HC Deb 19 November 1919 vol 121 cc965-1079

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,500,000 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, 1920, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Civil Demobilisation and Resettlement of the Ministry of Labour, including Out-of-Work Donation and the Contribution to the Unemployed Insurance Fund, and Repayments to Associations pursuant to Sections 86 and 106 of the National Insurance Act, 1911, and the National Insurance (Part II.) (Munition Workers) Act, 1916 and Grants for the Training of Demobilised Officers.

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Robert Home)

Before I proceed to explain the reasons which the Government put forward for this Supplementary Estimate, I think it right that I should endeavour to give the Committee as clear an appreciation as I can of the exact dimensions of the problem with which we are confronted. When I last spoke in this House upon the question of the unemployment donation, the number of people who were then in receipt of the donation approached 1,000,000 a week. That figure was exceeded on the 2nd May, when the number of people in receipt of this donation was, roughly, 1,100,000. Now this is not the occasion to justify the grant of the donation, and, indeed, I need not do it, because the House supported the action which the Government previously took. But in passing I should like to say this, that if anything were required to justify the distribution of this money in relief of those who wore out of employment, the large figure to which I have referred would in itself be sufficient. I cannot imagine that the conscience of the country would ever have tolerated the contemplation of so many people being out of work through no fault of their own, and at the same time have left them to their own device to find adequate means of subsistence. But now time has elapsed since I spoke before, and a considerable change has occurred in the circumstances of the country. By 26th September that figure of over 1,000,000 had become very largely reduced. The decrease, indeed, amounted to something like 700,000 in receipt of donation, and that in spite of the fact that during the same period, over 1,000,000 men had been demobilised from the Army.

May I just tell the Committee what the figures actually were on 26th September? I shall explain my reason in a moment for fixing on that date. The total people receiving the unemployment donation on 26th September was 403,000, and of these 302,000 were ex-members of His Majesty's Forces, 65,500 were civilian men and 35,000 were civilian women. I venture to say that, looked at from that point of time, what has been achieved in the course of a year must be a source of congratulation to everybody in this country. If you contemplate what our circumstances were, the result seems nothing less than marvellous. We had since the Armistice found employment for over 3,000,000 demobilised men, and we had reabsorbed in peace industries 1,500,000 men and women who had previously been engaged in producing war material. We had done that in spite of the fact that the whole state of the trade of the world has been constantly dislocated, and in spite of the fact that most of the markets of the world were still unable to take our manufactures. I see signs of surprise on the face of my right hon. Friend opposite. When I say most of the markets of the world, I mean most of those markets to which we used to export the greater part of our manufactures, because it is undoubtedly true that even now a very large portion of the markets of the world is still shut out from us, partly by reason of the fact that they have not readjusted themselves since the War ceased, and partly because of the lack of ships for transport. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the blockade!"] The blockade undoubtedly created an impeding effect upon the revival of our trade, and, accordingly, I think the Committee will be with me when I say that the results achieved during that time are a source of congratulation to us all.

4.0 P.M.

It must be remembered that our problem is very much larger than that which confronted our Allies. If, for example, you take the case of France, 80 per cent, of the Army of France was recruited from the soil, and when the War ceased there was the soil to go back to. Their manufacturing industries had, on the whole, been very little dislocated compared with the disturbance which has been created here. Indeed, during the War we had become the workshop of the Allies. The same is true with regard to America. There has been almost no dislocation in American manufactures owing to the War, and, accordingly, it is all the more meritorious that we in this country should have done so much in so short a period since hos[...]ties ceased. I ought to say at once, of course the Government claim no credit at all for these results, except for the fact that they left things alone. I have not the slightest doubt that was the best service the Government could render, and I venture to think the kind of intervention which some of my hon. and right hon. Friends opposite ask us to take in the trade of the country could have produced nothing but ill. I took the date, 26th September, for this reason, that after that particular period we have been confronted by some disturbing factors in our industries. We had the railway strike. The effects of that strike are still being felt in connection with the congestion which you find at various docks, and at various railway centres where to-day the material which collected has not yet been cleared away. The inevitable result of that is that people are deprived of the raw material which they require. We have had a strike of iron-moulders, which has been going on now for something like two months. That strike has had a very disastrous effect upon our industries during that period. Incidentally, it has put out of employment, and made the country support by donations, something like 40,000 people in the engineering trade. Then we had a strike of bricklayers in the steel works of Scotland. That strike has put out of action some of our blast furnaces, has resulted in reducing the output of many of the steel works, and, owing to the fact that the steel works have not been able to supply the usual quantity of plates to the shipyards, it has put a certain number of people out of employment in our great shipbuilding industry. In spite of these circumstances, which have produced a certain amount of unemployment since September, we still find, when looking at these figures, that they do not in any way give reason for any great anxiety. These causes, of course, are temporary. I hope that the iron-moulders' strike will rapidly be over. As soon as it is, you will find that the engineering industry will take up its complement of labour again, and we shall have those people taken off the unemployment lists. Let me give the figure at which, in spite of these disturbing circumstances I have, mentioned, we have arrived to-day for unemployment. The total who are in receipt of unemployment donation at the present time is 479,000. These are the latest figures. Of these, 344,000 are ex-members of His Majesty's Forces, 101,000 are civilian men, and 34,000 are civilian women. I do not say that these figures accurately represent the whole of the unemployment there is in the country.


Does it include the men who are receiving out-of-work donation by reason of the strikes?


It includes those who are receiving unemployment pay by reason of the strikes, although, of course, it does not mean that any strikers get unemployment pay—I hope the Committee fully understand that—but all the engineers who are receiving unemployment pay owing to the iron-moulders' strike are included in these figures,


The point is an important one. Can the right hon. Gentleman say, in regard to his latest statement, what is the number of engineers who are stopped from working through the moulders' strike and who are receiving any unemployment benefit?


I think it is, roughly, 40,000. That is as near as I can go to it. Of course, you cannot trace the full number through your unemployment boards. That is the nearest figure I can give. As I have said, the figures I have given do not represent necessarily the whole of the unemployment there is in the country, because there are some people who have previously been in receipt of unemployment donation and whose period has expired who have not yet found work; but that number, I am certain, is not very large, judging by the numbers that, we find on the live register of the Employment Exchanges. There is, however, one way of bringing the whole question to a test, and it is that of comparing our position now with the position before the War. Everyone knows that during the War there was practically no unemployment at all. The circumstances of the time were such as to make every employable person of value in the labour market. Accordingly we had, during that period, a unique experience. But immediately before the War we also had periods of very good employment, and the year 1913 was one of them. I find that if you compare the figures of the trade union returns of unemployment in 1913 with those of this year, you get this result, that whereas in September, 1913, the trade unions' returns showed 2.4 per cent, of people in receipt of the unemployment benefit; of trade unionists, in September of this year the returns from the same trade unions show unemployment only to the extent of 1.6 per cent. That figure of 1.6 is, according to my impression—I have not verified it entirely—certainly one of the lowest figures which unemployment has ever readied in this country. I am not sure that it; is not absolutely the lowest. That figure of 1.6 has been increased in the month of October to 2.6, very largely through the dislocations of the strikes to which I have referred. For example, in the engineering trades, the figures of 2.4 represented the unemployment in the month of September, and it rose to 5.2 in the month of October owing to the dislocation caused by the ironmoulders' strike. Taking it even as we find it to-day, with all the disturbing elements to which I have referred, the figure of unemployment at the end of October was 2.6. If you compare that with previous years, you find that the average of unemployment in the trade unions of this country from 1900 to 1914 was 4.3. Accordingly, the result is that the unemployment, as tabulated by the trade unions to-day, is roughly only one-half of the average of unemployment for the fifteen years before the War. I am sure that the Committee will recollect seeing figures in connection with this matter of unemployment which rose to 7 and sometimes to 10 in further back years. Certainly in comparatively recent years, such as 1907 and 1908, we were familiar with conditions in which unemployment in the trade unions of this country rose above 7 per cent.

In these circumstances, what do we propose? Although, as I have said, unemployment is now only one-half of what was the average for the fifteen years before the War, the Government's proposal to continue unemployment donation to discharged soldiers means that you are finding relief for practically three-fourths of all the unemployed even out of that small figure of percentage. I have already given the figure for the number of His Majesty's Forces, namely, 344,000. What would happen to them under our proposal would be this: As the Committee remembers, all soldiers, for a year after demobilisation, are entitled to unemployment donation for the first twenty-six weeks at the rate of 29s. for each man, with allowances for children, and for thirteen weeks; more in that year at the less rate of 20s. for each man with allowances for children. There will, however, be a certain number of soldiers this winter whose period of unemployment donation will have expired. For example, a certain number of soldiers were demobilised in November of last year and their unemployment donation will expire very soon. Throughout the winter there will always be a certain number of soldiers whose unemployment donation will be expiring, although they will never attain to a very large number. The Committee accordingly will keep clearly in view that the bulk of the soldiers receiving unemployment donation will still be receiving pay during this winter at the higher rates. For those who have enjoyed already a full year since demobilisation, but who are still without work during the winter the Government's proposal involves that they will be provided with 20s. per man for nine weeks out of the eighteen, that is from the 24th November to 31st March, and that without any supplementary allowances in the case of children. A certain number, although a very small and inappreciable number of women who have been attached to mobile corps, will also have the same rates. They will be paid at the rate of 15s. a week for the same number of weeks. Altogether the amount involved is roughly £1,500,000, which is the amount set down in this Estimate.

It may be said, why do you treat the soldiers differently from the Civilians? It is scarcely necessary for me to make any answer. [An HON. MEMBER: "You said it was an engineer's war.] Let me advance these two very simple explanations. In the first place, there is no real comparison between the hardships, vicissitudes and misfortunes which the soldiers were asked to endure and the work which the civilian at home was asked to do. I am sure none of us who felt that we were being protected by the heroic efforts of our soldiers during the War will doubt or dispute that they are entitled to special consideration in this matter. There is another very practical point of view. The civilian, after all, was at home. He was enjoying a return for his services such as no soldier could get, and his family was kept in a degree of comfort which, with all the best will in the world towards the soldier's family, they nevertheless did not attain. More than that, when the difficulty of finding employment came after hostilities ceased, the soldier was in a very embarrassed position as compared with the civilian in looking out for himself. The great bulk of them were abroad, and even since they came home they have been in the position of finding that many avenues of employment have been closed to them because of the fact that works were already supplied with their full complement of labour. That is a consideration to which I think we must give effect, and it is only right that we should allow the soldier a somewhat longer time to find his feet, if I may so express it, in the industry of the country than we have allowed to the civilian.


Of course, the right hon. Gentleman includes sailors?


I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for that interruption. One has talked of the soldiers because there is a larger number of them. Undoubtedly, of course, it applies to all those who have been in the service of the Crown. Another question may be put to me in this form: Have you no compassion even for the comparatively small number of civilians who are left in the calculations which have been given? With regard to that, I should like to say, in the first place, that a considerable, proportion of them will be covered by the benefits which they enjoy as members of trade unions. The Committee is well aware that the great mass of trade unionists in this country are entitled, by the terms of their arrangement with their organisations, to unemployment benefit when they are out of work, and there certainly would be open to the bulk of the men who may be out of employment the opportunity of obtaining benefit either under their trade union scheme or under the National Insurance Act, 1911, supplemented as it has been by subsequent legislation during the War. It ought also to be recollected that the State provides under the National Insurance Act a certain portion of the money which a trade unionist receives from his trade union when he is out of work. By Section 106 of the National Insurance Act, 1911, it is provided that where a trade union gives unemployment benefit to its members the State will provide one-sixth of the amount which the trade union gives up to a sum of 7s. per week. Accordingly, in that respect also the State is still affording a certain subvention to the people who will be out of work in the categories to which I have referred.

I do not disguise from myself, of course, that there will be a certain amount of hardship. I do not suppose that in any condition of the world we can ever eliminate all hardship, but we have in the profession to which I belong a phrase that "hard cases make bad law," and I think we can apply that to a certain extent to other conditions of life. I do not think that in connection with the present question it would be improper to say that hard cases, if improperly treated, may result in very bad political principles. Everybody, on both sides of the House, has referred to a certain amount of demoralisation as being the result of a continuance of the unemployment donation. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Platting Division (Mr. Clynes) has dwelt upon this aspect of the case as strongly as anybody, and, while my own personal view is that the amount of the abuse of the donation has been very largely exaggerated, at the same time it is unquestioned that there has been a certain amount of deceit exercised in connection with the matter and a certain amount of voluntary idleness which has not at all conduced to the benefit of the country. There is another side which I think deserves to be mentioned. A certain number of people without doubt have become very fastidious as to the kind of employment that they are willing to undertake. That is the kind of spirit which does not deserve to be encouraged. I am afraid that few of us get a choice of taking the exact employment that we should desire. A good many of us are in positions which perhaps we would very gladly change for many others. Everybody now must come to understand that the serious matter of life has to be faced with a new attitude, and, although during the War many people were in a position of being able to select precisely what they wanted to do, the after-war conditions are of a totally different character, and it may be imposed upon all of us, in order to do our duty by the State, that we should be ready to accept employment which at an earlier period we might have been very unwilling to undertake.

From all that I can learn, my confirmed view is that there is a large amount of employment available. You learn on all hands, wherever you go in the country, that there are people who are looking out for labour of every class and description, and who cannot get it. I hope that one of the results of what we have now decided to do will be to fill up these places and to enable the people who want labour to have it supplied, and at the same time to induce many who at present are unwilling to undertake these particular jobs to realise that this is the only means at the present time of their being able to make the livelihood which they desire to have. That requires to be impressed upon a large volume of our people at the present time, and I have not the slightest doubt that what we now propose to do will have considerable effect in that direction. I should not like to leave the matter entirely there. Although, as I have pointed out, the figures of unemployment to-day are very much better than one could have hoped for, and are certainly not worse than we were accustomed to even in the best years of employment before the War, the Committee must realise that nobody can nowadays look at the question of unemployment as we did before the War. I entirely agree with the remark which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Widnes (Mr. A. Henderson) on Monday night, when he said that unemployment has now to be dealt with in a totally different way from that in which we had previously dealt with it, and that the great mass of the population of this country would look for more assistance in the future than they had received in the past.

I am perfectly certain that it is our duty to find some means by which the periods of unemployment which occur through nobody's fault may be alleviated to the greatest possible extent to the great mass of our working people. This country has previously done something in the way of national insurance. A Committee which was appointed by the National Conference, and which met in the month of February, was not able to render the Government very much help by way of suggestion in dealing with this matter, but they did recommend one thing, and that was that we should extend the scope of the present Insurance Act, and that we should make the amount which it contributed larger than it is at the present time. The Committee, per- haps, will recollect that the amount paid under the National Insurance Act at the present time is only 7s. per week. I am perfectly certain that we are all agreed that that amount is inadequate under present conditions. Further, I am sure that there will be no dispute with regard to the suggestion that the Insurance Act should be greatly extended. We should, indeed, aim at covering all the wage earners of the country by legislation in this matter. I regret very much that I am not in a position to present a Bill to Parliament at once dealing with this great matter. The Government have realised its importance ever since it took office, and there have been many inquiries made and much investigation devoted to the subject. A Committee in the Ministry of Labour has sat during the greater part of the year, but the House will readily recognise that the question is very complicated. It has very many aspects. One of the difficulties is its relation to health insurance. Another is that there are a number of trades which have much less unemployment than others, and. which accordingly would seek different treatment under any such legislation. A third difficulty is the provision of such an amount as would be recognised as adequate to meet the circumstances. All of these considerations have led to delay, but before long I hope to be able to lay before the House the considered proposals of the Government upon this matter. Of course, I need hardly say that I shall take advantage of all opportunities of consulting with the trade unions of the country with regard to the proposals that will be made in that measure.

I gather from the speech of my right hon. Friend opposite on Monday, when I heard the first mutterings of the storm which is to overtake us to-day, that he does not at all approve of any extra extension in the way of national insurance; at least, I gather that he does not think that is either of any purpose or would have any salutary effect. I find some difficulty in understanding his attitude. If employment were a certainty regarding which you could calculate, it might be possible to eliminate altogether the necessity of insurance, but there are innumerable vicissitudes in connection with industry against which nobody can provide, and to meet which, let the State be ever so wise, it could never provide. You might have a blight of the cotton crop in America or a drought in Australia which would upset two of the most important trades in this country. It is impossible for anybody to make provision to meet such difficulties as these. Accordingly, it is the considered view of the Government that some form of extended insurance ought to be introduced at the earliest possible moment and that it should be made as generous as the resources of the State at the present time will allow. My right hon. Friend has also suggested that the real remedy for unemployment is for the State to provide employment—that the State, indeed, should guarantee employment. There have been States before which have attempted to guarantee it, and no such attempt that I have ever heard of has met with anything but disaster. It has been suggested from time to time that some of the national factories which were introduced during the War should now be used by the State for the provision of employment for people out of work. I confess, quite frankly, that I do not look at that suggestion from any point of view of prejudice. The party to which I have belonged all my life has never adopted any laissez-faire attitude in connection with legislation for industry or for dealing with great social matters such as unemployment. It has always been a great surprise to me that my hon. Friends on the opposite bandies have been unequally yoked with the doctrinaires of the Manchester School, who would have repudiated any of the suggestions which they are now making. I have always suspected that some astute political layman has fobbed off on to my right hon. and hon. Friends opposite some short-sighted Leah instead of the Rachael which would have been their choice.

At any rate, the Government have no prejudice in this matter. If there had been any practical way of using the Government factories for the provision of employment without any detriment we should have had no hesitation about taking the matter up. It is to be remembered that employment is not something of unlimited amount which you can cut up and hand out to various people who want it. Sometimes the attitude which my hon. and right hon. Friends take upon this matter reminds me of the attempt which was once made to increase the length of a blanket by cutting a bit off the top and fastening it on to the foot. Employment, after all, is only the result of a demand, either real and actual or anticipated, for certain articles which some person is willing and ready to take the means of producing. If there is no demand, or if the supply already meets the demand, then you are not increasing employment by increasing the production of that particular thing. All that you do is to decrease employment somewhere else. Accordingly, I have looked, up till now, very critically at any propositions which my hon. and right hon. Friends put forward upon that matter, and I have certainly seen no practical suggestion which could commend itself to people who wished to increase the available amount of employment in this country.

As I have said, the Government have no prejudice in this matter, and they have exhibited their attitude by embarking upon a scheme which will afford the greatest amount of employment of any scheme ever adopted by any Government in the world. I mean the housing scheme. No doubt, at another period of this week, opportunity will be given for commenting upon the housing scheme, but I would ask my hon. and right hon. Friends to keep this in view: They will find, when the matter comes to be discussed, that, if there has been any delay in carrying out the housing scheme, it has been due to circumstances which beset all State or Government action; and, further, that such Government action always does tend, as it has done in connection with the housing scheme, to weaken the ordinary enterprise of the country. One of the things we are suffering from to-day in the housing scheme is the effect that State action has had upon the private building contractors. I am of the view that the Government have been well advised in leaving the conduct of the various trades and industries of the country up till now in the hands of those who are skilled in those trades. The duty of the State in that matter is to give every facility in its power, so that enterprise may be encouraged, and I am sure that upon that road you will find your best chance of increasing employment. Personally I have no fear whatsoever for the future. If we have reasonable peace in industry, and an absence of stoppages, which disturb and dislocate trade, I am perfectly certain that there is in front of this country a period of prosperity which will enable us to bear lightly even the colossal burdens which at present rest upon our shoulders.


I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.

There is upon the Order Paper a Motion standing in my name which was placed there in case my hon. Friends on this side of the House should think it necessary to express their views in the Lobby on the statement to which we have just listened. The right hon. Gentleman has announced what is virtually a method of escape from a policy which never ought to have been begun as it was. There is a great deal in what he says as to the extraordinary situation which the termination of the War produced. The exceptional number of people suddenly thrown out of work did surdenly create a set of circumstances which required an extraordinary provision. I think that that provision might have been better made had the Government at that time taken more into their confidence the labour and trade union representatives of this country, and the representatives of employers' associations as well, as to how best to deal with that situation. On the contrary, the Government acted with very little consultation of this House, and, so far as I know, with little or no consultation even with members of the Labour party, who were then associated with the Government, as to how best to deal with this matter, and there was announced a decision of this House, which of course the House, in the circumstances, was obliged to accept, and which was taken generally in the country as a timely purchase of the growing anger, and an effort to buy off the hunger of people who would have suffered severely had money not been found for them. We cannot afford to accept with silence the termination of the payments which the Government thought fit to make, nor can we discard altogether the obligations which the Government decided to accept in making the payments which they decided to make.

There are two things upon which I was expecting my right hon. Friend to say a word, and on which he has maintained an absolute, though I think, an indiscreet, silence. He has not referred to the fact, which is so obvious to us all, that we are just approaching the winter, indeed, that it has begun in its severest form; and that, secondly, the cost of living has enormously increased since the Government began to pay this unemployment benefit. In view of the silence of my right hon. Friend upon those two points, I am obliged to remind him of the desolate conditions which, during our mis-named Christmas festival, will prevail for a large number of people who will read the announcement which he has made to the House this afternoon. I agree with him whole-heartedly that in regard to those still receiving benefit who have served in the field, in the Army, at sea, or in other national services requiring exceptional personal sacrifices in relation to the War, they have a strong find, indeed, a prior claim. But how does he propose to meet that claim? He is going to express his thanks for the services of the soldier and the sailor and the man in the Air, Service by announcing to him that from to-day his pay is to be decreased. [Sir R. Horne indicated dissent.] That is a strange way of recognising the exceptional sacrifices and services of those who served their country in its time of direct need.

I would like to press a point which I gathered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and which brings out, I think, a very serious moral consideration. I understood him to state to the House that, in view of the fact that soon after demobilisation about 1,000,000 were thrown idle, and that in May of this year that number had reached 1,100,000, it would have been against the conscience of this House not to have paid them Government money in the manner in which it was paid. Are we to understand that it was because of what he termed the prospect of social disturbance, and the dread of its consequences to the State, that this money was paid? Was it-paid as the result of fear, or was it paid because it was right to pay it? I think we are entitled to an answer to some of these questions. Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that, because the number now has decreased, the need in the case of those who are out of work, and will remain out of work for a considerable time, will be any the less than the need per individual when the number was a million or even more? I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that more convincing reasons ought to be adduced than the fear of social disturbance and the evil consequences that were in the balance in relation to the State, for the payment of the money in this way. We heard also from my right hon. Friend a rather long statement as to the effects of strikes upon existing conditions of unemployment, and I rather thought that he wished to leave the House under the impression that those strikes were in a large measure the cause of the unemployment. As a fact, long before the railwaymen's strike, long before the strike of the moulders, and long before these other strikes that were put in the list, the number of men and women out of work was larger than is the number now. It really cannot be said, therefore, that the strikes in themselves have been a material cause of increased unemployment.


I trust the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting him, but, of course, if you take a period back in the beginning of this year, you can find that a very large number of people were out of work, much larger than now; but if you take the period immediately before the strike, when industry had to a certain extent readjusted itself and people had obtained employment, and if you compare that period, you will find, as I say, that as a direct result of the strikes the number of unemployed has gone up.


