HC Deb 25 February 1920 vol 125 cc1850-74

Postponed proceeding on resumed Amendment to Question, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


I do not know whether the Government intend to go on with this Bill now. [HON. MEMBERS: "Resign."] A defeat is always an unpleasant matter, but a Government defeat by two to one is a serious matter, and if the Government insist on going on with this matter I trust that at any rate before to-morrow we may have a statement as to what they propose to do on the question of pensions. When the Debate was interrupted I was explaining that the Labour party at any rate regarded this Bill as a piece of hypocrisy on the part of the Government. It is a Bill to make unemployment tolerable and not to do away with unemployment. Perhaps instead of continuing this Debate it would be better to move the adjournment so as to get a statement. As the Leader of the House (Mr. Bonar Law) is present, I think it better to move the Adjournment so as to get some explanation from him.


I could not accept that Motion, as it has been decided to go on after 11 o'clock.


This is a Bill to satisfy the conscience of the people of this country by giving the unemployed a grant of 15s. a week, which is the equivalent of 6s. 6d. before the war. It is devised not so much to provide a living for the unemployed as to be a preventive of the red flag education. It is a sop to the consciences of those people before the existence of unemployment results in revolution. We on these Benches regarded unemployment as a thing that is wrong in itself, and it is not our business to make it any more tolerable or possible by a system of insurance, whether that insurance be contributory or otherwise. Further, it is on unemployment that the whole of the present system of industry exists. Without unemployment the worker would get the full reward of his labour instead of being exploited for a small wage. It is the presence of the unemployed all round who create the bad wage system of to-day and drive down wages. It is true that during the War we have not had that bad system in operation. During the War the iron law of wages has not been operative, there being two jobs almost after one man instead of two men after one job. Consequently, during the War, as the cost of living rose the wages of the workers rose too; indeed, they would have received much higher wages than they did receive had there not been legislation passed preventing strikes and trade union disputes.

The War was over one and a quarter years ago. Since then the cost of living has gone on rising. It has risen from about 120 per cent. above pre-war level to about 136 per cent above pre-war level. Those are the official figures. While that post-war increase in the cost of living has been going on wages have not gone up to match that increase in the cost of living. The reason of that is obvious. After the War was over the rush of jobs ceased, the unemployed were recreated, and the presence of the unemployed prevented the wages rising. Unemployment is at the root of the whole of the social evils of the day and at the root of the capitalist system, and any legislation must deal with it from the point of view of destroying unemployment rather than of making unemployment tolerable. Employment depends upon the primary trades getting access to their raw materials. If the agricultural trade, or the building trade, or the mining and quarrying trade, all starting productive work, could get free access at any time to their raw materials—the land, nature—they would start the processes of manufacture, and all the other trades would find their natural opportunity for employment in completing the processes of manufacture. The elementary facts that we came to consider in dealing with the unemployed problem are roughly these: The whole of the wealth of the world is created by the productive workers. The position may be illustrated by a pillar composed of the useful, productive workers of the country. On the top of the pillar, weighing it down, are all the idlers, with the community and all those who are doing useless, non-productive work. The productive work is the only sort of employment we want to increase. It is no good putting people on to sweep streets by hand if it can be done more quickly by machine. It is no good putting people to dig up fields with spades instead of using ploughs. That would be adding a useful load on top of the productive worker. It is no use saying, as our tariff reform friends suggest, when they see a market gardener out of a job, "My poor friend. If you will only let us put a thumping tariff on bananas you will be able to build greenhouses and grow bananas and sell them at a guinea a piece." That is only adding to the load on top. It is better that we should get bananas from those countries where they are produced most economically, and pay for them with the goods which we produce most economically in this country.

