§ Mr. CROOKS
rose to call attention to the need for a general 30s. minimum wage, and moved, "That the right of every family of the country to an income sufficient to enable it to maintain its members in decency and comfort should 1882 be recognised; and this House is therefore of opinion that a general minimum wage of 30s. per week for every adult worker should be established by law, and also declares that the Government should set an example by adopting this standard in its own workshops."
I make bold to assert this is the most important proposal that has ever been made to this House, certainly in my lifetime. It is more important, and should take a higher place even than the question of the defence of the Empire, represented by "Dreadnoughts" and armaments. Whatever may be said of the necessity of defending the Empire, there is a good deal more to be said, and it should demand a good deal more respect, for creating a healthy people, to prevent the degeneration of our race. I may say at the outset I charge no Member of this House, and no one outside this House, with any want of sympathy with the cause we are pleading to-night. Sympathy is nearly the cheapest thing in the world. You can get it poured over you with a sieve on certain occasions, and on other occasions it is laid on with a trowel; but people never feel inclined to give you much. I daresay the heart of this House has been touched a good many times. Everyone says, "How sad! But you are not the only one whose heart is touched with sympathy for the poor." I have in my mind many election addresses, representing all shades of opinion in this House, and those election addresses invariably wind up with, "and my heart bleeds for the poor." I have been alarmed several times in my lifetime when I have inquired the age of the person whose heart has been bleeding for the poor, and I have wondered what they have been doing all their life that they have not done anything to help the poor. It is a dangerous thing to have a bleeding heart unless you are prepared to do something for it. I have been listening to hear whether the House was keen or not on the Referendum, and to the wonderful things it would do. I wonder whether hon. Gentlemen opposite would accept my Motion as a matter to be 1883 submitted to the Referendum. Supposing they did, I would ask them to go one better, and to remember that, if they vote for our minimum of 30s. a week for an ordinary adult workman, the first thing they should do when they occupy these Benches would be to introduce a measure granting 30s. per week all round. They will not do that. They will pour out a great deal of sympathy, and challenge votes. I want to get a bit lower down than all the political scare on either one side or the other. The greatest and most important thing in our country to me is a child. It is to me the biggest thing in the Empire. I have left off talking about "the children of to-day being the men and women of to-morrow," and I realise to the full that the children of to-day are going to be the governors and administrators of a great Empire to-morrow. Neither do I go about talking of the general degeneration of our race. I believe, given a square opportunity, there is as much, nay more, initiative, capacity, and inventive faculty in our people of to-day than ever before.
It will be said, "What, 30s. per week for anybody and everybody! What are you going to do with the slackers, the idlers, and the poor old men who are employed just for the sake of employing them?" I have got past all that. I do not believe a word of it. You take the old men and the cripples, and use them to keep wages down. You do not and never will employ men for the love of God. You employ them for what you can make out of them. I am not talking of any individuals. Here and there, there is a good employer. I was blessed with one myself. He was an extraordinarily good man, and he looked after me carefully and well, or I should not be here to say what I am going to say; but in a general way a workman is employed for what can be made out of him. You do not keep the slacker or the fellow who is not up to the standard on for love. If he is not worth his money, you do not employ him, and you are not likely to do so if I carry this Resolution. You will always have the pick of the market. This is the sort of case which is continually being put to me: "I once knew a man. He was six feet high, he weighed fifteen stone, and he was strong enough to fell an ox. I offered him a job, and he would not do it. What are you going to say to that?" I have invariably replied: "I knew a man 1884 only he did not work for his daily bread. They took him down to the Law Courts to see whether he was capable of managing his own affairs, and the courts decided he was utterly incapable, and they nominated a trustee to manage his business, but they left him in the 'other place' to manage ours." When you start talking about you once knew a man, remember we always knew another man. We are not pleading for a man who was born tired. We are pleading for the bread-winners, to help to make them independent. Why are we always to be told of somebody who works in the country for 14s. a week, and somebody another man knows who works for 17s. a week, and, "if a man is willing to work for 17s. a week, why do you want to give him 30s. a week? Do you mean to apply it all round?" You will also trot out the man—I have heard about him all my lifetime—who only had £1 a week and who saved 10s. a week out of it. A wonderful man! If it was not for his appetite he-could have saved the other 10s.
I know something about human beings, and, when you tell me men are glad to accept certain wages, you do not tell me the other side of the picture. Yon do not tell me it is a choice between bread or no bread at all. You do not tell me he has to take-that or leave it. Goodness knows, I have received enough letters about this 30s. minimum. One begins by calling me an unmitigated villain, which proves I am absolutely right. It is only when you are called names you know you are getting on. This poor creature tells me that her husband gets 25s. a week. She has nine children; she pays 9s. 6d. a week rent, and she does not want a 30s. minimum, because, if the wage were fixed at that, her husband would get the sack and two boys would be put on in his place. Call that freedom of contract. What would feed an ordinary man? Take a soldier for instance. What does it cost to feed a soldier? Remember you have contract prices; you get the meat for 4d. a pound; you get the bread very much cheaper than the ordinary civilian can buy it, and yet it costs 5s. 7d. a week for a soldier's rations. Keep that in your mind. I have another delightful letter here; not from London, but from Portland. Some of us expect to go there some day. I know a man once introduced me to a meeting, and he said the only two things he knew about Crooks were, first, that he had never been in prison, and secondly, the Lord only knew how he had kept out of it. I do not either. Perhaps coming 1885 events cast their shadows before them. Here is a budget from that place. The rent is 6s. 6d., including rates, the coal 2s. 3d. per cwt., brushes and combs—fancy those luxuries—6d., soap 3d., groceries 2s., slate club 9d., insurance 6d., doctor 6d., clothing 1s. 4d., boots 1s. All this for five persons. That leaves out of 27s. 3d. 10s. 6d. for food for the whole family! Yet a soldier costs 5s. 7d. for food alone in order to keep him up to fighting or marching standard, or perhaps to keep his courage up.
Here is a budget from London for a family of four. This is an actual document which was presented to the London County Council by a man who asked to have his wages increased. His rent was 8s., coals 1s. 4d. miscellaneous articles and light 1s. 6d., clothes 1s. 3d., not a very extravagant amount in these times, sick club 1s., insurance Is.; and then he pays into a superannuation fund to show his thrift, to have something when he gets old—he is starving his children when they are young. These items come to 15s. That leaves 12s. for food for the whole family. If you had a load line, a Plimsoll mark for the stomach of the people, what would it amount to? Hon. Members may smile. But they know perfectly well that there is a minimum standard of food which must be given to people under the control of public authorities—to persons in public places or prisons, or workhouses, and if anyone in charge of those places went below that standard he would render himself liable to be prosecuted. He would be told he was a starver; he would be called other dreadful names. But I take it that the standard laid down represents the minimum state of existence as allowed by the law. There are four methods of treating children in this country; some are kept in district schools, some in block schools, some in cottages, and some in scattered homes, and the Local Government Board and its medical adviser—do not forget the medical adviser—says you cannot keep children in health so as to grow up to be useful men and women unless you adopt this dietary scale. It will be admitted that when you are contracting for large numbers it is possible to get provisions cheaper than they can be obtained for an individual family. In the district schools the cost varies from 2s. 1d. to 2s. 4d. per week per child; in the block school, from 1s. 10d. to 2s. 1d; in cottage homes, from 1s. 11d. to 2s. 7d., and in the scattered homes, from 1s. 10½d. to 2s. 10½d. 1886 That is for food alone. If you strike the mean average it is 2s. 3½d. per week per child. Now take an average family of four children. There is 9s. a week gone at once for food for them and a bit over; then you have the man and his wife, and if you are able to keep them on a soldier's rations you have to add another 11s. Thus there is practically £1 gone out of the wages for living in such a way as the Local Government Board have laid down as the minimum standard.
One of the crimes attributed to me and my colleagues in the House was that we have overfed the people. Fancy sis. 3½d. per week for feeding a child! A question the House will remember was put to me at an inquiry which we never had a chance of discussing in this House. The question was: "Can a working man on 30s. a week feed his children in the way you feed them in the workhouses?" I said, "No, you cannot. No more can he. No more is he able to do it." Yet you see that the law, the permanent official, the doctor, and other officials, who are not responsible to the House of Commons have fixed a minimum standard of life for these children—a standard up to which people outside cannot live. Surely we are not asking anything so revolutionary, after all. Hon. Members get up and talk about the Constitution being in danger. Will they say that this is a wild and revolutionary proposal, appalling in the extreme? I venture to think that the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) is living a bit beyond the 30s. minimum. I have no doubt that the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee sees that proper attention is paid to his creature comforts, and, probably, there will be no dividend paid by the Kitchen Committee. But I often hear the hon. Baronet talk in this House about the Constitution being in danger. He wonders where the money is coming from, and whether the nation can stand it. I have heard that said hundreds of times. I have heard it declared that no-nation could stand it. Yet I suppose there is hardly a Member of this House who has not looked into the fact but who knows that the nation can easily stand it. In this land of ours—I think it was John Davidson, of immortal memory, said it:—More than would for all suffice,Earth from her full bosom pours:Yet in cities wolfish eyesHaunt the windows and the door;.What a shame and a scandal it is that in a civilised land like ours we should to-day be discussing problems which, though some 1887 people laugh and sneer at them, are yet problems of life. There is a proposal on the Paper to add something about Tariff Reform on to my Amendment. Just as if any working men in the country who heard the original proposal could be caught by such chaff as that It is a case of making profit out of loss. I have, of course, addressed many meetings, and I remember saying once to a crowd—and I have addressed many crowds—that even under present conditions and circumstances it is with the utmost difficulty the working classes can make both ends meet. Probably hon. Members will remember the interruption. A woman, in a plaintive voice, cried, "Both ends meat—I should be jolly glad to get one end meat and the other end bread."
