§ Mr. CLYNES
My name is associated with a Motion on the Paper to indicate the degree of our disappointment at the absence of any action, so far as we are at present aware, by the Government since last we raised the question Of the unemployed, and I have been asked to avail myself of the opportunity of this discussion to again press upon the Government the need for some more cheerful message to the masses of the unemployed than they have yet received. It may be that in view of the decision recently reached by the House, when the majority of the hon. Members decided to discontinue the monetary grant to the men who had been receiving it, that it is too soon to press the importance of the question of the degree of suffering which prevails in many parts of the country. But I do so because we have been told in this House by men who influence its decisions that there is work for everyone who wants it, and that no one who is willing to earn wages or his living need be idle. Within the last half hour I have received this telegram:Huge mass meetings of tinplate workers in Cornwall demand immediate continuation unemployment donation. We are suffering acute distress made permanent owing to mines closing down. We fear serious developments if this distress is not immediately relieved.526 That is one of a very large number of messages received by wire and by post as to the position in which a considerable number of the unemployed are placed. We have some evidence of the national character of this distress in the spectacle of the Prime Minister going to Manchester and there being pressed by men to receive a deputation who wished to speak to him on the state of unemployment in that city and to make an appeal to him to relieve their condition. Not long ago a body of men, mainly ex-soldiers, marched from the North to this City of London in the hope of putting their case before the Monarch, and when the other day the Prince of Wales returned to our shores, and landed at Southampton, an unemployed body of men made an endeavour to see him and to present, by deputation, the condition of the unemployed in that district. These are facts so melancholy and so striking as in themselves to prove that this is still a very real and distressing subject requiring the attention of the House, and, I should hope, a changed attitude of mind on the part of the Government. Yesterday the Prime Minister addressed a meeting jointly representing employers and employed in all branches of the building trade, and I want to quote a part of the Prime Minister's speech in which he described the position of the roan who is unemployed. He said:I know what workmen have in their minds. They have got a horror of unemployment. I wonder what sort of Christmas the unemployed man has to face for his children. We must get rid of that for ever. That is a thing we have no right to permit in any civilised country. It is a torture which no decent human citizen ought to suffer. It is a thing which is causing a greater sense of wrong and grievance and injustice in the minds of the working people of this country than anything else.My right hon. Friend opposite, I believe, heard these words. He heard the Prime Minister tell his audience about the sense of injustice and social wrong and suffering involved in the conditions of unemployment. And the view I want to put to my right hon. Friend is that it is not facing the situation, it is not helping these men to escape from what the Prime Minister described as the "horror of unemployment" if they are to be left without any of those forms of support which we suggest these men should have at least for this Christmas period, and for some succeeding months. This melancholy spectacle of so many thousands being still unemployed requires something more than fine 527 language. It requires some action for the relief of distress due to unemployment —some definite action that will make their work secure. I have no doubt my right Lion. Friend will he able to prove by figures that the situation has improved to a certain extent, but I venture to say it has riot improved for the margin of the men—still very large—who have not been able to secure employment. We well know that during the winter months, the end of December, January and the early part of February, the common experience is to find men falling out of work and therefore making the conditions in the employment market much more difficult for the others. We shall certainly have this usual seasonal difficulty aggravating the trouble of those who were previously employed. A man who is out of work and finds next day that some fellow workman has also become unemployed, sees his chance of getting work reduced. Therefore this is the very worst time to have discontinued the monetary pay which throughout the year the Government has provided. The fact that the Employment Exchanges are still very hardworking institutions shows that this problem of unemployment has not been solved. The replies we have received to many of our efforts and the communications which have been sent to us show a measure of indignation amounting at times to threats of any drastic action that can be taken because of the suffering which underlies present day idleness.
It is not sufficient to prove to us that in certain parts of the country there is a demand for work. We have this situation: bodies of men unemployed in one place and a demand for labour in other places. Those facts show that there are difficulties in respect to travel, housing, the cost of living and the great expenses which are now incidental in the case of the ordinary wage-earners to removing from one place to another and finding anything like accommodation where they pursue their labour. So that these figures can deceive us unless we look at what are often the underlying causes or circumstances of the case. It is impossible for a man having a house and home with a wife and domestic responsibilities in say, Barrow, Southampton, Bristol or anywhere else, to go one hundred or two hundred miles away, pay his expenses, provide himself with a livelihood and secure anything like the accommodation which was obtainable 528 under normal pre-war conditions. I suggest this is not merely an outstanding but I should hope the supreme reason for recognising the soundness and. force of the claim of even the small number of men who have remained unemployed. The smallness of the number does not entirely take away the individual rights of the margin of unemployed. men still remaining.
As to the responsibilities of the Government in matters of this kind, in principle at least that has been fully accepted. It will not do for the Prime Minister to go about expressing himself in the terms. which I have quoted; it will not do for the Government to find millions of money, as they have done, to relieve the distress due to unemployment, and it will not do for them to try to reorganise working conditions at Woolwich or elsewhere in order to find employment for men unless they accept that degree of State responsibility for this unemployment difficulty which means that if men cannot by their individual efforts and in the private market obtain work, the responsibility of the Government towards these men is completely proved. I have said often enough in the House before that the policy of merely paying out benefit and making State Grants, without an attempt so to organise our industries, and so to use the apparatus available for the purpose of turning to some useful account the labour of the unemployed, is a bad and wasteful policy. We have paid £40,000,000 or thereabouts, and there is not a brick to show for it. Not a sign of anything of substance of any kind can the State claim out of that expenditure of £40,000,000. It would have been far better to have spent the money in useful forms of productive work, as a result of which the Government might now have had several million pounds' worth of property created as the result of the organised labour of those men who, unfortunately, were paid for doing nothing. Not only is the effect that you have nothing that is worth anything after all that expenditure, but by paying men to remain in a state of idleness they themselves tend to deteriorate. There is some little clement of demoralisation which steals over men who get into a state of idleness, whether they are rich or poor. We have argued this side of the case at some length on other occasions, and I do not wish to enlarge upon it 529 unduly to-night. Let me say that the number of men who are still out of work is large enough to warrant the responsibility we have been trying to extract from the Government during the past few days. Look at a great centre like Newcastle, which an hon. Member who addressed the House on a former occasion assured us was a centre where no man need be out of work if he desired employment. Here is the Newcastle report from the Labour party of that city, dated 28th November:In the city of Newcastle to-day there are mote than 7,000 workers unemployed. In that number are 1,000 women. The numbers have been increasing weekly at an alarming rate and with the withdrawal of the State out-of- work donation thousands have been thrown on the verge of starvation.Newcastle is typical of the whole of the Tyneside and the country generally. These unemployed men and women are drawn from all sections of industry. Monster demonstrations have been held, and the men and women who were promised a new England are determined not to tolerate the continuance of these deplorable conditions. Go to the opposite end of the country. You find in a city like Bristol facts which I have already placed before the Minister of Labour in questions which have previously been answered. I asked his attention in the case of Bristol to the fact that the list of unemployed shows a very considerable number of men out of work who were skilled in the building trade: reasons, carpenters, bricklayers, etc., men in many branches of the engineering trades, such as drivers and motor- men, and a considerable number of dock labourers, warehousemen, porters, and a few hundred general labourers. It seems to me that these are the very men who have a strong claim upon the Government for the reason that as yet, at any rate, the schemes and paper plans of the Government, with regard to building houses, have not taken a definite shape. These men individually are not to blame for the delay of either a municipal body or of the Government, and until the building plans and housing schemes of the Ministry have got properly into their swing, with some tendency to absorb the unemployed, it is simply cruelty to these men in the building trade, with no chance whatever of getting appropriate work during the winter, to keep them on the streets without any means of livelihood at all.