My right hon. Friend himself took periods for purposes of comparison, and I want, before I finish, to say a word on that head. I must not be taken, of course, as in any sense defending or justifying the strikes that have taken place, but I reject altogether the conclusions drawn by the right hon. Gentleman as to the effects of those strikes upon the unemployment list which he has given us. For instance, in the case of the railway-men's strike, I think that, by the manner in which they struck work, they did their own cause considerable harm, and I have said that to their face. But I also think it is now revealed to us, by the very concessions the men have received and the arrangements come to for the participation of the men in the control of the railway system—by all these things it is clearly shown that, if the Government had faced the negotiations at the time prior to the strike in the spirit which now prevails, the strike might have been avoided. I, therefore, do not accept the view, in spite of the harm that they did for the moment to their cause and themselves, that the consequences have been anything like material. My right hon. Friend has chided me for choosing certain periods for the purpose of my argument. He gave to the House for the purpose of urging certain figures, the whole period of fifteen years right up to 1914. Those fifteen years include two periods covering very severe, if momentary and passing, years of trade depression. In those fifteen years there were great unemployment demonstrations, the greatest which this country has ever known, and it is scarcely to the point, I think, to cite those years in order to show that, taken altogether, the country is little better off now from the point of view of unemployment than was the average in the period to which I have referred. If it were true that there are far fewer workpeople out of work at this moment, and if the prospect could be said to be far better—which in face of the coming winter I very much doubt—it would have to be said in face of the pressure of the greatly increased cost of living, about which my hon. Friend said not a word. For what does that mean?

It means that prior to the War the workman could at least manage, somehow, to scrape a few shillings together with the unemployment pay of his trade union, with collections arranged in the workshop organised by his mates, and with the support of his family or relatives and friends, he could manage to get along. Now, however, it will be admitted that the difficulties are at least three times as great as they were, because of the great increase there has been in food prices and in every other necessity oil existence. Figures, I believe, show that the cost of food has gone up by 130 per cent. How was it the right hon. Gentleman said not a word upon that central and striking fact in regard to the present life conditions of the working classes? I am sure the House will agree, whatever hon. Members might feel obliged in the circumstances to do, that a most inopportune moment has been chosen for the purpose of depriving altogether persons of the little they have received in view of the very severe pressure of existing circumstances. I fail altogether to follow my right hon. Friend when he says that there is a great deal of work available if people, would only take it.

I know there are instances of this within the personal experience of many of us, but these instances scarcely justify the general argument or conclusion we have heard. The Unemployment Exchanges are possessed of full material, facts, and figures in regard to these matters. If what is stated be true, if there is opportunity for work, and plenty of it available and suitable for the workers efficiently to perform, the proper thing to do would be, not to discontinue the payment entirely, a policy which will be a real penalty upon a great many innocent people, but to rearrange the administration of this pay, and only to stop it in the case of people who would not work whom the opportunity is found. Continue it in the case of people who cannot find suitable work. A change in administration is a very different matter from so sweeping a decision which has been reached on the broad point of policy that materially affects a large number of workmen.

Let me return to the position—from which I have strayed a little—of the soldier who was referred to—and very properly—in such terms of praise and sympathy by my right hon. Friend. There is a point which he has quite overlooked, but which is really material. That is, that after we had reached the stage of compulsory military service the position for the workman was that the Government could compel him either to remain in the workshop or to go into the trenches. We knew instances of men willing to leave the workshops and the wages, and turn to the trade of a soldier. We say that the men who were willing to join the ranks, and who were kept to make more necessary material for the purposes of the War, were kept in the fields of industrial service, are not to be prejudiced because other men were, chosen to be soldiers and not they. Tins decision, therefore, imposes very severe inequalities, and is not just in its application, even if it is meant to be a just decision on the part of the Government. I do not think that my right hon. Friend has at all disposed of the claim of those of us on this side of the House who asked that instead of pay being given out week after week in this manner—even for the longer period over which it has been spread—that the Government should have used their brains a little more to organise opportunities for work. It is no answer to say that the Government cannot do that. The Government did it during war-time with, perhaps, more success than any Government ever did. The way in which our peace services were organised for war needs is known to us all. There is here a real piece of work of reconstruction whit h the Government might well undertake.

Take, for instance, cases that come out of questions on the Order Paper to-day. In one case, many of the employés of Government offices have had notice. Bodies of workers, running into hundreds, I think, are suddenly to be thrown out of work. In such a case as tins I think a little more mercy, if not a little more wisdom, might have been shown, and I could have hoped that the stoppage might have been made more gradual so as to make the situation easier and make it possible for the normal labour market to reabsorb these people in their respective districts. The Government sem to have followed the plan of taking no action until they had to take sweeping action. Then they put out notices which suddenly cause conditions of distress to large classes of workers who have to cease work at very little notice indeed.

My right hon. Friend spoke about it being impossible to make provision for extraordinary and totally unexpected circumstances. We cannot agree. You cannot, say, anticipate a blight on the cotton grown in America, or upon any one of a series of really extraordinary circumstances that might, arise. But this case seems to me to be almost a blot upon the constructive statesmanship of those who have this matter of unemployment in hand. Here is a state of affairs which we knew something of two years before the War was brought to an end. The Government, and various Committees were examining it and were said to be working on such plans as would enable us to transform our industries from war conditions to peace conditions. How is it that no piece of constructive work stands to the account of the Government in that sense? Nothing whatever has been done to put to peaceful pursuits the large number of men and women who were fully engaged on war-work while the War proceeded. Are we to be told that women who can make the uniform of a soldier in the factory at Pimlico are not fit to make a suit now for civilians? The price of clothing is enormously high because of conditions which even the Government itself has been compelled to investigate. Profiteering is said to abound, and no effort is made to check it. The surest way to stop profiteering in the purchase of a suit of clothes would be to turn out of these factories, by workers willing to labour, standard suits which we have been told, I think, on very good authority can be made at less than £3, or certainly at a rate of £3 10s. per suit. Put these upon the market and they would soon have the effect of pulling down the high prices charged to working men by the ordinary trader.

We are not at all suggesting these plans as perfect pieces of constructive industrial work. They are not. I would not claim that they are anything more than makeshifts. But they at least ought to be welcomed as something better than the state of hunger into which the workers will be driven by the policy the right hon. Gentleman has now announced. So that if only as temporary measures to tide us over the conditions which war-time has produced something of this kind might be done. It is the worst of policies to let matters stand idle, to allow this machinery, these Government factories, these operatives, all willing and competent to labour, to stand idle because we fear how it might work in relation cither to some theory of economics or in relation to somebody's personal interest. I myself do not believe very much in the idea of seeking to fathom the motives of Ministers in charge of their policies. I reject some of the very abusive things which have been said as to the purpose of the Government in his present proposals. For instance, one of my colleagues, speaking of the announcement made to-day by the right hon. Gentleman, uses these words: The withdrawal of the unemployment donation is an attempt to compel the workers by the threat of starvation to remain as potential blacklegs in labour disputes, and by accepting underpaid employment to lower the standard of life for the rest of the workers. I do not believe that any such purpose exists. I cannot think so low of my right hon. Friend, or the Government, as to think that they would delight in producing a state of starvation, or that they wish to reduce the standard of life. But I can warn them that this is the growing opinion amongst the rank and file of the workers who are suffering, and who will suffer more bitterly still from the effect of the announcement to-day. I am not doubting the honesty that actuates the right hon. Gentleman in his policy, but I do challenge the wisdom of it. It is a, foolish and a wasteful policy, especially at the time when we are asked to do all we possibly can to increase output. We shall not make more abundant the production of commodities that, we require by leaving those with a capacity for work in the streets. The Government, indeed, is directly to blame. It is not merely the employers of labour, but the Government itself is directly to blame for having caused unemployment through its failure to organise transport facilities and improve our train service in many parts of the country.

Perhaps the House will allow me to trouble it with a few instances. I have received from many quarters a large number of reports of the ill-effects of these stoppages due to transport at the present moment, and in no sense directly or indirectly linked with the effect of the recent railway strike. I have here a letter from the Manchester, Salford and District Building Trades' Employers' Association. It will not be alleged that it is from a, prejudiced source. It came to me a few day ago: I am directed to draw your particular attention to the difficulties experienced by building contractors in this district owing to the lack of facilities afforded by the Ministry of Transport for the transportation of cement supplies. At a general meeting of interested members held at this office on Wednesday last it was reported that orders placed a month ago have not been executed; notwithstanding the fact that manufacturers hold very large quantities of cement they are unable to deliver these owing to the lack of rolling stock. If the situation is not quickly met there is no possible doubt that building operations in this district will be seriously menaced, and many contracts brought to a standstill for want of cement supplies, and by this means the employment of a large number of operatives will be adversely affected. 5.0 P.M.

Here, then, is a warning from an employer's source that our transport service, has failed, and is soon to be a further cause of increase in the number of people thrown out of employment. Take another, a little more remote, but striking instance of the difficulties which had evidently not caught the eye of the Transport Minister. This communication was sent to me by a, clergyman who presided over a village meeting in Nenthead, Cumberland, in connection with unemployment caused by the closing down of the lead and zinc works: That this public meeting of the residents of Nenthead begs earnestly to obtain from the Minister of Transport an early reply to the inquiry held at Alston last spring by a Government Commission on Nenthead's urgent need of road or rail transport for both passengers and goods, the more especially as the needs of Nenthead have become more acute by reason of the recent discharges of many employés by the Vielle Montaigne Zinc Company. The Workmen's Union Secretary publicly stated that some seventy men had been so discharged, fifty of whom now worked at Haltwhistle, but in our severe winter they will be unable to cycle the 4½ hilly miles of road to and from Alston Station. Twenty others are totally unemployed. When unemployment doles cease they must resort to the parish for relief. Let me ask the attention of hon. Members to the picture presented in this village by this situation: Transport facilities for these men to work elsewhere or transport facilities for the opening out of new local industries are increasingly necessary. The men's housing is here, work far distant, and no facilities of transport connect up their houses with work elsewhere. If transport were available it is felt that quarrying on a large scale could extensively be carried out and that more than 200,000 tons of the best possible concrete could speedily be carried away. Those are two instances of unemployment being directly due to the failure to make the transport services more equal to the momentary demands of our trade and business. Let me give an instance of direct dismissal by the Government at a time when they are pressing to discontinue unemployment benefit. This is the case from Chepstow: The policy of retrenchment on the part of the Government is not proceeding with the completion of the shipyard at Beachley, known as No. 2 shipyard, and this has been the means of discharging a number of men of all grades. In addition to this it is proposed not to proceed with the housing scheme as originally intended. This has meant the discharge of a further number of men, and if this policy of retrenchment is continued the result will be that the number of men out of work in the Chepstow, Monmouth and Newport districts will be very large, and in view of the lack of employment all over the country, can only result in want and suffering to wives and children. I have similar returns from Milton, Abingdon and Bramley depot, all reciting cases of very considerable dismissals that will soon take place unless the policy of the Government is reversed. It is all very well to demand as we on this side of the House do, that unnecessary war services shall be wound up, and that work upon war employment should be discontinued, but are we to say that whilst this transference is taking place men whose only capital is their labour are to have that labour left to rust, and are to have no means of livelihood during the bitter winter which is before us. I refuse to believe that it is beyond the competence of the Government to transform these services from a war basis to a peace basis except at the price of this frightful suffering which so many British families will have to endure during the coming winter.

I do not accept the promise of the right hon. Gentleman under the head of insurance as disposing of these very real fears of these people. Insurance for such things as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out are measures which all Members in the House can welcome, but they cannot fortify the most perfect system of industry against consequences which will throw out of work at some time or other those employed in particular trades and businesses. We are still in a state of war actually in what might be termed the war region in so far as the effects of war are concerned on conditions of employment and on the cost of living. If the right hon. Gentleman or the Government had reduced the cost of living to a pre-war level then he could say in that respect the War was over; or if he had restored to us a business and commercial condition corresponding to what we had before the War, he might say in that regard that the War was over. But the War in the sense I have indicated is still continuing, and is even worse now long after the War is at an end than it was in the very middle of the War in regard to the cost of the necessities of life. Surely this is the most unfortunate moment that could be chosen for pressing this policy upon the House of Commons.

Let me ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember that whilst this state of uncertainty is left in the worker's mind, the worker is being told every work that others in more favoured sections and more fortunate classes of the community are not left in a state of corresponding uncertainty. We find that Government guarantees are given to the farmers, prices are guaranteed to the boot seller, and a rate is fixed for the man who owns a mine and the man who owns shares in the railways. All these things are to be guaranteed by the authority of the Government and by process of law, and are we at the same moment to say that we are to take away the bare means of livelihood of this enormous mass of people who will be in a state of famine at a time of rejoicing such as Christmas is supposed to be? Let me suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of reconsidering the announcement which he has made, and of calling into consultation, should he think fit to do so, those who are as anxious as he is to discover the loafer, and to set aside persons who have no genuine claims upon the Government or upon its financial resources. Trade unions have their laws and rules, which are extremely stringent, in regard to locating the person who is not a deserving person, so that we are not carrying ourselves along upon any trail of sentiment in dealing with these questions.

We believe that considerable harm has been done by the demoralising effects of the manner in which this money has been paid; but this money ought not now to be cut off at a time when workers are still being thrown out of Government forms of employment, and when all the rigours of winter are ahead of the wage-earning classes of this country. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should seriously consider the continuance of this benefit at least until it may be said three things occur. Firstly, until the spring comes round. That is not a sentimental suggestion, because housing conditions during the winter period make the hardships of life even more bitter for a large number of workers than they could be said to be before the War. What do I mean by that? Coal is much dearer and there is a severe shortage, and in many centres there is a difficulty in getting it. Families are herded more together in less space, and therefore there is not the same means of casing the burden of the wage-earner s existence during the winter which is ahead of us. At least until the weather is more kind, I think it would be advisable that this pay should not be discontinued.

The right hon. Gentleman said there was the greatest scheme ahead of us that had ever been submitted by a Government for finding employment, namely, the housing scheme. I agree, and, therefore, my second suggestion will be that this unemployment benefit ought not to be discontinued until it can be said that that scheme is properly in swing and going as a means for keeping employed those who are anxious to obtain employment even as house builders and repairers. It is no use practically stopping a man's means of livelihood, and asking him to live on hope or promise, because at some remote time he will have a chance of being employed in connection with the development of the housing scheme. Thirdly, I suggest it is inadvisable to terminate or to lessen this unemployment benefit until our transport service has been rearranged, reorganised, or perfected so as to be of real assistance to the development of our trades and businesses, because in. some cases this is a very serious obstacle and check.

I trust my right hon. Friend will not think, in offering these observations, that we of the Labour party desire to impute, in any sense, to him a wish to challenge the forces of organised Labour by taking this drastic step. It has been clear to us all for a considerable time that the payment of this money, some time or other, would have to cease, and that it could not become a permanent part of the policy of the Government. But whilst we have seen that we have also seen that opportunities for work in the ordinary commercial world have not risen to a level where these hundreds and thousands of workers could be absorbed. There are still unemployed nearly 500,000 workers in addition to the larger number who do not come within the Government gift in respect of these sums of money.

Let us not make the mistake of assuming that all the people out of work, or who are really in distress or want, can go to the Unemployment Exchange and get their names placed upon the books and get relief, because they cannot do it. Whilst we see the certainty of this pay having to be discontinued at some time or other, we think this is the most inopportune moment to be chosen for it. As a statement of general principle or doctrine I regard it as the duty of the Government to find fitting work for willing workers when private employers fail to do so. If the Government accepts no share in that duty, I ask why did the Government accept it as its duty to pay other people's money to those who remain out of work? If the Government has no duty in this matter it never should have undertaken the obligations of paying out these millions of pounds to persons who cannot get employment. If it is absolutely the business of the workman to get work if he can and to take the consequences if he cannot, the Government should never have come to his rescue with the payment of the millions of money which the men have received week by week. I would rather accept the obligation and responsibility of the Government by organising work for those who want it and are fit to perform it than I would pay public money to men constantly doing nothing—a thing which is calculated to be hurtful to themselves and to the public service. If we are not to have schemes brought forward with certainty of work for men and women who are able to perform it, we can with some confidence have sympathy with the appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to stop the, payments during the severe periods of winter, or until the other schemes have been developed to which I have referred.


I thought those who were in the House when my right hon. Friend made his statement on the present situation must have felt that, on the whole, it was an extremely satisfactory one. He gave us the figures of unemployment some months ago and at the present time, and everybody must rejoice at the rapid manner in which, after five years of war, the whole trade of this country, and indeed the trade of the world, after having been entirely disturbed, is being restored, and the rate at which absorption has been going on amongst our own people. We may congratulate my right hon. Friend that, on the whole, he has been able successfully to grapple with the very serious and difficult situation in which he found himself when he took office. I am one of those who agree that this system of unemployment benefit is a bad system for the State. It is demoralising. But that is a mere platitude. It has nothing to do with the circumstances in which this country found itself at the conclusion of the War. It has nothing to do with the state of affairs when you had an utter upheaval of employment and when you had to disband and find some means of subsistence for millions of men who had gone out to fight your battles in France and Flanders and elsewhere. I often get impatient when friends of my own ask, Could anything have been worse than what they are pleased to call the dole? They ask, Could anything have been, worse than establishing such a system as that at the end of the War? I wish the people who say that would try to have a little imagination. I wish they would picture to themselves what would have been the condition of this country if hundreds and thousands, I might even say millions of our men, coming back from the War—men who were to have a new world—had found themselves in this great country, as the reward of their patriotism, in a state of starvation or semi-starvation for themselves and their family! May I say to those who take a narrow view of this subject, who are inclined to take what I may call a selfish view, that I would advise them to put down what they have had to pay for this as the best insurance they ever effected. Really it was nothing else.

Of course as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) has said, this unemployment benefit must some time come to an end. That, I think, is generally agreed. Nobody asks for it as a continuous part of the financial organisation of this country. But other methods of dealing with unemployment have to be found. I do not think anybody puts forward that as the best method for a permanent solution of the question. I am inclined to agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that really this problem at the present moment is a much smaller one than we might be led to believe by what we see in some of the public Press. I am also inclined to agree with the right hon. Gentleman that he makes a very modest demand under all the circumstances when he says that the Government might well reconsider whether this question could not be postponed until next spring. What is the extent of the question? I listened to my right hon. Friend, and as far as I can gather—he will correct me if I am wrong—he said that at the present time about 475,000 people are receiving this unemployment benefit. I also understood him to say that out of that total 344,000, or thereabouts, are men who have been demobilised or are being demobilised. It is not proposed, as I understand, to take the unemployment benefit away from them, and therefore you will see that it comes down to a question of some 130,000 people. Let us get the proper perspective of this matter. In addition to that, I understand that out of these 130,000 recipients, 40,000 who are receiving the unemployment benefit are men who through no fault of their own are out of work in consequence of the moulders' strike, which I am sure everybody in this House, and, indeed, the bulk of the people who understand the question outside, are hoping may be successfully dealt with in the negotiations which have been entered into. That being so, it seems to me that the problem comes down to a question of 90,000 people. My right hon. and learned. Friend said there was a legal maxim that "hard cases make bad laws." That is quite true, but it is a legal maxim which has a great many exceptions. May I say to my right hon. Friend that not to deal with hard cases makes bad blood, and if you have these men, through no fault of their own, under the very exceptional circumstances of the country, left, as my right hon. Friend said, through the winter months in a state of starvation or semi-starvation with their families—with all the problems of reconstruction which we are determined to solve here—is it worth while leaving these hard cases amongst the general body of workers in this country?

There is something more than that which was also put by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He said that a good deal of the unemployment was caused by want of houses. That is perfectly true. I know that in the City of Belfast, one of the divisions of which I represent, if they had the houses they could employ thousands more men, whether skilled or ordinary labouring men. The right hon. Gentleman also said, and I believe it to be perfectly true, that a great deal of unemployment may occur, and he gave instances, through the Government winding up the War organisations. In passing, let me say I think it is a great pity when the outcry against the waste of the Government is made in the country that matters of that kind are not more prominently put forward, so that the country may form a real and true conception of what the waste is. These are absolutely true propositions. You cannot get houses, and therefore you cannot get work. It is not your fault that you cannot get houses, and therefore it is not your fault you cannot get work. In the same way, this winding up of war organisations is a matter that must be dealt with in the most tender-hearted fashion, for this reason, that for the sake of the country and for the sake of carrying on the War these people made these great contributions. When those works and this employment were started everybody said, "What a splendid contribution these people are making to the War!" They also declared that it was the great spirit of these people and the way in which they worked that was winning the War. You cannot get the people all of a sudden to switch off that belief, and to agree there was not some truth in the statement. You cannot make them believe that they did not contribute to the winning of the War. You cannot suddenly say to them, "Oh, well, it is over now, and you must go and do for yourselves as best you can." I believe the case for the extension of this out-of-work benefit, at any rate for a short time, is unanswerable. What is more to be recollected is this, that when more normal and settled conditions come you do not want men to commence their work half-starved and emaciated, with a lot of debt through borrowing and harassing them at the very time they most need strength. There is no economy in that. That is real waste, because it is not merely waste of money; it is waste of the individual; it is a waste of the raw material for that increased production which we all know and believe is to be the real saving of this country, and to which my right hon. Friend gave so much encouragement in the hopeful picture he drew in his peroration of the vast area of better trade which he hoped lies before this country. Therefore, so far as my opinion is worth anything, I most earnestly appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this matter on the reasonable basis put forward by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes). Of course, what he said was perfectly true, that the number of persons affected is very small, because there are thousands even far worse off who never had the unemployment benefit; at all. While we exert every power, as I think we do and as we ought to consider the case of those effective working classes who are out of employment or who are unfortunate, there is a vast stratum of society far worse off and in far worse condition to whom we never turn our attention at all. The time is coming when we shall have to do that, but meanwhile let us take care that we do not at this moment of reconstruction do something which would not only be in my opinion, unfair to these people under all the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but might leave them less effective in entering the army of production to which we are all looking forward.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. HOARE

I am very very much impressed by what has just been said. I put down a notice of reduction with very much that object in mind. In my view we are faced with a very difficult situation. I have always thought that the unemployment donation was a necessary measure for the interim period of the end of the War. At the same time. I have realised that a temporary measure of that kind, brought into operation at very short notice, was not suited to be a permanent system. I have therefore always hoped that at the end of the period when the unemployment donation came to an end the Government would have ready a permanent system of general insurance against unemployment. I very much regret that to-day we are faced with the dilemma of dropping the present system altogether or continuing it, rather than with the choice between what is obviously a temporary or inadequate system and a permanent system in which all the trades of the country should be immediately or gradually introduced. If I have a criticism to make against my right hon. Friend it is that he has not ready a scheme of permanent insurance, by which means he would be in a position to give us an opportunity of choosing not between continuing or doing away entirely with the temporary scheme, but of choosing between the continuance of a scheme that is admittedly inadequate and a permanent scheme which we might hope will include the great majority of the trades in the country. As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman that view was very much strengthened. He said a permanent scheme was on the stocks and a Committee was considering it, but is it really necessary that a new Committee should be considering it at all? For more than two years the question of a permanent scheme has been under consideration, and two or three very definite proposals have been put before the Government since February, 1918. In view of that fact I very much regret that he has found it necessary to appoint a new Committee and to delay the introduction of a general permanent scheme for contributory insurance against unemployment, which in my view is one of the measures most urgently needed as far as the unemployment problem is concerned.

Apart from that, I can congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the record that he has been able to describe. He can point to the great improvement in the unemployment statistics. Particularly conspicuous is that improvement in the case of unemployed women. Two days ago I asked a question upon this subject, and the right hon. Gentleman informed me that whilst on 2nd May no fewer than 422,000 women were drawing unemployment benefit, on 7th November that number had been reduced to 30,000. That seems to me to be a matter on which the right hon. Gentleman can very well congratulate himself. He can also congratulate himself upon the Report of the Special Committee which inquired into the machinery and the operation of the donation. A great many unfounded charges were made against the operation of the unemployment scheme, some of them with foundation and others without, and particularly am I glad to see that the charges made against the Employment Exchanges have been declared by the Committee to be, generally speaking, without foundation. The Employment Exchanges have had a very difficult part to take. They have been understaffed and in my view underpaid, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us some information as to the improvements which have been carried out in the organisation and pay of the Employment Exchanges since the Committee reported. For instance, have any improvements been made in the pay of the staffs, and is a system of grading being introduced into the machinery? I have always thought that the whole pivot of unemployment insurance must be the Employment Ex-charges. The more efficient we make the Employment Exchanges the less chance will there be of scandals in the operation of the system, the cheaper it will be for the taxpayer, and the more efficient it will be in finding employment for the unemployed.

