HC Deb 27 March 1907 vol 171 cc1853-83

Motion proposed,—"That this House at its rising, this day, do adjourn until Monday the 8th April."—(Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.)

*MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)

said he desired to call attention to certain matters appertaining to the administration of the Unemployed Workmen's Act. It was true that at this time distress was not so acute and the summer was near, but they had to look beyond the summer to the winter which would follow it. At the present time many distress committees created under the Act had ceased operation altogether. The Act itself required re-modelling, but, it would not be in order to enter upon the discussion of new legislation. He respectfully submitted that up to the present it was not so much the Act which had broken down as the administration of it. Weak and ineffective as the Act was, it had not had a fair trial; its limited powers had not been put to the fullest use. He thought they were entitled to some explanation from the President of the Local Government Board as to the reasons which had induced his Department to refuse all assistance towards making special provision for unemployed women. Under the Central Body in London a sum of money had been expended to provide work for unemployed women; but similar applications from West Ham had been refused, and the President of the Local Government Board had informed them that it was not intended to make any further grant from the £200,000 in the way of encouraging special provision of work for unemployed women. The matter seemed to him a very serious one, and they were entitled to some explanation. He had said that the Act was not being used to its fullest extent; all was not being taken out of it that was in it. But that was only half true. Recently the administration of the Act had been weakened. It was less effective this year than it was last year, or the year before. That was not due to any falling off in the nature of the operations of the Act. Everybody who knew anything of the question was aware that the distress committees had never been able to make provision for more than the merest fraction of the numbers applying for assistance. In Woolwich there was more distress and unemployment than there was three or four years ago, owing to the large number of discharges from the Arsenal. He would take Woolwich as illustrating his point that the Act was not being so vigorously administered as formerly, although the need for it was greater than it had been. The number registered at present as seeking employment was 1230, but the number registered was no real gauge of the actual number requiring employment. Men had become sick of registering without result. They underwent a more or less insulting—he said that advisedly—cross-examination before they were allowed to register at all, and, having registered, they had to wait month after month, and, as he knew personally, from year to year, without employment. As a result, men were treating the whole thing with contempt, and they were not going near the office to register. In the winter of 1904–5, during the first year of the Act, the number who registered was 1,001, of whom 318 were provided with work. The average work found for them was three weeks per man. The borough council had a special work in hand, and the number of weeks work provided by the distress committee during the winter was 3,001. That was, out of 1,000 applicants only 318 were employed. In 1905–6, the number registered was 1,900, an increase of 900 over the former year. Of that number 128 found employment as against 318. The average period of work given to them was two days per man, as against three weeks in the previous year. Now they came to the current year, 1906–7, when the number registered was 1,252, while the number for whom work was found was eighty-one, the average period of work being one and a half days per man. He submitted that they had there a fairly typical case, but not typical in this respect, that employment in Woolwich was lessening, whereas in the rest of the country it had grown somewhat. They had the fact that while the number of applicants had been increasing, the number of men for whom employment had been found was decreasing, and the length of the period during which work was provided had also been going down. Let him anticipate a possible objection. It had been said that with the coming of the summer the unemployed would be absorbed; that men were unemployed during the winter owing to seasonal causes, and as the building trades became brisker, the surplus labour would be absorbed and the unemployed difficulty would cease to exist. That was true to a certain extent of the building trade, and of out-door occupations. Let him, however, give one illustration drawn from a manufacturing town. He would deal with an industry in which machinery was largely employed. In the borough of Leicester there were 1,412 persons on the unemployed register and under the distress committee. They came almost exclusively, or at least largely, from the boot and shoe industry and were men who at one time followed a highly skilled occupation. Their being out of work was not due to any lack of demand for leather goods. He had statements from manufacturers in Leicester in which they affirmed that the output of goods was greater and the demand better than it had been in any former period of the town's industry. He hoped it would never be said, as he had heard it said before, that the cause of unemployment in Leicester, as in similar manufacturing towns, was due to our free trade system, because manufacturers in Leicester whom he had visited and questioned on this very point, were practically unanimous in saying that whilst tariff reform might injure the boot trade it could in no sense help it or improve the demand for labour. Mr. Alderman Thomas Smith, chairman of the distress committee, and a manufacturer, gave as his opinion that unemployment in the boot and shoe trade and the hosiery industry was largely due to the displacing of men by machinery.