530 I have tried to get from the Prime Minister either a frank or a full statement of what actually has been promised as the result of his Woolwich visit. As I. read in the newspapers, which have so far been my only source of information, some general assurance was given that the plant and the machinery at Woolwich thrown. idle as the result of the end of the War would be so arranged and used as to turn out locomotives and a goodly supply of machinery of that kind, in order to meet the needs of our railway system. If that be so, I want to ask the Labour Minister whether he does not think that similar steps can be taken by the Government in regard to a great amount of the plant, the buildings, machinery, tools, and implements scattered in many parts of this country in buildings acquired by the Government during the War? If it is right to do this in Woolwich because there you have a great town with thousands thrown out of employment since the close of the War—an ever-increasing number—because of the pressure of numbers and the dangerous situation that naturally would develop if things were neglected in Woolwich, how can it be wrong to attempt it in the smaller centres when to do so would mean that you would gradually absorb those who were out of work and attract men to these different places, as was the case during the War? I hope the Labour Minister will agree that it is better to settle this matter on the basis of justice than of fear. It is not statesmanship to organise the workers in any centre and provide employment and wages for them because you have become afraid that, unless you do so, certain consequences will follow. The better and higher statesmanship consistsin facing the difficulty because of its justice and because of its common sense. There is nothing more wasteful than to leave these men totally unemployed. I believe the Government has even gone the length of claiming that the £40,000,000 which was paid as unemployment benefit was a kind of insurance against revolution. d do not think it was any such thing, but, if it was, how are we to deal with the revolutionary elements and tendencies which now naturally are being developed and cultivated as the result of this treatment of the men and women who are unemployed this month and will be next month, but did not happen to be unemployed when the donation was being paid?
531 In the absence of the work of reconstruction, in the absence of any real comprehensive effort to organise the unemployed and put their efforts to some useful purpose, we are compelled to resort to an appeal to the Government to provide the necessary maintenance for these men and their families during the coming months. I do not think it is any use appealing to the right hon. Gentleman—I suppose he is quite helpless in the matter—to continue the donation payment in the ordinary way. But there is open to him some step which I trust he will be willing to take. I do not know how far he has interested himself in the steps resulting from our previous appeal to use a considerable part of the reserve funds in what is known as the National Relief Fund. We have pressed the matter on the Prime Minister in this House, and quite recently by private deputation. We were assured by him that he would personally see the Chairman of the National Relief Committee and he led us to believe that something substantial would be done as the result of his action. That is considerably more than a week ago, and this is a period of the year when time is priceless and delay is dangerous. There is available in connection with that fund, after all its commitments and all its promises and obligations have been met, a sum approaching £1,250,000. We do not ask that that money should be spent without some corresponding sum from public funds. It would scarcely be fair to those who have the control of that money in the National Relief Fund to ask them to exhaust it completely in a mariner which would be in relief of the national expenditure, while incidentally in relief of the individual who received it, so that the National Exchequer should to some degree be called upon to give a like contribution to ally which might be secured from this National Relief Fund.
Let me press the urgency and the necessity of giving to-night some satisfactory answer which will give relief and hope to those who are now suffering in regard to this form of our appeal. We do not like it. But those who are suffering are not really at liberty to choose and settle matters on points of dignity, and as they are quite unable to secure it from other public funds in the ordinary way, we ask that the Government should take effective measures to secure the considerable sum of money to which I have referred. They 532 are justified in doing that, because it was expressly subscribed by all classes of the public, even by poor men. A very large number of trade unionists subscribed to this fund. I know something of it, because I took a little part in organising subscriptions for it in the early months of the War, and it was expressly subscribed by a large number of people in order to relieve distress due to unemployment caused by the War in those early months, when it was thought that the War, in its effects, would cause wry severe distress and suffering to unemployment. The War left this fund in quite a prosperous state, and. it accumulated an amount that surprised a great many people. The distress of those who are unemployed is very largely a by-product of the War. They are out of work because as yet peace conditions have not been restored to them in the sense that they have been able to get back to their ordinary employment such as they followed prior to the War, and the Leader of the House, when the matter was last raised, expressly admitted that that money was subscribed to relieve such distress as we have brought forward in various appeals. With the present high prices, with the doors of all these great places where people are going for their Christmas purchases and good cheer practically closed against them, surely these men have a case which cannot be answered by merely referring to the fact that the figures offer seine improvement and that with the spring or the summer they will be absorbed by the ordinary social and industrial forces. We submit that this claim is urgent, that the money is available, that it requires merely action on the part of the Government, coupled with the assurance that the Government will provide some share of public money which can jointly be used with the money from the relief fund to which I have referred. if that were done, it would help us completely to tide over, at least, the acute forms of distress which otherwise will continue until well into next year.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. INSKIP
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) has on more than one occasion brought before the House the subject of the use that might be made of the very large sums of money which have been expended in unemployment donations. While I confess that I have never been satisfied that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has, if I may say so with all respect, really effectively answered the criticisms that have been made as to the 533 expenditure of that money in return for any service, I maintain that there is a great deal of work in the country which might be done by public authorities if they were able to use this money in paying those who might do the work. I cannot speak in the same way as those who have had official experience in the labour world, but I know that in my own Constituency and elsewhere there is an immense amount of work which might be clone by public authorities, and would be done by public authorities, if they were not anxious to observe proper economy in the use of the rates. It is riot that they are avoiding work the expense of which ought to be borne by the rates, but that they are refraining from engaging in public works which are almost of an essential kind merely because the rates will no longer stand any additional strain being placed upon them. Although I fully realise the great difficulty there may be in handing over to local authorities blocks of public money from the national Exchequer which might 'be used by those authorities in providing work or carrying on work of that kind, yet I cannot believe that the resources of the Ministry of Labour are exhausted, and that they can discover no means by which the public purse could he protected and yet the money more usefully expended. It is quite likely that, some persons would receive employment under these circumstances who ought to find employment in other quarters. It is quite likely that the rates of some local authorities would be relieved; but when we realise that £40,000,000 has been expended and there has been nothing hi return for it, it appears to me that almost any state of things and any use of the money would be preferable to what I think I am entitled to describe as that waste of money, and preferable to the demoralisation that must ensue and, in fact, has resulted from the use of the money in that way. I join in appealing to the Minister of Labour to give further consideration to the proposals which I am sure many local authorities are willing to undertake in connection with the use of money at present expended in unemployment donation, if only they were allowed to exercise their local knowledge and their experience in making a better use of it. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) would not like it to be understood that it is only the wage earners or the people employed in work of this sort who are to 534 be considered. There are large numbers of persons who are out of employment, whose condition is almost as distressing as that of the people to whom Ire has referred. In the city of Bristol there are 900 officers out of employment, not belonging to the class that may be described as wage earners, and certainly not persons who would be likely to apply for unemployment donation, but their position is just as distressing as that of those who would receive the weekly donation, and if it is the duty of the State to provide work or pay for one class, it is the duty of the State to provide work or pay in respect of another class. When you have said that of the officers who are out of employment in Bristol awl elsewhere, you must apply precisely the same principle to the many ladies who have been employed during the War, and who belong to the class which prefers silent poverty rather than to appeal for assistance. I hardly know where any line is to be drawn, if the principle which my right hon. Friend suggests as a proper principle is to be adopted. Wage-earners are not the only classes who are suffering poverty through unemployment. There are large populations in every city who belong to what we call the middle class who deserve pity from the Government, and who might expect assistance from the Government just as much as wage-earners, and I hope that if any proposals are ever considered for the further assistance of those at present reciving unemployment donation, that care will be taken that the same protection and assistance is extended to all those who, through no fault of their own, are living without means to make life possible and pleasant for them.
I am rather disappointed that my right lion. Friend did riot state exactly what it is he expects the Government to do. It is useless to suggest that people are in a very unhappy position now that Christmas is approaching, and that fine language will not provide for them. What we want to know is what is the principle which he would suggest for helping them. Surely he does not suggest that the State is for ever to provide for those who are out of employment, or to provide work for them? Is it a mere temporary measure that he suggests, or a measure of permanent and universal application which he proposes? Perhaps some other hon. Member will state in intelligible terms the principle for which Government approval is desired. My right hon. Friend has quoted 535 the Prime Minister's speech yesterday, but he did not quote the statement made by a representative of some bricklayers' union or some building trade union that under no circumstances would that union consent to dilution of Iabour or an extension of the apprenticeship system with a view to bringing more people into the building trade.
§ Mr. INSKIP
The hon. Member is attempting to remind me of something which is at present not in my mind. If I have misrepresented the passage he can correct me. I am referring to a report that I read in the "Times" this morning of a statement which was deliberately made that they were not going to consent to dilution of labour unless they saw that they would be safeguarded from the danger of unemployment. That is an impossible condition to demand until the Government accepts the principle—which I do not suppose anybody really contends for—that they are to provide employment or pay for everybody of any class who is out of employment. But when we see in every quarter of the commercial world a lack of the goods which everybody needs, it seems to me absurd to talk about lack of employment if only proper organisation is applied and proper work done by those who are competent to do it.
You cannot go into a single shop, Wholesale or retail, without being told that it is impossible to get the goods which the public demand, and we must be lamentably failing in many of those qualities which the British race is supposed to possess if we cannot speedily organise our trade and put it on a footing on which these innumerable wants will be supplied by those who, my right hon. Friend says, only wish to do the work if they have an opportunity to do it. In my own Constituency a few days ago, the position art one of the greatest docks in the Kingdom was that there were something like 40,000 tons of food waiting to be transported by rail. A number of wagons were sent down to the docks sufficient to move an appreciable amount of that enormous quantity, and a number of them were not loaded, because the labour at the port was not prepared to work for the number of hours which might have. enabled them to be loaded and sent on their way to perform service in other parts of the country. Surely, my right hon. Friend opposite will 536 realise that that is a lamentable fact, if I have correctly stated the facts, and they are on the authority of the Minister of Transport. Labour must do its share in doing the work which is available, and if it does then labour will speak with much greater authority and force when it is pressing the reasonable and eloquent appeals which my right hon. Friend has made to the Minister of Labour this evening.
§ Mr. A. SHORT
I shall be expressing the sense of the House when I say that we have listened with very deep interest to the sympathetic speech from the hon. and learned Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Inskip) who has addressed one or two queries suggestive of sympathy with the sentiments that have been put forward from these benches in coping with this very serious problem of unemployment. While I appreciate the importance of the queries mentioned, I hardly think that this is the time in a Debate of this character to express fully our opinions or to put forward suggestions such as the hon. Member calls for. But when this House withdrew the donation and initiated, in my judgment, a very cruel blockade of some thousands of helpless people in this country it raised problem of unemployment to one of vast importance. It brought it. more fully to the notice of the people, and it is certainly to-day a problem which will have to be tackled by this Government, or if not by this Government by some Government quite soon if we are going to avoid many of the risks which have ever been associated with revolution. The policy was defended on the ground of economy, but in so far as public health is concerned, with the starvation of men and women and the stunting of children because of the impoverished and ill-nourished state of the mothers of these children, we shall probably have to spend considerably more millions in the interest of public health in fighting disease than we should have expended had we continued this donation.
We of the Labour party have never advocated contributions of this kind, but we have said that it is the function of the. State to see that the units which comprise the State are provided for adequately in the way of employment at remunerative rates, and failing that it is the function of the State to come forward with some assistance by way of contributions to enable the unfortunate people to 537 maintain themselves until such time as they can secure employment. This problem at once appeals to the sympathy of the House and of almost everybody in the country, but up to the present there has been no real action taken either by this Government or any previous Government to cope with this problem, and it is the growing opinion of the organised workers of this country that it is not the desire of the Government or of employers to see this problem solved, that it is their firm, strong, economic belief, that it is essential to have the unemployed men at their gates so that the unemployed men may be used to browbeat the others into the acceptance of terms which otherwise they would reject were it not for the existence of a large army of unemployed. My hon. Friend has referred to what might be done. At present the organisation of industry is left entirely to profit-making companies and to the caprice of individuals. The State takes no hand apparently in the business at all. Reference was made by my right hon. Friend to the building of locomotives at Woolwich. What can we say about the state of things when we read in the papers this week that Mr. Dudley Docker, Chairman of the Metropolitan, Wagon and Finance Company, states that he can turn out 500 finished wagons per week, while this firm, which has large works in my own Constituency and in the Birmingham area, has its people employed short time, four days a week.