I come back to what I said at the beginning as to the great difficulty in which we are placed to-day by having to take a decision upon the abolition of the unemployment benefit without having the alternative of a permanent scheme of general unemployment insurance before us. I am quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman was quite right when he pointed to the hard cases and grievances which are bound to follow from the sudden abolition of these payments. Let me give a specific case. Under the proposals before us the unemployment donation will be immediately withdrawn from all women who are not, to use the Government's expression, women in Mobile Corps. I have here the case of the women in the Army Pay Department of the War Office. At present there are 13,000 of these women and they are not, I understand, members of the Mobile Corps and they are therefore not entitled to continue to draw unemployment benefit. These women are daily expecting notice of dismissal owing to the fact that in the permanent organisation of the War Office their work will be carried out, as it was before the War, by soldiers. I do not suppose any men or women during the War have had harder work to perform. They are the women who have dealt particularly with separation allowances. They worked regularly during the whole period of the War on Saturdays and Sundays and in many cases very excessive hours of overtime. Now they are faced with dismissal in the ordinary course of things with the certainty that if this Resolution passes they will be entitled to no unemployment benefit at all. Their case is more serious from the fact that during these five years they have been mainly filling up Army forms and have been engaged on work that does not qualify them immedately for ordinary civilian work. I urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that it is a very great hardship if women like these are debarred by the Resolution from any unemployment donation. They have been kept on as long as they have been kept on through the fact that their work was indispensable. I believe I am right in saying that those who were dispensable were dismissed first, and the others who were the very best have been kept on for the country's convenience. Here is a specific case of a class of State employé who, if their unemployment donation is suddenly abolished, would be turned adrift, and in winter, a very difficult time for obtaining employment, especially seeing that the nature of the work they have been doing gives very little qualification for finding new employment. Cases like that make me regret all the more that the Government has not come to the House this afternoon with a general scheme into which men and women of the kind I have mentioned could have been brought. If that had been the case, there would not have been any reason for keeping on any further the temporary system of donation. This House has some reason to complain that a permanent scheme has not been before us for consideration this afternoon. There has never been any doubt as to the day when the unemployment donation would, in the ordinary course of things, come to an end. This question has not been sprung on the Government unawares. They have known from November last that in November of this year the temporary arrangement would come to an end, so that they have had their scheme for a permanent system of insurance in hand for twelve months, and yet they come to the House this afternoon and say that we must either go on with the scheme, which we all admit is a temporary one, open to every kind of criticism, or do away with it altogether—subject to the one reservation in regard to the ex-Service men—and turn adrift, at the most critical moment in the winter, hundreds of men and women who have been doing work for the country, just as valuable as the work done by the civilians who left their employment in the last twelve months and have been receiving 20s. or 30s. a week. In view of that, the House is placed in a very difficult and almost impossible situation. Let me impress upon the Government that when they come to reply they should give us some more definite information as to when their permanent system is to be introduced. The Minister of Labour said this afternoon that it would be introduced shortly. Will it be introduced before Christmas? My view is that it should be introduced at once. The longer it is delayed, the more grievances of the kind I have mentioned will exist. I hope he will be able to give us information as to when the permanent scheme will be introduced, and also upon the specific cases I have brought to his attention, namely, the Army Pay Department of the War Office—no doubt other Members could add considerably to a number of these cases— and also as to an improvement in the conditions of the staff and the premises of the Labour Exchanges.


This is the first time I have attempted to address the House, and I ask for its indulgence. Earlier in the year a great conference of trade unions and employers was called by the Prime Minister. As a result of that conference, a Joint Committee was formed of thirty members representing the trade unions of the country and thirty members representing the employers. As the only Member of this House serving on that Committee, I think it my duty to reveal what our findings were relative to this difficult problem of unemployment. There is unanimous opinion among employers that this problem must be solved. We believe it to be a menace to industry and a danger to the community. Short time has always been a nightmare to the worker, and probably it has been the principle cause of prompting and encouraging restriction of output, especially when trade prospects are pointing to an impending shortage of work. I think there 45 general agreement that reasonable provision for the workers would remove the main hindrances to a successful adoption of payment by results. My own experience—and I have been engaged in industry in this country since I was a boy—goes to prove that the fear of unemployment has been the main cause of obstruction to new methods in equipment, increased productivity, and the consequent displacement of labour. The leaders of the men's unions testify that this problem has been the origin of a great deal of industrial unrest. A solution of this problem, and the removal of this menace would be the foundation stone of a real reconstruction. It is only part of a much larger subject.

The Committee appointed by the Industrial Conference to deal with this matter consisted of an equal number of trade union representatives and employers. I will give the findings of that Committee, or perhaps I had better not say the findings of the Committee, but of the two sections of the Committee, because there was in the end disagreement, and the matter was referred to the National Industrial Council for consideration and, if possible, a sound settlement. The men's representatives sumitted the following conclusions: We are of opinion that a general increase in wages by improving the purchasing power of the workers would have a general and permanent effect in the direction of limiting continuous unemployment, by bringing consumption up to something more like equilibrium with production, and thereby tending to increase employment. In short, it means this. Give us our wages and improve our purchasing power, which would mean a larger demand for commodities and increased employment. That was submitted by the Labour friends on that Committee. The employers' section submitted the following counter principles, as, in their opinion, the only sound way of dealing with the problem of unemployment: Increased wealth is essential to a higher standard of life, but this can only be obtained by increased production. Increased output and higher wages are necessary to the prosperity of employers and employed, but unless efficient work goes with higher wages the result will be disastrous to the nation. Increased output must be established and maintained if higher wages are to be uniformly paid. By increasing the output, the cost of production per unit would be decreased, and the employers would be placed in a position to successfully compete in the world's markets, resulting in an increased demand for the products of the industry, and, therefore, a greater number of people could be employed. These findings were sent on to the National Industrial Council which, I am sorry to say, has not yet been constituted. I do not propose to review the past conduct of the Govednment. What they have done and what they might have done does not come within the scope of what I have to say; but I want to emphasise still further the position taken up by the employers on that Committee. We put down as the first principle for consideration, full production. The reply we get from our Labour friends is, full recognition. Full production and full recognition must go hand in hand. So far as recognition would be helpful to all parties concerned, and so far as it is practicable, I believe the employers of this country are prepared to earnestly consider and seriously take it into account. Full endeavour and full reward; a disposition on the part of the worker to make an endeavour and a dis- position on the part of the masters to pay for it. If these things can be reached, and we believe it is possible and probable, we should have the largest volume of production in, the shortest time, and that would enable us to reduce hours to the shortest possible limit, so that we could give the maximum of leisure without interfering with British industry. Full endeavour and full reward would mean the lowest cost, and lowest cost would attract the largest business. The best attraction that the industries of this country can possibly have is a low cost. We believe in full production and full reward, full employment, abundance of commodities, a larger consumption, and an increase in the value of wages, which would be to the satisfaction of all concerned.

6.0 P.M.

It is generally agreed that in order to prevent the destruction of both interests a reconstruction of economic relationships between capital and labour is imperative. The first economic basic principle which I would submit to the Committee would be that a conservation of the requisites of production, that is, capital and labour, is neceesary. Each is necessary to the other, and the conservation of both is vital to the nation. I hold the view that industrial peace, through co-operation between capital and labour, will only be achieved when the basic economic principles which have proved sound in their application to the conservation of capital are adopted as regards labour. What are they? To secure the conservation of capital the following principles must be observed. The cost of repairing and renewing the plant, and insurance against damage and depreciation of plant and buildings are vital to the conservation of capital. The repairing of machinery and the renewal of parts are necessary to maintain the plant in good and efficient condition. There is a real charge against the cost of production which must be prospective and must be met. The upkeep of the worker's health is as vital to the efficiency of industry as the upkeep of machinery, and I am satisfied that the human side has not received that consideration relative to its conservation which has been applied to the capital invested. These two things must balance. We should have the same respect for the human factor that we have for the machine factor relative to upkeep and maintenance in a state of efficiency.

The next principle in reference to the real cost of production which must be kept in mind is that sound economy compels the provision each year out of profits of an amount equal to the depreciation that has taken place during the accounting period, and the amount should be such that when the day comes to put the machine on the scrapheap a sum equal to its value is in the bank to replace it. Is it reasonable that the human factor necessary to the efficiency of the plant should be thrown on the scrapheap when the day comes for depreciated health, without proper provision being made for its maintenance in this respect? Again, I do not believe that the human factor has received the consideration which it should have got. I next come to the question of a reserve fund. We all in good times put aside dividends for bad times. Then when the time comes for poor dividends, poor results, the shareholders get some; part of some dividend for carrying on during that period. As provision is made for the dividends, it should reasonably be made for workers during periods of privation. I support heartily the idea that ample provision should be made for the worker during a period of depression as would make provision to pay dividends during such periods.

On the question of administration, as far as my industry is concerned, we can settle these questions to-morrow. Our unions have a substantial fund. They nave their sick fund and unemployment fund, and they have done what they could to meet the necessities of the work in this respect We are prepared to have due provision made by the worker, plus, as we think, a contribution from the State. I am glad to know that the principle of the new scheme will be threefold contribution from the employer, the employé, and the State As regards the present position, it is a very serious thing to throw over the existing provision until we have the new scheme before us. I hope that the Government will see its way to defer this and assist in carrying us over the period which must elapse until we have an opportunity of organising a scheme which would include the three factors I have mentioned— the State, the employer, and the employé.

Colonel ASHLEY

I desire to thank the Government for the provision which they have made in their programme outlined this afternoon for ex-Service men and women. No one in this House grudges to these men and women who have suffered so much for the State a short extension of their unemployment benefit, and a preference over the civilians who stayed at home in much easier circumstances, usually getting far larger remuneration than the soldier with his 1s. or 1s. 6d. a day who was fighting in the trenches. I would like to add my humble voice to the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) that the Government should reconsider the attitude which they have taken up with regard to the civilian population. I am absolutely opposed to the principle of the out-of-work donation. I think it wasteful and demoralising. Equally, I consider that the Government, in adopting it during the last twelve months, took the only possible course in the interests of the men and of the country.

We have been told that three out of every four of the unemployed at present who are drawing unemployment benefit are ex-Service men or women. That leaves, roughly, 100,000 people who are going to have the unemployment donation cut off. It is very hard that many of these people should be put into the situation, as the right hon. Gentleman said, of having their Christmas made miserable and dismal simply because this country cannot afford to continue the unemployment donation for a few months more to these people. I would press on the Government whether they cannot put these 100,000 people on the same footing as the new class of ex-Service men whom they have mentioned to-day. That is to say, give them 20s. a week in the case of men and 15s. a week in the case of women up till the 31st March next. At the end of that time unemployment donation comes absolutely to an end, but by that time the Government may have put forward a scheme, of unemployment insurance and pushed it through this House. This would be welcomed by workers and employers, and though the finances of the country at present are greatly strained it would put a very small burden on the national expenditure.


In regard to this particular question, I feel that the Government have rather cornered the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said in the course of the discussion upon expenses that if anything more was to be done with the unemployment dole, then it would be by the vote of the House and not of the Government. Then the Government come to us at this, the thirteenth hour, and say, "We are going to have an insurance scheme ready some time; we are sorry we have not got it now, and meantime the dole is to stop unless you Gentlemen take the responsibility of continuing it." That is not a very nice position to put Members of this House in. The Government are very much open to reproach. They have had twelve months, which is an adequate time for deciding what was to be done. Even before the Armistice they should have had some preparations made. The Leader of the House admitted that when this unemployment dole was first considered it was only to be given to the ex-soldier—then the Prime Minister was in Paris—and he indicated that the whole thing was done in a hurry without much consideration, and I think that on the whole it has been badly done. The Minister of Labour made a defence for it at the time, and suggested that there might be abuses, but he relied on employers of labour to detect and report cases. That is a position which no employer who has got to live with his people afterwards will take up.

I think that it is very creditable that there have not been so many cases as might have been supposed, but no doubt there have been some, and as the existence of a war profiteer poisons the minds of the people in a district, so a man drawing mi employment benefit poisons the minds of workers in a district. The vast mass of people in this country are working. They do not believe in other people getting money without working. They have a very strong feeling against it. Before the Armistice, or certainly long before now, a proper scheme of insurance should have been put forward. As the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) says, the trade unions should have been the people to administer this unemployment benefit, and a far better job they would have made of it, because the trade unions have not got to justify their existence, and the Labour Bureaux have. Trade union secretaries and officials are respected by their workers, but they very much dislike the Labour Bureaux, and there have been many complaints of Labour Bureau officials from workpeople who have gone to these places and who resented the insolence of those who are there on comfortable salaries. They detest these places, and the employers of Labour do not like them either. There was the impression when they were first set up that they were a sort of political scheme, and they have never got the better of that disreputable record, and I believe should be definitely abolished. The Member for Platting, who bats for the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), talks of the cold winter coming on. There is no doubt that by the 31st of March next much more will be done, and then we shall have the Member for Platting saying that the buds are beginning to burst forth and the birds are beginning to sing, but this time of the year is inappropriate for making these changes.

I join issue with the Member for Platting when he spoke about the soldier and the civilian equally working. There is no parallel between the soldier and the civilian. All of us know what the soldier has done; all of us know that he was rooted from the path of steady industry. After all, to become industrious is an acquired habit. It takes years to acquire that habit, and it is very easy to lose it. The life of a soldier is not one which makes for industry. There are long, long spells of doing nothing, coupled with spells of wild excitement and danger. It is not a suitable training for a man, and a man who has learned to be industrious takes a long time, after he has been in the Army, to get over the Monday-morningish feeling. The soldier requires a long spell to get over the feeling. His remuneration in the Army was 1s. a day, and later 1s. 6d. a day. You could buy very little with those sums, even at the front, and the soldier had no opportunity of making any provision for an idle time. But the position of the people at home is entirely different. They received larger wages than they had ever received in their lives before. They can keep up those wages if they will keep up production. They had very little to spend their wages on, because they could not buy very much food or very much liquor; therefore it should have been well within their power, if they were ordinarily thrifty, to make some provision for a rainy day. I believe there are many, in my own country at all events, who made a substantial provision and have never condescended to accept the unemployment dole. At the same time, the position is an exceedingly difficult one.

There is one error which has been made by the Minister of Labour. He is making an error in continuing it for any others than the men who have been on service. The women who went on service were not conscribed. They enlisted as a sound pecuniary transaction; they were very well treated, and they got a great deal of money. Most of them were quite capable of setting by a great deal for a rainy day. In this country, from the very day the Armistice was declared, there was work for all the women in the country—that is, for all who cared to work. Of course, it was not the work they wanted; there is a vast lot of work that women do not want, but it is their duty and it is right that they should do it. There are hundreds of thousands of positions as domestic servants open to women to-day, and they will not accept them. They should accept them. It is the most honourable of all occupations for women, and it is a scandal in the education of our community that either women should despise that occupation or that some of their employers should treat it as if it were other than the highest occupation. The word "lady" was derived from an Anglo-Saxon root which means "the woman who prepares and hands round the food." [An HON. MEMBER: "Why do not they do it for themselves, then?"] It is the best possible training for a young woman. It is better than having constant evenings for gadding about, [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the mistress doing it?"] It is on behalf of the poor overwrought mistress that I am pleading. I am not talking of the woman who advertises that she has a large house and that there are ten servants kept; I have no interest in them. I would like to ration servants. I am talking about the poor mothers of families, with five, six, or seven children, who cannot get a single servant. What those who go into domestic service seem to want is service in a house with a lady and gentleman, or preferably with a gentleman alone. It is a very serious subject, and not a subject for laughter. There are in this country thousands of mothers with large families and very small means. I wish that every working woman with a large family of children could get some assistance. They have no eight-hours day or six-hours day; it is one long life of toil to them, and it is the same with the woman with small means who is able to keep a solitary servant. I should like every working woman to go to a Labour Bureau and commandeer a servant. If you have a system of training that makes young women ashamed of this very noble occupation—it is just as noble to attend to a house as to be a nurse or to follow any other avocation—and makes them unwilling to follow the occupation, then I say your education is not education at all, but is corrupting your population. It is, of course, hard to ask women over fifty to go away and take up service of that kind, but certainly for all these young women—I do not care whether they have been in service or not—there should not be one jot or tittle of sympathy.

This unemployment benefit, especially in regard to the women, has caused the deepest indignation. The soldier says, "I went out and risked my life, and I get only the same as the man who stayed at home and received £5 a week." There is still more indignation at the women getting it. He saw his wife struggling with a large family, and he said if there was any money to be given away, if the Government had any surplus funds to give away, it should have been the soldier's widow who got it, and not the female who had returned from the Army, or the munition worker who had plenty of opportunity to provide for herself. That is where discontent has been caused amongst the soldiers. The female allowance should never have been granted at all, because from the day of the Armistice there was plenty of work for females in this country. It is entirely different in the cases of fathers of families. The necessity of this thing is that the cost of living has been so increased, partly because of the railway position and the mining position, that even the diminished dole that you are giving to the soldier is a very great hardship. I would not give the Minister of Labour more than a month to bring in an unemployment scheme. The women of England who have families to raise are suffering, and have been suffering for years, from physical breakdown, because the young women will not come to their assistance. Anything that will foster that spirit is most injurious to the national welfare.


I do not know whether the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Macquisten) will have the effect of flooding the registry offices with applications for domestic service, but at any rate he has done his best by dangling the bait of the derivation of the word "lady," coupled with the suggestion for compulsory domestic service for females. Whatever the result of his advocacy, I certainly agree with one thing he said, and that was the Committee has not been fairly treated by the Government. A legal maxim has been bandied about this afternoon—"Hard cases make.

bad law." There is another which is well known—"He who comes into a Court of Equity must come with clean hands." I am suggesting that when the Government came down here with their proposal to make a clean cut of the unemployment benefit, they ought to have come also prepared to lay before us a well-thought-out substitution for that deprivation, justified as it may be or may not be, of this sum which the unemployed, since the days of the election, have been accustomed to. I can imagine the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he comes to impose his fresh legislation, will say, "Well, I warned you of this, and the House of Commons is doing what I though it would do, and that was that when the Government proposed an economy almost with one accord from all parts of the House there was a refusal to accede to the request, and the country was launched into further continued and unnecessary extravagance." It might, be easy to say that and to make some sort of case on it. What the House of Commons wants, and the country wants, is that this dole should be sensibly, generously, and thoughtfully treated. We all know the genesis of it. I think it was not a very creditable one. At any rate it was not well thought out.

The Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) said, and said truly, that no one whom he knows was consulted about it, that is to say, no one who possessed the special knowledge that would assist the Government in coming to a proper conclusion in working out the scheme. But since then what time has elapsed? Twelve months have gone by. It is perfectly clear that during the whole of the time of waiting, criticisms were addressed to the administration with regard to the method and the amount of the unemployment subsidy. Apparently no steps were taken until perhaps a few weeks ago. As my right hon. and learned Friend very properly pointed out, they could not have chosen a worse time of the yoar than now to make their policy effective. After all, it is just as well to carry your public with you. I am quite certain that the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend will find a very large measure of public agreement throughout the country irrespective of party or of class—that this matter ought to have been fought out at least in June, and a fair opportunity given to the House, in conjunction with the Government, to make out a scheme whereby the unemploy- ment subsidy should have been gradually reduced and the industrial work of the country adjusted to the new conditions which must obtain.

I do not think there is a single member of the Labour party who does not agree that the present position of the unemployment subsidy is altogether unsatisfactory, and there we have common ground of agreement. They also admit, and they know it better than anybody, that it is being largely abused, or if not largely, at any rate there is agreement all over the country that it is being abused. What ought to have been done by any ordinary business man dealing with a matter which was wrong in his business and which he knew must be dealt with? He would have set to work and said, "I know I shall cause an awful lot of bother in my factory or my undertaking if I suddenly cut short, if I am going to carry on with the goodwill of my undertaking, I must see whether I cannot fit in with that necessary reduction some remedy which will cause the least amount of trouble, so as to carry my men and other workers with me." Why did not the Government act in an ordinary business way? Here we are, with all these hon. and right hon. Members in the Labour party, with a very large mass of very competent, honourable, public-spirited employers in the House too, and it would have been quite easy to got them to come together and to say, "We all agree that this thing cannot go on on its present lines. Let us see if we cannot do something before the winter comes on with all its troubles." Under any conditions winter is always a difficult time for employment. Warnings have been addressed to the Government on this subject from all classes of society as to the folly of carrying on with this in this way. They have been iterated and reiterated time and time again, and now the Government suddenly come down, and the first intimation we had, I think, was the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Finance Debate—at any rate, that is my first recollection of it—saying that very shortly the House of Commons would have an opportunity itself of deciding as to whether the unemployment subsidy should go on or not. That is about a fortnight ago, and the only thing that we have before us at present is the definite proposal of the Government, and as far as I can see a shadowy and vague suggestion that in time there will be some insurance scheme, or something of that kind, set up. At the time my right hon. Friend was making his statement he ought to have said that, administratively or otherwise, the Government is going to put into this building which they are putting up something to hold it up, which we can understand, which will be a method of carrying the thing on until we can get back on to the normal basis.

I think the House is entitled to complain very strongly of the very awkward position in which we are placed. We have all been doing our utmost trying to insist upon the Government economising, and we are put in an extraordinarily awkward position. [Laughter.] Well, I am quite frank about it. I have been talking economy in my Constituency, and if my constituents say, "Well, why did you not support the Government in cutting away the unemployment dole? I am in a very awkward position about it. I have got to tell them and explain to them that while I was extremely anxious to see this method of meeting the unemployment question, which was in my judgment very often gravely abused, put upon a proper foundation, the method which the Government proposed was one which I found extraordinary difficulty in supporting, because they did not give me as a business man a chance of backing them. I want to back them in this. Can anybody look with the slightest equanimity on an expenditure of £35,000,000 or £40,000,000? We cannot look on it with any equanimity at all, and the proposal, of course, to carry on during the winter without any alteration is a very serious proposal. I do not feel that one ought to leave it for the winter. The thing ought to be grappled with, because as soon as you come to the spring there is sure to be another reason advanced for carrying on a further three months or six months. I would urge the Government not to press us too hard on this question until the House of Commons has an opportunity of being satisfied that something definite and useful is being put in the place of the unemployment subsidy. That is the business proposal which I make.

I urge upon the Government—and I am sure they believe me when I say that I do it in no partisan spirit at all, because these things are far too serious to be dealt with in that spirit—to see if there is not some way by which this can be treated otherwise than by just putting the bald proposal before the Committee this after noon. Surely there is. If it is going to be carried on for a little while, cannot they bring up some fresh proposal where by we can have a chance of assisting them to put a stop to the present system, which is undoubtedly injurious, and to put something else in its place which will meet with our approval and the hearty and unanimous support of the House? Believe me, this matter must be causing very great unrest throughout the country, and particularly I may say it is pressing on the Service men with overwhelming severity. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour does not know as much of political life as some other Members, perhaps, and he will perhaps take it from me that that is a weapon which he is placing in the hands of those who do not want to back the country and the Government in taking a sound line. It is an extraordinarily difficult weapon to meet, and it will be used unscrupulously. The strong point in their hands will be used to cut away, to attack, and to destroy the good parts of this scheme. There is not the slighest doubt that throughout the country there will be the very gravest objection to putting the unemployed Service man, with all the conditions of winter right in front of him and an ever-increasing shortage of houses, in a much worse position than he is to-day. I do say to the right hon. Gentleman do not press us to give an acceptance to this bald proposal of the Government. It is not really constructive statesmanship at all. I want to help my right hon. Friend, and I think we all want to help him, but—


Let me understand my right hon. Friend. Does he wish to have the unemployment donation continued?


