§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main Question [17th February], "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 Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious speech which your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Gretton.)
§ Question again proposed.
*MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
I rise to continue the statement I began last night, When I briefly pointed out in some detail the extent of this unemployed problem, and sought to show that one method of remedying the evil was to increase the area of land under cultivation. This question of the cultivation of land has excited considerable interest among all sections of the community. The drift of the population from the land into our cities is a matter which cannot be ignored, and experience has taught us that it has brought most serious consequences to the community at large. I will trouble the House with a few figures in order to show the extent to which this evil is proceeding. According to the census of 1871, the proportion of population engaged in agriculture was 434 per 10,000 persons. In 1881 that figure had diminished to 343; ten years later it had shrunk still further to 275, and it is expected by all competent authorities that when the figures of the last census are published a further decrease will be shown in the proportion of men working on the land. I think there will be unanimity of opinion as to the importance of having the largest possible proportion of workers engaged in agriculture, because, despite all our display of wealth and the accumulation of property in various directions, it must be that the chief wealth of the nation 293 consists in the products of the soil. No matter what the trade of a nation may be, that nation cannot be spoken of as prosperous and wealthy unless that law is observed. May I point out that in this respect Great Britain occupies the lowest position of any European country? In 1891 the proportion of persons engaged in agriculture in Great Britain was 10.4. In France, in the same year it was 44.8; in Germany in 1895 it was 39.3; in Belgium in 1890 it was 35.0; in Denmark also in the same year it was 32.1, while in the United States it was 37.2. Thus the proportion in England is lower than in any other country. It may be said that this is because land cultivation in England is not so profitable as it is in other countries. I do not dispute that statement, but I do dispute the assumption upon which it is founded that the land of England cannot be made so profitable as that of other countries.
We do not require to depend on theories in dealing with this matter because experiments have been made in different parts of England—in the North, the Midlands, and the South, with a view of ascertaining what can be done with the land under systems of culture different to those now in vogue. I am not going to-day to enter into technicalities as to the methods employed by experimentalists and theorists. I will confine myself to the practical point. Where the land has been available, and has been let to the small cultivator on reasonable terms, the result in every case has been success. Farmers paying from &3 to &4 per acre for land, and paying their labourers a weekly wage of from 11s. to 14s., are continually grumbling at the hardness of the times. Whether there is much behind that grumble I am not in a position to say, but still the complaint is continually made that they find it difficult to make the land pay. But when we turn to the small cultivators who are charged double and treble the rent, we find that they are able to make a comfortable living out of a suitable piece of land. Under the Corporation of Brighton, one labourer rents half an acre of land. His total expenditure for one year, including rent, was &11 2s. 6d., while his gross receipts for the sales of produce were &63 14s., leaving him a profit or wage, 294 if you choose to so call it, of &52 11s. 8d. In the case of a farmer holding under a private owner, there is no inducement to increase the products of the soil in that way, because if he did so, by the inexorable operation of the law of rent, every fraction of the increased value would find its way into his landlord's pocket. But still this experiment proves that in that part of England land can be made to pay an actual annual profit of something like a hundred guineas per acre, so that it is absurd to put forward the suggestion that the land of this country is not cultivated because it will not pay. Why, even working men with their small allotments of an eighth of an acre—allotments which they cultivate in their spare hours—thus increase their incomes 2s. or 3s. weekly.
I say that the land of England is going out of cultivation because the burden of landlordism is greater than it can carry, and all incentive to effort is thereby taken away from the farmer, who knows that the result of his labours will pass into the pockets of the landowner. In France, where different conditions prevail, the land near the great cities is converted into huge market gardens and is carrying 2,500 workers to the square mile—people who are profitably employed in producing fresh vegetables for the inhabitants of the big cities—in England the land is allowed to go to waste, while people, young and old, are growing from eating wilted vegetables and canned fruits. I seek to aim at encouraging the development of a system of land cultivation, by which the 16,000,000 acres of our native land, which are now lying idle and profitless, may be turned to good account, while the unemployed labouring community is absorbed.
In this matter I am not seeking to cast reflections on the local authorities. It has been a pleasure to us to read of the sympathetic replies made by the authorities to the demands and claims of the unemployed. They have in many cases stretched the powers entrusted to them by Parliament in their endeavour to find work. But after all, this is a very unprofitable way of seeking to deal with this evil. Public works undertaken by corporations under such cases are apt to prove very costly because the meu engaged on them are not trained for the special work they are called upon to per 295 form. I would seek to enlarge the powers of these local authorities, and I would impose upon them the obligation, to be enforced by statute, to provide work in every town and parish in England for every worker who is unable to find employment in the ordinary way. It may be said that this is an Utopian idea, but I submit that it is merely the development of legislation which has already been passed by this House. We compel sanitary authorities to carry out certain regulations in the interest of the health of the community; we compel the authorities, too, to make provision for the education of the children, and on many other lines we apply compulsion in the interests of the well-being of the people. All I am seeking is that this principle should be developed sufficiently far to recognise that the able and willing man out of work is as much an object requiring State protection as is the health and well-being of the community. How is it to be done? By conferring on these local authorities power to acquire land for cultivation and to establish industries, because after all the two things go hand in hand.
It is a mistake to seek to deal with the unemployed problem though the unemployed themselves. The point is to enable each individual to find the employment for which he is best fitted. To begin to build up the reform of the land system by putting the unemployed in our towns on the land would be to foredoom the scheme to almost certain failure. But there are in the towns thousands, and tens of thousands, of men who have drifted in from the agricultural districts and who would be only too delighted to go back again. When a man once gets submerged in the ebbs and currents of city life the avenues leading back to the healthy and peaceful life of the country are to all intents and purposes closed to him. What I seek is to empower the local authorities not merely to acquire the land and to organise industries—but to cultivate the land and to establish workshops where men and women who desire to live a life apart from the strife and bustle of our competitive system may be free to retire and work for their living under a corporation. The objections to this proposal will no doubt be many, but I venture to say that the day is not far distant when, not merely for humanitarian reasons but 296 for reasons of State, men worthy of the name of statesmen will be compelled to face this question, and to find a way by which the land of England may be made again to grow the food required for the sustenance of the people.
I know it is sometimes asserted that if the State would but forego what is called its Free Trade policy and return to Protection that would make it possible for the land of England again to be brought under cultivation. But I may remind the House that in those countries where Protection obtains, the unemployed question is just as clamant and rampant as it is at home. In Germany, where there is Protection, the unemployed problem is at this moment more acute than it is here; across the Atlantic in America, despite her prosperity and expanding trade, the Labour Department admits that there are 2,000,000 of tramps—the product of want of employment. Our Colonial legislatures have had to carry special Acts to deal with this particular evil, and there, though there are hundreds and thousands of square miles waiting to be cultivated, the unemployed problem is as clamant as it is at home. Therefore, Protection would be no remedy for lack of employment, neither can over-population be said to be the cause of it.
Surely this House of Commons exists to make new departures, if necessary, in the interests of the well-being of the community. I hope that no hon. Member or supporter of the Government will advance the argument of this proposal being a new and dangerous innovation or a new departure. If we can have an advisory board to assist with the organisation of the Army, it is no great violation of that same principle to establish a Labour Department for the organisation of the industries of the nation. Surely the tax upon corn is a departure from the principles which have guided this country for at least half a century. If the House of Commons can make a departure of that kind, can it be very wrong to make a similar departure in the case of people who are out-of-work? It may be said that an experiment of this kind would involve cost. I admit that it cannot be done without involving an expenditure of money, and a certain amount of risk, but there is ample precedent to justify 297 us in pressing forward this demand. We are spending &5,600,000 upon the building of a railway through Uganda, ostensibly in the interests of the natives of that country. The sum of &60,000 a year has gone to subsidise steamship lines to enable them to hold their own against the competition of the American Shipping Combination. If money can be used for these purposes, surely it can be used to protect the manhood of the nation. The well-being of the community cannot long be guaranteed if something is not done. The curse of the poor is their poverty. The presence of the degrading, demoralising, poverty with which we are so familiar in the midst of so much wealth, breaks down the moral stimulus and the mental fibre of those who are accursed by it. I say—and I say it advisedly — that I regret that these people should be quiet and long-suffering, because if they insisted more upon the duty of the State towards them more would be done, and the longer they continue to be quiet the longer will they be compelled to suffer.
I want to quote one authority which hon. Gentlemen opposite will be inclined to treat with considerable respect. In the Year 1895 the question of the unemployed was rampant, and even worse than it is now. At that time hon. Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House were in office, and those sitting opposite were then in Opposition, and were doubtless anxious to take office. The Marquess of Salisbury, speaking at Bradford on the 23rd of May in that year, said—You know how the difficulty of the unemployed is rising. In the south there are vast masses of men who have no evil will, against whom no harm can be stated, who have only this one wish, this one demand — that the labour which they are prepared to give should be accepted, and bare sustenance given them in place of it; and to whom it has been found necessary, from sheer want of employment to give them, to return a disappointing answer.Just look at the state of things that is exhibited in the London markets at this moment. Money is so plentiful that you can hardly get money for it. It is overflowing in all the coffers of the capitalists and all the banks. On the other side there are the sullen ranks of the half-starved labourers, who, if that money could be employed, could be invested, would be enjoying an unrestricted industry and a happy home.As was the case them so is it now. Money is again plentiful, labour is again 298 clamouring for an opportunity to exert its power in exchange for a bare subsistence. Land is lying idle and going to waste for lack of labourers to cultivate it. The solution of the unemployed problem consists in bringing the idle land, the idle capital, and the idle labourers together. When these three elements exist and are going to waste surely it should not be beyond the power of British statesmanship to bring these three elements together in profitable union, and thereby provide honourable work for all honest men.
That is the extent of the demand which I make. Local authorities and the Government should be invested with full powers to acquire land, to have it put into cultivation, to establish industries, and to generally organise the workless and the idle land of England, so as to bring about the time when poverty, with all its concomitant attendants of vice, crime, and misery, shall only remain as a black dream of a bitter past. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea), in seconding the Motion, said
My hon. friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil has told the short and simple annals of the workless worker, and with facts and figures and suggestions he has asked the House of Commons to direct its attention to some means by which the sad processions of the unemployed in all our cities can be removed, and by which men would be prevented from the degrading taint of pauperism by having, as a substitute, work found for them on the land. I know that my hon. friend will receive, probably from each side of the House, criticism for some of the suggestions and remedies which he has advanced. The House of Commons exists for suggestions. It exists for criticism, and from both suggestions and criticism legislation sometimes happily comes. This I can say, that my hon. friend may congratulate himself on the fact, that there have been very few suggestions advanced in recent years so full of work, if the Government wishes work, as those which he has advanced. It is not necessary for us to subscribe to all his suggestions, or to one or two of his theories, but we sympathise with the main theme of his speech and the main current of his intentions, because he has expressed what 299 all of us feel, that the time has arrived when the House of Commons, especially after a long and costly war, should withdraw its energies and attention from the circumference of the Empire to the Empire's heart, and see the condition of our Outlanders at home; I venture to say, poor though they be, weak though they are, demoralised though some of them may be, to me they are more pathetic figures than the patriots slobbering over their soup in Johannesburg hotels, or prancing down the main streets of Pretoria, earning but little themselves, but luxuriating in the happy possession of other people's money.
