§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Robert Horne)
I beg to move,That the Bill be now read a Second time.It has been thought advisable in regard to this Bill that the Standing Order should be suspended in order to allow a discussion after eleven o'clock to-night. I hope, however, that we shall be able to dispense with any discussion at that period of the evening, and that we may be able to get over the ground between now and a quarter past eight when Private Motions come on. The suspension of the Standing Orders has been moved as a precautionary measure to allow hon. Members, who really desire it, to take further part in the discussion, if the time which has already been allotted does not suffice.
§ Sir R. HORNE
It will, if hon. Members wish it, I do not, however, anticipate that that will be likely, but an opportunity will be afforded if hon. Members desire it. The problem of unemployment is one of the most difficult questions which confront the country, and I think I may also say one of the most important. Unemployment forms a tragedy in the life of the workman, and at all times it fills his mind with anxiety. Those who have had experience of distress can furnish us with many bitter recollections. The fear of unemployment is a cause of dis-peace and disquietude. If we could once get rid of the dread of unemployment which affects the minds of the working men of this country I am sure we should be able to create a new spirit of harmony and happiness. The fear of unemployment is a great impediment to the country's prosperity. There are masses of people in the country to-day who believe that the more they produce the less will be wanted, and conversely that the less they do the more employment will be afforded. That belief, as most of us know, is erroneous; but so long as the 1740 fear of unemployment exists you will never succeed in completely eradicating it, and nothing would tend so much to increase output in the country, which is so urgently needed, as the creation of an assurance in the minds of the workpeople of this country that they would be kept free and would not drop into the lurch when the day of unemployment comes.
There are certain people who believe it is possible to devise a system in which there would be no unemployment. I wish I could not hold that view, but I confess I cannot share their optimism. I cannot forget that a bad season, a blight in the crop of one of our great raw materials, may cause dislocation in the trade of any country which no provision you can make beforehand can cope with. Coming nearer home, even a strike in one part of the country may throw out of employment the people who depend upon the raw material produced by those who are on strike, and we have recently had an example of that fact. Looking at the whole matter in a prudent and tactful light, the only thing you can do is to anticipate unemployment and make provision against it. What provision can we make? Insurance is one of the best known expedients, and it is upon the road of insurance that this country has already progressed.
I hope the House will allow me for a moment or two to review the steps which have been taken, and the considerations which have been taken into account with regard to this great matter. Prior to the year 1911 there was no compulsory insurance in this country. You had a certain amount of voluntary insurance which had been created by the trade unions, but that only covers a very small portion of the working people of the country, and in many cases was given only upon special occasions like the breakdown of machinery or some other such dislocation in the work of a factory. In the early years of this century people who had been thinking about these matters had given great attention to the possibilities of State assurance. There were three general considerations which I think had been arrived at before the Act of 1911 was introduced. These three considerations were as follows: It appeared to people who had studied the problem, in the first place, that you must have compulsory insurance, and if 1741 you do not have it compulsory, the result would be that only a great majority of the bad risks of the country would come in your scheme and that would ruin any scheme. In the second place, it appeared unnecessary that benefits should be given in proportion or at least in some degree of proportion to the amount of contribution. It is perfectly obvious, if you do not do that, that you are taking the risk of the character of the individual workman, and that is a risk which in the question of unemployment no scheme which could be set up could really work against. In the third place, it seemed necessary to set up a system of Employment Exchanges. That was obviously necessary for the reason that you had to have a system by which you could check the workman who said that employment was hot available. Accordingly, all thinking people who had been working on the subject had arrived at these three more or less definite views before 1911 as the foundation of any scheme. The 1911 Act was passed, and it was to some extent experimental. It dealt only with a selected number of the industries of the country. They were the building, the shipbuilding, and the engineering industries, taking these as large generic terms. There were good reasons for taking these industries to begin with. One was that they were exposed to some of the worst risks of unemployment. Secondly, because they had had that experience in the past they had adopted a certain amount of voluntary insurance in their Trade Unions which afforded data upon which you could build your scheme. It came into force in July, 1912, and the benefit began as from January, 1913. Each man had to pay a weekly contribution of 2½d., the employer also paid a contribution of 2½d. per week, and the. State added one-third of the joint contributions of the employer and workman. The benefit which was given was 7s. per week, and the same rate was applied to women as was applied to men. The rules which were laid down for working the scheme were, in general, based upon the three considerations which I have set forth. A man, in order to be qualified to receive the Unemployment Benefit, had to show that he was unemployed and that he had paid a certain number of contributions. Further, he was disqualified if he had left his work on his own accord, if he was on strike, or if he had refused suitable 1742 employment when offered him by the Employment Exchanges. It was not left entirely to officials to determine whether the refusal of Unemployment Benefit was justified or not. He was enabled to appeal to a Court of Referees which was set up under the statute, and difficult questions on which parties disagreed were determined by an umpire as a final authority. That scheme of insurance covered 2,500,000 employés, of whom roughly 9,000 were women. Then we had the War, and in the course of the War—
§ Mr. J. E. DAVISON
Can the right hon. Gentleman give the total amount that was paid in the years to which he has made reference to the unemployed in this country?
§ Sir R. HORNE
I am afraid that I cannot give the figures for the period to which I have referred, but, if the hon. Gentleman wishes it, I will give the figures from the beginning of the Act down to the present time, covering the period of the War. I have these figures, but not the figures for any shorter period. Probably the point of the hon. Gentleman depends as much upon the figures that I have as upon the figures for which he has asked. During the War a very large number of people came into industry, particularly women, who had never been in the occupations which they then adopted at any previous stage, and in considering the problems of reconstruction it was borne in upon everybody that there would be a large amount of unemployment immediately the War ceased, for which some provision ought to be made. Accordingly, in 1916, the unemployment insurance scheme was extended to a large number of other trades, particularly to munition workers and people working in the metal and chemical industries. That brought up the number of people insured to 4,000,000, and that was the figure at which unemployment insurance stood at the date of the Armistice. The number has slightly decreased since then, owing to the fact that a considerable number of people have gone right out of manual labour since then. Many women have given up the work that they previously did, and there has been a considerable shift in the working population. The result is that at the present time, giving the figures roughly, 3,750,000 are insured 1743 under the 1911 and 1916 Acts, of whom 1,000,000 are women.
The experience which was gained in the working of the insurance schemes under those Acts is not one upon which you can base very much, because, as we all know, the period was entirely abnormal. It was estimated by the actuary who dealt with the matter originally that the figure of unemployment for which risk had to be taken was something like 8.6 per cent. In point of fact, before the War the figure only worked out at 4 per cent. In the beginning of the War it came down to 3 per cent., and at the end of the War it was something under 1 per cent. Therefore, you cannot build any great theory upon the experience of this entirely abnormal period. The amount paid out in benefit since the schemes were instituted is £1,380,000; I fancy that is the figure that my hon. Friend wants. There were, of course, the administration expenses, in addition, which, roughly, amounted to £700,000 in all. I do not pledge myself to that last figure; I think it is only a suggested figure. At any rate, the result of the working of that period was to enable us in December last year to raise the benefit, and the House will remember that it was increased from 7s. to 11s. per week at that time. There was a certain amount of accumulated funds at the disposal of the State, and advantage was taken of that fact to raise the amount of the benefit.
We now come down to the proposals which I am laying before the House. It has become obvious to everybody, I think, that insurance against unemployment must be much more widely extended than it has been in the past. The idea was to insure everybody against unemployment. As I have stated, there were only 3,750,000 out of all the workpeople of this country under the two previous insurance schemes. The proposals that we now make will bring the number insured up to about 12,000,000 of workpeople. That is making a very considerable advance upon what has been previously done. There are excepted from the scheme people engaged in agriculture and in domestic service. Of course, the reason for these exemptions really is that it is anticipated that protests would be made against the inclusion of either of these classes, because unemployment in them has always been at a much lower 1744 figure than in the other industries of the country, and in making this advance we do not desire to raise any more complications than we can help. It seems to me that agricultural workers and domestic servants would be anxious to avoid the contributions in view of their greater immunity from the risks against which we are trying to guard. But we have provided in the Bill that we may by Order extend the benefits to any industry which desires them and which Parliament may regard as being entitled to be included. Accordingly, the machinery is there at any time to include people engaged in agriculture and domestic service if that is thought wise and proper.
In facing the problem afresh, there were two great questions to which we had to apply our minds. The first was: "Are you going to have a contributory or a non-contributory scheme?" The second was: "If you are going to bring in all the trades of the country, or the great majority, are you going to pool the resources of all and make one consolidated scheme?" On the first of these problems, we had at least the experience of the Out of Work Donation. Every-body knows that that was an emergency measure, but it was at least there as a guide or as a warning to Parliament. We came to the conclusion that the only possible scheme was one on a contributory basis. In the first place, any non-contributory scheme would impose a financial burden on the State, which at the present time I am perfectly sure the boldest and the most audacious would hesitate to face. In the second place, our experience of the Out of Work Donation scheme was not encouraging. Our Friends on the opposite side of the House constantly told us that it was a source of demoralisation of our people, and indeed we were not without experience that that accusation was entirely justified. In another aspect it was a scheme which was open to great abuse by employers. Very often that which keeps works running and makes employers take risks is the quite proper pressure of their workpeople, and the knowledge that unless they carry on they may lose them, and their workpeople may be cast into dire distress. A non-contributory scheme might induce an employer to work on short time when there ought not to be short time, or to take advantage of lapses in the industry 1745 to play for safety rather than work his full machinery. Looked at from that point of view, it seems clear that the only basis upon which we can work is a contributory scheme. The second problem is how are we to deal with all the various trades which we are going to bring in? There is on this second point of view quite clearly a distinct issue. One question is are you going to make each industry carry its own burden of its own unemployed? [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, all."] I hear a suggestion of "all" industries, but that really begs the question. Do you mean that each industry should include all its own or should all industries be lumped together? The question we have to consider is whether each industry should carry its own burden, and in what respect. Will you make responsible for unemployment insurance the employers and the employed who each take pride in their particular industry, and will you enable them to make arrangements which they think they can do better than anybody else to legislate for their own industry? They could work short time and assume certain risks by adopting various methods of organisation of ther own. They could adopt various devices which might not be possible under a State scheme, and that could only be done if they were left to themselves. We might have out some industries with that idea. The object of these schemes would be to prevent unemployment by those engaged in an industry, and, of course, that unemployment might in some cases be preventible.
But there is another way of looking at the inclusion of all industries as one, and that is, I take it, what my hon. Friend means who made the interruption just now. That is to take all trades together in a very practical sense. We must remember that all trades act and react upon each other. They are far more dependent upon each other than any of us, I think, realise, and you have great difficulty in laying down any line of demarkation between one industry and another, because many trades act upon each other and are interlocked one with the other. In the first operation under the Insurance Act of 1911, where you had to have a broad definition of these industries, it was found to be very difficult to form any line of demarkation, and no fewer than 2,500 questions have been put in connection with the delimitation of 1746 various industries under that Act. There is, therefore, great difficulty in dealing with this solidarity of industries. You may have a strike in one industry which causes unemployment in another. You have these great industries, like wool and cotton, which are interdependent to a degree that is scarcely imaginable, and it is scarcely possible to draw a rigid line between the various industries of the country. What we have done in the present proposals is to combine both of those theories. We have recognised the solidarity of industry, of all industries by making them support each other. But on the other hand we have provided a scheme of contracting out which will enable an industry, if it thinks it can do better for itself than if it was under the general scheme, to provide a special scheme of its own.
§ Sir R. HORNE
Every industry under the Act would have a scheme of some kind, as the hon. Member says. If any industry contracts-out we provide that it shall not be a narrow contracting-out. Any scheme of contracting-out would not have to apply to small groups or special sections of any industry. These would not be able to make a scheme for themselves. The contracting-out must be on a wide basis, and it must be such as would cover a genuine industry. You may take the leather or cotton trade; it would have to cover all that industry. That is our idea, that it should quite cover the whole industry, and that there should not be little groups taken out of an industry. They should not take away from an industry any adventitious parts of it which might be connected with it. But in a contracting-out scheme of that kind some qualification is necessary. It is obvious that contracting-out would be adopted by some industries because they calculated that they would have less than the average unemployment, and that is why they would rather support their own unemployed. They would have less risk, they would think, than the risks of the general trades of the country, and therefore the industry which contracts-out presumably thinks it would be better off. I think that is so obvious that I need not go deeply into it. But they would leave us in the general scheme the industries that had the greater risk. Accordingly, 1747 what we say is that while the State gives one-third of the joint contributions under the general scheme, in the case of an industry which contracts-out, it will only give 10 per cent. of the joint contributions of the employer and workman. That is six-tenths of a penny. With regard to those which contract-out, it will be incumbent that the scheme proposed will adequately secure the benefits to the workpeople, and we, accordingly, provide that there must be a joint board of management, a joint insurance fund must be set up, and the accounts shall be subject to Government audit, and the whole machinery of its working shall be approved by the Ministry of Labour. I do not mean that all their actions and the contrivances which they may adopt shall be subject to approval in that way, but the general lines of the scheme shall be approved. Once you have got the machinery approved in that way, then the industry can regulate what has to be paid in the way of contributions or benefits. The scheme must cover all the people in the industry who will be bound to contribute, and the amount of the payment to the insured person as benefits must be decided. In that way you will have provisions in this Act when it is passed, so that there may be contracting-out, which were not in the original Act.
Some hon. Members may be inclined to ask, What about men transferred from one industry to another? That would be possible. It would be possible for a man who had genuinely taken his place in another industry to take his insurance against unemployment to that other industry. But you cannot be engaged in the wool trade and at the same time become a member of a cotton industry scheme. You may join a cotton trade scheme if your employment has changed into that industry. Similarly you can go back to the original scheme if you leave an industry which has contracted-out. This is one of the great features of the scheme we are now proposing, which differentiates it from the previous measures of insurance. We also provide that there may be opportunity for supplementary insurance. Questions might be asked, for instance, about the building trade and the occurrence of wet days. Under this measure we shall make it possible for the building industry to set up a supplemental scheme, to make provision against 1748 that or any other special vicissitude of the industry, and from my point of view that is another advantage of the present scheme. I now come to the clauses which leave out certain industries from the Act. As I have already said we except from the Act agricultural workers and domestic servants, and there is another exception which, I know, interests my hon. Friend opposite, and that is that we do not apply the Bill to Ireland except in this sense, that everybody in Ireland who is insured under the old scheme will get additional benefits. He will get the new benefits instead of the old, but we do not add any further trades to those already insured.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I was just going to explain that. One of the reasons is so obvious that it is scarcely necessary that it should be stated. That is, that we are on the verge of discussing a measure for the better government of Ireland.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I should have thought that if there was one topic upon which Irishmen might break their early teeth in the art of legislation, unemployment would be one. It is obvious to me that it would be a very effective criticism if it were said that, while we were bringing in a Home Rule Bill, which would allow the Irish to govern themselves, what was the use of, at the same time, providing in another measure for unemployment in a way which, perhaps, they would not want?
