§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I beg to move an Amendment to the Address, to add, at the end thereof:—
"But humbly regret, having regard to the existing industrial and social conditions of large masses of the people arising from a deplorable insufficiency of wages, which has persisted notwithstanding the sustained prosperity as reflected in the statistics of trade and employment and a great expansion of national wealth, conditions which have been aggravated by a considerable increase in the cost of living, that Your Majesty's Gracious Speech contains no specific mention of legislation securing a minimum living wage and for preventing a continuance of such unequal division of the fruits of industry by the nationalisation of land, railways, mines, and other monopolies."
I rise on behalf of the Labour party to move the Amendment which also stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts). I am quite well aware that in asking the House to approve of such a drastic and far-reaching proposal as this that we are open to the criticism that we are asking the House to impose on itself an impossible task in the Session which is already considerably curtailed at the commencement. Our answer to criticisms of that character is, in thee first place, that we accept no responsibility for the legislative programme which the Government have thought fit to submit to the House. We are here to seize every opportunity to bring on the attention of the House what we think is the most urgent and pressing 459 of all questions, that is the poverty condition of a large part of our people. We have been sent here for that purpose, and we should be unworthy of the confidence of our constituents if we were willing to admit that any Session of Parliament should pass without making some large contribution to the treatment of the social problem. A second answer we give to the criticism to which I have referred is that we are not responsible for our present Parliamentary procedure and present Parliamentary machinery. The Session which has just concluded was, I believe, the longest on record, and the output of legislation one of the most meagre. I think it is perfectly obvious to everybody that the present Parliamentary machinery is not competent to deal with the work which the country expects Parliament to do. Every year new functions are being imposed upon Parliament, and every year the country is making new demands upon Parliament, but the machinery is old, antiquated, and out of date, and designed for a time when the functions of Parliament were infinitesimal compared with the work of Parliament to-day. I anticipate that very serious and lamentable results are going to follow from this inability of Parliament to satisfy those demands. The failure of Parliament to meet those demands is, I am afraid, bringing representative government and representative institutions into disrepute, and that can only have one result. If the people lose faith in Parliament, they will turn to other methods to try to remedy their grievances and to improve their conditions, and if Parliament fails, then the country will be given over to a condition of anarchy. I, as one who is a constitutionalist before all else, will deplore deeply such a result as that.
Passing to the terms of the Amendment, it will be noticed that it takes a remark from the King's Speech with reference to the sustained prosperity of the country, as reflected in the statistics of trade and employment. The country at the present time is enjoying a period of unparalleled, almost unparalleled, trade prosperity, and greater than we have had for nearly fifty years. The point I want to make is that the advantages of this trade boom, of this great increase in the amount of wealth which is being produced, are not being generally shared, and that the advantages are going to a relatively small number of our people, and that those by whose labour 460 this wealth is mainly created are reaping practically nothing of the increased fruits of their labours. The Amendment speaks about the deplorable condition of a large mass of His Majesty's subjects due to low wages. May I just refer the House to a few facts in regard to the condition of that large mass of His Majesty's subjects, facts which illustrate the conditions which are due primarily to the lowness of the wages which those people receive? I think it will be admitted, and I do not see how it can possibly be denied, that the condition of the working people to-day is as favourable as their condition ever can be under existing economic conditions. If it is not possible for the wage-earners to get advances in wages and other improvements in their conditions at a time when the figures of unemployment have touched the lowest point, and when in many of our great industries there is a demand for labour that cannot be supplied—if it is not possible for organised labour and for the wage-earners to wring a higher remuneration for their labour under such unusually favourable conditions to them, then it is not possible that they can do so under what I describe as existing economic conditions.
Take the latest figures as to pauperism. In England and Wales alone, at this time of sustained trade prosperity, nearly 700,000 persons on any one day are in receipt of Poor Law relief. That means that in the last year, 1912, a year of sustained trade prosperity, a year when the figures of our foreign trade showed an increase of nearly one hundred millions sterling over the figures of the previous year, we had something like, and certainly not less than, three million persons, different persons, who at one time or another had to apply for Poor Law relief. Take the housing conditions, which are another result of low wages. We have not yet, unfortunately, the figures for the last Census Returns, but I think I may venture to prophesy that those figures, when they do appear, dealing with the housing condition of the people in 1911, will show that not less than one-fourth, and probably nearer to one-third, of the wage earners of this country were housed under conditions which are described officially as overcrowding. As the result of those bad housing conditions we have a death rate amongst the poor which is from two to four times higher than the death rate amongst the well-to-do. Take my own borough, Blackburn, which is only typical of every industrial town in the 461 country, and I find that the death rate in the poorest ward of the children is from three to four times more than the death rate among the better-off well-to-do part of the population. There we have the result of the low wages, of the inability of the people to provide adequate, healthy housing accommodation, and then the inability of the people to provide sufficient nourishment for their children. Budgets which have been taken in different parts of the country show that the low wages of the poor are in a great many instances far too small to enable the parents to buy milk for their young children. That is one of the most painful facts brought out by the investigations.
Let me turn from that to the question of wages, and let me refer to the last official figures supplied by the Board of Trade in their Census of 1907, and I will deal later on with the increase in wages which have taken place since that time. Last year Professor Bowley gave us some figures as to the wages of the working classes, and I think it would not be difficult to prove that he greatly underestimated the number of low-paid workers. Taking his figures, we find that 32 per cent. of adult labour, adult men, excluding women wage earners, are in receipt of wages of less than 25s. per week. Take the greatest of our manufacturing industries, the cotton trade, a well-organised trade, where trade unionism has almost become a tradition, and what do we find there? We find that in that well-organised and relatively well-paid trade that 21 per cent. of the adult labour for full time earn less than £1 a week, and that in that same trade 48 per cent. of the adult men were in receipt of wages for full-time work of less than 25s. per week. I find that 22 per cent. of the general labourers earn less than £1 a week, and that more than 50 per cent. of them are in receipt of wages of less than 25s. per week. So I might go on, but I leave it to the imagination of hon. Members. Of course, we have in this House some men, at any rate, who are self-made men, and men who have known what it was to live and struggle on a wage of £1 a week. They know what that means, but I leave it to the imagination of those more fortunately born, who have never had to do that, to try to imagine what a wage of £1 per week will provide in the way of necessaries, not to speak of comforts and luxuries, for a family of five or six persons. I saw a statement made in a newspaper yesterday that Members 462 of this House spent last Session £8,000 upon wines. Taking the number at 400, that works out at something like 10s. per week—equal to the sum that 2,000,000 of families in this country can afford to spend on food.
Coming back to wages, take the increases which have been made since the date of the Board of Trade Returns to which I have referred. Last year, let me repeat, was a boom year. It was a year of grave industrial unrest. Wages advanced last year, according to the latest figures of the Board of Trade, by about £130,000 a week—that is to say, just under £7,000,000 a year. We had last year the greatest industrial dispute of our experience. In the course of the year 40,000,000 working days were lost by strikes. What does that mean? It means that when profits were higher than they had ever been, and when trade was good, the only way in which the workers could get an increase of wages was by resorting to the costly and cruel method of strikes. Suppose we take the average wage at 4s. a day. Those 40,000,000 lost working days mean that the workers lost in wages last year in attempting to raise their wages a sum of £8,000,000. Then there was the cost to the trade union funds. They succeeded in raising their wages, according to these official figures, by £7,000,000; they lost £8,000,000 in wages, and they probably spent not far less from trade union and other sources. In the last eleven years, on the same calculation, £18,000,000 have been lost in wages through strikes in the attempt to improve wages. Wages have risen slightly during the last few years, but they are practically to-day where they were twelve or thirteen years ago.
That, however, is not all. The nominal wages remain practically the same, but what about the purchasing power of wages? Again I appeal to the Board of Trade figures. In reply to a question in this House a few weeks ago, the Board of Trade supplied figures as to the increase in prices during the last five years of a number of articles in common use. They compared the prices of 1907 with the prices of 1912. I have selected fifteen of those articles, every one of which does or ought to enter into every working-class family's expenditure — bread, tea, sugar, milk, meat, currants, butter, and the like. What do I find? I find that upon those necessary articles there has been in the five years up to the end of last year an 463 average increase of 29 per cent. If we include coal in these items, we find that on the average the increase in the five years has been 34 per cent. Wages have remained at practically same, but the purchasing power of the labourer's pound a week is 34 per cent. less as compared with five years ago. It is worth only something like 14s. Are we not justified, then, in speaking of the "deplorable insufficiency of wages"? Are we not justified in pointing out that there are large masses of His Majesty's subjects who are getting no share whatever in the trade prosperity which the country as a whole is enjoying to-day? But what about the other side of the question? I have referred to the fact that the figures of our foreign trade show an increase in 1912 over the figures of 1911 of nearly £100,000,000. Unfortunately, we have not yet any comparative figures in regard to our home trade. The Leader of the Opposition stated the other day, and I think he was quite right, that the volume and the value of our home trade are very much larger than the volume and the value of our foreign trade. Therefore it is quite safe to say that there would be a much larger increase than is represented by £100,000,000 in the wealth available for distribution produced last year.
Where did it go? It did not go to the working people, as I have shown already. It went to a few people, and if we want to know where it is going we can satisfy our curiosity any day by reference to the financial newspapers or to the financial pages of any of our ordinary daily papers. You find that commercial concerns are doubling their dividends. One textile firm announced last week a dividend of 50 per cent., and it placed nearly £250,000 to its reserve funds. The "Daily Mail," an authority, I am sure, that will be accepted in certain quarters of the House, published a week or two ago the figures in regard to certain Lancashire cotton-spinning concerns, and the average profit of those concerns for 1912 was twenty times more than in the preceding year. South Wales newspapers have been pointing out that shipping is so profitable to-day that the capital cost of a boat can be returned out of profits in eighteen months. I need not refer to the figures, which are now familiar to everybody, as to the increase in Income Tax assessments in recent years. It is represented by hundreds of millions of pounds in the last ten years. Coal-mining companies are paying dividends of from 464 25 per cent. to 30 per cent., 40 per cent., or 50 per cent. I spoke of the huge reserves which are being piled up. For what purpose are they being piled up? What is going to be the position of the wage-earning class when trade declines? They are making no reserves. Within a fortnight of the beginning of a period of bad trade you will have the returns of pauperism increasing; there will be processions of unemployed in your streets; the cry of the hungry will be heard throughout the land, and the employers will have these huge reserves in order to fight the working people and to compel them to submit to a reduction of wages.
May I ask this question, and attempt very briefly to give an answer? How is it that during the last twelve or fifteen years wages have remained practically stationary and the cost of living has advanced? From 1850 to the end of the nineteenth century wages progressively advanced. At the end of the century they stood roughly something like 60 per cent. higher than in the middle of the century, and that increase of wages was accompanied by a gradual decrease in the cost of living. So that at the end of the nineteenth century in the matter of wages and the value of wages people were probably 80 per cent. better off than their fathers or grandfathers were fifty years ago. Towards the end of the century, perhaps about two years before the end, we entered without knowing it into a new economic epoch. Up to that time capital in this country had not been largely federated, either for defensive purposes or for business purposes. In 1897 we had the great lock-out in the engineering trade. That was the first great strike in which we had labour, nationally organised, fighting capital nationally federated. Since that time the federation of capital has gone on. Now the individual capitalists in practically all trades are federated in national organisations, and at the same time that that has been going on there has been, if I may coin a word which expresses the idea, the "trustification" of industries, which has gradually increased both the defensive and aggressive power of capital. I think these two facts largely explain why labour has not been able to maintain the progressive advance of wages during the last twelve or fifteen years.
With regard to the increase in the cost of living various reasons have been suggested. We are told that it is owing to the increase in the output of gold. Nothing, so far as I can gather, appears 465 to be more mysterious than the influence of the output of gold on prices. During the last fifty years of the nineteenth century there was a continual increase in wages, and, though not to the same extent, a decline in prices. There was at the same time an increase in the output of gold. Therefore, if the output of gold is one factor responsible for the increase in the price of commodities in the last fifteen years, it certainly cannot be the only factor, and I think it is by no means the most important. What I think is a very important factor is the development of new countries in recent years, the drawing away of capital for that purpose, and the increasing strain upon the natural resources of the world. We have largely exhausted our supply of raw material without reproducing it. A further reason, I think, is the enormous increase in the unproductive expenditure upon armaments. You have capital employed in industries which are not of a productive character, and I regret that this country has been probably quite as culpable in this matter as any other of the Great Powers of the world of recent years. I want to mention one other factor which I think is responsible for the increase in prices. I referred in another connection just now to the concentration of capital. Not only have we had the obvious concentration of capital in the form of large joint stock companies, syndicates, and trusts, but in a more insidious way we have had the organisation and federation of capital in the form of "rings" for the purpose of fixing and regulating prices. This has gone on to an extent of which the outsider has no idea at all. There is hardly a great trade in the country in which competition now governs prices. We have parts of the country allocated to certain firms which are in the ring, and inside this ringed fence they have a monopoly, and are able practically to dictate their own prices. There is no doubt that the extension of this ring system is responsible very largely for the increase of prices in recent years, and perhaps in no trade to a greater extent than in coal.
So much for our indictment. Now as to the proposals that we make. We ask, in the first place, that by legislation every workman shall be guaranteed a minimum wage. By a minimum wage I mean a wage sufficient to maintain a man and his dependents in good physical health and in industrial efficiency, and to give him a fair proportion of the ordinary comforts of civilised existence. In asking that the 466 workmen shall be guaranteed a minimum wage we are not asking for the application of a principle that is new. The principle has already been accepted by this House, and has been applied to a great extent by some of our Colonial Governments. We have our Trade Boards Act, under which the workers in a number of industries have had their wages very considerably increased. I know quite well the Prime Minister said this was not to be taken as a precedent; but that does not matter. It is a precedent, and it is a precedent that we shall use. Last year we had the Miners Minimum Wage Act. If it be right that the State should guarantee to certain workmen a minimum wage, it is quite right that it should guarantee it to all other workmen. May I put this upon the very lowest plane? It pays! There is nothing so expensive as poverty. We are paying for these low wages in a thousand ways—in the physical inefficiency of our workpeople, and in physical deterioration.
The wealth-producing power of our workpeople could be enormously increased if we would only feed them better and house them under better conditions. Enlightened employers here and there have long since recognised what we are asking this House, as the trustee of the interests of the nation, to recognise to-day, namely, that there is an economy in good wages and in good conditions. We make the demand then for a minimum wage, but we do not put it forward as a measure which will secure full justice for the working classes of this country. It is more in the nature of a temporary palliative. If we are going to secure to the working classes a far juster share of the wealth produced by the workers, manual and brain, we shall have to go down a great deal further. We maintain that the reason for the maldistribution of the wealth to which I have referred is in the fact that a certain number of people, or small classes, have a monopoly of the essentials of life; that land without which men cannot live; that land without, which man cannot labour; the instruments of production and the means of distribution like railways; that these are owned and controlled by a few people. So long as there is private ownership it will be impossible for the great masses of the people to very materially improve their conditions. Take the case of land. I have no time, and this is not the occasion, to enter into a long discussion upon the land question. 467 I shall confine myself to simply saying this, that the private ownership of land cannot be justified either on historic, economic, or moral grounds. I am no lawyer. But a man does not require to be a lawyer to know that. He only requires to know something of the history of his country to know that at no time has the law of this country ever recognised such a thing as an absolute private title to land; that in law to-day the land is really the property of the Crown on behalf of the people; and that no private individual can sustain his private title to land as against the greater claims of the community.
This House, on the economics of private landlordism, argued a good deal in the Budget Debates of three or four years ago. The land taxes of the Budget admit that there is an economic value attached to land which is not the creation of individual labour, nor the result of the employment of capital upon the land—that there is what we call unearned increment upon land, a value upon land due to the presence of population and the activities of the community. As a matter of fact land has no economic value attaching to it apart from the demand of the community for the use of the land, and the demand of the community is, of course, determined by population. Therefore, if the economic rent of land be a social product, it follows it is the property of the community. We, therefore, maintain that the whole economic value of land should be the property of the community. Just one word about the moral aspect of this question. The man who owns land controls men's lives. The landless man must be the slave of the landowner. Our own Saxon forefathers recognised that. The "freeman" was the man who had land; the slave was the landless man. It is so to-day in fact. It is altogether beside the point to say that there are good landowners. There are good landowners! But we must judge the system not by its best representatives, but what the system is capable of doing and the injury it is capable of inflicting. We know there are cases where the power of the landlord is used to the detriment of the community. Cases might be stated where the landlord has used his power to drive men from the land of their birth and the homes of their childhood, and to bring ruin and desolation upon thousands of homes. We demand, then, the land for the people, and not only the economic rent of the land, 468 but the control of the land, so that the land can be used to promote the common good. We ask also in this Amendment for the national ownership and control of railways, mines, and other monopolies. In advocating that nationalisation we are not advocating some proposal which has never been applied practically. During the whole of last century the tendency of legislation was towards the public control of industry. First of all, it was by regulation. Regulation failed. The community were compelled to recognise that no amount of mere regulation of privately owned concerns could satisfactorily serve the needs of the community. Therefore it superseded private ownership by public ownership and control. You have an illustration of that in the great services which are now owned and controlled by our great municipalities, representing invested capital of something like £500,000,000.
In advocating nationalisation, therefore, we are not asking this House to embark noon an untrodden path. Take the latest instance of nationalisation—that of the telephone service. That was proposed, in the first instance, by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was carried into effect by the party in power. Upon the principle of nationalisation there is no division to-day between the two parties in this country. The question is merely one of whether a particular service shall be nationalised; whether it is desirable that that should be the case. Take the railways. In advocating the national ownership of railways we are upon still firmer ground, because this country is the only country in Europe—three years ago we had Turkey for a companion—where the railways are not either wholly or partly owned and controlled by the State. They are owned and controlled by the State in our Australian Colonies and in New Zealand. I remember a few years ago Lord Morley standing at the Table and presenting his Indian statement. He affirmed that in India we have 35,000 miles of State-owned railways, and he spoke of that admirable system and its great success. He concluded by saying:—I am glad to be able to present my Socialist friends with such a splendid example of Socialism in successful working.The national ownership of railways has not been carried out in other countries by men on an abstract, democratic, Socialist basis. They have done it, to use an oft repeated phrase of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because it was a business proposition, and it paid. When the right hon. 469 Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was at the Board of Trade he was understood to be very favourable to the proposal for the nationalisation of railways. I am afraid in this respect, too, he has become weary in well-doing during recent years. May I say this to him; that if six years ago he had carried out this reform it would have been a greater service to the country than the Budget, or even the passing of the Insurance Act, or any social legislation to which he has been devoting his attention during the last few years. By dealing with this question he would have been cutting at the roots of monopoly. Take the mines—and only a word or two about them. In Germany, too, there are State-owned mines. When I was speaking about the effect of rings upon prices I said that perhaps they existed to no greater extent than in the coal trade. I sat for some years upon the gas committee of a corporation and those who have had a similar experience will agree that there was no such thing as competition. The tenders we received for the coal showed an increase of prices exactly the same over the prices of the twelve months before. In the coal trade, having virtually a monopoly, they have been able during the last twelve months to take probably eight, ten, or twelve times more in increased profits than in the additional expense incurred as a result of putting into operation the Minimum Wage Act.
The Co-operative Wholesale Society issued some figures showing the increase in the retail prices of coal in recent years, and it would appear they have gone up by 48 per cent. during the last fourteen years. The State has not only a right, but the State has a duty, to protect the country against such extortion and robbery as that. It cannot be done by regulation only, or by taxation. It can only be done by following the precedents to which I have alluded in case of gas, water, and lighting; it can only be done by the State getting hold of the monopoly. That is the only effective way. I submit this Amendment to the House. I stated at the commencement of my remarks that I was above all else a constitutionalist. I should regret far more deeply than I can say if the working classes of this country should lose their faith in Parliament. I believe there are no other means by which they can bring about a real and permanent improvement in their condition. I may differ from some of my Friends in my opinion upon strikes. I believe strikes are a barbarous, cruel, and 470 generally an ineffective way of improving the conditions of the working classes. Strikes are the only alternative to Parliamentary action. Therefore, in refusing to attend to the needs of the people, you are driving them back upon that last resort. I do not deny that during the last six years we have had a good deal of so-called social legislation. A certain Dr. Macnamara, who I believe is the right hon. Gentleman we know here as the Secretary to the Admiralty, was, I see, speaking in Durham a couple of days ago, and telling about the glorious achievements of this Government. He told those Durham miners that in the last seven years they had been passing through a social revolution, and they did not know it. What we want is a social revolution that will bring results of which the people are conscious. The reason why all this social legislation has left the people in the condition in which I have described them in the earlier part of my observations, is because it has never got quite to the root of the matter. John Stuart Mill said that small remedies applied to great evils did not produce small benefits; they produced no benefit at all. So it is. Let us not be afraid to touch vested interests. Let us not be afraid of party. I make my appeal to the House. I submit this Amendment to at least the earnest consideration of Members.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I think in all quarters of the House it will be conceded that my hon. Friend, in lofty and admirable tones, has put before the House very sound arguments in favour of this Amendment, and on the path he has pursued I shall humbly endeavour to follow. We move this Amendment because there is no specific mention of social legislation in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. We are told that in view of the past year's legislative proposals this Session will be of a very restricted character. Quite candidly I feel that every Member of the House experiences some personal sympathy with that expression in the Gracious Speech of His Majesty. Everybody who has taken a fair share in Parliamentary work since 1906 feels he might very well complain that there has been no period for repose and of reflection, but nevertheless, as my hon. Friend has observed, we on the Labour Benches cannot accept responsibility for the arrears of social legislation, of which the people very justly complain. For my own part, I would have preferred that much of our Parliamentary time and effort 471 had been devoted to the great social problems to which my hon. Friend has so eloquently directed attention. That is not to say that we are not in full sympathy with the demand of the Irish and the Welsh democracies. We are in entire accord with them and we hope, now that these issues stand a reasonable chance of being got out of the way, these democracies will assist us in giving closer attention to the consideration of social evils. Yesterday it was urged that it was necessary to have a restraining influence in the British Constitution. Apprehensions were expressed less this House might indulge in grave revolutionary measures. For my part, I desire such changes in the Constitution as will facilitate and not hinder progress, and throughout all our existence we have shaped our course with the view to bringing that into operation.
The justification perhaps for the introduction of this Amendment is strengthened because of the allusion made by the Leader of the Opposition to the omission from His Majesty's speech of any social reform proposals. On such matters as this we of the Labour party claim to be quite detached, and if that expression means that the party opposite are willing to co-operate and to promote social reforms we can assure them, as we have been always able to assure the Government, that we are equally willing to work with them. My hon. Friend has very much eased my task, because of necessity in following him I must traverse very similar ground, but I will avoid as far as practicable any repetition. He has given facts and figures which are well known to every reflective person in the community. Everybody who reads is aware of the fact that while the incomes of the well-to-do show a great growth, on the other hand the working classes get no proportionate share in this great growth of national income. During the last few years we have seen the working classes in revolt. Like my hon. Friend, I always favour peaceful, constitutional means. It is very often thought that this foment and upheaval is due to the mischievous conduct of Labour agitators, but if hon. Members really knew the facts they would be aware that it is the labour agitator who is concerned to direct all these revolts into peaceful and constitutional channels. During the last year we have had the dock workers, the railway men, and the miners on strike. No considerable body of men ever go out on strike unless they are seized with a strong 472 sense of grievance. During these strikes we have had this very peculiar spectacle: The party papers have been urging the Government to strike at the strikers, to attach the funds of the trade unions and to undermine the voluntary system. All this serves but to exasperate those men, and I venture to submit, if this House is desirous of curtailing this dislocation of national trade and industry, they must hold out hope that they will go to the root of the cause of strikes and not hit the actual strikers themselves. My hon. Friend and myself might very likely find ourselves differing on some points, but I view with considerable apprehension the reckless statements made in some directions with the view to preventing these strikes.
