Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £12,010,604 (including a Supplementary sum of £3,562,844), be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Labour and Subordinate Departments, including the Contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and to Special Schemes pursuant to Sections 5 and 18 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1920, as amended by Section 2 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1921, and Section 2 of the Unemployment Insurance (No. 2) Act, 1921, etc; Contribution to the Unemployed Workers' Dependants Fund; Payments to Associations under Section 17 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1920, and Section 106 of the National Insurance Act, 1911; Out-of-Work Donation; Expenditure in connection with the Training of Demobilised Officers and of Non-Commissioned Officers and Men, and the Training of Women; and Grants for Resettlement in Civil Life, also the Expenses of the Industrial Court"—[Note: £6,000,000 has been voted on account."]
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Dr. Macnamara)
The sum which Parliament voted last year for the Ministry of Labour was £22,137,405. This year it is asked to vote £18,010,604—£14,447,760 as shown in the main Estimates, plus £3,562,844, the Supplementary Estimate laid last Friday, and rendered necessary by the further emergency provision for unemployment. It would not be right for me to allow the Committee to assume that the difference is all due to administrative economies. If that were so, then indeed, should we be open to the charge of extravagance in the past. The reduction in the Vote is largely due to the reduced requirements of the Services to be met, but it is at the same time due 72 also to drastic economies on the administrative side which we have felt bound to make in view of the condition of the nation's purse.
The work of the Ministry on its permanent side covers mainly industrial relationships (wages, conciliation, arbitration, the Whitley Councils, and so on), Trade Boards, employment, and unemployment insurance. On its temporary side, it includes the training and resettlement in civil life of ex-service officers and men. A simple analysis of the Supply Votes for which we are asking, together with the Appropriations-in-Aid, will show precisely what we are trying to do, and the public expenditure involved in the effort. The Parliamentary Vote is, as I say, £18,010,604. Appropriations-in-Aid of one sort and another (mainly the charge against the Insurance Fund for administration), together with sums borne on the Votes of other Departments who undertake work for us, bring the gross total at our disposal to £24,873,057.
Let me now analyse the purposes to which that gross sum will be applied: about £5,750,000 for services arising out of the War, mainly the training and resettlement of ex-officers and men: about £12,750,000, the State contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund: nearly £6,500,000 the cost of administering all Ministry of Labour services, temporary and permanent; and of this sum £5,200,000 comes from the Insurance Fund.
A good many people look at the Estimates and say, "Is it not excessive to be spending £6,500,000 in administering £25,000,000? "Let me correct that misconception at once. It has done service quite long enough. To the gross expenditure of round about £25,000,000 already mentioned must be added another £40,000,000 in respect of the contributions of employers and employed to the Unemployment Insurance Fund; though this sum is, of course, not shown in the Estimates, not being a State charge. Therefore, when people talk about £6,500,000 being the cost of administering £25,000,000, what they mean is £6,500,000 is the cost of administering £65,000,000.
Let me go back for a moment to the present net Vote of £18,010,604. That Vote in 1919–20 was £48,300,000. The fall within three years from £48,000,000 to £18,000,000 is a noteworthy fact. It is 73 due in some degree to continuous economies, it is due in some degree to the accomplishment in part of post-War obligations. But it is due in the main to the fact that what was, immediately after the Armistice, a direct Exchequer charge in the form of Out-of-Work Donation, now finds its counterpart in an Insurance Fund to which there are three contributories, the employers, the employed persons, and the State.
A good many people groaning under the heavy burden of taxation turn to me and say, naturally enough: "How is it that the cost of the Labour Ministry so much exceeds the charge pre-War, when such of the work as was being done was in the hands of departments of the Board of Trade?" Well, let me compare the operations of to-day with the operations of 1913–14. In the first place, the work on behalf of ex-servicemen is, of course, a charge non-existent in 1913–14. In the second place, the operations in connection with Unemployment Insurance are out of all relation to those of 1913–14. The number of persons insured is now 12,000,000, as compared with 2,750,000 in 1913–14. The rate per cent, of unemployment is now 15f per cent., against 3f per cent, among the smaller number of insured persons' in 1913 14. The amount of unemployment benefit paid in the insurance year 1921–22 will be about £67,000,000, as compared with £530,000 in 1913–14.
I must ask the Committee to keep these figures clearly in mind. They are eloquent of the burden which this Ministry has to carry. Twelve million of persons insured, over 15 per cent, of them—that is to say, nearly 2,000,000—unemployed: money to the extent of £67,000,000 paid out in one year, all of it in small amounts weekly, totalling 90,000,000 separate payments made over the counters of the Employment Exchanges during the year. It is a stupendous task. That it has been performed during this long and distressing period of unemployment, and performed smoothly, expeditiously, and without breakdown, is a magnificent tribute to the tireless service of the officers of the Department, both at headquarters and in the localities. Let those who dismiss it lightly spend a moment or two considering what we should have done during the hardships of the last 18 months if this 74 great and signal social service had not been carried out loyally and faithfully day by day.
Let me proceed now to examine the operations under the several Departments into which the Ministry's activities fall. I take, first, the Industrial Relations Department. That Department is charged with a number of functions, all directed to furthering, so far as the Government properly can, the interests of industrial peace. The Report of the Committee on National Expenditure recommended:That the scope of the Industrial Relations Department should be considered, as also the work of the Trade Boards Division, after receipt of the Report of Lord Cave's Committee, and that their transfer to the Board of Trade should also be considered.As regards the scope of the Industrial Relations Department, I am a profound believer in people doing their own business. That is particularly applicable to industrial questions. It is certainly the principle which I apply. But there are several other things which have to be taken into account. In the first place, it is not possible for the community to wash its hands entirely of industrial differences. They re-act quickly and often forcibly upon the common weal. As I read my commission, it is that reaction which I am charged to watch. In the second place, there is such a thing as timely advice and assistance quite distinct from interference. And so long as that assistance is based on experience and knowledge, and proffered at the right time and in the right way, it may be of very great value in the avoidance of disputes. Thirdly, this Department is concerned with the establishment and development of a good deal of standing conciliation machinery—joint industrial councils, conciliation boards, and so on. Under the policy inaugurated on the advice of the Whitley Committee, there are at present 68 joint industrial councils and interim industrial reconstruction committees actively functioning. They cover some 3,750,000 workpeople and represent a movement towards amicable discussion and joint settlement of industrial differences which in times like the present we certainly cannot afford to cut adrift. Leaders of industry from other lands who visit our shores pay tribute to the value of our system of conciliation, a system that we have developed to an extent that evokes the admiration of the rest of the world.
75 Everybody knows that the scope of the original Trade Boards Act of 1909—the Act which we talk of as applied to "sweated industries"—was extended under the auspices of my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) in the year 1918. Down to the fall of 1920, when trade was prosperous, everything went smoothly. But directly depression came upon us, markets began to fall, and unemployment began to develop, then difficulties began to arise; and defects in the Trade Board machinery, which caused little or no comment in a time of prosperity, began to assume more serious proportions. I found myself the recipient of innumerable criticisms of and protests against Trade Board operations. Among other things, my immediate predecessor had given an undertaking to extend the Trade Board machinery to the new field of the distributive trades. In these trades, manifestly, there are special problems which do not arise in the direct production trades, and it was a pity that the application of the Trade Board system to this new field came at a time of considerable and growing depression. In the end I appointed, in October last, a Committee, under the chairmanship of Lord Cave, to examine the working and effects of the Trade Boards Acts and to recommend what changes, if any, were required. That Committee has, I understand, concluded its labours, and its Report will be in my hands immediately. While I have not yet seen its findings, I know enough of the painstaking care of the Committee to be able to speak of it in terms of appreciation as a very powerful Committee, which brought to its labours unremitting industry and patience. As regards the suggestion of the Committee on National Expenditure that the Industrial relations Department and the Trade Boards Division might be transferred to the Board of Trade, I am afraid I am not in a position to discuss that proposition on these Estimates.
I turn now to the work of the Ministry in connection with the problem of unemployment. I need not tell the members of the Committee that for the last 18 months we have, all of us, been literally weighed down by the day-by-day anxieties of this distressing problem. Happily, before the slump came upon us, we had widely extended the scope of the Unem- 76 ployment Insurance Act. We had, in fact, increased the number of persons covered by insurance from 4,000,000 to 12,000,000. But, on the other hand, it was very unfortunate that the newly-insured 8,000,000 workers came into the Act at a moment when unemployment was already bad, with very much worse to follow. As the Committee knows, it was quite out of the question for me to pursue insurance against unemployment exclusively along the lines which had been in operation since 1911.
The permanent insurance principle is that the right to benefit depends on prior payment of contributions. That, of course, still remains the basis of covenanted benefit under our Unemployment Insurance provision. But from the coming into operation of the Act of 1920, an emergency side in the form of un-covenanted benefit or free benefit had to be added. Heavy and increasing unemployment made it impossible for very many of the working people to qualify for benefit by paying contributions. It has been necessary, therefore, to allow un-covenanted benefit without payment of contributions, and to renew the grant again and again, on the understanding and in the faith that when trade again revives those who have drawn this benefit will help to pay it back by their contributions when in work.
Towards the end of last year, the temporary dependants' scheme was introduced, and during the six months from last November, this scheme has supplemented the benefit under the Act by additional allowances for wives and young children. From November, 1920, to the present time, about £80,000,000 has been paid in benefit and grants, and of this sum from three-fourths to four-fifths 'as been paid, or is hereafter to be paid, by employers and employed. The contribution of the State has been about £16,000,000.
As the Committee knows, it has been necessary for us to make further provision to meet the heavy unemployment which, unfortunately, we are bound to expect for some time to come. During the last few days we have been engaged in the passage of a Bill which makes this provision for the period up to July, 1923. To give this further assistance we have been compelled to ask for the continuance of the present high rates of contribution 77 both from employers and employed. But I am quite confident that they will be cheerfully paid. On the assumption we have made as to the amount of unemployment to be anticipated, we shall be in a position under this Bill to make payments in all, if necessary, to the extent of £60,000,000 in benefit between now and the end of June, 1923, of which the State will find £15,000,000. To do this, we have had to increase the direct charge upon the Exchequer originally contemplated in the main Estimates now before us, and Parliamentary authority is now being asked for that additional charge in the Supplementary Estimate laid last Friday. We have also been compelled to ask for authority to increase the borrowing powers which we already have for Great Britain from £19,000,000 to £30,000,000.
On the problem of the Employment Exchanges, the first conclusion of the Committee on National Expenditure was as follows:That so long as Unemployment Insurance is on the present basis Employment Exchanges are required as agencies for checking payments of Unemployment Insurance Benefit, not as Labour Exchanges.Whatever view may be held as to the future of the Exchanges the state of unemployment to-day puts any immediate wholesale recasting of the system out of the question. The numbers now registered at the most heavily pressed Exchanges are very great. In London alone there are 19 Exchanges which each have over 6,000 persons registered as unemployed. I will give the six largest:
§ In the provinces there are 50 Exchanges which each have over 6,000 persons registered as wholly unemployed, 21 of them with over 10,000. Let me read a few of these:
- The Birmingham Exchange, 37,657, and, in the same area, Aston, 11,123, and Sparkhill, 13,008.
- Sheffield, 29,749, and, in the same area, Attercliffe, 13,026.
- Leeds, 16,110.
- Glasgow, 11,140, and, in the same area, Bridgeton, 12,722, and South Side, 12,605.
- Blackburn, 14,490.
- Liverpool, 34,880.
- Manchester, 20,756, with Openshaw, 14,352.
From the reports of the Committees which have investigated the working of the Department, and, indeed, from our own examination of the officials, we do not think there is much room for minor administrative economies. Reductions can only be looked for by a modification and simplification of the system consistently with the maintenance of the solvency of the Fund.In engaging the necessary extra staff at various periods to cope with the situation, I have taken them on a casual or week to week basis, so that their services can be dispensed with immediately the need is past. Taking the figures for Great Britain, the Employment Exchanges had a staff of 9,135, including branch managers in September, 1920, when the slump came upon us, and 21,807 in June, 1921, when unemployment was at its worst. That figure was reduced to 12,451 by October last but as a result of the winter increase in registrations, we have now 14,627. The numbers of the staff respond automatically to the volume of work to be accomplished, the very great amount of additional work being met entirely by the engagement, as I say, of staff on a weekly or "casual" basis. The permanent trained staff of the Employment Exchanges, which was 3,667 in September, 1920, is now 4,170. The numbers of permanent staff are, in fact, even at this date, below the basis appropriate to an average of 3 per cent, of unemployment in insured trades, though we have to deal with 15| per cent. The figures are worth considering for a moment. In September, 1920, again taking Great Britain only, 79 with 320,000 persons registered as unemployed, I had a permanent staff of 3,667 officers. Today, with 1,638,490 persons registered as unemployed, I have a permanent staff of 4,170 officers. Cannot the Committee see the heavy burden of added responsibility thrown on these permanent officers?
