canada. He mentioned that when people are down-and-out their relatives look after them. I have known of cases where the relatives could not look after them and they died of starvation. People stand round each other there and it is just as well, because there is nothing else for them to do. Why should the family be broken up? If you have an undeserved misfortune to one member of a family and the other members have resources to deal with it, it is very nice to say they stand round. If you take a family which has had undeserved misfortune thrust upon it by the capitalist system and the man is thrown out of work, the country that will spend three or four hundred million pounds on munitions will give that man no money because his daughter is working her fingers to the bone at 12s. a week selling rubbish to rubbishy people, and she has to keep her father.

Mr. BAXTER

If I thought my question about Canada would have brought forth such lying and sneering remarks about Canada—

Mr. PRITT

If the hon. Member calls me a liar I know I am right.

Mr. BAXTER

I know I am right.

Mr. PRITT

It has been said that the Government, not by lying and sneering, promised at the last Election to get rid of the means test. A very distinguished Member of the Government said that if the administration of the means test was not reformed he would resign from the Government. That statement was made on October 30th, 1985, by the Lord President of the Council. Some hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred to the way in which this affects their constituencies. I represent a constituency which is commonly regarded as relatively prosperous. There is one incident of eleven people living in two rooms, and there is only about one tenth of the constituency which is really a grim slum. No more than half my constituency is grossly overcrowded. Unemployment is below 10 per cent. My constituency is a model of prosperity in the capitalist year of 1935. Let us see how the means test affects my constituency. I was asked at the last Election to go to see two people—not ordinary working people—and I found the man had been out of work for long enough to bring him under the means test. They were not young people and they had spent 30 to 40 years building up a decent home. They had a visit from an officer of the Board who, according to the Minister of Labour, is received with baked meats and buns when he goes into the homes of the people. He said it was a nice home and he pointed out that they had a sofa they could sell and they need not come on the means test. I heard later that the man had got work through the National Government and I hope he is still there. I do submit to the House that the reasons for this must be financial. The controllers of the Government know that once you give a reasonable maintenance, then the workers of the country will demand a living wage.

6.39 a.m.

Mr. BATEY

I want to express my regret that Members should have to consider these Regulations in the early hours of the morning. The Government took 76 weeks to consider these Regulations, and after that there was long consideration by the Minister of Labour and the Government. I submit that we are entitled to more time to consider these Regulations than we have had. The Minister of Labour more than once in the House said that he was giving serious consideration to the Regulations. The Prime Minister said the self-same thing. He said that he was giving, and the Government were giving, serious and prolonged consideration to the Regulations. Even the Government manifesto, which was issued at the General Election, said that the Government were giving close and serious consideration to the Regulations. These Regulations do not bear the stamp of having received serious consideration, either at the hands of the Minister of Labour, at the hands of the Prime Minister or of the Board. Clearly and plainly these are Regulations which have been decided upon in a moment. Practically speaking, there is no difference between them and the old ones. The new ones rest upon the same principles as the old ones, and we are entitled to say to the Government that we should have had altogether different Regulations from these.

I want to draw the Minister's attention to the Government manifesto issued at the General Election. It contains a statement by the present Prime Minister, the Lord President of the Council, and the present Home Secretary. There are one or two other statements made that I want the Minister to deal with. On page 78 they say: The standstill arrangements are, as they were always intended to be, temporary. They must be replaced by permanent arrangements which must remedy certain abuses. I want to direct the Minister's attention to those words. They are saying that the new Regulations must remedy certain abuses. What did the Government mean by "certain abuses" in the old Regulations which are to be remedied in the new ones? There is no abuse which existed under the old Regulations which does not exist in the new ones, so that the Government's promise that they would remedy certain abuses has not been carried out. Again, the manifesto says: The question is not whether there should be a means test but what that means test should be. This is a matter which is under close examination, but in any scheme great importance will be attached to maintaining the unity of family life. There is nothing in these new Regulations to maintain the unity of family life, and the Government pledge that in any scheme great importance would be attached to maintaining the unity of family life. The Government in that manifesto deliberately deceived the country, made a statement that is proved by these new Regulations to be absolutely untrue, and therefore we are entitled to say that the Government obtained votes during the Election by making a statement which was deceiving the public. The Minister of Labour, on 31st March, dealt with and magnified the same point. On an Adjournment Debate on the question of the means test the Minister of Labour referred to the Government manifesto and gave about six points to claim that the manifesto had been carried out. This is one point he gave: Steps will be taken in connection with the means test to do the utmost to avoid the breaking up of family life. I would have liked the Minister, when he was delivering his speech on Tuesday, to have said what the Government were doing to avoid the break-up of family life. In these new Regulations the Government are deliberately taking steps to break up family life, just as under the old Regulations, and it is because the Government are not doing anything in the new Regulations to prevent the break-up of family life that we are entitled to say that the Government are not carrying out their pledge to the country. I will refer to the Glasgow case and the Minister.

Mr. BUCHANAN

Surely you are not satisfied with it.

Mr. BATEY

I do not think there is anything this Government could do that I could be satisfied with. I am certainly not satisfied with that case. We have many cases in our towns and villages. We have many cases where the father is unemployed and has two sons who are working, and that means that the Government pay no dole at all to that father. Last Saturday night and last week-end I addressed four large public meetings in my division on these Regulations. After speaking at one meeting a man said to me "I have been unemployed for a long time. I have a son who is working. Because my son is working I am only paid 13s. per week. When my son works half a shift overtime that half-shift overtime means that the officer reduces my benefit below the 13s." The man told me that his son had said "Father, they wanted me to work on Sunday, but if I did work on Sunday it would simply mean that more would be stopped for earnings." If he had worked half a shift overtime they would have taken these earnings of the young man into account. So that young man refused to go to work on the Sunday.

I have a letter from the Minister dated only 20th July, in answer to another case. I have here the letter setting out the case, which shows the hardship, but it seems to me that it would fare no better under the new Regulations. Here a son writes on behalf of his father and says: When the means test was first put into operation my father was deprived of benefit owing to the fact that I, the only child, was earning sufficient to support my parents. The son goes on to say that he had recently been married and had left home. The father applied for benefit, which was allowed, and he stayed on it for one week, and then received notice to appear before the court of referees, who disallowed his claim. There is the case of a man who was stopped from having benefit because of his son's earnings. The son gets married and the father cannot get his benefit. This is what the Minister said in his reply to me: When Mr. Robinson made his claim on 6th June, he was unable to satisfy the Board's statutory condition for the receipt of benefit which requires a claimant to show payment of not less than 30 contributions in respect of the two years immediately preceding the date of his claim. He was there-for ineligible for unemployment benefit. Let us see how that affects the man. Will he be refused benefit under these new Regulations? It may be said he is not entitled to benefit. That is a condition of things which can continue under the new Regulations and the Minister ought to do something to remedy it.

Here is another case which I received only this morning. It says: My case is that I am receiving 11s. a week dole and my wife gets 15s. for a boy killed in action. You might ask in the House if they intend this to go on under the new Regulations. It is hard lines after working 47 years in the pit to become a pauper. Never been in a court of law, never owed a penny, and am a hard-working, respectable citizen. I have been idle this year. Savings all gone. … I will not stand for this kind of thing. I want to submit that here is a man only receiving 11s. a week for himself and wife because his wife is receiving 15s. a week for the loss of a son in war service. There is another case that will continue under the new Regulations. We were entitled to expect that when the Regulations came in this kind of thing would be done away with.

I want to deal with some other cases which I have put before the House before without getting any satisfaction. I ask the Minister whether these cases will continue under the new Regulations. There is the case of a father and mother with two sons and a daughter. The father and sons were idle and received 46s. a week. The father received 28s., and the two sons 9s. each, making 46s. The father started work on 18th November last, earning 35s. a week. Since the father started work they have reduced the two sons' benefit to 5s. each. After the father started work the income was 45s., whereas when the father was idle they got 46s. In other words, they lost a shilling a week by the father starting work. I have no hesitation in saying that that is the kind of case that will continue under the new Regulations. In another case there were a father and mother with six children—one son of 16, another son of 14, two daughters aged 12 and 10, a son of six and a son of one year. The father is idle and the son of 16 is earning 14s. a week. The son of 14 started work on 9th October last, earning 12s. As soon as that second son started work, earning 12s., the father's benefit was reduced from 28s. to 26s. That will continue under the new Regulations, and it is a shame.

A specific case was put to the Minister of Labour last week. A man and wife were receiving 24s. a week and, for the rent, 4s. The Minister of Labour did not reply whether the man would receive the 24s. or whether that would be reduced. The Minister sheltered behind the advisory committee, upon whose recommendation would depend the amount of the benefit the man would receive. I object to the Minister, or the Board, sheltering behind the advisory committee. The advisory committee will have to bear all the kicks and the blame for the unsatisfactory position with regard to the amount of the benefit. Any trade unionist, or Labour man, who becomes a member of these committees and acts as a shelter for the Government would be a traitor to the working-class movement. The Government are alone responsible for these Regulations and no Labour man or trade unionist should be a shelter for the Government. The Government should bear all blame. If there are no available resources, and that happens in a huge number of cases, and a man and his wife who were receiving 26s. get only 24s. a week, that will make us worse in the county of Durham than when the Commissioners were there. The scale rates are far too low and are not sufficient for people to live as they ought to live.

I have here a report which is one of the finest I have read. It is from the Spennymoor Settlement Adult School. They discussed the question and took a man, his wife and three children of five, nine and 12 years of age with an income for these five of 37s. 6d. per week. They allocated the money as follows: 9s. for rent; clothes 3s. 6d.; fuel 2s. 3d.; light 1s. 6d.; food 15s.; milk 1s.; doctor 6d.; insurance 6d.; newspapers 6d. and fixed charges 1s. 6d. They allow 15s. for food, which amounts to 3s. per week per head, 5d. per day or one penny farthing per meal for four meals a day. We cannot build up men and women on that standard. This examination has been done by the unemployed and they have gone thoroughly into the question. The scale of the Board is not sufficient. The School had been discussing that budget for a week. Any additional expenditure would have unbalanced the budget.

The report further states: Illnesses of a minor nature are the chief causes of changes in expenditure because money has to be found to provide at least a more nourishing diet for the patient. It is acknowledged that the Unemployment Assistance Board allowances can be increased in the case of illness, but such illness has to be certifiable. A cold which lasts a couple of days; a burn or scald which any child might receive; toothache, etc., are hardly a reason for a doctor's certificate. And yet a cold requires some corrective, a burn requires oil and a dressing, a tooth ache requires the services of a dentist. All of these things require money. There is a good deal of sickness that is not certifiable but still requires the spending of money in the attempt to check any complicated or dangerous illness, and yet an extra allowance is made only when the serious effects of illness can be seen and certified. On the question of food I want to read this: The curve of food consumption is one that shoots quickly up to its maximum on pay day and thereafter declines more or less sharply until the day before pay day when it is at its minimum. This means that there are certain days when food is scarce. Some saving on food expenditure is effected by having more scarce days. Here is what they say on the question of coal: As 2 cwt. of good coal is as cheap and better than 3 cwt. of bad coal, no saving is effected by buying cheap coal. Where gas rinks or cookers were installed little use was made of them. … The chief form of economy in the use of coal is to concentrate the tasks of baking, etc., on those times that there is a large fire burning. The most important time is Sunday when fresh meat is cooked. … This arrangement of economising fuel means that the woman has to start on a new heavy task of baking after she has finished an already heavy task. It is not lack of ingenuity but limits of endurance that prevents any further saving. In times of sickness, the kitchen is turned into a bedroom in order that the patient might have the benefit of a fire which is necessary when bed clothing is thin and meagre. That Adult School proves that the Unemployment Assistance Board scale under the new Regulations is far from being sufficient, and we would be justified on those grounds in opposing the Regulations. Some of us have strong opinions on the means test. I am not only opposed to a household means test and a family means test but to the personal means test. I never see many working men with a large amount of money. The Government is wasting huge sums on administration, 20 or 50 times more than it is saving.

I refuse to believe that the means test would ever have been imposed but for the events in 1931 when the country was led to believe that it was necessary for everybody, even the unemployed, to economise. Had it not been an economy measure the country would not have stood for it being inflicted on the unemployed. No one can argue to-day that there was any justification for a means test on the ground of economy, because the Government had millions for everything they wanted. The means test was putting the unemployed on a Poor Law basis. The House was not justified in doing that. The Government could find employment for great numbers of the workless if they had the will to do it. Sometimes when one thinks of the millions and millions that the Government is spending one realises that the Government is simply robbing the unemployed for the capitalists of this country. There is no question that it is simply a system of profit-taking from the unemployed, from the last sixpence they can cut. Sometimes one thinks that Dick Turpin was a gentleman compared with the Minister of Labour. Dick Turpin was a highwayman and he took from the rich, but the Minister of Labour is taking from the poor. The whole system of the Government under these new proposals is to continue this system of robbing the poor.

I would ask hon. Members to remember that one of their own party, Sir Benjamin Darcy, in a speech reported in the "Yorkshire Post" after a visit to some of these areas, said, "I felt thoroughly ashamed of my country, thoroughly ashamed of the National Government and of the Conservative party. The pigs on my farm are better housed and fed than the people I saw. I blame the Conservative party and also the Churches of all denominations for this great poverty." One is glad when a Member of the Conservative party has the courage to speak out on a matter like this. I believe that the people of this country, when they come to understand these Regulations, when they come to find out that these Regulations are no better than the old Regulations, will rise against these Regulations and will throw over these new Regulations as they did the old.

7.23 a.m.

Mr. W. A. ROBINSON

I think that the course this Debate has taken shows the importance of the matter. I want to say first of all quite definitely that I and my colleagues are opposed to any means test whatsoever. Let me carry the House back to the time of the General Election. I submit that in many centres in the country Labour and Socialist candidates had no hesitation in pledging their views that they were against a means test. It ill becomes the Government people in the House to-day to say that they stood and fought at the Election, as the hon. Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) did, for a means test. With all respect to the hon. Member, surely one cannot take her word seriously. Only two or three weeks ago she told me —a household man with a wife and seven children—that my wife did not know how to feed my family with carrots and water, and that they were sufficient for myself and my family. She can tell us what she said for a means test in Dundee, but what we really want to examine is the value of working men and women in industry. The hon. Member mentioned trade board rights. I happen to know that the jute trade in Dundee has lived and prospered on trade board rights. I should imagine the reason for her support in Dundee is the want of knowledge by some voters of the things we stand for.

No one will deny that the most human note struck in this House was the note struck by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), when he said that men receiving compensation for industrial accidents came under the means test. I will give one case. A man whom I know well who was working at steel casting on an emery wheel, blinded one eye and was told that the second eye might be affected. He accepted compensation on a one-eye blindness basis, because he had not got much money. Ultimately two eyes became affected, and crawling round the streets to-day is a blind man. Whatever compensation he gets is limited and settled legally. He is compelled to subsidise, under the means test, the possible needs of his sons and daughters. There is no need to emphasise what has been stated many times regarding those who look for the possible oncoming of a rainy day and have some savings. Next door to the one that saved may live a wild fellow who does not value money like his next-door neighbour. You got that type of man in the old prosperous days of the cotton trade of Lancashire. But to get their savings, these people have had to leave their beds at five in the morning and have worked hard. They saved for an annual holiday and for sickness. Why should officials under any system of means test, applied by any Government, walk inside a workman's house and ask what savings he has got? The person next door might have earned just as much, or twice, but spent it in good cheer, as he was entitled to do. When troublous times come this happy man who has lived his life and spent his money gets his money without challenge. The careful soul next door, who scrounged and saved, is told, "You can have nothing until you have spent what you have saved."

It is a tax on thrift. I was told in my schoolboy days "Save the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves." And now this great Government, upsetting all the texts, is saying: "Take care of the pennies and we will pinch the pounds from you." It is all wrong. In the long sustained Debate over these Regulations my mind was turned back to my youthful days. The sweetest prayer I ever heard was the old Quaker's prayer which said: "God forgive me while some starve." I challenge any hon. or right hon. Members in this House to say that when voting for those Regulations they have fully considered their implications. I have some very bright ideas: they are not peculiar. I believe that mankind in a great world of plenty has a human right to live and it cannot be taken away. You have no right to assume that the basis of calculation of your Regulations is fair. I have taken part in many negotiations in regard to wage questions. There exists by settlement and agreement between employers and workpeople in certain trades rates of pay and conditions which are deserving of high appreciation. It has taken long thought and negotiation to bring about conditions which give households a living wage. I live in Liverpool and I come from a gravely distressed area. In my constituency of St. Helens there are many hundreds of people who will be compelled to accept whatever may be settled by this House as the Regulations for the Unemployment Assistance Board. Some hon. Members—I do not say all, because some hon. Members are too sensible to take other than a sane point of view—seemed to think that many of those who apply to the Board are scroungers. That is not correct. There have been hon. Members on both sides of the House who have testified that these men and women do not want Unemployment Assistance or Unemployment Insurance rates if they can get work. The most pitiful sight that can be seen week by week is the growing congregation of both sexes outside the juvenile unemployment centres—young people of 14, 16, 17 and 18 years of age.

The rates in these Regulations are bound to go through if the Government whips are responded to. I addressed a meeting last Sunday, attended by 5,000 people. I wish that members of the Government could have been at that meeting, at which we discussed the Regulations. Hon. Members speak about our organising a revolt. Why, we were attacked by the rank-and-file in the other direction. Do not blame us for conspiring and do not accuse us of falsely agitating against the Regulations. The soul and heart of mankind will revolt. Although I have no respect for some of the views that are held politically, I have a great faith that the heart of mankind is right. If it is not right, civilisation will finish. I would say to hon. Members opposite "You will beat us by your votes to-night; you are bound to do so, for the Whips will be responded to. But you will beat us by your votes only. You have lost the argument and you have not been able to make out your case. You will win by brute force, but do not complain if your victory by brute force recoils and brings victory to the people."

7.48 a.m.

Mr. BARR

I should like to come back to the speech delivered by the Noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass), who represents a division of the same county as that in which I have the honour to represent a constituency. No one would have thought from his speech that he represented far and away the most distressed county in Scotland. We have received some figures which show that the gross grant in respect of persons who were within the scope of the 1934 Act had, for Lanarkshire, amounted last year to no less than £107,526. Similar gross grants for Coatbridge and Airdrie, which I have the honour to represent, were, for Coatbridge, £10,005, and for Airdrie, £5,859. I am sorry that the Minister of Labour is not here, because I wish to refer to some of the remarks he made when introducing these Regulations. He said, for one thing, that there was no trumpet sounding in the country against these Regulations. I think there have been one or two clear trumpets which sounded from behind his own bench. There was the hon. Member for East Newcastle (Sir R. Aske) and the hon. Member for West Salford (Mr. Emery), though I thought from the end of his speech that the hon. Member for West Salford was giving from his trumpet a somewhat uncertain sound. I believe there will be plenty of trumpet-blowing before long, and if I may make a Biblical allusion, the Minister will find that enough trumpet-blowing will soon be heard to cast down the walls of his Jericho. He also said that there was no hurricane blowing against the Regulations and I would have liked to have convinced him that there was a very stiff breeze blowing over the Lanarkshire hills.