§ Sir R. HORNE
I think that on that point the Chief Secretary for Ireland has made an adequate statement, and I do not propose to spend time now in defending what he has said.
§ Sir R. HORNE
This is the first time that I have seen Irishmen refusing a good 1749 thing. As I have already said, the payments under the Insurance Act in Ireland will be increased from the present figure up to 15s. If Ireland would prefer to remain as it is I fancy we could easily arrange that, but I think that Irishmen have no desire to refuse what is offered. With regard to Ireland, the trades which are already insured will come under the new provision, but the main trade of Ireland is agriculture, which is not being legislated for in Great Britain under this Bill, and I do not think there is very much objection to that. But there is also machinery to include other trades who may wish to be included.
Let me take another example. As the hon. Gentleman is well aware, there is the great linen trade which might be very properly put down for reconsideration upon application from the people involved, and be included within the purview of the Bill. I ought to add, my mind is not shut to it now. If in the course of the discussions on this matter it would appear that the linen trade should be added at the present time, I am very ready to consider it, but at least the power is there. Without going too much into detail, I may say there are several classes of people who are excepted from the Bill, such as non-manual workers with over £250 per year and employés of local bodies and of public authorities, railway servants, members of the police, and other people who have already statutory rights which give them the advantage of some form of insurance, but those exceptions will only apply where the Minister is satisfied that there is a system of insurance which adequately protects their rights. In addition to those, there are crews of fishing vessels who are paid by shares and as to whom there are many complications in regard to the particular way in which they are paid. The contributions which workmen will require to pay under our proposals are 3d. each per man per week. The House will remember that the contribution under the previous scheme was 2½d. per week, so there is a rise in that contribution of a halfpenny. Women will pay under this scheme 2½d., which is just the same sum they paid before. The State will give its quota of a third, which will be 2d. of the contributions I have described. Boys and girls will pay, respectively, 2d. and 1½d. each. The benefits to men will be 15s. per week, and 1750 women 12s. per week, and to boys and girls 7s. 6d. and 6s. per week, respectively.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain this difference between men and women?
§ Sir R. HORNE
The difference in contribution is due to the fact that there is a difference in benefit, and the difference in benefit is due to the fact that there has been a well-recognised belief and practice in this country that in general the cost of living to a woman is less than to a man. That view may be contested by some, but so far as the practice is concerned, I think it is universally agreed that women, in the past at least whatever the future may hold for them, have in general succeeded in getting board and lodging at a cheaper rate than men.
§ Mr. SEDDON
The right hon. Gentleman said that the State would give a third of the contribution and perhaps he will explain.
§ Sir R. HORNE
The contribution, so far as the men are concerned, is 3d., and the employer pays 3d., and those together make 6d., and the State's contribution is a third of sixpence, that is the 2d. I mentioned.
§ Sir R. HORNE
With regard to women 5d. is the joint contribution of the employer and the woman. As to the amount of benefit which is given under the Act, it will probably be suggested that 15s. per week is too small for the man and that 12s. per week is too small for the woman. There is a great deal that could be said for that point of view, but we are faced with certain alternatives. Are you going to ask the workman to pay more in the way of contributions? If you are, it means that there is this position. Workmen already have to pay to health insurance, friendly societies, trade unions, and so on, and we took the view that they might very rightly protest against being assessed towards paying a higher sum than that we have arrived at. Again, if the workmen and the employers are to pay more the State would also have to pay more. Already the extra contribution required from the State under the present scheme is something like two and a half million 1751 pounds. If you are going to give more for unemployment insurance in the way of benefit you will be compelled also to give more for health insurance in the way of benefit. You cannot say to a man who is not only not working, but is also ill, that he is not entitled to as much as a man who is only out of work. Accordingly, if you are going to raise the amount of the contribution which the State gives to the unemployed you will also require to raise the amount of the contribution which the State gives to a man in ill-health.
§ Mr. DAVISON
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what becomes of the funds accumulated during the War to the amount of nineteen and a half millions?
§ Sir R. HORNE
Even to give the sums of 15s. and 12s. benefits to which I have referred the most careful calculation of the Government actuaries, including every sum, and, taking all the various funds, including that mentioned by the hon. Gentleman into account, is that the benefit is as large as could be given. May I put the matter this way? In order to increase the benefit under unemployment insurance to 15s. the cost is 2½ millions, and to increase it to 20s. would cost another 2½ millions, and to increase the health insurance to 15s. would require 2½ millions, I am giving the figures roughly, and to increase that to 20s. would mean 2½ millions more. So that an increase upon the 15s. which we are proposing would involve the Government at present in an extra cost of something over ten millions. I say quite frankly to the House that that is a cost which at present we are not in a position to face. Our financial condition is well known. The calls on the Exchequer are very great, and we are cutting our coat according to our cloth and are doing our best in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Under our new proposals the qualifications for benefit and disqualifications are the same.
There is one question to which much attention has been directed and to which I ought to refer. There was an arrangement under the old Unemployment Act which we continue in the present measure, that the people who are working in the same shop as men who are on strike, although they themselves are not strikers, should not receive benefit. That 1752 has been the subject of controversy and much misgiving, and it is a matter of a good deal of controversy at the present time. When the Act was passed, Parliament, at that time, arrived at the solution, which was embodied in that earlier Statute. I have considered the matter from every point of view, and I have come to the conclusion that we cannot make any better arrangement than the old one, and I will explain why. It is perfectly clear that you cannot give the benefits to the man on strike. If you are going to say that a man working in the same shop who is not on strike is, nevertheless, to get the benefit, how are you going to draw the line? Suppose a non-unionist is working alongside a trade unionist and does not want to go on strike, but is out of employment because others are on strike; is it suggested that we should have to pay him? There is equally good ground in logic and in proper feeling for saying so as for saying that some other man in some other part of the shop who did not wish to strike should obtain the benefit. Believe me, when you come to analyse the position, it is impossible to draw any hard and fast line, and therefore, finding things as they are, you must do the best you can. Previously Parliament came to the conclusion that the best scheme was that people who were in different departments or in other shops who were thrown out of work on account of a strike should be entitled to benefit, but that people in the same shop should not. I say frankly, having examined the question in all its applications, I cannot devise a better rule. I propose, accordingly, to stand by the rule which was previously made.
I should like to refer to some differences in the new proposals from the provisions of the old Act. Instead of the workman being entitled to one week's benefit for every five contributions, we provide that he should be entitled to one week's benefit for every six weeks' contributions. The reason for that is this, we are carrying into this scheme all the people who were previously insured under the old scheme. They in point of fact have only been paying 5d. instead of the 6d. which they will now be called on to pay. We are giving them credit for having paid 6d. all through the operation of the old scheme, and we are meeting that by providing that it will require six weeks' contributions to provide one week's benefit. Incidentally, this 1753 arrangement will lead to great simplification because it means that one day's benefit is paid for each week's contribution, there being six days in the week-There is another important matter. Under the old Act it was provided that all trade unions which themselves paid in unemployment benefit a third of the amount which the State was prepared to pay should have the opportunity of distributing to its members the benefit which the State gave. There was no contribution by the State towards the expenses of the trade unions, and there was the qualification of the right on the part of the trade unions that they should have machinery for providing employment for men out of work. We carry on that provision, but we propose to provide that the trade unions shall receive five per cent. of the amount of benefit paid out in respect of administrative expenses. There have been many representations made to me and particularly by the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress on this matter to the effect that the amount of five per cent. is inadequate, and upon being reasonably convinced that that is so, I am quite ready to admit to the House that I am quite prepared to consider whether it can be increased. On the other hand, there was a provision under Section 106 of the previous Act to the effect that trade unions which paid a certain amount of insurance benefit themselves should receive a subsidy from the State. That provision was made for the purpose of giving the non-insured societies some benefit for the work which they did in the way of insuring against unemployment. Now that all trades, practically speaking, are being insured, that provision drops out.
There are two other arrangements of the old Act which drop out. There was a grant to the employers of 3s. for every employee for whom they had paid forty-live weeks' contributions. That disappears entirely. The intention of the old Act was to give the employer an inducement to keep employment for his workmen as long as possible, but, in point of fact, the 3s. was no inducement at all, and accordingly we have been paying away a sum of money which gave the State no return, and which amounted to £118,000 per annum. We save that amount by abolishing that provision. Again, there was a provision that people over sixty who had little or no unemployment should 1754 get a refund in proportion to the amount they had paid. We have abolished that also, because we do not regard it as germane to any proper scheme of insurance. Of course, we protect in their rights all the people who were already under that provision. There is a new provision that railway fares shall be advanced out of the Unemployment Fund to people who are out of employment, and who wish to take up employment elsewhere. The proposal is based upon the experience of the War. We are quite sure that the advance of railway fares is a wise expenditure, because it gives opportunity to a man to obtain employment which otherwise is not open to him in the place where he is, and the more you can increase his chance of employment, the more you benefit the Fund. Accordingly,' we propose to advance railway fares to such cases as these, and to remit half the amount of the fare.
I have gone over the main provisions of this measure, I hope, at not too great length. I should like, before I sit down, to refer to the position of approved societies. There has been considerable apprehension excited in the minds of some of the great representatives of the approved societies. They feared that this Bill was inimical to their interests. I took an opportunity of meeting with many of them, and I think I ascertained pretty clearly what their views were. They feared very greatly a provision which was in the original draft of the Bill to the effect that there should be, both for health and unemployment insurance, only one card kept, and one stamp put upon the card. They thought the effect of that would be to bring all their members, or would tend to bring their members, into approved societies which were managed by trade unions. I appreciated their point of view, and we entirely did away with that provision, and so relieved their anxiety. Their next apprehension was this. There are a certain number of trade unions—I think most trade unions now—which are resolved into approved societies for the purpose of working the Health Insurance Act. The attitude of the friendly societies was that if you have got unemployment insurance extended over the country in the degree which is provided by this Bill, there will be a great detraction from the friendly societies into trade unions, that their members will tend to leave the friendly 1755 societies and take their health benefit and their unemployment benefit to the trade union. I think that fear is exaggerated, if not entirely groundless. At the present time, although you have trade unions managing approved societies within their own ranks, it is true to say that their approved societies outside the great friendly societies have scarcely been affected at all by those circumstances, and in such an approved society perhaps they have only 20 per cent. of their own members, and the great bulk of their members are still loyal to the old friendly societies with which they have been so long connected. I accordingly think the fear they express on that head really will not materialise.
But there is a third point of view they took. They said, "If you set up these great organisations of special schemes, and they begin to manage unemployment insurance, they will, in course of time, inevitably seek to be made approved societies under the Health Insurance Act, and that will tend to take away our members, or altogether overwhelm us." I think, perhaps, there is more ground for apprehension with regard to that matter, and, at the same time, I have had a consultation with the Minister of Health to see whether it is necessary to make any provision which will safeguard the position of friendly societies in this matter. We have all too much regard for the great work they have done for this country in the past to wish any detriment or injury to happen to them, and, accordingly, I think it is possible to consider the making of some safeguards for them in that respect.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. WARREN
Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to insert some such provision as in the National Health Insurance Act, 1911, Section 23, making it possible for societies to come in to administer unemployment benefit?
§ Sir R. HORNE
I am not quite certain how far the hon. Gentleman's question goes. We do not propose to make any 1756 other provision than is in this Bill at the present time, which, according to our view, is adequate. There is a provision which allows trade unions to administer the benefits of the Unemployment Insurance Fund under certain conditions, these conditions being, first, that they themselves pay a certain amount of insurance benefit. That provision, of course, means that they are going to take very great care that if there is employment for the man he shall take it, because they are not going on paying out contributions themselves if the man can get employment; and, secondly, that they have a machine whereby they can discover avenues of employment for the men. So that there is a complete scheme under this measure, in so far as we require it, for the purpose of having these benefits dispensed through organisations which are capable of doing the work and have had experience in doing it.
There is another point of view which has been put forward, and it gains expression in an Amendment which has been proposed by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson). It looks at the whole problem from a reverse point of view from that which the friendly societies put. His proposed Amendment would draw entirely from the trade unions of the country the work they have hitherto performed and put it all in the hands of friendly societies. That in itself, according to my view, would be a very backward and retrograde step, but, in any case, I appeal to him with regard to the attitude which he has taken up towards this matter. He wants to avoid expense, and if there is any method by which you can avoid expense at the present time, undoubtedly the Government and the House ought to take it.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
There are a great many trade unions which are already approved societies under the old Act.
§ Sir R. HORNE
The interjection of my hon. Friend is perfectly right, but in a measure, and in an organisation, which I do not think he sufficiently appreciates, where you have got the trade union as an approved society, you will find very often only a very small modicum of members are in that approved society. My hon. Friend shakes his head, but I am quoting what I know. Secondly, a large number of people who are in their approved 1757 society, which is quite a separate organisation within the trade union, come in entirely from the outside and have no connection with the trade union at all. They are only insured as any other individual joining any approved society would be, and the organisation of the trade union for approved society purposes is not at all of the character which my hon. Friend thinks. The foundation of my hon. Friend's proposal is to avoid expense. I assure the House that, so far from avoiding expense by any such proposal as this, you would only increase it. What you require to do in dealing with this question of unemployment, unless you are going to be swindled many times, is to have a check upon a man who is unemployed and says he cannot get employment. Therefore, if the approved societies were to take up this matter, they would have to set up a system by which they would be put in possession of the knowledge where employment was available all over the country, so as to be able to say that there was employment available for the man. If they are going to do that, they must set up a panel of employment exchanges. You would not get rid of the Government Exchanges, because, in point of fact, there would always be a large number of people who would not join either of the other societies, and accordingly these Employment Exchanges would have to be carried on, and you would have greatly increased expense. But, even under my hon. Friend's suggestion that the approved societies should use the Employment Exchange for the purpose of finding where there is employment, that would simply involve that, although the Employment Exchanges now do both the enquiry and the payment, you would have somebody who has to receive the information, go to somebody else to make the enquiry, and then come back and make the payment. That only increases the burden of expense. I speak with confidence in the matter, and although I appreciate the point of view in which the Amendment has been put down, I say this is the road to extravagance and to confusion rather than to saving and order.