§ I have also endeavoured to reduce the number of branch employment offices in smaller areas. We have closed 189, and are closing, in the near future, another 17. I have had under close examination with the Postmaster-General, the possibility of using local Post Office premises for Exchange work in smaller centres. I should mislead the Committee if I gave the impression that I think much can be done in this direction. I ought, perhaps, to refer here also to our policy in the matter of Employment Exchange premises. As the Committee knows, nothing in the way of new permanent buildings is being undertaken. Wherever additional accommodation is necessary, I am erecting buts or hiring premises. I am reducing adaptation and repair work to the absolute minimum. The state of the national finances must be my justification to the people who have to attend at, or work in, premises which, if times were better, ought most certainly to be improved.
§ I have indicated that the Committee on National Expenditure looked to possible modifications in the Unemployment Insurance system itself as the only means of securing further economy. I need not, perhaps, deal at length with this point now, because I referred to it in some detail recently in moving the Second Beading of the Unemployment Insurance Bill. I then described the appointment, on the 23rd January, of an Inter-Departmental Committee, under the chairmanship of the Government Actuary, to consider the questions of machinery involved in the Committee on National Expenditure's suggestions. I also informed the House of that Committee's Interim Report—that it would not be possible to bring into use so soon as the beginning, in July, of the next Insurance year, a combined card for Health and Unemployment Insurance purposes. Further, I described the steps which have been taken to obtain the views of those engaged in industry upon the possibility of developing Unemployment Insurance by industries, and I emphasised, 80 as I must emphasise, that any further devolution of insurance administration upon industries themselves cannot be made until satisfactory provision is made for the debt of the Insurance Fund to be liquidated—a debt which would otherwise fall upon the Exchequer.
§ I should be failing in my duty and lacking in common gratitude if I left this portion of my subject without again making reference to the services of those whose devotion and enthusiasm have alone made possible the prompt and effective discharge of the arduous duties laid upon the Ministry in the past eighteen months. I have given some figures indicating the great volume of work at particular exchanges. But at every exchange in the country, these many months past, the work has been continuous, heavy, and most exacting. I have had to call for quite exceptional service, rendered often under conditions and in surroundings which added greatly to the difficulties. And the response has exceeded every expectation. But even then the exchange staffs alone could not have dealt anything like so efficiently with the very large numbers of cases, had it not been for the assistance, voluntarily given, of the chairmen and members of the local employment committees attached to the exchanges. These committees have formed an invaluable part of the machinery which has been necessary to deal with the situation. They have worked tirelessly at the administration of the successive Unemployment Insurance Acts, with no incentive save. the public good. I know that hon. Friends of all parties will join with me in paying this tribute to the arduous work both of the local employment committees and of the exchange staffs.
§ Lastly, I turn to the "Services arising out of the War," for which a gross sum of £5,463,142 is allotted as against £10,655,304 last year. This reduction is in part due to the approaching completion of some of our activities on behalf of ex-service men, and, so far as the industrial training of disabled men is concerned, due to difficulties directly resultant upon the state of trade and industry. For this industrial training the gross amount provided for 1922–23 is £4,691,500 as against £6,620,188 in the Estimates of last year. It has been suggested that this reduction in the amount put forward in the Estimates signifies that we are not pressing forward with all the vigour we might in 81 this part of our many-sided endeavour to help the ex-service man back to civil life. I want to make it clear at once that any such suggestion is absolutely without foundation. Unfortunately, owing to the incidence of trade depression, we have not been able to train in. the year 1921–22 the number of men whom we originally hoped to train. We work through technical advisory committees in each craft. These are composed of representative employers and workpeople. They look at the state of their industry and advise us as to the numbers which should be admitted with reasonable prospect of employment at the other end. Of course, the greater the depression in their trade, the smaller the numbers recommended for admission. Consequently, although £6,620,188 was provided in the Estimates for last year, the actual expenditure for industrial training for 1921–22 will be under £4,600,000. Our Estimate of £4,691,500 for 1922–23 represents, therefore, no reduction as against last year's expenditure on the training of disabled ex-service men, and no curtailment of our activities in this direction.
§ Under the industrial training schemes we have trained 63,000 disabled men. We have 23,300 in training. Unfortunately, we have still a waiting list of about 29,000, though many of these, it is true, are still under treatment, and not yet ready for training. The speed with which we can clear that waiting list is, as I have endeavoured to show, necessarily affected very much by trade conditions. The Committee needs no assurance from me that as things take up we shall press our duty in every direction. We all agree that our obligation to these men is one which we must requite to the full and as expeditiously as possible. The position is rather different with regard to the Interrupted Apprenticeships Scheme, the Civil Liabilities Grants, and the Training Grants Scheme for ex-officers and men of similar educational attainments. In these three fields there is a substantial reduction in the Estimates, due to the gradual completion of the work of the Departments concerned and to considerable administrative economies. In the case of the Interrupted Apprenticeships Scheme, the amount provided is £263,161 as against £1,083,700 last year. As the Committee knows, we have assisted a large number of young fit men, whose apprenticeships were interrupted by the War, to complete them under conditions which, 82 with State assistance, make due allowance for the fact that the boy who went to the War in 1914 returned a grown man. 37,000 apprenticeships have been completed, and the number still being served is 7,600.
§ The Civil Liabilities Branch, which had paid out, between 1916 and 1920, £10,000,000 in grants to serving officers and men to help them to meet home obligations, was charged, after the Armistice, with administering the "Re-settlement Scheme." It has helped ex-officers and men, who had suffered financial hardship by reason of their service, to re-settle in business. Over 112,000 ex-service men have received grants under this scheme, amounting in all to very nearly £3,500,000. It may be of interest to mention that, notwithstanding trade depression, 80 per cent, of the men appear to be getting on all right. The branch is now concerned very largely with the question of rendering assistance to difficult cases of disabled men. With regard to ex-officers and men of similar educational qualifications, our effort has been two-fold. Professional or commercial training, under the Ministry of Labour or other Departments, has been completed by 29,000 of these men; 18,000 are still in training, and the waiting list is very small—about 30. The Training Grants Scheme, and the Business Training Scheme added towards the end of 1920, are rapidly coming to an end, and there is a consequent large decrease in expenditure. The sum allotted for 1922–23 is £250,381, as against nearly £1,250,000 last year. I may add that the necessary adjustments in staff have been provided for, so that the staff falls as the work diminishes.
§ The other side of the Appointments Branch work is the duty of rendering assistance to ex-officers desirous of obtaining direct employment. 65,000 have been placed in appointments to date. Unfortunately, however, we have still nearly 14,000 on our books wanting a billet, and billets have been very difficult to find for a long time. The register of 14,000 includes the name of some officers who had received temporary or casual employment for a period, but are now again seeking a more permanent career. We can only peg away at our task and hope that, with an improvement in trade and the continued help of employers and business men generally, the clearing of 83 this list will proceed very much more rapidly. In the meantime, as a result of the decrease of work on the training grants side, and of constantly reviewing the staffing of the Appointments Branch throughout, we have made such economies as we have judged possible without prejudicing the interests of those we are charged to help. With this governing consideration in mind we have consulted the British Legion at each stage, and we have been very glad indeed of their advice and assistance.
§ There is one further scheme with which I must deal—the National Scheme for the Employment of Disabled Ex-Service Men, otherwise known as the King's Roll. The Government have set an example themselves, and have pressed local authorities and employers to give the necessary undertaking under the scheme—normally, an undertaking to give places to disabled men to the extent of at least 5 per cent, of the total staff. The number of firms on the King's Roll of Honour has now passed the 30,000 mark, and, I am thankful to say, continues to increase, though not so rapidly as we should like. The number of disabled men employed by firms on the Roll is now 354,000. But for trade depression these figures would have been higher. It is safe to say, on the other hand, that, but for the King's Roll, the number of disabled men unemployed, which is now 20,000 as against 18,000 eighteen months ago, would have increased far more rapidly in the past months of general unemployment.
§ I want to take this opportunity of repeating that it is especially to public authorities that we can look—and to whom ex-service men do look—for a lead in this matter of the employment of disabled men. As regards the Government, we may fairly claim that that lead has been given. The Treasury is on the Roll on behalf of all Government Departments. My own staff consists, as to over 21 per cent, of its total membership, male, female, permanent, temporary, London and provincial, of disabled ex-service men—not merely 5 per cent., which is what we are asking of others. Further, the rule has been introduced that, save in exceptional circumstances, Government contracts shall only go to firms on the Roll. As regards local authorities, I am far from satisfied. Out of 2,839 in Great Britain, 1,010 are now on the Roll. The 84 numbers show a continuous increase, but it is slow—far too slow. Practically every local authority in the country ought to be setting an example in its own area in this matter of the employment of disabled ex-service men; and, with great respect, I think it is the duty of every Member of Parliament to ascertain—as so many have already done on more than one occasion—how the local authorities in his Division stand in this matter, and, if necessary, to use a little kindly persuasion to secure the end we all have in view.
§ I have endeavoured to describe in outline the main activities for which the Committee is asked to grant this sum of £18,010,604. I am under no delusion as to the popularity of the Ministry of Labour in certain quarters at the present time. To many it is a wasteful and ridiculous excess. Some, indeed, expect it, as was well said the other day, to turn out bricks with the mud that is thrown at it. We do not, it is true, take part in the settlement of the affairs of the world; we do not rule the high seas; we do not garrison the frontiers of Empire. But our task, though less arresting in its nature, is most certainly not less important in its character. We administer to the best of our ability a great machine operating throughout the industrial areas of this country with a certainty and regularity which make for peace and good will in the land, and at the same time we try to do something to save those who are out of work from the devastating and deteriorating effects of unemployment. This, and our provision for the training and resettlement of the ex-service man, account for the great bulk of the moneys provided in these Estimates. While we are doing these two things, and doing them to the very utmost limit of the capacity with which we have been endowed, we can speak with the critics in the gate and not be ashamed. I commend these Estimates to the consideration of the Committee.
§ Mr. W. SMITH
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I am sure that there will be general agreement in the Committee that we should all have wished that the right hon. Gentleman had been able to present to us a more pleasant picture and a more prosperous state of things in the country 85 than is reflected in the numbers that are now besieging the Employment Exchanges in the way that he has described. None of us can feel satisfied in visualising the condition of things which those numbers would indicate, and we should all welcome a change of conditions which would enable many of these people again to find employment and earn their own livelihood. I notice, however, in the Estimate, that the amount of money that is allocated to the training of ex-service men in the building trades is very substantially reduced as compared with last year. Last year it was £600,000, and this year it is only £5,000. I rather gathered from the right hon. Gentleman that that is largely due to the fact that there is not now the opportunity of placing these men.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I was speaking of disabled men, but that is not for disabled men; it is for fit men.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I was dealing with the matter from the point of view of disabled men. That is an entirely different thing; that is for fit men. The two things are very different.
§ Mr. SMITH
Still, this item shows such a remarkable variation as between the two periods that I think one is entitled to ask for some information and explanation. One can only assume that it is possibly due to the existence at the present time of a surplus of labour in the building trade. If that be true, and if that be the reason why these men are not being trained, one cannot help thinking that it is a great pity that another Department of the Government should have curtailed its operations in the erection of houses and in the meeting of a great public necessity in that direction, and should have thereby intensified the problem of unemployment, instead of absorbing this labour and reducing the burdens and the difficulties of the Department with which the right hon. Gentleman is associated. Certainly we on this side have, always advocated and argued that the best and proper 86 way of treating the problem of unemployment is to endeavour to find work for those who are unemployed, and, if this figure indicates that there is now a surplus of labour, I think we are entitled to draw attention to that fact from the standpoint of the housing policy being pressed, in order that these men may be taken off the unemployed list. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's reference to transference of powers, I think that many of us would be with him in his argument that it is best to leave to the Ministry of Labour the function of dealing with industrial disputes in so far as a State Department has any bearing upon these questions. There is no doubt that industrial differences are big public questions on many occasions, and I think it is just as well that any public Department that has to deal with these matters should be a separate Department, with its own staff, qualified to render what assistance is possible in order to ease the situation when it arises.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the criticism that has been passed on Trade Boards, and I could not help thinking that to some extent hs Department—I do not know how far the right hon. Gentleman is responsible but I suppose we must hold him responsible for these matters—I do not snow how far he himself has been responsible for the fact that criticism has been levelled against that Department, by the action that he himself has taken on one or two occasions. Personally, we on this side are hoping that the Trade Boads will be continued. We believe that treir establishment has been greatly for he public good, and we believe that the decisions that have been given from tire to time affecting what are known as "sweated" industries have been extremer helpful, and have been the means of considerably modifying some of the words industrial conditions in many industry in this country. The point, however, on which we desire to draw attention at the moment is with regard to the action on the Ministry so far as the Grocery Trade Board is concerned, and I think that one is entitled to ask for some explanation of the conduct of the Ministry in regard to that trade. The Grocery Trade Board was established by the present Minister in June, 1920. Evidently she right hon. Gentleman was formerly of opinion that 87 the Trade Board was necessary, otherwise he would not have brought it into being. This Trade Board has met on many occasions, it has spent nearly two years deliberating on matters submitted to it, has considered a large number of objections raised to its proposals and has submitted rates to the Minister which he has referred back to them on no less than three occasions, and then he has, in the end, as I understand it, refused to register the decision of the Board. I understand his explanation of his refusal to register or put into operation the decision of the Grocery Trade Board is that the distributive trade is a new field of wage regulations. It is rather strange that the right hon. Gentleman did not have that in mind when he constituted the Trade Board. The industry has not changed during the two years: the special circumstances or conditions attaching to the distributive trade were just the same, apparently, in 1920 as in 1922. Then he states that there were objections to the rates fixed by the Board; but surely that is nothing different from what has obtained n regard to most of the rates fixed by other Trade Boards.