I take the burgh of Coatbridge. We have a Labour majority in the town council, but it is only a majority of one. A week last night that council unanimously, Labour men and Moderates alike, passed a very strong resolution demanding the withdrawal of the Regulations. The resolution reads: This town council is of opinion that the meagre standard of life of many persons in Coatbridge will be still further reduced. In another resolution they reiterated their previous opinion that the Government should bear the full financial cost of the able-bodied unemployed. Ex-provost Riddell, who sits as a Moderate on the town council, said that he was in complete agreement with these Resolutions, and that he did not think the Government were acting honestly in this matter. Airdrie town council, a Moderate town council but with only a majority of one over Labour, passed a resolution unanimously on 17th July in which it stated: This town council views with alarm the introduction of the new Unemployment Assistance Board Regulations which disclose that there is to be no substantial betterment of the lot of the unemployed; it deplores the continuance of the family means test and the provisions for scale adjustments on account of low rentals; and calls upon the Government to provide immediate Parliamentary facilities for a new Unemployment Act. The majority of the members of that town council, who on many other matters support the Government, agreed to co-operate with other local authorities in carrying the protest further. It was claimed by the sponsors of these Regulations that they show some progress, and give better benefits for some. We are not disposed to deny that. The Minister of Labour said that they showed improvements compared with what Labour gave under their régime. The Minister might just as well have gone back to 1920, and he would have found in that Act that the benefits were: for men, 15s., and for women 12s. As against that we have now 16s. and 15s. I do not think that it is a fair comparison to compare figures of the past. There is, and should be, a joyful progression forward to higher standards. The Member for West Salford said that we should have vision. The standards of life are always rising, and that is one objection we have to the Regulations. We are not going to have Parliament responsible for the higher demands consequent on the higher standards of living. The report of the Board itself implies that same progression. It speaks of what were luxuries at one time becoming necessities at another. Then the Minister made a good deal of the fact that there would be £750,000 more than in the past to be expended on the unemployed. I do not know what that represents, but I believe that it is 4½d. or 5½d. per week, if divided among the 620,000 who are under the Unemployment Assistance Board. It is a very small and negligible increase. The Minister seemed to realise it was something very small because he went back over four years and said that this increase was on top of an increase of £7,500,000 gathered up over four and a half years. When the Labour party passed their insurance Act on 6th February, 1930, they did not need to go back over years to get increases. They raised the amount spent by the State on unemployment insurance from £12,000,000 to £26,500,000 at one stroke. There has been nothing like that increase in the history of insurance. The hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland) wanted to father the household means test on the Labour party. In 1931 we had in the Labour party what was called a consultative committee. We were supposed to have the fullest knowledge of what was going on, and I say clearly that we never heard of a household means test, or any means test, until the National Government came in in September, 1931, and then we voted against it throughout. The hon. Member also sought to father the means test on the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), and he read from an oft-quoted Circular: It is proper that earnings of widows and children should be taken into account. That is taken from Circular 1069 of the Ministry of Health, and the hon. Mem- ber only quoted one-third of a sentence. The Circular was addressed to boards of guardians in order to humanise the Poor Law. I will read the paragraph: In assessing the amount of relief to be afforded the general principle is that income and means from every source available to the household must be taken into account, subject to the statutory exceptions laid down in Section 76 of the Poor Law Act, 1927. That is as far as the law went. The Circular goes on: It should, however, be remembered that where certain classes of income are concerned, such, for example, as disability pensions or blind pensions, the disability in respect of which the pension has been awarded may be such as to call for a greater measure of assistance than would normally be appropriate. Again, it is proper that the earnings of widows and children should be taken into account"— That is where the hon. Member stopped. Here is the rest of the sentence— when relief is assessed, but it would be reasonable not to deduct the whole amount of such earnings from the relief which would have been afforded had the earnings not existed. I will not give my own opinion on that. I will read the opinion of the "Manchester Guardian" on that Circular the day after it was issued, 4th January, 1930: The Circular is a shining example of the way in which conditions can be bettered without legislation. Under the late Tory Government, pressure was too often exerted towards a less literal interpretation of the guardian's duties. The memorandum issued by Mr. Greenwood indicates a complete change of spirit. There is no suggestion of extravagance or reckless distribution of cash, but there is a sympathetic understanding of the needs of poverty which ought to be at the root of all Poor Law work. The attempt to bring in this Circular as the precursor of the means test is one of the greatest pieces of make-believe and imposture in our generation. As to the means test, was it worth it? The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has calculated that in four years £60,000,000 has been saved by the means test, say £15,000,000 per annum, approximately equal to the cost of His Majesty's Ship "Nelson" and His Majesty's Ship "Rodney" together.

I pass to the effect of the Regulations on the home. There was nothing more beautiful than the way in which families brought into a home and maintained even distant relatives. But whenever you bring into family life that element of compulsion you at once turn the gold of family love into the world's dross. We know the affection we all have for the mother-in-law, but it is a different thing when it is said that you are compelled to maintain her. It is idle to contend that this household means test does not break up the home. The day was when those who held our opinions were accused all over the country of breaking up the home. I entered the School Board of Glasgow in 1903, and there were only three of us out of 14 who were in favour of giving the children milk and feeding them. We find to-day that the party opposite vie with the party on this side as to who will give more milk. The Minister of Health said on Tuesday evening: In particular the Government attach great value to the schemes now in existence for the provision of milk for school children, the provision of school meals and the provision of free or cheap milk for mothers and young children. They have adopted our programme, and they have found that it does not break up the independence of the home. But the means test as it is to-day is responsible for the breaking up of the home. I would like to quote what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said to the House on the subject of the means test on 31st March, 1936: I would like to say that the Old Age Pensions Act which I had taken a part in introducing was a means of weaving together the ties of the family. He then went on to say: Now this household means test which is so much considered at the present time, and which has much to be said for it plausibly at first sight, is found to work a splitting function in regard to this home life, and to invite people in the same family, under the same roof, to ask, 'What are you doing? What are you bringing in?' and to assess in an invidious and meticulous fashion each other's relative contribution to the maintenance of the family circle. I want also to call attention to the meagreness of the provision, and the attitude of mind that lies behind it. The Report of the Public Assistance Board, on page 15, says: The Standstill Act also requires the Board in numerous cases to pay allowances to households, ostensibly on the ground of need, which are simply an abuse of public money. When I read these words I thought I was reading about the benefits paid to tramp shipping. The hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Benjamin Smith) drew attention to the fact on 19th March last in this House that millions of money were being taken out of the taxpayers' pockets in respect of and for the profits of these shareholders. He instanced one shipping company—the Bank Line—that had paid a dividend averaging 11 per cent. per annum over a period of 14 years, and they received a subsidy of £76,780. In the language of the Regulations, being "without resources," they received benefit on the highest scale.

Finally I notice that the Prime Minister a little time ago said we should produce more poets. He seemed to think they would be better than politicians. In this connection there are two pieces of poetry that come into my mind, and one fittingly applies to the Minister of Labour himself. It is by Michael Bruce, whose poem on the Cuckoo, the bird of spring, Edmund Burke praised as "the finest lyric in the English language." It has particular reference to the Minister, as we were promised these Regulations in the spring. Its finest verse is: Sweet bird! thy bower is ever green, Thy sky is ever clear; Thou hast no sorrow in thy song, No winter in thy year. But there is one verse, not so well known, which the poet enables us to put in the very mouth of the Minister of Labour himself: Alas! sweet bird, not so my fate, Dark scowling skies I see Fast gathering round, and fraught with woes And wintry years for me. The other poem is by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and the following verse reflects the thoughts that come to our minds over these Regulations: Yes; I hear the people calling, through the nighttime and the daytime, Wretched toilers in life's autumn, weary young ones in life's Maytime— They are crying, they are calling, for their share of work and pleasure; You are heaping high your coffers, while you give them scanty measure, You have stolen God's wide acres, just to glut your swollen purses. Oh! restore them to His children ere their pleading turns to curses.

8.22 a.m.

Mr. A. JENKINS

I think the quotations were most fitting, and I shall take the opportunity of looking at them again in the OFFICIAL REPORT. During the course of this long Debate I have been a good deal disturbed with the attitude of certain hon. Members opposite who, apparently, have no regard at all for the seriousness of the situation. I think it is perfectly clear that unless the subject we have under consideration is dealt with, it will be a much more difficult situation in the future than it is at the present time. I was greatly surprised at the apparent confidence with which the Minister presented these Regulations. He reminded me very much of the attitude taken up by Members on that side of the House when the previous Regulations were introduced. During the course of that discussion many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite said there was no trouble in the country and then, immediately following the operation of those Regulations, we saw in some parts of the country vast demonstrations, and we are seeing a similar thing happening at the present time. I have attended a demonstration and I shall be attending another demonstration in the constituency of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) next Sunday, and I shall be very surprised if the demonstration is not as large as it was on the previous occasion.

This is the second occasion on which I have taken part in an all-night sitting. In the mines I have often worked double shifts. I am not disturbed about this double shift. I should not mind if I could persuade the Government to look upon the Regulations as they really are. The poor unemployed people who will be under these Regulations are the only section of our community who have not had their cuts restored. In 1931 I acted as a member of the sub-committee of the County Councils' Association when we were told by the two or three economy committees appointed that it was vitally necessary that there should be cuts in salaries all round if we were to save the situation. All these have been restored. I think there is no single exception other than these unemployed people. Why is it that these people are singled out? Are they so much better able to stand the reduction than the others? The fact is that they are the least able to stand a reduction, but they are the people who have had it imposed upon them, and apparently the Government are determined to continue. That seems to me to be most unfair, and I am astonished that the Minister of Labour has made himself responsible for these Regulations.

The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) referred to an experience we had with the Minister of Labour when he was Secretary for Mines. We managed on that occasion to avoid a particularly serious situation in the South Wales coalfields and we established a tribunal for the fixing of wages and we endeavoured to put that industry on a better basis. What is to happen if these Regulations become operative in South Wales? I am informed, on the best authority I can obtain, that they will result in very substantial reductions to those people. I have submitted the whole of these scales, and they have been considered by the public assistance departments of the various local government bodies, and on the information they have they estimate that the whole of South Wales will have a reduction of something approximating to £500,000 a year. That is a startling figure.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when speaking on the subject of the distressed areas in the early part of this year, said that the situation in South Wales and some of the other Special Areas was such that it needed special treatment. Is this special treatment? What will be the effect on purchasing power in the area if the reductions amount to what I say? If the reductions amount to £500,000 a year the Government might just as well turn out of full-time employment in the Welsh coalfields some 8,000 men because the effect will be approximately the same. It is a startling position to have the Government adopt, that of bringing about reductions in the rates of benefit of these people. I took some part in the fixation of the scales which have been operating in the Welsh coalfields. In 1931—not because I liked the means test by any means, for I think it should be abandoned lock, stock and barrel—but as a members of the Monmouthshire County Council it was part of my duty to see the Ministry of Labour on that occasion for the purpose of fixing rates and standards of allowances, and the arrange- ments by which the means test could be operated.

I remember quite distinctly meeting a highly placed official of the Unemployment Board and we discussed these rates quite fully. Ultimately we arrived at a position where we settled that the first son or daughter in a household should be allowed 32s., the second son or daughter 25s., and each succeeding son or daughter 20s. That was not too high by any means. I remember there was some opposition by an official—in fact, there were two officials. I remember putting it to them "Could either one of you work in a Welsh pit for six days a week and live on less than 32s. a week? Let it be said to the credit of one of these officials that he said he could not. I immediately said, "Well, do not ask me or any of my colleagues to go back to South Wales and ask them if they want anything less."

I went back to Monmouthshire and we operated the scales I have indicated, and all that happened was that we got a mild kind of letter from the Ministry of Labour asking us if we would reconsider it. The only opposition that was taken to those rates was that it was not on the known Poor Law basis. The representative who dealt with the Poor Law on that occasion said, "This is unheard of in Poor Law affairs." He could not agree, but the thing has been operating ever since, and now you propose to reduce the amount.

There have been many instances of young people leaving their homes. If the Minister of Labour has any doubt about that I will bring him many instances. Many have been driven from their homes, and I can hardly imagine the Minister being a man who would desire to do that. I have seen him in various capacities, and in one capacity in which he is now very active, namely, in the pulpit. I refer to that because it was published in a local paper published in the Pontypool district of 17th July this year, with this heading: Labour Minister preaches on the text: 'Feed my lambs'". Then the scales were analyzed in very nearly two columns of this newspaper, and the writer says in the analysis he makes that the scales will give meals to a family of the value of 2.84 pence per head. The man who was speaking said: This scale is supported by the man who preached a sermon on the text 'Feed my lambs'". I cannot understand the Minister being one man in the House of Commons and another man in the pulpit. That is far beyond me and what amazes me is that we do get people who adopt these attitudes. Where is the pressure behind the individual? What is the pressure? We have heard of all kinds of stories as to what has been happening between the Board and the Government, and that the Government have been in charge on some occasions and the Board on other occasions. It is extremely difficult to know who is entirely responsible. I do want to make it perfectly plain that the people of that area will be very pleased indeed to hear the right hon. Gentleman go into that same pulpit again and explain, as I hope satisfactorily, the attitudes that are taken up, one in the House of Commons and the other in the pulpit. A colleague of the right hon. Gentleman wrote to me in a letter under date of 19th July: Dear Mr. Jenkins, This afternoon my Bible class at Broad Street Methodist Church was unanimous in passing a resolution deploring the existence of the means test and expressing the most strong disapproval of any reduction of the rates of unemployment benefit on the ground that any further hardship imposed on the already impoverished families is not in conformity with Christian principles, and we urge you to do all that you can to prevent any Bill finding acceptance in the House which will add to the misfortunes of the working classes of our land". The man who wrote this letter does an enormous amount of work among these people. All the time he can he devotes to it. It does astonish me that in an area where the Government have done everything they could for the social services we should have a cut down to these rates. The Government have known that our people could not live on the rates paid to them. One gentleman made a grant of £30,000 to them; the society borrowed another £30,000 and they have promoted a social service scheme. I think they have some 300 men working on farms getting some advantage from them. At the Exchange I got the figures and the unemployed number 6,000 and some of them have been unemployed for five years and more. The Exchange was surrounded by unemployed people and some of them were very excited. I found that the Unemployment Assistance Board was doing a little more than I expected they would do. A man and a wife living in a council house had a room vacant: they were asked by the Board to let part of the house or take in lodgers in order to reduce the amount the Unemployment Assistance Board would have to pay. I have put a question on the Paper, and the Minister may have an opportunity of answering it. I want to know what instructions have been issued. I have ascertained that no printed instructions have been issued to the area office. Apparently the instructions were given in a distant office where we could not get them. It is one of the dangerous things that the Board can issue instructions in that manner.

I take the case of a man who has lived in a house for 20 years. It is a six-room house and the rent is 10s. a week. He has to take in lodgers. It is a most scandalous thing. I have got a letter here from an ex-Service man which reads: In reference to the recent Regulations regarding the household means test, could the writer through you ask Mr. Baldwin to put himself, also his son, in our position for a few months. I have served in India three years on the North-West Indian Frontier and throughout the last Great War. My only son served seven years in the Regular Army and is now a first-class Army reserve, a full corporal and specialist. We are each of us unemployed. The total income coming in—father, son and wife is 43s. and out of that there is rent of 10s. 9d. per week. Under the new Regulations the income, so far as I can see, will be reduced to 36s. I am asking you what have I done to merit this treatment? If the Government have little or no regard for industrial service, have they no regard for military service. Here we have father and son who have been getting 43s. a week. They are now to sustain a substantial reduction. As far as possible I want to convey other people's views and not my own. I have taken two cases which I have examined very carefully. The Minister can have the names if he desires to investigate them. They are cases of dignified but poor people. I will take a case which is not extreme. A man working for many years in a colliery, but now unemployed, and his wife have for some years got under our scale 26s. a week. They have no dependents and no resources. Presumably under the provisions of the Regulations the man would get the same amount.

The point I want to make is that 26s. is totally inadequate. I will read the full particulars of this case. On the income side there is £1 6s. There is a rent charge of 6s. 6d. There is 1s. paid to a clothing club, boots and repairs come to 1s.; light and coal, 2s.; sick club, 9d.; insurance, 6d.; boot and grate polishes, 3d.; cotton and wool, 3d.; repairing bedding, 9d.; soap, etc., 5d.; and matches, 1d. That leaves 12s. 6d. for food for two people. I will give the actual expenditure on food. I want the Minister to examine this and to say to himself "Could I live on that? What would my home be like if I had that amount?" This is the expenditure on food: butter, 1s. 1d.; lard, 2½d.; margarine, 6d.; cocoa, 6d.; cheese, 8½d.; tea, 5½d.; sugar, 8d.; bacon, 10d.; cake, 6d.; meat, 1s. 3d.; potatoes, 1s. 6d.; meat scraps, 6d.; carrots and onions, 3d.; peas, pepper and salt, 5d; sausage, 6d.; milk, 10½d.; rice, 3d.; and bread. 1s. 5½d. These people out of their 12s. 6d. will have to buy each of their four meals per day for 2.67 pence. Who can do it? You cannot do it in your institutions.

I have taken the costings figures from the Ministry of Health, where the purchases are by contract. I have been a member of a local government body and know the advantages of buying by contract. This woman is buying in coppers' worth. I have given her actual expenditure. The Minister can have the name and address and can go to the house and get the information. If hon. Members opposite will persist in saying that a family can live on 26s. a week after evidence like that which I have given, the country will decide, and in my judgment it will decide quickly. I am sure that if the public could be the judges of the figures I have submitted, the Government would not find themselves in the position where they are now. I have taken another case, that of a man and his wife and three children. In this case the wife is ill and the son is ill. The benefit amounted to £1 15s. On doctor's notes the Board paid advances of 1s. 3d. in respect of the wife's illness and 1s. 9d. in respect of the son's illness. These people have an expenditure, apart from food, rent, insurance, clothing, light, coal, matches, candles, soaps and cleaning materials of 17s. 6d. They are left with £1 0s. 6d., out of which they have to feed five people.

It is an even harder case than the previous one. These are the figures: Rent, 7s. 6d.; insurance, 1s. 3d.; clothing club, 2s. 6d.; boot club, 1s. 6d.; light, 1s.; coal, 2s. 6d.; matches, 1d.; candles, 1d.; soap and cleaning materials, 1s. 3d. Now take the food for the five people: Butter, 1s. 2d.; cheese, 8d.; beef dripping, 6d.; bacon, 1s. 3d.; margarine, 8d.; sugar, 1s. 0½d.; tea, 6d.; cocoa, 5d.; flour, 6d.; milk, 6d.; cereals, 8d.; currants, 3d.; bread, 4s.; meat, 1s.; potatoes, 6d.; fish and fruit, 1s.; greenstuffs, 6d.; milk for the baby, 1s. 9d.; nourishment for the wife, 3s. 7½d.; a total of £1 0s. 6d. Need I say more to convince the right hon. Gentleman of the acuteness of many of these cases? There are hundreds of them. If the assumption given to me by some of the best public assistance authorities in South Wales turns out to be the fact, some of these cases will not be improved. There are many homes where the conditions will be substantially worsened. South Wales cannot stand that. All the good work which the right hon. Gentleman did while he was Secretary for Mines will be wiped out at one stroke.

As I said at the commencement it will be equal to the dismissal of 8,000 full-time employés in the South Wales coalfields—this is the effect of the reduction of the purchasing power. The House of Commons has no opportunity of altering the Regulations. The Act divided the unemployed into two classes—the insurance class and the assistance class. I have seen these men and they are as good as we are. I have seen them in difficult and dangerous circumstances; they are men who have plenty of courage. Is it true that you are using the 10s. per week for a single man for the purpose of getting him into the Army? If that is what is happening you are making a grave mistake. What will happen obviously is that these young men will have developed in them a sense of very great hatred of authority in this country. No young man can live on 10s. a week. It is impossible, and the Minister of Labour knows that perfectly well. The surprising thing is that with that knowledge he recommends the acceptance of these Regulations.