Will the Act apply in such a case as this? In my own constituency there has been some labour trouble in a certain district, and, in consequence of that, Lord Leverhulme has 1758 given instructions to dismiss all men belonging to that district from employment, and, as a result, 70 men are now dismissed and out of employment. Would the Act apply to people of that sort?
§ Sir R. HORNE
Undoubtedly it would apply, provided there are no complicating circumstances in the case, none of which the hon. Member puts before me. A man insured would get the benefit so long as he had not voluntarily gone on strike or refused other employment. For a lockout or dismissal he would be entitled to the benefit. This Bill does not pretend to be in any way an heroic measure. I do not say for a moment that it realises all, or even many, of the aspirations and hopes which many of us cherish in connection with this great subject. But I do claim for it that it raises the rampart against anxiety and despair a little higher, that it puts it upon a deeper and sounder foundation, and that it affords some shelter, and defence to all.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The numerous friendly questions which have been addressed to the right hon. Gentleman during the course of his speech indicates on the whole a friendly passage for the Bill. I am certain the House feels grateful to him for having, in so brief a time, so lucidly explained the proposals within the pages of the Bill relating to so intricate and important a problem. On two points at least I can offer him, on behalf of the House as a whole, its congratulations. I congratulate him upon having to deal with this question at a time when there is such an improvement in what might be termed the public outlook in relation to this great economic and industrial subject, and I congratulate upon his own appreciation and the sympathy which he showed in regard to the dread which the workman has of a state of unemployment through no fault of his own, and I am certain that these two factors will be of considerable assistance in the different stages through which the measure will have to pass. But he must not conclude that we on this side of the House can allow it to go through without challenging and criticising some aspects of the principle upon which it is founded and without offering resistance to some detailed parts of the measure. On the whole, the different Clauses reveal to 1759 us several welcome improvements in respect of the present day provision for unemployment benefit, not merely as to conditions and amount, but as to the administrative aspect of the question, which so intimately concerns the great trades unions. At the same time, we consider that this is a special opportunity which ought to be used to the full, and in no partial sense, for dealing with this, one of our greatest domestic problems, and the House will require a large measure of its time completely to handle this topic and cure, as far as possible, the evils of unemployment. The Prime Minister, as well as the Minister for Labour and other heads of the Government, have, within the past few months, repeatedly impressed upon the public mind the great national advantages which will accrue from easing the mind of the workman in regard to security of work, in regard to feeling that he is not going to be thrust out of employment even as the result of his own exertions, and I welcome therefore the opening part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, because he fully appreciates the great losses which are suffered in regard to limited output, in regard to reduced production, merely because the workman has the fear that if he produces more his fate will be all the worse on that account.
I am certain that while many hon. Members cannot agree with us in our outlook on how this matter should be settled, they will agree with the sentiment that the best thing to do with unemployment is to prevent it, and not merely to insure against it, not merely to pay contributions to fortify men against a state of poverty through idleness. The best thing to do in respect of that state of unemployment is to make it as certain as possible that men shall be employed. We agree, of course, that it is not easy to translate that aspiration into a practical doctrine by means of statute and national regulations, but if it can be done it ought to be done, and I am not sure that we can see clearly whether it can be accomplished until it has been tried. Employers of labour in some quarters are looked upon by some working men and by some of their leaders as persons to be classed as the workman's enemy, denounced merely for being capitalists and upbraided for pursuing their calling in relation to the industries and 1760 businesses of the country. I do not share that view. Employers of labour in the main, I suppose, pursue their interests and their businesses not primarily to find men work, but in order to fulfil the particular functions in life to which they were called. Incidentally they discharge what are under our existing economic conditions necessary duties, and while we might quarrel with them and complain of the unreasonable and, in many cases, most unfair exactions imposed upon industry and upon workmen by the inordinate profits which some employers make, yet we ought not to denounce employers as a class of extortioners, as a body of men who, because they are employers, should stand condemned in the eye of the workman. But in so far as employers fail to provide work for men who want it, they fall short of their broad function in our existing state, and so far as they cannot meet fully the demand for work it is proper for the State to intervene and guarantee the certainty of employment to men who are in need of it, and therein comes what the workmen call their "right to work," as indeed they cannot live under good and wholesome conditions unless it is by their labour. If, therefore, employers, through their conduct of present day industry, are not able at certain periods to provide men with the full opportunity of living which they require, it becomes the business and the duty of the State to so supplement and organise trade and businesses as to make work a certainty and not merely a chance.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the great sums of money which were paid out during recent periods of unemployment, and used the fact of that payment, I think not quite fairly, in relation to the point of view which we take as to what was its consequence. That payment was scarcely ever referred to as a benefit, or even as a right. It was usually referred to as a dole. It was stigmatised from the very commencement as something uncommon in the financial and industrial affairs of this country. The view we take with regard to all such payments is that it is not a good thing to give anyone something for nothing; that it is a far better thing, if you are going to pay a man something, to get something from him in exchange, and you cannot do it by pursuing that path of the dole on which the Government entered some fifteen 1761 or sixteen months ago. That, again, throws us back upon the necessity of the Government making some marginal provision for securing the use of the services of men and women when they are thrown out of employment. In a time like this, when we are so much in arrears of work and when there is such a crying demand for a greater abundance of commodities and the needs of life, it is a pathetic thing that we are considering in this House, not the question of how to turn labour to a better account, but how to provide money in order that idle labour should be kept in being and able to provide some of the various necessities of life. This arrears of work is a thing that Statesmen and all members of this House of all parties mention upon platforms every week. It will not be cured, the difficulty will not be overcome, and we shall not catch up with the arrears of work by any such measure as this, and that is why the right hon. Gentleman, in the closing part of his speech, admitted that this measure cannot be described as heroic, as any attempt, I suppose, to cover the ground that needs to be covered in relation to this great economic problem. Rut I say for the Bill, that whilst, in my judgment, it does not proceed on the right lines in principle, in practice it is likely to go far to relieve the poverty and distress which would otherwise occur.
I should hope, as the right hon. Gentleman showed an open mind on some important points of detail, he will show himself able to consider whether the workman should not be relieved of the contribution demanded from him by the Bill. I know that will at once strike some employers of labour as a fanciful or extravagant claim to make, but perhaps they will listen to us, as they usually do, in order that our view should be stated. The workman already is paying a very large number of contributions to clubs of the ordinary kind. There is not a single contribution of that kind which is not a form of insurance of some sort against the common ills to which the masses of the poor are exposed. A workman must ensure himself for some payment in sickness, for meeting conditions of accident, and he may insure himself in a trade union in order that he may sell his labour collectively and thereby be enabled to get something like a reasonable living wage from the employers of labour. 1762 All these contributions amount to a pretty considerable sum in the course of a week, and a few shillings to the average workman means usually a difference between a margin of comfort and a real condition of privation. A rich man pays his guineas to his club for reasons of pleasure and business, which I do not question at all, and the poor man pays his shillings to his club for essentials, merely to guarantee himself against conditions of distress which in his case are certain to occur. It would be the right thing to exact a fine or some payment of penalty from the workman for anything for which he is to blame, but the workman is not to blame for his state of unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sometimes!"] I am speaking, of course, in general terms. I am not addressing myself to what may be an exceptional ease. The exceptional case under this measure or any other measure can usually be allocated. We do not desire that malingering of any kind should be encouraged, or that wrongdoing should be safeguarded by contributions either from industry or from the State.
Industry should be a joint concern. It should be the concern of the workmen, the concern of the employer, and the concern of the nation. Whatever may be said against the workmen, either individually or as a class, every man in this House will agree that workmen are indispensable to industry. Whoever else you can do without in connection with industry you cannot do without the workman. He is an absolutely indispensable factor in the life and commerce of the nation. But usually he is the man in industry kept by what he receives from it at just a bare subsistence level, and usually he is able to save little from his weekly Income, thereby finding himself to be the only one of the partners in industry in need of such a condition of insurance or protection as this Bill must afford. The view of hon. Members on this side of the House is that industry, and industries collectively, through the agency of the State, should be made responsible for such sums as are necessary to provide the, needful amount of insurance money which the unemployed workman has a right to look for day by day or week by week when, through no fault of his own, he is unemployed. The pensioner in receipt of his weekly pension 1763 is not compelled to pay a contribution for it, nor is the pauper who may be maintained in one of our public institutions called upon to pay. Are you to treat the workman even worse than you treat the pensioner or the pauper? Are you to require the man who is giving day by day while he is employed, the best that is in him for the prosperity of business, and in addition to giving his work he is to give up half his wages in order that when out of employment he may be able to get the barest needs of existence to keep him in a fit state to be restored to his employment again?
There is a great deal in the view that this defect in England, this failure of industry to provide full and continuous work for men willing to labour, is a defect which ought not to impose a charge upon the workman, but which should be carried by the industry itself. That it should be carried by the industry is revealed fully in the daily newspapers. It is shown by the enormous profits that are accruing to trades and businesses of every kind. I reject altogether the plea that industry cannot bear a charge of this kind if it is placed upon it. The State also might clearly be called upon to consider whether it could bear an additional burden. I think the right hon. Gentleman must have felt the feebleness of the plea put forward that employers of labour and the State cannot be called upon to bear the burden which is behind the view I am now submitting to the House, and certain other consequences would follow if the line advocated on this side of the House were accepted. Exactly the same feeling was in his mind I thought when he touched upon the question of the amount of benefit. Here I want to make a little criticism on three or four points of detail within the cover of this measure. I think the right hon. Gentleman felt how weak his argument was when he urged us to accept the figure of 15s. as an adequate sum of weekly benefit under the Bill. We have all read the views put forward on behalf of the employers in connection with the investigations now proceeding respecting the transport workers and their wages. That view, officially formulated by the employers, placed the living wage of the workman under the existing condition of prices at £3 17s. 6d. at least.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Yes, that is exactly the poverty line. That is not the level which we expect. A very much higher sum was argued from the Labour side in connection with that inquiry. I put this figure forward as representing the employers' standard of what is the lowest living wage necessary for the barest needs of existence under the existing condition of prices. If we are to place in the mind of the working man the feeling of being guaranteed against impoverishment, and if we are to take the working man away from the fear that doing his best and producing the most will not throw him out of work, we cannot do it by throwing him back upon 15s. a week during a state of idleness for which he is not to blame. The Labourers' unions, covering the very lowest paid section of workmen and workwomen in this country, have recently had to raise their dispute pay, lock-out, and unemployment benefit to a higher figure than 15s. The sum of 15s. does not represent at the moment anything more than 6s. of pre-war value. I urge the necessity, therefore, of an increase in the benefit which the right hon. Gentleman has submitted. I would also put to him the injustice which this Bill proposes to continue on workmen who are unemployed through no fault of their own in connection with recurring trade disputes. I do not think that the Labour Minister need fear that there will be any encouragement to disputes by doing justice to those who are the victims of such disputes. I agree that it would be improper for the State to pay any contributions or for industries to bear any burden in paying men who themselves are on strike, and who were the cause of the strike. The combatant should not have any support in that way from either the State or the employers of labour. But that is a different thing from the appeal which we are putting forward.
We say, "Give no support to the combatants in a strike, but give every support which the victims of the strike have a right to ask for." Working men, whether skilled or not, have a perfect right to press their claim for unemployment pay when they are unemployed, whatever be the cause, if the cause is not their own 1765 fault. That surely is the right line of demarcation. If the workman himself is the cause, of if the workmen collectively are the cause of the state of unemployment, then the State is not to blame, the responsibility is the responsibility of the workmen and they must accept it. If they are not to blame, but are the victims of the action of other people, then surely they have a perfect right to press their claims under this Bill for unemployment pay. It is no answer to say that if right is done in this case it would have to be done in another. That is not an argument behind which I think the right hon. Gentleman would shelter. I can assure him that very great suffering was endured as a result of the recent moulders' strike by skilled workmen and labourers especially who were unemployed for periods of months during that prolonged struggle. These men have a sense of real wrong being done to them because of the discrimination between man and man under these conditions of pay. We shall have to press with all the power we can command for a reconsideration of this part of the Bill. We ask under this Act for nothing more than accuracy. It is not a privilege. It is not encouraging disputes. It means that men who are disabled from following their work through causes which are not of their own making ought to be ensured of unemployment benefit.
I was glad to hear, with regard to the administration expenses, that the view is accepted that the percentage which it is proposed to allow to trades unions for the provision of assistance under this Bill may be revised. I understood the Labour Minister to have an open mind, or at least that there was some margin in his mind on the subject, and that he was willing to hear arguments addressed to him as to whether the 5 per cent. is fair or not. In the meantime, I would say that this work which trade unions are doing is work of the highest national importance. It is State work. It is not work in the nature of administering a private charity. If you have the premises of trades unions and the services of the officials, and the use of all the apparatus and energy, which is symbolised by the word "organisation," placed at your disposal, and doing what is really State work, then there ought to be reasonable payment for the services so rendered. I very much dislike 1766 the figure which is the line of demarcation in this Bill. It is proposed to exempt from the provisions all those non-manual workers whose wages or salaries are above £250. That figure is far too low. The class to be exempted is, in my judgment, a class which has endured exceptional suffering through the general disturbance of our economic arrangements during the last few years. A considerable number of the lower middle classes must have felt the privations that have fallen upon them and that have had to be endured as a result of the considerable increase in price. They have found themselves enjoying, as I think the term is, salaries which are seldom subject to any influences of ascendancy, and which have to be spent under conditions where the value of money is continually on the decrease. And this is the story shown by the post bag of Members of Parliament and the questions asked at meetings which we might attend in the constituencies by people who are subject to unemployment and in no sense guaranteed continuity of work. I think, therefore, that the level of this figure in the case of non-manual workers might very well be taken into sympathetic consideration during the further stages of this Bill.