Tariff Reform indeed! I shall never forget the first proposal of it. It was so exceedingly simple that even an unlettered and ignorant man like myself could not quite see how it was going to work out. The proposal was that by a 10 per cent. duty on foreign manufactured goods coming into the country the Government could make £10,000,000, but, in addition to that, they were going to keep the goods out. It is a marvellous thing, and I did not see how it was to be done, and I do not see now. Yet somebody will tell us that Tariff Reform is a panacea for all our ills, and in the same breath he will say that he desires to find work for the men at home. As a friend of mine said, "It will find work, Bill; looking for it." In the same breath also they want to know whether we cannot people our Colonies, but you cannot keep the men at home and send them away. You cannot do it both ways, and perhaps hon. Members will take a Referendum upon it. The fact is that no man can live in decency, I say nothing of comfort, on less than 30s. a week, and I do not care whether he is in the towns or in the cities or elsewhere. There are men and women of whom our country should be proud. People who sacrifice—a thing you only read about sometimes. They are people who are the backbone of our country in spite of the fact that they are unknown. It is that same heroism and self-sacrifice which has made our name great all over the world, only why they should not have a better chance I am at a loss to understand. Why should they always be kept in subjection? Why should the pinch of poverty be always with them? When we ask for 30s. a week, by the way 1888 in which the proposal is received you would think we were going to revolutionise the British Empire. Take a man on 30s. a week and ask him to give you an account of his life, and he will give you an answer which I heard the other day:—Monday plenty, Tuesday some;A little Wednesday, Thursday none;Don't worry about Friday,You'll get your wages to-morrow.That is the average life of a man on a miserable wage of 30s. How much worse off is the man with less? When I think of the enormous sacrifices of our people and read stories about Faith, Hope, and Charity, my mind goes back to a real woman who typified those virtues. She was not a beautiful woman. She did not wear beautiful garments, but wore ragged clothes which would not fetch sixpence at a marine store dealer's. Her face was like parchment, but her heart was pure gold. It is to this woman I turn in my mind when I think of my own race. I remember the day when I went to a crescent in a slum, now happily destroyed. In that crescent there were ten houses and ten children. I visited it with a gentleman who wanted to see some of the slums of London and people of that class called it a liberal education in regard to slumming. They went away and wrote about it, but never did anything. I remember that woman's "Good morning, Mr. Crooks," and I was asked what she was crying for, and my reply was, "She is crying because her children will be home presently and she has not got any dinner to give them. Go and give her something." I said. And the reply was, "Why should I?" "Well, I said, "it won't hurt you, and it will help her." Someone said to me, "You see that woman there, Mr. Crooks. Do you know what she did this morning? She has got two children of her own, and she had the only bit of bread in this crescent. But she brought that 2-lb. loaf out, cut it up and divided it among the ten children, and as she handed the last piece to the last child she said, 'That is all, and the Lord knows where we are going to get dinner from, but at any rate it will come. I believe He will not see us without.'"
Just compare that with the progress of your Lady Bountifuls. Here was a woman who gave away what she wanted herself, and all she had in charity. She is the greatest illustration of Faith, Hope, and Charity that I know of, and she believed that her hope would be realised. These things are pictures of the poorest of the poor who toil for their weekly wage. 1889 Sometimes, aye, often, I have been in this House when, in a private Bill, hon Members ask the Government for some specially poor district to set up works in special places. What are we told? Why, that labour is plentiful there. That means that labour is cheap there and it was only a short time since that one of our own Government Departments issued a report in which it was laid down that there must be a natural reservoir for the storing of casual labour for the convenience of employers who may want it. That means that labour may lay and starve, and that it may be picked up occasionally for an odd job and then drop back again into unemployment. And if men like myself dare to attempt to feed the people in that reservoir, then we are told that it is no part of our duty to attempt to adjust social inequality. What a delightful phrase. Does it not run off your tongue easy? In comparison with it Nova Scotia and Philadelphia are not in it. "It is no part of our duty to adjust social inequality." I say this House was created to adjust social inequality. It can do it, and that is what it ought to do. When one turns to the wages paid for labour I wonder if any man ever got more than he earned. I suppose you will answer, "it all depends how much he got where he was," but no man that I ever knew was overpaid for his labour. They tot him up like a piece of machinery, and if there is not any profit at the end of the day they will tell him he does not pay for his rent and he will go out. All we ask is that a man should be treated as a human being, and not as a piece of machinery, with all the loves, the hopes, and desires which make life worth having. I turn to the Government of the day as an employer of labour and I say you, too, have men, and you have contractors who employ men at wages that are not enough to keep the body and soul of two people together, much less any little children, and I do not wonder at all at the Medical Officer of Health for Tottenham declaring that no person there cares to become a mother. They prefer gramophones to babies. The tragedy of the thing, to bring them into the world to everlasting misery when they should be bright and joyful and cheerful! The children I know to-day are far and away better than the children ten years ago, but the miserable feeding has this effect, that by the time they get to an age when they might be useful they become a burden. Up to five, six, seven, or eight years old they may be 1890 fine and chubby, and the mother and father continually make sacrifices to see that they get the necessaries of life, but after that when they have to bustle round the world, they become street urchins and wander about the streets and pick up their daily bread as best they can.
I wonder whether any of you have taken the trouble to speak to any of these children. See the urchins in the street about the age of your own. If they were clean and well clad they would look as nice. Take the trouble to speak to one of them. Instead of getting the reply of a sweet innocent child you get the reply of a cunning old man or woman; are they going to grow up useful members of society? How many times am I going to tell the story of the little boy going home in the night crying all the way. A doctor said, "Don't cry, if God sends mouths, he sends bread for children." The little old man looked up in his face and said, "I know that as well as you. He sends the bread to your house and the mouths to ours." Think of that. It is a tragedy, it is not a comedy, that these children in their own houses and at their own tables should hear the sorrows poured out. "Another mouth, God knows how we are going to fill it." When they get a little older, sixteen or seventeen, go round to the workhouses and infirmaries, and there you will find an abnormal proportion of young girls and young boys, sons and daughters of poor poverty-stricken parents with 30s. a week. They still have to sacrifice. It is not affluence. It is not a day at the Derby once a week, nor a day in the country once a week. It would be everlasting struggle and toil, but you would be saving the boyhood and girlhood of the nation, and the nation wants them. I say to the Government as an employer as I say to every other employer and the large companies and contractors in the country, "You are patriotic. You who believe in the defence of the Empire should remember what was said on the floor of this House half a century ago, 'The foundations of the British Empire are in the kitchens of the working people.'" And they are too, as you well know. You have to look for the defence of your Empire down there, and not in the middle-class and upper-class homes. I say nothing against them, only I ask you to keep the foundations safe.
The Government at least should be model employers. That is now becoming a common platitude. We are always talking about the Government being a model 1891 employer, but no one ever says anything beyond that, because if you talk about raising wages you are told about the law of competition and the inexorable, economic laws which create this kind of thing, and which a man must submit to. The hungry men and women say "Rats on your economic laws; I do not believe in them; feed mo and my children." You say, "Such colossal ignorance, how wretched; send them home to their hungry places again." These men do work. If they do not go to work with a free and open mind, if they carry the sorrows and the wants of their homes to work with them; you get more accidents amongst the badly paid men than amongst any other class of men in the land. Even for their sakes you might do that. Just think if you can. It is Friday and pay-day, and in hundreds of homes a man is going out in the morning, and he shouts upstairs, "I am going, mate, good-bye; don't take the last bits of bread from the kiddies; they will not have any more till I get home." That is men in work, on weekly wages, and in regular employment. There is no person who can deny it. I went to a Government Department once to make an inquiry. I had to go as if I was absolutely unknown. They showed me the wheels that went round, and I had to look surprised. They took me into a Department where women were employed. "How do you select these women?" "They are the widows of men who have served their country faithfully and well, and, of course, we reward them." "Are there any children?" "We always take the women with the biggest families." "Who looks after the children?" "The Lord knows, I do not." "How much a week?" "Eleven shillings." "It is starvation." "It is constant." I hope I have said enough to encourage the House to take this plunge. After all, they are our own fellow creatures—men, women, and children whom the country cannot do without. Surely, if it cannot do without them it ought not to be afraid of spending a few thousand pounds in keeping them in decency and comfort. I want this House to declare for the principle of a fair and living wage, which would be 30s. to an adult worker. The Government should begin to-morrow. Every Department will be most sympathetic; but the circumlocution office, known as the Treasury, which never turns up on occasions like this, will be absent, and we shall never get it. I want the House to declare that where 1892 there is a single human being capable of work he shall be paid a wage which will keep him and his wife in decency.