Some people suggest that compulsory arbitration or conciliation ought to be resorted to. The mere title of these things seems to suggest paradoxical considerations, to my mind. To compel people to arbitrate and to compel them to conciliate seems to me to propose a remedy that does not bring much hope to the working classes of this country. Nevertheless I know this from practical experience of trade unions, that wherever conciliatory measures or arbitration proceedings offer any reasonable hope to the workers, they are always ready to resort to that expedient. For my part, I recognise the situation to be very serious, though I am not prepared to associate myself with any endeavour which would restrict the right of the workers to use the strike as occasion might warrant. Everybody in this House is acquainted with the facts and figures of modern society, and we have to realise, too, that the working classes are better mentally equipped to-day than ever before. They have the same facilities for getting knowledge that we possess in this House, and many hon. Members would be amazed could they become acquainted with the large number of working men who pore over Blue Books and ferret out the causes of the great social ills with which they are familiar. They are all asking to-day, Why is it that degrading poverty is associated with this great national problem? Naturally, they ask why they and theirs do not get a fair share in the great progress. Some get bitter. I deprecate as strongly as anybody reckless methods of violence and disorder, but, nevertheless, when we become acquainted with the actual life and circumstances of those people, I at least am 473 prepared to say a word in justification of their attitude. Generally the working classes are amenable to reason and even-handed justice, but no longer are they to be put off by exploded economic fallacies.
You cannot convince the working classes to-day that exaggerated wealth upon the one hand and depraved poverty upon the other are inevitable features of a model society. They believe the problem now is one of wealth distribution, and therefore claim that their share shall be made larger in order that they may realise some of the duties of life. I have listened to people sometimes who would argue that all these things are inevitable, that they are dictated by certain economic laws. We on the Labour benches, at any rate, believe that economic laws are not immutable. You cannot convince me that economic laws are entitled to rank alongside the laws of gravitation as part of a fixed and unchangeable plan of the universe. Economic laws are made by men and can be altered by men as soon as a proper spirit animates them. The working classes see economic laws devoted to the interests of one section or another. Trusts are evils of the modifying economic laws, and they are made to bring greater profits to those who own the trusts. Trusts will not only hit public interests, but they show that a certain advance in prices must result from them. One of the results of the recent Railways Act is that a great railway monopoly has had increased facilities given it in order that they may simply say higher prices shall rule. These higher prices or rates are not going to drop from heaven; they must ultimately be earned by the common people of the country, and they will assuredly reflect themselves in a further diminution of the real value of working-class wages. My hon. Friend made use of the coal prices. I have heard that coal mining is not a monopoly. I am afraid that hon. Members will have great difficulty in arguing us into that state of mind. The fact is there is practically no competition either amongst the railway companies and the colliery companies. They determine what price the public shall pay, and the public are powerless, and have to pay, and hence I say they are monopolies. The workers find everywhere that, despite the painful effort they make, even if they have succeeded in slightly improving their lot, that there is some factor in society which seeks to gain from them that which they may have won by the strength of their orga- 474 nisations. My hon. Friend has shown how, whilst that is true, that, taking a period of years, wages have risen, the working classes are no better off. I recognise that, during recent years, substantial advantages have been secured by sections of the working classes, but I dispute that there has been any real elevation in the life of the working classes, because even the small concessions in wages have been more than counterbalanced by advances in the general cost of the necessaries of life. We are asking that the House shall give some consideration to this problem. The interests of the working classes must be more and more studied. I agree with my hon. Friend that this is not merely a question of sentiment, but of actual business affecting the community as a whole. It does not pay the nation, however profitable it may be to private individuals, to have these festering social sores existing from one generation to another. Employers will have to understand that they must have larger obligations placed upon them. I have heard employers object to trade union intervention because they want to run their businesses as they like. We aver that no man has a right to run his business as he likes, because there is a society interest in his business as well as his own private interest. The State has already embarked upon this method of giving wages or ensuring wages to certain groups of our working classes. My hon. Friend cited the case of the Trades Boards Act of 1909. We are glad to acknowledge that some great changes have taken place under this particular measure. I have read of women chain makers who have had their wages raised to 2¼d. per hour, and of lace finishers who have had their wages raised to 2¾d. per hour. There are cases of women engaged in the tailoring trade who are being paid 3¼d. per hour, and I am told that some women are now earning 10s. 6d. per week for 50 hours' work. That is happening under the Act. One naturally asks what was the case prior to this Act, and the replies given show that the wages of these women, by this measure alone, have been increased in some circumstances 100 per cent. And so we have the spectacle in this country of women labouring all the week for a paltry pittance of 5s. or 6s.
Recently there was a Blue Book presented to this House giving an account of the inquiries conducted into the condition of the Belfast linen trade, and there it is 475 adduced, not according to the imagination of any extreme Socialist or mere labour man, but in cold, convincing fashion that there are women to-day working for the paltry sum of 1d. per hour. I suggest to right hon. and hon. Members opposite that if they were to embark upon a crusade of righting the wrongs prevalent in the Belfast linen trade they would be doing a great deal more for the Empire than encouraging the revolt against the Home Rule proposals of the Government. Last year we had the case of the Miners' Minimum Wage Act, and I believe it has been estimated that this Act has brought to the working miners about £500,000 extra in wages per annum. I think that all these may very well be cited as precedents for the demand incorporated in our Amendment. I would like to make a passing reference to some figures which I know have startled many members of my class. For the purpose of the Post Office Inquiry now being conducted a Board of Trade official has prepared some figures giving the competitive value of the sovereign between the year 1895 and the year 1912, and we find that in 1895 a sovereign bought as much as practically 25s. would buy to-day. It follows that if there is a group of workers whose wages have not increased during that period, not only have they made no progress, not only have they not shared in the great increase of national wealth, but they have actually suffered a detriment, according to Government calculations, of 25 per cent. You can imagine, according to these figures, a working man taking home a sovereign and his wife pointing out to him that that sovereign is only worth 16s. 3d., as compared with the time when they got married in the year 1895.
I would like to advance a plea upon behalf of a class with which I am very intimately associated. On these questions we have heard rumours not confined to one party or the other, and, after all, there has been a gradual awakening, and all parties are now more respectful to working-class appeals. I do not want to utter anything unnecessarily provocative, because we are here not merely to score a party triumph, and I ask hon. Gentlemen to accept my assurance that we are only putting forward this Amendment because of our deep concern for the working classes, and because we believe that if these demands were conceded the nation would be much better and stronger on account of those 476 concessions. I happen to come of an agricultural stock, born in a small village in the county of Norfolk. I turned up the Board of Trade Returns, and I ascertained that the average wage of the agricultural labourer in Norfolk is given as 15s. 4d. per week. I always suspected those figures. I understand that they are supplied by the employing class exclusively, and I am certain that they considerably overstate the actual conditions of the agricultural labourers. I believe it is truer to say that the wages in the county of Norfolk average about 13s. per week. I am able to say that I have relatives of my own to-day in receipt of 12s. and 13s. per week.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
Yes, it is. I can assure the Noble Lord that I am acquainted with cases in my own family where they simply have that wage without even a bit of garden ground, and they are forbidden to keep even a fowl or a pig to help them to eke out their existence. My hon. Friend has thrown some light upon the life of a certain group. I want hon. Members to contemplate the life of the agricultural labourers. I will assume that the agricultural labourer gets 13s. per week. Out of that he has to pay 2s., probably 2s. 6d., for rent. I assume he is a careful and thrifty man, and he will expend about 9d. per week upon clothes. Having regard to the extraordinary rise in the price of coal, it is not too much to say that he will require 1s. 6d. per week for coal and light. That comes to 4s. 3d. per week. If he were to spend a 1d. per meal for each of the five members of his family, if they only had the regulation three meals a day, that would mean 105 meals a week, and that would exhaust the whole of the 13s., because those meals would cost 8s. 9d. You may say they will have to reduce the amount, but even if they do, it must be realised even with that further reduction there is very little left for incidentals and the small luxuries which we believe ought to be the lot of every human being in the country.
There is a curious sidelight upon the attitude of the employers in this case. In January, 1912, a large landowner in Norfolk was so impressed with the lot of the agricultural labourer that he decided to raise wages to 17s. per week, with a view to setting an example to the employers in the district. What happened? On 477 13th January of last year a tenant farmer contributed a letter to the "Eastern Daily Press," in which he protested against this action on the part of this landlord, and why? He protested because the effect would be to cause dissatisfaction amongst the labourers employed upon adjoining farms and estates. That sort of thing is a contributory cause of the great unrest which afflicts society, and I believe this House ought to declare that the moral obligation of employment is that no man shall employ a fellow man unless he is able and willing to guarantee him a living wage as a result of that employment. I believe if this House could agree to fix a statutory minimum wage for the agricultural labourers of the country we should do a great deal to solve the great urban problems with which we are afflicted. I have not in mind even a flat rate for the whole of the country. I understand the variable conditions that prevail, and I think we ought to set up district boards, with a view to the matter being arranged, as I prefer it, by conciliatory proceedings, between the two parties affected.
We think it is the duty of this House to see that these two parties do come to an arrangement, based upon the living-wage principle enunciated by my hon. Friend. The Mover of this Motion urged that housing was hardly less in importance to the agricultural labourer than wages. I think it is amazing how decent and respectable these large groups of our working classes do grow up, having regard to the wretched conditions under which they are living. There is one point which needs to be emphasised. I have suggested that the problem is one of wealth distribution, and that, if the working classes are to have more, the other classes must be satisfied with less. I have heard it argued in this House that it is possible to elevate the workers without affecting the interests of other classes. I respectfully say that it cannot be done. We might as well face the issue squarely in the face, and we are not alone in this consideration. I was glad to find in an article by Canon Barnett, of Westminster Abbey, in the "Nineteenth Century" for February this year, the following words:—The point which I desire to make clear is this: If the poor are to become richer, the rich must become poorer.He went on to show that if people used a bare sufficiency of cotton and woollen goods the demand for them would increase from three-fold to six-fold. We are urging 478 also that although trade is booming the inevitable depression must ensue, and we feel that the time of prosperity is the occasion for making provision for the period of depression which will assuredly follow. But even during the time of a trade boom we have a great unemployment problem. There are to-day 2 per cent. of the workers unemployed. It is stated that there are rarely less than 350,000 out of work, and that number rises to 1,500,000 during times of bad trade. I am not here to argue whether any of these are unfit for work; the mere existence of the problem and the fact that during slow trade there are men fit for work who are quite unable to get its points to the necessity for some consideration being given to it. My hon. Friend pointed out that this unemployment and these poverty conditions are a source of detriment to the nation as well as the cause of the physical deterioration and moral degradation of the individual. We had set up a few years ago a Development Board. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can inform us what has been done by this Board with a view to providing schemes of employment to be utilised when bad trade comes.
Again, I might suggest the Government could help by abolishing food taxes. It is true they would deprive some hon. Gentlemen of a strong political cry, but on the other hand they would not only be doing something that would commend their own party to the State; they would also be contributing something substantial towards easing the poverty conditions of our people. Unless this House is prepared to devote more time and greater consideration to this state of the working-classes, then the outlook is black indeed. We on these benches move amongst the working-classes of the country, and I do not like the spirit being manifested in some quarters. I hate the idea of anarchy and disorder, and we seek to guide the working-classes as far as we possibly can to demanding a reasonable and peaceful dealing with the problem which afflicts them; but if this House ignores them then I am certain that during the corning period of depression there will be not only a repetition of strikes but displays of grave disorder with which it will be very difficult for the nation to deal. We recognise the problem is not confined to our own country. It prevails in all civilised countries in the world. We have the assurance of Labour representatives that even in America and in Germany the problem of individual poverty 479 and unemployment generally is extremely acute. I have pointed out that the possessing classes, the well-to-do, will have to make up their minds to be satisfied with less. A great Continental Power, for the purpose of national defence, now proposes a direct tax on individual wealth. If the possessing classes of all countries were to exhibit a willingness that their wealth should be taxed for the purpose of dealing with these great problems, they would contribute more to national security and to the glories of our Empire than by any further extension of our naval and military defences.
We are often told human nature cannot be changed. Under the Irish Labourers Acts there have been from 1883 to 1908 some 43,000 houses built by State aid. I have been with certain of my colleagues giving considerable attention to this question of labour, and I understand human nature in those districts has been reformed beyond recognition. The mere fact that you give people decent clean houses in which to live and some security in life has such an effect on their general conduct and bearing that you have almost a new race being developed amongst those people. Candidly, I say that any redistribution of wealth is only to be justified so far as it makes for higher intellectual attainment and greater moral development. It is because I want our people to be more intellectually equipped, and because I want to see our people occupy a higher moral plane that I am concerned that what we may call these material considerations shall have greater attention from this House. It is no good preaching morality to these people unless you give them the necessary moral surroundings in which to live. I cannot conceive that there is any more urgent work, and I cannot contemplate any more noble work to which this House can devote itself than redeeming the working-classes of our country of that curse of undeserved poverty which afflicts them.
§ Mr. M'CURDY
We have been fortunate in being able to listen to the most brilliant and profound speech on this subject of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, and we have been no less fortunate in being able to listen to the sincere and sometimes personal statements of the hon. Member who followed him. Yet I think it is perhaps unfortunate that this Amendment should have been moved by an hon. 480 Member who will be proud of any reference to his adherence to Socialistic doctrines and by a Gentleman from the Labour Benches. It would be a profound pity if we were to discuss this subject under the misapprehension that this demand for a minimum wage is a Socialists' demand or a demand put forward by the working classes of this country. What is the minimum wage? It is the lowest weekly sum of money which is sufficient to enable a man to keep himself and to bring up his family in a decent condition fit for citizens of this great Empire. That is certainly not the ideal of the Socialist party. Their ideals, I am glad to think, go very much further than that. The wage they demand could be defined shortly as the maximum wage, the wage which represents the total profit realised by the work of the labourer. So far as the British working man is concerned, I have never yet met a working man so mean spirited as to put forward on his own behalf a plea that he should be entitled to such a wage as shall be barely sufficient to afford him a living. I hope the working men, like the Socialists, have a higher ideal than that.
This is not a labour question, or indeed a sectional or party question at all; it is a national question. It is not a matter of Socialism or capitalism. Enlightened capitalists, as well as enlightened Socialists, are both agreed upon one thing, and that is that in the manhood and labour of the nation a country possesses an asset of importance second to none. Some time ago President Roosevelt appointed a Commission the object of which was to inquire into the conservation of the natural resources of the United States, but the Commission went out of their way in one paragraph of their report to say human beings considered as capitalised working power were in their opinion worth from three to five times all the other capital of the United States put together. They further expressed the opinion that in the United States, owing to improper conditions of housing and labour, the waste and unnecessary loss of that national asset could not be estimated at less than one and a half million dollars a year. The same view was put forward in somewhat striking language by Sir Joseph Ward, the Premier of New Zealand, when he stated recently that the people of that continent had been calculating the value of their population to the State. He was speaking in connection with the maternity benefit, which there 481 amounts to a sum of £6, payable on the birth of a child. Sir Joseph Ward said:—We assess the value of an adult in our country at 1,500 dollars. So from a business standpoint and on national grounds we regard the expenditure of a sum up to 30 dollars on the birth of a child as judicious, when the value of the infant to the country may be fifty times that sum.Professor Irvine Fisher, of Yale, dealing with the same question of the value of the worker to the State, said:—The annual child crop of the United States is worth about seven billion dollars per annum, about the same as the agricultural crop.All that this Resolution, so far as the minimum wage is concerned, really asks the Government of this country to do is to apply to this great national asset, the manhood and labour of the country, just the same principles which we apply, and everybody recognises we ought to apply, to any other asset which the nation possesses. We ought to conserve it; we ought to promote its efficiency by the utmost means in our power. If it were a case of horses, everybody would recognise that a well-fed, well-groomed, and well-stabled horse is very much more valuable both to his employer and to the community at large than an animal which is indifferently looked after. The same thing applies to every other form of live stock which you can find upon a farm. We are asking the Government to recognise that the same principle applies to our human stock. If you secure to men fair wages, decent homes, decent food, and decent comforts of life, the result will be greater efficiency, more satisfaction to the employer, and greater wealth produced for the benefit of the State. When we put forward a demand that a minimum wage should be secured for the people of this country, I repeat we are not voicing any demand on the part of the workers of this country, nor are we putting it forward as a satisfaction of any demand on the part of the workers of this country. As I have already said, I am glad that the working men of this country are not mean-spirited enough to put forward such a demand as this. We are putting forward a demand on behalf of the State, on behalf of the community at large, that whether the working man wants it or not, whether he asks for it or not, the working man shall be assured of those reasonable conditions of life which are necessary to keep him in a state of industrial efficiency and to enable him to do satisfactory work for the State. We are making a proposal which we believe will mean more working days in the year out of every working man, 482 more working days for the worker, and more zeal and vitality in the work that he does on every one of those working days.
Stated in that way, it is not difficult, I think, to see that this proposal in its very essence is far removed from anything in the nature of Socialism. The object of Socialism is the abolition of class distinctions; it is to raise the worker in the social scale. If you propose an educational ladder by which the humblest boy may rise through the primary and secondary schools to the universities, and ultimately fill, if he possesses the requisite ability, even the highest position in the State, a programme with which I am myself in hearty sympathy, I think that is a Socialistic proposal. It is a proposal to give the working classes of this country an opportunity to break down class barriers and rise into a class above themselves, but this is merely to provide for the workmen that minimum wage which is requisite to keep him in a state of physical efficiency as you would keep a horse in your own stable. That is not raising him out of his class, it is not Socialistic. It is only enlightened capitalism to see that they fit the working man of this country to be efficient for the purpose of a working man, and therefore for their own interest, by every means that modern science can command. It is said by some that this will cost too much. I saw in a speech on the question of national railways by the Prime Minister recently, that he drew attention to the fact that even in these years of comparative trade prosperity the shareholders of the railways of the United Kingdom were not receiving snore than about 3½ per cent. on their capital. It is said that that is a reason why it is impossible to raise the wages of railway men. Well, for my part I have not found anywhere in the Ten Commandments a provision that you must have 3½ per cent. On the other hand, there is an obligation that the citizens of the State shall be as well looked after as animals on a farm. It appears to me that that is a proposition which is incontrovertible. There is an assumption which I am sorry to see was shared by the hon. Member who preceded me, that an increase of wages for the labouring classes, either necessarily or even probably, involves any decrease in the profits to be obtained by the employing classes. That is an assumption from which I profoundly and entirely dissent. It is entirely contrary to the economic experience of the last 483 quarter of a century. Let me quote one small instance which comes into my mind. It was the case of the Dayton Cash Register Company of the United States. Their cost accounts were kept with that minute detail which modern business has made necessary. They disclosed the fact that when the directors of that company set aside three cents per day to provide luncheon for the female employés, the result was that they got five cents worth of additional labour out of them in exchange.
It is a mere business proposition that the more efficient you make the instrument of labour, the more return you will get, and the more profit. I have always thought that there has been one very good lesson to be learned from the arguments of the Tariff Reformers, though it is perhaps the last lesson they would wish us to learn, and that is that we need never be afraid to cripple trades and industries by imposing taxes and duties upon them. We have seen the hosiery trade in a part of Leicestershire crippled and ruined by a tariff. It was the MacKinley Tariff, first, I think, and then it was followed by the Dingley Tariff, by which the hosiery trade in some parts of Leicestershire was said to have been killed. We saw the tinplate industry ruined in South Wales, and when we look across the Channel we see the German manufacturers of machinery complaining bitterly that they are crippled in their trade by the taxes and impositions put upon them by their German cartels and trusts, and they have to go to them for the steel, which is the raw material upon which their industry depends. What happens in that case? Is their industry ruined and crippled or permanently injured? Not at all. The tinplate industry, which was supposed to have been killed out, has looked up again. When these tariffs, these disabilities and duties, are placed upon trade, the tide of trade and commerce dams itself up for a little while against the obstruction and then flows over it, and the stream of trade goes on just as before. If trade and industry can recover without any permanent injury from the crippling effects of tariffs and duties which are imposed for the benefit of monopolies and trusts, I have every confidence that trade and industry will show just the same recuperative power if any conditions or impositions are placed upon them for objects which are much more worthy and which will have much 484 more beneficent effects. In addition to this, there is for the State a great national saving to be effected, quite apart from the increase of efficiency. There is no problem which so baffles the social reformer at present as the housing problem does—how to provide houses for the working population whose wages do not allow them sufficient margin to pay rent which would give the builder even 3 per cent. return for his capital. It is an insoluble problem, until you adopt the one solution, which makes everything plain, and that is to raise wages to a margin sufficient to enable a man to live in a decent house in a manner worthy of a citizen of Great Britain in the twentieth century. Not only in housing, although the whole question of housing would disappear to-morrow if a minimum wage could be enforced throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, but there are many minor drains upon our national resources which would be stopped. It would not be necessary for the school boards or their successors in the London County Council to feed necessitous school children if they knew that the parents had got a wage ensured which was at least a sufficient subsistence wage to enable them to feed the children themselves. There would be a saving in a good many other directions, such as lunatic asylums.
It may be said if the nation is going to get all these great benefits why should the cost of it be put upon the employer? I will tell you why. I am not asking for this boon on behalf of the working classes of this country because they are asking for it, or because it is a political demand, or even because they need it, but because they are wealth-producing machines, and I ask that they should be treated with the care and attention which is due to a wealth-producing machine. If the employer is so backward and unenlightened to his own interest as not to see that this is to his advantage, it is the business of this House to educate him up to it. When it comes to the improvement of the condition of a wealth-producing machine he should pay for it. I have always thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with that generosity which is a weakness in an otherwise perfect character, was too generous to the employers of this country when under the Insurance Act he allowed a portion of the cost of patching up this living machinery when it broke down to be put, part upon the machine and part upon the State. If it were a matter of fixed 485 machinery which broke down nobody would suggest that either the working man or the State should be at all called upon to provide a Grant-in-Aid in order to set the machinery working again. To my mind exactly the same principle applies to the living machinery. The man who gets the direct benefit is the employer of labour, and he is the man who ought to pay the cost of putting the human machine into a decent and efficient condition. If that were not so we should have this result, that our modern progress, our progress from a position in which the working classes occupied the position of slaves to the feudal position in which he was a serf attached to his lord, and the tranition from that to his present state, would, in one repsect at any rate, have placed the working classes of this country in a worse condition than they occupied under conditions of slavery, because nobody would deny that so long as slavery existed in the Southern States of America, or if slavery had continued to exist up to the twentieth century, that the slave owner must keep his slave at any rate in a proper bodily condition. When we abolish one evil we certainly ought not to place the working man in a worse position than he would have been in those old conditions, which we naturally regard as abominable and unthinkable. The second part of the proposed Amendment deals with the nationalisation of railways and the mines and other monopolies.