Mr. Councillor Jabez Chaplin, secretary of the Hosiery Union said— The men are out because machinery displaces male labour and employs child and female labour. Owing to improvements made in the Griswold Knitter, only one girl is now required to work four machines, i.e., four different operations. When hand machines were in use the wages paid for knitting a dozen pairs of socks was 3s. 6d. The introduction of the rotary machine brought this down to 2s. Then came Cotton's patent reducing the price to 1s. 4d. Then Griswold's Knitter, bringing the price down to 8d.; and finally Spier's Knitter (fully automatic) reducing the price to 4d. per dozen. They did not complain of cheapening the cost of production. He must make himself right on that point. He quoted that as showing how machinery was increasing production, and unless they could show that demand was correspondingly increased it followed that there must be a displacement of labour. With this automatic machinery one girl was able to attend four machines, whereas in the old days a man worked a single machine for himself. The same thing was taking place in the boot and shoe trade. Thirty-three per cent. of the workers had been displaced recently by the introduction of what was called the clicking machine. Mr. Lilburn, secretary of the distress committee of Leicester said— The principal cause of unemployment in the boot and shoe trade is that men are being displaced by machinery; and he made this very startling statement— The age at which workmen are dismissed starts at thirty. At thirty years of age in that particular industry, men were becoming too old to find employment. Mr. Parker, a Labour member of the board of guardians, said that a man of forty years of age found the greatest difficulty in obtaining employment, being regarded as too old and unable to sustain the severe pressure put on workmen under modern industrial conditions. He thought it would be admitted that a man of thirty or forty years of age, in good working condition, should not necessarily require to be thrown out of work. But the explanation was given by Mr. Alderman Banton, J.P., of Leicester who spoke of the team system recently brought from America, and introduced into the boot and shoe trade He said— A boy of sixteen is put on a machine making one section of the boot only, and working for boy's wages. When he arrives at the age of twenty, the master is bound by the agreement arrived at between himself and the trade unions, to pay that youth a minimum wage of 29s. This the former refuses to do as he can get another boy of fifteen or sixteen to work the machine. The consequence is that at the early age of twenty this young man becomes one of the unemployed, and absolutely unfit for any trade, having been taught nothing but to make a certain section of a boot or shoe. The secretary of the National Boot Union had stated that boys and girls were being employed with these machines to the exclusion of the grown up heads of families. That disposed of the allegation so frequently made that the unemployed were unemployed because they were unskilled workmen. That was a case where skilled workmen—so far as it could be called skilled work—were being displaced to make room for unskilled youths who were taken on because they accepted boys' wages of a few shillings a week, and because the employer could get almost as much out of them as out of men. The question of child labour in that industry was mainly a question of wages. As to the willingness of the unemployed to accept work, he raised the point because it had been said in the House that out of the hundreds of unemployed that had been offered work at Leeds only a few had accepted it. It had been inferred that the reason that those men did not accept the work offered to them was that they belonged to the wastrels—not in the political but the industrial sense. The Leeds afforestation colony was situated in the Washburn Valley at the watershed of the Leeds Corporation Water Supply, and was seven miles from the nearest railway station. The only accommodation provided for the men was a bungalow in which there was no stove. There was accommodation for forty-eight men and when they came in from work wet, as they many times did, there was no proper accommodation for drying their clothes. He did not need to remind hon. Members that the unemployed that went to work in that place were not overburdened with wardrobe and they had no change of clothes. What about the wages? The wages were 20s. for a forty-eight hours week. That was the wage allowed by the distress committee, but out of that was deducted 11s. a week for board on the spot. He was aware that the President of the Local Government Board had told the House that the men were not compelled to board in the bungalow but could buy their own food; but when it was remembered that the place was in the middle of the moor, seven miles from the nearest railway station, it was difficult to see how the men could buy their own food. Eleven shillings a week went for board, and a further shilling per week was deducted for a pair of boots supplied at a net cost of 12s. 6d. The men were allowed sixpence a week pocket money. The balance of the weekly wage was paid to the wife and family in Leeds. Of the 7s. 6d. so paid, probably 3s. 6d. would go in the renting of a single room. Four shillings a week would thus be left to provide food, clothing, and everything else for the man's dependents. It would be admitted that under these circumstances the conditions were none too enticing. The men went to the Washburn Valley from Leeds, many of them wretched and ragged. Some had only an old coat and an old pair of trousers on, and they were emaciated with hunger. Under these circumstances it was no wonder that they did not accept work in the depth of winter. Perhaps men in better physical condition, or in better circumstances, would have been only too glad to accept work. The fact remained that something like fifty of these men were working there now, and that they were doing the work as cheaply, and at no more cost to the distress committee, than was the case when the work was done by the regular town-council employees. He submitted that, given proper training, the unemployed could competently perform the work given them in exchange for an honest, or fairly honest, wage. But to take men direct from the slums and place them in the middle of a moor in the depth of winter, poverty-stricken and naked, and expect them to be fully equipped for the work, was to expect too much of human nature. Attempts had been made to train these men before putting them on the land, and they had been so successful that he thought they ought to be encouraged. There were many places where there was a real need for assistance, but as no money could be raised locally no grant could be made by the Local Government Board, and the consequence was that nothing could be done for the unemployed in those districts. Newport in Monmouthshire was a case in point. There the distress committee made out a case to the local Government Board for a grant, and were refused. Despite the refusal, and because of the distress, there had been a second attempt, but before making that second application they issued an appeal for funds to assist the unemployed. With the exception of a promised donation of £10 from the hon. Member for Newport himself not a single copper had been given. They had at Newport some 300 men registered as wanting work, and hundreds of others who had not been registered. The charitable had closed their purse against the unemployed. The complaint was that the Local Government Board had refused a grant, and nothing could therefore be done to assist the unemployed in that locality. It would be remembered that no wages could be paid under the Unemployment Act out of the rates, but that land could be acquired for farm colonies. The £200,000 grant was to supplement voluntary effort. Subsequent to the grant being made a circular was issued to distress committees stating that the money was only to be given in order to supplement the money raised locally by private charity. That had worked out so that where there was real need for work being found for the unemployed and where no money could be raised locally, no grant had been given, and, as a consequence, nothing had been done, or could be done, for the unemployed. If that stood alone it would be quite enough, but he quoted it as typical of others. There was a worse case under the Scottish Department, which exemplified the way the Act was being administered by those responsible for it. In Glasgow unemployment had been acute, and still continued to be acute, despite the employment in the shipbuilding industry. The distress Committee under the Glasgow Town Council applied to the Scottish Department of the Local Government Board to obtain permission to acquire land for a farm colony under the Act. They thought there could be no possible objection raised to a proposal of that kind. An inspector was sent down to examine various estates, and finally one was selected which was partly bog and partly rough land, on which a number of men could be profitably employed. The cost of the estate was about £7,000 or £8,000, and formal application was made to the Local Government Board to sanction the purchase. The money was going to be paid out of the local rate—not even a loan was asked for. To the astonishment of the Glasgow Distress Committee the application was refused. Mr. T. Faulkner Stewart, Secretary to the Local Government Board, Edinburgh, had written in answer on the 18th March— Regarding the proposals for the Distress Committee to acquire different farms for the purpose of the Unemployed Workmen Act I am directed to express the Board's regret that they cannot see their way to sanction any scheme of this nature. It was not only that they objected to that particular bit of land being acquired, but any scheme of that nature the Board could not agree to, and the reason given was that the Act expired on 12th August next year, and that to embark upon an undertaking which might be permanent under a temporary Act would be bad policy. Surely, so long as the Act existed, and there was need for its being put into operation, it was absurd to make these pretences for not using the powers conferred by it. His contention was that it was not for the Local Government Board to refuse to agree to schemes. The work of the distress committees was to find land, and the Local Government Board ought to sanction applications of that kind; but the Board took a different attitude, and refused even to sanction a scheme for which the people of Glasgow were willing to pay. The Act was weak, and last year the Government promised to strengthen it. Promises made both in the King's Speech and by the President of the Local Government Board had been broken, and the House was entitled to an explanation. The unemployed difficulty was permanent and required a permanent solution. Now was the time, when trade was not so bad, to make plans to meet the difficulty which everyone knew was bound to come. Whether trade was good or bad a certain proportion of people were always out of work. The Act should be applied more vigorously, and he complained that whatever vigour had been applied had been in the direction of stultifying the efforts of those who had been seeking to make the most of the Act. More vigour must be shown by the Local Government Board in the right direction, and the old policy must be departed from. If anything were wanted to stimulate them surely the disgraceful spectacle of the last few days in London and Liverpool ought to be an incentive, when thousands of men were competing like wild animals for the opportunity of going abroad and playing the blackleg. These things were a disgrace to England, and the House had a right to expect that more sympathy and more consideration should be shown in giving the distress committees a lead in the right direction rather than in making efforts to thwart them.

