§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £100,915, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1917, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Labour and Subordinate Departments, including the Contribution to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and Repayments to Associations pursuant to Sections 85 and 106 of The National Insurance Act, 1911."
§ Mr. HOGGE
I do not know whether my hon. Friend who is in charge of these Estimates is prepared to give over, having successfully got up to Class VI., Vote 10. The reason I would suggest to him at five minutes past ten for not going any further with the remaining Estimates is-that the following Estimates really deal 567 with the creation of new Departments. This one relates to the creation of a Ministry of Labour, which is not a Supplementary Estimate and which provides the salaries for the new Ministry of Labour. That is followed by the Ministry of Munitions, which, of course, is a Supplementary Estimate. That again is followed by the Ministry of Pensions, which, again; is the creation of a new Department. I think my hon. Friend will agree that those of us who have followed the discussion throughout the day have acted very fairly and have not prolonged the Debate more than "was necessary to produce certain information. There may be one or two other Estimates, such as Class VII., Vote 9, which deals with the treatment of tuberculosis, and although it might be taken now without any trouble I should like to appeal to my hon. Friend, before we enter upon what probably must be rather prolonged discussion, whether he could not agree now to be content to stop at this Estimate, which he has now got, and leave those others which really raise, larger points of policy to be taken at some rather more opportune time. I am perfectly certain those of us who have sat through the Debate from four o'clock are quite satisfied and gratified with the courtesy my hon. Friend has extended, and I feel sure he might be able to meet us on this point.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
So far as I am able to respond, the Leader of the House not being present, I think I may say I have sat in this House this afternoon as much as my hon. Friend, and I certainly am very anxious to get as far as we can tonight. I should, therefore, propose to proceed with the Votes on the Paper, and go on as far as we can.
§ Mr. BOOTH
On that point, if I might make an appeal, the next Vote is rather an important one, but I naturally am interested in the Vote which deals with the treatment of tuberculosis, and I must say that I do not like this idea of going on with it after the Ministry of Labour has been dealt with to-night. It is a point which, above all others, presses on me at present owing to my association with the problem, and I want justice done to it. If the Minister in charge would be content with the Vote for the Ministry of Labour, which is a very big Vote, and will leave the tuberculosis question over, perhaps that will meet with the wishes of the House.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) has put the matter very reasonably to the Government. The Vote with which we are now asked to deal is a very large Vote, and relates to the creation of a totally new Department. Not only are there additional sums required in respect of old services, but there are sums required in respect of services which are entirely new. As my hon. Friend has reminded the Secretary to the Treasury, Class 7, Vote 9, although a relatively small Vote, is a matter of extreme importance. It raises the whole question of the position of sanatorium benefit under the Insurance Act, which has given rise to great misgiving and anxiety all over the country. The difficulties with which all local bodies and the societies which are administering the Insurance Act have to face in relation to this are so great that I think they deserve a discussion in the House at a time when it may be reported in the public Press. That is why I think there is a good case for taking it at an earlier period of another sitting. I hope, therefore, the hon. Gentleman, after consultation with other authorities on the bench, will be content to-night with the Vote for the Ministry of Labour.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
It is not the intention of the Government to go on to an unreasonable hour to-night, but I cannot help thinking that when my hon. Friends get to the discussion they will find it can be covered in less time than they think, and I shall certainly ask the Committee to proceed with this Vote.
§ Mr. HOGGE
On this Vote of the Ministry of Labour there are a very large number of points which require to be raised, and which I am sorry to have to raise at so late a period in the sitting. We have been told to-day on earlier Votes that certain policies were involved which were new policies, and for which there might be more appropriate occasion for discussion. Now we have arrived at the second of those in the Supplementary Estimate, and I am glad the Chancellor of the Exchequer has come in, because I think this is quite a fair point to put. Earlier in the discussion he suggested, on the question of the War Cabinet, that while we were technically entitled—and as a matter of fact this is the only occasion on which we are constitutionally entitled—to discuss the creation of the War Cabinet, 569 he as the Leader of the House would provide a, suitable opportunity. There are two other Votes in the same category which we have begun to discuss, namely, the creation of the Ministry of Labour, a thing unknown so far to the Departments of our British Government; and, third, the whole question of the Ministry of Pensions, which comes later in the Supplementary Votes. Both those Votes are presented to the House for the first time, and, as my right hon. Friend knows, because he is as cognisant of the forms of the House as any of us, we are entitled to raise any point practically on these two Votes which are covered by those two new Departments. He will see at once that that is a very large order, if we are to discuss it frankly and with full knowledge. That was why I suggested earlier when we had reached Class VI.—10 (Government Hospitality) that we might reasonably stop there for to-day, and have another opportunity for discussing so large a Vote as the Ministry of Labour. However, if we cannot secure agreement on that point we must discuss it and find out what are the real intentions of the Government. The question, especially of a Ministry of Labour, has long occupied the attention of a great many people in this country, but it has not come to any fruition until the advent of the present Administration. The office is filled by a very worthy Member of the Labour party, and has been, I believe, successful in, at any rate, securing ample premises—like every other Government Department.