I am certain that any rate proposed by any Trade Board will provoke objection from some individuals. A Trade Board is an organisation that, as far as possible, represents the best elements of the industry, and naturally those who seek to evade what may be considered just responsibilities will raise objections to any rates emanating from a Trade Board. But why could a special exception be made in he case of the Grocery Trade Board? the Minister is inviting criticism of a very deadly character when he first sets up a Trade Board to deal with an industry, and, after it has held numerous meetings, issued its proposals, met objections, and fixed a rate, finally refuses to accept the rate fixed. My hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose) passed some very strong criticisms upon the Ministry of Labour when the Unemployed Insurance Bill was under consideration on Thursday, and I cannot help thinking criticisms of that kind are fully justified when we find a Department acting in this manner. I know it will be urged, as it has been urged, that one of the difficulties of the Minister is that he is understaffed. To-day he has given us figures which indicate that, in proportion 88 to the numbers registered at Exchanges now, the staff is considerably smaller than when the numbers were in the 300,000 area. But surely it takes as much labour to keep referring these decisions back, and refusing to register them, as it would to accept them and put them into operation. There were 14 meetings of this Trade Board, and that means that there must be a staff to make the necessary arrangements, the expenses of the meetings are being incurred, and the correspondence must be as great when you are referring back rates, and finally refusing them, as it would be if the Ministry treated this Board as it has treated most others, and accepted its rates. Therefore, to us, it seems that the criticism that the Department has not utilised its opportunities to the best advantage is, to a very large extent, justified.
It has been suggested that the appointment of the Cave Committee is another reason why this decision was not accepted. Why is one Board specially selected? Why is one Board held up in its functions while other Boards are allowed to continue to make modifications in rates by raising or lowering them? Why is this one to continue to pretend to be acting and then find, in the last resort, that the Minister refuses to do anything to bring into operation the result of its deliberation? The regulations prescribe that the Order shall be made within one month after the rate has been submitted, unless objection has been taken, and yet we continually find happening what happened in the case of the Boot and Floor Polish Trade Board, where they fixed the rates on 10th January and made a request that they should become operative as from the 24th, and nothing was heard of them. Two months went by and then a deputation had to wait upon the right hon. Gentleman before he would give effect to the decision of that Trade Board. One cannot help thinking the Minister has been intimidated too much by what might be called political agitations, and that he has hesitated to use his full powers in connection with some of these Trade Boards for fear of criticism coming from that particular quarter. I do not think that is fair to the industries concerned. It is not fair, or right, or proper to get employers of labour and representatives of workpeople to be continually meeting and deliberating on these matters, fully 89 assuming that they will be treated as other people have been, and then finding, merely because of some more or less political agitation, that they are unable to see the final result of their work in the establishment of a rate. I hope, therefore, the Minister will give us some reason why this action has been allowed, and an assurance that so long as Trade Boards are an acknowledged part of the machinery for dealing with difficulties in the industrial world this Department will not put obstacles in their path.
There is a wider aspect of the case which is, perhaps, worth a word or two in passing. Reference has been made on many occasions as to whether the authority of Parliament is now accepted in the full sense that it was some years ago, and all these occurrences have a tendency to weaken the authority of Parliament and the respect paid to it, when people who are taking part in the promotion of legislation that is to give them help and assistance find that governments are acting in a fashion which has the effect of withholding from them the rights and privileges which they had expected. We are also entitled to ask for some explanation as to why the Department is so lax in enforcing the decisions of these Trade Boards. I have here one particular case, which is well known as the Brewery case of Redruth, in Cornwall. The Trade Board had petitioned the Ministry to take action in regard to a firm that was violating the decision of the Board—and here one is entitled to emphasise the unfairness of the Department in acting in this way. A Trade Board, once it has fixed a rate of wages, is placing at a great disadvantage those employers of labour who wish to meet their obligations and fully carry out the decisions of the Board. The position of these firms is being considerably jeopardised, and the whole principle of the right to a decent wage for a given amount of labour is being placed in jeopardy by the Department withholding its hand in dealing with delinquents who refuse to carry out the decision of the Trade Board. We do not usually get from magisterial benches, especially in more or less rural areas, comments very favourable to decent labour conditions, but here was a bench of magistrates who felt compelled, in giving their decision and refusing to grant costs, to give as their reason that the Ministry had refused to put the law 90 into motion for 14 months after their attention had been drawn to this case. The arrears of wages had reached, I think, something like £1,400, that sum of money being due to the workpeople for back pay that had been withheld from them. Not only is this unfair to the workpeople, but it is manifestly unfair to other employers of labour, who are honourably carrying out the decisions of the Boards, to find come of their competitors escaping their obligations in this way.
I want to touch one other question, that of the unemployed women. Up to this year there have been schemes in operation for the training of unemployed women so as to admit them to other industries. In this year's Estimates, for some reason, I see nothing is provided. Last year just over £100,000 was provided. I would like to know the reason for this change of policy. Women who are unemployed really need special consideration in this respect, because at the moment they are entirely limited to the benefit payable under the Unemployed Workmen Act. Extensive schemes of relief work have been put forward, including road making and various works undertaken by local authorities, towards which the Government have made grants of money amounting in all, I think, to over £5,000,000, but not one penny of that money and not one single scheme of relief has been of any assistance to women who are unemployed. For years they spent their lives in connection with industry of a character that has now become more or less obsolete. Take the case of those women whose only chance a employment since they left school lay in industries which were operating under war conditions. Unless they now have a chance of being trained for employment in other industries their opportunity for gaining a livelihood is very remote, indeed. We ought to be told why these schemes of training have been withheld, and these women left more or less to their own resources. I know there is a great deal said sometimes about women going into domestic service, but they cannot be expected to go even into domestic service if they have spent their lives in industry generally, unless they have some particular form of training to qualify them for that service. It is to be regretted that the women who have been helped in this particular way now find themselves stranded, and it is 91 just as well to remember that many of these women have only their 12s. unemployment insurance benefit to depend upon. A deputation waited on the right hon. Gentleman recently and he was informed that some of the women receiving 12s. unemployment insurance benefit had to pay as much as 10s. for their lodging without any provision for food. Women placed in these circumstances are entitled to ask for some special consideration to be given to them. The Committee will be glad to know from the right hon. Gentleman, how and why these schemes of training have been stopped, and why these women are left in a position which is not very hopeful, and certainly to many of them a position of very great difficulty.
There is another point I would like to raise in regard to a matter which was touched upon at Question Time, namely, office cleaners and laundresses employed by local authorities. They were originally placed within the Act, they were contributing and were receiving benefit, but by a decision of the High Court they have now been left out of the Act. One is entitled to put the question to the Minister whether, under the powers he possesses, it would not be advisable for him to bring them again within the scope of unemployment insurance. Theirs it not a permanent employment Again, there is the difficulty of women changing their occupation. To-day a women may be working at some task Which brings her within the Act, and next week she may be in an occupation which takes her outside of it, and so she may find herself, under normal circumstances, contributing to a fund from which, because of a change of occupation, she may be prevented from participating in the benefit. Having regard to the fact that these laundresses and office cleaners were originally entitled to come within the scope of the Act, I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can give us any assurance whether, by the powers he possesses, he will bring them back again within its scope?
One further point I would like, to put with regard to the extension of the benefit. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he intends to issue the same rule for the six weeks' extension under 92 the new Act? I gather that there is much dissatisfaction on this ground. One man does not come within the benefit, while a man who may be a grade or two below would be considered entitled to it. That is a very irritating matter. Those people who may be denied the benefit of the six weeks' extension will be called upon to participate in the contributions necessary to wipe out the deficiency in years to come. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that a great deal of dissatisfaction exists in regard to the conditions of paying out this particular benefit, and we would like to ask that this Regulation may if possible be modified to a certain extent to remove the grievances many of these people are suffering from.
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken to-day of how crowded many of the exchanges are owing to the number of applicants who have registered there, and he told us on Thursday that he proposed making some alteration in the amount of money which is paid to trade unions for administration of the Act. I would like to draw his attention to the fact that, in my judgment, as a member of an executive of a very large union that has to administer this act, and as knowing the labour involved on the part of the union officials in paying out the benefits if this reduction in allowance be made, the chances are that the overcrowding in the exchanges will be intensified owing to the fact that the trade unions will not be able to administer the Act to the same extent under the new proposals put forward. One is entitled to say that the Ministry would never have been able to manage their work with the premises that they have engaged in many areas, and that the overcrowding would have been greatly intensified in certain parts, but for the fact that the trade unions took the responsibility of paying out the benefits. The Ministry may be the loser if, by a too drastic reduction in the amount allowed for administration, they make it impossible for the trade unions to carry out the work, and throw all the work on the Exchanges themselves. It may mean the engaging of extra staffs and larger premises, and possibly will not meet with that smooth working which has followed the administration of the Act by the trade unions who have taken over these responsibilities. These questions I have desired to put to the Minister, and I hope, before the Debate 93 is finished, we shall receive some assurance from him in regard to these matters that something will be done to remove the grievances which hive been indicated. We do think his Department has been very lax and remiss in regard to certain Trade Boards, in not registering their decisions and in not following up their awards when made. We further urge upon him the question of those women who are now outside the Act, and the advisability of giving them the advantage of the Act, and we would like some assurance with regard to the schemes of training women to give them an opportunity of changing from one industry to another, because, notwithstanding how bad things may be in the labour market, there is always soma chance of employment being found for a person who possesses the qualifications needed. If women only had some slight training and skill in that direction, they might find employment and be able to earn a livelihood. In order that we may have some answer on these points, I beg to move the reduction of the Vote.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am sorry the Labour party have insisted upon taking this Vote to-day, because this Committee ought to know that the Committee which was set up to examine the Estimates have actually passed their Report this afternoon. Notwithstanding that, the Labour party insisted on taking this Vote to-day. The Estimates Committee was set up with the general concurrence and approval of the House, and it will be greatly regretted that the Labour party have not assisted in furthering the work of the Committee, and in making it an efficient body. I only hope that the Minister will see that there will be another opportunity for discussing this Vote when the Report of the Estimates Committee is before the House. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down apparently seems to be desirous of spending more money, because everything he suggested was in the direction of further expenditure. Whether that is the reason why the Labour party do not wish the Report of the Estimates Committee—which was set up to save money, and not spend money—to be presented, I do not know. I think the Labour party would be assisting the work of the Committee if they would consult as to the Estimates which are to be taken. As the Committee knows, the Estimates are put down at the request 94 of the Opposition. There a now unfortunately two Oppositions, and it makes it difficult to arrange, as in the old days, when the Votes are to be then, but I would earnestly trust that le Labour party in the future will give some consideration to the proceedings on the Estimates, and that the Liberal party will do the same. I do not know whether, in view of the fact that our Report will be out in 3 or 4 days, it is necessary for me to say very much, but the gist of the Report will be found to show hat in our opinion there are certain cases where money could be saved, and hope the House will give us an opportunity of further considering this matter.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
I am save we would all have preferred to have has the Report of the Estimates Committee in our possession, because we could have seen whether economies could be effected rid whether they were justifiable. Of course, the Government have had no hand in this. This is the work of the Opposition, and I join with the hon. Barone the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbuy) in saying it would have made for the convenience of the House if we had had the Report of the Committee before us. But I am naturally interested when my right hon. Friend makes his annual statement. More particularly am I interested on this occasion, because of the report of the Geddes Committee. Like bin, I feel that this House and the Committee have not shown a real appreciation of the; stupendous work performed by the Ministry of Labour. I know there are a number of Members of this House who desire to see the Ministry of Labour and the Employment Exchanges abolished. I do not question the honesty of their motives; that is not any part of my policy, but I do venture to say that, had we not had the services of this Ministry and of the Employment Exchanges, I doubt whether the Government could have passed through the last few years with such little trouble as they have experienced. I am of opinion that the Ministry of Labour and the Employment Exchange system must remain a permanent part of our organisation of national labour.