MR. CLYNES (Manchester, N.E.)

said that the various figures used in the last debate on this subject and the estimates based upon them showed that there were in this country at least 500,000 adult workers out of employment. On the 27th of March last year he put a Question to the President of the Local Government Board as to when they might expect the pledge given in the King's Speech to be fulfilled, and the Answer given was a distinct promise of an amendment of the Unemployment Act of 1905. Prior to the election they had a pronouncement from the Prime Minister, in which he spoke of works that could be fostered, undertaken and assisted by the Government, and the right hon. Gentleman specially alluded to public employment and a reform of the Poor Law as means by which the great distress due to unemployment might be diminished. The £200,000 granted last year was surely not given in place of an amendment of the Act. He and his friends at least took it not as a sum which was to replace legislation, but as a sum to aid for some time pending a drastic amendment of the Unemployment Act in keeping with the promises previously made by Ministers of the Crown. The present Act required a condition of destitution on the part of the applicant before any assistance, even in the few cases where it could be given, was given at all. The view of himself and his friends was that it was far better to prevent destitution than to promise to relieve it, or lessen it, when it appeared. They considered that in place of the unfair and numerous tests still applied in connection with the men who registered themselves as willing to work, there should be but one test for finding am an labour, and that was willingness to perform it. They submitted that apart from the suffering and distress imposed upon the individual idle worker, the fact of his idleness was itself a very great loss to society at large. It was so much wealth running to waste which wise administration and Government should prevent. They did not believe that a man should be kept out of work and in a condition of starvation merely because another man—an employer of labour—could not make a profit by purchasing his work. The absence of profit to a private employer was not a good enough reason for keeping another man unemployed altogether. It was not the individual employer who imposed duties and obligations upon the citizen. It was the State which imposed those duties. It was the State which called upon the workman to live up to certain standards, to fulfil certain obligations, to conform to certain laws, and to avoid the evil effects of vagrancy. The State imposed these conditions, and he and his friends claimed that it was the duty of the State to provide opportunities, nay, certainties, by which those obligations might be met. They had found that, in the speeches of the President of the Local Government Board, the building trade had been used, he would say as a reason, if not as an excuse, for deferring the amendment of the Unemployed Workmen Act. He found from the particulars supplied to him at Manchester that of those whose names were on the Unemployed Register not one-seventh were attached to the building trade, and further that not one-fourth came under the classification of general labourers. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the building trade as though it were a living entity, or an individual, to whom application could be made. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the building trade must put its house in order; but they could not appeal to a trade which was a combination of conflicting interests and individuals, and ask it to give attention to the general evils arising from a highly complicated matter. The Manchester local committee had proposed to establish a colony, the object of which was to see by experiment whether it was possible for men, by their own work on it, to maintain themselves and their families. They had appealed to the President of the Local Government Board for financial aid for that experiment, and had been refused, they did not know why. He submitted to the right hon. Gentleman that his action in dealing with the £200,000 voted would be judged, not by the amount of money saved, but by the benefit derived from the expenditure. He did not see why a sum of £4,000 could be sent out to establish an industry in St. Helena, for the purpose of relieving distress there, while no money could be sent down to the city of Manchester to relieve distress there. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken in terms of scorn and reproach of what was called Government relief works, but he submitted they had got beyond the days when everything could be left to the scrambling of individuals. A State responsibility had already been admitted in connection with this matter. The Government relief works on which the right hon. Gentleman poured scorn were no more degrading than the work the right hon. Gentleman was himself performing for the Government. Manual labour ought to be provided for unskilled workmen as well as for skilled employees. In their own homes the individual who corresponded to the unemployable was most cared for—the cripple, the blind, the erring one. He was succoured and helped by the rest of the household. Why could not the same principle be applied in the State? Men who were said to be unemployable deserved a better fate than was their lot to-day—to be cast hopelessly adrift. In connection with this problem he had looked at the speeches of the President of the Local Government Board delivered twenty years ago, and the right hon. Gentleman was now asking the Labour Members to accept ways and means and principles which he had condemned in the strongest terms. Surely in those twenty years some progress had been made; and he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to let their appeals fall on more sympathetic ears. It was true that they made these appeals in milder terms than the right hon. Gentleman used to do. He joined with his hon. friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil in maintaining that they could not be put off with promises as to legislation for land reform, housing reform, or other reforms. Pending legislation of that kind men and women were starving. The late Government did at least make some attempt by setting up the framework of machinery to deal with this great grievance; and it should be the pride of the successors of that Government to strengthen that Act, and so reap the fruits of legislation which would solve the unemployment problem.