§ Mr. WILLIAM THORNE
I beg to second the Motion. I almost feel inclined to sit down with a view to taking a vote at once, because I believe my hon. Friend has made such an impression on the House that if a vote was taken now the Resolution would be carried by a very large majority. I am very pleased to note that there is a different feeling existing now from what existed before the Labour party made their appearance here. There are some who believe it would be very much better for the members of the different industries to organise themselves in trade unions with a view to forcing up wages to 30s., and there are others who believe it is absolutely useless for the House of Commons to interfere with the rates of wages in any way. I am very pleased to say that so far as the Labour Party are concerned, we believe both in trade union and legislative effort. I think hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that the Trades Union movement has been the means of increasing wages and reducing hours in all parts of the country to a considerable extent. We find, however, that in the face of the fierce competition which is going on between man and man, it is difficult to raise wages to even the trade union minimum. I heard the Home Secretary say to a deputation a few days ago that there was no finality about legislation. I believe there is no finality in either wages or hours of labour. It is only a question of men organising themselves in trade unions, and using the trade unions as a political lever, and using also the legislature of the day with the view of increasing wages and reducing the hours of labour. I think if there are any who can speak on this question from practical experience, they are the members of the Labour party. I have no hesitation in saying that all the members of that party have had a great deal of experience of this business. I have no hesitation in saying that at one time or other since a member of that party has been married he has been called to keep his wife and children on less than 30s. per week. When I was called upon to keep my wife and family on less than 30s. I found it very difficult to make both ends meet.
If every workman in the country at present was in a position to receive 30s. per week, it should be remembered that 1893 he has to pay anything from a fourth to a fifth of his wages in the shape of rent. That is my experience. Take the ordinary general labourer, who is getting between £1 and 25s. per week, and who is called upon to pay 5s., 6s., or 7s. per week in the shape of rent, and you can understand what it means to the wife and family who have to live on the few shillings which are left. Therefore I believe that, although we may not carry this Resolution to-night, there is a growing feeling in all parts of the country in favour of the increased minimum of 30s. per week. We can say without any hesitation at all that we have organised labour behind us, because at different trades union congresses at which organised labour has been represented to the extent of two millions, and also at the annual meetings of the Labour party, resolutions have been carried in favour of what we call the 30s. minimum. Two years ago, I believe, the principle recognised was that we should call upon the Government to pay 30s. to all adult workers. But workers who are not in Government employment are beginning to recognise that they are entitled to 30s. as well as those who are working for the Government. So far as this Resolution is concerned, we claim to start with a certain number of Members who are going to vote for it. I find that on 8th March last year 150 Members voted in favour of the principle of this particular Resolution. One of the Members for Worcestershire, in the course of his remarks on that occasion, said he hoped that the Labour party meant real business. I think we do mean business. We claim, if this Resolution goes to a Division, that we shall have all those 150 Members who voted on 8th March last year supporting it. If that is so, I have no hesitation in saying that it will be carried by a very large majority.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to another matter. In spite of the increase in the trade of the country, the position of the working classes as a whole is very much worse now than it was a few years ago. My hon. Friend behind me, in a long letter which he sent to the "Daily News," and which was published on 22nd March, says he fears that the proportion of people living in poverty is greater now than in the exceptionally good year 1899. If that is true—I take it that it is true—it supports this claim for a 30s. minimum. I am going to prove that between the years 1890 and 1895 the wages 1894 of the working classes in this country fell £232,836 per week. That is an alarming statement, which I have taken from Government Blue Books. In the "Labour Gazette" of April last which gives the wages for the month of March this year it is stated that they fell over £2,000 per week. If the trade of the country is going up to such an extent as we are told it is, and if wages are falling at the same time, I think you will recognise that the purchasing power of the working classes has become very much less. The cost of living is going up. Rent in the country is always increasing, and if the rent of the working classes increases 3d. to 6d. per week, that means that they have that amount less to spend than they otherwise would have. That goes to prove that the purchasing power of the thousands living in different parts of the country is reduced by that much.
It is a well-known fact that since the unfortunate war in 1900 the cost of living has gone up to a great extent. Anyone who has read the statements made by the chairmen of co-operative societies knows that. These gentlemen have told us on more than one occasion that there has been an increase in the cost of all kinds of commodities, ranging from 15 to 25 per cent. Therefore, if the cost of living has gone up and if the working classes have had no corresponding increase in wages, it must follow that they are now in a worse position than before. I am one of those who believe that this House of Commons should be used for the purpose of improving the condition of the working-classes. Although we may be told that it will be impossible to increase the wages of all workmen to 30s. per week, because the trade of the country will not stand it, and that there are some trades to which it would mean ruination in the face of the keen competition going on between one nation and another, yet there is a great number of industries in this country which have absolutely no foreign competition at all. The railway companies have no foreign competition, yet the average wage of the railway workers is only about 21s. and some odd pence. The average of the men who work on the pit-tops of the collieries, which have no foreign competition, are not more than from £1 to 22s. a week. Is there anyone prepared to tell this House that the colliery proprietor is not in a position to pay more wages than he is paying at present? Will anyone have the audacity to tell this House that the railway companies cannot afford to pay more than they 1895 are paying at present? I have no hesitation in saying that one-half per cent. less in the dividends paid to shareholders of the railway companies would increase the wages of every man up to 30s. We have got the power in this House, if we have got the will.
As regards local authorities it is only a question of altering the composition of the municipalities. Some of the municipalities are more humane than the House of Commons. They have already solved the problem. In the division which I represent—West Ham—we have passed a resolution that no employé of the Corporation shall receive less than 30s., and that no clerk over twenty-one years of age shall receive less than 35s. a week. But if we had a law passed, if this Resolution became an Act of Parliament, it would not leave it to municipalities to carry it into operation. What apples to railway companies also applies to municipalities who are making huge profits out of their gas, water, tram, and electricity departments. Yet you cannot even get the local authorities to move in the matter unless you return a majority of Labour men or Socialists. Then it is easily done. I take it that the time will arrive when there will be a complete change in this House and we shall have a majority of Labour men and Socialists. Then the thing can be done quite easily, and there will be no need to spend time talking about it, or considering old age pensions of 5s. a week at seventy years of age. These things will be things of the past. I have, therefore, the greatest pleasure in seconding this Resolution, and I hope it will be carried by a very large majority.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
We have beard two very remarkable speeches from the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) and the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Thorne). Without any offence I do think that those speeches have been most remarkable because of their extraordinarily disappointing character to any one who is really interested in the subject. There was one remark by the Member for West Ham about an Amendment which was voted for by Members on this side of the House in favour of 30s. a week. He forgot to mention that nearly the whole hulk of his own party voted against that Amendment in order to keep the present Government in office.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
I will ascertain the facts and if incorrect I am perfectly willing to withdraw it. It really does not affect the merits of the question. The real reason why, without meaning to be offensive for a moment, I do say that these speeches have been extraordinarily disappointing is the fact that they really contribute nothing to bringing either that reform or any other reform in the matter of wages one step nearer to any workers in the country. The hon. Member for Woolwich seemed to think that what he got from this side of the House practically was a mere empty pretence of sympathy.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
That is the tenor of what he said. I am glad he did not think it. Long before he and I were acquainted, he was the one person in Poplar to whom when I heard there was distress there I sent some of the charity which he would quite rightly like to do without. But at the same time what is the good of coming to this House and making speeches with the objects of which we sympathise? We all of us who are really sincere on the subject are equally anxious that those who are working in the country should have a wage by which they would be able to live in decency and comfort. But if we are asked to vote for a principle, surely if that principle is to be anything better than some of those rather undeveloped heavenly bodies which are so gaseous and nebular in consistency that it will take ages before they will solidify, if a principle is going to be brought forward which we are asked to vote for, which is to be of any use at all, surely there ought to some argument brought forward in support of it which goes to show that the proposer and seconder of it have realised the difficulties that stand in the way of its practical adoption, and have done something to think out a solution. Hon. Members below the Gangway and we on this side are alike in one matter. We both of us have given up the old theory that the State should no longer interfere in any way with industry at all. That has been relegated to the rubbish basket. But one thing equally necessary is when you have got the whole of the complex of phenomena of modern life, if you are going to give up the old policy of non-interference, you have got to analyse the conditions and inquire into the difficulties, and if this scheme is to affirm a principle you have got to show that you have realised those difficulties 1897 and that you are ready to meet them. If hon. Members have not done so, then I think they run the risk with regard to a Wages Board which has been pointed out to them by their leader, when he says that unless discrimination is shown, the wise will become involved with the foolish, and nothing but harm will result.
May I just take one or two of the actual difficulties which I would really ask hon. Members if they have thought of even, and if they have thought of them, what solution of them will they propose? From the terms of the Resolution I see that there is a general proposal for a general minimum wage of 30s. Might I ask what is the basis on which you arranged that general minimum wage of 30s.? Is it because it is a standard of decency and comfort, or for what other reason are you asking for if? It is not an idle question, because half the difficulties that have arisen in either Victoria or New Zealand have come from the very fact that the proposers of similar laws there have never decided what is the basis of the laws that they have proposed. May I point this out in concrete form. Suppose you are asking for this wage because it is the minimum decent level of subsistence. I suppose that if there is an unskilled labourer the hon. Members are going to give him that wage of 30s. There are other workmen at the present time earning more than the labourer, but at the same time less than 30s. If you introduce this 30s. minimum, what is going to happen to the compositor in Merthyr Tydvil, who is earning more than the labourer, but still less than the 30s.? What is going to happen to the pressman in the boot factory in Leicester, who earns more than the labourer, but less than 30s.?