It is not an accident that after a war the unemployed question should come up, for it invariably follows, you cannot have the wicked, wanton waste that war involves without its reaction and its consequent suffering at home. I know no more pathetic sight than the procession of these unemployed men, some of them Army Reserve men who have had to pawn their medals in order to get a meal for their wives and children. No suggestions of altering our fiscal policy, or adopting here and there some minor remedy, will ever remove or partially palliate this evil. The House of Commons has got to recognise that if we are the greatest assembly of legislators in the world, with England in this condition it is our duty to do something to alter this state of things as soon as possible.
What has my hon. friend put forward? He put forward the other day the reclamation of land on the sea coast. The reclamation of the sea coast is very good, but reclamation of Governments is much better. I subscribe to all he said as to the advisability of reclaiming derelict land in Lincolnshire or Essex, or on the estuary of the Wash. I subscribe to what he said in regard to the reafforestation of this country, which could be done, not as a matter of cost to the taxpayer, but a mere matter of book-keeping, which other countries initiated and successfully adopted.
But before this reclamation and reaf-forestation takes place — and they are rather remote for the unemployed in our streets at the present time—we have to devise some means by which land, which is now derelict, shall be brought into cultivation as soon as possible. It is sad when one goes through this beautiful country of ours—in many 300 respects a much better country to look at than the countries to which too many Englishmen are fond of going— to see what has resulted from the neglect of the land question. It has almost ruined Ireland, and personally I am prepared to vote for almost anything that will restore to the Irish labourer that instalment of economic justice which my friend the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil wants for the English who are out-of-work. It has also depopulated Scotland, it is depleting rural Wales, and it is making England a warren or a playground where it is not a game preserve. This cannot go on much longer, and we have to devise means by which we can turn the current back from the town to the country and so prevent what we see in the towns — overcrowding either of the overworked or of men who have no work at all.
This is a condition of things that does not reflect credit on our sentiment, our intelligence, or our capacity, and I ask hon. Members all round me whether they are not willing to vote millions to deal with a bog in the Soudan or to fill up an embankment on the Zambesi. There is not a river in Egypt they will not dam at any cost. I have the advantage of having been an engineer, and I give that phrase its correct interpretation. There is not in Egypt an irrigation scheme that will not find advocates for the expenditure of Government money upon it. When I take up the papers every morning I read of loans suggested to rescue derelict millionaires in South Africa. It is &35,000,000 today, and it is &65,000,000 tomorrow. When I see all these sums coming out of poor John Bull's pocket I am inclined to button up my pocket and say charity ought to begin at home. The time has arrived when much of the money that is spent in Africa, north, east, south and west, might be profitably employed nearer our own doors.
The excuse for spending all this money has been that we have got a large and growing population, and that we want new markets. What folly! Your best market for shoemakers is on the bootless feet of the children of Manchester; your largest market for tailors is on the hungry forms that are going half clothed through 301 Glasgow, Birmingham, Bootle, and other towns. If you want a market for food stuffs, in this ragged regiment of unemployed you have work for the miller and the baker. I hope that no Member will get up and try to evade the real issue of the Resolution by caviling about the number. What does it matter if there are 100,000 or 500,000 men out of work? If there 10,000 honourable working men out-of-work that is the measure of our duty to them. If figures are to be used, I do want to quote from the President of the Local Government Board's own report on the subject of pauperism, which is the best test of unemployment. I find in the December report, containing the statistics for the fourth quarter of 1902, that the number of paupers was greater than it has been at any previous period since 1871. There is no poetry or romance about Poor Law statistics, and I say that these figures prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that poverty is with us, that the unemployed exist, and that remedies have to be found. What, in round figures, is the number of the army for whom my hon. friend has been the eloquent champion today? Roughly, it is more by 100,000 than the total number of men that were engaged for three years in the South African war. Like Mercutio's wound—'t is not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door, but 't is enough.I venture to say that we could not spend our high income-tax on anything better than the devising of means by which these poor fellows could secure work. Now the question is how is that to be done? I am far too fair a man, and my hon. friend is far too fair a man, to throw the responsibility of this problem of the unemployed wholly on the President of the Local Government Board. But for the moment he is in office. His is the responsibility. Statistics and criticisms are submitted to him, and, primarily, his duty as President of the Local Government Board is to grapple with this problem in one way or another. He will probably say that he does not deal with this to the extent that is popularly believed. Well, that is not altogether so, because I found information on attending a conference of local authorities in London 302 the other day, the practicality of which agreeably surprised me on this subject. I found that there was a disposition on the part of Boards of Guardians, and even the Charity Organisation Society delegates, to do something practical if it were possible for them to do so. When the Charity Organisation Society is in favour of helping the unemployed, then things have reached a pretty pass—for I have always regarded that organisation as one that looks upon charity as the eighth deadly sin. The Boards of Guardians and the County Councils would like to do something, but they have the suspicion that if they move out of the beaten track of the stiff routine of the unsympathetic Poor Law, they will either be surcharged, or disallowed, or objected to. Now it is the business of the President of the Local Government Board—I trust he will not give an unsympathetic reply—to do his best to see that, if the local authorities are willing to act up to the best of their power and ability, no obstacle is thrown in the road. It will do a great deal of good if the President of the Local Government Board will let these local authorities know that if they are willing to do something they will not be kept back by a centralised Department, which at times goes further, I think, than it should in restraining the local authorities.
I want to point out the danger of allowing things to drift. To the credit of the British people, speaking broadly, they do not as a rule go to prison, and they dread the work house more than anything. It is creditable also that they should liken the co-ordinate action of the central Poor Law authority and the local bodies to the spasmodic charity money which is subscribed in response to what may be called the street-begging efforts of these poor fellows. It does a great deal of harm. The fact is that the money is wasted and cruel damage is inflicted. The result is that the impostor, the loafer, the charlatan, and the mere demagogue profits and exploits this particular situation. The way to differentiate the loafer from the honest worker is by one test alone, and that is the test of work. If private enterprise cannot give him that test, then that test ought to be applied by some one.
303 A worse feature than the inactivity of local Boards of Guardians and Town Councils, and the indifference of the Central Department is the very dangerous thing that is growing up in the large towns and cities, namely, the ambitious and advertising person who exploits the unemployed movement — soup kitchens here, and coals and blankets there, frequently to the detriment of abler men with smaller purses. The result is what I saw the other day in the East End of London. I saw children at a soup kitchen, the mother at a mission room, and the father in the unemployed procession, cadging in the streets of London. How can you expect anything but a race of paupers from this? The mother ought to be at home, the children ought to be at school, the man ought to be taken out of the unemployed procession, and, if physically fit, he ought to be provided with work in some way or another. If he refused to work I would give him a job "climbing up the golden stairs" in Pentonville Prison. Why can something not be done? The trades unions, these much vilified bodies, are doing much. I suppose the trades unions will have spent this year nearly &500,000 on unemployed benefit to over 1,500,000 of members. These organisations have no right, I think, to assume unduly the responsibilities of the ratepayers and taxpayers. This ought to be taken into account when these organisations are being attacked.
The friendly societies are almost unable to bear the great strain put upon them, and if drastic and permanent remedies cannot be submitted to us, there is no reason why the Boards of Guardians, the local authorities, and the Local Government Board should not at this moment, while considering the larger questions, do something for the immediate relief of these people. There are works of a sanitary and improving character that the local authorities ought either to be compelled or asked to do. For instance, I know no street so badly paved a Victoria Street, Westminster, between here and Victoria Station. I would suggest to the President of the Local Government Board, now that the indoor and outdoor paupers 304 are more in number than they have been for forty-two years, that he should re-issue the circular which was issued in 1892 calling upon the local authorities to at once commence sanitary works and local improvements. By this means hundreds and thousands of men in town and country could get immediate employment, and the great advantage of this action would be that all the districts simultaneously and universally would contribute their quota to the common stock in providing a remedy for the unemployed. If one district goes ahead of another the result may be that the willing horse will be unduly burdened. I believe that as the proportion of paupers in London, and in the country generally, is greater than in 1892 this circular should be re-issued. Incidentally I may say that if my hon. friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil had addressed his mind to that circular he would have found in it some of the most striking arguments in confirmation of the views he has put forward. For instance, it advocates that money might be spent on employing men in spade husbandry on sewage farms. I could not help thinking, when I looked at the faces of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that what is but a choleric word in the mouth of a Local Government Board, is rank blasphemy in the mouth of the municipal authorities. But why confine the spade husbandry to sewage farms when other kinds of farm labour might be offered?
The circular goes on to mention the laying out of open spaces, recreation grounds, disused burial grounds — here would be a fine opportunity of burying the last of the Jingoes—the cleaning and paving of unpaved streets, sewage works and works of water supply. Now, if that circular had been re-issued, as it should have been, last November, I believe that a great number of men in these processions would have had decent work. I want to make another suggestion, which I hope will be carried out by the Local Government Board—at any rate they should be encouraged to do so. I do not, for the life of me, see why we should have these unemployed if the spending departments paid attention to the labour market when large contracts are being given out. Except in war time, or in times of national 305 emergency, when men work night and day, and all normal conditions are set aside, I do not see why contracts for ships, engines and guns, and the like, on which millions of pounds are spent, should be given out at a time when the private labour market is working overtime and is so busy. It ought to be possible for Government work to be adapted to the exigencies of depressed labour in private yards, and instead of working overtime in the summer, Government work should be provided in winter. The present system is not as it used to be. In the large cities the municipal authorities are adapting their work to the exigencies of private work, and the fact is that that helps private work enormously. I will give a concrete illustration. There are 500 board schools in London. Is there any reason why they should be painted between April and June, when every part of the West End is clamouring for painters? There is not. The schools might just as well be painted in the months from October to February. And this illustration applies to fire-stations, and a hundred and one other municipal institutions.
I now come to a point to which I ask the attention of the President of the Local Government Board. What do the Poor Law Boards who are responsible in the matter do? When a man does not work, if he is a drunkard or a lazy person, he can, as a last resource, fall back on State funds. But destitution is the only test; and he has to comply with some standard. He is given work, if he is an able-bodied man. What kind of work? Oakum picking in a cell, or stone breaking under demoralising conditions in a yard. Disfranchisement accompanies that work, whether the man is an honest workman or a wastrel. He has frequently to break up his home, his wife is separated from him and placed in another branch of the same institution. I would rather have the man breaking stones on the public road with his wife and family at home than in the workhouse, with perhaps the old father in the infirmary, and probably costing far more than would be given to the man. The fact is that the unemployed ought to be kept in one of three capacities—either as a pauper, a criminal, or a workman. As a pauper he is costly, as a cirminal he is enormaously costly, and I prefer to keep him at work, on the land or elsewhere, and so prevent him becoming 306 a pauper, and save him from the demoralisation which lack of work produces.