MR. L. HASLAM (Monmouth Boroughs)

said that the President of the Local Government Board did not see his way to set apart any portion of the grant of £200,000 for his constituency on the ground that the distress there was not of an unusual nature. When he heard that he went to the town clerk and said he would like to give a subscription to a relief fund but that he did not want to be the only subscriber, because it might then be said that he was only doing it for the sake of securing votes, the last thing he would think of doing. Personally, he regretted that the list was not subscribed to, but he had only done what he thought was right in the matter. The hon. Member for Merthyr had referred to the boot trade in Leicester, but if the hon. Member would look up the Board of Trade Labour Gazette he would see that the exports of boots and shoes in February amounted to £151,000 and the imports to £65,000. He noticed that the figures worked out at £4 10s. per dozen for the imports and £2 10s. per dozen for the exports, and he would like to know why there was that difference of £2 per dozen. If America, with improved machinery, could send boots in considerably dearer, there must be something wrong in Leicester, or in other boot-manufacturing centres. The American boots must be of better quality, and he would advise the people of Leicester in the boot trade to wake up. Without the use of the best machinery we could not compete with other countries, and though no one regretted more than he that the introduction of machinery should have the effect of throwing people out of employment, still a good deal of machinery had been introduced in the last forty years, while there had been an actual decline in pauperism, and his belief was that more people would have been thrown out of employment if machinery had not been introduced. He agreed that there ought to be some kind of colonies where the unemployable might get improved health and be made fit for work. That would add to the wealth of the country and not be any ultimate expense at all. While, however, they were talking of the Government giving large sums of money for the relief of the unemployed, he would like to point out the desirability of economy in order to enable the State to deal with old-age pensions. To his mind that was the most important question the country had to face, and he urged members, in view of it, to be very careful in pressing on the Government schemes which necessitated large expenditure.

MR. MASTERMAN (West Ham, N.)

said the House would forgive him if he refused to go into the most interesting by-paths raised by previous speakers on this question. He wished to confine himself to the most important question of the administration of the unemployment fund. The hon. Member for North-East Manchester had stated that the Government had broken their pledge on this matter in the King's speech. He had definitely stated in August last when the President of the Local Government Board came with the proposal to give £200,000 to assist the unemployed, that he and his friends recognised that that was a redemption of the pledge of the Government in the King's Speech. Speaking for himself alone as representing one of the districts most affected, he would prefer to have the Act for the remaining year of its existence if it could be worked with more efficiency and elasticity rather than new legislation. Cases had been mentioned in which the Act had either been misapplied or not sufficient attention had been paid to the needs of the district, but there was another side to the question. He repre- sented the most necessitous of all the districts in the country, and there the Act was welcomed because it was the first attempt made to recognise a national desire to deal with unemployment, which, after all, was a symptom of national disease. No kind of local action could adequately deal with the question. The committee of which he was a member was told by the Local Government Board that they must appeal for funds. They did appeal and got a few shillings or a few pounds. They devised various schemes for dealing with the unemployed, and they had received the utmost sympathy and substantial support from the President of the Local Government Board in connection with those schemes. They had a farm colony which had been carried out efficiently and which he hoped would set an example to other towns. They had also received large sums of money for emigration purposes. The Hollesley Bay Colony was established through the sympathy of the late President of the Local Government Board, partly to find some kind of channel to get people back to the land. No one ever imagined that they were going to start a colony to cultivate corn or cattle. No one but a lunatic would ever attempt such a thing. They heard pleasant generalisations like those of Lord Rosebery as to people leaving the country because they wanted amusement in the towns. But that was not his experience of Hollesley Bay. There he found that a certain definite proportion of the men were quite willing, if the opportunity were given, to make a start with their wives and children. In his opinion it would be of such national advantage that they ought to encourage it by every means in their power. There were men willing to take up small holdings who were unable to obtain access to the land, and that was one reason why the particular legislation promised by the Government should not be delayed for ten or twenty years but should pass this session. Most of the wild accusations which had been made against the farm colony in Suffolk were utterly baseless. It was said that the colony was ruining the smaller owners around by underselling them. The prejudice of the farmers around was very strong against the colony, partly because it was something new and partly because they feared the introduction of town labourers would create discontent among the agricultural labourers. He asked the President of the Local Government Board to give them before the time came for a renewal of the unemployed grant some kind of complete and impartial estimate of the work that had been done in connection with the various distress committees. Some of the representatives of the Local Government Board had presented reports which were a mixture of prejudice and ignorance. They could not help it, because they were biassed against the breaking down of the old Poor Law system. There was a strong feeling in the House to urge the President of the Local Government Board to carry out the policy which he outlined on the Address and to bring it forward as a matter of urgency, namely the introduction of a Small Holdings Bill and a Housing Bill which, if carried out, would do much for the social betterment of the people.

MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)

said that one of the greatest difficulties in the way of small holdings was the inability to obtain them at such a price as would permit them to be let at economic rates. If they could be obtained at a reasonable figure there would be no difficulty in letting them. With regard to the allegation that machinery had caused a great deal of the want of employment, he pointed out that America used a great deal more machinery than this country; that the want of employment in America was not so great as here, and that the workmen there earned better wages. The Americans had certainly increased their manufacture of boots and shoes, and in spite of the 25 per cent. for carriage their boots and shoes were cheaper than those manufactured in this country. It was the gospel of cheapness which was ruining this country at the present time. It was that which was ruining the health and physique of the women of the country by causing them to work at starvation wages. But if our workpeople would have cheap foreign manufactured goods they must put up with want of employment and underpaid labour. It was that which had driven the men out of those industries in which they used to be employed.

*MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

said the great difficulty with regard to the unemployed was how to get money to carry out the experiments for giving employment. If his advice was followed £250,000 could be at once obtained for the purpose. It was not necessary to have any legislation to effect the saving of £250,000, which was now spent on rate-aided vaccination. If the Local Government Board gave them a free hand in the matter the local authorities would not spend the money in that way, and would therefore be able to spend it in providing work for the unemployed. Although there were among the unemployed men and women who were physically and intellectually strong, the bulk of the unemployed were below the average of the physique and intelligence of the people. How was that? The President of the Board of Trade recently stated that his department distributed 600 carcases of veal which had been used to obtain vaccine in Smithfield market every year. Those carcases ought to be consumed in the destructor, because the distribution of diseased meal must be a cause of ill health among the people. What happened was that a calf was taken into the laboratory and strapped on the operating table, its belly shaved, and 100 or 150 cuts made with a knife; it was then inoculated with stuff and about eight days after the poison had been introduced something like 150 postules were produced upon its belly. It was then taken back to the laboratory, and strapped on the table upon its back and these postules were pinched with iron pincers and pulled off. The pus was then put into glass tubes and was finally inserted into the blood of the people all over the country. The animal was then killed in order to see whether it was tuber culous or not, and if it was found that the calf was free from tubercle the matter was used for vaccination. The carcase was sent to Smithfield. There was an animal killed in the height of a fever which produced 150 postules and then the meat was sold for human food. If an ordinary farmer did such a thing he would be severely punished and perhaps sent to gaol without the option of a fine. Nevertheless we had these savants of the Local Government Board admitting that the pus produced in that way contained germs closely analogous to those of cancer and other organisms which might conduce to erysipelas and to the destruction of flesh. Could the flesh of this animal be in a healthy state? Was it right to go on spreading disease in this way? As long as they did that sort of thing how could they go on talking about developing science? He would show the House how this money could be saved. The authorities insisted upon the people of Croydon being vaccinated, and a large number of summonses had been issued. He had in his possession the copy of a death certificate of a child who died at the age of twenty months from a disease following vaccination. That was the sort of thing which resulted from the use of stuff the manufacture of which was so horribly cruel. Before the year 1898 the lymph used to be taken from one baby to another, but ever since that year calf lymph had had to be used and a regular shambles had been created at which a large number of calves were cruelly sacrificed every week. He could give to the House the case of a child who before vaccination was quite healthy, but had died since. The Local Government Board sent down a doctor to investigate the case, but his report had been kept secret. In the days when the officials of the Local Government Board believed in vaccination they used to publish these reports. He had in his hand the photograph of a child which had just been vaccinated, showing a horrible wound in its arm. That child had recovered, but it had been ill for seventy-two days, and it would be weak for life. They were obliged to vaccinate a child before it was six months old, and that was one of the great causes of bad teeth.


The hon. Member is now arguing in favour of abolishing the Acts which compel vaccination, and that is out of order.


hoped the President of the Local Government Board, so far as lay in his power, would stop the distribution of this pus until he had got some matter which was quite safe. He was absolutely the master of the situation. He had only to say that the pus had produced a death here and an illness there which were attributable to vaccination, and declare that he would not be responsible for sending out any more unless he got something which was absolutely guaranteed. He hoped no more of the pus which had caused so much death and disease would be distributed until its origin was known. He urged the right hon. Gentleman to put a stop to the poisoning of the blood of these little people. It was admitted now that the best part of the people of the nation were practically unvaccinated. They might at least allow a few generations of babies to escape—he was sure they would be a great deal bettor for it—and during the next two or three years let the medical officers of the Local Government Board try to find out a real prophylactic which would do no harm and if they succeeded he would take off his hat to them.


said he had noted with interest, and some degree of sympathy, points raised by the hon. Member, but on that occasion he could not say more than that he would look into those points during the portion of the holidays he devoted to official work, and he relied on the hon. Member to remind him of the extent to which he kept his word. The hon. Member for Merthyr, with lack of knowledge and some unfairness, had adversely criticised the administration of the Unemployed Workmen Act; but that the Act had been carried out in a most generous spirit was evident from the fact that there had been no complaint from any distress committee who had submitted a scheme of work of the way in which their demands had been met. It was true he had refused to sanction unemployed workwomen's rooms at West Ham on simple grounds he had already explained. The West Ham Distress Committee had quite enough work to do with finding employment for 1,200 or 1,300 men; with looking after the emigration of from 1,200 to 1,400 people; with carrying on a farm colony, and other work. For these reasons, and because the scheme for workwomen's rooms was not good enough, he had not sanctioned it; and that was his answer to the hon. Member for Merthyr. If the hon. Member's remarks concerning Woolwich had been intended for the Woolwich Distress Committee instead of himself, they would have been more relevant, for he was not responsible for their work. The committee obtained its funds from the Central Unemployed Body, and every application of that Central Body had been fairly and generously dealt with. If it were the case that, out of 1,200 men registered, only eighty-one had had work found for them, the fault was not that of the Local Government Board, which granted to Woolwich the money which the Woolwich Committee could persuade the Central Unemployed Body to allot to it. On 15th March, the latest date for which a return was available, the Central Body had in hand of the voluntary fund a balance of £2,022, of the rate fund £22,199, of the Exchequer Fund £8,212, of the Hollesley Bay Fund £1,481—in round figures, the actual total being £33,916; so that, if Woolwich had been thought deserving, the local Distress Committee could have had more money than they evidently had received. Perhaps the Central Body did not think the claim of the local committee sufficiently strong. Over and above their balance of £33,916, the Central Unemployed Committee had a farthing rate undrawn upon to the value of some £45,000. It was, in the face of these figures, contrary to the fact to say that he had starved Woolwich through the Central Unemployed Body.


asked how much of this surplus of the Central Committee was mortaged for schemes.