What does the Estimate show? The establishment of a permanent secretary and an administrative and clerical staff, messengers, cleaners, etc., to the value of £l,550. That refers to the permanent expenses, but there is, of course, provision made for a Parliamentary Secretary at £l,200. I had a look at these premises in Whitehall the other day. They belong to a distinguished Scotsman. I wondered what was taking place in that ducal building. Looking at the door I saw a piece of white paper stuck up against the railing which said, "Headquarters Staff of the Labour Ministry." Inside was the Minister of Labour, secretary and typist or two, and a few tables and chairs. That was the organism for looking after the industrial future of this country! That last remark really explains what I meant when I said we should discuss this at an earlier hour of the day, when there is more ample 570 opportunity, because this Department is of very great importance. The Prime Minister, and, I suppose, the Leader of the House agrees with him, has stated that this Department has been created in order that the Cabinet should be kept in closer relationship in days to come with the industrialism of the country than it has ever been in the past. Industrialism means, as we all know, the whole life-blood of our country. After the War we are going to be faced with problems of immense importance. We are going to be faced with such a problem as that of whether the Government pledge to trade unionists can or will be carried out. There are all the problems of reconstruction.
It is obvious that we ought to know exactly where we are in a matter of this kind before consenting to the expenditure of this amount of money. What I object to first of all in regard to all these things-is, that they are decided first, that men are appointed, offices are actually taken, and expenditure incurred before this House of Commons is asked whether or not they agree to the creation of that particular Department. To quote an analogous case. I do not say anything on the merits or demerits of the particular example, but we are having to-day the nationalisation of man-power under Mr. Neville Chamberlain. On the Order Paper of the House there is notice of a Bill to be brought in to regularise that position. Somebody has incurred expense on this matter. Somebody has taken buildings. Somebody has appointed a staff. That has all been done before this House of Commons has been consulted. I picture to myself the frenzy of fury of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer as he stood at the box on the other side of the table in the old days when these things used to be done, and appealed to us on this side to support him in his efforts to bring the Government to their senses. What are the large questions which are involved in the creation of a Minister of Labour? I notice from this Estimate that the first thing done was to take over the various Employment Exchanges in the country.
I would like to submit, with regard to that, that the Labour Exchanges were being run Departmentally before. They were being run with such success as can attend a Labour Exchange movement until it has overcome the prejudices which all working men have towards it in, at any rate, what used to be this free 571 country. These have been handed over to the Minister of Labour. The first thing be did, as far as I can gather from the Press, was to describe the managers of the institutions he had taken over either as wooden images or as graven images—I forget which. At any rate, he was not satisfied with the management of those Exchanges, and he proposed to see that they are better managed in future.
He made a speech the other day—I do not know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer read it or not; he is usually very careful about the public purse—in which he suggested the creation of, I think, between 800 and 900 further Labour Exchanges. There is a point which seems to me to require very careful discussion. How are you going to create either 800 or 900 Labour Exchanges to-day? Where are you going to get the man-power, that you so want to conserve for other purposes, to look after those Exchanges? Where are you going to get the staff? And when you have set them up, what is the purpose for which you are going to use them? We are told it is, among other purposes, to make the demobilisation of the Army and the Navy easy after the War. We are told in cryptic phrases that the Government have various policies that will be put into motion as soon as they have time and have been able to consider the question. May I submit to the House that when you set up a new Department, when you put a Minister in charge who is not, after all, a member of the Cabinet, who is a detached Minister, who from his speeches in the country shows in many respects that his policy is detached from the policy of the Cabinet, we as a House of Commons ought to know where we are before we agree to the expenditure of this amount of money. Labour Exchanges, after all, may be used for industrial purposes. The Minister of Labour has made one speech in particular in which he proposes to act as the stoppage of some considerable kind of leakage. The ample proportions of the Minister suggest that he will be capable of filling a very big leakage. That speech involved a policy, and that policy may or may not be carried out by these Labour Exchanges, which are to be so extended under the rule of the existing Ministry.