Mr. GALLACHER

Pharaoh hardened his heart—[Interruption]—but Pharaoh had a heart.

Mr. JENKINS

I will dare to prophesy that those people who make themselves responsible for these Regulations will certainly experience very great opposition as a result of it. I would like those people who have spoken so freely here to come to South Wales and see the conditions there. What astonished me was the statement of the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland) when he spoke about the Regulations. As I understood his speech, he rather supported them. He has recently paid a visit to South Wales, and has come back, I understand, greatly impressed with the need of getting something done. If he supports these Regulations he will reduce the amount of purchasing power and as a consequence will create more unemployment.

Mr. CARTLAND

Naturally I do not know as much about conditions as the hon. Gentleman, but it does seem to me after my visit that whatever Regulations were brought in they could not possibly improve the conditions there.

Mr. JENKINS

That seems to be the most ridiculous reason for supporting the Regulations. There is need of some special treatment, to use the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but what we are getting under these Regulations will be worse treatment than we are getting now. I can only say that if the position becomes worse in South Wales, as I am sure it will under the Regulations, the nation will have to pay a heavy price for it.

9.6 a.m.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

I, like hon. Members opposite, have sat here all night; I, like the last speaker, have done my double shift, and I only wish that as a result of all this weary talking, something good will come to the unemployed. Believe me, the sympathy here on these benches for the unemployed and for all the distressful families about which we have been hearing during the night is just as great as it is on the benches opposite.

Miss WILKINSON

Sympathy is—

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

Let the hon. Lady opposite remember this, that the day before yesterday my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour was interrupted 42 times, and the right hon. Gentleman who replied to him was not interrupted once.

Mr. MESSER

May I—

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

No. I am not going to give way. I think we are entitled, in view of the quiet way in which we have listened to many speakers during the whole night, to make our speeches in our own way. If the hon. Lady opposite could be quiet for just a little while, I could get out with what I have to say. Let there not be a running commentary, please, because I am still not so tired that I cannot stand up here and speak while hon. Members go on interrupting till to-morrow night if necessary.

Mr. BUCHANAN

If I thought you meant that, I would go on interrupting.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

As hon. Members know, I never speak for very long, and I shall not speak long now, so please let me have order. There is one thing that has distressed me very much in all that I have heard to-night, and that is that although there is in the mind of every hon. Member opposite the question of the unemployed, they seem to have entirely washed out from their minds the question of the employed, and that is a question of the greatest possible importance in arriving at any decision on this very difficult subject. Hon. Members who were in the House at the time will remember that just before the standstill order was put on, I stood in this place and reported to the occupants of the Treasury Bench what I had heard on the telephone from my constituency as to the result of the working of the Regulations there. There were two or three things that affected the position very much indeed, and that of others too, I suppose, and I said then that it appeared to me that the human element, the human touch, which I had expected from the Regulations was not there when they were put into operation. There was the question of the rent. There were some appalling situations in my division in that regard. Then there was the ques- tion that there was no local body who understood local conditions, who were intimately aware of local conditions, and who were able to deal with special cases.

But what do I find now? I find, so far as my constituency is concerned, that the rent question is, as far as I can see, satisfactory and the low rented people will not be penalised as they were before. I find now that there is flexibility, that the human touch will operate through the local advisory committees. I do not share the alarm of some hon. Members opposite that these local advisory committees will not play the game and that the Board will not play the game when they hear the particular cases put before them. I am prepared to believe that those people who will be on the committees will be honest men, actuated with one object only, namely, to try and help in a very difficult situation. So I am satisfied from the intimate knowledge that I have of my own constituency, that the difficulties which I saw at the time of the first operation of the Board's Regulations will now pass away, and I am prepared to take the chance that there will be the particular administration that we all want. If it is not so, you will find me again standing in this place and, if I can possibly be in order, raising the same question or other questions that may arise which I consider to be unfair.

I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour more than I can say upon what he has done, which I consider will prove to be for the benefit of my own division. I wonder sometimes, looking into the past and remembering some of the speeches and ideas of hon. Members opposite on this question how proud they would have been if they had produced these Regulations, how they would have thought and said, "Here we have done the big thing." These Regulations are a great deal better than they have ever done, and they are the best that have ever been put up. Of course, we would all like to see higher scales and more money given to all these people, but it is no use whatever ignoring the fact that this relief must always be guided to a great extent by wages, not only in this country, but in the world itself. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh at that, but they know very well, if they think it out, that it is true, and it is true for this reason, that the employed are immediately going to suffer. That is one of the most interesting things to my mind, that we should not take any risks about endangering the interests of those who are at present employed. These Regulations surely demonstrate, if one goes back in mind to 1931, what a wonderful achievement it is that the Government have been able to bring in these Regulations with the certainty, as far as I can see, that they will be carried on, and, I hope, eventually improved upon. But we must move very carefully.

The Opposition often jeer at us on this side, but I will make a statement which is perfectly true, and if they are honest about it, they will not deny the truth about it. All the social services in this country to-day have been initiated and passed into law by the parties that are composing the National Government. The other nations of the world look with envy on what we are able to do. I hear a great deal about our expenditure on armaments. Have hon. Members opposite forgotten that when they were in power they gave orders for cruisers because they realised that unless those cruisers were built the safety of the country would be endangered? That is why these armaments are being built now. I cannot believe that a single hon. Member opposite wishes to risk the safety of this country. They know very well, if they study the present position of the world, that all that we are doing in regard to armaments is to build just enough to make our own country safe for the homes of our people both here and in the Empire.

It is amazing to me how unsympathetic hon. Members opposite appear to be with regard to agriculture. What would have happened if we had not had the present Minister of Agriculture and the subsidies? The industry would have crashed, and it is the most valuable industry in the whole country. I only hope that, as the result of these subsidies, more people will get back to the land. If we can get them back, they will be better grown and stronger physically and more able to deal with the difficult times in front of them. The Opposition criticises the subsidy on shipping. What is the object of that? It has no other object than to give our shipping a fair show in the shipping of the world and to try to relieve unemployment in the shipping industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "The shipowners."] You have to keep the shipowners going to keep the men in work. If you are going to do away with your farmers and shipowners, you are going to have more agricultural labourers and sailors out of work. The whole object of the Government is to create more work and employ more people as the result of these subsidies, and every one in the House knows it. What is the alternative? [An HON. MEMBER: "Socialism."] Socialism and nationalisation, as far as we can see, wherever they have been tried elsewhere, have produced chaos, misery and starvation. The Government have managed to put more people in work than there have ever been before and have reduced unemployment from nearly three millions to well under two millions. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. E. Smith) is not here. We had a little rough-and-tumble the other night and I gave him notice that I was going to raise this matter, but he has apparently gone home to bed.

Mr. BUCHANAN

I think you have made a mistake.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

No, it is the Gentleman with dark hair.

Mr. BUCHANAN

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman means the Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren). In view of my connection with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, I want no reflection cast on him.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

I apologise. It was the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren). He told us the other night that in his view the whole of the taxation of the country was paid by the employés. Do hon. Members agree with that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] That answer is just what I wanted. In view of that, are hon. Members very wise to be so keen on doing away with the means test altogether? I am going to ask a question, not to back benchers, because I am not sure that they are in agreement with their Front Bench, but to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). Is the official side of the Labour party really in favour of doing away with a means test of any sort?

Mr. MORGAN JONES

My right hon. Friend answered that question yesterday. He said we are against the means test lock, stock and barrel.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

That does not quite answer my question. Does that mean that they are against any means test? [Interruption.] The hon. Member nods his head. I take it then that officially they are against any means test. The bulk of the money for this relief comes directly or indirectly out of the pockets of the employés. If hon. Members go to the country and tell the people that, and they believe it, will they not say, "I do not know that I am in favour of paying out public money without some sort of inquiry?"

Mr. JONES

May I put a question to the hon. and gallant Gentleman? Will he tell us on behalf of his Front Bench that they are prepared to apply a means test wherever grants are given by the State?

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

I would not dare to answer for the Front Bench, but I am quite certain that those taxpayers about whom we are talking at present would not be in favour of abolishing the means test and leaving a possible opportunity for abuse of the money that they work so hard to produce. It seems to my limited intelligence that this household means test has now been brought down to what I might term almost a paying guest obligation and nothing more. Most hon. Members opposite have changed their minds about that, but the Independent Labour party have always been perfectly consistent with regard to the means test, and I am proud to know them for that reason. I was struck by something that fell from the lips of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) in his very fine speech last night. Whenever one goes into the dining-room here or anywhere else and has a good hearty meal, one thinks how much it has cost and asks oneself what it would mean to people who are really distressed. It is a thing that I feel as strongly as anyone else, and we must all feel it. It is a nightmare to be continually feeling that one ought not to be spending so much money on that sort of thing, and a great many other things as well. The only way out of this is more work and higher wages—[An HON. MEMBER: "And better unemployment benefit."]—and better unemployment benefit. But you cannot get the latter until you have the former. The Government policy is slowly bringing this about. Everyone who watches the trade of the country must realise that that is slowly but surely happening in spite of the appalling world conditions, which a great many hon. Members opposite either do not study or prefer to ignore for party purposes.

The delay in bringing out these Regulations has been used by my right hon. Friend in studying the situation at first hand. I do not believe that this is the last word. I believe that the flexibility of this scheme will enable many things to happen which hon. Members at the moment do not think will happen. It is said that we have given up the power to deal with this matter in the House. In my view that is not so. If these Regulations were to work like the others did, as some Members say they will, would we not all be up in arms insisting on something happening and another standstill order? We hear a great deal about the agitation that is taking place all over the country, organised by hon. Members opposite. I beg of them when they go to these agitation meetings to take with them copies of the speeches and minutes of the conferences that were held in 1931. Will they say, "Then we thought this," and compare it with what is being done now? They will not, of course, but it will certainly be done for them. I wish the Minister well. He deserves it. I hope he will have a smooth working of these Regulations and that they will create the general benefit which we all on this side of the House anticipate will come to greater numbers of my fellow-countrymen and women.

9.31 a.m.

Mr. MARKLEW

If the means test was to be solved by a test of endurance we surely ought to have advanced considerably in the direction of solving it. I am not complaining about having spent 19 hours in the Chamber with but very brief intervals for refreshment, because I am really sincere in saying that the progress of the Debate has been to me at least a very generous measure of education. I have not had much education in the classics but at least in the progress of yesterday's Debate I think I can claim to have received some addition to my education. Merely to have listened to the speeches of my colleagues on these benches would certainly have been an educational experience—all the more so since this experience related to what may be called the simple budgets of the poor and could easily be multiplied by instances from my correspondence and personal contract with people living in the constituency I have the honour to represent. The one thing I am perfectly sure about is that if the Minister of Labour himself had any real sincerity in his opening remarks, when he spoke in terms that indicated that he regarded Members of the party sitting on these benches as being capable of trying to foment an artificial agitation in order to ventilate the grievances that he believed to be unreal, he must surely himself have changed that point of view after listening to the speeches which he heard, and must have come to the conclusion that there was a larger measure of sincerity in them than he was willing to concede, though such a confession as that must by implication be a confession on his own part of some lack of sincerity himself. I do not for one moment believe that the Minister of Labour himself honestly thought he was speaking truthfully what was in his own mind when he suggested we were guilty of trying to create an artificial agitation.

Mr. E. BROWN

I said nothing of the kind. The hon. Member is misrepresenting me. What I said referred to the situation under the stand-still arrangement. I pointed out that 41 per cent. of applicants were being paid under the original Regulations and that hon. Members had tried again and again to raise an agitation but had failed.

Mr. MARKLEW

I should like to see exactly what the Minister did say by referring to the actual records. He said: Hon. Members opposite have done their best to get up an agitation in the country, but they have failed because the view taken by the Board's applicants is not the same view as is expresed by hon. Members for party purposes in this House or outside."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1936; Vol. 315, col. 288.] If the Minister wishes to convey the suggestion that this passage does not bear the construction I put on it, then he has a lower estimate of the intelligence of myself and my colleagues than he is justified in having. He cannot wriggle out of things like that so long as I am in possession of the Floor of the House. Not only did he make an accusation of that kind against us, but he went on in a rather futile endeavour to strengthen the case he was seeking to make out, to give what he thought were reasons in justification of the statement I have just referred to: The fact is, and no amount of objection on the part of hon. Members opposite can do away with it, that the reason why the efforts of hon. Members opposite to promote a mass agitation against these Regulations fail is because the Board's officers have been at work in the districts for 18 months and are known personally to the applicants, and what is more, they think that they have been fairly treated under the law."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1936; Vol. 315, col. 291.] There was another passage in the same tone, when he tried to convey the impression to the House that really everything in the garden was so delightful that the unemployed in receipt of assistance were only too anxious to sing praises to the Board and particularly to the Minister of Labour. I am quite willing to admit that perhaps not quite so much condemnation of the terms of the Unemployment Assistance has arisen than might have been the case, but for certain circumstances which should be known to the Minister and in all probability are. As a matter of fact it is rather to the credit, and is significant of the proper and legitimate pride of those of our population, the poorest of the poor, that they do not sound their troubles from the housetops as loudly as they might. Attention is called to that on page 40 of the Board's Report, where it says: Even as regards cases which the Board finds it to be its duty to meet by an increase in the weekly allowances or special grants, the difficulty is often encountered that the applicant dislikes obtruding his need and will say nothing of it unless he is invited or encouraged to do so. I think that is a very significant passage, which is far from strengthening the case of the Minister when he tries to convey the impression that the Regulations of the Board had been working fairly satisfactorily, though he expected them to work much more satisfactorily. I suggest that instead of supporting a case of that description it is very strong evidence indeed of the pride of our people who do not complain unless there is some very serious cause.

I do not know that I should have intervened at all in this Debate, in my present condition of exhaustion, except for one purpose. I was one of those who during the last General Election made no secret of the fact that I, in common with my colleagues, was opposed root and branch, lock, stock and barrel, to the application of any kind of means tests. I declared that I would repeat on the Floor of the House what I said on the subject of the means test to those whose votes I was seeking. They elected me, partly on my opposition to the means test, and I propose to carry out my promise and to repeat here my justification of the attitude which I took up on the means test. In the first instance, as a matter of economy, the means test does not justify itself. It does not effect a saving which counterbalances the expenditure incurred.

There are other grounds on which I refuse to assent to the continued imposition of the means test. Those grounds are associated with ideas already expressed in the course of this Debate by my colleagues. We object to the means test because we know the awful consequences which follow from it in the homes of the poor. Like many of my colleagues, I have had experience on public assistance committees and I know the stories that are only told reluctantly in the privacy of the committee room. Those who have acted on those committees have had experience of a kind which cannot be gained by occasional jaunts with investigating officers who know the kind of information you want and see that you get it. On those committees we are under an obligation to get the whole truth and sometimes it has to be dragged out reluctantly from those who tell their stories under some measure of compulsion. The House has heard some of those stories backed up by evidence—not mere ex parte statements such as the Minister affected to repudiate. While the Minister professes to repudiate those stories he expects us to accept his own ex parte statements, even when those statements cast reflections, not only on the unemployed but on the anonymous body of local administrators, some of whom are elected while others are voluntary, co-opted workers, who spend time and labour in rendering some little social ser- vice to the community—only to be reproved, by implication, by the Minister from the shelter of his position for breaches of the law.

We who serve on those committees know that the consequences of the means test are often such as to drive a father from the shelter of a roof-tree where perhaps the only wage earner is a son or daughter. Frequently it drives a son or daughter away from the roof-tree although the son or daughter may be willing to pay a fair contribution into a pool for the maintenance of the home. Naturally, in accordance with one of the outstanding characteristics of our people, they resent compulsion. Where is the virtue of any act which is done under compulsion. Virtue ceases to be virtue when it is not voluntary and you will not compel these people to carry out the obligations of filial loyalty to their parents. They and their parents also in many cases resent the inquisition which is a necessary prelude to retaining any kind of assistance. I give the Minister my assurance on my word of honour that time and time again elderly men and women have come to my house and inquired what they had to do in order to receive a little public assistance. When they have been told the nature of the disclosures which they would be called upon to make, although they had little or no resources to disclose, they in their very proper British pride have turned—sometimes with sobs in their throats and tears in their eyes—and said "If that is what it means, I will starve in the gutter before I stoop to such a procedure".

If the Minister served on a public assistance committee and learned the facts for himself, at first-hand, instead of asking some officer to submit to him cases which serve his purpose, he would be a much wiser though probably a much sadder man. I wish the Minister would give me his attention and would not treat this matter quite so flippantly. I do not believe that, in his heart he regards these matters lightly. I believe that the outward show of flippancy is merely a mask to hide his inward embarrassment, because he knows the truth that is being hurled at him by my colleagues and myself. At the some time, it hurts us and is a source of embarrassment to us, when we see him indulging in these flippant nods and winks and smiles as if to say "All will be well; I have something up my sleeve." We do not mind if he has something up his sleeve. We are willing that the whole of our argument should be smashed if he can prove to us that the condition of those in receipt of unemployment assistance is really better than we imagine it to be. But will it all turn out to be well? We shall not know that until after 16th November when the Regulations begin to operate.

Incidentally, why fix 16th November as the date? It has not, I suppose, the slightest connection with the circumstance that the municipal elections take place on 1st November. Nobody would dream of suggesting that that consideration could occur to the Minister, but there is the fact. As I say, we shall in all probability not know what the effects will be until the Regulations have been for some time in operation, but the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) put a question which is of the gravest import and to which we would like an answer. He asked what would happen in the case of a determination that was conditioned by income or resources of other members of the family, if those other members of the family refused to make the contribution which the assessment implied that they ought to make. We shall probably never know whether the conditions of those assessments are being complied with or not. There is no obligation and the Minister has no power. I am not going to advise him to take powers to compel sons and daughters to contribute the amounts which an assessment decides that they ought to contribute. If they do not contribute, it is upon the innocent heads of the applicants that the penalty will fall.

I put that question to a member of the Government only a few days ago, and I hope he will forgive me for divulging his answer, though it was not stated at the time to be confidential. I asked what would happen if a son did not make the contribution which he was expected under the assessment to make, and the answer was "Well, the father can always turn him out." Is it the wish of the Minister, is it the desire of the Government, that temptation shall be placed in the way of a father to "turn him out"—though "him" possibly being an only son? That has happened in some cases, and I imagine that there are more cases in which the father and the mother too, suffer insilence a deprivation which they have no power to alter. That, to my mind, is one of the greatest defects of a system which rests on the application of the means test. How can you operate a means test without wounding in the most sensitive part of their nature, the proudest, if at the same time poorest members of our community? For that reason, having told my constituents that I would fight this miserable device to the last ditch, I feel it my duty to rise in my place and state the grounds of my opposition to it. At least, I have done what one man can do to bring it into the disrepute it deserves.

My last word is addressed to the Minister. Hon. Members on this side recognise and make allowance for the circumstances which have put him in the position which he occupies to-day. We understand, in the broadest sense, the circumstances responsible, in part, for his attitude towards these problems. We understand his attitude and the circumstances so well that we expected from him better things than he has delivered up to the present. We entreat him to forget the circumstances of his office, to forget, if need be, his obligations to his colleagues on those benches, if forgetting those obligations means that he is recalling his obligations to those who need his assistance and are looking to him for the help which I trust they will not look for in vain.