said the amount mortgaged was not 25 per cent. of the total. He had given the figures for 15th March. Since then, no doubt, they had incurred obligations for further grants. The interesting observations of the hon. Member for Leicester applied not to the administration of the grant to the unemployed, with which alone he was dealing, but to the causes which were displacing men. On a proper occasion, if this subject came within his purview, he should not be disinclined to reply to some of the hon. Member's points, but they were not germane to the present discussion. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil had accused the Local Government Board of refusing to administer fairly and generously the Unemployment Act. That was not true so far as Leicester was concerned. What were the facts? He sent a circular to Leicester in October last saying that if they wanted help they could have it if they responded to the circular. In response they asked for a sum of money and he sent them £900 as a first instalment. The next instalment he sent was £600, which made £1,500 in all from the Local Government Board. The mere fact of sending that £1,500 set into operation the execution of other works and the spending of more local money making in all a sum of over £3,000. In spite of that fact he was asked to answer the charge of starving the distress committees. At this moment, with spring upon them, Leicester had got a balance in hand of £760 including £270 of the £1,500 he had sent them, and he had received from them within the last forty-eight hours a letter from which it appeared that the distress committee did not want any more money from the Local Government Board. With regard to what the hon. Member for Merythr Tydvil had said about the Leeds afforestation scheme, he asked the hon. Member to make himself a little more closely acquainted with the facts before making such statements as he had just made. If the hon. Member would go down to Leeds as he had done and see for himself the accommodation he had criticised he would alter his view. Had he seen for himself the conditions under which the men employed at Washburn Valley were lodged and fed and worked, he would not have advanced the statements he had made that evening. He had examined on the spot the particular scheme which the hon. Member had criticised, and he could assure him that his statements were not warranted by the facts and the local labour men did not support his contention. The behaviour and conduct of some of the men at Washburn did not meet with the approval of either the distress committee or the general population of Leeds. He might say that Labour Leaders like Alderman Buckle and others heartily supported the views he gave utterance to on a previous occasion in differentiating between the honest men who were willing to work and those who were abusing the opportunity.


said he was not criticising the scheme but simply replying to the right hon. Gentleman's statement that these men had been offered work and had refused to do it.