The Ministry came into existence during a period of exceptional national trouble, and yet it has risen supreme to all difficulties, and I think that the statement made by the Minister of Labour—I regret 95 that there was not a full House to hear it—constitutes a full justification for those who urged the establishment of the Ministry of Labour, and for the Government for æeding to that request. But those of us who pressed upon the Government the necessity for creating a Ministry of Labour were not concerned merely to involve the State in additional expenditure, and to-day we are prepared to co-operate with any party who can suggest economies which will not diminish the efficiency or usefulness of the Ministry. The Minister alluded first to that very useful Department of industrial relations For many years we have experienced the need of such a Department. It is not the business of that Department or of my right ha. Friend to intervene in industrial disutes, but to exercise watchfulness over current happenings and, whenever industrial conflict is likely to occur, to offer advice, to render assistance to either party in order to obviate an outbreak for as we find to-day more and more, in our experience in international affairs, that the interests of one nation are dependent upon those of others, so you cannot have a dispute in one industry, but its effects are far flung and are felt h nearly every working-class home in the community. Therefore, a strong case does exist for the retention of a Department of this sort. I hope that nothing will be done to diminish its power or its usefulness. It has justified itself and constitutes an essential part of the organisation for maintaining industrial peace in the community.
From this Department grows that very interesting relation, the scheme of joint industrial councils, and I am very glad to learn from my right hon. Friend that this scheme is progressing slowly, I am afraid, but still, I hope, soundly. Those who so strongly resent what they call bureaucratic interference with industry ought to give every encouragement to this scheme. It is the application of self-government to industry. It says to employers and employed, "We recognise that you are far more competent than any Government Department to regulate the affairs of your own industry. Go ahead and do so, and we will render you assistance when you have proved your competence and willingness. We will simply stand aside and watch your pro- 96 gress, only coming to your aid whenever you ask us." I am hoping that these schemes will develop. They are representative equally of employers and employed. Having seen some of them in operation, I know that they do good in a manner which perhaps we cannot quite conceive. The mere fact of getting the two sides to meet together removes suspicion and creates better relationship, and, whatever may be said on public platforms by propagandists, those who have had experience of the working of joint industrial councils very often assure us that the other side is just as concerned as themselves to do the right thing and insure that the wheels of industry shall not be stopped.
I was greatly interested the other day to have my attention directed to a Bill passed through this House, so far back as 1800, dealing with disputes in the cotton industry. The Act provided for arbitration, in the event of a difference in the trade, one arbitrator to be appointed by each side, and, in the event of these two persons being unable to agree, they were to submit the points upon which they could not agree to a Justice of the Peace. That strikes me as being rather a crude method. I am afraid that it would be too heavy and too complex a task to devolve upon a Justice of the Peace to-day. The only point to which I wish to direct the attention of the House is that so far back as 1800 responsible leaders of industry recognised the necessity for some machinery being provided which would bring them together in an atmosphere of friendliness and insure that the points in dispute should be adjudicated upon before they resorted to what is a form of force, i.e., either a strike or a lock-out
The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. W. Smith) directed attention to the Trade Boards Department. It is true, as the Minister of Labour stated in his speech, that I am in large measure responsible for extending the principle of Trade Boards beyond what were previously called "the sweated trades." We recognised how beneficent the first Trade Boards were, and it was with the general concurrence of the House that a wide extension was made. Trade Boards are just as necessary to-day as when that Act was passed. In the present state of industrial depression and upheaval, the 97 case for Trade Boards is perhaps even more imperative than it was at that time. Therefore I am with those who regret that there should be any delay in setting up Trade Boards or giving effect to the decisions of any Board that is already working. I, like my hon. Friend, have been in communication with the Minister of Labour respecting the delay in reference to the Grocery Trade Board. Having been inside, I am conscious of the difficulties which beset my right hon. Friend. Therefore, if my criticism is never so caustic as it was in the old days, it is because I have developed a responsibility and therefore a sympathy with those who have to undertake these great tasks. I realise that the Minister must be careful to hold the balance evenly between the two parties. If he leans to either side, he immediately arouses suspicion and makes it impossible for his Department ever to do any effective work. But I urge my right hon. Friend to go ahead.
I am not going to suggest that he has arrested progress because of political consideration. From what I have seen, I believe that greater political support will ensue as a result of stimulating the creation and operation of Trade Boards. Therefore I cannot think that merely political considerations have swayed him in this matter, though he may have felt—in fact, he has hinted it in the House—that the setting up of this Committee, presided over by Lord Cave, constitutes some reason why he must proceed slowly. I do not know what their Report will be, but I am sure that an inquiry of this character by men of such standing and capacity will reveal to the country that the Trade Boards are an essential part of the organisation of industry in this country, and while they may suggest improvements, as I believe improvements are necessary, I believe that in the Debates which took place on the Bill, which it was my privilege to pilot through the House, I stated that the last word had not been said, that we were still groping about for experience, and there was a great deal of inelasticity about the old scheme, and I trust that the results of the inquiry will be that we shall get some recommendation which will increase the usefulness of Trade Boards. While I believe that Trade Boards will endure for a long time, I have never regarded them as permanent bodies. I have always 98 viewed them as affording a means whereby a depressed trade, a badly-paid number of workmen, shall be lifted on to a plane on which they shall be secured a fair wage and reasonable conditions which will allow them freedom, opportunity, and a means of working out their own salvation, building up their own organisation, developing it into a joint industrial council, and taking their stand among the best organised trades in the country. That has been my attitude respecting Trade Boards, and I think that it is the proper one.
Even while I was Minister of Labour the Employment Exchanges were subjected to a great deal of criticism. I made it my business, as my right hon. Friend has done, to investigate these statements, and I join with him in saying that no Department of State, or no local authority, or no private firm, has ever had at its disposal a more capable or devoted body of servants. Realise the burden that has been thrust upon them. During the War we called upon them to help to arrange the mobilisation of national labour. Many duties were thrust upon them almost at a moment's notice, and we had to expand their machinery. As soon as their task was performed we embarked on reducing their staff to bring them down to the volume of work which was to be performed. Then demobilisation came. I suppose that such a task was never thrust upon any Government Department in this or any other country, and yet how efficiently it was discharged. And so it is in dealing with the unemployed question. I know that the Employment Exchanges do not make employment. That is not possible, but you must have some means of bringing together unemployed workers and employers needing labour. Some of my friends say that the trade unions could do it. Some of the trade unions do it very well, but they do not cover the ground comprehensively, and trade unions would be well advised to dovetail themselves a little more closely into the Employment Exchange system. I know that there is a great deal of overlapping, but the Employment Exchange system is essential, and it is the business of the trade unions of the country to see that its usefulness is made manifest by their making the best possible use of its machinery to their own advantage.
99 The Geddes Committee recommended the abolition of the Employment Exchanges. For a moment let us ask ourselves whether either side, labour or the employer, is sufficiently well organised to undertake the work now done by the Employment Exchanges. To say that some employers have no use for the Exchanges is no reply to the question. I say that neither of them is in the position to take this duty from the State and to perform it to perfect satisfaction. We know how the membership of trade unions has fluctuated. Three years ago trade unions were wonderfully well organised and in a higher state of proficiency than ever before, but during recent depression many thousands of men have fallen away from their trade unions, not because they are less trade union in principle, but because of the failure of their resources. What would have happened had no Exchanges existed I do not know.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I respectfully differ from the right hon. Baronet. I have every regard for his opinion, but I am sure that you cannot administer the huge unemployment insurance scheme without the Employment Exchanges. We have recognised that insurance is one of the methods for dealing with the unemployment question. I notice that certain proposals are being made. There is the proposal to incorporate unemployment insurance with health insurance.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I understand my right hon. Friend proposed to deal with the question of having only one card. Offhand, I should say that that is purely an administrative matter which would be in my keeping, with the Ministry of Health.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the matter is confined to the use of the card, it would certainly be in order to refer to it.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
There are great difficulties in the way of the amalgamation proposal. Two years ago, in dealing with the Unemployment Insurance Bill, we had the case of the friendly societies before us. They asked to be admitted into the administration of unemployment insurance. A strong case was urged against them. If you are to make one card applicable to the two schemes you must bring the friendly societies and the assurance and collecting societies into the unemployment insurance scheme. If you do that, Labour opinion will be very strongly against you, because Labour has never acknowledged that friendly societies or collecting societies have the necessary knowledge or experience for "placing" labour. I see that the Geddes Committee recommended that insurance by industries should be encouraged. I have always felt that that is a very attractive proposal. When I was at the Ministry of Labour, and subsequently, I gave a great deal of consideration to suggestions which had been made, but the difficulty of defining and delimiting industries is one that, so far, I have been unable to solve. I am sure there are many other questions. Is the State to make a contribution? If so, what measures are you to devise in order to ensure that the State contribution is not diverted from its proper purpose?
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I think the Minister of Labour has the power within his Department to give encouragement to special schemes under Clause 18. It was not my intention to go beyond that provision. My right hon. Friend has that power. The idea is very attractive to me. I am sure that the more we bring the two parties together, the better will be the prospect of peace and harmony in industry. I would like to see some authoritative investigation carried out and some schemes put into operation. That would give us far better guidance than any amount of talk about insurance by industries. I congratulate the Minister of Labour on the statement he has made. I hope that, despite the depression, he will continue his efforts to find work for the 101 disabled men who have been trained in our various factories. In my own constituency there is a factory, and I am pressed on many hands to find employment for these men. I sympathise with my right hon. Friend. I hope that his Ministry may be so successful that we may very shortly see a real peace in industry and all classes working to restore the country, for thereby only will the great problem of unemployment be solved.
§ Captain BOWYER
Neither the last speaker nor the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. W. Smith) dealt with one part of the activities of the Ministry. They will forgive me, therefore, if I branch off to a consideration of those activities, which are of a temporary character and which deal particularly with ex-service men. I was rather surprised that the hon. Member for Wellingborough did not mention this work, because I thought that the Opposition had selected these Estimates to-day in order that they might discuss the Appointments Department, especially in its relation to ex-service men. Either this morning or late on Saturday I, in common with every other Member of the House, received a letter signed by the right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. A. Henderson), urging me to support him in begging the Minister of Labour not to jeopardise the Appointments Department and the Military Service (Civil Liabilities) Department, because both were urgently needed by ex-service men. The right hon. Member for Widnes is not present, and the spokesman for the Labour party has not mentioned the subject.
§ Captain BOWYER
On every occasion that the Ministry of Labour Vote has been before the Committee, I have been active on behalf of these two Departments. I claim that this matter should be dealt with irrespective of party. Do not let us make a party question of it. If we are all agreed that we must help the ex-service man, we can be certain of the result. The policy of the Ministry with reference to the Appointments Department is still not clear. At intervals of three months recently I have put questions as to the activities of these two Departments. Only last November 102 I learned of the enormous number of cases with which the Appointments Department was dealing. In November last the Minister said:So long as our obligation to the ex-service man remains unrequited we shall require machinery in order that it may be accomplished, but, again, of course, the expenditure upon official machinery must depend upon the volume of work to be accomplished. … I cannot say at the present time when it may be possible, in view of the interests involved, to dispense altogether with the machinery of the Appointments Branch or the Civil Liabilities Branch.As to the Re-settlement Scheme, the Minister of Labour said:The number of applications received by the Civil Liabilities Department from ex-service men under the Re-settlement Scheme, up to 31st October, 1921, is 282,239, and grants have been made since the Armistice in over 100,000 cases, amounting to three and a quarter millions of money. There are at present 5,000 and more cases under consideration.In view of those figures and facts I was a little alarmed at the words the Minister of Labour used this afternoon when he talked of the approaching completion of part of the activities of the Ministry of Labour, and later on I thought I heard him repeat that and apply his words to the Appointments Department and the Military Service (Civil Liabilities) Department. I hope we may be re-assured that so long as there is an urgent need for those two Departments, so long as ex-service men are suffering from the terrible slump in trade and the lack of employment, the two Departments will not, from a false sense of economy, either be cut down or abolished. It would be a common-sense and sound policy, when considering the future of these Departments, to carry them on under the same personnel as that which has been dealing with them for the last two or three years. I am afraid that some such scheme as has been foreshadowed by the Minister in answer to questions may be put into operation and these two Departments handed over to the permanent Departments of his Ministry. If so, I presume the head officials in charge of them would be the heads of the permanent Departments, and not those who during all this time have been dealing with the ex-service men and who are therefore fully conscious of the needs and the difficulties of the cases arising. May I sup- 103 port my plea to the Minister by reminding him of some of his own figures, as regards training. I quite agree that if there is trade depression it makes infinitely more difficult the finding of positions for the men who are trained. The Minister told us there were 63,000 men who had been trained. I would like to ask, for how many of these men have jobs been found? The right hon. Gentleman told us that 23,000 were actually in training at the moment and 29,000 were on the waiting list. If 29,000 ex-service men are waiting to be trained how are we going to find them employment when they have been trained? Doubtless my right hon. Friend will say that he chiefly depends on the Employment Exchanges, and I think—in fact, I am sure—he has appointed what he calls canvassers to go round and seek for jobs for these men. If we have an Appointments Branch part of whose work is to find employment for these officers and men, why should it not be used to find work for the trainees who have not yet got jobs? Why not let the Appointments Branch help to find work for the 23,000 men at present in training and the 29,000 on the waiting list, whose training has not yet started? As regards the Civil Liabilities Department, I think the Minister said that 112,000 men had received grants, and eighty per cent, were succeeding. Every member of the Committee received those figures with feelings of encouragement, and we offer our congratulations to the Minister and his Department upon them. Not very long ago the Minister, in a reply given to the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), ended up with these words:Further, any ex-service man, other than a regular soldier, who has been trained under the industrial training scheme and who, on the expiration of his course, is unable to find employment may apply, subject to certain conditions, to the Military Service Civil Liabilities Department for assistance to set him up in the trade for which he has been trained.The Minister will agree that there are many thousands of men who may wish to avail themselves of this Department.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think the hon. and gallant Member heard me say that that particular Department was at this moment dealing with typical cases.