9.59 a.m.

Mr. ERRINGTON

When the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. W. Robinson) spoke about a meeting at which 5,000 people had gathered to hear about the means test I was reminded of the advertisement which appeared in a local paper announcing that meeting. The heading to the advertisement was not, as one might expect, "The means test and what we are going to do about it," over the names of the six Labour Members of Parliament concerned. The heading was "Peace and Disarmament." When the report was published in the papers there was comparatively little about peace and disarmament and a great deal about the means test. It seems to me that if that is the case it illustrates very clearly that there is not so much agitation in the country but more agitation among the Labour Members of Parliament. I represent an industrial constituency which has been as hard hit as any constituency in the north of England, and I say that quite frankly because I think it important that it should not be thought that the Members on the other side of the House have a complete monopoly of interest in their constituents. I spoke sometimes under great difficulty, but at every meeting I addressed I said that I was in favour of the means test.

Mr. RILEY

May I ask whether the hon. Member said he was in favour of a family means test?

Mr. ERRINGTON

I said I was in favour of a family means test humanely administered. I can give an example of what I mean. A young man who is earning 25s. a week was asked under the old Regulations to contribute 9s. 1d. to the upkeep of his parents. Under the Regulations that are before the House now that sum has been reduced to 4s. 6d. Is it unreasonable to ask a young man of 18 or 19 earning 25s. a week to contribute 4s. 6d. to the upkeep of his parents? I say no. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!"] It is no good my hon. Friends saying I am talking nonsense. They know I am talking good sense, and so did my constituents when I spoke to them like that. With regard to the question as to the way in which the unemployed have got to be dealt with, there are only two ways unless you are going to give money without regard to any tests at all. The first test is that of insurance. Hon. Members said insurance was compulsory. That may be so, but it has benefits that at the moment—and I hope it will continue—most of our people look forward to and appreciate very much. Then if you cannot do the thing by insurance you have got to find out the need of the people, and, as humanely as is possible, to satisfy the need.

I meet a large number of constituents, I make a point of going down and speaking to them, and one of the greatest complaints of those in work—and they are very, very much increasing in numbers—is that very often the unemployed man gets more than the man who is working. I say that that is absolutely wrong, and there are hundreds who think so. Hon. Members opposite have poured scorn, so far as they have been able, on the question of subsidies. In general I agree there are a great number of things to be said against subsidies, but there is one subsidy that has benefited Merseyside to a very large extent, and that is the tramp shipping subsidy. I know that hon. Members opposite voted solidly against every stage of it, but let me tell them this: In one firm in Liverpool in 18 months 330 more men were employed, and 11 ships that were laid up were put into commission, entirely due to the tramp shipping subsidy. That is a tremendous step forward, to make possible a better state of affairs with fewer people unemployed. I do not believe that our men and women anywhere in the country want to be unemployed. They want work.

I support the Regulations most strongly, but there are one or two points that seem to me of considerable importance in regard to them. I hope the Minister will take a note of them. Regulation IV, 1, (2) (a) states: Except where special circumstances or needs of an exceptional character exist, the said sum shall be so adjusted as to be less than the amount which would ordinarily be available for the support of the household out of the earnings of the applicant and of other members of the household whose needs have been included with those of the applicant, if they were following the occupations normally followed by them. The exact construction of that in regard to the particular point I have in mind seems to me to be rather obscure. On Merseyside we have a large number of casual workers, people who may work one, two or three days. Are the Board, when they are administering this Regulation, going to administer it in such a way to be fair to those casual workers? It seems to me that that is a very important point, not only on Merseyside but elsewhere. The rent rule, of course, is largely a question for the advisory committee. We would like to know the composition of the advisory committee, and we would like to know exactly how their functions are going to be fulfilled. You have a framework there which in my submission is capable of great good, and I think it is important that that great good should be done by seeing that the proper people are put on these committees to do the sensible and proper thing.

Mr. MAXTON

Whom would the hon. Member suggest as being proper people for work of this description?

Mr. ERRINGTON

People with a knowledge of life, for example, solicitors. Solicitors are quite as capable of assimilating evidence as politicians. You want somebody who has got the ability to weigh up these things fairly and impartially. With regard to officials, I think that the report, though scorn has been poured on it, indicates a very human attitude of mind on the part of the officials. The officials have learned much in the period that has passed. I believe that that knowledge will be a tremendous help in the administration of these rules. You cannot get away from the fact that the human element enters into it, and I believe everything has been done that ultimately can be done to make these Regulations a framework on which decent and fair treatment can be given to those people who are unfortunately unemployed without insurance benefit. Believing that, that is why I support them.

I am reminded by the attitude of the Labour party in this case of the angel and the cook in Revelations: In my mouth it was as sweet as honey, and when I had swallowed it my belly was bitter.

10.10 a.m.

Mr. GEORGE HALL

This has indeed been a remarkable Debate. For something like eighteen hours we have been debating this all-important question, and it cannot be said that it was a Debate of the front-benchers. We have had one speech from the Government front bench, and that was nearly 18 hours ago. The last speech delivered from the front bench on this side was 11 hours ago. It could rightly be said that the Debate has been carried on entirely by the back-benchers sitting behind me.

Mr. KIRKWOOD

The back-benchers are not finished yet.

Mr. HALL

I am not suggesting that they are. There is a great deal of time between now and eleven o'clock to-night.

Mr. EDE

Between now and eleven o'clock to-morrow night.

Mr. HALL

All that can be said concerning these Regulations has not been said. Only five supporters of the Government have spoken since eleven o'clock, and they have been so divided in their views concerning these Regulations that the Patronage Secretary earlier in the morning went around and prevailed upon those who desired to speak not to speak.

Sir GEORGE PENNY (Treasurer of the Household)

indicated dissent.

Mr. COVE

He called one of them a fool for speaking.

Mr. HALL

As far as the Liberal Members are concerned they have been conspicuous by their absence. We have one Liberal come in with the early morning shift, and we are very pleased to see him. I, with some of my colleagues, was here when the Regulations were debated some 18 months ago. What a contrast in the introduction of the then Regulations as compared with the Regulations introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. I have never seen a Minister introducing a Bill or anything of this kind who seemed so self-satisfied with regard to the job he had in hand. I would compare his attitude to that of his predecessor, when the old Regulations were practically withdrawn. I remember the then Minister of Labour telling the House that it fell to his lot as Minister to paint what he thought was a very beautiful picture as far as the Regulations were concerned. How he was deceived! I am not going to suggest that the fault of the old Regulations was that the Board did not have sufficient time properly to consider them. The Board was six months considering them before they were brought into the House. I well remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer standing at that Box and saying—bad as those Regulations were and receiving the condemnation of almost the whole House—that those Regulations were much more favourable to the unemployed than the Regulations which were submitted by that Board.

Who are the members of this Board? They are not strangers to this problem of unemployment. The Chairman has been Minister of Labour and Parlia- mentary Secretary to the Ministry for many years. Then there is a very efficient civil servant who knows more about finance than human requirements, and there is the secretary of the Board, who was an official at the Ministry of Labour for a number of years. It took these officials six months to present the early Regulations, which received the wholesale condemnation of the House and the country. They have taken 18 months to produce the new Regulations.

Mr. MAXTON

And they are three times as bad.

Mr. HALL

They are almost as bad. There is a patch here and a patch there on the clothes covering the scarecrow, but the scarecrow is still there. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman of what was said by his predecessor when the stand-still order was introduced on 1st February last year. By this time he was uneasy as to the picture he had painted and indicated how he had been misled by his officials. He said that the trouble was that they were not dealing with business or finance or intangible things, but with a great human problem, with men, women and children—and they are not a few. The Board's Report indicates that 750,000 persons come under the control of the Board, and, with their dependants, they number some 2,500,000 people. That is the problem with which the right hon. Gentleman and his Department are concerned. No Minister or Board has been charged with a greater responsibility, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot deal with it in the self-satisfied way that he appeared to be adopting when the Regulations were introduced. Heads of households numbering 620,000 are looking to this House for justice—nothing other than that.

In my own division there are 6,000 persons who come under the Board. Some of them have been unemployed for anything from three to eight years. I have always understood that the longer a person has been unemployed the greater was his need. Therefore, the greater should be the sympathy meted out to him, instead of his being treated as he is under these Regulations. I read an article which appeared in the "Standard" the night before last. It was not written by a member of the Socialist party, but by a lady who has devoted a good deal of her time to calling the attention of the country to the problems of the Special Areas. She is a Conservative who was present at the meeting at Cardiff addressed by the Prime Minister on Saturday. I would beg hon. Members—not that I want in any way to exaggerate our difficulties—to read that article by Lady (Rhys) Williams. I wish that hon. Members or others who have some charity in their hearts would take the same amount of trouble as this lady has to understand the difficulties with which the Special Areas are confronted. Let me read one passage. The writer is referring to a child who was called upon to act as housekeeper for her father in one of our Welsh valleys, and she says: This child is a representative of the majority of the inhabitants of South Wales to-day—talented, artistic, brave and humorous, in spite of a burden of grinding poverty and hopelessness which stunts their bodies, starves their souls and allows no scope for the development of their great natural gifts and intelligence. Those who live in prosperous London and the South-East of England can have no real idea of the extent of the suffering which is going on in those districts of South Wales and Durham which have endured widespread unemployment now for many years. Then she writes as an administrator of a charitable fund who visited some of these areas and knew the conditions there. The tragedy of it is that one of the districts which will be cut worse than any other district is the district about which this graphic picture is written. Of the instances of excessive payment which the right hon. Gentleman gave in his opening speech on Tuesday, one was in one of the worst depressed areas. I beg the House to understand the great problem with which so many of our fellow men and women are faced.

If one cannot touch the hearts of Members by dealing with men and women, let me remind them of the difficulty we have had in connection with unemployed children attending the junior instructional centres. The medical officer of health for the county of Glamorgan quite impartially visited four of these centres in South Wales and found that 57 per cent. of the 530 boys and girls between 14 and 18, who were all from unemployed homes, were suffering from malnutrition. That is not the report of anyone who wants to make political capital out of these conditions. There is not a Member on this side of the House who wants to make political capital out of conditions of this kind, but cannot we strike a human note in the hearts of the right hon. Gentleman, of the Unemployment Assistance Board, and, more important, of Members of this House, who, once they vote for these Regulations, will be entirely responsible for them?

Let me deal with the means test. The original intention of the test was not to remove poverty, but to place the responsibility of maintaining the unemployed on other members of the family. We believe in the family when the nation is faced with a great emergency. The family is then something wider than those who are members of the household, and each one is called upon to bear responsibility; but when it comes to a question of saving the Treasury, the family is limited within narrow bounds. Let me refer to the Report of the Board to see how the resources of the family were brought into play to reduce the benefits or the assistance of those who came under the operation of the means test. Did any hon. Member ever think that, when the means test passed through the House, public assistance relief of certain members of the household would be used to reduce the unemployment benefit of those who were unemployed? Did hon. Members think for a moment that old age pensions, widows' pensions, orphans' pensions and blind persons' pensions would be used for the purpose of reduced unemployment benefit? During last year no less than £1,964,000 of old age pensions, widows' pensions, orphans' pensions and blind persons' pensions was used for the purpose of reducing the amount of unemployment benefit under the means test.

Did hon. Members intend that that money, miserable as it is should be used in that way? I could go through the whole list of social services alone during last year and show that over £5,000,000 was deducted to reduce unemployment benefit of men who came under the means test. The right hon. Gentleman believes in the operation of the means test and he has no strong objection to the old Regulations. In his Memorandum he said: In the existing Regulations the scale rates as a whole were, and remain, a reason- able and proper basis for a scheme of unemployment assistance. Let us examine them. The scale is 24s. a week for husband and wife on condition that they pay one quarter as rent. If there is a single son at home over 21, 10s. is paid. In my division thousands of young men who have been unemployed through no fault of their own will, as a result of these Regulations, have a cut of 17s. to 10s. Can any hon. Member opposite justify that? I do not want to deal with the scale, which is well known to hon. Members, but I want to deal with the way the means test will affect the unemployed.

In my division 80 per cent. of the homes have one or two members of the household unemployed, and those homes will be affected as a result of the operation of the means test. What right have the right hon. Gentlemen and the Unemployment Assistance Board to say to me, if I am employed and simply because I have an unemployed member in my family, that they are going to allow me 8s. for my personal expenses and that the amount to be allowed to myself and my wife is to be 24s.? What right have they to do that? Anything which I earn in addition to 32s. a week is to be taken out of my hands and is to go to the maintenance of one, two, three or four unemployed sons or daughters. What right have they to do that? Can any hon. Member justify it? I might earn £1 a week, £2 a week, or £5 a week, but I am told by the Minister of Labour, through the Unemployment Assistance Board, that of my earnings, if there is sufficient left in the pool to meet the scale rate for the unemployed members of my family, I am to keep 8s. for myself.

How are the right hon. Gentleman and the Board encouraging employment when such conditions operate? If I earn £2 a week, after statutory deductions have taken place, and if I have an unemployed son over 21 years of age, my unemployed son will get 2s. After allowing 8s. for my personal expenses, 8s. of the £2 will go to the maintenance of my unemployed son. If I earn £2 10s. a week, apart from statutory deductions, and if I have two unemployed sons over 21 years of age, they will get 1s. each. I ask hon. Members opposite whether they can justify Regulations of that kind? If the figures which I have given are wrong, I beg the Lord Advocate, who I understand is to follow me, or the Minister of Labour, to correct me. Let me take the case of the son or dauhter of an unemployed man living at home. Let me assume that I have a son who is employed and that I am unemployed. I may have given 40 years of my life to productive work, and then become unemployed. I exhaust my standard benefit and come under the Unemployment Assistance Board. To illustrate this point, I can even mention a case which has been referred to me. A person wrote to me that after serving one colliery company in South Wales for 45 years, the colliery was unfortunately closed down. That person has a son employed and earning £2 a week. After getting 28s. a week personal allowance, 12s. of that £2 a week wage is to be used to reduce the benefit of his father and mother by 12s. a week. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with that being put into operation? I confess that I never thought we would see a man who was such a stout champion of insurance when he sat on those benches become the Minister of Labour who would introduce a scheme of this kind. I have always felt that I would infinitely prefer a good honest Tory. This reminds me of a story—no, I will not tell it, because it is much too humorous, and I am not in that mood.

The hon. Member who preceded me talked about the advisory committees. I do not think the House really understands what are the functions of these advisory committees. Much as they have been talked about, they have no power at all. If the right hon. Gentleman had wished to do so, he could have appointed these advisory committees 18 months ago, but he did not do so. The Board, as soon as the 1934 Act came into operation, could have appointed advisory committees, but it did not do so. An advisory committee can simply recommend to the officer of the Board and the officer of the Board can, if he desires, accept the recommendation of the advisory committee. The advisory committees will have no more power than I should have if I were not a member of an advisory committee. What is the use of the right hon. Gentleman talking about their powers? They have no powers. The appeal tribunals up to the present time have been a farce, and when I say that I am speaking from experience. I do not believe there has been one out of 20 cases which have appeared before the appeal tribunals in which there has been any difference made in the determination given.

I do not know whether the House understands the powers it has given to the Board. Do hon. Members realise that almost every aspect of these Regulations will be left to an interpretation and to the discretion of the Board? Who is the Board? The area officer is the Board. Let hon. Members understand that it is left to the discretion of the Board—the area officer—as to whether there is to be any variation in rate. It is left to the discretion of the Board to deal with the contributions to be made by married sons or daughters living in the homes of unemployed men. It is left to the discretion of the area officer to decide the amount of benefit for elderly lodgers. It is left to the discretion of the officer of the Board to decide as to the weekly allowance to be paid to lodgers generally. There is a suggestion in the Board's Memorandum that the amount should be about 15s. a week. I will give an illustration of what that means. I may be a very decent fellow living in a fairly select part of a town. I have been unemployed for some time, and come under the control of the Board. The officer may say, "This fellow Hall is a very decent fellow; he cannot live on 15s. a week; I will give him 18s., 20s., or 25s. a week." It is left to his discretion. On the other hand, I may lodge in a place of which the officer of the Board perhaps has not a very high opinion. Then he will say, "This fellow Hall is not such a decent fellow after all," and instead of paying 15s. a week, he may reduce the amount to 12s., 10s. or less. If I lived in a caravan or a lodging house he could do what he liked.

Let me also tell the Minister frankly I am not satisfied with the way in which the officers have used their discretion during the last 12 months. I could quote one case after another where medical certificates have been handed to the area officer asking that an additional allowance for nourishment should be paid, and what has happened? In almost every case the officer of the Board has given 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week extra, but before the allowance was given the person who asked for the additional nourishment for his wife was on the 26s. scale. If he received a nourishment allowance of 2s. 6d., he was brought back to the 24s. scale, so that instead of having 2s. 6d. in addition to 26s., he had 2s. 6d. in addition to 24s., which meant that he simply had an additional 6d. for extra nourishment. Every kind of device has been adopted by the officers of the Board to reduce costs. If these Regulations go through, the officer of the Board will be the most powerful man in a number of districts in this country. In my area he will be the most powerful man. I am pleased to say that in my area we have an officer who has lived among the people and knows them, but that cannot be said of every area, even in South Wales. We have had many civil servants sent down there, and they have had absolutely no sympathy with the people. Even in areas where men are appointed who know the people, the right hon. Gentleman is aware that inspectors go from one area office to another and that instructions are sent from the district office as to how this or that case should be dealt with by the area officers.

I beg hon. Members seriously to consider what they are doing in passing these Regulations. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of those who are to get increases, and I suppose a number will get them; but he said nothing of those areas where considerable decreases will take place. I will quote from paragraph 53 of the memorandum of the Board: In some areas the number of cases affected by this provision will be considerable. The provision referred to means the reduction. The districts referred to in the article by Lady Rhys Williams are the districts where the reductions will be considerable. The Government, through their policy, have almost denuded South Wales of some of its best people. My hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), in a very eloquent speech yesterday, referred to the boys and girls taken from their homes in South Wales. We see them going 50, 60, or 70 at a time. I had a letter from the mother of one of those boys last week, and the right hon. Gentleman's Department is dealing with it. That boy left his home, which was as good a home as I could have given him. At 15 years of age he was taken from school and sent to London, having a very decent job. But what were the conditions in which he lived? He lived in a hostel approved by the Minister of Labour. He was sent to sleep in a room with five other boys older than himself, and he said, "The room I slept in with five other boys is no larger than the room I had for myself at home." I speak as a man who has sons. I should be very chary about letting boys come to London under the Minister of Labour's scheme until I am myself satisfied that not only is the employment good but that the conditions under which the boys live are good also. At that age boys and girls are passing through their most impressionable time, and their character is being formed: at that period of life one can either make them or break them.

I do not wish to talk too much about hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it must be remembered that the sons of working-class parents mean as much to their parents as do the sons of hon. Members opposite to theirs. Those are some of the conditions which exist in these Special Areas. I beg of the Government and of hon. Gentlemen to understand that these men and women are subjected to the greatest trial of their lives, and in many districts they are without any hope. They are men who have been unemployed, as I have already pointed out, four, five, six, eight, and 10 years. Some of them worked with me and with my colleagues underground. It is only by a stroke of good fortune that I am here and not standing with them in the queue, subjected to these indignities and faced with the uncertainty as to what these Regulations will mean to them. Instead of it being regarded as a blessing if any of their sons commence work, it will be regarded as a curse. If any of their sons begin to earn, a portion of those earnings will be taken in order to reduce the benefit of the parents.