I think we can state in a very few words the grounds upon which this country ought now to be very seriously considering the question of the nationalisation of railways. The present system is not working satisfactorily. We have two great branches of the transport service—one conducted by the State, which is known as the Post Office, and the other conducted by private enterprise, known as the railways. So far as the railways are concerned, they have a monouoly of what obviously must be a very valuable source of revenue in this country. They are unable to pay to their workmen wages which satisfy those workmen. They are even unable to pay large dividends to their shareholders. [An HON. MEMBER: "Large dividends?"] Taking them right through, the dividends do not amount to more than 3½ per cent., and, on the other hand, the wages paid to the men throughout all grades, including all extras and bonuses, do not amount to more than 28s. 9d. a week. These facts, coupled with the unrest in the labour world, and with the possibility of seeing at any moment 486 the national highways closed and national commerce brought to a standstill because the directors of the railways are unable to live on friendly and peaceful terms with their men, are very strong primâ facie grounds for considering whether this branch of the transport service should not, like the other branch to which I have referred, be brought under the control of the State, where things seem to work very much better. Both parts of the Amendment seem to stand upon the same ground. I support this Amendment upon the ground that under the present system, with regard to wages, insufficient wages are paid in many trades and in many parts of the country. That really means the waste of one of the most valuable parts of the capital of this country, the efficiency of the workers, and it is because I believe that the establishment of a minimum wage would prove a useful incentive to the employers of this country to utilise our national resources to the utmost that I have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ Mr. COOPER
Very few Members of this House are more earnestly listened to on social questions than the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment. For my own part, I should like to say that up to the point where he introduced his remarks upon land I not only felt a very great measure of sympathy with him, but if it were possible, and he had chosen to make it possible for a direct vote to be taken on the question to which he chiefly addressed himself, I should have gone with him into the Lobby and supported the principle of a minimum wage for labour in this country. I have one complaint to make against the hon. Gentleman. This is an omnibus Amendment, covering almost the whole range of social problems, and containing at least two very important problems, the principle of the minimum living wage, and the nationalisation of land, railways, and so on. No doubt there are other Members in the House like myself, who might have been prepared to vote in favour of one of those, but cannot vote for the other, and therefore we are bound to take the only other course, that of not voting at all. There can be no straight vote upon this great forward policy which the hon. Gentleman himself has, at nearly everyone of his meetings, put before the workers of this country as a practical solution of their difficulties, namely, the question of the adoption of the minimum wage. I regret 487 that as this Amendment is framed there can be no practical result this afternoon. Beyond that, it is a little extraordinary to me that an hon. Member who so thoroughly understands this question, who is submitting it to this House for their approbation did not go, as I hoped he was going, into some general outline of the methods by which, if he could have his way, he would put it into practical effect. Is it the 30s. minimum wage, or the 25s. or the 20s.? What is it to be? If it is a low minimum wage, is it to be uniform and applicable to all casual labour? No expression of opinion was given by him as to whether the principle of the minimum wage, as we all understand it, can be put into practice to the great advantage of the working people of this country. The hon. Gentleman did not press for any action to be taken by the Government in promoting what he, I know, sincerely holds to be one of the fundamental methods that should be adopted.
The Labour party, if they are sincere in what they tell the people of this country on the question of the minimum wage, could have advanced it here this evening had they chosen so to do. If the Amendment had been worded with the specific object of compelling this House to move in this matter, it could have been done, for I cannot conceive how the Government could have withstood the obligation to promise the Labour party that some progress should be made. As the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) quite rightly pointed out, if there is to be any progress in regard to problems of this kind, now while trade is good is the time when a plan could be put into practice. Why should we wait, as probably we shall, until we get back into quieter and possibly bad times for the working people, and, in a state of panic, rush into a policy which might for the moment seem favourable to relieving a very difficult situation. I suppose that next Session, upon the Address we shall see the same Amendment come up in the same form, and be totally unable to get a straight vote upon it. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. M'Curdy) rather tempted one to take up the fiscal question. I do not want to do that this evening, and I only refer to it because I should not like hon. Gentlemen opposite, or whoever may follow me, to say that my views on the fiscal question are one iota less forcible than they always have been. Just as I am of opinion that 488 the State could and should interefere for the benefit of the country in industry and trade, so I am prepared to support the principle of the minimum wage, which is the demand that the State, in the interest of the workman, should interfere in the question of wages. The one to my mind is very much the complement to the other. The hon. Member for Northampton tried to persuade himself that he would support the minimum wage because it was not Socialism. To me it does not matter whether it is Socialism or whether it is not, for it is not more Socialism to me than free education for the children of this country. I hold the view that some movement forward of the lower paid wages of the people of this country is certainly the greatest domestic problem we have to face at the present time. Further, I am a believer in the principle of a high wage bill for the country. The higher the wage bill the greater is the industry and the greater the prosperity.
The principle which we understand to be in the mind of the hon. Gentleman in advocating the minimum wage, if carried out with proper regard not only to the duty of the masters, but to the duty of the workmen, could, I am persuaded, be utilised to remove many of the present injustices to workers with regard to wages with which I am myself perfectly conversant. It certainly would without question add to the efficiency of labour in this country. It would go more than any other means of which I can conceive towards solving the housing problem; for if you only allow a man to earn sufficient money to enable him to pay a proper price for his house, I do not believe there would be any hesitation on the part of the workman to pay what was a fair price for the style of dwelling that he requires. There is no country in the world where charity obtains to the same extent as it does in this country. As to those who are inclined to hold that Parliamentary interference for the improvement of wages is going to add to the burden of either the middle or the upper classes, I believe that the proper payment of the people of this country would do away with a vast amount of the charity which the people of this country are ever ready to afford. It would go a very long way towards settling the problem of child labour. It would tend to arrest the emigration of good workmen who are ever leaving these shores. It would fortify the moral independence of the people and would strengthen that character which has 489 been the mainstay of the progress of this country in by-gone years. With regard to these social problems, I have often stated in public, and I believe it to be true, that both parties for many years past have been too inclined to tinker with one little aspect of them, instead of getting down to the roots of the problems. I believe, as the hon. Member for Norwich said, that one of the root difficulties of our social evils does lie in the wages of the people of this country. I made reference a little while ago to the fact that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) did not in his remarks state that the minimum wage was a practical proposal. I was the more sorry because the hon. Member recently wrote a book, which, in my opinion, is the very best contribution to this problem I have come across, in which he stated, as he stated twelve months ago last July in his constituency, that as a practical question the minimum wage could not be adopted.
§ Mr. COOPER
I am sorry the hon. Gentleman did not explain that. I want to remind him of what he has said on this subject. I find it on page 134:—As a practical question, anything in the way of fixing by Act of Parliament a rigid and universal minimum wage is out of the question.6.0 P.M.
But may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether it is not a fact that, in April of last year, the hon. Member (Mr. Crooks) came forward with the policy of a minimum wage of 30s., which was supported by all his Friends on these benches, and so far as this country knows, so far as this House knows, the minimum wage, to members of the Labour party, is a rigid and universal minimum wage, which, up to now, we have been told is 30s.? If that is not so, surely it is time, if hon. Gentlemen want to make progress with the problem, that they should tell us really what is the proposal that they have in mind, and what practical means they have of putting it into effect. I ask that for this reason, that the hon. Member (Mr. Snowden) himself states quite fairly in this book that, in adopting the minimum wage, it is essential, in the interests of the workers, that the economic conditions of the country should be considered, and that the interests of trade and of employers should also meet with their proper share of consideration. If that can be done, I can assure the hon. Member, for my own part, that on any and every occasion I will support him in putting that 490 policy into effect, and I hope that on some future occasion he will take the opportunity of making it clear to us really what this problem is.
It was my desire, this evening, to try and do something, if possible, to help to make progress in this matter. The progress that has been made by the Labour party themselves up to the present moment, if we read up the past Debates, is very unsatisfactory, and I believe that the difficulty that stands in the way of any progress being made is because, as the hon. Member states, this problem must have full regard to the economic conditions of the country, and, as he states twice in his book, it must have a proper regard for competition. I should like to ask him a further question. When he has an opportunity would he, as being the leading member on that side who advocates this question, make it a little clearer to those of us who have sympathy with this policy what he means by unregulated competition? I should like to remind him of the particular paragraph to which I refer:—Unregulated competition rules the market, and fixes wages and labour conditions also. This competition forced down wages, degraded the standard of living, and reduced the labouring classes to a condition without parallel in the industrial industry of this country.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Is not that referring to the conditions which existed in the early part of the nineteenth century?
§ Mr. COOPER
Certainly, that is true. It is followed up, without any full explanation, on the following page, in which he quotes Lord Morley:—Unfettered competition is not a principle to which the regulation of industry may be safely entrusted.But the hon. Member does not tell us in that book what unfettered competition he has in his mind in quoting Lord Morley in that particular instance. I will not labour the question further, because I hope I have something a little more practical to put before the House. The problem that we are trying to attack, to put it in my own words, is that the earning capacity of the working people of this country is not keeping pace with their increased burdens, and the higher standard of living which obtains. I am not going into any details whatever to prove that. I accept what the hon. Gentleman said in moving this Amendment, because, to the best of my knowledge, the facts and figures which he placed before the House were a perfectly fair representation of the condition of the people. The cost of living 491 is a subject to which I wish to make a passing reference. I have followed that subject up by questions to Ministers in this House in the last eighteen months more than anyone else has. It is one of the great problems, in my opinion, which is going to face us in the future, not only in times of peace, but in time of war. But I complain—to some extent I must complain—that one does not see any sympathy shown or any support forthcoming from hon. Gentlemen opposite to follow up and to press the Government to inquire into the reasons why the cost of living has gone up. We are promised by the President of the Board of Trade a Departmental inquiry into the actual prices. In my opinion it will be an inquiry which will not be worth the paper upon which the Report will be printed. That is not what we want. We want to know why it is that prices are going up, and how far they affect this country differently from other countries. In connection with that the hon. Gentleman referred in the course of his speech, with a good deal of accuracy, I believe, to the important part played to-day by monopolist rings and trusts as being the cause of the increased prices. In the first place, hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot wonder at us asking how it is, if they really take that seriously, that they were content to sit all through last year, and apparently are going to sit throughout this year, supporting certainly the greatest capitalist party in this House. There are trusts represented on both sides, I do not deny that, but I think if hon. Gentlemen opposite will look over the names there are far more representatives of combines, agreements, and trusts on that side which are forcing the working people of this country to pay increased prices for the necessities of life. I will not mention any names. I leave it to the common knowledge of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
But I have raised quite recently what I believe is a most important matter concerning the future cost of living in this country. I asked the Prime Minister a question, to which I got a most satisfactory answer, and it related to the fact that in South America, to my knowledge, over 20,000,000 acres of picked grazing land have been bought by one of the Chicago trusts, and that there are 12,000,000 acres under negotiation at present. These same people are operating the purchase in Brazil, Uruguay, and in the Argentine Republic of several of the railways leading to the 492 ports. They already have control of the freezing works, and probably they will extend their operations later to the steamship companies. But I want to put this forcibly to hon. Members opposite as one of the great problems of the near future. We have to depend more and more on countries like South America, as the United States, for instance, sends less and less food, and in proportion, as we are going to be dependent upon these other countries, especially South America, so I find, and I know, from my own experience, that the Chicago trusts are getting their tentacles in in a way which it will be impossible some day for us to deal with. I have not tae ability to enable me to suggest what steps should be taken, but let us, at any rate, know what is going on. Let us get information, and let us see if it is possible if the best and widest men in the Government cannot find some means by which we can protect the future of the people of this country as regards their food supply.
I believe in making a short and very pithy proposal, every one opposite will support me in saying that if you want to improve permanently the wage rate of the people of this country you must start at the bottom and not at the top. That being so, I take it that our first step is to deal with the low, sweated wages—the wages which the hon. Member (Mr. G. Roberts) referred to in the case of the Norfolk farmers. He mentioned 13s. a week, and I understood he meant that that included harvest money and all considerations. The hon. Member knows a great deal more about the circumstances and the wages in that part of the country than I can possibly do, but it is a very great surprise to me if that is so, and I hope he will be good enough, on some early occasion, to give me some satisfactory evidence.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
I did not deny that there were extras, but I also said there were deductions. It is quite a common practice for men to be stood off, and there are cases in which 13s. is the average wage throughout the year. I want to convey to the House that I know cases where 13s. represents the average wage for the fifty-two weeks of the year for an able-bodied agricultural labourer.
§ Mr. COOPER
I am obliged to the hon Gentleman, because I want to be clear on the point. I did not, and could not believe that there were able-bodied and adult, workmen in Norfolk who were receiving no 493 more on an average throughout the year than 12s. to 13s. a week. I am quite prepared for hon. Gentlemen being a little amused at the proposal I am going to put forward. I have had it in my mind for fifteen months, and I have talked it over with a good many people, and I do not think it is quite so impracticable as it sounds. I have heard supporters of the Labour party, particularly the hon. Member (Mr. Snowden), speak of poverty and low and sweated wages, perfectly correctly as a disease. If it is so, and I do myself regard it very much in that light, I say take the first step you do with any disease, and let us have notification of it. Of course, it is a difficult point to say where you are to start. As a rough idea I will submit this. Let us take 20s. a week, because we know perfectly well that there are close on two millions of working people in this country who are not getting a pound a week. Let us start with them, only put it, instead of so much per week, so much per hour. Let us take the week to be fifty-four hours—that is a fair average. I think—which would work out at 4½d. In the case of able-bodied adult women, I would suggest 3d. an hour, which would bring a fifty-four hour week up to 13s. 6d. Of course, from that it is possible to evolve all kinds of proposals of making it 20s. in rural, and 22s. 6d. in urban districts, or of dealing, more particularly, with specific trades, but I believe that the first and fundamental point is to start in a low, general way, as I suggest, so that we shall have accurate information upon which we can frame future legislation, because I am very largely in agreement with the hon. Member (Mr. Snowden) that really we can do more probably by an extension of the Trades Boards than we can do by any attempt at a rigid and general minimum wage. But if we can get a notification of all wages of able-bodied adult men, of less than 20s. a week, the Board of Trade will be provided, I think, with accurate and reliable information, which would enable them to extend that principle. The employer would be practically free to employ whoever he liked, and at whatever wage, so long as he complied with the economic conditions referred to by the hon. Member for Blackburn, but he would be required to notify, subject, in case of failure, to a considerable penalty, to an authority appointed by the Local Government Board or the Board of Trade. A point to which I attach a great deal of 494 importance is that these notifications shall be open to inspection—it is rather a tall order, I know—and that the Board of Trade shall publish them without mentioning names. That is my proposal, extremely crudely and roughly expressed, in general outline.
The object which I desire is twofold. In the first place, I wish information upon which we could proceed in future in the discussion of the problem and upon which the Trade Boards Act could be properly extended. The great thing which, I think, it would achieve would be to raise the wages of the lower-paid workers by moral force, instead of by legislative force. In that way employers who are paying less might be induced to pay 20s. a week, if they could afford to do so. I know no end of people who pay a gardener a small sum for working two or three hours a week, the man not making on the average 18s. a week. I am speaking now of people who are well enough off to pay more. A groom may be paid 18s. or 19s. a week by an employer who could well afford to pay 20s. or more. These cases, I believe, would be at once removed by the simple process which I suggest. Notification would be a sort of black book, and nobody would care to get on to it if they could possibly avoid it. It would be no disgrace to be on that list, if the conditions were such that an employer, in carrying on his business, could not reasonably pay a higher wage. This is, of course, asking something of the employer. I have talked to a good many in my own Constituency, and I have not yet met any opposition to the proposal at all. If an employer desires to get the benefit of sweated wages, is it asking too much that he should be called upon to notify the wages he is paying? Hon. Gentlemen opposite will appreciate that point better than I can do myself. I do not believe that any workman would object to having that notification, more especially as the whole purpose for which it is done is to help his colleagues who are in positions similar to himself. This problem interests me more than any other domestic question in this country, and if no better proposal can be made than that of a minimum wage, I am prepared to support it in this House and the country, provided that one simple and proper condition accompanies it, namely, that the duty of the workmen will be taken into consideration as well as the duty of the employer. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to think over the simple proposal I have made. I hope that in the 495 near future some of them will be found willing to back a Bill with the view of putting the proposal into practice.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
The hon. Member (Mr. Cooper) referred to the speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn as one of very great interest. For my own part, I must confess that that speech gave me a certain amount of surprise. He drew a very vivid picture of the conditions of society as they exist, pointing out that while on the one hand there has been a rise in prices, wages have remained almost stationary. The hon. Member pointed also to the state of pauperism, and to the evils attendant upon our present housing conditions. He showed us that dividends have increased in connection with textile industries, shipping firms, and so on, and that the Income Tax returns showed on the one hand increased wealth going into the hands of a few, while those who create the wealth of the world are not improving their conditions at all. I supposed his next step would be, as a Socialist, to point to the capitalist as the enemy, and to capitalism as the cause of the existing conditions. I supposed that, having shown these high dividends in connection with shipping firms, he would have proposed the nationalisation of the shipping industry, and also that, having pointed out the high dividends in textile concerns, he would have proposed the nationalisation of the cotton factories in Lancashire. He did not do so. He told us that these conditions are due to the private ownership—the monopoly ownership—of the essentials of existence, and particularly the private ownership of land. It is the land monopoly which is the cause of social distress. I was surprised that the hon. Member should take that line, because not long ago I was involved in a by-election in which we raised that issue, and as a Liberal I contended that land monopoly was the cause of low wages and social distress. The hon. Member and some of his friends came down and pointed to my friends and myself as hypocrites and as men who were fighting the battle of capitalists by pretending that land monopolisation was the enemy. In very downright terms they took that course, and I am delighted, as are also my Friends around me, to find to-day that the spokesman of the Labour party now comes forward and points to the fact that it is necessary to attack the landlords' monopoly in order to improve the conditions of labour.
496 We are agreed in finding in land monopoly the cause of these conditions, and I should like to say a word or two in support of that view. What is the economic causation of the low wages which exist among millions of workers, and in particular those in spheres of employment which are called unskilled—there is no such thing as an unskilled worker; he would be of no use if unskilled—but among those in spheres not covered by trade union effort, and, after all, a very large body of workers are outside the trade unions? What is the cause of wages being at starvation level, or subsistence level, or below it? There is only one cause, and that is the competition of man against man. When you have two men after one job and each saying, "I had better get that job at any wage than not get it at all and starve," then you have the economic causation of the low rate of wages. Take the recent strikes that have occurred, and you see the tendency of that economic condition. When the dock strike occurred the capitalist found thousands of men seeking work, and these men were willing, perhaps forced by hunger, to take the places of the men on strike. In that way they supplied the labour force which was required, with the result that the men on strike were defeated, and so a strike will always fail so long as that surplusage of labour exists, and a strike will only succeed where there is a scarcity of labour and no men to take the places of those who strike. If the strikers were able to meet the capitalist on something like equal terms, they would probably succeed in the strike where, owing to the absence of that equality, they fail. It is this surplusage of labour that forces wages down. It is the unemployed man who is a danger to those who are striving to get up wages. I remember at the time of the dock strike a man was brought before an East End Court charged with some offence, and the magistrate said to him, "What are you?" and he replied, "I am a farm labourer working at the docks." There are thousands of men who could give that reply—men driven from the countryside by land monopoly, and forced to seek employment in the docks and other similar occupations. You can easily find out the source of supply if you have some regard to the conditions which exist. For instance, in the rural divisions of the home counties you will find the source of London's supply of cheap labour. I do not care 497 where you go, you will find migration from the rural districts of the home counties to London. Go to Essex, and you will easily see the cause. You will find the cause indicated in the report furnished quite recently by the medical officer of that county. In that report he showed that the workers were miserably housed, and that they were living in places where a landlord would not kennel his dogs or stable his horses. The rate of wages is low, and the worker cannot rent a decent cottage because the land is going out of use, and consequently a lessened demand for labour is created.
All around in the home counties you will find men who have made wealth by plundering all sorts of industry through ground rents and royalties, and who are leaving great estates derelict and unutilised, while the people are being driven away to seek employment at the docks and elsewhere in London. A friend told me at the time of the dock strike that when coming from Devonport there were in the same train four hundred men who were being brought to London to take the places of the strikers. These men were not born and bred in Devonport; they came probably from the Devonshire villages. The cause of their coming was indicated in the report as to the housing conditions in some of the parishes of Devonshire. The people are being forced by the land monopoly to leave these parishes, and, being driven to Devonport, where they could not find employment, they came to supply cheap labour in London. If you have regard to these conditions as the causation of want of employment and unrest, the hon. Member is perfectly right in pointing to land monopoly as the root cause of low wages and want of employment. So far I am in entire agreement with him, and I wish he had used his position in the past to point out these things. It is when we come to his reforms that we have rather to differ from him. As a matter of fact, he suggested no reforms, and indicated no practical method whatsoever. He simply used the blessed word "nationalisation" and left it there. The only indication he gave of the method by which this reform was to be effected was the nationalisation of the telephone system. I presume, then, he proposes to end these evils by buying out the landowners at monopoly prices as we bought out the owners of the telephone monopoly. That is the way he is going to solve the wages problem and the housing problem. I would suggest that very bad 498 conditions exist in those municipalities where they have nationalised or municipalised large areas of land. Go to Glasgow and you will find that the corporation own a large area of land, and almost the worst housing conditions in the Kingdom exist there. Go to Aberdeen, and perhaps you will find the conditions a little worse there, where the corporation owns a large area. Go to Sheffield with its slums, and you will find that the corporation have bought land. The ownership of land by the corporation consequently does not in any way solve this problem.
When we come to this question of reform one has to have some regard to the membership of the Labour party. There are two sections, the section which represents trade unionism and the section which represents the views of the Socialists. Probably—of course, we know it is so—the nationalisation of monopolies is a step towards the goal of the Socialist. The Socialist desires, rightly or wrongly—I am not discussing it now—to acquire for the State all the means of production, distribution or exchange, and for the State to be the sole employer in the country. Consequently, this Resolution, so far as nationalisation is concerned, is along the lines of Socialist policy. There is the other section of the Labour party, the trade unionist section. Trade unionism stands, it seems to me, for one purpose only, that is to raise the wage of the worker, and to see by co-operative effort that the wage of the worker represents the value which he creates. I hold that the nationalisation of the land, as suggested by the Mover of this Amendment, is opposed to the ideal of the trade unionist in his desires to get wages raised. How can wages be raised? We have labour creating wealth by application to land or raw materials from the land. That wealth which is created is divided into three parts: One part goes to the landowner as rent; another goes to the capitalist as interest, and the other goes to the wage fund. The object of the trade unionist is to increase that wage fund. He can only do it by trenching upon rent or interest, but the hon. Member wants to nationalise land and buy out the landowners, and if this is done, interest will have to be paid upon the debt created in that process, and what to-day goes as rent to the landowner will then go as rent to the owner of the bonds of the debt created. The labourer, therefore, will never be able in that way to add the rent fund to this wages fund. We hold 499 that there is a means by which we can virtually add that rent fund to the wages fund, not by buying out the landowners and creating a debt of thousands of millions upon which vast interest will have to be paid out of the rewards of labour, but by taking that rent fund by a process of taxation.
That is the method by which we are going to nationalise the land. I think if the land question is going to be solved at all it will probably be solved on those lines with the assistance of the workers of this country, who have shown that they, at any rate, whatever some of their representatives desire to do, are not going to buy out the landlords of this country and shoulder the debt created. If any hon. Members think they are capable of carrying out a scheme of land nationalisation, I would suggest to the hon. Member who moved this Amendment that he should come forward and show us how he could beneficially nationalise the property of one single landowner, say the Duke of Westminster, who is said to own land of the value of £25,000,000. If they start with him it will probably finish the land nationalisation scheme. Whether it is done or not, there can be little doubt that this is the method most beneficial to the worker, not that he shall buy out the landlord and have to pay from his wage fund the interest on the debt created, but that the State shall take that economic value to which the landowner is not entitled, said the mover of the Resolution, either legally or morally. He laid down very clearly that the economic value of the land was something created by the community, that is, by the workers. We suggest that we should take for the workers what is their own by a process of taxation and should relieve them of burdens which to-day fall upon them. The hon. Member who moved the Resolution mentioned the question of price; that is a very important question. As he pointed out while wages were stationary prices had risen, so that a pound to-day is only worth as much as 17s. a few years ago. What is the cause of the rise in prices? It is because in the case of every social reform which these Gentlemen bring forward they do not ally with it a proper method of raising the revenue for that reform, and so it is levied in such a way that the employer, capitalist, whoever he may be, hands it on to the workers in an increased price for commodities, which he produces.
500 In every direction that has been done. Take the question of Poor Law relief. There is an addition in the shape of extra tax on the cottage of the worker. For the purposes of education the money is found in the same way, and it is so very largely in the matter of financing the Insurance Act. It is passed on by the employer to the worker in the increased price of the commodity. So we do two things by going upon these lines. In the first place, we take for the community, what is the workers' own, the value of the land, and we do not pay a penny piece for it. The hen. Member who moved the Resolution pointed out that the landowner is in possession of stolen property. By going on these lines of taxation we can do what the hon. Member desires to do, restore to the people what is the people's own—that is the economic value of the land. At the same time we hold that that process of taxation; that method of taxing the value of the land, will have this effect: It will compel every owner of land in the United Kingdom to do one of two things, either to use his land himself and employ labour upon it and produce wealth upon it or let it go to somebody else who will so use it and produce wealth from it. It will compel the utilisation of the land of the United Kingdom to its fullest extent, and it will create a demand for labour which will prevent its drifting from the countryside to the town. It will open up possibilities of employment, and instead of a surplusage of labour there will be a scarcity of labour. Under such conditions trade unionism can work out the salvation of the workers. The hon. Member pointed out what is done by Wages Boards in Australia, and mentioned that there they had nationalised the railways. They have nationalised the railways, certainly. That has not solved the problem.