My next point refers to the War Office. We have got 100,000 militiamen in this country; and, on the whole, I think that the militiamen are perhaps as good a section of our national forces as any other, if not the best. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh! Oh!] At least that is my view. We have used them in the recent war, and they have always stood by the country when we have been in a tight place. But what does the War Office do? When builders and scaffolders and painters are fully engaged, and when trade generally is busy between the months of April and June—when all the men ought to be on the buildings doing work for which they are qualified, the Militia are called out. What is that for? Is it to suit the exigencies of Society, of which our Army is supposed to be an and sometimes the perquisite? These men ought to be at their work earning wages for themselves and profits for their employers. They ought to be called out at that time of the year when most of them are out of work, and when their services would be paid for and they could do good to everybody. The Volunteers and Naval Reserve should be dealt with in precisely the same way. If that were done the militiamen would like it. Of course, some of the officers may not. We spend &30,000,000 a year on our Army, of which the Militia is an important part. The Army exists for the interests of the country, and the officers should exist for the interests of the country. The officers should remember that the Army, including the officers, is for the nation, and the Militia should be called out between October and February.
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL (Oldham)
Would the hon. Member advocate the calling out of the Militia and putting them under canvas in the depth of winter?
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
That is not necessary, because if you visit Salisbury Plain, where I have been lately, you will find the tin huts there are absolutely empty, and bricklayers, builders, scaffolders and the like would not hesitate to go down at the present moment, providing that you sent with them more adaptable officers than they sometimes get.
My next point is co-operation between 307 the Poor Law authorities and the Town Councils. May I put it to the President of the Local Government Board, that supposing a town of 50,000 inhabitants is confronted with a number of men out of work, on the basis of the Poor Law expenditure of last year the Poor Law authority would have to spend from &5,000 to &10,000 on out-door relief. Is it not better that the Chairman of the Board should say to the Town Council: "Cannot you devise some means of providing work for these men in repairing the roads, sweeping the streets and sweetening up the place," and that &5,000 should be spent on that in the winter months, instead of waiting till these men became paupers when the same amount of money would be spent on unproductive labour? I believe that such co-operation should be encouraged, and that the Local Government Board should bring pressure to bear on the local authorities in that direction.
My last point is roughly this: I believe that the recent unemployed processions, bad though some of them were, and composed almost entirely of unemployables, mixed up with a few wastrels, have brought home to this big city the fact that the unemployed problem requires to be dealt with. What is better, it has brought home to some hon. Members that as long as we can afford to spend so much money on war, and waste so much money on drink, we ought not to allow these men to sink deeper and deeper in the social abyss for lack of health, and, if need be, for lack of money. I support my hon. friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil in his drastic remedies. I would prevent men from coming to the city, but when they are in the city they should be provided for. But whether in the country or the city, whether in work or out of work, the wicked waste that ensues from this gigantic expenditure of 160,000,000 of money on drink, is enough to make all of us shudder at the misery which it involves. The unemployed themselves have got to be weaned, when in work, from this deadly habit; and above all we must remember the fact that there are thousands of men who, even if they do not drink or smoke, have wages so low that when want of employment comes along they have nothing but starvation in front of them, or the Poor Law Office. We have got to recognise that cheap, low-paid labour is dear labour for the 308 manufacturers, the workmen, and the community. We have got to find a more excellent way than the present, whereby from 20 to 30 per cent. of the workmen in this city, even when in work, are below the poverty line. We must give wages that will be spent on better houses and fruitful commodities. Wages must receive such a dead lift that every man should have a margin to tide him over when stranded for lack of employment. These are a few of the remedies which I bring forward, in addition to those mentioned by the hon. Member who introduced the Amendment. I believe, from the practical experience of one of the administrators of one of the biggest affairs in Municipal Government, that much good might be done by adopting these remedies, and no harm done. I ask the President of the Local Government Board, now that we are no longer engaged in Imperial struggles, to remember that these unemployed men, these ragged regiments of the workless army, are our fellow citizens. Above all, let us realise that the worst thing we can do to any man is to keep him idle, and the next worst is to send him to a workshouse. If we keep him idle he drifts to the workhouse, and then to the gaol, alternated by the for did lodging houses that crowd our large cities and which some of the unemployed should be employed in pulling down. There have been scores of suggestions from different points of view. My hon. friend deserves thanks and credit for having brought this subject before the House; and now there is an object lesson of 500,000 workless men before us, I trust the President of the Local Government Board will take the initiative that is desired, will co-operate with the local authorities where practicable, and, above all, will tell the local authorities that either in the purchase of land or in any other remedial measures the Local Government Board will not restrain them but give them the experience, inspiration and advice it is the duty of his Department to extend.
Amendment proposed—At the end of the Question, to add the words, 'But we desire humbly to express our regret that Your Majesty's Advisers have not seen fit to recommend the inclusion therein of such measure or measures as would have empowered the Government and local administrative 309 authorities to acquire land for cultivation, and to set up undertakings whereby men and women unable to find employment in the ordinary labour market might be profitably set to work.'"—(Mr. Keir Hardie.)Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ The UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr JESSE COLLINGS,) Birmingham, Bordesley
said that perhaps he might be allowed to occupy the attention of the House for a short time, as this was a question in which he had always been deeply interested. He listened with great attention to the speech of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, and although he by no means accepted his figures—no doubt sincerely given—yet there was no doubt that there was a large and increasing number of unemployed in this country. The cause was not far to seek. For years past there had been a steady migration from the country to the towns and industrial districts, which some years ago had reached the limit of their power of absorption and were now dangerously overcrowded. In the meantime it is quite true, as had been stated, that the land to a large extent remained uncultivated. Hence arose the great social problem which they tried to meet by housing and other palliatives of one kind or another. But they were only palliatives. If they were to provide for 1,000 persons today in London, within a few months the tide would flow into the city and make things just as bad as they were before. As to the hon. Member's remedies, he would pass over Socialism, on which the hon. Member laid great stress, as the remedy. Socialism meant putting the manufacture and distribution of everything into the hands of the community; if it were adopted, it would destroy the mainspring of progress by sinking all individual effort. He admitted, however, that the doctrine of Socialism was largely on the increase in this country. There were people who were always ready to listen to anything with a promising sound; and in the history of progress suffering and discontent were always found to be the motive power of almost every reform. England was the very ground for such a doctrine.
310 The hon. Member was altogether in error in what he said with regard to Socialism in Germany and France. Outside the large towns in these countries it had made no single step. And why? Because it was met by millions of men who had got something; but in England they had a proletariat to which there was no semblance in any other country in the world. That was what made the question so important. The hon. Member's next remedy was the reclamation of land. He had seen great schemes of reclamation which had been both economically and socially successful, but they could not be carried, out by the casual labourer. There was no use in putting a jeweller or a worker in the production of luxurious articles on work of that sort. What was wanted in this case was to give work to the workshops. Those schemes had been invariably carried out by private enterprise.
As to public works he would not dwell upon that remedy, as it was only a palliative, and not what they wanted. The third suggestion of the hon. Member was that the local authorities should acquire land for cultivation. Here the hon. Member was on firm, sound, and economic principles, and he himself entirely agreed with him. He would, however, recall to the House that the hon. Member, and also the hon. Member for Battersea, who repeated the demand, were asking the Government to do what had already been done, and done very effectively. It was now twenty years ago, since he had the honour of introducing what was called a Small Holdings Bill. He was bound to say that from 1880 to 1886—he did not mention the period to raise any feeling, because it was not a Party question in the general sense — he could get no attention whatever paid to the measure. It was quite true that its necessity and importance were not recognised then as they were today. But in 1889-90, the Government of the day passed a Small Holdings Act giving the local authorities full and effective powers to do the very thing which hon. Members now desired, and its administration was placed in the hands of the County Councils. You can bring a horse to the water but you cannot make him drink; and, with the exception of two or three, 311 the County Councils of the country ignored that measure almost completely. Should not, then, the arguments of the hon. Members be addressed to the local authorities? There were, however, exceptions. In Worcestershire, the Chairman of the County Council saw the importance of the Act, both from an economic and a social point of view; and, the Council agreeing with him, it was put into operation some years ago. The first venture was the purchase of a farm of about 300 acres. Two farmers in succession who had held the farm had failed, and when a farmer failed it was always the fault of the land; he never dreaming that, quite possibly, he might be wanting in ability, industry or capital. That farm was cut up into small holdings, and what was the result? Years ago misery, destitution and starvation existed in that district, and many people were on outdoor relief. Today there was not a man or a woman on the rates, and there was a thriving, prosperous, contented, and happy colony.
This session he hoped to introduce a Bill to remedy some of those defects. What he desired to point out was that these people were not employed but employers of labour. On one of these small holdings, say of fifteen acres, there was more manure put on to the land in one year than was ever put on the whole estate of 300 acres by the farmer, and there was more labour employed. From accounts kept by one of these men, who farmed twenty-nine acres, he was able to inform the House that in the year 1891 that man paid more than &250 for labour, not reckoning the labour of himself and family, but hard cash down, to employees, and he received from the produce of that small holding &600. This man, a few years ago, was a poor labourer who came to Brimingham to offer his services, which nobody wanted, he now came into Birmingham to the same people and offered his produce which everybody wanted. Today these people kept their ponies and carts and took produce of almost every description to the towns. This man made &600 in a year; he did not put that money into a stocking, but laid it out in spades, shovels, clothing and all requirements, thereby affording employment in the workshops instead of competing with the labour there. It 312 might be asked: "If this was repeated would all do the same?" He had no hesitation in answering yes, because the home markets were the best markets in the world, and, setting aside such articles as corn and meat, and confining themselves to the smaller articles of food, for the production of which, in his opinion, this country was perhaps better suited than any other country in Europe, he found that the trade in them was &56,000,000.
He was sometimes amused, when he heard Members of this House and members of Chambers of Commerce lament over the fact that a bridge had come from America, or that a few tons of girders had come from Belgium amounting in all perhaps to &200,000; but not a word was said about this &60,000,000 spent on imports of food which this country could and ought to produce as well as it could produce girders. There were many Members of the House honourably engaged as citizens in local government as members of County Councils, and the main object of his speech to-day was to ask them to do as Worcestershire and some other counties had done. Do their best to put this Act into operation. It lay to their hands, was effective, and they wanted no further legislation except in a few minor details, which he hoped to prevail on the House to accept. It was said there was no demand. Of course there was not. Peasant proprietary in this country had been described as a lost art. But the supply would create a demand, and there were scores, hundreds, thousands in our big towns who would only be too glad at the present time to go back to the land. There was no demand, so far as he knew, in 1870 among the uneducated for education. But the country at large thought for the public good it was necessary, and, demand or no demand, we gave it.