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
And that shows what the interruption leads to on the part of the hon. Member or the hon. Member for Glasgow. They are going to pay them rather more, the hon. Member for Glasgow says. What is the result? How are you going to decide how much more they are to be paid? Are you going to set up an arbitration court to decide how much more? Could you do it in any other way? The only way to do it is to set up an arbitration court. But everyone knows how exceedingly unsatisfactory an arbitration court may be, and how you are met with many difficulties the moment you say that a compositor, for example, shall have a wage exceeding 1898 30s. Take one other point. It is proposed that there should be a minimum wage of 30s.; that is to be the level of subsistence. Hon. Members know just as well as I do, or anyone in the House, that the minimum cost of existence is entirely different in London as compared with Manchester, or in Manchester as compared with other parts of the country. The cost in different places of subsistence differs widely in respect of some commodities—rent, food, and the rest of it. Is the hon. Member who interrupted me going to propose that the same minimum shall be applied to all places in the country, though the conditions are entirely different? Go to countries where they have had experience of this type of legislation. We find in Auckland, Wellington, and New Zealand that they have had to discriminate between different places, and that they have not a flat minimum rate. They have had to realise that the cost of rent in Wellington is higher than it is in Auckland, and they have had to vary the minimum rate accordingly. So that there you have the same fact as was realised by a very great trade union of the country that the cost of living varies in different places, and the trade union rate varied also.
I would take Ireland for example. If you were to attempt for one instant to impose the same rate in London or in any part of the country where they embroider linen upon the Donegal industry, then that industry would not be in existence for a year. We were told by the hon. Member who seconded the resolution that this is "real business." Evidently they have not thought out the difficulties of the proposal for a minimum rate, which has already tended to create monopolies in certain districts of New Zealand, and would infallibly kill out certain industries unless the conditions were modified for various parts of the country. The hon. Member who moved this Resolution referred to the fact that the cost of living varied from time to time, as well as from place to place. If the cost of living went up from now, then, surely, the minimum rate must go up. But if the cost of living falls again, are you willing that the minimum should fall or are you going to have a similar phenomenon to the slaughtermen's strike in New Zealand? Hon. Members who support this Resolution do not seem to consider those difficulties, or, at any rate, they have not dealt with them to-night. Yet this is the "real business" to people who are just as anxious about the welfare of the workers as hon. 1899 Members opposite. There is yet another different kind of consideration which affects the subject. The resolution affirms a minimum wage of 30s. for every adult worker. Is the minimum to be applied to women as well as to men? I know that the hon. Member for Leicester considers that in the case of married women, so far as possible, they should be disqualified for work. Though I will not go so far as that, because I think the more production we have the better it is for the community as a whole, I would gladly agree with him that there should be a period of disqualification for married women during the time the family is young and is being brought up, and that the disqualification should be very much more widely extended than it is at present. But supposing married women were taken off the market, and you had only single women, are you going to give them the same rate as is paid to adult men? Is the same level of subsistance to apply to the married man with a family as to the single woman working alone? I am not wishing to be in the least discourteous, as hon. Members know, but here is a difficulty which has to be faced, and have you faced it, and what has been your decision and the reasons for it? I think if there is one thing more difficult than another to anyone who has really tried to think this subject out, it is to try and equate the industrial conditions as between men and women. In the textile districts the matter has been solved in one way. But if you take the single women, in the first place, your existing standard cannot be the same for her as it is for the adult man with a family. It is a most extraordinary and difficult matter to deal with. You may say more or less what standard an adult man with a family ought to have, but I defy anyone in the present state of economic knowledge to know what should be the standard of women's wages—the married woman, the widow, the single woman, or it may be, a girl working for a pocket-money wage. Look at what the hon. Member involves us in. If he says the 30s. minimum, is not to apply to single women he gives away the resolution he has asked us to affirm. But he does something more. Everyone knows that modern employment is always shifting slightly one way or the other as between men and women and he will oust men in some industries and replace them by women. Or 1900 are you going to say that women are to get the same minimum wages as men? I do not want to quote unfairly from the h on. Member for Leicester, but at any rate he has realised as well as many of us, that while there is a great deal of sweating among women, there Is at the same time a great deal of home work and factory work for single women, much of which is carried on at their homes, which is well paid, and is in no sense sweated. But I defy the hon. Member to prove that he was referring to wage earners working for 30s. a week. Again, if a woman gets 30s. a week in the printing trade, is her sister in the mantle-making trade, say, to have a smaller minimum, and if you send up the wages to that extent then you would - kill out that mantle-making trade, as long as you have your present fiscal system. What is more, the mantles made in the trade are not for the better-paid or for the richer people in the country, but are the type of dress and the type of clothing of the wage-earning class, which is the class that spends 1s. 3d. a week upon that to which the hon. Member has referred, and you are increasing their cost of living.
That is the case with regard to women, and the case with regard to boys is really just the same. We all know the case where a man may have turned the whole of his factory from adult men's labour to boys' labour. How are you going to deal with the question of boys' labour? Most of us would gladly agree with anyone opposite that the real function of a boy's work is the preparing for being a good adult worker, and not seriously to be a wage-producing son. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] The hon. Member cheers me, but how is he going to deal with it? The whole question of the age distribution of work is one that I have been trying to go into. It is quite inordinately difficult, and it is one on which we need the newly acquired experience of the Labour Registries to give us some data to solve. If my hon. Friend wishes to regulate the amount of boys in proportion to the amount of men, and to say that only those boys would be employed in a trade who, for example, could be absorbed in that trade when they grow up, then I would like him to go to Manchester and the textile parts of Lancashire and to say that to the cotton operatives who employ, as Mr. Sidney Webb says, in ten times the proportion of boy labour more than the trade will absorb as adults. I am only quoting Mr. Webb as an authority. When you 1901 come to the adults also, what about the details? We have had a rather pitiable tale told to us about the aged and infirm, but how about the ordinary slow worker, a matter which is just as familiar to everybody as it is to me? Are you going to say that he has got to get the minimum wage? If so, then the first thing that will happen in this wicked world is that he will lose his employment. If you have also a right to work, then he is provided for by the Government, which is thereby going to have a selection of the unfittest for its employment. Otherwise you are going to have the underrate worker thrown out of employment. If you say that they have got that difficulty in other places, the way in which they have tried to get over it and the perfect system which has been tried in Victoria and New Zealand has been found altogether unsatisfactory by the workers themselves.
I would only urge one thing with regard to the workers, and with regard to the increased efficiency, the idea of which has been underlying the speeches of the two hon. Members. There is this difference between a proposal like the present and the Trade Union movement, that the Trade Union movement has been resulting in the selection of the fittest and in an impetus and stimulus to them to become fit. The moment you generalise it with a minimum wage, and the moment you add the right to work, you take away that stimulus and impetus which has been one of the chief causes of the good results of the Trade Union movement. There is only one more point in the way of criticism. Have they considered the question of the rising cost of the article, and the rising cost of living? I am not going to quote the hon. Member for Leicester. His opinions are just as well known to his own side as to me. In some cases when you raise the wages I quite agree there is a proportionate or more than proportionate increase in efficiency, but the whole point is whether hon. Members opposite have really thought out to what point that increase in efficiency occurs. For my part I am inclined to think, when I consider the miserably low wages which are paid to agricultural labourers in many parts of the country, that our own labour in Scotland, which is the highest paid agricultural labour, is also the cheapest in the whole labour market. At the same time, when this is to be "real business," and a business proposition, what we want is to have it thought out up to what limit that applies. 1902 Beyond that limit there is every experience to show, and whether it is the evidence of Mr. Askwith, the Board of Trade Arbitrator, or of Miss Mary Macarthur, there is no doubt whatsoever in their minds that on the whole you are going to get a considerable increase in the matter of price. That means if you take the New Zealand experience on my authority opposite and also on that of many others, that there you find that the increase in price has offset the increase in wages, so that the real result to the working people themselves has been no ultimate good when you come to the last conclusion.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
The hon. Member has associated me with that opinion. I never said that, but I worked out with a great deal of detail the exact opposite.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
I would prefer to give the hon. Member his own words, but I cannot at the moment fine the quotation.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
I know the hon. Member said so, but he also stated that the general opinion out there was, and I think he said he concurred in it, that you could not have this proposal without a Tariff Reform system. That also was contained in the hon. Member's article with which, I think, he is equally familiar. But after all, this country is in a different position in many ways from New Zealand or Australia. What we have got to reflect is that here we are dependent on international trade in a way that New Zealand and Australia are not, and we have also got to remember, if we send up the mere cost of production without a proportionate advantage to the working classes involved we shall be—and here, I think, is a fallacy underlying a good many statements on the subject like that of Mr. Webb—if we send up the cost of production in international competition we shall be disadvantaged to an extent that will more than counteract any advantage we get at the time. Not only so, but if we send up the cost of production you will have an article coining in here in many cases undercutting the British article. For my part, of course, I realise with the Australians that the only way in which you can solve it is no doubt by Tariff Reform, yet though I think Tariff Reform can wholly be justified on many 1903 grounds, still that you are to put on a tariff simply to stop the effect of a rise in cost of production is the very worst and most untenable argument on which a good case, from my point of view, could be supported. I always dislike the objection of administration difficulties. But here they are peculiarly formidable. Hon. Members are familiar with the "particulars clause" and the difficulty of enforcing it. Away in Victoria the difficulty has been to get the minimum wage enforced there as laid down by the decisions of the court. Away in Victoria they have said they are in doubt whether it can be or is properly enforced, yet here in England you have got an infinitely greater complexity of conditions, and, if it has been hard to get it enforced ill Victoria, does anyone think, with the whole system of middlemen and ramifications such as those of the clothing trade in the East End, that you would be able to get enforcement in that cheap way in which we were led to believe it will be carried out as soon as a Socialist Government came into power.