It is no use the Board giving such a report as that which they gave on the last occasion. One would think on reading their reports, paragraph by paragraph, that the area officers were in- structed by the Board as to the kind of report they should give. I ask hon. Members to read the reports. I am not so sure that they were not asked to give a special report as to what the effect of the means test had been upon family life. Let the Minister remember that there never was a greater justification for the courageous action taken by his predecessor than the bringing in of the Stand-still Order. Fifty-six per cent. of the persons under the Unemployment Assistance Board are receiving transitional benefit because that is more favourable to them than would be the provisions of the Regulations. I should say that in the majority of those cases there will be the reductions which the Minister talked about in his Memorandum. These Regulations in themselves, without a means test, do not give sufficient for the people to live upon. The right hon. Gentleman spoke very glibly of the fact that these Regulations were to cost the Treasury an additional £750,000. We heard the estimate given by his predecessor that the old Regulations were to cost £3,000,000. The officers responsible for giving the estimates cannot be relied upon. They have fooled the House once, and they are capable of fooling it again. What is £750,000 spread among 620,000 persons—4½d. to 5d. a week, not more.

I do not want to refer to the amount of money being spent upon armaments, but the irony of the whole thing was that Estimates for £20,000,000 were presented to this House on the same day as the Regulations. Those Estimates have increased the amount of money spent upon armaments, compared with four years ago, by £88,000,000. Let hon. Members remember that, if they get their armaments—tanks, ships and aeroplanes—they cannot be driven or manned without men. Where are they going to get the men in the event of an emergency? They are the very men that they are driving down into desperation as a result of these Regulations, which are unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman, of the Board, of this House of Commons and of the country, and should be defeated.

10.50 a.m.

The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. T. M. Cooper)

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdare has broken the magiv when he said that this Debate has been conducted largely by the back benchers, and that was not accidental, but deliberate. I am giving away no secret when I say that the idea was that, during the second day of the Debate, back benchers—some of whom I observe have not yet addressed the House—should have a full and ample opportunity of making their views known. But two things have happened, or perhaps I should say three things, which may perhaps justify me in intervening briefly at this stage of the Debate and breaking the continuity of the contributions of the back benchers. In the first place, the second day of the Debate has become merged into the third day; in the second place, the hon. Member for Aberdare has broken the magic circle; and in the third place, at least one Member, and in particular the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) expressed the desire that at some early stage a further contribution should be made from the Front Government Bench.

I accordingly accede to the invitation—I admit with some little trepidation—with the desire to show that courtesy to the House which, I think, he indicated ought to be shown. In doing so, may I make my position quite clear? In the course of the last 20 hours or thereby, the greater part of which I have spent on this bench, a large number of hon. Members have put forward questions involving detailed facts and figures, which it has been quite impossible for me, in the circumstances of the last 20 hours, to check and to investigate in a way that would do justice to the reply which is deserved. As hon. Members know, at least two other Ministers will, it is anticipated, participate in this Debate before it comes to an end, and the questions which are more suitably dealt with after such examinations will be passed over by me, as I desire to confine my brief observations to one or two more general considerations.

Having listened to much argument and discussion since yesterday afternoon around this subject, it might be helpful to the House to recall at this point in our deliberations the comparatively limited and narrow issue which the House will decide to-night. I am not complaining because hon. Members have in many instances objected to the fact that it is not possible to amend the Regulations. I am not complaining that much of the discussion would have been appropriate to a Debate upon a Bill to amend the Unemployment Act, 1934. But it is well at this stage to recall that the limited question to which alone an answer is to be given this evening is whether, within the framework of Part II of the Unemployment Act, 1934, approval should or should not be given to these Draft Regulations as a fair and practicable instrument for giving effect to the determination of need and the assessment of means. That is the sole issue before the House.

Mr. KIRKWOOD

That is a pretty story you are trying to make.

The LORD ADVOCATE

I am far from suggesting that the issue is a small one. It is one of the most important issues which this House has to consider during the present Session, and I assure hon. Members that, during the period in which the Regulations have been available for study, they have received at my hands the most anxious and patient consideration which it has been possible for me to give to them. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdare and several of the speakers who preceded him spoke with personal knowledge of conditions in South Wales and in other parts of the country, with which, I confess, I am not personally familiar. My endeavour has been to study the Regulations from the point of view of the special Scottish problem presented by their application to that country. A study of the Regulations from the point of view of their application in Scotland is not a bad test of the efficacy and fairness of the Regulations for the United Kingdom as a whole, and for two reasons. In the first place, Scotland includes, as all hon. Members know, populous areas which have been afflicted by depression as acute and as prolonged as probably that in any other part of the country. I am not sure whether the representatives of South Wales would agree with me or not there, but I think that it is a broad statement that is accurate. In the second place, Scotland and the Scottish conditions present a particularly useful test of the efficacy of the new Regulations by reason of the exceptionally low level of rents which prevail there.

It was, as has been pointed out, the failure of the old Regulations adequately to meet that special difficulty of the low level of rents that has led to a relatively large proportion of Scottish applicants being assessed on the basis of transitional payment and not on the Regulations. Having, along with my colleagues, and in particular my right hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, checked and tested these Regulations by every possible method we could devise with reference to the conditions in all parts of Scotland, industrial and rural, as far as particulars were available, I wish to say—and I say it with the sincerity which I should ask hon. Members to concede to me, as I concede to them complete sincerity for the opinions to which they give expression—that I have reached the conclusion, which I should not have reached had I not been absolutely satisfied on the matter, that the Regulations will work in Scotland adequately and efficiently, and that the Scottish Members can safely accept them on that basis. This is a matter which affects so large a number of the population of Scotland and of the members of my constituency, that I should not have hesitated, had I been convinced of the insufficiency or the undesirability of the Regulations, to have made my position upon that point perfectly clear and to have taken any necessary action which might have followed.

I was a little struck and disappointed by the statement made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdare a few moments ago with regard to his experience of the working of the appeal tribunals and the staff of the Unemployment Assistance Board, and still more by the misgivings that he entertained upon that ground as to the probable working of the advisory committees. We can only speak of our own experience in these matters, and my experience has been that the work of the Unemployment Assistance Board and its staff and of the appeal tribunals has been fair, just, and sympathetic to an increasing degree, with the growing experience they have obtained. That may or may not be the experience of the hon. Member. I can only quote my experience against his. Because of that experience, I attach very great value indeed in the working of the new Regulations to the provisions associated with those advisory committees and the work which I think they will do. Hon. Members have said that they are only advisory committees, that the ultimate power rests, and must necessarily rest, with the officers of the Board. That is true, but I do not think anyone who has fairly appreciated the inwardness of this problem will believe that any reasonable representation seriously advanced by a responsible advisory committee will not be given the most careful consideration, and probably the fullest acceptance, by the officers of the Board.

Coming to another matter, may I make this suggestion to hon. Members as a general answer to a number of criticisms against the Regulations? I notice that Member after Member has selected one or two isolated provisions of the Regulations and has applied those selected provisions to a selected case or cases, real or imaginary. When I say "imaginary," I do not use the expression in any offensive sense; I mean a typical case, whether it exists in reality or not. The first point I should like to make on that method of criticism is that it is really impossible for any person at this stage accurately to forecast how the new Regulations will exactly work out in any given case. Hon. Members may say that is a weakness of the Regulations, and I see their point because we are not sure and certain of what the position will be in any given case. My answer to that is that I regard that feature of the Regulations, not as their weakness, but as their strength, and I do so because I look forward to the Regulations being administered with that flexibility which is rendered possible under the new proposals. That is why I am prepared, among other reasons, to regard them as an immense improvement on the old system and well calculated to give full satisfaction in operation.

Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS

Does the Lord Advocate not think it would be better for the applicant to be able to obtain the scale as a right rather than by the sympathetic consideration of the Board?

Mr. GRAHAM WHITE

Will the Lord Advocate, who has described the control of the officers of the Board and the control of the advisory committees say how Treasury control comes in?

Mr. BUCHANAN

Is the Lord Advocate aware that these Regulations were brought in to stop the differences between one place and another, and now, with this flexibility, we are putting into the hands of an individual the right to make a difference as between one place and another and one applicant and another?

The LORD ADVOCATE

I shall endeavour to answer the three questions in their order. When I started to study this problem I shared the view put by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. J. Williams) that it would be better to have actual defined scales rather than flexible discretion, and it was as a result of an examination of a very large number of cases, and of a growing appreciation of the almost infinite variety of their circumstances, that I deliberately changed my mind and came to the conclusion that the method in the Regulations is not only preferable but, indeed, as I think, is the only possible method. What I have said in answer to the hon. Member is also, in a sense, an answer to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), because while it is true that the underlying object of the Act of 1934 was to secure a background of uniformity in the administration of unemployment assistance the position is that that is an unattainable ideal, and a very considerable measure of flexibility is essential if injustice is not to be done, and that is one of the fundamental alterations which differentiate the present Regulations from the previous ones. I agree with the hon. Member that there is, in a sense, a certain dualism or duality about seeking uniformity with flexibility, but that is only another illustration of the fact that when we are dealing with what the hon. Member rightly called human problems it is impossible to be absolutely logical.

Mr. MAXTON

Uniformity works so far as insurance is concerned.

The LORD ADVOCATE

The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. G. White) asked me how the control of the Board, fitting in with the advice of the advisory committees, would be affected by Treasury control.

Mr. WHITE

Is there not a 10s. limit to the discretion which any particular officer can exercise?

The LORD ADVOCATE

I think not. I do not wish to detain the House by going over the Regulations in detail, but, broadly speaking, it will be found that discretion is capable of being exercised in a plus or minus way, and therefore that nothing in the way of rigid Treasury control is introduced, broadly speaking.

Mr. WHITE

Then the 10s. limit has been withdrawn?

The LORD ADVOCATE

No, Sir. I should require, in order to meet the hon. Member's point fully, to go through the Regulations stage by stage, and I do not want to do that, but, broadly speaking, the elasticity operates both ways and is not subject to a rigid control.

Mr. MacLAREN

The Lord Advocate says that the uniformity behind the Act of 1934 was unworkable and that fluidity was required, and that after a long analysis of the working of the Act he came to the conclusion that the Regulations were the best of all ways of working. It would be useful for the House if the Lord Advocate gave us the findings of his long analysis and told us what were the elements which made it impossible to have uniformity in administration under the Act of 1934 and called for this fluidity.

The LORD ADVOCATE

I am afraid that a close analysis of my mental processes would be of no interest to the House, particularly as the matter is fully explained in the White Papers. All I meant to indicate was that when these papers came out I did not accept their conclusions as true, but verified them for myself, and from the tests I applied I independently reached the conclusion that the method of flexibility was not only superior to the method of rigidity but was, in the circumstances, practically inevitable.

Mr. MacLAREN

Will the Lord Advocate tell us what were the tests he applied? It is most important to know them.

The LORD ADVOCATE

With due respect to the hon. Member, I am afraid I must leave the matter there. I do not want to intervene at any length in this Debate, particularly as hon. Members on the back benches are no doubt renewing their appetite for carrying on the Debate for the rest of the day, but there is one further point I wish to make. I began by saying that it was necessary at this stage in our deliberations once again to narrow and formulate the issue, and I have endeavoured to do so; but I think it is important for the House to keep in mind, as the background of this discussion, that the really important question from the point of view of the country is not, after all, the conditions under which public funds are to be made available to the unfortunate victims of unemployment but the much wider and more important question of how unemployment is to be eradicated and more employment found and wages raised, I, for one, should be sorry if too great concentration on a problem which, however important, is nevertheless subordinate, should, in any way obstruct or obscure the wider aspect of the situation to which the attention of the National Government has long been devoted with growing success.

Viscountess ASTOR

On a point of Order. Would it be possible to have a little fresh air in the House?

11.13 a.m.

Mr. LANSBURY

I am very glad the windows are to be opened to let in a little light. I am sorry that it fell to the lot of the Lord Advocate to have to attempt to reply to the discussion which has taken place during the last 20 hours. There had been no reply from the Treasury Bench until this rather sketchy reply. I am not complaining, but I think some Minister more acquainted with the subject might have been asked to take on the job. The Home Secretary was present last night, and we all understood that he was to reply to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones).

The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Captain Margesson)

I should not like there to be any misunderstanding on this point. The Home Secretary is speaking to-day following immediately the speech of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). There never was any intention that the Home Secretary should speak last night. It was always the arrangement that he should be the first speaker for the Government following the opening speech of the Opposition to-day.

Mr. LANSBURY

In my judgment that makes it a little worse. I must stick to the point I made in the early hours of the morning, that it is not treating the House quite fairly to leave the whole of what will be a 30 hours' discussion to be dealt with just casually. The Home Secretary cannot be here the whole time, although most of our back benchers will have been here all the time. Hon. Members are entitled to an answer to their arguments. We have had speeches from this side of the House during the night that are among the ablest and most instructive of any speeches made during any Debate on unemployment. They have dealt in detail with grievances which have arisen, and which my hon. Friends are quite confident will arise, and no effort has been made to reply to them. I am grateful to the Lord Advocate for stepping into the breach as he did, but the only part that he attempted any reply to—and that was not very much—was the question of rent in Scotland. I would not dare to express an opinion on anything connected with Scotland, but I do not agree that we are considering a very narrow issue. It it true that, when we come to vote, it will only be a vote on the Regulations, but the Regulations are going to decide for good or evil the fate of a very considerable number of men, women and children during the next few years. We cannot amend them in detail. We have to accept or reject them as a whole, and it is important that we should be able, as Mr. Speaker has allowed us to do, to enter in the widest manner into all the questions which have led to their introduction and to the setting up of the Unemployment Assistance Board.

May I say a word in reply to the Lord Advocate and others about the advisory committees? I am certain that they will be of very little use to the applicants for public assistance. We all know something about the courts of referees, and we know how often we are asked to get reviews of their decisions, because there is always a sort of impartial chairman who is generally chosen, not from our side, but by people who hold exactly opposite views. But, even if the advisory committees were favourable, we have still got the Treasury. One of the gentlemen who form the Board, with Lord Rushcliffe, is a representative of the Treasury, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will not stonewall this question. I look upon him as the champion stone-waller on the Front Bench. We want to know what is the power of the Treasury official and what he is there for. I take it that he is a watchdog for the Treasury. I do not trust the Treasury on these matters at all. I have had a long experience of the Treasury, much longer than I have been a Member of this House, and I would not trust them to take care of a dog, let alone a human being. Their philosophy of life is all wrong. They can only think in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. I should like an answer to the question of the hon. Members for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) and East Birkenhead (Mr. White). Is there a 10s. limit or not? If the officer finds a family that ought to get a pound a week more, has he any power to give as much as that, or is there really a limit to his discretion? We ought to know that before the Debate ends. This is very necessary, because it is said that none of us know how these Regulations will work out. I am sure no one knows. I agree with what an hon. Member opposite said last night, that applicants ought to have the Lord Advocate with them to explain what the Regulations really mean.

Mr. Loch, of the Charity Organisation Society, is, as he would say, a champion of economy and right dealing with the poor, which I always thought was wrong dealing. The Charity Organisation Society was, and is, a society to organise charity out of existence. They cannot live in Poplar now. They dare not go there. Their arguument always was that you must deal with cases individually. You must see the applicant and know all about him. That was the foundation of the Poor Law administration. If you are going to have discretion and flexibility, a person who needs to be dealt with in that manner ought not to go to an official but to a committee which has power to say, "This case needs this and must have it." I do not think by whatever majority you pass these Regulations, you will be able to administer them along the lines laid down in the Minister's statement the other day. You say you are going to deal with them according to need. I think you will find that ultimately you will have to come back to voluntary committees with power to determine without any Treasury interference in legal cases and without leaving it to officials. I am not going to say a word against any officials of the Board, or of any board of guardians, because the business of investigating people's characters and what they need is a most demoralising job for the investigators as well as for themselves. [Interruption.] I have had more experience than the Noble Lady. I have sat for years on relief committees, and it was always a most terrible job to come to a right decision on the cases that came before us. The Minister of Health said that it was because of the administration of the Board that the health of the children in London was so very excellent.

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)

Not of the Board, but of the county council.

Mr. LANSBURY

I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman quoted it in a Debate in support of these Regulations if not in order to prove that the administration of the Unemployment Assisttance Board had helped in the improvement of health. If the right hon. Gentleman reads his speech again, he will find that the whole argument was that the officials and doctors that we called in aid were not quite so good as those that you called in aid. You told us that a particular doctor had not said exactly what we said he said, but you did not tell us what he did say. You immediately went on to the London and other county councils in order to prove that they were not doing as well as the Unemployment Assistance Board. If the Minister goes across to County Hall and interviews the official head of the public assistance committee he will find that he has made the biggest "bloomer" of his life. The figures were given during the night. Any council that is administering the Poor Law can only administer it according to the law and the rules laid down by the Minister of Health, and to the satisfaction of the Public Auditor.

I have been warned that my lurid past is going to be dragged up. The right hon. Gentleman knows, no one better, that, whatever scales were operated at Poplar while I was a Member, whatever we did extravagantly or meanly, had to be done within the limits of the law and with the threat of the auditor hanging over us all the time. You cannot have it both ways. Poplarism was placarded all over the country. It was said that we overfed, overclothed, and overhoused everyone who came to us. I remember the late Mr. Asquith pouring out a great rhetorical stream of nonsense about Poplar, and in the end the particular case that he quoted was one that had £5 a week. They were a man and wife and ten children and, I think, 10s. a week for rent. That shows how much trustworthiness there is in these cases. The man was on relief for one week. The late Mr. Asquith asked, What workman will work if he can get £5 a week for doing nothing? But that man did go to work after only one week on relief, which knocked the bottom out of the whole argument.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that the borough councils and innumerable voluntary bodies are taking care of the children of London. In the borough which I represent we have the best nursery school that there is, apart from the Margaret MacMillan school in Deptford, and all through the East End during this period of economy all kinds of voluntary organisations have sprung up. There are the Church organisations and the national organisations for establishing centres for the unemployed and so forth. All that has helped, but I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what has preserved the health of the children in East and South-East London and in the poor districts of London generally. It has been the fact that there are Labour majorities on almost all the authorities. In the worst period of depression, when we had thousands of people out of work, we cut down the infantile mortality by one-half. Of course it cost money, and we paid the money. Nobody else paid it. Our rates were 31s. 6d. in the pound, and it was all due to the number of unemployed on our books.

What are you going to say now to those areas where the people who administer the Poor Law have been dealing with the cases as thoroughly and squarely as they could, but not as generously as they would like to do, because of the auditor and the Ministry of Health. You are going to say that the people who come under the Board are now to be cut down to the lowest level, to the sort of Poor Law destitution test which I thought we had done with altogether. No one can get away from the fact that those councils which the right hon. Gentleman indirectly censured the other night, even with their lower scales, have been able at least to preserve their people alive. Without them no one knows what might have happened. Under the Regulations, this is what is going to happen, and it has not received as much thought as it ought to have received. Persons on statutory benefit, if their benefit is not enough, are told to go to the Poor Law authorities, and they will be able to get an addition to their statutory benefit. Is any hon. Member prepared to defend this principle—that the person who has been out of work for the shorter period is to have the means of getting extra assistance, whereas the man who has been out of work for the longer period, who has run out of benefit and who therefore needs more help, has to submit to the system which I have just indicated, that is, the system of an officer and of an advisory committee which has no real power in the matter? His condition, in my judgment, will always be much worse than that of the other man who is more fortunately placed. This officer with his limited discretion doing this one job, day in and day out, year in and year out, cannot do otherwise than become case-hardened, and ultimately you will have to call in the committees to help in adjusting these matters.