I remember the general strike on the railways of Victoria, where a democratic system of government introduced legislation to coerce the workers, which was worse than any legislation that was ever enforced outside the realms of the Czar. Yet they had their minimum wages boards and so on, and to try to enforce the resolutions of these bodies they had to introduce specially coercive legislation. I would remind the miners' representatives that not long ago New South Wales was ruled by a Labour party and they sent the president and other officials of the miners organisation to prison for a long term of years because they had struck, and there 501 they are trying to retain or to get back the right to strike. They made all these endeavours in a country controlled by labour. What was the result of it all? Two years ago the Labour party of Australia went to a general election and before that election they issued a manifesto in which they said these endeavours had failed and the condition of the worker could not be permanently improved as long as what they called the Upas tree of land monopoly stood in the way, and that the only method of reform was by way of taxation of land value. They went to the country on that issue, and on that issue they got the majority which has enabled the man who was a Scottish miner to be Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and to fulfil to a certain extent the pledge given and introduce the great federal land tax. That is the reply suggested by the statement of the hon. Member that in Australia they had solved this problem of wages by a minimum rate of wages and a Wages Board and by the nationalisation of railways. I am in entire agreement with the hon. Member that land monopoly is the root evil, but he is going the wrong way when he wishes to buy out the land monopoly and supplant the land monopolist by the bondholder. If that is done I do not believe that the conditions of labour would be improved, but I believe that they would be detrimentally affected. When the Government representing the party to which we belong come to deal with this problem, I trust they will see to the establishment of greater equality of opportunity for the workers, and that the land monopoly, that great and flagrant obstacle which has so long stood in the way of equality of rights, shall be dealt with by the simple process of taxation.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
According to the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite), to whose interesting account of the conditions of Australia I listened, it would appear that the workers in Australia suffer from an extraordinary tyranny, and that the Labour leaders have been treated worse even than those in Russia. It seems to me that it is not very long ago since I heard a speech made by the same hon. Gentleman, in which he asserted that the land taxes of Australia were the cause of the prosperity of Australia—the very policy which he now advocates for the United Kingdom. The fact is that the industrial policy of Henry George has been carried further in Aus- 502 tralia than in any other part of the world. Does the hon. Member deny that?
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I do not deny it in the form in which you put it, but I have constantly pointed out that no country can be prosperous under tariffs.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
It appears to occur to my hon. Friend's recollection that there are other factors at work in Australia, after the one-sided account he has given of the operations of the Minimum Wage Boards of the Victoria Legislature. I have a very high opinion indeed of the results of the working of the Minimum Wage Boards in Australia. Indeed, it was largely on the evidence from that State that the Select Committee, on which I had the honour of serving, recommended that Parliament should adopt the system of the Victoria Trade Boards, and I am glad that system was referred to in the very eloquent speech in which my hon. Friend moved the Amendment. What is the root fallacy of the hon. Member for Hanley's view? I am very glad we have had it put forward, so that it can be dealt with in this House. Speeches like that to which we have listened, full of earnestness and sincerity and eloquence, have a very great effect on the minds of many people in the United Kingdom, and I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Hanley sincerely believes in what he advances. He believes that the wealth of the United Kingdom is based on land.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
As a matter of fact, while the United Kingdom depended on its land for its wealth it was a poor country, and if it continued to depend upon the land for its wealth it would still be a poor country. Should the time ever arrive when the picture drawn by the hon. Member for Hanley is realised, when the labourers will leave the towns and get back to the land for their means of subsistence, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that this country will then have taken the road back to poverty, and will no longer be a great nation; its population would sink to a comparatively small number. What is the historic justification for the argument I am addressing to the House? It is this. Only five generations have elapsed since the whole of England and Wales contained fewer people than are at present in greater London. In those days the United Kingdom was an agricultural 503 country, where people depended on the land for work. What was the cause of the wealth of this country. Of course it was the discovery of our industrial power; it was the discovery that we possessed what the Member for Hanley called a national gift—coal.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
The hon. Member will find on investigation that no mining company, when the coal is brought to the surface, although in pseudo-economic language it is land, pays less than 80 per cent. of its value in wages to the miners. Let anyone start out on the land with his spade, and not remain knocking at the dock gate, as my hon. Friend has pictured, and endeavour to get coal. It would be a futile operation. A very large amount of capital indeed is required before you can get coal. I would really ask the hon. Member for Hanley before he makes any more speeches of the character of that he has delivered to-night in this House, and especially before he addresses people who have not had an opportunity of studying these subjects closely, to remember that this is, for good or ill, an industrial country, which does its work, not alone with the natural gifts of the United Kingdom, but with the natural gifts of the whole world. Our industries are not based on the natural gifts of our own land, they are not based on material in this country, but from other countries. How, therefore, could the proposal of the hon. Member for Hanley reach the cotton of the Southern States of the United States of America? How could it reach the wool of Australia? Those natural gifts are not near us, and even presuming the policy of a single tax is economically correct, no single tax could reach the landlords who own the land on which those natural gifts are grown. I hope the hon. Member for Hanley will give consideration to these all-important facts before British workmen are led to expect constant employment as agricultural labourers. The truth is, that if the whole of the food required by the people of the United Kingdom were grown in this country, the number of people employed would be relatively a handful compared with the whole of the present population. Of course, as that is true, one feels at once that if we could devote a very much larger part of our population than now to agricultural pursuits, we 504 should not absolve the problem of poverty, and we should be left with the industrial problem very much as it is.
It is perfectly true that we ought to do all that we can for the rural workers; I am entirely with my hon. Friend in regard to rural problems; but do not let us deceive ourselves by thinking that, when we have done all that is humanly possible in that direction, we shall not still have the great majority of the population to deal with—I refer to the industrial population, who can only get their living by engaging in industrial pursuits. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) and the speeches of other hon. Members, render it quite unnecessary to dwell at any great length upon the record, however striking, of facts which unfortunately obtain in this country as regards the distribution of wealth. They are facts which I am glad to think are becoming known to the workers of this country. It has always been a consolation to me as a private Member of this House to think that I have been able at least to do something to make the people of the United Kingdom acquainted with those facts, and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity of doing a great deal amongst a million of people in this country to make them acquainted with them. If you take the wages since 1895, the rate of wages has increased by about 13 per cent. But what of prices? Prices have increased by nearly one-fourth in the same period—nearly 25 per cent. It is obvious therefore that in that period the case of the working man has grown worse. If we take the last twelve years, from 1900 to 1912, what do we find? We find that wages in that period—I am speaking on the authority of the Board of Trade—have risen by a little more than 1 per cent., while the cost of living, according to the London retail prices, giving due weight to consumption, has risen by 15 per cent. Can we be confronted with a more serious state of facts? Although my hon. Friends may not take us with them into the Lobby, it is not because of the intrinsic worth of what they have put before the House, but because such an Amendment involves a want of confidence in the Government, but I think, nevertheless, that the House remains very deeply indebted to them. In regard to the Income Tax in this country, taking the same period of years and making a very small estimate indeed of any possible advance of profits in the last year, we find that the gross 505 assessment to Income Tax of Income Tax payers has risen from about £680,000,000 to £1,100,000,000, an increase of £420,000,000, or 62 per cent.—in the same period in which we have seen that cash wages have risen 13 per cent., and London retail prices 23 per cent.
The rise in prices is the prime cause of the rise in profits? It is not the manufacturer who has suffered in these recent years. He has gained. The facts show that his profits have increased, and further, he is quite capable of looking after himself in the matter of his bargains. When we see iron goods advance all round 15 per cent. or 20 per cent, we may be quite certain that it represents something more than the cost of material. Mr. Barnes, of the Board of Trade, has put the whole case in a nutshell when he says that the sovereign of 1895 is only worth 16s. 3d. in 1912. How is this terrible fall in purchasing power to be met by the working classes? How is the Budget balanced? I think there is little doubt that investigation shows that it is balanced in several very melancholy ways. The chief method, of course, is by the degradation of consumption. Margarine is substituted for butter, and an inferior quality of margarine is substituted for the better quality sold before. A worse quality of meat is supplied, and the things put up in bags and tins and so forth, are, some of them, of inferior quality. Then, by one means or another, the poor wretched budget, and I can use the word advisedly, of the year 1895, becomes in England a more wretched budget at the present time. I have said that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn dealt with these things so thoroughly and so eloquently that it is scarcely necessary for me to supplement them. Let me pass from that to a very slight consideraion of the causes. Various causes have been suggested which are more or less true. There is the increasing output of gold, but while that accounts for some part of it, it is only for a small part. I had some correspondence with one of the leading advocates of the theory that gold accounted for the rise in prices. But he admitted that it certainly did not contribute more than 7 per cent. What is the main cause, and I think undoubtedly the main cause? It is the fact of what I may call the rapid exploitation of the resources of the world. We have reached a point at which it does not proceed rapidly enough 506 to counteract the increasing call for commodities. It is all very well running over the virgin soil of the world and the virgin forests, which were thought to be illimitable, but which are not. We had an instance of that when exploiters thought that there was an unlimited amount of India-rubber in the world. Of course there was not, and we were very quickly brought to a point when rubber rose heavily in price. You can, of course, plant more rubber. Fortunately it is a thing which renews quickly, and therefore we have seen prices brought down to a certain extent. I may point out that that illustration denies the gold theory, because the production of gold has been going on all the time, while the price of rubber rose and while it fell again. That is true also of other commodities, and it is for the world as a whole, if it is to regain what I may call world cheapness, to conserve the resources of the world. It has got to deal with that question on a pretty different plan and with different treatment from that which the matter has received up to the present.
This fact fortunately has been recognised by governing powers. One of the best things done by Mr. Roosevelt during his term as President of the United States was to institute a Conservation Commission to conserve the resources of the United States of America, which have been so far tapped that, although it seems an extraordinary statement, there are many kinds of timber which have become rare in the United States, which once possessed sonic of the greatest and finest forests in the world. Could one have a more extraordinary example of the wasteful exploitation of the resources of the world which has proceeded during the last few generations? We are dealing, not with a very large world, but with a small world, and we have got to conserve its resources. Apart from that, I think the hon. Member for Blackburn did a very great service in directing attention to the extraordinary control of prices which has become so marked a feature of modern commercial operations, and which has gone so far that it has even passed over international boundary lines. We used to talk of States within the States, but we have now got to talk of States without the State. We are confronted with the fact that bodies of gentlemen meet in various parts of the world and deal with trade from an international point of view, brushing aside all questions of Free Trade and Protection, of 507 small tariff and high tariff. They make arrangements between themselves, as, for instance, that the Belgians will make their iron, and the Germans theirs, and the British theirs, and that each, respectively, will charge what they think they can for it. That is the kind of spirit which has entered into the commerce of the world. It seems to me that that cannot go far before the States, which still believe they are States, will feel impelled to interfere with the governing powers and to resume their powers of government.
Passing from that to consider distressing facts in connection with the trade of the country, in addition to degradation of consumption, we have got something else. Surely it is one of the most terrible things we have got to consider in this connection, that we get degradation of employment. You produce so much value in the country in the year and you get that value ill-distributed, because you get too small a part of it going to the masses at large, and too great a part of it going to a limited section. What is the result upon employment? The result is that trades of necessity do not expand as they ought, while trades of luxury expand unduly. Those profits, which are often handled so lightly, we have got to regard as a call upon labour. We have got to regard the dividend which is produced as an almost intangible thing, which only becomes a tangible thing when it is translated into terms of consumption. If a pound comes to a workman it goes into a hundred shops, and creates a call upon the trades of necessity. The pound which goes to the dividend taker, what becomes of it? It is also translated into consumption, but into a different kind of consumption. It is translated into a consumption, which means the stimulation and growth of trades of luxury in the country. We have only got to glance round upon London to see this. Never before was there such an exhibition of luxury as there is at the present time. Never before did the stores and shops that supply materials of luxury flourish as they are flourishing at the present time. We see those stores declaring dividends of 25, 30, and 40 per cent., simply because of the tremendous expenditure on luxurious articles by the people who deal in them. We have many proofs of the truth of the proposition which I seek to establish. Suppose we have a national dividend of two thousand millions; that simply means the valuation in pounds sterling of 508 a great mass of good things and bad things, material things and immaterial things, ponderable and imponderable things. We have got to remember, and this is the most important economic consideration in this connection, that if we can do anything to improve the distribution of wealth we improve the expression of the national dividend.
The two thousand millions may not increase through our distribution, but its expression is different. It no longer means two thousand million pounds' worth, expressed in so much food and so many of the necessaries of life, and, on the other hand, so many luxuries, so many motor cars, and other matters. It may mean more of the necessaries and less of the motor cars. That brings me to another matter referred to by the hon. Member for Blackburn. I do suggest that my hop. Friend the Member for Hanley did but little and scant justice to this question. In the first place, the hon. Member for Blackburn suggested that labour should be made a first charge. It does not please me, as a Member of the Liberal party, that that proposition should be denied from this side of the House, and affirmed from the other side by an hon. Member who, in an interesting speech, made a suggestion which I regard as very significant, coming from one who is, I understand, a manufacturer and employer of labour. That suggestion was that a low wage, a wage of 20s., should be notified, as though it were an industrial disease. I think that suggestion does very great credit to the heart of the hon. Member, and it is the first time I have heard such a suggestion. At any rate, whether it is a practical suggestion or not, it has much significance at the present time, as surely it shows that the House of Commons is ripe for dealing with these matters. I do suggest to the Government, to the President of the Board of Trade, that such a suggestion as that shows that we have reached a period of development where these questions have got to receive very serious attention indeed. An hon. Member opposite asked what did the hon. Member for Blackburn suggest. That hon. Member had already spoken, not at undue length, and he could not possibly expand his remarks any further.
Surely we have a very simple practical ground to proceed upon. The first point is that this is a physiological minimum. It may be said that this House is not the proper body to decide that, and I quite agree; but it is quite easy for this House 509 to set up a Commission to settle this question, which can be settled quite as easily as it has been settled in the case of the Post Office, upon purely physiological grounds. If we make this Commission a permanent Commission, there is no reason in the world why it should not revise its determinations periodically. That is only the beginning of the suggestion. What lies beyond that? Surely it is an intensely practical suggestion that every trade should have regard to its own productivity, and that we should establish for every trade a wage parliament, to coin a phrase, or what we call, a Trade Board under the Trade Boards Act. Why should not that be done for every trade in the United Kingdom. Why should it not be done for our still largest industry, the agricultural industry, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Norwich? I am sure he is very nearly right with regard to the rate he mentioned for Norwich. I can give the figures in the last investigation made by the Board of Trade of agricultural wages, including all earnings, not only cash wages, but harvest money, or the value of a cottage, or the value of a bit of land to grow potatoes, valued not at the labourer's, but the farmer's valuation. The result is one which, I think, goes to the very root of this matter of the minimum-wage principle. Dorset was, I think, the lowest county, and Wilshire a little over it. The rate for Dorset was 16s. 4d. per week, including all earnings in kind. In Durham—and this is the point to which I wish to direct attention—the wage of the agricultural labourer—and there it is nearly all earned in cash, though not the whole of it—was 22s. per week, a difference of 5s. 8d. per week in the same country. What better proof could we have that employers do not always know what wages they can pay, because here we have a case where, in the same country, the prices for agricultural produce are the same all over the country or very nearly the same? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Yes, I have just investigated this point. The Board of Trade not only publishes the rates of wages; it publishes for the scheduled markets of the world the price of corn, and the price of corn in all those scheduled markets is not quite, but very nearly, the same. The local price of corn in Dorset was the same as in Durham, and yet the wage paid for growing the corn was 5s. 8d. less in Dorset than in Durham.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
Corn may be the most important product produced in one 510 district, while it may be by no means the most important product produced in another.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
That is perfectly true; but if we take the main crops of the country the prices are not greatly different, for reasons which the hon. Member will clearly understand. Prices are decided not by inside produce, but by outside produce, because this is a Free Trade country. That is why this point is of such intrinsic importance.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
It applies in the great majority of cases. Undoubtedly the value of the greater part of the produce of this country is settled by outside produce and not by the produce of the country itself. And yet we see farmers paying wages differing as much as 16s. 4d. and 22s. That shows the margin which exists for raising wages—I will not say from 16s. 4d. to 22s., but I will say, without fear of contradiction, that there is a margin for improvement which could be availed of by district boards set up in each county to settle agricultural wages. As to miscellaneous earnings, I am perfectly certain that local wage Parliaments would have no difficulty in taking proper account of them. I am sure also that we should get a better valuation of those miscellaneous earnings. The state of the cottages might be called in question, and also the real value of the miscellaneous earnings generally. I am therefore very heartily in agreement with the hon. Member for Blackburn in his plea for a minimum wage. I base my view upon the experience of Victoria with Governmental Boards, on the experience of our own country with the Trade Boards Act, which has been so remarkably successful, and on the experience of our own country with voluntary boards as well as State Boards, because the economic effect of voluntary boards must be preceisely the same as that of State Boards. If wages are raised the economic effect on the industry is exactly the same, whether it is done by voluntary agreement or by a kind of voluntary agreement arranged under the ægis of the State. For these reasons I very cordially commend my hon. Friend's proposal to the House.
What of the rest? My hon. Friend speaks of nationalisation, and he refers in particular to the nationalisation of land, of coal, and of railways. What is there 511 in these matters to affright any man of business? The greater number of the countries of the world have already nationalised their railways, and they show not the slightest intention of going back upon what they have done. In Germany, whose name so often rises to our lips, the Kingdom of Prussia makes a profit of 7½ per cent. upon the capital invested in her railways, and she relieves her taxpayers pro tanto. She relieves her taxpayers not only as taxpayers, but also as freight payers. I cordially commend that point to both sides of the House. Hon. Gentlemen opposite disagree with me about some things, but they do not disagree with me on this point—that a low railway rate is good for a country, and that a high railway rate is bad. What a terrible thing it is that the President of the Board of Trade, good Free Trader as he is, should be confronted with the horrible fate of having to propose to this House a Bill to arrange railway rates. What is the difference between a small import duty at the port and a high railway duty? The difference is that the high railway rate is the worse infliction, because it is a greater all-round charge, and, moreover, the State gets no revenue out of it. Why did my right hon. Friend have to do this terrible thing? Because we have neglected to do with the greatest British invention what some other countries did with that same invention before the inventor died. George Stephenson himself was employed by the Government of Belgium to construct the Belgian State Railways. Mr. Gladstone pointed out in this House seventy years ago that railway rates and charges then were lower in Belgium than in this country. There is another country which has made greater use of the greatest and most conspicuous British invention than we have ourselves. I affirm that Germany possesses more internal free trade than we do, because she has got a railway system which is used on behalf of her traders while we have not. Whether Members are Socialists like my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, or business men with the most individualistic principles, I commend to them that part of my hon. Friend's proposals.
With regard to land, I have heard of German communes which not only possess land but pay a dividend to their fortunate taxpayers out of the proceeds. Instead of the people paying rates they get a dividend. This is not a dream, but an 512 actual fact in dozens of small German communes. Out of the land which they own they make enough profit to distribute a dividend. That is what can be done. My hon. Friend the Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) does not mention these things. He can see only the land which is held under peculiar conditions. What is the proposal of my hon. Friend, the Member for Blackburn? If he had had time to expand it I am sure he would have suggested what I am going to suggest. Nationalisation is important, first with regard to the rural problem, in connection with providing small holdings and allotments; and, secondly—and this is the urban part—for getting hold of the rings of land around the towns, in order that the towns may develop in future healthily and as towns ought to develop. That is what the proposal means as a practical proposition. What stands in the way of it? Nothing but the will to do it. Nothing but the want of the application of a little business principle to the question of town and rural government. There, again, I might almost say that on ordinary business principles and not on Socialistic principles the proposition is to be commended. Finally, and this to my mind is the most important point, what about coal? I have said before that this country is based upon coal, and it is true. England rests upon coal. Our whole economic fabric is based upon the coal mines of the country, and yet these coal mines are relegated to private ownership. Coal is dealt with in such a way that the majority of the people living in one of the greatest coal countries in the world cannot properly keep themselves warm in winter. The number of properly warmed houses is an infinitesimal fraction of the 9,000,000 houses in the country.
I ventured last year to remind the House of the great proposal which has been made for the nationalisation and the proper economic use of this, the greatest and almost the sole economic gift to the people of the United Kingdom—the proposition that coal should be developed and turned into power at the coal mines or at other suitable economic points. This is the proposal not of a visionary, but of one of the greatest British electrical engineers. He suggests that coal should be so treated and distributed in the form of cheap power for every purpose for which power is required, whether for industry, for railways, for small workshops, or merely for the poor woman who is now condemned to so 513 much hard and unremunerative labour in the home. Are other countries going to do this? Other countries beside our own possess coal. In America they have greater schemes of this kind than we have. In Germany, owing to the State ownership of the railways, you have the scheme put forward as a practical project. There is not the slightest doubt that within the next twenty years you will see Germany owning great power stations based upon her coal, working her national railways, and, in the words of the Official Prussian Report on the subject, supplying power for every purpose for which power is required, thus effecting not only an industrial revolution in that country, but a social revolution also. It will have reference not only to what is commonly called the industry of the country, the production of organic substances or the manufacture of goods, but also to those equally important industries which are carried on in the homes by the women of the country, who bear the chief heat and burden of the day, and whose work alone balances those miserable budgets to which I have already referred. Therefore, I commend the proposals of my hon. Friend. For the reasons I have stated, I do not say that I commend the Amendment. My hon. Friend will believe that if I do not go into the Lobby with him it is not because I do not believe in the strength of his case, but it is because an Amendment to the Address is an Amendment to the Address, and I cannot use it as a means to turn out the Government behind which I sit. As to the proposals themselves, they will most assuredly, because of their intrinsic merits, come up again and again. They will beat at the door of this House and demand an answer. I venture to say that sooner or later they will be carried into effect, and they will be recognised by every party and by every shade of opinion as matters of common sense and political justice.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. Buxton)
I am sure I express the feeling on both sides of the House when I say that we may congratulate ourselves on the fact that we have had an opportunity not only of discussing this very important question, but of discussing it in the temper displayed in the various speeches which have been delivered. I think we are greatly indebted especially to my hon. Friend (Mr. Chiozza Money), who speaks with great authority on these subjects, for the very suggestive speech to 514 which we have just listened. There was one statement in the speech of the Mover of the Amendment with which I agreed—indeed, I agreed with a very large proportion of the speech. The statement to which I particularly refer was that under our existing Parliamentary machinery we have so little opportunity of really considering and carrying many measures in which we are interested. We are occupied too often in discussing time after time questions which have been discussed before and which ought to have been decided generations ago. My hon. Friend, in his very interesting speech, used a phrase with which I agree when he said that as far as the State is concerned nothing is so costly as poverty. He pointed out that, in spite of the good trade which the country is fortunately enjoying, there are a large number of industries in which wages are very low indeed, and he quoted some examples. I am not traversing what he said. As to the reasons which he gave why the rates of wages have not increased in the last decade so rapidly as they did in the previous decade, I think some of them were very sound. He also pointed out that whilst there have been considerable increases in the last few years, those increases have been obtained largely by the resort to strikes, with the consequent loss and suffering, and, as far as one year was concerned, to the complete loss of the increase in wages. I think it is worthy of being noted by those interested, and I doubt if any one person, any employer, even though he be interested in the trades themselves, and has given these increases owing to stress, would assert that on the whole these increases were not expedient and were not proper. That, indeed, has been affirmed by the fact that in many cases voluntary increases have been given since the strikes themselves. The hon. Members, the mover and seconder of the Amendment, and especially the hon. Member who has just spoken, dwelt especially on the point to which considerable attention has been directed, that, though there has been undoubtedly in the last few years a good deal of increase in wages, that has been largely absorbed by the increased cost of living. That is where the shoe pinches.