Now as to the proposed exemptions. I have heard no adequate statement yet giving reasons for the exemption of agriculture as a whole in regard to insurance. I have reason to believe that those who have some claim to speak for agricultural workers have not asked for exemption. I know, as they know, that there are peculiar conditions attached to the industry which might be specially provided for without exempting it from the provisions of this measure, and therefore we ought to be told more fully why those engaged in agriculture are specifically mentioned as one of the two groups of employees in the country who are definitely exempted from the provisions of this measure. I accept the argument of my right hon. Friend as to what generally insurance means. It is a pooling of interest. That is why I think that, as it were high and low, the secure and those who are not secure might be on a more equal footing than is proposed by this Bill. I do not think that if an industry can come forward and say, "We are never out of work," it can give that as a reason for asking them not to pay in support of those 1767 who are. If insurance means the pooling of risks for those who stand or fall by those risks, then it also means that the fortunate, who never have to undergo the loss and privations of unemployment, can well afford by the mere fact of being secure to pay their contribution towards the assistance of others. That is the real way in which you can make this a measure in which you can set up a sense of common communal interest in the sustenance of those who have to suffer because of the conditions of unemployment.
In these days the manual workers, as well as a large number of others, cannot chose their occupations. Their occupations are determined for them by a large number of circumstances over which they have no control. They are put to this, that or the other occupation according to chance, according to the discretion or judgment of their parents and many other causes, and they cannot choose for themselves, and their faculties and qualifications, also through no fault of their own, again are so different in different individuals that it ought not to be pleaded as a point in favour of exemption from sharing the misfortunes of others that particular trades or individuals are more fortunate. Therefore, I hope that during the progress of this Bill the mind of the Minister of Labour will be shown to be even more open than it was revealed this afternoon. He may expect that the strongest efforts will be made from this side to secure amendment of the measure. We shall on the whole accept it as something which will considerably more than double the number of persons who are now insured to some extent against unemployment. That is a provision which further increases the acknowledgment of the responsibility of the State towards the mass of workers, and so far as it goes in those directions, it is going in the right direction and therefore we shall have even his goodwill in any effort we may make to improve, both in principle and in detail, a Bill which, with all its limitations, we welcome from this side of the House.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I would like to join with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) in extending warm congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Horne) for the human sympathy which he has manifested in presenting this measure to the House. I always thought that the right 1768 hon. Gentleman was in the wrong place when he belonged to the party of reaction, because my experience of him is that when he comes to deal with any of those great human problems with which statesmen are now called on to deal, and to readjust them, he does at in the modern spirit, and he is inspired by the kindly human feeling which I think calls for the admiration even of his most violent political opponents, if he has any. Therefore, I rejoice to be able to congratulate him upon the introduction of this measure, and I agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes) that, of all the great problems which Governments and Parliaments are called upon to solve, there is none which ought to call forth more genuine sympathy of all than the question of unemployment. There is no greater human tragedy than to find the gaunt spectre of unemployment haunting the homes of the poor. I do not think that society can offer a more indefensible conditions of affairs, with all our wisdom and all the promise of the ages, than to find men and women physically strong and powerful, anxious to work, desiring to preserve their dignity as citizens, and yet, through no fault of their own, denied the opportunity of earning their living. That is a condition of affairs which it is the passionate desire of every democrat to abolish, and, as my right hon. Friend has stated, even a Bill of this character, subject, and rightly subject, to much criticism—because it does not, in my judgment, deal adequately with this problem—is a measure which we ought to welcome, because anything good that comes from the Coalition we ought to accept.
I agree with my right hon. Friend that 15s. a week does not meet the case. Fifteen shillings a week now is only equal to 6s. before the War, and a pound a week, as he suggests, would not be generous, but might be a fair amount to give to a man out of employment during the time he is not engaged in work. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Horne) offers the excuse for not being more generous that he could not find any more money, and he told us that it would require £10,000,000 to carry out a suggestion of the character which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) has made, and ho asked where was it to be found? I will tell him where. It is very easy to withdraw the army of occupation from 1769 Ireland. You are spending £10,000,000 a year in keeping an army there for keeping the peace. If you give it for relieving unemployment you will get more value for it. It would to far better to use this £10,000,000 a year for the purpose of dealing with this problem in a more satisfactory way, and satisfy the demands of labour put forward from every county and every industrial centre in the country. It would be far better to bring sunshine and light to the homes of the poor and to provide greater security from the caprice of industrial trouble and discontent by using the £10,000,000 for that purpose rather than for keeping in Ireland an army which ultimately you must withdraw. You will withdraw it for precisely the same reason as you have withdrawn the army from Russia. You were compelled to withdraw the army from Russia because the English people could not understand why they ought to pay for being instruments of carrying on a war with the Russians which was no concern of theirs. They had to do it in the end. We want you to do precisely the same thing in Ireland, to devote this £10,000,000 a year to this problem of unemployment, and in that way to devote it to a much better use. You would thus do two things, both good. You would establish liberty in Ireland and solve one of the most pressing human problems and effect a great change for the better in the minds and conditions and hearts of the people of England.
I did not rise for the purpose of saying what I have said. That was only my discursive preamble. I rose to ask why, if this Bill is such a remarkably good Bill—I believe it will be a good Bill when it is fashioned and changed and improved in Committee through the operations of my hon. Friends on the Labour Benches, with the sympathy and assistance of the right hon. Gentleman—why is it not applied to Ireland? Have we not unemployment in Ireland? I think that before I sit down I will show that we have. In the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech I ventured to interrupt him and ask why this Bill was not applied to Ireland? He said that they were going to introduce a Home Rule Bill for Ireland, and that in view of that we should not expect him to deal with this question of unemployment, which is a matter that affects Ireland, and with which Ireland can deal herself under Home Rule. The Coalition is made up 1770 of two—or is it three?—parties—I forget which. It also speaks with two voices. The right hon. Gentleman will not give us this Unemployment Bill, which is a good Bill when it is improved in Committee. He will not give us that Bill which we want, but his Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who belongs to the same Cabinet as the right hon. Gentleman, is determined to give us an Education Bill which nobody wants. Ireland is not to be allowed to solve the education problem, to deal with the education of her children from the Irish standpoint and inspired by an Irish cultural spirit. That is going to be done by this House for Ireland. Education is not to be dealt with under the Home Rule scheme, which is to come before the country and which seems to be so glitteringly attractive before we see it—I hope it will present an equally picturesque appearance when we do see it in this House. But education is to be dealt with in this Parliament as a preliminary to the transference to Ireland of the right to govern herself, education which is the most vital thing in the whole life of a nation and which is the foundation of well-ordered citizenship.
I do not believe that the Home Rule Bill, which you have talked so much about, and which we never see, will pass at all. I. want to know now from the right hon. Gentleman—I know that this Bill is not his, I believe it is not his—why, while Ireland is being governed by this country, she is to be denied the advantage of this unemployment measure? Why is the gaunt spectre of unemployment, which haunts the homes of the poor in Ireland as well as in England, still to overshadow the people? I cannot understand the consistency of the position. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would reconcile his position with the position of the Chief Secretary. As he seems to me the only man of any commonsense in the Cabinet, the best thing he can do now is to tell the Cabinet to withdraw their Education Bill, which nobody wants, and to include Ireland within the provisions of this Unemployment Insurance Bill, which everybody in Ireland does want. I have endeavoured to press upon the right hon. Gentleman the importance of including Ireland within this measure, and I do so because I am a representative of a great industrial community.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I said that I am a representative of a great industrial community. It is a strange thing to me that while hon. Members from Ulster bring their pressure to bear on the Government to introduce an Education Bill which is bound to arouse prejudices and hatred in the country, they do not display a passionate enthusiasm for this Bill, which will affect their constituents as well as mine. It is not to their interest to look for social reform.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
They are at the tail end of reaction in this country. Their purpose here is to force on an education Measure which will arouse fresh religious and political differences in the country, so that in the welter of all our potential discords they may perpetuate the old bad spirit on which they have prospered for the last century. I am entitled to speak on this question. I am a Member for Belfast, and the only one who has ever taken any interest in the working classes. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I am inspired to address the House on this question because of my experiences. I agree absolutely with the hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), that it is a most cruel thing to refuse unemployment allowances to persons who, through no fault of their own, are thrown out of employment because of a strike. I will give the House an instance. Only four or five years ago a great strike took place in the city of Belfast. The number of people involved was comparatively small; I think there were only four or five hundred—the tenters and the engineers and the skilled men in the spinning and weaving factories of Belfast. When they go on strike the whole of the mills stop, and in the case of the tenters' strike, nearly twelve thousand women were thrown out of employment for a period of seven or eight weeks. Not 80 per cent. of them belonged to any trade union. It is one of the accursed things of our Irish political system that, because of the discords existing politically, trade organisation is more inefficient there than in any other part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I am glad to hear it is improving, because, although I am not associated with any Labour movement 1772 myself, I never lose an opportunity of impressing strongly upon the workers that they ought to belong to a trade union. In this case these twelve thousand women belonged to no trade union. What was the result? The average wage of these women was from 15s. to 18s. a week. It was not possible for them to save any money out of that, even when fully employed. Before two weeks were over starvation was practically dogging their footsteps. I myself took an interest in the matter. I called a public meeting, because the great bulk of those affected were my own constituents. The purpose of the meeting was the opening of a fund to deal with their claims for even passing and temporary relief. I made an appeal and I received something like £5,000 or £6,000. Many public-spirited men throughout this country, including the Speaker of the House of Commons, sent me generous subscriptions, and we were able to give to the women during the last three or four weeks of the strike 6s. or 7s. a week. I did not like to be engaged in that work. It was a humiliation for the women. I went into their houses and saw the results of the strike. I saw pictures taken from the walls and pawned. I saw the little pieces of furniture sold. I saw houses absolutely without food. I saw these women, who are not in the best of health even when in full employment, with almost a deathly pallor on their faces. All this was through no fault of their own. I thought it was inhuman, and I think it is un-Christian. It was a humiliation to have to appeal to private philanthropy or to charity for women who, under ordinary circumstances, would disdain the one and refuse to accept the other.
I trust that the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes finally to dispose of this question, will accept at once the suggestion made by the right hon. Member (Mr. Clynes) and include among those who are to receive unemployment donations all persons who are victims of a strike, who are cast out of work through no fault of their own, because, in my judgment, it is this vast conglomeration of the population which needs it most. That is where unemployment is felt most. Casual unemployment does not count so very much. The poor are exceedingly good to each other. If someone is out of employment his neighbour helps him, but 1773 when a large number of men and women are out of work they cannot help each other, no matter how good and kind and sympathetic they wish to be to each other. The only way in which the unemployment problem can be solved satisfactorily, if we are to extirpate the spirit of discontent and bad blood among people who suffer through no fault of their own, is to accept the suggestion which has been made. I understand the right hon. Gentleman said that he will be glad to include the linen industry.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that if the workers, through representations made to him, ask to be included, the linen trade will be included?
§ Sir R. HORNE
I shall be very glad to consider it—I do not like the word sympathetically, because it is so often abused, but certainly sympathetically. Provision is made in the proposal for the inclusion of those who now are excluded, if it seems expedient from the general point of view.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The right hon. Gentleman is one of the few Ministers who if he makes a promise keeps it. Therefore I am anxious to extract a promise from him. I can find no justification whatever for the exclusion of Ireland from the provisions of this measure. The excuse given was absolutely absurd. If it is a real excuse I hope the right hon. Gentleman will go as soon as this Debate is over and spend an hour or so in persuading the Chief Secretary for Ireland to withdraw the Education Bill. I do not know whether any influence or what influence has been brought to bear on the right hon. Gentleman not to have Ireland included in this Bill. I cannot understand the situation. To me it presents a certain element of mystery. We want to be included. We have the evils of unemployment just as much as this country, and as long as we are part of the connection, as long as we belong to this un-happy arrangement by which we have to come to this Parliament for redress of our grievances—which we rarely get redressed—the only function I have to discharge in this House is to see that as little mischief as possible is done to Ireland 1774 by this Parliament. It would be a mischief and a wrong and it would be resented by public opinion, especially of industrial Ulster, if this Bill is not applied to Ireland.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsThis House, while desiring to afford additional unemployment insurance, declines to set up new machinery for this purpose which will incur heavy and unnecessary expenditure, and is of opinion that the benefits and contributions for unemployment shall be added forthwith to the National Health Insurance Scheme.6.0 p.m.
In moving this Amendment I do not think that I am at all prejudicing the Debate, because the Amendment is framed in such a broad manner. I should like to say that the right hon. Gentleman has only to introduce a Bill for it to commend itself to the hon. Members. The Amendment has nothing whatever to do with the root principle of the Bill. It has nothing whatever to do with the benefits. It has nothing whatever to do with the amount of the contributions. It is moved, as I believe, merely for the sake of economy and efficient administration. I do not in the least think it can be directed against trade unions. If carried, I do not think it would prejudice the interests of trade unions in any way at all. After all, we are all anxious for more unemployment insurance, but I feel that we ought all to be equally anxious to effect our purpose in the least extravagant manner possible. We have great confidence in the right hon. Gentleman, but he cannot possibly look into every detail of a complicated measure of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman must depend very largely upon his advisers, and I submit that in this case his advisers, so far as the administration of the scheme is concerned, have taken a wrong turning. What is the state of affairs at present? You have got very nearly 15,000,000 persons insured under the National Health Insurance Scheme; you have also got a limited number of persons insured under the unemployment scheme; you have got about seven trades, plus a few war-time occupations; and Sir Alfred Watson, the distinguished actuary, has made a calculation, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, that there are about 3,500,000 persons insured at the present moment 1775 under the unemployment scheme. You propose in this Bill to give unemployment insurance to every single person under the National Health Insurance Scheme, with the exception of domestic servants and agricultural labourers. That is to say, you are going to have exactly the same persons insured for unemployment as are insured already under the National Health Insurance Scheme, with those two exceptions, and on the single fiat of the Minister, without coming to Parliament, he can include domestic servants and agricultural labourers in the future. He can do it by Order in Council, which is laid on the table of the House, and if anybody happens to be lucky enough to spot it in the papers that he receives in the morning, he may be able to raise the matter late at night. If the right hon. Gentleman does it, the same population will be included in the National Health Insurance Scheme and in the unemployment insurance scheme, but in spite of this, the right hon. Gentleman is going to have a double machinery, when, I submit, the existing machinery could do equally well for both purposes.