§ Captain BOWYER
I was coming to that, but I was trying to explain in my 104 own mind how it was that the Minister in one part of his speech laid stress on the importance of this Department, and yet in his opening remarks used the wordsapproaching completion of part of the activities of his Ministry.
§ Captain BOWYER
Later on, the right hon. Gentleman actually applied those words and gave the Committee to understand—as I fear—that the Military Service Civil Liabilities Department may in the near future be shut up or at least given over to other hands. Apart from that, it is not quite generally realised that every wounded soldier at present in hospital, and there are several thousands of them, has the right, not only now but within three months of coming out of hospital, to apply to the Department. That stresses my point that there is still a great need in the eyes of the ex-service men for this Department. In regard to this vital question the Minister has very properly consulted the British Legion. Has he consulted the British Legion regarding his future policy with respect to these Departments, namely, the Appointments Branch and the Civil Liabilities Department? May we take it that whatever he does on the question of policy with respect to ex-service men in connection with these Departments will be with the sanction or with the knowledge of the British Legion?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
At every stage I have consulted with, and taken the advice of, the British Legion in regard to the Appointments Branch, and I am endeavouring to act on the administrative side without prejudice to the interests which we all have at heart. So far I think I may say I have carried them with me. There may be a time when they may dissent, but that has not arisen yet. I have not consulted them with regard to the Military Service Civil Liabilities Department. That does not appear to me to be necessary. I think I have already said enough to remove my hon. and gallant Friend's anxiety. So long as that machinery is needed to carry out our honourable engagements, so far as I am concerned, it will be there.
§ Captain BOWYER
I am much reassured by the right hon. Gentleman's statement. I find on looking into the figures that the "cut" in this respect 105 has been phenomenal and amazing. In regard to the headquarters in London there has apparently been a cut from £122,000 last year down to £52,000 this year. When I look at what is taking place in the provinces, I become rather nervous. I see that in the provinces expenditure under the head of training, appointments and civil liability departments has been cut down from £122,000 odd last year to £75,000 odd this year, and in connection with the appointments branch there appear to be no district directors or deputy directors in the provinces at all. There is a blank under those heads this year, whereas last year the sums of £4,900 and £2,500 respectively were involved. The total for the provinces, instead of being £135,000 as it was last year, is only £30,870. In view first of the enormous work that the Department is doing, and secondly, in view of the need there is to help the ex-service men, these figures are sufficient prima facie to fill one with alarm. The reductions will work out in this way. If a man in Buckinghamshire or Cambridgeshire or Bedfordshire or in any of the Home Counties wishes to seek advice and help he has to come to London instead of going to Cambridge or some local centre which is easily "get-at-able." If he comes up to London he is only one among thousands: if he goes to a local centre he probably meets an official who has some local knowledge and probably his case receives greater consideration and sympathy.
I wish to refer finally to the King's Roll. I was gratified to hear that the Government have decided to maintain the policy, as far as in them lies, of giving contracts only to firms who have joined the King's Roll. I would like once more to pay my tribute to the man who as far as I know originated this scheme, Mr. Rothband, to whom all ex-service men and the country at large, owe a debt of gratitude for the energy with which he initiated it. Only within the last few hours I have been asked by a great number of ex-service men why it is that the Ministry of Labour are content with the measures being taken now, when so many disabled men are out of employment and when Austria and Germany have got systems of enforcing by law the compulsory employment of disabled men, while, I believe, Italy and France either have or are in process of passing laws 106 to that effect? I am convinced there are enormous difficulties in the way, but it would be of great assistance to ex-service men if something could be done in this matter. If the Minister of Labour will look into the books of the British Legion and the literature which is being dissemminated through the country in their efforts to increase their membership he will find that part of the policy of the British Legion is to obtain from the Government a scheme whereby it shall be compulsory upon employers to take into their service a certain proportion of ex-service men. I should like to hear from the Minister is that impossible and if it is impossible, why it should be so? Other countries have tried it and we should know whether their trial of it has been a success or not. It is, of course, obvious if one considers it, that for the moment it would be an almost impossible task to Insist upon employers taking in a fixed percentage of disabled men. Hon. Members opposite, I am sure, will see the difficulties which would arise. There would be the difficulty as to the rate of wages which these men should receive. I can imagine that various rates of wages would not strictly apply, while at the same time these rates of wages would be claimed. From the point of view of the disabled men in this country, however, it is right that we should have some statement upon it, having regard to the fact that other countries are putting into force compulsory systems under which disabled men are to be employed. It is at least relevant, that the Government should have some answer to the query why they also cannot take action in the matter and whether the experiment has been a success in the countries where it is now being tried? May-I conclude by assuring my right hon. Friend that I myself am perfectly convinced of his sympathy and help in all questions concerning ex-service men. I have great knowledge of that from my experience in putting cases before him. That does not alter the fact that many of us want some assurance as to his future policy both as regards the Appointments Branch and the Civil Liabilities Department. If he can, I hope he will give us the assurance that, so long as there is this great need to help ex-service men, the Appointments I Branch will be kept on, if possible under 107 the same personnel, and that the great difficulties of the task will not be handed over merely to one of the permanent Departments of his Ministry, which will not necessarily have the intimate knowledge which must have been gained by now by those who have been in charge of the ex-service men's departments for nearly three years.
§ Captain GEE
It is with most profound regret that I noticed when the Minister of Labour was making his annual statement that only five of the self-styled champions and representatives of labour were here to listen to him, but it is very encouraging now to discover that they have increased up to eight or nine.
§ Captain GEE
I would remind my hon. Friend that on this side we have not styled ourselves the champions or representatives of labour. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. W. Smith), who spoke from the Front Bench opposite on behalf of labour, covered the whole gamut of the labour problem. He discussed everything, from the building of houses and from groceries down to office cleaners, but I do not think I am overstepping the mark when I say that the hon. Member might have submitted all those points to quite a minor official of the Ministry of Labour. He talked of everything except the most important thing, which, I think, concerns us all, and that is unemployment. I am most concerned, as I think most of us should be, with the unemployment which is so rife to-day. I am particularly concerned with the Division that I represent, which is a purely industrial constituency. In the past the Government have made special appeals to civilian employers of labour and outside firms to retain their men as long as possible, but they themselves are not setting an example, for they are dismissing men from Woolwich and other ordnance factories. I do not say that we must keep the establishment of the ordnance factories to-day up to the War standard, but I make this charge, that the Government have shirked their duty and not faced the facts. I submit that they ought to have discharged the men and reduced the establishment as soon as possible after 108 the Armistice, when we were in for a trade boom, and when the men could have found employment outside, instead of turning them on the street now when we are going through a slump in trade.
I am going to make no apology for reverting to the question of the unemployed men. It has been very instructive to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Captain Bowyer) in his able address on behalf of the ex-service men, and I, too, think that credit has to be given, not only to the present Minister of Labour, but to all the right hon. Gentlemen who have filled that position, for the work which the Ministry of Labour has done for the ex-service men. I am in close touch with the Trainees National Guild and in close communication with the training of these men, and I am going to deal for a few moments with the disabled men, a question which we hear too much about in this House and all over the country. I mean that we talk too much about it, but we do not give any practical help whatever. It seems to be thought that, owing to the trade depression, there is no room at the present moment to train more of these disabled men, but I disagree entirely with that view. It reminds me that five years ago to-day those very men took the risk of their lives at the Battle of Arras in order to save the men they are now turning to for help, and I submit that now is the time for the employers of labour and for the local technical advisory committees to take a little of the risks that we took five years ago. It takes 18 months to train these men. Surely they are not going to take such a pessimistic view as to think that in 18 months' time we shall still be in a trade slump. At that time we all hope and believe most devoutly that we shall be in the middle of a revival and a trade boom, and then the cry will come: Why did you not train disabled men? The very people who will make that cry then are those who to-day say we cannot do it because of the trade depression. Let them take some of the risks and open the the gate wider than it is, realising that it takes, as I say, 18 months to train a man and that by that time trade will have been revived.
I wish to refer again to the King's Roll and to the Royal Warrant holders. I asked the right hon. Gentleman not many days ago if he would give us the numbers, 109 and he gave us the numbers, and I was astonished to find that there were so few of the holders of His Majesty's Royal Warrant, traders and manufacturers, qualified to have their names upon the King's Roll. I realise that one or two of them may be small tradesmen who employ only one or two men, but there are still large numbers of them who, I submit with all respect, if they are fit to hold His Majesty's Royal Warrant, ought at least to be loyal enough to carry out His Majesty's command. I want to give one illustration of how practical help, and not quite so much talk, may be given by hon. Members of this House on all sides. It is within my knowledge that not long ago a Member of this House was visiting a certain town where a by-election was going on, and he made it his business during the day to interview some of the manufacturers in that district. As a result, in six days' time 17 disabled men were found employment, and in two days in the following week three improverships were found. That is one way in which hon. Members of this House can do something to help the disabled men. I wish, in conclusion, to remind the Committee of the great number of women who have now joined the industrial world, amounting to some hundreds of thousands more than we had in industry in pre-War days, and I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can see any way of extending that scheme of training women for household duties that he has now got in being at Newcastle down to other big industrial centres, because I believe there are plenty of women who would rather do that natural function of household work than go into factories and mills, if they knew there was a means by which they could be effectively trained for household work, and thus leave the industrial world for the men.
§ Mr. ARTHUR MICHAEL SAMUEL
I will not follow my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Woolwich (Captain Gee), but I wish, if I may, to say a word or two in regard to the observations of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckingham (Captain Bowyer). Before doing that, however, I would like to join with the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) in saying how much I regret that by some mismanagement the Labour 110 party did not allow this Debate to be postponed until the report of the Estimates Committee on the Ministry of Labour expenditure was in the hands of hon. Members. The Estimates Committee has been working for some weeks on the very points which are being discussed to-day. Some hon. Members sneered at the appointment of that Committee, but here is an opportunity for that Committee, which is doing good work, for placing helpful facts before the House, and by some mismanagement, as I say, its criticism is not made available, and we have this Vote before us before the Committee's report is in the hands of hon. Members. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckingham took occasion for saying that there was still need for the Appointments Branch, or rather need for the training and care of ex-service men, not necessarily disabled, and, of course, we are all of that opinion. Nobody could have any other opinion. They must be looked after. I think, however, my hon. and gallant Friend, if he had really studied the administration of the Department, would see how foolish it is on his part to advocate the retention of the Appointments Branch. Does he know how that branch is working? Let me put aside at once any charge that I might be against helping these ex-service men. That is not the case. I am all for helping them, but what is the Appointments Branch doing? The Minister of Labour said that it has 13,800 or more men on its rolls, and in the first three weeks of this month, on an average, work was found for only 250 a week. It is not the fault of the Department. It can do no more than it does, but to keep a Department going which can only find work for an average of 250 men a week, out of a total of 13,800 applicants, is a waste of time and money. I do not mean that it should be abolished absolutely.
Let me take again the case of the men in training. As far as I read in the Estimates, we spend £90,000 a year, and we have 270 men in business training at the moment. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckingham expressed apprehension at the expenditure being reduced. Well, the staff is now about 187, and this time last year it was 525, but why? The reason is that there is not the work for the staff to do. My view is this, the Minister should roll the branch 111 up and amalgamate it into the general body of the Labour Ministry. They could do the work.