In my own Constituency there are thousands of skilled men who have been brought up to this industrial wagon building unemployed, when the State is in absolute want of wagons, and it is anybody's and everybody's business to produce them, but nobody takes any action in the matter. Here we have got the skilled men and the machinery, and we have got no organisation of industry to ensure that the things the people want shall be produced, or to ensure, on the other hand, that the workpeople unemployed shall find employment at remunerative rates. If there is any criticism to be levelled at all, it is not from that side of the House against labour. The criticism comes from here, and it is not only a criticism but a challenge, a challenge to the economics of our industrial and commercial life. As far as we can see it has failed to provide work at more than a subsistence rate of wages and it has maintained a large army 538 of unemployed who have ever been at the mercy and caprice of the unscrupulous. The hon. and learned Member for Bristol asked what we would do. Has he forgotten what we did during the War? Has he forgotten, when the enemy was at the gate, how the workers were the salt of the earth? They were wanted then not only to fight but to produce munitions. At that time the State could organise the material and human resources of the country in the interests of the State and of the life of the State, and our belief is that it is the vital duty of the State, even in times of peace, so to organise, or to assist in the organisation of, the resources of the country as to ensure that the working classes shall be free from the possibility of unemployment
§ Mr. INSKIP
Has the lion Member forgotten that the organisation of industry during the War involved the abrogation of all trade union rules, which was repugnant to hon. Members opposite?
§ Mr. SHORT
The hon. and learned Member recalled something to mind which I am very well aware of and am not likely to forget, as I happened to be one of those who, with my fellow leaders, entered into that bargain with the State. Surely my hon. and learned Friend does not suggest that all we did in those days is essential and necessary in the future organisation of industry I It is the principle I want to bring home to the State, in the interests of its own life, of entering the arena of industry and many other arenas, of organising the resources of the State for this special purpose. The Government might become far more active in the use of the land. We could provide greater opportunities and improved facilities, we could develop channels whereby large numbers of the workers could return to the land and produce the foodstuffs that we require under proper conditions and with fair rates of pay. That is one suggestion I have to make. This problem has ever been with us; it is likely to be with us, so far as this Government is concerned. I do not see that they are making any legitimate effort to solve the problem or that they propose to move upon any lines other than those followed in the past. They intend to depend entirely upon the activities of private individuals, whether trade union officials on the one hand or employers on the other. I venture to make an appeal. It is that the House it- 539 self should take hold of this problem. It should make up its mind that it will make a serious, honest, and legitimate attempt to solve the problem—a problem which is a menace to industry and to the life of the community, and, snail I say, if it continues to grows will be a menace to tee safety of the community. Surely it is a problem which calls not only for sympathy or lip service, but for immediate and direct action so far as this House is concerned. If my hon. and learned Friend or the Minister of Labour says that it is not possible to find a solution because of the complications associated with our present economic system, we reply that we are prepared to abolish the existing economic system, and we believe that by its abolition we may find a solution of the unemployment problem.
§ The Minister of LABOUR (Sir R. Horne)
I do not possess the eloquence of my right hon. friend opposite (Mr. Clynes). He has made a very moving speech upon the question of unemployment. Although I have none of the gifts of rhetoric which he possesses, I believe I could make an eloquent and moving speech also upon this great question. There is certainly no topic which moves me so much, in all the tasks I have to perform, as the fact that there is a considerable hotly of people who at the present time can find no employment. I would beg of the hon. Member who has just sat down not to believe that the Government have any wish to perpetuate any system by which anybody should be unemployed. There may have been people in the past who regarded it as good economics to have a number of unemployed as a means of keeping down the rates of pay of those who were employed. If there are any such left—[HON MEMBERS "Plenty!"]—they are guilty more of folly than of anything else. All their efforts will produce no such results as they are supposed to desire. They will only burden themselves and their industries with a greater charge than if everyone was employed. I believe that we all approach this matter with a genuine and sincere desire to get rid of the suffering and the bitterness of heart which are occasioned by the lack of work. My right hon. Friend dilated upon two aspects of this question, and, as it appeared to me, he somewhat confused them. There is the aspect of the distress which results. From 540 unemployment, and there is the otter aspect which is involved by the question of ensuring employment for everybody. I would like to separate these two things and deal first of ail with the question of distress. My right hon. Friend referred to the melancholy and striking fact of which we are witnesses now. He gave three examples, two of which were connected with discharged soldiers who, although it is perfectly true that they are suffering in mind and to a certain extent in substance for lack of employment, are still not in a state of distress comparable with the others who have got no unemployment donation. The third instance he gave was connected with the disaster at the Levant mine. He made a reference to a telegram, a copy of which I also received to-day. The fact is that while it is said that a huge mass meeting took place, there are altogether something like 280 people who have been thrown out of work, and of these a considerable number are discharged soldiers who are receiving already the unemployment donation. The remaining civilians number roughly about 150, and it is a fact that the public in that district have been moved, as the public always have been moved, by mining disasters, to raise a considerable fund in relief of the people who have suffered injury and distress owing to this disaster. I do not anticipate, therefore, that these people are entirely without resources. In addition to that, I am glad to know that the mine has been purchased by a neighbouring mine proprietor, and that it is believed it will be in operation again by the month of January. I do not say that in the interval people may not suffer some distress, but at least we ought not to exaggerate their condition, and we ought to look at all these things in their proper perspective. I want to bring to the knowledge of the House the actual situation with regard to unemployment in this country. It is said that we ought to have continued the unemployment donation. What would that have meant? At the time when the unemployment donation ceased there were 492,000 people in receipt of it, of whom 354,000 were ex-Service men, leaving a difference of 138,000 civilians.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I agree that is a pertinent query. I cannot tell the actual 541 number of persons, because there are no figures which are available. I would gladly give the House the figures if I had them. There cannot, however, have been a very great number who were not absorbed, because we find that the numbers of people on the live registers at the Exchange are not greatly in excess of the number of people drawing the unemployment donation. There are on the live registers of the Exchanges people who are not out of employment, but who wish to change from one employment to another. You always find that floating body of people on the live registers of the Exchanges seeking a change. Therefore, I do not think that the number can have been very large. We find that of the 138,000, 55;000 immediately the unemployment donation ceased went on the Unemployment Insurance Fund, which they were entitled to do as belonging to insured trades. I am glad to think that the benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Bill will be increased very soon. The Bill which has dealt with that matter has passed through the House of Commons, and I hope that Christmas Day will see the increase in that benefit which the House of Commons has voted. That leaves altogether something like 83,000 throughout the country. A proportion, which I cannot exactly estimate, is in receipt of the trade union benefits. When you get down to that figure, you see what is the real proportion of those who are deprived of something substantial by the cessation of the unemployment donation. Some of these, rather over 10,000 altogether, are merchant seamen who endured all the vicissitudes of the ordinary sailor, many of them more frequent by reason of the submarine menace to which they were constantly subjected. The Government have made up their minds that they, as having endured the real vicissitudes of war, should be treated in the same way for this particular purpose as if they had been in the fighting line.