The other objection was that we set up men in business in one class of trade. His answer to that was that there was no other business like that of the land; there was nothing to compare with it. It was the source, origin, and maintenance of every other trade going. As the hon. mover had said, trade of every kind depended on the purchasing power of the land, and though we might be interested in the purchasing power of the land in 313 foreign countries, we must be equally interested in the increase of the purchasing power of Worcestershire, Dorset, and other parts of England. If they got &1 more out of the land today than they did yesterday, that was &1 more to be spent in the workshops. Therefore, for the good of the country, economically as well as socially, members of our County Councils ought at once to take up this beneficial Act. The landowners were as deeply interested in this question as anybody. Why was land going begging at &20 and &30 an acre when poor and inferior land in Belgium and in Scotland was realising &80, &90, &100, and even &120 an acre and difficult to get at that? This was surely a subject for thought among the landowners from that point of view. Then the farmer was crying out for labour and good years, but the old days when the agricultural labourer began life almost from his cradle, and continued working to his grave as a mere wage-earner, with no hope before him, had, he thanked God, gone. They had been given what was called education in the rural schools, and, at any rate, enough had been given to make the agricultural labourers profoundly dissatisfied with their lot, and he rejoiced at it. They went away to better themselves, and they would continue to do so unless, in addition to their wage-earning, they were given the opportunity to acquire an occupation of their own with some prospect attached to it, and this was denied them in the country. When there was a traditional state of things which had been handed down for so long, it was difficult to alter it, but the farmer would have to accommodate himself to different relations with his labourers than had subsisted hitherto. He would have to look upon his labourer, not as a dependent upon him, but as a neighbour.
He had been in Germany, France, Belgium, and other places, and he could assure the farmers of this country that the great source of labour and help to the farmers of those countries was the small proprietors. In Germany, with its 18,000,000 acres of cultivated land, the great mass of it was in holdings of less than fifty acres, and the farmers there could not get on without these small holders. The sooner the farmer adapted himself to that state of things the better. If he could not so adapt himself, a new race would have to spring up from the class 314 of which he had spoken. The large farmer could not produce the &56,000,000 worth of small articles of food to which reference had been made; he could not if he would, and he would not if he could; it meant hard work, early rising, and small gains. What was required was not new legislation, but that existing Acts should be put in force. The Government could go no further except to make the few small amendments he had suggested. Let the system be adopted by degrees. There was ample room on the land for at least 1,000,000 families, to the profit and honour of the country, and their own good. Everybody was concerned in this matter. By trade and commerce a nation might get rich and prosperous, but there was no guarantee of permanency. There could not be found in history a nation whose fighting and resisting power remained, except it were based on a numerous and contented rural population.
*MR. HERBERT SAMUEL (Yorkshire, W.R., Cleveland)
said the remedy of small holdings was not calculated directly and immediately to meet the existing need. The business of the small holder required so much skill and technical knowledge, that to take men from the towns and place them on the land, and expect them to make an independent livelihood, would be as absurd as to set a briefless barrister, or an unoccupied journalist, to the work of an engineer of doctor. It was undoubtedly the case, however, that small holdings might indirectly be of service in helping to solve the question by keeping the labourers on farms from migrating to the towns, and he hoped that the Bill the right hon Gentleman was to introduce would so amend the Small Holdings Act as to place the power of acquiring small holdings in the hands of the Parish rather than of the County Councils, and also introduce the "blessed principle of compulsion." In fourteen years only about 1,000 acres had been obtained under the Small Holdings Act, introduced by the right hon. Gentleman. In discussing this question, it was not necessary to prove the existence of serious and exceptional distress. Whether the number of unemployed was 250,000, or 500,000 or 750,000 did not 315 affect the necessity for finding a solution of the problem. Taking the country as a whole, he did not believe there was more distress at the present time than was usual at this period of the year, although in particular districts and industries the distress was certainly much greater. Every winter a large number, and in times of depression a vast number, were out of work. Nor was it of importance whether the recent processions in London consisted mainly of wastrels or of deserving unemployed. Such processions could always be organised if the trouble were taken. Even though all the men belonged to the category of the unemployable, the fact remained that there were always a vast number of others who were out of work through no fault of their own. Obvious causes were at work which must inevitably throw men out of employment. Not only was it the duty of the House, for the sake of the men themselves, to take such steps as were practicable to afford some relief to these individuals, but it was expedient from a national point of view so to do. These men through worklessness were often driven to recklessness and drink; their characters in the long run sadly deteriorated, with the result that a return to the ranks of high-class labour was almost impossible. The suggestions he desired to make were four in number.
An attempt must be made to discriminate between deserving and undeserving persons, and that could only be done by the test of labour. Charity should not be adopted as a remedy, but the remedy should be work for wages. The work given should not be of a permanent character, for this would keep labour away from the ordinary routes of industry, and in that case the remedy would fail of its object; the wages offered would have to be lower, consequently, than the wages paid in the ordinary labour market. The question of the practicability of planting vacant land with trees had been brought before the Board of Agriculture, and a Committee had reported that there were large areas of waste land in Britain which were eminently suited for the planting of trees. This country imported &20,000,000 worth of timber every year, the whole of which might be grown upon 316 our soil. The Committee appointed by the Board of Agriculture had reported that there were 21,000,000 acres of land in this country out of cultivation upon a large part of which afforestation could be undertaken. In the year 1887, a Select Committee reported in the same sense. In almost every other country it is admitted that the control of the forests is one of the natural functions of the State, and the development of forests one of the most convenient means of increasing the national wealth. England had the largest area of land which was not put to profitable use, and the smallest area of forest land of any country in western Europe. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley remarked that such schemes as had been suggested ought to be carried out by private enterprise, but in his opinion this question of afforestation was a matter which ought to be undertaken by the State and not by private enterprise. Private enterprise could not wait until forests yielded a return.
The suggestion he would throw out in dealing with this question of the unemployed was that a small permanent Commission should be appointed to investigate what districts of the country were suited for afforestation; and after that, if the scheme was found to be practicable, to obtain land and employ men sent by Boards of Guardians for the special work of planting and maintaining such forests. Dr. Schlich, the greatest living expert upon this subject, had stated that if 6,000,000 acres were planted in England not only would it give employment to vast numbers of working men in planting trees, but after the trees were grown this quantity of land would given continuous employment to 100,000 labourers. If part of this work could be reserved for the unemployed in bad times it would be most useful. It was not suggested that such work would be suited to all classes of the unemployed, but there was a very large class to whom this work would be practicable if the Government would consider the suggestion which had been pressed upon them from many quarters of the country. Even if this scheme entailed some cost it would be money well spent if it relieved the degradation that came from unemployment.
The relief works which were hurriedly 317 undertaken were frequently costly, and if undertaken in one district only, attracted men to that particular spot. The majority of the Royal Commission on Labour recommended that public authorities might, in prosperous times, prepare land for works which were needed but which were not urgent, and hold them in readiness for times of depression. He should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell them whether he was prepared to press this upon local authorities. This practice was general in India, where the Government had always ready large schemes for giving employment, which were not urgent works but which were put into operation in times of famine. With regard to labour bureaux it was exceedingly desirable to increase the mobility of labour. Very often there was a demand for labour in one spot and a surplus in another. In several of their colonies the State had established labour bureaux, stretching over the whole country, which enabled workmen to find out where the demand for labour was. They existed in Australia and New Zealand, and, in a modified form, in the United States, France, and Switzerland. He thought it would be possible to establish a national system of labour bureaux in connection with the town halls in large towns, and in the post offices in smaller towns and villages so that working men might obtain information whether labour was needed in their own district or some other part of the country. In this way it might be possible to obtain information as to the need for workmen in our colonies and in other parts of the world. Labour bureaux existed already in some of the Metropolitan boroughs, but their usefulness depended upon their number and intercommunication. If such social machinery were set up it would do much to relieve the feeling of disappointment and despair engendered in the minds of the unemployed in their blind and vain search for work.
His next suggestion related to penal farm colonies for vagrants. There had been a demand for such colonies from several Boards of Guardians, and the Local Government Board had been petitioned to this effect. Such colonies existed in Holland, where there were in one colony 2,700 deliberate vagrants 318 detained and set to useful agricultural work and other occupations. In Merxplas in Belgium there was an institution where 2,800 people were detained and compelled to work upon the land. These men were sentenced to these colonies by orders from the magistrates, and they were detained for periods varying from two to seven years. If such institutions were established in this country they would do much to prevent these deliberate idlers and wastrels becoming burdens on the ratepayers in workhouses or on the taxpayers in prisons. Unquestionably there were many difficulties in the way of all these proposals, and disadvantages might be alleged to any scheme, but surely there were also disadvantages in leaving things as they were.