Surely the Leader of the House will agree with me in this, if he has not agreed with me in anything I have said so far, that the House of Commons is entitled to 572 know, before agreeing to this expenditure, what is the policy of the Government with regard to the Labour Ministry. What is it for? Was it to create another post in the Government, or had the Government any real intention when they set up the Labour Ministry of doing anything, and, if they had, what was it that they had in their mind? You are not going to evict the Duke of Buccleuch from one of the few remaining ducal mansions in the neighbourhood of this Palace and in place of the aristocracy put one of the proletariat to run a Ministry, unless you have got something at the back of your mind. I think it is futile, at nearly half-past ten o'clock, to discuss an Estimate which sets up a Department which obviously in the future of this country must play an increasingly large part. I do not think it is quite fair of the Leader of the House to expect us to do that. He will agree that we have examined very carefully the Estimates up to this point. He will also agree that until the hon. Gentleman who sits near him gets into his stride he and his colleagues will not be able to answer our questions. The hon. Gentleman has, improved vastly as he has gone along and he is now almost an expert in avoiding questions and criticisms on the Estimates. That is all very well with small things, but this is a great big thing, and I want to show now that it is so big that even yet there is no Minister on the Treasury Bench who can give an adequate reply to the point which I am going to put. Can any Minister present give us a satisfactory explanation why the head offices in Scotland with regard to the administration of unemployment insurance have been transferred from Edinburgh to London and put under the control of the Minister of Labour? There are one or two Scottish Members present and this is a point which is agitating the whole public mind of Scotland, and has done for some considerable time. It was something that happened when Parliament was not sitting, and it was a great waste of money, because it vacated a building upon which thousands of pounds had been spent, and it sent to London a large number of civil servants without extra pay and which has not been increased since they came here, and they have all come to London because there is supposed to be some advantage in connection with that particular way of doing things. An hon. Member representing the 573 Government has now gone out of the House to find what the answer is to the points I am now putting.
The hon. Member who will reply to my criticisms does not know anything about that particular point. I am not surprised, and I should not expect him to know, but it involves the most virile part of the United Kingdom. It is a point of extraordinary interest to us, and all this only shows the futility of entering upon a discussion at this time of the day. I notice the Secretary for Scotland happens to be on the Treasury Bench, and he will know that this building to which I have referred is within a stone's throw of the Law Courts. He will remember the old Corn Exchange, and he will be able to tell us from his own knowledge of Edinburgh what has taken place in that particular respect. He will know that some Government officials went down on their bended knees and implored the Insurance Commission to go down into the Corn Exchange. The Solicitor-General for Scotland has never made his maiden speech yet, and here is a valuable topic on which he might make his maiden effort. He knows the associations that we all have in Edinburgh, and I should like to hear any or either of the Scottish Ministers present defending this insult to Scotland.
Having made a few general remarks upon this Estimate I should like to put some particular questions. If this position is of so great importance it must obviously be of the greatest importance, because it concerns more individuals in this country than any other Ministry. Why is the paltry salary of £2,000 being given to the Minister of Labour? [An HON. MEMBEE: "He is in the pool."] I know he is; but what I want to know is what is the standard upon which you can get a Minister? It used to be £5,000, but I suppose since the Labour Exchanges were put up you can get them cheaper. I suppose you can get them at £2,000 a time now. Who fixes these amounts? Is there an axiom of the Treasury which says a certain post is worth a certain amount, or that a certain man is worth a certain amount? I do not see, if you are going in future to maintain a large number of these particular offices, how you can expect men of the greatest ability to have any ambition to occupy these particular offices. You are giving to the Minister of Labour what you give to the Secretary for Scotland. Surely the Secretary for Scotland, who governs a whole country, is worth 574 more than a Minister of Labour, who only occupies a Scotsman's house in Whitehall! If you are going to save money, save it in proper directions, and not upon the expenditure which means most to the people involved. There is an item for £2,000 for the Minister, and £1,200 for a Parliamentary Secretary, making £3,200, which is being expended in doing what was done departmentally for nothing two months ago. All this work was being done departmentally, and all that has happened since is the taking over of this particular mansion and the making of a few speeches by the Minister of Labour, including that in which he described the people over whom he was placed as wooden or graven images. It has cost the country £3,200 for that. Can we be told whether it is intended to keep this particular building in Whitehall, and whether there is going to be a vast expenditure upon this last building that was taken over. If so, what kind of arrangements have been made? Is that building rented or is it taken under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, or what is the arrangement?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Bridgeman)
It is not in the Estimate.
