§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Dr. Macnamara)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
In asking leave a week ago to introduce this Bill, I did my best to set forth why it was necessary and what it proposed to do. I endeavoured to show how plans laid with every care and circumspection earlier in the year had broken down because of the continuously deepening trade depression, accentuated by the, dispute in the coal industry. I explained the changes that I had felt compelled to propose: the reduced benefits, the increased contributions, and the further provision for unemployed persons rendered necessary this summer and possibly next spring. I explained that, even under this recast scheme, I should probably owe the Treasury at some time between now and July, 1922, as much as £16,000,000 and should therefore be compelled to increase the limit of borrowing power, £10,000,000, given me in the Act of last March, a power, be it remembered, of which I have not so far availed myself.
The criticism may be made that the estimate of unemployment throughout the emergency period from March, 1921, to June, 1922, inclusive, was a bad estimate, and that in any event the Fund would have become insolvent. The assumption upon which the Act of March last was based was that throughout the whole succeeding emergency period of 16 months there would be a weekly average of 1,000,000 workers unemployed and that the Fund would be called upon to pay out in benefit a weekly average sum of £800,000. This average of 1,000,000 unemployed workers a week represents an average of nearly 10 per cent. unemployment—to be precise, 9½ per cent. When I remind the House that over a recorded industrial history of 50 years before the War 10 per cent. was the highest recorded level of trade union unemployment, I think the House will agree with me that in assuming this rate of unemployment week by week through- 454 out a period of 16 months we were making a not unreasonable assumption. I have no wish to overdo the effect of the coal dispute, but I am bound to say that I think I could have got through if it had not arisen.
Of course, the reduction of benefit and the increase of contributions are sharply opposed. That is natural enough. But what am I to do? My hon. and right hon. Friends opposite say, "Oh, carry on as at present and borrow." Well, I am, as I say, adopting that very costly expedient up to £16,000,000 with power to go to £20,000,000. That will cost the Fund over £1,000,000 in interest for which there is no return, I cannot forget that every penny I borrow increases the cost of living and widens the gap between the real and the nominal value of wages—a gap which happily has been steadily narrowing since last November. The official index figure of the cost of living stood last November at 176 per cent. above pre-War. It was 128 for the 1st May and will manifestly be lower when the figure for the 1st June is available in a day or two. I do wish my hon. and right hon. Friends opposite, when they talk of pledging the credit of the State, would face the inevitable effects of that policy upon the commodity value of working-class wages. Of course I do not like to have to reduce benefits, but you cannot fill a pail from an empty well. There is just this much to be remembered. Under the Act of 1919 the benefit for men and women was 11s., 11s. for fifteen weeks. While that operated the index figure got as high as 164 per cent. above pre-War. Under the Act of 1920 the benefit was 15s. for men and 12s. for women for fifteen weeks. While that operated the index figure was as follows: November, 1920, 176 per cent.; December, 169 per cent.; January, 1921, 165 per cent.; February, 151 per cent. Now let it be observed that when the 15s. and the 12s. again operate next month probably the index figure will be round about 120. Further, it will not be 15s. and 12s. for fifteen weeks in a year. It will be 15s. and 12s.—under the extensions now proposed—for possibly round about twice as many weeks in a good many cases during the Insurance Year, July, 1921, to July, 1922.
Before I leave this question of reduced benefits and increased contributions, there are one or two facts I want faced. 455 On the basis of an average of 1,250,000 of people unemployed over the whole year, July, 1921, to July, 1922—the basis I have taken—if I kept benefits, contributions, and waiting period as they are, and added the two benefit extension periods of six weeks each, for which I have been bound to make provision, I should run into debt, not to the tune of £16,000,000, but £41,750,000, which, even with normal unemployment, I could not, under this scheme, even begin to repay. That really cannot be faced. I should observe that even at the 15s. and 12s. Benefit rate, with the increased contributions and the six days' waiting period, the two extension periods for which I have made provision will cost me £9,000,000. My hon. and right hon. Friends opposite take sharp objection to the re-institution of the six days' waiting period.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
It was six days in the Act of 1919. The three days were instituted as from 8th November, 1920, and will run to the end of this month. Why do we re-establish the six days? For this, amongst other reasons, that we secure a very material saving in Unemployment Benefit—£2,200,000 for the year 1921–1922—and a saving effected, moreover, at the beginning of a workman's period of unemployment, when the hardship consequently presses less heavily upon him. Further, the six days' waiting period instead of three will help to deal a little more evenly as regards Insurance Fund Benefit between persons working short time and persons wholly unemployed. I should be the last man to wish to discourage short time. Its very great development during the present depression has enormously eased the situation. Still, there are people drawing both short-time wages and Unemployment Benefit who, as things are, might well forgo the latter in the interests of their comrades down and out altogether.
I have been discussing, so far, the point of view of those who think that we should have gone ahead with the existing scheme and chanced the future. I frankly confess 456 that, inasmuch as it is manifestly based on sympathy with, and solicitude for, poor people in distress, that argument must stand out with all of us as the first to be answered. We approach it as my right hon. Friend the Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes) last week begged that we should, every man in the House looking upon himself as a Labour Member, and we can give no answer other than that which I have given. There is another point of view expressed in some quarters outside, if not here. There are people who say, "This dole policy is demoralising; it induces a disinclination to seek work." On that I have two or three things to say. The first is this: It is not so much the so-called dole that demoralises: it is unemployment itself. After long periods of unemployment, men lose heart; they get their tails down; they have not the spirit that they once had to rush around worrying for work. Who can wonder? Even if that were not so, do let me ask those who say that men are not anxious to find work, "Where is that work to-day?"
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I will deal with the case in detail. I am getting on as fast as I can. I am not now dealing with women, but with men, and I say: Where is that work, so far as the great majority of the men are concerned? While we insist that these moneys shall be wisely and carefully administered, shall not be dissipated, shall be scrupulously conserved for the poor people who are compelled to seek assistance through no fault of their own, do let us bring a touch of human understanding and sympathy to the whole problem. Broadly speaking, there are very few vacancies for men, and it really does not help very much, that being the case, to say that some men are not overanxious to find work. As regards women, there is, in one quarter, at any rate, a considerable number of vacancies, and I will deal with that later. When I framed the Act of the 3rd March last unemployment was very widespread indeed. I had, therefore, to make provision for very large numbers of people under conditions which should make the receipt of benefit a good deal easier of accomplishment than under the old and well-established insurance principles.
457 For these people at that time, unemployment being what it was, it was out of the question to lay down the usual qualification of a fixed number of weeks' contribution. Frankly, I had, in a word, to introduce into an Insurance Act, for a good many of the persons then covered by that Act, the policy of what is colloquially known as the dole. I did this through an emergency Clause—Clause 3—which provided, under conditions the reverse of onerous, two periods of sixteen weeks' benefit, the one to run from March to October, 1921, and the other from November, 1921, to July, 1922. The situation left me no alternative. In doing that, I turned to the local employment committees—bodies to whose patience and tireless public service I desire to pay tribute—and asked them to assist me, in these exceptional circumstances, by examining the claims of those who would seek benefit under Clause 3. All this was additional to the well established checks and supervision by Exchange officers, the Chief Insurance Officer, the Courts of Referees and the Umpire, which have always formed an essential feature of the normal administration of unemployment insurance benefit under the Acts with which we are familiar. Directly the Act of 3rd March was passed, I wrote to the Chairman of every Local Employment Committee a letter, in the course of which I said:The view has been expressed that in some cases young men and women, not altogether dependent upon themselves for maintenance, do in fact seek to avail themselves of benefit without making any very serious effort to seek work, and have, indeed, refused offers of employment for reasons which ought to involve forfeiture of benefit. In any case a serious responsibility rests upon us. The benefit provided for the emergency period has only been made possible by drawing heavily upon the accumulated balance of the insurance fund. If unemployment continues grave for a lengthened period, the provision made for it is bound to deplete the fund most seriously. While, therefore, the assistance rendered by the Act must be immediately available in every proper case, it is only just to all concerned, and especially to those who have helped by their contributions to build up the fund, that every care should be taken to see that no reproach lies against those of us charged to administer it that, by our laxity, by our failure to apply the reasonable tests it prescribes, the contributions of hardworking people, of the employers, and of the State, are unnecessarily and improperly dissipated.After two months' experience of the working of the Act of last March, par- 458 ticularly in relation to Section 3, the emergency Section, which I will shortly describe, I wrote again to the chairman of each local employment committee a letter, in the course of which I said:The Act has now been in operation for a period of two months, during which unemployment, grave as it was at the outset, has week by week reached higher figures, amounting by the end of April to a total of over 2,500,000. The depression in trade, combined with the coal stoppage, is a sufficient explanation of such figures of unemployment. There have, however, been allegations that some of the persons in receipt of benefit are not properly entitled to it. As I explained in my letter of 8th March, the responsibility of securing that the grant of benefit is not abused is a serious one, and no means of checking abuse should be neglected. The experience of the Local Employment Committees in working the Act during the last two months places them in a good position for judging whether there has, in fact, been such abuse, and for suggesting appropriate remedies for any abuse beyond those contained in the instructions issued by the Department. I should be glad, therefore, if you would be good enough to make a report to me on these two points at as early a date as may be convenient.I have received, and have now before me, a very valuable series of communications, which of themselves testify to the public service which these Local Employment Committees have devoted to this problem, especially during the present grave period of industrial depression. Further, as an evidence of the care taken to see that the funds urgently needed for people unemployed through no fault of their own should not be dissipated through improper use, I may say that, during the period from 3rd March to 3rd June, under the normal machinery of the Act, and before I come to the emergency Section, some 111,100 doubtful claims were referred to the Chief Insurance Officer, who disallowed over 78,000. In about 17,000 of these disallowed cases appeal was made to Courts of Referees, who allowed benefit in 6,700 cases. Again, from the 3rd March to the 20th May, out of over 1,000,000 cases dealt with under Section 3, the emergency Section of the 1921 Act, over 31,000 were initially rejected by the employment exchanges. Over 600,000 cases were referred to and dealt with by the Local Employment Committees, who disallowed over 50,000, and allowed benefit for less than the full period in 178,000 cases and for the full period in 338,000 cases.
459 Now let me go back to the point I have already made, that you are really not in a position to charge a man with disinclination to seek work unless the work is there. On that let me point out—and it is of the utmost importance—that it is an essential condition for the receipt of benefit that the person claiming it should be unable to obtain suitable work. If there are no vacancies, I cannot apply that test. On this I very earnestly appeal to employers of labour. Directly things begin to take up, as we may profoundly hope they will, employers will have vacancies—I am dealing with men—at their disposal. Do let them notify the employment exchanges of those vacancies. The more they do that, the better position shall I be in to secure that the provisions of the Act are in fact being strictly observed.
I said, as regards women, that there are vacancies—vacancies for domestic service. My hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) raised that point at an earlier period of the discussion. Let me explain to the House what we have endeavoured to do here. I authorised the managers of the local employment exchanges to prepare lists of the women upon their registers as unemployed who might fairly be invited, when coming to claim benefit, to consider the vacancies in domestic service. I may add that, from the beginning of February to the beginning of May, the exchanges placed in domestic service of one kind or another over 52,000 women. I must not deal in too great detail to-day with the matter, but there are one or two proposals in the Bill to which I did not refer in my ten minutes' speech—
§ Mr. CLYNES
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman one question? Turning to the question of the reasons for which men are disqualified from receipt of benefit, has he any data to show the different reasons why they are disqualified, or is it merely that there is no alternative service?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
They can all be set forth. My right hon. Friend can have a copy of the Umpire's decisions. There are records of the work, and they are circulated to the local employment committees and exchanges for their guidance. I was saying that there are some proposals in the Bill to which I did not refer in my ten minutes' speech last Wednesday, and to which I will refer now. Perhaps 460 I may direct attention to Clause 6, the effect of which is to prevent contributors who have paid less than twenty contributions since July, 1920, from obtaining benefit unless they satisfy the conditions that they are normally in insurable employment and genuinely seeking whole-time employment, but unable to obtain it. The object of this Clause is to prevent benefit being claimed in respect of earlier contributions by persons—as, for instance, married women and war munition workers—who have no intention or necessity of resuming employment, and who are in fact not now really available for industrial employment. I want to make it perfectly clear that we think that in such cases they should not be entitled to benefit.
Clause 8 of the Bill deals with the position of men who may be called up from the Reserve or specially enlisted to meet a national emergency. The intention of the Clause is that, unless their period of service during the emergency is more than four months, their case shall be met by paying contributions to the fund on their behalf as if they were in civil employment. Without this Amendment they would have to be credited with 90 contributions, entitling them to 15 weeks' benefit under Section 41 of the Act of 1920. This latter provision had in mind ex-Regular soldiers, sailors or airmen discharged after serving for a term of years, and is manifestly inappropriate to the short period of emergency service. The Amendment here proposed applies to men who may be called up or enlisted in the future, and does not affect the statutory rights of men already called up or enlisted.
There is one other Clause which I might be allowed shortly to describe, namely, Clause 10, to enable associations which have made arrangements to pay out State benefit under Section 17 of the 1920 Act in conjunction with their own private benefits, to continue such arrangements without making alterations in their Rules as to the period for which their members are entitled to benefit while unemployed. The present Bill, like the Act of March last, extends the periods during which State benefit may be drawn, but, also like the Act of March, it is an emergency Measure in this respect. It is extremely difficult—as no one knows better than my hon. Friends opposite—for associations to 461 alter their Rules governing the payment of their own benefits, especially at short notice. It appears reasonable, therefore, that the standard of the 1920 Act should, as before, remain operative. When I asked the House to agree to the Act of last March, I asked that provision should be made for arrangements with associations to continue on this basis till the 3rd November, 1921. The present Amendment prolongs the period till the 3rd July, 1922.
Let me conclude with a rough forecast balance sheet for the insurance year July, 1921—July, 1922, based on the assumption that throughout that period there will be an average of 1,250,000 insured persons unemployed. On the income side, I should hope to get in the year contributions from:—
That is a total income of just under 37 millions.
Millions. Workpeople 13¾ Employers 15⅘ The State 7⅓
On the expenditure side I get:—
That is a total expenditure of about 50¾ millions.
Millions. Benefits to be paid 46⅓ Interest on debt ¾ Grants for administrative expenses 3½
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
It is more than a guess. It was such information that we had before us in the recorded industrial history of the country. We are making the best calculation we can. On that basis that would leave us at the end of the year still owing about £13,750,000. The maximum debt would be £16,000,000, but we should have begun, by improving employment, towards the end of the period to pay some of it off. Therefore the figure of £13,750,000 is not the figure of the maximum debt I should owe during the year. The balance sheet will show that 462 on the basis I have taken that at the end of the year we shall owe £13,750,000. In moving the Second Reading I am conscious of the fact that my task is not precisely an agreeable one, but there it is. I need not assure the House that I have worried away examining every possible expedient that might be tried to meet the present situation. This is the outcome, and, believe me, it is the only practical outcome. All I can hope is that the clouds may soon break and that blue sky will prevail again. The sooner that takes place the sooner I shall be in the position to clear off the liabilities now resting upon my shoulders—liabilities, the direct consequence of unemployment graver than anything hitherto experienced in the modern history of our country at any rate—and the sooner I shall be able again to put this scheme of unemployment insurance on the permanent and satisfactory basis, upon which we would all wish to see it.
§ Mr. HODGE
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
My colleagues will, with myself, agree that the Minister of Labour has anything but an agreeable task. The thought that struck me as he sat down, after stating about the money that he would get from the Treasury for this unemployed fund, is why is it that the Government could not give a subsidy for the purpose of unemployment equal to the subsidy they have given to the railway companies? It seems to me that the present Government is a rich man's Government, and I hope before I have finished to give several illustrations of that fact. While the right hon. Gentleman was speaking an hon. Member below the Gangway seemed to be perturbed on the question of domestic service. I should like to know how he would appreciate being a servant. I do not think any of us would like it, and it is one of the things that we have a right to grumble at that the Labour Ministry have been pressing upon women who have never been used to domestic service the necessity of taking it up under the threat of losing their unemployed benefit. I will give the right hon. Gentleman one case. In the tin plate trade young girls when they leave school go in there as helpers at the opening of plates. They are too young to have had 463 any experience of household duties. Quite recently women who have spent in many cases 10 and 15 years of their lives in the tin plate works have been under duress of having their unemployed benefit stopped unless they take up domestic service, which they are entirely unfitted for. The right hon. Gentleman also dealt with the question of leakage of unemployed benefit. I am afraid his Department have not trusted the trade unions sufficiently in the administration of the benefit or they have had less difficulty on that aspect of the question. I can speak feelingly on this subject, because the union I represent were anxious to administer the State benefit so far as their own members were concerned, but through the difference of methods used directly in the Labour Exchanges as compared with the trade unions, we were compelled to give it up entirely because of the trouble it was creating amongst our own members. We were paying the men our own unemployed benefit and we could have paid them the State benefit at the same time. When a man did not get the State benefit from us he went to the Labour Exchange and got it at once. I think the right hon. Gentleman must appreciate the confusion that that created and the great dissatisfaction as well.
In the present amending Bill you are cutting out the creation of trade schemes. In the great iron and steel industry the employers are coming to realise that it would be much better to have their own schemes so that they could provide for all occasions of bad trade, believing that it is in their interest that a substantial unemployed benefit should be given so that the men would be kept in a physically fit condition when the wheels came round again and they could restart work. So far so the right hon. Gentleman's figures are concerned—the index figure—his argument was all based on the assumption that the original 20s. was sufficient to keep body and soul together. We demur to that, especially when you realise that as a consequence of the Rent Restriction Act, which was not a rent restriction but a giving to the landlords of an opportunity of raising rents, the great bulk of the 15s. that is proposed under this Amending Bill will go towards rent. On Monday last a question was asked as to 464 the cost of keeping the Russian refugees in Cyprus. I worked out the cost to the British Government of each refugee at £4 4s. 11d. per month per person. This Bill is going to give to the Britisher, who in common with the employer contributes to the fund, £3. Surely it would be much wiser and very much better that the £4 4s. 11d. should be given to the British citizen rather than to the Russian refugee. But the Russian refugees seem to be a never ending quantity. I do not know how many years we have been keeping them, nor how many more years we are going to keep them. Charity begins at home, and it is time we were looking to the people of this country a little more than is evidently the case. In answer to a question this afternoon it was stated that for the purpose of making a loan for the Jews in Palestine we are spending at the rate of £380,000 a month. Surely such an amount would be more fittingly spent at home in trying to maintain that A1 class of people that there was so much talk of during the War. The British workman is to be satisfied with 15s. a week. He may have a wife and 1, 2, 3 or more children to be kept out of it.
How differently are our prisoners in gaol treated. A person in prison costs us £1 10s. per week—a prisoner in a settlement, £2 2s. a week, a lunatic in an asylum, £1 19s. 1d. a week, a workhouse inmate, £1 1s. 7d. a week, but a British workman, unemployed through no fault of his own, 15s. a week, and that only for a limited period. The right hon. Gentleman ought to trust to the future. In my opinion once we have got settled down we are not going to have anything like an unemployed list of 1,250,000. Be that as it may, to quote all those who beslavered the workers in the period of the War in saving England, the Government ought to come to the rescue and save the men who saved England. There is a Coalition newspaper, called the "Daily Chronicle." It used to be rather independent in character, but now I suppose it is in the pocket of the Government. Five thousand demonstrate at Sheffield, traffic held up for two hours, the men insisting that the dole they are getting from the board of guardians should not be reduced as the Ministry of Health has commanded, and the Lord Mayor promises to appeal to the Ministry of Health and to insist on no reduction of relief payment. The Ministry of Health 465 has hitherto refused assistance unless on a reduced scale. Is it not amazing that with the mass of unemployment to-day, on your own records over 1,500,000, there have not been more episodes of this character. Does it not say something for the stolid stupidity of the British race? You say they saved England. Saved what? The land of the landlords, the Duke of Northumberland included. Saved it by their fighting ability and by their devotion. They saved all the material wealth of this country, and the only thing that you can do to-day is to reduce their unemployment benefit that they have paid for. The State, with all its wealth behind it, could easily find sufficient money to keep the unemployment payment going. In the same newspaper I read another paragraph headed: "Hymns that inspired the Premier." I regret the necessity that compelled the Premier to go to his native Criccieth for the purpose of recuperation. It is said that he had been indulging in hymn singing. He made a speech in which he said that he was inspired to carry on during the war period to success as a result of singing those glorious Welsh hymns with their magnificent tunes. Is it too much to ask that he who was the idealist of National Health Insurance, as well as the Unemployment Insurance Fund, should sing more hymns, and become so inspired as to come down to this House and keep the unemployment benefit going at its present figure? Anyone who is in a position of responsibility in the trade union movement has had his heart stirred, just as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has been, in coming in contact with the misery and the destitution that has followed as a result of the great depression in trade.
I believe that this is a rich man's Government. Excess Profits Duty went because of the threat that they would pay no further donations to the Coalition party war chest. [AN HON. MEMBER: "You ought to be ashamed to say it!"] It has been commonly reported in the Press of this country that that was so, and I believe there is never any fire without smoke, and the smoke that has appeared is an evidence of the fact that threats of that character have been used. Last year a Debate took place in this House on the question of unemployment. Sitting listening to the various speakers from all quarters of the House, it 466 appeared to me that there was a new spirit developing amongst hon. Members. Many opinions which were expressed were quite as strong and as advanced as the opinions which I hold. I believe that every industry ought to bear the burden of its own unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Then why not give effect to it? This is the place where effect can be given to it; but the Government are the slaves of the rich men in this House, and they dare not propose anything of the kind. When trade gets bad the workman is dismissed. He is of no further use. No care is taken to keep him physically fit. If the same firm owns horses, it does not matter whether they are for shunting operations in their works or for taking away the products in wagons, when the time comes that there is less doing or there is nothing for the horses to do, they house the horses, they water them, they feed them, and generally care for them. Why the difference between the horse and the man?