Every sort of useful work you can conceive, consists in the conversion of land and raw materials into the finished article. Every sort of useful work consists in the application, in the first place, of labour to land and raw material. For instance, in the work with which my name is, and with which my cash was associated, useful productive work converts the raw clay of Cornwall and Devon into cups and saucers, and the very best cups and saucers they are, too. All the schemes that are brought forward by hon. Members opposite, all the exhortations to workmen to work harder and to produce more, are falsified because the Government does nothing to make it easier for the worker to get access to the raw materials. If you are going to do anything to deal with the unemployment problem, you have got to work for that which is essential to all employment, which is vital to industry, easy of access. We want to break down the barriers which keep a man from his job. There, on one side of a brick wall, is a man able, anxious, and willing to work, and on the other side is the raw material with which alone he can work, and you say that that man must have a dole to keep him unemployed. We say "Nothing of the sort." We want to break down that barrier which keeps the man from his work and throw open nature to the use of man, so that we can start work and industry in this country. I know very well that most Members of this House are interested in land. I am myself, and I know very well that a man who owns land will fight for it more than for anything else on earth, but we have got to break that wall down, even if land monopoly is fixed on the top of the wall, even though every vested interest and every private interest in the country is founded upon the ownership of raw materials. We have got to devise some method which will make land cheaper, and nothing else matters. Every scheme for buying up the land which does not make land cheaper is not going to help the unemployed problem. We shall talk about unemployment more in future, because it will come up over and over again in the coming Sessions of Parliament. Suppose, when thousands are out of work and there are hard times everywhere, we sent a deputation to the High Court of Heaven to represent there the poverty and misery on earth, due to people not being able to find employment, what answer should we get? "Are your lands all in use, are your mines worked out, are there no natural opportunities for the employment of labour?" What can we ask Him for that He has not already given us in abundance? He has given us this globe stocked with raw materials ready to our hand, and He has given to us alone of the brute creation power to work up these raw materials into things we want to use. There seems to be scarcity. If there is want, if there are thousands of people tramping our streets in search of work, is it not because what He intended for all has been made the private property of a few? It is not merely in the interests of the people who are unemployed that I ask you to break that wall down and set free the land of this country, it is in the interests of all the working classes in this country, those who are at work as well as those who are not. The unemployed man cuts the throat of the man who is at work, and when you think of all the evils that come from our existing social system, from the unjust basis upon which it is built up, I ask all men who really have justice and humanity at heart to back up the only possible solution of the unemployed problem, and that is to throw open the land of England to the people of England.


May I ask, on a point of Order, this question? A Motion was made for the Adjournment of the Debate on the ground of the defeat of the Government, after a defence made by the principal Secretary of State and with the Government whips put on for the Division. I understood you, Sir, to decline to accept that Motion, and I wish to submit to you that it is not an abuse of the Rules of the House, which I under stand to be the ground—


No. The hon. and gallant Member misunderstood me. The House decided early this afternoon to go on with this Bill after eleven o'clock.

Captain BENN

On the point of Order. Does the Motion to suspend the Eleven o'clock Rule preclude the House, in face of the very grave event of the defeat of the Government, from adjourning this Debate in order to give the Government time to consider what course to take? Do I understand you to say we are precluded by the Motion passed at a quarter to four?


The hon. and gallant Member, perhaps, has exaggerated the gravity of the situation.


I want to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill to two details in regard to the trade to which I have the privilege to belong. First of all, take the provisions that women are to be dealt with differently from men. In Lancashire weaving sheds, for half a century now, at least, women and men have worked side by side at the same piece-rate, and as equals in every possible respect. We shall offer the strongest possible opposition to any differentiation being made between the sexes. There is a second point. Our difficulty in the Lancashire weaving sheds is not unemployment in the ordinary sense at all. As a rule, a weaving shed will be run pretty well all the year round, but we have a problem quite as serious to our people as the problem affecting any other trade, and of a different type, and for which this Bill makes no provision at all. We have the problem of under-employment. A weaver may have four looms. Slackness of trade comes round which in almost every trade would stop the works for a time. It does not stop the weaving shed, but it may stop one, two, and even three of the looms of the weaver. This Bill does nothing to alleviate a position like that, which is quite as serious in a financial sense to the people employed as is the position of the builder who may be unemployed for a week or two. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will carefully take into account the two points I have mentioned, namely, the equal treatment of women and the question of underemployment.

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir R. Horne)

I ought at once to make my acknowledgment to a very large number of Members of the House who have taken part in the discussion this evening. Many very interesting issues have been raised, and I do not think there has been a single speech from which I have not been able to learn something which will be of service in the course of discussions in Committee. The largest number of points which have been mooted have been Committee questions rather than Second Beading ones, but there are certainly one or two which go to the very root principle of this measure. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne (Colonel Wedgwood) has raised a question of that description. He thinks this is all wrong, and that it is dealing with a salve or palliative for unemployment. I well recognise the hon. and gallant Gentleman's courage, which has been proved in more arenas than one, but I do not think he would be quite willing to go to his constituents and suggest that unemployment insurance should be entirely done away with, until at least he sees something else to put in its place. It is all very well to talk about the necessity of providing employment, but can you always be sure that you will be able to offer every man employment, even under the highly regulated scheme with which my hon. and gallant Friend was concerned in South Africa. I am well familiar with it, seeing that this is the second occasion on which I have listened to a full description of it. But all that does not satisfy the British working man when you suggest that you have another panacea by which, in all stages of his career, you will be able to offer him employment. My hon. and gallant Friend went into the description of a certain strike he knew, from which he drew the inference that if you could only have put the workmen in touch with raw material the whole situation was solved. Let me describe a strike of far more recent memory—the strike of moulders, which lasted for twenty weeks, and which was so disastrous to the whole of the country at the very moment when our country had turned the corner, and our commerce was going strongly from our shores. Orders were thick in our shops. They could not be executed. Everybody was eager—


You would not have had no strike of moulders if they had been receiving the full reward of their labour.


