§ [SECOND DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [3rd November]:
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament"— [Miss Horsbrugh.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
The Motion is for an Address to His Majesty in respect of the Gracious Speech delivered, as was pointed out yesterday, in historic circumstances. This is the first time, at least for hundreds of years, that a bachelor King has opened a Session of the British Parliament. I do not know what the general view of most Members of the House may be, but yesterday, in the weather, in the circumstances, in the attitude of the Government, I had a feeling of gloom that that was hardly the type of atmosphere in which I should have liked that historic event to take place. I cordially hope that the circumstances surrounding the Government of this country and the hopefulness of the future of the people will be very much snore satisfactory, and give much more cause for confidence before the end of the reign of the King who inaugurated Parliament yesterday, than it does at this moment. I do not think there is a Member on this side of the House who does not wish that that will be the highest and best mark of the reign of His Majesty.
I cannot help feeling, as I think of the circumstances in which we take this kind of stock of the national position, that one of the most tragic features of the present period is the comparative complacency of the Government, which was referred to at Question Time to-day. The situation with which we are faced to-day both in regard to international affairs and the domestic condition of the people 84 is such that the Government cannot possibly escape its share, a very considerable share, of responsibility for the position. The international sphere will be debated at length to-morrow, when the Foreign Secretary will make his statement. Therefore, I leave that subject, except to say that no one can deny that the international position has steadily deteriorated, almost without any kind of break or any lightening of the shade since the National Government took office in October, 1931. The Leader of the Opposition was perfectly right when he said that we do not attempt to saddle the whole responsibility for the position upon the Government, but we are entitled to say that the Government of the centre of that commonwealth of nations which is still, or should be, the most powerful nation in the moulding of world affairs, must take a very considerable share of responsibility for the measure of deterioration that has taken place. I cannot help remembering the words of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in a book which he wrote, and which I am sure most Members of the House have read and appreciated for its wonderful language. He spoke of the world crisis and the aftermath, and said that life is a brief span, and all that matters is not to fall below the level of events of the greatest occasion. What we say of the present occasion is that we can rightly charge the Government with having consistently in their conduct and action fallen below the level of great events. We shall pay a little more attention to that matter in the Debate which will take place to-morrow on foreign affairs.
If that is true with regard to the international situation it is also true of the domestic situation. The Leader of the Opposition in dealing yesterday with the physical condition of the people quite rightly laid proper emphasis upon the responsibility of the Government for the condition. He said that while the malnutrition of the people was spread over a fairly long period it could be attributed to the system under which we were working, a system which was unfairly dividing the products of labour, making it inevitable that large sections of our people would go underfed. But while it is true that this malnutrition has been spread over a long period the Leader of the Opposition was equally right in putting the responsibility on the 85 Government, for their attitude in 1931, 1932 and 1933, when they consistently, almost shamefully, restricted the social services, has undoubtedly had a great effect upon the present physical standards of the people. While we welcome the ray of light which is exhibited in the Gracious Speech that the Government at last recognise that there is a serious deterioration in the physical standard of the people, we should have been more pleased if this recognition had not come from a sudden revelation by the Government in the course of its great campaign for rearmament and its request for recruits, when they suddenly discovered that the recruits available were not up to standard, and that if they were to adhere to the normal physical standards laid down by Army Regulations there would practically be no home cadre units in the country, and that if they were to feed the Army abroad there would be no reserve at all. They had to change the physical conditions of enlistment. There is no better evidence of the way in which the physical condition of the people has deteriorated than the Secretary of State's action in dealing with the recruitment position. We now have announcements in the Press for recruits of a, lower physical standard than has hitherto been required. I am told that in Army circles there is so much concern about the extent to which it is proposed to relax the physical conditions of recruitment that the type of physical condition now being admitted has come to be known as "Cooper's Duffs," not a very happy augury for the kind of physical personnel which the Army is likely to get now.
While we regret that it has been left to a time of recruitment and intensive effort to recruit more men for belligerent purposes to discover the deterioration in our physical standard, we will say this for the Government, that while we charge the system of capitalism, of which the Prime Minister is still unashamed and to which he is still attached—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I hope hon. Members who cheer that statement will consider how much that system is responsible for the petition presented to-day, for all the efforts of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) and for all the efforts of hon. Members for Newcastle to bring to the notice of the Government the dire necessities of those who have become 86 the waste and scrap of the present system of industry and commerce, which has long proved itself capable of producing only shortage and social poverty, nevertheless, we say to the Government that if they are really prepared to tackle the question of the rehabilitation of the physical standard of the people in the right way, the Opposition will criticise any proposals in a constructive way, because until we can persuade a larger number of people in the country to accept a change in the system we consider that any amelioration in the condition of the people would be welcome. Those who represent industrial constituencies and know the conditions which still obtain in what is a boom of prosperity will do anything to relieve, immediately if we can, the conditions under which our people are living to-day. If one looks at the actual facts with regard to the nutrition of our people surely there ought to be no need for us to have to urge on the Government the necessity for any action. I do not know whether hon. Members have yet had time to study the recently published interim report of the League of Nations on the problem of nutrition. If they have they will have seen some reference to the British situation which will give them cause to think. The report says:It thus appears that in the United Kingdom the diet of at least 50 per cent. of the population falls short of the desirable standard.It is not a small proportion.It is estimated that to raise the consumption of this low income half of the population merely to the level of the next group would require an increase of 16 per cent. in the amount of milk consumed, 15 per cent. in that of butter, 18 per cent, in eggs, 12 per cent. in meat, as well as a 25 per cent. increase of expenditure on fruit and vegetable. Even then the diet would leave room for considerable improvement.Dealing in economic considerations the report says:The reduction in retail prices of food has been accompanied by a still greater reduction in income of many classes of the population, and this in turn has led to serious malnutrition amongst certain classes.Again, dealing with some of the more deadly forms of disease from which our working classes suffer to-day the report says: 87Here again, therefore, it is possible that increase in the consumption of protective food, especially by poor people, would reduce the incidence and death rate due to this disease … In general, it would seem that, at the very lowest level of income, workers concentrate their dietaries on bread and cereals; with the first increases above this level, more cheap fats and meats are consumed; with further increases in income, butter is introduced into the diet.If the Government are really interested in the problem of malnutrition, there is first of all the absolutely urgent necessity of doing something to relieve the economic restriction upon the working class. It is of no use hon. Members opposite saying that, even under their own productive system, it is not possible to have a redistribution of the produce of labour. Year after year, in spite of increased rates of impost, we find in the Chancellor's Budget statements that the yield from Death and Estate Duties goes up. From the class of persons brought within the highest scales of Death and Estate Duties, we find that, instead of there being a gradual remedying of the old social injustices in the distribution of the produce of labour, the system which hon. Members opposite support intensifies the disparity between the income levels of the different classes of the population, enabling them or not enabling them to have a fair standard of life. If the Government are not prepared to deal with the economic purchasing power of the people, even inside the present system, they will not be able to make any rapid progress in improving the physical condition of the people.
Let me take as an example a class of workers with which I am familiar, a class which may be regarded as being almost among the aristocrats of the working class—those employed as distributive workers, shop assistants and the lower-paid clerks in the distributive trade. When we receive applications from people who wish to be employed in an institution which requires trade union membership on the part of those whom it engages and pays wages in accordance with trade union agreements, we find over and over again that outside establishments in the distributive trade pay anything from 10s. to 22 a week—according to the ages of the workers—less than the wages laid down by the trade union as the reasonable minimum for ensuring a proper standard of life in the 88 distributive trade. It is well known that in other trades conditions are equally bad or very much worse.
On the employers' side we are now negotiating with the Ministry of Labour with a view to seeing whether there is any possibility of raising the present standards among that class of workers. The discussions are dragging on almost interminably. The representatives of the trade unions have not yet been met, although I believe they will be met at the Ministry of Labour shortly. I have referred to that class of workers because the position there is indicative of the grave problem which faces the working class in this country. Over and over again conditions are such at the present time that a married man with a household of four or five, including himself and his wife, does not receive enough in wages to supply to his family the very minimum scale of proteins which would make them fit citizens for the subsequent discharge of their duties. It is amazing that the Gracious Speech, for which, of course, the Government are responsible, should not take a wider view of the situation and the kind of thing which is necessary in physical training. I have heard from some of my friends in the industrial constituencies that, in some of the new physical training classes for children in the industrial areas, it is pathetic to see the thinly drawn lines of the bodies of the children who are asked, and who, I admit, are very anxious themselves, to engage in physical training, but who obviously have not had enough food to give them sufficient stamina to be able to benefit from any of that physical training.
It is a disgrace that those who set up themselves as being the only people fit to govern—who hold that the system which has gone on for the last 170 or 180 years, since the industrial revolution, is the only one which can be maintained—can contemplate with complacency such conditions as exist in the country to-day without making a far greater effort to deal with them. I make no apology for saying that in the House to-day we feel we have the right to demand immediate redress of this basic social grievance of the people of this country. It is possible for that to be done if the Government will re-arrange the distribution of income even under the present system of production; but I would add—and I would 89 ask the Prime Minister to consider again the answer he gave yesterday—that it is becoming abundantly clear from the modern type of statistical research and inquiry into the results of capitalist production that no capitalist country to-day is able to produce to the maximum amount of the power of its working population. No capitalist country is able to produce to the extent of 100 per cent. of its potential power, and that is largely because the present system is confined to the main incentive of private profit and gain, The whole position is not mapped out properly, the whole population is never used at one time, and the total produce available for distribution among all the people is never at the optimum figure which would enable a. proper standard of life to be given to the working classes.
I would, for instance, ask the Prime Minister to read the results of the inquiries of the Brooklyn Institute in the United States. In the United States, even in 1929, the figure of production was only 81 per cent. of the total possible production, and at the time of greatest depression in the United States—1932—the figure had fallen below 50 per cent. of the maximum that could have been produced by the fully-employed labour power of the country. We on these benches say that if you will apply your good will, as well as your brains, to the substitution of a system in which there is greater justice than there is in one in which the whole dynamic and motive of production is private profit, if you will introduce a system having as its basis the common good and the welfare of all the people, you can, without difficulty, proceed to arrange production of 100 per cent. of the total power of production of your people, and, not having the present bars in the way, can have a form of distribution which will enable all classes in the State to be properly housed, properly clothed and properly fed, and thus avoid some of the conditions of which the Secretary of State for War complains to-day.
It would be wrong of me at this stage in the Debate on the Address to take up too much of the time of the House. But I should like to refer to the armaments position and to the present budgetary position. We are told about the armaments position in that section of the Gracious Speech which is addressed 90 specifically to Members of the House of Commons. That is because Members of the House of Commons will have to pass the Estimates for the supply of the money. In that paragraph the Government state that the work of strengthening the defence forces is being pressed on with the utmost energy and that they are satisfied that the measures they are taking are essential to the defence of the Empire and to the ability of this country to discharge its international obligations. On that I think we are entitled to say—and I hope we shall get an opportunity of raising this point in the course of a special day's Debate later on—that we on this side of the House are not by any means satisfied that that armaments programme is being properly dealt with from the point of view either of economy or efficiency.
The country was fairly well shocked by the pronouncement made a few days ago by Lord Nuffield, a, pronouncement which, apparently, led to such consultations that there was a hurried patching-up of the situation. In any event, it appears to us, having regard to the experiences of the War, and in view of the undoubted danger of the situation which was pointed out by Lord Nuffield, that there should now be a thorough inquiry into what is being done. If you are going on with a rearmament programme—which in my judgment at present is not based on sound lines, and has not been shown in every case to be necessary—at least you ought not to go on with it in such a way as to allow speculation and unnecessarily high profits in the private production of armaments without anything like a proper spread to the working classes, even if they do find employment in armaments and munitions, as a result of their labour. That does not go to say, of course, that I agree with the armaments programme at all. There will be plenty of opportunities for discussing that subject from time to time later on. But I do note this fact. In 1930 the Labour Government entered into a, treaty for the limitation and reduction of naval armaments. I remember how we were put into the box, or rather into the dock, at that time on the ground that we were going to let down the strength and the power of the sea defences of this country. I remember the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping saying to me across the Floor of the House that the treaty was 91a formal acceptance by Great Britain of definitely inferior sea power."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 15th May, 1930; col. 2098, Vol. 238.]But observe what happened. The right hon. Gentleman went to Paris and made a speech as recently as 24th September last, and, as I read that speech in the "Times" I noted these words:Of the British fleet I can speak with particular assurance. It is certainly far stronger in relation to any fleet or combination or fleets in Europe than it was in 1914 and by the arrangements which are now being made by the British Government, its preponderance will certainly be fully maintained in the future.That being the position—as I have always said was the fact—in regard to the British Fleet, I cannot for the life of me understand all the excuses made during the Ethiopian crisis and during the operation of sanctions about the presumed weakness of the British Fleet in the Mediterranean, the loud grumbling at arrangements to deal with the declared aggressor —and therefore the subsequent accumulation of the power, and the desire of the aggressor to go still further—and now the plea to this country and to this House for power to proceed with an unlimited programme of rearmament, without any hope at all, in my judgment, of this country being able to maintain thereby, of itself, the whole defence of the British Empire as referred to in the Gracious Speech.
There is another aspect of this matter, namely, the budgetary aspect which needs to be stressed. We are to be asked, according to the Gracious Speech, to approve the Estimates for this rearmament programme. I much regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not present to hear what I am going to say on this point, but I see that the newly promoted Financial Secretary to the Treasury is in his place. From a personal point of view we are always willing to congratulate those who are popular in the House upon promotion and we congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, but I ask him to convey to the Chancellor of the Exchequer one or two remarks on the budgetary aspect of this rearmament programme. We on this side cannot say too often or too incisively that if a minority Labour Government were presenting the exact budgetary position which is being presented by this Government to the country, the City of London would be or- 92 ganising to turn them out of office. I cannot imagine how it is that so many people in the country do not examine for themselves the details of this position. We are to be asked to vote more money. What are the facts? In 1931 the Labour Government were, from one point of view, forced to resign—though hon. Members opposite like to say that they were dismissed—on the ground first that their Budget was not balanced.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
It was said first that their Budget was not balanced; secondly, that the growing adverse balance of trade made it much more difficult to meet the situation, and thirdly, that in those circumstances the Government expenditure was far too heavy. Now let us examine the situation to-day. First, as to the budgetary balance, the Chancellor of the Exchequer says quite openly that, of course, we cannot expect in the light of the present armaments proposals to be able to meet the whole of the expenditure required. We know from another speech of his that he is certain there will be a deficit. The only question is what the amount of the deficit will be. Incidentally, our estimated deficit in 1931 about which the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Sir W. Smithers) interrupted me, included the meeting of the statutory Sinking Fund, not now being met. It included the payment of the debt to America not now being met, although you have saved over £30,000,000 a year on service of debt, the whole of which, according to orthodox and sound finance, ought to have gone to the reduction of debt. That is the position.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
No, we were not. Not at that time—August, 1931. The hon. Member is very badly informed. We were working under the moratorium. The position to-day is that not only is the Budget unbalanced and the deficit unknown, but the adverse balance of trade is growing week by week. At the end of September last the visible adverse balance between imports and exports was no less than £242,000,000. If 93 the disparity goes on growing at that pace, we shall have an adverse balance of trade in visible imports and exports of well over £300,000,000 at the end of this year. Judging by an examination of the estimate made in the "Board of Trade Journal" for the year 1935, when they estimated that the receipts from invisible exports of £300,000,000 enabled you to show last year a credit balance of £37,000,000, with the present situation and the growing adverse balance of trade you will show an actual deficit on the balance of trade. And let it be known that the President of the Board of Trade and the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot now deal with that situation by going off the Gold Standard, and you cannot deal with that situation now by increasing to an enormous degree your tariffs. You have done both, and it is in face of those two facts that your adverse balance of trade and your deficit on the Budget are accumulating.
As to the third point, with regard to expenditure, what is the position there? You have restored at last the per capita payment to the unemployed to the figure at which you insisted we should have been sacked unless we reduced it in 1931, but you are maintaining that rate. It is true that you have a more or less temporary boom in industry and therefore have a lower numerical charge upon the Unemployment Fund, but you are maintaining the same rate, and on top of that you are subsidising industry, mostly for private profit, to the extent of £50,000,000 a year, and in our view, if you allow for appropriations-in-aid £200,000,000 as against £110,000,000 on your fighting Services, I say that if a minority Labour Government presented that Budget to this House, every financial interest in this country would hound us out. This is the splendid, sound, orthodox, capitalist finance which deserves the confidence of the country and the world, according to your point of view.
I shall leave to friends of mine on this bench to develop some other aspects of our criticism of the Gracious Speech from the Throne, but I should like to say, in closing, that we want to see our people given a greater measure of hope than they have yet been given. There are certain measures in this Gracious Speech that could be used, if the Government would use them, to bring substantial re- 94 lief. I always think, when I go and see my people in the poor industrial areas, of that wonderful small set of lines:Red of the dawn !Is it turning a fainter red?So be it.But when shall we lay the ghost or the bruteThat is haunting and stalking us yet, and be free?Ah! What will our children be?In a hundred, a thousand winters?We at any rate, whatever you may do—you will do it if you are persuaded—intend to fight for the raising of the standard of life of our people.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
The people who read the Gracious Speech will think of it from several different points of view: What is there in it which interests our particular constituents, or are there points in it which concern one's own particular interests or activities; and among other points of view which, I am sure, one is not singular in thinking about very early and very particularly is this: How will the programme of the year, the internal programme, read to those men and women, of whom there is still so vast an army, who are unemployed? I do not represent an area where there is that unemployment, but, like many other hon. Members, I do such work as falls in my way to help them, and in my small case it is helping them with supplies for their allotments and to get allotments to work. When one does any work of that kind, one cannot get the condition and feelings of the unemployed for long out of one's mind. That makes me realise, to some extent at any rate, what those hon. Members above the Gangway who are living in these terrible unemployed areas must realise so much more keenly, that, in spite of the welcome numerical, arithmetical reduction in the numbers month by month, as there has been lately, the human problem of unemployment is in many ways becoming worse all the time, because the longer a man has been out of employment the more his hope perishes and the more difficult it is, if any occupation or employment comes along, to restore him to being what a man really ought to be.
I had hoped that that very obvious consideration would have made some impression on the Government and have affected the terms of the King's Speech, and I regret very much that there is 95 practically no sign of this. The extremely disappointing operation of the Special Areas Act is to be further extended in conditions which will make it impossible for us to improve the provisions of that Act. Our very small efforts, by bilateral agreements, to improve world trade are to be continued, and one would have thought that the regulation of currencies would have given an opportunity for doing something better than that in the matter of encouraging world trade, on which the restoration of the distressed districts so specially depends. The present housing policy is also to be continued, and one must be thankful for small mercies, but that is literally all, as it seems to me, that touches these unemployed areas where hope is so dead. That, to my mind, is by far the worst aspect of the Government's programme.
Now, wanting to look on the brighter side of things, the best that can be said of it is that it is all of small and in their way useful things, and as we are to put on one side for to-day the greater matters of foreign policy, it is on those that I desire to comment, because their usefulness, if one considers them, will largely depend on how they are done. I am, personally, sorry to see that the nationalisation of royalties is to be limited to coal, for it is not only as regards coal that the royalty system is apt to act against public policy. Iron, tin, granite, slate, clay, are all cases, within the knowledge of many of us, where proper, orderly development would be considerably facilitated if you could get rid of that doctrine, or, rather, the working of it, that everything below the surface of the soil down to the centre of the earth is owned by the owner of the surface. I hope very much that the Government, if they cannot include them in their Bill, will at any rate put it in such a form as will enable it to be extended to other industries besides that of coal.
I am glad to know that there is to be a big Factories Bill, and it will be interesting to see how much of it will be new and how much will be consolidation. I remember that as far back as in the 1906 Parliament I happened to be chairman of a Home Office Committee on accidents in factories. It was so long ago that it was thought fit that the present Lord President of the Council should be a member of it, under my 96 chairmanship, and a very useful member he was. But I am told that there are certain things in that report which have not yet been dealt with, and which ought to have been dealt with, and it will be interesting to be able to verify that, if it is true, when the legislation is proposed. At any rate, we all agree that it is a long time overdue for a big Measure of this kind to be brought forward.
Then, of course, I am naturally interested, like all other Members from agricultural divisions, in the paragraph in the Gracious Speech about the livestock industry. We are told that there is to be legislationto promote increased efficiency … and to provide for assistance,and the words are rather interesting. That seems to me to be the proper order in which the two different things ought to be done, a very good principle which we learned from our nursery days—powder first and jam afterwards. We should, I think, secure that the industry should give a better service to the public and then supply whatever assistance is necessary in order to help them to do it. I notice, however, that in the programme of work which we are to try to get through before Christmas, which was announced to the House by the Prime Minister yesterday, a subsidy Bill is to be included, but no mention is made of proposals for promoting increased efficiency. The proper order is to be reversed, apparently—
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Elliot)
If my right hon. Friend will read the Prime Minister's words, he will see that what the Prime Minister said was that a levy Bill, and not a subsidy Bill, would be introduced before Christmas. He did not say there would be a subsidy Bill first.
§ Sir F. ACLAND
Surely the levy is to go to the industry, and once that levy Bill is passed the industry will be sure of its money.
§ Sir F. ACLAND
That is very interesting, but we had understood that the levy on the imports of beef was to be earmarked definitely as a subsidy for the producer. If the Government are going 97 to delay any earmarking of the result of that import duty until they have made sure that there will be a better system of marketing conditions, well and good, but we shall have to wait and see how that goes. At any rate, it is a fact that many of us appreciate that the organised farming community has tended in recent years to think far more of what it can get from the State than what it can give. If we do make the mistake of putting beef producers into the happy position of having a permanent subsidy for a product for which, unfortunately, there is a steadily decreasing popular demand, any enthusiasm they may have for putting their industry into better order will very rapidly vanish. I must hope for the best there, because in two reports that have been before the Government for some time—the Minister of Agriculture's report on the marketing of beef and cattle in 1929, and the Bingley Report in 1934 there are many recommendations which ought to be dealt with and carried through before there can be any hope of convincing the general public that a permanent subsidy is really justified or deserved.
If subsidies are given without a real improvement in the service to the public, they will be unstable. If we progress any further on that line the new Minister of Agriculture, to whom we all wish the greatest possible success, will have a difficult time, because every branch of the industry will come forward with the argument, which one sees already used in every agricultural paper, namely, "You have subsidised this; you must therefore subsidise that." Once the industry gets that idea firmly into its mind, it will be extraordinary difficult to get away from it. If we go any further on the basis of jam first and powder afterwards, all hope of real stability for such assistance as we can afford to give the industry will disappear.
I come to a point which was made briefly yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition, that a campaign of greater physical efficiency must largely fail unless it is accompanied by a campaign for better nutrition. I was glad to hear that matter so vigorously and trenchantly dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me. Like many hon. Members, I am connected with a local education authority. As one goes round the schools it is a delightful thing to 98 watch the new type of physical training that is being given and to realise how the opportunities for doing that will increase and be extended as the new senior schools are established, and how well we are providing, on the whole, for playing fields, as well as other methods of physical training in those schools. But, surely, it must do harm rather than good to give more exercise to those whose feeling of hunger it will only intensify, or to those who are being so improperly fed that exercise quickly induces fatigue. I know cases of that kind even in my comparatively well-off rural community, but it must be much worse in the centres of industrial unemployment.
The most obvious and urgent matter in that connection is a better use of milk in schools. The figures are very simple but extraordinary. Taking the September figures, which are the latest available, and comparing them with those of September two years ago, one finds that there has been an increase in the total production of milk from 72,000,000 to 85,000,000 gallons monthly, that is, an increase of 13,000,000 gallons. No less than 10,000,000 of those extra 13,000,000 gallons go to factories or to cheese on farms. This his increased in the two years from 19,000,000 gallons a month to 29,000,000 gallons, more than 50 per cent., while there has been an increase of only 3,000,000 gallons in the liquid milk supply, which has gone up from 53,000,000 gallons to 56,000,000 gallons. Of that increase, about 1,500,000 gallons a month must be accounted for by the milk-in-schools scheme.
These figures speak for themselves, and it ought to be possible by some act of public policy to see that a larger proportion of that considerable increase in milk production goes into consumption as liquid milk at prices which people can, really afford to pay. I am delighted to see the prominence given in the King's Speech to the campaign for physical efficiency, but unless it is accompanied by something on big lines in the way of better nutrition, it will not get that general support which it surely deserves. It will be apt to be regarded, as my right hon. Friend suggested, as simply an adjunct of our recruiting policy, but, important as it is to get a better standard of recruiting, our need for physical efficiency for girls as well as boys is a much bigger thing than that, and we should 99 rather support it universally from every point of view.