§ Mr. HODGE
The answer is this, that the horses are bought but the men are hired. There has to be a change in the method of dealing with the unemployed in this country. I heard my right hon. Friend use a certain word, although I do not think he used it in a disparaging way. He called this unemployment benefit a dole.
§ Mr. HODGE
Why a dole? Is it because, like the dictionary definition, it is "something that is given sparingly," or is it because it is something of a charitable character? It is not a dole. The men and the employers have been the contributing factors so far as that unemployment pay is concerned, and the Government to a very small extent. I sincerely hope that even yet the Government may realise that if the workers of this country are to be kept physically fit for the turn of the tide—there is no doubt that trade will boom again—unless you have physically fit workmen there will be a limitation of output. I trust that when the Bill is in Committee my right hon. Friend will see his way to eliminate the Clause with respect to special claims. When my right hon. Friend introduced his Motion on 467 8th June he stated that the continuance of the trade depression, badly accentuated by the coal dispute, made the change absolutely necessary. This Bill is the third attempt of the Government to deal with unemployment since the 1920 Act came into operation on 8th November, 1920. In the calculations (Command Paper 498) of the Government actuary for the original Act, the figures for unemployment were given as 5.22 as the yearly average over a series of years. I am afraid that the figures given to-day are twice that average. If we accept that as correct, the finance of the 1920 Act was passed wrongly and erroneously. Have we any reason to hope that the actuary's calculations on the present occasion will be any more accurate than they were on the previous occasion? From that point of view alone my right hon. Friend ought to revise the conclusion at which he has arrived.
There is another point which I should like to put before the House in connection with unemployment. I have already asked why the manual worker should be the only person when bad times come to be thrown, as it were, on the scrap heap, or have to be contented with a small unemployment donation. In the Civil Service, it does not matter whether the civil servants are fully employed or partially employed, whole salaries are paid. If they are off sick, full salaries are paid. When they go on their lengthy holidays, full salaries are paid. I know that in my right hon. Friend's own Department some persons are very slack at the moment. Many of them find it difficult to put in half time, but their salaries are paid.
§ Mr. HODGE
My right hon. Friend is not always on the job. He has not eyes at the back of his head. Many other Government Departments are in a similar position. The police, whether they are busy or slack, in sickness or in health, get their pay, and after 25 years' service, no matter how fit they are, they get pensions, and with their pension they go into the labour market and compete with those who can only live as a result of their labour. When we look at all these classes of society the question is, why is the worker the only one to suffer when unemployment comes? They are the people who have to find the salaries of 468 the other people to whom I have referred. I do not mean to say that we could do without the other people, but I am satisfied that we could do without some of them. I have been endeavouring to find out the cost of administering the Unemployment Insurance Acts, but I have been absolutely unable to discover the real cost. Be that as it may, we on this side are dissatisfied, and we shall oppose with all the power of which we are capable the further passage of this Bill. The richest country in the world is treating shamefully the men who threw down their implements of labour and rallied round for the saving of the country. Presumably the thing that the country condemned in the Germans, namely, that of tearing up a treaty and regarding it as a scrap of paper, prevails to-day. We cannot look upon any of the legislation that has been passed so far as labour is concerned, except to be treated by the Government as a scrap of paper.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. KIDD
I think most Members of the House will agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat, that the Minister of Labour at this time has a very disagreeable duty. I should have preferred the right hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge) to have gone further, and said he was inclined to take the view that the Minister of Labour had, on behalf of the workers, exhausted the possibilities of a difficult situation. Nobody likes to break wages, and still less does anyone like to break something which is in the nature of an alimentary allowance. The right hon. Gentleman's speech continued to propagate the idea that the wages of the worker are totally unrelated to the earnings of the industry. I suggest that the propagation of that false idea has been, in no small measure, responsible for that calamity in the mining industry which is now, we hope, coming to a close—a calamity which has been so disastrous to the trade of the country as a whole, and has made the condition of unemployment worse than it otherwise might have been. To continue the propagation of that false idea from any part of the House, is to incur a very serious responsibility in adding to the troubles of the workers of this country.
I have no sympathy with a man who pretends to find that the worker is generally loafing. You will find loafers 469 in every occupation, trade or profession. I find them in my own, even with a good table of fees to stimulate them, and I grant that, among the manual workers, you may find a man who has been born lazy, and to whom 15s. without work is much preferable to a pound in a job. But I have too much faith in the industrial classes to entertain for a moment the view that that particular individual is other than most exceptional. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his somewhat chaffing reference to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who alluded to domestic service. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite is a married man or not. If he is a married man, he has not given the attention to the domestic problem that he ought. Otherwise, he would know that the domestic service problem is more complicated than he seems to imagine. Had the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) been present, I should have pointed to the difficulty of the domestic service question as being to some extent the result of the legislation, which has been common in recent years, which has tended to ignore the differences in the sexes. I would also remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite that, in the old days, women married earlier than they do now, and the trained domestic service was a discipline which was gladly undertaken by a woman who had to be the mistress of a home in some years' time. But, with the liberty which women enjoy to-day, and the possibility of taking up an occupation with larger freedom, marriage is not regarded, perhaps, as it was in other days. This condition has been aggravated by the conditions of the War. During the period of the War service of any kind on behalf of the State was in such demand that young girls found numerous opportunities of earning large wages—
§ Mr. KIDD
They may take an entirely false view of the value of their services, but, looking to the large wage they enjoyed then, and looking, above all, to the freedom they enjoyed together with that large wage, these factors sufficiently explain why domestic service to-day is not so congenial and attractive as it was in other days. I sympathise with the 470 Minister of Labour. I congratulate him upon making the best of the conditions under which he is operating, and I do say this to Labour Members: Let us realise that the Minister of Labour spoke truth when he said that you cannot fill a pail from an empty well. If we can view the situation sufficiently to bring home the fact that wages are dependent upon the earnings of industry, and can only be obtained so far as the industry can support them, we in this House shall have done a service towards diminishing unemployment.
In conclusion, let me refer to some unhappy analogy which the right hon. Gentleman who opposed this Bill gave with regard to the workman on the one hand and the public servant on the other. On the one hand, your public servant is a party to a contract, which has no relation to the earning power of any industry. The workman, on the other hand, has to take wages which must always be dependent on the earning capacity of his industry. Therefore, it is unfair to spread about the country that the policeman, the public servant and other public servants are being favoured in comparison with the workman, when the positions are so distinct one from the other. There appears to be such an anxious desire on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to misrepresent the position of the Government, that he does not hesitate to employ analogies which, while they may do service on the platform, are totally unworthy of Members of this House.
§ Mr. SEXTON
If all the speeches delivered to-night are no more illuminating than the one we have just heard, I venture to say the Minister of Labour will have every reason to say, "Save me from my friends." From beginning to end, there was not one word calculated to solve or assist the problem before the House. I am not going to quarrel with the Minister of Labour so much as I am going to quarrel with the Bill. I recognise the very difficult position. My sympathy all goes out to the Minister of Labour in the circumstances under which he has introduced this Bill. Had the right hon. Gentleman taken our advice 12 months ago, he could have saved himself all this annoyance and uneasiness, and, if the Government had backed him up in adopting our suggestions, they would have been saved all this annoyance and uneasiness. We on this side, 471 pointed out the possibility of all these things occurring, and that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge) has again suggested, the only way out of the difficulty was that the industries should bear the burden of their own unemployment.
I am only going to deal with one point of the amending Bill. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the six days' qualifying period was in the 1911 Act. May I point out that the new Acts brought in 750,000 men who were not within the provisions of the 1911 Act, who were not insured against unemployment, even although their own trade unions were not insured against unemployment, and those Acts compelled them to pay 5d. a week. The qualification difficulties were so great that not 9 per cent. of those men were ever able to qualify. We protested at that time against the introduction of a class of casual labour being placed on the same quaifying basis as men in permanent employment. It was then only three days' qualifying period, and I pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that it was practically impossible for 85 per cent. of the casual labourers to qualify within the three days' qualifying period. Let me give one or two cases. The right hon. Gentleman has based his calculation on index figures—on cost of living. I am basing my calculation on the figures of the men who are compelled to pay 7d. a week and never get any return for it. I am basing my calculations on the men who cannot get any living of any kind at any cost.
I gave the House some figures some days ago, even with the three days' qualifying period. I gave the case of a man who is looking for work three times a day and who has got to register three times a day. He is idle on Monday, gets half a day's work on Tuesday, is idle on Wednesday, gets half a day on Thursday, is idle on Friday, and gets half a day on Saturday. Although that man has been idle 4½ days in the week, even with three days' qualifying period, he has paid his money and gets no benefit. Three-quarters of a million of men are in that position to-day in this country. Men idle four and a half days a week are compelled by law to pay their quota towards the payment for unemployed men, and at the end of the week they cannot receive any benefit, although 472 the qualifying period of idleness is three days. Under this Bill you are extending the period from three days to six. Then if a man is only employed an hour in any one day of the week, though he is compelled to pay 7d. a week all the year round, he is disqualified from getting any benefit. Does the right hon. Gentleman expect us to sit down quietly and accept conditions of that kind which affect 750,000 men whom we represent? We are not going to sit down under these conditions. I would sooner see him exclude casual labour from the Act altogether, sooner see him repeal the Act altogether, than place him and ourselves in that impossible position. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wignall), if he gets a chance, may deal with other items in connection with casual labour. I am dealing entirely with this question. I want the House to understand that it is physically impossible for these men to qualify in any circumstances.
I protest also against what has been said about the dole. How can you call it a dole? A man subscribes to a national fund out of which he gets a miserable return. Nobody is giving him a dole. It is his own money which he is getting back when he gets it. In our case he never gets it. I object also, and always will object, to conditions which I consider a humiliation of the working classes of this country. I detest to see these men lining up in queues three times a day, going down to the docks looking for a job in a long queue, then going up to the Labour Exchange and lining in a long queue two or three times a day and waiting until they get their turn at the pigeon-hole to end in the humiliating confession that they cannot get a job. Then what is 15s. a week to a man in that position? The right hon. Gentleman and the Government have been simply asking for the trouble which they have got. They have sown the wind and they are now reaping the whirlwind. All these Unemployment Acts, which are not worth the paper on which they are written, have been introduced as a sop to keep the workers quiet. I have done one man's share in endeavouring to keep our men quiet. Does the right hon. Gentleman imagine that this humiliating confession which he is making now is going to keep them quiet any longer? His object all along has been to chloroform the men, and to say, "Look 473 at what we are giving you, and what we mean to do"; in other words, "Codling's your friend, not Short." That has been the policy of the Government all along, and they must not be disappointed if these men who are asked to pay, and are penalised when they do pay, recognise that this is the last straw that breaks the patient workman camel's back.
§ Mr. HOGGE
There is another Amendment on the Paper which expresses the views of the party with which I am associated, though of course, those of us who act together are going to support the rejection of the Bill moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge). May I draw attention to one of these extraordinary contrasts that occur so often in the history of this House? Yesterday afternoon at this hour these Benches were crowded with Members listening to the speech of the Minister who is spending £28,000,000 of our money in setting up Emir Feisal, or a man of some name of that sort, as the new ruler in Mesopotamia, a country which has involved us already in enormous expenditure, and which many of us think, in spite of what was said yesterday, will still continue to involve the country in vast expenditure, and to-day these Benches are empty but for the white and red colours when we are dealing with the question which is at the bottom of the whole unrest in this country and a situation which may, if it develops, require the creation of a defence force in this country instead of offensive and defensive forces in Mesopotamia. It is not to the credit of the House of Commons that these contrasts should occur. After all, people outside are observant, and my friends of the Labour party who sit behind me will take every legitimate step—
§ Mr. HOGGE
Will the hon. Member count the number of Coalition Liberals who are present while I am pursuing the tenor of my speech and tell me. The fact is, that there are far too few of all of us here. My hon. Friends of the Labour movement will not fail to draw attention to the fact that the Secretary of State for the Colonies asked for leave to spend £28,000,000 yesterday upon a country which, after all, does not con- 474 cern us, and when we come to consider what we should do in regard to unemployment we have this ragged and poor House of Commons to discuss the question. This obviously is the wrong time to seek to reduce the benefits which we are paying to the unemployed. Those of us on this side, though we have pursued a policy of economy in a great many other directions, are unwilling to assent to any economy being made in this direction while these other extravagances are allowed to continue. For that reason we shall vote against this Bill. In our reasoned Amendment we give two reasons why we think this is extravagant. We point, for instance, to the civil war in Ireland. We are spending to-day in Ireland over £20,000,000 a year because we have not the common sense to allow the Irish people to govern themselves. We are spending that money because the Government are pursuing a policy which is destructive of life and property in Ireland.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
The hon. Member is entitled to refer to the amount of money that is spent in Ireland, but he is not entitled to assail the Government policy in Ireland.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I have no intention of making any lengthy remarks with regard to the policy of the Government in Ireland. I was only indicating that the policy meant the destruction of life and property. This Bill is an attempt, an inadequate attempt, to dealt with life in this country, and I was only making what I thought was a perfectly legitimate reference in passing to the fact that money was spent in destroying life in another country which would be better spent in protecting life at home. This is the Second Reading of this particular Bill, and I hope that you are not going to rule too tightly with regard to references of this sort. I remember the introduction of the first National Health Insurance Bill. I was not in the House at the time. I did not come in until about 12 months after that, but I remember welcoming it outside as a contribution to the industrial life of the country. The original Act took into cognisance a limited number of very skilled trades, and it is only in later years that the area of the occupations included in the Bill has been extended. The widest extension is probably due to causes aris- 475 ing out of the War, including what my hon. Friend has described as the dole. The fact that the insurance was confined to those skilled trades was that the Act built up a big reserve, so big that the Minister of Labour, in introducing the Bill on the 3rd March, 1921, dealt with the surplus of £20,000,000 which had been built up by the contributions of employers, employés, and the State, and incidentally, in reference to the remark of my hon. Friend as to each trade providing for itself, I do not think that that is a possible solution, because some industries are so skilled and so situated that they can keep their unemployed very much better than other industries, and the only way you could utilise it would be to revert to the practice of a pool. The proof of that is, that with those selected industries with which we began we did build up a reserve of £20,000,000.
You have used that money; you have used if for a purpose other than that for which it was provided. It is not your money to use. It is the money of those skilled trades which contributed it. Now owing to the policy of the Government which has produced unemployment and more unemployment and more unemployment, you come to the very people whose £20,000,000 you have taken, and you say to them, "We shall give you less benefit and make you contribute more." I do not know how any Government is going to face that situation and to face the representatives of those skilled industries. The Government is responsible for many sins, and it ought to take the full responsibility of everything for which it is blameworthy. The Government would have been in a £20,000,000 worse position financially and they would have required to throw that burden on the backs of the taxpayers unless they had resorted like thieves in the night to the £20,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman indicates that that is incorrect. Has he used the £20,000,000 that was reserved for other purposes? Does he propose to put the money back? If he proposes to put it back, out of what money does he propose to put it back?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
For the first 12 months after the Armistice the State made a direct grant to civilians out of work. It was £22,000,000. From the first day after the Armistice to 31st March of this year the State made another direct 476 grant to ex-service men of £40,000,000. That is £62,000,000 all together. They were the people who in a great many cases would have come upon this fund. It is because of those direct grants that the fund was what it was, and because of those grants I can turn to the fund now.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I do not think that that is anything like an answer to the point I have put. As a matter of fact, the Government promised to find work for every man after the Armistice. They came into this House with that plan. We were to have a state of affairs in this country under which we would have more employment, and they gave what they now call the doles in order to prevent as far as possible the effect of public opinion when so many men were out of work. In fact, the Government could not do what it had promised to do. It got out of the difficulty by spending £62,000,000 in doles, which did not, of course, go to men who otherwise would have been on the funds. Were they getting the money twice over? If they were not getting it twice over there could not have been any of the £62,000,000 affected. If the men were in the skilled trades to which I have referred, trades which built up the £20,000,000 reserve, and they were out of work, they were drawing the money. If they were drawing the money they were not drawing the special dole, and if they were not drawing the special dole they are not the men about whom we are talking now. There is no use in an interruption of that kind unless we are talking about the same thing. There is no point in my right hon. Friend getting up and saying that the Government has spent £62,000,000 in giving doles to other people when we are discussing the £20,000,000 of people under the Act.
In a reasoned Amendment which is on the Paper there are reasons given why we object to this Bill. With regard to policy, the only thing that will prevent unemployment is work, and the only way you will get work is by carrying out a policy which does not interfere with work. Every part of the legislation of this Government, the Safeguarding of Industries Bill, the German Reparation (Recovery) Act, and so forth, which the Government insist on pushing through, are preventing the clearing of the channels of work between this country and other countries: 28,000,000 the people of this country, more than half the population, live and have their being 477 in the export trade of this country. It is true to say that because of the policy of the Government those 28,000,000 are not so actively in touch with the markets of the world as they should be. That is why I condemn this Bill. To try to fob off a situation which has been created by the artificial methods by which the Government interfere with trade is pure nonsense. The Government should get its neck down to the reasons of trade between this country and the whole of the world. Neither this House nor anyone outside can deal adequately with the question of unemployment by piecemeal Bills of this kind.
In the last Debate I made a speech in which I got the assent of right hon. and hon. Members opposite to a statement that the time had long since come when we should address ourselves not only to the question of unemployment but to the whole question of the revision of the Poor Law and the spending of money on old age pensions, and that we should bring them under one really sensibly controlled Department of State. One hon. Member suggested that the way to deal with unemployment was to let every industry carry its own unemployment. Someone else suggested that under the Poor Law we should do this, that, and the other, because what is given is not enough for anyone to subsist on. So that under the State aegis we have State money being spent unprofitably because of the multiplicity of organisations with which it deals. It is true that the Government, having got themselves into a mess, must get themselves out of it as best they can; but while we are discussing the temporary position in which we find ourselves, do not let us forget that there is a far wider problem to which we have not addressed ourselves—the collocation of the facts with regard to this great problem and the devising of some kind of scheme which would save enormously in administration and would not provide the temptation of what we call a dole, but would be sufficient to maintain a man when out of work in physical fitness without losing any pride in his work, and would give him a chance eventually to resume his place in the community without moral or physical detriment. It is a farce for the Government to ask us to begin economising with a Bill of this kind which is a breaking of the contract made by Statute only three months ago.
I suppose we are all more or less interested in a particular trade which we would like to see assisted, and at the same time we have all a general interest in the prosperity of the country and of trade. Naturally I look to the trade about which I know most. I do not like to speak in this House about things of which I know nothing. There are those here who understand the great cotton industry, the great steel trade, the coal trade, and the shipping trade, but my knowledge particularly is limited to the trade of my own part of the United Kingdom, the linen trade. May I say how much I appreciate the work of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this particular Department? He has been most sympathetic in every way possible to an individual Member of the House who has troubles of various kinds placed before him for solution. I would like to pay this tribute to the right hon. Gentleman and his Department. A great deal has been said from time to time about employment exchanges. My own experience is that since the operation of these Acts employment exchanges have been almost worked to death. Night and day, almost, they are trying to get over the difficulties with which they are faced. I would like to pay a tribute to the work they have done in connection with unemployment in addition to all their other work. In my opinion the officials are in some cases very ill-paid for what they do.
I would like to approach this question of unemployment from a business standpoint. It is very easy for us to get up and say that the Government must come to the rescue. I should like to repeat that statement all the time; but we seem to forget who is the Government, what is the Government, or of what they have control in order to deal with a difficult subject like this. From the remarks of some Members one would really think that all the expenditure by the various Departments grows on a tree. It is very simple to get up and say, "Oh, the Government must undertake this great responsibility." It is the workman, and what is sometimes called the capitalist, and every individual member of the United Kingdom who has a stake in the country, who must eventually take responsibility. Let us try to face this in a businesslike way. I cannot say how sorry I am at the possibility of these payments being reduced from 20s. to 15s. 479 It is most regrettable. What I do want to see is where the money is to come from. The hon. Member who has just spoken referred to the sum passed yesterday for Mesopotamia. Well, it may be right and it may be wrong, but one thing certain is, that this country is committed to it, and we must stand by our commitments as an honourable nation.
So far as the interruptions are concerned, though the Government is committed to this, I ask, did the Government for a moment consider, or did any hon. Member opposite consider, on the 1st March last, the possibility of such an increase in unemployment as that which has occurred? I doubt it very much. Had it been possible for the Government to conceive at that time the extent of unemployment at the present time, I believe a very different Bill would have been introduced then. Indeed, so far as my recollection goes, when the Government introduced their Bill early in March the unemployment dole was to have been 18s. per man. Because of the appeals of hon. Members on both sides of the House it was increased to 20s. I believe the Government are finding out their mistake now. Had they kept to the original figure, it is quite possible we might not have seen this Bill to-day. We have at the present moment an extraordinary state of affairs in the coal trade. We have the Government throwing £10,000,000 at the heads of the miners—
—in order to coax them back to work. In my trade we would be delighted to have work to go back to. That is the trouble with us. Ours is a trade which the War is directly responsible for ruining. Looms, mills, machinery, capital, everything was taken possession of by the Government for the purposes of the War, and we were delighted to lend every help but the result of it all is that we have now a state of unemployment in that 480 industry which is appalling. I am sorry to say, so far as we can see, there is very little prospect in the immediate future of that trade reverting to its former activity. I shall not trouble the House with the why and the wherefore, but it all arises from conditions immediately resulting from the War. There are such questions as that of the flax industry and the stoppage of flax from Russia and other matters which are peculiar to that industry and into which I do not propose to enter, but I want the Minister in charge of this Bill to realise what this reduction means to the workers in an industry which is specially affected in the way I have indicated. I would join heartily with hon. Members opposite in appealing to him, for the present, at all events, to let the dole remain as it is if he can possibly do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not a dole!"] I apologise for using the word "dole." It is a word which comes into our mouths before we know of it. As regards the unemployment benefit of 20s., it is not a question of keeping body and soul together. We know it is nothing for a family to live on, but we would like it to remain at the present figure. I would also like to understand more about the manner of dovetailing the Act of March last with the Bill before the House and as to how the present Bill will affect the continuity of the unemployment benefit now being paid. What the workers over in Ulster are asking to-day is, when the unemployment benefit under the last Act comes to an end when or how is it to be renewed under the new Act? They want to be sure that they are going to get some unemployment benefit, even if it only helps to keep body and soul together. The Motion before the House which is tantamount to one for rejection of the Bill is inadvisable. The Government must count the cost, as men of business who have before them all the troubles which unemployment brings, and who have before them the question of the permanent stability of this country. We cannot forget that there is a vast revenue to be raised during the coming financial year. We should keep before our minds when we are debating a Bill like this the question of where all this revenue is coming from. Furthermore, all this revenue has been detailed for necessary expenditure and if additional money is required, it is only a business proposition that we should inquire where it is to come from. We 481 must face that point. It is no use merely saying that the Government must come to the rescue. We should also ask ourselves, can the nation stand any further taxation?