The moulders and their brethren took their case to the Arbitration Court. An award was given that was accepted by their brethren, and the moulders were urged by their brethren to accept it. They took their own line for 20 weeks, and then went back to work on the award they could have had 20 weeks before. Everyone was eager at the beginning to put them into touch with the raw material of their labour. What was the result of the strike? That tens of thousands of people were out of work, and could not find employment.


They would not get any relief under your Bill?


People put out of work by the moulders' strike would get relief tinder this Bill. That is the point I wish to drive home. A strike of this nature destroys the only means by which you can remedy unemployment. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes) contended—and I think this was the only point of principle with which he dealt with—that this scheme would be upon a non-contributory rather than upon a contributory basis. But he took the ground from his argument by one of the earlier passages of his speech; where he suggested that the dole that had been given under the Unemployment Donation Scheme had been a detriment to the people of this country. The two parts of his speech do not hang together. Either the first part was right, and the second part wrong, or else we were bound to accept his view that all the troubles concerned in industry, employers, workmen, and the State, are bound to play their part in furnishing a remedy for unemployment. Then there was the Amendment which was moved by my hon. Friend below the Gangway (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson). He urged that the scheme ought to proceed upon a plan for putting the whole of the arrangements in the hands of the approved societies. I really do not agree with his general arguments. There is only one of them that I will deal with now, and I think it is conclusive against his suggestion. He says that the approved societies have managed the whole matter of unemployment insurance. I wish to repeat that you can only deal with that if you have a mechanism by which you can test whether a man is able to obtain suitable employment or not. That is essential, otherwise you will be malingering to an extent scarcely conceivable. [An HON. MEMBER: "On 15s. a week! It costs 20s. 6d. to keep a pauper."]


Is the right hon. Gentleman serious. The amount is not an errand boy's wage.


The point I wish to thresh out is the proposal to put the whole of this machinery in the hands of the approved societies. If you are going to test whether a man has suitable employment or not you must have machinery for the purpose. How do you do it now? You have a series of employment exchanges, and they receive notices from the various employers as to the vacancies they have to offer. Under my hon. Friend's scheme the employer would have to notify his vacancies to over 100 approved societies, that is supposing they were able to put up the necessary machinery for testing this question of unemployment. No employer in the country would think of doing anything of the kind. At present he notifies his vacancies to a trade union with which he is in touch and they cover the whole of his employés, and he is in touch with them daily. He says that he has a particular vacancy and he asks can they deal with it. Sometimes he also intimates his vacancies to the employment exchanges but to ask employers to notify their vacancies to over 100 societies—


Why cannot the arrangement with the exchanges go on, and every man get a certificate from the employment exchange saying that he is out of working. He can then take his certificate to the society and get his benefit.


As soon as my hon. Friend suggests that, then the whole basis of his proposal disappears. His idea is to obtain economy, but instead of that he keeps the whole of the present machinery in existence and proposes some other machinery to go in return.


It is the same machinery.


It is the same machinery to which is added a third party. Whatever can be said in favour of any other proposal urged this afternoon, there is nothing to be said in favour of a principle which is going to turn over to bodies who have had no experience a duty which has been well performed by the trade unions and the employment exchanges, and which involves adding another machine which must cause some delay, and so far from producing economy you are only going to have extra expense.

I pass from these considerations to a very important question which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon (Sir Allan Smith). I am perfectly certain that everyone who listened to him realised that there had been added to the House a Member with a supreme knowledge of the questions which are at issue between capital and labour. He was dealing with the problem of contracting out, and he put some very pertinent questions as to the contribution which was to be made by the State to organisations which contracted out. I think he misapprehended at least one part of the scheme. He suggested that a trade union was going to obtain more for dealing with its members who were receiving benefit than were the societies under a special scheme. That is perfectly true, but it is also perfectly proper in accordance with the conditions of the scheme. The State may not merely be paying 2d. per man in connection with the trade union scheme, but may also to receiving out of the 6d. which the employer and the workman contribute a considerable contribution towards the deficiencies which arise from other trades. Under the special scheme with which he was dealing, on the other hand, no contribution comes to the State at all. The special scheme takes away the whole of the men's contribution and the whole of the employers' contribution, and, so far from the State receiving any possible subvention from that source, the industry which stands out receives all the advantage of it. Accordingly, the two things are not comparable at all. He made a much more effective point when he dealt with the different trades which may go out, and suggested that some sliding scale might be adopted which would make the worst risks contribute least or receive the largest subvention from the State. That is rather the form in which he puts it. I do not rule out that suggestion. I am perfectly prepared to consider it. I am not sure that it can be adopted exactly in the form in which he put it, but there is a possibility of distinguishing between various industries, and, if it be possible to devise a scheme which can fit into the general framework of the measure which has been presented to the House, I shall be perfectly agree able to adopt any feasible suggestion which my hon. Friend has to make.