Was there really ever a more un-businesslike scheme. After all, you have got the vast machine of Health Insurance working perfectly smoothly at the present moment. You have got the cards and the stamps that everybody is used to who belongs to a society, you have got Insurance Committees, you have got the great friendly societies, and you have got all kinds of approved societies. They have learned their lesson, and their organisation to-day is practically perfect, and the addition of unemployment insurance to their present work could be easily done. On the other hand, the present unemployment insurance is restricted to certain trades. The Labour Exchanges work the machinery with the exception of persons who receive benefit from the Trade Unions, but this experience of Labour Exchanges is comparatively limited, and yet the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take practically the whole of the population now under the National Health Insurance Scheme and involve them in a double machinery and a double administration. What will it mean? It will add, I submit, a huge machinery of paid officials to an already 1776 enormous State machinery all over the country. The Minister calculates in the memorandum to the Bill that between one and a half and four millions will contract out of his Bill. Suppose we take the mean, and say that two and three-quarter millions choose to contract out, that means that nine million insured persons will come under his scheme, and nine million absolutely unnecessary stamps are going to be affixed every single week of the year. That is to say, over four hundred and fifty millions of absolutely unnecessary unemployment stamps are going to be affixed every year. Then you have got the time wasted in affixing the stamps, in cancelling them, and in printing them, as well as the material for their printing; you will also have to have nine million absolutely unnecessary cards distributed every year on which the stamps are to be affixed. I ask again, is that really a businesslike proposal?
Under the Bill, in Clause 12, you are going to have a further host of umpires, deputy-umpires, and insurance officers, and another great host of subordinate officers, inspectors, and servants for the purposes of the Act, and a third host of paid chairmen and members of courts of referees, In fact, there is no end of complication of machinery between these two interlocked administrations, and I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, under Clause 42, has taken power to remove difficulties should they arise. He mentioned the question of one stamp. Of course, the friendly societies objected to one stamp if they are not able to work the Act, but they do not object to one stamp if they are allowed to work the Act under this present scheme. On the other hand, if the work is done by the existing Health Insurance Administration, I believe there will be an enormous saving. In Clause 12 of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman tolls us that ten per cent. of the whole income is going in administration, and yet he is only allowing the trade unions five per cent. for administering the benefit, Under my Amendment, I am quite sure that the administration could be done for infinitely less than ten per cent. of the income. The work of paying benefits and receiving larger contributions by the existing societies would hardly add to the cost at all. In the localities where these approved societies have their branches they would require hardly any extra staff. 1777 It would only be in the central administration, whore I believe a few extra hands would be required, and a few new books and a few additional columns for the benefits to be given would be required.
In the gracious Speech from the Throne a new Health Insurance Bill has already been promised, and all that would be necessary would be a few special clauses added on to that Bill, before it is introduced, dealing with unemployment insurance. I believe that certain arrangements would probably be necessary to change the unemployment yearly basis to the Health Insurance half-yearly basis, and you would also have the questions of arrears and accumulated reserves to deal with, but these could easily be met. Moreover, if unemployment were tacked on to Health Insurance there would be no trouble to the insured person. The only practical change would be that there would be an additional deduction from his wage. He would not have to join another Society, and he would not be canvassed and pestered and bothered by agents going about trying to get his membership. When he was out of work, the only thing he would have to do would be to go to a Labour Exchange and get a certificate saying that he was out of work, just as at present under the Health Insurance Scheme he goes to the doctor and gets a certificate to say he is sick. I believe that the vast majority of approved societies want to work this scheme. Nothing bores the House so much as having to listen to quotations from documents, and I will not trouble them with more than a very few. The Scottish Co-Operative Friendly Society say:I hope that this Amendment will at least have the effect of causing such modifications to he made in the Bill as will enable Approved Societies to have the opportunity of taking up work which I am sure they could deal with expeditiously and satisfactorily.There is also the Druid's quarterly report, in which they ask that the friendly societies should be allowed to work the scheme. They say:If the Unemployment Bill is not so amended by Parliament as to provide that all Approved Societies may administer its benefits, then a serious injustice will he done to many of those societies.The Rational Association Friendly Society have passed a resolution to the following effect:That this Society is prepared to work the unemployment insurance for its members 1778 if the Regulations make it possible to do so.Then I have resolutions from the Joint Committee of Approved Societies, the National Conference of Industrial Assurance Approved Societies and others, representing several millions of persons. The Sheffield Equalized Independent Druids say that:As the friendly societies of this country do not generally provide such a benefit, they are, as the Bill stands, excluded from administering its provisions. The great friendly societies are all Approved Societies under the National Health Insurance Act, and have transacted business under that Act with considerable success. If the Unemployment Bill is not so amended by Parliament as to provide that all Approved Societies may administer its benefits, then a serious injustice will be done to many of those societies.The National Conference of Friendly Societies sent a resolution this morning asking the same thing. This Bill does not give these societies a fair opportunity of coming under the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. Under Clause 17 a condition is laid down that if a friendly society wants to come under the scheme and administer these benefits, before the Act passes into operation, it has to draw up an unemployment scheme, a separate branch, giving better unemployment benefits than the benefits in the Bill. I do not believe a single friendly society in this country, before this Bill comes into operation, is going to set up a separate unemployment branch giving better unemployment benefits than under this Bill, and if they do not do it, not a single one of these friendly societies will will be able to administer the scheme under the Bill as it is at present drawn.
§ Mr. JESSON
How is an approved health society to assist in finding employment in hundreds of different trades?
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I do not propose to do away with the Labour Exchanges. I am not trying to interfere with any existing machinery. But what will a friendly society have to do under Clause 17? It will have to set up a separate branch. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that. It will have to make a separate scheme in the society for giving an unemployment benefit better than the benefit under the Bill.
§ Sir R. HORNE
My hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. A friendly society includes men in very different trades, and I do not see how he can apply this Bill and his argument to the case of a friendly society. The Bill is intended to deal with industry.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I think that makes my argument all the stronger. I believe I know what the right hon. Gentleman's objection will be when he answers this Amendment. He will say that he has already got a staff to deal with unemployment benefits and that that staff can very easily be enlarged. But we do not want to enlarge the staff. The whole desire of the people of this country who are anxious for economy is to get the staffs of Government-paid officials cut down. The right hon. Gentleman will also tell us that his experienced staff will be able to do the work better. But I would point out that the staffs of the approved societies have been for many years administering benefits, and could perfectly well take on also the administration of the unemployment benefit. Experience has shown how enormously important the supervision of these benefits is. Approved societies, to my mind, would supervise these benefits infinitely better than the insurance officer of the Labour Exchange. It is not in the interest of the insurance officer to do it. He does not care how many benefits he pays out. But it is in the interests of every single approved society to see that the benefits are properly earned and that the society remains solvent. The right hon. Gentleman may say that under this Amendment people will not be able to contract out of the Bill. I agree. But to my mind it is far better that they should not be able to contract out. They do not contract out of health insurance, yet they have to pay the same contribution and have to give the same benefits under the valuation, while if they make profits they have to help insolvent societies. But hero the right hon. Gentleman is allowing them to contract out of the Bill altogether, and they can charge what contribution they like. But if you allow them to contract out of unemployment benefit the day will surely come when people will insist on contracting out of health insurance. They will claim that if they are allowed to contract out of one scheme they are equally entitled to contract out of another.
1780 I want to make one further point. If the Bill is passed the whole of this scheme is going to be conducted by the Labour Exchanges and not by the trade unions apart from the contracting-out. I venture to submit that the Labour Exchange machinery will not be at all popular in administering it. A resolution was passed the other day at a Poor Law Conference to the effect that the Conference was of opinion that public unemployment exchanges had failed in the purpose for which they were established, and it recommended their entire abolition, while Lord Askwith, who presided, said that, whatever their value might have been in the past, when there was not so much organisation among the trade unions and the employers' associations as there was at present, the fact remained that they had now become a very expensive item to the community, and were having thrown upon them work for which they were ill-fitted. The right hon. Gentleman is handing over to the Labour Exchanges a very large part of the administration of this Bill. I do not think that that is a good introduction for the scheme. When he brought it in last December the right hon. Gentle man's proposals were for a single stamp and a single card for all kinds of insurance, and I think he realised the waste that would take place, supposing you had two cards, one for each kind of insurance. He has now dropped that plan. For what reason I cannot understand.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I do not think that is a sufficient reason for pressing a scheme which is obviously uneconomical. I believe that the extravagance of public departments is a thing which the House desires to avoid to the utmost of its power, and therefore I move this Amendment.
§ Lieut.-Colonel RAW
In seconding this Amendment I should like to say at the outset that my sympathies are entirely with the Bill, although my feeling is that some other method or machinery might be adopted by which the provisions of the Bill could be carried out. In reading the Bill one notes that it is to be worked by the Employment Exchanges, by the Post Office, and by those organisations which are at present in existence for dealing with unemployment. 1781 I think myself that the National Insurance Scheme might be brought into play to carry out the whole provisions of this Bill adequately. Expense would thereby be saved, so would administration, and so would the duplication of officials. What we really want is to bring the whole scheme of national insurance under one administration. I think this House should have consideration for the position which friendly societies would be placed in if they were debarred from carrying out the provisions of this Bill. As it stands at present, a great friendly society would not be able to work the Bill at all, and great injustice might be done to it by the fact that a large number of its members might withdraw from its membership in order that they might deal with the unemployment and other schemes entirely in one society. There is one point which I want to put before the right hon. Gentleman. In case of illness the worker would be drawing his benefit from one society for illness and from another society for unemployment, and it would be very difficult indeed in some cases to check those workers who might be sick and unemployed at the same time. I repeat I have every sympathy with the Bill. Everyone recognises that unemployment is one of the commonest causes of sickness and poverty, and this House should do every thing possible, not only to prevent unemployment, but to make proper provision for workers suffering, through no fault of their own, from unemployment.
§ Mr. SEDDON
On a point of Order. The Mover of the Amendment assumed that he could move this Amendment, but that the discussion would proceed on the general question. I want to know whether that assumption is right, or whether speakers will have to confine themselves to the Amendment?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The discussion will be general. The choice offered to the House is between reading the Bill a Second time and adopting the proposals of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. KIDD
The Minister of Labour, with conspicuous modesty, said he did not regard this measure as heroic, and I think every Member of the House will agree that it should prove something better than heroic. It brings to the worker a large measure of relief from that anxiety which undoubtedly militates against his 1782 efficiency, and, consequently, depresses the production of the country. The Minister very properly made reference to the inter-dependence in this country between industry and industry, and he spoke with particular experience in view of the wide rangs of his duties in the office he holds. He reminded the House how industries were interlocked to an extent which the average man in the street could hardly realise. In the same way as we talk of the mutual interests as between industries, we may also talk of the mutual interests as between different parties engaged in the industries. There is a corresponding inter-dependence, and it is gratifying to those who are taking an active interest in industrial matters to find that this measure realises the mutuality of interest. The Labour Members and ourselves disagree more with regard to methods than with regard to the point at which we seek to arrive. We are divided into two camps—shall I say, socialists and individualists? However we may be divided, we are at one in recognising the mutuality of interest of the different workers in any industry, these workers extending from the man at the very top, to the man engaged in the humblest form of manual labour. It is gratifying to us to find that this legislation recognises that mutuality in the sense of securing the worker's position as partner of the industry. In reading this Bill one is instinctively reminded of the great services rendered by the late Mr. Chamberlain in a similar way when he brought in his measure in 1896 with regard to Workmen's Compensation, which more emphatically, perhaps, than any previous measure passed by the House of Commons, recognised the element of partner interest as existing even in the humblest workers in the industry. The Labour Minister doubtless on this occasion will be charged with imposing an undue burden on industry. Mr. Chamberlain, in connection with his Workmen's Compensation Act, was accused in the same way. But he was able to dissipate the fear, and I venture to express the hope that, on this occasion, the feeling that any undue burden is being thrown on industry will prove to be equally unfounded. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes) seemed to me, in his description of the Bill, and in the criticisms in which he indulged, to be guilty of certain inconsistencies. 1783 In the earlier part of his speech he endorsed the view that no man can get anything for nothing. As I understood him, he took the view that the mental effect of seeming to get something for nothing was deteriorating. Notwithstanding that impression in his mind when he came to treat of the contributions under this particular Bill he took exception to the fact that the contribution was from the worker as well as from the employer. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I submit that the method adopted by the Labour Minister in regard to splitting or sharing these contributions is entirely in conformity with his own earlier expression of opinion. I do not suppose that the 3d. charged to the worker is really only with the intention of relieving industry to the extent of 3d. per man. I think rather that that particular method of splitting the contribution is to occasion in the worker a mental attitude towards a payment which reminds him more and more of his responsibility as a worker to maintain efficiency and to give of his very best service. That, as I understand it, is the real reason lying behind this joint contribution. For that reason I think the Labour Minister has acted very wisely in splitting the contribution as he has done.
Many Members on this side of the House entirely sympathise with the views so well expressed by the right hon. Gentleman as to the desirability of the workmen being protected against the idleness from which he is compelled to suffer, apart from any act of foolishness or other action on his part. This measure goes a long way to give that relief. Many of us would have preferred it should go further, but the very relief given now should in a measure stimulate industry, and by encouraging a greater efficiency on the part of everyone engaged should tend to maintain employment and wages. After all, one perfect cure for unemployment is to get our industries fully engaged. It is the duty not only of the Government to keep that fact before them, but that fact should also be kept before the great trade unions of this country. They should realise that after all the greatest service they can render to the worker is to maintain him in employment by sustaining in every reasonable sense the industries of the country: then the call upon this unemployment fund will not be very extravagant. 1784 In regard to the suggestion on the other side that the payment might have been more, I think the right hon. Gentleman might agree that perhaps our stability to-day, so much greater than that enjoyed by any of the other great Allies, is largely due to the fact that we have observed in this country in our development the wise rule: "To hasten slowly." The great thing in regard to our social legislation is not that we should take a plunge or be revolutionary, but that in the main we should keep on the rails. In this particular measure the Labour Minister has observed that rule; he has kept on the rails. I venture to predict that the result of his effort will be that we shall find ourselves a good way on the path of progress towards a final settlement of this vexed question.