Those are the ordinary objections. There are minor ones, such as the determination of piecework, and the difficulty with regard to home work, which you would kill out and send to the factory. With regard to trade unions, if you try to enforce the system by the same means as in New Zealand, you have to make trade unions into corporations, and to put them back into the position they were in at the time of the Taff Vale case. Will the hon. Member go to those ladies whom he proposes to enfranchise and say, "We are going to do away with all home work"—it may or may not be a good thing to do—well knowing that many of the people who are working at home would never go into the factories? Will he also say to his trade union friends that he is going to put the trade unions back into the position they occupied at the time of the Taff Vale case?
When a man is criticising a proposal the sympathy which he expressed at the beginning may appear not quite so sincere as he affirmed; but the real reason which makes us criticise is that when a cause is really important one is the more intolerant of speeches made on behalf of it, which do not explain the difficulty, and really tend to set back the clock rather than to advance it in the matter of industrial progress. Provided you have administration to carry it out, I do not see 1904 any objection in principle to a regulation of wages by law. The regulation of a minimum by law is entirely in harmony with the whole principle of Unionist social policy from the time of Bolingbroke down to Lord Beaconsfield. What it means is that we, like hon. Members opposite, have realised that as between the individual and the State, the policy of non-interference has had its day and gone by. The principle which we would endeavour to embody in our policy is the same principle that has been enunciated by all great political philosophers from Kant and Fichte to the present day—namely, that other things being equal, it is far better, if you are really aiming at the best development of the individuals of the nation, to let the intelligent volition of the individual will have its free play, instead of introducing the automatism of the State. But when other things are not equal, and when circumstances intervene as they do, then it is the proper sphere of the State to enter in, to be a hindrance of those hindrances, and to take away the checks, so that thereby you set free a greater growth of individual initiative and character.
Regulation of minimum conditions has been embodied in many of the reforms carried by Conservative and Unionist statesmen from the time of the first Factory Act of the elder Peel down to Lord Beaconsfield, in the Acts which he carried out in his drainage and sewage policy, which has been the scorn of the precursors of hon. Members opposite. We recognise also—any man of sensibility or intelligence realises perfectly well—that, in the first place, if you can give wages approaching the minimum laid down by the hon. Member you will in many cases set free an increased efficiency. We realise perfectly well that if we can deal better with our boys after the age of fourteen, then as adults they will be able to earn a wage up to and beyond 30s. We realise also perfectly well, in regard to the parasitic trades amongst women particularly, that it may be quite right that they should be put out of existence altogether if they cannot satisfy the decencies of existence. We realise equally what the hon. Member opposite alluded to and might have developed, that the real reason why these parasitic trades cannot work up to a decent minimum is not so much because of themselves as because of the irregular conditions of the husbands and families on whom the women are dependent. We re- 1905 cognise all that, but the situation is not cured or alleviated by what the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) calls "humanitarian heroics," or "the mental sluggishness of well-intentioned persons." What we would ask hon. Members to do, if they really want to effect a genuine reform, and we Unionists are just as anxious for measures of social reform of this nature as anybody on those benches, is to come down to "real business," and to see that the real cure lies not in diatribes, but in a diagnosis of the situation. We ask hon. Members to see that it does not lie in philippics or panegyrics of one kind or another, but it lies in careful prescription. Let them take up the question of the boys and see that decent schemes are carried out for them. Let them analyse the question. Did hon. Members opposite think of going to the President of the Board of Trade and trying to get him to obtain information in the Census that would lead to some knowledge of what was best to be done in the question of the boys? We went to the right hon. Gentleman, though we did not succeed in getting him to do it. Did hon. Members opposite think of going to him?
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
If the hon. Member is willing to speak in that way after we have listened to him with courtesy I would ask him what he has done with regard to the worst curse of ail-namely, the irregular labour in the clocks, which he knows so well. You have there a greater cause of hardship and distress than any other which exists. If you want to do something to take away the demoralisation and assist the decent development of the children of the working man, remember that if you cured that irregularity you would lay the foundations of the better wage: take away the demoralisation, and set free that development. Let hon. Members go to Liverpool. In the docks there they get 5s. a day, which is just the hon. Member's proposed wage of 30s. a week. You get there a degradation under that minimum wage of 30s. unparalleled in many much more poorly paid industries. In fact, the system could not exist if it was not buttressed up by the Poor Law at this moment. I remember going into the house of a miserable man working at the docks, and living in Christian Street, Liverpool. He complained to me that the greatest 1906 mistake of his life was when he allowed himself to be lured into Liverpool by the prospect of that 30s. minimum. He would have been infinitely better off if he had stayed in the country at 18s. a week as a labourer. The real scourge of the industrial population is irregularity, and the bad housing and consumption which come with the irregularity.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
The hon. Member says "Hear, hear," but when there was a chance of putting the matter at all straight in the docks of Liverpool what did his own friends do? There was a proposal to introduce something which would have been better than the minimum wage—something analogous to the system of regularising dock labour which obtains under the London and India Docks Company. The system is not perfect, but it is an immense advance on anything which has gone before in the matter of dock labour. But when they were proposing to start something of the sort at Liverpool away went some of the Friends of hon. Members opposite and wrecked the proposal, thus preventing even that small advance being made. Therefore I think we are entitled to ask hon. Members opposite when they bring forward resolutions of this kind, that if they are—as no doubt they are—equally in earnest with ourselves in wishing that something should be done to improve the conditions, they should go into the matter a little more carefully, produce their reasons, and work out their arguments. As it is, at this minute, if I were sick whom would I have? I would not have any itinerant quack who would give me "The Elixir of Life." Give me the patient scientist who discovered the circulation of the blood, the anæsthetic or the anti-toxin serum. It is just the same when you are talking of what you can do by legislation for the benefit of labour. You may not be able to cure, but you can largely remedy if you wish by a measure—Well, take Liverpool again, for example. The variation in any one part of the port is 100 per cent. The variation over the whole port is 20 per cent. only. If hon. Members would combine with us to bring in legislation for saying, for example, that labour in certain trades shall not be employed for a period of less than a week ending on Saturday, it would do more good than all these flamboyant resolutions. Perhaps it is a small matter, but it does not raise the difficulties which these resolutions put before the House. If we want to make 1907 advance on the path of social development, give me instead of this sort of "will'o the wisp," it may be just a rushlight for my guidance, it may be small measures, but measures at least which would enable me to go at least step by step, and at least safely and surely to the end in view.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I think the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has overlooked the fact that we had the principle of the minimum wage before us for a space of two years upstairs in the Select Committee on Trade Boards. We heard of all these alleged disadvantages. We had the case of Victoria and the experience of Victoria repeated to us in detail. We had the question of the aged worker brought up. We dealt with all these things as matters of detail. We disposed of them, and we recommended to this House that the principle of a minimum wage should be adopted. This House unanimously agreed with that view. Even, I believe, the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London was good enough to support us on that occasion—
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I make my heartfelt apology to the hon. Baronet, and congratulate him on distinguishing himself in so singular a manner from the rest of the House on a matter which was given the approval of both parties. I say we dealt with all these things. I hope the House will forgive me for dealing with them briefly, but so much time has already been spent and I want to allow other speakers to follow. I would deal in particular with the point that a rise in the rate of wages must mean a rise in the price of the product, and that that will endanger our export trade. As a matter of fact, it is found that those trades in which we are strongest in the export market, are just those trades in which we are paying the highest rate of wages. For example, in our engineering trade no one would assert that sweating wages are paid. In that trade we are supreme in the world. Take the shipbuilding trade. Take the whole gamut of our trades. If they are examined it will be found that where we are strongest it is where our wages are highest. Indeed, that naturally arises from the economy of high wages. 1908 If there is any danger of raising the strain of competitive power it is not in connection with trades in which wages are high, but rather in connection with those in which wages are low. Therefore, I do not think there will be any difficulty if the principle of the minimum wage were accepted. I cannot conceive there would be any particular difficulty in adjusting that minimum wage to the varying cost of living in different towns. That is already done in a Government Department, in connection with the Post Office. Hon. Members below might have been wiser—indeed, I think they would have been—if they had put a Resolution on the Paper dealing with the principle of a minimum wage without regard to a flat rate. I agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite in his condemnation of that proposal. But if the principle of a minimum wage is conceded—and he argued against that principle as much as he argued against the amount—there is not the slightest difficulty in adjusting that minimum wage to the varying cost of living, whether in the West of Ireland or the West of London.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
I never doubted that that could be done—not for a single instant. I only brought out the fact that it was not stated in the Resolution, that it was brought forward, that no word has been said by the Mover or Seconder, that in regard to the Trade Boards Bill, with which the hon. Gentleman had something to do, no provision was made for it.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
Yes. I am glad the hon. Gentleman admits the principle of the minimum wage. I pass to matters of remuneration. The hon. Gentlemen will be aware, for he has studied the subject very closely, that in the Lancashire trades no difficulty has been found in settling the remuneration of men and women. The principle to which I think we should direct ourselves is this: that for the same work there should be equal remuneration. If once that simple principle is grasped all difficulty disappears. Something else arises, and it is this. If that principle is accepted and put into practice we get rid of the great danger of the introduction into trades which ought to be carried on by men of women's labour. I can name trade after trade where, in factories, women are kept at jobs which are not fit women's work. If for the same, job equal pay was given to men and women this economic difficulty would dis- 1909 appear, because if it was a man's job there would be no temptation for the employer to put women into the job. So it is with most of the points which were raised by the hon. Member in his interesting speech. There are not really great difficulties in the way of the introduction of a minimum wage.