The question of Ireland was raised, and, as usual when Irish questions are raised, we had many eloquent speeches. The hon Member for the Falls Division of Belfast (Mr. Devlin) made a complaint against the Government that they talked with two voices. While on the occasion of the Education Bill, they insisted upon including Ireland, in spite of the fact that a Home Rule Bill was coming forward, on the present occasion they excluded Ireland from the purview of this Bill because a Home Rule Bill was immediately in prospect. If that is the situation, it would undoubtedly exhibit an instance of the Government talking with two voices. But, at least, for the Government to talk with two voices, when it has got many Ministers, is not nearly so striking a fact as that of my hon. Friend, the Member for Falls, talking with two voices. I regret that he is not hero to learn what my reply on this matter is. I listened with great interest to the speech which he made on the education question, when he asseverated that it was the business of Ireland to deal with that matter, and that it ought to be left to Ireland. To-day he talked with the other voice, and insisted that the question of unemployment was the business of the Imperial Parliament, and that Ireland had nothing to do with it. However that may be, I do not want to make any debating point at all on this particular issue. The mind of the Government is quite open on the question of Ireland. We thought that it would be more acceptable to the representatives of Ireland that they should have an opportunity of dealing with what is, after all, obviously a domestic question; but one hears, especially in these days, many strange views from different parts of the House. There are people who used to be the strongest advocates of a rigid Home Rule—some of them have been on their feet in this House this afternoon—but who insist to-day that you cannot carve up labour into several divisions, and that, because trade unions have members in Belfast, Dublin and Cork, as well as in Glasgow, Hull and Newcastle, therefore they must be legislated for by a united Parliament. I am very glad to hear that statement, but it is somewhat unusual.


Not from here.


I did not say from my hon. Friend, but from some of those who have spoken this afternoon. I entirely agree with that. I think labour in the United Kingdom is one, and cannot be treated separately. But I beg hon. and right hon. Members to recognise how far that carries them; and, when they come to deal with larger questions of political constitutions, I hope they will remember the sentiments to which they have given utterance in the course of this Debate. I turn for a moment to what has been said on the question of women. It is perfectly true that women are given smaller benefit than men under the present scheme. It is equally true that they are to pay a smaller contribution. I do not dissent at all when hon. Members urge that we are in a new atmosphere in the discussion of women's questions. There is no doubt at all that the status of women in this country has enormously changed during the last few years, and that we have to look at all the problems which affect them with totally different eyes from those of a few years ago. But we cannot forget that, up to now—it may change in a very few years; no one, least of all a bachelor, would venture to predict—but at any rate, even still, the main burden of existence falls upon the men of the country, and in ordinary circumstances men have more obligations to meet. On that broad issue I am quite prepared to defend the differentiation which is made under this Bill in regard to both the rates of benefit and the rates of contribution which women on the one hand are given and on the other are to pay.

The last question to which I venture to address myself is that of the amount of benefit. I should not enter into any controversy with any person who says that 15s. is not a great amount of benefit in these days; but I do not at all speak in the same way as my hon. Friends who talked rather slightingly of the amount of that benefit. The point of it is that we cannot give more upon the present basis of contributions, and if you are to give more, you will have to raise the amount of contribution, and at the moment I do not think that is feasible. Fifteen shillings, after all, is something, and I would venture to remind the House of a somewhat pregnant fact. I have already talked of a strike in Glasgow of twenty weeks. I do not think I am wrong if I say that during all those twenty weeks the men on strike did not have more than fifteen shillings and in some of the weeks they did not have so much, so that it is perfectly evident that fifteen shillings is at least a help.


The point we subjected was about malingering. We know that fifteen shillings may be something, but it is not enough to enable a labouring man to maintain himself and his family when it takes twenty shillings to maintain a pauper.


I will not split hairs with the hon. Member. If it does not encourage malingering at least it stiffens the courage. What I have to say about it is that it does afford a help, and a substantial help in time of trouble, and nobody is going to despise it. While I do not say that it is a kind and generous contribution to the upkeep of a man's home, it is something which at least he prizes, and upon which, to a certain extent in adverse circumstances, he succeeds in getting along. I do not for a moment pretend that this Bill is the last word in the amount of benefit which is going to be derived from unemployment insurance. I hope with all my heart that it will be greatly extended in the future and that some successor in my Office will be able to build higher and better than I.