The problem before them was a very real and grave one, and the Government ought to approach these suggestions rather with a desire to take action then in a spirit of hostile criticism. He pleaded for the appointment of a Royal Commission on this question of the unemployed to examine the various suggestions which had been made. There was a Committee appointed in 1895, the labours of which were in terrupted by the dissolution of that year, but the Committee was subsequently reappointed and it reported in 1896. None of the matters, however, which he had brought before the House were even considered by that Committee, with the sole exception of relief works. When he asked a Question on this subject last session the First Lord of the Treasury replied that the time was not ripe for taking the course suggested. Surely in a matter of this kind it was better to take time by the forelock and make inquiries now in order that practical schemes might be devised which could be set on foot when depression became seriously and gravely acute. He would implore the Government not to dismiss this matter lightly, but to grant at least the Commission of Inquiry for which he pleaded. If the House found by this or some other method a solution for this grave difficulty they would have done something to gain the affection of some of the most deserving of our countrymen, and erected a monument to their glory which would never perish.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
The hon. Members who have preceded me have laid before the House the most difficult of all the difficult social problems which are now before us for solution. I think they have stated the case perfectly correctly. There is no doubt that within a very short distance of this House there are persons who are habitually starving, who are unable to obtain work even if they are desirous of doing so, and particularly the kind of work they are desirous to obtain. Whenever a slight depression of trade or a spell of cold weather takes place their misery becomes acute and distressing. It is no answer to that to say that some of those persons are imposters. Of course some are imposters. Whenever public compassion is excited there are people in the metropolis of London who take advantage of it for the purpose of serving their own ends. It is no answer to say that some of them are undeserving, because undeserving people have deserving wives and families who share their starvation, and undeserving people have a right to live and to be fed as well as the deserving. It is no answer to say that hon. Members have exaggerated the number. I do not think myself that they have, but even if they have exaggerated the number, and even if half are in the condition described, it is a condition of things that urgently demands the attention of Government and of Parliament. But althought this social disease is well known, and has formed the subject of discussion by philanthropists and philosophers for years, nobody has ever yet succeeded in devising a real and satisfactory remedy. I think it was the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil who reminded the House that just eight years ago, before the present Government came into office, this question of the unemployed was in one of those acute phases. A Committee of the House was then appointed to consider and report on the question, and so urgent was the case thought to be at the time that the Committee was desired to make an interim Report and to say what immediate steps should be taken to relieve the very acute distress which at that time prevailed. That Committee was composed of the very best men on the two sides of the House. It applied itself with great earnestness to the work, examined a great number of witnesses, and gave most close attention to the subject. What was the 320 result? It made an interim Report to say that nothing could be immediately done. There was no measure that they could suggest likely at once to relieve the distress and to be acceptable to the two Houses of Parliament. They sat on to the end of the session, when their proceedings were interrupted by the dissolution of Parliament. But they reported before the dissolution took place that they could find no remedy, and that they were quite unable to find anything that would cure the evil they admitted, and which they said had been satisfactorily proved, to exist. In the next session the Committee was re-appointed, and my hon. friend, who was at that time the Secretary of the Local Government Board, was appointed Chairman. That was also a strong Committee composed of men of great ability and great knowledge of this subject. They were not interrupted by any dissolution of Parliament, and they sat until they had concluded their investigation. They also admitted the existence of this monstrous evil, but they, in their turn, could suggest no permanent remedy. Now, we have this unsolved problem to-day before us. Although the facts of the case have been investigated, I do not think there is any return or any information accessible to Members of Parliament which will give the real truth of the state of things, because these people who are unemployed are of the labouring classes. There are some of those referred to by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, who are skilled artisans or good workmen, and who, from some depression in their trade, are suddenly thrown out of work. There are also people who are chronically out of work, and who are never in any regular and continuous work. They work two or three days in the week, but are not habitually employed for the rest of the week. But there are a great many people among the unemployed who do not work in the ordinary sense of the term. They earn a living by looking out for odd jobs, selling small articles in the streets, and so forth, but they do not intend to work and do not want to work. There are a large number of people who are spoken of as unemployable. Now the unemployable are a class for whom I feel the most profound compassion, because many of those unemployable have originally been extremely good workmen. There is nothing that deterior- 321 ates more rapidly than the capacity to do good work. It is a common law of nature. When any function is not exercised it very soon withers away, and when a man is accidentally thrown out of work, from that moment, as it were, the workman begins rapidly to deteriorate. If he is unfortunately, through no fault of his own, out of work for several months, at the end he is neither physically nor mentally capable of doing the kind of work he was formerly able to perform. There was an interesting attempt made some years ago to sample the unemployed. The inquiry was conducted by a Committee of Toynbee Hall in connection with local committees at various places all over the United Kingdom. There were not only centres in London, but in Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, and many other large towns. The plan was this—a street or typical block of houses, or, it might be, one or two streets or blocks of houses, were chosen, inhabited by the poorer kind of workers. A census was taken at the beginning of winter in all those houses, and the occupations of every householder were taken down. Out of the names so taken down a number of people alleged themselves to be out of work. Those people who alleged themselves to be out of work were observed during the whole winter. They did not know that they were being watched. The observation was done through School Board officers, rent collectors, sanitary officers, district visitors, and people of that kind. At the end of the winter the information obtained from all those various centres was collected by a very clever American gentleman. Although the inquiry was far too small to admit of any general conclusions being drawn as to proportions or percentages, or anything of that kind, yet it did throw a good deal of light on the condition of the so-called unemployed. The most remarkable conclusion at which the Committee arrived was this, that the unemployed are a permanent class. They are not people who go about from place to place. They are not people who change from occupation to occupation. They are not clever enough for that. The clever artisan who is thrown out of work would apply himself to some other trade; but those chronically unemployed people have not the energy to shift their habitation or their employment. That was confirmed by the in- 322 quiries of the Committee, who eight years ago reported on this subject. They addressed a great number of inquiries to local authorities all over the country, and the result was, that it appeared from the answers to these inquiries that the bulk of the people unemployed were not unemployed because of trade depression or changes of occupation, but because of seasonal reasons and work stopping in winter. I think we may almost conclude that the mass of the unemployed people is always existing. They are always present with us in ordinary times. They live at semi-starvation, and they and their families scarcely ever have enough to eat. They are habitually underfed. In particular seasons, of which the present winter appears to be one from economical and seasonal causes, their position becomes acute, and the public conscience is aroused. People say, "Oh! something must be done to help them in Parliament." Then a Royal Commission is appointed, but nothing really is done. I earnestly hope that the President of the Local Government Board will understand that it is not a Royal Commission that is wanted at all, for sufficient facts of the case are known. What is wanted is a remedy. Now, I am afraid, and I am sorry to say it, that there is no real remedy for this particular disease of the body politic. It is like some of the diseases of the human body—doctors cannot cure them; all they can do is to improve the general health. I am afraid that this is a social disease which cannot be cured in itself; it is really to be met by a general improvement of the social condition of the people in every direction. If all these children were healthily brought up; if all were properly educated— I do not mean merely in reading, writing, and arithmetic—but taught so as to have an intelligent development of their character, and were brought up as healthy men and women; and if you had the industries of the country properly organised, I think that this unemployed class might be starved out altogether. The disease would disappear with the class which furnished the great bulk of the unemployed, because cases of skilled workmen suddenly thrown out of em- 323 ployment could easily be dealt with by trades unions and the local authorities. The distress from which they suffer is generally very short, and they can be put into a different category, as they do not form the bulk of the unemployed at the present moment. How is that to be done; how is this improvement in the diseased body to be made? People, I think very rightly, will not give up the idea of doing something for these unhappy people— some unemployed and unemployable— who generally lead a most miserable and wretched life. It is rather remarkable that every hon. Member who has spoken in this debate has suggested remedies applicable by the local authorities. My right hon. friend, the Member for Birmingham, who gave a most interesting speech to the House, believes in small holdings, and in putting people on the land. I think every effort should be made to do this; and if the community which he described as existing in Worcestershire could be repeated in every county in England, not only would it reduce the number of unemployed, but the nation would be strengthened. If we could put a million of people on the land, this country would be richer and stronger. The right hon. Gentleman says that the county authorities have got ample powers now, and that they do not require legislation if they would only put the existing Acts in force. But the right hon. Members for Merthyr Tydvil and Battersea claimed that some additional powers should be given to the local authorities, and some obstructions removed which prevent them from trying experiments. A good many suggestions were made by hon. Members, some of which were of so Socialistic a character that they could not expect me to support them. But the hon. Member for Birmingham and the hon. Member who has just sat down have made some practical suggestions which, if local authorities were willing to try experiments in that direction, they should be allowed to do. Some of those experiments have already been tried in the larger boroughs, and there is no practical reason why they should not be established in all boroughs. The hiring of land, and the taking a farm, are not, I believe, beyond the powers of the 324 local authorities at present. I think they have power to do so.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
Well, if they want the power, they should have it. Because it is no use saying that these unemployed people cannot be reclaimed. I do not at all hold with those who say that the present unemployed are wastrels, and that you cannot do anything for them. But you can. It has been established and proved that you can do something for them by the operations of the Salvation Army. I do not know what is going on now down at Hadley, the Salvation Army farm in Essex; but, whatever you may think of the Salvation Army itself and its doctrines, if you go down to Hadley you may see some of the formerly most idle people from the slums of London now working extremely hard and well. How the Salvation Army does is a wonder, but they do succeed in making these people work extremely hard, and what the Salvation Army has done, other institutions might do, and all local authorities can do; or they might employ the Salvation Army or the Church Army to supervise the work. It is not a thing unknown, even in Governments, because the Government of the Australian Colonies has employed General Booth and the Salvation Army in many social works, and in what the Commonwealth of Australia have done we might follow. The House will observe that the work of the Salvation Army at Hadley has been put to an extremely practical test. The Countess of Warwick, having determined to carry out very large improvement operations in her garden at Easton, which involved a great deal of work, made a contract with the Salvation Army to do it. The Salvation Army brought down to Easton sixty of these so-called unemployables, with, of course, Salvation Army foremen; and the Countess of Warwick has stated publicly that the work done is admirable, and that her head gardener, who was perfectly aghast when he first heard of the contract being made, now admits that he never saw a job of the kind better or more speedily carried out. I must add that though these people were formerly of the worst and most undesir- 325 able character—two of them being, I believe, murderers—when they lived at Easton there was no crime, no drunkenness, and no disorder of any kind whatever. That is a very good test. I am not a Salvationist myself, but I confess I am perfectly capable of appreciating social work of this kind, and I would say to the local authorities and to the President of the Local Government Board, "Go thou and do likewise." I would not have a Royal Commission, but I think the President of the Local Government Board should take into consideration whether the powers now possessed by the local authorities are ample, and if they must or must not be extended. The Government are going to bring in a Bill to give additional powers to the local authorities with reference to the housing of the poor, and some provisions might be included in that Bill for dealing with the unemployed. It might lead to a very practical result if the local authorities were given sufficient powers in this matter. The hon. Member for Birmingham says that the County Councils have not dealt with their powers under the Small Holdings Act; but it is the people themselves who are to balme. Parliament has done its part, and it is the fault of the people themselves if the County Councils have not done their part. Hon. Members should stir up the electors to return to their County Councils men who will carry out the powers which Parliament has conferred on the people; and if the social condition of the people is not improved, I think it will be seen that that is the fault of the people themselves. Hon. Members should endeavour, in a missionary spirit, to go amongst the people and stir them up to go something for themselves, and make their representatives on the County Councils do what is absolutely necessary for their welfare.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
This debate has extended over nearly the whole ground, and I would support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Merthyr. The question of the unemployed is, of course, one of great difficulty, as we all know; and there is no doubt that great differences, of opinion exist as to the causes which 326 lead to the frequent unemployment of labour. In dealing with the social system under which we live, I do not think it is desirable to make very extensive changes all at once in the customs of the people; but in the meantime it is most desirable to do everything which can be done, and I believe a great can be done, for the purpose of providing work for the unemployed and of reclaiming those persons who are capable, or might be made capable, of doing work. The Amendment deals with two matters, one of which relates to the land. My right hon. friend the Member for the Bordesley Division referred to legislation which was passed creating small holdings. I think my right hon. friend will remember that it is now twenty years since he and I spent many days, I might almost say many weeks, together in drawing up the first Small Holdings Bill ever drafted under the ægis of the Colonial Secretary. My right hon. friend admits that the Bill was not carried in its entirety. It contained no compulsory powers, and it is necessary in many parts of the country, if you want land, to have compulsory powers. My right hon. friend knows as well as I do that the Arcadia in Worcestershire which he described would be impossible in many parts of the country, because the owners would not be prepared to part with their land. When we introduced the Bill it contained compulsory powers, and I, for my part, have not changed my mind in the matter, althought I do not presume to reproach my right hon. friend for having changed his. We are, after all, dealing in this Amendment with the unemployed, who are nearly all in the great cities, and it is to the authorities of the great cities we must look to provide a remedy by taking the people to the land; yet it is these very urban districts which do not possess the compulsory powers which have been given to the County Councils.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
I want to refer to all the arguments put forward by my right hon. friend in order to support the doctrine that we ought to give to the Urban Councils, as well as the County Councils, the power of getting land.