§ Mr. HOGGE
My hon. Friend says that it is not in the Estimate. This is the first Estimate we have had presented to the House dealing with the Ministry of Labour. Obviously that building must be in the Estimate, because there is a sum of £1,550 down for cleaners. What are they going to clean, if they are not going to clean the building to which I am referring? We are entitled to know what kind of arrangement was made for taking over this building in Whitehall. I do protest that we should be asked to enter upon the discussion of a question of this kind in the absence of anybody on the Front Bench who can give us any guidance in the matter. I am not concerned with the sums of money that are put down, but I am concerned to know what is the policy with regard to Labour Exchanges, unemployment, the utilisation of men after they have been demobilised, with all the attendant questions such as the insurance of the men until they have got work. What are the plans that are talked about so frequently by the Minister when he addresses deputations? He says he has been thinking of these things, that he has got 575 great schemes for demobilisation, and great schemes for this, that, and the other. Why should the House of Commons be the only place in this country where we cannot get an intelligent explanation from a responsible head of the Government? The Chancellor of the Exchequer has gone before we enter upon the discussion. Unless we have some explanation, we must divide the Committee on this Vote. We cannot have this extravagant expenditure going on, and the creation of these now Departments without any explanation. We have stopped here for a very long time, and we must divide the House upon this. The Minister himself is not present, the Leader of the House is not present. The Parliamentary Secretary, I know, is present, and I am very glad he is here, and I hope we shall have a long explanation from him. I am sure he will see we cannot accept the Vote unless he satisfies the House as to it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
This Estimate can only, by a stretch of language, be described as a Supplementary Estimate as it is really a new service, and under those circumstances I think it is an abuse of the forms of the House to open consideration of it after ten o'clock at night. In normal times this Vote would have received a whole day for discussion, and at the very opening of the proceedings the House or Committee would have had the advantage of a statement from the Minister as to the policy of the new Department over which he presides. We have nothing of the kind to-night. I think the absence of it makes it impossible for the Committee to give to this Vote the consideration which it deserves. I noticed that on some occasions the hon. Gentleman who is acting as Financial Secretary has volunteered explanations of Votes which are far less important than this. It was with some surprise I observed that when this Vote was put from the Chair no movement of the kind was made on the part of any hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench to give some explanation of the large sums which we are at this hour called upon to vote. I propose to deal with one or two of the items which appear in this Vote, but I think it is only fair in the first instance to remark an omission from the Paper in our hands. In the principal Vote, Class VII., Vote 7, Labour Exchanges, Unemployment Insurance, we are told the various sums allocated to the 576 different services under the heads A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H and I. There is a footnote, in addition, which informs us regarding a number of other Votes where provision is made for expenditure in connection with those particular services. There is provision made, for example, in regard to office accommodation in Class I., Vote 9, and similarly in Class I. Vote 15, and in Class I., Vote 14, and so on. But I think that the Committee should have been informed whether the absence-of any reference to increases in the other Votes is to be taken as an indication that there is absolutely no increase in expenditure in respect of office accommodation, owing to the complete change in the constitution of the Department of Labour Exchanges and Unemployment Insurance. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) has referred to-the palatial office accommodation which has been put at the disposal of the new Minister, and he naturally asked some pertinent and relevant questions as to the expenditure which this office accommodation will involve. A reference is made to office accommodation in the original Vote, and I think that at least some footnote might have been added to the Supplementary Estimate dealing with the same subject.
I understand that under sub-head A we are asked to vote an increase of £4,000 in respect of salaries, wages, and allowances. In the original Vote we have a complete list of the numbers who are employed in Labour Exchanges and in unemployment insurance. We see there that, under class A in the central offices 435 officers are employed, from a director down to typists; and we find also that in divisional and local offices there are 3,566 employés from divisional officers downwards. In a Supplementary Estimate some indication should have been given of the number of additional employés in respect of whom the expenditure of £4,000 is to be incurred. Four thousand pounds, after all, only refers to a small portion of the year. For the whole year the £4,000 would be represented by a figure nearer £20,000; consequently, £20,000 on the basis of the salaries which are paid here must mean a very large increase of the staff. It is very natural in these days for us to ask who are added to the staff? Ts it an increase in the male staff and, in particular, is it an increase in the males of military age? Are we here seeing an example of the combing-out which is so common in White- 577 hall—the combing-out of men from the Army as contrasted with the combing-out that is going on all over the country in some of our most essential industries, the combing-out of men from those industries into the Army for which they will never be of any use? I hope that the hon. Gentleman who receives a very inadequate salary for acting as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will be able to give an answer upon two points, first, how many new male employés there are in this Department, secondly, how many of them are of military age, and whether any recourse has been had to that favourite device of the Government—a favourite device which, as a whole, does not apply to Government offices—namely, the dilution of labour. Those questions deserve an answer. We are told in the footnote that this additional staff is largely required for the administration of the National Insurance (Part II.) (Munition Workers) Act, 1916. It goes on to say:—of the total expenditure in the current financial rear estimated at £16,000, £12,000 can be met from savings.'So we are faced with this remarkable fact: that the £4,000 which actually appears as here as the additional sum required in the third column does not represent by any moans the real increase in salaries. We find in the footnote that the real increase in salaries is £16,000. Sixteen thousand pounds for three months represents a yearly expenditure of £64,000, which is a very large sum. This is almost an army corps to be housed, as my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) has indicated almost surely at Montagu House. He told us that all the staff has been removed from Edinburgh, although they had excellent premises remodelled for the purpose of the Unemployment Exchanges in Scotland. But apparently the new régime does not believe in the policy of decentralisation. It is the system of central mobilisation. Probably they think that if they centralise all the officials under a single roof in Whitehall thereby, they have taken a considerable step towards the mobilisation of our national forces, and that we are now having something which may be fairly described by that favourite formula of which we heard so much in the early days of the Military Service Act—scientific organisation. I think we require an explanation of this large sum. It is all undertaken in a period when we understood that economy was the first requisite in every Department of the Government. The only exhibition of 578 economy under this régime seems to be in the unproductive work of Government supervision in the new bureaucracy. If we go on at the present rate the great majority of the population will be looking after the minority who are left out of Government offices? Of course, those who are looking after the others will be in a very fortunate position compared with the remnant who are left outside and who have to pay for the supervisors.