I will pass from these considerations, and would remind the House that they will find in the evidence of the Report of the Select Committee on Home Work that all these difficulties have been dealt with, and I think all disposed of. At the present time the Wages Board have already set up a minimum wage, I am happy to say, in the principal sweated trades, and I have the liveliest hope that it will be satisfactory and will bring happiness and comfort to thousands of people in this country. The hon. Gentleman dealt with the difficulties of the introduction and working of a new principle. Will he forgive me if I pass from that and direct the attention of the House to the difficulties of the existing system. I rejoice that my hon. Friend has directed the attention of the House of Commons to-night to this question of wages. There is no subject that more demands the attention of the people of this country, and I confess that I am amazed that public attention is more directed to other matters. Let me tell the House what has occurred to wages in the last fifteen years in this country. The Board of Trade made an investigation into the matter of wages rates in certain trades—the textile, engineering, mining and building trades, and agriculture, and taking these groups of workers the Board of Trade works out particulars which are based on variations in the rates of wages. What has happened in the last fifteen years? Wages have increased 13 per cent., and in the last ten years very little of that 13 per cent. was registered. In the same period wholesale prices have increased by 19 per cent., and the retail prices of food in London for the various articles of consumption, rated according to consumption, have increased 18 per cent.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I am sorry the hon. Baronet should interrupt; but since he has done so, let me tell him that the rise in cost of living in several Protectionist countries is more, but I do not wish to introduce any question of Tariff Reform into this matter.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
The wages, as investigated by the Board of Trade, are in relation to certain groups of industries.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
Will the hon. Baronet allow me to pursue my argument without always dragging in the King-Charles' head of Tariff Reform. Wages have risen 13 per cent., while the retail prices have increased 18 per cent.; that is to say, wages, as expressed in commodities, have fallen in these groups of trades, and workers in these trades have received fewer commodities than fifteen years ago. And, apart from these groups of trades, there are other trades in which the rise has not been as much as 13 per cent. If we take railway workers, or general workers, there has not been a rise of 13 per cent. in rates of wages, and as the rise in cost of living applies to them also, there has been an actual fall of a greater amount in the wages of workers outside the particular trades officially reported on.
What has happened in the same period to profits? Here we have the records of the Inland Revenue Commissioners, and if there is any question of Tariff Reform it will not be denied that these records supply the answer. In the same fifteen years the gross assessment for Income Tax has risen by 57 per cent., by a sum, in round figures, of £400,000,000 a year; that is to say by something which is twice as much as would be required to carry out an all-round scheme of 30s. average wages for all the workers in this country. These are very remarkable facts when interpreted in terms of the national income of the country. If you take the national income as being at the present time about £2,000,000,000, one-ninth of the population take one-half of that income. I am treating this serious subject quite seriously, and I am sure these facts are as disagreeable to the hon. Baronet as to all of us.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
One-thirtieth of the population take one-third of that income. I made two recent investigations at distances of five years, and the result is this, that the distribution of income in the country has grown rather more unequal the last five years, as might be imagined from the figures I have already 1911 given. It was not my intention merely to trouble the House with these particular facts, mournful as they are; but I want to point out what is the effect of these facts upon the development of the industries of the country. If we take the case of the great mass of the working population of the country, what is there left for them to spend upon ordinary commodities when they have paid the landlord and paid the food bill? Why, the margin that is left over and above that, and over and above the supply of a few lumps of coal for the kitchen, is so small that there is a very small market left for many of the great trades of the country. Let the House reflect upon the meaning of this! All this enormous number of families have only a few shillings a week to spend upon ordinary commodities. All the clothing of the person, the clothing of the house, furniture, upholstery, curtains, carpets, ordinary domestic utensils, ornaments, musical instruments—in all these trades, taken together, the consumption in by the greater number of families is very small indeed. I have calculated that half the families of the country have a call on wholesale prices upon these great trades for only £30,000,000 worth of stuff in the year. Thirty million pounds divided among these enormous number of trades, each of which is hungering for trade, and the captains of industry engaged in which are hungering for business. What is happening in effect? Take the hat trade. The men are paid a certain wage which leave them a very small margin. Take the boot trade. The men are paid a wage which leave them a very small margin after food and fuel are paid for. And remember that the men in these trades are not merely producers, they are consumers also of each other's products. The man who makes hats cannot buy boots, and the man who makes boots cannot buy hats. Take the census of production and look at the last report of that census. Turn to the furniture and upholstering trades. You will find the total production of the furniture trade of this country is worth about £18,000,000 a year. There are 9,000,000 families in the country, so that it comes to this, that the British expenditure upon furniture per family is only 40s. on the average per year. But who is the average, man? As a matter of fact, the greater part of that furniture is consumed by the upper and comfortable classes, and the rest goes to the hotels and such places. The working classes, and 1912 also the lower middle classes of this country, have very poor furniture indeed.
Take the question of trade development. There is a magnificent market lying at the door of our manufacturers. Why is it that they cannot make use of that market? Because of underpaid labour. Each manufacturer who pays a low rate of wages cuts off customers from another manufacturer. He is engaged in economic effect in putting sand into the wheels of the machinery of his brother manufacturer. There are factories full of machinery of the cleverest kind which, when one examines it and sees it at work makes one wonder at the ingenuity of the men who devised it. Here are these machines. Are they at work pouring out the commodities which they ought to be pouring out? If under our modern conditions these machines got to work there would be a glut of commodities. Why are they not doing that? Because in this, as in other countries, as is the case in Germany, Australia, and every country in Europe or the new world, you have this enormous mass of the population who are unable to purchase the products of those machines. The consequence is that those machines come to a standstill and their products cease to be poured out because the people cannot buy them. That is why high wages are economical, and unless the wages of a country are rising steadily, the production of a country in the Home market cannot be rising steadily. We have to develop this Home market, and we cannot do it unless more attention is given to the question of labour.
What is the explanation of the comparative slacking off in the advance m wages during recent years. I think it is to be found in the additional power secured by capital in its relations with labour. I offer my opinion on this point after very careful thought, and I have come to the conclusion that the masters associations and federations are now much stronger trade unions than the men's trade unions, and there is no equal bargaining now going on between the men on the one hand and the masters on the other hand, and the masters have got the upper hand. What other explanation is possible? Wages are comparatively stationary, while profits have been going up by leaps and bounds. They did not go up in the preceding period when wages advanced more than they have done during the last ten or fifteen years. That shows that there is 1913 no want of profit, but it also shows that there is something radically wrong in the relations between those who buy services and those who have only services to offer. Let us think what would be the cost of such a proposition as that which is contained in the resolution of my hon. Friend. The Wages Bill of the country means the income of three-fourths of the people of the country, and that is nearly the entire nation. The wages bill, if a thirty shillings minimum were paid, would come to about £900,000,000 a year. Thus under this earthquaking proposal of my hon. Friend the total remuneration of the greater part of the people of the country would still be far less than one-half of the national income of the country, and much more than one-half would be left as the remuneration of the remaining 11,000,000. On the face of it that shows that the Resolution of my hon. Friend is not so lightly to be dismissed as it was by the hon. Gentleman who preceded me.
I give the hon. Member (Mr. Steel-Maitland) every credit for the obvious sincerity with which he spoke, and I know the great amount of time and thought which he has given to the study of these social problems. I submit there may not be a case—and I should be the last to assert it—for the adoption by the Legislature of the flat minimum rate of wages, but I do believe that there is a strong case for the adoption, or rather for the extension, of the principle of the minimum wage. I hope and, indeed, believe that the principle we adopted in this House in the Parliament before the last of interfering in rates of wages—which we began, and rightly began, with the case of the sweated worker and the home worker—that that principle will find extension to other trades, and that it will gradually range through the whole sphere of industry. I believe that the concentration upon the particular question of wages is entirely necessary for the welfare of the country. If we do not give attention to this question, and if we resign the problem as insoluble, then we resign a great deal indeed. Of what use is legislation if we do not give attention to this point. Take, for example, the question of housing. What is the housing question above all? It is a wages question. There are parts of the country, as we know, where men cannot afford out of their wages to pay the rents which would be demanded by a capital expenditure sufficient 1914 to give the minimum of decent housing. So it is with other questions, the wages question lies very largely at the root of it. I was reading the other day a remarkable poem by one of our minor poets. I may not be able to recite the precise words, but I was very much struck with their truth. They were something to this effect. He was picturing the condition of the ordinary labourer, the man to whom we talk so much about the dignity of labour, being always very careful not to do more than we can possibly help ourselves. I know I am talking to men the majority of whom are soft-handed. The poet pictured one of these labourers, and he summed up his existence from day to day in a few poignant words as follows:—To work; to eat; to get the strength to work.That was the summing up of his life. We have got to see to it that the men who work upon the material framework of our civilisation, the men who create the comforts which we enjoy, the men who create the things that we use from day to day, get a proper remuneration for their labour. We have to address ourselves seriously to this problem, and I believe my hon. Friend by raising this question tonight has performed a service for which we ought to be very grateful.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
With regard to the matter which was challenged by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, I have got the facts here. It was an Amendment moved by himself in favour of the Government paying a wage equal to the pay of private employers or local authorities, being 30s. It was moved by the hon. Member himself, but he did not vote for it, although three of them did, including the hon. Member for West Ham. The rest of the Labour party voted against it.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
We did not vote for that Amendment because the Government met us on the point. They gave us what we wanted, and since then we have received the thanks of the workers affected by it.