§ Captain BOWYER
What part of the Ministry of Labour is going to carry on this work, and how does my hon. Friend expect that, things being so bad, it will do any better than the Appointments Branch and the Civil Liabilities Branch, which have had personal experience of the work?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
They will not do it any better or worse, for they will not find any more work, because if you have no work it cannot be found. These men are simply a special Department trying to get work for men where there is no work, and I say we should get rid of the 187 men who are now employed in the Appointments Branch, roll them into the Ministry of Labour, disband the Appointments Branch as a Department, and use some of those men, if you wish, to deal with the matter in the Labour Ministry, but certainly do without these separate Departments. As a matter of fact, knowing, as I do, something from personal experience of this Department, where I worked under Lord Carmichael and Sir William Plender, I say that the policy and administration with regard to finding work for these men, and the training to which they are entitled—and I wish by all the means I can, either by my voice or my vote, to help them—the whole policy, I say, is in a sloppy condition. So far as the argument of my hon. and gallant Friend opposite is concerned, I disagree about the form of administration, and I have risen because he made a point of wishing to keep on the Appointments Department I desire to advocate and impress upon the Minister of Labour the view that he should now re-cast the whole of the policy of the Appointments Branch. He should, if possible, moreover, find out and tell us what he proposes to spend upon the Branch, and not only in administration but also in grants. I believe this year we are voting for services arising out of the War, for training under Item O, £250,000. This thing may run on for years. Then there is Item P—Training of Demobilised Officers and Men of His Majesty's Forces—Industrial, £4,954,661. I do not object to the money being spent, but these two items, O and P, give point 112 to my argument, namely, a limit of time and expenditure. The Minister ought to reconstruct this Department and the policy, and then let us know how long this policy is going to continue and its probable cost in grants. It is now 3½ years since the War. This expenditure may be going on for 5, 6, or 10 years. Men who were in the War ought to be trained, and they have a right to be trained, and I shall support that principle, but when the Minister here and now says that it may go on for 10 years——
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I am sorry I misunderstood my right hon. Friend's nod. I think some limit of time and cost ought to be imposed upon this branch of the Labour administration. Let us know what we are going to spend. Why not? The amount spent on the Appointments Department administration may run, for all we know, under the system of the House of Commons which allows money to be spent and then permission comes afterwards, not to 3 or 4 million pounds, as now, but to 20 million or 30 million pounds for grants and administration. Therefore, I totally disagree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, and I think that not only should the Department be thrown into the Labour Ministry and the whole policy should be revised, but that a forecast should be given of when the Minister expects the grants and expenditure will come to an end.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
I wish, first of all, to take exception to certain remarks that have been made by one or two Members in casting aspersions on the Members of the Labour party. It is rather remarkable that on a Monday, when most of our Members come from the provinces, and have not arrived at this time, such criticism should be made against them by the hon. and gallant Member for Woolwich (Captain Gee), and the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). Although we are the smallest party in the House our numbers present to-day compare favourably, in proportion, with any other party in the House. When the right hon. Baronet was criticising the number of the Labour party present, 113 there were only some 14 members of the Coalition party, which numbers 500, and when the hon. and gallant Member for Woolwich was speaking, there were only 20 members of the same party sitting in the House. So that that party shows up considerably worse than the Labour party so far as interest in this Debate is concerned. It may also be interesting to note that with all the hon. and gallant Gentleman's sympathy and criticism, he voted the other night against the Labour party's Amendment trying to get more money for the unemployed. Let him go back to Woolwich and explain why he tries to get so little for the unemployed in his own division. I notice some hon. Members have left after having their hit at the Labour party. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, at least, was quite consistent. The whole of his party was present, and when he left the Committee he took the whole party with him.
I desire to raise the question of ex-service men's training centres. I have had quite a number of letters from the training centre at Cathcart, in Glasgow. I am not going to speak for men in other places, but only for the men in the training department in the city I represent. The men there are dissatisfied. Other Members can state whether men who have been trained in their particular district are voicing the same dissatisfaction. The opinion of these men is that the system has entirely broken down. The Minister spoke of the number of trained men who have been trained to certain trades other than those which they followed in pre-War days, and for whom employment had been found. He said that some 63,000 men who had been trained had found employment, or had had employment found for them. What I should like to know—and it would have a considerable bearing upon the representations made to me by ex-service men trained at Cathcart—is how many of these 63,000 men for whom employment has been found are still working at the trades at which they were trained in these training centres? By being supplied with that information, we can judge of the success of the present method of training ex-service men. I am assured by the men who receive training at Cathcart that the whole method seems to have broken down; that, so far as the training is concerned, the men like the training, and are quite pre- 114 pared to go on with it, but they find that quite a lot of the promises made to them by the Ministry of Labour when they undertook to go into this training scheme have not been carried out. For example, after a period in some of the trades outside situations were to be found for them, and they were to be ranked as improvers. They tell me that they can find no situations as improvers. Canvassers as well as those in the Appointments Department were seeking to find work for them, but, at the end of their period of training in the training centre, all that is left for them is to go out from that centre and sign on at the Employment Exchange.
That is not according to the original promise made to these men, nor according to the scheme submitted to them when they were advised to undertake training. And, after all, men who are in these training centres are probably in worse circumstances than many of the other ex-service men. These men are unable, because of their disability owing to the War, to carry on the trades which they learnt, and the trades at which they were working, in pre-War times. You are here teaching men to follow some new occupation, and giving them various periods in which they are supposed to learn the theoretical and part of the practical work of a particular trade. You are supposed to find them situations where they can be looked upon as improvers, as having gone through a certain part of their apprenticeship, but not completed all their training, and employers were going to allow these men to come into their works and pass a period of their time as improvers before getting standard rates. All these promises seem to have been violated, or, at least, the scheme has broken down. You have these men signing on at the Employment Exchanges. Some at Glasgow have been signing on for six, 10 or 12 months after leaving the training centre. One can imagine that even a man trained at his own trade will find himself a little stiff and be able to handle tools less readily after a period of 12 months' idleness. What about those men who have been merely trained under instructors, are unemployed for nine months and then are offered a situation? Why, the whole of the instruction they have received in the training centre is so much wasted labour so far as they are concerned.
115 I am going to suggest that, at the present time, when it is impossible to find situations for the men whose period of training has come to an end, or is coming to an end in the course of the next few months, instead of sending those men out of the training centres, and telling them the canvassers will do their best to give them a situation, that they should be kept in the training centres, carrying on under the technical instructors, so that when the trade boom, which so many Members think possible, comes, these men will be sufficiently well equipped to take up any improvership that is offered to them. I do not think any hon. Member will disagree with a suggestion of that nature.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I am not excluding any Member in this House, not even the hon. Member opposite (Mr. A. Hopkinson). I do not think it would mean an addition to the Vote, but merely a readjustment of the money in the interests of ex-service men, and my hon. Friend opposite will not oppose that idea.
§ Mr. A. HOPKINSON indicated assent.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
While we have certain committees appointed, the whole work of administration in these training centres is carried through too much on the military system. There seems to be too much Army discipline. The men do not object to discipline, but they object to the methods on which it is sometimes carried out, and I was going to suggest that, so far as these training centres are concerned, the men might be allowed to have representation upon some of the committees that are set up under these schemes, so that they can have a voice, not in the control of the training centres, but at least some voice in advising the administrators as to what they consider the best method in order to obtain the highest technical skill with 116 which the instructors can furnish them. I throw it out as a suggestion to the Minister of Labour that the men themselves might be invited to take part on some of the advisory committees, or at least give some advice to the committees as to the methods in which these training centres might be conducted. If the men themselves are so interested in the schemes that they wish to advise where they see the schemes are breaking down, where they see instruction is not being utilised in the best possible way, where they see the possibilities of men losing all the skill they have acquired in the handling of tools in these training centres, where these men can advise the administration in their own training centre, or even the Ministry of Labour, then I think such a suggestion coming from the men themselves—not from me—might have some consideration at the hands of the Minister of Labour, and at the hands of those who have control of these training centres.
The other point I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of Labour to, or, perhaps, rather to emphasise, is the suggested alteration in the payment of associated benefit, and the percentage that is given to certain trade unions for assisting that work. It is suggested that the payment should be reduced. Let me emphasise the fact that it will not pay the trade unions to administer associated benefit at a reduced rate. Speaking for the union of which I am a member, I would say that the amount of money we paid out in associated benefit at one period left the Minister of Labour in our debt to the amount of £80,000. We did not wish to realise any of the Government and other securities we possessed. We possessed a very large amount of War Loan, and therefore it meant we had to have an overdraft at the bank, upon which we were paying 7 per cent, interest. We approached the Minister of Labour, and asked him to help us to try to reduce this overdraft. We pointed out the disadvantage at which we were being placed. His reply was, "Oh, but we are paying you a percentage for administering this associated benefit." That was being paid other trade unions, too, and the cost was thrown upon us all in the way I have described.
That was the Ministry's way of trying to evade their responsibility by keeping the trade unions out of large sums of 117 money. If they are going to reduce the amount allocated to the trade unions to pay the small percentage allowed for paying this associated benefit, then the trade unions will seriously have to consider as to whether it is worth while continuing to pay it. In these circumstances if the whole cost is thrown upon the Employment Exchanges, as undoubtedly it will he, if they pay the associated benefit, the expenses thrown upon the administration of the Exchanges will be considerably higher than the present percentage paid to the trade unions. The result would be a very heavy increase in the cost of administration. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will be able to reply to the two points I have put: that is the training centres for ex-service men and this matter of associated benefit the administration expenses of which it is proposed to reduce.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I daresay the House will have noticed that during the last 20 minutes we have not had on the Front Bench any Minister representing the Labour Department, or anybody representing the Treasury. It is quite clear the Minister of Labour cannot be expected to remain the whole day, because his Parliamentary Secretary is abroad, but I do submit that if not the Minister of Labour the whole time, seeing this is a Supply day, someone representing the Treasury ought to be on the Front Bench. I do not want to say one word disrespectful about the hon. Members who are now on the Treasury Bench (Sir J. Baird and Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. Gilmour) who are representing their respective Departments, but neither of them have anything to do with the Labour Department or the Treasury—at all events they do not directly represent the Treasury. We are being asked to spend something in the neighbourhood of £20,000,000. From the speeches to which we have listened, it is quite clear, looking at the very wide ground that they cover, what an immensely important Vote this is. I was very interested in listening to my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) when he pointed out how urgently important it was to get employers and employed more often together. I feel that that really is one of the greatest of problems that now faces the Ministry of Labour.
118 I myself do not feel that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has been at all helped in this matter by speeches made by members of the Government during the last 12 months. I think his task has been made infinitely more difficult by the speeches lately made in the country by the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary for the Colonies. During the last two years they have made the most bitter and constant attacks upon Labour in mass, and not only bitter, but indiscriminate. They have tried to tar the whole Labour party with a brush which only should have been applied to a few extremists. Personally I am convinced that these ill-timed and unfair attacks have done more to embitter relations between capital and labour than almost anything else in the last 12 months. I do not believe for a moment that these two Ministers represent either Conservative opinion as a whole or Liberal opinion as a whole. I think they have done very bad service to industrial peace. I hope the Minister of Labour will do what he can so to administer his Department as to bring, if possible, employed and employers nearer together, and in some way, if possible, to simplify the machinery of unemployment insurance. Up to now, there is no doubt about it, he has thrown a good deal of cold water upon contracting-out. He has not allowed special schemes to go through. I think my hon. Friends above the Gangway will agree that there are a good many important industries which would have welcomed schemes of contracting-out under the Act, because the more special schemes are allowed, the more will employers and employed be brought together for negotiating amongst themselves, and I believe, in the long run, this would lead to a far better feeling in the industrial world.
Let me, however, deal with the actual Estimates before us. I do not want to criticise any money that at present is being usefully spent for the Department. I want, however, to criticise what I believe to be unnecessary expenditure upon administration, because, after all, unnecessary expenditure on administration benefits nobody at all, and, on the other hand, it means less money for the genuine needs of the community. In this connection, take one point in the Geddes Report. This is what they said on the Ministry of Labour: 119We do not consider a period of exceptional unemployment as the most appropriate for settling a permanent establishment, and strongly deprecate any addition to the permanent staff at the present time.That was the opinion of the Geddes Committee. That recommendation has been almost wholly ignored by the Minister of Labour. Practically in every single branch of the Ministry of Labour in these Estimates, the temporary personnel is being turned into a permanent personnel.