It may be said, against the arguments that I am putting forward, that unemployment may have increased since the date when the donation ceased. In point of fact, unemployment has greatly or considerably decreased since the donation ceased. I find that in the fortnight between 21st November and 5th December there were 34,000 people less seeking employment at the Exchanges. That circumstance gives rise to the reflection that there were a considerable number of 542 people who were only deterred from seeking opportunities of employment by the fact that there was a donation for them to receive. I do not say that accounts for the whole of the difference, but at least there must have been a certain proportion. The remainder of the difference is accounted fur by the fact that trade has really been bettering and that the opportunities for employment have been increasing. These facts are amazingly significant if you take them along with the circumstances that during that same period you have had a most disastrous strike in the moulding trade, which has been from day to day increasing the number of people that have been thrown out of employment in many branches of the engineering trade. It is, indeed, marvellous that we should have a disastrous circumstance of that kind and a decrease in the total number of those unemployed.
There is, indeed, another circumstance to add even to this tale, because at the same time the number of soldiers being demobilised has been increased. The number of ex-Service men added to the live registers of the Employment Exchanges has been growing during fire same period, so that the total of 34,000 does not really represent the full amount by which unemployment has decreased in this country. These are encouraging facts, and, when you reflect that even at this point of tune, when we are only twelve months away from the cessation of hostilities, we have unemployment, in spite of the mouldcrs' strike, standing at a figure in the main trade unions of the country comparable with the best periods before the War, I think we have every reason to feel some satisfaction at the way in which trade and industry in this country has been revived. It is suggested that is not a fair comparison. It seems to me a most remarkable thing that you have brought back from the War between three and four millions of soldiers, whom you have reabsorbed in industry to the extent of 90 per cent. If it be an unfair comparison, it is only unfair in the sense that it is putting too severe a test against this year.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
The right hon. Gentleman in making the comparison has omitted altogether the fact that we have been engaged in a war in which about 800,000 have been slain and thus taken from the industrial ranks, and another 200,000 have been disabled.
§ Sir R. HORNE
My hon. Friend fails to realise that, while it is true a considerable number of men have been killed in the course of this War, at the same time there has been no emigration from this country during the past five years. When he talks of the disabled men, it has to be remembered that they are included in the figures, and it is far more difficult to get employment for disabled men. In spite of all these difficulties, we have reached the condition which I have described as remarkable in the circumstances. My right hon. Friend opposite asked me with regard to the National Relief Fund. I agree entirely with the suggestion that the National Relief Fund ought to be used for distress arising out of unemployment caused by the War. It was for that very purpose the fund was raised, and I hope that in dealing with the various cases which arise the managers of the fund will take a wide and generous interpretation even of those terms. What has been settled with regard to that matter is that the fund shall be made available for the purposes described, and a circular is being issued, if it has not yet been sent out, to the various local authorities by the managers of the National Relief Fund, stating the objects of the fund and asking that they should set up Committees which should take into account the amount of distress in each district and investigate the circumstances of the various cases which arise, and then make an appeal to the managers of the fund for the amount which they require. I hope and believe that a very great deal of the distress which exists will be relieved by means of this very admirable fund.
I turn to the other topic which my hon. Friend raised, and in which he got some support from another hon. Member who spoke. He said the £40,000,000 spent in unemployment donation was waste, and that indeed this fund ought to have been used for the provision of employment. He suggested that national factories might have been made available for the purpose of giving work to many of the men who at that time had no employment. Just look at the matter for a moment. What was to happen whilst you were getting ready the places for the work on peaceful industry in national factories? By what method were you going to sustain the hundreds of thousands of civilians who were thrown out of work; after hostilities ceased, from munitions works which no longer produced the war material which they had 544 previously been manufacturing? Is it not perfectly obvious to everybody who thinks of it for a moment that it would take a period of months even to start the provision of employment in any of these factories for the making of any of the ordinary commodities of commerce? In the interval were you to provide no fund at all upon which the people should live, and probably in the months immediately after the hostilities had ceased you had over 1,000,000 people unemployed v. ho had recently either been in the Army or engaged on munitions work? I venture to submit whatever designs you may have made and however rapidly you put them into operation, you still would have been faced with the necessity of maintaining by far the greater number of those people for many months after the 11th November. The Government, so far as I know, has got no prejudice against affording employment. In every case it is a question of expediency and prudence. It was suggested that employment was offered to Woolwich out of fear, but no such motive ever affected any of us. We place the whole question upon the footing which I described in the first speech I made in this House upon that question. We were determined that we were not going to afford employment in some places which would result in throwing people out of employment in other places. In this connection I may remark the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Short) complained we were making wagons at Woolwich, one of the national factories, while his constituents are being —
§ Mr. SHORT
I must correct the right hon. Gentleman. I recalled that my hon. and learned Friend had made a reference to wagons being built at Woolwich, but I expressed no opinion on that matter. I did call attention to what was happening in my Constituency, and it appears to be nobody's business to assist to organise.