The question has been flung across the Floor at us several times during this Debate, "What do you want to do for the unemployed? If you were in power what would you do for these men?" First, Let me say that the Labour party has never yet been in power in this House. Do not let us have any nonsense about that. When I and my colleagues were in power at Poplar, we did what we said we would do, and we were denounced by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen up and down the country for doing so. If the Labour party gets into power and fails to carry out its pledges and promises when it is backed by a majority, then you can condemn it, and I am cer- tain that it will be destroyed, never to live again.

As to the means test and the Scarborough resolution, which was also raised during the night, I would like to say this: I stated one day from that Box my view on the means test, and what I said was placarded from one end of the country to the other. That statement was my personal view of the matter. I had hardly got the words out of my mouth, as those who were present on that occasion know, before my friends reminded me that what I had said was not the resolution passed at Scarborough and that the Executive of the Labour party had given a decision that the interpretation of that resolution was "No means test whatever." Sir Herbert Samuel on that occasion catechised me, as if I were a small boy—though I did not mind it from him—and asked me in very severe tones where I stood on the matter. I said that the question was not so much a matter of principle with me, and that as my colleagues had arrived at a decision on what we now know is a damnable system of dealing with the unemployed, I would accept their decision. If anyone chooses to call my attitude in question, let him do so, but let him not call in question the attitude of my hon. Friends who sit above the Gangway and alongside me. They have made no secret of what they stand for and what the party stand for, which is "No means test whatever."

We were also challenged once or twice this morning on the question of who earned the money. I had a passage-at-arms on that subject on a previous occasion with the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). If the Noble Lady is still curious on the subject, or if she has forgotten what I said previously, I would like to say to her that both she and I eat and drink and are clothed and housed, and if we do nothing ourselves, no matter how much money we have, we would not get the food or the clothing or the housing, she would not get her early morning cup of tea, or sherbert, or whatever it is she takes—neither of us would get any of these things—unless through the services of some working person or, as in my case, some relative. I am grateful to the poor. My interest in working-class life and poverty has not arisen because, like so many of my colleagues, I have borne the brunt of poverty myself. I have not done so, but my position in public life I owe entirely to very poor people, and I try not to forget it. The difference between me and those who challenge me is that I want to treat the poor as I would like to be treated if I were in their place. I am a very old man as years go, and when I heard of the dignity money in the case of old men, it made my gorge rise. Fancy 6d. a week to save an old man from having to go to his children! I would eat dirt before I would take 6d. or submit to anything of that kind, and the Noble Lady opposite or any other hon. Member opposite would take the same position in the same circumstances. I think that is one of the meanest things in these Regulations. They are all bad, but that is one of the worst.

We were also challenged as to how much we would give to these people. I was laid up in the Manor House Hospital after I broke my leg some time ago. My salary cheque came to me regularly while I was there, and I had not to send in any medical certificate. Nobody inquired into my means, and nobody inquired, after a certain time, whether I was malingering or not. My friends who occupied beds near me had to send certificates every week and every month before they could get their National Health money or their insurance money or whatever it was. If it is good for me to have the same income when I am sick and when I am in health, it is also good for the working man. I wanted more money when I was sick, and I found, when my children lived at home, that when they were ill, I wanted more money. There is no Member here who has a family who is not aware of that fact. Any man who is out of work finds that the landlord wants his rent and his wife and children want their clothes and food just the same, and when I am asked how much the unemployed should have, this is my personal opinion. They should have as much when they are out of work as when they are in work, and they should have more money when they are sick than they have when they are in health, because they need more. The Labour party, in their evidence to the Blanesburgh Committee, have said that they want £1 a week for a man, 10s. for his wife, and 5s. for each child.

The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) told me the other day that he had read every word that he could find of what I have said about unemployment. I am sorry for him for having submitted to that sort of torture. I want to repeat something that he has in mind, that I would not pay an able-bodied man any money to do nothing if I could put him to work. If I were dictator here—which God forbid—I should take in hand the land, the housing, and the general agricultural conditions of this country, and should organise the labour of the able-bodied men at proper trade union rates of wages and conditions. If the hon. and gallant Member has pursued his studies carefully, he will find that I have said this many times. I hope that when the Labour party get power it will nationally organise work on the land, work on housing, and the hundred and one pieces of public work that need to be done. I say that in response to the Lord Advocate, who closed his speech by saying that he hoped we would open our minds to the fact that we should deal with the unemployed by finding them employment. I am sure that there is plenty of work for the able-bodied in the country.

There are three other things that I want to mention. The Noble Lady will agree with me on one, which is that all the youngsters up to 16 should be kept at school and not pitched on to the labour market. I hope she will also agree that we should lower the age for old-age pensions and see that single women get pensions at an earlier age. I think that she will probably agree too that we should reduce the hours of labour in order to absorb more men.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)

Order.

Mr. LANSBURY

I am not going to pursue the point, but I was provoked into it by other speakers. We have dealt now and then with the juveniles and have all been perplexed about the means test and its effect on the health of the people. Whenever there is a shortage, it is the mother who generally pays the penalty, and I would like an investigation into the health of the mothers of the country. I think that we should have a bad tale to tell. There is training for the young people under the Ministry of Labour, and I should have liked the Minister to have mentioned this side of the work so that we could have had more discussion about it. The question of the juveniles is one of the most urgent and important. I have lived in East London in the midst of my division, and I know the children in the schools as well as I ever knew my own children. The most awful thing to me is to be asked every now and then to go to a court and speak for a boy—and this comes pretty regularly now—who has been taken up for some petty pilfering or thieving or for doing something he ought not to do. It is always a boy who is out of work and has never had a fair chance. It is such a waste of human material and a shocking waste of public money to build schools and to educate the children, and then to deal with them in that way.

I know that it is difficult under present conditions to do all that we ought to do, but I should have thought that the Ministry of Labour and the Home Office could have united in an appeal to the Government to pass, not the wretched Education Bill that is now before the House, but a Bill to raise the age to 16 and to provide that the children should not all be educated in the same way, but that they should be dealt with as units so that their capabilities could be ascertained and so that they could be trained accordingly. The question of what we are to do with these youngsters is growing in urgency and difficulty. Anyone who lives in a crowded centre in London and who is a social worker will tell you that it is the most difficult question of all. With regard to the means test, I am a person who believes in the home, who loves to go back even now to my home as it is, and who always rushed home. My friends know that I have never joined a club or anything of that kind, for I just want to go home because it is my home. I know from experience how the means test works, and in Bow and Bromley the problem is very acute.

I had a young girl come to my house one day broken-hearted because the guardians had written to her employers to know her earnings. They would not take her word. As a rule they do not; they send a form to the employer asking him to verify the earnings. This girl was ashamed to go back because it had got out that her father and mother were getting Poor Law relief. That may not sound very much to some hon. Members, but it is a great deal to young and middle-aged people. I have a question down for Thursday asking what the area officers and the assistant officers are allowed to do in the matter of verifying people's earnings. Is it proposed under these new Regulations, and is it a rule now, to verify earnings by sending to the employer or compelling the daughter or brother or sister of an applicant to take a document to the employer in order to verify the earnings? If that is done, there will be a great many protests, especially in London.

With regard to the question of suicide, the difficulty about proving what I am going to say is that in cases of suicide all kinds of verdicts are given because, as a rule, neither the coroner nor the jury wish to do the relatives harm by a verdict of suicide, and the words "while of unsound mind" are very often added. I know in my experience of at least half a dozen cases of men who, because of the operation of the means test through the guardians, which is the same as under the Regulations, have gone into the canal or under a train and just committed suicide. They were hopeless and derelict because there is in everybody an instinct of hatred at feeling dependent on anybody, more especially on relatives. I have never been in favour of the family means test. Part of our quarrel in Bow with the Minister of Health was because we would not operate it to the full according to the Ministry's Regulations. It is not important to prove my consistency, but what is important is that the House should try to face the fact that the operation of the test does drive people mad and to suicide, and that we all know that it does.

We also know that it breaks up homes. There has been a great deal of talk about the duty of children to take care of their parents and of parents to take care of their children. I have another question to the Minister for Thursday asking whether, if a son and daughter have apartments in a house where the father and mother are also living, but where the family live separately, the fact that they live in one house will cause them all to be brought into one allotment. It is important that that should be known without any question. I understand that only those who actually live together are called the household, but it is not always operated in that manner. A son and daughter may have rooms upstairs, and the father and mother may live downstairs, but they often have meals together. Are those people to be taken as one household or as separate households? I hope I shall receive a clear answer to that question.

The other thing I want to say—and on this alone the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth ought really to vote with us to-night—is that these little children go out and earn 5s. a week, and then a certain amount of it is to be taken into account. I think that is a blackguardly thing. I earned 5s. a week when first I went to work, and when I took that first 5s. I walked on air and thought I was a millionaire. This business of interfering between the boy and girl and their parents is an outrage. Leave the children alone, and they will do what they can for their parents without all this jiggery-pokery of the means test, taking things into account, and so on. There is no reason why that should be done, and when I say that I am speaking of what I know. Hon. Members opposite may know some individual cases, but I know multitudes of children who are only too glad to help their parents and who do not need this rotten means test and your appeals to them.

The final thing I wish to say about the whole matter is that no hon. Member on the other side can defend the granting of doles and allowances to shipowners, agriculturists, and others without any means test and at the same time want a means test for the unemployed. Hon. Members have said that the money given to shipping is given in order to stimulate industry and to keep industry going. The same is said in the case of agrculture and any other industry to which a subsidy is given. I would ask hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite who think in that way whether I am to understand that the preservation of the morale, the health, and strength of the workers and their families is not important to industry? Are they not things that ought to be preserved? I do not ask you to do it so that you will have good fighting men, but in order that there may be healthy minds in healthy bodies, and a race of men and women who will be able to stand up to all the demands of life and earn their daily bread in a decent manner. You will not get that by these Regulations, and you will not be able to do it however much money you give out in doles, either to them or to employers! You will only be able to do it when these men and women, who want to work and who are able to work, can go to work and collectively earn their own living, and when they have done so, share what they have earned between themselves and the rest of the community. That is the real cure for this problem, and when the Lord Advocate asks us how we can get away from all this business, I say that there is only one way—organise industry for the service of the community without having any regard to making money for people who live in the City or anywhere else.

12.5 p.m.

Captain HAROLD BALFOUR

We have just listened to an eloquent speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), in which he made the same challenge that has been made in almost all the speeches of hon. Members on the Opposition benches. In accepting responsibility for these Regulations, we are just as sincere as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen of the Opposition are in opposing the Regulations. It is well to remember that at the General Election, Government candidates throughout the length and breadth of the country stood on the principle of some form of family means test, and we gained the support of the majority of the working classes of the country, which the Opposition failed to obtain.

Mr. G. GRIFFITHS

You lost 94 seats.

Captain BALFOUR

We may have lost them, but the free democracy of this country accepted the principle which is put forward in these Regulations. Do not let the Opposition think that we on the Government side in any way shirk the responsibility of standing by these Regulations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley said that he wished to see the unemployed treated in a manner which would give them full work or maintenance and which would allow them to be given work at trade union rates. I think that perhaps the passage of time has mellowed the right hon. Gentleman's ideas as regards the treatment of the unemployed. The right hon. Gentleman condemned the discretion which is vested finally in the Board's officers and condemned the fact that the advisory committees have no executive powers. In 1909–27 years ago—the right hon. Gentleman was advocating a national scheme for able-bodied unemployed without any form of discretion in local committees. In that scheme he said nothing about wages to be paid to men who were to be put compulsorily into work camps. The right hon. Gentleman's attitude, I think, is far more to the right than the attitude of any of the Members of the Conservative party supporting the Government.

Mr. LANSBURY

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman is going to prove I have changed my mind, I am in good company with those on the opposite benches who were the champions of Free Trade and who in a night changed their attitude, whereas it has taken me 30 years to change mine and get to know some more about things than I knew at that time.

Captain BALFOUR

The right hon. Gentleman has made a most sincere recantation of his views. Twenty-seven years ago, in the Royal Commission Report on the Poor Law, he advocated a national authority to deal with the able-bodied unemployed, and a series of training establishments, to one or other of which the heterogeneous residuum of unemployed would be assigned. For the young unmarried man, he said it would probably be best to send him at once to a residential settlement in the country, where he would be free from the distractions of town life. I ask hon. Members what there was in that scheme about trade union wages and supplying work for the unemployed? All that I can say is that with the long life which everyone in the House hopes the right hon. Gentleman has before him, we may hope that there will be a further recantation in another 20 years, and that we shall find him supporting the Government. I listened throughout yesterday and the long night to protestations and denunciations which culminated, I think, in absurdity when the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) quoted the salary of £96 a week of the chairman of the Unemployment Assistance Board. I would remind the hon. Member that he belongs to the party which appointed Sir Ernest Gowers to be chairman of the Coal Reorganisation Committee and gave him the same salary. Evidently the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil had forgotten that his own party had done exactly the same thing, not in relation to the unemployed, but only in relation to the coal trade.

Having listened to those protestations and denunciations inside the House, I remain puzzled as to where is the volume of protest from those who are in work and out of work throughout the length and breadth of the country. I think every hon. Member will agree, irrespective of the side of the House on which he sits, that if they are to be effective, protests must come from those in work as much as those out of work. In fact, it must be a protest by the community on the broadest possible basis. If the reply of hon. Members opposite is that the unemployed do not yet understand these Regulations and that the protests are yet to come—[An HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!"]—an hon. Member says "Hear, hear!" If that be so, why then do hon. Members quote protest meetings in constituencies if the grounds of excuse for making these protests here are that the unemployed do not understand the Regulations? Hon. Members cannot have it both ways; either the unemployed do not understand the Regulations and will in future, or alternatively they do understand them and are already having protest meetings, but there seems to me to be very little general objection in any part of the country. The truth is that there are very few spontaneous protests. I have asked hon. Members from many parts of England what protests they have had as regards these Regulations—

Mr. McGOVERN

Might I ask a question?

Captain BALFOUR

No. We gave way the whole evening, and our Ministers gave way consistently.—[Interruption.] To use a very popular phrase, I am not being provocative. I shall have something to say to the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) in a few moments.

Mr. McGOVERN

Does the hon. and gallant Member forget?

Captain BALFOUR

No, I do not forget. If he does not wish—[Interruption.]

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

We must try to avoid personalities.

Captain BALFOUR

I apologise to you, Sir. There seem to be no spontaneous protests in any part of the country. I have some 3,000 unemployed and their dependants residing in my constituency, and I have not received a single letter of protest about these Regulations, apart from one from the local trades council, which was a protest before the Regulations were published. The fact is that the Regulations are accepted in general as being fair, because there is not a single reduction—I challenge any hon. Member to quote me one—in the case of which there is not given power of discretion either indirect through the local advisory committee or direct by the officer of the Board. Thus we come to the fundamental question: Do you or do you not believe in discretion? Personally I believe, with the administration of the Board as illustrated during the past year, that discretion is decidedly something to be advocated and to be relied upon, but I suggest that when we have the annual Debate in this House on the working of the Unemployment Assistance Board, the Board should embody in its report some form of return as to the number of discretions advised by the local committees which have been rejected by the Board's officer. We should then be able to see how much the local committee's discretion is actually counting in the final decisions of the Board.

Again, I think these Regulations are fair because every applicant who has a reduction under the second proviso of Regulation IV has the right of appeal. I believe they are fair also because, as the Minister of Health pointed out, they are the highest standard in Europe. They are very near the actual wage level in certain parts of this country, and they are considerably higher than the rates paid during the last Labour Government. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Wait till Labour get in power. We never had a chance." I have head that on political platforms throughout the country. Was there anything in the 1929–31 Parliament or the 1923–24 Parliament to have prevented the Labour party publishing their proposals, putting them to the vote of this House and being defeated and having the confidence in their proposals to go to the country? The real truth is that on each occasion the Labour party made promises for electoral purposes which they were either afraid or unwilling to try to put into practice in this House.

One of the hon. Members above the Gangway talks about the torch of indignation which had been lit by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) and was going to blaze throughout the length and breadth of the country. The truth is that the torch has become a sort of damp squib of political platform rhetoric. Where do the Socialist party and the Liberal party really stand as regards the means test? The hon. Member for Birkenhead East (Mr. White) spoke yesterday, and at the end of his speech I did not know whether he was in favour of no means test or of a family means test or a personal means test, because he said that they held that if public money was to be distributed to anybody who asks for it, inquiries must be made as to whether or not they need it. Does "they" mean the individuals or the family? I think the Socialist party have a right to know what the Liberal party really mean by that. An hon. Member made it quite clear that they said no means test of any sort, family or individual. We can take it then that the Opposition favour no means test at all before paying public money to an individual member of a family, quite irrespective of the fact that the whole family may be very amply provided for. There may be a schoolmaster and his wife, both headmasters with £600 coming into the house, and they may have one son who has been apprenticed at an engineering shop and who, having served his apprenticeship is out of work. He is to be allowed to draw benefit in spite of the fact that the parents are very amply provided for. If the Opposition take that point of view do they favour no test at all as regards family means for those who are paying money to the State in the form of taxation? A person who is paying money to the State has to answer meticulously intricate questions of family means and is liable to fine and imprisonment for false answers, but apparently it is the Opposition's view that that is quite all right for someone who is paying, but for people who are receiving there is not to be any test.

Mr. COVE

You fix a personal allowance in Income Tax. In the scheme within these Regulations you give so much as personal allowance Twenty-eight shillings is put as the personal allowance and the whole lot taken. Do you get that in Income Tax?

Captain BALFOUR

I am considering broadly whether someone shall be subject to imprisonment and fine when they are paying money to the State, yet those who are receiving money are to have no test at all. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. If you are to have no means test then the young man with parents having £600 a year is entitled to go and draw unemployment assistance without any trouble at all.

Mr. McGOVERN

Why should he not?

Captain BALFOUR

That is a positive point of view but when hon. Members of the Opposition try to have it both ways they deny the instance I am giving and then in the next voice shout "No means test."

Mr. MORGAN JONES

The hon. Member is interrogating me. Will he allow us to ask a straight question? He insists that we should apply the means test when people receive money from the State. Is he prepared that similar means tests should be applied to all people who receive subsidies for beef and all the other things?

Captain BALFOUR

I am perfectly prepared to admit the principle when any individual is paying money to the State in the form of taxation under law he should have a means test equally with any person who is receiving money individually from the State for which he is rendering no service at that particular moment through unfortunate circumstances. He should also have some means test. But I am glad that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) made that remark, because it strikes me that he is not over sound on the question of the means test. On the 29th May, 1930, in reference to the Education Bill, he said: I ask my hon. Friend to bear in mind that they must not exaggerate the principle involved in a means test however much he may object to it. There are innumerable forms of educational activity in which the means test is universally applied. In this case the means test was laying down what size a family would have to be to qualify for maintenance allowance which were going to cost the State £5,500,000. I do not think he is very sound on the question of the means test.

Mr. JONES

I am as sound as the hon. Gentleman.