327 There is another small defect in the Act, if I may speak of defects at all in my right hon. friend's presence, and it is that the machinery is rather cumbrous. It was necessary to adapt the measure to the prejudices of the House of Commons when the Act was passed. People were apprehensive, as they always are when any reform is brought forward for the first time; the Bill was looked upon with derision, and in 1885 it was described by the Tory Party as a measure to provide "three acres and a cow." The Bill was drawn in a tentative spirit. It has many good qualities, and it has also some defects, the chief of the latter being that the machinery is somewhat too cumbrous.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
My right hon. friend has no doubt a certain amount of parental affection for the Bill; but in my opinion it has some little defects, and it is with these that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil proposes to deal. A measure ought to be introduced empowering the local authority to acquire land for cultivation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University used a most potent argument in support of that proposal. He referred to the Salvation Army having executed works to the satisfaction of fastidious owners. Why should not the Urban Councils deal with the case of the unemployed as well as the Salvation Army or any other agency interested in the work of reclamation? I have said enough in respect of the question of the land. In the latter part of the Amendment it is proposed that the local authorities should be authorised to set up undertakings on which men unable to find employment in the ordinary labour market might be set to work. If that were to be interpreted as imposing an obligation on Town Councils to find employment for all who are unemployed. I could not support it.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE
I purposely framed my Amendment to enable local authorities to act without compelling them to act.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
I am glad to hear what the hon. Gentleman says, because it bears out the interpretation I put upon the words. The proposal is permissive; it allows the local authorities to make experiments and to provide employment according to the necessities of the case. I cannot see anything in the least injurious in that. An hon. Gentleman referred to the well-known Board of Trade circular of 1892, which required, or rather recommended, local authorities to find employment when it was absolutely necessary, and this Amendment does nothing more than slightly extend the recommendations of that circular. The fact is we have the workhouse and we have the prison; but there is no machinery I know of, available to local authorities to assist in cases of necessity, which does not partake of the nature of degradation, and they have no means of trying experiments either in work or reclamation. No one knows what the ultimate solution of this problem may be. I do not pretend to tell where wiser men than I have failed; but I do not see the smallest objection to allowing the local authority a far freer hand than they have. I believe they would exercise their powers with judgment; they would certainly exercise them in a guarded manner; and although I sympathise heartily with the aspirations of my right hon. friend that a more full remedy might be provided by getting the people back to the land, it is because we must not accept that as an absolute panacea for all the evils of the situation that I most heartily concur in the Amendment.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. WALTER LONG,) Bristol, S.
I confess I listened to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and to his conclusions, in some surprise, since he told the House that he had no hesitation in supporting the Amendment because he believes in the first part, giving local authorities some new powers in regard to the acquisition of land, and regards the second part as carrying the local authorities not much further than the circular of 1892. I would point out to the House that either the Amendment would carry them much further on 329 that it would be useless. The local authorities have powers to carry out local works of various kinds, and I certainly object, as I shall show the House, not only to the first part but to the second part. I object to the first part because in the form advocated by the hon. Member it would be much more likely to increase destitution than to decrease it; and I object to the second part because everything necessary in that direction can be done at present by the local authorities, if they think it desirable, and if distress is sufficiently acute.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE
Might I ask whether the expression, local authority includes Rural as well as Urban and Town Councils?
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Certainly. I am talking now of the second part of the Amendment, which runs as follows: "to set up undertakings, whereby men and women, unable to find employment in the ordinary labour market, might be profitably set to work." What setting up undertakings precisely means I don't know, and the phrase has not been elaborated by the hon. Gentleman, but if he means undertaking local works of any kind necessary in any locality, then comes again the question of the local authorities. They have the power at present if it is that kind of undertaking which is included in the circular of the Local Government Board to which reference has been made. Whatever my hon. friend has done, nobody who has heard his speech can deny that it was one of the most interesting features of an interesting debates because, after all, there are many of us who have been long enough in politic, and Parliament to remember when this scheme of land reform found but few friends, and was not popular on either side of the House, as it is sometimes believed to be now. My hon. friend, by working the country and working Parliament; by incessant labour amongst the agricultural community of the country, did his best to secure this reform. I believe that to no one man here is this reform so much due as to my hon. friend, and aprt altogether from his views, hearty and sincere as they are, he has made a most interesting contribution to a most interesting debate, while some of these reforms which he has advocated 330 he has seen placed upon the Statute-book.
I agree with a good deal that has been said by my hon. friend. I have not much objection to the extension of small holdings if you adopt certain precautions, but I altogether decline to accept the description which the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil gave of British agriculture. I confess it always surprises me when I hear hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House maintain that British agriculture has failed, and that the British farmer is a failure as compared with the farmer of other countries.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE
My point was that a greater number of people were employed on the land in Continental countries than were employed in this country. I had no desire to cast any reflection on the skill or ability of the British farmers.
§ MR. WLATER LONG
The hon. Member said the land of this country could be made as prosperous as the land of other countries if a new system was adopted. It is more prosperous now. The hon. Member went on to say that it did not pay the farmer to increase the fertility of the soil, because the profit went into the pockets of the landlord. Therefore, his contention was that the land-tenure of this country has made the land less productive than the land of other countries. I maintain that that proposition is a false one. If any one who holds that view will take the figures as to the production of this country as compared with that of others, they will find that we produce more and carry a greater amount of stock, except horned cattle, than any other country. If you take all the other figures you will find that the system which the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil has maligned has made the land of this country the most productive in the world. Therefore it is not just to attack the land, and say we have not done as well with the land of this country as other countries with a different system have done. What is 331 the state of this question? The hon. Member has given some figures. His estimate, in my judgment, according to the best means I have of testing it, is largely exaggerated. The speech we have listened to to-day here has been more limited in its character and more moderate in its tone than many other speeches that have been made outside. We have heard there is a much wider spread of destitution than has been alluded to in this debate. But what I want to impress upon the House is that although there are signs in the Metropolis and in the large cities of an increase in destitution, in the returns with regard to pauperism, and also that there are a large number of people out of situations, neither in the Metropolis nor the country is the case so serious as to justify any Government in adopting those extreme and drastic measures that have found favour in certain portions of the House. These can only be justified in times of national disaster, as in the time of the Lancashire cotton famine. At the present time, although the lack of employment is serious, I hope and believe it will diminish, because happily for us the climatic conditions are more favourable than hitherto. and we have not those conditions of weather which are so prejudicial to many of the workers. I have been at some pains to ascertain, as far as possible, the number of the unemployed in the Metropolis, and I am given to understand that 400,000 is an exaggerated estimate. I have examined those figures by the tests open to us at the Board of Trade, and it the House examines them by those tests it will find they are exaggerated. But take any one of the local cases mentioned and apply to that case the test of local knowledge, and you are led to the conclusion that there has been considerable exaggeration. One hon. Gentleman said that in Manchester there was a large number of people who were unable to obtain shelter, and who were sleeping in a place called the brick-kilns, and else where in the open-air, and that there was every evidence of great pressure in the city of Manchester. My hon. friend behind me, the Member for South-West Manchester, who lives in that city, has been closely following this question, and has been to the brick-kilns, the lodging-houses, and the shelters in Manchester, and has been able to see 332 for himself the condition of things there. My hon. friend assures me that he went round those places and found, he believed, that there was plenty of room in all the lodging-houses and shelters. There was only one lodging-house which was crowded, and the reason for that was that it was one established by the Wesleyan Church of a special character, and attracted people to it by its surroundings. My hon. friend stated that in one place he found provision of about a thousand beds, and that the average occupation of those beds fell far below that number. If that is so, it is not fair to suggest that people are sleeping in the open because they cannot get shelter.
§ MR WALTER LONG
The hon. Member suggests that they will not go to the casual wards, and cannot afford to pay for the shelters, but even then there is the question which has been raised as to the brick-kilns. My hon. friend the Member for South-West Manchester has visited the brick-kilns and has seen the condition of things there, and he gives me his evidence that the number sleeping out in the brick-kilns has been largely exaggerated. I only mention that to show that there can be no doubt that there will always be, on questions of this kind, great exaggeration. I do not say this in order to undervalue the gravity of the case made by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, but because I think it is right that all these statements made with regard to the numbers of destitute, and so forth, should be very carefully tested before they are accepted as showing the real facts of the case. Most of the cases are exaggerated, I admit, but what are exceptions? Everybody knows there are unemployed in different parts of the country, and, as a rule, it is not difficult to find, where the numbers are serious, what the reason has been for the great falling off in employment. In West Ham, where the unemployed are more numerous than in any other part of the country, the reason is that there has been a great falling off of employment at the docks, and if you take some of the 333 towns in the north you will find the reason is that these men are mostly employed in the shipbuilding industry, and there has been a great falling off in shipbuilding. But because there has been a temporary want of employment at the docks and in the shipbuilding industry, are you to turn these men into landholders and farmers in the country, and put them on the land in the hope that you will make them contented labourers? Because if that is the only remedy you have, I am convinced it will fail you and fall very short of your real requirements. There are some other suggestions made. There have been suggestions made that there should be an increase in the labour bureaux, and better means of communication between different districts as to the condition of the unemployed in the labour market. I think there is something to be said for labour bureaux of that sort, and when the suggestion was made some years ago I was attracted by it, but the experience of these bureaux in this country does not show that they are largely taken advantage of by the labouring classes, so I do not know that the extension of that system is one that can be profitably recommended for the solution of the unemployed problem. Another suggestion is that we should go in for large works of afforestation. When I was at the Board of Agriculture this question was being constantly brought before me by agriculturists and others from Scotland, where a great deal more work has been done, and better done, in connection with afforestation than in almost any other part of the world. The work there has been of an admirable character, but when you come to regard it as a profitable enterprise what are the facts of the case? Those who are engaged in the work tell me that some years must elapse before you can hope for the smallest profit. ["The profits accumulate."] But where is the money to come from to run this system of afforestation during the fourteen or more years during which it would be unremunerative?
§ MR. WALTER LONG
But the hon. Gentleman is one of the many critics who are constantly finding fault with us for spending too much public money.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Not only abroad. Unless it is on a particular object suggested by the hon. Gentleman the expenditure of public money is, in his view, bad. Does the hon. Gentleman, from his knowledge of the men with whom he is acquainted, really believe that to start a system of afforestation would deal with even the smallest fraction of the unemployed question? How many of the unemployed would accept the offer of such work? It is almost trifling with the question to suggest that by methods of land cultivation or afforestation, you can deal with a problem so difficult and deep-seated as this. No doubt there is some land in the country which might very well be used for planting timber, but this work is of a peculiarly difficult and laborious kind, and if you put to it a large number of the present unemployed they would soon say it was not their liking. Many of those who recently paraded the streets of London have been offered work and declined it. They have said, "That is not what we want, we want money to be distributed amongst those who are in want of it." These men, in many cases, are acquainted with a particular class of labour, such as in the docks or shipyards. Are you going to take them from work which they understand and put them to work of which they know nothing? And would you ask them to devote the rest of their lives to it, or are they to be so employed only spasmodically in times of depression? The Suggestion is altogether too general and crude for serious consideration.
Then my right hon. friend the Member for Cambridge dealt with the work of the Salvation Army. I have had an opportunity of seeing the work of the Salvation Army. I have visited Hadley Farm and seen the work the men are doing. No doubt forty or fifty men might easily be found who could dig a garden as well as the average agricultural labourer, but I am not at all pre- 335 pared to accept my right hon. friend's suggestion that Boards of Guardians or Municipal Authorities, still less the Local Government Board, should employ the Salvation Army as an agency for dealing with the unemployed, or that we should follow their example and ourselves set men to work. Such a plan would, after all, deal with only a very small number of those in difficulty; it would not in any way remove the difficulty or get to the root of the problem and prevent its recurrence.