I will tell him at once. I think it would be a very good thing to continue the unemployment donation for some weeks—for two, three four, or five weeks, as the case may be—until he comes down to this House and proposes some form of substitution for it whereby the undoubted hardships will be mitigated in a sense which will appeal to the general body of opinion in this House and in the country. I am certain that we should all back him in such a course.


The Debate has been a chorus of condemnation of the Government's proposal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes), in whose name the Amendment stands, delivered what I consider to be not only a very able and wise speech, but a very pleading speech, on behalf of those who are unemployed at the present time. I might say the same of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson), in whose forceful, and, if he will allow me to say so, his feeling speech for the under-dog there was an appeal to the Minister in charge that at this period, without any preparation whatever, at least it ought to be continued, because he is probably doing the right thing at the wrong time. The right hon. Gentleman who was responsible for the Amendment made certain proposals which would probably find a good deal of disagreement, but there is one part of his proposals that I personally thoroughly endorse. He was referring, I think, to the factory at Pimlico by way of illustration, and he; pointed out, what is perfectly true, that at the present moment the output of male clothes is being restricted, and the prices have soared to such a height that many of the workers are unable to purchase them. He went on to point out that at Pimlico there is a large number of people who are skilled enough to make suits for soldiers, and he said, what is perfectly true, that they are equally skilled to make suits for civilians. I believe there are some 12,000,000 yards—I am told by tin expert in the woollen trade that that is an under-estimate and that it is nearer 20,000,000—of woollen cloth that can be disposed of by the Disposal Board. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that instead of discharging these people from Pimlico, they should be kept on for the manufacture of civilian garments. What does that presuppose? I am quite sure, even in the mind of my right hon. Friend, the Tailors' Union would have to be consulted, because you do not want any unfair competition. It is no use putting one set in employment if you are going to make another set dissatisfied. Therefore, I assume the right hon. Gentleman intended that the Tailors' Union should be brought into consultation, to see whether it was possible to utilise that great quantity of cloth that is lying there, and also the labour that is in danger of being unemployed in that establishment.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty this afternoon, in answering a question, admitted that in the dockyards there was a good deal of growing unemployment. The Government have submitted proposals upon which the votes of the men are being taken in all the great dockyards, but he admitted this afternoon there was unemployment at the various Government dockyards. In response to my right hon. Friend, or to some other hon. Member, the Parliamentary Secretary admitted that in other parts of the country there was plenty of employment for those who were unemployed in the Government dockyards, but said the reason they could not be employed in other parts of the country was because there was no housing for them. After all, it only wants a little imagination. You have any number of derelict boats belonging to the Navy. These people are not asking for palaces, but for work, and somewhere to put their heads. It is not beyond the bounds of reason, if there is any imagination in the Government Departments, to take some of these boats, fit them as domiciles, and take these men from the unemployed area and place them in the area where they are wanted at the present time.

I want, as far as I can, and for what my influence is worth, strongly to reinforce what has been said by the various speakers that the Government are doing a great disservice, and taking an unfair advantage of many of those who served the country in the country's hour of need. I believe it is money well spent. You talk about economy. If you get efficiency, that is real economy. You cannot measure it in £ s. d. We are now in debt to the extent of £8,000,000,000. What for? To save the political life and the national existence of this country. Here you are faced with a new problem. Do not forget this. The men and women who have served you have had an education in the trenches and workshops by fraternisation, which has given them different points of view altogether. They have come back, and are saying to us stay-at-homes, "We have served you in the nation's hour of trial; what are you going to do for us? The economic and industrial conditions make no provision for us." If you say, "We have no further use for you. We cannot help you; there is the workhouse for you," then you are creating discontent. I hope the Government are not going to tempt the House again to defeat them, because I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, with the best desire in the world to support the Government on this particular question, I am going into the Division Lobby with the right hon. Member for the Platting Division. I want to assist the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour in one of the most difficult tasks with which the Government is faced. The right hon. Gentleman has all my sympathy, but I ask him to extend a little more sympathy to Members of this House, and, by showing this larger vision of carrying on, as suggested, over the winter period, he will not only be doing the right thing, but be taking a course which will meet with the unanimous approval of the great mass of the people of this country who are convinced that unemployment of those who have served the country will lead, if not to disturbance, to a feeling of injury and rage. I want to avoid that, and I ask again, with my closing words, that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his position. If he does not like to climb down—I do not know whether he has got any feelings on the matter of dignity of office, or anything of that sort, or thinks that because his Department have; taken a certain course he must stand by his Department, and I do not want him even to quarrel with his Department—but I would plead with him to give Members of this House a free choice, and, if so, I am sure the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite will be carried if a Division is taken.


I think the Committee will almost unanimously agree that we are in a very unfortunate position this evening in being given these two alternatives, and certainly there is no Member of the House who would more welcome the production of a ready-made scheme to take the place of the unemployment donation than the Minister of Labour himself. But we have to face the fact that the scheme is not ready, and none of us likes the idea of abandoning ex-Service men to the rigours of what may be a very strenuous and a very disastrous winter, with no provision for them. I do hope it may be possible, even for a short time, to do something that will remedy the position. The position, if we leave things as they are, is not quite so easy as one or two Members would seem to suppose. It has been suggested that the donation should be continued, and that by rearranging the machinery, and by greater care in distri- buting the donations, a great deal could be saved. I happened to sit on a Committee on this subject, and I am perfectly certain that the evidence which came before us showed that there is not much to be done in the way of rearrangement No doubt, at the beginning of the working of this scheme there were a great many loopholes and considerable abuses, but the machinery has been tightened up, and the strenuous and magnificent work done in the various Labour Exchanges has very largely reduced the avenues of abuses. But you cannot continue this scheme without continuing to have those who will always take advantage of the loopholes in the words "suitable employment," and will always find every employment offered unsuitable. It is no use saying we can continue this without at the same time continuing that very abuse.

Personally, although I recognise that the whole thing would be uneconomic, and might be very unsatisfactory, I would far rather accept some of the solutions which have been offered, such as a subsidy in some form, because I am firmly convinced that the one thing that is doing infinite harm at this moment is the fact that the State is paying out cash to a large number of people for doing absolutely nothing. Some hon. Gentlemen may say that they are not the only people getting money for doing nothing. The rich man has his employment, or else he is miserable, for the one thing that makes a man miserable is having nothing to do—[An HON. MEMBER: "And nothing for it"]—and the one thing that is sapping the vitality of many of these men is the fact that they are being kept hanging about week after week with nothing to do except sign their names and draw their pay. That is not the thing we want to see continued. Personally, I would far rather see the Government make some effort, or take some steps, even although uneconomic, to find employment for men and women, than continue this donation. I admit that you cannot manufacture employment for every one of these people, but you might, to a large extent at any rate, diminish the evils until the scheme of the Government is ready. I should like to appeal to the Government. It cannot take very long to produce this scheme. A great deal can be done in a month, and if a complete scheme could be ready in that time, I am sure the country would be prepared to continue the present evil for that length of time. No one can deny there has been, and there is now, a certain amount of abuse of the unempoyment donation, but I should not like to sit down without paying a tribute to the work done by the staff of the Labour Exchanges. That staff would be the very first to wish to see this system of unemployment donation come to an end, because it is this which is ruining the Exchanges and doing infinite harm. Respectable men avoid these Exchanges, but not because of unsatisfactory treatment or rudeness they receive at the Exchanges. We had ample evidence on that point. When you get a large improvised staff taking on a huge business at a moment's notice, you are bound to get a certain number of incompetents, but on the whole I have no hesitation in saying that the evidence which came before that Committee showed that the work done by the staff of these. Exchanges is beyond all praise, and I have personal knowledge of one or two cases of people who said they have always been treated with the greatest courtesy and the greatest respect, and I have heard very little said myself against the actual behaviour in these Exchanges towards those who appear before them. I think it is fair to say that, because several insinuations have been made, against the Labour Exchanges.

7.0 P.M.

What is ruining these, Exchanges is their association with persons who evade employment. Let me give an illustration. A short time ago I had occasion to advertise for a man—I need not mention in what particular employment—but I got no reply at all. A short time ago, when there was more labour, I had occasion to advertise again, and I received a very large number of applications, obviously from men who had no particular aptitude for this particular class of work, and no particular desire to do it. But I had a very largo number of replies, and I am perfectly certain that was because they saw that the unemployment donation was coining to an end, and at last they had to turn their hand to something. As long as the present position continues you will have these men on your books, and these are the men whom we do not want to subsidise. What the Government want to find is some means by which they can deal with the really deserving cases and, at the same time, not continue to subsidise those who are no credit to the country and who are certainly doing no good for themselves.


I have no desire to say very much on this subject just now, because I do not think it is necessary after the way in which the Motion which has been moved from these benches has been received by the Committee. One or two arguments, however, have been used upon which I want to touch. First, I would like the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour to make one position quite clear, because I am afraid that even my Friend the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) was mistaken. As I understand it, the change, even if it were brought about, would not affect the position of the demobilised soldiers who have not received, the thirty-nine weeks' payment.


That is quite right.


So that those whom it does affect are the demobilised men who have received thirty-nine weeks and who will be entitled to go on for another nine weeks at a reduced rate. As far as they are concerned, men who have been out of work the longest and who need assistance the most are the men to whom the change is to apply. That, I think, is a mistake. On the other hand, when you apply it to civilians, it means that the men and the women who have retained their employment the longest, and have shown the least desire either to go on the unemployment dole or to get out of work as soon as possible, will be the very people who will be asked to suffer. The only argument that has been used has been that the women have been abusing the unemployment dole. I do not find much evidence of that, because, taking the figures, I see that in February of this year we had 494,471 women on the funds, and at the end of September that number had been reduced to 32,915. In the case of the men, the number has only been reduced from 237,836 to 62,435 during the same period. As there were only just over 30,000 women at the end of September, I think we can come to the conclusion that there are not so many women out of that number who have an opportunity of going to suitable employment. It may be quite true, and I have no wish to deny it, that there have been some people who, either by deceit or by some other method, have abused this fund. But I want to put the other side as well, and, in my opinion, there has been no more abuse on the part of those who have been receiving the money than on the part of those who have sometimes been paying.

When we are told that there is plenty of employment for women I wonder what kind of employment is referred to. I know of cases where women have been sent to employment, and have had to lose the unemployment donation if they did not go, where the wage offered and paid was less than the unemployment donation. I have one case in my mind now, that of a girl whom I know very well, who had been working on munitions, and who went on the out-of-work donation. She was sent to work at a plate where she started at nine o'clock in the morning and finished up at a quarter-past ten at night; the wage was 14s. and a few meals in addition. I know of another girl, who was living in my own town. She was asked to go to Woolwich to take up employment there, and because she refused her money was stopped. On an appeal to the umpire it was continued, but immediately the Labour Exchange officials asked her to go to Cardiff. Rather than have any further trouble about it the girl went off the fund Altogether. So it will be seen that there has been just as much abuse on that side as on the other side.

The question arises, is this to be discontinued or not? I do not think a case has been made out for discontinuance. The Minister of Labour said that there was a great mass of those still remaining amongst the civilians who would be entitled to benefit from their trade unions; but I believe it is a fact that three out of every four who have been in receipt of out-of-work donation belong to or have worked in trades that are not insured trades. Therefore, if three-quarters of them did not work in insured trades, it means that they will be left without anything at all. Whilst we agree that there is a certain amount of demoralisation in the payment or in the receipt of money which has not been worked for—and we, on these benches, do not believe in paying money for doing nothing, we would rather have the work than the money, but in case of emergency we have sometimes to accept and do things that we would not do at any other time—there is something else. Not only is the payment or receipt of money for doing nothing demoralising, but we know that the most demoralising thing in the world is to be out of work and to have no money in addition. Then, we are told that a lot of these people could find work if they did not want to choose their own kind of work. So far as I am concerned, and I think I can speak on behalf of my colleagues, I would say that when suitable work is available and there are places for the people to live in, they will have to go to the work, and will have to work when work is available. We shall not continue to support the payment of the out-of-work donation when work is available and there are houses for them to live in.

I think the Minister of Labour himself supplied the biggest argument why the out-of-work donation should be continued. He said that when it was introduced so many people were being thrown out of work through no fault of their own that he could not imagine any Government refusing to do something for them, or leaving them to their own, devices. Surely the same argument, which applied when many were thrown out of work, applies when there are only a few; and if it is a question of economy, and if the Government want to save a little money out of the workers, then they are going to create a very bad impression in the country, want them seriously to consider, when doles are being paid to so many other interests, that it will create a very bad impression in the country if they seek to economise at the expense of those who have no work to do. I would like to use an argument which I have heard from the opposite benches many a time, when we have been reviewing the situation in another country. A lot of these men and women left their ordinary work at the desire of the Government because; thy thought thy would render better service to their country in another occupation. We used them as long as they were of service to us. Are we now —I hope the argument will be recognised—when we have no further need for them, to turn round and say, "Now you can look after yourselves; your future welfare is no concern of the Government of the country that you have served so well."


I very much regret, in common, I think, with every speaker who has addressed this Committee this afternoon, with possibly one exception, first, that the Government have come forward with this proposal at the present time, and under the present circumstances; and, secondly, that, having listened to the Debate and to the almost complete unanimity with which the proposal to withdraw this payment has been met by the Committee, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has not seen fit to make an announcement which will render it unnecessary to continue this Debate. There are two alternatives before him. One is boldly to say, "I have been so much impressed with this Debate, and with the weight of criticism from all quarters of the Committee, that I am prepared to recommend to the Cabinet that these proposals be definitely withdrawn until the proposed Insurance Bill is introduced." The other alternative is that suggested by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, to withdraw it for the time being and to come to the Committee in the course of the next few weeks with some proposal that will render it unnecessary to continue this very unsatisfactory payment; but which will, at all events, alleviate the sufferings which must be caused if you withdraw it now. Up to now the right hon. Gentleman has not seen fit to take either of these two courses. I am bound to say, after some nine years' experience in this House, that I do not think I can recall a case in which the Committee has been so unanimous, and in which the arguments advanced by the critics of the Government have been more well founded. It is said that this dole is unpopular in the country. I do not believe it. I believe the administration is criticised, and I believe it to be a fact, despite what the hon. Gentleman who last spoke said, that it has been greatly abused. It has been abused by persons who could get work if they wanted it, but who have preferred to draw the unemployment dole. I do not, of course, say that is anything like general, but when we hear of cases of people obtaining this money by misrepresentation or false pretences, or by refusing to work where work is available, then such cases are rumoured all over the countryside, and everybody condemns the dole, just because they have found one or two black sheep in that neighbourhood. I am convinced that, if it were possible for the Government to work this machinery as any reasonable business man would work such machinery with reference to his own business, the criticism of this payment would almost entirely cease throughout the country. Is it not possible to render it less easy than at present for persons to obtain payments really by fraud, and is it not possible in districts which are well known to provide or to offer work to almost all persons who would like to accept it, and, by a system of inspection, if you like, or by whatever steps the Government think fit to adopt, to ensure that those who are receiving this dole shall accept such work, provided it is reasonable, or to lose the dole? I know that is the rule, but in effect in the administration of this machine it is a rule which, I regret to say, is very often not followed. I believe that it is in the, administration that the slackness takes place, and that it is owing to that that much of the criticism of the Government arises. If there is fraud—again I say that I do not think it is general—if there are cases of persons refusing to take work when work is offered, then the fault lies with the Government in that they are ineffectively administering this donation.

I may say, in support of the criticism that has been made this afternoon, that I know one definite case, and I think that there are several which I could recall if I were to give a little thought to it, in which, there is one factory in the countryside that has been used by the Government during, the War and which, through the indirect action of the Government since the Armistice has been closed. Of course, one makes no complaint about that. There were in that factory or business many highly skilled workmen, and they are today walking about the streets, because there is no other work of the same sort within ten or fifteen miles. What are those men to do? It is impossible for them, to go to any other town. I invite my right hon. Friend to tell us what those men are to do if they cannot leave the town or village and if there is no other similar work to be found where they live? There are numbers of those cases, and, rather than withdraw this payment from those men under these conditions, I beg the Government to continue the donation until some form of insurance has been introduced. As far back as March, 1918, a Civil War Workers' Committee made a Report in which they urged the Government to introduce a scheme of general compulsory insurance. Here we are getting near the year 1920, and the Government tell us that they have no scheme to submit to the House yet. I do not criticise the Government for their delay, but surely these workers are not to suffer by it. It is not their fault that this scheme has been delayed for nearly two years.

The real issue before the Committee, in fact the only issue, is not whether we should continue this donation for ever but what we should do between the pre- sent moment and the time when the Government come forward with their insurance proposal. How long a period is that to be? We have had no indication from the Government. It may be six or it may be nine months before those proposals are embodied in an Act of Parliament. Having regard to the fact that the Government can give us no indication when this scheme will be introduced in this House, I say it is madness to run the risk of depriving thousands of men and women of that dole to which, in my submission, they are obviously entitled. I really do not lay any blame on my right hon. Friend personally. The Government is one which in my experience of politics has been, perhaps, more conciliatory and more sympathetic to Labour than any other Government, but in this matter it has been dilatory. Do the Government anticipate that in this interim period between now and the date when this Unemployment Bill is to be introduced there will be increased or decreased unemployment? I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to answer me at the moment, but I press it upon the Government that the Committee are entitled to an answer to that question. If my right hon. Friend, speaking for the Government and acting upon the advice of those to whom he looks for advice, gives it as his opinion that in that interim period unemployment is going to increase, then how impossible it is to withdraw this payment at this moment. If such be the case, I cannot believe that the Government seriously propose to withdraw this money, and leave these men in this interim period unprovided for at this time of the year having regard to the housing question. If they do not think that unemployment is going to increase, and if, on the other hand, they think that unemployment is going to decrease during that interim period, then with great respect I think that they are doing a very paltry and unnecessary and unwise thing to make these proposals at a time when the claims for these payments will be growing less.

May I remind the Committee and the Government that there is in this country at the present time a spirit of unrest which one is anxious not to exaggerate and which one is anxious not to give the idea is a serious menace to our country. There is, however, a serious spirit of unrest. Those of us who represent or are connected with great industrial constitu- encies know it to be a fact. I believe that it is entirely unjustified. I believe that the workers have never in the history of our country had a Government which has promised so much and which has fulfilled its pledges so fully, and I fearlessly take that view in any industrial town in which I am privileged to open my mouth, but I solemnly and respectfully warn the Government of the grave danger in these days of giving those extremists any good ground of complaint, and I believe that by doing this they will be giving such ground of complaint. I hope that this spirit of unrest, though serious, is only temporary. We all hope and believe that the common-sense of the working class, which has never failed us, will sweep away in due course this ugly spirit of unrest. Let us, therefore, wait a few months until the Government propose the scheme of industrial insurance which they promise and which is sadly overdue. Let us wait until this ugly spirit of unrest has settled down and partially or entirely disappeared. Let us, above all, give no opportunity to those unrestful spirits and extremists who always clamour against the Government, whatever Government is in power. I beg of the Government, even at this late hour, to withdraw these proposals and to give themselves and the Committee an opportunity of further considering them.

I beg them further to accept the suggestion of my hon. Friend who spoke from the Front Bench below the Gangway, and to let us on this occasion have a free Vote of the House, so that every hon. Member, unhampered by the party Whips, may give his vote as he honestly believes to be right. Not only have I never voted against this Government on any matter of policy—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"]—I am rather proud of it, because I have never found any ground for doing so, but they are testing the loyally of many of their supporters this afternoon. Let me make it quite clear. I am going into the Lobby against the Government, if necessary. I regret it more than I can say. It is the first vote that I shall have given against a Government that I have so loyally supported. There are a great many of us this afternoon in the same position. I sympathise with the request put forward by my right hon. Friend opposite that this matter may be delayed for some time until some alternative proposal is put forward. I have not the anxiety that he appears to have of reconciling his past speeches with the vote which he may give against the Government to-day. I have no such difficulty. Many of us where we have touched upon the question of economy have always preserved to ourselves the right to vote for expenditure which in our opinion is absolutely essential, in the interests of the country. For that reason, I anticipate no difficulty like that of my right hon. Friend in justifying any vote that I shall give this afternoon, I have, like him, though with much less force, preached economy in my Constituency, but I have not the slightest fear of being able to defend my vote this afternoon on the ground that it is, in my opinion, of the most vital importance that we should not ill-treat many workers who will be in very dire distress if this payment be withdrawn, particularly having regard to the fact that the Government have had something like two years in which to consider their scheme. I hope that the Government will accept the invitation which has come from almost every quarter of the House.


I should like, with the indulgence of the House, to make a short maiden speech on this important subject. The question cannot be properly solved if we look merely into the details of administration to ascertain whether money has been wasted or whether there has been laxity, or whether there has been hardship. Nor can it be solved if we say to each other, "Winter is approaching, coal is dear, and the poor must be maintained if they are not in work." Nor can we solve it if we suggest a distinction among the unemployed between those who have been in the Army and those who have not. I should like to speak on general grounds, and I speak as one who welcomed the donation when it was first given on two grounds—firstly, that the Government had no alternative. Every motive of humanity and social feeling dictated the giving of the dole. Secondly, I believed that it would last for a long time, and that in the course of that time speculation and investigation would take place regarding the conversion of the dole into a proper scheme of unemployment insurance. I had good reasons for supposing that. Various Committees have sat—one no longer ago than last August—and have agitated this question and urged it on the attention of the Government and the country. So that all those of us who were interested in the unemployment dole were entitled to hope that there would be a direct continuity between the dole and the sub- sequent scheme of unemployment insurance. I join with everything that has been said by previous speakers regarding the desirability and necessity of a complete system of unemployment insurance for wage-earners. I wish to put one reason for such a system which, as far as I have followed the Debate, has not been mentioned, and that is that there is the very closest connection between unemployment insurance and high production. I would ask the House to put itself for a moment in the position of the wage-earning classes. They are faced with two things—the times when they are in employment and the times when they are not in employment. When they are in employment they have wages of a sort, and when they are not in employment they have wages of no sort. The times when they are not in employment range from 4 to 10 per cent, of the total time of the trades, but the effect that the 5 or 8 or 10 per cent, of unemployed time has upon the minds of those men is far beyond that proportion of their time. There is no such prolific cause of restriction of output as the knowledge and the fear that unemployment has always happened in the past and will happen in future, and that the cause invariably is that production is out of gear and work comes to an end. If the wage-earning classes were assured that when unemployment comes they would be thought of, and would not be on the street, I believe that the most potent cause of restriction of output would be automatically undermined. If anyone doubts that, I suggest that they should consider the various trades in respect of their degrees of irregularity of employment. Some trades have steady employment and there is little restriction, or perhaps there is a great deal; there is one, however—namely, the building trade—in which the irregularities are at a maximum, owing to cycles of building, to seasonal causes, to speculative causes, to weather, and to all the other causes that affect building. In the building trade I think it is not unfair, and is no accusation, to say that restriction of output is at a maximum. That is the greatest thing that the industry of the country has to fight to-day, and the greatest cause of it is uncertainty about employment. If we cannot have an immediate scheme for the whole of the wage-earning classes of unemployment insurance, let us, for Heaven's sake, have the dole continued. The position which the Government have taken up is one which I, for my part, find it extremely difficult to support, and I am inclined to ask them to take note of the warning given by the last speaker, I appeal to the Government not to deal with this question as a matter of philanthropy or of giving away other people's money, not as a matter of waste, but as a matter fundamentally of industrial efficiency on the labour side. If the Government does not do that, and if the dole stops at once, unemployment without pay will at once become a most serious factor in the industry of the country. This means that restriction of output will increase. There are many trades in which there never is any unemployment, for the reason that restriction of output has been made into a fine art, so that there seems always to be work for the men who are there. If the Government breaks off the unemployment dole suddenly there will be a great many more trades where there will not be unemployment, because there will be very little production. The remedy is either to maintain the dole until it can be replaced by a scheme of unemployment insurance adequate for the whole of the wage-earning classes, or to stop it. In the one way we give to the wage-earners the best guarantee they can have in favour of the highest possible production; in the other way we undo a great part of the good which has been done during the War in improving the feeling in industry and, so far as the human factor is concerned, in increasing its efficiency.