§ Sir R. HORNE
My hon. Friend's explanation suits me just as well as what I first mentioned. The whole point is this, that he says that at the present time, whilst wagons are being built at Woolwich, his constituents—
Sir R. HORNS
I am still reinforced for the purpose of my argument. The fact is, according to my hon. Friend, that many of his constituents, who are only working three or four days per week, would be glad to be at work on building wagons, and it is also the fact that wagons are being built at Woolwich. I do not know how far they act and react on each other, but there is one thing perfectly certain, you do not do an industry or employment any good by starting work in a Government factory it the result is—and I do not say it is so in this case—to make short employment in other places or no employment at all. That is the sole point. That is the sole motive which has guided the Government upon this matter. Just to show we have no prejudices in this question, it is enough to point to the fact that we are now engaged upon the largest scheme for affording employment which has ever been tackled by any Government in the world, to wit the housing scheme. If on the other hand there is shown a feasible project for using Government property for the affording of employment in a way in which it will not dislocate it somewhere else, I am heart and soul with that project, and will give the greatest possible support to it. While my right hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes) was dilating upon this question of the duty of the Government to find employment for the people as distinct from finding the donation, I recollect a Bill, a private Bill, which was introduced into this House a considerable time ago—
§ Sir R. HORNE
Upon the back of that Bill I find the name of the right hon. Gentleman. The Bill proposed to transfer to the Ministry of Labour, many of the powers of the Ministry of Health, and of the Home Office and of the Board of Trade. It was called the Prevention of Unemployment Bill, but the only question of unemployment it prevented was that of the Minister of Labour, who already belongs, I am afraid, to a sweated industry. My right hon. Friend, by the terms of that Bill, perfectly well realised that it is not always possible to provide employment. One of the most important Sections of his Bill was that, in the event of the Minister of Labour failing to provide employment, he should provide adequate means of subsistence for every man and his family, so that he completely realised that there must be some alternative to the provision of employment. Just 546 let me take one or two of the illustrations which he gave. He referred to the fact that labour was not mobile at present because of the lack of accommodation in various places, but how can the State provide employment to meet circumtances of that kind? Supposing you have a dozen people of a particular trade in one place who cannot find employment there, while opportunities exist in some other part of the' country where no accommodation can be provided for them, what is the State to do in those circumstances? Is it to start, in each individual instance of a small knot of unemployed, some factory by which work may be found for them? When you examine the problem it is entirely insoluble on these lines. Let me take the case with which my right hon. Friend started, the instance of the Levant Mine, where a disaster in the pit shaft led to a number of people being thrown out of employment. Is the Government to start a new mine in the district, or a factory, until a new mine shaft is sunk? It is perfectly obvious that no Government in its senses would start out upon the project of providing work for people who, through a temporary disaster, were thrown out of opportunity of employment.
§ Mr. CLYNES
May I ask my right hon. Friend not to finish this part of his speech without noting the reasons which prompted me to cite those cases? The reasons were. as I said, that the claim of these men for financial benefit had been enormously increased because they could not remove from the places in which they found themselves to go to work that existed elsewhere.
§ Sir R. HORNE
My right hon. Friend started by confusing cases of distress with cases of unemployment, but all I have to say on that in connection with my present argument is that whatever you do it is obvious, even from those instances which he has cited, that you cannot provide employment which is going to ensure always work for everybody. Let me take the case of the moulders' strike. There are over 100,000 people to-day, who are not moulders, who are out of work because the moulders are on strike. How is the Government to provide employment in these circumstances? If ever there was an instance which established the reasonableness of bringing the unemployment donation to an end it is the circumstances which have occurred in connection with the moulders' strike. The moulders have been supported by funds of trade unions, 547 whose members themselves have been thrown on the streets because the moulders are on strike, and if the Government had been providing unemployment donations to these men it would have been paying strike funds to the strikers. That at least is an evil which has been avoided.
But I would address an appeal to my right hon. Friend in response to the one he has addressed to me. He has referred to the number of discharged soldiers who are still without employment. There are at least some of these who would be in employment to-day but for the action of the great organisations with which he has some connection. There is no question at all that many of them would have been hard at work at the present time if only men who already are in trades where their work would have been of use had not refused to receive them as brother workers. I am perfectly certain that none of my hon. Friends opposite will ever regard me as having been too critical of trade unions, because I have always recognised their difficulties, and I know the apprehensions from which they suffer. But, indeed, in numerous instances in which there is no prospect on the horizon at all of unemployment occurring in certain great trades, nevertheless these men who fought the battles of their country have now been refused entrance. I make an appeal to my right hon. Friend at least to do his best to cure that defect.
§ Sir R. HORNE
There was an example the other day in a wagon works at Horbury. There was another example, that of the Campbell Gas Engine Company at Halifax, and my hon. Friend knows there are numerous instances of this kind. He also knows that one great trade union organisation has refused even to allow any trading facilities to be granted in their trade to the disabled men who have come home and who are seeking to acquire skill rather than to be thrown into the ranks of the unskilled workers. I hope that something may be done to change that spirit, and to enable these men to find the employment which undoubtedly they deserve. But all this question of the Government finding employment is fraught with great difficulty. We have all had before our eyes the example of the French Government after the French 548 Revolution. There one remembers very well that nothing was so demoralising in the history of the world, so far as labour is concerned, as the attempt of the French Government at that time to find employment for everybody. One remembers the instance in which one French workman said to another, being asked how long his job would last, that it would last a very long time so far as he was concerned. His friend said, "Even that must sometime come to an end, and what will you do then?" "Oh," he said, "then they will put us on to bottle the Seine." I hope we shall never arrive at that pass in this country. I deplore, as my right hon. Friend does, the amount of unemployment that exists, but, indeed, things are better, and I feel confident that if only we have peace and harmony in industry, prosperity so far as trade is concerned will ensure more employment in this country than we have ever had at any period except during the War.
§ Mr. ROYCE
I should like to say a few words with regard to the closing remarks of the Minister of Labour. I have heard an hon. Member for one of the Universities, I think it was, this afternoon wax indignant over the alleged fact that men were refusing admittance to disabled men, or to men who had served their country in various trades owing to trade restrictions, and he became very indignant on the subject. So far as I am concerned, I deplore it. The mere fact that he has served his country seems to be sufficient evidence, at any rate, that he should have an opportunity of learning a trade, but while the hon. Member waxed so indignant on the subject, I could not help reflecting that, as a member of a university, he would hardly admit any person who came along, even if he had served his country, to a university degree. He has quite as close a corporation there as any he is condemning in the trade unions. But what I rose for is to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite an opportunity by which employment can be found for a very large number of men without dislocating any industry. When the present Government launched its programme, one of the items it laid considerable stress upon was the reclamation of land. We have a splendid opportunity on the shores of the Wash of reclaiming very large areas of land and employing advantageously many thousands of men.