I am sure that every Member sitting for an industrial constituency will agree that no subject of greater importance has been discussed this Session than the Bill before us. Probably we shall disagree as to the adequacy of the measure. If there is one subject on which the Members on the Front Bench are united and on which they have spoken with one voice it is as to the need of increased production, if we are to improve our financial position. If we are to recover our position in the industrial world we know that we must have the maximum amount of production. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman, judged by that standard, will this Bill stand the test? Does he think that this offer of 15s. per week will give that stimulus to increased production which the Government say is the one thing needed to save the country at the present time? The Secretary of State for War earlier this week, in introducing Estimates, explained that although the figures might appear large in reality, the Estimates for the coming year of the normal expenditure were really less than the expenditure of the year 1913–14. How did he get at that? He told the House that as the pound sterling in 1913–14 was to-day only worth 8s. 10d., so the normal expenditure of 28 millions on the British Army in the year would really to-day represent 63 millions, and he took credit to himself that he was only now asking for 55 millions. If that is sound finance for the Secretary of State for War it should be equally sound finance for the Minister of Labour, and if the pound in 1913–14 is now worth only 8s. 10d. then the 15s. offered by this Bill is not worth even 7s., so that the effect of the Bill is to establish an unemployment benefit relatively of less value than that provided in the Bill introduced some years ago. And that is the inducement which the Government hold out for increased production and effectiveness; less than that required in pre-war days. Looking at it from an industrial point of view, from the point of view of the whole community as an economical factor, anything that can be done to increase output is well worth the extra financial cost it may involve either on the State or on the industry. We know full well that Labour, rightly or wrongly, is afraid of exerting itself to the utmost, because if it pours out increased production to-day it may be to starve to-morrow. I say that an offer of 15s. a week will not remove that fear, and consequently if you really want increased production, looking at it purely from an economic standpoint, it would pay us over and over again to give Labour a measure of unemployment benefit so as to get that maximum output for which the world is clamouring. We know that the demand for house building will keep labour occupied for years to come, but because of the bitter experience of the past, when the bricklayers' labourer because of over-production was compelled to walk the streets for long periods, he is naturally cautious today. But I say it would pay us from the house building point of view alone to give a very liberal measure of unemployment benefit so as to secure the maximum output. In the district where I come from and in the industry with which I am connected—the steel industry—the whole world is clamouring for output. We can get almost any price we like if we will only deliver the goods. America and Germany are out of the question. We have the whole world market at our feet and our manufacturers are refusing orders because they cannot increase the production to meet the demand. Surely it would pay us, from a purely trade and business point of view, to give such a liberal measure of unemployment benefit as would induce workers in every industry to increase their output to its maximum capacity and enable us to take advantage of the world's markets while at our feet. Therefore, apart from the sectional interests of labour or of capital and in the interests of the community as a whole, it would pay us to do this. Surely to-day. when trade is booming and profits are large, is a time when industry will stand this extra charge. The Minister for Labour declared that 15s. was the maximum that could be paid on the present basis of contribution. But I submit that industry to-day, in the present flourishing condition of trade, could stand more than the right hon. Gentleman suggests. It would pay industry to stand the burden; it would pay the State also. There is one other point I should like to mention. This Bill is practically on the same lines as the last in regard to the payment of unemployment benefit. It is not until seven days have elapsed that the man is entitled to benefit. I submit that there you have a real hardship. A man has to be out of work for seven days and not until then can he draw the unemployment benefit. He gets nothing in respect of these seven days. I suggest that if the measure could be so modified as to allow the man at the end of seven days out of work to draw the benefit as from the first day it would be a very great help. Owing to difficulties of transport, over which the men have no control, in our particular districts there are stocks representing thousands and thousands of tons.

What is the result? The mill can turn out 5,000 tons of steel a week, but owing to lack of transport they only turn out 3,000, because the men say, "If we work our utmost and turn out 5,000 tons a week the railway facilities are only such that they can deal with 15,000 tons a month. Therefore we will accommodate our labour to that which the transport system can carry." The consequence is that you get a reduced amount of production. That is what is happening in the North-East district, whereas if the men were guaranteed unemployment benefit if they happened to stand idle a week, they would not reduce their ouput. They say, "It does not matter. We will produce 5,000 tons, because we shall have unemployment benefit if we stand idle." As things are they naturally say, "The railway companies can only handle three-quarters of what we can turn out of our mills, and we will reduce our output accordingly, otherwise we shall be out of work, and get no unemployment benefit. If you really want to increase production you want to give unemployment benefit as from the first pay after seven days have passed and not wait until the second week has begun. With regard to those who are thrown out el work in allied industries, take the moulders' strike. It is illogical that because of the moulders' of any other strike the labourers in an engineering foundry thrown out of work through the strike should get pay and the labourers in the foundry itself be denied unemployment benefit. The Minister said even if you proposed to include those of a similar trade it would be illogical, but the present position is illogical, and it would be more humane and more in keeping with the spirit of the times if he allowed modifications in Committee so as to include those of the same trade when the labourers themselves were not parties to the strike. Therefore, I urge that in the interests not of any section, but of production, in the interests of increased output, and of the community as a whole, the Minister should consider an increase in the rates, and the industry can well afford to pay, and an increase in the unemployment benefit so that we can get a sum allotted to the workmen which will be an adequate stand-by when work happens to fail.