§ Sir ALLAN SMITH
Dealing first with the question of the Amendment, may I express the hope that, above all other things, it will not succeed. There seems to be in the handling of Labour matters, matters of employment and unemployment, a most extraordinary fascination for everyone who has no experience in dealing with these matters. That fascination seems to be strong amongst certain classes of the community, and in certain associations, and the result of it is that persons and associations are willing to assume responsibilities which others would be very glad to get clear of. They are willing to get together scratch staffs, and so add to the burden of administration, and ultimately to bring themselves to that bureaucracy of which the hon. Member has complained. One of the most difficult things I know of is to deal with the unemployment benefit. I submit that it is absolutely impossible to deal with it unless in conjunction with the avoidance of unemployment or pro vision for employment. In regard to provision for employment and the avoidance of unemployment, the proposed insurance against unemployment by joint contributions of those engaged what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour said perhaps gives a wrong impression—an impression he did not intend to give—when he stated that the contracting out Clause would be the means of compelling the employer to see that he has less unemployment than previously had been the case. I was rather sorry to hear the remarks made by my right hon. Friend on this side, 1785 that there was a sort of antagonistic feeling existing which would give one the impression that there was not a community of interest between employers and employed, and that the employed were demanding that to which they believed they were entitled, the Government saying to the employers that they ought to make concessions. I speak with some experience on these matters. We have got to a stage when all parties in industry realise, as they never realised before, that unless sectional feelings are scrapped, and unless the two parties are going to show a great deal more consideration for the position of each other, no final settlement will be arrived at in regard to labour questions. I cannot too strongly impress upon this House the fact that at this particular moment we are at the parting of the ways.
This particular measure is going to test whether or not a community of interest is to be established and maintained, or whether we are going back to what we are told was the old state of affairs, where employers and workmen were continually quarrelling with each other. I do not think there is a single employer in the country who denies that provision ought to be made for unemployment, either in the way of preventing it or by compensation when it occurs; but I do say that there are numbers of employers, and very important sections of the community, who say that unless there: some demonstration of willingness to give that output which alone will avoid unemployment, there should be no compensation or any consideration, as unemployment is really caused by the restriction of output.
It is all very well to say that the workman has the belief, rightly or wrongly—probably wrongly—that the more output he gives the sooner unemployment will arrive. Very well, assume that is so, what is the best way to get away from that view? Not only by discussing economic problems, or putting forward economic ideas, or reading economic essays to the workmen. These do not much appeal to him. What he wants to feel is that there is some community of interest between himself and the employer, so that he and the employer may do what they can to avoid unemployment, so far as may be. In any case industry in its various elements has now an opportunity of getting together. 1786 I think, however, the Labour Minister will require a very considerable Amendment of the contracting-out Clause. No doubt the Labour Minister felt entitled to assume that only those who have less than the average amount of unemployment will be inclined to contract out. There, I think, he is entirely wrong. The data on which he has proceeded in assuming the average out-of-work percentages bear no relation whatever to the present state of affairs, and certainly is no guide to what may take place in the future. The data on which his various percentages were calculated were the unemployment figures of the trade unions when their membership was so much less than to-day, and the circumstances gave not the same average as the circumstances of today would do. For the last few years, and certainly during the War, the amount of unemployment is no guide as to what may take place in the future. Further, if employers and the members of trade unions get together with a view to reducing unemployment then the percentages he has put forward are absolutely without conviction, because a set of circumstances will arise which has no parallel in the history of modern industry, or of trade unions.
I do not think that the Minister of Labour was justified in assuming what he did in regard to contracting out. I have in my mind cases where probably a section of industry will contract out simply because their unemployment has, up till now, been above the average. If that be so, the State would be relieved to that extent. On the other hand, if such sections, being above the average, are prepared to assume the responsibility of carrying out the ordinary administration of this Bill they will carry the State burden to that extent, and the amount to be allowed in such a case should not be six-tenths, but six-tenths plus the saving to the State so achieved. Trade unions which administer unemployment receive 5 per cent. from the State, and their members get the full advantage of the twopence. A contracting-out scheme gets neither the twopence nor the 5 per cent., but only six-tenths of one penny.
I submit there is an absolute contradiction between the principle enunciated and the method of giving effect to the principle.
1787 It is exceedingly desirable that employers and trade unions should meet together for the purpose of discussing unemployment and the consequent regulation of trade. I think, however, that the difficulties that have to be faced in that direction will require not modification of the terms, but investigation as to whether or not, in the event of a particular trade contracting out, there ought not to be some allowance made in accordance with its record, such as it may be, in relation to unemployment, as to whether that record was below or above the average. If a trade contracted out while, say, the average was 20 per cent., that is to the interest of the State because the State gets relieved from from a burden which would be carried by the industry itself.
The Compensation the Government should make to that trade should include not only the 10 per cent. by way of payment of administrative expenses, but also a pro-portion of the 2d. which goes to increase the benefits under this scheme. I should be very interested indeed if the Minister of Labour when he replies would state whether or not that question has been discussed and investigated.
There is one further point, and that is the Clause where the Minister takes power to make Regulations whereby the payment of the benefits may be made through the Post Office. I have no doubt the Minister of Labour is aware of a number of Approved Societies not being Friendly Societies, but Approved Work Societies composed of workpeople and employers, who have contracted out of the Insurance Act. If there is any difficulty in dealing with the distribution of the benefits, and if the Labour Exchanges are not available in particular localities I would suggest that the Minister of Labour should have in the Clause sufficient liberty to enable him to take advantage of those institutions where he will get a combination of the interests both of employers and employed. This is one of the most important features in the administration of the Insurance Act. There are some other points which I might deal with, but as these are points which may be dealt with by specific Amendments in detail I shall leave them over until the Committee stage.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I think most of us are disappointed with the provisions of this Bill. It is ostensibly framed for the purpose of meeting the greatest evil of the capitalist system. The Bill itself is a very grave indictment against that system. It is evidence in itself of the absence of any scheme other for dealing with the supply of the nation's need or of any scheme for the wise handling of labour power, or for the efficient manipulation of our technical and mechanical power for productivity. It is evidence of the absence of all those things. One of the most pronounced evils of the capitalist system is this question of maintaining a reservoir of surplus labour, which is necessary to keep up the capitalist system and this surplus labour has a tendency to depress the standard of life. This Bill, which is ostensibly a Bill for insurance in case of unemployment, is really a measure to dress up unemployment to deprive it of some of its horrors. I am not speaking for the party to which I belong, and some of them may not agree with me, but I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman I am at least authoritatively speaking for one of the most powerful labour organisations when I tell him that in its present form we do not intend to come within the provisions of this Bill.
The basis of this Bill is a contributory principle, and it works upon the principle of contribution. I have no fault to find with that principle, and I recognise that a contribution is necessary and essential. You cannot build up a scheme without some form of contribution, but when I have said that, I want to suggest that there is room for a wide difference of opinion as to the method of that contribution. The method adopted in this Bill is defective because it is not equal. The contribution which the employer is supposed to make he never makes at all, or very rarely. His contribution is a charge upon the expenses of the industry which he is running. He transfers that burden to the consumer, and ultimately the burden to be borne by the contribution which he is supposed to be making is not borne by him as an individual or by the shareholders, but in 99 per cent. of the cases it is simply transferred to the consumer, whereas when you demand that the workman shall make a contribution it is a direct charge upon his wages and upon his income. Therefore, there 1789 is all the difference in the world between the contribution which the employer is supposed to be making and the one you are getting from the workers, and because of that difference I understand the party to which I belong are prepared to give a Second Reading, although the organisation with which I am associated do not subscribe to the contributory principle which is established in the Bill.
I say that the principle is not equal because, so far as the workman is concerned, it is a dual contribution. The workman first of all makes a contribution by his labour, and ultimately, whatever provisions are made against unemployment, they come from the labourer whether by the hand or the brain, and in making that contribution to industry that is the only contribution the workman should be asked to make, and out of the industry and the resources of the State, and out of the land values and rents, you should be able to make provision for unemployment. On this side of the House we are very strongly opposed to this principle of contribution, because it makes a direct demand upon the wages of the worker. It asks him not only to contribute in his energy and work, but also to contribute out of his wages. After asking him to make that provision by means of money and labour we are informed in this House to-night that this Bill is a very heroic measure. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced this measure may be animated by the best possible motives in relation to Labour, and I believe he is really desirous of doing something to meet the horrors of unemployment, but the best way to proceed is to tackle the industry itself rather than try to make provision for unemployment. If, however, you have to make provision for unemployment, it should be made, not out of wages, but it should be a charge on the industry in which the man works and the State jointly, and these two together out of the spinning of the wheels of industry should provide all that is necessary for this fund.
I want to turn now to the question of the benefits under this Bill. This measure provides that in case of unemployment there should be 15s. and 12s. paid. I want to say on behalf of labour that we view this 15s. and 12s. as not only being totally inadequate, but as being an insult to labour. These sums are simply 1790 indications of the value that the Government is placing upon human life and human effort. The last speaker stated that it was very necessary now to get both sides together, capital and labour, in order to build up a community of interests, and he said without labour and capital seeing identically it was going to be impossible for us to produce to the full extent of our capacity. It is said that we should encourage provision for unemployment, so that the working man who is going to put his back into industry can feel assured when he has produced sufficient to give us that measure of industrial prosperity that we had years ago, that he is not going himself to be deprived of the same standard of life that he would have if he were actually at work. Does this provision of 15s. and 12s. provide a man with a standard of life that he would be entitled to when he has contributed to the industrial prosperity of this country?
What is the position, so far as he is concerned, provided by the provision of this Bill? He sees clearly before him when by his skill and energy and labour he has contributed to a state of things which will be identical with the state of things that previously existed, that when there was over-production, instead of deriving the advantages of that happy position, he is told by this Bill that the standard of living is going to be reduced to one-fourth of what it is actually at the present time. Is that a happy position for a man to survey, or a state of things which is going to create amongst working men the spirit to put forth their best? Until we have an unemployment Bill which guarantees that for every period of unemployment which cannot be avoided a recognised standard of life is going to be maintained, you are not going to encourage men to do their best to produce those things that ought to be produced. There is a standard of insurance that we want in order to maintain ourselves when unemployed. We can never get that standard until the skill and knowledge and work of the labourer enable him to contribute to this end by the fruits of his industry. We can never get a proper solution of our difficulties until the wheels of industry spin round again. We must all produce the goods; we must fill the mills, the warehouses, and the wharves 1791 full of goods until we find all these choked with the products of British industry, and then we must have a guarantee that we shall have a share in the common enjoyment of our actual products in our industries. Until we have that guarantee we shall never get that standard, and we shall not be satisfied. The benefits, I repeat, are totally inadequate and an insult to the labouring man. He is to look forward to 15s. per week, which is not one-fourth of what is now required for a man with his family of three or four children to keep them in anything like comfort and decency. We will have to give men some guarantee that, in case of enforced idleness, their standard of living-is not going to be adversely affected Labour is not going to be encouraged to do its best if this is the prospect before it.
So far as the machinery for the settlement of disputes is concerned, it is totally unsatisfactory. Why should a Government official be the only person to decide whether a man is entitled or not to the benefits under the insurance scheme? If we are going to continue this system of insurance, the working man, more and more, should be brought in to run it and manipulate it. I protest strongly against power being given to one man, a Government official, to deal with this kind of dispute, even though there may also be referees and appeals to a High Court to give a final decision. I am authorised by the Miners' Federation to say that, after giving careful consideration to the Bill, they are totally opposed to it, that they will not accept it, and that they will not be brought within the provisions of the Bill, if it comes into force in its present form. They will have nothing to do with it, and you will have to bring force to bear upon them before they accept the provisions of this Bill.
§ Mr. J. MURRAY
I desire as a representative of an industrial constituency to welcome the Hill and to congratulate the Minister who has spoken and the Government upon what is a very essential and very great measure. Insurance is in-fashion at present. Throughout Europe people are settling down and discussing the possibility of settling many of the problems of working-class life by measures of insurance. Italy has quite lately in its Parliament introduced a great scheme of working-class insurance. The Swiss 1792 Government has carried through an important measure for general insurance against unemployment. I would like to trace the broad tendency of Clauses 15 and 16 of the Bill. They represent Sections 105 and 106 of the old Act, and they have an important relation to industrial development and its relationship to the State. When the Bill of 1911 was introduced, bringing the function of insurance under the State, we had complaints that the State was abusing its powers. There was not only the objection to the methods which were to be employed, but there was an objection because the State was to carry them out. It was felt that, once the business of insurance became a matter of State administration, it would be so for good, and for all time. It was said that it would affect private enterprise and would have an ill effect upon the future. In my opinion, it is for the State to initiate and inaugurate methods of organisation in such matters of this difficulty, uncertainty, and magnitude which are not likely to be carried out by private enterprise, and then, after the State has come in and organised such matters, they should be taken over from the State by voluntary organisations. They should not be run by the State, but to the State should be reserved the power and duty of oversight, without any part in the actual administration. That is certainly what ought to be done with regard to unemployment insurance. I am grateful to the Minister of Labour for the emphasis he placed on the possibility of placing into the hands of industry the powers of self-government contained in Sections 15 and 16. The hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) was against the contributory system, and yet he told us that there were three parties interested in insurance—the workman, the employer, and the whole community generally. If that is so, all those who are interested in industry should look forward to the time when the State will be crushed out and the other two parties will have power to carry on the schemes.
I join in the complaints that in certain respects the Bill is not satisfactory, especially in the benefits proposed. A sum of 15s. a week is rather worse than 7s. a week was before the War. It is a mere nothing compared with what is necessary. I would like to mention the steps which Switzerland has taken. In the event of a workman being actually 1793 out of work there, the standard payment to him as unemployment pay is 60 per cent. of his average earnings. If he has people legally dependent upon him it will be seventy per cent. If a man has no dependants the maximum is 5 francs, equivalent to 5 shillings, a day, or 30 shillings a week. If he has four people dependent upon him he is entitled to 60 shillings a week. The mean between that is 45 shillings, and what we are offering to our people under this Act is 15 shillings a week. I hope that the Minister of Labour is not satisfied with the possibility that any living English workman may regret, when he is unemployed, that he is not a native of Switzerland.
§ Mr. SEDDON
I think the maiden speech of the Member for Croydon (Sir A. Smith) was a most valuable contribution to the Debate. I am sorry that the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer) took us on a promenade around various economic theories instead of dealing with the Bill itself. He said he was instructed by the miners to say they would have nothing to do with it. I understood that the miners were a democratic organisation in which the rank and file have something to say before the leaders come to any decision upon a Bill.