I am glad to see the phrase in the Speech about legislation to provide medical care for young persons who have left school and entered employment. One could speak for a long time on that subject, but I am not going to do it because it is much too big a question. I will touch on one aspect of it which I come across in connection with my work as chairman of a dental board. A boy leaving school at 14 and entering directly into employment cannot get help from his approved society to have his teeth seen to until he is 18½. That will not do. Our school dental service is one of the most valuable health services in connection with education, and in the best counties it is becoming almost a rule that children should leave school with their teeth in good condition. Then comes this gap during a most critical period of four and a-half years, when the child is almost passing into the adult stage, and during that time he can get no help for his teeth from the approved societies. Therefore, they tend to neglect their teeth and by 18½ their teeth are so bad that they let them go on getting worse until some years later perhaps all of them have to come out. But by that time real physical harm has been done to the health of the young persons. The idea that health can so be restored to what it was before decay attacked the teeth is wrong, for the harm has been done. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will bear that in mind in the measures that he may be adopting.
That is all I have to say on the domestic questions dealt with in the King's Speech. I have tried to make my suggestions as constructive as possible. I must add a few words about points which it seems to me that the Gracious Speech omits. I am very sorry that nothing is said about the need for more houses in our country districts. That problem is being hardly touched by what is being done about de-crowding, because the standard had to be put so high, for reasons that we all know. This is a very urgent matter and I hoped to see it referred to. Then I regret particularly that nothing is said about extending Unemployment Insurance to black-coated workers. That also is a problem of obvious urgency, and I 100 should have thought one of no very great difficulty.
Lastly, I must be allowed to regret the absence of mention of one of my pet subjects, that is legislation to secure better tenure for land held as allotments. The figures are simple. Only half the allotment land in urban districts is held by local authorities, and of that half only a third is held on really secure tenure, namely, freehold. The rest is constantly liable to be diverted to other purposes—for housing, an admirable object, for playing fields, also admirable; and now another programme for physical training comes along. All these things sweep away allotment land. That takes away the hope of security among allotment holders, and when they do not feel secure they do not take the proper measures to make their allotments as sightly as they ought to be and they do not get the reputation that they ought to have in their districts. You go round and round in a vicious circle, and the centre of it is better tenure. I hope that that matter may be seriously considered. I do not want to enlarge on any of these points or further to encroach on the time of the House. I only hope that some notice may be taken of the point I have tried to make.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Major RAYNER
I rise to address the House for the first time, and I ask for that kindly consideration which the House always gives to those who are discovered in my unfortunate position. Previous to my retirement from the Army, in 1933, I was for some time mainly responsible for the recruiting arrangements of my Corps, and during the Recess I have visited some of my old haunts in order to find out at first hand how recruiting, particularly Territorial recruiting, has been going. There has been, as this House is aware, considerable improvement in the last few months, but the rate of increase is quite insufficient to meet the modest but urgent needs to which the Gracious Speech refers.
The concessions announced by the Secretary of State for War in introducing the last Army Estimates have certainly lifted that damp and depressing blanket of economy and discouragement which each successive Government since 1921 has tucked round the Territorial 101 Army. Recruiting authorities are delighted with them and they will be even more pleased if the Government see their way to use some of the valuable suggestions made by the hon. Members of this House in the subsequent Debate. There is one factor in recruiting, however, which the House did not discuss on that occasion and I propose to try now, in all humility, to drag it under the arc lamp of debate. I refer to the lack of understanding among our young men as to the duty they owe to the State.
Like many hon. Members on both sides of this House, I make a practice of paying frequent visits to the other great countries of Europe and, like them, I have found that in many of these countries their youth movements are an arresting feature of their respective regimes. Under the dictatorship particularly one finds the young people instilled with a sort of mystical enthusiasm for the cause which they have been led to believe is the right one and perfectly certain that their first duty is to their State and to the cause it sponsors. We find a very different situation in this country for we cannot say the same of our own young men, many of whom show the clearest possible understanding of the duties of the State towards the individual but a woefully hazy conception of the duty of the individual towards the State. Nor, in my opinion, can they be blamed, for they have been consistently encouraged in this lopsided point of view.
In this country we are proud, and justly so, of our social services. They are already far the finest in the world and we intend on both sides of this House to go on improving them as opportunity offers. Their cost has increased by leaps and bounds, but, each year, in some marvellous way, our increasing national income seems to come up to scratch, and, as long as we go on basing our expenditure on revenue there would seem to be no limits to the degree of perfection they may eventually attain. They have, however, one deplorable defect, for they tend to sap at that self-reliance which made our race what it is. To-day our adolescent citizen is brought up to feel that he is comfortably tied to the apron strings of a beneficent State and the very generosity of the flow of 102 "something for nothing" is bound to colour his outlook and weaken his inherited British character.
Until 1935 I was a mere onlooker of the Parliamentary scene but I consider that successive Governments have paid far too little attention to this unfortunate reaction. As each splendid draught of the wine of social service has been poured down the national throat they have seemed to forget the acidulous content of the measure and have failed to issue an alkaline corrective. It is not for me to say how this might have been arranged. Others could do that far better than myself. The matter, however, is very urgent as the youth movements of the dictatorships are their greatest strength, and we cannot afford to disregard them if our democracy is to survive. If we allow this coddled and cushioned apathy to persist and perhaps to become organic, no government, National, Conservative or Socialist, will be able to save us from being dragged into war by more virile peoples, and we stand to lose therein more than our social services.
We all of us know that at the bottom our growing generations are still made of the same stuff as were their fathers and that there is no human emergency to which they could not rise if given the time. We know, however, that the science of war has moved apace and we must realise, as the Secretary of State for War said the other day, that it is only trained defence which can keep us at peace and make us secure. Our young men, therefore, have just got to understand the duty they owe to the State. I do not think it will be an easy business to drive home this truth, for so free are we in this country thanks to the efforts of our forbears that we attract and breed all kinds of unpleasant oddities, and our youth has not lacked evil counsellors and false guides who have been given considerably more than a fair field. Various types of vague and sloppy internationalism have been continually dangled before their eyes and they have become accustomed to hearing love of country, of decency, and of order dismissed with a gibe, or subjected, in some of our so-called highbrow reviews, to-priggish and unfavourable analysis.
We have, therefore, a lot of leeway to, make up, and I will ask this House to give earnest consideration to a matter 103 which ought to be kept a whole atmosphere above party politics. The youth of England want a tonic, a lead, and if they do not get it from Westminster they will eventually get it from somebody in a blue or violet shirt. I beg to suggest that we are not too proud to profit by the example of other nations, for, although the mass regimentation of their youth is the last thing we could stomach in this country, they do manage to instil in their boys and girls a sense of wellbeing, a zest of life, and a selfless acceptance of duty which we have partly lost and must find again. I hold that we have one outstanding advantage over all the dictators, in that our ideals are infinitely finer than those to which they lay claim; and we shall have gone a long way towards solving the problem of our youth if we cease to hide these under a bushel and hand them out to our young men in all their glorious possibilities.
We have heard in the Gracious Speech that our Government are going to give us a lead as regards our physical fitness, and I would most humbly suggest that they might do something more, and that our Prime Minister should issue a rousing call to these young men pointing out, in the most definite terms, their duty to their country and all that hangs on their proper appreciation of it. The people of South Devon whom I have the great honour of representing in this House, and whose forefathers, sailing from Devon ports, have played no small part in our history, would, I feel, be inspired by such a call, and I cannot doubt that the country as a whole would share in this inspiration.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
It is my pleasant lot to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Major Rayner), whom we have just heard, and to express the hope that we shall hear him again, though, if I may venture to say so, I trust that when he next addresses the House he may offer us a rather more cheerful picture than he has presented to us this afternoon. Among the many matters mentioned in the Gracious Speech there is, possibly, no question of more vital interest than that of physical training and the fitness of the youth of the nation. I suppose that all of us, no matter what our political opinions are, desire above everything else that the 104 youth of the nation should have better and finer opportunities than have been given to youth at any previous time; but I have noticed in the discussion of this question, and particularly in the speech to which we have just listened, an underlying idea that unless we give to youth a kind of disciplined and State training, unless, in short, we give our young people a training which will fit them for military and warlike purposes, they are not likely to have any love for their country or to show that courage and devotion to their country and to their nationality which have been the pride of our nation in days gone by. I suggest to the hon. and gallant Member that the courage, devotion and self-sacrifice of our people are just as great to-day as ever they were in the history of our nation.
It is not true to suggest that because we provide social services the people get something for nothing. Any man or woman who performs a service to the community and to the State is entitled, as a matter of right, when it is required, to receive State assistance in return for the work and the labour given to the State. It is not true to say that our people are coddled into a state of apathy and have no sense of duty to their country. Did not the people in 1914 have a sense of devotion to their country 7 Did not the women have a sense of devotion to their country 7 Did not the men march out? I will not believe that the sons and daughters of those people are worse than their fathers and mothers were. We must remember that there are other aspects of this question of training. Everyone recognises that there are boys and girls who do not get a proper chance in life right from the beginning, and that is something which is no credit to this House or the nation. Many of them are ill fed and ill clad and brought up in poor homes. They are boys and girls who would be a great asset to the State if this House and our rulers knew the proper way in which to apply the wealth which the nation produces. It is because of these young people who have not had a chance in life that I ask the Government to beware of what their physical training proposals may do. We cannot give young people hard physical training without looking after their bodily welfare, without giving them a chance to be healthy and well.
105 When speaking on this subject my mind always goes back to the people in my own constituency, decent folk, struggling against poverty, week in and week out, even in a time of prosperity such as we are told we have at present, at a time when the Government, with their usual complacency, puts into the mouth of His Majesty words suggesting that everything in the garden is lovely, and that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. At a time like this hard-working men in my constituency, working 48 to 50 or more hours a week, are getting only 37s. 6d. to 41s. 6d. as a full return for a week's work. What sort of prosperity is that? What does this Gracious Speech offer to those men and women and to their children? We are faced with a rise in prices, though there is no mention of it in the Gracious Speech.
I happen to be connected with the baking and confectionery industry, and I see opposite me an hon. Member supporting the Government who also knows something about it, and I wish to mention one or two facts which will be within his knowledge as a Member supporting this Government. On the confectionery side of the industry we use flour, fat, sugar, fruit—[Interruption]yes, and margarine—eggs and milk, and the price of all those commodities has gone up by 22½ per cent. in the last 12 months. My hon. Friend opposite will bear those figures out, but he, fortunately, is in a position to use the profits on tea to counterbalance the losses on the other side of the business. There is a rise in the price of bread, and there are rises in food prices which are bound to continue, and I want the Minister of Labour to see to it that those people who are unfortunately still unemployed, and many of whom have been unemployed for a long time, do not have further hardships put upon them by having to pay increased prices for what they are compelled to buy if they are to live, and that the rise in prices will be taken into consideration by the Unemployment Assistance Board in deciding the needs of those people.
In dealing further with the Gracious Speech I wish particularly to refer to what one may term domestic matters. I do not think I should be doing justice to myself or to those whom I represent 106 if I did not once again call attention to the position of many of the old age pensioners. Over and over again it has been said, "We cannot do anything for old age pensioners because we are unable to find the money," but I am satisfied that if the Ministry of Health would go into the whole question of the approved societies and look into their balances they would realise that it is a wasteful system from the administrative point of view, to have thousands of societies, many of them very small, dealing with this question. If it were possible to get the balances of those approved societies and to have the whole system of National Health Insurance run, not by thousands of societies but by one central body, we should be able, out of the balances which are now there, to do something, at any rate, to relieve some of the worst aspects of the old age pension system.
I am sure there is no one on either side of the House who will not agree with my view in presenting this case of a husband and wife at 65. The man, 65 years of age, may unfortunately have been unemployed for, perhaps, three or four years, because it is a hard fact that if a man loses his employment after he has turned 55 or 56 his chances of getting regular employment afterwards are very small. Up to the age of 65 years that man will be drawing benefit for himself and his wife from the Employment Exchange, but at 65 those payments are cut off and he gets only 10s. a week pension for himself. If his wife is two or three years younger than he is the two of them are compelled to live on the 10s. or go to the Poor Law. It would be a comparatively small matter to rectify that state of affairs, it would not cost a tremendous lot of money. I believe the money could be found, and that we could relieve this very grave injustice and very terrible hardship which are suffered by respectable men and respectable women.
Perhaps it may be news to some new Members of this House to know that the vast majority of working people do not want something for nothing. They hate to go to the Poor Law, they would do anything rather than go to the Poor Law. Thousands and thousands of them refuse to do so, although they might benefit themselves in that way. They have their independence; they do not want some- 107 thing for nothing; but they have a right to ask for a little justice in their old age, a right to ask the State; which can provide money for so many things which some of us think are absolutely unnecessary, to do something for them in their old age. If the Government would tackle the question of old age pensions on the lines of taking older people out of industry altogether and giving them decent pensions, recognising the necessity of finding work for young people while they have their health and strength and every desire to work for the sake of themselves, the community and the nation, they would earn blessings from every section of the community. Although the Government will put up the plea that they have no more money to spend upon social services, no more money to give to the old age pensioners, I hope the case of these old people will find some soft spot in their hearts and that they will give some consideration to the problem.
An old man and an old woman, both 65 years of age, may draw jointly a pension of £1 a week but out of that they will be paying six, seven or eight shillings a week for rent, and have to eke out a miserable existence on the few shillings that are left. I know that they can go to the Poor Law, but they do not want to do so. They have done their part in creating the wealth of the nation, and performing that service about which the hon. Member so glibly talks. They are entitled to a decent living in their old age.
I want now to refer to another point not mentioned in the Gracious Speech. The time has come when there must be some adjustment of workmen's compensation law. If there be one thing above another which cries aloud for reform it is the whole question of workmen's compensation. I think there is no position so terrible—hon. Members must frequently have had such situations brought to their notice—as that of the man who has met with an accident, does not belong to a trade union, is poor and is in no position to employ a lawyer. His approved society, in the main, refuse to touch compensation cases, if they can avoid doing so—
§ Mr. FLEMING
Does the hon. Member suggest that in his part of the 108 country such a man could not go to the poor man's lawyer.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
If the hon. and learned Member will listen to what I am trying to say, he will probably see my point. The man has no resources of his own and it may be that he goes to a poor man's lawyer. What happens? When the compensation comes to be picked up, it is a question as to who is being compensated, the man or the lawyer. I assure hon. Members that that is true. Let me inform the House that many thousands of such men, because they have no resources and are unable to spend money upon lawyers to fight for their rights, accept very small sums of money in lump settlement, because they cannot hope, in their circum stances, to get more money without going to law. I speak as a trade union secretary, and I know that when a man says he does not belong to a trade union he may be offered £50 as a settlement. As soon as we get hold of the case, and it is realised that the trade union with its resources is at his back, settlements are effected for hundreds of pounds. Why should any man be penalised because he is unable to find money to go to law in a case of this kind? Why should it not be possible to have a workmen's compensation Act which would entitle a man to go to other people besides lawyers, people who would settle the basis of his claim and give him that to which he was entitled? It is a rotten sort of thing to think that justice for an injured workman depends very largely upon whether the man has sufficient money to enable him to get it. If there is one thing more than another which causes irritation and a sense of injustice it is the way in which the Workmen's Compensation Act works. The hon. Gentleman may shake his head—
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
Will the hon. Member allow me to interrupt? I am sure that he does not want to mislead the House. He is giving the House to understand that in workmen's compensation cases the amount of the compensation depends upon whether the applicant has legal advice or not. The hon. Member knows perfectly well that no compensation case can be adjusted without the approval of the registrar in the appropriate county court, whether the man is represented or not.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I know all about the registrar. I have been concerned with thousands of cases in the course of my experience, and I find that the registrar, now and again, will say, "This amount is insufficient," and will send it back. I would like the hon. Gentleman to realise that in cases such as I have outlined, when the men go to get settlement the registrar feels that it is no use sending such cases back. There is nobody to fight on behalf of the men, who may be offered another £5 or so, and the best thing to be done, in the interests of the men, who have been injured and on compensation for a long time, and who are anxious to get £30 or £40, is to let them accept the offers. A man will beg the registrar to let him accept because he is not in a position to get the justice which is due to him. I hope hon. Members will believe that when I talk about these matters I speak from actual experience. I am satisfied that hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree that an injured workman should receive at least the compensation which the law allows him to have, and that a settlement should rest on nothing less than a basis of righteousness and the justice of the man's claim.
I want to allude briefly to the Factory Acts. We are to have a new Factory Bill, after all this time. Nobody says that it is not about time we had it, and everybody agrees that for 35 years we have gone on, patching, mending and tinkering. I welcome the prospect of a new Factory Bill, but I want to know what will be in it. I have a shrewd suspicion that the Minister, who is always nice and kind to us—we like him ever so much, and he is very good—will be coming along to say, "We must have this Factory Bill by consent of the House, and we must not have very much contentious matter in it. We must get all of you to agree to the things that we are to put in the Bill. If, unfortunately, you want something in the Bill which we do not want, and you persevere and say that you must have it, we shall be very reluctantly compelled to drop the Bill." I am not sure, but I am sounding a note of warning. I want to tell the hon. Gentleman, so that he may convey it to his chief, that we recognise, if we are to have the Bill it will have to stand for many years. We are not likely to have 110 a new Bill very soon, and it is of the utmost importance that a Bill of this magnitude should include the things which we believe are necessary in it. It would be a thousand pities if that which we think necessary were left out merely because the Under-Secretary or the Home Secretary said: "We cannot find time for all this, and if you persist we shall have to let the thing drop." The matter is of sufficient importance and magnitude, and all possible time and attention must be given to it.
May I venture to hope that, in the consideration of the Factory Bill, a very small reform, the abolition of night baking, might be included in it? I hope the Minister will take the hint. I could set forth the reasons why I believe that night baking abolition should be included in the Bill, but I will wait and see, in the hope that the hon. Gentleman and his chief will decide that, as the matter was put into the draft of the 1934 and. 1930 Bills, the Government will not take a backward step, but will rather strengthen and improve that Labour draft in every respect. These things concern ordinary people. The House talks about high affairs of State, but the ordinary man and woman, whom hon. Members are sent here to represent, ask, when they see the Gracious Speech: "How will this make more happiness or more comfort in my little home?" They look to the House to do something to improve their condition. Incidentally, I notice that the Gracious Speech pays very little attention to the black-coated workpeople, although it pays attention to the wants and requirements of manual workers, and so on. The black-coated workman deserves far more consideration from the Government which he supports 99 times out of 100, than he appears to be getting. He is so mild and weak, and so like Charlie Chaplin's flock of sheep, that the Government say: "It doesn't matter, anyhow. No matter what we do, he will vote for us." That attitude seems exemplified in the Gracious Speech. I hope the Government will realise that the ordinary man and woman are anxious that, if we are to benefit from the so-called prosperity which we are now enjoying, a part of the prosperity should be translated into more shillings per week in the pay packet.
The Prime Minister said yesterday: "After all, we are working within the 111 confines of Capitalism." Very well, but even within the confines of Capitalism I beg hon. Members to beware that, if they are concerned only with the prosperity of the great captains of industry and those who already have far more share of the world's goods than is good for them, and unless they translate prosperity into something tangible in the lives of working men and women, the Government will deservedly have failed. I hope that, in putting their programme into operation, the Government will remember that the condition of the people still remains the greatest problem which they have to face.
§ 4.44 p.m.
Like the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) I would offer my humble congratulations to the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Major Rayner) upon his maiden speech, and for the carefully thought out plan which he gave us. I strongly endorse everything he said about the example which the totalitarian States give us to-day, of the enthusiasm which they have engendered among the people of their countries.
The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate this afternoon suggested that the atmosphere was a very gloomy one for the Government. If the extent of the gloom is evidenced by the passion of the opposition to the Gracious Speech, I think he has overstated the case. Of course it is foolish to ignore the dangers that beset Europe to-day, but I am certain that the general prestige of this country is considerably higher at the moment than it was when we parted a few months ago. This is due to the continued peace and prosperity of the country at home, and also to the fact—it may be very dreadful, but it is a fact —that rearmament has become a reality; and both these things are, I think, largely due to the action that the National Government has taken.
The Gracious Speech that we are discussing to-day is full of good material, and I think it can be seldom that there has been so much in a King's Speech that the Opposition parties can support. I have numbered some 16 different items on which I am convinced they will give us their constructive support. They are all Measures which at various times the Opposition themselves have advocated, though perhaps in rather a different and 112 not so constructive a form as that in which, I have no doubt, the present Government will put them forward. I am sorry that there is no mention in the King's Speech of legislation for carrying out the recommendations of the McGowan report with regard to the simplification and cheapening of the distribution of electrical power in this country. I know that that is a very complicated subject, but there are still some 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 houses in this country without electrical power or light. Ten years ago we were promised light in the home and power on the farm, and I am hoping that it will not be very long before the Government implement that report in a practical form, because I do not believe there is any material comfort that could be given to the small householders of this country that would do more good than to give them cheap electricity, which in a great many areas is not available to-day.
Then I should like to see a Measure introduced with regard to the subject of Ministers' salaries. I happened to second a Resolution on this subject a few months ago, last Session. I have read all the evidence given before various committees on the subject in years gone by, and I think it would be impossible ever to find anyone better qualified and suited to introduce a Measure of this kind than our present Prime Minister, whose generosity and unselfishness in these matters, both from what he said yesterday and from other things that we know, are unparalleled in political history. I am sure that no one could put through such a Measure with a greater amount of good will than he. I hope that the proposals, when we get them, will be general, and will not be influenced at all by the fact that certain individuals hold certain posts to-day. It is very awkward for a Government to come forward and propose an increase in their own salaries, even with the best intentions in the world, and therefore this subject is not likely to come up again, so that I hope it will be very carefully considered and that the proposals will be on a broad basis.
I am not going to be led astray by a "red herring" of that kind. I think that on the whole the 113 simpler the proposals are the better, but it is essential to get away from what are known abroad as perquisites of office. So far as is possible, I would like the alterations, such as they are, to be increases in certain salaries, but I should also like to see introduced the principle of frais de représentation, which is common to-day in our Diplomatic Service —that is to say, that a certain proportion of Ministers' salaries should be free from taxation. Then, again, I hope the junior Ministers will not be excluded. I believe there was a case, during the lifetime of the last Parliament, in which an Under-Secretary thought he was being promoted, but found that, although that was so, he had to suffer a decrease of £800 in his salary, and he was not quite sure then whether it was promotion or not. I hope, therefore, that the case of junior Ministers also will be considered. After all, the point is that, when a Member of this House takes office, he should not either be enriched or impoverished by having accepted that office, but while he is in office he should, so far as it is possible in this world, be free from financial worries and not dependent upon the charity either of friends or of any political party. I think that these are general principles on which we can expect assent from all quarters of the House.
I know that to-morrow is to be devoted to foreign affairs, and I have no intention whatever of trespassing on tomorrow's rights, but I should like to say how glad I am that the Government have successfully negotiated a treaty with Egypt. I think that the Treaty in itself is a good one, and that it is extremely satisfactory that it has been got through, and the tact and skill of the negotiators are warmly to be commended. Naturally, in a treaty of that kind, there must be give-and-take on both sides, but I hope it will end the anomalous and dangerous position in which we have been for so many years in Egypt, of being primarily responsible for law and order without any control over the policy that produces disorder.
I wish now to turn to another subject, on which I am not so pleased with the Government. In the last few days—one might almost say the last hours—of last Session, an announcement was made that what was called an extended credit, or, as I prefer to call it, and as I hope 114 I shall show it really to be, a loan to Russia of £10,000,000. Do not let us pretend that it is not a loan; in every country in Europe it is considered to be and is always referred to as a £10,000,000 loan which the British Government have extended to Russia. I am not against a loan to Russia; I am all for it, provided that we get in return some adequate compensation for this country. As hon. Members probably know, the present trade arrangements between Russia and this country are governed by a temporary trade agreement. That trade agreement, in my view, is loosely drafted, and it leaves much to be desired, but the general idea was that in the course of a year or two we should balance the trade between the two countries. In the agreement it was not made clear that at the time, or at any rate I do not think it was understood in this country, that Russia was to be allowed to count re-exports from this country as exports. That has had a very remarkable result. In 1934, our purchases from Russia amounted to something over £17,000,000, while Russia purchased from us goods manufactured in this country to the value of just over £3,500,000. In 1935 our purchases from Russia were £21,000,000, while those of Russia from us were slightly less than in the previous year, namely, about £3,500,000. During the first eight months of this year we purchased £10,000,000 worth of commodities from Russia, and Russia has only purchased from us £2,250,000 worth. There is no equality of balance of trade, and Russia has taken the opportunity of making up the difference by purchasing over £7,000,000 worth of re-exports, some of which never actually entered this country.