§ Mr. LOCKER - LAMPSON
Very largely! I think it is a very serious question, because when temporary officials are turned into permanent officials it makes it infinitely more difficult in the future to effect economy. In fact, I find, looking through these Estimates, that the permanent staff actually has been increased by 805 during the last 12 months. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour said in this House on 6th April, last Thursday:The staff in that period has been reduced from 21,000 persons to 15,000 persons, and if human effort can achieve it, I shall certainly continue to reduce administration to the minimum. …" —f OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th April, 1922; col. 2459, Vol. 152.]He is now, in the Supplementary Estimate, asking for £293,000 odd to be spent in salaries. Therefore, it is quite clear that a larger staff must be contemplated. You will find that if you work out the £290,000 into persons with an average salary of £5 10s. per week, that it means an extra 1,000 officials. Anyhow, he is asking for this extra money for salaries, so I think he must mean increased staff, and as I have just read out, my right hon. Friend said that, "If human effort could achieve it, he would do his utmost to reduce administration to a minimum." Then you find there is a Labour Adviser at a salary of £3,000 per annum. I do not want to say anything derogatory to and against the ability of the present holder, for we know the great respect felt for the present Labour Adviser. He does his work, I believe, most excellently and efficiently; but he is the highest-paid official in the whole of the Ministry. My right hon. Friend himself gets only the very modest sum of £2,000.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
Comparatively modest. I think it is a very anomalous situation that the Labour Adviser to the Ministry should get 50 per cent, more than the actual Minister, and that the Labour Adviser should get 40 per cent, more than the Permanent Secretary, who receives £2,200. This salary of £3,000 was fixed at a Very extravagant time, when the Ministry was spending money like water, and I should have thought with the reduction in the cost of living and the higher value of the £ sterling that the salary might have been reduced. There is another point in connection with this salary of the Labour Adviser. My right hon. Friend may remember that last year, when we were discussing this Vote, it was pointed out that there were two permanent Secretaries, and there was quite a long Debate on the matter. It was pointed out that two permanent Secretaries were utterly unnecessary, and that the Labour Ministry was the only Ministry, with the exception of the Health Ministry, that had two permanent Secretaries. What has happened? Owing to the criticism my right hon. Friend comes down here and estimates for only one permanent Secretary——
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
Ah, but the right hon. Gentleman has turned the other into what he now calls the Labour Adviser. If hon. Members look down the list they will see that the headquarters established staff is exactly the same as last year. Therefore this reduction is absolute window-dressing, and means nothing at all. We still retain exactly the same personnel. We have still got under different names two permanent Secretaries, one at £3,000 a year and the other at £2,200 a year. Take the Intelligence Statistics Division: you have there another instance of what was mentioned in Committee the other day, where temporary officers are being turned into permanent officials. In this Department no less than 50 temporary clerks have been given permanent appointments. How are we going to economise if every year we are going to see persons who were taken on temporarily during the War turned into permanent officials?
There is another point to which I desire to draw attention. You have the Trade 121 Board officials for the purpose of regulating the wages in certain industries. I do feel that all this is for the benefit of the industries concerned, and they ought certainly to pay part of the expense. I do not see why all the expense connected with that Department should fall upon the Exchequer, and the industries concerned certainly ought to pay towards the expenditure involved, which is very high. The Chairmen of this Board get five guineas a day and the members of the Board get three guineas a day. That is at the rate of nearly £2,000 a year for a Chairman and £l,100 a year for each member. I impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the importance of getting these industries to pay a certain proportion of the cost, and if he would do this he would be rendering a good service to the cause of economy.
I now turn to the transformation of temporary into permanent officials in the Insurance Department. We find here a good many of the officials are getting increased salaries. Here again we get the same kind of window dressing and camouflage which I have already pointed out in connection with the labour adviser. You find the assistant general manager last year on a maximum salary of £750, and he now becomes a deputy-chief inspector with a maximum salary of £850, or an increase of £100 a year, although it is exactly the same man doing the same duties.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
There are five inspectors of the first class getting £100 a year extra. If you look at the Estimates you will find that the temporary clerks have been reduced by 2,646, but a little higher up we find that the permanent clerks have been increased by 2,606 which shows a saving of only 40. The same thing is happening in the provinces. There you have nine divisional controllers costing nearly £8,000 last year. This year they are costing £9,000, an average rise of over £100 a year each. You have nine assistant controllers, but they haven changed their name. I do not know whether that is on account of increased work or not, but they have now become deputy-divisional controllers, and they get a rise of £100 122 a year. Really the whole of this business is, to my mind, most irritating to the general taxpayer. Hon. Members may think that I have picked out bad cases, but I can assure them that if they go through the Estimates they will find similar instances on every page. The real difficulty is not to find instances, but to select them. One does not like to bore the House with them; they are to be found on every single page of the Estimates.
I should like to give one more instance, that of the Umpire and the Court of Referees. I see that in this case the travelling allowances are a quarter of what they were last year, showing that the work must have been infinitely less in a great many respects than it was last year. In spite of this 70 per cent, reduction in the work, the remuneration is exactly the same, and there is not a fall even in accordance with the cost of living. As a matter of fact, the staff has actually increased. Although there has been a reduction in the bonus the salaries have gone up. Where is the economy here? The work is less and the cost of living less, and therefore the total ought to be less. If the cost of living has gone down that is a double reason why the expenditure in connection with this administration should go down. I have nothing more to say on these points. I have tried to make my points as clear as I can. I feel so strongly about it, and I feel that there is so much scope for cutting down expenditure in connection with this Department that I shall certainly go into the Lobby with my hon. Friend in support of this Amendment.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down apparently does not appreciate the fact that, even supposing that the whole of the staff employed by this Ministry were to work for nothing, the saving would not be really appreciable when one considers the hundreds of millions of indirect expenditure the country has to meet as a result of the existence of that Ministry. More than one speaker has drawn attention to one possible solution of the problem of unemployment, suggesting that insurance by industry, each industry looking after its own unemployed, is the way out of the difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) 123 pointed out one or two difficulties, and I should like to point out one or two further difficulties which render that suggestion entirely useless. In the first place, if the Minister by giving permission to contract-out schemes allows industries to insure themselves against unemployment, it is quite certain that only those industries where the percentage of unemployment from year to year is very small will agree to contract out. That being so, the scheme will become even more bankrupt than it is at the present time, inasmuch as the premiums of those trades which do not have to pay large benefits would be taken away from the fund, and the fund would be dependent on those industries where the percentage of unemployment is high.
There is a further objection, if that is not sufficient, and it is that in all industries you have employers who look upon this problem in different ways. You may have employers who, when trade is good and the boom is on, take on men recklessly in order to reap the advantage of the high profits, but without any regard or consideration as to what is going to happen to those unfortunate men when the boom period has passed. There are other employers who look at this matter from a very different point of view. When the trade boom is on they are extremely careful not to take on more men than they can afford to keep on when the immediate trade boom is over, not allowing themselves to be so much influenced by the prospects of gigantic profits. If you have unemployment insurance by industry the considerate employer will have to bear the burden of the less considerate employer, and it will make it more and more difficult for the man who does his best to keep up a regular level of employment, and make it easier for the man who is totally inconsiderate in regard to the men whom he employs. Those are two cogent reasons why all this talk about unemployment insurance by industry is really altogether by the board.
What is the main question at issue on this particular Amendment? I think we are supposed to be debating an Amendment for the reduction of the right hon. Gentleman's salary by £100? In my opinion this is a suitable opportunity for considering what this House has never considered before, and that is, what is the Minister of Labour for, and what his 124 Department is for also? At the beginning of this Debate the right hon. Gentleman gave us a long list of things which his Department was doing, but he has never yet given us any sort of reason for justifying the existence of that Department as a Ministry. He has never yet shown that the functions which his Department exercises are in any sense functions of the Government or of the State.
I have suggested previously that the object of his Department and the function it performs for the public good is that of keeping the rate of wages above the economic level. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, in his reply, will give us his reason for thinking that is not the case. If that is the object of his Department, I can congratulate him upon its success. He has so managed to keep the wage-rate above the economic level that we now have something like 2,000,000 men unemployed in this country. It is a case of Si monumentum requiris, circumspice, and you only need to look around the Employment Exchanges to see what a success the Labour Ministry has been. I think the real trouble arose because this Ministry was created at a time when the whole country, the House of Commons, and the Government were in a particularly hysterical condition, and when the members of the Labour party strongly impressed upon the Government the necessity for a Labour Ministry, and it was created without any real consideration as to whether it had any useful functions to perform for the good of the community and the State. It may be said that although the Labour Ministry has no real functions, yet it is quite harmless, and the money spent upon its activities provides jobs for very many excellent gentlemen throughout the country at a time when unemployment is so very rife. I suggest that the effect of the existence and the policy of the right hon. Gentleman's Department has been absolutely disastrous in one direction. For so far as the great trade unions of this country are concerned, the Labour Ministry and the policy of the right hon. Gentleman have been absolutely disastrous in their effect.
In this matter I speak as one who throughout the whole of his working career has done his level best to assist that great movement and strengthen it, being convinced that it is really the weak- 125 ness of trade unions rather than their strength which is the cause of industrial trouble. If the trade unions had only the strength they used to have before they became so unwieldy, industrial peace would be much nearer than it is at the present time. What is the policy of the Ministry in this matter? It endeavours to take away from trade unions those functions which every man who is a worker, with his brain or his hands, recognises as beneficent, no matter what his views or politics are. It endeavours to take away the benefits conferred by the trade unions, apart from the political side of those institutions. Having done so—to a certain extent successfully—it has left trade unions simply dragging along at the heels of the Labour party instead of performing the functions they performed in the past. The Labour Ministry caters for the man who does not belong to the trade unions, but I would ask hon. Members to consider whether there is any valid reason why any manual worker should not belong to a trade union, except one. In my view there is only one reason, and that is that there are some among us—I think I am one myself—who value their freedom more than anything else on earth, and it is only because a man values his freedom so highly that he has any valid excuse for not belonging to any trade union if he is engaged in one of the manual trades of this country. Such a man, being an individualist and acting as an individualist, must take the consequences of his own individualism. If he will not take advantage of collective action in his own trade to obtain these benefits, then it is certainly not the function of the State to interpose and say they will save this individualist from the consequences of his own convictions.
I do not think hon. Members opposite, so far as I recollect during this present Parliament, have ever drawn attention to this great danger the trade unions are facing to-day. We know that the financial position of the trade unions to-day is very serious indeed, and is likely to be worse in the near future. We know that owing to circumstances over which, in the main, the directors of the trade unions have no control, the membership is dropping away week by week in a very serious manner indeed. 126 These two great causes of weakness in trade unionism are obvious to all, but there is this further persistent, most insidious, and intimately, as I think, most fatal cause of the degradation of trade unionism in this country, that the Labour Ministry is taking out of the hands of the trade unions all the beneficent functions they ever possessed and exercised, and is reducing them simply to a means for providing funds for running Labour candidates for Parliament. If trade unions continue in that position, and there is no reform from inside those trade unions, very soon, it seems to me, the great days of trade unionism will be gone.
Let us look at another aspect of the same question. The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson) said that the duty of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour was to get the employed and the employers together, a simple catchword which never yet saved any industrial dispute, so far as my recollection goes. For getting the two together means, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Wood Green, that you get a long table, you put representatives of the employers on the one side, representatives of the men on the other side, a neutral chairman at the top, and then you go about the discussion as if there was some common interest between the employers of labour and another common and opposing interest among the men in that industry. That is one of the greatest fallacies, and it gives rise in the present day to more industrial unrest than anything else. There is no common interest whatsoever between employers in any given industry. The man whom I, as an employer of labour in the engineering industry, am fighting is the other employer of labour in that particular branch of the engineering industry and no one else, and to fight him I depend upon the willing and skilful help of those I employ. Therefore, I have always refused—and as time goes on I believe other employers of labour will also refuse—to go into any such game as the Minister of Labour is always trying to play with industry, a game in which you have on the one side employers and on the other side men. The competition is not between one employer and his men, but between one employer and the men who help him and the other 127 employer who competes against him and the men who help that man in that competition.
Until the right hon. Gentleman really gets that simple conception into his head he can do nothing in industry except to cause, as he has done hitherto, more and more trouble as time goes on. Ever since the Ministry of Labour was created during the War, ever since it began its beneficent functions to prevent unrest and trouble, ever since the day of its birth, industrial troubles have got worse and worse year by year, until last year they culminated in the worst disputes, I believe, for 50 years. That trouble is due simply to this hopelessly false conception of the function of competition in industry, this idea that you have a common interest between employers of a trade and another common interest between the men of that trade. I must be forgiven if I repeat this. It is such a simple conception, and if the right hon. Gentleman would only free himself from the prejudices which have been rammed into his mind by the Labour party, and would look on industry as a whole, I think, perhaps, he would see this particular point. I hope that in his reply he will tell us, not the wonderful number of men who have been able to draw doles at the Unemployment Exchanges, not the wonderful devices by which he has been able to call Poor Relief by other and less opprobrious names, but that he will tell us what his Ministry is for, because that is what we want to know more than anything else.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I feel sure the Committee will agree when I say that the human race has thrown up two great economists in the persons of Karl Marx and the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), and that the greatest of the two is the hon. Member. The knowledge of some men is profound, and their conceit is colossal. I think that is sufficient on that score.