Major-General SEELY

I will trespass upon the time of the Committee for only a few moments. It so happens that I feel a certain measure of responsibility with regard to the unemployment with which we are now dealing, because, during my time at the Air Ministry, it was my duty to add very greatly to unemployment by the necessary reduction of the Force, and that has been especially so during the last few weeks. There we are not dealing with the cases mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend opposite of people who may take advantage of the unemployment dole. Many of these men came to me in deputations during the last few weeks, and they all asked for one thing only, and that was work. I, as the Minister, had to point out that it was the duty of the Government to dismiss them from their work owing to the more rapid reduction of the Air Force than of any other of the Forces of the Crown. The hardship, however, was very great and very real, and it so happens that in the places where most of these dismissals took place there was a great deal of unemployment already. In Reading particularly there is already a great deal of unemployment, and during the next few weeks many hundreds more men, and ultimatedw thousands, will have to be dismissed. Feeling that measure of responsibility, I make an appeal to my Friends opposite to make some concession, or at least some delay, in order that these men in whom I am specially interested may have a little more time to look round. During my time in the Government I learned that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has got a more wholehearted determination to help the working people than any man I have ever come across, and no one in this House has a greater admiration for him than I have, or would more willingly help him, and I therefore make this appeal to him, as one who does sincerely desire to help him in his most difficult task. I think he will appreciate the point, as coming from an old colleague who has had to dismiss so many people and send them into unemployment, that the Government is hardly entitled to send people away just at the very same moment when it is unexpectedly taking away the unemployment dole. Most of the dismissals I have referred to will be over in a few weeks' time. I do not know that that applies to all the Government Departments, but I do happen to know that it applies to a good many. If there were a delay of a comparatively few weeks we should not be placed in the unenviable position of its being said that the Government were taking away the unemployment benefit, which people had reason to expect, at the very moment when the dismissals were going on. I hope the Committee will forgive me for intervening, but I would make this final appeal to the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot allow some delay, or at any rate some concession, to meet the particular point which I have ventured to put before him.


I should not have ventured to intrude upon the Committee if it had not been that more than one speaker, in my hearing, said that all the speakers in the Debate have urged the Government to continue the unemployment dole. I have the strongest possible opinion that, if a Committee of this House presses the Government to greater ex- penditure, they will incur a responsibility which they ought not to incur. I am quite sure that economy is the supreme necessity of the country at this moment. It is, of course, perfectly true that, when one contemplates a particular case, or a large number of cases, of poverty, the spectacle is heart-breaking, and every humane person would wish to give assistance to those who suffer. But are you going to relieve all poverty everywhere? If you are not going to relieve all poverty everywhere, why should these particular poor people who will be affected by the giving or withholding of the unemployment dole be selected as the objects of public benevolence any more than anyone else?


They are the victims of the War.


You cannot now say, twelve months after the War is over, that they are the victims of the War.


What about the ex-Service men?


What about the airmen to whom the right hon. Gentleman below has just referred?


What about the members of your family—parasites all of them! [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!" and "Withdraw!"]


On a point of Order, Sir. I desire to ask you whether the hon. Gentleman is entitled to use accusations of that kind indiscriminately about those who sit on this side of the House? May I call attention to the fact that he constantly makes accusations of this kind which are grossly disorderly and quite untrue?

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir E. Cornwall)

The words of the hon. Member were not desirable words to use, but I do not feel it to be my duty to call upon him to withdraw them.


I do not object to the hon. Member's remark; it is a matter of opinion. I was desiring to direct the attention of the Committee to the arguments which my right hon. Friend has just pressed upon them. Observe, if his advice were taken, what the Government would be doing. They would be dismissing people engaged in work of some public utility whom otherwise they would have been employing, and keeping them idle by giving them pay without work. That surely is madness. If you are going to come to the rescue of people at all it is far better to give them work than to give them pay for nothing. Hon. Gentlemen said to the Government that they wanted economy, and that they were dissatisfied with what was said a week or ten days ago; they thought the Government appeared not to have gone far enough in the direction of economy. Then, when the Government takes its first step on its responsibility as a Government since that Debate, they say, "Oh, it is hard on these poor people; you must go on, a few weeks longer spending money." That money, after all, is raised from the whole community, and the loss of it is felt quite as much by the working classes as by the rich. Let us get rid of the insane idea that taxation is something affecting rich people only, and that by spending the taxpayer's money for the benefit of working people you are not doing any harm to the wage earners. Taxation hits everyone in the end, and it is a heavy burden upon the industry of the country. I quite, agree with many of the criticisms that are made upon what the Government have done. I think that if they have a plan of unemployment insurance they ought to have presented it by this time. But do not let us suppose that a plan of unemployment insurance, however cleverly it may be contrived, will be, from the point of view of the recipients of the dole, a substitute for that dole. Of course it cannot be. You cannot give to people the same benefit as the receipt of money except by paying them money. The idea that by some jugglery which you call insurance, you can give people the same advantage which you give them by a direct payment, is a pure delusion. Therefore, whenever the Government's scheme comes in, it will not be the same thing as the unemployment dole from the point of view of the unemployed. I hope there will be a scheme of unemployment insurance, if it can be done without an undue burden upon the taxpayer, but I am quite sure that the first necessity now is to economise the public finances. We cannot do so much good to the working classes in any other way. I am told that there is no more unemployment now, and has not been lately, than there has been in every winter before the War, and will in all probability be in every winter in the future. What is the policy with respect to the unemployment which is going to be permanent?


What is your policy?


Put me in office and give me the support of the House of Commons and I will put it in possession of a policy. In the meantime I have no information to enable me to formulate such a policy, nor the power to get it adopted. My business in this case is quite plainly to support the Government in taking the steps they believe to be necessary in the interests of national economy. They have the responsibility. They have the knowledge. It is never right for the House of Commons, and really it is not performing its proper constitutional function, in pressing the Government for expenditure. The business of the House of Commons is to watch over expenditure and to refuse it to the Government if it considers it worth while. To invert that rule and to press the Government to spend more public money is to destroy the only hope, the last lingering hope, that we shall ever see economy at all. Let us stand up to the principle to which we both, majority and minority, solemnly agreed in the economy debate of a fortnight ago, and let us give proper support to the Government in carrying out the Resolution, whose exact words I forget, but which I think I am right in saying, spoke about the need for economy and offered support to the Government even in any drastic steps necessary in the interests of national economy.


Starve the people, starve the people!


We see the difficulties that are thrown in the way of the Government in the: prosecution of this from every quarter of the House, and whenever they announce economies they are proposing to practice. It is for the Government to take the responsibility. They have to be the judge of this problem of unemployment. The only thing I blame the Government for is that they have not before taken in both their hands their responsibilities before the House, and have said once and for all, "That is our policy; we are responsible for it; we are responsible for the government of the country, and for national economy, which is at present one of the greatest interests of the country; if you do not like our policy, your policy is to move a Vote of Censure, and we will resign. So long as we are responsible for the Government these measures of economy which we recommend will have to be carried out."


What about the unemployed rich?


Perhaps I ought not to venture to speak without the preparation which it is right to give to so important a subject, and if I had had the opportunity of considering the matter with a view to a speech; but it really is impossible to sit silent under the circumstances. I am certain that if the House of Commons departs from its proper constitutional function of being the guardians of economy and the opponents of expenditure; if they hamper the Government in taking the first serious step they have taken since the economy Debate in the promotion of national economy, we shall do a far greater injury than anything possibly involved in the premature withdrawal of the unemployment dole.


In a few words I desire to support the speakers on this subject this afternoon with the exception of the Noble Lord who has just sat down. There is no one who has supported the Administration in this kind of work more than I have done. I am opposed to the people receiving this money who, it has been proved, have not worked for ten years, or who, it has been proved in the Court, were in receipt of £10 per week, or of those who could go for it in motor cars. But while that is so, I would at this moment warn the Government to be cautious in this matter. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to continue paying this money to deserving cases for a little while longer. I do so for two reasons. At the present time, in the great industrial North of Ireland, we have people working only four days a week. How does this occur? It occurs from the fact that we cannot get flax from Russia. Therefore, if you discontinue unemployment payment, you deprive these poor people of something like 9s. a week. These are the people whose case I desire to support here—people who are willing to work but cannot get it. I had a letter the other day from a man who asked me whether I would bring up here the question of what is going to be done with the national shipyards. He says, "I can see nothing confronting us in a few days but getting 800 workmen on to the streets." These are civil workmen. Are these men not to receive that money? I agree that this is not the time, on the eve of Christmas, to take steps drastically in this direction. If the right hon. Gentleman would extend this payment for the further two or three months until the proposed scheme, as has been mentioned by the Leader of the House, can be brought in whereby some solution can be applied to this problem, well and good. I hope my right hon. Friend will reconsider this matter. Only yesterday I received a letter from the trades representing the federation in Belfast. They asked me to approach the Minister of Labour, and request him not at the present time to stop the payment of this out-of-work donation. I do appeal to him. I have listened to the whole of the speeches this afternoon and they were in favour of this course. While I support the Government, I would warn them I am going into the Lobby against them on this occasion. I do hope my right hon. Friend will see his way to reconsider the matter.


If the speeches which have been delivered this afternoon by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are indicative of the feeling of the general body of those who belong to that party it does not materially matter whether the Government allow a free vote or not, for the Government would inevitably be defeated upon this question. I rise for the purpose of removing the misapprehension which appears to have been created in the minds of several right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in respect to the ironfounders' dispute. There are no negotiations taking place at the present time. I am sorry to say that there is likely to be a very extensive extension of the dispute itself. But I rise, also, to speak from the practical point of view in regard to unemployment. I am not well versed in the theoretical point of view, but I am in the practical. Probably no man in this Assembly has suffered more from unemployment than I have. Owing to my trade union activities I was kept unemployed for three years in succession by benevolent and philanthropic employers connected with the industry with which I am associated. I am inclined to believe that many hon. Members do not fully realise what the unemployment problem means to the man who is unemployed. It means that he is compelled to tramp from factory gate to factory gate in search of employment, in the interests of those he loves best on earth. It means that as the days go by and he grows more gaunt in feature, more emaciated in physique, and more shabby in outward appearance, he loses the last chance of obtaining that employment that is so essential to the preservation of his own physical efficiency and the maintenance of the social conditions of his family. Therefore, we, the Labour party, beg the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the proposal made on behalf of the Government and to institute in its place an extension to continue at least until the early part of next year, as has been suggested by various speakers. In the meantime, the Government, I suggest, should apply itself to attempting to find a practical solution of the problem of unemployment. May I remind the House that the difficulties have repeatedly, by the Labour party, been placed before the Government for consideration?

No one has insisted upon the development of schemes for meeting the unemployment problem, to a greater extent than has the Labour party. If some hon. or right hon. Gentleman had to undergo the experience that many unemployed have undergone, I very respectfully suggest they would not deal so lightly with the problem of unemployment. Quite frankly, I say in this House that I would, if I thought for a single moment that men, women and children were to be subjected to the tortures, the horrors, and the devastation created in their lives by unemployment, I would, although I am a constitutionalist, and believe in the reign of law and order and of constitutional Government, I would have no hesitation in going into the country and preaching red, rampant revolution in order that we might attain our end. Our end is the abolition of unemployment. We can only secure that by securing work for the people of this country. It has been suggested that we can procure work by increasing production. We all know that. But let me remind the House that when the workers have increased production it was for the employers to see that it was adequately paid for. I could give innumerable instances where production has been increased and the workers have not received a penny piece for it. I do urge the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the proposal, and to extend the unemployed benefit until the early part of next year, and until we can consider the question of dealing with unemployment in a proper manner.

8.0 P.M.


The Debate has lasted so long that I shall be justified in keeping the Committee for only a few moments. I rise briefly, at the same time very earnestly, to appeal to the Government to yield to the obvious sense of the House, and to withdraw this proposal. Undoubtedly we must give the discharged soldier the preference in these matters, and perhaps there has been abuse of this out-of-work donation. But I feel quite confident there has been gross exaggeration as to that abuse. I was very pleased to hear the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash with regard to the work put in by the officials of the Employment Exchanges, and also as to the efficiency of the machinery. I think, on the whole, that, though there may have been abuse at first, the machinery is now so perfected that abuse is reduced to a minimum. Let me give an example. In the Division I represent there was an enormous displacement of labour soon after the Armistice was signed, and I think there were some 12,000 to 15,000 women in my Constituency drawing out-of-work donation about six months ago, and there are now only about 100. I know the lace trade is in a very active condition, and I think we must give the Employment Exchanges a very good mark for having reduced unemployment to such a low figure amongst the women. Amongst the male workers in my constituency there is a considerable amount of unemployment, which is geunine, and there is no abuse. Whether it is a fact that the employers in the engineering trade are not able to obtain orders, whether males have been displaced by women workers, or whether it is due to the moulders' strike, I do not know, but I do know that there is genuine unemployment there, and it would be a hardship to have the out-of-work donation withdrawn, particularly so when a great many of these men are over forty years of age and past the prime of life, and for that reason they find it difficult to get employment.

There is another point with regard to these men, and it is that most of them are married. It is a mockery to tell those men who are employed in the Midlands that they may find work in the North of England. I feel very strongly that this proposal ought to be withdrawn until some proper scheme for dealing with unemployment is introduced. I also think it is up to the Government to prove that they have done their utmost to reduce unemployment in the country. The hon. Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes) referred to congestion on the railways. I want to know how far the policy which is being pursued on the railways is contributing to congestion and unemployment. How far is the deliberate policy of restricting employment of labour on the railways affecting this problem? I have made inquiries, and I have often been told it does not pay directors to employ a large number of men on the railways, because they work shorter hours and receive such high wages.

The Secretary to the Admiralty answered some questions with regard to employment at the Woolwich dockyard. The proposal is that the men in the dockyard should work short time, or else that the Government's programme should be speeded up. There is a great handicap to the trade of this country because of the shortage of trucks and ships. Why should not these men who have been working short time be employed in the productive work of producing ships to carry our goods and also trucks for the same purpose? These are points I should like to hear something about from the Government. Why is it that they have not formulated a more active scheme for the employment of labour before coining to this House and asking us to do away with the unemployment donation to civil workers. To my mind this is a move which is socially unwise to the last degree. The haunting fear in the mind of every worker is that of unemployment, and you will never get the worker's co-operation and a larger output until you remove that fear. The workman will say, "What is the use of asking me to give a larger output when you may come to me very shortly and say, 'You must go on short time or else lose your job.'" I think it is unwise to accentuate that fear by stopping this out-of-work donation, because it only accentuates and increases the difficulty, and it will have a large contributory effect in reducing output. I hope the Government will decide to withdraw this proposal.


My knowledge of unemployment is fairly extensive, if not peculiar, as a representative of unskilled labour. Unemployment pay I will not call a dole, because doles are generally described as something given to the poor, but when you give them to other sections of the community they are called subsidies, which is a more respectable name. This donation is not given because you love the workers, but, in the language of the Leader of the House, it is given, as something to deal with a great difficulty which the nation found itself in at the signing of peace, and it was given to prevent revolution if not extensive strikes. On the 22nd October last in this House the right hon. Gentleman justified the establishment of this unemployment dole on the ground that we were practically establishing a system of national insurance against the possibility of great strikes breaking out in this country.

I would not have troubled the House with any remarks, but for two speeches which have been delivered this afternoon, the first by the hon. and learned Member for the Springburn Division of Glasgow (Mr. Macquisten), whose knowledge of domestic service is far more extensive than my own. His solution reminded me of the tale of a Scotsman who used the wart on the back of his neck for a collar stud, but owing to the setting in of septic poisoning he eventually found that economy did not pay. The hon. Member far Springburn, having secured this opportunity of launching his tirade upon the subject of domestic service on the House of Commons, then began to bless the. Government in one breath and curse it in another. Those of us in the trade union and Labour movement never asked the Government to establish unemployment pay. We have all through the War period, and before it, placed before the representative of the Ministry of Labour and all those connected with the administration of unemployment, what we considered wove practical schemes for dealing with the difficulties that might arise.

We have heard during this Debate that the great solution of the unemployment difficulty is first, economy, and next, increased production. Where is economy to begin? A challenge was made earlier in the Debate that because an interjection was made by myself, who of course has no right to make them, that economy was a subject upon which we were all agreed. I can agree upon economy if you are going to begin at the right end. I want to say that there are hon., hon. and Noble, and right hon. Members of this House who, once we started in the direction of real economy, would be the first to protest against the abolition of the sinecure offices of people who are drawing large salaries without rendering services for them. If yon are going to begin economy, if you will only begin at the top then we will help you to work it down to the bottom. In every trade union branch we have our workmen's committees, and nobody knows the workmen better than the workmen themselves. In every factory and workshop and trade union branch we can tell the slackers, and those who are prepared to take advantage of their fellows, and if the Government had been prepared to proceed through the ordinary channels of industrial organisation, and had trusted those who worked in that direction, they would not have had to pay anything like the number of millions they have paid in out-of-work doles.

We are asking the Government to-night to extend for a further period the payment of this unemployed benefit. Do some hon. Members who have offered criticisms know that a large number of the men and women who have been drawing this out-of-work benefit are the fathers, and wives, and daughters, of the men who have been out fighting. Whilst the men were out fighting the nation was absolutely unanimous about paying this unemployment benefit during the period for which it was originally established, and these people are entitled to a recognition of the fact that they did their best to carry the country through a great period of difficulty. The Noble Lord opposite (Lord H. Cecil) preaches economy as though it was the only thing to be studied, but we want to know what economy means. I am an ordinary labourer, and I do not pretend to understand political economy as it is understood on the benches opposite. I do not know much about capital, but I have heard it described by workmen as "cop-it-all and keep-it-all." Judging by our experience, and so far as I have been able to have any, that is the idea.

Increased production is being preached at the moment you are throwing hundreds of useful workers out of employment. How are you going to get increased production? What encouragement is it to those who are left in the trade who are not suffering when they have seen the nation or the employers using the individual to the greatest extent possible to pile up profits out of the War and the only reward for the worker is to be thrown on to the unemployment donation. While you are doing this and throwing hundreds of thousands of people out of employment, at the same moment the cry for increased production goes on. The thing is contradictory from the standpoint of the ordinary workman, and he will not understand how you can preach this doctrine side by side with that of increased production. Have we lost our cunning? Before the War a man was too old to work at forty, but during the War he was too young to begin at sixty. Now we are told because the War is over and peace has been declared that all the men and women who were useful to produce munitions are absolutely useless to produce anything else, and because the nation cannot organise itself, they have to wait and see or wait and starve.

The only proposition the Government are able to bring forward—the only proposition from all the geniuses on the Government Front Bench, and they must be geniuses or else everybody would not believe in them so much—the only scheme brought forward to deal with the problem of unemployment, that aftermath of war, is that at a certain date you must stop the unemployment donation paid to the people who have helped you to win the War, and to tell those people of the great difference between the soldier and the civilian. But how many thousands of civilians who were drawing the unemployed benefit were rejected by the military tribunals, who told them they could do better in helping to produce munitions for the soldiers than if they were actually engaged in military operations? These men are not responsible for the fact that they were sent back to the factory and the workshop. They were sent back by Committees appointed by the Government in the various districts, and now they are told, in spite of the fact that they rendered such great service, that there is to be a differentiation made between them and the soldiers. After all, the Prime Minister himself made a declaration before the Trades Union Congress that this was an engineers' war, that the War had not merely been won by the men in the trenches but also by the men on the benches. Yet now the men on the benches are to be thrown on the streets to starve, while the men from the trenches are to be bribed to support the Government in case of any difficulty arising.

May I suggest that so far as we are concerned as workers we art not asking any privileges; we are only asking for equal treatment; we are only asking, having no longer an opportunity of employment, why should we be compelled to go from factory to factory and from workshop to workshop begging permission to live? All that we are asking for is the right to live, the right for our wives and children to live, and when I hear hon. Gentlemen opposite complaining of the terrible struggle their wives have to maintain their homes because they cannot get domestic servants, I would ask them, have they thought about the struggle in our families? Are our daughters to go out to work and leave the mother at home to look after the younger children? Are our daughters to go out to work to increase the income of the family, while the mother goes down to greater poverty and destitution because she cannot afford to keep a home for her children? We object to the daughters of our class being made flunkeys for women who are far better able to look after their own families. If there is to be any home life, and if domestic service is necessary, let the daughters of the workers stay at home and help their mothers to bring the children up and so develop a nation of really healthy people, and not go out to work in order to allow other people to enjoy themselves while the slavey stays at home to do the work. This problem places the Labour party in a position of greater responsibility, more so than any other section of the House. Even if you give us all we ask for to-night, we shall still have to face the difficulty in March next. What does that mean? It means we shall be restored back to where we were prior to the War.

Percentages have been quoted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He said there were only 4 per cent, of unemployed immediately after the Armistice, and that that percentage was now reduced by one-half, whereas prior to 1914 it ranged from 7 to 10 per cent. But what is the use of telling that to the man out of work who has to travel round the country for a job? He may not be quite as near to the workhouse at the moment, judging from those figures, but, as a matter of fact, he is just as near eventually entering the workhouse as he ever was. The continuation of the unemployed donation will not solve the problem. Our claim against the Government is that, having failed in its responsibility in the first place, having had plenty of suggestions from deputations from trade unions and Labour organisations, and even from employers, they have done nothing practical, but, in response to the outcry for economy—I do not know where it came from—all they offer is to differentiate between the men who worked in the factory and those who went out to the War. Are you going to say that the men working behind the lines or the men who served in England in soft and cushy jobs are not to have the unemployment benefit, while the men who were out in France and Flanders and elsewhere are to get it? Have there not been cushy jobs in the Army at home? Have there not been hundreds and thousands of men who are now-receiving unemployment donation who did practically nothing in the Army, while plenty of civilian workers have run the risk of losing their lives? I come from a district where nearly a hundred men and women lost their lives in a great explosion due directly to the War. There are hundreds who have suffered similarly in other places, and I say that these workers were just as much participators in the War, because they were producing the necessities for war, as any soldier who served in the trenches. Therefore, we say that this attempt to differentiate between one section of the workers and another, all having rendered service to the best of their ability, is only an attempt to create barriers between workers. I tell the right hon. Gentleman that we are never going back—the great mass of the class to which I belong, the unskilled labourers—are never going back to the position we occupied previous to 1914. It would have been far better for us to have died in the trenches or even to die now in the streets than to starve and to live the lives we have had to live in days gone by. I hope that pending the possibility of some real proposals being made, pending the opportunity of the Government putting their brains to work to bring in a scheme—it may be of national insurance against unemployment—I hope, I say, they will not create greater unrest than already prevails and will not play into the hands of the people they say they are opposed to. They talk about Bolshevists, direct actionists, and syndicalists; but what is going to help those people more than the attitude taken up this evening by some Members of this House? I make this appeal as a representative of the bottom dog of the industrial army. I realise that a great amount of industrial unrest exists now, and that that industrial unrest can only be relieved by real statesmanship on the part of those in authority. We hear so much about the number of men drawing unemployment donations. But what about the thousands of people who have exhausted their right to the benefit and who are out of work and who cannot get the jobs they are asking for? Go down to the district to which I belong. You will find that almost every factory is turning men and women away every morning, and yet at the same time we are told that there is plenty of work for all. We say the work is not there, and before the Government stops the unemployment donation, which we never asked for, they ought to provide some means whereby this problem can be alleviated. This donation must continue or otherwise the workers will have to look to themselves for the solution of the difficulty.