Now I leave this point, and I refer to the salaries which are voted for the Minister of Labour himself, for the Permanent Secretary, and the Parliamentary Secretary. Of course, the House has itself sanctioned expenditure in regard both to the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not quite understand why the Parliamentary Secretary should only receive £l,200, while the Permanent Secretary receives £l,500. I always understood that the salaries in these offices, both of the Permanent Secretary and of the Parliamentary Secretary, were on a scale and that scale was in relation to the salary paid to the Minister at the head of the Department. I understood that when the Minister at the head of the Department was paid a salary of £5,000 the Permanent Secretary and the Parliamentary Secretary received £1,500. But when, on the other hand, the Statute setting up the Ministry fixed the salary for the Minister at £2,000, the salary of the Permanent Secretary and the Parliamentary Secretary were on the £ 1,200 basis. I may be wrong in this, and I do not desire to ask the Secretary to the Ministry of Labour to deal with this invidious question himself; but, as this is a rate of payment which is fixed by the Treasury, I have no doubt the hon. Member for Worcestershire will be able to deal with that question. Before the creation of the Ministry of Labour Mr. Shackleton was in another appointment. I think he was an Insurance Commissioner, and that may, of course, be an explanation of the salary of £1,500.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Apparently, however, he is getting an increase of salary of 50 per cent., a very good appointment in these days of national economy. We require an explanation of it. The only 579 other heading which is of importance, and in respect of which there is a considerable increase, is the contributions to the Unemployment Fund, a contribution which, in the main, has been rendered necessary by the Act which we passed lust year, the National Insurance (Part II.) (Munition Workers) Act, which has brought large numbers of new workers within the scheme of unemployment insurance, and which, by bringing in large classes of new workers, has, as a natural result, increased the amount of the contributions which the State has to make to the Unemployment Fund. I do not think, as the House has deliberately passed this measure, that there could be any criticism of the increase of the Vote under this head, but I think under both of the first two heads not only the questions which I have addressed to the hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench, but also those which were put by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) deserve an answer, and I hope before the Vote is disposed of that the hon. Gentleman, who represents the Government, will be able to give us a reply.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I am rather sorry that the Government will not say whether they are going to take Vote 9. I put that point for what I think is a fair reason. No. 7 largely concerns unemployment insurance, and Vote 9 is health insurance. I have always made a point of the fact that there is apt to be confusion between the two parts of the Act, and we only add to that confusion if we immediately proceed from the discussion of unemployment insurance to health insurance. It may be remembered that I moved an instruction that the original Bill should be divided into two parts, and I argued then that nothing but mischief could come from considering these two things together. At first the Government did not accept my suggestion, but later the late Prime Minister did so, and acknowledged that he got it from me, and the unemployment part was sent upstairs to a Grand Committee, whilst the health part was kept here, so that there should be no confusion in the minds of any Members in the House about the two parts. I submit, if I am expected to deal with unemployment insurance, and then we go on to discuss the health part immediately afterwards, that it will confuse the business. I wish the Government 580 would be content to get this very-large Vote to-night. Really, it is a very great question. In the absence of any intimation, however, I must proceed to deal with Vole 7 and the Government must take the responsibility of having confused the two things. With regard to this Vote, the first item that captures my eye is a very small amount.
§ Mr. HOPE (Lord of the Treasury)
In accordance with what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said at Question Time, it now1 being five minutes to Eleven, we should certainly not enter upon any further Vote when this has been disposed of.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I am much obliged to you. The second Vote is naturally very present to my mind and I feel exceedingly keen about it, but if that is the intention I will be as brief as possible on this Vote. The first is a matter of vital importance with regard to travelling expenses. I do not like, as a retrenchment critic, suggesting that an item is too small. I am very glad that the present Minister of Labour has been chosen for that post, and I was rather hopeful, because he is one of the most vigorous Members of this House, that by going about the country he should give us a more direct administration of labour. He cannot possibly understand the difficulties in the cotton trade of Lancashire, the woollen workers in Yorkshire, or the home workers in Cumberland, and so on by sitting in Whitehall, and I thought that we were getting a real live Labour Minister who would deal with things on the spot, but when I see £100 put down for travelling expenses, it is quite obvious that he is going to remain in London. It is absurd to suggest that all the necessary travelling for three months for the Ministry of Labour can be done for £100.