§ Mr. SEDDON
I think the miners have always desired to share the common burden with their fellow workmen in dealing with all these great problems of industry. We are not here to discuss theories of government, whether scientific or not. We are here to discuss the provisions of this Bill, and I join sincerely in the remarks made by the Member for Belfast (Mr. Devlin), who made a protest against the exclusion of Ireland from the Bill, I cannot conceive why Ireland is not included. I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman is going to solve these difficulties by the exclusion of Ireland, because he must know that in many parts of that country the overwhelming majority of the trade unionists belong to English trade unions, and if he is going to have a dual system of Unemployment Benefit, the result will be that those trade unionists in Ireland will be placed in a different position from that of the trade unionists in the same societies in England. If that happens he will have the 1794 trade unionists of this country up against him. They are not going to be satisfied with the exclusion of their fellow workers in Ireland from an Act of Parliament which is conferring certain benefits upon themselves.
I protest also against the exclusion of agricultural labourers and domestic servants. I remember an hon. Member speaking a little time ago gave great credit to the late Mr. Joseph Chamber lain for his Workmen's Compensation Act. In doing that Mr. Chamberlain started a principle which was sound and it has been beneficial in its operation. After that we had a Bill to amend it during the Premiership of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and in those far-off days it was my function to champion a class of workers who had received very little consideration at the hands of Parliament. I refer to the shop assistants. We had to vote against the Government in Committee on that point. I am happy to remember that we defeated the Government. The Minister tried to exclude shop workers and attempted some fancy arrangements, but he did not get. a majority. I will never forget the attitude of the Prime Minister at that time in the House. One of the Members was protesting against the inclusion of the shop assistants, and the Prime Minister at once said, "Why should they not be subject to insurance? They are entitled to it the same as other workers throughout the country." The same argument should apply to domestic servants, who do suffer from unemployment, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may think. It is a form of unemployment which is very often painful in the extreme. Those who are engaged in domestic service are often without homes of their own, and the amount of remuneration they receive is not sufficient to enable them to get proper lodgings during a period of unemployment, and it is perpetuating a real social evil if we are to leave them outside of this Act. It would be a great advantage to them if they could look forward to this unemployment benefit. It would give them a feeling of security and independence which they do not at present possess. The same with regard to the agricultural labourers. I cannot conceive why this industry should be left out, if we are to share in the belief, which is the basis of my political philosophy, that 1795 we must have a closer relationship between all the various parties who are engaged in our industries. If we are going to have that, then I do not see why agriculture when it is receiving consideration ought to be excused from an obligation and liability which is being thrown upon the rest of the industries of this country.
There is another point, and I join with my right hon. Friend Mr. Clynes on that, and it is a point which I think has been decided upon without due consideration. It will certainly inflict a grievous, undeserved wrong if in the case of a dispute and a strike a certain section of the employment at the works who are thrown into idleness by the strike are to be victimised and, though not contributory to the cause of the dispute, are not to receive benefit. I hope when we come to discuss this Bill in Committee that there will be a larger vision. The right hon. Gentleman has been credited from all sides as a gentleman with good intentions, and I add my quota of appreciation of his good intentions. I want him to realise that in dealing with this vast problem of unemployment old precedents are of no use and that he should face the new situation. The question of cost is a consideration I admit, but the hon. Member who moved the Amendment was here in this instance as a special pleader for an association or associations which want to have an extension of their operations, with an addition, I suppose, to their accumulated funds. So far as unemployment is concerned it is a question for the trades unions infinitely more than for any friendly society dealing with insurance. There are one hundred and one industries, and you must have the trained trade union official who is interested in the welfare of his members, and not an onlooker who is interested in the accumulation of funds of the society he happens to represent. The cost is a consideration, but do not spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar. So far as Ireland is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman will be doing a great wrong to his own reputation and will be inflicting a grievous wrong on the country, and he will secure the condemnation of the vast body of trade unionists throughout the three kingdoms.
§ Major HURST
This is a great and good Bill, but nevertheless I do not think it 1796 ought to be read a second time without a protest being made against one bad principle which is embodied in its provisions, and to which the Amendment does not advert. I refer to the unnecessary and unjust differentiation between men and women. When the right hon. Gentleman was asked the reason for the differentiation his reply was that it was based upon precedent and tradition in this case. That, with great respect, is a fallacy, because so far as this section of the National Insurance Act is concerned, men and women have previously been treated on exactly the same basis with regard to unemployment. When the rates of benefit were increased during the war the figure was placed at 11s. for both men and women; and therefore this is an innovation in the present Bill by making an important distinction between the benefits given to men and women. Under the third schedule women are to pay 2½d. per week as against the man's contribution of 3d., and under the second schedule the woman is to receive 12s. benefit and the man 15s. My contention is that the differentiation is thoroughly bad and that the State with regard to what is purely a question of arithmetic and the values of respective contributions, ought to pay no more attention to difference in sex than they pay to difference in creed or colour or politics. But assuming for a moment that the principle of equality is not to be applied and that the woman's contribution is to be 2½d. per week and the man's 3d., then I submit that the benefit to be received by the woman should bear the same ratio to the man's benefit as the woman's contribution bears to the man's contribution. In the pre sent case the woman is going to pay one-sixth less in contribution than the man and she ought to receive only one-sixth less in benefit. On that principle the woman ought to get 12s. 6d. unemployment benefit and not 12s. The only inference one can draw from that injustice is that the 6d. is being taken from the woman in order to subsidise the benefits which are going to be received by the man.
I should like to put the case against this feature of the Bill on a broader basis. The halfpenny less which the woman is going to pay Is a matter of absolutely no use to her whatever. It does not matter at all to the ordinary worker whether she pays 2½d. or 3d., 1797 whereas the difference in benefit is very material. The 12s. or the 15s. may be a mere pittance at present-day prices, but the three shillings extra of benefit is of value, and I have no doubt the working woman would far rather pay the extra ½d. per week in order to get 3s. greater benefit. That is the view which I know has been taken by working women in Lancashire, who put their ease before me. It is on the strength of this that I urge that the light hon. Gentleman might very well consider this question of the contribution, so that where women are willing to pay the extra ½d. per week he could put their contribution on the same level as the man's and thereby entitle them to an additional 3s. per week. We often hear of the principle of equality between men and women and that there is to be no differentiation between the sexes, and that they are to have equal rights. We have been told that when women had the vote they would find themselves under no economic disabilities or disadvantages. Here you have an admirable opportunity for translating those maxims and phrases into the purview of practical politics. We have seen this principle departed from again and again even after the War. The return to pre-War practices involved great hardships on women. The Board of Education has utterly ignored the question of equal pay with regard to teachers, and cow, here again, we have another illustration of the absolute neglect of women's interests on a question which is of very great and vital importance to them. My view is that those who have framed this particular aspect of the Bill are blind to the way in which the social and economic conditions of the country have been altered since the War. There is a vast number of women who cannot possibly get married and who are, in the nature of things, thrown upon the industrial world. They have the same rights exactly as citizens and as workers as men. It seems to me that the system which is embodied in this part of the Bill inflicts an injustice which this House ought to do its best to defeat. During the suffrage movement we heard a good deal about sex antagonism and a great deal of nonsense, because it is as stupid and disastrous a principle as class antagonism. There is no more reason for sex warfare than for class warfare, but just as class injustice breeds class warfare, so also it is sex injustice that breeds sex warfare. I hope that the House will refrain from 1798 inflicting what is clearly an injustice on women. I ask the House to be not unmindful of the just claims of the great and growing multitude of women workers, on whose behalf I have made this appeal.
§ Mr. SEXTON
My objection to this Bill as it now exists is to its compulsory and contributory character. For the first time in the history of many of the Unions of this country which are not included in the present law of unemployment insurance, it brings in industries like my own which have never had during their existence a scheme for unemployed benefits. The position of the casual labourer has not enabled him to create an unemployment fund. If we are to be compelled, and we are according to the Bill, it will necessitate on us the creation of a contribution for unemployment if we are to have a scheme of our own and work it. On the other hand I would point out, by the provisions of this Bill, the casual labourer would be paying his contribution to the State with the employed and would never be able to qualify for benefit although he had paid those contributions. I think the simplest way out of the difficulty would be a non-contributory scheme. I repeat what has already been stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Miles Platting Division (Mr. Clynes), why should any man who is willing to produce be penalised because he is robbed of the opportunity of producing for the good of the community. The principle of unemployment goes deeper down than the mere surface. It is a big question, into which? am not prepared to go in all its aspects to-night; but, after all, the bedrock of this question is the landless man, who is divorced from the land and the use made of the land which hampers and hinders industry and the workers. That is the bedrock principle, which I do not pursue further now. My right hon. Friend also pointed out that the workmen and their representatives object to the financial burden on the State because it is demoralising, and there I heartily agree with him. A non-contributory Hill would remove that demoralisation and would put the burden not upon one particular industry, but upon all the industries of the country, which should be prepared to provide for the question of unemployment so long as it existed. That at least would remove the demoralising effect of a State contribution. The right hon. Gentleman also 1799 said that employers under a scheme of this kind would be encouraged to shirk the issue. Again, may I point out that a centralised charge upon industry, pooling the whole cost of unemployment in all industries, would remove that difficulty?
I would make an appeal with regard to the unfairness of excluding Ireland from the Act, It is an impracticable thing to do. You compel us under this Act in England to come under it and to be subject to its administration. You will compel us to do that for our English members, but at the same time you are excluding 7,000 of our Irish members from the same benefit. I do not see the justification, the logic, or the practicability of excluding Ireland from the provisions of the Bill. Seven thousand of our members in Ireland will be disfranchised while our English and Scotch members will enjoy the benefit of the Act. As to the question of increasing the amount of the benefit, really I thought the time for asking "where is the money to come from" had passed. A nation that can find £7,000,000 per day for destruction ought to be able to find £10,000,000 a year to deal with unemployment. We had it stated in this House only the other night, and it has not been contradicted—indeed, it was backed up by figures—that in the South Wales coalfields alone there is a profit of £50,000,000 a year after paying all costs of production. That is where some of the money could come from, if you would only listen to the voice of wisdom and nationalise the mines. Fifteen shillings a week is starvation—it is worse than starvation—and as one right hon. Gentleman said just now it is a direct insult to offer it to a man. There is an inquiry going on at the present time in which the employers admit that the poverty line in the case of the casual labourer is to-day £3 17s. per week, out of which he has to keep his wife and four children. You are asking him to pay 3d. per week out of his wages to insure himself if he should ever qualify, getting 15s. a week. I would not do anything to prevent the passage of the Second Reading of this Bill, but I do hope that when it goes to Committee the right hon. Gentleman will take note of the points raised in this Debate and accept some of the suggestions which we have put forward.
§ Sir A. WARREN
May I venture to offer my tribute of recognition to the right hon. Gentleman who presented this Bill, and to say how much we appreciate the kindly courtesy with which he deals with us and the patience he has shown? During the last few years the Government have been interesting themselves in various measures of insurance, and it seems to some of us that the time has come when it would be of the greatest value to this House and to the country as a whole if we could have some outline of the whole policy of the Government as regards insurance. In 1911 there was passed a comprehensive measure of National Health Insurance with an unemployment section attached to it. In 1016 there was an enlargement of the unemployment insurance. In 1918 we had an Amendment of the National Health Insurance Act, and to-day we have before us a very wide and far-reaching proposal with regard to unemployment. In all probability, in a few weeks, there will be presented to this House a Bill amending the National Health Insurance Act in relation to benefits, and many other aspects, while, if rumour is right, there will have to be several measures dealing with medical questions relating to insurance. Yet never up till this moment have we had a clear and definite lead from the Government as to what is to be their general policy! I make these remarks at this moment because to some of us it appears that this question of insurance is being dealt with in a very piecemeal manner. We keep putting a patch on here, a patch on there, and a patch on somewhere else, whereas some of us would prefer, if possible, to see the whole garment. We want, in fact, to know what is the definite policy and intention of the Government. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer), in the course of his speech, referred to the Amendment as the cloth containing the dinner, and said he was more concerned with the dinner than with the cloth. In other words, the. hon. Member was suggesting that the Amendment was merely the wrapping, and he, for one, attached more importance to the Bill, which represented the dinner. I do not want this House to be under the impression that there is anything in the mind of the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Locker-Lampson) that is opposed to dealing with unemployment in this country. 1801 I want to say deliberately that that is not in the mind of the Approved Societies. What they are asking for here is for right recognition, and" I should deplore it beyond all words if there was any hostile feeling or spirit in this House in relation to those Approved Societies that have done so much in connection with National Health Insurance.
What was the position in 1911, because, after all, that is the basis of that which we are considering to-day? In 1911, when the then Chancellor of the Exchequer presented to the country his measure of National Health Insurance, the original intention was that it should be worked through the friendly societies of the country. But pressure was brought to bear, as other organisations demanded to come in, and the door had to be thrown open. Section 23 of the Act of 1911 was therefore inserted making it possible for other societies to come in, not merely societies, but any body of persons, registered or established, corporate or otherwise under any Act of Parliament, and they were all enabled to take their part in administering National Health Insurance. All the approved societies that came into existence, and their name was legion, deserve the utmost consideration at the hands of this House, because they had to face a very difficult problem; they had to face a situation fraught with much anxiety. They have up to this moment administered National Health Insurance with very great satisfaction to the country. But in the course of the performance of that duty they have had to build up a certain organisation. Many men throughout the country have had to become full-time officials in order to administer the Act properly. The approved societies today are only asking, being as they are in full and entire agreement with the proposal for enlarging the unemployment benefit, that they shall have protection, that they shall be preserved, and that there shall be nothing in relation to the operation of this Act that shall lead to their undoing or to the whittling away or undermining of the work they have hitherto performed so satisfactorily. I remember how, in the Debates in this House on the Act of 1911, the great question raised was that of the liberty of the subject. Free choice was a fundamental doctrine voiced in this House. It was desired that insured persons coming in under the Act should have the utmost 1802 free choice, free choice of approved society, power to enter a society of their own volition instead of being compelled to join any particular society, and free choice of their doctor. Surely many hon. Members do not forget the fierce fight which raged around the question of the panel doctor. The free choice of insured persons of their doctor was, in fact, to be preserved and not to be in any way affected, and they were also to have a free choice of chemist.