Lieut. - Colonel ALLEN
I have already said I am quite with hon. Members opposite in asking for a retention of the 20s., if it is at all possible, but I would be a fool, nay, a maniac, if I were not prepared to face both sides of the question. Let the House realise that this year the Government have assessed this country for the largest Income Tax it has ever been assessed for in history. Let us realise that this is a time of depression and unemployment such as the country has never passed through before. Let us realise that so long as that depression continues it is impossible for any business or trade to pay the enormous tax in which the country is assessed. Let us realise that this tax has been assessed on three of the most prosperous years the country has ever seen, but that it is going to be paid in a year of the greatest depression the country has ever seen. I hope this Bill, when it comes to Committee, will be so amended that at all events the unemployed in this country may be sure of getting some of this unemployment benefit to keep them from starving. I do not know what is going to happen in my part of the country if unemployment continues. The Government certainly must come to the rescue in some way or another. Perhaps in the minds of some hon. Members present is the query, "You have got a Parliament of your own, and why not look after your own unemployment?" It is just a little bit previous to ask that. I would have hon. Members recollect that the contributions of the workmen there come into the general pool, and the taxes of Ireland come into the general pool also. So far as this Bill and other Measures of this character are concerned we still participate, and we look with confidence to the right hon. Gentleman who has charge of this Measure, aided no doubt by businesslike suggestions from hon. Members opposite, to do his utmost to retain this unemployment benefit at the present rate.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. JOHN
I have listened to the arguments put forward as to the desirability of introducing Amendments to the Bill, and dealing first with the last hon. Member who has spoken, I may point cut that he seemed at a loss to know where to put the blame for unemployment. It was the practice in years gone by to argue that unemployed people were necessarily shirkers and wasters, and that there was sufficient employment to be found in the country. That argument does not apply at the present time. I think the experience of the War has demonstrated that unemployment is not to be attributed to the human factor, but is consequent upon an unsound economic system. The hon. Member failing to find an argument in that direction went on, in a indirect way, to attribute some of the present unemployment to the miners' strike. He said the Government had offered £10,000,000 to coax the miners back to work. If we analyse that for a moment we must ask ourselves, why should the Government be in the position of coaxing miners back to work with a bribe of £10,000,000? The miners' stoppage is a direct result of the action of the Government, and the increased unemployment consequent upon that stoppage is also a result of the attitude of the Government. If the Government had to spend £27,000,000 or £28,000,000 in order that its word should be its bond in regard to Mesopotamia and Palestine, in order to be honourable, in order to be able to carry out its obligations, should not the Government be equally as honourable in carrying out an Act of Parliament regarding the control of the coal mines? I do not know that the word "honour" can be confined to certain specific instances, and surely if there was an obligation on the part of the Government to be loyal to its word with regard to spending £27,000,000 in Mesopotamia and Palestine, it is equally bound to fulfil its obligations to the miners in respect to the control of the mines. Not only has the Government by its policy created unemployment, but it has added to the taxation of the people in this country. What about the Defence Force? Did they consider the question of the taxation of the people when they raised that force? The county council of Glamorganshire the day before yesterday had to spend £1,000 simply in order to 483 maintain certain conveyances that are kept idle and useless during the whole period in order to meet the eventuality of taking police from one village to another. This county has had to spend £60,000 for maintenance of police in that particular area, where they were not wanted, and before the business is over it will cost that county council anything from £80,000 to £90,000, if not £100,000. Who is going to pay? It will have to come either from the rates or from the taxes, and at any rate it is the working classes of that county who will have to pay. There are military in that particular area at the present time, and the Defence Force is going to cost the taxpayers of that county a large sum of money. Surely if the Government are so considerate of the taxpayers, they should have given very careful consideration before they organised a Defence Force and embarked upon a policy which has created unemployment consequent on the dispute between themselves and the miners.
I said just now that unemployment is not to be attributed to the human factor but to the present unsound economic situation. This Government has been upholding that system and has been reverting to the system of private ownership during the past twelve or eighteen months more than anybody else, and as unemployment is directly the outcome of this system the Government and no one else should be responsible for the suffering which results. They say they cannot afford more than 15s. a week because it will entail more taxation. Did they consider more taxation when they passed the £60,000,000 for the railway magnates? They may argue that the railway directors were entitled to the £60,000,000 owing to the fact that consequent upon the control of the railways during the War, wear and tear, and everything else, the money was legally and morally due to them, but unemployment is equally a consequence of the War, and if the Government intend to be honourable in fulfilling their obligations by paying £60,000,000 to the railway directors, surely it is not unreasonable to expect that the Government should be responsible to the extent of the £1 per week for unemployment that was passed in the month of February last. It seems to me that the Government does not know its own mind. The last speaker asked how the Government could visualise the future 484 with regard to the probability of unemployment. Attention has been called in the last four or five years in this House to the probability of acute unemployment consequent on the War, but the Government has closed its eyes. It has not been imbued with that particular spirit that would meet the probabilities of the future, and even in three months they have had to change their policy, not because they could not see three months ahead, not because the future was too dark for them to see for six months or twelve months ahead, because they knew very well that if decontrol of the mines took place there would be a dispute in the mining district which would cause great unemployment. Therefore the possibilities of the immediate future ought to have been sufficient to demonstrate that there would be unemployment for a long period and that the responsibility of the Government would be such that the £1 per week benefit should at least last so long as the unemployment would continue.
The unemployment question has become very important. We have got these stoppages of the industries and the reductions in wages, and we have a large number of problems that we have to face at the present time, but beside the problem of unemployment all these other problems are paling into insignificance. The method of dealing with unemployment is not to reduce the amount of benefit from 20s. to 15s. a week. That is not going to economise, and it is time for this Government to realise that it cannot economise on the stomachs of the working classes. It will be false economy. When there is again activity in the industries of this country, the working classes will be required to carry on that activity, and surely you cannot expect the working men to be in a position to take up their ordinary work, when industries resume their activities, if they have to live for a certain period upon 15s. a week. It is impossible for them to live. The same Government that attempts to reduce the unemployment pay from 20s. to 15s. a week is at the same time refusing to operate the Increase of Rent (Restrictions) Act, and in my constituency the rents in themselves, with the increase that will be operative next month, and with the rates that are payable at the present time, will be more than the 15s. a week that 485 will be paid in unemployment benefit. Therefore the 15s. is not sufficient even to pay rent, and from the point of view of keeping these people alive, the £1 should be kept up for a longer period, for the period, indeed, that the unemployment owing to the present depression in trade continues.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
I do not think the Minister of Labour had any choice but to submit this Bill at the present time, and I thought my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) was rather severe upon the right hon. Gentleman. We are faced with exceptional circumstances, such as the difficulty of meeting the abnormal amount of unemployment which prevails throughout the country at the present time, the state of the public finances, the difficulty of maintaining the benefit which has been paid in the past, and when we reflect on the figures which have been put before the House by the Minister of Labour to-day we must, I think, come to the conclusion that the contributions towards the benefit for unemployment amount to a vast sum. I quite agree with the hon. Member for East Edinburgh that there has been great Extravagance in other Departments, and that we have wasted our substance in riotous expenditure in many parts of the world, but we have to come down to the practical hard case that is presented to us, and I think this House will be well advised to pass this Bill and to give this fresh departure a trial. The whole system of unemployment insurance requires revision. When we come to more normal times greater provision will require to be made for unemployment, and the benefits must cover a longer period and be greater in amount. I remember well, when the Insurance Bill was first introduced, how many of the employers throughout the country objected to the provisions contained in that Measure. It seemed to them that there was far too much trouble involved, that the whole thing was far too complicated and the benefits too poor. We had the stamping of cards, we had the contribution to be paid by the employer, we had the contribution to be paid by the workman, and when a man was out of work he received a sum of 7s. a week. The game was hardly worth the candle, and what we have got to do is to realise that industry must to a large extent endeavour to maintain its unemployed. I do not think 486 that the suggestion that each industry should maintain its own unemployed is a practical suggestion, although I once held it myself. To tie down particular workers to a particular industry through the unemployment scheme of that industry would work out most unsatisfactorily. I have come to the conclusion that the only way, and the best way, that provision can be made for our unemployed, who are always with us ever at the best of times, is through insurance. Now, when we have got the Insurance Act recast and remodelled to a certain extent, a larger number of trades brought in to the Act, and a greater number of people covered by insurance, we ought to set ourselves, when normal times come again, to extend the operations of the Unemployment provisions of the Insurance Act so as to build up a fund or pool that would give larger benefits in the future than we have ever given in the past.
The present benefits are far too meagre. The old 7s. per week was quite absurd. The proposed benefits under this Bill are very, very poor benefits to pay under present conditions, with the high cost of living, which still prevails in this country. How is it to be done? I think that employers ought to pay more. I do not believe in a non-contributory scheme. It is a good thing that the workmen who receive benefits should pay a contribution. That gives them greater independence. They will feel that they are not receiving a dole, but are receiving out of the fund to which they have contributed. That will give a greater spirit of independence to the workmen who will feel they are receiving that to which they have a right through their contributions.
The cost of unemployment should be one of the first charges upon industry. I believe that in the future we must set ourselves to make ampler provision for unemployment. As I indicated, the benefit, I think, should be larger. The parties to be covered should be greater and the fullest possible provision be made under the remodelled Insurance Act to provide the largest amount that can be given to the worker. I go the length of saying that when a man is out of work we should have such ample provision as would give him almost two-thirds of his ordinary wages. When unemployment takes place in any industry in ordinary times, what 487 happens? When a great depression sets in, and when the employer has resolved either to work short-time or suspend his workmen, what follows? Workmen who surely are responsible for building up that industry and for creating the wealth of the country, are thrown out of employment without any provision being made by the employer except through insurance. The permanent and the managerial staff get their wages whether they work or not. We ought to try to approximate as near as possible the other workmen to that condition, so that when a man, through no fault of his own, is thrown out of work through ordinary trade depression, he ought not to be called upon to suffer the pangs of hunger.
I know that many employers will object to a larger burden being cast upon them for making provision for unemployment. They should reflect that this thing ought to be looked upon as one of the first charges to be cast upon industry. Employers should address themselves to this situation: that one of the main essentials to them in the proper carrying on of their work is to have a contented people working, and that no man ought to have staring him in the face from time to time this grim spectre of unemployment. Many of us well-to-do Members of this House do not realise what happens in our industrial communities, what a great, terrible, and tragic spectre is unemployment to the men, women, and children of these communities, and the feeling that any day the wage-earner may be thrown out of work, with no possibility of getting a job, and with hunger stalking into the home and distress and misery following. In view of all this, I do not think it is too great a demand to be made upon the industries of the country that one of the first charges should be the very much larger expenditure needed as the cost of maintaining the unemployed.
What benefits would result from that? It would produce a larger and a better feeling between capital and labour. If we had the consciousness impressed upon the minds of the workers that in the event of depression taking place there would be no need to tighten the belt, that through that period of depression the provision made by themselves, their employers, and the State that there was sufficient to tide them over the ordinary period of depression, and so avoid the calamities that 488 follow in the train of a prolonged period of unemployment, it would be well. Provision of this kind would meet a great and a pressing need, and would go a long way to allay Labour unrest and to promote the solution of the whole industrial problem with which we are faced in this country. On these grounds, therefore, I heartily support the Minister who has produced this Bill, and I do not think he had any other choice than to do what he has done. I do not see how he could maintain the old benefits. It is regrettable that they have to be reduced. We must, however, face the situation in a practical way. There is no other choice at present, so far as I can see, than to agree to this Bill, and be cheerful that in the midst of our trials and troubles we have something towards meeting the present unemployment and distress in this country I fervently hope that when all our present troubles are over and we get to normal conditions again in the industrial life of the country, that this House will address itself to a full and comprehensive Measure of Unemployment Insurance, taking no niggardly view of its obligations towards the industries of the country. Let us address ourselves to that task with one guiding principle in front of us: the problem of making provision for the unemployed, who, in times of trade depression, have one of the first claims upon industry and upon the employers of the country—that in good times we build up a sufficient and substantial sum to meet any demands that may be made.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
One of the hon. Members for Ulster complimented my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, on his personal courtesy on every possible occasion. I should like to associate myself with that compliment. If I oppose the Second Beading of this Bill it is not from any desire to be discourteous, but from the conviction that the reduction of the benefits proposed is inconsistent with public policy, and not only inconsistent with public policy, but inconsistent with justice and morality. To reduce the benefit at the present moment is inconsistent with public policy, because I hardly take up a paper without seeing lectures to the working classes on the necessity of greater production. I have never yet been able to understand how you can really expect the workers in any great industry to work harder if during a 489 period of depression you tell them they have got nothing else to do but to tighten their belts and to suffer a period of semi-starvation. I also question whether the policy of this Bill is consistent with justice or morality. I really do not think, and never can see, where this House of Commons and the Government have the moral right to reduce the benefits of this Act below the level of subsistence.
I really question whether it is consistent with justice of the case that when depression comes the whole burden should fall upon the workers. It must needs be that fluctuations in trade come. We are all agreed that it is possible for a wise policy to mitigate and modify the evil effects of fluctuations in trade. My complaint, however, against the Government is that so far from mitigating or modifying the inevitable fluctuations in trade they have aggravated it and increased it by a thoroughly unwise policy. The depression of trade from which we are suffering is to my mind due to the policy, an utterly wrong and mischievous policy, which the Government have pursued ever since the signing of the Armistice. Instead of encouraging the growth of the tender plant of good will and prosperity they have blighted that tender growth by their chilling phrases. Dean Inge has said that the present state of the country is due to the fact that we have been governed by men who do not believe in the possibility of Christian principles being applied to Government. As Ruskin, I think, somewhere says:The hungry sheep look up and are not fed. Why? Because the head of the State is a blind mouth who scarce knows how to hold a sheephook, and has learnt what else the least that to the faithful herdsman's art belongs.Our troubles are entirely due to a policy which is based on dictation, coercion, and force, rather than on goodwill and co-operation. That which is happening in Russia, Turkey, Ireland, Germany, or Europe generally is to the general impoverishment of the world. Now I see by the papers that the Secretary of State for the Colonies goes to Manchester and delivers a speech giving us the encouraging information that our reparations policy is giving a monopoly of the export trade. To whom? Into the hands of the Germans! That is what I mean when I question whether this House of Commons has a moral right to reduce the Unemployment Benefit. An hon. Member 490 has asked where is the money to come from. Members of this House who support any particular policy never have any difficulty in pouring out money like water for that policy. There is no difficulty about finding money for Ireland and other places. Hon. Members opposite are responsible in a very large measure for the policy which has been pursued, and for having supported the Government in a thoroughly mischievous policy. They have, therefore, no moral right to go down to the workers and say that they should bear the burden of the results of their policy.
I cannot say, either, that the policy of the Government has been any more helpful at home. I notice in the "Times" to-day that what is wanted is cheap coal and lower taxes. If we are to have improved trade in this country we must have cheap coal and lower taxes. We shall never, however, get cheap coal and lower taxes unless we have a policy of goodwill and helpfulness on the part of the Government. That is exactly my complaint. That is exactly what the Government have refused to supply. They have introduced a spirit of violence and force into the conduct of our industrial questions. While, of course, the miners and the mineowners have to bear a certain portion of the blame for the present distress and for what is going on now, the chief blame is, and must be, laid upon the shoulders of the Government. Nothing will persuade me that if the Government had really had a desire to prevent this strike they could not have done so, and by keeping on control a little longer, allowed goodwill and the sense of the miners and the mineowners to prevail. If we are to tide over this period of demobilisation from War to peace conditions, we must have a policy which permits a maximum amount of cooperation and goodwill. If it were desired by the Government to tide over that period, I submit that it was a profound mistake to create the impression in the minds of the workers of this country that the Government were allied with the employers in a frontal attack on the standard of life. If it is desired to get co-operation and goodwill in order to secure an improvement in trade, I submit that the speech of the Prime Minister at the Coalition luncheon was the most ill-advised speech ever delivered in this country. Instead of inviting the cooperation of the workers, the Prime 491 Minister declared that they were mostly Bolsheviks trying to upset society. I agree that the condition of this country is to a very large extent due to a set of people who do not believe it is possible to introduce the principle of the New Testament into the Government of the people. To get prosperity back we have to entirely reverse our policy, and base it upon goodwill and the co-operation of the workers rather than upon ill-will and strikes.
§ Mr. HALLS
I listened very attentively to the statement made by the Minister of Labour, and I felt, after he had concluded, that he had made out the poorest case possible for a reduction of unemployment pay. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that the dispute in. the coal trade had very largely added to his troubles, and to the increased cost of unemployment. I beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman that he and his Government were absolutely responsible for the coal stoppage. I submit with all due deference that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have not carried out their pledge with regard to the Sankey Commission, or their pledged word on the last occasion in November, when the miners were induced to resume work on certain conditions, namely, that they would receive increased pay according to increased production, and that before coal was decontrolled, the Minister would submit a scheme agreed to by both sides. That was the pledged word of the Government. Again the pledge of the Government was broken on two occasions with regard to the coalminers, and for the life of me I cannot understand how the men who sit on the front Government Bench can expect working men to have any confidence in their pledged word again. Therefore, I submit that if it be a fact that that aggravated the whole position, they must now accept responsibility for the increased amount of unemployment money.
I do not know whether any previous speaker has referred to another section of workpeople, but I wish for a moment to allude to the agricultural labourers. In doing so I would like to remind hon. Members of the history of the last year or two with regard to agriculture. During the period of the War we all know what took place with regard to agriculture. Prices went up, and farmers felt that they were 492 in a better position than ever, and certain guarantees were given to them. The Government did attempt to sneak out of their pledge to the farmers, but when they were called to book, they agreed to pay up the whole of the money the farmers claimed under the guaranteed prices for cereals, amounting, I think, to £25,000,000 or £35,000,000.
Now agriculture is to be decontrolled, and we have had another breach of faith in regard to the agricultural labourers. I want to remind the House of the position in which the farmers are placed, because in this case the farmers were let down. We all know that during the War the landlords kept their land, and did not attempt to sell it, but no sooner was the Armistice signed than there was a big rush on the part of the landowners to get rid of their estates. Thousands of little farmers who had lived on the land for years, and were in the position of having saved a little money as the result of increased prices, had either to leave or buy the land when it was up for auction. They did this by borrowing money at a high rate of interest, and in a good many cases they were compelled to pay four or five times more for the land than it would have realised before the War. Now they find that they cannot pay the wages and the interest on the borrowed money. The result is going to be that farmers will have to sell their land again, because they cannot pay the interest and the wages, and it is fair to presume that the old landowners will be the people who will buy the land back again, perhaps at one-fourth the price which the farmers have paid for it.
The labourer has no protection. The Wages Board has been scrapped, and now poor Hodge has to bear the burden by having his wages reduced to such a level as will make him rush from the villages to the towns to compete with the workers in the towns, and he will feel that he is bound to offer his labour at a lower wage than that which is being paid in the industrial centres. That is going to aggravate the position and lead to additional expense with regard to unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the difference between the income and expenditure which he anticipates will arise at the end of the year—I think he said there would be a deficit of something like £13,000,000 493 on the year's working. That is a pure guess; the estimate may be different either way.
I am not concerned much about that, but the present position of the unemployed workmen is in the main due to the mischievous policy of the Government since the Armistice. I do not remember—and I have read the OFFICIAL REPORT for some time—any question being raised on the other side of the House as to how the money was to be spent when you were spending £100,000,000 in making war upon a country that did not want to be at war with you. I did not then hear any inquiries as to who was to bear the burden, or as to where the money was to come from. The same applies to the subsidies to the farmers and the railway industry, which are very much better represented here than the workers. There seems to have been no question about the £60,000,000 to be paid to the railway companies, but when it is a question of human life and flesh and blood, and not property and vested interests, apparently—I say it advisedly—it can be considered on a different plane.
I want hon. Members to picture in their minds what is the position of some of the men whom I met just over a week ago during the election contest at Heywood. I had not been in the division until three weeks before polling day, but during that time I had excellent opportunities of getting the views of the people with whom I came into contact. Hundreds of people engaged in the textile trade told me that since January last they had had only three, four, or five weeks' work, and they added to that statement, "Fortunately we had, during the boom period, made good use of our time. We had our little savings in our co-operative stores, but now, as a result of the long period we have been out of work, all that has gone." They have been using their savings gradually to supplement the money they had had in the shape of unemployment pay through their trade unions and the Ministry of Labour. I submit that it is meanness in the extreme, in the hour of these people's adversity when they are feeling the worst pinch, to say to them, "We must reduce this payment, because if we do not cut down, there will be a certain deficiency."