That increase is not national merely; it is world-wide. I am glad to say, so far as we are concerned, we have done nothing to aggravate it here. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Walsall, 515 very interestingly discussed the reasons why there has been this increase in the cost of living. It is a matter somewhat mysterious and one which is exercising very much the minds of scientists at the present moment. It is a matter which has never been properly investigated, and one, therefore, which actually requires investigation. I am glad to think that, on the invitation of the United States, an international inquiry may take place as to the reasons of the increase in the cost of these various articles. Various suggestions have been made. Some hon. Members have referred to the increased production of gold. That is a matter on which there is a great difference of opinion. It is a matter very like bi-metallism, which, when people really take it up, you find that they are quite incapable of seeing the other side. I am not myself going to give an opinion about it. It is undoubtedly one of those matters which has affected the increased cost of living. An obvious question is whether the growth of population is increasing more rapidly than the production of food. Another matter which is more satisfactory is the higher standard of living, which has increased amongst the working classes during the last thirty or forty years. The increased earnings have added to that increased demand. On the other side undoubtedly the increased wages have, in some cases, increased the cost of production.
I agree with my hon. Friends also that the increase is partly due unfortunately to the transference of capital from productive to unproductive work, consequent on the great and necessary armaments throughout the world. It may be also due, I am afraid, to the point to which my hon. Friend behind me referred, and I think the hon. Member for Blackburn also pointed it out, that many of these goods, many of the most essential elements of food throughout the world, are now in the hands of individuals and of rings, and that the markets are not free.
On the other hand, as regards the increased cost of living, I should like to make one or two remarks, not in any sense to show that it is not a very important element—because it is a very important element in the question of the position of the working classes—but I think that both my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich and my hon. Friend behind have somewhat unduly 516 exaggerated the burden at the present moment. They took, and not unnaturally took, the particular year which was referred to by the Committee, and which was used in regard to the postal service, because one of the officials of the Board of Trade gave figures of the year that he was asked to do. It is not in these matters a satisfactory method in dealing with them to take one particular year. That particular year happens to be almost the lowest year from the point of view of the cost of living for very many years past. I could, I think, equally take another year, 1882 for instance, and show that as compared with the present year, in 1882 the cost of living was forty-one points higher than now and wages were something like fourteen or fifteen points lower. By taking that year I could thus show that working men were better off. In these matters, I think, we should take decades. At the present moment, I admit, the matter is acute, though I hope it will not continue so, and that it will not recur, yet the matter should be taken in reference to average prices. Under these circumstances, if we take the last three decades we find that on the whole as compared with twenty years ago the matter has very much improved. As compared with ten years ago, it is very much the same. I am taking the cost of living and increased wages together. Therefore, though I am not in any sense trying to diminish the momentary effect of the position on the earnings and position of working men, and we may hope that that position will not necessarily continue or recur, yet I would put forward the point as bearing on the question. One point I would like to make clear. It was stated that the Labour Controller-General of the Board of Trade had said that the purchasing power of the sovereign at the present time compared with the particular year referred to was only 16s. 3d. That was not his statement. His statement was confined to twenty-three specific food commodities where that position obtained. That, however, does not necessarily mean that as regards the whole range of purchase—for you have to include rent, clothing, fuel, lighting, and so on—and it was only part of the working-class purchase which were referred to—that the cost of living has so increased. I mention this matter because it has been quoted outside, and I want to make it quite clear.
§ Mr. BUXTON
Six-tenths is put down as the expense of food. That leaves, of course, a large margin for other things. But I only thought it worth while to make that point, because I am quite sure my hon. Friends who have spoken on this subject, that the hon. Member for Blackburn, as well as myself, are anxious that the working man should not feel himself more injured than he actually is. I should like to say that I think, and hope, that this increased cost of living is partly due to the fact that we are having very good trade at the present time. Good trade means improvement for the working man—whom we are considering—and his household budget. It should be remembered that when trade is very good and unemployment very low, as at the present moment—when it has reached the lowest point ever known in the history of this country—that men who, in the ordinary way, are out of work are in work, and men who are ordinarily in work are not only in work, but having continuous work, and overtime, and that, therefore, even though the rate of wages per hour has not been increased a good time itself means that so far as the family budget is concerned, a larger amount of money is going into the house.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is approximately the purchasing power of a sovereign now as compared with ten years ago, taking into account the family budget?
§ Mr. BUXTON
The figures approximately compared with ten years ago would be slightly adverse; that is to say, on the whole the cost of the particular articles to which reference is made has gone up rather more in proportion than wages. Is that what the hon. Member asks?
§ Mr. BUTCHER
What I wanted to know was the purchasing power of the sovereign now as compared with ten years ago, taking into account the ordinary things which the working man consumes in his household?
§ Mr. BUXTON
As regards the particular articles to which reference has been made, the position is somewhat adverse at the present time compared with ten years ago. I cannot for the moment say further, but I shall be very glad to get the hon. Gentleman further information if the hon. Gentleman desires. What I have been endeavouring to make the House understand is not that the increased cost of living is not a very serious one, but that I think it has 518 been somewhat exaggerated, and there has been undue alarm about it. I have tried to show to the House two things: that the particular figures stated comparatively are for a particular year which was singularly exceptional. In these matters I think we should take the average, and I think there are compensating advantages. However that may be, undoubtedly the desire of hon. Members, and the desire of all of us, and of the working man, is that he should have the opportunity of living on a higher standard, and should have a greater share of the necessaries, comforts, conveniences, and happinesses of life. My hon. Friend, in his Amendment, makes two proposals for carrying out this purpose. His first is the nationalisation of certain monopolies, and his second is the adoption of a minimum living wage. In respect to monopolies, my hon. Friend founded his argument on this point: he said that we could not expect the working man to be better off under the existing system; that under it he could not materially improve his position. But would he not, in debating this particuar point thirty years ago, have made the same observation? Would he deny that in that period there has been a real, material improvement in the general condition of the working classes? Therefore, I say to him that I do not think that his statement necessarily disposes of the question, because I, for one, look forward under the existing condition of things to increased improvement as we have had improvement in the past under existing conditions.
My hon. Friend dealt with one or two monopolies. I am bound to say that he did not deal with them at any great length nor give us any great or conclusive arguments why we should deal with them by nationalisation. The hon. Member for Norwich did not even allude to the subject at all. The hon. Member who sat down last argued the matter at greater length. Two questions have been specially discussed. I am not going to deal with the question of land, which always gives rise to a great deal of heat, especially perhaps when the hon. Member for Hanley discusses it. But there is the question of railways and the question of mines. As regards the nationalisation of railways, there is no question of principle involved. After all, at the present time, my right hon. Friend the Secretary for India is the owner of many thousands of miles of nationalised railways. Nearly all our 519 Colonies own their railways, and a very large number of foreign railways are owned by the State. Therefore, the question of principle is really not involved. It is a question of economics, of expediency, and of business. As an economic proposition there may be some doubt in respect to it. The hon. Member for Blackburn seems to think if we nationalised our railways the millennium would be brought pretty near, and that we should have a very large margin to spend on other matters. I am afraid I am not quite so sanguine in regard to the matter, because, after all, one of the chief reasons why many are supporting it is because they think the conditions of railway servants under nationalisation will improve largely. That will mean a very large increase in the wage bill.
My hon. Friends who represent the traders, I have no doubt, would nationalise the railways, and they think that by so doing the rates would be reduced by half, and within a very short time if the railways were nationalised my hon. Friend the Member for Sutherland (Mr. A. C. Morton) would get his third-class sleepers. I would only point out that I have my doubts as to whether it would be a good economic proposition. I am afraid that increased wages and reduced rates and other matters would land the taxpayer into a somewhat difficult position. But one matter which has brought the question of nationalisation of railways within a greater range of practical politics has been the policy of the railway companies to a very large extent in cutting down the principle of competition; and one of the reasons for that is that they have come to a general agreement for working purposes for which I am not blaming them, because it is a good business proposition from their point of view. Another matter which has impressed itself upon my mind in considering this railway question is the unfortunate friction which, rightly or wrongly, does exist between the traders and the railway companies. There is much to be said on both sides in regard to this question, but I am not going to make a pronouncement upon it now. We had a deputation from hon. Members below the Gallery on this matter, and we understood that they were going to give us some further information upon the working of the railways abroad. Some of my hon. Friends behind me have promised to make other propositions, and I shall wait until I have their views before me, 520 and until then, and until we have greater information at our hand, I do not intend to say anything with regard to the general position.
As regards the question of mines, it seems to be a much more doubtful proposition. Mining is a very speculative business, and I doubt whether the State is the right person to regulate output. It very largely depends on the question of wages, and it is also a very doubtful proposition how far the State would be in a position as a buiness matter to work mines, to open up new mines, and to shut up others. Mines are not in the same position as railways, and I very much doubt if the nationalisation of mining is a practical proposition. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn in this regard mentioned as an argument in favour of the nationalisation of mines that there were certain mines nationalised in Germany. I think while you may very effectively take into account that the nationalisation of railways in our Colonies and abroad has been successful, that has not been the case, so far as I understand, in regard to the nationalisation of mines in Prussia. It has not been successful and it has led to labour unrest there, and therefore the precedent for the nationalisation of mines is the very opposite to the precedent of the railways.
My hon. Friend's other remedy is the imposition of a minimum living wage. Here, again, I agree it may be said that, to a certain extent, and in a sense, the principle has already been conceded by the House of Commons. It was certainly conceded in regard to the less paid and the less organised sweated trades of the country. It has been conceded to a certain extent in regard to the coal-mining industry. But the principle of a minimum wage there applied was not necessarily a minimum living wage and there is a very considerable distinction. Both these classes of minimum wage have been started experimentally. As regards the Trades Boards it has been a great success. As regards the question of mines, the minimum wage is still in its infancy, and it remains to be seen how far it is likely to be successful and so be extended to other industries. My hon. Friend's proposition is that every workman should be guaranteed a minimum living wage. I agree with some of the hon. Members who have spoken upon both sides in asking the hon. Gentleman to put more clearly before the House what he actually proposes and how he proposes to carry it out. I think we are entitled to light and leading from my hon. Friend, 521 and I can assure him, as far as I am concerned, I shall consider with the greatest possible care any practicable proposal he puts before us with a view to carrying out this object. There are, of course, one or two alternatives. The first alternative is that the House of Commons should fix a general minimum wage. My hon. Friends below the Gangway, the year before last, made such a proposal to the House. I know that that was a proposition that would not, of course, stand a moment's argument, and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn and my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil are both opposed to a universal minimum wage. That puts some difficulty in the way, because the question of how to carry out a mimimum rate and how to extend it is a very difficult problem. My hon. Friends are experts in these matters, and they came to this House and said there should be a flat rate of 30s., and now they say they do not agree to a flat rate. Of course, that makes it rather difficult to know what is the best method of dealing with this matter.
Whether we adopt a flat rate or not—and it is quite obvious, if you have a minimum rate, it must be local and for trades and not general—I do not think myself, after carefully considering it, that it is for the House of Commons to fix such a rate. The House has twice decided against it. In the first instance I was rather favourably disposed to fixing it, but the more I thought on it the more difficult I saw it would be for the House of Commons to undertake such a responsibility. They have not the knowledge or the time or the means to do it, but they decided to do it in another way. It could be done by Trade Boards. It could be done, as hi the case of coal mines, or it can be done most successfully by agreement and Conciliation Boards. I know my hon. Friend is in favour, as far as he can be, of peaceful rather than aggressive means.
As far as I am concerned for the moment, the Trade Boards Act is the only instrument which would enable me to extend the operation of the minimum wage. As has been said with truth, that has been a success so far, and it has been a satisfaction to know what has been done in what is called the sweated trades. The Act was passed three years ago, and at that time four trades were brought in—chain making, lace finishing, the box trade, and some portion of the tailoring trade. And that brought in something 522 like 200,000 workers, including a very large number of women. It took some time to start these Trade Boards, and the last, the tailoring board, was only brought into operation last August. That system has only been started quite recently, and it seemed to me we ought to see how far these boards are likely to be a success—they were a perfectly new experiment—before extending them. There is also the question of expert staff and other matters of that sort which made the difficulty of further extension in the past.
It appears to me the time has now come when the operation of this Trades Boards Act might very well be extended to other classes of trades. I have very carefully considered the various trades which might legitimately be brought in first, but I think that in this, as in other matters, we must have experience and move cautiously. I am glad to think that as far as it has gone, it has been acquiesced in by both parties and has been very favourably met by both parties. Those boards are representative of the employers and the workers with some representatives from the Board of Trade and the Act has been welcomed by the best classes of employers on the very obvious ground that it has brought other employers up to the level of good employers which is very satisfactory for them. It has had this somewhat interesting development that it has led to a great extension and development in the organisation of the trades themselves. I have carefully considered each trade to which I can extend the operations of that Act, and I have come to the conclusion to extend it at once. One other reason why I was not able to take action in the last Session was this. There is an impression among Members that the Board of Trade can extend the Act upon its own initiative. It can only be done by Provisional Order and by a Bill, and as the House realises it was not easy to find time last Session. I am proposing this Session to extend by Provisional Order the operation of the Trades Boards Act to the following trades: shirt making, which will please my hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars; linen embroidery, which will please my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich; sheet-steel and iron hollow-ware trade, which is a trade in which the wages are very low and in reference to which the desire has been very largely expressed to bring it under the operations of the Act, and also the sugar confectionery and fruit preserving industry, etc. That, I think, 523 shows at all events that the Board of Trade are anxious in this matter to move in the right direction. I have not moved quite so rapidly as some of my hon. Friends desire, but I am moving cautiously and effectively, and the more cautiously we move the more effectively we will carry out the necessary reforms.
There is one other point to which I would draw my hon. Friend's attention. He said it was a serious thing that the working classes should lose faith in Parliament. I am expressing sympathy, and the House and the Government are expressing sympathy and practical sympathy by improving and lightening the burdens upon the working classes, and I venture to think that in recent years the Government and the House of Commons has shown its sympathy in that direction in a practical shape. One hon. Member desired further reduction in the taxation of food. In the last few years the taxation on tea and sugar has been reduced by £5,000,000. Of course the greater part of that is a direct relief to the working classes. The Government have improved the conditions of direct employment; and improvements have been made under the Fair-Wages Resolution of the House of Commons.
Under the social reforms carried out in regard to old age pensions, compensation for accidents, and Part I. and Part II. of the Insurance Act, I think Parliament has shown a real desire to do something to alleviate the conditions of the working classes, and to show sympathy in a practical way with them. As regards old age pensions, that is a direct contribution on the part of the State to the wage fund of a certain number of persons. It must be remembered that this not only brings comfort to the aged persons, many of whom are relieved of the anxiety that otherwise they might have had to resort to the Poor Law, but it is a relief to the relatives themselves. Compensation for accidents again is a direct contribution to the wage fund amounting to £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a year. In the case of Part I. and Part II. of the Insurance Act, although the employers and the State do not directly make a cash payment to the workers, but the contributions are a great relief to the burdens which fall on working men, and in this way they are relieved to a very large extent.
I should like to tell the House what all these contributions amount to. I do not know whether hon. Members are aware 524 what a very large contribution has been made in this way during recent years. The old age pensions amount to a contribution to the wage fund of over £12,000,000 a year. Under Part I. of the Insurance Act the employers contribute £8,300,000, and the State contributes £5,400,000, besides the cost of administration. Under Part II. of the Insurance Act the employers contribute £770,000 and the State £700,000. The Workmen's Compensation Act amounts to between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, and all those sums added together, amount to the stupendous total of no less than £32,500,000 a year as a direct addition either to the wages, comforts or relief of the working classes. That will show my hon. Friends that the House of Commons has, of late years, at all events, desired to do its share in this matter.
I do not think anyone can say that the Government have been indifferent on these questions, in face of that contribution. I am not saying that we have got to rest and be thankful, Heaven forbid that I should deny some of the conclusions which have been come to by my hon. Friend, but I do say that we have done, and are trying to do, all that we can in this matter. There is really no royal road to deal with these questions. They have to be dealt with in various ways, but I am sure the House of Commons, as a whole, and the Labour party in particular, desire to co-operate in doing all that can be done in the direction we all desire. We are all anxious to work together in this matter, because it is in no sense a party question. On this subject we have had speeches quite as sympathetic from the Opposition Benches as from those who sit on the Ministerial side of the House. We all desire to contribute our mite towards the solution of this great question. I think I have shown that something has been done, although more requires to be done, but we require some practical proposal in reference to these matters, in order that we may see how far they are capable of application and how far experimentally we may be able to try them.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I wish to say a few words on this occasion, because other wise it might be thought that we take less interest in a subject of this kind than hon. Members sitting on the other side of the House. We have listened to a speech from the President of the Board of Trade which might serve as a model for any party. It was an admirable speech, full of political platitudes, and declaring that the 525 Government had a great desire to meet the views of all its supporters. But the actual statement of the right hon. Gentleman was that the Government proposed to extend still further the operation of the Trades Boards Act, and I think everybody will be glad that that should be done. That, however, does not deal with the proposal put forward in this Amendment. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) made a speech to which every hon. Member who has addressed the House has very justly paid a tribute. From my own point of view it was a most admirable speech, and not less so because it was not designed as an attack upon any particular class or any particular section of the community. It differed from other speeches we have heard on similar topics because it appeared to be designed to find a remedy for an admitted evil. What is the broad case which the hon. Member makes out? He says that the wealth of this country has enormously increased in the last few years by thousands of millions a year. He also says that at the same time the rate of wages has not, in the last few years, substantially increased, while the cost of living has increased. Therefore you have this startling comment, that whereas the wealth of the country is getting greater, and the money being earned by the industries of the country is rapidly increasing, apparently a less share of that wealth is going to the workers. That point has not been met by the right hon. Gentleman's observation that the cost of living has not gone up very seriously during a long period of years. The point is that within the last few years this great increase has taken place in the general wealth of the country with this very remarkable phenomenon, that the wage earners have not had their proper share of the profits that have been made. As far as I am concerned, I admit that case, broadly speaking, is a very serious one indeed.
The hon. Member for Northampton made a speech in which he said he desired to see an increase in the wages of the wage earner. Of course we all agree that our object in connection with this problem is to secure an increase of the wages of the wage earners. There is no dispute about that, and the only question is, How is it to be done? The hon. Member for Blackburn thinks it can be done by establishing a minimum wage all over the country. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was fair in his criticism of the proposal for a minimum wage. Taking the speech of the 526 Mover, as well as the speech of the Seconder of this Amendment, it was quite plain what they meant. They meant the establishment of Wages Boards in different industries. I understood the hon. Member for Norwich was dealing with the agricultural industry, and he suggested district boards, consisting, I suppose, of equal numbers of employers and employed, with an impartial chairman, or something of that kind, to settle the wages for the district. As far as the principle of such a proposal is concerned, I have no objection to it, although I think its practicability is very doubtful. I think that it would be an extremely difficult thing to establish in every agricultural district a really efficient Wages Board. As far as the agricultural labourer is concerned, I think that is probably the strongest of all cases, and it is stronger than most of the industrial trades, where you have efficient trade unions. As a rule the agricultural labourer is not in any effective trade union, and it is very difficult for him to be in such a union. He is in that difficulty, and there is no doubt the wages paid to him in many parts of the country are very much too low to maintain the standard of comfort which he has a right to demand.
That leads me to a rather different conclusion, but I cannot express a definite opinion until I see what is proposed. My own impression is that what has been suggested will not be found a workable solution, and in an organised trade I doubt whether it is really wanted. After all, when you come to the minimum wage the matter is extremely difficult to settle. We are not now dealing with so-called sweated trades, where the workers are earning less than those working by their side in other employment. We are dealing with ordinary trade, and the question of what a minimum wage is or is not is a difficult matter to settle, and I believe it is one which is best settled by a proper system of bargaining between organised bodies of working men and employers. But when I come to nationalisation, I confess that I feel less doubt that I am against the hon. Member for Blackburn. I am not quite sure that the gloss put upon his proposal by the hon. Member for East Northampton (Mr. Money) is well founded. It is certainly different from what I understood nationalisation to mean. According to the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire nationalisation means municipalisation of the land around 527 cities, and some provision for the acquisition of land for small holdings. I do not know what the hon. Member for Blackburn means by nationalisation, but if he approves of the definition of the hon. Gentleman opposite, then a great deal of his argument based on economies is rather superfluous. Those powers are already a part of the law of the land, and you can, in any town, go and acquire land for the purpose of improving its future growth. That principle has not only been conceded, but has been agreed to by everyone, and, if that is all that is meant, it comes to nothing at all, and it certainly is not the striking down of the Upas tree of land monopoly to which the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) referred or anything of that kind. With regard to the railways, the hon. Member for East Northampton (Mr. Chiozza' Money) relies very much on the German case. Having seen something of Germany and read a good deal about it, I cannot help feeling that there is a good deal to be said on both sides. I am not at all sure, if our railways were managed on the same terms and with the same military despotism as prevails in Germany, that we should feel very happy, and I am still less convinced that it would be of advantage to railway servants. A comparison has been made between their position and that of Post Office servants. I do not know what is the position of Post Office servants now, but my experience as a Member of Parliament does not lead me to suppose Post Office servants are the most satisfied of all the wage-earning classes of the community. They are not in the habit of so presenting their case when they are approaching their local Member. I do not know, if you handed over the railways to the State, that railway servants would be any better off than are the Post Office servants at the present time. I do not see how either of those proposals are going to be of service. I must say one word with regard to what the hon. Member for East Northampton said on the question of mines. What is his scheme? It is a gigantic power scheme at the mines. He seems to think he is advancing some new idea, but it has certainly been before the financial brains of the country for many years, and there have been many attempts to do it. Just before I left the Parliamentary Bar there were a number of proposals brought forward for great electrical power schemes, 528 but I believe almost all of them have been abandoned.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
May I point out that Mons. De Ferranti, President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers two years ago, proposed a practical scheme and he fortified his arguments with a tremendous amount of detail?