I realise that my Amendment does not find the favour I hoped, owing to the fault of its exponent and not on the merits of the Amendment. That being so, I ask leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


It would be unfortunate on a Debate on a measure like this if it were not emphasised that legislation of this description is not of a character which will solve the problem with which we are dealing; but, I suppose, pending the time when we can give it fuller consideration, something in the nature of ambulance work is necessary. I rather gathered that it is from that standpoint that the Minister is approaching this question. Evidently he views the situation somewhat seriously from the standpoint of unemployment being a real evil, because it is now proposed to extend this scheme of insurance to practically all trades and industries. The problem of unemployment is a very serious one in the lives of men who have to experience it. Is it possible to have a little fuller information in regard to the industry of agriculture? If unemployment is a very serious problem to the workers in other industries, is it any less serious to a man or woman who is engaged in agriculture? I am rather surprised to find that in all this fresh labour legislation which has been brought forward agriculture is being excluded. I fully recognise that agriculture may be on a different footing from other industries, and there may be a difficulty in bringing them within the scope of any general measure.


I shall be delighted to be pressed to put agriculture into the Bill.


There is one difficulty that I can see, so far as agriculture is concerned, in bringing them into a general measure of this description, namely, the very low rate of wages that is earned in the industry and the low incidence of unemployment in comparison with other industries; but the position is none the less serious to those who have to suffer by it, even if their number may be small in comparison with the total employed in other industries. The right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) suggested that it might be better to have this question of unemployment insurance dealt with from the standpoint of a non-contributory scheme. In that case agriculture could very easily be catered for because the difficulty of the low wages and the low incidence of unemployment would cease to have the same significance as under a scheme where the workers are called upon to contribute. The difficulty of the workers in agriculture during the years immediately ahead will be greater than in the past. It is estimated by the Ministry of Health that the rents of the new houses that ultimately will be built in the agricultural areas, even when the seven years have elapsed, will not be less than 14s. per week. If people who are unemployed have the liability of 14s. a week hanging over their heads, their position will be very serious. I suggest the advisability of giving this point further consideration, so that the position of the agricultural worker may be met, and having due regard to the smallness of his wage as well as the low incidence of unemployment that obtains in the industry.


Having listened to the Debate on both sides, I am confused as to what to do in the Lobby. So far as I can see, and a number of hon. Members will agree with me, when one introduces any form of unemployment dole, one is giving a bribe to idleness. That is an intensely unpopular thing to say. It is the sort of thing that a number of Members would refrain from saying on an election platform, but it is a fact. The real incentive to work is the desire to get something. There are or there have been hon. Members in this House who have walked through the Lobbies again and again with the desire to get, possibly, a thing like a baronetcy. They all work with an idea of getting something. [HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] I am asked for a confession. I want nothing but a clear conscience and the fact of being able to speak fearlessly in this House and on public platforms.

But I find myself now in a difficult position. I have been a labourer, and though there are many hon. Members on the Benches above the Gangway who have laboured, too, I do say, in all seriousness, I appreciate the point of view of men who cannot make the two ends meet. But if you are going to legislate to give all able-bodied men money for doing nothing, you will eventually find that the meaner the intelligence and the less the ability, the less incentive there exists to get work and the more men will say, "If I get thirty shillings a week for doing nothing, what is the good of doing anything?" It is not giving an unemployment dole to workmen that I want to see. I would rather see the Minister of Labour bringing his intelligence to bear on some legislative measure by which the children and the women would be provided for among the labouring classes and those classes who are unable to set by any sum to keep them through periods of unemployment. In introducing unemployment doles, we are introducing a pernicious system. It is a concession by the Government to the Labour vote. The Government appreciate that the Labour vote is something to be considered. I cannot think that they are doing any good to the country or to industry by making a dole of this description. If they want to do it they should do it fairly and generously and not by making a dole of 15s. a week, which is equal approximately to 6s. 8d. of pre-war days. An hon. Member has said "why not make it 30s. a week?" If you are going to have by-elections during the next six months why not make it £6 a week and be sure of the Labour vote? It is unsound in principle.