I am not in the least blaming Russia; she was perfectly entitled to take every advantage she could of what I believe to be a loosely worded trade agreement; but when this question was raised some time ago the argument used, as I understand it, by supporters of the Government, was, "That is quite true, but shipping is so important an asset to this country that re-exports do mean a greater amount of trade through shipping for this country than would be the case with any other country." What are the figures with regard to shipping? If this argument is sound, and if we had seen a great increase in the amount of our shipping 115 used for carrying goods to Russia, a great deal of the force would be taken out of my argument. I have put down a Question for to-morrow asking for the exact figures with regard to shipping, and therefore I cannot give them up to date, because I have not yet had them; but I know more or less what the figures are of British ships calling at Leningrad during the last few years. In 1934 the number was 140; in 1935 it was about 50, and in the first six months of this year it was seven. Therefore, tale argument for allowing Russia this latitude to include re-exports because it would mean an increase in trade for British shipping has really no basis whatever in fact.
Furthermore, if we look at what has happened between Germany and Russia in regard to shipping, we find that Germany has made such terms with Russia that last year no fewer than 400 German ships called at Leningrad. Germany has arranged with Russia that all the goods which she purchases from Russia shall be carried to Germany in German ships. That is not the only advantage which Germany has over us in dealing with Russia. We have been led to believe, I think rightly, that Russia is more favourably inclined to us than Germany in the matter of arbitration, but I have here a statement of the conditions with regard both to arbitration and to the granting of passports and visas to business people, and in every case the arrangements made are favourable to the Germans, while in our case nothing has been settled and no advantages have been given on the points at issue.
Surely it is a little unnecessary to give this extended credit. It is quite clear that, if re-exports had been excluded, Russia would have had well over £10,000,000 with which to purchase manufactured articles in this country, and if that had been done there would have been no necessity for this loan; but, as it is, we are giving Russia £10,000,000 more to buy goods in other countries. That may be a good or it may be a bad thing, but it is certainly not the object of the policy of the Government in giving an extension of credit to Russia. It has been generally understood that there would be no loan to Russia unless or until some settlement had been come to about past debts. The other day a representative of a foreign 116 Power in Moscow told me that the Soviet considered that all discussion of debts was now over, because England had given them a loan without even mentioning such a thing as debts, either public or private. It is not too much to say that opinion in Moscow, commercial, journalistic and official, was amazed at this action on the part of the Government, and that this Government should have "sold the pass," as it appears, in regard to the question of debts. I wish to state quite plainly that I am interested in a firm which has debts owing to it from Russia; I frankly confess that that is the case; but I am not only thinking of myself, but of hundreds, indeed, thousands of other creditors with whom I have been in the closest touch, and whose debts from Russia are in the neighbourhood of perhaps only a few pounds, or perhaps some hundreds of pounds. They have waited for 17 years and more for some settlement, and a settlement of these small debts would bring an immense amount of relief to a very large number of people who are living on the charity of their friends and relations. This is a 5½per cent. loan for five years. Someone is going to make a very big profit. I wonder if I am far wrong in estimating the profit that the Overseas Trade Department will make as being in the neighbourhood of from £2,0003000 to £3,000,000. I am not in the least against their making a profit, but I think the profit in this case should be paid into a fund which would go to meet the debts of some of the creditors.
Again, if Russia's credit is worthy of a sum of this size, we are faced with this proposition. If her credit is good, she ought to get the loan at a lower rate. Why not negotiate a proper long-term loan over a period of years? If you did that, Russia would be willing to make some arrangement about the settlement of debts, and also remedy some of the outstanding grievances that we have in the existing trade agreement. This arrangement seems to have all the disadvantages of the export credit scheme and none of the advantages of a longterm loan. As in the former case, the money has to be paid back over a short period of time in commodities all of which compete with imports from our Dominions. This is not the moment to go into a discussion of the settlement of debts, public or private, but a scheme has 117 been put up to the Government which, in the opinion of those best fitted to judge, could have been carried into effect if the Government wished to face up to the problem. Perhaps never again will Russia be so willing to meet us. We choose just the moment when Russia is prepared to give us most, to give her most and ask nothing in return. They themselves will tell you that they recognise the disadvantages under which we are suffering in the temporary trade agreement. I have quoted instances of the preferential treatment of countries like Germany and Italy. I am afraid it all comes from a mistaken policy. In dealing with Soviet Russia you have to be realists in every sense of the word. I hope this example will teach us a lesson. Nothing has been done for the creditors, nothing has been done for shipping and nothing has been done in regard to re-exports and the other smaller matters that I have mentioned. It is a bad business which has shocked many people at home and abroad.
No one can say that I am not a good supporter of the Government, and I am proud of being so, but I can find very little excuse. For this clumsy and ill-timed action, which I believe is a repudiation of the Government's declaration in regard to the creditors, and which has done nothing to remedy the inadequacy of the present trade agreement. My alarms and criticisms may be met with the reply that this is only a step towards a settlement of all these questions which it is hoped to get shortly. It may be that my private visits to the totalitarian States have made me rather more bellicose than usual. No one is more appreciative than I am of the many benefits that the National Government has conferred upon the country. I shall not be satisfied until it is infinitely more prosperous and there is infinitely more money going into the pockets of the working people, but I believe that the relatively prosperous condition of the country is due very largely, first to the form of Government that we enjoy, secondly, to the common sense of the people themselves, and of the Opposition on many subjects and, last but not least, to the action of holders of office in the present Government. When we compare the state of this country with any other, we have every cause for con- 118 gratulation. When we look upon the regimentation of life in the totalitarian States, the over-control of industry and the chaos it has brought in other countries, we may be almost as grateful to the Government for what they have not done as for what they have. There can be no question that people in this country are materially, politically and, if I may use the word, spiritually better off here than in any other country in the world. Whether we like it or not, some credit is due to the National Government for that, and I give it my most ungrudging congratulations.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. GEORGE GRIFFITHS
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken at the outset eulogised the King's Speech and then turned round and talked to the Government very definitely and straightly about Russia. In winding up he thought there might be a chance later on of getting some sort of office, so that he had better stroke them down, and he told them this was the best country in the world. I prefer this country to any other, and I have never said anything different, but it can be a lot better than it is. My motto in life has always been, Better than the best. We should reach out for something better than we have got. I remember coming to the Central Hall in 1915 when Lord Oxford addressed a special conference of miners' delegates behind closed doors, and told them what was the state of the country. I turned to one of my colleagues and asked him what he thought of what the then Prime Minister had said. He said, "It is not what I think of what he has said. It is what he has not said that disturbs me." The point about the King's Speech is not so much what is in it as what is left out of it.
I want to put a point of view from my own industry. In the last Parliament a Committee was appointed to go into the question of nystagmus. It has been sitting for 18 months, and we hoped that something would be done in the matter of compensation. A man who gets hurt in industry to-day is branded as a criminal. A man engaged in the mining industry who gets hurt does not get the same money that he got when he was working. The State and the employer turn round on him and say he cannot have more than half that. He is allowed 119 a maximum of 30s., or half what he earns up to a certain point. He is punished the same as a man who has thrown a brick through a jeweller's window and picked up something and got away with it. It costs as much to keep a criminal as you pay to a man in industry who has met with an accident. I hoped that we should have a new Compensation Bill in the King's Speech. During the Recess I was knocked up one morning to go to a pit where 58 people had been killed. Fifty women went to bed on 5th August as married women and woke up the next morning widows. There are 168 children under 14 who have no father. Whenever there is an explosion in a coal mine a fund is organised, and perhaps £20,000 or £30,000 raised. There should be no necessity whatever for sending the cap round. There should be security for the wives and children.
We brought forward a Bill last May to provide for compensation. The Under-Secretary for the Home Department and six or seven lawyers on the opposite side said that our Bill would cost an additional £14,000,000 and the country could not afford that. Last year 1,236 men were killed. Since the explosion on 5th August, in my own county there have been 29 fatal accidents. Last year, according to the return of the Minister of Mines, there were 161,474 injured for more than three days. One in every five men working in the mining industry is injured every year. In the majority of cases these men, through having been on short time since 1927, have to apply for public assistance on the very first week that deductions are made from their wages after they have been injured. I have sat on a public assistance committee and have seen scores of miners come before it on crutches, or suffering from nystagmus or other eye troubles. The fact that the compensation is so small and that they have to pay perhaps 10s. a week for rent, etc., compels them to come before the public assistance committee, which really has to supplement industry out of the rates because industry does not do justice to the men who are injured. It is time that there was a revised or new Compensation Act so that these people, instead of getting less at a time when their bodies require to be built up, should get more.
120 I was bitterly disappointed with the evidence given yesterday at the Safety Commission by one of the officials of the Mines Department concerning nystagmus. Any practical man understanding mining who reads that evidence will know that it was wide of the mark. A week last Monday we called together 120 delegates in my county of Yorkshire to discuss the attitude of the owners as far as nystagmus is concerned. Some hon. Members possibly do not know that once a miner is afflicted with nystagmus he is marked like Cain, he is branded. He is told, "You have had nystagmus and therefore you cannot work underground in this country again." I know personally of men who have been completely cured of nystagmus, and the colliery companies have said, "No, we are not going to employ you." "Why?" "Because you have had nystagmus in the past." The colliery companies are instructed by insurance companies not to employ these men. I can verify that statement because I have sat on deputations in colliery offices and challenged the managing director with it, and he has admitted it. That sort of thing is happening here to-day. It is not in Russia, but in the British Isles.
At the end of 1935, 8,376 miners in this country were suffering from this dread disease. Someone in evidence has said that nystagmus does not affect a man's mentality, but I have met very few men who have had nystagmus who have not been mentally and physically affected. It preys upon their mind. I could cite three or four cases where poor fellows have suffered to such an extent mentally that they have made away with themselves. Men are branded immediately they contract this disease. The Speech does not contain anything with a view to remedying that kind of thing, and I am bitterly disappointed. I will leave it at that. According to the annual report of the Minister the amount paid in compensation to the mining community last year totalled £2,889,316, an average of only £4 for each man working in the industry. And yet on 15th May we were told that the industry could not bear an additional £14,000,000. It is time that this country, of which I said I was proud, did something more for the poor people than is being done at the present time.
There is another matter which interests me in the King's Speech. It says: 121My Ministers will continue to promote by an active and constructive policy the development of home agriculture and fisheries. The position of the livestock industry has been engaging their close attention and legislation will be introduced to promote increased efficiency in that industry and to provide for assistance to the producers of fat cattle.The last few words went home to me—"to provide for assistance to the producers of fat cattle." It is about time that the Government started to provide assistance for the people who are lean like the people in Pharaoh's seven years of famine. The Government should seek to fatten the people before they give assistance for the feeding of fat cattle. I have some figures here—they are not those of Sir John Orr—showing how people are living, not in London or at some of the big hotels, but actually in the country. Sir John Orr startled the country when he said that there were 4,500,000 people living on less than or up to 4s. per head per week. Three meals a day for seven days at a cost of 48 pence comes to slightly over 2¼d. a meal. As a result of a canvass from door to door we have obtained budgets from a thousand families, many of whom were found to be living on less than 2s. per head per week or less than 1¼d. per meal. This is not in Russia, but here at home. Of the thousand families, those living on less than 2s. per head per week numbered 14, those living below 2s. 6d. per head numbered 52; those living below 3s., 130; those below 3s. 6d., 102; and those living below 42,, 88. Therefore, out of 1,000 families 386 were spending less than 4s. per head per week.
From what has been said on the benches opposite and by the Mover and the Seconder of the Address of thanks for the Gracious Speech, one would think that there was not a child in Britain that was wanting for anything. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has talked about giving the young people dumbbells; never mind giving them milk, give them dumb-bells. There are thousands of children in this country who have not sufficient strength to lift a dumb-bell; in fact they have hardly sufficient strength to break the skin of a rice pudding. It is said that we must give them dumbbells in order to train them, but before you give them dumb-bells you must give them more than 2s. a week for food, and then possibly the Government may be 122 able to get some of us to say something different from what we are saying at the present time. I know something about this sort of thing. I see it in my Division week-end after week-end. The hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) last night tried to tell us that everything in the garden was lovely, as though we knew nothing about the job. We do know something about the job, as far as feeding is concerned.
I hope that the Minister belonging to the Department will have something to say why the Government are not to bring in a Compensation Bill, and I also trust that when the Minister of Health speaks he will say something about the figures at which we arrived by going from door to door. It is said that the country is in a prosperous state. The country is not in a prosperous state. There are 771,000 men now working in the mines as against 950,000 in 1931, and working, as my hon. Friend beside me says, harder than ever before. A lot of these men are working on short time. In my Division some of the men have not worked a shift in the last nine days. Some of them started work yesterday, and they will have two days' pay to draw next Saturday. These men are able-bodied and want to work. They are not spongers. They want to do work. The Britisher desires work. To him work is the greatest joy of life. The thing that helps to damn the character of men and women more than anything else is the fact that they are unemployed. I hope that our people will obtain employment and that they will be able to hold up their heads and have the joy of life in the future as in the past.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. LEWIS JONES
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member into the subject with which he has dealt, but it is only right that I should make some comment on the harrowing picture he painted of what he considered to be the physical condition of the children of this country. I suggest that it is unfair and untrue to make a general statement that there are such a very large number of children attending schools in this country to-day who, in his words, have not strength to break through the skin of a rice pudding. The hon. Member must know that an obligation rests on the education authorities to see that the children attending school are well fed. It is unkind and un- 123 necessary to paint such a harrowing picture, based entirely on imagination so far as the school children are concerned. I have no doubt that there are in after-school years boys and girls who are not as well nourished as we should like them to be, but if the picture which the hon. Member has painted of children he knows in his own district is correct, then the fault must be laid at the door of his own education authorities, who have a responsibility placed upon them by Act of Parliament.
The bulk of the speeches yesterday and to-day from the Opposition benches have been directed to pointing out the omissions from the Gracious Speech rather than giving praise for what is in the Speech itself. I can, however, express agreement with the regret which has been expressed that the Gracious Speech does not go further in the suggestion that is made for dealing with the black-coated worker. I take it that the Government intend to bring within the scope of contributory pensions certain black-coated workers and small tradespeople. There is a rumour that an age limit of 50 has been fixed affecting these people. If so, I hope that even now, before it is too late, the Government will find it possible to extend that age limit. I also regret that there are no proposals in the Gracious Speech which lead us to believe that the Government intend to admit this class of people within the scope of Health Insurance or Unemployment Insurance. I can only hope that after this first step into the realm of contributory pensions we may find that the Government, if not this year perhaps next year, will extend the scope of their operations and carry out the ideas expressed by the Minister of Health when, speaking at Leyton on the 28th October, he said that it was the desire of his Department to see that there was complete provision for every individual of such personal health service as he or she might need at various stages of life.
There are two parts of the Gracious Speech with which I should like to deal, and in relation to industrial conditions in South Wales, namely, the paragraph in which the promise is made that the Government mean to introduce this Session a Bill for the unification of mining royalties and another Bill for the compulsory amalgamation of collieries and 124 the paragraph which states that the Government hope to make the exchange of goods easier than it is to-day between the different countries. On many occasions, perhaps nearly every week, the coal-mining industry comes before this House for discussion in some form or other. Unfortunately, one finds very often that in these discussions the question, of miners' wages becomes the principal theme. I do not blame the Members who represent mining constituencies for taking advantage of every opportunity of putting before the House the sad position of the men in the coal industry. Certainly, the House is very fortunate in that it has so many able representatives of the mining industry who can place before it the problems of the industry. I must, however, confess to a, feeling of regret that very often, the debate being limited mostly to the question of miners' wages, other serious problems affecting the coal industry in the country generally and in South Wales in particular pass unnoticed.
I am concerned that the Government propose to introduce a Bill for the compulsory amalgamation of coal mines, because I am satisfied that if they are going to spend much time on this compulsory amalgamation scheme they will not be able to spare the time that is essential to deal with the real problems of the industry. By the unification of royalties a real contribution will be made towards a reduction in the cost of production of coal, but I fail to see how a compulsory amalgamation Bill will relieve the situation in the industry. Reference has been made by the hon. Member who has just sat down to the fact that a substantial number of miners are unemployed, a total of about 250,000 men. Any scheme for the compulsory amalgamation of coal mines will lead to an increase in the number of men unemployed.
The position of the coal industry in this country shows a slight improvement this year over last year. The production of coal up to August of this year showed an increase of 4 per cent. on the corresponding period of 1935, but whereas the increase in the production of coal is 4 per cent. the increase in production in other industries is 10 or 12 per cent. If one examines the returns of production sent to us by the Mines Department up to the end of September, 1936, one finds 125 that it is estimated that the coal production for 1936 will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 230,000,000 tons, as against 223,000,000 tons in 1935. That will be the highest output of coal since 1930, but even the increase up to 230,000,000 tons for this year will be 13,000,000 tons less than the output of 1930. My concern, and I am sure that it is shared by those who represent mining districts in South Wales, is that South Wales is the only coal-producing area which has shown a decrease in output during 1936. We are delighted to note that there has been increase of production in other parts of the country but we feel somewhat sad that in the South Wales area our output is dwindling.
We have benefited appreciably in South Wales from the increased home demand for coal but, unfortunately, the benefit that we have gained in the home market has not been able to make up for the substantial loss in our export trade. It is mainly due to the fact that the decrease of South Wales cargo and bunker exports during the first eight months of this year has been so substantial that the total production of coal in South Wales shows a reduction of 1.3 million tons. Most of the other coal-producing districts have also shown substantial reduction in their export trade this year, but the surprising thing is that apart from South Wales all the other districts have gained from the increase in the home demand more than they have lost in their export trade. It is a remarkable fact that in the nine months ended September, 1936, the foreign cargo exports of Great Britain were 4.2 million tons, or more than 12 per cent. less than in the first nine months of 1935, but the English and Scottish districts have made up for the loss of the export trade by the increased demand in the home market.
Much has been said about the increase in price levels. I have not noticed until to-day that the Members of the Opposition were opposed to an increased level of prices. The miners' representatives in particular have, on every occasion when the question of coal prices has been discussed, advocated an increase in the price level, of coal, because they recognise the reaction of that on miners' wages. I am glad to think that the Labour movement generally believes that the resuscitation of industry in this country and all over the world can come 126 about only by an increase in the level of prices for primary products. In spite of their loss of exports I am glad to think that the coalowners of this country have not entered into a price-cutting competition. During the past year the coal producers of this country have maintained a price level at least 5 per cent. in excess of that of the previous year. Also, if we examine the figures, we find that the average f.o.b. price of coal in this country has maintained a level of price corresponding fairly closely to the increase in all the coals included in the Board of Trade index number of wholesale prices.
A suggestion has been current in some newspapers, and it has been mentioned in this House on more than one occasion, that the coalowners have not given in wage increases the full amount of the voluntary increases in price which the consumers of coal gave to the coal-owners. A suggestion has been made that, although the consumers of coal voluntarily gave 1s. or 1s. 6d. per ton more for the coal, the coal miner has only received the equivalent of 5d. or 6d. It is thought that the coalowner has pocketed the difference. The position is not so. The fact is that the Welsh coal-owner has paid more out in increased wages than he has received in the increased price of coal. For the first six months of this year the coalowners received a total of £121,000 from the voluntary increase of ls. per ton, but they paid out in increased wages an amount of £236,000.
I am not going to suggest that the coal industry has not struck a more prosperous time. Things are improving, and the financial position of the industry generally has improved, partly due to increased production, to a better average price level and also to improved technique and more effective organisation. While the coal industry has a monopoly in the home market it has not unduly raised prices to the consumer. I have said that the financial position has improved. For the first half of 1936 the credit balance of the industry is about £5,000,000, as compared with £5,200,000 for the whole of 1935 and £2,200,000 in 1933. Unfortunately, all coal producers have not shared equally in this increased prosperity; and this brings me to the position of South Wales. In South Wales 127 the whole of the coal industry has worked at a loss during the first six months of this year, and in Durham a small balance during the first quarter of this year has turned into a loss for the June quarter. But what is more serious for us in South Wales is that out of a £4,000,000 credit for the March quarter for the whole of the country the exporting districts of Durham and South Wales have accounted for only 17 per cent. for the March quarter, and for the June quarter for only 10 per cent. of the increased credit balance. The financial position in Yorkshire and the Midlands is much sounder because they depend entirely on the home market.
What is the position in South Wales? We are dependent mainly on the export market and in all directions there are difficulties in the way of marketing our coal. There are import restrictions in Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Spain and other countries. Germany and Belgium are subsidising their export trade, and throughout Continental Europe the South Wales coal industry is "cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd," by exchange control, clearing and compensating agreements and barter transactions. In Italy we have been practically deprived of our export market by obstacles that are more political and financial than economic. In Canada the South Wales anthracite trade is now threatened with a loss of trade due to Russian competition. The anthracite industry of South Wales was reassured recently by the President of the Board of Trade when he said that Russian anthracite coal going into Canada would be subject to very severe restrictions, but in South Wales we are not satisfied that the safeguards against State-aided foreign competition in the Canadian market, which were provided for by the 1932 Ottawa Agreements, have been rigidly applied. We believe that some laxity in the application of these restrictions in Canada has been responsible for the 100 per cent. and substantial increase in the importation of coal from Russia, Germany and Belgium into Canada, and we are not very confident that the restrictions and conditions which are to govern the importation of Russian coal into Canada will be such as to give us reasonable security as far as our export trade is concerned.
128 There are two or three suggestions I want to make on behalf of South Wales, and I hope that those who represent the mining areas of South Wales will be in agreement with me. We feel that South Wales demands special attention from the Government. The Government might as well know that there is considerable discontent in South Wales. In Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire we feel that we are being ignored. We have a tremendous percentage of unemployed in Monmouthshire, and in Glamorganshire alone there are over 60,000 people unemployed at the present time. Frankly, apart from the hint of action by the Government to deal with restrictions on export trade, we see very little hope for the coal trade in these proposals. We realise that we have lost our export markets as a result of the intense development of the mineral resources of other countries, and because of scientific improvements in the greatly increased use of petroleum and gas. We realise that we can never hope to win back to South Wales again the export trade that was ours in pre-war days. Coal now supplies only 57 per cent. of the world's fuel and power, whereas in pre-war days it provided 90 per cent. The remarkable thing is that the United Kingdom now supplies only 6.3 per cent. of the total consumption of coal in continental Europe, the Mediterranean countries and South America, as compared with 17 per cent. which she supplied in pre-war days. These figures show the extreme violence of the change which has taken place in the use of coal as a fuel, and the position of this country is serious. I would refer hon. Members to a remarkable speech delivered by Mr. Joseph Jones, President of the Miners' Federation, last July, in which he dealt in a masterly fashion with the changes that have taken place in the use of coal.
Let me refer to one or two points which come within my own personal knowledge. In the iron and steel industry of this country every effort in the direction of mechanisation and greater efficiency means a reduction in the use of labour and also a reduction in the use of coal as fuel and power. One of the most modern steel works in this country in South Wales, reopened some time ago in Cardiff, consumes 450,000 tons of coal every year for the manufacture of coke, 129 and 400,000 tons of steel are manufactured, but not a single ounce of coal is being used in these modern steelworks for fuel or power. As a result of modern development and scientific development it means that this company is economising to the extent of practically 500,000 tons of coal per year, and that means probably a half a million working days for miners. That is taking place in this country and also on the Continent.
While realising the importance of these scientific developments and their effect on the production of coal, and also that we have lost our export markets for coal because of quota and exchange restrictions, subsidies and other artificial expedients, I think the future seems less forbidding, because in the Gracious Speech a promise is made that the Government will do all they can to maintain their efforts in promoting a freer exchange of goods throughout the world. It is in that direction that we hope the Government will put out every effort to see whether it is not possible to find an expansion of markets for the exporting section of the coal industry. In South Wales in particular we have been badly hit, and we hope it will be possible for the Government to secure an extension of our markets abroad. The recent alignment of the currencies of France, the United States and the United Kingdom, and the lead which the French Government have given in the direction of quotas and import licensing duties, are symptoms of a saner and healthier attitude, and if other countries have the imagination and the courage to follow this lead we may be nearer to a phenomenal expansion in the volume of world trade than the most optimistic of us think.