Captain BALFOUR

In judging this question of the means test I would prefer to go to the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) who said, speaking in June, 1934: I can show that the Labour party in debate in this House have always accepted every form of means test and the majority of the Cabinet accepted the whole of the cuts that took place under the late Labour Government, and that since that time they have suffered without end in attempting to put the blame on to other persons. Early this morning we heard about the new united front from the hon. Member for Shettleston, consisting of the Independent Labour party, the Labour party, and the Communist party, to fight these Regulations.

Mr. McGOVERN

I said we would welcome some form of joint measures to defeat these Regulations and to defeat the National Government.

Captain BALFOUR

I accept the correction of the hon. Gentleman. He has made an offer to let the Labour party ally itself with the Independent Labour party. I would warn him, "When you go tiger-hunting be very careful whom you have with you." The hon. Gentleman has issued a warning himself about the very allies he is inviting to join him. I hope this new venture will not turn out so badly as he himself forecast a few months ago. Let us take one of the greatest experts on unemployment insurance in this House—the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan)—who said far more eloquently than I can when speaking in this House on 13th July, 1932: The Labour party are doing what has already misled thousands—that is, clothing their language and using phrases so as to leave people wondering so that later on they may say that something else was meant."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1932; col. 1327, Vol. 268.] When I held out just now an example of what no means test might mean, there were cries of "I did not mean that." Yet at the same time the Opposition cry "No means test." The hon. Member for Gorbals has exposed in a better way than I could the real attitude of the Labour party on this question, on which we are willing now and at any time in the future to accept the challenge of the Opposition.

12.27 p.m.

Mr. BURKE

During the first of his remarks the Minister referred to a number of local authorities and we have had the case of the London and Glasgow authorities debated fairly fully in the House. But he also referred to Burnley and he said, "Take Burnley. There is no question there of any unfairness but the scales are consistently below those put forward by the Board." I do not know what the Minister meant by saying that there is no case of unfairness, but I suggest that in comparing the new Regulations with Burnley he did choose one of the towns in this country that has been most hardly hit by depression, and that he might have chosen, if he wanted to make a comparison, one of the towns in the country which we have always claimed should be brought into a national scheme in order that the burden should not fall so heavily on the towns which have been badly hit by trade depression. Let me show how unfair it is to compare the Regulations, even supposing his statement is correct, with the Burnley position.

A few days before we began to discuss these Regulations, I had a letter from a young man who left Burnley to find work in Blackpool. He did not succeed in finding work in Blackpool. He wrote to me that he was getting in Burnley, for himself, his wife and one child, 29s., but when he went to Blackpool he received 24s. I suggest to the Minister that he might have taken a place like Blackpool with which to compare these new scales. Let us consider the position of Burnley and Blackpool. Both are Lancashire towns, and in both of them the population is approximately the same, namely, 100,000; but the rateable value of Burnley is £500,000, while the rateable value of Blackpool is £1,500,000, the rateable value per head of the population in Burnley being £5 14s., and in Blackpool £13 16s. In these conditions, Burnley has to levy a rate of 3s. 3⅝d., while Blackpool can get away with 7⅝d. It is because the people in Burnley have been so hardly hit for years past that we have been asking that the relief of unemployment should be taken off the local rates and made a national burden.

The Minister says that that is being done to a certain extent, and he claims that it is going to be very much better for Burnley and other places, but he ought not to contrast his scales against the dark background of a place like Burnley, in order to make their meanness appear not so mean and their callousness not so callous. On 28th March, 1931, Burnley was paying £23,000 in Poor Law relief. In March, 1935, it was paying £54,000 in Poor Law relief. The number of persons on Poor Law relief in Burnley when the National Government started on its career was 1,600, and in 1935 it was 4,168. The increased burden which Burnley has had to bear is very largely due to the policy of that Government in destroying our Indian market and doing nothing whatever to help the cotton trade. I suggest that, instead of contrasting these scales with the scales in Burnley, he might have contrasted them with those of some Tory administration. Possibly he thought that Burnley was a suitable place to choose because it had a Labour majority, but Burnley has only had a Labour majority within the last year or so, and that Labour majority has been left a legacy which will take it some considerable time to clear up, as a result of years of administration such as the Minister might think acceptable.

I do not see a great deal of difference between the scales that are now proposed and the scales that were proposed in 1935. I admit that no one knows how they are going to work out, and that is why I do not understand how the Minister of Health can say that Burnley is going to be better off. I do not think anyone can tell, until we see the scales in operation, how they are going to turn out in any particular district. But assuming that they are better than the 1935 proposals, they are not very much better, because one can only find a difference of 1s. in certain cases, and no difference at all in others. But the 1935 scales were so bad that, when the stand-still arrangement came into operation, Burnley had to go back to its own scales. The Burnley scales were better than the 1935 suggestions, and these 1936 suggestions are not very different, so I can hardly see that the Minister had much ground for believing that Burnley is going to be greatly improved as a consequence. In 1935, the Burnley Public Assistance Committee met and passed a resolution protesting against the proposed scales that the Minister had in mind at that time, and therefore I am at a loss to know how the Minister can consider his present scales to be very much better.

Let me remind the Minister, for this is one of those cases in which figures are often deceptive, that the figures published by the Ministry of Labour indicate that 45 per cent. of the insured workpeople in the cotton industry in Burnley were signing on at the Employment Exchange. That figure is perfectly true at any particular time, but let us look at another figure which gives a much better idea of the real state of trade in Burnley. In one year, 77 per cent. of the insured persons in the cotton industry in Burnley went to the Employment Exchange and claimed benefit at some time or other during that period. That means, of course, that the incidence of unemployment is very much more widespread than the figures of the Employment Exchange suggest. There is another serious point that I would like the Minister to clear up. I understand that under the new Regulations, no matter how favourable the scales may be on paper, no person can receive from the Unemployment Assistance Board more money in relief than he had been earning in previous weeks. That is going to create a very serious position for workers in the Lancashire cotton trade, where people are working the full 48-hour week but are only running two looms, and therefore are only getting half wages, so that, instead of going home with 50s. for a full 48 hours' work, they only receive 25s. If I understand the Regulations aright, and I should like to hear the Minister's interpretation on this point, these people are not going to be benefited very much by the new scales.

Mr. CROSSLEY

May I put this point to the hon. Member? I, also, have been studying this question with some care, and I understand that it is the normal earnings of a man in that position that would be taken. His normal earnings would not be the amount received for working two looms, but the amount received for working four looms.

Mr. BURKE

It has been very normal for years past, and it would almost be abnormal now for a man to work four looms and get a full week's wage for his 48 hours' work. It does not help us in Burnley to tell us that the normal wage is to be taken, because the normal wage of a large majority of our people has been something round about half wages.

It has been suggested in this Debate that we ought to be thankful for the scales that have been suggested, and that, if it were not for the fact that the National Government are doing so well and that the social services of this country are in such a healthy state, our people would be in a very much worse position. I agree entirely; the social services in this country do help our people enormously; but I have to remind hon. Members opposite that the social services have had to be fought for for very many years, that they have had to be almost extracted from unwilling Governments for 100 years past. But there is another point—we pay for them. It is the working class who pay for these social services, and not the other side.

The hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) suggested, when she was justifying subsidies, that, if subsidies were not given to certain industries, those industries would not make profits, and, if no profits were made, there would be no taxation for social services and so on. Let me remind the hon. Lady that all the money that is put up by way of Income Tax and Super-tax goes back again into the pockets of those people who put it up. You have a Budget of something under £8,000,000,000, and you put up £224,000,000 in Income Tax and £51,000,000 in Super-tax. What happens to it? The whole of that £224,000,000, and more besides, has to be used to pay interest on the National Debt, and goes back again in that way. Then another £112,000,000 is wanted, on the top of that, for the Navy, Army and Air Force, so that, before a single penny is spent for a drop of milk for the necessitous child or mother, before anything is spent on any department of the social services, all the money that has been put up in Income Tax and Super-tax has gone back, either in paying for past wars or in paying for future wars, and the social services have still to be paid for out of the earnings of the people in the ordinary way. Therefore, while we are thankful that the social services stand between us and degradation, we are not by any means thankful to the Government for that.

I suggest to the Minister that these scales ought not to be put into operation in the determined fashion that is suggested. Once they are established, they cannot be altered; we cannot come along with any Supplementary Estimate for them; they are fixed and definite; we cannot even experiment to find out how they will operate; they have been given over to an outside body. I suggest that, if they are to be put into operation in their present form, they should be put into operation for an experimental period, in order that we may alter them if we find, as we found on the last occasion, that they do not come up to expectations. I suggest that a little extra expenditure on the part of the Government might mean very much more in happiness and health to thousands of people. I would ask the Government, even if they do not want to proceed on the moral ground that it is right to do justice to these people, to consider the economic ground. Why is it that the wheels of industry have stopped in this country and in so many other countries to such a large extent? It is because the mass of the people for whom consumable goods are made have not the money with which to buy them; and the fittest, soundest and easiest solution of the problem of unemployment is to put more money into the pockets of the workpeople. They do not hoard it; they do not demand interest on it at a high rate; they take it to the corner shop; and the corner shop passes the order on to the warehouse, the warehouse passes it on to the factory, and at once the wheels of industry begin to start. Until the Government turn from their policy of economising at the expense of the mass of the people, we shall not have that happy state of affairs which the National Government promised us when they went to the country in 1935.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

Viscountess Astor.

Mr. MACLAY

May I most respectfully submit to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, not so much on my own behalf as on behalf of my constituency, that as a Member who has sat here for 20 hours, all through the night, I should not be passed over for an hon. Member who has just come in?

12.44 p.m.

Viscountess ASTOR

It is quite true that, after sitting here from four p.m. till two a.m., when, having paired, I went home, and I am sorry if I have got in before someone else who thinks he ought to have got in. I do not want to follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke), but he suggested something that sounded to me very much like a certain scheme, and I would ask him, if he believes in that scheme, to see what is happening in Canada, where they have tried that experiment. I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) on his eternal youth, and on being able, after having sat here all night, to get up and make the speech that he did. I have much in common with the right hon. Gentleman. I think we both believe fundamentally that the only way to get the perfect world we want is to have better Christian men and women in it. We have that firm belief, but I disagree with him as to the way that he thinks he can bring it about. He knows that according to our faith we cannot chose those whom we have to love. We cannot say that they are all perfect. We cannot be suspicious of our Treasury officials, nor can we turn to the charity organisation societies and say that they are hard-hearted and cruel. We have to get on to a higher level than that if we are to bring about that perfect world for which we are praying.

Mr. LANSBURY

That is true, but By their fruits ye shall know them, and when I see the effect of the work of the people mentioned by the Noble Lady I must stand up and say, for the good of their souls and for the good of my own soul, what I really think about them.

Viscountess ASTOR

I was thinking about the right hon. Gentleman's soul, and not of theirs. He says how very difficult it is for us in public life to keep true to our inmost convictions. None of us is in a position to throw a stone at anyone else. We have to cast the beam out of our own eye before we pull the mote from our neighbour's eye. The right hon. Gentleman must realise, as I do, that we are not dealing with perfect men and women. We are dealing with human beings as they are to-day, and in this House we have to think what is the best way to deal with them. When I compare what we are doing in this country with what is being done in other countries, I am convinced that our system is better than any other system in the world. True, it is a capitalistic system. The right hon. Gentleman said that if he were a dictator he would do such and such things. That is true. If he were a dictator he would do that. But I am certain that there is not a single hon. Member on the Opposition benches who would give up our free system of Government and come under the hands of a dictator, whether he was a Hitler, a Starhemberg or a Mussolini. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or an Astor."] Or an Astor.

I think the right hon. Gentleman will give some of us credit that we are in public life because we want to make the social conditions of great masses of people better than they are to-day. Otherwise, there would be no reason for our being here. I will not say that we are making great sacrifices, because public service has never been a sacrifice to me. I belong to that class of people who think that public service is a privilege if you can make the conditions of the people better. When I hear the right hon. Gentleman taunting us on what we have, and on being rich, it leaves me cold. I am not in the least ashamed, and I say quite honestly that I do not see anything in the individual conscience of hon. Members opposite to make me feel that if they had their way they could found a better world than we have now. I do not see it. If I did, I would willingly join them and help them. When I hear hon. Members opposite yelling against the capitalist system I ask myself: Who makes the capitalist system? The individual desires of materialistic men and women. Do hon. Members opposite mean to tell me that the Labour party are not just as materially-minded as the members of this party? It is nonsense. I listen to hon. Members opposite, but my conscience is clear and the consciences of many hon. Members on this side are absolutely clear.

We know how difficult is this question of giving public assistance to unemployed and uninsured men and women. To show how difficult it is, I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that when the Labour party were in office we used to say to them, when the unemployment figures were going up: "Show us your schemes for dealing with the unemployed. Put them before the House of Commons and if they are good, Liberals and Tories will consider them and vote on them." Hon. Members opposite know that they got in on "Labour and the Nation," although, most members of the Labour party have never even read it. I know who wrote it. Tawney wrote it, and his heart was broken. I know as much about the Labour party as many members of that party. Tawney wrote "Labour and the Nation," and most of you accepted it without even reading it. You got in by promising to deal with unemployment, and you brought in the Anomalies Act and put 250,000 people through the means test and out of insurance. You have not one leg to stand on.

With all due respect, I should like to say that there has been more fire than heat in this Debate. I do not blame hon. Members opposite. They have to keep on as long as they can, but when they go to the country and tell the country that they are going to give public money without any form of means test, the working men and women, particularly the women, will give them an answer which they do not expect. Do not let them make any mistake about that. I know perfectly well the reason why the first Regulations were withdrawn. It was because of the agitation. I did not agree with the Government on that. They ought not to have listened to it. I said it then and I meant it, and many trade union leaders agreed with it.

Mr. E. SMITH

Name one.

Viscountess ASTOR

I do not go back on my friends. If the Government had stood firm then and had readjusted rents and stood by the means test, we should have had no trouble. I sat and listened with joy to the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan), because it was such a performance as one might get—

Mr. LOGAN

The Noble Lady sat to listen to me?

Viscountess ASTOR

The hon. Member is wrong. I did not really sit to listen to him, but I sat with many other hon. Members to laugh. That is why I left the House at 2 o'clock. I was weak with laughter. How do hon. Members opposite propose to carry out their ideas? They have never told us how they propose to give public money without any means test. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), in a circular which he sent out to boards of guardians when he was Minister of Health said this—I do not think that some Members of the Labour party realise it— In assessing the amount of relief, to be afforded, the general principle is that income and means from every source available to the household must be taken into account. We also know, and the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) knows it very well, that in the Education Act which the Labour Government brought in they had a means test for maintenance grants. It is no good coming here and saying that they do not believe in a means test. They know perfectly well that there was a three-party conference held which tried to find a solution of this problem, and they did not find it. With regard to public assistance committees, they are not all men born in the purple, not all belted Earls; but many of them are men who started life as humbly as hon. Members opposite. They have given much time to the work, and I do not believe for one moment that under the capitalist system we could get better Regulations than are now proposed. Of course, if hon. Members opposite want to change the system and to hand themselves over to a dictatorship, they could get work and maintenance for all, but in that case they would have to go the way the Government wanted them to go, and they would have to eat what the Government wanted them to eat. They cannot have it both ways.

Under our present system you cannot get things perfect, but you get them more perfect than in any other country in the world. We are the highest taxed nation in the world and we are spending more on social services than any other nation. Of course, there is a great problem to deal with. There is the great problem of under-nourishment and malnutrition, but I do not believe that by simply handing more money to the unemployed that you will guarantee that they will go the way you want them to go. What we want to do is to get at the stomachs of the little children. Hon. Members opposite have made great play with individual cases. They have rent the House with the story of tragic cases. I could give them cases as bad on the other side. I could give them the case of a girl who came from Wales. She had every advantage, living in a splendid situation, and she went wrong. I do not blame Wales for that. You cannot make your laws on individual cases. There are 500 vacant places in the training centres, and if hon. Members opposite will help us to get the mothers to send their children to training centres and not send them, as it were, into blind jobs, it would be all to the good.

I have had brought to my mind lately three cases of men drawing public assistance. In one case a man with three children was drawing 40s. a week. The children were in a poor physical condition, and the visitor wanted to know the reason. The wife replied that they could not be kept on 32s. a week. The visitor asked: "Is that all that your husband gets?" The wife said, "Yes." The husband is drawing 40s. a week. I could give cases of abuses from up and down the country. I am not blaming the man for not telling his wife the truth about his money, because nobody tells his wife all the truth. Do hon. Members opposite tell me that they will hand over public money without any means test? I say to them, "You cannot do it." I agree with much that has been said about Wales, and I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Caerphilly speaks as he does, because Wales presents a big problem. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why make it worse?"] I do not believe that these Regulations will make it worse. If I did not believe that this was the best thing to do, I would not go for it. I do not believe that if the Labour party were in power to-morrow they could do anything better. They have shown that they cannot. Moreover, we have had the three-party conference, and we could not get agreement. It is one of the most difficult problems in the world. I hope that the Government will go on, and will leave no stone unturned to do something about the distressed areas, particularly Wales.

Hon. Members opposite must not think that we on this side of the House are unmindful of that matter. We are desperately keen to get all done that we can. We know that the Government have done a great deal for the unemployed; we know that they have put 1,450,000 men into work since the National Government started. We have increased our expenditure on the social services to a perfectly enormous extent. We have built more houses than any other Government have done before, and we have taken more people out of the slums by our slum clearance legislation than has been the case for 60 years. We have done remarkable things. I am not prepared to vote against the National Government in order to put in the Labour party, who, even now, have only a theory. They have not put forth one constructive idea. Anybody can tell what is wrong with the world, but very few people could make it right. The world will never come right until we are honest with ourselves and honest with one another.

I congratulate the Government upon these Regulations, and I congratulate the country upon having returned the National Government, although I do not always agree with the Government. I agree with some hon. Members opposite that some of the subsidies are wasted, and I did not vote for the subsidies. I have no sympathy at all with our agricultural policy. It is mostly based upon a theory by a very advanced man—I will not tell hon. Members who he is—who accepted a lot of the half-baked Socialist theories of hon. Members opposite. That is why our agricultural policy is such a mess; it has too much of Labour party policy in it and not enough practical farming knowledge. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] I happen to have a husband who has never been wrong about agriculture.

Mr. LOGAN

Does he ever get a silent moment?

Viscountess ASTOR

One of the things about the House of Commons is that we can all be merry and bright, even after we have sat all night. I want to say one more word, about the family means test and the breaking up of the home. It is my personal opinion that boys and girls who have to do something to help their homes make far better homes than the children of the rich. [An HON. MEMBER: "What do you know about it?"] I know a good deal about it. I am talking about what I know, about home life. I believe it is better for the children to have to help their parents than for the parents to be giving to the children all the time. Hon. Members opposite must know from their own experience that they have had to take back most of their earnings to their parents when they were young. They are talking nonsense about the breaking up of family life. That has nothing to do with the means test.

Mr. W. A. ROBINSON

You do not know. You have not been in colliers' houses in South Wales. How do you know?

Viscountess ASTOR

Because you live next door to a person or in the same line of houses, you must not think that you necessarily know all about them.

Mr. ROBINSON

The Noble Lady asked a question, and I have given her a reply. My wife and I have brought up seven children on very low wages, and they are all ladies and gentlemen now.

Viscountess ASTOR

That is exactly what I was talking about. How many hon. Members on this side could say that they have reared seven children who are all ladies and gentlemen now? I have reared six children, and I am not at all sure that they are all ladies and gentlemen. Family life must be based on something in the consciousness of the parents, I think. We know that parents vary in the working class as much as they do in other classes.