The Coalition Government may have to fight Labour at the polls within the next six months, or possibly the next twelve months. What will Labour do? If Labour came on the Treasury Bench to-morrow would they run this country or this Empire for the men who do not work or cannot work? We must not destroy the incentive to work. It is not giving an incentive to work the nation for our eventual good, but is betraying honest labour to adopt a programme of giving money to people who do not work, and if this is done we shall soon have England largely a nation of people who do not want to work. The right hon. Gentleman said if you tell a man that in the event of his producing too much he will rob himself of his own means of living he will stop working, and therefore you have to tell him, "Do not worry about producing too much, because directly you have produced too much we will proceed to pay you a large sum of money for producing nothing at all." Is that a policy upon which you could run an industrial concern? Could any board of directors say, "Produce as much as you like, because we have made arrangements with our competitors throughout the country that directly you can produce more than we can sell at a profit we will pay you for producing nothing at all"? It is a fallacy. The whole Bill is a fallacy. What we want to do is to say to the working man, "You have to work, and we have to work." [HON. MEMBERS: "That is what we say."] May I say this to the Labour Members who interjected that remark, that if they could work and produce they will make this the richest country in the world. [HON. MEMBERS: "For whom?"] For the men who prove themselves efficient. An opportunity occurred to-day as it has never occurred before, for the industrial classes of any nation of the world to prove that they can work and produce, that despite the wave of insanity passing over the world they have not been carried away by it, and that they cannot only produce but can govern.

If the British working-class do produce, I make bold to say they will govern, and they will govern not only this country, but an Empire which by their own endeavours will be the most successful Empire in the world. The one idea appears to be, however, if I may say so with respect, that we must contribute to all those who do not work, that we must give doles to them. That is a very popular thing on election platforms and in this House, but, so far as I am concerned, I declare that if a General Election were coming to-morrow, I would say with exactly the same conviction that if the Government, in their endeavour to capture the Labour vote, make these concessions, which are not sufficient—for 6s. 8d. a week is not sufficient for any man to live upon, and is only a dole—they are not keeping their promises at the last General Election, when they told the country they were going ahead with a strong policy of reconstruction, and such a policy as would re-establish this country; they are purely and simply living from hand to mouth in the hope that by offending as few people as possible they will make friends of all. The man who has not the courage to make an enemy of another who, he thinks, is an enemy to the cause for which he stands has not either the courage or the ability to govern this country.


I have no intention of attempting at this hour to discuss the subject-matter of this Bill. I want to ask the Leader of the House whether, in view of the importance of the question before us, he will consent to the Committee stage being taken on the floor of the House instead of sending the Bill upstairs to a Standing Committee. I do not think we could have had under discussion this Session a Bill of greater national importance than this Bill, and I am certain that Members in all parts of the House would like to participate in shaping this Bill in all its stages. I know there are a considerable number of hon. Members who would like to have taken part in the Second Heading Debate, but have been prevented because of the lateness of the hour, and I think the Leader of the House would be meeting the convenience of Members in all parts if he would consent to this Bill being dealt with in its Committee stage on the floor of the House instead of in Grand Committee upstairs.

Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)

I quite agree with my right hon. Friend as to the importance of this Bill, and as a Member of the Government I am very much gratified with the reception which it has received from the Labour Benches. Everyone realises, I think, that whatever its defects and however much we may share the hope that later on an unemployment scheme with much larger benefits may be possible, yet I do not believe there is anyone who has ever seriously considered the social condition of this country who does not realise that this Bill is a great departure and is one which will do immense benefit to the classes for which my right hon. Friend speaks. As regards taking the Committee stage on the floor of the House, I would point out to him that that would simply mean a delay in getting the measure through which no one can exactly forecast. We have an immense programme of legislation. It is quite true that this Bill is important, but it is also true that we had the same kind of discussion last year in regard to every Bill which was regarded by any section of the House as of great importance. The Government said then that to adopt the plan of having these Bills taken in Committee of the whole House would mean that it would be quite impossible for us to carry out the programme of legislation on which we appealed to the country and which we are here to carry out. That is true this year. The programme this year is at least as great as that of last year, and even if it were possible for me to meet the request of my right hon. Friend it would mean that neither he nor I would have any idea as to the time when it could become law. I say it is an essential part of the work of this Government and, I believe, of this House of Commons to carry through the legislation which we have undertaken to carry, and we cannot do that if we revert to the old system of having all these Bills downstairs. We must choose between the method which worked last year or not doing the work which we are here to perform. I am sorry to say, therefore, that on this point it is quite impossible for us to give way. We regard this as vital for the work of the Government. We have come here pledged to carry it through, and without; the continuance of the system adopted last year we cannot carry it through, and therefore I must insist on behalf of the Government in continuing the same process which was adopted last year. But in saying that I would again appeal to my right hon. Friend, and to those behind him, who realise more fully than the rest of the House what this kind of legislation means, to realise that any delay now, even the delay of not getting the Second Reading to-night, would mean a far greater delay in the consideration of this