In my brief experience of this House I do not remember any occasion on which a Minister deserved the sympathy of the House as the right hon. Gentleman does on this occasion. I do not think any the less of him for the proposal which he has introduced, but he has grave reason to complain of the treatment he has received at the hands of the supporters of the Government. Day after day, week after week, from the benches opposite he has been pressed to withdraw the unemployment dole, and not one of those hon. Members is here, to support him when he is endeavouring to carry out, I believe against his best inclinations, the proposals which they pressed upon him. I disagreed with the speech of the Noble Lord (Lord H. Cecil), but I admired his courage. He is the only one, as far as I could judge, of those Members who have been pressing him all these months, who has had the courage to back up the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. I used to admire him in the old days when his speeches were inspired by a more generous instinct, and I should like to see him return to a more popular constituency. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Horne) made a very severe attack on the Coalition, because lie talked of the somewhat unholy alliance between those who, like himself, had no great devotion to the doctrine of laissez faire, and had no objection to interfering with industry and the doctrinaires of the Manchester school. I think probably he meant that this alliance was to be found on this side of the House, but as a matter of fact it was an attack on the Coalition because he has been captured by the doctrinaires of the Manchester school on his own side of the House, and that is where he has made a mistake. His own more generous instincts have been suppressed, and he has allowed himself to be captured by the doctrinaires of the Manchester school. Appeals have been made to him to withdraw these proposals, but I do not think he will do so. He will have an opportunity of indulging in a very sweet revenge at the expense of those who have been pressing him to bring forward this proposal all these months, and if I were in his place I have sufficient of the Old Adam in me to throw those hon. Members to the wolves.

I wish to bring before the Committee a very important point, so far as my part of the country is concerned. I sympathise with those who represent the great industrial centres of the South. We used to hear a lot of the evils of unemployment, I remember being in a large city during a severe time of unemployment when men were, in order to earn a crust of bread, sent to break stones on the roadside, and even then they found it very difficult to live. I could not discover from the Noble Lord what alternative proposal he had in order to prevent the evil of unemployment. He did not say whether he would allow the unemployed to starve or not. I am sorry to find that in certain parts of Scotland discharged and demobilised men are being pressed to accept work in the cities away from their natural sphere—the sea. Fishermen, unless they are prepared to go into the cities and swell the ranks of the unemployed, or at any rate to compete with the labourers there, are refused the unemployment donation in the fishing areas in the North of Scotland. I have had communications from many fishermen who tell me that the fishing industry is still in a state of confusion. They cannot get employment at their own job, and they are not prepared as yet to go into the large towns and become unskilled labourers; and I do not blame them. It is a great pity that the committees which have been set up should interpret their instructions in such a severe manner that these men will not get the dole if they refuse a job in a large town, in the interests of the social conditions of even the towns and cities, that is a mistaken policy. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give instructions to the committees that the rules and regulations shall not be interpreted in such a harsh fashion, and will give expression to what I really believe is his own inmost feeling and withdraw this proposal. He has been compelled to take this position, and I hope he will get back to his own ideas.


I should like to emphasise the serious warning the Government has received this evening. They will be most blind to the general feeling on all sides of the House if they do not by now realise that the course they are taking is unpopular with the representatives of the country. It may be that when it comes to a Division they will be able to march a docile majority to the Lobbies, but I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to keep the Lord Privy Seal—if not, indeed, the Prime Minister—in close touch with what has happened, because it was after a similar plain warning that a very awkward situation was created for the Government a few Thursdays ago. The first half of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was clear and cogent, most able and convincing, as a demonstration of what we all agree is the entirely unsound basis of a permanent system of doles, such as we have at present. I thought he rather took the wind out of his own sails when he came to talk about the system which he has been incubating for twelve months past of unemployment insurance, because the very evils which he admits are serious, which the unemployment insurance scheme is designed to cure, are evils which he means to leave, in these terrible winter months, without a remedy, in face of the opposition of every independent section of the House. In spite of the mental acrobatics of the Noble Lord who in the Government's difficult position has been called in to make the worse appear the better reason, the Government would really do well to pay attention to the considered opinion of the House of Commons. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend should have been guilty of what, if I may say so without disrespect, was a gibe against the Manchester school. It so happens that there are upon the Government Bench certain distinguished colleagues who have been disciples of that very school. If I may say so with great respect, it ill-becomes him as a Miniser of a Coalition Government which is composed, at any rate to some extent, of disciples of the Manchester school to speak of the Manchester school in terms of disrespect. It would be just about as sane an attitude to talk disrespectfully of the law of gravitation or of the equator. The principles of the Manchester school are mostly sound, and by following those sound principles the prosperity of the country has been built up. Whether those principles are sound or not the Prime Minister in the past has been au exponent of the Manchester school, and the right hon. Gentleman should speak with great respect of the Prime Minister.

I pass from that and come to one very serious slip which my right hon. Friend made He really did not mean it. No man with his wide grasp of economic truth and his great ability could have meant it. What he said presents to the extreme element, which every man in this House without exception is combating, an argument of a very dangerous description. What shall we all be told on the platform? I can picture my own case. When we talk about increased production we shall be asked what the Minister of Labour said on the 19th November, and then the questioner will weed out some of the paragraphs in the latter part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, paragraphs which seemed to show that employment in this country was a sort of stagnant and standing thing. He compared it to a blanket and said that if you cut off one end of the blanket and put it to the other end you are not increasing the blanket. That seems to me a most profound and most mischievous delusion. The analogy of the blanket has no application whatever. It is quite unsound to say that it is demand alone which produces work. It is work which produces demand, has done it, and is doing it to-day.


I think I said demand, real or anticipated.


Yes; real or anticipated. But I do not think the right hon. Gentleman sufficiently emphasised the fact that it is not merely demand which is in immediate anticipation. Opportunities for employment are bound up in all sorts of new production, and it is quite unsound to say that the possibilities of employment or prosperity are a stagnant factor. When civilisation is at the highest stage there is no limit to the amount of commodities which the world demands. The more work there is done the more work there is to do.


I quite agree.


I knew the right hon. Gentleman agreed, and he will be nothing but grateful to me for giving him the opportunity of making it quite clear what was really in his mind. He agrees with that and I am very glad, because anything else is really the foundation of the philosophy of ca' canny. It is all very well to say that the world requires production to-day. It always requires production, and if industry is at all sanely managed the more production there is, the more opportunities there are for employment. That is all very well, but we have to realise that it is in the process of adaptation to new needs that the difficulty comes, and the position is that industries have not the immediate elasticity and the immediate adaptability by which the growing needs of the world can be met without certain periods of human suffering. That is what we want to get rid of. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that we are living in a new era, that there is a new spirit abroad between the Government and the people, and between employers and employed. Realising that, he says to the great trade unions of the country, "We are going to stop this unemployment dole; and as to people who this winter are in distress, you must look after them." The time has gone by when the State can repudiate the obligation which it has to those who maintain the life of the country. We are all working for the State in our own way, and the first obligation of the State is to see that its citizens, even from the lower point of view, are kept up to the pitch of efficiency. I quite agree with what one of my hon. Friends said, that even from that point of view, the suffering entailed, the demoralisation entailed, the lowered vitality of the family that is entailed, the comparatively few millions that will be spent by this House in maintaining this dole until we can get something better will not be unproductive expenditure but will be, if wisely administered, productive expenditure of the best kind. Therefore, I do join most earnestly in the appeal to my right hon. Friend to speed up this system of unemployment insurance, and in the meantime to take heed to the earnest entreaties that have come to him from all parts of the House, and avoid the chasm into which the country in these hard winter months may sink unless he bridges it by some form of the present subsidy.


I scarcely ever remember so remarkable a contrast between the speeches we have heard to-day and the strong representation of practically the whole; House a little while ago in favour of national economy. The very hon. Members, or some of them, who were loudest on the platform as well as in the House in favour of national economy are those who to-day are expressing their determination to assist in defeating the Government upon almost the first specific attempt which the Government is making to carry out the programme of economy which has been so seriously urged upon them. There are many ways of economy, but whatever may be the difference of opinion between the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) and the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) we all agree in this view, that the very worst time in the year for reducing the succour to those who are unemployed is the advent of winter. We are all agreed upon that, and I think we are all agreed upon another basic truth. That is that the Government have the duty not merely to succour those who are unemployed through no fault of their own, but the duty to the community at large to sift out those whose unemployment is unavoidable and because of no blame to themselves from those who are unemployed either from laziness or from circumstances which in the mass they could control. The Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Benthick) expressed earlier in the Debate his ignorance as to why so many of his constituents are out of employment. I could tell him about some. They are out of employment because there is a strike in the moulding trade and the castings which should come forward to give employment to fitters and others are not forthcoming. That is one illustration explaining differences of the causes of unemployment to which I have referred.

Then I cannot altogether myself stand up in defence of the Government as regards the precautions which they have taken to assist to find employment. Take the case of the Royal dockyards, which has already been referred to in the course of this Debate. We all know that one of the primaly necessities for the country at present is the creation of new mercantile tonnage to take the place of the thousands of ships that were sunk by enemy action during the War. Yet what has been done to assist the dockyards full of the most highly experienced labour to start systematically upon the creation of mercantile tonnage? I dare say that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wardle) could tell us what has been done to assist in shifting the labour which might be unemployed in the Royal dockyards in the South to those yards in the North that are crying out for men who have been in merchant ships. Very little, I fear. It may be that it is explicable, but very little has been done. There is a double duty upon the Government. That is to assist in the organisation of the means of employment in the national interest and in the interest of those who are thrown out of employment by the change from war to peace.

I re-echo emphatically what has come from the benches behind me many times during this Debate. The workers of this country—I am speaking of the respectable, self-respecting workers—do not want charity. They do want national organisation for employment. That is the duty of the Government, which I hope after this Debate they will perhaps be very energetic in performing. My hon. Friend the Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) used these words: "No one knows the workman better than the workman himself." Therefore, I may remind the Committee of what has recently been done by the Ministry of Labour. They have organised the support of employers and employés to scrutinise the cases of those who are receiving the unemployed dole, so as to sift the deserving from the undeserving. Those tribunals have worked extremely well, as we know by the large number of undeserving cases that have been sifted out. There is another kind of tribunal which has also been in service. I have myself, as a member of unemployment committees, had occasion to observe the working of the referees to whom are referred all questions of difference between an official who has cut off the unemployment dole and the person who has lost it, and who feels that he or she has a grievance. I believe that those referees, drawn from all sections of the community, have done their work extremely well and justly and have held the balance quite evenly.

Now the suggestion that I have to make is that, my right hon. Friend, on behalf of the Government, should agree that the date for the change in regard to the unemployment dole should be postponed postponed not because of the exigencies of voting in a Division in this House, but having regard to the strong arguments which have been put forward, and that there should also in the interests of national economy be a tightening up even into greater stringency of the means of sifting the deserving from the undeserving which exist at the present time. You have panels of employers and working men acting together. You have your referees. Make it necessary that every case must be referred to the referee whether it is an appeal brought by the official concerned or by the receiver of the dole concerned. Make your scrutiny more minute, make the meshes of the net smaller, let every case be examined further and better than it is at present. Do that in the interests of economy, in justice to the reasonable national demand for greater economy, then you can arrive at a fair and reasonable compromise, meeting your obligations to the nation and your pledges to this House for economy, and at the same time relieving from unjust hardship those who deserve to be relieved and who are, perhaps, on the verge of, or it may be actually in a state of destitution through no fault of their own, but because of the upheaval of all national organisations which is one at least of the greatest of the curses that this horrible War has brought upon this country.


I would like to associate myself with what has been said by almost every Member this afternoon with regard to this question. Personally, I believe that the Government have made a great mistake, for one thing, in not dealing with this question from a permanent standpoint earlier, and, in the second place, in allowing this unemployment dole to lapse pending the time when it can be settled permanently. It is possible that there may be some solution from the Government standpoint. They may have had difficulties which they have not been able to overcome. They may have actually drafted a scheme which they found was not practicable. But if that is the case, they have not told us anything about it. In view of that, I do not think the House is being treated fairly by the proposal of the Government. I fully appreciate the fact that if this unemployment donation is continued, even during a period of the winter, it may mean very considerably increased expenditure, and I also realise that if it means increased expenditure it may mean increased taxation. But. per- sonally, if one is going to be faced with two alternatives of that kind, and they are both of them unpleasant alternatives—I do not think the present principle of the unemployment donation is good in itself because it is not a lasting solution of the question—I would much sooner vote for more taxation, or the possibility of increased taxation, than vote for a discontinuance of this system until we have a really satisfactory solution of the question.

I want to say one thing which has not been touched upon by anyone so far. I do not believe that you can ever solve this question of unemployment unless you realise that the whole question of unemployment should be settled by each industry itself. I am not an employer of labour, and possibly there are many Members here who consider that, therefore, I have no right to speak. But, as the representative of a working-class constituency, I feel this, that if each industry in itself could be made responsible for the possibility of its own unemployment, you would there find not only a solution of the unemployment question, but also a solution of the question of increased production. Speaking from my own personal experience, I know that there is at the back of almost every working man's mind the knowledge that if he produces more he may eventually produce too much and produce unemployment. I do not say whether he is right or wrong. I am not discussing that point. Yon will never remove that idea until you make him realise that whatever he does with regard to his work, whether or not he works harder than he has ever worked before and produces more than he has ever produced before, at any rate it will not result in throwing him or his pal out of work without receiving anything whilst unemployed. I am one of those who believe not only in Whitley Councils and in their being made almost statutory and compulsory, but also in some universal scheme of profit sharing as being one of the great solutions of many of our industrial problems. I do not see why, if we had some such universal scheme, we could not also have some universal scheme by which every federation of employers in an industry, or every group of industries, should put aside so much every year out of profit towards the possibility of unemployment, as so much is now put to reserve or in view of the possibility of depreciation of machinery and matters of that kind. I quite appreciate also that in order to do that you have to put aside more in a good year than in a bad year, on the principle by which a man or woman, and generally the woman, puts aside so much far a rainy day. I believe that if the Government would look at this question from that point of view they would find a solution. I not only believe that, but I believe that if they approach the big employers' federations and the trade unions they would find a great deal more sympathy than they, perhaps, anticipate. I hope that before the Government definitely come to a decision on this question they will seriously consider whether they cannot cither postpone this Motion until they have produced some definite scheme for the final settlement of this problem or will leave it to a free vote of Members of the House.

9.0 P.M.


I have listened with considerable interest to the speech of the hon. Member. It has been very interesting to hear him raise a fresh point. I have something to do with labour, but in this Debate this is the first time that the question has been raised regarding any one special department of Labour being responsible for its own unemployed. My hon. Friend's suggestion is certainly worthy of consideration Incidentally, I cannot help referring to the fact that it is very cheering for me as a Liberal and Radical to hear such Liberal sentiments regarding Labour from my hon. Friend, who used to be associated with Conservatism in quite another form. I do not know whether that is the influence of Liberal sentiment upon the Coalition, but if it is so, I really welcome in this House the little leaven which is gradually leavening the whole lump. I do not like to hear this unemployment donation referred to as a dole. I have always regarded it as a system of insurance. I am not sure that the insurable period has yet lapsed. We are still more or less in a state of war. I regard with a certain amount of misapprehension the immediate stopping of this allowance to those who are out of employment. If there was one speech to-day which interested me more than another it was that of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson). I suggest to the hon. Member (Mr. Wardle), who is now representing the Government, that he ought to give that speech the fullest possible consideration. What is the position of the country today? I think it is a wonderful tribute to the commercial position of this country that demobilised soldiers have been absorbed in industry to such a wonderful extent up to the present. We are now dealing with only 91,000 cases for unemployment benefit. These figures have not been challenged up till now. Considering the extremely difficult position of industry, I think the number of men who have been absorbed represents a wonderful tribute, not only to the; ability but to the commercial stability of this country.

How are manufacturers of all kinds placed to-day? Transport facilities were never worse. Every station, every important junction all over the country is congested with goods, and what is true of our railway system, is true of our sea transport. We are short of shipping tonnage, and the consequence is that there is in the country to-day a lack of raw material, and that raw material is stopping the employment of men. I can speak with first-hand experience of that question. I know important industries to-day employing thousands of men who may have to stop next week for two reasons: one is the lack of shipping tonnage, and the other is the insane policy of import restrictions pursued by the Board of Trade. What I want to put to this Committee is this, and I am sorry that the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord II. Cecil) is not in his place. I want to know what the Committee is prepared To do in the case of men who cannot find employment and are willing to work. I am as well aware as anyone in the House that the out-of-employment donation has been abused. I could give the House some very interesting examples of how it has been abused, but that is a matter of common knowledge, and we are considering this matter tonight not from the point of view of the abuse of the unemployed donation but from the point of view of its benefit, and the question I want to put to those who oppose the extension of the time is, what is their policy regarding the man who is willing to work but cannot find employment? I venture to suggest that the time has come when the Government cannot look with indifference upon any man who is willing to work but who cannot find it and I say that with a full knowledge of all the circumstances of the case. I have only one suggestion to make to my right, hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, and it is this. I am not one of those who believe that the House has been placed in an unfair position regarding this proposal. That responsibility must rest upon the Government. I am one of those who, outside and inside, have advocated economy, and I have not one single word to withdraw from what I have said about Government extravagance. I rather welcome now the opportunity of accepting collective responsibility in this House for what we believe to be necessary expenditure.

It is a great tribute to the Government that since the Armistice they have been able, by their policy, to keep the ship of State on a comparatively level keel during some very serious storms. I am not sure that these are over, and I should be very sorry indeed if any policy that we adopted here, and especially any policy of the Government, should have the effect of renewing that dislocation and unrest which, it seems to me, is being gradually overcome at the present time, I have only one suggestion to make, and it is a perfectly simple one. Before those unemployment benefits are suspended, it is up to His Majesty's Government to link up their new scheme, and make it synchronise with the stopping of this unemployment benefit, which I think, upon the whole, has been a perfectly wise proposition up till now. If they do not pursue that policy, I think there may be grave dangers ahead. I want the greatest possible stringency in inquiring into all cases where the out-of-work donation is claimed. I do not care how stringent the inquiry may be; in fact, the more stringent it is the more I shall welcome it, but unless there is to be very serious grievance, unless there is to be possibly a further development of serious unrest, the Government, in view of what has taken place, and the dislocation following the War, cannot possibly overlook the claim of those men and women who cannot find employment, but who are willing to work, and for that reason I think it is incumbent upon the Government to make a cessation of the payment of out-of-work donation synchronise with their new scheme of out-of-work insurance. I venture to appeal to the Government, in view of the almost unanimous wish expressed in this House, to consider that view, and I feel quite certain that if they do so they will consult, not only their own interests and the general sentiments in this House, but tie almost unanimous feeling in the country, that at this juncture nothing unfair should be done to men who honestly want work and cannot find work.


I am very anxious to have the opportunity of saying a few words in this Debate because I suppose I am like many others who have received communications regarding the announcement in the Press that the Government were going to put an end to this unemployment donation. I received yesterday evening a very urgent and important telegram from the city of Gloucester, not from the unemployed, but from people who are there concerned with the well-being of the community, urging me to be in attendance to vote against the proposal of the Government, and, if possible, to say a word against the proposal. Therefore, I am going to vote, if there is a vote wanted, and I am glad I have got the opportunity of saying a word. I am sure hon. Members will give me credit when I say that, like my colleagues, I have the opportunity every day of my life practically, of mixing among the people who will be affected most seriously by the withdrawal of the unemployment donation, and I was very much struck with the very humorous, tragic story—that is a contradiction in terms, but it seems to fit the case—of an hon. Member opposite when he depicted in mournful and humorous tones the horrible sight, the serious state of affairs, when a lady, a mother of six or seven children, failed to obtain a domestic servant. It was a terrible story, a. frightful picture to bring to our mental gaze; but what came to my mind was the mother with six or seven, children at home, and her husband unemployed, and no money at all coming in to provide the food to feed those dependent upon her. The picture of the one failing to get a domestic servant, of course, was a serious one, but it faded into utter insignificance in comparison with the picture of the mother at home whose man, is out of work and no money coming in.

I agree that we are not here advocating charity, but we are advocating right, and I want to reply to the hon. Member opposite (Major Henderson), who mentioned the idea of providing against unemployment in the trade. It is not a new idea to me at all. I remember that, more than two years ago, at a very important conference here in this City, we were dealing with a trade that had been practically stopped in consequence of the War. We know that this trade will revive and give employment to, I suppose, 20,000 or 30,000 people. The conference was representative of the whole of the employers' and the workmen's organisations, and we made this suggestion to the employers: "Here is your opportunity; let us start aright. When this trade is restarted, you give 1 or 3 per cent, out of your profits, and let the workmen give something equal to it, and build up a fund which will provide for the possibilities of unemployment in this particular trade if it comes about." At first it was very favourably considered, and was looked upon as a happy and practical idea, and we were hopeful that it was going to materialise into some substantial form. Instead of that, however, we got a letter in due course to say that they had considered the proposal thoroughly, but were bound to conclude that it was no business of theirs to provide this unemployment insurance, and so the tiling was killed in its very inception. If an idea such as that could be adopted, and a percentage deducted and put aside for the purpose of providing for unemployment in the case of every industry, I believe at would go a long way to save the nation from the disaster that overtakes it during times of unemployment.

Then, again, we have heard serious speeches to-night on the demoralising effect upon the British working man or woman who takes money for nothing. I do not advocate the money-for-nothing business anywhere or at any time or to any person, but I happen to have, been sitting on a Committee these last five or six weeks, and shall continue to do so probably for five or six months, investigating an industry that will practically become extinct unless it is saved for the nation. We have been day after day looking at balance sheets and reports, and going buck for years into the income and expenditure of that mining industry—the non-ferrous mining industry. In almost every report one looks at, one sees the item in it "Mining Royalties" — £7,000, £8,000, £15,000, and to-day I was looking at one, covering a period of some twenty-five years, and there was a single item in it of £189,000 odd for mining royalties. That is money for nothing it you like! Would you say that any of the gentlemen, some of them noble lords, who have been receiving and are receiving this money for nothing, have become demoralised by that? Would you dare to insult them by saying that they are demoralised people because they have been receiving money for nothing? If the payment of mining royalties is not money for nothing I would like very much to know what it is, because I am sure of this, that they never did anything to put the minerals down there, and they have never exhausted any physical strength in getting them out of the earth; they have simply taken their cheque when it became due, passed it on to the banker, and did not feel a blush of shame upon their face. Money for nothing! They are not demoralised. But the working man who takes a pound as unemployment donation, to help him to keep the wolf of poverty from the door if demoralised because he has accepted it, while a gentleman that receives his thousands as mining royalties is promoted to the House of Lords. It is all a question of amount. If you get a pound you are demoralised; if you get a million, well, you are honoured! That is all die difference there is.