It has been fashionable for some years to criticise the organisation of industry, and the criticism of each separate industry has generally come from someone who is associated with another industry. Do not let us under-estimate the big changes and improvements in reorganisation which have been taking place in the coal industry during the last few years. The miners' representatives would be the first to admit that the British mining industry was never more efficiently equipped for seizing opportunities for export expansion than it is to-day. It can be argued that the British mining industry is not as highly mechanised as the coal 130 industry in other parts of the Continent, but anyone who examines the last report of the Chief Inspector of Mines is bound to be surprised and pleased at the remarkable change that has taken place in the mechanisation of the mining industry during the last 10 years. It is rather interesting to notice that as a result of the coke oven development in this country the industry itself has contributed to the nearly 100 per cent, increase in the national output of refined light oils during the past five or six years, and the operation of the Statutory Regulations under the Mines Act of 1930 has also had the effect of improving the sales and supply side of the industry. I ask the Government to give special attention to these matters.
I suggest that while the trade agreements have conferred considerable benefits on other parts of the country, South Wales has suffered severely as a result of these restrictions. The exporting districts are threatened again with a very serious advance in their costs of production as a result of a. reduction in the railway rebates on the export of coal. In 1932 these rebates averaged about 11d. per ton, but now they are down to 8.47d. per ton, and as a result of the reduced rating assessments of railway companies they are likely to be brought down to an average of 5d. per ton as from the 1st December next. Any coalowner or coal producer who could bring about a reduction in his production costs from 11d. to 5d. per ton would consider himself a very fortunate man indeed, and it is rather disappointing for him to find that as a result of these reduced railway rebates any advantage of improved mechanisation and greater efficiency is going to be wiped out to the extent of 6d. per ton. This is a matter upon which the Government alone can act, and I appeal to them to make an announcement very shortly in order to appease the minds of the coal-owners and the workers in the industry generally. I urge that they should do something tangible to deal with the matter, and restore to the industry the same amount of rebate assistance.
Further, the Government should investigate how far it is possible to exploit unfavourable trade balances in the interests of the coal exporting industry of the country. Suggestions have come from the coal districts that 131 the Government should grant a subsidy for export coal. I appreciate the dangers of a subsidy, but I cannot help feeling that if the coal industry were promised a subsidy, it would be a very effective instrument in the hands of the coal industry for arguing with the coal-producing countries of Europe in favour of an international coal agreement. The Economic Committee of the League of Nations has advocated the wisdom of an international agreement. It has been possible for the British iron and steel industry, through the weapon of tariffs, to gain admission to the international steel cartel, and as a result of that it has been possible to bring about a reduction in tariffs. While I think a subsidy to the coal industry might not be advantageous as a subsidy, the possession of that weapon might make it possible for the industry to force the Continental coal-producing industries to come to some arrangement concerning the allocation of export markets with a view to beating down the artificial restrictions which are the bugbear of the export trade.
I appeal to the Government to pay special attention to the position of South Wales. I am afraid there is a general impression in the House that the South Wales mining community has been endowed with a double close of original sin. Let me assure the House that in a district where unemployment is rampant, the spirit of the Welsh miner is really wonderful. All he asks for is a fair chance. Let it be remembered that the Welsh coal industry lost an annual production of 1,700,000 tons when the Admiralty went on to oil, so that South Wales miners cannot be continually blamed for all the setbacks which the industry has suffered. I appeal to the Government to give special attention to the export side of the coal industry, and in particular I ask them to make an announcement as early as possible as to their policy on the question of railway rebates.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. MUFF
In discussing the Gracious Speech from the Throne, there are two topics on which I would like to speak. One of them is a domestic topic. I would like to raise the question of the position of my own constituency of East Hull, and I do so in the hope that the Minister of 132 Labour, when introducing the Bill for the continuance of the Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Act, will extend that Act in order to bring within its scope some other portions of the country which are suffering great hardship. I would remind the House, and especially the Minister of Labour, that in the constituency which I represent, which has a population of just over 82,000 people, the public assistance committee is expending over £2,000 a week for the relief of the poor. On one or two occasions the Members for Hull have approached the Minister of Labour with a view to having separate figures for unemployment for the various divisions of Hull, and if the Minister of Labour could see his way to do that, it would be found that, unfortunately, East Hull is suffering more than any constituency at any rate in the East Riding and also, I believe, any other part of Yorkshire. What we want is not so much special facilities as the right to tender for public works and the right to be considered by the public departments in Whitehall when contracts and public works are being started on. We do not want, and we do not ask for, any favours, but I appeal to Ministers to give a constituency such as Hull at any rate an equal chance with some other places in the country. I hope that when the Bill to extend the facilities given to Special Areas is introduced, the Minister of Labour will see his way to give the metropolis of the East Riding of Yorkshire an equal chance to get more prosperity.
With some trepidation I wish to speak also upon the topic of foreign policy, especially in view of the fact that the Foreign Secretary is to make a statement to-morrow, I presume about either Italy or Germany. I suggest to the Front Bench that sometimes the occupants of the back Benches are more closely in touch with the ordinary men and women of the country than the occupants of the Front Bench. If we try to put on any airs with our constituents, we are told to come off our perch, but the average constituent would not dare to tell, say, the Secretary of State for Scotland to come off his perch—he would be too afraid of him to do that. I would, however, ask the Secretary of State for Scotland at any rate to suggest to the Foreign Secretary that he should reply to Italy in a 133 rather different manner than has been the case during the past few months. I suggest that the Foreign Secretary should frankly tell the leader of the Italian people that he can never secure a peace based upon 8,000,000 bayonets, and that the British people—I can speak for my own constituents—have absolutely no quarrel with the Italian people as a whole. If the Italian leader could bring more prosperity to 8,000,000 Italian peasants, no one would rejoice more than the British people and the corresponding 8,000,000 people in this country.
I wish the Foreign Secretary would bring home to the Italian leader the fact that there would be infinitely more satisfaction and a greater sense of security if the Italian leader could give some assurance and reassurance to 8,000,000 Italian mothers, and also 8,000,000 British mothers, that their boys would not be called upon to carry bayonets at all. I wish the Foreign Secretary would inform the Italian leader that British soldiers did not go to war with Italy but saved Italy at Caporetto and other places, and that we would infinitely prefer to live at peace with Italy than go to war with her. I wish the Foreign Secretary would remind the Italian leader that Britain, and even the British Navy, has never endangered the peace of the world in the Mediterranean, that the only people who have endangered the Mediterranean have been Algerian pirates and similar people, and that, so far as we are concerned, there is the utmost freedom for Dutch or British or Italian ships to sail those seas without any danger. I wish it could be brought home not only to the Italian but to the German leader that the only positive thing they have done during the past 14 or 15 months has been to convert the British people to huge expenditure on armaments. These foreigners have done that.
Finally, I wish we could bring home to the Italian and German peoples the real significance of the peace ballot—now almost forgotten—of 14 or 15 months ago. When 12,000,000 British people gave their signatures for peace, there was a guarantee to the whole world—a much greater guarantee than some of the signatures that were put to the Kellogg Pact, the Locarno Pact and similar pacts. Those 12,000,000 signatures were a 134 guarantee that no British Government would ever dare in future to engage in an aggressive war. I am sorry to say that that conversion to an armaments race was brought about by such speeches as were broadcast only a few days ago from Italy and Germany. Those speeches are not converting our people into a state of fear. I have the utmost confidence that our people will always be as firm as the rock of Gibraltar, which is and will remain a British possession. I would like particularly to remind the Italian nation, if my poor voice can reach even a few of them, of one thing. I remember that as boys we treasured in our homes the photographs of such men as Mazzini and Garibaldi. I would like to remind the Italian nation that it was the British people which enabled Italy to occupy the position which she occupies to-day.
I thank the House for listening to me. I have made these remarks because I am certain that thousands of my constituents feel that we want peace, based not upon 8,000,000 bayonets, but rather upon 8,000,000 more prosperous people in Italy and a correspondingly greater number of prosperous people in this island of ours.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I think that to-day the House has for the most part been functioning normally in the raising of various grievances and points which hon. Members wished to bring to the attention of the Government. I think it is also true to say that that fact shows that there is no overmastering issue to which it is desired to bring the attention of the administration as a whole. We have had a number of interesting speeches including one most interesting and delightful maiden speech by the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Major Rayner), who had the courage to express an unusual point of view, and did so with a grace which makes us all hope that we shall often hear him in our Debates in the future. There were other speeches which it would be a pity to deal with in detail on this occasion when there are still many other hon. Members who wish to bring to the notice of the House points affecting their own constituencies or general considerations.
The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) will not expect me to go at length into his argu- 135 ment upon the Russian Treaty, and whether the extension of credits to Russia has been the best bargain possible for this country. Neither, I think, will the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) expect me to deal with his analysis of the position as regards workmen's compensation and the difficulties affecting those afflicted with nystagmus. It is a subject about which no Member for a mining division can feel cold. No Member for a mining division can feel that any opportunity should be lost of bringing it before the House of Commons; but he will not expect me to go into it on the present occasion, any more than the hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. L Jones) will expect me to go into the question of possible assistance for export coal. Since he himself is not in the House at this moment, I take it that his remarks were made more to ventilate the position than to seek an immediate reply from the Government spokesman. Similarly, the hon. Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff) will not expect me to do more than pass on his remarks regarding foreign policy to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He also spoke of the desirability of bringing East Hull within the ambit of the distressed areas, but as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour is himself present, he can pass that message on to his chief more directly than I can.
We had from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) a speech in which he referred to this as an occasion for stocktaking and brought forward several arguments which, I think, cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. He said that the international situation had deteriorated steadily since the advent of this Government, but I do not think any one in any part of the House will deny that it would have deteriorated still more, and not at all so steadily, if two or more of the great European Powers had been plunged into conflict in addition to the other disturbances from which we suffer at the present, more particularly if one of them had been this country. His argument seemed to me a little reminiscent of a famous conference recently held in Edinburgh, where, I understand, exhibitions of tight-rope walking were given to the delight of all concerned.
136 I was not quite sure whether he desired that rearmament should proceed more vigorously and rapidly, or that it should not proceed at all. He indicated that in his opinion recruitment for the Army was bad, and he put that down entirely to the failure of this and previous Governments to provide adequate nutrition for the people. But are his speeches and the speeches of hon. Members on his side entirely devoid of responsibility for the falling off in recruiting? When membership of the armed forces of the Crown has been held up as almost equivalent, I will not say to some form of crime, but at any rate some distinct form of misdemeanour, when the object for which these forces are maintained has been questioned from the Opposition side, can he be surprised that supporters of his own—because of course, membership of the armed forces is not confined to any one political party —feel, when such advice is so vehemently given by their own responsible leaders, that they should think twice and three times before joining forces the use and composition of which is so vigorously called in question? I do not think that that argument of the right hon. Gentleman can be considered without reference to the attitude which he and other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have taken towards the armed forces in the past. The difficulties of those who are in charge of the armed forces in this country are so great that I shall not attempt to trespass upon their province, but I do not think any one will deny that if there are to be armed forces at all, under the control of any Power in the world, we in this country cannot allow ourselves to be without such forces. We have seen in the past the dangers which arise from such a course, and we shall not incur those dangers again.
When the right hon. Gentleman says that the evils of the present day are all due to the capitalist system and adduces the Jarrow march as an example, I think he under-estimates the position of a free country in making known its grievances. I do not think that a speech such as he delivered would have been delivered with impunity in any of the totalitarian States either of the Eight or of the Left. Trials have been held of old guard supporters of the old regime in States of the Left in recent months at which punishment was meted out of a very sudden and 137 drastic kind. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman thinks that a procession of ordinary people through the length and breadth of the country, protesting against the action of the Government and desiring to cause the Government to alter their attitude, would be permitted in countries of the Left. I see that he is carrying out an argument on the subject with his neighbour on the Opposition Front Bench.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I rather think that the Jarrow March which he cited would not have been permitted in any of the totalitarian States, and I include Russia as one of those States as well as Italy or Germany.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I would beg vehement members of the Third International to beware. Members of the Third International have been shot in Russia for expressing their views in recent times and for attempting to change the form of government in that country.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
Is it not the case that those who were shot were proved to have been guilty of murder and conspiracy to murder?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The definite charge brought against them was that they were attempting by violent means to change the political regime of their country, and that has been repeated in speeches and publications too numerous to mention. If the hon. Member is attempting to hold up Russia as an example of liberty in this country, I think it is a thesis which he will find it difficult to support.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
None of us will deny the great achievement of the totalitarian States in increasing the prosperity of their people.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The hon. Member likes only one kind of totalitarian State, but we on this side find a certain difficulty in distinguishing as closely as he does between them, and he must allow a certain amount for the prejudices of those who support the democratic regime which, as we all know, he desires to sweep away and replace by another kind of regime. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough quoted certain documents. The desire to see those documents acted upon is common to the whole House. He quoted the report of the Nutrition Committee of the League of Nations, and referred to the desirability of increasing the consumption of protective foods and improving the standard of living of the people. We believe that our system has done as much to improve the conditions of the people and has done it as rapidly as any other regime which can be mentioned. We believe that few regimes can be mentioned the achievements of which come up to the achievements of this country in recent years. It is suggested that we should have more food for the people. Of course. It is suggested that we should have a better standard of living for the people. Of course. But we can quote the remarkable fact that when the right hon. Gentleman and his friends were in office, one man lost his job every minute, day and night, during the whole of that time and they worked up to two men a minute towards the end of the period, whereas during the past 12 months of the present Government one man every minute has got a new job in this country and 488,000 of those people were still holding their jobs at the end of the year.
We consider that a useful contribution. We think that those people are more likely to be able to purchase the protective foods which the right hon. Gentleman desires them to have than if they were unemployed. We consider that a policy of allowing people to go out of work is less likely to induce a consumption of protective foods than our policy which has led to an increase in the number of people employed. That is proved by the fact that the consumption of those very foods has gone up enorm- 139 ously in recent years. Since 1930 the people of this country are eating 660,000 cwt. more beef and veal, 860,000 cwt. more of mutton and lamb, 3,000,000 cwt. more of sugar and nearly 3,000,000 more of butter. They are enabled to buy these things because more of them are in employment and that is the general policy of the Government towards all these questions.
In what, I think, was the least happy section of his remarks the right hon. Gentleman made a comparison between the Budgets of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Budget which he supported. I think if he goes over the figures again he will find that he was again on very dangerous ground. He tried to correct an hon. Friend of mine on this side when he said that the Budget of his Government and the present Budgets were not comparable, since their Budget was allowing for the payment of money to the United States and the present Budgets were not. He forgot altogether that the very essence of the moratorium was that while money was not received from the countries which were giving this country reparations, it was not, on the other hand, passed over to the United States. There was an item to be cancelled on both sides of the account, and I do not think he can fairly quote that against my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Nor indeed, does his main accusation lie, that the Budget deficits which he defended were small and trivial things compared with the deficit which he anticipates for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What the House of Commons resented and stood out against was a Budget which made provision for only half a year for unemployment relief in this country. We had it on the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of those times, and I myself drew attention to it on the Floor of the House, that the dole so-called, the uncovenanted benefit, was only provided for in that Budget up to September of that year. No further provision was made for it. We stated that that was not a Budget which was more than a mere temporary affair which would require immediate reconsideration as soon as the House reassembled.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that provision has been made for unemployment after September in this Budget and that we are fully able to provide for every other item of expenditure in our Budget according to the scheme laid out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Certainly there was no reason to suppose that the Budget supported by hon. and right hon. Members opposite can challenge comparison with those of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the House and the country have shown that time and again, and will show it time and again as often as that case is put to them. The difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman raised are, I think, difficulties which are inevitable under any administration and which have not been solved by any system of authority anywhere. They are the differences between the rich and the poor, between the better fed and the less well fed. The right hon. Gentleman quoted many authorities to show that we could give better food and better conditions to everybody in this country, but that is owing to the power of production of the capitalist system, and that system, working in this country, has given food and housing to the people of this country far above what have been given by the régime of any other country he likes to mention and certainly far above that given by the régime in countries where the dictatorship of the proletariat exists to-day.
The right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland)—it would be discourteous to omit a reference to his speech—seemed to me not to have found any generalised criticism against the Gracious Speech from the Throne. He said that in some particulars it might be amended and that in others he was prepared to support it; he doubted whether our efficiency measures for the livestock trade would be vigorously pressed forward, and he suggested that we had not paid sufficient attention to the problem of the distressed areas. He brought to our notice, in what seemed to me, if be will allow me to say so, a rather platitudinous phrase, coming from the right hon. Gentleman, that it would do harm rather than good to give exercise to those who would thereby only suffer from fatigue. I am certain that neither my right hon. Friend the Minister 141 of Health, nor my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, nor any of us are likely to overlook that obvious point. Physical fitness does not mean physical training for children who, in the picturesque phrase of an hon. Member opposite, have not strength to break the skin on a rice pudding. It is perhaps unnecessary to bring those points to the attention of the Government of the day, but as they have been brought to our notice, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we shall not leave them out of account.
The difficulties of the Debate on the Speech from the Throne were, I think, raised more directly in the speech delivered yesterday by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who very frequently is able to pick out the under-note of the House, and indeed of the country, in a way which many of the official Opposition seem unable to do. It was all the more remarkable since it was re-echoed in a different way in the maiden speech to which I have already referred of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Totnes Division and was echoed again in a phrase by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham. The hon. Member for Bridgeton said that this was the King's Speech for the second year, that it was in the second year that the fruits of a Parliament must be put forth, and that great constructive measures which will eventually come to fruition must be sketched out. Do we see in that Speech, he asked, the power that will indicate a Government fit to make this country able to stand against the gigantic totalitarian States which we see growing up around us? That was the note of the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Totnes Division, who said that the people of this country know what the community owes to them, but asked if they are equally sure what they owe to the community. Again my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham said that the dictators succeeded in evoking in their countries a vehemence and an enthusiasm which it is perhaps difficult to detect among the people of our own country.
That is, in fact, the same problem as that put by the hon. Member for Bridgeton. Is democracy rising to the height of the events of the day, the great and terrible events which we see all around us? I think it is; not only as shown in 142 the legislation and in the Speech from the Throne, but in the resolution of the people. I think there is among our people a realisation growing up that these great and tremendous events in the world cannot pass this country by. It is true that we have to show that this nation can do the tasks which the dictators have set themselves to do. That is a great ideal, but it is the only ideal fit for a Government to lay before either Parliament or the people whom it seeks to represent. Can we do it? We have a young King opening his first Parliament, we have a House of Commons fresh from the polls, with its mandate still unexhausted, we have the whole world looking to us to see whether this country can rise to the level demanded by the events of the day, whether it can, in fact, evoke these enthusiasms, produce this resolution, toughen the fibre of its people to the point of grappling with the new course of events, whether our country is great enough to seize the opportunity of prosperity which the machines have held out for us.
We shall not do that by quarrelling among ourselves, and we shall not do it either merely by evading criticism or avoiding the free play of opinion. I welcome these Debates in spite of the fact that many things are said in them with which I heartily disagree, expressions of opinion in the Press and on the Floor of this House and elsewhere although they give to those in the totalitarian States the feeling that there is deep division in our ranks and that we shall not rise to the heights of resolution to which they undoubtedly have been able to raise their people. I think we can, but it is still in question, and it is for the answer to that question that the whole world is looking to-day. We in the Government believe that we can do it and that the people of this country can do it. We lay this programme before this country as an earnest of the work which this Government and people will have to do in the years which lie immediately before us, disciplining ourselves as in the interests of the free expression of opinion, and the maintenance of public order, organising rearmament and social reform, as is suggested in the Factories Bill and other Measures to be brought up—things dull and unspectacular in themselves, but evidence of the will to promote the well-being of our 143 people. If we do these things according to the spirit of the new times, we shall succeed; if we do not, we shall fail.
That great question is put and is not yet answered. That is the question of our time, and that is why the House is relatively empty to-day and why it will fill up to morrow when foreign affairs come under discussion. We all feel that this is the great question hanging over us. Well, here is an attempt in a democratic Government to put forward a programme which will bring support from the people and make us able to go on from year to year with programmes such as this, not as great or theatrical as the programmes which the dictators put forward, but, we believe, better fitted to make a sound and stable nation which will grow of itself, doing its own work, bringing forward and solving its own problems. That is a, far nobler ideal, if we can bring it about, than the control and regimentation imposed from above which we see in so many cases abroad, but unless we can do it here, then the States abroad will have the better of us. It is not yet settled. Let us all be conscious of that in these Debates that are now taking place. We believe that the spirit behind our proposals is worthy of the nation. We do not claim that all the problems are solved, nor is there any spirit of complacency in regard to them, but we put them forward as an honest effort which we commend to the people of this country.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. T. JOHNSTON
I do not think there will be any difficulty in any part of the House in agreeing that the speech to which we have just listened was not the right hon. Gentleman's happiest effort. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) delivered a documented challenge to His Majesty's Government which the right hon. Gentleman has not sought to answer in any way. The right hon. Gentleman, in the earlier part of his speech, appeared to imagine that it was his duty to trail his coat for interruptions upon Soviet Russia and for interruptions and interjections about Labour party differences of opinion, real or imaginary, on armaments, but he devoted surprisingly little attention to the gravamen of the charge made with such force, lucidity, and power 144 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland was a doctor before he came here, and he knows, if no one else on that Government Bench knows, the really serious nature, the fundamental importance, of the charges which we make against the Government for failing to recognise the steady deterioration in the health of the common people of this country.
I know—and no one need interrupt me here—that during the past three-quarters of a century, as a result of the great sanitation efforts made by our forbears, we added considerably to the length of life in this country. Professor Haldane says that not a slum has one-third of the infant mortality that the Royal Family had in the Middle Ages. I know it is true that in the last 70 years we have added 20 years to the life of the average male child; I know it is true that in 1843, in the city a part of which the right hon. Gentleman represents in this House, we had 12 per cent. of our people having typhus and one-third of them dying; I know it is true to-day that typhus has gone, that cholera has gone, that enteric has gone, that smallpox has gone, that tuberculosis is going, that scurvy is going, and that rickets are going. But during the last Session of this House I, for one, bombarded the right hon. Gentleman and his friends week after week at Question Time with figures and statistics showing the steady deterioration in health now. We get a King's Speech where there is some talk about nutrition and exercises. I shall be disappointed if what we get in legislation as a result of these promises is only something in the nature of physical drill for Army service purposes.
In the Manchester "Evening News" for the 14th October is a statement made by Colonel Daniels, V.C., the chief recruiting officer for East Lancashire. He says that during the last four days of September this year at his recruiting office 36 men of an average age of 20 presented themselves to join His Majesty's Forces. Thirteen of them had to be rejected at sight for physical weakness. The other 23 were rejected immediately as physically unfit by the medical officer before whom they were taken. Thirty-six out of 36 were refused admission to the Army because of underfeeding, poverty and starvation, and the 145 right hon. Gentleman thinks to turn that obvious and grievous fact by references to what some of us on this side may have said or done, or may be saying or doing, or may be going to say or do with regard to recruitment for the military forces of the Crown.