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
Yes, I think I have had the pleasure of cross-examining him, and he is a very able man indeed. I think he was at one time concerned with one of the gigantic power schemes for London which has been dropped.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
No. No doubt he has not been able to get the money for it. I may be wrong, but so far as I know at the moment the only scheme which has succeeded is the Newcastle scheme, and there there are special conditions. You have a very good electrical load factor for very special reasons. These schemes at any rate have not turned out to be so successful as was anticipated at one time. Therefore, the idea that you are going to ask the State to buy up the coal mines of the country, start some gigantic power scheme, and supply all the old ladies in every town with a little motor to do their washing and cooking is really the most fantastic proposal which has ever been submitted to the House of Commons. If that is what the hon. Member means by the nationalisation of mines, I do not believe the Labour party will look at it for a moment. All these schemes mean money in one form or another, and that means taxation. I know there is a theory that you can do these things by nationalising the land, but I do not know how you are going to nationalise the land to any real extent except by taxing it, unless you adopt the simple plan of the hon. Member for Hanley which he calls taxation, but which the hon. Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham) very properly describes as theft, and which the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) rejects. If you are merely to take what we call the property of other people for nothing, that is a very simple plan, and it has a primâ facie plausibility which we all of us must have felt from time to time. Unless you are to do that, it means taxation in one form or another, either direct or by increasing the draft on the credit of the country. I do not believe it can be done in any other way, and I believe when 529 you increase taxation everybody in the country has to pay a part of it. It means an increased burden upon them in one way or another, and ultimately an increase of the very evil you are trying to remedy. I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider a rather striking fact in connection with this. He admits that up to the end of the nineteenth century the position of the working classes was improving, that wages were going up, and that living was going down. Then a change took place, which he attributes to various causes. I do not disagree with him as to some of them, but may I point out that it is since that time we have had a great part of this social reform legislation. We are now, as we know from the President of the Board of Trade, contributing £30,000,000 a year in one way or another to the wage fund of the working man.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I shall not go into the details, though, of course, some allowance must be made for that. We are, at any rate, contributing a very large sum. We have done a great many other things. We have had Housing Acts and Sanitary Acts of various kinds. We have had free education. Yet the hon. Member says, and says with force, that at the end of that period, after fifteen years of legislation of that kind, the position of the working classes is no better than it was. I am not sure he is not right. Does not that give you some occasion to think? Is it not clear that it is much more difficult to improve the condition of the working classes by gifts from the State, in any form you may like them to take, than it at first appears to be? Does it not really mean taking the money out of one pocket and putting it into the other when all is said and done? And does it not mean, if you do it rashly and accompanied by some of the speeches we have heard and have read, that you add to it the stirring up of a feeling in the employing class of insecurity which cannot but operate towards the very evil which the hon. Member has so eloquently pointed out? I believe most profoundly that there is a tremendous danger to the whole civilised world in the combination of capital which may be international in character. I believe it is one of the most pressing dangers we have to face, and I do not think you are going to hinder it by using language which is likely to increase 530 the sense of insecurity of those who are combining. I believe the man who does that is playing into the hands of our greatest enemy. I quite admit the danger is much easier to see than the remedies are to prescribe. I have a profound belief, and I am bound to state it, that if you once get into a position where you have capital on one side and labour on the other, capital will always win. It may be very regrettable; I think it is. I think it is a great danger. I want, if possible, to avoid it. I want, above all, to bring about a reunion between capital and labour. I had a conversation with the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. O'Grady) recently—I am not going to enter upon it—with reference to proposals of my own for ending trades disputes. He thinks I am a bloated capitalist, an enemy of the working man and all that. He is quite wrong. I quite admit that I dislike the principle underlying the Trades Disputes Act. I make him a present of that, if he thinks it is going to be of use on the platform. I dislike it, not because I think it gives an unfair advantage to the working man, but because it sets a precedent for this, that trade combinations, whether of workmen or of capitalists, should not be controlled by the law. I am of opinion that the only guarantee we have got is the supremacy of the law. The hon. Member, I know, disagrees with that view. He thinks that the law cannot be trusted, that the judges are prejudiced, and that no trades unionist has a chance of a fair trial before the judges.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The hon. Member for West Ham agrees with him. If that is so, change your judicial system. By all means impeach the judges and hang them if it is true; because it is the most serious thing that could possibly be said; but do not diminish the control of the Courts over every individual in this country. That is the real security for liberty. The hon. Member referred me to history on that occasion. I have referred to it, and if he has read history, as I am sure he has done, he will agree with me that the great principle which we have established in this country, the one thing for which they fought in the seventeenth century, was that the Courts should be supreme. It was then a question whether the Courts should be supreme against the King, and the King, no doubt, thought they were Prejudiced. The King thought he never had a fair chance when he got into Court. They 531 stood up against him and then he removed the judges. The new judges still stood up against him; and I hope they will stand up against the democracy, if the democracy is wrong, as they stood up against the King in the seventeenth century. Whatever happens, I would rather that you imitate the Stuarts and destroy your existing judges and replace them by others than diminish the control of the Courts over every subject of this country. For my part, I look upon that principle as our one safeguard against what I believe to be a very great coming danger, great capitalist combinations seeking to have the same amount of influence in this country as they have in others. I believe it would be madness for us to diminish that principle, and I hope and trust the Labour party—who, if they will allow me to say so, I have always believed are animated by a genuine desire for the general good of the country, and not only for their own class—will never do anything that would diminish that great security and glory of the British Constitution.
§ Mr. BARTLEY DENNISS
I hope the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will forgive me if I say that I was profoundly disappointed with the speech he made. Not that the speech was not a very interesting and agreeable one, for it was both, but because it offered no remedy for the very serious state of things which underlie the remedies suggested in the Amendment. All that we have got from him was an extension of the Trade Boards Act to certain other industries. That, of course, does not touch the question of the Amendment at all, because the Trade Boards Act is limited to sweated trades, and beyond those trades it cannot go. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he thinks that in the shirt making, the linen embroidery, and the other industries he mentions, there is sweating, why it has not been put down before, since the Trade Boards Act has been in force for such a long time? What gives me great disappointment is that the right hon. Gentleman, speaking on behalf of the Government, has made no suggestion for remedying the serious matters that lie at the root of this Amendment. He has nothing to propose with a view to reducing prices or raising wages or increasing employment. The discussion we have listened to will not do any of those things, I agree, at present. It is a purely 532 academic discussion, and the speeches we have listened to from the Noble Lord who has just sat down, and the Members for Blackburn and Norwich and East Northampton, have been most interesting, but wages will not be raised and the prices of food will not go down. I was rather hoping that the right hon. Gentleman, when he got up, would say that there was a way in which wages could be practically raised at once by a stroke of the pen of the Government.
I do not mean Protection. I mean by taking off the food taxes. The right hon. Gentleman has boasted that five millions of food taxes have been taken off by various Governments.
That is during a period of years, but there still remains ten and a-half millions of money or eleven millions raised upon the prime necessaries of life, principally tea, sugar, coffee, and cocoa. I do not mention brandy or whisky or beer, nor do I mention tobacco. I am not calling these, for the moment, prime necessaries of life. The prime necessaries of life for the working classes are tea, sugar, coffee, and cocoa, and that being the case at this moment I believe eleven millions are raised, principally out of the pockets of the working classes. Take a pound of tea at 1s. 2d. a pound, which is about the amount that a working-class family consumes in the course of a week. Of that, 5d. is duty and 9d. is the cost of the tea. If the 5d. were taken off by the Government now, the wages of every working man in this country would, ipso facto, be increased by 5d. If you apply that also to sugar, coffee, and cocoa you would then be able to raise the wages of the working man right away by between 6d. and 1s. per week.
It may be said, how are we to raise the revenue? I have always heard members of the Government say that they have a system of revenue which is so elastic that it is capable of bearing any strain that can be put upon it. I see no reason why, if that is the case, you should not come to the rescue of these people whose condition they deplore, and immediately relieve their necessities to a 533 substantial extent. I was very much surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the Government had done nothing to aggravate the cost of living. I thought that had been pointed out time after time to the Government, and it has been referred to in the Noble Lord's speech. Nearly all the legislation of the present Government has raised either the cost of living or lowered the purchasing power of wages. Take the question of the Minimum Wage Act which applies to miners. It has sent up the price of coal all over the country, and the working classes now have to pay a larger amount for their coal than they did before, with the result that the purchasing power of their wages is reduced. Now we come to the Railway Act which was passed the other day. It will also have indirectly the same effect, because the cost of carriage will be increased. Take, again, the Budget. Only a comparatively few years ago the total of the Budget was £90,000,000. Now it is £187,000,000, and I suppose the Budget to be introduced shortly will greatly exceed that amount.
It is now almost an axiom that increased taxation falls, as to the greater part of it, ultimately upon the working classes. It certainly increases the price of every article they consume. When you make an enormous jump from £90,000,000 to £187,000,000 in the course of one generation, it must increase the cost of food and of living. Take the land taxes of the celebrated Budget of 1909. The taxes that were put upon land at that time stopped, as we all know, very much the building trade. The effect of that Act has been that the number of new buildings has largely lagged behind the increase in population, with the result that rents have gone up; therefore the cost of living to the working classes, of which rent, especially in towns, forms a considerable part, has gone up too. That is the direct result of the Government's legislation, if you can call a Budget legislation. Then we come to the Insurance Act. Although the principle of that Act is good, and although it will be beneficial in many directions, I do not think it will ever fulfil the glowing accounts given of it by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he brought in the Bill. We must remember that every working man has now taken out of his wages a sum of 4d. every week. Out of the 14,000,000 or 15,000,000 people now insured under the Act, out of whose pockets 4d. is regularly taken every week in the case of men and 534 3d. in the case of women, only 5,000,000 at the outside were formerly insured; therefore 4d. has gone out of their pockets which would otherwise have been available for living. That is the result of the legislation of the Government. I do not say it is wrong. On the contrary, it may have been necessary; but what I do say is wrong is that 4d. should have been taken out of the wages of those people who are not getting a living wage.
In the case of those men who are getting less than 25s. or 20s. a week it means that we are taking 4d. worth of food out of the mouths of their wives and children. The right hon. Gentleman states that the State and the employers between them have contributed £31,000,000 to the spending power of the community, and that that is a set-off against the way in which the price of food has been raised. But that £31,000,000 must increase the cost of everything. It increases very largely the cost of production of all the manufactures. Having suggested a very practical way in which the evils at the root of the problem might be remedied immediately by the Government to a certain extent, I come to the Amendment itself. I thoroughly agree with the principle of the minimum wage. No humane person would for a moment wish that any workman in this country should not have a sufficient wage to enable him to live in the way described by the hon. Member for Blackburn. I go farther than he did. He talked of their having comforts. I think the ideal at which he should aim is that there should be some of the amenities of life for working men, as well as the smaller comforts he mentioned. The difficulty is this: It is no use our passing academic Resolutions in favour of a minimum wage for everybody, nor passing legislation setting up trade boards to settle what is to be a minimum living wage. What we have got to find out is whether the trades will bear it. Consider for a moment the great Lancashire cotton trade, referred to by the hon. Member for Blackburn. He gave an illustration apparently to show the House how easily wages could be raised in the cotton trade by saying that during the past year dividends had been paid in Lancashire which were twenty times greater than those paid during earlier years. That opened up a vista of an increase in profits which would 535 justify a very large increase of wages. Let me tell hon. Members that only yesterday, at a great meeting, which I attended, of the operatives and employers of the whole of Lancashire, a crowded meeting of some hundreds of the representatives of the trade, all the leaders being there, and many Members of this House, it was stated, being already well known to me and most people in the room, that the average profits for the whole cottonspinning trade of Lancashire for a period of twenty-nine years was less than 5¼ per cent., the actual figure being 5.223.
There is no margin there for any large increase in wages. The operatives in Lancashire get the largest amount of wages it is possible to get under the conditions of the trade. The employers' books are open to them. They have a most excellent system of trade unions, with most excellent leaders. Employers and trade union leaders are on most excellent terms, with the result that wages are regulated to a nicety. You must remember with regard to that 5¼ per cent., which is all that the Lancashire cotton spinners have had during the period of over twenty years, that it is subject to a deduction for the loss in the purchasing power of a sovereign just as much as the workmen's wages, and what was perhaps a good dividend twenty years ago is now worth less in the proportion of 16s. 3d. to the £ as in the case of the purchasing power of various articles of food of a sovereign at the present day. That being so, in the case of the cotton trade it is almost impossible to raise wages any higher than they are at present. If this minimum wage is ever to be carried into practical effect the conditions of each trade will have to be considered separately. I have shown what has happened in the cotton trade, therefore it is quite improbable when you come to other trades that you would find the conditions would admit of any considerable rise of wages. I deplore it very much. It is no use pointing to a particular year and saying that profits made in a boom year are extremely large because it does not at all follow that the average return on the capital over a period of years, which alone will keep the trade alive, is more than sufficient to do so. For instance, last year in Lancashire some mills made a good profit, but a large number of mills made no profit at all, and some made a loss in spite of the great boom.
536 I should like to refer to what the hon. Member (Mr. Outhwaite) said about nationalisation of land by taking it away from the people without compensation. The hon. Member's whole assumption is that all ownership of land is robbery, and therefore the State is justified in taking from the robbers what they ought never to have robbed. Of course if the hon. Member is right and all ownership of land came originally from robbery he is justified in asking this House to nationalise the whole of the land of the country by taking it from the people. If he is not, then his system of nationalisation will itself be robbery. I have had conversations with the hon. Member, and that is the basis of the whole of his arguments. We know what the opinion of the leader of the Government is at present. We know that he is entirely opposed to land nationalisation. We know also what Mr. Gladstone said upon the subject. I have no objection to the nationalisation of railways. It is purely a business proposition. Having some shares in railways myself I should be very glad if they were nationalised, but I am quite sure it would be a losing transaction for the State if they took them over. I regret very much that this Resolution has been drawn in such a sweepingmanner because it is impossible for me to vote for a Resolution which includes the nationalisation of land, which I think is absolutely impracticable and useless, and the nationalisation of railways, which I think would be a bad business transaction for the State, and the nationalisation of mines, which is entirely impractical, and likely only to result in heavy loss to the State. But I should like to vote for the first part of it very much, namely, that we should find some means by which a minimum wage should be secured to the workers of the country. Had the hon. Member (Mr. Snowden) made it a little more practical by asking the Government to take immediate steps to reduce the duties on food and thereby immediately to increase the purchasing power of the workers of this country and confer an immediate boon upon them, I should have able to vote for it with all my heart. As it is, I cannot vote against the Resolution, because there is so much in it that I approve of; but I am sorry I cannot vote for it. Let it not be thought for a moment that I do not advocate and have not on any platform advocated, in common I believe with most Members of my party, that no man ought 537 to be paid a wage which is insufficient to enable him to live in decency and comfort.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I was very glad to observe that the hon. Member (Mr. Snowden) in the very remarkable speech which he delivered included not merely the manual workers but the brain workers of the country, for the position really is this: that notwithstanding the great prosperity of trade, notwithstanding the enormous profits shown not only by industrial undertakings but also by the banking institutions of the country, and notwithstanding the fact that unemployment has been reduced and pauperism has declined, it must be admitted on all hands that the condition of the working classes has not grown in proportion to the increase which has taken place in the wealth of the country. It has already been pointed out that there has been a great increase in the last ten years in the gross returns to the Income Tax amounting in all, I believe, to somewhere between £150,000,000 and £200,000,000 a year. But apart from the fact that there has been no increase comparatively speaking in wages, there appears to me to be an exceedingly important item which must be considered, and that is the increase which has taken place in the cost of living, for whilst we in this House may do something even under present conditions by passing a minimum wage to increase wages, we must not overlook the fact that either economic forces, or the power of capital, is on the other hand diminishing the value of the wage by increasing the cost of living, and unfortunately that increase in the cost of living is not confined to this country. It is not dependent upon one fiscal system. It is here under Free Trade and it is to be found in the United States and in Germany under high Protection. It is even found in New Zealand notwithstanding all the social legislation of the last twenty years. In fact the Commission appointed by the Government of New Zealand reported last year to the effect that the cost of living had been increased by no less than 24 per cent. since the year 1894 and although the Commission drew attention to the fact that there had been an increase also in wages, the increase in the cost of living was greater in the last two years than the rise in the wages of the workmen employed. All this indicates that whatever the margin was in the past between the expenditure and the income of the workmen of this country, it has not 538 been increased and that whatever increase is taking place in the wealth of the community as a whole, it is not being shared either by the working class or by the class which is immediately above them, the clerk, the shop assistant, and people of that kind. It has occurred to me that very little attention has been paid by the House, not to what appears from the Income Tax Returns but to what appears from the Death Duty Returns. First of all we have it on record that 94 per cent. of all the people who die in this country leave nothing at death, notwithstanding their industry and frugality and economy. There is nothing for those dependent on them—no provision of any kind for their wives and children. But apart from that, even of the small number of people who die in this country leaving property, three-fourths of them leave less than £1,000. It is often said on the platform and as often in this House that a man who is industrious and frugal may not only make provision for his own old age but for those dependent upon him, but the facts in our Blue Books go to show that even of the small number of people who leave property at all at death, three-fourths of them leave less than £1,000, which at best produces but £30 or £40 a year for their dependents.
Not alone is the manual worker unable to make adequate provision for those dependent on him owing to the narrow margin between his income and expenditure, but there is another appalling fact which I think has scarcely been realised by the country and that is that the wealth of the lower middle class is exceedingly limited. We know now that the income, for instance, of the medical profession is considerably smaller than was assumed. But the really striking fact brought out by the Returns is that while about 86,000 people die in this country leaving property, 79,000 of them leave less than £5,000. While the 79,000 only leave £60,000,000, 7,000 leave between them £218,000,000. That shows that the wealth of this country is in the hands of a very small number of people.
I think the real reason for the increase which has taken place in the cost of living is that suggested by the hon. Member for Blackburn, namely, the power of capital, and the great influence exercised at present by trusts in this country. Two remedies have been suggested by the hon. Member for Blackburn. The first is the establishment of a minimum wage, a principle which, I take it, in theory, is accepted almost without exception on both sides of 539 the House. Mr. Rowntree, in his remarkable book on poverty in York, has pointed out that 21s. 8d. a week is necessary to maintain a family with the bare necessities of life. I am reminded by an hon. Friend that Mr. Rowntree has since added at least a shilling a week to that amount. The appalling fact is that it is admitted that there are millions of the working classes of our country whose wages, even under present conditions, do not suffice to provide the bare necessities of life. On the other hand, we are told that if we do establish a minimum wage we shall increase the cost of living, and that is one of the factors which we must consider. It must be remembered, however, that a minimum wage will of necessity involve the employer in more economy, and possibly more efficiency; but whether that be so or not, I submit to the House that while an employer, because trade is bad and his profit small, is not entitled to ask or to obtain a reduction in the price of machinery, he should not be entitled to reduce the wages of the human machine in his employment. It is, above all, unfair to the good employer that the bad employer should be entitled to compete with him with advantage in the market because he does not pay to his workmen the wages to which they are rightly entitled.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn suggested not only the nationalisation of railways, but of land and other monopolies as the remedy. Personally I am in favour of nationalisation, but I rather look to it as a means of helping the workmen employed in the particular industry which is going to be taken over. We must not forget, when we offer the nationalisation of monopolies as a remedy for poverty, that we have already nationalised the Post Office and the Telephone services, and that, in neither of these cases has it conduced, so far as I am aware, to satisfactory conditions for those employed. [Indications of dissent.] In the same way, if we cross over to France, where railways have been already nationalised, I am not aware that nationalisation has done away with poverty. The railways of Prussia have been nationalised, and even some of the mines and forests have become national property but poverty remains. That shows, not that nationalisation in itself is bad, but that nationalisation alone is not going to solve the problems of poverty we have in 540 this country. I agree with the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Denniss) that the most immediate and effective method of relieving the conditions and the very hard lot, not only of workmen, but of the lower middle class, would be for the Government to abolish all the duties on food that now exist. At the present moment the Government are extracting, year by year, from the poorest of the poor, no less than £9,000,000 through taxes on food. I know that the usual defence of this is that everyone should contribute his share towards the expenses of the country, but, after all, we have to bear two things in mind. The first is, that his contribution should be in proportion to his means, income, and ability to pay. The second is that, so far as local rates are concerned, owing to the fact that workmen's rents are so high, his contribution to the rates is in itself higher in proportion than that of almost any other class in the country.
I believe that the real secret of the increase which has taken place in the cost of living is the power and influence exercised by trusts, and I would refer, in support of that, to the Report of the Commission appointed by the New Zealand Government two years ago to inquire into the increase which has taken place in that country. The Commission came to the conclusion that there were three recommendations which they should make to the Government. The first was the abolition of all Customs Duties on food supplies; the second was greater stringency with regard to the existence of trusts; and, if I remember correctly, the third was the municipalisation of the supply of bread and milk. This proves that even the social legislation of New Zealand, effective as it is, has not succeeded in doing away with poverty. It has not succeeded in preventing an increase in the cost of living, over and above the increase in the wages of the community. I venture to make an appeal to the representatives of the Board of Trade in this House. If they are unable to extend the Trade Boards Act beyond the limits indicated by the President of the Board, they should, in any event, seriously consider the advisability of appointing a committee to inquire as to what the increased cost of living is due to, and to what extent that increase is to be attributed to the power of trusts.
§ Mr. AMERY
I feel with regard to this Amendment very much in the same way as my hon. Friend the Member for 541 Oldham. I feel strongly the desirability of bringing about the object at which the hon. Member for Blackburn aims, namely, a real minimum living wage for every able-bodied man in this country, but where I cannot follow the hon. Member is as to the particular method by which he hopes to attain that end. At any rate it is satisfactory to know that the great majority of those who have spoken this afternoon have been in agreement in considering that the root of the whole question lies in the wages. If we could only raise the level of wages in this country we would automatically deal with the great bulk of the social problem. The difficulty of all social legislation at the moment is that the bulk of misery and want which we try to relieve by social measures is so great that the cost of those social measures is excessive, and in consequence demands so much taxation, that the ill effects may often equal, and possibly may exceed, the benefits of the social measure. We all desire to make it possible for social legislation to deal with the hard cases by enabling the great bulk of the people to be put in a position where by their own efforts they will be able to support themselves and their families in decency and comfort. On that main point there is general agreement. It is also generally agreed that not only is the wage in this country in the case of millions much lower than it should be for a proper standard of life, but that also during the last few years the condition of the workers on the whole has not changed for the better, but if anything, it has changed for the worse, owing to the great increase in the cost of living.
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, I think, tried to minimise that feature by suggesting that the hon. Member for East Northampton (Mr. Chiozza Money), in his extraordinarily interesting speech, and others had taken selected years. It is perfectly true that 1895 was a year in which prices were at their lowest, and the President of the Board of Trade suggested that we should take broad periods of time. May I take it over the whole broad period of the last two generations? If you take the whole generation that followed the middle of the last century, from 1850 to about 1875, that was a period during which prices were high but wages were rising steadily all the time. The real wage of the working classes of this country was on a steadily upward grade. From 1875 onwards the money 542 wages remained more or less stationary, but during a long period prices were steadily falling and the real wage of the worker was still on the up-grade. Taking the whole period from 1850 to 1900 it tended upwards. From 1900 onwards for the first time in half a century you get a condition of things in which wages are more or less stationary. They have been practically stationary during the whole period until now, with fluctuations, but prices have gone up greatly. Therefore, for the first time the upward trend of steady, slow improvement in the standard of living has received a check, and where people were accustomed from year to year, from parents to children, to live somewhat better than they lived before they suddenly found their conditions of living contracted. The hon. Member for East Northants (Mr. Chiozza Money) put very ably the degradation in the conditions of living which has been ensuing in various ways, the consumption of worse commodities, the gradual doing away of things that are necessary. That undoubtedly is a very real and serious matter, and the hon. Member for East Northants did not tell us to-night, though he has often told us through the columns of the newspapers for which he writes that the phenomenon in other countries has been different in this respect that while the cost of living has gone up there in the same ratio practically as here the real wages, nevertheless, have risen, and the very substantial increase in the rate of wages has not been wholly eaten up by the rise in the cost of living.
The question of cost of living has been dealt with by a great many speakers this afternoon. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for East Northants in putting the effect of the production of gold into a very secondary scale. He suggested that this increased cost of living was largely due to the exhaustion of the world's supplies. As regards certain raw materials, rubber and certain oils, I think that that is partially true. As regards foodstuffs and articles that enter into the cost of living. I think the explanation is slightly different. It is rather this that in great areas of the world the increase of industrial production has outstripped the development of agriculture. We have had during the last fifty or twenty years an absolutely phenomenal increase in manufacturing production all over the world. The total addition of manufacturing population, and the total increase 543 of consuming power in the cities of the world outside this country during the last fifteen years has been simply unexampled in the history of the world. You have only got to look at the increase in the urban populations of America and Germany to see the perfectly obvious reason why with this increasing population and the rise in wages and the operation of the ordinary laws of supply and demand, we have had an immense increase in the cost of living. Several hon. Members have spoken of trusts. It is perfectly true that trusts have been a marked phenomenon of this period, but, after all, a trust is a combination to raise prices when the supply is short of the expected demand. No trust can be successful if the supply of the article exceeds the amount that is cornered or exceeds the demand. We all remember the case of Mr. Leiter thirteen or fourteen years ago. He thought there was going to be a narrow supply of wheat, and that he had cornered it all. Then an increased acreage of wheat completely upset his calculations. The operations of the trust were only successful during a period when the supply fell to be short of the demand.