Bill. We have before us a programme of financial legislation which must be carried through before the 31st March, apart altogether from the general programme of the Government, which I do not believe, I am sorry to say, can be carried out even as it is without some special arrangement. I am sorry to say it. That would mean that if we did not get this Bill to-night—I do not know when we could take the Second Reading—it would not go upstairs, and any delay means a delay which we cannot see the end of in getting carried into law a Bill which I am sure every hon. Member desires to see carried.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill to committed to a Committee of the Whole House."—[Mr. Adamson.]

The House divided: Ayes, 37; Noes, 137.

Division No. 20.] AYES. [12.20 a.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. F. D. Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Sexton, James
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Entwistle, Major C. F. Shaw, Thomas (Preston)
Barker, Major Robert H. Glanville, Harold James Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Hayday, Arthur Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)
Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk) Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M. Spencer, George A.
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Lawson, John J. Swan, J. E. C.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)
Brace, Rt. Hon. William Lunn, William Waterson, A. E.
Bromfield, William Morgan, Major D. Watts Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Cape, Thomas Newbould, Alfred Ernest
Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield) O'Grady, Captain James TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe) Redmond, Captain William Archer Mr. Tyson Wilson and Mr. Neil
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Maclean.
Devlin, Joseph Royce, William Stapleton
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Edge, Captain William Hurd, Percy A.
Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon) James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert
Bagley, Captain E. Ashton Elliot, Capt. waiter E. (Lanark) Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)
Baird, John Lawrence Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M. Kidd, James
Baldwin, Stanley Fell, Sir Arthur King, Commander Henry Douglas
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Foreman, Henry Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)
Barnett, Major R. W. Forestier-Walker, L. Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H (Devizes) Forrest, Walter Lewis, T. A. (Glam-, Pontypridd)
Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith- Fraser, Major Sir Keith Lort-Williams, J.
Breese, Major Charles E. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Loseby, Captain C. E.
Bridgeman, William Clive Gange, E. Stanley Lyle, C. E. Leonard
Britton, G. B. Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Lyle-Samuel, Alexander
Brown, Captain D. C. Gilbert, James Daniel Lynn, R. J.
Brown, T. W. (Down, North) Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John M'Curdy, Charles Albert
Bruton, Sir James Glyn, Major Ralph McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)
Butcher, Sir John George Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.) Macmaster, Donald
Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R. Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Mallalieu, F. W.
Carr, W. Theodore Hailwood, Augustine Malone, Lieut.-Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)
Casey, T. W. Hamilton, Major C. G. C. Matthews, David
Chadwick, R. Burton Hanna, George Boyle Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.
Clough, Robert Haslam, Lewis Moles, Thomas
Coats, Sir Stuart Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Molson, Major John Elsdale
Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K. Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.) Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale Herbert, Denis (Hertford, Watford) Morison, Thomas Brash
Conway, Sir W. Martin Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Morrison, Hugh
Cope, Major Wm. Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian) Mount, William Arthur
Courthope, Major George L. Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead) Murchison, C. K.
Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid) Howard, Major S. G. Murray, Lt.-Col. C. D. (Edinburgh)
Davies, Thomas (Cirencester) Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster) Murray, Major William (Dumfries)
Neal, Arthur Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster) Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone) Townley, Maximilian G.
O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H. Seager, Sir William Waddington, R.
Parker, James Seddon, J. A. Walters, Sir John Tudor
Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry Shaw, William T. (Forfar) Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)
Pease, Rt. Hon Herbert Pike Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.) Weston, Colonel John W.
Pennefather, De Fonblanque Smith, Sir Allan M, (Croydon, South) Wheler, Major Granville C. H.
Perkins, Walter Frank Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander Whitla, Sir William
Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emll W. Stanier, Captain Sir Beville Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)
Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F. Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)
Pollock, Sir Ernest M. Stanton, Charles B. Yeo, Sir Alfred William
Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton Steel, Major S. Strang Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)
Pulley, Charles Thornton Stephenson, Colonel H. K. Younger, Sir George
Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N. Strauss, Edward Anthony
Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor) Sturrock, J. Leng TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Rodger, A. K. Sugden, W. H. Lord Edmund Talbot and Captain
Roundell, Colonel R. F. Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead) Guest.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee.

The remaining Government Orders were read and postponed.

It being after Half past Eleven of the Clock upon Wednesday evening, Mr. SPEAKER, adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at twenty-eight minutes after Twelve o'clock.