I may bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman that German prisoners 549 were employed at one place, and that 500 acres of valuable land were secured from the sea during the War, and a very fertile crop indeed was produced on that land. There are thousands of acres that can now be reclaimed if suitable accommodation is provided for the men who work. We have plenty of huts that could be used for that purpose. The work in question was started in a perfunctory manner and placed under the control of the Board of Agriculture, who have reclaimed there, or rather are in process of reclaiming, 500 acres of land, which will cost them some thing over £50 an acre—not an altogether bad deal, when you take into question the quality of the land. There are thousands of acres to be reclaimed, and, if the land can be reclaimed at something like £50 art acre, it will give employment to thousands of men, which is better than paying unemployment donations. If the right hon. Gentleman would like any assistance in the subject, I should be glad to afford it to him, to show how work could be done and thousands of men employed. It will provide land which can be immediately brought under cultivation, and it is not at all a bad deal for the Government to engage in. I am very much surprised they have not taken advantage of it to a very much greater extent. I put a question to-day, and I have had a question previously, with regard to what is being done in this matter, and. I learnt that something like 150 men only are employed on the work now proceeding, and the Board of Agriculture are considering the advisability of modifying the scheme they have now in hand. Instead of modifying it, there is an opportunity to enlarge it almost indefinitely, and the result, I am sure, would be satisfactory not only in finding employment, but reclaiming valuable land.
§ Mr. ACLAND
May I say a word or two arising out of the speech of the Minister in charge of the subject, and the speech we have just heard? I was very much impressed with the earnestness of the right hon. Gentleman in trying to find a remedy for the state of things, if it could be found without opening up very considerable principles. I have also some knowledge of the subject to which allusion has been made. The Cornish people do find it extremely difficult to move out of their own county, and to take to work to which they are unaccustomed. I think that difficulty would be great, even if there were houses avail- 550 able to which they could go, which there are not, and therefore the problem really is to find work, if it can be found, in the district. The difficulty is pressing more or less, with regard to the whole of the tin-mining area, and also in some places where there were munition works during the War, quite small places where houses. grew up, and people came to live during the War, and where munition works and cordite works were suddenly closed when the War was over. The people have houses there, and are quite unable to get houses anywhere else, because the places-from which they moved are absolutely full up. There is one suggestion which might help the tin-mining districts in the north of Cornwall and elsewhere, to which allusion has been made. The Camborne and Redruth drainage schemes. were overdue before the War. Of course, the local authorities now do not want to go ahead with their drainage schemes, because of the high cost of labour arid the heavy burden that would fall on the. rates, but I would like my right hon. Friend, if he would, to communicate with the Minister of Health and see whether the Ministry could not send down an inspector to confer with these particular local authorities, and see whether these schemes could not be put into operation, or, at any rate, begun in a way which would provide a great deal of the rough work which must be done before either of the schemes can be carried out. The Government would then have done its best, and it would be the fault of the local authorities if they would riot do, anything. A special effort should be made to point out the desirability of taking action in the general interest, and, at any rate, the Government would have done what they could.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Then with regard to reclamation. The Board of Agriculture, acting in connection with the Forestry Commissioners, were about to undertake a big joint scheme on Bodmin Moor, partly for agricultural reclamation and partly for forestry. The Forestry Department, with which I am connected, is going on with its share, as Bodmin Moor is a very promising place to go ahead with a scheme, hut you can give a great deal more employment on reclamation for agriculture than merely in planting. I have 551 heard that recently the Board of Agriculture has on Bodmin Moor, as well as in the Wash, apparently abandoned the schemes with which they were rather far advanced. That may be Government policy which has been made necessary in the general interests of economy and that sort of thing, but, again, I would like my right hon. Friend to make inquiries of his colleague the President of the Board of Agriculture and see whether there is a definite, settled Government policy that these schemes of land reclamation shall be abandoned, because if they could go Ahead on Bodmin Moor and on the Wash and other places this winter, it would alleviate the position. If my right hon Friend would undertake to do these two things, it would be a practical contribution towards the subject.
I am gratified with the sympathetic way in which the right hon. Gentleman has met the suggestion of my right hon. Friend on this side, and would press him a little further in the matter of dealing with this question, not so much from a national point of view as from the local point of view. I had not the privilege of hearing his speech, but I understand he made a very effective speech in dealing with the problem from a national point of view, and if it is not so extremely serious from that point of view, I think he would agree with me that probably it is more seriously felt in special parts of the country than generally throughout the country. A few days ago I sent to him, a resolution which was passed by the Council of the city of Newcastle, in which they were pressing for special measures to deal with the situation there. The House, and I am sure the right lion Gentleman, will, know that the city of Newcastle is a very special instance of congestion arising out of war. A great many people were brought to Newcastle to deal with the great amount of work done there in connection with the provision of munitions of war, and the closing down of the War has closed down a great deal of employment there. Therefore, in that city I think the problem does present features which may not be common to the whole country, and the suggestion I wish to make to the right lion. Gentleman is that perhaps he might be good enough—he has promised to send down somebody to that part of the country in which my right hon. Friend is interested to confer with local authorities upon the situation 552 there—to take some steps to make the local authorities in Newcastle-on-Tyne fully conversant with the position there. It may be they have an exaggerated view of the situation, and he might be able, through some representative of his, to bring them into an easier frame of mind. It appears to me with regard to the whole problem, whether national or provincial, that the great thing is to put the people in possession of the facts so far as they can be. Knowledge dispels fear, or it ought to do. If the right hon. Gentleman can promise me that, by some intimation direct or through his representatives to the local authorities of Newcastle, he can inform them that he may be able to do something, it will do a good deal to relieve the minds, not only of the local authorities themselves, but of a great many people in the city who are very uneasy.
§ Mr. T. DAVIES
Housing and finance have been dealt with over and over again in this House. To find the money for building houses the local authorities are asked to raise local loans. I would appeal to hon. Gentlemen on the Government Bench who are in favour of that to say whether it is not possible to adopt the same plan in regard to these local loans for small amounts as they adopted in regard to the War Savings Certificates. On these latter no Income Tax whatever is deducted during the five years in which they are running. The idea, unfortunately, has got about that in issuing these local loans for amounts up to £500, no Income Tax was to be charged but I gather from what has been said in the House that that is not so; that in regard to £500 of bonds Income Tax would not be deducted at the source, but the income upon the £500 would have to be reckoned and Income Tax paid. Many of the working classes, especially in the agricultural districts, do not understand the working of the Income Tax in the slightest degree. If you want to make these local loans up to £500 successful, I believe it can be only done by letting it be known that bonds up to the amount of £500 can be held by any individual and no Income Tax need be paid. I am assured by people in the county of Gloucester with whom I worked very cordially during the War Savings Certificate campaign, that the issue of local bonds will be an absolute failure in the county under the circum- 553 stances. I would urge that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Health, and those concerned in the matter, should take the position very seriously into consideration if they want to make the local loans a success. They should try to introduce the principle that was introduced into the War Savings Certificates.