I submit with all due deference to those who may not agree with me that you 494 are going to impose this because you believe that it can be done with little risk of mischief or turmoil in this country. If you felt sure that the people of this country were going to resent it in such a way that they might make themselves a nuisance to you and your colleagues, you would hesitate before you proposed the Second Reading of this Bill. I submit that these victims of the period we are going through are entitled to better treatment than that which you are meting out to them. I am certain of this fact, that, although in electioneering I like to play the game as honourably as possible, I wish to say that had the news come out about this Bill one day earlier, I have no hesitation in saying that I should have been returned not with a 300 majority, but with a majority of 3,000.
I got the message from the Chief Whip at 7 o'clock on the night of the poll. As soon as I got it, I took steps to make it known, and I shall not forget the look on the faces of the men and women when they read that message. I shall not forget some of the statements they made with regard to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, and they spoke feelingly knowing what it meant to them personally. I submit that if you believe in what you say about this Empire, if you believe in the high-sounding platitudes which you use from time to time, and if they are not to be taken as more or less empty phrases, this is the time when you have an opportunity to prove that you believe in the greatness of your Empire. You can only do that by doing your duty by the humblest of your citizens in the moment of their adversity. Therefore, I am delighted to have an opportunity of opposing the Second Reading of the Bill. I hope the Minister will reconsider his position, and not persist with a Measure not only for his own credit's sake, but for the sake of men and women who will suffer by its enactment.
§ Mr. FILDES
I am sure that hon. Members of this House will readily understand how the electors of the Heywood Division have been captured by the eloquence of the hon. Member who has just addressed us. I rise to put two points for the consideration of the Minister of Labour, and the first is this. We are all agreed that if it is possible 495 at all to do it the rate of pay or allowances granted under this Bill should be made higher than is at present suggested, and I would like to urge that without the expenditure of much more money this might be achieved. In my own constituency, and the same thing applies no doubt to the constituencies of other hon. Members, it is possible to find a number of young people varying in ages from 15 to 22, and no fewer than five of them may be living in one house. Yet each and every one of them draws £1 a week, while next door there may be a man with a wife and five or six children to support who get no more than £1 a week, as compared with the £5 for five young people. I would like to suggest for the consideration of the Minister of Labour whether something cannot be done to reduce the allowance to young unmarried people, and to increase that to married men with families. It is important we should follow this money home and see what it has to do. I shrink from the idea of suggesting the handing over to a married man with five or six children to support a sum of 15s. to enable him to keep them for a week in these disastrous times. I have heard a great deal this afternoon as to the cause of the trouble we are now facing. I can quite understand that the right hon. Members for Gorton (Mr. Hodge) and for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) will not allow a chance like this to pass without seeking to exploit it for party advantage. But I do not propose to follow on those lines at all.
There is one other point I would like to mention, and it is that the whole of this business of making provision for unemployment must be recast at the earliest possible moment. There is no doubt at all that the first charge, before it can be said a business has made any profit, should be with a view to making some provision for the sustenance of the workpeople during periods of unemployment. A thoroughly substantial contribution might be made by the employed, by the employers, and by the Government, and we could get a solid basis on which the working man could take his stand in these intermittent periods of depression that affect the whole community. I should like to press strongly on the Minister, however, my point as to the allowances to young unmarried 496 people. When you have in the Ministry boys of 15 earning 35s. a week, and when you have, as is the case in my own line of business, girls of 16 or 17 going home, week after week, with £4 10s. per week, these young people, who have no obligations on their shoulders, ought to have been able to make some provision for a time like this, whereas a man with five or six children can have no opportunity of doing so. Therefore I do suggest that, if possible, something should be done to reduce the amount paid to young or unmarried persons and to increase that paid to married men with families to support. I think that would be a step in the direction of alleviating much of the suffering which this proposed reduction would inflict upon the community.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
It is somewhat significant that the last three speakers on the Government side have practically with one accord expressed their very deep dissatisfaction with the Bill now before the House. They have almost all of them admitted the extreme hardship which it will inflict on the workers of this country. The hon. and gallant Member for Belfast elaborated at some length the point that in his own particular industry unemployment was caused absolutely through no fault of the workers or of the trade, but was an aftermath of the War. An hon. Member for one of the Scottish constituencies spoke of the necessity for bigger provision being made by industry for unemployment than is outlined in this Bill, and the hon. Member who last spoke (Mr. Fildes) likewise expressed complete dissatisfaction with the provision that is being made. Surely you could not have a more striking condemnation of the futility of the Government programme with regard to unemployed insurance. The Minister himself posed as the victim of circumstances. He referred to the coal mines stoppage and to other matters, which he pointed out had increased tremendously the amount of unemployment.
Surely this question of unemployment and its insurance is no new problem. Committees and commissions year after year have sat to deal with it, and as far back as 1904 the Poor Law Commission recommended a comprehensive scheme dealing with the whole question—not a mere suggestion of palliatives, such as is 497 that for insurance, but a comprehensive scheme, whereby in time of prosperity the Government and the trade could coordinate and make provision so that in periods of depression the workpeople would have something to fall back upon History repeats itself. During the period of prosperity the Government of the day ignores the position, but when periods of depression come then the situation grows so serious that it becomes impossible to do more than deal in palliatives. I submit it is a serious condemnation of the policy of the Government that we have no really sound method of dealing with the question in these days. While the War was on we had a Ministry of Reconstruction which gave us excellent reports as to dealing with after-war problems. But instead of dealing with them in the first Session of the new Parliament after the War, and bringing in a comprehensive measure, the Government simply wasted the time of the House on a Conscription Bill which no one wanted and which was never of any use. It ought instead have applied its mind to these after-war problems with which we are now faced. They were beguiled with the fictitious prosperity which succeeded immediately after the War, but if they had followed economic history they would have known that as surely as the sun rises each morning that period of fictitious prosperity which came as an aftermath of the War, and of wasteful expenditure would be followed by a period of depression, such as we are now faced with.
It is due to the delay of the Government in dealing with these questions that the present situation is so serious. They cannot shelter themselves behind any peculiar or particular conditions, such as the coal stoppage or bad trade. Is it not the wrong time to spend £28,000,000 in Mesopotamia when you are proposing to cut down the miserable unemployment benefit? It is said that we are under obligations and pledges to the Jews in Palestine. Are we not also under pledges and obligations to the workers of this country? I wonder how many Members of this House during the War went on to recruiting platforms and persuaded men to go to fight for their country overseas, promising them that when they came back they would have jobs found for them, and they would find that the country for which they had fought had not forgotten them. If we are pledged 498 to our gallant Arab Allies in Mesopotamia, we are under pledges and obligations just as sacred to our own men who went out in the time of the country's need to fight its battles, and who are now being asked to keep themselves and their families in periods of unemployment on the miserable pittance of 15s. a week! It seems as if we have moved very little in the last 100 years. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hodge) spoke of the treatment of horses. Anyone who turns to the writings of Thomas Carlyle will remember how he tell us, in dealing with the Manchester insurrection early last century, in almost exactly the same words as were used by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench, that the horses were well fed while innumerable human beings were starved to death. That is true also to-day. My hon. Friend opposite suggested that the men could go elsewhere for work, but horses could not. But does anyone assert that a worker who is to-day out of work is likely to get employment by going elsewhere? The fact is that the unemployment is so general and so widespread that there is no work to be got even if men want to do it.
Is it suggested it is a question of malingering or of ca'canny? Every business man knows that the amount of unemployment in this country is really genuine, and that no worker; no matter how sincere may be his desire to get work can do so at this juncture. The workers are as much the victims of the aftermath of war as the French and Belgian refugees were the victims of the German invasion, and as we succoured then, it surely is not unreasonable to say there is an obligation on the part of the State and industry to see that our men and their families are not left to fend for themselves. One of the lessons learnt during the War was that the best proof of the organisation of an Army in the field was the attention it paid to those who fell by the way; to its casualties in fact, and that the surest sign of demoralisation in an Army was proved by its neglect of its casualties. If that is a sign of demoralisation in a fighting army, surely it is equally a sign of demoralisation in the industrial army if men are left to fall by the way and no care is shown for them. It is not unreasonable in these days to suggest that they should be made a charge on the community during exceptional periods like 499 this. No doubt it would involve a subsidy, but inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman took £20,000,000 from the skilled trades during the period of the War—which he has used to enable him to carry matters over to the present time, surely it is not unreasonable to suggest that he might very well mortgage the future, for no one pretends that when we get back to normal conditions we are going to have regular unemployment to the extent we have it now, or that even the 9½ per cent. budgeted for under the last Insurance Act will be reached. Therefore I submit that it would be a sound and statesmanlike policy to provide, by subsidy, by loan, and by mortgaging the future, in order that this exceptional time of unemployment and depression, for which the victims are in no way responsible, should be tided over. It would be a wise insurance policy and would avoid worse evils if we were to take that course and make provision during the coming year or the next two years until trade becomes stabilised. Apart from the human consideration there is nothing unsound in this from the economic point of view. What do we find in industry, as a whole? We find three factors. The only one which is excluded and disregarded in this matter is that of labour. You have land; the landlord draws his rent whether the works are employed or are idle. You have the capitalist, who has his shares. By means of reserve funds, provided in times of good employment and when work is profitable, he gets his dividends equalised in times of unemployment. The fixed plant and machinery are cared for and protected and kept in excellent condition, so that as soon as industry revives the wheels go round again and the whole thing works perfectly. As the right hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge) said, even the pit ponies, the brute creation, are cared for and provided for by trade and industry. If it is sound common sense to make provision for land and capital, it is equally sound that in the human factor provision on business lines should be made for its protection. We have to realise that we cannot go back to the old laissez-faire policy, and that the country to-day has humaner interests and sentiments. If we are to realise the responsibilities of our nation we must see that provision is made 500 for those who, by no fault of their own, are thrown out of work through the cycles of trade or the aftermath of the War. If not, we shall be laying up for ourselves a heritage of worse things which none of us wish to see.
§ Mr. A. HOPKINSON
In rising to support the Second Reading, I hope the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill will not think that I approve of it as a Bill. I merely approve of it as a slight modification of those evil factors which produce this unemployment, and which he deplores. Hon. Members on the other side have got up, one after another this evening, and have told the same tale, all appealing to the sentiment of the House by describing the terrible conditions that befall the working classes when unemployment is rife. They have all suggested that by a greater expenditure of public money this is going to be relieved, and ultimately done away with entirely. I ask them really to consider the matter free from all preconceptions and false sentiment. The question I have to put is, Would the increase of these unemployment benefits in any way mitigate the trouble of unemployment? To my mind it would do no such thing, because every penny which is spent on unemployment benefit creates more unemployment, and always will do so.
I turn to an alternative suggestion, which has come from this side of the House, namely, that by some means or other each industry, as an industry, should provide for its own unemployment problem. That, at first sight, seems an extremely plausible suggestion, but it is necessary whenever suggestions of that sort are made to examine carefully what would happen in actual effect. What, happens in actual effect is that some of us employers, when trade is booming and everything is bright, take on very large numbers of workers beyond our normal numbers in order to make hay while the sun shines. Some of us, when trade becomes depressed, immediately dismiss these workers without any provision at all for them. Some of us, on the other hand, when trade is booming, restrain our greed and endeavour not to take on any more men than we can see work for for almost an indefinite period. If you make each industry responsible for its own problem of unemployment it will happen that those employers who 501 take a purely selfish view of the matter, and try to add to their profits in time of great prosperity by increasing the number of men they employ, will be supported in that policy by those of us who do the reverse. There will be no inducement to the contrary for those who endeavour even if it means a loss in booming trade, to provide a certainty of employment for those they employ. Therefore, that suggestion is a worthless suggestion.
I am inclined, as hon. Members opposite possibly know, to regard all simple solutions of a difficulty as a snare and a delusion. That difficulties are not to be got round by easy ways has been my experience. These suggestions, that are put forward with the utmost goodwill, need most careful analysis before they are adopted by this House. Just in the same way, the unemployment policy of the Government, which was forced on them by the trade union leaders and the Labour party in the country, and which at first sight looks so simple and so beneficial, has, to a large extent, produced just the state of affairs which it is intended to obviate. Remember that every £1 of benefit paid under this scheme has already been provided by the people of this country. Setting aside for a minute the waste that takes place under great national schemes, infinitely better conditions would be provided if those whose contributions are taken away by the law of the country against their will were free to provide benefits for the same premiums. Because, when all is said and done, the only way—I have given great thought for many years to this question, and I am convinced I am right—to real prosperity and real contentment in industry is for as many people as possible in that industry to become capitalists. When I say capitalists I do not necessarily say they should become rich men living on the income of investment, but, as the people of my own county of Lancashire have done during the period of booming trade which has recently come to an end, they should week by week carefully refrain from spending all which they have earned, and week by week, it may be to a very small extent, accumulate savings—in other words, accumulate capital.
The real trouble in industry is that the wage-earner at the present day is in a position of very great disadvantage as compared with the employer in making 502 that bargain which we call wages. He is obliged, unless his trade is highly organised through a trade union, when the offer is made to close with the offer, because he has nothing to fall back upon, and if he does not accept the offer he will be faced possibly with starvation. The trade union movement has resulted in a greater position of freedom with regard to his employer. By means of collective bargaining and the accumulation of common funds in trade unions, a very great deal of freedom has been gained for manual worker and wage-earner as compared with the position in regard to his employer before the trade union movement originated. Unfortunately, however, a very large proportion of that freedom which has been gained from the employer has had to be handed over to the trade union itself. Really these aspirations, the real ideals of labour, the ideals for a freedom of life rather than for a high standard of living, have been suspended, to a very large extent, in the trade unions. Far be it from me to say anything whatsoever in any way derogatory to that great movement, because, in company with the vast majority of employers in this country, I am firmly convinced that it has in the past, has now, and will have, at any rate for some time in the future, a very great work before it. I do say this, however. Individual freedom for the wage-earner can never come until, apart from any collective capital which he holds in trade unions, he has also that personal and private capital which will enable him to stand as a free man face to face with his employer and as a free man face to face with his own trade union.
Therefore the ultimate outcome must be, if labour is to be contented and prosperous, that men must endeavour, by the exercise of self-restraint, to spend rather less than what they earn. Then only we shall have a happier state of affairs. A further benefit also arises. At present capitalists—that is to say the savers in this country, those who do the saving for the whole community—are very few in number, and those who spend all that they get are very numerous. Therefore the interest which capital gets for its share in the common task is very much out of proportion to the share which labour gets. I do not see how labour is to increase that share in proportion to what capital gets except by making 503 capital a very much more common and widely distributed thing than it is at present.
I fear, Sir, that as a result of your kindness I have been betrayed rather beyond the immediate question, but I note that during this Debate there has been a great deal of latitude allowed. Therefore, while thanking you for your kindness, I will endeavour to keep more closely to the immediate subject. This Bill proposes to reduce the benefits under the unemployment scheme. In company with other hon. Members of this House, when that unemployment Bill was introduced, and particularly whilst it was in Committee, I certainly anticipated an amending Act of this sort at a very early date. As in the case of the Housing Acts of this Government we saw at once that each Act, as it was passed, was not a thing of itself, but one of a definite series which would continue year by year, and that possibly with increasing frequency amending Acts of this sort would be brought in. All of us who had real experience of industry know perfectly well that the actuarial calculations of the Government in respect of the Unemployment Insurance Act were not worth the paper they were written on. We know in the Standing Committee on that Bill, when Amendments were introduced which made sweeping changes in the actuarial situation, that again and again the Minister in charge came down and said, "It is all right, our actuary says it is all right." Those of us who, like myself, have some experience of business, though no definite experience of insurance work, know perfectly well that if you increase the benefits under a scheme of insurance by means of an Amendment in Committee on the Insurance Bill you must increase the premiums pro rata. This Government, with that remarkable trust in Providence which during the last two years has been their greatest, and in fact I may say their only virtue, have felt that, if they increased the benefits and did not increase the premiums, that merciful Providence would probably come to their aid as it has done before. Unfortunately, Providence was asleep in the case of Unemployment Insurance, and, unfortunately, a process which many of us watched and which all others, if they had taken the trouble to think, might have watched, has brought about a state 504 of affairs which goes beyond anything for seriousness that has been witnessed by this generation, or even by two or three generations in the past.
The coming autumn and winter will probably, as far as human foresight can tell, be a period when unemployment will have reached proportions even worse than at this present day. It is customary, as the Minister of Labour has done this afternoon, to throw a large amount of blame upon the coal stoppage, but I would warn hon. Members not to anticipate that as soon as ever the pits begin working again and coal begins to come forward, we are even then going to have a boom in trade and general conditions of prosperity in this country. It must be remembered that the probability is that the steel and iron trades of this country will be practically in a state of suspended animation for many months to come, possibly for six or 12 months or even longer. We know that our steel makers cannot possibly compete against foreign steel makers with pig-iron at more than £5 a ton, and we know that the production of a ton of steel requires, roughly speaking, four tons of coal. We know also that on the wages basis which will probably be the result—one must touch wood under these conditions—arrived at this week, the price of coal is likely to be far above what would enable pig-iron to be made at £5 a ton. Therefore, all the hundreds of blast furnaces throughout this country and Scotland which are now blown out are hardly likely to be blown in again for many months to come.
Under these conditions, I would ask the House not to pay too much attention to those calculations which were put before us by the Minister this afternoon. He spoke of estimates of the number of unemployed that would have to be provided for up to the end of the year. He mentioned a figure of 1,250,000 as the average, and he spoke of that figure as having been estimated. I do ask the House to remember that no calculation of any value could be made on such an assumption. In the case of life insurance, marine insurance, and fire insurance, the experience of many years has enabled actuaries to compile tables to a very small degree of error, but in the case of unemployment insurance a factor comes in which is not present in the case of any other insurance which has been dealt with on a practical basis. That factor is that 505 the mere fact of unemployment insurance being in operation in a country inevitably leads to a greater percentage of unemployment in that country. I am not referring to any frauds upon the unemployment insurance system, although there is no doubt that they exist. I do not think they are large enough to have any really important effect on the actuarial situation under this Bill. What I mean is that it has been customary, I am glad to say, for employers of labour in this country, when times have been bad and when departments of their works have not had enough work to keep their men going, to say, "Well, keep the men on, at any rate, for a week or two, and see whether things do not improve." But when you introduce a Bill like the Unemployment Insurance Bill of this Government, you at once do away with the possibility of good will on the part of the employer mitigating the unemployment evil. He feels that he has been paying these premiums for many months past, that the man himself has been paying week by week, and that as taxpayers both have been paying, Why, then, asks the employer, should he put himself to the loss of keeping men on when he has only to dismiss them and they begin to draw the benefit for which they and he have paid? Therefore any system of insurance against unemployment must inevitably lead to increased unemployment, and all these actuarial calculations fall to the ground as perfectly useless.
I welcome this Bill, because it is part of what I think may fairly be described as a return to economc sanity on the part of the Government—or perhaps not a return, but a drift in the direction of economic sanity, because a return necessarily means that they were in a condition of economic sanity at some remote period in the past, and I am afraid there is no evidence which would really bear that out. As the House must recognise, although no speaker has yet brought it forward, it is part of a reversal of the policy of this Government, a reversal which has been forced upon them by hard facts much against their will. To yield to the criticism of hon. Member opposite, who say that one has only to spend money in order to make the works of this country prosperous, would only show that there was still a taint of that economic insanity in this Government, which has shown so 506 many signs of improvement during the last few weeks. The only thing that can make a country prosperous, and particularly a country like ours, is that through greater industry, greater skill, greater taste or greater power of organisation, it should be able to produce such commodities as the world desires better and more cheaply than its foreign competitors. We must remember that all these burdens which are put upon industry through taxation are increasing the cost of what we produce and what we sell in order to get food in return from foreign countries. Therefore, although many hon. Members opposite will think that I am of a very hard nature and almost cruel in these matters, I do say to them that it is because I hope, and in fact I know, that I need yield to no one in my claim to feeling affection for my fellow countrymen, and particularly for those wage-earners whose future appears to me to be so black—it is on that account that I take the risk of being misconstrued in my endeavour to point out certain' economic facts which must be faced sooner or later, and which the Government itself is at least attempting to face. I have listened this afternoon to the speeches of several hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are leaders of the Labour party, and I must say that it is really pathetic to find such absolute sterility as regards ideas. They have made, in my opinion, no suggestion of the faintest practical value. We have the right hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge) gently hinting that it is due to. our land system that people are unemployed, or to the fact that we are undertaking certain Imperial responsibilities abroad—responsibilities to which we are pledged—and that the money spent upon those would be far better spent in being; paid out to men who can find no work at home. Is it necessary for us on this side of the House to take all those old arguments, which we have heard so often, and go into each one and show its utter economic absurdity? I do not think so.