Another suggestion is that the circular previously issued by the Local Government Board should be re-issued. During the recess I was constantly in London, and in communication with my inspectors all over the country. With one exception those inspectors have been strongly opposed to the issue of that circular at present, their reason being that the local authorities are fully alive to the state of affairs, and have in every case, where the difficulty is considerable, taken action either through committees of their own or in conjunction with charitable bodies All the evidence points to the undesirability of issuing a circular which ought only to be issued when the circumstances are so grave as to make some special steps necessary. It is not sufficient to say that there are a certain number of unemployed in the country generally. Before we ask local authorities to go outside their ordinary domain and find work which is not really necessary for the locality, we ought to be quite certain that they are either ignorant of the condition of things or are apathetic in their treatment of it. There is no evidence whatever in that direction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University asked whether, in the opinion of the Government, the powers possessed by local authorities are sufficient, and whether, if they are not sufficient, we are prepared to increase them. I am not aware of any new power required by local authorities to enable them to carry out local works. Boards of Guardians have full power in regard to relief, and local urban and rural sanitary authorities can do the work they are empowered to do at a special time if they think it desirable.
I do not think there is any sovereign remedy for this difficulty of the unemployed. Many of the subjects discussed yesterday and today touched this 336 question—the provision of better houses, sanitary surroundings, and so forth—but I ask hon. Members not to believe that any large scheme of making local authorities cultivators of land, or of calling upon them to employ men on large tracts of land, would do any real good. Small holdings are excellent things in their way, but everybody knows that unless the land is carefully selected and special regard paid to the conditions under which it is held, you might as well throw your money into the sea. The same remark applies to the allotments system. A little may be done in different ways, but that anything can be done by a big scheme is quite contrary to the fact.
We must all sympathise with those who are temporarily out of work—especially with those who want work and cannot get it. I have been sorry to hear reference of a depreciatory character to charitable agencies. Many of those who suffer most will never be dealt with except by means of charitable associations; they would starve in a garret, rather than ask for help outside, and still less appeal to the Poor Law. It is only through these charitable associations, and by means of the noble men and women who devote their lives to this work, that you can reach some of the most deserving people at a time like the present. I should, therefore, be sorry for anything to be said, even inadvertently, which would lead people to believe that the work of charity in connection with the unemployed is not noble work, or that it carries any form of degradation to those who are assisted thereby, especially when their necessity arises from no fault of their own. If the labours of charitable agencies were lessened, I am convinced that in times like the present the suffering would be far greater and more real even than now. There was a suggestion made by the hon. Member for Battersea which I was rather surprised to hear. He suggested that the Militia should be called out at a later period of the year.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said what he suggested was that the Militia should not be called out at those portions of the spring and summer when work was most plentiful.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I do not think I was misrepresenting the hon. Member when I say that he suggested that they should be called out in the autumn and winter. This, however, is a War Office question. I regret that he suggested that the selection of the time of the year was due to want of energy on the part of the officers, where-as it is due to the belief that it is only at those times of the year that it is possible to give them the training that is essential for them to get under canvas. I do not think his reason is well founded. I can only assure the House that as far as the Local Government Board is concerned we have watched, and shall continue to watch, the conditions of labour very closely. I do not think there is an evil effect in connection with this question of the unemployed that escapes our attention, but I deprecate the adoption by this House of remedies which at first sight may seem practical, but which will not bear the test of examination, and which, if applied, would increase, and not decrease, the number of unemployed in the country.
*MR. NANNETTI (Dublin, College Green)
said that this question of the unemployed also affected the Sister Isle to a great extent. He had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and he was surprised at the want of sympathy he had shown for the Amendment of his hon. friend. He had stated that the hon. Member who moved this Motion had not suggested any remedy to meet the difficulty. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil in his Amendment suggests a remedy. He (the hon. Member for Merthyr) had drawn attention to the efforts which were now being made by trades organisations to assist those of their members who were out of work, but the drain upon their resources was terrible, and some of the members of those organisations were paying double and treble levies in consequence of lack of employment. He thought some step should be taken by the Government to strengthen the hands of corporations, so that at times like this they would be able to do something to deal with this terrible problem. He instanced the case of Dublin, when an appeal was made 338 recently to the Council by the unemployed for work, and pointed out that owing to such restrictions as were imposed on municipal authorities only a temporary form of relief could be given. With reference to afforestation and the reclamation of waste land, he suggested to the Chief Secretary for Ireland that in the Bill he was about to introduce he would insert some provision for the reclamation of waste land and the planting of timber in Ireland. They in Ireland could not take advantage of the Small Holdings Act, with the result that the people from the country came into the towns and swamped the labour market. The labour organisations would not be able to meet the needs of the increasing number of unemployed much longer, because their funds would not last for ever, and as soon as their money was exhausted then the responsibility of the State would be very serious. It was the duty of the Government to give a sympathetic hearing to this Amendment, and he appealed to the House to vote for it and give some encouragement to the thousands of people who in processions were marching through the streets begging for bread.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central))
said this had been a most interesting debate, and thanks were due to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil for bringing this question forward. He was greatly surprised that the Speech from the Throne made no reference to this question. What was the existing state of affairs? They had heard the numbers of the unemployed. It had been estimated that between 5 and 6 per cent. of the total members of trades unions were unemployed, but not sufficient account had been taken of the enormous number of unskilled labourers who were not members of trades unions. The number of unemployed could not be accurately estimated, because the number of unskilled labourers who had no organisation could not be calculated at any given time. Nor were the returns of the trades unions a real test of the definite state of employment in the country, because the members of trades unions were the best skilled artisans, and they were the very last people who were dispensed with by employers, since they would be difficult to replace, and when business was slack they were often 339 retained, if only employed on half or quarter time. The President of the Board of Trade in his speech said very truly that various remedies had been proposed for the existing state of affairs, and he referred to one of the remedies put forward by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. He asked would it not be much better, instead of looking to remedies, to ascertain the causes which produce this want of employment.
There was no other country but this that suffered from this state of affairs. There was no real want of employment in the United States and Germany, and in those countries the unemployed problem was much less acute. In no other country were the Government face to face with this problem of the unemployed, and was there any other capital in the world which had been the withness of such processions of unemployed as those which had been seen in London. There might be some persons in those processions who were unemployable and undeserving, but it could not be doubted that there were a considerable number who, if they could obtain employment, would welcome the opportunity. But beyond all these men there were a very large number who would rather starve in a garret than accept Poor Law relief or charitable assistance, and still less would they take part in processions of the unemployed. Therefore it was the duty of the Government not only to find remedies but to examine into the causes. These questions were perfectly well known, and until the representatives of the people determined to go into the causes they would always have this problem of the unemployed with them. It was absurd and ridiculous for them to impose new burdens on the taxpayer so as to find work for the unemployed, or to attempt to distribute relief amongst them, so long as they admitted 70,000 or 80,000 aliens into the East End of London with the result that their own people were driven out of employment in much greater numbers. These aliens were coming to this country in greater numbers every day, without the slightest restriction or inquiry. Under these circumstances what encouragement was there to put capital into businesses in order to employ labour under the existing system?
The President of the Local Government Board stated that shipbuilding was very much depressed, and no 340 wonder that this was so when they saw the disabilities under which shipping was labouring at the present time. What encouragement was there to people to build ships when they saw how many shipping companies were paying no dividend at all? What encouragement was there to put capital into manufactories in this country when their capital was not protected in the slightest degree, and when the whole of their output was met with favoured foreign competition without the slightest tax upon foreign goods. They were greatly indebted to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil for introducing this subject. It was far better to look at the causes of the want of employment, than to beat about the bush in regard to wild schemes of relief. Let them attack the disease at its fountain head, and prevent this question of the unemployed being always with us. It was not with the people of the United States, France, or Germany. If we alone in the world maintained a particular fiscal system, and if we alone were face to face with this perpetual problem of the unemployed, surely there was ground for believing that there was something wrong with the industrial and fiscal system which brought about such a state of affairs.
*MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
said that, in his opinion, alien immigration had no effect whatever on the skilled trades of this country; and, admittedly, these trades were suffering very considerably from the want of employment at this moment. He thought the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, who moved the Amendment, was to be congratulated on the very important admissions which had been drawn from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. He agreed that it would be difficult, it not impossible, to find a sovereign remedy for the unemployed, but he was surprised to hear that confession from the other side of the House, because it seemed to him to be in direct conflict with the opinions held by their late chief, Lord Salisbury, in 1895. This question of the unemployed was one of the trump cards they played in their electioneering game in 1895. Lord Salisbury went to Bradford to prepare the way for the coming election of the year. In the speech he delivered, he seemed to indicate 341 that there was, in his opinion, a sovereign remedy for dealing with this question of the unemployed. What was the remedy? It was a Government in whom the people had confidence. Looking to the majorities by which it was supported in both Houses of Parliament, surely they must come to the conclusion that, at all events, the present Government had the confidence of the country behind it. Yet here they were with a Conservative Government in office discussing this serious and solemn question of the unemployed.
He agreed also that the number of the unemployed might be somewhat, and probably was, exaggerated. His own impression was that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil had under-estimated the number when he said that the minimum would be something like 400,000, because the Secretary of the National Committee on the Unemployed, who had been in constant receipt of reports from all parts of the United Kingdom, had stated that, in his opinion, the number could not be less than 900,000. But it seemed to him that the very fact that they had difficulty in ascertaining what was the state of the situation was a reason why the Government ought to have acted upon the recommendation of the Select Committee which considered this question. That committee recommended that greater care and attention should be paid in the way of better organisation in order to get at the facts as to the number of unemployed, yet nothing had been done to provide a remedy. Only last year the Government passed a Bill which provided for creating labour bureaux in London, and he was misinformed if there had been any active attempt to put the measure into operation. He confessed that the local authorities were responsible to a large extent for more not being done, and he sincerely hoped that one result of this discussion would be to compel local authorities to exercise the powers they possessed for dealing with the question of the want of employment. He suggested that the Government should if necessary introduce legislation for the creation of labour bureaux throughout the country, so that they might be better able to know the state of the labour market. He thought one of the difficulties that had stood in the way of their acquiring land was that they had no compulsory powers. There were Lord De Freynes in England as well as 342 Ireland, landlords who would neither let nor sell their land to local authorities, and there was no power to compel them. Until the local authorities were invested with powers to acquire land compulsorily in order to enable them to deal with questions affecting the social comfort of the people, they could not expect that these authorities would show very much greater activity than they were doing at the present moment.