§ Sir JOSEPH LAMB
Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to say that the whole of that deterioration has taken place during the period of this Government?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
That would be an obviously silly thing to say. I am saying that it is getting worse, and I am going to prove that the situation is steadily worsening. The King's physician will not be accused of partisan politics. Here is Lord Border in his presidential address to the Royal Medical Society at Edinburgh in October:The position facing us is appallingly, transparently, unpalatably simple. … Enough of the right food in the belly. But it is no good telling people to drink more milk if they cannot get it. At present milk costs 5d. a gallon for making walking-stick handles.It cost five times that to purchase for human consumption. Here is Lord Baden-Powell, the Chief Scout, in the "Times" of 26th October:It was no good imposing on underfed mal-nurtured boys hard physical exercise. The thing was to get them to feed properly on good plain food.They cannot do it. Twenty-six per cent. of the households visited in Cardiff get no liquid milk at all. Every investigator—the League of Nations, Sir John Orr and the rest—proves that anything from 10 per cent. upwards of our population is living below the British Medical Association's minimum standard. It has got so far that in one town alone in England, the town of Coventry, where they are building munition factories, they cannot under the capitalist regime get an Englishman or a Welshman or a Scotsman or a man of Irish extraction living in this country to do the work of labouring, and they have imported in the last 18 months 600 new entrants into the labour market from the Irish Free State. I am told that the Government have no control over the private employers who do it. Perhaps not. I do not know the terms on which the Government are subsidising the employers. I think, however, that in all parts of the House, irrespective of 146 politics, there should be a united stand made against a state of affairs in which our people have become so physically unfit that they cannot take labouring jobs.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Is my right hon. Friend suggesting that we should prohibit the entry of Irishmen into this country?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
No, I am saying that until every man in this country who is idle and drawing unemployment benefit or public assistance gets a job, and until he is made physically fit to do the job, it is a crime and a scandal to import into one Employment Exchange alone 600 men from the Irish Free State. I do not know how the Government can justify that in the country. In to-day's "Daily Express," an organ that gives us no support, there is an article by a gentleman who presumably would give us less—Sir Joseph Burn of the Prudential Assurance Company, Limited. He says:Since the nutritive value of milk has been proved, it is folly to ignore the fact that one extra pint a day is a necessity for children and a desirability, to say the least, for adults.He says that it is folly to ignore it, and well he may say it when, in addition to the financial catalogue which my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough gave this afternoon, I can add the fact that the Government are spending over £200,000,000 a year on ambulance work trying to undo at the wrong end of the scale the ill-effects of their starvation and scarcity policy. I ought not to discuss, although I should be happy to do it on a suitable occasion, the respective merits of Capitalism and Socialism as a social order, but is there any Member who denies that Capitalism can only make profits in scarcity? It cannot make profits out of abundance. If the markets are glutted, prices fall and profits disappear, and it is part of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends to restrict production. They fine the producer of potatoes £5 an acre for every new acre that he uses for the growing of potatoes over his standard quota of acreage. The Government are trying to limit production.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Let me say here and now that the suggestion that we are trying to produce scarcity has been exposed so often that it is not necessary to expose it again now.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Is the £5 fine put on as a joke? The right hon. Gentleman's interruption is unworthy of the position that he holds. Are not the Government trying to restrict the quantity of liquid milk that comes into the market?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Of course you are. You are deliberately restricting it and are bound to do it under existing conditions. Part of the farmers' troubles was that there was such an increased glut of milk coming to the market that prices collapsed and they were threatened with ruin. They had to get a Marketing Board to restrict the flow of liquid milk to the market, and the Government are busy subsidising butter factories, cheese factories, umbrella-handle factories and the rest of it in order to restrict that flow from going on to the market.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I deny it. Not a penny is being paid to subsidising butter factories at this moment, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Milk Bills are brought into this House and money is voted. The Milk Marketing Board gets the money and it is erecting factories for the purpose of keeping milk off the market. I know that that is true. I go further. A man like Sir John Orr declares that if you take the £9 a week family and the poorest families, and try to raise the consumption of food in the poorest families to that of the £9 family, it will raise the consumption of meat by 29 per cent., of eggs by 55 per cent., of milk by 80 per cent., and butter by 41 per cent. There is an unlimited market here at home in the empty stomachs of the people for whom the Government are to spend a large share of the £200,000,000 on ambulance work later on because they will not feed them now. The right hon. Gentleman is newly appointed as Secretary of State for Scotland. Good luck to him. I recognise his great ability, but he has something to do in Scotland that even his English confreres have not to do. We have a higher death rate in Scotland. We have 68 per cent, more 148 unemployment than in England. Last year our sickness rate went up 16 per cent. We have 300,000 houses in the burghs alone without a separate water closet. I do not know what the figures are if the villages are included. Our maternal mortality is 50 per cent. worse, our infant mortality 25 per cent. worse, our Army recruiting figures are 6 per cent. worse, and we spent £20,000,000 on disease last year. That is the fine fruit of the capitalist system.
The right hon. Gentleman and his friends produce a Speech giving a programme of what they propose to do during this Session. Are they at least going to give babies and toddlers under five the same facilities for cheap and free milk as they have given children from five to 14? We get our children at school now at the age of five; 96 per cent. of them have rotten teeth, and every medical authority tells us that this is due to the absence of vitamin A. because of the absence of the necessary milk. We spend money in school dentistry, and then after the age of 14, when the children leave school, there is no further provision. Later on you get them coming to your recruiting depots and all the authorities report "rotten teeth." Anaemia, weakness and invalidity are testified by every authority of every class and every political colour. We ask that, in a land capable of producing more food and more wealth, the primary consideration shall be consumption, human need, that if necessary we shall increase the money tokens to meet the increased productivity of wealth. So long as there is an empty stomach or a weakened frame in the land we will not acquiesce in a capitalist form of society which organises scarcity the fruits of which are visible at every clinic, in every slum in our infant mortality figures, and are testified to by every doctor.
I trust that whatever else this Government does or does not do, within its mandate, at any rate it will do something to induce a feeling of hope among our people that they will not be condemned for ever to the terrible tragedy, hopelessness and misery that abide in every working-class area in Britain to-night. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman says about Democracy and Fascism, but he need not hold up any totalitarian State and compare it with 149 us. In Germany, where authority is in power, there are butterless days. They have been told not to eat meat, but to eat fish instead. If they cannot get fish they get salted herring, which is not fish at all. Poverty is rife there too. It is rife wherever capitalism is. I am no supporter of the regime in Soviet Russia and I do not want to see it introduced here, but there is this to be said—that they are offering prizes for increased production and are seeing to it that that increased production shall go into the stomachs and into the pockets of the people.
§ Sir J. LAMB
They are exporting to us butter which they really should be giving to their own people.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Yes, to meet bills for your machinery. There are some interesting characters in London who get up a cry that there are ticks in the butter in order to require the Russians to give two or three cargoes where they need only give one. You would be the first to complain if they were not ready to meet your bills. When the workman goes sick he gets 15s. a week to maintain himself and his family. If he should fall unemployed he gets 17s., plus a family allowance. If he goes on to the Poor Law he gets 22s. 6d., plus 4s. 6d. for the first child and 3s. for every child thereafter. How does anyone expect a man sick and requiring more nourishment than usual to maintain his wife and children on 15s.? How can he do it? I have gone to some of the clinics in the west of Scotland in recent months. I have seen poor, puny, wasted children, and mothers obviously unable to carry them. I know that half the wealth in this country is owned by 2 per cent. of the population. I know that we in this House could, if we would, without making any drastic upheaval provide medical officers of health in every area in the country with all the milk they want at manufacturing prices—5d. a gallon—allow them to distribute it, and in two years' time half of the shame and scandal which corrodes so much of our public and private life could be wiped out. It is because we see little sign in the King's Speech of anything to meet the conditions I have described that we on this side can do nothing but express our greatest and most sincere disappointment, and renew our pledge that we shall carry on our propaganda among all sec- 150 tions of the people until a new spirit and a new temper arises, and until something approaching a new view of life will be possible in this land.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. ERSKINE HILL
The right hon. Gentleman has painted a graphic picture of the conditions of the people of this country, but his argument would have had greater weight if he had fulfilled the promise he made at the beginning of his speech to deal with the period when the Labour Government were in office. This question of nutrition, which has come to the forefront because of the recent books that have been published by eminent men, has been taken up by the other side from the point of view of making party capital out of it. It is a question which should be regarded nationally, because every one of us is vitally interested in the welfare of the people. It is absurd to suggest that any responsible Minister when putting into force a programme for the better physical training of children and young people would not at the same time look to the question of their nutrition. In the increased employment which has been brought about by the National Government—a point which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to—there is a great step taken by the Government to make feasible its programme of physical training. The part of the King's Speech which has received the most sympathetic attention in all parts of the House has been this question of providing better physical training and better care for the health of the youth of the country. We spend a great deal on looking after the mental welfare of the children, and rightly. We regard it as a debt which this generation owes to the future. It is a welcome sign that the Government are going to look to their physical welfare.
I have no doubt that the Government will deal not only with the age when the children are at school, but with the equally and almost more important time when they leave school and are cast upon the world. Everything should be done to provide children at that stage not only with greater facilities for physical training but with adequate playing fields and adequate equipment. I know of cases in Edinburgh where families have not had sufficient money to provide football boots and clothes to enable the children to 151 play. That is a thing which I have no doubt the Government will keep in view. I know many cases in Edinburgh where teams are ready to play but cannot obtain a football pitch. Where you have people ready and willing to do their part towards improving their physical condition, every encouragement should be given to them. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will bear this point in mind, because it is one on which, I think, there need be no differece of opinion. This House can give to the youth of this country a lead which will help them to make themselves the citizens we want them to be.
I think I am not misrepresenting the right hon. Member for Stirling and Clackmannan (Mr. Johnston) in saying that he expressed the hope that physical training would not be used to make men fitter for service in the Army. I say that I hope very much that any physical training will make every child in this country a better citizen, whether for service in ordinary work or for service for the country in time of necessity. Whatever be the purpose, whether for the benefit of themselves or for necessary defence, we want to see all young men and young women receive adequate help to make themselves fit men and women. For that reason I welcome the words in the Gracious Speech which deal so straightly and properly with this question, and I congratulate the Government on the fact that this is the first time the subject has appeared in the Gracious Speech. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander), when he opened the Debate to-day, said that he was very much depressed on the morning the Gracious Speech was delivered. He need not have been so greatly depressed. I looked at the Gracious Speech for the years in which he was in office, and in neither of those years was there any mention whatever of nutrition, nor any mention of this important step towards improving the physical welfare of the youth of the country, and I congratulate the present Government on taking a real step forward. On this side of the House we do not claim that we have solved all the problems that lie before us, but we do claim that we are taking definite and proper steps to solve them, and I think the House will agree that this is one of the problems which 152 ought to be solved by the unanimous opinion of the House.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Major OWEN
It is rather fortunate that the Secretary of State for Scotland should be the Cabinet Minister at present on the Treasury Bench. I notice that in the Gracious Speech there is a special paragraph dealing with Scotland. It says:Close attention will continue to be given to the improvement of conditions in Scotland,and it goes on to say that it is the intention of the Government, during the course of this Session, to bring in Bills dealing with health and agriculture in Scotland. I have searched the Gracious Speech very carefully, but I find not a single paragraph, not even a single word, relating to Wales. There is no mention of any special legislation for that country, one of whose representatives in this House I have the honour to be. It would appear from the King's Speech that questions of health and of agriculture are special only to Scotland, but I would draw the attention of the Government, and of the House in particular, to the fact that agriculture in Wales is as different from agriculture in England as it is in Scotland and needs as much special attention in Wales as in Scotland. Health, too, is a question which needs special attention in the country to which I belong. In the matter of education, too, the people of Wales, as those of Scotland, have always shown themselves to be extremely eager to bring within the reach of all, without differentiation, all the benefits of a good and sound education.
It seems to me that for many years there has been a tendency in Government circles to regard Wales as a part of England and not as a partner with her. Again and again I have drawn the attention of the House to the fact that prominent Englishmen have been chosen for offices in Wales in which a knowledge not only of English but of Welsh is absolutely essential. Let me give an instance of what occurred only recently. An inquiry was to be held in a portion of my constituency by a representative of the Ministry of Health. I was asked to represent to the Government and the Department that the people wished that a Welsh-speaking official should be sent down to hold the inquiry. The answer I had was that the official who would come down 153 would be accompanied by another official to act as interpreter, and the interpreter was the chief official of the Ministry of Health in Wales. That is a ridiculous way of treating questions of that character. It may not be known to all the Members of the House that since the days of Henry VIII the Welsh language has been prohibited in the Courts of our land. A prisoner at the bar is not allowed to plead guilty in his own tongue. He has to plead guilty in the English language—or not guilty, for, of course, they do not always plead guilty. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland, as a member of another Celtic nation, will bring this matter to the attention of the Government.
For years and years a feeling of resentment has been growing in Wales at the lack of consideration and at the disregard shown by Government Departments towards simple applications of the kind I have mentioned. To grant them would not cost any more money and would not interfere in any way with the processes of government. We in Wales feel that we have played our part well in the building of the Empire. We have contributed to the progress of the industries of this country, we have contributed freely to the professions, we have helped in making the legislation by which this country is governed. We have taken at all times and under all conditions an active and a valiant part in forming the Empire, which is the greatest the world has ever seen. But the aspirations and the sentiments of the Welsh people are being constantly and continuously ignored by Government Departments in Whitehall. We say that one first condition of loyal service and of loyalty to the Throne and to the Crown must be that the Welsh language shall be officially recognised as being equal in every sense with the English language in Wales itself. That is not too much to demand.
We have a right to ask that Wales should be treated exactly as Scotland is treated—we have every right on every ground of justice and fair play. After all, we in Wales represent the most ancient of the constituent parts of this country. We represent the most ancient culture in this country. We have kept our language from the very commencement—I would point out to my hon. Friends from Scotland that they have 154 not been able to do that, but that we have. This Government calls itself a National Government. It is supposed to represent every country in this Kingdom. From its very commencement there has not been a single representative of Wales holding an official position in the Administration, not one. I have every respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Dr. Morris-Jones), but he does not hold an administrative position. There is not one Welshman in the Cabinet; there never has been one in any administrative Department during the whole tenure of office of this National Government, not a single one. In the Great War Wales contributed a greater proportion of its population towards the fighting Services than any other part of the Empire; but on the Floor of this House, and in Government Departments, Wales appears to be regarded as a part, and an insignificant part, of the country and a part which can be ignored and left out of consideration.
Has the hon. and gallant Member considered how many Members representing Wales either in this House or in the last House supported the National Government?
Is it not a relevant question? The hon. and gallant Member has been talking about no administrative posts in the National Government having been given to Members representing Welsh constituencies, and I ask him, therefore, to satisfy himself as to how many of them in this House or in the last House would have been eligible for office, having regard to the fact that there are very few Members from the Principality who have seen fit to support the Government.
§ Major OWEN
The answer to that is that it is not my business to suggest any names to the Prime Minister, but there are some. I see one—two—
§ Major OWEN
Yes, the answer is nine [Laughter.] Nine is one quarter of the representation of Wales which sup- 155 ports the present National Government. I do not know what there is to laugh at, nor why this House of Commons is content to treat this matter with levity. I warn the House to consider the matter seriously. In the past the House of Commons has not exercised the wisdom which it might have exercised at the right time. We have an example of that at the present time. This House, and the majorities in it, treated the claims of Ireland with contempt and derision; has that been of real value to the country? Ireland has broken completely away—or desires to do so. I am not threatening in any way, but if Members of the Government, the Prime Minister and his fellow Ministers—
§ Major OWEN
I meant the Irish Free State, which is a great proportion of Ireland, and used to have a far larger representation in this House than Ulster had. National feeling in Ireland was disregarded in this House. The same thing is happening to-day. In all seriousness, I urge this House to look upon this matter, not, as has been done, as something to laugh at and to deride. Here is an ancient nation, proud, and with a right to be proud, of its history, and which has always played its part in helping to establish civilisation in Europe. During the Middle Ages the culture of Wales held the whole Western civilisation in thrall. We are not to be derided and laughed at by everybody. We have a claim to the consideration of this House of Commons equal to that of any other part of the United Kingdom, and I say with seriousness and in all earnestness that it is time that this House of Commons gave its serious consideration to the claims and to the wishes of the Welsh people as a whole.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
I do not suppose it is necessary in this Debate to take up all the points which have been put by hon. 156 Members who were attacking the Government. We are all out for one particular object in the national life, and the attacks upon the Government are only indirect, and are rather with difficulty associated with the real purpose. For instance, with regard to the very interesting speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston), who talked about the lack of fitness of the population; he aroused great sympathy in our hearts and, as a medical officer of health, I am bound to say how far, to a large extent, he is supported, as regards the actual facts of the condition and the lack of fitness in the population at the present time. After that, his argument went astray in various directions.
First of all, he took one point as regards the amount of decay of the teeth, to which great importance has been attached lately. He talked about it being due to lack of vitamins. I dare say that he will recognise that the amount of dental caries is very large in the well-to-do schools, where there has been no lack of vitamins in the diet, and that at least one of the main causes of dental decay nowadays is the amount of sugar and sweets consumed, even by very poor members of the population. It is a very common thing for children to get penny packets of sweets, or to be given them by their parents. That is one of the very fruitful causes of decay. This matter is very much more difficult to deal with than appears in the speeches from the Front Bench opposite. As to the question of causation, the Opposition, and many people, quite apart from politics, often speak of a lack of nutrition of the people, as though Providence made all men ideal and perfect. That is far from the case. It is quite right to show what a large hiatus there is between existing conditions and the perfection to which we aim, but to imagine that that hiatus is due to the iniquities of the Government, or of the medical profession, or of anybody else, is absurd.
As a matter of fact there has been for all time, an immense amount of variation in mankind. You cannot expect to have everybody alike or of the same standard. I want it to be recognised that it is owing to that variation, and to a large amount of imperfection, that you get the variation between individuals and 157 between groups of communities which makes competition in this world, and makes for progress and for constantly urging forward towards perfection; but there is no one ideal standard of perfection. It varies with different people in different climates and in different conditions. At the same time, the position is, without doubt, very serious when we find such a very large number of defects in those who come up for any particular Service, and in particular for the national defence. Is that due to poverty? It has been said, especially in the recent writings of my friend Dr. M'Gonigle and others, that it is due to poverty, but it is not quite so easy to prove that it is so. Before the War, in one village in Oxfordshire, where the wages were disgracefully low—uncommonly so—a family of 14, there being 12 children, was brought up extraordinarily healthy upon 14s. per week. That example could have been repeated all over the country. Children have told us that they remembered going constantly to bed hungry, gnawing a mangold or a swede, yet they grew to be wonderfully healthy.
A very large amount of ill health today is caused by over-eating, even among those who are hard put to it to find enough food to eat; or by bad eating and the bad choice of food. Hunger to a certain extent is a very good thing. The medical profession, looking into these matters, are finding it difficult to generalise, while those who are attacking the Government find it easy to do so. I am very much afraid of money being poured out, in consequence of this general agitation, as though it were going to solve the question. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman was speaking in a sort of triumph of exaggeration about money being poured out in that way and of every child being given a pint of milk per day. What would happen if that were done out of Government resources? There would be an immense amount of mischief done in the long run. There would be good effects undoubtedly for the time being, but it is not without significance that those who have studied this question find in certain cases that parents say: "Jenny does not want a dinner at home because she is fed at school." Because of the State provision, less is provided by bad or careless parents at home.
To provide food or anything else by dole straight out does not solve any ques- 158 tion in this world. I believe that by degrees carefully regulated, a certain amount of improved provision in the schools is obviously called for, but there is a danger of going ahead too much. That is not, to my mind, a final solution. I admit that it is a Socialist thesis tending towards the nationalisation of everything, including the food, clothes and other things of every individual. That is the logical end. The alternative is the fine thing, which I think most hon. Members, even on the Opposition Benches, will recognise, the making of every individual self-supporting. Our aim is to get the same object through self-supporting means. In other words, the one thing to do is to bring the people back to a state where they have employment on proper lines and in sufficiency, so as to be able to buy those things which they require. From that point of view, there is a real case for the Government all the way through.
My right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland has stated that the actual reinstatement of the work of so many hundreds of thousands of workers is an infinitely greater material instrument of improvement than the pouring out of thousands of gallons of milk for the children of this country. Putting one thing against another, it is plain that the essential thing is to look after the actual financial prosperity of the people. One must have those conditions in mind when one is suggesting right-and-left State feeding of the people, as though that were going to be a solution. Such an instrument must be used properly, and can be, when administered by those who understand it. I would like to devote a couple of minutes to the question of the fitness of the people. It depends very largely upon the fitness of the children in the school, and that depends very largely upon the teachers understanding how to administer it.
We have had again this afternoon brought before us the divergence between those who suggest a rigorous, rigid and automatic drill system, and those who simply want to enlarge the provision for games and pursuits for recreation. You can exaggerate one or the other, but I am certain that we all detest the idea of physical training which is merely drill gymnastics, useful as they are. I generally do some myself, but that is because I make myself do them. To be- 159 made to do them and to do drill is, of course, distasteful, and probably in the end would not get the results required. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that in those totalitarian States, at any rate those upon the Right, there is a most wonderful physique. We may object to the methods—of course we object to the methods—and we may object to the object in view and to the end, but the fact remains, as everybody has said over and over again, that it is not merely in physique and in muscle that the people have been trained; the result is shown in the health of the whole population, and is quite astonishing right through the country. The people have been given the idea of physical fitness. That is not original; it was done in Greece in old times. We have always given lip-service to the physical beauty of Greece, but it has been revived in Germany. Because it has been put under gross and rather brutal forms, we have revolted from it, but nevertheless the ideal is there.
Education requires to take a new turn. In recent times the aim has largely been only the education of the mind, but the education of the body is equally important. We have only brought it gradually and slowly, and by very small degrees, into our compulsory State school system recently, in the form of a certain amount of recreative exercises and very occasionally of drills, as if it were an extra. Those who have begun to take an interest in this general movement find, however, that a definite improvement of the body also improves the use made by the mind of the hours that are given to mental education. I noticed in the "Times" the other day a letter from some Scottish institution where apparently this is done to the extent two hours a day, not in the form of compulsory games of one kind or another, but very largely in the form of walking—"hiking"—of visiting Nature in one way or another and being induced to take an interest, according to individual tastes, in the wider aspects of Nature and the possibilities of bodily power. It is found that as a result pupils come back to school tired bodily, but with their mental powers greatly increased. In teaching the body, you cannot do away with a certain amount of discipline, but it must be a human discipline. You must have some kind of schedule or syllabus, 160 especially in a State system, but we do not want it to be too hard; we want it to allow of individualism as much as possible.
Then we come to the question of the adult. For the young man, by all means let us provide fields for physical games and pursuits and so on, but why should not we elderly people also have some provision made for us? Some of us can play games even now, but if it is a question of providing for games on the ordinary scale—say half-a-dozen acres for 22 people on a Saturday afternoon—you cannot possibly provide for anything like a tithe of the population in that kind of way. We want to encourage these other pursuits like walking about the country, or "hiking," as it is called, and, above all, the pursuit of gardening, which comes to a large number of people when they are given the opportunity, and which, when it comes to them, is probably the healthiest occupation in which anyone over 30 can indulge. But it has to be taught from an early stage, and it is taught in the country, where the taste for it can be encouraged. Physical fitness will not be attained simply by providing for hard games for the youth of this country; we have to provide opportunities for people later in life. We want to live beyond the age of 30 or 35; why should not some provision be made for people in the sixties, or even the nineties? I believe that that can only be done at an early stage by encouraging a love of nature and a love of gardening, which is quite possible in a very large number of cases. Physical fitness and nutrition must work together. We have to think things out, and, while we are thinking them out, gradually to make provision.
Finally, it is not always understood that, if questions of physical development and so on are to be given a real part in the public health work of this country, obviously the medical men and women must play a considerable part. But the ordinary medical education is based upon disease. The training of the great mass of the medical men in this or any other country is based entirely upon those who come to hospitals diseased and sick, whereas this question of physical fitness is quite on the other side; it is the development of the healthy, and the healthy do not go to see the doctor. Harley Street lives on those who are 161 sick and ill, and the research work and training of the medical schools is based upon sickness and illness. Medical men must be taught by those who have taken the science of physiology and tried to apply it, and we have not done this nearly enough. A great deal of emphasis requires to be laid on the teaching and application of physiology as a separate branch. The work of medical officers of health brings them into touch with healthy life; it is their job to keep people healthy; and that side of the profession needs to be encouraged and strengthened, above all in the medical schools by turning out doctors who think of health rather than of disease as their main function.
That will come under the General Medical Council, and I am afraid I am liable to be accused of heresy in my profession when I say that the General Medical Council requires revision. At the present moment it is constituted practically entirely of physicians and surgeons in the hospitals and medical schools, and it needs to be rearranged so as to bring in this far wider field, which is at the basis of medical education and will be at the basis of the teaching of physical health. I believe that some rearrangement and reorganisation of the General Medical Council is required in order to include, not only other kinds of medical men, but also a large infusion of the lay element, who would bring in the lay point of view—the point of view of this House, the point of view of the national need—instead of the whole training of the medical profession being based upon the treatment of sickness and disease as its terms of reference. The question is a very large and difficult one, but, until we have medical men trained to look upon health as being at least as important as disease, we shall not get a proper basis for the physical education of the people. I hope and believe that we shall this Session, under this Government, with the help of all parties and all people throughout the country, get some move on in a direction on which obviously they are all keen.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. FRANKEL
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) on the very interesting subject that he has raised, except to say that, according to some of the arguments he has used, it would appear that 162 one has to be physically tired in order to be mentally alert. I should have hoped to be able to discuss many of the varied and important subjects that are raised by the Gracious Speech of His Majesty, but I am compelled this evening to speak only on that part of the Speech which deals with the promise to amend the existing lawin order to deal more effectively with persons or organisations who provoke or cause disturbances of the public peace.I represent a constituency which for the last two years has experienced most of the difficulties which it is now proposed should be dealt with by this House. During the time that I have been a Member of the House, I have scrupulously, I might even say religiously, kept out of discussions with regard to Fascism and with regard to the Jewish people. I was not elected a Member of this House as a Jew; I am proud to say that the people in my constituency who elected me, elected me, whether they were right or whether they were wrong, for the opinions and principles for which I stand, and I am glad to say that I number among my supporters thousands of people who are not of the same race as myself. I have not thought it specially to be my job to come here as a partisan representative of one creed or one race, but I am afraid that a stage has now been reached at which, in order properly to represent the people in my constituency, I must voice the opinions which many of them hold, and must let the House know the real position as I see it in that district.