What we are asking the Minister in charge of this Bill is to consider how far he can carry that principle into the operation of this Act. I know he has received deputations representing the Approved Societies of the country and has treated them with much courtesy. He aways gives due regard to their representations. In his opening remarks today he was good enough to pay a tribute to the Approved and Friendly Societies, but he suggested that their fears were unfounded. At any rate he undertook to see that any ground for fear or apprehension was removed from the Bill. That is what we particularly desire. We are whole-heartedly in support of this enlargement of the unemployment benefit, but we do not want in the setting up of one organisation to do injustice to organisations already in existence. I venture to think that the functions of the Post Office will not be brought into use very frequently. I understand that they will only operate in remote areas, areas with scattered populations. But even there might it not be well worth the while of the Minister to consider how far some of the Approved Societies, which have ramifications in all parts of the country, in remote villages and hamlets and little combinations of dwellings, could be used with advantage in the operation of this Act? At any rate, representing, as I do, the great Friendly Society movement, I am resting assured in the promise made by the Minister of Labour that he will see to it that those representations which have been made have due regard paid to them and that by every means in his power he will preserve the Approved Societies. I am intensely hopeful that well-reasoned Amendments which may be put forward by those societies when the Bill is passing through Committee will receive very favourable and sympathetic consideration at his hands.
§ Captain REDMOND
I desire to join with my hon. Friend (Mr. Devlin) in protesting against the exclusion of Ireland and appealing to the right hon. Gentleman to include it. My hon. Friend's voice has been the only one raised from Ireland in favour of her inclusion in the Bill. Strange to say, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) recently declared that every measure which was to be passed for this country was to be applied to Ireland. At any rate, that was his programme. Why did he not see that this measure was applied to Ireland? If he was able to procure an Education Bill, such as was proposed yesterday, in face of the fact that the Government is about to introduce partition proposals for Ireland, why was he not able, with the same skill and mastery over the Government, to have Ireland included in this Bill? Not only was he not able to have it included, not only did he not express his desire to have it included, but not a single Member of his party has asked to have it included.
§ Major O'NEILL
Hon. Members from Ulster have been rising in their places before the hon. Member came into the House, and of course we desire the extension of the Bill to Ireland as much as the hon. Member and his friends. So far we have not had an opportunity of expressing our opinion.
§ Captain REDMOND
I quite accept the hon. and gallant Gentleman's statement that he is prepared to accept the inclusion of Ireland in this Hill, but I was in the House when my hon. Friend (Mr. Devlin) rose and not a single Member from the other portion of Belfast or the Province of Ulster got up in his place.
§ Mr. McGUFFIN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman was present and heard me interpolate in the Debate. It is useless to deny it. Ho knows it perfectly well.
§ Captain REDMOND
I will not pursue the matter beyond saying that, my hon. Friend (Mr. Devlin) was the first to ask for the inclusion of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Horne) gave a certain reason why Ireland should not be included. He said the so-called Home Rule proposals were about to be made by the Government. We know very well in Ireland what chance those proposals have of ever becoming law, certainly of ever being put into operation. Perhaps he is not as well acquainted with the circumstances 1804 there as we are. That is a very shallow and lame reason for not including Ireland. He went on to say that if the linen industry desired to be included he would sympathetically consider the matter. I thoroughly accept his statement, but I do not see why any exception should be made in favour of one industry in one portion of Ireland. Why should not the whole of Ireland be included, and why should not every industry have the same opportunity of taking advantage of the Bill, if advantage is to be derived from it, as the linen industry? I represent one, of Ireland's chief ports, a port on whose quays there are employed a considerable number of various classes of labourers. There are casual labourers, regular dock labourers, seamen, and firemen—there is every class and condition of labour connected with the port. Also there are various industries in my constituency-the bacon-curing industry and margarine factories, and other forms of" industrial production. Why should not the employés in these industries have the same opportunities as the employés in the linen industry in Belfast? I do not represent an agricultural constituency, but the agricultural labourers in Ireland now are fairly well organised. They are a large portion of labour, and for the life of me I cannot, see why they should not have equal opportunities with any other form of labour, whether in this country or in Ireland. Therefore I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman now, because if he decides in Committee to allow Ireland to be included. it will not come with any grace on his part, but will more or less have been extracted from him by what we now know is the united Irish demand. He has stated that there is no reason why Ireland should not be included except that there are Government of Ireland proposals or the tapis. With regard to the details of the measure I am inclined to agree with a good many of the speeches made by my hon. Friends on these Benches as regards the amount proposed to be made up by the various contributions from the employés, the employers, and the Stare, that they do not amount to enough., 5s. is a ridiculous sum, having regard to the present conditions of the money market, to expect any man to be able to sustain a wife and family upon. After all, what did you give in that original out-of-work dole 1805 which was nothing but a bribe at the last election to the demobilised soldiers and sailors? You did not offer them 15s. There was an election on and you gave them 29s., which they did not have to contribute to. Certainly these men who have to contribute towards this sum and who, through no fault of their own, are placed out of employment should get at least a certain sum that they could possibly subsist and rear their families on. As regards the question of contribution at all, I am in favour of it. A contribution is a good thing from the point of view both of the State and of the individual. I would put this question to the right hon. Gentleman When is the United Kingdom not the United Kingdom? We are told that measures should be passed in this House for the benefit of all parts of the United Kingdom. We do not want things to continue as they are. Until we get control of our own affairs we say that any measures which are passed for the benefit of all classes of people in this country should be equally given to the same classes of people in the country that we represent.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. McGUFFIN
I wish to offer the heartiest congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman on the satisfactory manner in which he has introduced the Bill. It is a good Bill, and it goes a great length, but it hardly represents all we should wish. I was rather disappointed that it makes no attempt to provide work. After all, we do not want insurance benefits; we want work for those who are workless, and until you solve that situation you have not taken the first step in dealing with unemployment. I have seen many a time large groups waiting for the unemployment dole, which has been cancelled, and it was pitiable to see the employment to which those men were compelled to resort to in order to put in their time. It became demoralising from the fact that they no longer wished to work, and were quite content, when they could draw the dole, not to work at all. The amount was 29s. a week, and it was thought by the Government at that time to be quite necessary, and in view of the fact that the cost of living has gone up a great deal since then, this Bill should not provide anything less. Of course, you ask how is that to be done and where is the money to come from. That is a matter for the Cabinet to resolve, but all the same we feel 1806 that it is necessary. On the basis of the contribution I suppose it could not be, but there is no reason why that limit of contribution should be observed. There is no reason, for instance, why the man should only con tribute threepence, the employer threepence, and the State twopence to produce 8d., which as a contribution will be equivalent to 15s. a week. You may in crease the contribution of the worker or of the employer in order that bigger benefits may result. It is a small matter to contribute a 1d. or 2d. a week more com pared with what it is to receive in actual benefit probably 50 per cent. than the Bill proposes. I understand the hon. Member (Mr. Devlin) made a good speech, but I am afraid he arrogated to himself a position he was hardly entitled to enjoy in calling himself the only Labour representative from Belfast. He may call himself a Labour man in respect of sympathy, but he has never associated with a Labour organisation, and he certainly should not attempt to discount the presence and the representation of those to whom that business has been specially delegated in Belfast. There are three of us from Belfast who represent Labour interests and are prepared on all occasions to vindicate and support them in division.
We want to perpetuate the policy of our Leader the right hon. Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) and our demand is that every benefit that is conferred in any Bill on England shall also be extended to Ireland. Why not? I fail to find any reason why that should not be, especially the reason assigned by the right hon. Gentleman. It cannot be on the ground that the Government intend to introduce a Home Rule Bill. Why should you attempt to do that and make any arrangements so far as Ireland is concerned if the introduction of the Home Rule Bill is the reason? If it is good for all sections of workers in England this Bill is equally good for them in Belfast, and we must have it. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will concede it, but we have a right to it. I ask him to do it in the interests of Belfast, because there is an industry there with which I am familiar, the linen trade, in which the workers are subject to great fluctuations of employment. They do not know when their machinery may be shut down and they may find 1807 themselves unemployed. They are more threatened with that to-day by reason of the fact that there is less flax, and there is a probability of there being less flax. That is all the more reason why the right hon. Gentleman should take into consideration the necessity of making provision for those who may be thrown out of work and compelled to walk the streets.
The right hon. Gentleman proposes to pay less to a woman than to a man in the form of unemployment pay. He is only going to give 12s. a week to a female worker and 35s. to a male worker. I know that the woman workers preponderate in certain industries, and you find that in many instances they are widows who ought to be provided for. There is no female worker who would refuse to contribute 3d. instead of 2½d in order to enjoy the benefit that is to be extended to the male worker. The Bill, as a whole, is a good Bill, but it. would be marred in the first instance if it is nor extended to Ireland. We are thankful for the increased benefit that is to come to those workers in Ireland who are already under the Unemployment Acts, but we want those trades that have hitherto been excluded to be brought under the operation of the Bill. I join with my hon. Friend, the Member for Waterford (Captain Redmond), and my hon. Friend, the Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin), in placing before the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of considering this matter and extending the provisions of the Bill to Belfast and Ireland generally.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I gather that there is welcome unanimity in Ireland as to this Billl. There is no accounting for tastes. I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite will understand the indignation that possesses the people for whom I speak when a Bill like this is introduced. We all know perfectly well, the right hon. Gentleman as well as the rest of us, that the capitalist system depends upon unemployment. It is the existence of the unemployed which enables the capitalist system to work. I have heard it said in this House that the engineering industry could not be carried on without a 5 per cent. margin of unemployment. It is true that the existence of unemployment and the fact that you have unemployed 1808 men on the market outside cuts down the wages of all those at work, and when we see a Bill like this introduced, which proposes to deal with unemployment, which in fact renders unemployment a little less startlingly horrible, but at the same time leaves the real results of unemployment still in operation, we feel that hypocrisy is the basis of all this legislation. All these Bills and most of the speeches to-night, except those coming from these Benches, have dealt with unemployment as if it was only a question of the man or woman out of work, the man who goes from factory gate to factory gate begging for a job and wearing out his boots and his soul trying to get work. That is bad enough; that is what we see, but the infinitely worse results of unemployment are not touched in the Bill. We do not see it and yet we all know that that is the real business behind this Bill.
This Bill is one to perpetuate unemployment, and to make it a little less horrible, so that the public conscience may not rise up against it. What we are fighting against on these benches is the system which drives down wages, through always having outside the factory gate men ready to take the jobs of those who are inside. That is the foundation of the law of wages. So long as there are two men after one job, and these men in order to exist have to get the job or starve, wages go down and sink towards the mere subsistence level. We know quite well that that law is caused by the existence of unemployed men, and these Bills that are brought up in order to make unemployment less horrible, not to perpetuate it, are not in the right direction at all. What we want is to stop unemployment, and to say that a man should get a job if he wants a job, and not give him a dole, whether it is a contributory dole or a public charity dole, in order to tide him over a bad time.
Let me give the right hon. Gentleman an illustration of how unemployment is caused. Everybody has different theories about unemployment, and it is time that we looked at the real causes of unemployment. Hon. Members may remember many years ago that there was a strike in North Wales. In form it was a strike, but in actual fact it was a refusal by the Lord Penrhyn of that day to allow 2,800 quarrymen to take slates out of his quarry. The strike went on for about a 1809 year and a half, and attracted a great deal of attention, because the men went out with bands, and in seeking to keep up their funds they made desperate efforts in that direction all over the country. The result of that strike was that 2,800 quarrymen were out of work, but it had further results. Because these men were out of work the railwaymen who ran the trains from Bethesda to Port Penrhyn were thrown out of work and the railway was shut down. At Port Penrhyn the clerks in the warehouse who should have been invoicing the slates across the sea were thrown out of work. The seamen and firemen who should have been carrying the slates over the seas were walking the streets of Liverpool and Birkenhead. Because these men were out of work the shopkeepers at Bethesda and Port Penrhyn had a hard struggle to keep going or were driven into the bankruptcy court. Because the shopkeepers could not sell their goods across the counter they could not give trade to the wholesale houses or the manufacturers all over England and Wales, and this led to unemployment in these other trades because there was no demand for their goods, the people who wanted their goods being out of work and not able to afford to pay for them.
If you collect together in one vast crowd all the people thrown out of work by that one interference between man and nature, the man who wants work and the raw material with which alone he can work, you would have a typical demonstration of unemployed such as we shall have in increasing numbers in coming years, and the philosophers and politicians looking at that crowd will devise means for dealing with them. We shall have this proposal to give 15s. a week, as if that could settle the question. Some people will say that the evil is due to sunspots, others to over production, others to under consumption. Others will say that if the working classes were sober and industrious they would never be out of work, and that what is wanted is thrift and the purchase of war bonds, or that they should be sent out to Canada under the Arctic Circle where there is still some free land. Or we shall have farm colonies started and people employed digging up fields with spades, when it could be done more economically with the plough. We all know that all that is really necessary is that those 2,800 quarrymen should have 1810 again access to their raw material, the land, and then everbody else, railway workers, shop assistants, seamen, farmers, manufacturers of hosiery, boots and hardware, would then fall into their natural places, doing the work for which they were best fitted. That is, if you give the primary trades the quarrying, mining, agricultural and building trades access to the raw material, the land, they will then join with the other trades who will complete the process of manufacture which they have begun. But the difficulty is that the primary trades are blocked at the source, and as long as they are blocked through not having access to raw material, the land, you will have unemployment.
Years ago I stopped for some time in South Africa after the war as a resident magistrate in the district of Ermelo, and I was the autocrat of that district. I was faced there by the unemployed problem, as the people came into the little town of Ermelo looking for work In that country there is no poor law, and if people have no work they have to go to gaol. Fortunately, all round this town there were 8,000 acres of what were called townland, and on these there was an opened up coal mine. I said to the unemployed, "There are some lands. I am not a lawyer, I do not know who has a right to turn you off them, but as long as I am hero in a position of power you shall have the free use of that land." There was this land, with no rent, rates or taxes. They went on that land. We were supplied with rations at that time. They got barbed wire from the block houses. They made themselves houses of those 40-pound biscuit tins with stones on top of them. They bought shovels and turned to and produced vegetables. They produced coal first in the coal minte. The result was that we got cheap coal and cheap vegetables, but the result was more far-reaching. About a fortnight afterwards I had a deputation of the manufacturers and builders of the town. They said, "How can you expect us to make this land fit for heroes to live in and to reconstruct Ermelo as long as the wages of unskilled labourers are £1 a day, and the rascals will not do anything for it?" It was simply that every workman in that town, being able to go there and do a day's work for himself without being robbed by the landlord, the capitalist or 1811 the State, was not content to go on working on the old terms. He could look his master in the face. There you have fortunately a clean slate.
§ It being a Quarter past eight of the Clock, further Proceeding wax postponed, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 4.