This has been a feature of the last few years. Therefore I contend that the main cause has been the large increase in industrial production in other countries as compared with agriculture. As regards our consumption of foodstuffs, we form part of the general pool of the world. We draw the bulk of our foodstuffs from outside. But our production in this country has not increased at that rate at which it would have led to an increase of wages sufficient to correspond to the growing cost of living. As the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) urged, the real question is how to increase the total dividend available for the people of the country; how to increase the total of the good things which they consume. I know that the contention of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) and some of his friends is that production has increased immensely, and is more than enough to meet all the needs of the working classes, but that the difficulty lies in the inequality of distribution; and he and other Members indicated that inequality by pointing to the extent to which the Income Tax returns have risen compared with the extent to which wages have risen. I hope that hon. Members will follow me while I put one or two considerations to them which will show that the great 544 increase in the Income Tax Returns does not indicate any immense increase in the production of this country. In the first place, we must remember that the Income Tax has been a great deal more strictly collected. Over and above that we must also remember that an immense amount of Income Tax in this country represents the profits not on production in this country, but on production all over the world, and therefore the increase of Income Tax in that respect has no bearing whatever upon the problem whether the workers are getting a fair share out of the results of the production of this country. Again, there is another rather more complex point, which is this. Income Tax represents a great deal of money paid round and round in some social circles, and it is largely a fictitious amount. Your highly paid doctor in Harley Street pays £700 or £800 a year in rent, and he charges the man to whom he pays that rent five guineas for looking at his tongue. Both sums figure in the Income Tax returns, but they do not represent real wealth. The hon. Gentleman opposite referred to the interesting fact of the large Death Duties, that by far the greater bulk of the total return is in the hands of a very few people—an infinitesimal fraction of the population. Nobody can suggest that those few men who control that immense wealth actually spend it; they cannot spend it on luxuries, not more than a fraction of it.
What is really the case is that these men are the chief organisers of immense businesses, and the bulk of the money goes through their hands exactly in the same way as if they were simply in a fiduciary capacity. The only difference is that they can, if they like, draw upon it freely for their private needs, though as a matter of fact it is mostly in the business, and they do not draw more than a certain fraction for luxuries. Let me come to the actual point of production—that is where I join issue with hon. Members opposite. I believe the trouble to-day is that production in England does not yield enough for the people of this country to live in comfort. If you take the figures of the last census of industry, originally started by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and carried on by the Board of Trade, I think you will get results that are extraordinarily significant, and which indicate that there is not that quantity of good things to purchase which would enable us to attain the standard of living which we all desire. According to the census of production, some 8,000,000 of workers produced a net 545 output, after taking away the cost of raw material and the cost of the half-finished material from one factory to another, of £762,000,000 a year—that is, dealing with the whole of the manufacturing industries of the country. That means, dividing that £762,000,000 among 8,000,000 of people, that you get a quotient of £93 net production a year, or something like 37s. a week on the average, for the productive worker of the country. But before the 37s. a week can be touched by the worker there are certain items which it is absolutely essential should come off. There is, first of all, the standing charge of rates and taxes; there is the cost of insurance against fire, against accidents to workmen, against unemployment and ill-health; there is the cost of advertisements; there is the whole of the interest on capital, and the whole of the money that has to be put by against depreciation. I have talked with many business men on the subject, and I asked them how much all these items average, on the annual overturn of income. I had it put at the highest, on the gross production, at 25 per cent., and as low as 15 per cent.
Taking the gross production of the country at £1,800,000,000, 15 per cent. would give £270,000,000, leaving available for distribution less than an average of 25s. per worker per week. In other words, according to the figures of the Board of Trade in the year 1907, there would not be available for distribution among the productive industrial workers of this country more than an average of 25s. all round. Therefore any attempt to level up the wages to anything like 25s. would mean the reduction of every wage above that, including the wages of foremen and everybody else. Let me say that under nationalisation, or under a Socialist system, all the items I have quoted, taxes, replacing of machinery, and so forth, would be just as necessary as in the case of the individualist system, the only difference being in the item of skilled supervision and profits. Although it is quite true that many industries under the individualist system pay very high profits, it is also true that large number of industries under this system where high profits are possible are carried on for years at no profit, and, even more than that, with no remuneration for the skilled work of those who carry on the industries. If you substitute the Socialist system for the individualist system you will have to pay much higher salaries for skilled supervisors, and 546 in all probability you will find the real difference in that respect between the State-owned system and the individualist system is not very great. Therefore, whatever system you have, you go back to the real question of total production, and certainly I do not think anybody, even on the benches opposite, seriously considers that we are going to change the basis of our social structure in the next few years, while it does seem to me that the very case they have made suggests the urgency of in some way or other increasing the total output. There, again, we come to this question of a minimum wage. I am as strong as anyone in my conviction that the minimum wage should in this country be far higher than it is. But when you have got a certain number of people dependent on a certain total volume of production, to raise the minimum wage would be to cut down the marginal industries. You have then got a larger number of people in competition on the remainder of the total production, and you lower the wages all round. The way to close down the marginal industries is by opening up new sources of production and absorbing the workpeople. I want to see marginal industries closed down because wages are raised to such a point that they cannot continue, but what I do not want to see is the policy of shutting down the thin seams before the better seams are opened.
I have referred to some of the figures of production in this country. I do not wish to make this the vehicle of a detailed discussion on another topic, but I would point out that in other countries they have succeeded very much better than we have with the problem of production. Take the figures of the United States for 1905 in reference to production. There the net output of industries is something like £1,800,000,000 for 7,500,000 employed, which makes a net output per person of £230 a year as against £93 a year in this country, while the available wage, before making the deductions to which I have referred is £4 8s. as against 37s. in this country. It does seem to me that whether you have individualist employers getting an average of 5 per cent. or 8 per cent., or whether you have the community running the industries and giving the money in relief of taxes, the real thing is that in the United States you have a far greater volume of production, and consequently you have the well-known, admitted fact that there remains a much greater number of good things for the work- 547 people in that country to consume. That is the one thing we have got to aim at. If you can get production, then you will get consumption, and if you increase the production in this country, then as a perfectly natural course the power and ability of the workers, the manual workers, with their organisation, and the classes immediately above them, will secure a reasonable share of that, because you cannot have a great increase in production without calling for a greater number to help, and the moment you have industries clamouring for more men to help them, then inevitably you do get a tendency for wages to rise which the organisation of the workmen can put into effect and translate into a demand which will be effective, and, I think, easily conceded, for those better wages. Personally, I am convinced the only way to get increased production is to get an increased demand and to increase the market available for the workers of this country and the industries of this country.
I do not propose here to argue all the pros and cons of the fiscal question. We have in to-night's Debate arrived at a very great measure of agreement. We do all agree practically in this House that the question we have got to deal with which is urgent is the question of the wage of the working classes of this country. I think certainly, judging from the speech of the hon. Member for East Northants (Mr. C. Money) and that of the Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite), and those of some other hon. Members, the hon. Member for Blackburn, for instance, that there is also realisation of the fact that to get an increase in that wage you must, at any rate, secure an abundant production large enough to cover the whole of that increase. I know that some hon. Members consider the production is already enough. I do hope the figures I have given, if they have not entirely convinced them, will make them realise that, after all, the total production of this country is not so very great as it is sometimes assumed to be from such figures as the Income Tax returns. The total production of this country is not nearly as large as one would think it to be from the mere export and import figures, which, in our case, are a quarter to a third of the total production, whereas in the United States they are barely a fifteenth of the total production. If we can come to an agreement up to that point, 548 could we not concentrate, in view of the great national need, in trying to solve the problem of securing greater production. The hon. Member for Hanley has one remedy, and we on this side have another remedy, on behalf of which I should like to say a good word on another occasion. At any rate, can we not take the question of production in hand in order to make sure that enough good things will be produced available for the people of this country, and on the basis of which we can bring about a tolerable standard of living. We certainly agree that the standard of living to-day is better than it was two generations ago, but we have no reason to be content. The standard of living has risen all over the world. It is rising in some countries, I fear more than here, and I do think our aim ought to be, not only to secure a steady and rising standard, but to secure for the citizens of this great country the highest standard attainable in their generation and age.
If we look at the countries where they have the highest standard, countries like the United States, we all admit that that is due to the fact that the oldest and most crowded parts of a country like that are within one great economic system. Massachusetts and New York, though they receive from five hundred thousand to a million penniless aliens in the year, do have their standard of living kept up by the fact that they are united in one economic system with all the new wealth produced in the west and the south and the south-west, although three or four thousand miles away, and that the production of that wealth in the New States down to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico is stimulated by being connected with the older communities on the Atlantic. What some of us are aiming at is not the reproducing of that phenomenon, but to carry it out on an even greater scale. We have an immense consuming power in this old country, and this immense demand for work so inadequately satisfied. We have in other parts of the Empire immense opportunities for development, immense areas that want the demand of our market, and that could at the same time satisfy the hunger of our people for work and wages. Surely there ought to be some means of bringing about a more effective union between the working hands of this country and the boundless possibilities in different parts of the Empire. We advocate one particular method of bringing about that closer union, namely, by the adjustment of our 549 revenue duties. But I do not say that that is the only method. It might be possible.
§ Mr. AMERY
I did not mean to travel beyond the Amendment or to say more than that there may be many methods of bringing about that union between the productive activities here and the possibilities for that active work in other parts of the Empire which would contribute to increasing that total sum of good things produced by which the people of this country live, and by the increase of which we could attain the standard of living we should like to see attained in this country.
§ Mr. ALBERT SMITH
I have listened very carefully during this Debate to see what remedy would be suggested for the low wages paid to a large number of men and women in this country, and also with regard to the cost of living, and I have been expecting that the only solution to be offered would be that of readjusting our fiscal system. I do not intend entering into that discussion; but to attempt to remedy existing grievances by introducing a new fiscal system, without altering the conditions under which we labour at the present time, would only be to make matters worse. Those same people who have control of the industries of this country now will still have control of them under any system you like to introduce. And when we consider that the whole of our carrying trade is in the hands of very few people, and the whole of our industries are at the mercy of those people, no system whatever will alter that unless you alter the system of the carrying trade itself. There is no country in the world where the merchants and manufacturers and traders are handicapped through their carrying as in this country. One of the proposals in the Amendment is the nationalisation of railways. I am happy to think that that is now looked upon, not as some wild Socialistic scheme, but as a proposal of a very practical nature. Apart from any point of view of trade, it is to the infinite advantage of any country to have control over its means of transit. We may do as we like, but we always come back to the fact that the workers, as they stand to-day, will always be taxed, either in food stuffs or in other commodities, to the fullest extent that they are able to pay. If we can, by some means, introduce a scheme by which they 550 will be assured a wage upon which they can live, we shall be beginning, and only beginning, a system under which the workers of the country will be adequately paid, clothed, and housed. An Hon. Member opposite suggested the publishing of a list of firms who pay very low wages, and he incidentally suggested that it would be a grand thing if 4½d. an hour were fixed for male adult labour and 3d. an hour for women. If that is the only alternative, I do not want it at all.
The hon. Member for Oldham referred to the Lancashire spinning trade, and said that for the last twenty-nine years the average profit had been 5½ per cent. If he will take the last ten years he will find that it has been considerably more than that. Not only so, but wages have been increased, they are paying for their insurance and compensation in addition, and yet they are making more profit. What do they complain about? Their complaint now is, not that there is no trade, or that there is not a margin of profit, but that the speculative builder, who comes along without sufficient money to build the mill perfectly, is standing in the way. What happens in the spinning trade? If we could ensure that all the workers of the country would be as well paid as the workers in the spinning trade, this Resolution would not have been moved in its present form. Does anyone suggest that the 50,000,000 spindles in Lancashire, and nearly a million power looms, have been erected at a profit of 5 per cent.? In a small town, with a popuation of 40,000, which I visited recently, there is a power loom for every man, woman, and child in the place. That has not been got out of a 5 per cent. profit. To-day they are making a far larger profit than that. The great blessing that Lancashire enjoys is the fact that the women who go into the works can get the same wages for the same work that are paid to the men. It is inconceivable that the cotton trade of Lancashire could have been built up on two rates of pay—one for men and one for women. Although the wages for men are not on the average high enough, the fact that their women folk go into the mills instead of going into shops and other trades where they would receive far lower wages, is a much greater advantage to the workers than it would otherwise be. We are not satisfied in the cotton trade, but we are not altogether blaming the employers for it. I am not here to suggest that the Lancashire cotton people are able to pay tremendously 551 higher wages to every man and woman engaged in the industry, but I do say that the Lancashire cotton trade would immensely benefit if the country owned the railways, the land, and the mines. If that state of things existed, not only the cotton trade, but every other trade in the country would reap a large and lasting benefit.
There seems to be something radically wrong with the calculation of the hon. Member opposite as to the aggregate income of the workers of the country. But passing that by, we are satisfied that the wealth of the country affords a wide margin for raising the low-paid workers to a better standard. We have worked on a system under which capital, whether living or dead, has to receive a living wage before the worker is considered. We want, if not to completely reverse that, at any rate, so to alter it that the worker will receive better treatment before capital is considered. Surely those who are our own flesh and blood ought to be considered before the money in our banks and workshops. It has been said that there are in this country regularly employed—this is leaving out of account casual labour—one million adult men at less than 20s. a week, and another million and a half at less than 25s. a week, and that 8 per cent. of the population live in houses that are hardly fit for habitation. If we allow this system to go on, what will become of our young people? We are fond of speaking about building up the Empire. Every day we read in the papers about attempts being made to get as good men as possible to go into the services to defend their country. But hon. Members must realise that these people are getting every day more and more unfitted for that work. Some of them are beginning to ask what they have to lose, if Germany or any other Power comes. So long as you keep the people underpaid, badly clothed, and badly housed, so long will the race go down.
Let us see how women are treated. You have thousands of men and women working in the city of Dundee to-day, whose joint incomes are less than a pound a week. Reference has been made to a town in Ireland where the same state of things exists. The Anti-Sweating League of Liverpool published recently a pamphlet on the conditions of labour in that city. It is calculated that there are a hundred thousand women workers in the Liverpool district, and that 50,000 of them receive less than 552 10s. a week. The pamphlet also points out that for a week of fifty-nine hours, some women get from 5s. to 9s. It points out that highly respectable firms start their women workers at 8s. per week, and that after two years they get 9s. — the maximum paid for a full week's work. It also incidentally mentions what Sir Charles Booth did as to the big catering firms of this city, that these kind of firms in Liverpool, before starting girls at work, inquire as to their home and relatives, so that they may engage them at starvation wages. What is the result of it? It is a shame and a disgrace to a country like ours that such a state of things should exist at all. The other week we introduced into this House and passed, I am glad to say, what was called at one time the White Slave Traffic Bill. We have highly respectable men of all complexions of politics, with capital invested in these firms, who are receiving a high dividend, and who are allowing these things to take place under their very eyes. When we come to raise the matter in this House we cannot get the Board of Trade or any other authority to extend sufficiently the Trade Board Act in order that unless wages are paid in these shops certainly higher than what they are that action should be taken.
No business has a right to exist except it can give the workpeople better wages than are paid by the people I have enumerated. It was said this afternoon that the workers in this country are now feeling the benefit of what education they have been able to get during the last thirty or forty years. I believe that to be quite true. It is also a fact that the better educated a man or a woman becomes the more they feel the joy of life; the more they want to feel it, and the better in all senses they want their lives to be. I think I may say they are going to make a determined try to get what they desire. Nobody can stop them. Some scheme should be introduced into this. House—and this is the only place where it can be, in the first instance, introduced, and this is the only place where machinery can be set up to meet all the hardships and difficulties of labour in this country—and the sooner the better to remedy things. We may fail. We may have wrong ideas of how to begin. But surely we can offer suggestions, and if we never make a start we shall get nowhere. Our claim, in the first place, is that whatever system you have so long as you leave monopolies in the hands of private individuals you will never get at the root of 553 this evil. One may differ as to the question of Land Taxes and land nationalisation. But if there is a majority in this House in favour of the one I am with them, and if in favour of the other I am with them, so long as we make a start.
You have to-day your railways stultifying the use of canals in order to increase their profits. It is estimated that there are—and I have never seen it denied—180,000 shareholders connected with the railways, and the profits of the year 1911 were estimated at £47,000,000, which works out, on an average, at £260 for each shareholder—equal to four men's wages at 25s. per week. Fifty thousand of these men on the railway we have been told here many a time, are getting less than a sovereign per week. You have your land system. We had debate here the other day on local and Imperial taxation. Whatever may have brought the present condition of affairs about, we are all fully convinced that in our large towns the burden of rating, owing to the present system, is getting year by year more overbearing. I am not here to advocate taking over the railways, the mines, or the land by force or robbery. I simply want to make a deal with the persons concerned, so that the State should have the fullest advantage to be got out of the monopolies. In conclusion, I believe there is plenty of room for improvement. We all admit that. But it is not handing over more work to people who are already overworked that the remedy lies. There is no earthly reason for the men and women of this country to go to their work at 5.30 or 6.0 in the morning and work till 5.30 or 6.0 at night. Certainly not unless they are working for reasonable wages. If we can only distribute the work as well as the wages, I feel confident there will be better things in store for our men and women who to-day are labouring under disadvantages which I hope few of us here have had to labour under.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
I think we must all be very pleased at the tone of the speeches which have been so admirably delivered, and pleased that there has been so much sympathy on both sides of the House with regard to the main issue before us. The hon. Member for Hanley certainly brought forward proposals that I should consider would mark him down as a crank, because his mind is so full of one remedy for the evils that we see. He might retort on me that I also am a crank because on many public platforms I have advocated another 554 system by which the evils that we are here talking about to-night may be remedied. I wish to offer to the House one or two considerations whereby, I think, my experience may elucidate difficulties in which we are meeting. The greatest difficulty that has been spoken of to-night has been the constantly increasing cost of living, and the increasing cost of commodities. For twenty-five years I have made personal study of how and why the cost of commodities of the world have fluctuated. In the course of that study I have come to this conclusion, that the main reason for the high cost of living to-day is that during the past fifteen years there has been in many countries of the world an extraordinary uplifting of the people. In some countries there has been uplifting from semi-barbarism to semi-civilisation. In many countries with which I trade the people have, with the rising markets for the commodities they produce, more money to spend. They have become buyers of commodities which here-tofore we as merchants never found them using, and in the more civilised countries millions of people, by having money in their hands in the last ten years, buy luxuries which they never did before. In my own business I have watched many things, and whereas in this interchange we were in the habit of taking a half or five-eighth of the total produce of the world in the United Kingdom, the percentage in the United Kingdom now of imports of these same articles of the world's production is very much less, because there are many other countries where the workmen have the money to buy and tens of thousands of people are willing to buy them now; and so we may dismiss the possibility of reverting to the old prices of 1885–1895. Therefore upon that point let us clear our mind of any hope of prices and the cost of living going back to what they were in 1895. Our minds should be bent upon how we are going to lift up the average producing power of the people of this country in order that they may enjoy as good and even better living than they have. I believe it possible to find a solution whereby the people of this country will have a much further enjoyment of life than heretofore. I believe honestly that that can be done, and I have brought it out on many a platform. There is a gross misunderstanding between our Friends opposite and us on this side of the House as to the means whereby we propose that should be done. The hon. Member for Hanley was allowed to put his point as to his 555 remedy for improving the wages in this country. I am afraid, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you would rule me out of order if I, as another crank, offered my remedy to this House, but I say there is no hope in the cost of living being reduced to any great extent, and our only object in this Debate now should be, as Members of this House and as legislators for this country, to propound to our fellow-countrymen a policy by which the wage-earning power of the workers will advance more than the cost of living has increased. There is a great misunderstanding on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite as to what we mean. I might put it in this way. The fiscal systems of the world are in such a state of chaos that there are no two countries with the same system. It is utterly impossible to-day to arrive at anything like an international understanding on the fiscal system. I believe it would be possible for this country to legislate in such a way that we could produce uniformity of fiscal international arrangements between the great civilised nations of the world. And if we can do that, we would make it possible for the workers of civilised countries to obtain equality of opportunity with one another. If we could have a universal maximum 20 per cent. tariff the world over, then I say the volume of employment in this country would enormously increase the power of our manufacturers to develop even wider markets than we have had, and, of course, the volume of production of the country would enormously increase, and this margin would be such that the demand of men for more wages would be readily met. And not only that, but the idea of having a policy which would bring about this equality of opportunity among the worker of our nation would immediately have a greater effect in removing jealousies between countries in many ways, and I believe it would be the beginning of the great international universal peace of the world. There is no hope of peace between the peoples of the world so long as equality of opportunity between them is so vastly different, as 160 per cent. in one country and 5 per cent. in another.
How is it possible to have an interchange of the surplus commodity of one country with another upon which wages is based if we do not seek to bring about some means of having equality between our neighbours. Our policy is wrong. Their 556 policy is wrong, but it is up to us who have posed as being the Mother of Parliaments for generations and generations past to bring forward a fiscal policy which will be the admiration and desire of every other nation. We could surely in this idea reconstitute the wage basis of the workers of this country by bringing in such a policy. The hon. Member for Blackburn said that 48 per cent. of the workers of the cotton industry in Lancashire were only getting 25s. per week, and the last speaker has told us that there are over a million of men working who only get £1 a week. I feel it as a disgrace that that should be so. Thirty years ago, in my visits amongst the poor in Birkenhead, I was impressed with the belief that no private charity could remove these troubles, and for twenty years I have tried to find a solution. I am in this House to-day because I took my stand on the question how these evils were to be overcome. I say that, to me, it is a crime that women workers in this country are paid wages as low as they are and that crime is due to the fact, to my mind, that while other nations in the world put a tax upon the fingers of our women whose work goes into their country, we allow the product of other women's work in other parts of the world to be sent here into our market without paying any tax.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
While these things exist, is it any wonder that the terrible evils which have been brought to light during this discussion should be found to exist. I do not say that I have got the only remedy. We talk week after week and nothing is done. My hon. Friend said he would be glad to have the idea put forward by the hon. Member for Hanley started if his failed. I say that the proposition put forward in this Resolution is not likely to succeed. It is said that, in order to obtain a better minimum wage, the country should become the owner of the land, the railways, and the coal mine. Personally, I do not believe that the nationalisation of railways, as an investment for the nation, would be a good one. The reason why the rates for railway traffic are so high is that the administration of the Board of Trade has been so severe on the builders of our railway system and the capital expenditure, in consequence, has been so immense, that they cannot be worked for much less. As 557 far as I understand the question, the workers in the building and working of cur railways have had at least £96 out of every £100 spent, and if that is so, surely the proportion claimable by the worker has been paid. Honestly, I cannot see that there has been any refutation of the arguments used against this proposal. What is the difference between paying to a bondholder and paying to a Government? The interest on the capital will have to be paid in some form or another.
We know how difficult it is under a State administration to obtain flexibility. We know how difficult it would be for the manager of the State railway to give opportunities for special traffic for the development of new businesses. Some hon. Members opposite say that the opportunities would be greater, but to my mind, as a trader, I think such opportunities would be less. When I am dealing with a board of directors I think I am more likely to get fair consideration from them than I should be if I had to deal with a State Department and put my business proposition before them. Honestly, I do not think the nationalisation of the railways would be a good business proposition for the country to entertain. I am not able to speak with authority as regards coal mines, but even there we should have very great trouble. Even with the nationalisation of land, railways, and mines, I do not think you would be able to lift the wage limit. We cannot make water run uphill, and what I want to see is such a natural demand for labour that the rise in wages will be natural and permanent. I believe we can legislate in such a way that we can ensure for our men and their children and grandchildren a much higher rate of wage than is being paid to-day. It is not for me to go into the details, but we honestly believe that our policy would bring about the desired end of readjusting wages to the high cost of living. I think hon. Gentlemen opposite will be ready to acknowledge that, although they have been working hard for the last thirty years, they have not been able to effect their object, and why should they not give us an opportunity to try? You admit that from 1900 to 1912 wages have remained stationary, and that during that time the buying power of a sovereign has been reduced from 20s. to 16s. 3d. I say that we can change that by our system. At any rate let us have a try. We intend to appeal to the country to ask them to give 558 us their confidence in order that we may try to remedy what is admittedly one of the greatest and trying evils that our generation has passed through.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
We have had a very interesting discussion upon what is, after all, the most important subject this House can consider, namely, the social condition of the people. It is remarkable, however, that while we have had very interesting contributions to the Debate from the Opposition, sometimes it has been necessary for one speaker on the opposite side to demolish the arguments of the other. What is interesting in the speech of the Hon. Gentleman who last spoke is that he destroyed his own arguments. His contention was an admission that wages were too low, and much lower than they ought to be. That seems to be a generally agreed proposition on all sides. Consequently it becomes a question of what are wages, and what makes them high or low. The hon. Gentleman opposite declares that he has given some forty years of consideration to this subject, and he knows that the fairest test of wages is the amount that can be purchased by them. That being generally admitted, is it not one of the most peculiar propositions in the world that you should propose to give a greater value to the sovereign and a greater purchasing power to the wages of the worker by taxing everything that he wants to purchase 20 per cent? That is about the most astounding proposition I ever heard, and if that is all the contribution to this problem the hon. Gentleman can make after forty years of study, I am afraid the Debate has been practically useless. We have had another interesting speech from the hon. Member for South Birmingham (Mr. Amery). The interest of that speech, more especially to the Members on this side of the House, was the way in which the hon. Member manipulated the figures of the census of production, and how he proved to his own satisfaction and to the satisfaction of all the wealthy captains of industry in this House that the total produce of the labour of 8,000,000 of working people only amounted to an average of 25s. per week. I have heard it said that you can use figures for any purpose whatever. I take it for granted that the hon. Member for South Birmingham admits that the value of the total production contains many of the things he wanted to deduct from it. I take it for granted that the use of the factories, the capital expended in their 559 construction, and even a reasonable profit, were calculated in the value that was put upon the production when it was completed. Hon. Members will recollect that the hon. Member proceeded to deduct all these things again from the 25s.