I represent a constituency which, as far as the electors are concerned, is the largest Jewish-voting constituency in this country. I think that about half the electors in Mile End are of the Jewish race. A few weeks ago, in the middle of September, I left this country for America to fulfil a long-standing engagement. Before that I had known for some considerable time that things in that district were boiling up to such an extent that one was afraid of what might happen any day; but I did not dream on the 16th September, when I left, that within a few short weeks such an enormous and important change could take place. For some time I have been counselling, as far as I could, patience; I have been telling the people that they must keep calm; I have asked them to be quiet; I have appealed to them as far as possible to do 163 nothing which might provoke any retaliation or attack on the part of the Fascists. On the whole, that has been obeyed, but on my return I have found in my constituency, and all over the East End, a real, living fear. I have found on the part of the ordinary men and women in my constituency—not only those of the Jewish race, but all decent people in the area—a feeling that we are living in bad times, a feeling that, unless something really important is done, nobody knows what will occur in that district during the next few months or even in the next few weeks.
I was born in my constituency, and have lived in it all my life. I remember that 30 years ago, as a small school lad, I was conscious of, and was for some years brought up in, an atmosphere of anti-Semitism. I remember quite clearly that going to school, being at school, and coming from school, you constantly had to remember, if you were a Jew, that you were one. Although going to school was not a difficulty, because one could avoid that by going five minutes earlier, yet coming home from school, literally speaking almost every evening, was a battle. It was an ignorant sort of anti-Semitism, which I am glad to say I have lived to see completely disappear. I am glad to say that its disappearance is indicated by the fact that I am here, and by the fact that I have represented my constituency for 12 years on local and national bodies, for I could not have been elected unless many thousands of non-Jewish people had voted for me. It is only during the last year or two that one has again become conscious of one's race to that extent. I beg the House, in the words of Lord Snell last night, to remember that this is as much your honour as mine and that, if things get worse and something is not done to let us again enjoy our political and economic freedom in the way we have done, the disgrace will be upon England and not upon one small part of it.
It has been said, I think with some degree of truth, that perhaps the Jewish people in the East End and elsewhere are hysterical and excitable. Perhaps they are exaggerating. I say those things from time to time myself, and I ask them to be calm and cool, but where fear exists one must expect people to be disturbed. Fear leads to that sort 164 of excitement, and is the House surprised if the Jews are afraid? They know what has occurred to their race in Germany, and they know that the 'Fascist movement there started more or less as it started in this country. It is no use saying it can never happen in England. You cannot say that to people whose relatives and those near to them have been tortured and persecuted as they have been and are still being in Germany. The Jews in the East End of London are only one generation removed from those who were persecuted in Russia, Hungary and Poland. They are the sons and daughters, and in many cases the same people. I ask you, then, not to be surprised if they are afraid or if it appears that they are unnecessarily excitable and hysterical. Perhaps people like myself have been quiet for too long. Perhaps I ought to have raised this before, but we all hope for the best. We hope that things will quieten down but I warn you that there is to-day a real, living, everyday fear on the part of thousands of people. I need not tell the House how silly is the nonsense that is talked about Jews and the idea that they are all well-off and comfortably situated. There are thousands upon thousands in my constituency who are as poor as poor can be, living in the same sort of conditions as the non-Jews—unhealthy and insanitary conditions and, until this occurred, living in perfect amity with them. For the whole of my life I have stood for the maximum of freedom as far as public speech is concerned, but freedom must not be translated into licence or into an expression of hatred or of arousing the worst desires in people, not against political opponents but against the whole of the members of one race. I hope, therefore, that in the interpretation of what we read in the Gracious Speech there will be a real attempt to deal with this in an effective way.
What worries me most is that, as a member of the London County Council, I know that head teachers of elementary schools and evening institutes are extremely disturbed about recent occurrences. It is difficult now to get properly attended evening classes. Many Jews are afraid to go because of the comments that are made in the institutes by non-Jews, and it is very disturbing to note that little children are now being brought 165 up in the creed of anti-Semitism. Parents have told me how worried they are about the things the children say when they come home. Children are being used every day to distribute Fascist literature. They are being taught anti-Semitic phrases by heart, and they shout them at every opportunity. I do not want the House to imagine that this is the only problem that confronts us, but it is one that is important to three or four million people who are affected. It has to be dealt with thoroughly because, from the experience of the last few years, it is no longer any use trusting to what we all thought was the common sense of the English people and their spirit of fair play, which we know exists as much in the poorer areas as anywhere else. Where ignorance is, ignorance can grow and can be bred unless it is properly dealt with, and I hope we shall all join together in what I know is the real wish of the House to give not only economic but political freedom to everyone in the country.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Sir J. LAMB
I regret that I cannot speak with the intimacy and real knowledge that the hon. Member has exhibited of the subject that he has raised, but I think I can say, and it is perhaps wise to say, that it is not a Jewish question only. It may, unfortunately, be that that particular race, of many of whose members we have cause to be proud in our history, is intimately connected with the trouble that has arisen, but this is a national danger and must be dealt with as such. We take pride in our freedom, and it is a truism that there is no country in the world that has the freedom that we have here. The greatest symbol of freedom is free speech. The first action that a dictator takes is to remove from those whom he rules the right of free speech, which proves that it is something that we ourselves must generously and carefully guard. It is not for us to discuss this subject at length, because the Bill has not been introduced and we do not know what it is. I hope that, while we shall have the privilege, the right and the duty of protecting free speech, we shall do all we possibly can to remove all causes of provocation. If the Bill has that object, I believe it will receive full support from Members of all parties, except possibly one. It is gratifying to 166 think that that Bill was the first mentioned by the Prime Minister in the programme that he indicated yesterday.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling and Clackmannan (Mr. Johnston) spoke with great vigour and sincerity with regard to the provision of an adequate supply of cheap food for the people. I believe there is no one in the House who does not amply support the object that he has in view. It is not a party question, it is a human question—I hope we are all human—that no one should be hungry. But I would tell the right hon. Gentleman if he were here that one never supports one's case to advantage by overstating it, and that is exactly what he did. He was not fair to the Secretary of State for Scotland in ignoring his statement about the increased consumption of food. He was not happy in the principal items that he took in charging the Government with having deliberately restricted production. The Government have not done that in the way he suggested. The first case that he cited was that of potatoes. They are the one article which we can produce in sufficient quantities to satisfy all our requirements and, whenever the price of potatoes has been uneconomic, it has been because of a glut caused either by over-production here or by imports from abroad. The £5 fine to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was a reasonable precaution taken against over-production at uneconomic prices. If there is any restriction upon production, it is restriction of uneconomic prices, and that will apply to every industry in time. No industry can continue to produce an article at an uneconomic price.
The other item that he mentioned was milk, and he charged the Government with restricting consumption of milk in a liquid form. Nothing of the sort. Neither the Government, the milk producer, nor the Milk Board would refuse to sell an extra quart of liquid milk, for the simple reason that all milk not consumed in liquid form has to go into some form of manufacture, and on that milk a loss is made. It is obvious that they would only restrict that operation to the sales which might be uneconomic. Unfortunately, under the present conditions, that which is sold for liquid consumption has to bear some of the burden of the loss made upon that which is sold for manufacturing purposes. It is unfortunate also that he 167 should mention the subject of handles for walking sticks being made from milk, because we all know that it is not fresh milk but skimmed milk that is used for that purpose.
§ Sir J. LAMB
He said milk. If the right hon. Gentleman or his wife asked for milk and were given skimmed milk there would be a row.
I support the Address of thanks to His Majesty for the Gracious Speech which we heard from the Throne yesterday. I have already referred to one item mentioned by the Prime Minister as being the first to come forward, and I should now like to refer to the second Bill which he mentioned with regard to agriculture. We in the industry regret very much the loss which we have sustained through the promotion of my right hon. Friend to the Scottish Office. We all admire the energy and ability which he has shown during his period of office at the Ministry of Agriculture.
§ Sir J. LAMB
The value is not only in the smile but in the actual results. While we welcome his successor, the Government, in the proposals with regard to the rearrangement of ministerial salaries, should treat his successor better than they have treated him. I hope that there will be more concentration upon a particular Measure than has been the case in the past. The right hon. Gentleman must not think that I am criticising him. He has done a great deal for the industry, but we have not had all the necessary results up to the present. This is because we have concentrated upon creating a great deal of machinery for the whole of the industry instead of perhaps concentrating more upon one particular section of the industry and getting it settled. One of the most successful things has been the Wheat Act. We are now told that a Bill for the restriction of imports of beef and veal into this country is to be considered, but I am confident that the policy for the meat trade in this country requires the greatest energy and urgency in order to find a solution. The livestock industry for a long time has been promised a solution of its diffi- 168 culties. It has waited for years, and with disastrous results. Not only has production been discouraged, but those in the industry who have persevered have been almost ruined by sticking to it, or, at any rate, they have been very seriously injured in regard to their financial position. They have been very discouraged. What happens when there is discouragement in one section of the industry? A great effort is made to transfer energies to another section of the industry. That means unnatural competition, and consequently the whole of the industry suffers in the end.
I do not want to speak too long on agriculture, because one might imagine that I was speaking of agriculture as an industry affecting agriculture only. That is not so. It is not a question of agriculture only; but it is a national question. I always regret sincerely when we find antagonisms between industry and industry. The interests of all industries are the same in the end. Agriculture and the other industries are interdependent upon each other. Agriculture is the largest industry, and, in addition, the biggest consumer of manufactured articles in the country, showing the very close and important connection that it has with all other industries. What is the other side? We produce entirely for the home market—not for export. To produce for a market which is not in a healthy financial condition, with a low purchasing value on the part of the people employed in those industries, would be foolish indeed. Consequently, it is essential for the success of agriculture that other industries should also have a good purchasing value. I hope that we in this House will continue in the spirit, which, I am glad to see, has been growing up lately, of greater amity between the industries than was the case in the old days before the War.
The Gracious Speech is not only interesting from the home point of view. I am very happy to see a reference to the maintenance of the Defence Forces of this country. What are the Defence Forces? They comprise men of physical fitness. But it is not only a question of men and munitions; it is the provision of food for the people who are employed not only in times of peace, but in time of war. It is very much more important in time of war that we should not be so dependent 169 on foreign food. I refrain from saying very much on foreign affairs because to-morrow, I understand, that subject is to be discussed. But I would make this appeal. We should all in future look upon foreign affairs not as a party, but as a national question in a very much broader sense than we have recently. It does not matter very much what we say among ourselves because we realise the importance or non-importance of it, but whatever is said to-day on foreign affairs is read with very much more avidity abroad than it is at home. When people abroad see conflicting views expressed by people here—which, although they may exist abroad, are not allowed to be expressed—it places this country in a very different position from that of other countries as to the real position. Consequently, I hope that whatever we say in regard to foreign affairs will be from the national and not the party standpoint.
I have no more to say at the present time except to express my great appreciation of the King's Speech, which recognises a great deal of what has been done by the National Government in the past, and does not give one that feeling of gloom to which the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) referred. It is true that yesterday, unfortunately, the elements were not all that we could have wished them to be. There was a great deal of disappointment on the part of the public that a function of such great solemnity, dignity and beauty should have been spoiled, but conditions are made for men and governments to overcome. The present Government have undoubtedly been working under very great difficulties, and under conditions which are not very helpful, but they have succeeded to a very large extent in overcoming those conditions, and I congratulate them on having done so.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. BURKE
I do not want to enter into the subject of foreign policy because that will be dealt with to-morrow, but I am disappointed to hear from the opposite side comparisons constantly being made between totalitarian States and our own State, particularly on the lines of physical culture. I do not know why it is that we hear so much about the physical fitness of the people of Ger- 170 many. Many years ago we heard a great deal about Swedish drill and Swedish exercises; but recently the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) came back from a visit to Germany and said that he returned with a feeling of spiritual elation every time he came hack from that country. I am disappointed and rather dismayed at the apparently growing appreciation of the totalitarian State by hon. Members on the opposite benches.
I have come back from a visit to the Scandinavian States, democratic countries who can teach the world as much about physical health and culture as any totalitarian State, and did so long ago. But we hear very little about the physical culture and the generally high level of the people in those democratic countries and their high level of educational culture. I should like to see this country compared with those countries more often and not compared with the totalitarian State. The safest and best countries in Europe are not those countries which are arming themselves to the teeth, but those democratic countries in the north of Europe who are getting on with their own business, not wasting their money on armaments but uplifting the standard of their people, physically, mentally and spiritually. Therefore, I should like to see a little more attention paid in this House to that side of the question.
The hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), who, I understand, is a medical officer, tells us that he knew children who had grown up healthily in spite of the fact that very often they went hungry to bed. That may be perfectly true, but surely he does not suggest sending people hungry to bed in order to make them grow up healthy. I know that he does not mean that, but that is the inference that some people might put on his words. In precisely the same way we hear certain people say: "I was never educated properly, and yet look at the money that I have made." The whole point is, how much better might those children have been had they been properly nourished and fed when they were young. When one points to children who have not been treated well, and says: "Look at them; they have lived in spite of their bad treatment," one forgets the thousands who have died under the bad treatment. It is because we want to 171 save those children who are liable to die from treatment of that description that we are glad to see some mention in the King's Speech of this problem being tackled by the Government, although I am a little afraid that the tackling of the problem is being forced upon the Government more by the recruiting sergeant than by the medical profession.
I do not, however, want to deal with those problems specifically. I wish to mention a problem which has not been put before the House. We have heard a good deal about Scotland and Wales and the distressed areas. The House was rather intrigued yesterday to try and discover the reasons that had inspired the Government to choose Dundee and Leicester as the constituencies whose representatives should move and second the Address. We did not discover the reason which led to that choice, and I do not know that it matters very much, but one thing is perfectly certain, and that is that the Government very wisely refrained from asking anyone from Lancashire to move or second the Address, because there is nothing in the King's Speech in regard to the staple industry of Lancashire. There is no mention of anything to restore the cotton industry of Lancashire.
We hear a great deal about the miners, and no one objects to the representation which the miners get in this House and the way their case is put. We also hear a good deal about agriculture, the ugly duckling of politics. In the King's Speech mining, agriculture and shipping are mentioned, but there is no mention of that very great industry which helped to build up the fortunes of this country—the cotton industry. That is an industry which has been so long neglected that it might have had one line in the Gracious Speech. The Prime Minister did draw attention to the fact that there was need for overseas expansion of trade, and I should like to emphasise that. I do not know whether it is a confession of faith on the part of the Government that they have recognised at last the need for changing their international trade policy, but faith without works is dead. The Lancashire cotton trade cannot exist on the home trade alone. There has been an expansion in the home trade, but in the export 172 trade, which is so vital to the cotton industry of Lancashire, there has been no improvement.
I know that in the King's Speech it is impossible to ask that every detail should be put down, but I do not see that the problems of Lancashire have been recognised at all. I suggest that something should be done when the Indo-Japanese Agreement comes up for renewal to repair the damage that was done when that pact was made some time ago. When trading agreements are made I want the interests of the cotton industry to be borne in mind, just as the interests of shipping and farming have been considered. I want the cotton industry to have a chance of competing on fair terms with other countries which have entered into our markets, particularly Japan. Lancashire has gone through a very distressing time since the War. We have lost since the War all that we gained in the period of expansion from 1890 up to the War. We are back now to the number of looms we had in 1890, and the number of firms now in the cotton industry is back to the number we had in 1882. The export of cotton goods in 1913 amounted to 7,000,000,000 square yards. In 1932 it was down to 2,000,000,000 square yards, and if hon. Members have any imagination they can realise the widespread misery of the people engaged in the industry. To-day the best prices—and they are not so good—are paid to operatives for mixed goods and those which contain different kinds of yarn. The export of these goods has gone down, but the export of artificial silk yarn has gone up. In Lancashire we want to get the yarn at home, get it made here and export the manufactured article. That is a problem which I want the Government to solve. I will tell the House presently how I think it might be solved. The import of Japanese grey cloth was 12,500,000 yards last year; a few years ago it was only 1,000,000 yards. That is a problem which needs to be tackled in the interests of the cotton industry. There is a, great fear in Lancashire that there is going to be an increased importation of woven goods for the Coronation. I hope the Government will do something to enable a little bit of this extra trade to flow up North on this auspicious occasion.
173 The Government's policy with regard to trade has, for the last four years, been a short-term policy. I want to see a long-term policy in operation. There is great need for some Department or some Minister to have the whole economic future of this country and Empire constantly under review. The terrible contraction of the cotton trade has had a very depressing effect on the people engaged in the industry. It has caused pools of unemployment all over North-East Lancashire and brought about a great reduction in the wages of the people. The Secretary of State for Scotland has told us a number of good things which have been wrought under the present system. According to an issue of the "Labour Gazette" this year the average wage of the adult cotton operative is only 31s. 5d. for a 48-hour week, or less than 8d. an hour. We have had a good deal of information in regard to agricultural wages and miners' wages, but the wages of skilled cotton operatives are less than 8d. per hour for a 48-hour week, and that does not reflect much credit on any system. In 1860 the wages of cotton operatives were 11s. per week, and rose before the War to 21s. per week. That was a period when fortunes were being made out of the cotton industry, and yet the wages of the weavers rose by only that small amount. Immediately after the War, when money was lost in the industry, the wages of the weavers were left in an alarming position. The number of looms in Burnley has dropped from 86,000 to 48,000; or nearly one-half. We are talking about having six and eight looms to a weaver; but if the situation goes on as it is at present we shall probably have six weavers for every loom. This, of course, has meant a terrible decline in the population of North-East Lancashire. In Burnley the tendency has been for the population to drift south. I suggest that this is a problem which the Government must seriously tackle.
I am glad to note that there is to be new factory legislation. The textile weavers did a good deal to bring into being the original Factory Acts, and many problems have grown up since in connection with the manufacture of cotton goods which will need to be tackled in the new Bill. Four years ago in North-East Lancashire we began the more looms per 174 weaver system, and that has had a very bad effect on the health and physique of the people. The distress which was caused by the dismissals which the introduction of the more looms per weaver system brought about was terrible. Whole families in some cases were dismissed and had nothing to do owing to the fact that fewer weavers were needed to work the extra looms. In addition, the extra looms per-weaver system means that much more skill is required and that extra mental and physical strain falls upon the operative. Also, there are more mixtures of yarn in the cloth to-day and more intricate designs, which call for more skill and attention on the part of the operative. All these things have a very bad effect on the health of the cotton operative. The extra strain and the extra artificial humidity which is introduced into the factory because the materials they work upon are not good, are having a bad effect on health, and in addition the lighting in many factories is too bad for the intricate work the operatives have to do, especially if they have to be responsible for the mistakes they make. I hope that in any new legislation the cotton operative of Lancashire will not be omitted from consideration as he has been in other forms of Government legislation.
While saying all this I do not want anyone to imagine that, black as is the situation in Lancashire, the people are down and out. There is the same sturdy independence of spirit about Lancashire which she has always displayed. I do not think you would get Lancashire people to march and parade their poverty, but I do not want the Government to be under any misapprehension as to there being widespread poverty. Deputation after deputation has come to this House to see various Ministers—the Minister of Labour, the Secretary of State for Air, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence—asking that something should be done, but nothing has been done so far. We do not ask that something should be done for people who are not trying to help themselves. In my constituency everything has been done—and with some success—to encourage new industries to go into that area; but the success has not been sufficient to absorb the pools of unemployment that are still left. New industries are coming, but the Government are not helping us. I have seen that the Air Ministry is to build a new aero-engine 175 factory at Coventry, where there has been no unemployment for years and where there is a shortage of labour.
It is said that private enterprise cannot be encouraged to go north, but it is going north, and it might go north more rapidly if the Government would give a lead by putting a few of their factories there to absorb the unemployed instead of always putting those factories in places where unemployment is not anything like the problem it is in the north. But we have had some success, and there is every reason to anticipate that that success will continue. In my constituency, after all, we have a town that has been modernised and improved, a town where the social services have been extended, a town where there is perhaps the best water supply in the whole of England, a town which is healthy—as a matter of fact people come from the south of England to Burnley in order to recover their health, and I understand that had it not become an industrial centre Burnley would have been one of our leading health resorts. The town is situated right in the heart of the big home market of Lancashire and Yorkshire; it is well served by roads, but not as well served by rail as it ought to be—as I know to my sorrow; it has a canal and is near to the seaports; it has all the facilities and amenities of a great industrial centre. Much money has been spent by the municipality in improving the place. Why should it not be used instead of building up villages in the south? With all due respect to those who are interested in supplying a certain liquid refreshment to the people and advertising it in a superlative way, I want to see a new slogan on the hoardings of this country—"Burnley is best."
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Lord BURGHLEY
I think that in their constituencies almost all hon. Members at some time have had their speeches made for them by various interruptions, and I would like to ask one rather contentious but simple question to which I would like to have a reply from some of the hon. Members opposite in their speeches—exactly how will a system of nationalisation enable us to sell more cotton piece goods in other countries? From that I would like to turn to a less contentious subject—a subject, indeed, 176 which I hope may be termed non-contentious—and that is the part of the Gracious Speech which deals with physical development. There are some people who, when they go abroad, think there is never anything to be learned, but I think that wherever one goes, no matter how much one may disagree with various types of Government, there is always something to be learned.
This summer I have learned one very great lesson, not only from the dictatorship countries but also, as the hon. Member who has just sat down said, from the Scandinavian countries; it is that, while we have in this country social services which are second to none—services of which we may very rightly be proud—there is one gap. We look after the child from the beginning; in many cases the State helps to bring him into the world; it looks after his education, supplying cheap milk, and in some cases free milk, in schools; it looks after him when he leaves school; then there is the National Health Insurance and the Unemployment Insurance Scheme, and finally there are old age pensions; but there is one gap, and that is the physical development of the people. I hope the Opposition will not make of this a party question, for I believe it is too important to become that. I will take the matter to the point of absurdity in order to show how futile it would be if it should become a party question. Surely there must be many hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House who have not been treated too kindly by time and who, in the privacy of their own rooms, try nobly to touch their toes every morning. Surely if there is to be a cleavage in the House it should be between those who can and those who cannot. [An HON. MEMBER: "Can you do it?"] Yes, I can still do it.
What is the motive behind the drive which the Government propose? There seems to be a fear in the minds of some hon. Members that it is for the purposes of recruitment. It is true that the men who have been coming forward to join the Services have not been as physically fit as we would like to see them, but the conclusion I draw is that those men are a cross section of the community, and it is a disquieting thought that they should be lacking in physique, for if they are in that position, probably the other people in those sections are also lacking 177 in physique. One right hon. Gentleman said that it was a matter of fattening people for cannon fodder, but I do not believe that is the view of most of the Members of any party in the House. It must be a platitude to say that fit men fight better than unfit men, but what occupation in life is there in which a fit man does not do better than an unfit man? Surely men and women are not to be debarred from the advantages of health, well-being and happiness simply because of the fear of certain politicians that they might become too fit when called upon to defend their country. I may perhaps speak with heat on this subject, but when one has a vision of a healthier and happier nation it is exasperating—to put it mildly—to hear people trying to turn it into a party matter. I feel so strongly on this question that I think the newspapers are wrong in the line they have been taking of recommending that a Minister of Sport should be appointed. If any such appointment were made it would mean that the man would be connected with the Government so closely that inevitably, whatever party was in power, the Opposition would be inclined to criticise and not go forward in the constructive manner in which they would if the person, or group of persons, were outside Parliament.