§ Mr. MORETON FREWEN
On this question I may remind the Committee that Mr. Bright's statement was that the glory of the nation is in the happiness of its cottage homes. I believe, if it were possible by making a payment of 30s. per week to add to the happiness of the cottage homes, all our sympathies would go out in that direction; but I venture to think we are dealing with a question of enormous importance and that the figures 1915 we are exchanging across the floor of the House require a great deal of amendment. I represent a small portion of that comparatively poor country, Ireland, and I venture to recall to the House the figures of the national income of Ireland that were elaborated by the late Sir Robert Giffen and accepted by the Childers Commission. If you divide the whole wealth produced annually in Ireland by its population, the proportion is less than £14 per year, and to give anything like 30s. per week for the workers would swallow up that sum twice over. In this richer country of England the national income is less than £40. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is per head."] That is per head per year. It is quite impossible, under these conditions to distribute anything like 30s. per week to the breadwinners. Let me draw the attention of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Chiozza Money) to the figures to which he himself has referred in the last few minutes. An analysis of the Production Census was published in "The Times" on Wednesday last. I will not anlyse all the returns, but let us take the first and last of the articles. The first is the woodworkers. In the woodworking trades there are 75,000 people employed. The gross production of wealth in the trade is given at £16,000,000 a year and the net production of 75,000 workers is given at £6,000,000 a year. If you divide the whole of the net wealth of those 75,000 workers, after paying for the raw materials, the quotient is only 32s., and you are proposing to give 30s. I do not say that as between labour and capital 30s. to labour and 2s. to capital is unreasonable. I think, on the other hand, it is a reasonable distribution of the wealth that is produced. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton has been discussing two thousand million of gross production, of which he says less than one thousand million is paid in wages. If you take the census of wealth production you will find in any of the trades of the country—I make this statement with absolute confidence—that at least 90 per cent. of the net profits are paid in wages to labour.
I have looked into this question for twenty-five years with the greatest interest, because I believe it goes to the very bottom of the Socialists demands. The demands have my entire sympathy. It is not that I am anti-Socialist, but it is no use juggling with figures and imagining we can make people rich by promising 1916 large sums which they do not earn. The wealth census of the United States has been most carefully kept for the last forty years. I take the wealth census of 1880. It shows an aggregate wealth production of all the workers in the United States of 9,000,000,000 dollars. That was the whole of the income of the year. The late Professor Edward Atkinson—I quote him because he was an extreme Free Trader, and I always, for that reason, rather distrusted his figures—analysed those figures in the most careful way, and he showed that out of 9,000,000,000. 8,100,000,000 dollars was paid directly in wages to labour. I am perfectly convinced that if the Government appointed a Commission, and if that Commission reported on the net wealth produced after paying for raw materials—if they analysed the distribution it would be found that at the very outset 9 per cent. went to capital and 91 per cent. to labour. It absolutely amazes me to hear a statistician of the eminence of the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire suggesting that there is two thousand millions of wealth produced of which only one half goes to labour. What business is-paying anything like 40 to 50 per cent. dividend. Thirty shillings appears to be a small sum, but it is not so in the wood trade, with its 75,000 workers. The net profit of that trade is only 32s. per head per week, which has to be distributed between capital and labour. Why the money is not there. We wish heartily that it was. I feel certain we could put this on record that at the present time in any of the civilised countries in the world of the whole amount of wealth annually produced 90 per cent. goes to labour and 10 per cent. to capital outside.
I propose to ask the attention of the House to a source of industrial competition which I believe has in the last thirty years, and I believe will in the next twenty years, bring down wages in this country to a perilously low level, and which will expose us to socialistic difficulties which, wherever I go, more than alarm me. I refer to the awakening of China and the extraordinary pressure of industrial competition coming from yellow labour. I have quite recently left the Pacific coast. Whereas twenty-five years ago the labour danger on the Pacific coast threatening to keep down wages was the immigration of Chinamen, to-day it is the immigration of the products of the Chinaman's labour. I may be permitted, in discussing the question of the awakening of China, to 1917 refer to the steel-rolling mills recently started at Hankau. It was reported by Mr. Watson, the inspector of the United States Steel Corporation, that the wages paid to Chinamen in that mill are one-fifteenth of those paid to white labour at Pittsburg, while the efficiency of yellow labour in the mill is 90 per cent. of that of the white men. I cannot help thinking that if hon. Members would give some consideration to a question to which I have devoted the best years of my life, from what I have seen in China, in Bombay, and in Calcutta, they would realise that this industrial competition has now become a growing risk. I feel convinced that this growing competition is a result of the great fall in silver. Look at the position. Three years since, the Han-Yang iron works at Hankau put iron on board steamships at 16½ taels per ton. The buyers of pig-iron at that time had to pay the exporters 16½ taels a ton, f.o.b. at Hankau. That is equivalent to fifteen gold dollars or £3, but now owing to the fall of exchange the buyers had to pay the exporters ten gold dollars or £2, which was equivalent to the 16½ taels. The value of silver is still falling. The traders and public men of previous generations used to give the closest attention to this question of exchange, and I remember that the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester in 1888 were alarmed beyond words at the expansion of the cotton mills of Bombay and the jute mills of Calcutta. They appointed a very competent Commission to go into the question of the development of these industries in Bombay and Calcutta, and it reported, I think, unanimously that the whole development of that trade was at the expense of Manchester and was caused by the fall of the exchange. I cannot doubt that if the present rates of silver exchange continue we shall have an increasing pressure of Asiatic competition upon our markets, and this is the competition that the white world has to face. I cannot understand how hon. Members fail to see that the fall in the exchange acts as a stimulus to a nation that exports. I take three articles—pig iron, pigs, and pigtails. The Chinamen are for the first time engaged in cutting off their pigtails, and there is an enormous export of human hair. Because of the great fall in exchange they are selling these pigtails on this side of the water for gold, and this fall in the exchange gives them more for their pigtails. Is there any wonder that the fall in exchange 1918 therefore should stimulate the Asiatic exports. A very eminent Chinese mandarin, called Tong Shoa Yi, the year before last, when discussing with me the effect of the fall in exchange said: "Mr. Frewen, when we Chinese used to sell nothing but tea and silk in the London market for a sovereign, that sovereign at the old rates of exchange gave china three taels; and three taels paid the wages of twenty-five Chinese mill hands for one day. To-day whatever-China sells for a gold sovereign gives her in exchange not merely three taels, but eight taels, and eight taels pays the wages of sixty Chinese mill hands for one day." Everything that China exports is affected in the same way by the fall in exchange, and hon. Members opposite should give consideration to this question, of the enormous pressure on our markets caused by the exports of 800,000,000 active workers in Asia. I have seen Bombay and Calcutta grow into great factory towns, and I am certain that if the exchange continues as it is now there will not in twenty-five-years be a ton of steel rails rolled by white labour in the world. This is the competition that hon. Gentlemen opposite have to fear, and you cannot pay 30s. a week wages under competition of that character. The cost of Chinese labour in putting a ton of iron ore on board the cars is only 5d., or 10 cents per ton, and there is no white labour in the world, even if they used steam shovels which could touch the price. We shall find a murderous industrial competition going forward. It is-not a competition that tariffs can check, and if you have high tariffs and the rate of exchange goes on as it is at present, I dread the future in regard to competition from China. If anyone imagines that we can consider such a question here without considering the question of competition, which seems to-be a malaria or a miasma in regard to trade, they are mistaken. I am reminded of the delightful episode in the travels of Queen Elizabeth, when she rode to a certain town, and was met by the burgesses, who did not bring the keys of the town. They offered seven reasons why they had not brought the keys, and the seventh was that there were no keys. If hon. Members vote themselves salaries of 30s. a week as long as the wealth production of the country is no higher than it is now there is no 30s. for them. If hon. Members opposite will bring forward a Motion that the Government should agree that there should be 1919 a distribution of wealth as produced in the proportion of 80 per cent. to all the labour and 20 per cent. to capital, I would support it, but it is impossible to vote for this Motion, as I am certain in the case of Ireland the wealth production of that country divided by the workers is not anything like 15s. a week.