Having said all these very gloomy things, I must finish on a rather more hopeful note. As hon. Members opposite know, it is only the increasing civilisation and good will of those of us who have the power to direct industry that can for the present improve the condition of the wage-earners. I would, however, ask them to remember that those who should have been the leaders of this 507 generation in industry and politics are lying scattered over the whole world in soldiers' graves, and that we who are alive to direct industry, and the directors of political life in this country, are only those who were found unworthy to make some corner of a foreign field a forever England. Therefore, many of us employers are endeavouring, as far as our wisdom will allow, to improve those conditions, and for my part I think that the only thing we can do at this present day is to show, if we can, that we are real leaders. Possibly this generation—in which I include myself—cannot have the true spirit of leadership, hut at any rate we can exercise that self-discipline which also marks men who are fit to lead. Then, perhaps, we shall be able to prepare the path for others who shall come after—better and wiser men than ourselves—who will lead mankind to a nobler and a happier future. Of this, at any rate, I am convinced, that leadership does not consist, as the Nineteenth Century people thought, in the power to acquire great political position or great material wealth, but simply in a desire to bear the greater burden and take the least reward.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
It is very much like a blind man in a dark cellar trying to find a black cat when one tries to discover the solution of the problem in the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. We have heard of the gloomy Dean, and we have read some of his remarks. We certainly have a gloomy Member in the House of Commons, and he has made us feel rather gloomy in connection with the problem that we are trying to solve. The hon. Member has a perfect right to talk to us on this side of the House as he has done this afternoon, and we are grateful to him for it. It does us a lot of good. But we do feel sometimes that if we were in the lecture hall or classroom we should probably want to throw books at his head. He throws his logic at us, but what we want to do is to solve the problem with which we are faced. The hon. Member reminds me of the case of two men whom I once saw, one of whom had fallen overboard into the sea. The other sprang after him. It was a brave and noble act, but where he made the mistake was that he dodged round the drowning man and began to lecture him on the folly of not learning to swim, telling him what a wonderful 508 science it was and how many lives it had saved. When the poor fellow was bobbing down and gulping in the water and shouting "Save me!" then at the last moment he did the heroic act and saved him. My hon. Friend has been dodging round us, telling us some things that are of value but many other things that are of no value. The one thing that he ought to tell us is how he can tell the Government to save the starving and hungry people who are engulfed in the great ocean of poverty to-day. He will have accomplished some good result if he can get over that difficulty. I do not for a moment suggest that he is a bad employer. I believe he is one of the best of employers. He has told us so himself, and we do not question his word at all. If everyone came up to his standard no doubt things would be a lot better than they are, but they do not all come up to his standard, and we have to deal with things and people as we find them.
We must come back to the question we are dealing with to-day. We are dealing with a bombshell that was thrown unexpectedly amongst us last week. We had anticipated something coming. We did not know in what form it would arrive, but we knew something was going to happen. Whatever words I may utter in connection with this Bill, I do not want to make one unkind or disparaging remark about the conduct and the action of the Minister of Labour or his Department. I sympathise with them. They are performing a disagreeable task, one that they would gladly get rid of if they could, one that they are compelled to perform because the Cabinet, in its spirit of economy, has compelled them to reduce expenditure, and they are bound to carry out the instructions of their superiors or their colleagues, whichever you like to call them, and, whether they like it or not, they had to do something to meet the difficulty. I am not condemning them, because I believe if they had the power they would withdraw the Bill this very moment. That is my conviction. Even if you shake your head I do not believe you, because I know your great heart and your desire to help those who are in great distress.
The Bill has three essential Clauses in it with which we have to deal. The first is that there is to be a reduction of 25 per cent. in the scale of benefits—from 20s. to 509 15s. Then we have something like a 70 per cent. increase in contributions—that is, from the 5d. that is now paid to 7d. But there is 100 per cent. increase in the waiting period, and from the standpoint of the people with whom I have lived and whom I have served and still work for, this is the greatest blow of all. The increase of the probationary period from three days to six means practically cutting out of all benefit the great mass of people who are concerned in the docks and wharves, and the labourers generally known as casual workers. They have to pay their contribution. That is deducted from their earnings, however large or small they may be. A man who is compelled to contribute ought at least to be provided with some scale of benefit. These casual labourers only work when there is work for them. They never know from Monday to Saturday night if a ship will turn up, or if the work is to go on, and if they only work half-a-day during the week, according to the Bill they cannot receive benefit.
I submitted the other day to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour a long statement affecting the docks at Salford, which are in his constituency and which he knows all about. He knows the conditions of employment. He knows the method of employing the people, and he knows the uncertainty of the work. They were complaining that even with the three days' waiting period they were hard hit, and if that large body of men were complaining about being hard hit on a three days' probation, how much harder will it come to them on a six days' probation? So that instead of relieving the evil they are increasing it. All the conditions that apply to Salford Docks apply equally to Liverpool, London, Hull, and every port where the casual system of necessity exists. So I hope that between now and the Committee stage the hon. Gentleman will seriously look at the position, because, after all is said and done, we do not want to put one section of the community in a worse position than another. Treat them all alike. Treat them as fairly as you can. Bring them as nearly as possible to some sort of equality. If they all have to pay, give them at least a chance to get some portion of the benefit out of it, and if the three days is a hardship, as it is, the six days is doubling the burden that these people have to bear, 510 and I am sure that is not the desire now that we have pointed out how it hurts this section of the working class and others in a similar position.
As regards the Unemployed Insurance Scheme as a whole, I took an active interest in it from its very inception. When the National Health Insurance Scheme was first mooted and Part 2 of the Act came into force, I was deeply interested in it because it was part of my duty and my work. My regret then was that so many trades were cut out. Of course I can quite understand the Government experimenting and starting with certain trades, afraid almost to move, but anxious to try it. From then till now the Unemployed Insurance Scheme has always been a financial success and has always paid its way and had a considerable reserve to trade upon, and if it had not been for the slump and this great terrible trouble that has come along it would have weathered the storm and come through successfully. Some few years ago a certain representative of the Department said to me, "The only part of the National Health Insurance Act that is a success is Part 2. It has paid its way and is building up a reserve." It is only fair that that should be known. Talking about having actuarial estimates and being safe in your scheme, people who talk in that way cannot really grasp the full meaning of it. Some of us knew that the aftermath of the War was bound to bring about the terrible state of affairs that we are in, but it is even worse than any of us thought it ever would be. Who possibly, constructing this Unemployment Insurance Scheme, could think of nearly 3,500,000 people being dealt with? Of the three points I have mentioned, the reduction in the benefit, the increase in the contribution and the waiting period, I think if nothing else can be done you ought at least to solve two out of the three. If there is bound to be an increase in contributions we must face it. But the cutting off of the 25 per cent. is too tragic a matter to be allowed to go by unchallenged, and the Government ought to try at least to enable the £1 a week to be continued until the present slump has passed by, and also to deal with the other section, the waiting period.
We had a figure of speech brought before us earlier in the evening of the bucket and the empty well. It was a beautiful picture of the right hon. Gentle- 511 man, with his empty bucket and the empty well. He said, "You cannot fill an empty bucket out of an empty well." That is quite right, but what is the next best thing to do? Look around you for another stream or another spring that is flowing, leave your empty well, go to the running stream, and fill your empty bucket. The Government have had a lot of empty buckets to fill during the last two years. I can visualise the empty buckets that have been standing at the doors of the various Departments. Ten weeks ago there was not only an empty bucket, but an empty barrel, that had to be filled. The Government wanted to raise £1,000,000 a week to pay for a Special Defence Force that had to be called up to meet the contingency that had come upon the nation. They said, "We must call up the Reserves, and have all these people called into action. We must take over Hyde Park and commandeer road traffic." There was a big empty bucket there, but we did not hear any talk about an empty well. They took the bucket where they knew they could get it filled, and they have filled it to the extent of £1,000,000 a week.
We had a return presented to us yesterday, in which there was reference to an Assyrian settlement, to Arabia, to Armenia, and other empty buckets. Nobody talks about an empty well. The Government simply gave us this paper containing the list of empty buckets to be filled, but we never heard a word from them yesterday about the empty well of the Exchequer. They carried their buckets joyfully and happily to the well that the right hon. Gentleman now tells us is empty, and they came away with every bucket filled. They said, "Let us dip in and fill up," and they dipped in and filled to overflowing. Surely, they ought to have left a little over, after dipping in their buckets, so that we should not have to go away empty-handed. There was another big bucket which was brought before us a couple of weeks ago, and it required a lot to fill it. It required £60,000,000 for the railways. We never heard a word about the empty well. It was, "Dip in and fill up," and if they wanted a little overplus they could have it. The bucket was filled to overflowing. It is only when we come to the toiling masses, only when we come to the men and women who are 512 the wealth producers of the nation, only when we come to the tragedy of starvation, and come to deal with the people who are the bone and sinew of the nation, that we hear of the empty bucket standing alongside the empty well. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have got a crowd around him to stop the other fellows taking all from the well, until he had got something from it on behalf of the people who are depending upon him, and waiting to be relieved from their state of poverty and suspense during this unemployment period. We have had another Supplementary Estimate, and there are many empty buckets in that Estimate. There is an empty bucket to be filled with money for sugar, another to be filled with money for corn, and other buckets to be filled for various other things—many empty buckets, but no mention about an empty well. Surely the right hon. Gentleman ought to learn something from the other Departments. Surely they ought to give him a tip as to where they get their supplies. They ought to take him kindly by the hand and say, "Come with us, brother. We know where the money well flows freely. Dip in your empty bucket, fill it up, and give something to the unemployed."
This is a grave and serious matter, and although we may talk about it in jocular or lighter mood, yet when we look around to-day and see the great mass of suffering and poverty we feel that anything and everything that can be done must be done to help the nation through this trying period. The nation has to be saved, and it can only be saved by the means to live, and it is cheaper to save by expending money than by expending bullets Unemployment produces poverty, poverty produces desperation, desperation riot, and that is the thing we want to prevent. Why are things as quiet as they are amidst all the sorrow that is surrounding us to-day? Because everybody are getting their little bit, to enable them to tide over the present serious crisis. When you have men and women hungry and driven to desperation, and when they open their picture papers in the morning and see full-page illustrations of the Ascot races, and read about the hundred-guinea dresses, and the fifty-guinea hats, and all the vulgar display of wealth, amid the poverty of the nation, that is not going to satisfy them. That is not going to bring about contentment. That 513 is not going to solve the problem. It will aggravate it. This is the greatest tragedy that has come upon us, and any effort that the Government can put forward to prevent it ought to be made. If they have to borrow, then borrow on the strength of the future. It can be done. If they have to draw upon other resources, then get it from those who can spare it. It is better to be in debt to the nation than to have a growling, surly, discontented mob about our heels. That is what we are trying to prevent.
Unemployment insurance is right in principle. It may have to be enlarged, and undoubtedly must be improved. It must be made more comprehensive. Everybody must be brought into it. One hon. Gentleman talked about the employer paying his contribution. He does not pay it. The workmen pays out his 7d. every week, but the employer simply asks his cashier how much the unemployment insurance amounts to. The cashier replies that it is £100, £200, or £300, and the employer replies, "Very well, make out a cheque and send it in." He puts the burden on the industry. He does not pay his 7d. as the workman has to pay. He charges it to the industry. I am not complaining about that, but I should like to see everything in its right perspective, and I should like to see everything in its right proportion. I hope that between now and the Committee stage the right hon. Gentleman will see his way clear to continue the pound payment, even if he has to continue the increased contributions.
§ Major ENTWISTLE
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member in his efforts to find empty buckets. There was, however, a great deal of point in what he said. I want to say a few words why I think the proposal of the Government to reduce benefits is a mistake, and why I cannot support them in their action. I am certain that in the long run their proposal will not result in economy, and that the result will be a loss to the Government of a few more by-elections. I am the last one not to realise the very serious financial state of the country and the most urgent need for economy. That is the primary consideration to-day. In normal times the primary consideration is to get production, and plenty of it, but to-day there is no demand for our wealth when it is produced. The reason for that 514 is the extreme poverty through which the whole world is passing. We can only build up gradually by the method of strict and absolute economy. While fully, realising that, it is no good for the Government to have a policy of pure negation in these matters, cutting off expense here and expense there, but having no permanent policy to put in its place. What will be the result of these proposals as affecting the permanent policy of the Government with regard to industrial conditions? The only possible hope that, this country will ever get out of the serious financial difficulties with which it is faced is in getting harmony between; labour and capital for the purpose of reconstructing industry. It is absolutely essential to increase the wealth of the country if we are to get the better conditions which we all desire.
We must increase production and reduce the cost of production. What is the way in which that can be done? My friends of the Labour party, or some of them, consider that the best way of achieving that end is by nationalisation of all industry. I know they do not all agree with that, but the official Labour policy is the nationalisation of all the means of distribution and production. I disagree with that policy. The only way in which we shall get a solution of our difficulties is by means of what has been called, co-operative production, or payment by result. You have to give labour a fuller share. You have to make them partners in the business. Give them a share in the profits, a share in the management, and representation on the board. I will go as far as you like in that direction, but it must be based on the system of giving an incentive to each worker, and that is payment by result. That is the only way by which you will get increased production. That being so, you have to persuade them of the merits of increased production. You cannot preach to a working man the benefits of production unless you give him a safeguard against the periods of temporary unemployment following increased production. I think my Labour friends will admit that some of the regulations which trade unions have had to make, for very good reasons in the past, restrict production, and that although they have been necessary in the past they are in themselves not a good thing for the country. But if you are going to deal with these 515 problems, you must give the workers a safeguard against temporary periods of unemployment. How are you going to do that? I do not, personally, believe that the right thing is to make work for people unemployed. That is the most uneconomic form of proceeding. We must, if possible, allow the free interplay of economic forces, and the only way you can have that is by providing, at any rate, a minimum means of livelihood during temporary periods of unemployment. If you do not guarantee that to the working man, you cannot expect him to increase production. That being so, what is the proposal of the Government? It is that 20s. a week is more than the minimum means of livelihood. I say that cannot commend itself to the agreement of the majority of Members who view it in an absolutely unprejudiced light. It is said that this unemployed benefit prevents people from working, and that there are a lot who, rather than work, are satisfied with the 20s. a week. I do not believe that applies to more than the very exceptional cases. The Minister of Labour frankly admitted that, and I thought his arguments in that direction were most convincing. If that is so, it simply becomes a question of what is this minimum means of livelihood.
I have endeavoured to prove that you must provide this minimum means of livelihood. Unless you do that, you will never be able to build up a permanent structure for the future welfare of this country. If you undermine those foundations to-day, and allow the working man to say, "We have no assurance, we have no safeguard, that when bad trade comes we will be provided with what is the barest minimum means of livelihood," what hope is there of getting complete harmony between capital and labour, which is the only solution of our troubles? I say it is a most dangerous thing to interfere with this one safeguard, which, I think, is very necessary to give to the working man. Economy should have been attempted in any direction first, rather than tackle what is the most fundamental thing for building up the future prosperity of this country. I am all in favour, if you like, of increasing the contributions to make the thing a paying proposition. I am still more in favour of making unemployment insurance a charge on industry. But those are mere means of procedure. The vital thing is that you must ensure 516 to the workman a minimum means of livelihood during these temporary periods of unemployment. If anyone can say that a bare minimum is more than represented by 20s., I shall be very much surprised. With the 120 per cent. rise in the cost of living, 20s. is not more than the barest possible minimum you can provide, and I say it is most regrettable that when we hope, in a few months' time, there may be a change, when we shall desire increased production, and to get industry upon a permanent footing, and harmony between capital and labour—I say it is most unfortunate at this time that you should tamper with this one safeguard, and I sincerely trust the Government will reconsider their decision.
§ Mr. R. YOUNG
I am sure those of us who sit on these Benches are deeply indebted to the Minister of Labour for the sympathetic way in which he referred to those thrown out of employment under present circumstances. I can well understand that to him it is a very disagreeable job to have to bring in this amending Bill in relation to unemployment. I was very pleased to hear the statement, in reply to a question by one of my colleagues, in relation to the engineers, and I sincerely trust some way may be found out of the present difficulty, so that the Minister's responsibilities under the unemployment scheme may not be considerably increased. This afternoon, when Questions were at an end, I asked one of my friends, not belonging to this party, the reason for the empty House when such an important question as this was being discussed. The reply came that it was Ascot Day. I do not know whether that is the reason or not for the empty House, but, at all events, I would remind my colleagues that only a fortnight ago was Derby Day, and, in spite of that, the House was crowded in relation to another matter, which, I consider, was of considerably less importance than the all-important question we are discussing to-day. The unemployment problem appears to me to be the most important problem with which this or any country has got to deal. There is only one international problem, in my estimation, which takes precedence of it in its importance, and that is the question dealing with the League of Nations or some peace Board to prevent war in the future.
517 The most important question, I say, is the unemployed problem. Yet a great many Members of this House appear to be indifferent to the great needs of many of their fellow-countrymen at the present moment. All the other problems are based on this one. So long as this problem is not solved, the attempt to solve any other problem which affects the country in relation to health and housing will not be successful, because periods of unemployment and the misery and degradation which ensue from unemployment mean to some extent the breaking down of whatever has been obtained in other directions for the good of the country. Therefore we on this side realise that this is, after all, the most important problem with which the House of Commons can deal. It is the bread and butter problem. Scientists in many directions have said that without sufficient sustenance no plant or animal can live, and it appears to me that the first essential for good citizenship, for intelligent citizenship, for physically-fit citizenship, is sufficient sustenance for the purpose of life, and on that we have to build. The Minister of Labour told us that, as a result of the unemployment, created, no doubt, as a reaction in part of the Great War, aggravated to some extent by the dispute in the coal industry, the money that was at his disposal was rapidly running out, and that he was forced under these circumstances to adopt these means to maintain the funds to such an extent as would give 15s. a week to men and a lesser sum to women who are unemployed.
Has the right hon. Gentleman taken into consideration the psychological effect that this will have upon masses of the people of this country? Does he recognise the discontent and murmurings and distress that will be occasioned? Apart altogether from the economic point of view, it seems to me the psychological effect will be altogether to the bad. He suggests, on the other hand, that it is necessary to increase the contribution. I, for one, would be glad to see the contributions raised even higher, if we could maintain the contributions to the unemployed, because it is the duty of those who are employed, and the duty of the trade of the country as a whole to provide sufficient sustenance for their more unfortunate fellow men and women. Therefore I do not find much complaint 518 with the increased contribution which is proposed. Neither would I take great exception to the increase of the qualifying period, if I could get from the Government the 20s. a week hitherto granted. After all, I prefer that my fellow-workers should be asked to make sacrifices in the early stages for the purpose of securing better benefits for those who may be longer out of employment. Then the right hon. Gentleman proposes to abolish, for the time being, contracting-out. I regret, personally, that the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors in connection with this matter agreed to any contracting-out. I am one of those who believe that on this important question we should all stand in together. It is not right that because any particular trade happens to be in a favourable position, it should allow the fellow-workers in' other trades to bear the brunt of unemployment which comes to them through no fault of their own. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give serious consideration to the question of not going back to contracting-out until he has evolved a scheme whereby each industry might become responsible for its own unemployed. I am not prepared to defend a scheme for particular industries being responsible for their own unemployed without a general scheme dealing with the problem as a whole, because there again the trades which are most economically safe should, in some measure, contribute to the other industries of the country in this matter. So, from that point of view, I trust the right hon. Gentleman will consider not returning to the contracting-out in so far as this problem of unemployment is concerned.
I said that the first essential of citizenship was sufficient sustenance. If you grant that, then you must readily grant that 15s. is not sufficient for that purpose, and that you have no right under those circumstances merely to look at this question from an actuarial point of view. We have to deal with it on broad, general principles. It is an ethical question for all of us, and a fundamental principle that, before any man has too much, every honest, willing worker should have enough. When I remember that this reduction to 15s. is brought to our notice about the same time that we are told the Wages Boards in other directions are to go, and when I hark back for a little while and remember in this House we 519 were dealing with a question of £4,000,000,000 War profit, which the right hon. Gentleman's Government refused in any way to touch, then I cannot help saying that it does seem, although I am not endorsing in every respect what was said from the Front Bench, that in some of these great money questions those who have are being preserved and those who have not are made to suffer on every possible occasion. The Prime Minister on one occasion eloquently referred to an A 1 Empire with a C 3 population. You cannot have anything else than a C 3 population on 15s. a week. Men who are thrown out of Work have from childhood received very little more than sufficient to meet their daily needs when they work. Some of them have had to struggle hard to be members of their trade unions, and it is to their credit that they are such loyal members and pay in not so much for personal advantage as for communal good. As long as we do not tackle this problem and give the worker, out of employment through no fault of his own, enough for the purposes of life, we shall continue to perpetuate in this country the C 3 population, which very nearly cost us the War.
It is all very well to tell us that we will have a better country. We have seen no signs of it up to the present. This will come as a severe blow to many who gave their best in work or other service to the country during the War period. I would remind those on the other side who refer to what they call the "dole policy" that the hardest day's work an honest man has got to do is not the work in an engineering shop or a smithy or anywhere else, but it is to get up in the morning and go round until night time unable to find in this supposedly civilised land a day's work. It is demoralising to men. It creates physical unfitness and probably mental and moral degeneration as well. One of the things we expected from the Government was that this problem of unemployment would be dealt with in such a way that this decline in physical stamina and mental advancement would be prevented, yet we are continually hearing about the dole policy.
I thank my right hon. Friend for rebuking—at all events, it was very near a rebuke—those who talk about workers 520 getting the dole when they would otherwise not be out of work. As he very justly said, work is not to be found for thousands of men who want work at the present moment. There is no dole. You would think it was a free gift from the State to hear some hon. Gentlemen on the other side talking The worker pays his quota into the Insurance Fund, and a certain amount comes from employers, which is, for all practical purposes, a part of the wages of the worker. There is not the least doubt that, from the employer's point of view, these funds are regarded simply as another addition to wages, and, in any case, they have been produced by the workers. The total amount which we have received since the inception of this scheme has not been so many millions, so that whatever has come from the Stats has not been an exceptionally large amount. I therefore protest strenuously against the suggestion that the workers are looking for doles or receive doles as if they did not contribute the amount which goes into the fund.