Mr. LOGAN

But do they get any pocket money?

Viscountess ASTOR

Sometimes I think this House should be grateful that there is not an Irish party in it. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have an American party."] You need not talk about that. I am a proud and unbending Virginian. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who won the Derby?"] Just one more word about the breaking up of the family life. If I felt that the Government were going to do anything to injure family life I would not support them. Every man in this House knows that whatever the family, high or low, rich or poor, we live in very trying times. One hon. Member spoke about juvenile crime; what terrifies me is that the increase in juvenile crime lately has been among the children at school. That means that we are up against a terrific problem.

Mr. GALLACHER

You will be up against a terrific problem.

Viscountess ASTOR

One day the hon. Member may elect an autocracy which will not let him speak in the way which he does in this House. He is the last person who ought to interrupt anybody if he believes in free speech, because he will never have free speech if we get the theory which he holds. [Interruption.] The hon. Member who interrupted should remember that he is a member of the Salvation Army.

Mr. G. GRIFFITHS

That has nothing to do with it, and the Noble Lady has no right to bring that in.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

Really, both sides of the House should try to avoid these irrelevant personalities.

Viscountess ASTOR

I listened till two o'clock to the Labour Members who were making speeches, and taunting and jeering us when we were making speeches. I think we have borne it pretty well. They have never stopped their interruptions or their jeering. In spite of their interruptions they have not made a case for themselves, or a case which they can take to the country. That is what I would remind the House, and I would say to the Opposition: Do not give us any more sob-stuff.

Mr. E. SMITH

You stop your insults.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

I must ask hon. Members at least to observe a little common decency.

Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS

Are we to be insulted by the Noble Lady?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

Viscountess Astor.

Viscountess ASTOR

I did not think that I was insulting, and I have not meant to insult hon. Members opposite. I was only speaking from my side of the case. It is never very easy for anybody to speak from this side of the House when hon. Members are shouting irrelevant things such as, "Who won the Derby?" We have not won the Derby, and I can tell the House that it benefits that side of the House much more than it does this.

Mr. F. ANDERSON

On a point of Order. Are the remarks which the Noble Lady has just used, about betting going on on this side of the House, proper to be used against this side of the House?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

I did not understand that there was any personal reflection against any hon. Member.

Mr. McGHEE

It is a disgrace to the House of Commons.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

I must ask hon. Members, to whichever party they may belong, not to make that kind of interruption.

Viscountess ASTOR

I do not feel in any way bitter against hon. Members opposite. I have no bitterness, but I am only trying to express my views. Hon. Members opposite sit there and taunt us with being hard-headed capitalists, and they say that the capitalist sytem is at the root of all our troubles. I say to them: How many of you are really Socialist, and prepared to share what you have got with your neighbour? I have not found much evidence of it, and it is not very convincing when hon. Members come and talk to us in that way. I congratulate the Government, and I tell them that when they go to the country they will find that we can make people see that it is impossible to give away public money without a means test. We can show them how other countries in the world are governed, and that if they want to change our system of government and our system of living for an autocratic government they are perfectly free to do it; but that under an autocratic government we can say that there will be no means test of any kind, but they will have to go where they are told to go and they will do what they are told. I am certain that the women will be the first to say: "We will not be taxed to help other people, unless other people are prepared to let us know what they have got." We, who have to give our money—[An HON. MEMBER: "Whose money?"] I am perfectly prepared to answer that. [Interruption.]

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

Order.

Viscountess ASTOR

Hon. Members say: "Whose money?" They have had to change the whole basis of their theory. They have had to welcome brains as well as brawn into the Labour party. It is true that they have not many brains.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

I hope the Noble Lady will bear in mind what I have said.

Viscountess ASTOR

Hon. Members asked me where the money was coming from, and I was reminding them that the Labour party has had to welcome brains as well as brawn. The more I see of men and women the more grateful I am that there are more brains than brawn. The great mass of us would still be running around in our birthday clothes if it had not been for men of invention and genius, men who would take risks, and who built up what we call the capitalist system and made England the centre of democratic freedom. We are not going to change it for a common level of very common men and women who believe only in a theory, and who have not one ounce of practical advice to give.

1.15 p.m.

Mr. MACLAY

I apologise to the Noble Lady for my interruption at the beginning of her speech, but I have been sitting for 22 hours and through the night; and when I saw the Noble Lady sail in, without being here all night, and get called before me I felt, as a Northerner with a northern constituency to represent, that I had to say something about it; but I gladly confess that I would willingly have sacrificed three-quarters of my speech for that of the Noble Lady.

I rise to oppose the Regulations because of the retention of the household or family means test. I regret having to do this very much indeed. I have tried during the last five years to give as consistent support to the Government as I could. At the last General Election I came to the conclusion, after careful consideration of the position, not only in my constituency but in Scotland, that the household means test was a bad thing and the chief source of bitterness among those who were affected, and that it could quite properly be left out, and I still hold that view. I have no option but to vote against the whole of the Regulations. There are no Amendments possible and therefore I have no option, owing to the position in which I find myself. I have listened all through the night to the various speakers. I cannot agree in the main to the line taken by the official Opposition except in so far as it applies to the household test. I admit that the Government, inasmuch as they are working on a household test, have considerably eased the position, and I believe that the Regulations otherwise have been carefully drawn up, and that, with one or two exceptions which I shall mention in a moment or two, are a considerable improvement on the past position, and that if carefully administered locally they should work well.

I should like to draw attention to the words of the Minister of Health when he said—and every area should know this—that: There is an absolute duty upon the Unemployment Assistance Board to meet the needs of those who are entitled to look to them for assistance. The Board are limited by no scale. They have complete discretion to give whatever assistance is necessary to ensure an adequate supply of food as well as other necessaries of life. … The scale laid down in the Regulations is not to be applied rigidly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1936; cols. 398–399, Vol. 315.] That in itself should console those who are worried about a repetition of what occurred last year. Hon. Members who represent textile constituencies and a constituency such as I represent at Paisley, see the more difficult and the worst side of the household test. It is only in respect of the household test that I intend to vote against the Regulations. There are several thousands of mill girls in Paisley and there are many fathers, middle-aged men and men under middle age, who have been willing to work but quite unable to find work, not for a few months but for years. That is the sort of position which has forced some of us in such constituencies to give special consideration to the household test. The result is, as I have found it—and I have not limited my inquiries to my own constituency—that middle-aged men, anxious for work and unable to get it, find themselves dependent upon earnings of their children, not for weeks or months, but sometimes for years on end. They are uncertain even of their scale allowance if the family are living with them, but certain of it if the family move next door. Surely that is inconsistent and bad legislation. I admit readily to the Government that my experience has shown that the conditions have not broken up a great many homes. That is to the credit of the families. But these conditions have produced constant, long-felt irritation and friction and in some cases, especially when—and I say this respectfully to the other nationalities—you have the much valued Scottish independence of character, humiliation on the part of fathers, and also a tendency to remove parental control, which, whether you like it or not, usually lies with the person who has the cash. From the point of view of the earners in the family we have this long-continued position producing a feeling of discouragement among the younger generation. There is a tendency to leave home, though I do not stress that fact too much, and strained relationships at a time when one would like to see relations closer.

I was going to address the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) but she is not here. I agree with the Noble Lady that these conditions are endurable and possibly right as between children and their parents for a time, for months even, possibly for more than a few months also if the parents are in old age, but where you have parents, especially a father, who for years on end has been willing to work but unable to find it and is in the prime of life, it is not right to expect the children willingly constantly to contribute to support him. I would also except times of national crisis or extreme national financial stringency. That was why I supported originally in 1931 the Unemployment Act, although I admit that when the first Regulations were brought up in this House in 1934 I should have protested against the family test. I did not fully realise the difference between family contributing for a short period and for a long period. That is the difference. That is my objection. It is making wage-earners, and, in my experience, the lower-paid wage-earners, take a part of the burden which the Government should bear.

The whole tendency is for unemployment to become a national burden, and I think that if that was interpreted broadly it would do away with the household means test. I have found in going about, that the objection of the wage-earning class is not to a means test but to this family test, and from a purely political and material point of view I am surprised that the Government did not find it possible to do away with the family test. That would have removed what would seem to be the strongest plank in Labour's programme at the last Election or any Election to come.

Mr. KIRKWOOD

The hon. Gentleman is quite right as far as Scotland is concerned.

Mr. MACLAY

Supporters of the Government have said to me many times that if you do away with the family test you will have this position: You may have a man and his wife unemployed with 24s., and the children earning a larger sum of money, but if the family are not made to contribute towards the upkeep of their father and mother there will be no incentive to drive the man to go and find work. I know that that position is difficult to answer. If you tackle this thing and accept the principle that the family test should be finished, then these various problems will resolve themselves, and I contend that the Regulations should be formulated upon the basis that the average man is willing to work if there is work for him to do, and that thereafter safeguards should be applied with regard to those who are unwilling to work or to do work that is offered. It should be the duty of the State rather than the duty of the family to discipline idlers. It would be necessary under that new principle to tighten up the question of a man having to take certain work that was offered to him. That would seem to be inevitable. The Minister—and I have listened very carefully to all the Debates—has always addressed the same questions to the House regarding this problem. He knows what I mean and I will not bother the House with a lot of quotations. But one of his questions was: If the father, in addition, becomes unemployed, is the assistance to the unemployed son to remain at the fixed figure, or are the authorities to take into account the fact that the father's resources are no longer available in the household? I admit that these are problems which will be difficult to face, but if you admit the principle that the household test is not right and that this should be a national burden, these questions become problems of no greater complexity than the sort of problems which the Board are facing now, and, in my opinion, are capable of solution. It would be reasonable to say that certain members of the family should contribute their board and keep, and other such conditions. I cannot go into that matter just now, as we cannot alter or amend the Regulations. Take one other point upon which the Minister has laid stress: How can any man or any minister deal with subterfuges such as the transfer of such resources from the applicant to some other member of the family?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd June, 1936; col. 1493, Vol. 113.] I myself cannot see any more difficulty in transferring resources to any member of the family outside the house than there is in transferring them to any member inside the house. That is the type of thing which the Minister is bothered about. I admit the difficulties but say they can be solved. It all comes down to this, that if you make a change of principle—I can only put my own point of view—that if the Government would drop the household test, these questions would resolve themselves round the new principle; it would give a feeling of fairness throughout the wage-earning community and remove the sense of unfairness they have felt for a long period, and also it would not cost very much. I am willing to work that out and show it to the Minister.

There is one last point which is not in connection with the household test, but which affects my constituency not to a very great extent, but sufficiently to be worth raising. It has been put to the Minister several times already. It is the case of a textile constituency where in a fair number of cases a married woman is working and her husband is unemployed. Under the present arrangement of the stand-still order, where the woman is earning 24s. of wages, the total income going into the family is 38s. Under the new Regulations, as I interpret them, that sum will be cut down to 32s. I am not arguing at the moment whether that is right or wrong, but I would ask whether it is intended in that type of case that there should be such a large reduction as six shillings? Is it the intention of the Regulations to inflict a cut, or is there some way of meeting that case? Many of the Regulations seem to be on the whole fair and an improvement, and this seems to be a case by itself which is unfair.

Finally, I am convinced that the household means test will shortly cease, and I should like to have seen this National Government the Government which abolished it. I regret in many ways having to vote against them. I hope and believe that the Regulations will carry out what the country intend they should effect, which is a considerable improvement over the country as a whole in the alleviation and improvement of the position of the unemployed..

1.31 p.m.

Mr. G. GRIFFITHS

I have listened practically all the time to this Debate, and my mind has been forcibly taken back to 17th December, 1934, when the then Minister of Labour, who is now the President of the Board of Education, brought his Regulations to that Box. He made the statement that those new scales would increase the amount to the recipients by £3,000,000. When we on this side said the recipients would not get the £3,000,000 he said "I am assured that that is the extra cost, as far as the Government is concerned," and went on to outline this, that and the other point. Hon. Members from the other side, including the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass), the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) and the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) got up and thanked the Minister of Labour for that great scheme. Indeed, the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe said that every person in his division who was receiving transitional payments would get a rise. The Regulations were put into operation on the 7th January, and when the House—it was the last Parliament—re-assembled on 28th January a storm broke out in the House not only on this side but on the other side. I remember that the hon. Member for East Aberdeen told the Government that scores and hundreds of people in his division had got cuts, and the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe stood up with a tear on his cheek almost as big as a snowball. I remember that the hon. Member for Newcastle East (Sir R. Aske) said to the Government "You have led us wrong. We thought it was going to be all right. We have come back here after visiting our divisions in the Recess and we find that thousands of our people have had a cut and not a rise."

The day before yesterday the presest Minister of Labour got up and said "We are going to increase the amount by £750,000." That is his theory. The previous Minister was as sure about his statement as the present Minister is. It was no good Members on this side saying "No" and putting practical cases to him. But the Government were in such a muddle when they came back on 28th January, 1935, that their own supporters said "Withdraw these Regulations," and on 12th February the then Minister of Labour said "We are not going to withdraw them, but there shall be a stand-still order." That stand-still arrangement has been operated ever since. Under it the people who were receiving more prior to the stand-still arrangement were to continue to receive it, and the people who were not receiving more were to receive the amount provided under the stand-still arrangement.

The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) stated that he had received no resolutions about these cuts. One would not expect that in his case. At Deal they have only 146 persons drawing statutory benefit and only 29 drawing benefit under the unemployment assistance scale, and 14 drawing benefits under public asistance. The public assistance scales in Thanet were so low that the people there were glad to grasp at anything to give them a little more. It is not the same in Glamorgan or in Durham or in Monmouth. If you take their figures you find an overwhelming case for the people who were paid public assistance committee regulation scales as against unemployment assistance scales.

I am not going to say much about the Minister, although I have sat here since a quarter to Three on Wednesday, with the exception of going home to get a little insulin shoved into me to keep me going, but I wish to deal with one or two other Members, and the first is the Noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass). He asked, "What do you stand for in the means test?" Some hon. Members in the last Parliament will remember that before the last Election an hon. Member said "We are going to the country on re-armament and the League of Nations," and that I said to him "You will have to go to Hemsworth on the means test and on miners' wages." And the Conservative Central Office sent a man to fight me in that division. I stood for the abolition of the means test root and branch, all of it, and when the Election was over I had defeated my opponent by 21,266 votes, and I am prepared to fight in my division at any time on the abolition of the means test. The Noble Lord talked as though he understood the means test. I have looked up his record. He was educated at Eton and Oxford. He put up for Parliament when he was 26 years of age and got into this House when he was 28. He was made a Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1931. He has two castles to live in and two special clubs to which he can go. And yet he says "Look here, we want to apply the means test—but not to us; we want to apply it to those who are starving." His case is theory; mine is practice.

In the last 10 months before I came to this House I drew 110 days' unemployment allowance at 3s. 10½d. a day—3s. 10½d. a day to keep the wife and me. Mine is not theory twaddle. It is something I understand. I was practically fed on grass. When people over there with their thousands of pounds talk about the means test they do not know what they are speaking about. They do not know anything about it. I could give the Noble Lord a few lessons in the means test. When the lock-out was on in 1926 I said: "If the miners go back under these proposals they will find them grass proposals," and I have lived to see my people in the Hemsworth Division practically starved. Some women in that division have lost three to four stones in weight because they have been underfed, because they have allowed the children to have the food. The medical officer of health for the West Riding stated that the children were looking well because the mothers were starving themselves. That is in his own report for 1934.

Another hon. Member opposite talked about the household means test. I wonder what he knows about it? I wonder what that other young chap opposite who has been talking about the household means test knows about it. Then there is the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland). Has he had it applied to him? I wonder whether something has been deducted from his wages because his dad is out of work. It is all book stuff that those people are talking. They have not been right down to it and do not understand it. A chap came to our house one Sunday morning who had got his brother-in-law living with him. That chap was working at the pit 10 miles away from his home, and before the Regulations came in, in January, 1935, his brother-in-law was getting 17s. unemployment allowance. As soon as those Regulations came into force his brother-in-law did not get a cent., and because he had married that fellow's sister he had got to keep him. To-day that poor fellow—the husband—is in Wakefield Asylum. His wife wrote me a most pitiful letter asking, "Can you help to get my husband out?" The cause of that was the household means test. Then hon. Members talk about breaking up family lives. I know it broke up family life in the street where I live, and only three doors away from me. A lad had to leave that home. His father, 64 years of age, was working in the pit and getting 8s. 9d. a shift, and they cut the lad's money down to 5s., and he had to leave home before he could get any more.

Take the case of a chap of 29 who is courting and wants to get married. Is not that a natural thing? None of us in this House would be here if our fathers and mothers had not got wed. He is drawing 40s. a week. He is paying 25s. a week at home now for his board. Under the scale that we have here, out of that 40s. he is going to have 3s. pocket money. In future I shall not call it "pocket money" but "dignity money." I thank the Minister for that word. I shall use it pretty heavily this week-end. It is a lovely word. Here is this lad wanting to get wed and all that he can have out of his 40s. is 3s. He has to give 12s. towards the upkeep of his father and mother.

Next I want to speak of rent. The Minister of Labour boasted about rent, but when these Regulations are put into operation we shall see how his theory will work out. Take the case of a man and wife with no children in a mining district living in a 10s. house. According to these scales he "may" have. It does not say he "shall" have. There is nothing which says that anybody "shall" get anything, but he "may." We had a lot of these "may" days in the last Regulations, as hon. Members opposite know.

Last Sunday a friend of mine told me that he had to go to the Unemployment Assistance Board because the word "may" had been inserted. It does not say that they "shall," but they "may" receive so-and-so. But take the man who gets 24s. He has to pay 10s. a week in rent and one-quarter of 24s. is 6s. He may get an increase of 4s.; and he may not. Take the man and wife with four children. He gets 24s. and for his children 15s., making 39s. He pays 10s. a week rent. He will not get one penny, while the other man may get an additional 4s. When these Regulations begin to work there will be the devil to pay. But we will do what the political grandfather of the Minister of Labour said on one occasion, "wait and see." Take the question of the savings of a family. I wonder whether any young man on the other side of the House who says that these Regulations will bring in a garden of Eden, would think it right if, when he had £300 in the bank and his father was on the means test, everything above the £300 was to be counted?

Let me say this to the Minister who, like myself does a bit of preaching at the week-end, that these scales of assistance are damning thrift in the country. I have come up against scores of men who say that they will never save another penny-piece because when they come for unemployment assistance every little bit they have saved is taken into account. If they have saved money and put it into the co-operative Society or a building society it is counted, but Jack Jones who lives three doors away and who has invested his money in Scotch whisky or Smith's Brewery, who has spent it all there and has not saved a penny piece, gets his 26s. Because the others have saved £300 they do not get a penny piece. The President of the Board of Trade has said that the thrifty man is the backbone of the nation. The Minister of Labour is sticking a sword through the backbone of the nation. Another man who is very near to the unemployment assistance scale, who is 52 years of age, asked me what he was likely to get. I said he would get nothing at all, whereupon he remarked that that was not very encouraging for a man who had been trying to save for the last 30 years. Hon. Members opposite say that it is all going very smoothly but we will see after tonight whether that is the case or not.

I want the Minister to take special notice of this next point. What about the man with a wife and one child who is on part-time work. If he has had 156 statutory benefits during any financial year, comes on to unemployment assistance and then plays for three days in any six days, instead of getting 29s. he