I have been wicked enough to think to day that, with all these hundreds of thousands that have been paid for mining royalties, the little side issue that we are dealing with is a very small matter compared to the great coalfields and the amount of money in mining royalties that is paid out in that direction. And we have only just started; I will tell you more about it later on! I find in these balance sheets that, even when no dividend has been paid to the shareholders—and that is a terrible thing in itself!—even when no profit is made on the working of the concern, the dear old royalty payment stands out prominently all the time; that is never missed. I have asked many a time the question during the last—


It is quite right that the hon. Member should give illustrations, but I am afraid he is carrying his illustration into the whole of his speech.


I bow to your ruling, Sir, but it was such a rich morsel, and I was so afraid that these people would become demoralised that I wanted to have something to say about it; but I hope the mining royalties will go to meet the unemployment donation. The speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) made me ask myself what did he know of the practical side of unemployment, and what do many people in this House understand of it? You may have read magazines or essays, and you may have been at lectures, or you may even have sat in a seat at the theatre and let the tears run down your cheeks at some pathetic scene that has been, acted. But the tragedy of unemployment only those who have been through it can understand. Only those who have felt the iron enter into their soul know what it means. Only those who have done their weary tramp with blistered feet and aching heart, and have come back and looked into the hungry eyes of their wife and children and said, "No work to-day!" who have sat by the fireless grate and have heard the children crying for bread—it is only those who know really what it means. Some of us have been through it; some of us have had to live through it, and we are not demoralised; but we will never forgot it. It is because we have suffered, and because we know the horrors of it, that we are fighting hard against unemployment as the greatest evil and the greatest curse the nation has to face today. I say that the greatest preventive of a most serious evil has been the payment of the unemployment donation, and if this is to be stopped we shall hear in a few weeks' time some right hon. Gentlemen and Noble Lords declaiming and denouncing the spread of Bolshevism in our country. They will be denouncing such men as myself and those around me, because we are not putting a stop to this unrest and to the spread of Bolshevism in our midst. The surest way to produce Bolshevism in this country is to let the people go hungry and starving; and so my last word is one of earnest appeal to the Government to reconsider its position. Create your scheme it you like. Let us have it, analyse it. deal with it and accept it, but do not stop the means of subsistence to those who are in need of it until you have something better or something equally good, to put in its place.


One does not need to be very long in this House to realise that all the speaking may go one way and all the voting go another. I have seen enough of that to make even a novice like myself pause before passing an opinion. I think the voting to-night is going the way of the speaking, and whichever way the Government may go—whether it keeps the Whips on or takes them off—the vote, I believe, is going against the proposal. The House is not altogether free from blame for the position in which we find ourselves tonight. The Government has been a little misled by the House, because, so far as my recollection goes, throughout this year there has been no item of expenditure by the Government which has met with such disapproval as this unemployment donation. Whenever any question has been asked about it in the House there has generally been a chorus of disapproval at its continuance. After all, it is the Government's business to understand the House. They might have realised that it was only "pretty Fanny's way" of dealing with something that did enable the House to show its opinion on matters of expenditure, and that the House never expected to be put to the test it is being put to to-night. There are greater things than consistency. Emerson said that consistency was the, virtue of fools. The resistance of the Committee to-night to this proposal does credit to its heart. We have just had a very moving appeal from the last speaker. It was hardly necessary. There is not a single member in this Committee who is not checked to-night by the, consideration of what would happen at this period of the year if this donation were stopped. That is the real consideration which is making us all pause. We do fear that it would be a means of accentuating industrial unrest. We feel that legitimately. What we have in mind is that if the Government persist in this proposal and is able to carry it, during the months of the winter before us—it looks as if it were going to be a long winter—men, women and children who do not deserve such treatment will be exposed to hard-shin and privation. I am going to risk my reputation and say that I am quite sure, that this proposal is not going to be carried to-night, but that the Government is going to realise the position and find a way out of it.

I was struck by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) this afternoon. It was really a sincerely honest attempt to help the Government out of a position which he felt would damage the Government. There could be no greater tribute to the sincerity of the House on this question than the speech he made. He realised, as we all realise, that if this proposal were carried it would have a most damaging effect upon the Government. A night or two ago we had an exposition of the reasons which induced this House and the country to spend £100,000,000 upon the Russian expedition. We were told that we found ourselves, when the Armistice came to an end, involved in Russia with honourable obligations to those in Russia who had stood by us in the War. Not a single argument used in favour of the expenditure on Russia could not be used in favour of the continuance of this donation. I am told that it has cost us £40,000,000. The amount of money to be spent in Russia is two and a-half times that amount. If there is anybody to whom this country has honourable obligations it is to the men and women, who in civil employment helped us to carry the War through to a successful conclusion.

Further, this moment is not opportune for stopping the donation. If this were the month of June, and we had summer before us, we might be inclined to take a different view. We have not only the fact of the season, but also the fact that it is impossible at the present moment to say how much of the unemployment which exists is due to ordinary causes and how much to the conditions of the War. In every reason the Government has put forward for the continuance of expenditure we have been told that the War was not over or that the conditions of war still obtained. The position is exactly the same with regard to civil unemployment. We were told the other night that expenditure on the Army was due to the fact that it had not been possible to demobilise the Army as quickly as was thought possible. That is quite true. It also has not been possible, as yet, to get the normal channels of industry open and into a condition where one might reasonably say there was employment to be had if men wanted to take it. A further point I would submit for the consideration of the Committee— it is a matter of extraordinary credit to the people of this country—is the way in which, although this donation has been going on, the figures of unemployment have decreased. If the working people of this country were demoralised by the unemployment donation, I do not think we should have had the reduction in the figures that has taken place. Not many months ago the figures were several hundred thousands. They have come down to 300,000. To-day we are dealing with less than 100,000 men and women. The volume of opinion which has been expressed in the Committee must convince the Government that, while we want this to stop and think it ought to stop, this is not the time to stop it, and that that lime will not come until the Government are ready with a permanent scheme. The position of the Government is very much like the position of a stretcher-bearer who has found a man wounded in a trench, who bandages him up and sets off for the nearest dressing station, but half way to the dressing station says, I am tired of carrying this man; I am going to let him drop." This matter has to be carried on until the Gvoernment are ready with their scheme.

Lieut.-Commander WILLIAMS

We have had a very curious Debate on this subject. Some hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway have seemed to me to imagine that they have almost an entire monopoly of sympathy with those who are out of work. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I am not at all certain that we have not had some evidence of that, Almost every individual in the Committee realises the difficulty, the hardship, and the trouble in every way of those men who are out of work at the present time. Let me take a single instance where I believe the Government themselves could do a great deal in a temporary way to alleviate the present unemployment. There is the case of the large dockyards, where probably the percentage of unemployment is as great as exists anywhere. There you could, by building merchant ships for a short time, relieve the congestion in your shipping traffic and at the same time relieve the unemployment question. I do not believe for one moment that it would be a profits able undertaking. You might even let a part of these yards to private concerns to build ships. Anything would be better than allowing these men to be out of work and you paying them a definite dole while they stay there. The point in the opening speech of the Debate which struck me most was the extraordinary fact that to-day, within twelve months of the end of the War, the position in regard to unemployment in this country is far better than it was in the days immediately preceding the War.

If that be the case, then, considering the enormous burden of taxation that the people are called upon to bear, considering that there are many industries endeavouring in every way they possibly can to get started again, considering that there are many individuals among every section of the community who are endeavouring to start work and who are seriously hesitating whether they will start it in Great Britain with its extraordinarily heavy taxation, or go abroad to one of our Colonies where there is very much lighter taxation, surely something might have been said in this Debate for the very many millions of taxpayers in this country. I have every bit as much sympathy as any Member of this House with the unemployed. I have made a practical suggestion, which is more than some hon. Gentlemen have done, and I have also in a small way done my best to help one or two of these men, but, as far as I understand the economic problem, unless the Government say very clearly that they are going to cut down expenditure when the chance arises we are going to have unemployment and troubles in our trades within the next five or six years such as we have never known before, not in the immediate future while the world is absolutely starving for every kind of manufacture, but later whoa the other nations have sent out their best brains to other places where they can get better results for their industry. I, therefore, ask the Government to do what they can to hasten their building programme, to meet the local wishes where it is possible, so as to absorb any part of the unemployed, to press forward with their programme of reconstruction so far as the roads are concerned—even the great Ministry of Transport might be gingered up a little in this particular—and to do everything they possibly can in this direction. Let the Government do this and at the same time stick by the Resolution that they have made. I say this not because I lack sympathy with those men who may suffer, but because I believe it is the best for the nation as a whole, and that is the duty of those of us who come here to do what we think is the best for the nation regardless of jeers or other cries.

Colonel BURN

I listened just now to the speech of the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wignall), who drew a picture of Noble Lords and others drawing their money from mining royalties. When Noble, Lords or anybody else invest their money in mining royalties, they do so just as they would in a railway or other commercial concern, [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Gentlemen who say "No" are entirely wrong. I know Noble Lords and others who have everything they possess invested in mining royalties. Is it right, or is it wrong, if money is invested like that, honestly in a certain undertaking, commercial or otherwise, that they should receive a fair return for their money? Surely they should be treated in the same way as any other investor in the country. I am one, of those who feel that the men who have served their country in the Army or the Navy in this War should have everything that the State can do for them, and I do not imagine that there is any idea of the unemployment benefit being taken away from those men who have failed to get positions when demobilised. The House is in agreement as to them. We do not want to see stranded men who have been working in munition factories or other industries during the War, and who are thrown out owing to the general state of business. We do not want them to feel that they and their families have to undergo a course of starvation. We wish to see them assisted by the State, but we also wish to be able to discriminate between those who really are in sore need owing to unemployment, and those who prefer to draw the unemployment benefit than to work. I do not say that there is such an enormous number of those cases, but there are cases of abuse of this unemployment benefit, as hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House know full well. My scheme—I put it to the Committee would be to devise means by which we might discriminate between those two classes. Something in this direction might be done by publicity. The names of those who have received the benefit for seven or fourteen days, or whatever period may be thought best, should be published in the local Press.


Along with the undesirable aliens.

Colonel BURN

No, you do not need to say that. There is no stigma against a man receiving the unemployment benefit. No man or woman honestly unemployed and honestly unable to get work would object to having his or her name published in the paper.


Would you like the name of everyone who has never done any work published?

Colonel BURN

If publicity were given to these names, then the people who were drawing this unemployment benefit fraudulently would be shown up by the people living in the district. I honestly believe that there is something in this suggestion, and I ask the Government to consider it, because we are all, in whatever quarter of the House we sit, desirous of arriving at a fair and just solution. We want to see helped those who cannot get work and who are in dire distress, but we want to discriminate between them and those who prefer to live on the dole rather than do work if they can get it. I hope that sug- gestion will be considered by the Government, because we are all desirous of seeing a settlement, and desirous of those being helped who really urgently need it, because, remember, this is a national question and we do not want to see the nation pauperised. What we want to see is each man working and doing his level best to try to get the country back to something like the condition in which it was before this terrible War.


A few days ago, when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the withdrawal of the unemployment donation, it was received with general satisfaction by the supporters of the Government. We have to-day witnessed a remarkable transformation. Speaker after speaker has risen from the Government Benches and pleaded with the Government to continue this payment, [...] any rate for a little longer period. Now we on these benches strongly support the continuation of the payment, and we do not do so merely in the interests of the great Labour organisations with which we stand connected. It is often mistakenly thought that we are putting in our plea for the members of the trade unions. Those who know anything of the trade union movement at all must, be aware that the unemployed trade unionist is in a better position than the unemployed non-unionist. May I remind the Committee that in one year the trade union movement of this country has paid no less than £1,250,000 to unemployed members during the period of their enforced idleness, and we have of times claimed—and I think we are perfectly entitled to claim—that a movement which is prepared to pay the sum of £1,250,000 to its members during a period of slack trade is rendering the nation as a whole a very great, benefit? What would become of the vast army of unemployed, especially when we find unemployment statistics as I have known them, up at 14 per cent., were it not that week by week assistance was meted out from the trade union funds, it is very difficult to say. Therefore, I think we place the country under a considerable debt of gratitude to our organisations for rendering this very great service.

We listened during the later part of the Debate to three speeches to which I would like very briefly to refer. We had a speech from the Noble Lord opposite. I could have wished that a full House could have heard his speech, and then been able to listen to the truly humane speeches delivered by the hon. Member for Silver-town (Mr. J. Jones) and the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wignall). The Noble Lord had one theme to put before the Committee. His was a plea for economy. I do not think that any section of the House would be prepared to disagree with him as to the importance, in the national interest, of our securing economy, and as speedily as possible. We heard a great deal on this score during the Finance Debate. But surely the Noble Lord carried the plea for economy much too far when he was prepared to ask us to secure economy by the stopping of the unemployment, donation, which, in my judgment, might prove costly, wasteful and dangerous. Surely we must recognise the danger, we must recognise the possibility of waste, and we must be in a position to appreciate the possibility of it costing us a much larger sum than that which is involved in the sum that the donation makes necessary, if economy has to be secured by the starvation, of the people. It is no exaggeration to say that starvation might be one of the consequences of the stoppage of this dole. [HON. MEMBERS: "No! and "Yes!"] The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Renwick.) says "NO". May I ask, in these days of high prices, what working men with large families have to do if, as I said at the beginning, they may happen to be outside of any trade union, are receiving no assistance from any organisation of that kind, and they have to walk about the streets week by week, month by month? What are they then offered? [An HON. MEMBER: "The workhouse!"] Surely it must be starvation or the Poor Law. Is it to be suggested that for the 101,000 civilian men and the 34.000 women—I am leaving altogether out of consideration the 300,000 odd ex-Service men there is nothing but the Poor Law in the event of their bring forced into an experience of weeks of idleness? May I point out that we admit that next to the provision of the trade unions there is only the provision left of the Poor Law, which is much costly than the unemployment dole? You have only to remember the figures which have been quoted in answer to questions over and over again in this House. They show what it costs to keep paupers in these days of high prices, that it is much more expen- sive to keep an unemployed person in the workhouse than it would be to enable that person to maintain his home by continuing for a further period this unemployment donation.

May I ask the House, as previous speakers have done, to remember the effect of prolonged unemployment without support upon the all-important question of national production? Those who have followed the great problem of unemployment, as some of us have been compelled to do for years, know full well that there is no experience so demoralising or deteriorating as a prolonged spell of unemployment. We have heard more than once in this House in the Debates of recent years of the great importance of maintaining in good condition what were called the Army Reserve. In the period before the War there was no section of the community but would have been prepared to admit the essential importance of keeping your Army Reserve in the very pink of condition. We talk about the necessity for increased production. We are passing through a period of transition. Schemes presently may develop that will require all the labour that this country can provide. Surely, if it is of essential importance that we should keep the Army Reserve for military purposes in first-class condition so that they will be able to discharge their duties, it is of equal importance that we should keep the Army Reserve in connection with industry free from the danger of demoralisation and deterioration in order that they may be prepared to discharge their duty in bringing the standard of national production to what it is essential it really should be! We, therefore, again ask, and in all seriousness, if you do not provide work we see nothing for it in many cases—not in all, for trade unions will see to some, and we rejoice in being able so to do!— but in some cases we can see that it is work or the workhouse. That is the issue that this House is called upon to decide by its vote this evening.

10.0 P.M.

I desire to bring before the Committee, and especially before the Leader of the House, the position in which we found ourselves in the early part of the present year. The House will remember that a conference was called in January and February in view of the serious amount of industrial unrest. The Government, in fact, called that great conference, which was one of the most important, one of the largest, and one of the most representative of conferences, and, let me say, one of the most unique conferences we have ever held in this country. That conference was presided over by the Minister of Labour. The Prime Minister was present. A resolution was proposed by myself, and seconded by Sir Alan Smith, on behalf of the great body of employers that were represented there, and this resolution laid upon us the responsibility of looking into the causes of unrest, and amongst those causes was the question of unemployment. May I read to the Committee that part of the reference that we were eventually called upon to examine? To consider the question of unemployment and to make recommendations for the steps to be taken for its prevention— I especially ask the attention of the Leader of the House to the next words— and for the maintenance of the unemployed in those cases in which it is not prevented, both during the present emergency and on a permanent basis.


What is the date of that?


I have already told the Committee a conference was called by the Government, and was held on 27th February of the present year.


Things have altered since then.


"Your country needs you!"


Principles have not altered.


The conference sat almost continuously. It produced a Report, and in that Report, it brought forward a large number of proposals for dealing with this great problem of unemployment. I am going to trouble the Committee by calling attention to some of the recommendations. May I remind the Committee that all the proposals or recommendations I am going to ask hon. Members to notice were unanimously recommended by the employers' and the workmen's representatives. That adds to the importance of the recommendations. The fact that we were called together by the present Government itself, that we were presided over by the Minister of Labour, who is in charge of the present, Debate, that we were addressed by the Prime Minister, and that the Resolution out of which our reference came was accepted by the Prime Minister, also adds to the importance of the conference. The recommendations to which I am going to refer were also accepted by the Prime Minister. It is quite true that in a letter sent to the Committee and I have been through the whole of the negotiations, being chairman on the workmen's side and at nearly every meeting—it is quite true that on one point there was a reservation put in by the Primo Minister, but with regard to our recommendations for dealing with the problem of unemployment there was not the slightest reservation, I am asking hon. Members to remember these proposals were accepted by the Government.

First of all, we briefly indicated some steps which might be taken to minimise unemployment. We wanted to carry out the theory that it was better to keep all the workers employed some of the time rather than to enforce permanent idleness on a certain percentage of the workers. Our first recommendation, therefore, dealt with what we call the organisation of short time. We also dealt with the necessity for restricting, as far as possible, systematic overtime. We recommended proposals for stabilising employment. We urged that the Government should get on with its housing programme. We urged also the development of industry, and we called attention to under-consumption and higher production, and to tie importance of securing the greatest efficacy of industrial councils. But I especially want to call the attention of the Committee to paragraph 8. The Committee are unanimous in their view that the normal provision for maintenance during unemployment should be more adequate and of wider application than is provided for by the National Insurance (Unemployment) Act. They think, moreover, whatever may be the basis of the scheme ultimately adopted it should include provision for under-employment as well as for unemployment. There are other provisions regarding education and training in domestic employment for married women and widows, and for the limitation of child labour. It may be said, and I admit it may be said with a great deal of truth, that it is so short a time since all these recommendations were advanced in this Report, that the Government have not been able to formulate their plans for dealing with the problem on the broad general lines indicated in the Report. Supposing that we admit that position, surely we are entitled to ask—and this is the point I desire to urge as strongly as I possibly can—that until the Government has given effect to its housing programme, which would no doubt have found a good deal of employment for a number of trades; until they I have carried out the other recommendations, and had a fall opportunity of organising short time rather than increase the number of those unemployed, surely we are entitled to ask that, the unemployed donation should be continued until they have produced their plans, in order to deal with the problem on a more permanent basis! I think it is very unsatisfactory even to have to suggest the possibility of bad faith between the Government and such a Conference as they themselves organised, and which issued the Report to which I have referred. I do not want to make the suggestion of bad faith. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is true, anyhow!"]


They are experts in bad faith.


I have tried to show that this Report was accepted by the Government, and one of the proposals is for the maintenance during the War of the unemployed. We have, as has been shown by the Minister of Labour, 101,000 civilian workmen unemployed to-day, so far as we know, through no fault of their own. We have 34,000 women unemployed, so far as we know through no fault of their own, and when we have nearly 150,000 civilians unemployed at this moment there is a suggestion that what they have been receiving in the way of support and sustenance is to be withdrawn, and this in spite of all that the Report I have mentioned contains, a Report which was accepted by the Government of the day. I want to ask what can those who attended the Conference think, what can the trade union side of the Committee think who have done the work on the invitation of the Government, and who have had it thrown at them that the only thing they did was to provide a screen for the Government against the storm which was then raging. What, I ask, is to be the position of those of us who came to the assistance of the Government in February, who sat through March and reported in April-there were thirty employers and thirty trade union representatives—what will they think if in spite of having called attention to this Report the Government persevere with the motion now before the Committee and are going to withdraw the whole of this donation from this great army of unemployed? I hope all possibiblity of the suggestion of bad faith will be removed by the Government reconsidering the matter even at. this late hour, and I trust they will recognise that we are entitled on this Report, if not on the general position, to ask them to continue the unemployed donation for the present at any rate, until they have given effect, as they undertook to give effect, to the general recommendations of the Report for dealing with the complex and difficult problem of unemployment.

In view of the running of the Debate I should like to ask the Leader of the House whether he cannot see his way clear to leave this to be an open vote. I think tills is one of the questions which hon. Members might be permitted to represent their constituencies on. It is quite true we have the two issues Before us, economy, important we all admit, but we also have the prevention of the deterioration and demoralisation of those in our constituencies who may be walking the streets today, men and women asking to sell their labour, and owing to the emergency of the War are not able to find an opportunity to dispose of their labour. I think the representatives of the constituencies ought to have an opportunity of freely saying whether they will have economy at the cost of the comfort, and even the physical well-being and the health of their constituents. It seems to me that if ever there was a case when we all ought to be left free on an issue it is the issue that we have been discussing to-day, and I sincerely trust the right hon. Gentleman will go that far, and if he cannot accept the suggestion I have made, he might continue the payment of this donation until the Government plans have matured. I trust the Government will at any rate allow the House to decide for itself which is the proper course to adopt.


I desire to point out that things have changed very much since last February because then there was a large amount of unemployment, and we had barely signed the Armistice. The men were coming home, we had the Christmas and New Year's holidays, and the course of industry was interrupted, in fact we hardly knew where we were. In February we had an excess profits duty of 80 per cent., which absolutely prevented the extension of existing industries and the formation of new ones. In May the Excess Profits Duty was reduced to 40 per cent., and I remember very well saying here on these benches that that reduction would mean the starting of new industries and the extension of old ones. Was there ever a period when there were more schemes before the country than there is at the present time for the extension of existing industries and for the formation of new industries? The right hon. Gentleman in his speech practically made it an issue between work and the workhouse. But there is no necessity at the present time to even mention workhouses. There is plenty of work for every man and every woman who cares to work, and, what is more, I commend to the right hon. Gentleman the fact that there is work for shorter hours and higher wages than was ever before known in the history of this country's industry. This morning I was down in the London docks. What did I find there? I was told that unskilled men loading and discharging ships were making as much as £2 per day, or an average of £7 per week. If I go to Manchester, to the docks there, or to some of the big industries, I am told the same story, and I am further told that it is impossible to get sufficient men to carry on the work. I am going to give the House as far as possible a few plain facts. Very recently, within the last month or so, in association with one or two colleagues, I have been endeavouring to get machinery for a new shipyard— all sorts of machinery, electric and otherwise. What are we told wherever we go, whether it be Leeds, or Glasgow, or Birmingham or Coventry, or any other place? It is always said to us, "We are very sorry, but we cannot quote a fixed price owing to the unsettled state of labour and we must put a stipulation into the contract that prices shall rise if the cost of labour increases or a reduction in the hours comes about." And then they add, and this is the crucial point, ''We are extremely sorry that we cannot give you an early date for delivery, but we are crowded out with orders." If that is the state of affairs how can any man say that there is unemployment to any extent at the present time? There may be some, but generally, and I make the assertion, without fear of contradiction, that now there is no amount of unemployment that cannot be removed if there is a. general desire on the part of those out of work to accept employment.