The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) in one of those interesting speeches which he occasionally gives the House, which left some of us quite unconvinced, attempted to show that the more that was paid in unemployment benefit the more unemployment there would be. One of my hon. Friends behind me remarked, "Take it away and we shall all be at work." I think that the logic is with my hon. Friend. The workers, when they received the £1 a week, spent it, and it went in making a demand for the necessaries of life which kept other people at work. You would think that the money paid as insurance benefit was thrown away, that it was taken out of' the capital of industry and squandered foolishly. The fact is that what is wrong with the country to-day is that many of the workers have not got enough money to buy the things that are necessary, and thereby create a demand for the necessary commodities of life. The more that is done in that direction the better for the country and certainly for the home industries of the country, and if the small shopkeepers were aware of their own interests they would take a different view of these questions from that which they are led to take by hon. Gentlemen on the other side.
521 It is with regret to the party on this side that after two and a half years of peace the British House of Commons is asked to reduce the amount of unemployment benefit. It indicates clearly that we have made no real attempt to settle the problem of unemployment on right lines. I agree that it is essential to a solution of this problem that the workers should be more and more taken into the councils of industry, and that they themselves should have a say in determining the conditions under which they work, so that they may be able to make arrangements for these periods such as we are passing through just now. I am all for agreement between employers and employed to try to solve the problem of unemployment either in the factories or in industry as a whole. I feel certain that until we direct our energy into some other channel, quite apart from supplying benefits through the State or other means, we will fail to deal justly with this great problem of unemployment.
I return to the remark which I made at the beginning. This is the most important problem with which this country has to deal. Upon it we must build up the new country of which, unfortunately, up to this moment we see no sign. We have got to build up a new state of society, in which everyone will find all through the industry in which he is employed sufficient for the purposes of life including the days when he is unemployed. I believe that in the workers and employers sitting down together as partners in industry, not from the financial point of view, but from the point of view of fellow workers in the industry, the solution of these problems will be found. One set of people give their money. The other set give their labour. Labour is the capital of the worker. It is right that he should have his share in the directing energies of the particular industry in which he is employed. If he had that, if the employers and the employed put their cards on the table and entered into consultation with each other for the purpose of making industry a success, not merely in their own interests, but in the interests of the community, I have no doubt that a great deal would be done to tide us over the difficulties that crop up with recurring periods of unemployment. It is with very great regret that we find the House now discussing a 522 reduction of this benefit, of which the worker stands in great need. Psychologically it will have a disturbing effect generally, and it will add considerably to the misery and discomfort, and perhaps the agony of a great many deserving people who would be glad to work if only work could be found for them.
Sir W. BARTON
I am glad to have an opportunity of expressing the reasons which will direct my vote. I listened with the greatest interest to the Mover of this Amendment. With much that he said I find myself in total disagreement, but with the Amendment itself, after the most careful deliberation, I find myself in complete agreement. The right hon. Gentleman visualised this nation at the present time as an enormously wealthy nation—the richest nation in the world, he said. He seemed to think that nothing but the hardness of heart of the capitalist Government of the day prevented a wide diffusion of general well-being and comfort. I do not think that that is so. I take the rather sombre view that this nation is in a more serious, indeed in a more dangerous, financial and economic position than ever it has been in its long history. I look at the great industries of the country. We know the state of the coal industry. Iron and steel works are for the present largely closed down and the gulf between the cost of production and the possible selling price is apparently at present almost unbridgeable. The great cotton industry about which I know perhaps more, was, up to the stoppage of ten days ago, running an average of only two days a week. What does all that mean? To me it seems quite clear that this country at present is living on its capital. Herein comes the question for me, and I think the question which we all have to face—has not the worker some right, in a period such as this, in the capital reserve of the country? In my judgment the answer is that he undoubtedly has such a right. That is the ground on which I support the Amendment.
I cannot imagine that the condition in which we now are can last long. It must end in one of two ways—either a financial crash such as has never been known in the history of the world, or, what I believe to be infinitely more probable, a return to that prosperity and that steady work, to that co-operation between em- 523 ployers and employed which brought us to the position we had attained before this ghastly War dissipated so much of our wealth. But when all these questions are considered, I feel sure that there is another element to bring to the consideration of the Amendment, and that is the human element. We are all together in this awful crisis. We are living on our capital. Surely the small unemployment pay that was given was, after all, a very small modicum of what is necessary for any family to live upon in the humblest way. If ever there was a time when a nation might be expected to be knit together in bonds of human brotherhood and consideration one for another, that is just the period in which this nation is now. I cannot help feeling a rather deep regret that the Prime Minister is away and ill at the present time, because, although I am in whole-hearted opposition to the Government, I realise that probably no man has vindicated, and, indeed, put into operation, the needs of the human element in our society to a greater degree than he has done.
I would appeal now, strongly and earnestly, to the Government to reconsider their position and to consider whether they will not accept the Amendment. I know that if we simply discuss it on the state of the Insurance Fund we have no case. I know there will be arguments on the side of political economy. I am not going to take up the time of the House with them. There will be little difficulty even on that ground of justifying this Amendment. The Mover of the Amendment spoke of the condition of things under which, during the period when the works were not operating, the horses were fed and groomed and looked after. I deplored the simile. I thought it most unfortunate. From that the deduction clearly is that, even on the cold ground of political economy, it is desirable that all of us, working whether by hand or brain, should be kept in a state of fitness for the condition of busyness and prosperity which must come or this nation is ruined. For all those reasons I support the Amendment.
§ Mr. MYERS
There are two concessions in connection with this question which I hope we shall persuade the Minister to make. The first is in the direction of restricting the waiting period. Having regard to the fact that we have 524 had such a long period of unemployment, for persons to have to wait six days before they receive any benefit is altogether unjust, notwithstanding the amount of benefit they may be paid. Further, I suggest the desirability of effecting a change in the waiting method. No one who is acquainted with our industrial towns and has seen the queues standing at the Employment Exchanges, places which have been improvised for the handling out of benefit, can fail to be alarmed at the condition of things. Without enlarging upon the matter, I may say that nothing but fine weather and sunshine prevented rioting in many of our industrial towns. The conditions which prevailed would not have been tolerated in circumstances less desirable from the climatic point of view.
None of the Members on these Benches would suggest that the payment of unemployment benefit is any remedy for unemployment, but we join issue with the case as presented by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) when he said that every time benefit was drawn it was a contribution towards more unemployment. I think the answer to that has been well put by the hon. Member who said that the money received in these benefits goes back in the direction of purchasing power and into those agencies of industry which tend to increase the necessity for more work being done. The bulk of the expenditure of our working-class population, whether it is of money received in wages, in old age pensions, or in unemployment benefit, goes to a greater extent into the channels of reproductive trade than any other expenditure in society at the present time. Is the Minister sure that some of the conclusions upon which he bases his case justifying a reduction in this benefit are altogether sound? I have here a report of a Committee representing about seven organisations connected with the working-class movement in the country—the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress, the Labour party, the Co-operative Union, and similar bodies They have been investigating details m regard to the cost of living, and they very definitely challenge the index figure submitted by the Ministry of Labour. They say that the proper index figure representing the actual cost of living to-day is higher, and that wages based thereon would be 7s. a week higher than 525 they are at the present time. They tell us they are going to issue a proper official report which will indicate what in their judgment is the real cost of living as compared with the figures presented in the weekly table of the Ministry of Labour.
I was interested in the point of view put forward by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Fildes) when he said that the benefit should be maintained at the present level, at least to those people who were married and had children dependent upon them. That suggests a principle which is not without advocates upon this side of the House and has been heard of in other quarters. Many hold that we have come to the period when we should have something in the nature of what is termed the family wage. At present when a person seeks employment at a factory, the owner or employer does not ask him how many children has he, or what are his domestic responsibilities. He is looked at from the point of view of his physical fitness, and whether he is young, old, or middle-aged, single or married, there is a standard rate of pay for him quite irrespective of his responsibilities. There is something to be said in respect of the gospel of the family wage, and more will be said in future. I urge the Minister of Labour, if he can make no other concession, to consider the desirability of retaining the benefits for those people who have certain domestic responsibilities on the lines I have indicated.
Reference has been made to the Government's contribution towards the creation of the evil with which we are now trying to deal. The Government cannot evade its responsibility. The discussions we have been having in this House during the past two days lead us to believe that another step is going to be taken, not towards the cure of this evil but in the direction of emphasising it. The limitation of exports by taxation must inevitably curtail employment in the country, and we are entitled to ask the Government, if they are anxious to reduce the volume of unemployment, why they should not adopt a policy which will at least keep in work the people who are employed at the present time? The key industries proposals now under the consideration of the House will only accentuate the problem of unemployment all along the line by throwing people out of work who are employed 526 now. We are entitled to ask the Government to turn its attention in another direction. We had an Education Act in 1918, and we understood it was going to be put into operation in its entirety by January of this year. Recently some of the provisions of this Act have been cancelled or, at any rate, they are not going to be put into operation. One of those provisions raised the age for leaving school from 14 to 16. Children are now leaving our elementary schools at the age of 14 at the rate of 50,000 a week, and every child of 14 who leaves school is at once a competitor in the labour market of the country. We are turning 50,000 children on to the labour market every week and throwing them into competition with their own parents, a large proportion of whom are unemployed as it is. Surely that policy needs reversing in these days.
A good deal has been said about the sentimental side of this question and about the promises made to the workers of the country during the War. I do not propose to go into that extensively. We know what we were told was going to be done for the people who saved the country in those days. In the past the provision of unemployment benefit very largely depended upon our trade union movement. The inauguration of unemployment benefit, through the medium of a State Department, is a departure from the old-time practice of trade union responsibility. Apart from the responsibility which the State has accepted, the trade unions of the country have not altogether abandoned the old practice, and we are in this position at the present time, that unemployment has been so acute that trade unions in the country who invested their funds in War Loan stock have had to sell out at a great disadvantage. Only within the past few days a trade union official told me that on two or three occasions his union had had to borrow large sums of money for the payment of out-of-work benefit. I believe there are quarters, I will not say in this House, where that is a matter of satisfaction and rejoicing. Because they look upon our trade unions as an evil thing, the poorer they are the better, but that is a view that we do not hold. The safety of industry in the future, the relationship between employers and employed, and the well-being of the community whole will be assisted by a 527 strong, active, healthy trade union movement. On the other side, the development of the trusts and the syndicates has brought a spirit of commercialism into this country that is going to take our trade union movement all its time to meet, and all the resources of our trade unions in future, unless they get more Government assistance than they have done in the past, to deal with the vicious intricacies of the concentration of capital, are going to be needed, not in disbursing unemployed benefits, but in bringing together a defensive fund in order to meet the onslaught of organised capital in this direction. It is desirable, not only in the interests of the workers, but of the country as a whole, that the mass of unemployed men should be non-existent.
We have had upstairs this afternoon a meeting of the Council of the League of Nations, and we have had there a report given to us from a representative of the International Labour Organisation that in Germany a universal eight-hours' day has been put into operation. It was also stated by a Member of this House who attended that gathering that in addition to the fact that a universal eight-hours' day has been applied, there is not a single unemployed man in Germany. Germany lost the War. We understood they were broken economically, that they had lost a tremendous number of their most effective and able workers, and that Germany was broken financially. Germany has lost her army, her fleet is at the bottom of the sea, yet they have gone one better than we have and adopted the principle of a universal eight-hours' day, while there is not an unemployed man in the country. That is what they say, but I was not aware of those facts. If it can be done in Germany so soon after the War, it ought not to be outside the range of possibility to get the same thing done here. When we hear that the financial structure of this country is in danger, it is due to the fact that the capital of this country is not fluid but fixed; it is in mills and factories, in collieries, and railways, and the like, and the country cannot flourish unless labour is applied to that fixed capital and it is enabled to produce those things that are required, not only for the sustenance of our own people, but as marketable commodities elsewhere. Unless labour is permitted to assist the wheels of industry to turn, all such things 528 as interests and profits are non-existent. This evening and to-morrow the working-men of the country who are out of employment, with plenty of time on their hands, will be sitting round our bowling greens and cricket pitches in the North of England and, when dusk comes along, in their working-men's clubs, and they will be reading in the newspapers of the glories of Ascot, of the champagne which has been consumed, of the mountains of empty bottles that are there, and of the great flourish of society on the race course, and in the next column of the newspaper it will be pointed out to them that this House has had under discussion to-day the question of the Unemployed Benefit.
Alongside the glories of Ascot they will read that their Unemployment Benefit has been reduced a few shillings a week, and we must not in the circumstances complain about an undesirable spirit showing itself in the minds of our working class population. One of the tragedies of this period is a passive characteristic which has taken hold of the community, and where it is not a passive spirit, it is a spirit of callousness on the other side, and I think the outlook for the country in future is not at all rosy. In a period of crisis such as that through which the country is passing, to have a callousness to human suffering on the one hand and a passive spirit on the other is foreign to everything we have known in the British temperament in days gone by, and it does not speak well for what is coming in the future. The average workman believes, and I believe, that if a man is denied the opportunity for employment, the bringing of his energy into relationship with his needs, he still has a moral right to live, and there are Scriptural injunctions which give at least some moral backing to that point of view. The ill effect from an economic point of view of having the best labour power in the country walking the streets unemployed is well understood by the Members of this House. We talk about the difficulty of meeting the financial responsibility of the Unemployment Act, but the Government seem to be able to find money for anything in destructive avenues. There is money enough for Ireland and for Mesopotamia. Suppose we spent, as capital expenditure in schemes of reproductive work, the bill for one year which is necessary for the Army and Navy, what a great benefit must come.
529 It is only in November of last year that the Prime Minister himself, in a speech at Llandudno, said, "We must have more production. We must have more work, everybody must produce to his utmost." There are a few million men in the country who are to-day anxious, ready, and willing to carry out that injunction and they are not permitted to do it. Something has slipped in the operation, and no remedy is to be found either in the direction of paying unemployed men 15s., 20s., or 30s. a week. The unemployed man does not want it. The unemployed man wants a job. He wants to maintain his self-respect. He wants to maintain his independence. The average: working-man wants to fulfil a useful function in society. He does not want to go down to the bowling-green in the middle of the week. He likes to go on the Saturday afternoon, and he gets all the more pleasure out of it by virtue of the fact that he has done a reasonable and a decent week's work. That is the ideal of the average British workman. No contribution in this matter that falls short of making that possible is any good in these days. Let those critics like the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) wail and cry. I suppose most hon. Members have at least dabbled in economics—Mill, Marx, and Marshall—I have read them; I have sampled Adam Smith and Ricardo, and I never came across any economic doctrine that fitted in with the creed of the hon. Member for Mossley. I regret that he went out of the House after he had given us that lecture; similar to what we have had from him in other days. We shall not find a solution on that tack. There is something broken down in the country. What has broken down has got to be patched up. The simple solution of this question is to bring the energy of the people and the needs of the people into the closest possible relationship.
There has never been a time in the history of this country when we had more wool. Yet mills by the score are standing idle. Weavers by the thousand are walking the streets. The price of cloth is still soaring to a figure which prevailed in War days. If there is anything in the economic law of supply and demand, if we can bring the energy to which I have referred to machinery to provide for the needs of the people, and to provide that cloth that everybody requires at a cheaper rate than it is at the present 530 time, well and good; the solution of this problem lies in that direction. Unemployed benefit, undesirable though it is, should be maintained at a higher figure than it is at the present time, and there is no justification for reducing it. The unemployed man had a claim upon the community if he is to be denied the use of his energy. When everything has been said that can be said in justification of that policy the ultimate solution of this problem can only be found along the lines I have indicated. If private enterprise and commercialism have broken down; if they are unable to provide for the needs of the community; if they are unable to organise the energy of the community it is time for them to get out of the way and allow something more desirable to take their place.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
My hon. Friend who has just sat down was right, in my view, when he said that something had broken down. Something has broken down in this country. For my part, I go further, and say that something has broken down in the world. The world machinery has broken down. That must be remedied before we can find a solution to this problem. The Government come to-day with yet another suggestion, one more artificial expedient involving a profound hardship; another artificial expedient to meet a profound economic condition. We are faced with a whole series of debates of this kind, with a procession of proposals of artificial expedients, of temporary patchwork from the Government till they decide to dig right down to the economic causes which underlie the situation of to-day, and which are entirely responsible, not only for the miseries that prevail in this country, but the miseries throughout the world. My hon. Friend went to the root of the matter when he pointed out that the whole world to-day is crying out for goods. There is a universal demand for commodities. The labour of this country has been the recipient of most fervent appeals by the Government and from every quarter to produce more to satisfy the demands of the post-War period. Yet in spite of the demand which undoubtedly exists not only in the world, but also in this country, we find ourselves in this remarkable, this absurd, position of widespread unemployment and distress.
531 I have before stated my view on this question in common with other Members. It is peculiarly apposite to this problem, as it is, in fact, the fundamental cause that underlies this problem. It is no use tinkering with external evidence of economic conditions. You must dig down to the root-cause of the trouble and base yourself upon the rocks of economic reality. You must once again build up the economic structure upon a sound foundation. What is the cause of the trouble to-day? The cause is that half the world has been ruined. Half the world is not working. Half the world is unable to buy goods which this country is in a position to offer. That is the first, the primary, the fundamental cause of unemployment in this country to-day. What a reflection upon statesmanship! It has always seemed to me that history will indict the statesmanship of the post-War period more severely upon this score than upon almost any other—that nearly three years after the cessation of hostilities we should still find ourselves in the same lamentable position that marked the end of 1918. No effort at all has been made by the collective wisdom of the statesmen of Europe to remedy this condition of things. Three years after the event we find ourselves immersed in the industrial catastrophe of to-day. We hear vague rumours of active steps to remedy the cause of the calamity. We hear rumours of an international loan, of some definite and co-ordinated attempt to restore the European credit system and set at work once again these devastated countries so that they can produce commodities to exchange for ours; once again to set in motion, in the time-honoured phrase, "the wheels of European industry," and to restore the free flow of commerce and the commodities essential to our various countries throughout the European system. But it is three years too late. This work should have been undertaken at Versailles. Eminent Gentlemen concerned themselves more with the delineation—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think the hon. Member is getting a little wide of the point. It is quite open to him to refer generally to the causes of unemployment, but I do not think he can go back to what happened at Versailles.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
I apologise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was merely trying to trace the root of the trouble which prevails to-day and. to allocate the responsibility. The allocation of responsibility, however, is not very popular as a Parliamentary pursuit in these days, and it is a role which it is difficult to maintain in this House. At present, anyway, it is this condition that obviously is responsible for the bulk of our troubles at the moment. Whether or not this work could have been undertaken three years ago—and I am convinced personally that then was the right time to undertake it—if there is a remedy so late in the day, it is this: To set to work at once upon the business of European reconstruction. The time-honoured principle has found utterance even on the Treasury Bench that "good Christianity is in the nature of good business," and the right procedure to-day is to restore those countries; to provide them with the raw material requisite for their industries; once again to restore the economic system of Europe. This is the first step towards the restoration of employment and prosperity in this country.
There is, however, another cause underlying our present difficulty. Many of our markets are, of course, closed through the effects of the War, and through our subsequent failure to restore those markets to their pristine prosperity. There are other markets which to-day should be open to this country, but we find ourselves unable to compete in them owing to the high cost of production. I know it is the custom of hon. Members opposite to hurl at those who sit on the Labour Benches their accustomed taunts to the effect that it is all their fault. That is a contention which I desire very strongly to resist. It is fantastic to allege that the cause of the high cost of production can be laid solely at the door of Labour.
The first responsibility for the high cost of production is of course the excessive taxation under which the country labours. This is a direct charge upon business, and it results in the higher cost of production. That is the very first cause which is largely attributable to the adventures which we have undertaken in various parts of the world. No less than £100,000,000 have been squandered in Russia. Yesterday we voted another £27,000,000, and there are innumerable other items and commitments of this kind being undertaken in 533 various parts of the world at a time when we are still staggering under the effects of the great War, which has resulted in an oppressive and impossible taxation in this country. All this has militated more than anything else against our trade. The money acquired by taxation is squandered on unproductive objects and consequently vicious and uneconomic circles continue ad nauseam.
Again, the fresh capital which should be available annually for the replenishment of industry and for the starting of new enterprises is also absorbed in taxation. Before the War it was estimated that some £400,000,000 a year floated back into industry as capital through the savings of the community. To secure an equivalent annual replenishment of capital we should need £900,000,000 today. Does anybody contend that that sum is available to-day? At a moment when more than any other time in our financial history it is imperative that fresh capital should be forthcoming from savings for the initiation of fresh enterprises and the replenishment of capital, that money is being absorbed in taxation, which in turn is being squandered by the State in enterprises which are quite unproductive. Consequently, our country is handicapped in markets which were previously open to us by excessive expenditure, resulting in oppressive taxation. The markets of half the world are now closed to this country through the policy which we have adopted.
Before the War Germany was our second best customer. Under the present policy when does the Government imagine that our trade with Germany will be restored to us? On the one hand, we read of the exaction of immense indemnities from Germany, and on the other hand we set up barriers against her trade which are every day preventing her recovery and grinding her down into a financial abyss. You cannot have it both ways. You must either make, up your mind to make Germany pay or push her down into the mud. It is unlikely under these conditions that Germany will be a purchaser of the commodities we have to offer. I trust I have not strayed outside your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I wish to assert that it is this policy which is primarily responsible for our difficulties to-day.