The other point is this: We have heard a great deal of the hardships of those people who are out of work. Whilst these have their hardships undoubtedy, there is a class of people suffering all the time, whether in or out of work. I mean those in receipt of old age pensions. I frequently have petitions from these people. I have petitions from boards of guardians. Only this week I had one, to the effect that the case of these people, who only get. 7s. 6d. per week at the age of seventy, in view of the high price of goods and especially of coal, is most pitiable. When boards of guardians, who have had the credit of being very hard in the past, pass resolutions asking that these poor pensions should be supplemented by outdoor relief, there is much significance in the fact. What is more significant still is that the one thing upon which, I believe, the Old Age Pensions Committee which has recently reported was unanimous was that outdoor relief should not be reckoned in the case of old age pensioners, in view of the prevailing high prices.
That subject does not come within the scope of the Appropriation Bill. It will require a special Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means, and, in consequence, legislation.
§ Mr. WATERSON
In view of the remarks that, fell from the Minister of Labour with reference to the Prevention of Unemployment Bill, introduced on 21st March, I would suggest that that Bill, even if it had been accepted by the House, would have had revision in Grand Committee. That Bill was turned down by the House. In view of that, we of the Labour party feel at this stage that we are justified in making a point against the Government in not taking some steps to prevent unemployment. Both sides of the House are agreed, to a large extent, that the Government organised exceedingly well for the prosecution of the War. We organised, not only on national lines, but on international lines. We entered into 554 what would be termed extended arrangements with other Allied Powers in order to secure the victory of our arms. The complaint we have is that the Government which had foresight, ability, and capacity to organise for war made absolutely no preparation, or little, for peace. Students of history know that the aftermath of war always includes a period of unemployment. This question of unemployment had been in the minds of many people before hostilities broke out in Europe, and if the War had been kept off, or we could have avoided it, I feel confident that the Government would have had' to bring forward a Bill similar to that which I have mentioned.
I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I give what I believe to be the impression abroad in the country, and which to-day is in the minds of many working people who are walking the streets. There are men and women who feel that the Government have neglected this important. part of social legislation with an ulterior motive. We come in contact with men who have served in the War right loyally and well. Had it been their lot they would have paid nobly the supreme sacrifice. They have returned to civil life to find that unemployment is waiting for them at the entrance to that civil life. Those of us who mix with them and inquire if they have got anything to do, get the reply, "Nothing; what can we do now; we do not intend to go to the workhouse, we mean to live somehow or other, we are fed up"—to use the soldiers' phrase — "with walking the streets. The War Office and the Government have had three or four years of hard toil out of us. We will go back into the Army and have two or three years of ease out of the Government."
That is a phrase that we are confronted with. It is one of the sayings that represent the convictions of the men of to-day who are walking upon the street. When we hear this talk, we begin to wonder whether the Government has neglected to-bring in something that would prevent unemployment, with the ulterior object of creating the new Army of the future.
The Bill which has been mentioned this evening, for insurance against unemployment, may be very well as far as the future is concerned, but what is required is something to cope with the needs of the present time. Insurance against unemployment is no source of comfort to those 555 people who cannot find a job. The very fact that there is a need for such a Bill is a condemnation of the past policy of the Government in not preventing unemployment. The hon. and learned Member for Bristol (Mr. Inskip) drew attention to the lack of transport. As I have said on more than one occasion in this House, and particularly in supplementary questions, our transport system to-day is far from being satisfactory. We see a state of chaos in many of our large industrial centres. Many stations are not yet open, although the war has been declared at an end. All that is due to the fact that those railwaymen who were taken into the Army during the latter period of the War have not yet returned to civil life; the cream of the railwaymen are now to be found in the ranks of the Army of Occupation.
Another matter to which I think the Government ought to give attention is that of the land. I have been told in this House only this evening by one who is particularly concerned with small holdings, that it is impossible for these men to get the necessary small holdings. When they get them they have to pay such a price that it is no encouragement to them, and, as a consequence, they find themselves with nothing to do. It woud be interesting to know if the Minister of Labour, in conjunction with the President of the Board of Agriculture, has been interested in this matter, because we find that land can be let at £1 6s. an acre, and yet, when workmen who are on the street are trying to get some land in order to produce food, to encourage our own British production, they are asked £2 10s. per acre for the same land. That is not far from the very place in which we are meeting to-night. Soldiers to-day are finding it extremely difficult to get on to that land to till it and produce food at a reasonable and fair remuneration for the services they give. I am reminded by this Debate of a statement made in this House by one of the hon. Members for Newcastle. He told us from that bench, waxing eloquent, and extremely enthusiastic, that there was plenty of work for everybody; and yet we find, by the very figures which the Minister of Labour has given this evening, that there are 138,000 men and 354,000 exService men still upon the streets.
I want to make the suggestion to the Minister of Labour that there may be the possibility, if he will be prepared to look into it, of developing our tube system as 556 far as the City of London is concerned. I am told that, as regards one particular line, it is impossible for them to proceed because one railway company is going to block the progress to the utmost of its power. I feel that no one industry like that, simply for the sake of gaining profits for its particular concern, should stop the enterprise of another concern which may be in competition with it. I hope the Minister of Labour will be prepared, if he can, to do something particularly to see that the Piccadilly Tube shall be extended far more North than it goes at the present time. My hon. Friend who spoke last (Mr. Davies) dealt with the question of old age pensions. I do not think there are many men in this House who will attempt to argue what these men and women have been suffering. The Minister of Labour referred to the question of trade union pay. Is he aware that many of these men are getting no more out-of-work pay from the trade union than some old age pensioners? Many trade unionists are not paid when they are out of work, but in the cases where they do get unemployment pay it averages something like 15s. a week, which is only equivalent to is. 6d. before hostilities broke out. As I took some part in the Debate on the introduction of the Prevention of Unemployment Bill, I have a little complaint against the Minister, and I hope lie will consider the advisability of granting at once some necessary relief to these people, who are finding it so hard to make both ends meet, and to give the children, at any rate, a chance. I say that with all seriousness. There is no one in this House, probably, who has passed through the experience I have. When I was quite a boy I bad to beg my bread from door to door. I naturally feel a kindly interest in the children. We cannot afford to neglect this matter, These children will be the men and women of the future, and, therefore, in the interests of child welfare we must do our best for the boys and girls.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.