The Vote following I cannot understand. It is not grammar. I do not know what the Government means by it. It says: "The total original net estimate, 1916–17, for Labour Exchange and Unemployment Insurance"—but it cannot be a Labour Exchange insurance—"(now Ministry of Labour)." If it means that both these Departments are now within the Ministry of Labour, why does it not say so? Under III. I join in the criticism of my hon and learned Friend the Member for Lanark (Mr. Pringle) in saying that the Permanent Secretary is 581 getting too much. I am perfectly certain that the present occupant of the post who, like myself, started life in Lancashire as a half-timer, would be quite glad to change his present post in which he is getting £1,000 a year, and in which he has been simply an errand boy and a messenger for the last few years, for a most responsible post like this at £l,200 a year. He does not want a superior salary to that of the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Bridge-man), who, when he joined the Government, was, from information which I have heard, a financial loser. I certainly had to make great business sacrifices. It seems to me ludicrous that the hon. Member, who is always polite to everybody, should he getting £1,200 and that an ex-Member of this House—I do not say that he is not a desirable man for the post—should have £1,500 a year.
My main point, however, is the increase in the number of workers under the Insurance Act: how many are men and how many are women? I am not quite clear from some of the regulations whether any women have been brought into the unemployment part, Part II., of the Act. The original idea was that they would not. Under this Supplemental Estimate I think that for the first time some women have been brought under unemployment benefit. I do not think it assists the woman worker at all: it was designed for workmen. The position of a woman, in this matter, is entirely different from that of a man economically; and that was recognised in that part of the Act, and the provision was modified. There was also provision for the time she came back after the death of her husband into health assurance and equal benefit again, and the secretary was obliged to provide that. I think that is a recognition of the difference in the economic position between a man and a woman. Part II. of the Insurance Act was not designed to include the woman worker, though I think it should have been framed on different lines from those which were contemplated. A project was adumbrated at the time by certain trade unions and was accepted by some of them, but the great bulk of trade unions were left out; and when the increase in the numbers under the principal Act are spoken of I want to know how many women there are—I would like the figures. I have always maintained that one of the chief benefits of the Insurance Act was contained in Part I.—namely, to 582 procure reliable statistics, and I think the House saw an opportunity of a large variety of information being made available. Ministers have two duties. With one they are well acquainted, but the other is to give information to the public. If there is to be an extension to other trades we must have a reliable system. Therefore, I should like some information about women, and whether it is intended to extend the Act still further.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member knows more about the Act than I do, but surely intention must be a matter of legislation.
§ Mr. BOOTH
When the Bill was being passed, and the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) was in charge, he was good enough to meet a number of Members collectively and individually, and we had an opportunity of talking with him as to the power given to the Board of Trade to extend the Act to different trades. The principal trade unions and the federation of Masters were both up in arms against the extending Order, and Members of this House were bombarded with representations regarding it. I know of the glass-bottle workers in my own Constituency objected very strongly to it. They have paid a larger sum per head per week in unemployment benefit than any other class in the world—seven shillings, eight shillings, and nine shillings per week. They have a special system in their industry. They divide the work up, and if a certain oven or small furnace is out of work then the men in work give up a week in turn, so that those who have been out of work some time get employment. I do not know whether that system is in operation now, but it is a right system. It helps those who are temporarily out, and it has proved fairly successful. But then the Board of Trade comes along and forces on them something they do not desire. I should like to be informed how far the Department have gone with this Order, and whether it was contemplated to bring other trades under it in the future.
§ Mr. ROCH
I should also like to call attention to a very important point in connection with unemployment insurance. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman who is speaking for the Department is familiar with what has happened, but if he will look into it he will find that this Order was intended to 583 cover unemployment insurance for munition workers. That was a very wise thing. But by some oversight on the part of the Board of Trade industries, not munition works, were brought in quite unnecessarily. I would like to call attention to the case of the cement workers. It was almost ludicrous to include them in the unemployment insurance for munition workers. Every one will agree that the cement workers, who are now suffering severely from the War, belong to the one industry which will not require such insurance when the War is over. The Order has given rise to a great deal of unpopularity among the men, and it is putting a heavy burden on the cement manufacturers, who are going through very hard times indeed just now. I know they have approached the Board of Trade and suggested that the extension was quite unnecessary, and I shall be glad if the hon. Gentleman will undertake to look into the matter.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Bridgeman)
With regard to the question of classes or trades being included or excluded from the unemployment part of the Insurance Act, I am afraid I am not in a position to give a definite answer, but I can say that every trade that has a grievance on this matter, if it will bring it before the Labour Ministry, will have it considered. As regards women brought in under the Act, I may tell the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) that the number is considerable, but I cannot now give the exact totals. If he will put a question down I hope to be able to give him the information he desires. The only other point he raised was, I think, that the travelling expenses of the Department which I have the honour to represent were too small. I think that is the only compliment we have had on economy during the whole discussion of this Vote, and I think very few Members of this House would like to add, if it were in order to do so, to that item. After all, it is only till 31st March, and I think we shall be able to manage on that amount until then.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