He was surprised to hear the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division state that the present Acts contained all that was necessary. They did nothing of the kind in his opinion. The Allotments Act and the Small Holdings Act were practically dead letters at this moment, simply because they had to deal with the question on voluntary lines. In his judgment they would never have a satisfactory solution of this question until they got rid of the voluntary principle, and enacted that where land was necessary for the socila amelioration of the people local authorities, where landlords were reluctant to part with their land voluntarily on reasonable terms, should have power to acquire it compulsorily. He sincerely hoped that this debate would dispel the idea that the way to get rid of want of employment was to have a Conservative Government in office.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said that hon. Members who for so many years had supported the principle of the compulsory acquisition of land, where the public interest demanded it, could hardly refrain from taking part in this discussion. It was perfectly arguable that any land taken for afforestation or small holdings would not give any immediate relief to those unemployed at the present time. With that he concurred. Any system of afforestation started upon a larger scale could not be expected to bring immediate relief to any person now unemployed. Moreover, when they were dealing with allotments, small holdings, or afforestation they must have men who had been thoroughly trained for work, and educated for it, or they could do nothing good. But, looking further ahead, there were many cases besides those with which the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries Burghs dealt so well, and which had been brought to his mind inconnection with the drafting of the Small Holdings Bill. On the Local Government 343 Bill for Scotland they had supported compulsory powers, and the Congested Districts Board for the Highlands had been given a certain mode of compulsion, as had been shown by their report issued the other day. Although it was true, as the President of the Local Government Board had said, that a larger amount of produce was grown upon much of the land in this country than on the land of any other country in the world, yet it was also the case that there was a larger proportion of waste land in this country which might be utilised than in any other country in Western Europe. Again, production here was limited to certain forms of agricultural produce. In the East of Scotland, where the mining industry was developed, the farmers, who were the best in the world, had been affected by farmers from the West of Scotland because they could not produce the milk which was required in the district. There were certain classes of agricultural crops which could only be produced by minute care bestowed on the land on small holdings, and there was no form of occupation on land which could maintain so large a population as the small holding system. So far, therefore, he was favourable to it, but unless the mantle of Mr. Horace Plunkett's co-operative scheme could fall upon them he was afraid that not so much progress could be made in this country as they desired. If the genius of Ireland which had been shown in this capacity for co-operation could awaken any responsive spark in this country, where the agriculturists, large or small, were notoriously incapable of co-operation, there was, he believed, a great future for small holdings. What he wanted to point out was that if there were compulsory powers for afforestation on any large scale—and that could only be conducted by the State, and where the foresters were properly trained—then they might have scores of thousands of men engaged in that labour who would gain a good livelihood. In that way, and by the extension of small holdings, they might add greatly to the stability of the social system of this country. That was what was wanted, although it was looking a long way ahead. He maintained that there was need for compulsory powers for the acquisition of land being held both by the local authorities and by the State if they were to lay the foundation of the increased prosperity of the rural popula- 344 tion, and promote that stability in the social condition of the people, which would be a stand-by when periods of depression came upon them. The end of the war and the severe winter might have tended to a great deal of the hardship experienced at the present moment, but he was satisfied that unless they had compulsory powers, and trained people to take advantage of the opportunities offered to them, they should have in the future more serious crises than that which they were going through at present.
§ MR. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
said he could not see that Protection would do away with te unemployed, and he was certain that the unemployed would be in a far worse position if their food and clothing were dearer than they were now, which would be the case under Protection. The hon. Member who had introduced the Amendment had declared that the tide of labour was continually flowing from the country to the town. This question of the unemployed was, in his opinion, absolutely bound up with that fact. In the last decade the people employed in the agricultural districts had decreased by 127 for every 10,000, and he thought this question should seriously occupy the House. When the Agricultural Rating Bill was being passed through Parliament it was urged in its favour that it would preserve the bone and sinew of the country on the land, but he did not think it had had that effect. He had one suggestion to make as to compulsory purchase. At present people who bought land did so in small quantities, and had, therefore, to pay high prices for it. He did not see how the local authorities could buy land for allotment purposes without putting a burden upon the rates, and he did not believe the people of this country would favour any scheme which would increase the local rates. In 1896 an enormous number of large estates were in the market, and he had then made a suggestion that all these estates should be scheduled, and instead of giving two millions a year for the relief of local rates, the Government should spend the two millions in buying some of these estates, cut them up into small holdings of one to twenty acres, to be let at a low purchasing rentals. The Government would not lose any money by such a transaction, and would send 345 many people back to the land. He believed the prosperity of the country was intimately connected with this question, and he hoped the Government would
|Abraham, W.(Cork, N.E.)||Haldane, Rt.Hon. Richard B.||O'Shaughnessy, P.J.|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Shee, James John|
|Allan, Sir William (Gateshead)||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Palmer, Sir Charles M (Durham)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Helme, Norval Watson||Partingcon, Oswald|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristl, E)||Pickard, Benjamin|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Holland, Sir William Henry||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Hope John Deans (Fife, West)||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Horniman, Frederick John||Price, Robert John|
|Black, Alexander William||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Rea, Russell|
|Boland, John||Hutton, Alfred E. (Mortey)||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Jacoby, James Alfred||Reddy, M.|
|Brigg, John||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Redmond, John E.(Waterford)|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Jones, David B. (Swansea)||Redmond, William (Clace)|
|Burnner, Sir John Tomlinson||Jordan, Jeremiah||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Joyce, Michael||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Kearley, Hudson E.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs)|
|Caldwell, James||Lambert, George||Robertson. Edmund(Dundee)|
|Cameron, Robert||Law, H. Alex. (Donegal, W.)||Roche, John|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Leese, Sir Jos. F.(Accrington)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Rose, Charles Day|
|Cawley, Frederick||Levy, Mauice||Runciman, Walter|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Lewis, John Herbert||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Lloyd-George, David||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)||Lough, Thomas||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Crean, Eugene||Lundon, W.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Crombie, John William||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Cullinan, J.||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Macveagh, Jeremiah||Spencer, Rt Hon CR (Northants)|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||M'Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Delany, William||M'Govern, T.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Dewar, John A.(Lnverness-sh.)||M'Kean, John||Tennant, Harold|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||M'Kenna, Reginald||Thomas, Sir A.(Glamorgan, E.)|
|Dillon, John||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Thomas, David Alf. (Merthyr)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Thomson, F. W. (York, W.R.)|
|Doogan, P.C.||Mooney, John J.||Tomkinson, James|
|Douglas, Charles M.(Lanark)||Morgan, J.Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Toulmin, George|
|Duffv. William J.||Murnaghan, George||Tully, Jasper|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Murphy, John||Walton, John L.(Leeds, S.)|
|Dunn, Sir William||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Walton, Joseph(Barnsley)|
|Edwards, Frank||Newnes, Sir George||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Ellis, John Edward||Nolan, Col. John P.(Galway, N.)||Wason, Eugene(Clackmannan)|
|Emmott. Alfred||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Wason, John Catheart(Orkney)|
|Fvans, Saml. T.(Glamorgan)||Norman, Henry||Weir, James Galloway|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Norton. Capt. Cecil William||White, George(Norfolk)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Nussey, Thomas Willians||White, Luke(York,E.R.)|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Whiteley, George(York,W.R.)|
|Ffrench, Peter||O'Brien, Kendal(Tipprary Mid)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Field, William||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Williams, Osmond(Merioneth)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||O'Brien, William (Cork)||Woodhouse, SirJT(Huddersfld)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert J.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Grant, Corrie||O'Dowd, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Keir Hardy and Mr. John Burns.|
|Grey Rt. Hn. Sir E. (Berwick)||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||O'Kelly, James(Roscommon, N)|
|Gurden, Sir W. Brampton||O'Malley, William|
|Aird, Sir John||Arkwright, John Stanhope||Bagot, Capt.Josceline FitzRoy|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Bailey, James (Walworth)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Arrol, Sir William||Bain, Colonel James Robert|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Askinson, Right Hon. John||Baird, John George Alexander|
§ do something to solve this very intricate and difficult problem.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 161; Nose, 201. (Division List No. 3.)347
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Man'r)||Gosechen, Hon. Geo. Joachim||Pryce-Jones, Lt. -Col. Edward|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Gretton, John||Pym, C. Guy|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Randles, John S.|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Groves, James Grimble||Rankin, Sir James|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Hain, Edward||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Bignold, Arthur||Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.||Rattigan, Sir William Henry|
|Bigwood, James||Hambro, Charles Eric||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hamilton, Rt Hn Ld.G. (Midx)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Bond, Edward||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robt. Wm.||Rensha', Sir Charles Bine|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashfd)||Renwick, George|
|Bowles, T. G. (Lynx Regis)||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Ritchie, Rt.Hn.Chas. Thomson|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Bull, William James||Heath, Arthur H. (Hanley)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Helder, Augustus||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Campbell, Rt Hn J A (Glasg.)||Henderson, Sir Alexander||Russell, T. W.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H||Hobhouse, RtHnH (Somrst E)||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hogg, Lindsay||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford.|
|Cavendish, V C W (Derbysh.)||Hope. J. F. (Sheff., Btside)||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Sandys, Lt -Col. Thos. Myles|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Hoult, Joseph||Saunderson, Rt.Hon.Col. Ed.J.|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.J A(Worc)||Houston, Robert Paterson||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry|
|Chapman, Edward||Howard, J. (Midd., Tattham)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Charrington, Spencer||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Simcon, Sir Barrington|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Jeffreys, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fred||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop)||Smith, H. C. N'thnm. Tynes'e|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Keswick, William||Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks)|
|Collings, Right Hon. Jesse||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Spear, John Ward|
|Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready||Lambton, Hon. Fredk. Wm.||Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich)|
|Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgour)||Stanley, Edward J.(Somerset)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasg.)||Lawrence, Sir Jos. (Monm'th)||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Lawson, John Grant||Stock, James Henry|
|Cox, Irwin Edwd. Bainbridge||Lee, A. H. (Hants, Fareham)||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Craig, Charles C. (Antrim. S.)||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Cranborne, Lord||Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Sturt, Hon. Humphrey Napier|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Lockwood, Lieut. -Col. A. R.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Crossley. Sir Savile||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Talbot, Rt.Hn.J.G. Ox'd Univ.|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Long. Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Davenport. William Bromley-||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Denny, Colonel||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lucas, Reg'ld J. (Portsmouth)||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Dorington, Rt. Hon. Sir J. E.||Macdona, John Cumming||Valentia, Viscount|
|Doughty, George||Maclver, David (Liverpool)||Vincent Col.Sir C. E H. Sheffi'd|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||M'Killop, James(Stirlingshire)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Doxford, Sir Wm. Theodore||Majendie, James A. H.||Walrond, Rt. Hon.Sir Wm.H.|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Malcolm, Ian||Welby, Lt-Col.A.C.E. Taunton|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Maple, Sir John Blundell||Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts)|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart||Maxwell, WJH. (Dumfriesshire)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Ed.||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Milvain, Thomas||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Mitchell, William||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Firbank, Sir Joseph Thomas||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Fisher, William Haves||Montagu, Hon.J.Scott(Hants.)||Wilson-Todd, Wm.H.(Yorks.)|
|Fison. Frederick William||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Wodehouse, Rt.Hn E. R.(Bath)|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Morrell, George Herbert||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C.B.Stuart-|
|Flower, Ernest||Morrison, James Archibald||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Forster, Henry William||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Murray, Rt.Hn.A.Graham(Bute)||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Gardner, Ernest||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Gibbs, HnA.G.H(City of Lond)||Parker, Sir Gilbert|
|Gibbs, Hn. Vicary (St. Albans)||Pemberton, John S. G.|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Percy, Earl||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Gordon, Hn.J.E.(Elgin…Nrn)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Gore, HnG.R.C.Ormsby-(Salop)||Pretyman, Ernest George|
§ Main Question again proposed.