In comparison with the widespread effects of these blunders abroad and our mistakes at home, such things as the 534 effects of the coal strike and other industrial disputes, serious as they are, pale into insignificance. It is, first of all, our blunders in policy which are responsible for the position in which we find ourselves. In listening to the appeals of hon. Members from these Benches, who are so well qualified to speak of the condition in which these unfortunate people are trying to keep a family on 15s. a week, it went to my heart to think of £100,000,000 being spent in Russia supporting a mere adventure. That is a reflection which should weigh heavily upon the spirit of Englishmen. It is very difficult in regard to these adventures abroad—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is now referring to matters which happened years ago, and he cannot argue that all these things are connected with this Measure.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
It is difficult when you find our industrial system in a state of collapse to address oneself to a remedy. The Government, having produced this great havoc, try to confound their opponents by asking for their remedies. This always reminds me of a gentleman who has been so unfortunate as to administer a dose of poison to his wife, and when the policeman ventures upon the tradititional remonstrance, he claims that no one should take any action without putting forward some suggestion for the revival of the corpse. That is my view of the attitude of the Government, and I confess that the corpse is so far gone that it is difficult to suggest a remedy.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member cannot dwell on possible remote causes. I must invite him to address himself to remedies.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
I bow at once to your ruling, and I come to the remedy which I have to suggest. I have ventured to detail what I consider, in my opinion to be the causes underlying this trouble. Firstly, the dislocation of Europe, and, secondly, the excessive taxation prevailing in this country. My first remedy is that the Government should at once initiate the steps suggested at the Brussels Conference which have been adumbrated from the Treasury Bench by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was President of the Board of Trade, for the restoration of European credit and the reconstruction of inter- 535 national trade. The first and best method of securing that which we all desire, employment in this country, is to press on these reconstruction efforts which are now being discussed. The second method, upon which I will not dwell, is the remission of excessive taxation which to-day overburdens industry in this country by a wise balanced, sober foreign policy. With regard to the permanent question of unemployment, a question which will always remain with us in a certain degree under the present system even in times of prosperity, may I say a very few words? Unemployment under a system of private enterprise is bound to exist. I am a great believer in that system within limits, but it must be radically amended from its present condition, and I think so amended it would be preferable to any alternative. Under that system a certain amount of unemployment is bound to exist owing to occasional changes in the direction of demand. A great industry which may be prospering at one period, owing to the demand for the commodities which it is producing, may find that demand change, because men develop different tastes, and the industry may decline, and in the temporary period before the absorption of the workers in other industries which may be created by a new demand those workers will suffer unemployment. There are other factors also which render unemployment virtually a corollary of the system of private enterprise. If that system is to survive at all it must meet this problem of unemployment, and in my view steps should have been initiated long ago by which any of the great industries could have devised schemes for their own unemployed. Schemes of that sort are constantly being propounded, but the time for the Government to put them into practice is not now. It should have been done in the boom which preceded the depression now facing us, but then the Government did nothing; now it is too late, and the whole burden is likely to be thrown on the finances of the country.
I come to the scheme by which each industry might support its own unemployed. Industries do and may decline, and consequently if the whole burden of unemployment is flung on the declining industry, it precipitates its collapse. Collaterally with any such scheme, you must have some covering 536 scheme of State insurance, and I believe it is in a combination of the two ideas—a combination of the idea by which each industry supports its own unemployed and a conception of universal State insurance—it is only by such a combination that you can meet the exigencies of the unemployment problem. That the problem should be met is one of the most vital and imperative necessities of the day. You cannot expect a man to work properly and to give of his best if he sees that at any moment he may be thrown into the maelstrom of unemployment. Nobody expects it. Every economic fallacy is liable to obtrude itself naturally into the minds of workers, and with such a fear hanging over them they arrive at the erroneous conception in large numbers that by working less they can provide employment for many. That is a conception which all who have studied economic problems know to be fallacious. But it is a very natural conception to those who have not addressed themselves deeply to these problems or have not had an opportunity of studying them, and it is a conception which will prevail and will jeopardise our industrial recovery and after recovery the future of this country unless you can remove it from the minds of the workers. You must get rid of their fear of unemployment, and it is worth a considerable outlay to do it. It is worth almost anything to remove from the mind of the worker the fear of unemployment and to persuade him to give of his best. I see no prospect of immediate relief except at the public expense, but I hope that the Government will produce some comprehensive scheme for the remedy of these evils in the future and for removing from the mind of the worker the fear which has haunted him through so many generations.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present. House counted; and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. J. MURRAY
I shall not make attempt to follow the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) in the evasive and rhetorical generalities to which he has treated the House, but I propose to give consideration to the very painful question which 537 faces us to-night, a question so painful and so difficult that it might well sadden even the youngest and most voluble Members in this Assembly. The question we have to deal with is, what we are going to do with the millions of unemployed people in this country at this time? They face us, seeing the present unemployed benefit of £1 threatened by the Minister of Labour with a reduction to 15s. These are not the first weeks of their unemployment. They must, through all the past weeks of their unemployment have been eking out the benefit of the £1 from their other resources, whatever those resources may be, probably slender. The reduction from 20s. to 15s. at this stage is a much severer blow than it would have been three, months ago. I should like, for my part, although I realise the difficulties, to appeal to the Minister of Labour to readjust his scheme so as to keep the benefit at 20s. per week by making changes in other directions. I know perfectly well that that amounts to this: That those who are out of work are still going to receive a relatively large benefit at the expense of those who are in work. Cooperation always means that certain people who do something pay for certain people who do not It is a useful principle, and it can be used up to a certain point. I should like to appeal to the Minister of Labour to consider again whether the temper and the moral of the country are not such that those who have the good luck to be in work, and in paying work, at this time would not, with some willingness, pay an even larger contribution in order to maintain the unemployed benefit for those who are unemployed at the present not very high figure.
In a general way I should like to suggest that in the recent extensions of Unemployment Insurance one felt that perhaps the Government was actuated too much by an optimistic spirit; that is to say, they expected that, without any substantial raising of the contributions, they would be enabled on a large scale to pay enlarged benefits to very greatly increased numbers In this, as we can all see now—even the prophets—they were wrong. Their optimism was misjudged. I do not feel quite certain that their pessimism at the present moment is not also a little misjudged and exaggerated, and that with more trust in the general system of things, 538 a trust that on previous occasions in dealing with this question they showed a great deal of, they might maintain the benefit at something like its present figure, and make a provision that will make that arrangement solvent. While I say that, I realise the difficulties under which we labour through the rigid inflexibility of our system. We have a flat rate which is well adjusted in certain cases, and is not well adjusted to a great many other cases. I would like to suggest that the Government might consider certain Continental variations of insurance policy, and particularly the case in Switzerland, where unemployment benefit is varied according to two things: firstly, the number of dependents which the workman has, and, secondly, the condition of the locality in which he lives. Switzerland is divided into three groups; some towns and country districts are regarded as being ordinarily cheap to live in, others are regarded as dear, and others again as cheap. Thereby by differentiating according to family responsibilities and the actual expense of living in different localities, the Swiss benefit is made to adjust itself with some considerable refinement to the needs of those who receive it. I do not think that this is the only matter in which such a principle would be of use in this country. In 1904–5, and again in 1912, the Statistical Department of the Board of Trade made an investigation which brought out quite specific differences in the cost of living in a number of towns. That work was not done for purely academic and scientific reasons, but in order to help the Postmaster-General in his attempts to suit the wages of his manipulative staff according to the cost of living in the various towns. In that case, I believe, the classification took the same lines as in Switzerland, namely, that the whole country was divided into three classes.
So much for the general point. On the specific point that is before us, I appeal to the Government to consider whether, by increasing the contributions still further or having recourse to their old optimism, they cannot maintain the benefit at 20s. It is impossible to debate this question without passing on to the rather more general question of the whole causation of unemployment and the slightly less general question of the causation of the present unemployment from which the country is suffering. The things which 539 seem to be mostly to be a defence against unemployment are, firstly, the education of the working classes, about which I will say nothing to-night, and secondly, the maintenance of industrial peace. I do not wish to question the right to strike, but I want to suggest that a strike is a luxury, and that those who indulge in striking have sooner or later to pay for their luxury. The point is certainly simple. I shall try not to seem to be giving a lecture in putting it in two sentences. If a large body of men strike they lose their wages, as purchasers they are infinitely weakened, the demand for the commodities they use daily and weekly goes down, and all those who live by manufacturing or providing those commodities feel at once the onset of unemployment. Be they capitalists, business men, or workmen, they are struck indirectly by the extension of unemployment among them through the striking of their fellows, perhaps in some other town or industry, but at all events within the borders of this country. Unemployment is a thing which everybody has it in his power in part to ward off. If everybody, if every group of purchasers and every group of workmen, would realise that by striking themselves they the bringing unemployment upon the people who ordinarily supply them with the commodities of life; if they would realise that through the present situation in England, I think a movement in favour of industrial peace as the best security against unemployment would gather weight.
While on the subject of industrial peace, I would like to make one more point, which was suggested to me by the hon. Member for the Newton Division of Lancashire (Mr. E. Young). He pinned his faith to conferences, frank and loyal conferences, between capital on the one hand and labour on the other. That seems to suggest that what is wanted is a reconciliation of persons, of a person on the one hand with money and of a person on the other side with merely the labour of his hands. That seems to me to be an extremely equivocal suggestion. So long as all the money is on one side and what appears to be all the work on the other, you may have all the conferences you like, but you will never get a lasting peace. It is not a reconciliation of 540 persons that is wanted, but a reconciliation of two functions in each person. What we want is that every man, in his place and in his measure, should be a capitalist, should have some savings; and that every man, in his measure and according to his capacity, should be a worker. Among the working classes at the present moment there is an idea, for which I admit they have some excuse, that saving is the business of the richer classes, and is no concern of theirs. So long as they embrace that fallacy, there will never be peace in industry, because there can never be peace in industry until both the parties concerned in it have money in it and devote their work to it. I should like to urge that upon the party opposite. Whitley Councils are good, conciliation is good, round table conferences are good; but the reconciliation of persons is very often just a temporary patching up of a bad peace. The only thing that will provide a solid foundation is a reconciliation of these two functions, namely, that of saving money and laying it by and investing it, and that of working, in everyone who shares in the dividend of the nation's work to-day.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I regret very much that, from one cause or another, since my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hodge) moved his Amendment, the attendance in the House has not created in the minds of many of us any feelings of hopefulness as to what the result will be when this issue is tested in the Lobbies of the House to-night. The result, no doubt, will be that many scores of Members who have never heard a word of all that has been said from this side of the House in the form of appeal, argument, suggestion, warning, will troop into the Lobby and record an immense majority against everything that has been said, not a word of which they have heard. There are occasions when the House of Commons fails in its duty, and in face of the situation outside this House, and of the need which has forced the Government again to deal with the unemployment problem, it is a matter for the greatest regret that so little attention has been given to this very pressing and very menacing situation. We have often been reminded that this is not the occasion on which we can deal with the causes, though I think the House has not suffered so far as certain causes have been adumbrated and outlined. It is of some assistance to 541 be reminded of the causes. It may incline us to turn to the lessons of those causes, and to avoid, in future years, producing such conditions of unemployment as undoubtedly has been produced by the causes to which reference has been made. Nor will any immediate purpose be served by referring to the defects of existing insurance law. It is no reproach to the Minister of Labour to point out now that his last amending Bill has not met the situation. No one could foresee that situation. No one ever calculated three months ago that the number of unemployed would be as large as it is now. No one then foresaw the duration and extent in effect of the miners' stoppage. We are faced, however, with the results of unforeseen events, and I want to approach the Bill which has been submitted in relation to these results; and to the realities which now confront the country.
The explanation of this Bill is simple. It is that there has been produced in the last 10 weeks such a degree of unemployment as to have submerged altogether the financial provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Act, and the Government, therefore, have been driven to face the issue and make proposals to deal with the future. Our quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman and the Government is that these proposals are not constructed upon the human lines which the existing conditions require, and that they can be in no way defended upon the ground of the resources of the country and the conditions of our Government. The right hon. Gentleman need have no doubt at all as to our appreciation of the degree of human feeling which, we know, determines his action in this matter. I listened to him to-day with, perhaps, even more than the usual degree of respect, because of the way in which he faced this problem and the frankness with which he outlined to the House the utter helplessness of the average workman to-day, forced into a state of idleness out of which he cannot escape by any effort of his own. The degree of human understanding expressed and exhibited in the speech of my right hon. Friend is hardly consistent with the terms of the Bill which he has been obliged to bring forward. In short, this Bill is not worthy of the Minister; it is not worthy of the problem; it is not worthy of the situation outside this House. My right hon. Friend, who knows the facts, which are beyond dispute, was frank 542 enough to confess that for the millions of people who are out of work there are very few vacancies offering an opportunity of employment. What, then, is the good of saying, as has been said, "What about domestic service; what about this system of unemployment insurance encouraging idleness?" Neither of those questions comes near to the reality of the situation. The real situation is that millions of men and women are faced with conditions which offer them very few opportunities indeed of getting work and earning their daily bread. This money, the payment of which we are here to support, is not a payment having any effect as a degradation. It is, as my right hon. Friend himself said, the condition of unemployment which carries the elements of degradation in relation to the large masses of the unemployed to-day.
It is true that the miners' stoppage has a great deal to do with the extent of unemployment as it now exists. I am not going to be tempted, even if I were permitted, into a defence of the miners in relation to that lamentable fact, but I think that the admission that the coal situation is an underlying cause of this enormous increase of unemployment is in itself a reason for meeting the appeals which we press not to lessen the benefit under conditions which clearly are temporary and cannot exist for any long time in anything like the degree in which they face us now. Let us hope—and I think there is good ground to hope—that before long the causes of unemployment, so far as they rest upon the coal stoppage, will disappear. If we can look with any hope to a speedy disappearance of those causes and a resumption of work, surely that is an argument which reinforces the strength of our appeal that the rate of pay ought not to be reduced from £1 to 15s. in face of the probable early diminution in unemployment because of a resumption of work in the coal trade. Those of us who have something to do, intimately and personally, with the administration of these benefits, cannot look with as much complacency, if not indifference, upon this problem of unemployment as some hon. Members appear to do. It seems to some of us that this threat to reduce the pay counts too much upon an expectation of submission on the part of masses of men and women who will suffer by what is now being proposed. It is a dangerous 543 step to take. There has been the greatest patience and the greatest resignation to suffering and to real hardship felt day by day as a very deep privation, but human nature can be tested too far. You can make too great a demand upon the patience of masses of people, and in face of there being so little, if any, reduction in the cost of living of that portion of the country dependent upon this trade, it is a dangerous, certainly it is a cruel step to take to insist upon a reduction of one-fourth of the weekly payment of such a large number of people.
During the War there was a certain form of conscription of labour. Men could not move about freely to take personal advantage of opportunities which the labour market offered them then. They were compelled in the national service to do certain things, and so were the employers. We have to-day this situation, which is partly the effect of after-war conditions and partly the effect of after-war Government policy, that employers in great industries are making demands for enormous reductions in wages. They are demands which are greatly disturbing the labour market, and are, in themselves, a great provocation to further unemployment. Uncertainty in the world of labour is not always caused by trade unions, and a great deal of that condition of uncertainty which interrupts the making of contracts and defers and checks enterprise, is due to the enormous wage reductions which many employers are demanding in different occupations, and if it was right during the War period to impose a certain form of industrial conscription upon workmen in the national service, would it not be right now to interfere seriously, as a Government, with the freedom of employers who are indulging their liberty too much and creating great disturbances in the industrial world because they are insisting upon too big a reduction at one time. Surely it would be a right and wise policy for the Government to say to these employers that they will not be allowed to enforce reductions except in so far as they can be shown to bear a real relation to the reduced cost of living in the case of the masses of the wage earners. That would not be asking for too great a degree of interference with the liberty of the employers in these different occupations. In short, the Government could do much to prevent 544 unemployment by doing a little to curb the tendency which is shown now by many employers to take advantage of the conditions of the labour market and of the comparative helplessness of workmen, because of the depletion of their trade union funds, to insist upon reductions of wages altogether in excess of anything which can be defended or justified.
One argument has been addressed from one or two quarters of the House about which I should like to say a word. It is said solemnly, and as though it were as deep philosophy as one could utter, that the payment of unemployment benefit is in itself a cause of unemployment; therefore let us reduce the pay. Surely hon. Members are overlooking the fact that this is a scheme of insurance the funds for which are mainly provided, not by the State, but by the contributions of the employers and the workmen themselves. What is received is spent. It goes to some extent towards stimulating trade. It in no sense tends to diminish it. It is merely the spending of certain past savings. You might just as well say that because you pay out insurance money in case of fire you only provoke further fires, you only multiply the disaster, that one is the effect of the other. It is trifling with the realities of the situation to suggest that any individual, not to say family, can exist upon a weekly dole of 15s. Let hon. Members carry to its furthest limit the argument that it is a bad thing to pay any unemployment benefit. Let them stop the payment of this £2,000,000 a week. Let them have the courage of their convictions and say it shall be stopped altogether, and the immediate result will be rioting, robbery, and plunder, for people would be driven to steal and violate the law, because the needs of existence would compel it. You are faced, then, with the supreme necessity of providing some money, if only for the purpose of defending society, or the country itself, against the dire consequences which would follow if you dared to put this pay off altogether. That, I think, is not an unworthy answer to those who have suggested that it is a bad thing to pay anything as unemployment benefit and that it is a good thing now to reduce it from 20s. to 15s. We are faced with a choice, and it is this. Are we to try 545 to adjust the finance of insurance to the needs of the population, or to sacrifice the population, in relation to their immediate needs, to what is said to be the financial condition of the country, and as a choice between those two extremes, we say it is a cruel and wholly indefensible thing to come forward now and say to people who have been just lingering on a level of 20s. that, in face of even this uncertainty and their past sufferings, they must submit to a reduction of a fourth of their pay.
I repeat the view which we have put forward previously from this side of the House. We acknowledge the financial embarrassment. We are not shutting our eyes to the facts of the financial situation. We know the difficulty of getting money. But insurance itself as a condition which pre-supposes both a good and a bad time, and this solution of the problem of unemployment as a scheme of insurance justifies us in saying that, just as we have drawn upon reserves and have spent reserves accumulated during days of prosperity, so can we now draw upon the future days of prosperity that we may reasonably calculate are ahead of us. We say that in probably six months or twelve months, or within some reasonable period, unless this Government is capable of even worse and more ruinous results than so far it has produced, we shall get back to something like normality in industry. Then you will have millions of workpeople and employers again peacefully paying into this fund, and building it up to perhaps a bigger fund than it has ever been before. The only argument I have heard the right hon. Gentleman give in reply to our suggestion that he should borrow to a far greater degree than he proposes to draw upon our future prosperity, is that we should have to pay some interest. I am not propounding a new principle. The principle is accepted. My right hon. Friend is proposing to borrow upon our future prosperity. Our doctrine is not unsound; it is part of his Bill. We ask the right hon. Gentleman to carry that doctrine so far as to enable him to go on paying the minimum of £1 a week, instead of reducing the pay to 15s. As to the interest argument, that is no insurmountable difficulty.
Supposing a sum of £1,000,000 has to be found because of interest having to be paid upon the money which we suggest should be borrowed. Supposing it is 546 £2,000,000. I am thinking, in what I am suggesting, of the situation outside these walls, of the queues of unemployed, of the state of desperation to which people are being reduced. They are conditions so desperate as to justify the most desperate remedy, and to justify any departure from what has been the normal procedure of the Government in dealing with the question of unemployment. Supposing the further borrowing process involved the expenditure of another million. Could not that million be made good out of our future prosperity? Are we to say that because it would cost us another million or so during the next few months that we must not do it? If you are to look at this problem in the light of what it would cost you to borrow, and you put that argument before a working-class audience in the Camberwell Division, the right hon. Gentleman would get an answer that would shake his confidence.
I see no escape from the situation which confronts us, unless this process of borrowing is carried further. You cannot find a remedy by simply seeking to increase contributions. That may be done. So far as workmen and employers are in full work and enjoying benefits denied to their fellows, I would not mind asking them to pay any reasonable contribution, just as I ask the Government to pay an additional contribution. If you like the logic, anything except reduction of pay. That is not a sacrifice which these large masses of people should be asked to endure at the present time. In the figures given to the House my right hon. Friend indicated that the increased subscriptions under the new provisions which he proposes would amount to something like £37,000,000.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The amount in one year to be subscribed by all the subscribing parties would amount to about £31,000,000. Let the Government provide an additional sum of less than half that amount, and there would be no need to think of reducing the rate of unemployment pay as proposed in this Bill. I reject the view that the financial obstacles could not be overcome, if the Government really had the willingness to meet the difficulties. "Where is the money to come from?" says one timid Member.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Whenever the Government has cared to settle upon a certain policy, and that policy has involved the expenditure of millions, they have always found the will, just as they have settled upon the way. Therefore, if the Government care and determine that the benefit shall not be reduced, they are not unequal to the task of providing the necessary means of maintaining the existing level of unemployment pay. It is the state of starvation outside these walls that is the only appeal which we can make. I am not going into the details of the Bill, even the outstanding points, such as the reduction in the qualifying period, or the increase in the number of days to qualify a man for his pay, but the right hon. Gentleman may rest assured that some of the most deserving and hardworking men employed in our docks and transport industries will be the greatest sufferers from this change. They are men who are frequently out of employment for short periods, but seldom out of employment for any long period at once, and they will be expressly cut out, or many of them, from a chance of benefit under this altered scheme, although many of them, in so far as they have not been unemployed, have been paying to the Unemployment Insurance Scheme for a long time past. Contributions are to be increased. These are matters for Debate in the Committee stage.