We shall certainly do what we can to be in as many places 584 as possible. Other hon. Members raised many interesting points. I should like to say that I regret very much that the Minister of Labour, not being well, has not been able to be here to-night and to have an opportunity of explaining the policy which, I believe, to a certain extent he has explained elsewhere, with regard to his tenure of office as Minister of Labour. With regard to the point raised as to the new house of the Ministry, that should be addressed to the Office of Works. Whatever place is occupied, cleaners would be required.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Member for East Edinburgh said it would require cleaners, and so on. Whatever house the Office of Works gave us would have to be swept. The hon. Member also spoke as if the whole of the work of the Labour Ministry was being concentrated in Montagu House. That is not the case. We only occupy a small portion of it. The other parts of Montagu House are being occupied by other Departments, and the huts in the garden are going to be occupied by other Departments too. The offices of the Labour Exchanges, now called Employment Exchanges, are, as the hon. Member knows, not in Montagu House but in Broadway, and there is no intention of moving them there. It is merely the central headquarters' staff that is located there. So far as the duties of the Ministry are concerned, they are defined by the Act of Parliament already passed as well as the salaries of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. While we are aware that the services of the right hon. Gentleman who presides over this Ministry are worth his weight in gold, neither he nor anyone else in war-time is anxious to stand out for any high salary. Their only desire is to do the best they can in the posts to which they have been entrusted. With regard to the salary of the Permanent Secretary. I think the hon. Member who criticised it was -wrong in the comparison he drew. He said the Under-Secretary for the Board of Agriculture did not get so large a salary, I think.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
His scale is higher and the same may be said of the Board of Trade. Before the Board of Trade was raised to £5,000 it was, I 585 think, only £2,000, and the Permanent Secretary had £l,500. In the Board of Agriculture now his salary is £1,500 to £1,800, and I do not think that anybody can complain that the salary is excessive. The hon. Member for Lanarkshire also spoke of what he described as abolishing Scottish offices and bringing them to London. Several persons in divisional offices have been brought to London to the Central Offices to concentrate the work, and great economy has been thereby effected. I have been asked for an explanation of the large additional expense incurred by the extra staff required in connection with the work of the National Insurance (Part II.) (Munition Workers) Act. It may interest the hon. Member to know that his calculations as to the total amount were wrong, The Munition Workers Act came into operation in September, 1916, and the figures therefore cover about six months. The number of books issued under the Munition Workers Act up to 13th January of this year was 1,177,455. It is estimated that the number will reach 1,280,000 by 31st March. A very large additional amount of work has been thrown upon the Department. In view of that I do not think the hon. Member will consider that the Supplementary Estimate is in any way excessive. As to the military aspect of the case, so far as the new staff goes they are men over military age or unfit, or women; 1,200 men have gone or have been replaced by women, and ail men fit for general service under twenty-six, as well as the others, have gone. In the short time the Labour Ministry has been established it would be very difficult to answer some of the detailed questions put, but if any hon. Member would like information and will put down a question or questions we shall be very glad to try and provide answers.
Mr. T. WILSON
My excuse for saying a few words now is that this is a question that affects labour. I am not quite certain whether any provision is made in the Supplementary Estimate for one point. The Minister of Labour has stated on several occasions that he proposes to establish something like 800 more Labour Exchanges.
I am not quite certain whether the experience of the Employment Department in the past will warrant 586 him in doing that. I know the reason he gives for opening these agencies is that when demobilisation comes it will be necessary to deal with it. I do not think that Labour Agencies or Exchanges will be the best way of dealing with the men discharged from the Army, and I hope he will reconsider that point before deciding to open 800 agencies, because it is well known that during the past four years a considerable number of Labour Exchanges have been closed because, using an Irish phrase, they are uneconomical; they do not pay for themselves. It is well known that Labour Exchanges were open for a considerable time, with a staff of from two to seven people in the office, that did not provide employment for half a dozen men in a month. If experience proves that in the past the Labour Exchanges have not brought the unemployed workmen in touch with the employers, it is absolutely foolish on the part of the Labour Minister to say he is going to open 800 agencies. I think the question of the provision of employment for the men demobilised will have to be dealt with in quite a different way from establishing, like an insurance company, an agency in a small village or town, and therefore I do hope the hon. Gentleman will convey to his chief the request that he ought to consider, not once, but twice and thrice, the desirability of further considering this question. In this Supplementary Estimate provision is made for increasing the first Estimate, so far as unemployment is concerned, by some £247,000. I do not find very much fault with that, but I am under the impression that there will be no occasion whatever for the use of this money. It may be a question of precaution and foresight, but it seems to me in a large question of this kind the Board have been given a large discretion.