said that was just his point. The hon. Member approved the scheme and therefore, he assumed, shared the view with which it was started. He had supported the scheme, and without the help of the Local Government Board it could not have been initiated or carried on. So interested were the Local Government Board in the scheme that he went all over the watershed and after inspecting it made a grant of £1,000 as a first instalment. What was the objection to the scheme? None at all. The objection to the administration of the scheme did not rest solely with the local distress committee, because they were paying the unemployed two or three shillings per week more than the local rate of wages for forty-eight hours only, whereas the local hours varied from fifty-four to seventy hours per week. Therefore the distress committee were not to blame. The accommodation provided for the men was good, and the wages paid were above the local rate but not above the Leeds rate. Therefore everyone of the criticisms directed against the distress committee and himself were totally unfounded. The best answer to the criticism which had been made by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil was the report of a special Committee appointed to test the truth of the statement he made on the question when the matter was last discussed. The deputation was appointed by the Labour Representation Committee, and they went to the Washburn colony to investigate the matter on the spot. That deputation reported that the food was substantial and good, that the general accommodation was clean and good, and the work was neither difficult nor laborious. There was no evidence at all of bad treatment. He wished the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil would give the House instances to justify his supposition that the Local Government Board had refused to allow men to be trained. The hon. Member for North West Ham knew the facts, because he had visited the labour colony in which he was interested, and he wished other hon. Members who criticised the Local Government Board would first go and see the labour colonies they referred to. Consistently with his point of view, which he thought events would more than justify, he had done, as the hon. Member for North West Ham knew, for the inhabitants of the labour colonies everything the distress committees had asked him to do. He had been fair and even generous in the distribution of public money. He had helped the labour colony at Ockenden to carry out every one of the original intentions of its founders, and the original scheme had not been interfered with in any way. The hon. Member would probably ask, What about Hollesley Bay? The answer could best be given in figures. He might remind the House by the way that it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, and the Government of which he was a Member, who were the authors of the Hollesley Bay scheme. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil must not forget that. How could the hon. Member say that it was the Local Government Board and its unsympathetic officials who were responsible for establishing Hollesley Bay? How could it be said that they had restricted it in any way? There were 315 men there at the present moment, a larger number than there had ever been. They were doing their work under more favourable conditions than had prevailed there during the last two or three years, and the fact that £27,000 was voted last year for the maintenance of the colony and that there were now 315 men on it was a complete refutation of the suggestions that the work there had been interfered with or impaired. Perhaps the hon. Member referred to one restriction which he had imposed. He would not have been worthy of his office if he had not imposed it. An attempt was made to divert this interesting experiment from its original and proper purpose as defined by his predecessor and to convert it into too much of a training centre for skilled horticulturists and professional market gardeners. He refused to allow that, because a disproportionate amount of money would have been required for the purpose. They could not afford to spend money on that experiment at a colony which was established for other objects. He refused to allow a small section of the committee to divert the colony from its original purpose, but he had kept the colony well supplied with funds. He believed the colony would go on much better if it had not false friends who did not go down to see it and did not make themselves acquainted with the facts by visits on the spot. With regard to Newport, he had gone into that case, and found that the amount of distress was not exceptional, and that in the immediate neighbourhood there was work on which men would be much better employed than on relief works. He preferred that Newport men should go into Wales rather than that public money should be spent on relief works, and that they should be anchored to those relief works, and so prevented from finding local work which he knew was beginning to be taken by men from Lancashire and other parts of the country. The question of Scotland had been raised. He was not directly responsible for the administration of the Act in Scotland. In conjunction with the Chancellor of the Exchequer he consented to £10,000 being allocated for the purposes of the Act in Scotland, and he gathered that the farm colony project was being reconsidered by the Secretary for Scotland. Papers on the subject were now in the Scottish Office, and they were receiving consideration. The next point raised by the hon. Member for Merthyr was that the Government had not kept their promise to amend the Act. He told the House fifteen months ago, and again eight months ago, that pending the Report of the Poor Law Commission, whose business it was to see whether the Act should be renewed or not, the Government thought that the best thing to be done, especially as they had had no experience of the Act, was to provide the money and the means by which the Act might be carried along during its experimental period and while the subject was under the consideration of the Poor Law Commission. They therefore decided not to amend the Act, but to provide £200,000 with which to work the Act; and, so far, of that amount £106,000 had been disbursed. There was no single distress committee who had submitted to him a scheme of work, but had had as much money as was necessary for the purposes of that scheme. All of them had at this moment as mall balance in hand, and nearly all had refused to use their rating power to the extent they ought to have done, in order to bring local activities into relationship with Imperial help. He could only say that, so far as the amendment of the Act was concerned, it was infinitely better that they should do as they did than that they should amend the Act. As to the two or three questions which were now put to the men and which were thought to be irritating, the simple answer was that the questions were drafted on the basis of those of the Battersea Labour Bureau and the West Ham Labour Bureau. At both those places labouring men were responsible for the drafting of the questions, and the only sense in which they did not resemble the questions of the Local Government Board was that those authorised by the Board were smaller in number. He got a copy of the West Ham questions sent to him fifteen months ago, and his Department cut out some of them, so that they might not be vexatious or irritating at all. The hon. Member for West Ham said that nothing was being done. Was it fair to say that when only last week there were from 14,000 to 16,000 men at work on relief works or farm colonies by means of this fund? Was it fair to say that nothing was being done in London when this week nearly 8,000 men were being employed in the London district on work secured to them by this fund or out of the rates? It was not fair. There were 2,500 men at work in the London parks, and the London district had 8,000 men at work at this moment. Of the £85,000 voted for England and Wales out of this fund, London and district had had £71,000, and of that amount West Ham had had £25,000. Those figures did not sustain the view that the district committees had not been supported. The hon. Member for North-East Manchester wanted to know what the Local Government Board were doing with regard to the farm colony project put forward by the Manchester Distress Committee. On 12th October that committee received a circular from him saying that if they wished to apply for money they were entitled to do so. He received evidence of the fact that there were no local subscriptions and that no scheme was submitted, and it was not until 25th February—four and a quarter months after the circular was sent saying there was money for them if they wished it—that a scheme was submitted. The scheme submitted by the committee of that big city was not one that would give 1,000 or 1,500 men work in or near the city, but one for the employment of twelve men at Chat Moss, seventeen miles from Manchester. He put it to the House fairly and squarely, ought he to have adopted such a scheme from a city like Manchester? They made no efforts to secure subscriptions, and they would not give him plans or specifications for the employment of their local unemployed. The scheme which they submitted four months after receiving the circular was one which under the circumstances would have meant a deficit of anything from £300 to £600 in the first year. That was his answer to the hon. Member for North East Manchester. The hon. Member did him the honour of quoting some of his earlier speeches. He wished that hon. Members who quoted him would take the trouble to bring the speeches with them, and especially when they quoted him in regard to labour colonies. [An Hon. Member: We shall be glad to oblige you.] If the hon. Member lived as long as he had done, he would find it not only politic, but absolutely necessary, to revise some of the views he expressed in his own salad days. In fact he was convinced that outside critics were already directing against the hon. Member the same kind of criticism now that he was a responsible Member of that House. He sympathised with the hon. Member in his trouble, and assured him that if he wanted useful support he would be delighted to render to him that help which one day, he was sure, he would need. The hon. Member for North East Manchester had said that his utterances to-day on this and kindred subjects were in marked contrast to what he had said twenty years ago. This was what he said twenty years ago, and he invited the attention of the hon. Gentleman to it, for that hon. Gentleman owed him some reparation, and probably an apology for his remarks— The labour colony as a remedy for the unemployed is, I maintain, foredoomed to failure, and is nothing but the revival in another form of the hated casual ward with all its physical and moral iniquities. [Labour cries of 'No, no. 'If municipalisation of agriculture is intended, that is something I can understand; but that for years is not likely to prove a remedy for the workless. Rather will it come after easier things have been undertaken and accomplished, the abolition of over-work, the reduction of the hours of labour, and the reorganisation of labour in every trade, that is now going on—too slowly, I admit—in the right direction by trade union, municipal, and Parliamentary action. [Renewed Labour cries of 'No, no.']. Well, that was his view; and he was in the position of a critic now. Some hon. Members opposite had brushed aside those views for new-fangled ideas in regard to labour colonies. And then he went on to say— Should the municipalisation of agriculture be undertaken on Socialist lines, its initial stage must be conducted, not by the unskilled unemployed, plus an in-and-out army of loafers, casuals, and wastrels, but by the best of labour attracted by those better conditions which would accompany such an undertaking started by people with brains, along the lines followed by the London County Council in doing its own work. He commended that to the attention of the hon. Member for North Salford. What he had said he had said. What he had pressed twenty years ago, he had repeated ad nauseam since. He made this prediction, that when nine-tenths of the schemes which the hon. Member for Merthyr was pressing upon too credulous workmen had proved to be costly, wasteful, dangerous, morally mischievous, and economically unsound, then the hon. Member would want him to help him out of the difficulty in which he would unquestionably be placed, and as his life had been spent in helping lame dogs over stiles he would be happy to do it. The hon. Member for North West Ham—and here they were getting at the heart of the problem—had said that more efficiency was needed in the administration of the unemployed funds; but it was not more efficiency on the part of the Local Government Board, but on the part of the local distress committees themselves. As the hon. Member perfectly truly said, the distress committees had shewn in this matter the greatest incompetence. Few of them had done their work well, not even the Central Unemployed Body, of which the hon. Member for Merthyr was for some time a member. Why did not the hon. Member when he was a member of that body direct their footsteps in a proper path? And if the hon. Member tried and failed, why should he blame him now? He believed that greater efficiency was needed on the distress committees, and he agreed with the hon. Member for North West Ham that more elasticity was required in their procedure; but he could assure the House that there had been no lack of efficiency on the part of the Local Government Board. The hon. Member for North West Ham had said he would like to see emigration tried instead of farm colonies; but there had been a lot of adverse opinion expressed by Labour men in regard to that. There were, however, certain districts where the only remedy was emigration. West Ham, for instance, had a surplus of casual labourers, attracted there by the docks, but the more they kept pumping money from the rest of England into West Ham, the more they would accentuate the local problem there by attracting men from all over the country. The hon Member for Merthyr had no answer to that except emigration.