On one point we are entitled to have an answer, and that is in regard to those industries which contemplate, and which even now may have schemes before the Ministry of Labour to provide their own conditions of insurance in their own way. They are no longer to be permitted to make arrangements to contract out. We have generally not been in favour of the plan of contracting out, but in face of the provisions of the law there are a number of organisations which for a long time have been making arrangements, and I want to know in these cases, as in certain others, how it is that we have so sudden a reversal of Government policy, with no explanation, and, so far as I can see, no circumstances at all justifying the complete change in the attitude of the Government in relation to any general principle of insurance. The thing that matters most is the question to 548 which I have mostly addressed myself, and that is the reduction in the unemployment pay. I do seriously appeal to the Minister of Labour in the Committee stage not to continue the line of argument which has been maintained during this discussion. If you have a choice between running somewhat in debt or letting people die of starvation, the only appeal we can make to the right hon. Gentleman is the human one, not to let people die of starvation. Many hundreds of thousands of people who now are in receipt of this weekly payment I know are very near that limit. Take a trade union like the one which I represent, the National Union of General Workers In recent months we have been paying out enormous sums in unemployment benefit, amounting in recent weeks to about £23,000 a week, and no one man gets more than 6s., which is the limit we can pay, as provided in our rules, and by the contributions we receive. It is going. If this position continues for some little time longer, we shall not be able to do that. We may be compelled to stop paying. Unions represented on this basis have already been compelled to stop payment, because their funds are exhausted, and they have no means to repair them, because their members are out of work, and they have to meet all the obligations in the way of sickness and the numerous other charges which fall ordinarily on the head of a trade union. In face of the stoppage of these other sources of support to the millions of workers outside these walls, the present is the most inopportune moment to think of reducing the State pay, when the State is in a position to devise ways and means adequate to the purpose. I say adequate, but no one will argue, reasonably, that £1 a week is adequate to the humblest means of the ordinary working man. If that is to be confessed, there is no case that can be put forward on any ground for a reduction from £1 to 15s., and I trust that if the right hon. Gentleman can make no answer on the point to-night, he will pot shut his ears in Committee, because we cannot let this proposal find its way on the Statute Book without offering the strongest possible resistance to it.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Sir Montague Barlow)
Those of us who are responsible for this Bill have, I think, 549 no reason to complain of the reception of the Second Reading by the House. Still less, if I may be allowed to say so, have we any reason to complain of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. With a great deal of his speech, it is perhaps unnecessary to say, I cannot agree, and I would like to draw attention to one or two points in it. First of all, I was rather sorry that he used the word "threat" in regard to the reduction of benefits. It is with the deepest regret that we are faced with the situation which has become inevitable; if a reduction is made it certainly is not done in any spirit which could be expressed by the word "threat" Another small point, if I may get it out of the way at once, was the question of the accumulation during the period of the War. I do not think I should refer to it if he had not, in my hearing, made the same point before. When we came to deal with the extension of the insurance principle in November last year, there was, it is true, the large sum of £22,000,000 in the Insurance Fund: my right hon. Friend uses that fact as an argument in favour of confidence in—what shall I say?—the financial future of the Fund. But I think it is incumbent upon us to bear in mind that that very big accumulation did arise in an abnormal time, a period of War when there was no unemployment, and when, therefore, the accumulation mounted up at a rate which you really cannot calculate will be continued in normal times.
There are one or two other points with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt, especially the point about the special scheme. But, generally speaking, with regard to the speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I think we can say they were good enough to recognise the difficulties of the situation, and the opposition was one more of sorrow than of anger. As I have indicated, all of us regret the stern, hard necessity of the case. But I think it is necessary that we should bear in mind that it is the Insurance Fund we have to consider. It is the Insurance Fund that is depleted, and it is the Insurance Fund that must be built up again by the methods which we have outlined in the present Bill. No one likes the reduction. Everyone desires that it should have been avoided if possible. At the same time, even bearing that reduction in mind, do not let us 550 forget that this Insurance scheme, even with the reduction, is the biggest scheme of the kind in the world. There is nothing parallel to it, and if my right hon. Friend complains of the reduction—and I do not raise any criticism that he should do so; I like it as little as anybody—at least it is fair to ask him and our Friends opposite to bear in mind that there is no scheme of this magnitude and securing on the whole such satisfactory results, and anything comparable to our scheme in the world.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
Nothing like the benefits or the numbers. We shall have an opportunity of discussing the matter on the Clauses of this Bill, but I think I am right in my contention. If I have one complaint to make with regard to this discussion, it is that we have heard so little criticism really of the Clauses of the Bill. An hon Member opposite says that we shall get it in Committee, but there are certain broad aspects of the Bill which, I think, it would have been useful if we could have discussed on the Second Reading in the normal way. We have heard a good deal about the Ter Meulen system, the index figures and other things which bear only remotely upon our problem here this evening. I shall be glad to give the answer to them on the proper occasion and in the proper place, but I do not think this is the occasion or the place. I would, however, like to take one or two of the special points which have been raised on the Bill itself, because I think it may save time and, I hope, clear up some misconception. The first point of real substance which was raised by my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, and also by the right hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge), was the question of the special schemes. It was said, "You, the Government, have professed a desire that industries should bear their own burden of unemployed insurance. You put a provision, Section 18, in the Act of 1920, and now you are coming down and making the schemes impossible." The position is this. Clause 5 of the Bill says:The power of the Minister under Section 18 of the principal Act to make special orders approving or making special schemes shall not be exercised during the deficiency period.In other words, there was power under Section 18 of the Act of 1920, in any in- 551 dustry where insurance could be more satisfactorily provided by a special scheme, to sanction it. All that the Bill says is that it will not be possible and will not be reasonable to allow contracting out by means of special schemes so long as the deficiency period lasts. The deficiency period is defined as continuing until the Treasury gives a certificate that the Fund is solvent. Clearly it would not be possible to allow an industry, possibly when the bad times have been tided over or have nearly come to an end, to say, "We have had our burden borne by the Fund during the bad times. We now propose to clear out of the scheme." That would not be fair to those who remain in the scheme. Directly the Fund becomes solvent the deficiency period comes to an end, the normal position will arise again, and Section 18 of the principal Act can be put in operation by those who are able to satisfy its requirements. But it is a proposition which commends itself to every business man in this House that, until the period arrives when the Treasury gives a certificate that the scheme is again solvent, it would not be desirable to allow industries to contract out.
Another point was made about reduction of benefit It was said that it was a breach of faith. If that were so, that would be a serious charge and I desire to meet it at once. Those who make that charge have omitted to advert to two facts. First there were those who said, "It is a breach of faith; a breaking of a treaty, treating it as a scrap of paper." Those who said that have forgotten that under the Act of 1920 provision is expressly made for the possibility of reduction in this way. An indication is given in the Second Schedule that occasions might arise when benefits would have to be reduced. That was a danger signal. It is not quite fair for hon. Gentlemen to say that this is a direct breach of faith, that no notice was given of the possibility of this happening and that we ought not therefore to do it. Furthermore, though I do not profess to have as great experience of the management of trade union finance as my hon. Friends opposite, yet if I am right in my conclusion from what study I have been able to give to the subject, it has been not at all an uncommon feature in trade union finance—and there are many precedents for it in trade union history—that when 552 funds have become low benefits have had to be reduced. If that is so, surely my hon. Friends opposite cannot make a complaint with very great seriousness if, in the existing state of the Insurance Fund, which is based on the trade union precedent, something of the same kind has to be done by us to-day.
There was a question raised by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wignall) and the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) about the extension of the waiting period from three days to six. The matter is rather a technical one and I do not want to go into it at length at this hour. Opportunities will occur for examining and exploring the position at greater length in Committee upstairs. But I can assure my friends that the Clause, as we propose it, does not have quite the disastrous or revolutionary effects which are suggested. A case was put by the hon. Member for St. Helens with regard to dock labour, and he appealed to me as representing a constituency in which there are large docks—an appeal to which I am naturally very sympathetic. But he says that the proposal introduced into this Bill to extend the three days to six days will very seriously affect people like dockers who have, perhaps, half a day on and half a day off. But he has failed to appreciate the effect of Section 7 of the Act of 1920 which provides this continuity rule. What that Section says, roughly, is this: you may have two sorts of broken employment time. You may have two days on and two days off or you may have three days on and three days off, but in no case are you to deal with less than one day. Then the question arises, how far will this requirement of six days affect these continuity rules? There is a variety of arrangements still perfectly feasible. You may have two days on and two days off, two days on and two days off, or two days on and four days off, or one day on and five days off. It is true that three days on and three off and three days on and three off will not be permitted, but what will be perfectly feasible is this: three days on and three days off, and then, turning about, three days off and three days on in the next week. I do not wish to go into it at length, but I think I have said enough to show that the possibilities of the rule have not been quite appreciated by those who criticise it.
553 There is one point I was asked to deal with specially by the hon. Member for North Armagh (Lieut.-Colonel Allen). He referred to the question of the periods under the Act of 1921, the Act of last March, and what the period will be from the present date. Under the Act of last March, two special periods of 35 weeks are outlined—a period of 35 weeks from 3rd March to 2nd November of this year, and another period from 3rd November of this year to the 2nd July next year. In each of these periods 16 weeks' benefit is secured under the Act. The proposal of this Bill is that over the remaining 19 weeks an additional 6 weeks' benefit should be allowed, and a similar proposal is made with regard to the parallel period of 35 weeks running from 3rd November next to the 2nd July of next year. Accordingly, under the Act of last March 16 weeks are secured in each of the 35-week periods, and now an additional 6 weeks is guaranteed over the balance of 19 weeks not covered in each of the 35-week periods. I do not propose to say anything more about the details of the Bill.
§ Mr. J. DAVISON
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman to say that the people who are unemployed do not care a tinker's curse about the details of the Bill. All they are bothered about is the reduction of pay.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
As I said when I got up, we all regret the bitter necessity with which we are faced.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
We unfortunately see no other course open but that which is now proposed. We do hope, however, that the improvement in trade, of which there are indications, may render unnecessary some, at any rate, of the claims upon this fund.
§ Mr. BRIANT
There is one aspect of the question which does not seem to have been dealt with. I have no intention of going into the particulars underlying the Bill or into the causes of unemployment, but I want to traverse the calm assumption of Members opposite that if you reduce unemployment pay by 5s., somehow or other the men and their families are going to reduce the cost of their living by that amount. The cost of the 554 necessities of life will be the same, and neither on 15s. nor on 20s. can a man, his wife and two or three children live. Nor have they lived on the 20s. I venture to say the majority of the Members of the House do not realise that at the present moment the 20s. is being supplemented by large amounts from other sources, but principally from the Poor Law. The net effect of this reduction will not be a saving to the State. It will only remove the burden from the backs of the taxpayers and put it on to backs of the ratepayers, and I have figures which will prove that. Speaking of the district which I know most intimately, I may mention that last week in rates which were spent entirely on able-bodied unemployed the cost to one particular parish was £680 in the week. I estimate that in London alone at the present rate of expenditure the poor rates will be increased by £750,000 for unemployed. The method of transferring this burden from the taxpayers to the ratepayers is admittedly unjust, as it increases the burden on those who have already a heavy burden, and takes it from the shoulders of those best able to bear some part of the cost. I wish to illustrate this by an actual and indisputable fact, and I think the House should remember when it passes this Bill, if it intends to pass it, that the 5s. is going directly on to the rates. How is it that rates are high in one place and low in another. We are at the present moment in Westminster. Westminster, by a series of what are called improvements, drove the poor of these districts across the river into Battersea and Lambeth, with the effect that those particular areas have a very high rate.
As it is now, Westminster is escaping the cost of a large part of unemployment and putting it on the backs of the poorer districts. Chelsea has to pay 14s. 4d. in the £, whilst Lambeth has to pay 16s. 3d., Bethnal Green 19s. 11d. and Poplar 22s. It means that industrial districts, which have the largest calls on the rates and are therefore already overburdened, are going to bear the extra burden of reducing the amount of unemployment pay by 5s. a week. I know my own constituents very well, and I know the men there do not want unemployment pay at all. There is nothing the average working man hates more than forming up 555 in that queue for either 20s. or 15s. A man said to me only the other day, "I wish they would give me work, even for two days a week, rather than make me stand in that queue." Frequently the men tell me they loathe going up for the money, and the better class of working man does, and I wish hon. Members opposite realised what it means to these families. It means a gradual reduction of their standard of life, and that is a tragedy; it means a deterioration in the physique of the children and a deterioration in their morale, because killing time is a soul-degenerating occupation for anybody, whether it comes from too much riches or too much poverty. It is futile to say the State cannot pay. The State has got to pay, and will pay in one way or another when the people are thus reduced to semi-starvation.
I hope that even now the House will see that the burden is only being transferred to another section of the community and that it is far better for the State to bear the burden as a whole. I know the people intimately, and anyone who imagines that the average working man loves idleness is wrong. He loathes it. There is nothing he finds more monotonous, and there are hundreds and thousands of men in London alone who would bless anyone who would get them work at even the most reasonable rate of pay. To say they would be ready always to live on these doles and do nothing is a libel on the men who constitute the main bulk of the working classes. I hope the House will see there is some point in the issue I have raised. I want hon. Members also to realise what it means, not only to the men, but to the State, in the lowering of the standard of life which is now coming upon many thousands of working class homes. I took a large part in advocating War Savings Certificates during the War, when wages were high. I never participated, however, in the feelings of those who thought it wicked for a working man to buy a piano. I think it one of the best investments he could make, because everybody knows that it is a distinct attempt to raise the standard of his home. There is nothing worse for a man than having to lower that standard. The tragedy of the man lowering his standard is when he has to part with the things he 556 has brought together by his thrift, industry, and sobriety. Therefore it is in the interests of everybody, in their own working capacity for the future, in the interest of the whole nation, that we should not suddenly take off 5s., but even keep up the amount, paltry though it may seem, which may make all the difference between the border-line of starvation and those concerned being able to purchase the bare necessities of life. I trust the House will reject this particular Bill.
§ Mr. D. M. COWAN
I wish in a very few words to say why I cannot support the Second Beading of this Bill. To one part, the raising of the contribution for the workmen, I take no objection. I think the financial position at the present moment demands something of that sort. For the second part, however, the lowered rate of payment to those out of work, I take very serious objection, indeed. If I may say so, I think it is another case of precipitate legislation, of which we have had a good deal of late. I am sorry to think that a strong Coalition Government, such as we have at the present time, should lose its nerve owing to the threats of the anti-waste Press—so called. What does this mean, the lowered rate of weekly allowance to the men and the women? It means, as has been said already, lowered vitality for every man, woman, and child. I am old enough to remember the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour speak outside this House, and make some of the most eloquent pleas to which I have ever listened on behalf of the children of this country. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman's feelings are the same to-day as they were then. This means lowered vitality. It means that in this country we are going to have more children crying for bread. That is a danger to the State. Those children of to-day are to be the citizens of tomorrow. The State cannot make any fair demand upon those children in the future unless it plays the game fairly by them just now. Therefore I do hope the Government will take into very serious reconsideration these points which they have had put before them. This is one of the occasions, if any, on which I think the future should be mortgaged. Therefore I do think that the Government would be well-advised to reconsider this 557 decision to which they have come. I simply take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to make plain my position.
§ Mr. C. WHITE
I will only—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"]—take three or four minutes. I have sat during the whole of this Debate, and I may perhaps be allowed to put the side of the question that has not been put, seeing now we have the largest House since the Debate opened. I am amazed at the lack of interest that has been shown in this very important matter, which affects so many households in the country. I am going to speak, if I may, entirely from a human side. I am not going to speak on the economic side, which has been dealt with. I am going into the Lobby to vote against this Bill in no half-hearted manner. I know what the reduction of 20s. to 15s. per week means. It means still great privations in many homes which are now suffering semi-starvation. These men and women are out of work not through any fault of their own. It is the fault very largely of the Government. The Government were warned about it in this House by men of all parties when the Decontrol Bill came up. I agree with what the hon. Member for Oldham said. We are living to some extent on our capital; but the capital of the nation has largely been made by the workers of the nation. They have a perfect right at a time like this to share in the capital which they have taken so great a part in establishing. Let me give a little sum in human arithmetic I will take the average case of a man with a wife and two children having to live on this 20s. a week. At least there will be 5s. a week for rent, which leaves only 15s. a week. Taking three meals a day at twopence each per head, it works out at 2s. per week each, or 14s. a week. Already with the 5s. rent it means
§ that 19s. a week of the 20s. has gone. Do hon. Members who have just come down from a sumptuous dinner, which has probably cost more than the whole of this family's weekly allowance, realise what this means? It means that at these three meals there is one small loaf and nothing else with it, even with the present allowance; but what will it mean when it is reduced to 15s.?
§ It is all very well to argue this from the economic, the technical, or political standpoint. This is distinctly a human question. We have to avoid starvation and nothing can excuse the Government coming forward at this moment with a provocative measure like this, which will only accentuate the privations of these people. I have stood in the queues during the past few weeks where these people have been waiting for their pay and I have seen them faint from exhaustion and semi-starvation, and it is because of this state of things that I have insisted upon saying these few words on behalf of those who are suffering. I know that nothing I can say will influence the automatic followers of the Government, who will shortly troop into the Lobby in support of this Bill. On a previous occasion 20s. was fixed as the amount by this Government, and now we have the same Government coming forward and asking us to cancel their former proposal. This is a gross betrayal of the working people, and the only redeeming feature about it is that it will put another nail in the coffin of the most incompetent Government that has ever existed in this country.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 214; Noes, 83.561
|Division No. 165.]||AYES.||[10.45 p.m.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart. (Gr'nw'h)||Cautley, Henry Strother|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Bigland, Alfred||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.|
|Amery, Leopold C. M. S.||Borwick, Major G. O.||Churchman, Sir Arthur|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Clough, Robert|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Coats, Sir Stuart|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Brittain, Sir Harry||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Brown, Major D. C.||Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar (Banff)||Bruton Sir James||Cope, Major William|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Buchanan, Lieut. Colonel A. L. H.||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Lindsay, William Arthur||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund|
|Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)||Lorden, John William||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Seager, Sir William|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Shaw, Capt. William T. (Forfar)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Manville, Edward||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Foreman, Sir Henry||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Mason, Robert||Starkey, Captain John Ralph|
|Forrest, Walter||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Mitchell, William Lane||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Stevens, Marshall|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Stewart, Gershom|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C||Sugden, W. H.|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Taylor, J.|
|Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Morrison, Hugh||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Green, Albert (Derby)||Murchison, C. K.||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Thomson, Sir W Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Murray, William (Dumfries)||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Nail, Major Joseph||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Hailwood, Augustine||Neal, Arthur||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Waddington, R.|
|Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W.(Liv'p'l,W.D'by)||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Haslam, Lewis||Nield, Sir Herbert||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Waring, Major Walter|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Hinds, John||Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Wild; Sir Ernest Edward|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Perkins, Walter Frank||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Perring, William George||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Howard, Major S. G.||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Wise, Frederick|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Johnstone, Joseph||Purchase, H. G.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Rae, H. Norman||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Ramsden, G. T.||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Raper, A. Baldwin||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler||Younger, Sir George|
|Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Kidd, James||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Reid, D. D.||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Renwick, George||Dudley Ward.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||O'Connor, Thomas P.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||O'Grady, James|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Grundy, T. W.||Pearce, Sir William|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Halls, Walter||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hartshorn, Vernon||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hayday, Arthur||Robertson, John|
|Briant, Frank||Hayward, Evan||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs. Stretford)|
|Bromfield, William||Hirst, G. H.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Cairns, John||Irving, Dan||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Jesson, C.||Sexton, James|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Kennedy, Thomas||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Kenyon, Barnet||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lawson, John James||Spencer, George A.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lunn, William||Spoor, B. G.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Swan, J. E.|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Mills, John Edmund||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Tootill, Robert|
|Gillis, William||Myers, Thomas||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Wignall, James||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)||Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr.|
|Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)||Hogge.|
|Wilson, James (Dudley)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House."—[Mr. Hodge.]562
§ The House divided: Ayes, 79; Noes, 224.563
|Division No. 166.]||AYES.||[10.55 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Robertson, John|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Halls, Walter||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hartshorn, Vernon||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Hayday, Arthur||Sexton, James|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hayward, Evan||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Hirst, G. H.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Irving, Dan||Spencer, George A.|
|Briant, Frank||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Spoor, B. G.|
|Bromfield, William||Kennedy, Thomas||Swan, J. E.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kenyon, Barnet||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Cairns, John||Lawson, John James||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Lunn, William||Tootill, Robert|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Mills, John Edmund||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wignall, James|
|Devlin, Joseph||Myers, Thomas||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||O'Grady, James||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Gillis, William||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Redmond, Captain William Archer||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Rendall, Athelstan||Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Hogge.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Greenwood, William (Stockport)|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Clough, Robert||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Coats, Sir Stuart||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hailwood, Augustine|
|Amery, Leopold C. M. S.||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W.(Liv'p'l,W.D'by)|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Haslam, Lewis|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Cope, Major William||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Davidson, J. C. C.(Hemel Hempstead)||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar (Banff)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hinds, John|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Hoare, Lieut-Colonel Sir S. J. G.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart. (Gr'nw'h)||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Messley)|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.|
|Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Falcon, Captain Michael||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Jesson, C.|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Fell, Sir Arthur||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Fildes, Henry||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Foreman, Sir Henry||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Forestier-Walker, L.||Kidd, James|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Forrest, Walter||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Bruton, Sir James||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Gange, E. Stanley||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Goff, Sir R. Park||Lorden, John William|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W).||Gould, James C.||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Green, Albert (Derby)||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Mallalieu, Frederick William||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Manville, Edward||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Rae, H. Norman||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Mason, Robert||Ramsden, G. T.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Matthews, David||Raper, A. Baldwin||Waddington, R.|
|Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Mitchell, William Lane||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.||Walton, J (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Molson, Major John Elsdale||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Reid, D. D.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Remnant, Sir James||Waring, Major Walter|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Renwick, George||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Morrison, Hugh||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Murchison, C. K.||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.|
|Murray, William (Dumfries)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Nall, Major Joseph||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Neal, Arthur||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Seager, Sir William||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Shaw, Capt. William T. (Forfar)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||Wise, Frederick|
|Nield, Sir Herbert||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark||Starkey, Captain John Ralph||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)||Steel, Major S. Strang||Younger, Sir George|
|Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Stewart, Gershom||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Perkins, Walter Frank||Sturrock, J. Leng||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Perring, William George||Sugden, W. H.||Dudley Ward.|
|Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)||Taylor, J.|
Bill committed to a Standing Committee.