I am exceedingly sorry that the Government established their Ministry of Labour during war-time. I am certain it would not have been agreed to in peace-time as easily as it was when it passed through the House of Commons. We are told by the apologists for the establishment of the Ministry of Labour that Labour had demanded the Ministry for a considerable time past. I am not quite certain whether this kind of Ministry of Labour is the Ministry they were requiring. I may be extremely old-fashioned, or I may be extremely advanced—I am not quite certain which—but I disagree to some extent 587 with some of my colleagues on this question. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) referred to the withdrawing of a certain number of the members of the employment staff from Edinburgh, and wondered whether it was in the interests of economy or why. If he were here, I would suggest to the hon. Member that dilution extends to other matters besides employment in shipyards and engineering works. So far as the Employment Exchanges are concerned, I believe an opportunity for effecting economies in administration has been missed. We have got the Director of Labour, who, in my opinion, practically speaking, occupies the position of Permanent Secretary to the Employment Exchanges. I believe that the Government is making a great mistake by establishing new Ministers and increasing what I call the permanent staff by giving a high salary to the men who are doing work which was previously done by the present staff. I hope at a time like this, when the Government and every responsible person in the country is appealing for economy, that the Government will, wherever they can, economise and prevent extravagance of all kinds. I am afraid in this Department extravagance has already taken place. I think we ought to take advantage of every change in administration to economise as far as possible. On the contrary, I am afraid that instead of doing that we are increasing expenditure needlessly in each Department. Without any hesitation, I say that the intelligent working men of the country are looking with great apprehension upon the policy of the Government in connection with this Act and other matters connected with the administrative work of the country. I appeal to them to be careful what they do. We are told that if we criticise them we are not loyal and patriotic. That is the argument used by the men who defend the policy of the Government. I would not like my loyalty or patriotism, or the patriotism of my party, to be measured by the positions offered to it by any Government.
§ Mr. RENDALL
I wish to utter a word of protest against what has been said by the hon. Member for Oswestry. The hon. Member stated that some trades which had been brought under the unemployment portion of the Act said they did not like it, and they had only got to make a protest and their representations would 588 be considered; and not only this, but would be favourably considered. I can speak on this subject with reference to the boot trade of Northampton, Kettering, and Bristol, and the glove trade of Worcester and Yeovil. They have made representations to the Hoard of Trade and sent deputations protesting against being brought under Part II. of the Insurance Act, and they have been told by the permanent officials and by the Parliamentary Secretary that the Act having given power to the Board of Trade to bring them in once the Board has done this there is no power to get out of the Act, the consequence being that in reply to all representations made by people to the Board of Trade they have been told "we cannot do anything. The Order has been made and it cannot be undone without an Act of Parliament." It is not true for the hon. Gentleman to say that representations at the Board of Trade are considered favourably. I know great hardship has been caused to the boot and glove trade, and I think that the hon. Gentleman ought to do something to alleviate the really severe penalty which the bringing of these trades under the Act has caused to the workmen and the women employed in them. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to show some sympathy in the near future with regard to those trades.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Member seems to suggest that I have said something which was not true. All I said was that any trade that thought it a grievance as to being included or excluded under this Act would have that grievance considered if it was brought before the Labour Ministry.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Then what is the use of the hon. Member asking me to be sympathetic at the end of his remarks?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Is it not possible that we may consider this with a view to seeing whether it is not possible to remedy grievances by legislation?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
That is all I meant to convey. I cannot see how I can be accused of saying what was not true.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I am quite aware of the general facts stated by the hon. Gentleman, but I do not know all the difficulties in any particular trade. It has, however, been brought clearly to our notice that there are grievances, and we are doing our best to consider how it is possible to get round those difficulties. In regard to what has been said by the hon. Member for the Westhoughton Division (Mr. T. Wilson) with reference to the increase in the number of labour agencies mentioned by the Labour Minister, he stated that that was not the right way to deal with demobilisation or unemployment. He further said that he hoped the Ministry of Labour would not object to being criticised. I can assure him that neither my right hon. Friend nor myself object to intelligent criticism such as he offers. I will represent what he says to my right hon. Friend. It is really a matter for the Government to decide how demobilisation is to be done, and not for the Labour Ministry.
Mr. T. WILSON
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the word "agency" means a committee of people in the district or a person?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
"Agency," as I understand it, is probably some person who acts as agent. There are already agencies connected with the Labour Exchanges, and it means some person who will not give full time in the town where he lives, and where he is now probably a correspondent for the Labour Exchange. With regard to the item of £247,000 in subhead H, that is a contribution to the Unemployment Fund which is due from the Government in respect of new people, munition workers, who have come under the new Employment Act. Of that amount, £221,650 is accounted for in that way, and the remaining £25,750 is due to 590 the actual increase of the number of people outside the Munition Workers Act since the first Estimate was made.
Is it intended to pay out of this fund the 3s. 6d. per day unemployment benefit promised by the organiser of the civil workers?
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.