What are the aims of the Government? I think the chief aim is the physical one—that of turning C3 people into A1 people. Not only does that mean greater health and happiness, but, as far as disease and illness are concerned, it would be a contribution in that prevention is always better than cure. But that is only part of the question. There is another side which is as important, if not more important, and that is the mental side. I do not want to see a series of sergeant-major instructors teaching people how to do physical jerks. I think that in physical development, whether it be on the field of sport or in the school playground, there is a very important lesson on the mental side—that of learning self-control, the development of self-respect and pride in oneself, the development, above all things, of a feeling of the responsibility of citizenship. The individual must realise that ho is a one fifty-millionth part of the State and as such has his particular responsibility and duty to the State. One responsibility which the people have 178 is to make themselves as balanced as they can in mind and body, and, in their turn, to pass on future generations of healthy children.
How is this to be brought about? I think that the matter should first be tackled in our schools. There is scope in the schools for further training and a further improvement in the physical development of the youth of the country. Most hon. Members have probably read the interesting report published the other day of an experiment at a certain school where some of the students had five hours work of this kind each week while certain other students had only one hour. It was found that there was a marked improvement in chest expansion, weight and height among the students who had the longer period of training and there was no loss of educational efficiency. There is, I believe, at the present time only one school in the country, and that is in Leeds, where teachers can attend refresher classes and learn how to impart this instruction. I urge on the Government that centres should be established in different parts of the country where teachers could take such refresher courses. It is not only a question of teaching in the schools. When the child leaves school we still have a responsibility for him. He is still comparatively young and we ought to aim at turning out from these schools instructors who can not only impart instruction in physical training but also bring out those characteristics of good citizenship which we all wish to see developed.
Another very important question is that of the provision of facilities. Unfortunately, this nation became heavily industrialised before the importance of this aspect of life was appreciated and our great cities have grown up without any open spaces to provide playing fields and other facilities for sport and recreation. I urge the Government to bring every possible pressure to bear in favour of remedying this state of things. They should assist and encourage local authorities and the many voluntary bodies that are interested in this question to see that every large town and city is provided with gymnasia, swimming baths, tracks and other means of recreation and tuition so that girls and boys, whatever their positions, may be able to enjoy those advantages. On the question of co-ordina- 179 tion the local authorities in many cases are already alive to their responsibilities and, as I say, we have also many voluntary bodies who are actively interested in the subject. I may refer to one of those bodies because I have their authority as their President to speak for them. I know that I voice the views of the Amateur Athletic Association and I think of every sports organisation and of many other great voluntary organisations when I say that they are only too ready to help in any way they can an extension of these facilities for the youth of the whole country.
That brings me to my final point, which is one of great importance at the moment. Although it is important that the work of the various bodies to which I have referred should be co-ordinated, there is something which is even more important, and that is propaganda designed to awaken among the youth of the country a spirit which I believe is only dormant, a spirit of pride in the development of a fine, clean, healthy body and a sense of the responsibilities of citizenship. I feel strongly that it is the young people themselves who must kindle the spark which will set alight a great fire of enthusiasm for higher physical development. The old people cannot do a thing like this and as other countries have seen, so we shall see that it is the youth who must do it. There are throughout the country many young men and women who would willingly give up their spare time to going round and trying to bring home to people the importance of this question. I urge the Government to call upon these young people and if that is done I have no doubt of the response. I have not endeavoured to go into detail or to dot the i's and cross the t's of what has already been said upon this subject, because if one goes too much into detail it becomes impossible to see the wood for the trees. We want to keep before us the main issue, which is the desirability of increasing the happiness, the wellbeing, and the health of our people. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in the remarks which he made at Margate, lit a torch. I believe that his words on this subject have been welcomed throughout the country and that if the question is handled with enthusiasm and determination the crusade which has been started will spread like wildfire throughout the 180 country and will result in a better, a snort manly, and, above all, a happier people.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I propose to deal mainly with the omissions from the Gracious Speech from the Throne, but I cannot help referring at the outset to the remarks of the Noble Lord who has just spoken and whose achievements in the athletic field we all admire. As one who has accomplished so much as an athlete he no doubt bears in mind the importance of a sound mind in a sound body. In the branch of sport in which he is so proficient it is considered very successful to do "even time" but he will find that there are other men in the athletic field who can do less than "even time." The hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) also referred to the sound mind and the sound body and also introduced the question of Greek culture. He put forward a remarkable proposition, as coming from a medical school of thought, in regard to the provision of milk for children. I was at a loss to understand from his remarks whether in his opinion the child who got milk or the child who did not get milk was the worse off. I remember being told at school about the argument called the reductio ad absurdum, but I do not think that anything could be more absurd than the diagnosis of the hon. Member for St. Albans in regard to this matter. He seemed to suggest that to give children milk would be a waste, but he did not tell us why we have so many children suffering from the effects of malnutrition. He spoke about Harley Street specialists. In my neighbourhod we do not want any Harley Street specialists. They are a virile people in that neighbourhood and where there is a progeny of six or eight children it is necessary that those children should be fed on whatever they can get.
I am not concerned with Russia, Germany, or Italy. I may be considered to be an isolationist. I am concerned with the land in which I live and of which I am a citizen, and I know of no greater topic that any man in this House can speak about than the welfare of his own people who send him here to represent them and to put their point of view. I am proud that I belong to the British race, and I am proud to know that in a time of national emergency I would be pre- 181 pared to take my part and to do the best I could to defend everything in the interests of the people with whom I am placed. I feel that it is essential that we should do all we can for this country, and that brings to my mind that if we wish to avoid revolution, there is very much that is misleading from the Gracious Speech. Commission and omission are two definite crimes, and I wonder which is the greater. To commit what may be termed platitudes from the point of view of getting votes is one thing, but to do things that are hard and that mean sacrifice is another. We have the depressed areas and the problem of the condition of the people, and there can be common agreement on both sides of the House that there, just as in the field of athletics, the best man wins. We will get down to commonsense, and, whether we realise it or not, we have in this country, and it is our responsibility, at least 1,600,000 unemployed. We have poverty of the most depressing kind, and it would appear to me that, even though there is an artificial increase of prosperity, it must certainly have an end when we get rid of the question of making arms, and we shall then get back to a condition similar to that in which we were placed in 1931, so that there is no use disguising the fact that we have to deal with a chronic problem.
As an ordinary man in the street, I find myself in this wonderful assembly of supermen who are able to solve all the riddles under the sun, except the riddle of the districts from whence they come, and that is, to my mind, the most important point. I have listened to the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying that in the next eight or 10 years we might be able to deal with a question, at that time, of 2,500,000 unemployed. Whether it be the Labour party or the National Government party, though what that term means I do not know, what we are going to do in regard to the unemployed is a problem which does not seem to get any solution. The mechanisation that is going on to-day is placing more people on the unemployment lists, and in any great industrial centre you will find that the machine is placing men on the scrapheap. No matter what we may do in what is called the talking shop, we are not able to do anything in regard to the workshop, and these are problems that 182 must confront every one of us. When I see the escalators and the special drills working at the docks, I am at a loss to understand what we are to do with the people who are unemployed. The question of the inflated dividend of some big company does not affect me at all, because when I look round our streets I am not able to find one child getting any more employment and the fathers and mothers very often are not able to get any work.
You talk about a plan of campaign. When I was in the Irish movement we had one, and we knew where we were, but that day has passed. I am now part and parcel of British government in this House and my object here is to work under the Constitution and do the best I can for all concerned, which is not to say that I have to be in agreement with the system now in operation here. That is why I am in direct opposition to the National Government on the system of planning. They trust—I do not know whether it is in God, because we have heard it said it is in the almighty dollar, but there is a great deal of come and go, and the Government have no programme before them. One must recognise the great power vested in the National Government, and if you are not true to that responsibility, you will fail of your trust, and to-night gives me the opportunity of pointing out where you have failed in your duty to the nation.
Has there been any attempt made, in regard to the various areas that are distressed, to remove the inequality of rating which is to be seen up and down the country? There is no attempt made in regard to the adjustment of rates. You have prosperous places with a very low scale of rating, and you have industrial centres that are absolutely demoralised and not able to touch the question of paying their rates. You not only drive industry away from those areas, but you demoralise the people who are not able to leave them and are compelled to pay off the rates, and although this question has been raised time and again in this House, there has never been any attempt to get rid of the liability by a proper adjustment of it. That is why I realise, among the crimes of omission in the Gracious Speech from the Throne, that this problem has not been dealt with, and I ask, Why not? Have 183 the Government no imagination? I know they have a great deal of idealism. We get it propounded that whether you drink milk or do not drink milk, you are all right, and the last speaker gave us an illustration showing that if you have athletics you develop all right, and if you take milk you develop all right, so that whether you take athletics or milk you are in the same position. I would like to know why the question of the equalisation of rates is not dealt with in the Speech from the Throne.
May I pass from that to a problem that must affect nearly every Member in the House? It is all very nice for Members here to talk about India, Africa, Australia, America, Canada, and Soviet Russia. Your constituents will not ask you so many questions about them, and you are very learned if you make a dissertation in the House of Commons en finance or something that your constituents know nothing at all about. But if you were to start dealing with the subject matter which concerns you and them, and which is the problem which you were sent here to deal with, they would be better able to understand. I have been surprised at so many speeches being made without any allusion to a problem that has been pressed home on every Member of this House from every area in the country, and that is the problem of the able-bodied unemployed. We are told that the Government are not concerned with the question of taking over the unemployed, and we get from the Chancellor of the Exchequer grumblings about the amount of money that they are paying. We are told that they are paying almost 95 per cent. of the total amount. Would it be too much of a step for the Government to take to pay the other 5 per cent? I suggest to the Government that it is necessary they should take over all the able-bodied unemployed.
May I remind the Government that there is such a place as the Merseyside and Liverpool? There we have a river second to none. I have looked at old Father Thames, but it goes very slowly and I do not see anything in it. It looks to me rather like a fish pond in comparison with the Mersey. On that great river we have two tides in the 24 hours. We have the finest ships, docks and men in the world. Liverpool is known every- 184 where, even through its member, and Scotland Road is known all over the world. The Government ought to realise the tragedy on the Merseyside. A Tory council governs the city, but all the members are in agreement with regard to bringing pressure on the National Government on behalf of the welfare of the city. I am pressing on behalf of that area alone that the responsibility for the able-bodied unemployed should be removed so that the small shopkeeper and the small householder should not have to pay additional rent for this burden, but that the National Government with their great wealth should bear it. On the opposite side of the river great works are carrying on, but in Liverpool one in four is unemployed.
On this subject I am not speaking as a member of the Labour party; I am putting on behalf of my colleagues in Liverpool, and with full authority, the point of the city in regard to the distress there and the desire that the Government should do something to ease the situation. It is their determination to harass the Government—if that means anything at all, and I do not know that it does, for we have tried. We hope, however, that with the starting of a new Session they will listen to the Merseyside on this question. There is not common agreement among my colleagues in the city about other matters to which I shall refer. After the tremendous failure of the legislation of the Government in regard to the means test, it is surprising that there is no mention of its abolition in the King's Speech. If there is anything that ought to have disturbed the minds of Members of this House, it is the question of the means test, and, whether they like it or not, it will continue to be the most disagreeable topic for them and one which will irritate them during the Session. I should have thought that for the sake of that serenity and peace of mind which is essential if the country is to be governed with sanity, the Government would have brought forward something reasonable instead of continuing to irritate the family life of the nation by this test.
We are told that the roads are to be taken over by the Government. May I call the attention of the Minister of Transport to a request that came from Liverpool in regard to a national high- 185 way there? If there is anything to be said for connecting two nations by aeroplane, there is something to be said for an underground connection of two shires. If Lancashire and Cheshire can be connected for the national good by a tunnel, which is one of the engineering wonders of the world, which facilitates the flow of traffic and shortens distances, why are the Government refusing to give the assistance which is so essential? When the City of Liverpool has gone to the trouble of making this tunnel, it is rather distressing to the ratepayers of the city that when the highways are to be taken over a great highway such as this should not be considered by the Government. Therefore, I am putting it forward as a demand that the Minister of Transport should, when dealing with the highways of the nation, regard the Mersey tunnel as being worthy of recognition. I wish to raise another point, and I make no apology for dealing with these matters, because I have sat here for six hours waiting to be called and six hours' reflection gives one an opportunity of thinking things out.
§ Mr. FLEMING rose—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
Hon. Members must not forget that they should not address one another.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. There is a tragedy in regard to Liverpool to which I am bound to call attention. The Minister of Health has wonderful powers, yet in the administration in that great city great tragedies are going on and I want to end them by legislation. A fortnight ago the case of a man of 70 came before us, an appeal body dealing with cases of Poor Law relief. They told him that his relief was to be reduced and they reduced it 5s. a week. He was told that the income of the home made that reduction necessary. The old man nearly collapsed. Then I found out by inquiry—I had sat for two-and-three-quarter hours at the proceedings—that this man had a son who had given his life for the nation. He had died and a pension of 5s. had been given to his father for the loss of the son. Yet the public assistance committee, when this man presented himself in his destitution 186 and old age, told him that although his son had sacrificed his life in the welfare of the nation the 5s. had to be deducted because it was income. There is no man in this House who knows the value of a life that was given in the War and the tragedy it was to a father or mother to lose a son, who would agree with a system of that kind. I believe it is illegal that such a stoppage should be made, but it was enacted in my presence at a committee meeting. If such a thing is rampant up and down the country, in connection with men who have given their sons to the nation—I believe it is right for them to do that; in a case of extremity I should be willing for my own to go—I say that the nation should make provision in their old age for the fathers and mothers, and I put it to the Minister of Health to notify the City of Liverpool and other authorities that no deduction must be made in regard to such a pension. I go so far as to say to the Attorney-General that in my reading of the law I feel that it is an illegal act.
My last comment is in regard to the Ministry of Labour, and has to do with the Unemployment Assistance Board. Boards of guardians have been obliged for humanitarian reasons to give additional relief to the poor. Ordinary relief is of no use in the winter season and additional relief in the form of coal has been given. It is remarkable what discrimination there has been up and down the country. Some boards of guardians are doing it, some are not. The remarkable fact is that the Unemployed Advisory Board do not do it. I want to call the attention of the Minister of Labour to the fact that in the City of Liverpool all parties—the elections are now over or I would not mention all parties—were in agreement in regard to the poor of the city that proper provision should be made. That does not include physically fit unemployed men. Provision should be made in respect of the wear and tear of pots and pans. There is discretionary power. I ask the Minister in the coining winter of our discontent to give to these poor unemployed physically fit men the same as is being given to the sick and the aged.
This is an occasion of stocktaking. I trust that the Speech from the Throne and all it augurs will be for the welfare of the nation. Whatever the opinion of any Member may be, the poverty of the people is a problem that must be solved. 187 Unemployment is eating like a cancer into the hearts of all our people. If we wish to avoid trouble and to get rid of revolt and disordered minds up and down the country it is essential that we should provide employment and comforts in the homes of the people. A prosperous and contented England will be of great benefit to the rest of mankind. When you have solved unemployment, distributed goods and leisure more equally and understood that life should be lived for the good of man and not for the making of private profits, you will have solved the riddle of the British nation and the British Empire.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. FLEMING
I have the greatest pleasure always in listening to my hon. Friend, and I am sure he will excuse me to-night if I do not touch on some of the problems he has raised. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) raised the question of workmen's compensation and the desirability of some change being effected therein. I rather misunderstood his remarks in the beginning. He gave me the impression at first that he was rather quarrelling with the methods by which settlements were brought about, and after he had put me right on that point he gave me the impression that his real grouse against the Workmen's Compensation Act was that other people than lawyers were not allowed to go into court and present the cases of the applicants. I took a note particularly of what he said. I am rather glad he raised the point, because it has been put to me before by various agents, particularly of collieries in Lancashire, and they are under a misapprehension. It is already clearly set down in the County Court Rules that in cases where settlements are brought before the Court an agent is entitled to go before the Registrar. In fact, I have had the experience of being opposed by an agent. Therefore, I do not know whether that was the trouble which was in the mind of the hon. Member, or whether his point was that there have been cases where an injured person or some representative of a deceased person has been approached by the agent of an insurance company and a settlement has been brought about which, in the opinion of the trade union, was not an adequate one. But there, again, a trade union official is entitled, 188 even after the settlement has been arrived at, to go to the Court and to put the details before the Registrar—that is so in Lancashire, at any rate—and if there is any suggestion of fraud the matter can be re-opened.
§ Mr. FLEMING
If it is a question of a non-union man as contrasting with a union man, well, I have nothing to do with that point.
There are one or two other matters to which I would like to refer in the short time which I allow myself on these occasions. One was raised by an hon. Member for one of the North London divisions, who told us that he was a Jew and referred to the question of the Fascist troubles, as he put it, in the East End. The Gracious Speech adumbrates the introduction of a Bill to deal with that problem. To my mind that will be one of the most thorny problems which the House will have to consider this Session. I have been making particular inquiries on that subject, and although some people regard it simply as a problem of Fascist versus Jew, as it may be in the East End of London, that is certainly not the case throughout the rest of the country. I do not know the details of the Bill, but I am told, mainly by the Press, that for one thing it will deal with the question of free speech at public meetings. Long before the word "Fascist" was known in this country I put up as a candidate in a division on the Lancashire coalfield.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member must not refer to other Members personally, but must address his remarks to the Chair.
§ Mr. FLEMING
I apologise. I will do so for the future, and I will take these remarks as coming from you. The hon. Member who interrupted me, of all people in the House, ought to know the division which I fought in 1922.
§ Mr. FLEMING
When I put up in that division I was interrupted, I was heckled, and was given a real good time by my opponents. Things, apart from words, were thrown at me, but I am still here to tell the tale. Who was it who did those things? Was it the Fascists? There is in this House now, though there was not then, a representative of the party, the members of which deliberately organised this opposition to me and other Conservatives on that coalfield. They were in a minority on that coalfield, but they were so well organised, even so long ago as 1922, that they caused us more trouble, physically, than all the Labour party in Lancashire put together.
§ Mr. FLEMING
In 1922 I was invited by those who call themselves Communists to go to their club, because one of the members happened to have been my batman during the War. I went to their club for the specific purpose of trying peacefully to get the interruptions at my meetings stopped, and to prevent people who were working on my behalf, and particularly women, from being interfered with. One of them was actually knocked out by a sod of grass which was thrown at her. There was no Fascist known in that division, not one. There was no Communist working for me in that division. I am not suggesting that my opponent, the late Steve Walsh, asked any of those Communists to help him—not for one moment am I suggesting that—but here is the strange fact, that wherever trouble was caused in pre-Fascist days in this country it was always the Conservative candidate who got the brunt of the trouble from the Communists.
§ Mr. FLEMING
There is no question as far as I am concerned. I am speaking from my own experience. Then we come to more recent elections in which I have taken part. I tried to speak at a meeting in London during the London 190 County Council elections. I thought they were much better behaved in London than on the Lancashire coalfield, where we expect rather severe tussles, but it was worse in London, though I, as a Lancastrian, expected to get a lesson on how people ought to behave at a public meeting. Who was it who organised the opposition against me and my friends? It was not a Fascist. It was the Communists. Some of them had the decency to admit to me that they were Communists, and they made the Communist signal to us and they stood up and sang the "Internationale,"—though they did not know how to sing.
Therefore, when we come to consider this very thorny subject we shall have to look at it not alone from the Jewish point of view, as put by my hon. Friend opposite, with whom I agree as far as the Jewish exposition of the case is concerned. I want to make it clear that when this matter comes before the House, I shall, even if I am the only one, raise the question of what we suffer occasionally from the Communists in this country, and we must take care that they shall be regulated in every possible way. We must not forget that in different parts of Europe to-day things have come to the point, more advanced than in this country, of a clash between the forces of Communism and their friends and the anti-Communists arid, as an hon. Member opposite said, we do not know when such a clash will occur here. Like him, BI hope that it will never occur, but I am not such a fool as to think that my hopes will always be fulfilled. I like to be prepared for what might possibly occur, and I tell my Communist Friend quite frankly—I address these remarks to the Chair, as I have been warned to do—that if the same position occurred here as occurred in Spain, he would not find me on his side in this country. He would not expect it, I know. That explains why this question of Fascist meetings throughout the country must be dealt with in a very broadminded way. No one in my Division has ever accused me of being Fascist.
§ Mr. FLEMING
The hon. Member will do so, I suppose. I fully expect that before long, after this speech, some of my Communist friends will come into my 191 Division and start telling the electors that I am a Fascist. They will fail as signally as those failed before who came into the Division and pointed out that, because I spoke as an ex-service man in favour of making our Armed Forces as strong as they ought to be, I was one of those who wanted to stir up war. My Division did not believe those people, and will not believe those who try to persuade them that, because I want fair play in the settlement of this thorny question, I am a Fascist. I do not forget that a great many of those young Fascists in Manchester were Conservatives only four years ago. They have their own reasons for turning against me and the present Government. I know some of them personally, and they have told me why they did so. When all is said and done, those people, although I do not subscribe one iota to their views, are still my friends just as much as are the Jews in my Division my friends. In a Division like mine, where there is a large Jewish population, as well as the Lancashire population which has gone Fascist, it is only right that we should deal with this problem as broad-mindedly as possible.
I have tried my best with those young people to get them to come back to what, I believe, is the correct creed, which is the Conservative party's belief. We shall not get those people back to the Conservative party, or to any other party for that matter, if we make martyrs of them. That will be the result, unless we are very careful about what we do as regards uniforms. Older men in Lancashire and in London who remember the beginnings of the Salvation Army, have told me that in the beginning there was almost as much opposition to the Salvation Army as there now is to the Fascists, on the question of the uniforms. I know people to-day who dislike the idea of a Socialist wearing his red tie. We do not see many of them doing it nowadays, I notice, but it never irritated me in the slightest. It did not worry me whether they wore red ties, red shirts, or red faces. If that question cropped up of forbidding a Socialist to wear a red tie, I should oppose it, because I see no reason for stopping a Socialist from wearing a red tie. In the same way, when this question of the Fascist uniform comes up, I am going to take perfect freedom in discussing the matter to the 192 best of my abilities, looking towards the future, and I am not going to be stampeded into any action by any Communist caucus that may be holding temporary power in any part of London.
The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) referred to the fact that the textile industry of Lancashire is not mentioned in the Gracious Speech. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition also referred to the fact that unemployment is not mentioned much in the Gracious Speech. I have read that Speech. I suppose you read it according to your political beliefs. When I read the Gracious Speech I did not do so as a blind supporter of the National Government. Hon. Members know that I am not; yet I tell them that to me there is in that Speech plenty of promise of employment that I have never yet seen put forward in any pamphlet or propaganda by the Opposition. It appears to me, as an Independent, as sensible, although not going as far as I would want to go in certain respects; but I am not one who refuses half a loaf because I cannot get the whole thing. I am willing to support the Government in every effort that they can make to improve employment. So satisfied am I that they will do so, and that they will improve employment and reduce the figures of unemployment, that I am willing to undertake to the Leader of the Opposition, who seems quite despondent about this, that if, before the next general election comes, my hopes are not carried out and the figures of unemployment are not reduced from what they are to-day, I will pay the election expenses of the Leader of the Opposition.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. TAYLOR
The speech to which we have listened from the other side of the House in regard to the Gracious Speech has given the impression that we are not dealing with the most serious problem in this country. When I listened to the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) I thought how easy it was to say that an occasional hunger, or hunger regularly, was a very good thing. Most of us have felt that way shortly after we have felt contented with a good meal. When he was speaking about the gap, he forgot that we on this side of the House were complaining about the gap which exists between the food supplies of the country and the 193 people who actually need them. That is the greatest gap that exists at the present time. Then we have listened also to those men who are human Silver Jubilees, who can do even time over hurdles or on the flat and who speak about the necessity for improving the physique and the standards of our young men, and our young women, I suppose—and I agree with them very largely. They forget, however, that, in the homes with which we are familiar, it is an absolute impossibility to get that physical standard which they require unless the people are given more food. We may as well face up to that fact.
The whole of the physical culture side of this Debate has had reference to the young people, and that is necessary, I suppose, for they are the men of the future and the women of the future; but in the town where I live, in Blyth, we have a medical officer who is continually saying, in every report he sends out, that there is no malnutrition in Blyth, but there is under-feeding, and he says that the position of the children would be considerably worse than it is but for the sacrifices of the mothers. When we are talking here about wanting to make our young people fit, we on this side of the House want them to be as physically fit as possible, because we believe it is only by being physically fit that you can enjoy life to the full extent. But do Members of this House know that the unemployment problem is not confined merely to distressed areas? It extends to areas where there is a considerable measure of employment, but where there are "pockets" in which the percentage of unemployment is very high indeed. In those areas we have medical officers, like the one I have already quoted, pointing out that it is the sacrifice of the mothers that is maintaining even the standard that we now have in the case of the children in those areas, and we have Bishops in this country who are telling us that the mortality among the mothers is undoubtedly due to the fact that they are making sacrifices; first for the children, and, secondly, so that, if the man should happen to get a job, he may be able to take it.