Oh yes.


But when I gave £10,000 for emigration, I was condemned.


My answer is, migrate to Essex, not emigrate to Canada.


said that his answer to that was that if such migration could be done under the Small Holdings Bill that was promised this session, no one would welcome it more than he would. But to attempt to migrate the type of men that they had in West Ham to Essex this year was to try to do the impossible. There was no better authority than the hon. Member for South West Ham on that point. That hon. Gentleman was asked in Committee— But you do not believe in taking persons unaccustomed to agricultural work and finding it profitable or advantageous to put them to that work? And the answer was— No, I think it is useless, and I do not think it is a sound policy at all.

MR. THORNE (West Ham, S.)

said that there were any number of men in West Ham who had been used to agricultural work.


Yes, but when they sent those men to Hollesley Bay or other farm colonies, the attraction of home was so great that when they had been there two, three, or four months, they returned to West Ham. But if the same men were sent out to a place like Canada, which was 3,000 miles away, and where a return was made difficult and almost impossible, they cut themselves morally and physically and industrially away from their environment, and put themselves on a new plane of life, as thousands of them had done. He would be only to pleased to assist any scheme which would enable that type of man to get on his feet again in England; but of all the money he had granted to West Ham none would do so much good for the people there as the £5,000 given to the West Ham Committee for emigration. Hon. Members who criticised his Department wanted him to undertake a large national scheme of relief works for which a million of money would be voted by Parliament each year. He positively refused to adopt any such suggestion. He would rather resign his portfolio than do so.


Has any hon. Member advocated that a million should be granted for such a purpose?


said that if the hon. Member would refer to certain Labour papers he would see that a million had been suggested over and over again; and perhaps if he read those papers less regularly it would be better for his mental health. To grant a million of money for farm colonies would, he believed, be a financial blunder, and he would not undertake to defend it. At the same time he was prepared to give all the time that a man reasonably could do to endeavour to solve the problem of helping the distress committees. As for labour colonies for the genuine, honest unemployed, they did not want them. What might possibly emerge was a system of industrial training homes for the unemployable, and vagrant colonies for those who would not work; but when farm colonies for the unemployed were mentioned he could only say that nine-tenths of the criticism which had been levelled against him should have been directed against the local distress committees. He asserted that no distress committee had been refused money who had submitted to him a practical scheme of work. Nearly all such committees had balances in hand, and during the summer time he would lay hold of the question, and see if they could not do something even better than they had already done. He must say, however, that, but for the rigour and discipline and the wise restrictions that he had imposed upon these distress committees, the whole machinery of the Act would have broken down. That it had not broken down was not due to hon. Members who criticised him, but rather to the Minister who had done his best to make that experiment as great a success as events, he hoped, would prove it to be.

MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)

said the speech of the right hon. Gentleman had opened up not only the main question raised by hon. Members below the gangway, but also an immense number of other questions, which it was quite impossible to discuss in the time remaining to the House. He hoped, therefore, the Government would arrange that the Vote for the Local Government Board should be put down on an early date after Easter, in order that they might have an opportunity of discussing these questions.

THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. George Whiteley,) Yorkshire, W.R., Pudsey

intimated that whatever supply was desired by the Chief Opposition Whip would be put down.


said he was satisfied with that assurance. The right hon. Gentleman had swept away the charges which had been levelled against him from below the gangway, and he was not going to step into the interesting conflict between him and his friends. He agreed largely with the general statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but he did not wonder that any one who sat in the last Parliament and was interested in the administration of this Act should have attacked him and his Government for the part they had taken, because he remembered that when the late Government endeavoured to set up the machinery which they believed to be essential if they were to deal properly with the un- employed question, their efforts were met with contempt and scorn by every Member of the present Government who spoke in those debates. The measure was described as ridiculous, absolutely worthless, and only what might have been expected from such a Government. Now, in the second year of its existence, they had the President of the Local Government Board spending a considerable amount of time in defending the scheme, in pleading that he should not be called on to amend it, and in resting himself very largely on the work that had been done under that scheme, and which could not have been done without it.


No, no. You provided no money.


said it was true that no money was provided out of the Imperial Exchequer, but, if it was true that the whole of the work that had been done had been covered by the sum of £200,000, it was equally true that it could not have been done without the machinery established by the late Government. He thought there was a good deal to be said with reference to the right hon. Gentleman's criticism of the Hollesley Bay scheme. It was a great experiment, but he was sure that it was one of the directions in which they must look if they were going to deal with one class of the unemployed that demanded, almost, some assistance. They were more likely in market gardening, or some occupation of that kind, rather than in any general kind of land cultivation, to find a method not merely of providing work for the moment, to which he did not attach so much importance, but of providing that sort of work which would leave a man at the end of it better able to make a living for himself.

MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)

rose to continue the debate, but,


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Resolved, That this House, at its rising, this day, do adjourn until Monday the 8th April.—(Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.)

MR. WHITELEY moved, "That this House do now adjourn."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Whiteley).


pointed out that he had a Resolution of some importance on the Paper for a quarter past eight o'clock, and, if the Motion were persisted in, it would deprive him of the opportunity of moving it.


said that, if the hon. Gentleman particularly wished to bring on his Motion, he would withdraw his, but he thought it was the desire of the House that they should separate as early as possible.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


left the Chair at twelve minutes past Eight o'clock, there being no other Government business before the House, and the sitting was suspended till a quarter past Eight.