§ Mr. WARD
I do not think that I have in any way misinterpreted the suggestion of the hon. Member. Everybody who was present will agree that the hon. Member was using the figures for the purpose of showing there was not the fund available, that we did not create sufficient wealth and did not produce sufficient of the valuable goods of the world to enable us to demand more wages than we were receiving at the present time. That was his whole argument. I venture to suggest a more misleading use of figures would scarcely be possible. While the hon. Gentleman no doubt convinced himself of the stupidity of our attempt to extract more for our labour without increasing the productivity of our labour, I do not think he convinced us of the correctness of his view. What is the main contention of all labour students of this subject? I do not think capitalists and people belonging either to the middle or upper classes who have considered this subject have ever realised the point of view of the ordinary student among the working people. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Bartley Denniss) taunted the Members of the Government with having opposed the Minimum Wage Bill for the miners, and he asked what good it had done. The wages of the miners, who were only a small fraction of the people, had risen, but the price of coal had increased enormously, and the rest of the working community had had to pay that extra price. The Minimum Wage Bill had done no good for the simple reason that the owner of that production had managed to foist it on to the public, and a profit in addition thereto.
The hon. Member is quite misinterpreting what I said. I stated merely as a fact that coal had gone up in price in consequence of the Minimum Wage Act. I did not decry in any way the benefit of the minimum wage to the miners.
§ Mr. WARD
The hon. Gentleman's explanation has not affected the situation at all for the purposes of my argument. What does it mean? It means that so long as the mines are held as a monopoly by private individuals, whose sole object is to extract as much profit out of the rest of the community as they can, you can pass as many minimum wage bills as you like and the private monopolist will always saddle the cost of the extra wages and of everything else on to the rest of the community. That is our contention.
§ Mr. WARD
That is why you find nationalisation and the minimum wage combined in this Amendment. We cannot expect the owners of the means of production to come to this conclusion. They must approach the matter with the idea of bolstering up private monopolies as the means of production. It would not be fair to their own class to look at it in any other way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Markham."] He is just in the same boat as the others. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Bigland) wondered how these two things could be put together, how it was that we could advocate a minimum wage, with which he entirely agreed on principle, and yet could proceed to fasten upon that a system of nationalisation of certain known and definite monopolies, which people belonging to other trades will perhaps eventually nationalise themselves for defence from these monopolies. You hear complaints from Lancashire, from many of the masters in the cotton business, you can go along the Colne Valley in Yorkshire, and what do you find is the main complaint? It is that whilst trade is good, the colliery proprietors and others are fastening upon other trades extra rates for coal and for other commodities which they supply, and by that means they are extracting the greater part of what ought to be the increased profits in these good years of the businesses in which these men are concerned. That is how it is that you find these two things fastened together in the Amendment. We will imagine now there was a Labour Government in power—
§ Mr. WARD
That is right, you would have to work for your living. You can imagine what a Labour Administration would be. I can imagine it, and I do not 561 suppose it would be such a terrible thing as the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Harold Smith) seems to imagine. I dare say he would be quite prepared to take the position of Attorney-General in that Government if it were offered to him. Assume any Government were in power, another Government, or the present Government, or the present Opposition, and they were to attempt to deal with this question of a minimum wage, we all know, from the illustration given by the hon. Member for Birkenhead, from what was said by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Denniss), and from our own experience, practical and otherwise, that whenever an increase of wages takes place, then by some means or another the owners of the means of production manage to fasten it upon some one else. I doubt whether it would be good policy to pursue that end without a system of nationalisation. It is extremely doubtful whether these benefits would be so certain as if the two policies were bound together. Certainly that is our view, and it is for that reason that we have attempted, during this discussion and on the Amendment now before the House, to put them together. We know by experience quite clearly that the two things must go together if we are to reap the full advantage of the principle of a minimum condition of life in this country. It has been stated that wages have somehow or other remained stationary during the last ten or fifteen years, whilst the wealth of the country has gone forward enormously, and, in addition to that, prices have increased; and it is assumed that this is the first time in the history of the country that any such economic phenomenon has been witnessed. It is only necessary to read Henry George's "Progress and Poverty," an elaborate and historic treatise upon this subject, to see that this was a phenomenon which existed in the middle of the last century. Figures were tabulated to show that it was a remarkable fact in competitive industrial communities that just as the opportunity for the creation of wealth occurred so the poverty among the lower orders tended to increase. That has been shown in economic works during the last fifty years, and is not special to our time. It is a well-known fact that that is the general tendency of forces in competitive societies such as exists to-day. We see that while the State can mitigate, as it has done already, the lot of those at the bottom of 562 the ladder, as in the case of old age pensions, the Insurance Act, and the Trade Boards Act, regulating and raising and doing the best it can to protect the worst-paid and the worst-conditioned portion of our community, while there is no doubt that a considerable amount of good and mitigation of the evil effects of modern industrial life can take place through such remedial legislation, you can never have a solution of this difficulty so long as the means by which the whole population of a country have to live are in the hands of just a few people, to be used for their own purposes, irrespective of the general welfare. That is the position we occupy to-day in regard to this subject. While we welcome every attempt to solve the problem, at the same time we do not want to attempt a solution which we have experienced in the history of our country as tending to make things worse rather than better. That is the solution of the hon. Member for Birkenhead, that we should alter our fiscal arrangements so that all that we wanted in the country should be taxed and made more expensive than it is now and more difficult for the worker to get because of the fact that it is taxed. That is a solution which is worse than no remedy at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "He did not say so."] No, he said, "Impose a 20 per cent. duty." He admitted that the duties upon tea and other commodities raised the prices, and we may take it for granted that the economic effect of a duty upon all other articles would be exactly the same. That is not the solution. The solution is along the lines suggested in this Amendment, that is to face the problem. So long as one part of the community have the means by which the other part have to live entirely in their hands and control and the greater part of the country have to beg of others the right to live at all, that is a condition of things which can never produce satisfactory results.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I wish, first of all, to say how profoundly I regret that, owing to an engagement I have had to keep, I have been unable to hear the whole of the Debate. From what I gather, and from what I have heard of it, and I have heard various parts of it, the Debate has been an extremely interesting one, and has been conducted upon a very high level. It was certainly started upon a very high level by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden), to whose speech I listened with the greatest possible interest. The 563 hon. Member is one of the bravest and most competent advocates of the doctrines in which he and his Friends believe. I always feel when listening to him but one regret, and that is that his most powerful and attractive advocacy is given on behalf of a cause which, I believe, is a mistaken cause. But his advocacy gives to that cause a charm and an attraction which makes it a profitable and agreeable occupation for anybody to listen to a debate which he initiates, and which happily, as is often the case in this House, follows on the level on which it was started by its introducer.
The hon. Member (Mr. J. Ward) fell foul of my hon. Friend (Mr. Bigland), because in his desire not to occupy too long a time he was unable adequately to describe the policy he advocated. The hon. Member entirely ignored what my hon. Friend said at the beginning of his reference to his policy of a change in the tariff. In the ordinary tariff debates it is customary to advocate a change in the tariff of this country, a change in our own power of imposing duties upon articles whether manufactured or of another kind, introduced into this country. What the hon. Member, I think, overlooked was that my hon. Friend took a different line—a broader line—than is generally taken by the advocates of a change in our fiscal policy on this particular occasion and what he indicated was that he hoped for a time when all countries might agree upon a fiscal peace, and when the products of labour in this country should not be imposed to the same unfair attack, which, in our opinion, they are exposed to now by the fact that other countries possess and exercise the right to tax those very products of labour which several speakers opposite have referred to, and from this follows the inevitable consequence that those who produce those products are at a disadvantage in this country compared with those in other countries whose labour is protected by the policy of their Governments. That was the policy advocated by my hon. Friend. It was not the mere policy of what we call Tariff Reform. It was a broader and wider policy than that. It was the advocacy of a peace of all nations when the labour of all countries should be on an equality. That is the object which we who have advocated fiscal reform in this country have always had in view. I do not ask hon. Gentlemen to believe in our theories or in 564 our views any more than they can expect us to believe in theirs, holding the views we do, but I ask the House to believe this, that we are all agreed, and I believe this to be true of every quarter of the House, as to what we desire. I believe, further, that we are all agreed, with some limitations no doubt, as to the evils which now exist. I listened to the statement of those evils made by the hon. Member (Mr. Snowdon) with unfeigned interest, and I agree with a great deal that he said. Undoubtedly it is a fact that there are thousands of people living in this country in conditions abhorent to all of us—insufficient wages, improper houses, insufficient opportunities for enjoyment and refreshment, even for breathing the fresh air of heaven. On these points we are agreed, but when we come to the remedies advocated by hon. Gentlemen opposite, then it is that we are unable to see, either in the arguments they advance in their support or in the experience which has been gained in respect of them wherever they have been tried, any evidence that we should improve the condition of things if we adopted their advice.
I listened to the hon. Member's (Mr. Snowden's) reference to the land. He told us he was not a lawyer, but that he held that the land really belongs to the State. I am not going to embark upon a discussion with the hon. Gentleman as to the soundness of his theory. I ant not a lawyer, but I am a landowner, and most of the land that I possess has been in my family's possession for a great many generations. He will no doubt say that if we go back to the ancient title it is one that I could not maintain. I am not going to dispute that with him now. But I ask him to consider that, in respect of all this land, which has been held for long or short periods, sums of money equal to five, ten, or twenty times the fee simple value of the land, have been spent by the successive owners in its improvement and in bringing it to the position it is in now. I venture to say that to ask the House of Commons, to ask the country, in 1913 to approach the solution of this great industrial and social problem on the basis of taking the land from those who have now got it, even on the most equitable terms, and of transferring it to the State, on the ground that the owners are making a bad use of it, is to prejudice a case for which there is a great deal to be said. What evidence is there that you will improve the position by taking that 565 course? The present Government, supported by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, gave powers to county councils to obtain land in order to distribute it among applicants for small holdings. I opposed these proposals at the time, and I am opposed to them now. The county council in my own county recently bought an estate which belonged to a private owner. It was sold by him not because he wanted to sell it, but because it was urged on him that the land was wanted for this particular purpose. The county council, having bought it, proceeded to lay it out in small portions and to import tenants. On this land there were certain cottages. What was the next thing the county council did? I do not blame them, though I think they were foolish in what they did. In order to provide for the occupants of the land they evicted the tenants of the cottages. What would have been said if that had been done by a landowner instead of by a county council? It would probably have been quoted in this debate as an argument justifying the transfer of the land from the individual to the community.
If we find that, when the land has been transferred on these terms to the community, exactly the same evils occur as those which you describe as being the result of individual ownership, what evidence is there of improvement? The county council is the microcosm of the community. What evidence is there that the land will be better used by being in the hands of the nation—in other words, in the hands of this House? When you talk of the land becoming the property of the nation to be dealt with by the nation, you mean this House, for the nation to-day is the Treasury Bench. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken recognised that as fully as we do on this side. What did he say? He said the day may come when there may be a Labour Government. Then he turned with strange forgetfulness to one of my hon. Friends below the Gangway and said, "Yes, when that time comes, you will have to work for your living." Why and how? Because only when there is a Labour Government, that Government, being autocratic, will endeavour to make those work for their living who, in the opinion of hon. Members, do not work for it now. But the hon. Gentleman forgot that he and his friends have made it unnecessary for my hon. Friends to work for their living. They have given to Members of Parliament a wholly unnecessary remuneration, and therefore my hon. 566 Friends, as long as they are Members of this house, have no need to work for their living. Therefore the moral which the hon. Gentleman tried to draw as a result of the existence of the Labour Government is one which is not justified by the history of this Parliament in which the Labour party have played such a prominent part. The hon. Member for Blackburn, when he passed from land, dealt with railways and with telephones. He said that the telephones had been nationalised by an arrangement which was begun by the party to which I have the honour to belong, and was finally carried out by the party opposite. I do not know what the experience of hon. Gentlemen opposite may be, but I have had some experience of telephone arrangements, and can only say that since the transfer the telephone in this country has worked infinitely worse than when it was under the National Telephone Company. The Members of the Labour party like to claim that they identify themselves more with, and take a greater interest in, the affairs of the working classes, and they are entitled to speak with greater, closer, and more personal knowledge of their difficulties and the remedies they would like to apply; but, at any rate, most of us try to acquaint ourselves with the difficulties of the working classes, with whom we come into contact. I, for one, have tried to ascertain what is the view of the employés of the telephone system as regards the change, and I have never come across any employé yet who has not told me that he would far rather be under the National Telephone Company than under the Post Office.
§ Mr. LONG
It is no good for the Postmaster-General to say "Oh!" unless he charges me with making a false statement. He may say that my information is incorrect. I do not say whether it is right or wrong or whether I have examined enough of these people, and the interruption of the Postmaster-General either means that he challenges my statement as incorrect, or it has no meaning. I give it simply as my experience, and I say that there is nothing which I have seen of the telephone system, as worked by the Post Office, which leads me to believe that it it will be a good thing to nationalise any of our great systems. Coming to the railways, which the hon. Member who spoke last advocated strongly should be 567 transferred, I was for many years a railway director on one of our great systems, though I long ago ceased to be one, and I do not deny for a moment from the experience which I gained there that there is a great deal of room for improvement in our railway management, just as in our social and industrial conditions.
In this country on our railways, worked under an individual or private system, more is done for the general interests of the community, whether it be in the promotion of trade, in the improvement of the system itself, or in the wages and conditions of the railway workers, than is done in other countries where the railways are worked by the State. Will any hon. Gentleman who advocates nationalisation of railways tell us of any foreign country or any Oversea Dominions where the State-managed railway system is at all comparable to that which we have here, either in respect of intercommunication between different parts of the country or the conditions of the employed on the railways, or where there is anything which can be found better than what we have here? [An HON. MEMBER: "Certainly."] I have studied this question in our Dominions and in other countries, and I do not think it can be shown that the State-owned railways are at all comparable with our system of railways. The hon. Member for Blackburn, in his very interesting speech, referred to the difficulty that has arisen from the increase of the company system and of trust combinations. I approach the question from a point of view totally different from that of the hon. Member. I believe great injury has been done to our industrial and social system by the growth of these joint undertakings. Under the old system you had individual interests and control; you had direct and close relationship between the worker and employer. Now you have got a combination, a body which is not known by the workers; the whole control is spread over a wider area, and you have lost that immediate and direct connection between employer and employed which existed in the old days in our industrial enterprises, and which made them, as between master and man, more like a family concern. A great deal of mischief has been done to that condition of things, but the mischief which I find is not the mischief which the hon. Member finds. There is great room for improvement, as the hon. Member said in what I though was a moderate and wholly admirable speech, but when we 568 look for remedies he says that he will take any remedy we like to offer. These evils exist, they have to be remedied, and we firmly believe that the remedies recommended by the hon. Member for Blackburn and his Friends would not only not remove the troubles from which we now suffer, but would accentuate them. The people who would suffer would be, not the employers, but those on whose behalf hon. Members opposite speak with absolute sincerity—the workers of this country, who would suffer first and last and most.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
There are times when I am exceedingly grateful to the Labour party for bringing forward questions which are of far more importance than anything else to the people whom we represent in this House. This question of wages is one of infinite importance to every worker in the country, and I think that one day's Debate upon it is all too short. If one thing has been more obvious than anything else in the Debate to-day, it is that neither side has given any solution of the present condition of wages. The Labour party brought forward their suggestion, conveyed in the admirable speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn, who stated what he considered to be at the root of the present poverty. He said that the land monopoly was at the root of the evil. [Laughter.] It is not necessary to laugh at a statement such as that. Hon. Members opposite would admit that land is a rather important element in the production of wealth in this country. We are here to do our best to consider in what way wages can be raised. Hon. Members opposite suggested in a sort of half-hearted way Tariff Reform, and Liberal Members have suggested very little indeed; Labour Members put forward general nationalisation as a sort of enlarged post-office. I think, on consideration, they, as well as myself, view not with pleasure but with regret the gradual enshacklement of the population of this country in the shackles of bureaucracy. I think there is a good deal in what the right hon. Gentleman opposite has just said about the dangers of nationalisation, and national control. Too often it only means transferring the power possessed by one individual to a Committee of individuals of the same sort. The point of view I wish to put before the House is that already put before the House in a different form by the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite). I 569 want to make the point that if we are to improve wages we must at the same time increase the production of wealth; and that as long as you leave the total amount of wealth produced in the country the same as it is at present there is no very large margin for an increase of wages; and that what we have got to concentrate our attention on is the increasing of the production of wealth. We want to have more work in the country, and we want to be quite certain that the sort of work we want to increase shall be useful, productive work, and not useless work. It is no good to have people sweeping the streets by hand if it can be done cheaper by machinery. It is no use putting people to dig up pasture fields with spades when it can be more cheaply carried out with ploughs. It is no good doing as our Tariff Reform friends suggest when they see a market gardener out of a job. They say, "My poor man, if you will allow us to put a good big tariff on bananas or oranges, you will be able to grow British bananas in British-made greenhouses, and sell them at a penny apiece." That is only making useless work for people, and the much better way is to get the bananas or the oranges from those people who can produce them most cheaply and pay for them by those goods we can make most cheaply in this country. Anything of that sort I have referred to is only making useless work.
What we have got to increase is useful productive work. What is useful productive work? If you come to analyse it you will find all useful productive work consists simply and solely in the application of labour to land. All useful work is taking some part in the conversion of land and raw materials into finished articles. For instance, in the trade with which I am concerned useful productive work converts the raw material into the cups and saucers on your tea tables, and the very best cups and saucers. Useful productive work converts the River Thames into London drinking water. Useful productive work converts agricultural land into ham sandwiches. Those are all admirable examples of useful productive work, the sort of work we want to increase, and they all consist at every stage of the conversion of land and raw materials into the finished article. If all useful work consists in the application of labour to land, obviously if we want to increase useful productive work we must make it a little easier 570 for labour to apply itself to the land. We must do all we can to make it easier for labour to have access to that land which is the necessity of production. At present you do all you can to make it difficult for labour to apply itself to the land, and you exempt from rates and taxes that land which is not used, or is prevented from being available to labour, and at the same time you penalise that land to which the landlord allows labour to have access. What we ask is that you should take steps to make it easier for labour to apply itself to the land. That means, unfortunately, that you should take steps to make land a little cheaper, and that you should break down that artificial monopoly which has sprung up through the shortage in land available for use. At present the land available for use is artificially small in quantity because you have created a shortage by your bad rating and taxing system. You have enabled people who own land to hold up part of that land, or to under-utilise it, and thereby you have forced people who use land to pay higher prices for the land available. You have created an artificial shortage exactly similar to the artificial shortage that was created in corn at the time of the bad Corn Laws. I, like my hon. Friend the Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) think that, just as we were justified in injuring the landlords who owned agricultural land by taking off the tariff on corn, thereby enabling people to get agricultural land at cheaper prices, so we are now justified in asking the Government to put an end to the bad system of rating and taxation, which in taxing or rating real property bases rates and taxes upon the land which is available for labour, and at the same time exempts entirely or gives a bonus to those owners of real estate who act "the dog-in-the-manger" and keep labour off the land, thereby increasing unemployment and reducing wages. It is not merely a question of agricultural land. It affects the building, mining, and quarrying trades in the same way. Those are all primary trades whose raw material is the land. If those three primary trades can have access to their raw material on easier terms, they will give more employment, produce more wealth, and, at the same time, call for the services of the other trades in the country to complete the processes of manufacture which they have begun. [An HON. MEMBER: "Time!"] I think it desirable that we should discuss this question for a few days more. As no solution has come from the 571 Government or from the party opposite, I think it is about time we earned our £400 a year by discussing that which is of most interest to the people who send us here.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I am not able, in the absence of Mr. Speaker, to accept that Motion, but I think that Mr. Speaker left the Chair under the impression that the Division would be taken at Eleven o'clock without the need for the Motion.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
If it is your wish that I should cease I will certainly do so. But I appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House whether it would not be possible to carry on this 199.
§ Debate for another half-day. It is a far more important question than that which we are to discuss to-morrow. I hope, therefore, that we shall be allowed to carry on for a couple of hours to-morrow in discussing this, and leave the question of the mere matter of procedure of this House to be discussed in the remaining hours of to-morrow's sitting. I do not propose to stand between the House and a Division if Members wish to go to a Division. Still, as representing the democracy of this country, I protest; and I say that the Labour party, in asking for a Division now, are not acting in the interests of democracy.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 41; Noes,199.573
|Division No. 4.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||John, Edward Thomas||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Alden, Percy||Jowett, F. W.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Kellaway, Frederick George||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||King, J.||Wardle, George J.|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||O'Grady, James||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Gill, A. H.||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Glanville, H. J.||Rendall, Athelstan||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Goldstone, Frank||Richards, Thomas||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Hall, Frederick (Normanton)||Rowlands, James||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hardie, J. Keir||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Hodge, John||Snowden, Philip||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. George Roberts and Mr. Pointer.|
|Hogge, James Myles||Sutton, John E.|
|Hudson, Walter||Thomas, James Henry|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Cotton, William Francis||Hackett, John|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Hamersley, Alfred St. George|
|Armitage, Robert||Crumley, Patrick||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hayward, Evan|
|Barnston, Harry||Dawes, J. A.||Hazleton, Richard|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Delany, William||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Devlin, Joseph||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Dillon, John||Higham, John Sharp|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Donclan, Captain A.||Hinds, John|
|Bentham, G. J.||Doris, William||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Duffy, William||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Birrell, RI Hon. Augustine||Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Boland, John Pius||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Hughes, S. L.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus|
|Boyton, James||Farrell, James Patrick||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Ffrench, Peter||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Field, William||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Joyce, Michael|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Fitzgibbon, John||Keating, Matthew|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Furness, Stephen||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Lardner, James C. R.|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Greig, Col. J. W.||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Clough, William||Gretton, John||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Griffith, Ellis J.||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)|
|Lundon, Thomas||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||O'Doherty, Philip||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Lynch, A. A.||O'Donnell, Thomas||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||O'Dowd, John||Samuel, Rt. Hon. L. (Cleveland)|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||O'Malley, William||Sheehy, David|
|Macpherson, James Ian||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||O'Shee, James John||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim)|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Outhwaite, R. L.||Stanier, Beville|
|M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Strauss, Edward (Southwark, W.)|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Parry, Thomas H.||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Manfield, Harry||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Perkins, Walter F.||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Pirie, Duncan Vernon||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Meagher, Michael||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Primrose, Hon. Neil James||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Middlebrook, William||Radford, G. H.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Molloy, Michael||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Mooney, John J.||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Morison, Hector||Reddy, M.||White, J. Dundas (Glas., Tradeston)|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Muldoon, John||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Munro, R.||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Murphy, Martin J.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Murray, Captain Hon. A. C.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Nolan, Joseph||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Robinson, Sidney|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the clock, and objection being taken to further proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow (Friday).