The Government are being complimented about the provision of work that they have been making, but I do not believe that, as a Government, they have made any work at all, apart from the 194 fact that they have loosened the purse-strings in regard to armaments. They are entirely in the hands of the industrialists—the capitalists, if you care to call them so—and it is they, and they alone, who are providing the work with the money that is being put at their disposal for armaments. If the Government, as a government, were making work, and I believe it is their job to do so, would they be allowing the industries and factories that are coming into this country under licence to be sticking around London, when we in the North of England have a market greater than you have in London? We have a market of 16,500,000, but we can get no factories. Therefore, I say that, if the Government were making work, they would say where those factories should be. I notice in the Speech the statement:You will be invited to extend the period of operation of the Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Act, 1934.I wonder how much good that has done in the distressed areas? If it has done good in the distressed areas, and the Government evidently think it has, or, at least, they think it is worthy of a further trial, is there any reason why it should not be tried in those "pockets" of abnormal unemployment to which I have drawn the attention of the House? Let me give the figures of two areas in my division. Blyth, with 10,100 insured workers, has 22.8 per cent. unemployed, Surely that is sufficiently high to be distressed. In the other, where there are not quite so many insured workers—only 3,580—the unemployment in the month of September was 37 per cent. That is Morpeth. Surely that is sufficiently high. What is there in the Speech for us, other than the possibility that something may come to Tyneside in the way of armaments? Can the Government tell us of one proposal that they have for giving a job to a man or woman in these two towns? If they cannot, do not let them boast about the work they are providing, because it is only an accident to them that work has been provided.
Let me tell them of something else. In Blyth we have a shipyard with splendid men—a yard which, I believe, built the first aircraft carrier for the British Navy, and which a short time ago was complimented for some work it did for the Admiralty. In some weeks we have 95 per cent. unemployed in that yard. It 195 is not a yard which has been frozen; it is open; but the people who own it evidently do not see fit to send shipbuilding to it. All that we are getting is repair work, and our men have been taken from Blyth to Cowes, on the Solent, to a yard that is building submarines and destroyers. Is it a happy state of affairs to be taking men from one end of England to another when you have a shipyard already there? And yet the Government boast about making employment. It is absolutely false to say that they are making any employment at all. If they were making employment, there would be some diversion to Blyth, so as to keep the men at work where their homes are. I am not going to object to the fact that they are getting work; I want work for them, and they want work; but surely, when the shipyard is there, the work might be taken to them. What would happen if there was an emergency and we wanted work done very quickly, and that yard was allowed to depreciate to such an extent that it could not do what was wanted?
I regret that there is no mention at all in the Gracious Speech of the soldiers who went through the last War and suffered disabilities and have been certified as medically fit. I do not know whether all Members have had as many cases as I have had of men whose sufferings, as time has gone by have become aggravated by some means or other, but who have lost their pensions. I wonder if it would be possible to have a review of their cases. I went into the House of Lords yesterday and saw women beautifully dressed with all kinds of adornment. I thought of a home that I went into in my division at the week-end. What I saw in the House of Lords only made the shadow deeper in the room that I was in. A man had served from 1914 to the end of the War. He was a physical wreck, with nerves which will never work again. I wish there had been some mention in the King's Speech of a review of these men's cases. The impression in the country is that there is no hope for them, and that the Government have washed their hands of them. This man was left with three or four children. One girl has just come out of hospital with an abscess in the glands of the neck. A boy who had been working in the pit had to come out on account of 196 rheumatism. There were also two or three little children, and he has 20s. a week in kind and 10s. in money. I know that the hon. Member opposite who spoke of his batman would not individually want such treatment for men who went through the War. I may have spoken with some feeling but many of these men have a burning sense of injury.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
I am sure that hon. Members on all sides will agree that knowledge of labour and ex-service conditions is by no means confined to Members of the Opposition. We all know them and do our best to alleviate them. Let me give examples from my own knowledge where cases have been alleviated quite recently. One came up a few weeks ago of a man who had had gunshot wounds which had not given trouble for 15 years. His case has been revised by the Ministry of Pensions and he now has a pension. These cases are being sympathetically considered and, where the case is clear and above suspicion, my impression is that there is a fair deal. A good many of us on this side served in the ranks, and we are as keen as hon. Members opposite to see that justice is done by the ex-service man.
The point that I wish to make with regard to the King's Speech is rather off the usual track. For the first time in many years it contains definite and positive proposals for improving the physical health of the nation, and those proposals have been cordially welcomed by all sections of the House. One hopes that, as a result, we shall see in a few years a definite improvement in the physical condition of the people. I regret that there is no mention of equivalent proposals for improving the culture of the people. The State takes a great part in educating the youth of the nation up to the age of 14, but somewhere round about the age of 16 it ceases to be interested in the mental condition of the nation at all excepting so far as one particular type of individual, the university graduate, is concerned. There is the library movement, the museum movement, and lastly that group of things put together which might be termed adult education. The library movement was built up with extraordinarily little help from the Government. Even to-day the Government that has led us back to prosperity is leaving the main stream of libraries to local authorities, 197 raising money by taxation for libraries and museums, but only spending it in the three great capital cities, and we get this extraordinary position, that the people of Glasgow, for example, pay a shilling per head for library and museum facilities, but there is not a single library or museum for them from national funds, whereas the people of Edinburgh, paying the same amount, get a superb national library and museum.
It is the same with London. Something like £1,000,000 is spent on museums, contributed to by every town in the country. But if a town like Burnley or Blackburn wants to have a share in the cultural facilities that the State provides, the only way a citizen can get it is by making a visit to London in order to see the collections. It is true that there are a few collections on loan to provincial centres from the Victoria and Albert Museum, but, broadly speaking, the Government of to-day, and indeed the Government for many years past, have been singularly blind to the lack of cultural opportunities for the young adult. There have been many experiments in the field of adult education, and many of them have failed for the reason that when the boy and girl pass the age of 16 they begin to get interested, not so much in education, as the term is understood, but in hobbies, which can only be fostered by giving the boy or girl or the young adult opportunities for investigation on those lines. It is in the whole field of the useful occupation of leisure that we have not had from this Government or previous Governments a decisive lead. I suggest that the Government should consider the greater guidance of leisure of the mass of the people of this country. Contributions are made to the National Exchequer. The money is there, but at the present moment it is only spent in the great capital cities of the country.
This brings me to the second point I wish to make about the Government's lack of provision for scientific research. It is almost an axiom to say that if money is required for scientific research for armaments it is there. No money is stinted, but when it comes to money for scientific research in other fields, it seems to be rather difficult to secure adequate sums. During the course of last Session I put a question to the Minister of Health with regard to inquiries which were being 198 instituted into the best possible conditions in the atmosphere of factories, and the answer came back that there was a Departmental Committee sitting. The Departmental Committee reported. The report was about the warmth factor in factories. The report, on which probably a few thousand pounds was being spent, was childish compared with similar reports produced in the United States of America or even in Germany. It would seem as if this country absolutely grudges money for scientific research outside the scientific research which assists in the development of better armaments. It should be the duty of somebody in the Government to see that scientific research is guaranteed, and that better opportunities are given to scientists to make their investigations into these great problems, which inevitably affect every one of us sooner or later.
Finally, I would say with what regret one notices the absence from the Gracious Speech of any reference to the increasing of old age pensions or the lowering of the age. One of the things which I should most like to see, even though it might restrict a little the amount spent on armaments, is the increase of old age pensions from 10s. to £1 and a lowering of the age to a point below 65. The point I want to make is that it is all very fine as a nation concentrating upon producing a physically fit nation, but you can have the finest nation in the world from the point of view of physical fitness yet go down hill with extraordinary rapidity because you have not included vision and knowledge in your trades.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I have looked very carefully through the Gracious Speech to find what good there is for the people whom I represent. I come from a Special Area. I find that the Government intend to extend the period of operation of the Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Act, 1934. People in the Special Areas, and especially those who are suffering under the Unemployment Assistance Board, think that they have been on the operating table long enough, and they do not want the period of operation extended any further. What they want is an extension of benefit under the Unemployment Assistance Board. What they find from the King's Speech is that there is to be a standstill. Are the Gov- 199 ernment satisfied that the present arrangements are satisfactory? As representing a Special Area I say that the present situation is wholly unsatisfactory to the unemployed. I make no apology for stressing the plight of the depressed areas. The men who have journeyed from Jarrow have to some extent jarred the complacency of the Government. The march of the men of Harlech is now nearing London, and those stern Welsh colliers will further emphasise the fact that the people of the Special Areas are highly dissatisfied.
In my own division in the South-west of Durham, what was once a busy hive of industry is now a veritable slough of despond. In the west of Durham, in Weardale, a once-thriving community is becoming a series of deserted villages more terrifying in their social aspect than "The Deserted Village "so graphically described by Goldsmith. In the northern part of my division I have a coal-mining area, the Deerness Valley, which used to be a scene of ceaseless activity and is now fast tending towards being a social and economic Sahara. Yet the people of those parts are the very best type, gallant in peace and much dreaded in war. Dalesmen and miners of that sturdy British type are eating out their hearts in the north of England.
The calamity of the coalfields in the depressed areas could have been prevented. It is largely the work of men's hands, not like the tragedy of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The tragedies of ancient Italy could not be prevented. There, cities were submerged in lava and people were quickly put out of their pain, but in the mining districts of the Special Areas of Great Britain we find the people submerged under a lava more potent, from a Vesusius more deadly—the lava of the lethargy of the National Government. The people there are not being rapidly done to death but are slowly losing hope and joy and life itself. To whom shall these people go? To whom can they go if not to the Government? What is the responsibility of the Government? Their only responsibility is the Unemployment Act, 1934, which seems to satisfy the Government. That Act has failed to satisfy the human needs of the Special Areas and it is still failing, yet these unfortunate districts and their peoples are asked to be content 200 with their present conditions. What are those conditions?
We had the appointment of Commissioners. Voluminous reports are published telling of the damnable state of these districts. Wonderful surveys are promised. Yet the Commissioners have no real commission. They have no power to commit the Government to do anything satisfying. Expressions of sympathy are ample and plentiful, but kind words butter no parsnips and promises of surveys feed no lambs. Meanwhile, poverty still stalks unashamedly there, saying: "I am monarch of all I survey." One of the villages in my division rejoices in the name of Quebec. There we have a village almost 100 per cent. unemployed. In 1759 Wolfe beat the French at Quebec. In 1936 the wolf at the door, poverty, is beating the British worker down into the depths of degradation. Yet these districts in the past have produced colossal fortunes from their lead mines and coal mines. I say definitely that some of the wealth ought to be brought back and put into the districts again.
What are our national departments doing? We were told a few weeks ago that £24,500,000 has been spent in the Special Areas by various Departments. I wonder where it has gone. Not into South-West Durham or into West Durham Cannot something be done? I heard some six months ago about a wonderful scheme of afforestation, whereby 200,000 extra acres were to be planted by the Forestry Commission, and that these trees were to be planted within easy reach of the distressed areas. As far as I know not a single tree has been planted; nothing has been done. Again there is nothing in the Gracious Speech about the wonderful oil we can get from our coal. You are building aeroplanes for an emergency, but if you have a million aeroplanes and no petrol what use are they going to be? In the North of England and in South Wales and Scotland there are out-of-work miners who could produce the coal if the Government would only find the plant for converting it into oil.
Is the business capacity of the National Government so low that they are going to allow these areas to have Ichabod, "the glory hath departed," to be their only name? Are the Abyssinian black 201 spots of Britain to be abandoned 2 These people are bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, yet their physical condition is being undermined, their clothes are threadbare and some of them in rags. Their souls are seared and soured by the state of society in which they live. They look to the future and the future of their children with dread. If hon. Members would only put themselves in their place they would be highly dissatisfied with the Gracious Speech.
Much has been said in the Debate on the question of physical culture. There are classes up and down the country called "Keep fit classes." Come into the Special Areas and talk to the people about keeping fit. They are underfed. How can they keep fit until you have first made them physically fit. To tell them to keep fit in their present state is a mockery. It is impossible to keep fit under the unemployment Regulations. Physical jerks cannot take the place of sound food, and, indeed, it is positively harmful for many of them to indulge in physical jerks. My school life as a teacher taught me to recognise the difficulty which many boys and girls undergo when they are not physically fit in having to take physical exercises. I also notice that in the Gracious Speech this physical fitness is for the young. What about the old? How can old age pensioners keep physically fit or get physically fit on 10s. a week? How can an unemployed man get physically fit on 17s.per week? There seems to me to be some wonderful promises in the Gracious Speech but these wonderful promises have to be fulfilled, and if they are all fulfilled there still remains nothing in the Gracious Speech for the Special Areas of this country.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. PORRITT
The hon. Member for one of the Durham divisions has shown considerable impatience at the Government Measures for the distressed areas. All hon. Members who represent, distressed or semi-distressed areas will, I think, feel a little disheartened, especially when we come to London and see on both sides of the main roads factories of every description growing up. I represent the town of Heywood, which still has 20 per cent. of unemployed. It is a distressed cotton town; mills are bankrupt, mills and factories are being demolished 202 and the inhabitants have no future. What is the solution of their problem? The Prime Minister and the Government have appealed to industrialists to set up factories in the north of England. The results have been futile, and I have come to the conclusion that some measure of compulsion will be necessary. I think there is no one, certainly in the Conservative party or in the Liberal party, who wishes to see compulsion applied to industry. Yet I cannot see any practical solution of the difficulties which are facing the Northern towns, where we have men who have been idle for years and young men with no hope or prospect of employment. It is the small towns which fail to get new industries, the reason being that the town councils are not able to advertise their towns and the possibilities and potentialities of the district, and have to rely on the central industrial development council of the county. Naturally, we see new industries started in the north around Manchester and the bigger cities. I hope the Government will be able to pay attention to the smaller towns in the North of England, and now that they have solved the main problem of unemployment throughout the country, I hope they will be able to concentrate their attention on the spots which are still so much in need of attention.
I would like now to touch on the question of malnutrition. We have been told by the Opposition that malnutrition is entirely due to lack of food, but the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), who is a doctor, has definitely stated that a man or a child can be overfed and yet be undernourished. I agree with him, and I think that much of the malnutrition is due to lack of education. I believe it would be possible for the Ministry of Health to publish weekly menus, not in White Papers, which are never read by the public, but on large hoardings in the towns.
§ Mr. PORRITT
That is my point. Many mothers do not understand what food is best for their children. Through 203 ignorance they give them tinned food, when they could quite well buy fresh food of better quality. I believe it would be possible for the Ministry of Health to publish menus based on family earnings of £3 or £4 a week, or even less, which would act as a guide to the householder. I know this suggestion may be scorned, but I believe there are some possibilities in it.
With regard to the proposed factories legislation, I would ask the Government to consider the possibility of encouraging superannuation schemes. I think every factory, every industry, every firm ought to have some kind of superannuation scheme for its work-people. The company in which I am interested has one and I think the work-people generally accept and welcome it. One safeguard is necessary. It is that if there is a fund for the workers to which they contribute so much, while the company contributes an equal amount, that fund ought to be made independent of the fortunes of the company. If the company fails, the workpeople ought not to lose their money and in the new legislation I hope the Government may be able to introduce some measure by which superannuation schemes can be encouraged and developed.
As regards physical training, I hope the Government will consider the provision not only of gymnasia and playing fields but also of swimming pools. It costs less to provide a swimming pool in many cases than to provide a playing field, and the youth of a town of even 16,000 inhabitants may have ample facilities for exercise in a swimming pool which would not be available if there was only a playing field. The town of Ramsbottom in Lancashire where I live has 16,000 inhabitants and has no swimming pool, and I doubt whether half the children in that town are able to swim. If that town had the means of equipping itself with a swimming pond I believe that the physical condition of the children in it would be much improved. In conclusion, I would recall that a year ago we had an analogous discussion, but the Debate on the Gracious Speech then was much more lively than the present Debate has been. I think the programme which the Government have revealed to us in the present Speech from 204 the Throne is not only comprehensive, but is one which will be welcomed by people generally throughout the country.
§ 10.38 p.m.
Sir HENRY FILES
I would like to deal for a few minutes with the general increase in trade and the general improvement in the standard of life of the citizens of this country, arid to point out that we have a higher standard of life in Britain to-day than any other country in the world. Whatever the form of government in other countries, whether Socialist, Fascist or Communist, and wherever you may go, you will find that there is no other country with a standard of life as high as that which obtains here. In the official organ of the Trade Union Congress called "Labour" I was very interested to find a striking illustration of this. I ask hon. Members to accept my assurance that I am not endeavouring to make debating points and that I am only anxious that we should all appreciate that the condition of the country to-day is infinitely better compared with what it was in 1931. I find in the October report of the research department of the Trade Union Congress that it is computed that the real wages paid in this country now are between 11 per cent. and 12 per cent. higher than they were in the quinquennial period 1925-29. That is a vital fact which applies to all wage-earners through all industries. In 1931 the number of insured persons in work was 9,326,000, and to-day it is 10,966,000. The national revenue in 1931 was £297,600,000, and to-day it is £325,400,000. The building plans approved for the first half of this year amounted to £61,538,000, and in 1931 to £33,200,000. In shipbuilding the total tonnage under construction in the quarter ended 30th September of this year was 928,000,000 and in 1931 416,000,000. Take coal. In 1936 the output in the month of August was 17,800,000 tons and only 15,000,000 in 1931. The number of British ships laid up on 1st July last was 175 and in 1931 it was 743. Iron and steel, pig iron, engineering, cotton, wool, every industry that we have in this country, is employing more people at higher wages than obtained formerly.
§ Sir H. FILDES
Yes, certainly—that Cinderella of industry. That reminds me that there was a raffle in a public house in Oldham last Christmas, and the first prize was a turkey, the second prize a cotton mill, and the third prize a bottle of brandy. The man who got the second prize complained because he could not have the choice of the third prize. The number of persons at work in the cotton trade at the end of July last was 63,603 and in 1931 59,008.
§ Mr. SILVERMAN
I thought that what the hon. Member said was—if he did not say it, I withdraw my challenge—that he was undertaking to show that between 1931 and 1936 there were more people employed in the cotton industry, and at higher wages, than between 1925 and 1929.
§ Sir H. FILDES
I was trying to establish this one point. It has been distinctly stated that the National Government since 1931 have done nothing to improve the position. Distressed areas or no distressed areas, there is no denying the fact that there are more people employed in this country than there have ever been in the history of this country before, and the wages paid for this employment are higher than they have ever been in the previous history of this country. The right hon. Member for the Hillsborough Division (Mr. Alexander) spoke about malnutrition, but let us try to be fair. If hon. Members will look at the millions that the Entertainments Duty yields, the thousands and millions of pounds that are spent in enjoying cinemas—I do not quarrel with it at all—they will see that it is hardly fair to a system that has produced all these amenities for the people, in face of great foreign competition, to say that this system has done nothing at all. I would not be a supporter of the National Government unless I were absolutely convinced that there has been a gradual, general and undeniable advance in the conditions of life of our people. I hope that it will go on. It is rather ungrateful of hon. Members opposite to throw the lie to the Government and say that our country is going to the dogs when, as a matter of fact, they cannot show another country under any system that has achieved the standards of life of this country. In the care of its people in old age and in the amount 206 of money that is provided for unemployment benefit, we set an example to the rest of the world, including America, and we are to be congratulated on the achievement of our people. As far as the Government are responsible for having led us along this path, I congratulate them and wish them well.
§ 10.47 p.m.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I would like to say something about the statement that there are more people employed in this country than ever before. That is a fallacious argument, for there are not more people employed in proportion to the population than there have been in past periods. Of course, there are far more people employed than 100 years ago. Everybody understands that. There are also more people employed than there were in 1910 or 1911 or 1912. I want to call attention to the question of physical culture. I am convinced that the Government are not concerned with the physical well-being of the citizens of this country, but are concerned with providing a reservoir for the Army. I will oppose the Government at every opportunity in their endeavours to provide this reservoir and to try to draw the youth of the country into the terrible holocaust into which they were drawn 20 years ago. I very often see well-trained youth being paraded across the cinema screen, but the Government will not parade the War wrecks who are in the hospitals and asylums.
Some of us have fought all our lives for the physical well-being of the people. If the Government were really disturbed about it, they would withdraw the means test and provide money for the home so that the people could get the things that were necessary to maintain life as it should be maintaiuned. I heard a Noble Lord talk about the improvement of physical culture. He appeared to be an athlete, but if he knows anything about physical culture he knows that the body and the mind have to be healthy, if he were on the means test and did not know where the rent and the next meal were coming from, he would find it very difficult to be an athlete. If he were working at a conveyor from 8 o'clock in the morning till 5 or 5.30 in the evening, with one break, would he he an athlete? He would find it very difficult. The only way to provide athletes is to reduce the conveyor system, abolish the means test and the Unemployment Assistance Board 207 scales, and to provide the food necessary to maintain physical well-being and to take away mental worry.
I wish hon. Members could go into some of these houses, see the mothers and talk to the fathers. They are in terrible hovels. I have watched them struggling to get out of these slums and to get into nice homes. When they have got into nice homes their troubles do not end; half their income goes in rent. Hon. Members opposite do not know what it means. There are mothers who cannot sleep at night because of the worry. The fathers suffer privation. Everything possible is done for the children, but in an atmosphere of want how is it possible for them to escape? I see it every day. The Members here see it every day. An hon. Member referred to Russia. I challenge him. I will go to Russia with him at any time and he will not find in Russia anything to equal the constituency which he represents, the poverty to be seen there, the physical deterioration.
I want to refer to old age pensions. in the mining area the miners are very concerned to give the old folks a happy outing in the Summer or a happy evening towards the New Year. But why should we not give them some consideration? Why should there not be £1 at 60. I know it will cost a lot of money, but it will be better spent in that way than on guns and bombs. You will take away a lot of the worry of these old folks; you will give them new life and hope. It is not big guns and big bombs we want, but big men and healthy women. Everyone will agree that an essential part of physical culture is cleanliness, yet one of the most important questions affecting the lives of miners and their wives and children, that of pit baths, is left to a welfare committee and to levies. In the Fife area, for instance, there are six important pits which have been asking for pit baths for the last five years and cannot get them because the welfare committee has only a limited amount of money. I want to ask whether the Government, in considering the question of physical culture, will be prepared to allocate a certain amount of money towards the welfare committees to ensure that miners get pithead baths. New houses are being built and mothers and daughters are anxious to have nice houses, but what 208 chance have they if the father and a couple of sons come in from the pit carrying in all the refuse from the pit? Surely it is time that was ended. We want to see the Government paying attention to cleanliness.
I want also to deal with Fascist provocation. Somebody said that it is the Communists who started disturbances at meetings. There is a picture down below of an election in 1781. The candidates can be seen on the hustings, and, standing there, is someone about to throw a dead cat at them. I remember that 28 years ago I was speaking in Irvine, mounted on a box, and the Conservative agent there was seen to take a group of fellows into the public house at the corner. When this group came out of the public house I was "knocking spots off" the Liberals. As soon as I said a word about the Tories I came off the box. I did not take any serious exception to it, and neither did the crowd. They seemed to enjoy it. I have been at many meetings when the crowd has made a terrible noise, cheering, and I liked it. I have been at many meetings when they were not cheering, and I did not like it. But I think they have as much right to shout against me as to shout for me. Why not? That has always been the case at public meetings.
The case is different, however, when an organisation comes out with deliberate and calculated provocation directed against any particular section of the community on grounds of religion or race. If, in Liverpool, we had fiery Protestants coming out with a lot of slanders against the Catholics and saying they were going to march into a Catholic area and proclaim those slanders, would that be allowed? When Mosley and his Fascists say they are going to attack international Jewish financiers, where do they go? To the East End, to the poorest quarters. But suppose Mosley said, "We are out to slang the retired Jews and we are going to the West End "—to the homes of people like my hon. Friend here—would the police allow it? No. Mosley and his, gang would not get away from the starting point in that case. It is not the right of public meetings that is at issue, but a question of deliberate provocation directed against a particular section of the community on the ground 209 of religion or race, and that we will oppose at all times and at any time. The working class here—and we are a section of the working class—never have and never will initiate or organise violence—never! If ever violence arises it comes from the representatives of the capitalist class, never from the working class. That I will state here with history behind me. Never in any circumstances do the working class initiate or organise violence.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Sir G. Penny.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.