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Tennant) (whose remarks were imperfectly heard in the Press Gallery)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member in his excursion into China or bimetallism. It will be a great satisfaction to his friends that he has lost none of that cunning in juggling with figures which he himself has condemned. I do not suppose it will be a matter of surprise to the hon. Member (Mr. Crooks) or to the House generally when I say, on behalf of the Government, I regret—it is a matter of real regret—that I cannot accept the Motion. I cannot hold out any hope that there is an immediate likelihood of no person in the Government service being employed at less than 30s. a week, still less that the Government would embark upon a scheme of legislative enactment for a general minimum wage throughout the whole country. Legislation in advance of public opinion is, I think, usually admitted to be dangerous, but legislation in defiance of both economic laws and principles, and of experience may be even disastrous. I do not wish to say for a moment that true economic fetters can never be burst asunder under any conditions whatever. On the contrary, I think I can show that in exceptional cases these fetters may be sot aside, indeed, they have been set asido by the present Government, and with success. The acceptance of the Motion would mean that in the case of those persons of whom we have any statistics, 7,300,000 of them, in employment 60 per cent. are working at a wage certainly below 30s. a week, and the increase in the wages required to bring their wages up to 30s. a week would be £1,700,000 a week, which would involve an annual charge of no less than £88,000,000. That might be a very desirable thing if it could be done. It is not because I think existing wages are high enough that I am not able to recommend the Motion to the acceptance of the House. It is only because I feel it is impossible. Has my hon. Friend considered the case of agriculture? Has he considered the case of short time and the 1920 case of the casual labourer? Has he considered the case of the town worker as against the rural worker? Are all these wages to be the same, and is the cost of living in a particular locality to receive no consideration whatever? Is the pieceworker to be guaranteed 30s. a week irrespective of the output which he may achieve? I am sure there are a great many difficulties of this kind which must occur to hon. Members. There are two consequences which would be brought about by the adoption of this Resolution to which I should like to draw the attention of the House. I think it will be admitted that any considerable or sudden increase in the rate of wages must in the course of time, if not at once, increase the cost of production, and any increase of that magnitude brought about in such a sudden manner must bring about also a dislocation of labour. If you dislocate your labour, and if you raise your cost of production unduly high, you invite foreign competition into your market, which would render it very precarious if you are to be able to give any work.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am quite cognisant of that, but I am taking the case of general wages as set forth in the words of the Resolution. I think while we all admit that low wages are most undesirable and even disastrous to the community, no wages at all and unemployment may be even worse. One other consideration is that of stereotyping the rate of wages. There are persons who are in receipt of 35s. per week or more who might be dropped down to 30s. by stereotyping the rate of wages and establishing a minimum rate. That was one of the arguments used against the Bill of which I had the honour of moving the Second Reading—namely, the Trade Boards Bill. We all know that one of the arguments used against the establishment of a minimum rate is that it is very apt to degenerate into the establishment of a maximum rate, and to bring down the wages of those who are actually in receipt of a higher rate. Although I am not able to accept the Resolution, I am very glad to have the opportunity which has been afforded by my hon. Friend (Mr. Crooks) of showing a few of the things which have been done by the present Government during the fire or six years they have been in office. No doubt 1921 the hon. Member and his Friends are quite justified in saying that it was through their efforts that an alteration was made in March, 1909, in what is known as the Fair-Wages Resolution. I think I am also entitled to claim for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Sydney Buxton) that he is the original instituter of the Fair-Wages Resolution. While the original Resolution only provided that a contractor should pay the rate of wages current in the district, you have by the new scheme provided that the wages and hours of labour should be as prescribed under that Resolution. I have been able to ascertain from my hon. Friend the Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Acland) what has been done at Woolwich. They increased the minimum rate in 1906 from 21s. to 23s., and that has been raised this year to 24s., with an extra allowance that amounts to another 6d. a week. My hon. Friend informs me that the War Office has actually gone beyond the terms of the Fair Wages Resolution in certain cases, and insisted upon wages even higher than those which are current in the district.
§ Mr. TENNANT
That matter has not been settled yet. They were increased, I think, four years ago. The Post Office can show great increases. [An HON. MEMBER: "Some decreases."] Only for new entrants. Take the London district staff of the Post Office. Since 1905 sorters have been increased from 45s. 5d. to 49s. 7d., telegraphists in the central telegraph office from 44s. 10d. to 49s. 3d., counter clerks and telegraphists from 45s. 3d. to 48s. 2d., and postmen from 30s. to 32s. 10d. Those are considerable increases. If you take the rest, sorting clerks and telegraphists have been increased from 35s. 5d. to 37s. 9d.
§ Mr. CARLILE
A considerable number of sub-postmasters, who occupied the position for years, have, under the Hobhouse Committee's findings, had their remuneration reduced.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I was dealing with the established staff. This question I will leave to my right hon. and hon. Friends the Postmaster-General and the Assistant Postmaster-General, who will no doubt be able to deal with it when the opportunity arrives. There is also a schedule of other 1922 advantages, uniform, medical attendance, and so on, which comes to 7s. 8d. a week ill the case of the highest postmen in London. The total cost of these increases is £680,000 a year, which is a very large increase. Coming now to the other great spending Department, the Admiralty, there were increases in 1906 involving a cost of £61,000, in 1908 of £4,500, in 1909 of £2,800, and in 1910 of £3,100—that is altogether upwards of £71,000 a year. The Fair Wages Clause now inserted in all Admiralty contracts for several years past has applied to all buildings and machinery, and in the case of any work done in a dockyard the contractor has paid unskilled labourers the same wages as the dockyard men. As I indicated earlier in my remarks, I am not likely to be one of those who object to the establishment of a minimum wage. I was instrumental in bringing the Trades Board Act before this House, and do not wish for a moment to take that ground, but I would like to revert to what I stated on that measure. On the Second Reading of this measure I stated that the special machinery was intended only for special trades. My hon. Friend the Member for East Northampton, if he had his way, would apply the machinery to all industries of the country; but it was specially stated by my right hon. Friend and by myself that this machinery was designed to deal with industrial diseases and sweating which prevailed in certain trades, and we did not hold out any hopes that it would be applied to the staple industries of the country. The House will be interested to know that so far as concerns the four trades mentioned in the Schedule of the Act, the chain, tailoring (ready made), lace finishing and cardboard box-making rates have actually been fixed and are in force now in respect of chain, and are being arranged now for lace finishing and box-making. We have no fear that by the machinery of the Act we shall run any risk of foreign competition. The imports of chain have been insignificant, the imports of men's and boys' clothing amounted to £44,000, and of boxes to less than probably £50,000. Persons who are engaged in these trades are fully alive to the question of foreign competition, In regard to the question raised by the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman opposite, it could be met by international action. The mass of material collected by the Board of Trade in their inquiries shows that the cost of living and rates of wages 1923 vary considerably in the chief countries of the world, and there is no reason to labour the point that a British standard is not applicable to other countries, and an attempt to enforce it might be resented as an impertinence by the foreign workers concerned. A more reasonable course to adopt would seem to be to encourage foreign Governments to take measures with a view to preventing sweating in their countries similar to the action taken here. We are not without hopes that the action of His Majesty's Government in promoting the Trade Board Act will bear fruit abroad.
This is not the only country in which attention has been drawn to sweating. There are movements in France and Germany with a view to regulating the wages of sweated workers, more particularly home workers, and an international conference held at Lugano last autumn passed a resolution that the "most efficacious remedy for the abuses prevalent in regard to home work consists in the organisation of Wages Boards, on the lines of those provided for by the British law." I have not mentioned either Old Age Pensions or Labour Exchanges in this connection. I say that the Government have been serious over this matter at every step, and they have taken every possible opportunity to try and raise the standard of living of the workmen. It is no part of my duty or intention to say that thirty shillings per week is either too low or too high a rate of wages. The actual fixing of the rate must be left to the free play of economic forces. It is part of our duty to help to bring the workmen and employers together, and to provide settlements for them when unfortunately trade disputes have broken out. It would be a disaster to us if in the very difficult work that is done by our Labour Department, and done with signal success, as I think hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will admit the conciliation work is done, I think it would be a disaster if that were to be jeopardised in any way by any public preconceived ideas of what was and what was not a proper rate of wages. Each rate of wages must be decided on its merits. Therefore, while I ask for the free play of economic forces to settle the rate of wages, I also ask for freedom of the power of bargaining between employers and employed, and to that I 1924 know hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway attach great force. I ask for freedom for ourselves from any committals, in order that we may maintain that feeling of public confidence in the impartiality of the Board of Trade. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich (Mr. W. Crooks) by his excellent speech at any rate deserves my personal gratitude, because he has brought public attention to a matter which I cannot help feeling stirs the pulses and quickens the conscience of all right-minded people.
§ Colonel LOCKWOOD
I fancy the hon. Member for Woolwich would rather have earned a little more than the gratitude of the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not wish to stand between the House and a Division, but I desire to say a word, because on this occasion I shall probably separate myself from most of my colleagues. When I first saw the Motion I thought I should be unable to support it. But I feel so strongly on the subject of the minimum wage in Government Departments and arsenals that I think I must go further than I was prepared to do and support the Motion. My hon. Friend (Mr. Steel-Maitland) made a long and interesting speech, bristling with statistics and details, but there is not an hon. Member who was not fully aware of all the objections which he brought forward. When, however, he accuses hon. Members of not having answered those objections, I would point out that this is not a Bill, but simply a Resolution in favour of a certain proposal. I think the rate of wages in the arsenals should never fall below 30s. a week, especially in the danger zone.
§ Mr. CROOKS
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I listened with great interest to the speech of an hon. Member who pointed out that what we have to consider is not only whether or not it is possible to pay a minimum wage of 30s. or 50s. or any other amount per week, but whether or not we can increase the wages paid to our working classes in view of the enormous competition from abroad.
§ And, it being Eleven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Adjourned at Five minutes after Eleven o'clock.