I have heard two or three speeches tonight from Members connected with the cotton and woollen trades. Is it not the fact also that their factories are crowded out with orders, and at prices such as they never had before, carrying such profits as they never previously obtained? And yet in those very districts the cry is, "We cannot get sufficient labour." I would like to quote the speech of the right hon. Member for the Platting Division. It was a very good speech, but it was of a very pessimistic character, and the right hon. Gentleman was very much put to it to find illustrations of unemployment. He first took us to Manchester and Salford and drew a dismal picture because the building trade could not get cement. But then he added, "the cement manufacturers have plenty of cement if only they can get it carried." I think the right hon. Gentleman is wrong, and if he applies to these cement manufacturers they will tell him their order books are full. Then he said they could not get the cement to Manchester on account of the difficulty of getting rolling stock to carry it. There is rolling stock of another character which would carry it which rolls very much in winter. I mean ships. Down at the docks this morning I do not think there was a ton to go to Manchester though the Thames is the principal source for getting cement. The right hon. Gentleman could not have given a worse illustration of men out of employment than he gave. If that is his illustration of men out of employment I am sorry for the poverty of his argument.

The speech of the Minister of Labour was a very good speech though of an apologetic character. It was brimful of kindness of heart. He wanted to let down those in receipt of the unemployment dole as gently as possible. So we all do. We all sympathise with the men who have been fighting, and we will not only give them one year, but two or three. But then there is another class of people who have learnt to look upon this unemployment dole as something to be given to them as long as they remain out of employment. The proper way to look upon it is that it is a dole to assist them while they are looking for employment. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will stick to his guns. I represent a big industrial constituency. I am not afraid of my constituents. I do not want to be left free. I am quite willing to exercise a vote to-night and I am going to vote in favour of the Government. We have heard that we are going to have a Bill to deal with insurance against unemployment. I sincerely hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) and let the representatives of Labour and the Government meet together and discuss this matter and then, for heaven's sake, let them come to the House, before telling us, as is too often the case, that they have made a bargain. There is plenty of work for those who want to work, and I am sorry to hear the speeches of all the Jeremiahs who have spoker. I am an old man of seventy, but I have the greatest faith in the future of my country, and I am quite certain that if our working classes and our capitalists will pull together as they ought to, the future of our country is assured.

Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)

One of the attractions of the House of Commons which makes those who have been for a long time a Member of it specially love it is the way in which the unexpected happens. The unexpected evidently is going to happen more frequently in the condition that have been left after the War, and which have upset all our ideas. I say that for this reason: I have listened to a great deal of this Debate, and I have had an account of the whole of it, and with the exception of the speech of my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) and the speech to which we have just listened, not one word has been said in favour of the suggestion of the Government that this unemployment donation should not be continued in the case of civilians. But that is not the end of it. It is not merely that no word has been said it favour of the course which the Government recommend, but most powerful and most moving speeches have been made in the opposite direction by the party which is supporting the Government and which, from all my previous experience of discussion or expression of opinion in this House, I thought would take the other view. As a matter of fact, I do not remember a single case where a word was said in favour of the continuance of this benefit from our benches except, curiously, a statement made by myself in the Economy Debate not long ago, when, with the exception of the Labour Members, I was the only person who suggested that there was something to be said in favour of the continuance of this donation. I do not in the least put that forward as a ground for complaint. I put it forward, mainly, to ask the House to realise that we are in extraordinary conditions, and that the views of every hon. Member are coloured by the experiences of the War and the conditions which the War has left.

I am going to tell the House exactly why the Government, on the whole, came to the conclusion that it would be wise not to continue this benefit for civilians. My right hon. Friend who spoke last (Mr. Henderson) referred to the speech of my Noble Friend (Lord H. Cecil), and contrasted it with what he described as the human speeches of Members on the bench behind him. I do not know exactly where the humanity comes in. I always listen with great interest to the speeches, though not with the same interest to the interjections of the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones). I think he is human, but not more so, I hope, than myself or other Members on this side. He put forward a view which is quite contrary to every argument which has hitherto been used in support of this donation. His view really amounted to this, that so long as anyone— any woman, for instance—of the class who have more money than the class to which he belongs is strong enough to do the work herself it is a degradation for anyone to do the work for adequate payment in exchange. That really means something entirely different from all the arguments that have been put forward from that bench. It means, not that this donation should be given as a consequence of the temporary causes due to the War, but it means that our whole social system should be turned upside down, and that everything that everybody has should be more or less equally divided. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I do not see any other meaning in it. I refer to that for this reason: If it is on those grounds, or grounds like them, that this donation is asked to be continued, then this Government can have no parley or compromise whatever about it. That is a view of the life of society which we cannot accept.

But that is not the whole case. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Henderson) who spoke last put before us a strong picture of the evils of unemployment to the working classes, and he said this, that one of the main things that this House and the country should pay attention to is that our working classes just as well as our soldiers when we need them should not be demoralised. I accept that, but where does that lead us to? My right hon. Friend the Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes) himself, with an amount of wisdom which I find in many of his speeches, described this system of doles in itself as most demoralising, think that that will be accepted generally The grounds on which the Government came to the decision to give the donations in the beginning, and on which they are continuing to give to the soldiers now, are that this is not to be regarded as being a permanent part of our system, but that it is justifiable alone as a result of entirely abnormal conditions which are caused by the War; and I was interested by what my right hon. Friend said about the condition of this country in February and a meeting of the Industrial Council to which he referred. I am glad he developed his view in regard to that matter, for many other recommendations which were made were not dependent on the Government and could not be carried out by the Government. But I am justified in saying that, so far as the Ministry of Labour have the power, effect has been given to every one of these recommendations. But the right hon. Gentleman implied that, because of the words in that resolution, that it was the duty of the Government to set up a permanent scheme on a. wide basis, therefore we were in some strange way, if not breaking faith, deceiving those who were there because that had boon done, But I do not know that he gave anything to suggest that there was any undertaking whatever to show that the scheme would be coincident with the end of the unemployment donation.

We are discussing two entirely different things. I do not think one needs to be an actual worker to realise that the danger of unemployment is probably the greatest spectre that stands in the way of all honest hard-working men. I do not think that anyone doubts that. Personally, I have always thought that, amongst the charges made against the capitalist system that which is almost the keynote of Marx's indictment, and which is the strongest charge made against the system, is that, as a rule, it is found to mean this—that in order that it may be normally carried on there must be a large reserve of labour so that when trade is going particularly well there will be enough labour for it, with the further result that when trade is going badly there must be a large pool of unemployed labour. I always thought that if that is an essential part of our social system it is a very serious charge against it. In my own belief, one of the very greatest social reforms which could possibly he carried out is to have some system, as universal as we can make it, of compulsory insurance against unemployment, a system the demoralising effects of which will be at least minimised, and probably destroyed, by the fact that the workmen themselves will largely contribute to the funds. That is what we are aiming at. My right hon. Friend (Sir R. Home) has spent in his own Department and in the other Departments endless time in trying to prepare that scheme. But I ask the House to realise this: It cannot be carried out unless with the goodwill—I admit that—of the great volume, of organised Labour in this country. After we have completed our scheme, we shall require to have it agreed to and accepted by organised Labour.

That is the position which the Cabinet were brought up against. Do not let the House imagine that the moving appeal which was made by the right hon. and learned Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson)—I did not hear it but have heard it described—and has been echoed by so many other Members, did not weigh with the Cabinet as well. I see no harm in stating that we had great difficulty in making up our minds as to the precise time when this benefit should end; and the short reference I made to it was because I had not then made up my mind that there was not something to be said in favour of continuing under the special conditions which existed. I am bound to say this—that there is a great deal in what a right hon. Gentleman said to-night. We were—and I had special responsibility with the matter—in February and March we were, I will not say alarmed, but I was in great anxiety because of the unrest then passing over the country. I say this, that if it were true that under the influence of that fear we adopted proposals which when the fear is not so pressing—the House of Commons will make a great mistake to-night if they think the underground swell has disappeared altogether—we took the first opportunity of getting rid of what we had adopted then, we should be open to criticism. The view which made us adopt this proposal was this: we could only justify it on the ground of special War conditions. That is the only ground or which we on this bench could justify a donation of that kind, on special war conditions. I wish the House to consider this aspect of it. I think I can safely refer to it; it is one of the considerations which influenced me. We cannot have a universal scheme, a general scheme of unemployment insurance, except with the co-operation—I am sure my right hon. Friends on that bench will agree with me to a large extent, of organised Labour. Look what that leads to. We have found in many cases that the leaders of organised Labour recognise the facts of the situation, and are ready to deal with the facts of the situation more completely than those whom they lead. The view which I took was this, that if there is to be a hope of getting a universal scheme of unemployment insurance with the good will not only of the leaders, but of the men behind the leaders of organised Labour, if we are to get that, it will be very difficult to get the agreement if those with whom you are negotiating know that this unemployment donation is there, that if you do not accept everything they ask for they will get the donation without contributing for it. I put that to the right hon. Gentlemen and the Labour Members themselves, Is it not true, will it not make it more difficult to get this universal scheme if the donation is going on and there is a feeling among those whom we are trying to influence that they will get it without contributing and without the need of any new scheme?

I assure the House there is no want of sympathy in this matter. Let us look at it from another point of view. I say that this is only justified on the ground of special war conditions. What do we find? We find, as a matter of fact, that unemployment is almost as low at this moment, I think quite as low, as it has ever been for the same period of the year in peace time. That is a fact. If you are to look upon this as something which was given owing to war conditions, how can you justify that when you find that conditions are at least normal, and. though I admit that the fact, as my hon. Friend who spoke last said, points to trades where we all know that orders are full and that labour is scarce, that does not prove that there may not be other employments which are suffering; while that is true, this also must be remembered. My right hon. Friend said this was a demoralising system. It is. I believe that a great deal of the talk about the abuse of it was exaggerated, but is there one of my right hon. Friends who will deny that the existence of this benefit in many cases does at least have this effect, that men are not so keen to get employment as they would be if this donation were not there? That is our position in regard to this matter. I have said to the House that I do not consider we have reached normal times. If I had any certainty, if I had any undertaking, if anyone was capable of giving an undertaking on behalf of the Labour party that when my right hon. Friend spoke of continuing this only for the winter, when I admit conditions are worse from this point of view than in other seasons of the year, if we had any certainty that it would come to an end then, I do not say that I would not have been prepared to consider the matter from that point of view. I ask the House, and I ask every section of it, to put away from their minds the idea that there is any lack of human sympathy among us. It is really a mistake. We take, in different sections of this House, different views as to what in the long run is best for the nation as a whole and for every section of it. So far as I am concerned, and I believe I express the view not merely of the Government but of the whole House, the feeling we had when the War was going on, that conditions must be made better at home than they had been in the past, is still here. We desire it. We do not want any more than does the hon. Member for Silvertown, to see a return to the old conditions of unskilled labour. I think it would be a disaster to the nation. The health statistics showed, when men had to be recruited for the Army, that this low level of living was really weakening the essential strength of the nation. If there be difference of opinion about it among us, it is as to the best method of getting it. I admit—it is an admission which perhaps is giving away some of the case—I admit that I myself, and I believe many of our colleagues, changed our views over and over again as to whether or not we should continue the donation. We were willing to continue it if we felt that it was only meeting difficulties caused by the War, which would come to an end when the abnormal state of things changed. It is not, therefore, merely a matter of right and wrong as to whether we should continue it. There is one thing, however, that I should like to say, which greatly influenced me. I have heard many speeches from those benches which implied that it was wrong to make a distinction between the man who had actually served in the field and the men who had served by working at home. I do not agree with that view at all.


I thought it was an engineers' war!


It was an engineers' war. But I will tell the hon. Member why I do not agree. There, is, after all, a very great difference between working at home and risking one's life in the field. I have listened to some speeches which suggested that among those who were getting this donation were the fathers, perhaps, of men who had fallen in the service of their country. They have a special claim upon the nation, but it is not the same claim as that of the men who have risked their lives. After all, it was not the fathers who sent their sons to fight. They did not send them, and they could not have taken them back if they had tried. I do think they have a different claim on the nation from those I who were working at home, whatever their work was. And there is something more. Look at the difference in the actual money reward. It is not merely that the one sot of men were risking their lives while the others were working, but those who were working wore getting higher wages than ever they got, and the other class, which was risking its life, was getting a miserable pittance. There is a great difference there, and I cannot accept, for a moment that we should treat the civilian workers precisely in the same way as those who actually risked their lives. I said that the House of Commons is a place where the unexpected happens. After making the speech which I have delivered so far, explaining frankly the views which influenced the Government, and, I believe, myself, I have great difficulty in knowing how the speech will end. I will put to the House, and I think they will appreciate it, exactly how we stand on this matter. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a statement dealing with extravagance, and I should have been greatly interested to hear then some of the speeches we have heard this evening. In that statement he said: The ordinary civil out-of-work donation comes to an end on the 24th November— and an hon. Member asked, "Does unemployment come to an end?" Then my right hon. Friend said: If it is renewed it will be the act of the House, and the responsibility will rest on the House. That is my position. The only question is in what way we can best carry out that pledge—if you call it a pledge—after that expression of the view of the Government. Clearly we cannot say after that, and after I have expressed my view and the views of the Government, that this is a matter of right or wrong upon which the Government refuses to be guided by the views of the Committee. On the other hand, are we to take it that the Debate, with all the speeches to which we have listened, represents the opinion of the Committee as a whole? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Yes!"]


Take, off the Whips!


The right hon. Gentleman has asked whether we can give an assurance that in the event of a further temporary continuance of the unemployment benefit, at the end of a period we would agree to its stoppage. I think he will recognise that we cannot give any such assurance on behalf of those whom we claim to lead. But I can give the assurance that we would heartily work with the Government in endeavouring to put into practice those decisions, and in endeavouring to state fairly the case as it has been presented to the country. There is shortly to take place what will be a very great and representative conference here in London. The only other point I would submit to the right hon. Gentleman is that he has completely forgotten the point we tried to make, that during the War period the cost of the bare necessities of life had enormously risen, and that, therefore, the endeavour to live without any increase is about three times as hard as it was for working men.


I am afraid the interjection of my right hon. Friend does not help me very much. Of course the question of the higher cost of living

applies to everyone. I would remind him and the Committee that the high cost of living, and the other consequences of the War have some bad effects on all classes, and in my view the class which has suffered most is the lower middle class, which has to bear this high cost of living, and has not got anything like the same advance in income. [An HON. MEMBER: "The unemployed have got nothing."] That class will have to pay its share of continuing this donation. If I were convinced that the Committee as a whole had decided that we were to continue it till the end of March—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Yes!"] Then it is quite evident that it can only be settled by a Division. I am bound to say that we made it clear in the Economy Debate that it the change were made it must be made on the responsibility of the House and it must be made with their knowledge of what that responsibility implied. In these circumstances, I think it would be: absurd to say that we must have the Government Whips on and that we must treat it as a vote of censure on the Government. We have put the clear issue, and I have made it plain that as far as I am concerned, and I believe as far as my colleagues are concerned that, in spite of the arguments on both sides, we think that the balance of advantage in the interests of the country is to end it now. I ask those who object to the course which I am now taking to consider whether it is reasonable to say that we are to treat as a vote of censure a matter on which I have told the Committee that we were doubtful from day to day. Is there any other way of deciding it than by leaving it to the free vote of the House? We must do that, and I say to any hon. Members who may think that this is a sign of weakness on the part of the Government, that they are wrong. If they take the view, as I do, that this should not be continued, then they are just as entitled as I am to have the courage of their conviction and to vote accordingly.

Question put: "That a reduced sum, not exceeding £1,499,900, be granted for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 123; Noes, 217.

Division No. 133.] AYES. [10.58 p.m.
Adair, Rear-Admiral Bentinck, Lt.-Col. Lord H. Cavendish Broad, Thomas Tucker
Alien, Colonel William James Blake, Sir Francis Douglas Bromfield, W.
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Brace, Rt. Hon. William Burn, T. H. (Belfast)
Barton, Sir William (Oldham) Bramsden, Sir T. Cape, Tom
Bell, James (Ormskirk) Breese, Major C, E. Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.
Benn, Captain W. (Leith) Briant, F. Carter, W. (Mansfield)
Casey, T. W. Jephcott, A. R. Rowlands, James
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin) Jesson, C. Royce, William Stapleton
Chadwick, R. Burton Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Scott, A. M. (Glas., Bridgeton)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Jones, J. (Silvertown) Seddon, James
Coots, Colin R. (Isle of Ely) Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander Seely, Maj.-General Rt. Hon. John
Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe) Kenyon, Barnet Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)
Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln) Kiley, James Daniel Short, A. (Wednesbury)
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.) Simm, Colonel M. T.
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Lunn, William Sitch, C. H.
Donald, T. Lyle-Samuel, A. (Eye, E. Suffolk) Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Colne)
Edwards, C. (Bedwellty) Lynn, R. J. Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon) Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Smith, W. (Wellingborough)
Elliot, Captain W. E. (Lanark) Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian) Spencer, George A.
Entwistle, Major C. F. MacVeagh, Jeremiah Spoor, B. G.
Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray Mallalieu, Frederick William Sugden, Lieut. W. H.
Finney, Samuel Malone, Col. E. L. (Leyton, E.) Swan, J. E. C.
Galbraith, Samuel Mason, Robert Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)
Gauge, E. S. Middlebrook, Sir William Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Gilbert, James Daniel Moles, Thomas Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Glanville, Harold James Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles) Tootill, Robert
Grundy, T. W. Murray, Hon. G. (St, Rollox) Waddington, R.
Guest, J. (Hemsworth, York.) Murray, John (Leeds, W.) Wallace, J.
Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton) Neal, Arthur Walsh, S. (Ince, Lancs.)
Hambro, Angus Valdemar Newbould, A. E. Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.
Hancock, John George Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter) Waterson, A. E.
Hartshorn, V. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Weston, Colonel John W.
Haslam, Lewis Pearce, Sir William Wignall, James
Hayday, A. Prescott, Major W. H. Williams, J. (Gower. Glam.)
Hayward, Major Evan Raffan, Peter Wilson Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)
Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Widnes) Richardson, R. (Houghton) Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)
Henderson, Maj. V. L. (Tradeston, Glas) Roberts. F. O. (W. Bromwich) Yeo, Sir Alfred William
Hirst, G. H. Robertson, J. Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)
Hogge, J. M. Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Holmes, J. Stanley Rodger, A. K. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.— Mr.
Irving, Dan Rose, Frank H. Tyson Wilson and Mr. T. Griffiths.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan) Hallwood, A.
Ainsworth, Captain C. Cory, Sir James Herbert (Cardiff) Hall, Lt.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. F. W. Courthope, Major George Loyd Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altriacham)
Austin, Sir H. Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.) Hanson, Sir Charles
Baird, John Lawrence Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Harris, Sir H. P. (Paddington, S.)
Baldwin, Stanley Curzon, Commander Viscount Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Davidson, Major-General Sir John H. Hilder, Lieut-Colonel F.
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick Davies, Sir D. S. (Denbigh) Hinds, John
Barnett, Major Richard W. Davies, T. (Cirencester) Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy
Barnston, Major H. Dean, Com. P. T. Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander H. Hopkins, J. W. W.
Bell, Lt.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Doyle, N. Grattan Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley)
Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (Greenwich) Elveden, Viscount Horne, Sir Robert (Hillhead)
Betterton, H. B. Eyres-Monsell, Commander Hughes, Spencer Leigh
Bigland, Alfred Falcon, Captain M. Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster)
Birchall, Major J. D. Fell, Sir Arthur Hunter- Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.
Blane, T. A. Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L. Hurd, P. A.
Borwick, Major G. O. Fitzroy, Capt. Hon. Edward A. Hurst, Major G. B.
Boecawen, Sir Arthur Griffith- Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue Jodrell, N. P.
Bowyer, Captain G. W. E. Foreman, H. Johnson, L. S.
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Forestier-Walker, L. Johnstone, J.
Bridgeman, William Clive Forster, Rt. Hon. H. W. Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)
Briggs, Harold Foxcroft, Captain C. Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)
Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham) Ganzoni, Captain F. C. King, Commander Douglas
Bruton, Sir J. Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke) Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement
Buchanan, Lieut, -Colonel A. L. H. Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Knights, Captain H.
Buckley, Lt. -Colonel A. Gilmour, Lieut. -Colonel John Lane-Fox, Major G. R.
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Glyn, Major R. Law, A. J. (Rochdale)
Burn, Colonel C. R. (Torquay) Goff, Sir R. Park Law. Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)
Butcher, Sir J. G. Gould, J. C. Lindsay, William Arthur
Campion, Colonel W. R. Grant, James Augustus Lister, Sir R. Ashton
Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton) Greame, Major P. Lloyd Lloyd, George Butler
Carr, W. T. Green J. F. (Leicester) Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Oxford Univ.) Greene, Lt.-Col. W. (Hackney, N.) Long, Rt. Hon. Walter
Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood) Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar Lorden, John William
Child, Brig. -General Sir Hill Greer, Harry Lort-Williams. J.
Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Greig, Colonel James William Loseby, Captain C. E.
Clough, R. Gretton, Colonel John Macmaster, Donald
Clyde, James Avon Griggs, Sir Peter McMicking, Major Gilbert
Coates, Major Sir Edward F. Guest. Capt. Hon. F. E. (Dorset, E.) Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.
Coats, Sir Stuart Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (Leic., Loughboro') Maddocks, Henry
Cobb, Sir Cyrll Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hn. W. E. (B. St. E) Marks, Sir George Croydon
Cockerill, Brig. -General G. K. Gwynne, R. S Matthews, David
Colvin, Brig.-General R. B. Hacking, Colonel D. H. Mildmay, Col. Rt. Hon, Francis B.
Mitchell, William Lane Randles, Sir John Scurrah Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)
Molson, Major John Elsdale Raper, A. Baldwin Thomas, Sir R. (Wrexham, Denb.)
Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Maritz Ratcliffe, Henry Butler Thomas-Stanford, Charles
Mordon, Colonel H. Grant Raw, Lieut. -Colonel Dr. N. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)
Moreing, Captain Algernon H. Rees, Sir J. D. Thorpe, Captain John Henry
Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. Reid, D. D. Townley, Maximilian G.
Mosley, Oswald Remer, J. B. Tryon, Major George Clement
Mount, William Arthur Renwick, G. Turton, Edmund Russborough
Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert Richardson, Alex. (Gravesend) Vickers, D.
Murray, William (Dumfries) Roundell, Lt.-Colonel R. F. Watson, Captain John Bertrand
Nall, Major Joseph Royden, Sir Thomas Wheler, Colonel Granville C. H.
Nelson, R. F. W. R. Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund Whitla, Sir William
Newman, Major J. (Finchley, M'ddx.) Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Darwen) Wigan, Brig.-General Sir Tyson
Nicholson, W. (Petersfield) Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney) Wild, Sir Ernest Edward
Nield, Sir Herbert Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)
Morris, Colonel Sir Henry G. Sassoon, Sir Philip A. G. D. Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R, (Banbury)
Oman, C. W. C. Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone) Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Seager, Sir William Willoughby, Lt.-Col. Hon. Claud
Parker, James Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar) Wilson-Fox, Henry
Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T., W.) Winterton, Major Earl
Peel, Lt.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge) Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander Wood, Major Hon. E. (Ripon)
Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.) Stanler, Captain Sir Beville Wood, Sir J (Stalybridge and Hyde)
Perkins, Walter Frank Stanley, Col. Hon. G. (Preston) Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Perring, William George Steel, Major S. Strang. Yate, Colonel Charles Edward
Pownall, Lt.-Colonel Assheton Stewart, Gershom Young, Lt.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)
Pratt, John William Sturrock, J. Leng- Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)
Preston, W. R. Surtees, Brig. -General H. C.
Pulley, Charles Thornton Sykes, Col. Sir A. J. (Knutsford) TELLERS FOR THE NOES— Sir O.
Rae, H. Norman Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord E. (Chichester) Philipps and Mr. Marriott.
Raeburn, Sir William

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.

Committee to sit again To-morrow.