I rose in order to make a comment or two on the proposal that has been made to the Ministry of Labour on several occasions in this House, in favour of unemployment insurance by industry, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not be induced to follow that line. In that connection, I agree with the hon. 128 Member for Mossley that unemployment insurance by industry is an impossible thing. Insurance ought to be mutual. It ought to be based on the principle that the strong shall help the weak, that the healthy shall help the sick; but if we have the idea, as we have already under the State health scheme, that you segregate people for insurance purposes, then you come to the point where the poor must help the poor, the sick help the sick, and the strong will help the strong. I ask the Minister of Labour to turn to the Minister of Health to seek his experience of insurance in connection with the State health scheme before he launches-out on any scheme of unemployment insurance by industry. What has transpired? There was a valuation of all the health insurance societies in this country at the end of 1918, with the result that some of the segregated societies covering very poor workpeople came out in the valuation without a penny piece to spare. Other approved societies, covering a better class of people, secured valuation sums amounting to 5s. per week for additional benefits because of the good life of those people, and because they were in continuous employment. I think the experience on that side ought to guide the Minister, and I trust he will declare to-night, if possible, that he will not launch on any scheme of unemployment insurance by industry.
I wish to call the attention of the Minister to the circular, dated 6th April, which he has just issued to private associations who are now administering unemployment insurance. I fail to understand how the Minister works out his figures in these Estimates. He shows a sum of £280,000 decrease for administration in approved associations, while, strangely enough, he came before the House the other day and asked it to pass a Measure to increase the appropriation allowance from 10 per cent, to 12½ per cent. I would like, therefore, to receive an explanation on that point from the Minister when he replies. I would like to have his personal attention because of the very bad feeling it has created. The circular suggests that the rate of allowance for administering unemployment benefit for approved associations is to be reduced from 6d. to 3d., 129 according to the percentage of unemployment, and I am told on good authority that the Is. per week that they are now getting will, under this proposal, be reduced to 3d. I take it there must be some explanation of the difference between this proposal and the request of the Minister, granted to him by the House the other day, that the appropriation allowance should be increased from 10 per cent, to 12½ per cent. This circular has caused a great deal of bad feeling among the trade unions who are administering this benefit. I must also refer to the Trade Boards for a moment or two, and I would like to call attention to the fact that in the fine chemical trades there is a classic example which has caused apprehension in some trade unions. The Minister of Labour, in dealing with Trade Boards, may have given either a verbal instruction, a hint, or a suggestion—I hope he has not—to the chairmen of some of the Trade Boards, that when they receive terms of reference—I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon, I am speaking of arbitrators appointed by the Minister.
§ Mr. DAVIES
In connection with the fine chemical industry. The particular cast is as follows. The two parties, employers and workpeople, decided on terms of reference which did not include at all any reference to a sliding scale. When Sir Wm. MacKenzie, the Chairman, came to the arbitration proceedings he informed the parties that he would take account of anything new referred to by the employers, and they referred to a sliding scale. What I am anxious to know is whether the Minister has given instructions to chairmen in arbitration cases that they may include in the terms of reference a sliding scale. The trade unions are getting very apprehensive, and in this case the representatives of the trade unions declined to proceed with the arbitration at all. I feel sure the Minister will agree with me that it would be a very dangerous thing indeed to tamper with chairmen of arbitration courts in connection with terms of reference. I want also to offer a few observations with regard to Trade Boards. There are 2,000,000 workers under Trade Boards at the present 130 time, and there are 60 Trade Boards, but there are only 20 inspectors employed by the Ministry to see that the decisions of the Trade Boards are carried out. It is impossible for 20 people to do that work. There are scores of infringements that cannot be found out and will not be found out, and in consequence employers go free of conviction because there is an insufficient number of people to investigate cases of this kind. I trust the Ministry will not be influenced in the least by the demand for the suppression of Trade Boards. Members of this Committee will call to mind what happened at Tipton the other day. There were girls employed there in connection with the dismantling of cartridges who were being paid 6s. per week wages. Can anyone stand up and declare that a Trade Board is not necessary in a case of that kind? If any hon. Member does say so I fail to understand his mind. I hope the Minister will see to it that there will be an extension of these Trade Boards to all industries where men and women are deliberately exploited and sweated for the sake of profit.
The right hon. Gentleman has recently issued a Regulation to the effect that the position of single men and women who appear to be wholly or mainly maintained by their relatives should be determined in the light of the applicant's present circumstances. Let us see how that operates. I had a case brought to my notice only this morning from Yorkshire, where a man employed for three days a week only was keeping his widowed mother and his three adult sisters, all of whom are unemployed. The Committee dealing with the case of the three adult females have declared that they are single women ordinarily dependent on their brother. That is the effect of the Circular issued by the Minister. I am glad to see the Committee at Lincoln has struck against these Regulations, because in some cases they are by far too stringent in their application. The Minister should withdraw some part of them. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will have been moved, in connection with the training centres for women—the home-work centres—to do something. I am conversant with the good work that has been done, and I can assure the Minister we are very sorry indeed in that part of the country in which I live that 131 there is no money forthcoming to carry on their work. I have here a document which proves the very valuable work done by these centres, and I trust that money will be found, as hitherto, to carry it on and thus to help the women, in the way that attempts are being made to help men, to secure some form of employment. After all, it is better to spend £1 a week on training women to earn their living decently than to pay benefits to a like sum for which nothing is got in return.
§ Sir R. COOPER
I have associated myself with the proposal for the reduction of this Vote in order that I may draw attention to the lack of effort on the part of the Government, and especially on the part of the Ministry of Labour, to deal with the problems in connection with Labour with which this country is faced at the present time. First, however, I would like to raise a point in connection with the Appointments Branch which was dealt with this afternoon by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Locker-Lampson). Looking through the Estimate I find that in the Appointments Branch in the provinces the staff has been reduced from 459 to 128, but when I come to the headquarters staff of the Appointments Branch I find that the personnel of the headquarters staff has been increased from 40 to 55. It may be possible that the reduction in the provinces, and some re-arrangement of the work, may have thrown a greater volume of work on the headquarters staff. I have taken a little trouble to try and get at the facts.
§ Sir R. COOPER
It comes under the special heading of the Appointments Branch. Still, the exact figures do not really matter. The point I want to make is this. I am informed there has been a good deal of complaint in the Appointments Branch of a lack of work quite recently, and that representations have been made to the right hon. Gentleman himself on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman told us, in introducing this Vote this afternoon, that he has made every effort, consistent with serving the welfare of those whom he is expected to benefit, to cut down expenditure, and 132 that being so, I know his desire is to see that there is no waste. I have reason to believe, however, that there is a real waste and that there is too much staff with not enough work to do. Some of the principal officers in the right hon. Gentleman's Department have, I am told, actually made suggestions that there ought to be removals, as there are too many of them. I have been told this from the right hon. Gentleman's Department, and I hope that he will be good enough to very carefully look into this matter.
I was impressed last week when we were dealing with the Unemployment Insurance Bill, by the memorandum at the beginning of the Bill. It seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Government, was bud getting for 1,250,000 unemployed people up to June, 1923. That, of course, if there is any substratum of truth in the Estimate—and knowing what I do of the position of industry in this country to-day I am afraid there may be—foreshadows a very grave problem for the next twelve months. This afternoon we have been debating the training of ex-service men. A very large sum of money is being spent on that, with the full sympathy and support of both the House and the country, as we are all anxious to do our utmost to alleviate the sufferings of these men and to put them in a position in which they can earn their own livelihood. But let us remember it is no use spending an enormous sum of money on the training of men when there is very little probability of many of them getting employment for some long time to come, after they have received the benefits which the right hon. Gentleman is administering. That fact alone is a very disturbing one to my mind, and, taken with many others of a similar nature, it really raises the question put by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), when he was attacking the Ministry of Labour, as to what really that Ministry exists for. Is it merely to administer unemployment insurance and similar Measures of that kind which Parliament has passed? If it is to do nothing more than that I should be in clined to agree with the hon. Member for Mossley and others that its continuance is unnecessary. I venture to think it always was the intention of Parliament, and of the country, that the duty of the Ministry of Labour should be to examine from 133 every point of view all the difficulties which beset Labour, to take evidence thereon, to adopt what steps it can to minimise evils, and to do its utmost to put Labour in this country on the highest possible pedestal compatible with our economic prosperity year in and year out.
When I examine these great problems facing us at the present moment I ask myself: What is the Ministry of Labour really doing to tackle them? I feel it is lacking in proper attention to them. One of the greatest worries of working people in this country is the demand being made in every direction to cut down the rates of wages, especially in those industries where during the War wages rose very high. We have two lock-outs at the present time based on the need for cutting down wages. What we want to know, what the country wants to know, and what Labour desires to know, is what are the real facts about wages and is it necessary for them to be cut down? Surely that is a proper subject for examination by the Ministry. If it is necessary that wages should be cut down do not let us have lock-outs following one upon another, and entailing the disappointments and distress of unemployment to any people. If it is necessary to have a reduction generally throughout the country, let the Prime Minister, the Minister of Labour, or some other responsible Member of the Government tell the country honestly what are the facts with regard to the question. The moment the right hon. Gentleman tackles that problem he is going to have put to him complaints from Labour against employers—many of them, no doubt, with a good deal of justification, because in these matters, under the system under which we work at present, there is a lot of evil perpetrated, in my opinion, by both sides. It is said with a good deal of truth that there are bad employers as well as good. It can equally be said that there are bad workmen and bad representatives of labour as well as good. Probably that is broadly true, but, as we are going on at present, the broad fact is that each side is trying to get all it can out of the other.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts), a predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman as Minister of Labour, has this afternoon spoken very strongly and feelingly upon the good work that is being done in con- 134 nection with industrial peace by the Industrial Councils. I quite agree that the Minister of Labour has been indefatigable in that direction, and in doing everything that can possibly be done to try and bring peace in the difficulties between employers and labour when they have cropped up; but where I am at issue with the right hon. Gentleman is that, so far as regards taking any steps to reduce the 1,250,000 unemployed, and so far as regards disputes between employers and labour at the present time, he is not doing enough. In fact, I do not know that he is doing anything serious at the present time to try and get down to the root of the trouble and find out why these disputes are arising, and what is the reason for all these difficulties with Labour in regard to wages, conditions, output, efficiency of labour, and so on. I was reading only last night some remarks of a Labour Member who very rightly pointed out that we ought to have got beyond the stage where either employers, through lockouts, or labour, through strikes, are trying to benefit themselves through the stomachs of women and children. When all is said and done, whether it be a strike or lockout, it is ultimately only through the stomachs of the people that any results are attainable. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) some two months ago said that strikes were of no use, and the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton), in the Debate on the Address, said that strikes have not done either the workpeople or the masters any lasting good.
While the right hon. Gentleman is most assiduous and is trying very hard under most difficult conditions to deal with the problems that come up to him, I do want to urge upon him that some steps should be taken by him on behalf of the Government to inquire, by as impartial a body as can possibly be found, into these problems, industrial and financial—because taxation affects the working people very much. It ought to be done without any delay. The truth ought to be ascertained, and, when it is ascertained, there must be no lack of courage on the part of the Government, either through the Prime Minister or the Minister of Labour, in telling the country what are the facts, in telling Labour what general lines they have to take up in their own interests if they want to get back to prosperity, and in telling em- 135 ployers just as strongly what they have to do if they want to get their works going on prosperous lines, instead of having them empty or half empty as so many are at the present moment. I am sure that everyone in this Committee must agree that we are faced with an appalling position, and I say quite frankly, as one knowing a little about industry, that I myself take the most pessimistic view of it, if we are to go on drifting on present lines with no attempt on the part of anyone to do anything.
In the Debate on the Address, I made a most fervent appeal to the Labour party. I remember saying that I had frankly no hope from an appeal to employers through their associations, and I had not much confidence in appealing to the Government, but that there was one body who, if they would only for the moment just drop their little political difficulty of being opposed to the industrial system and wanting to abolish it for something different, and if they would only for the moment, as experts in industry and as the most responsible representatives of the working classes, find out what are the difficulties, examine them to the bottom, find out a remedy, tell us how to get trade going again and how to get employment improved, it would be a piece of work that would stand to the credit of the Labour party in the years to come, and that, if it were done with all the honesty that human beings could command, it would be an enormous service to every class in the country—to the Government themselves, to the State, which has to find these terrific sums year in and year out, to industry and overseas trade, and to the general prosperity of the working classes. There has been no response to that from the Labour party, and I am afraid that under our political conditions there is not likely to be. My only hope now is to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, not to let my remarks, badly expressed though they may be, pass by unheeded, but to get someone to work—say a dozen or 20 of the best picked representatives of Labour and a dozen or 20 of the best picked representatives of Labour and a dozen or 20 of the best leaders of industry and employers—and let them confer together and examine by the best possible means the difficulties of the problem. Let us 136 have the truth now, and let the Government, when it knows the truth, set to work and begin to reconstruct on lines that have been recognised by both sides as being broadly right and on which they have a policy. If something of that sort be done, there is a possibility of saving this country a year hence, or it may be two years, from a danger which in my honest opinion is very grave indeed. If the right hon. Gentleman will not take that step, I can think of no other, and we shall just drift on, possibly to destruction—though I hope not—at any rate into conditions which are going to be very hard for all classes in this country and to make life not worth living, and which will end by making our country a second—or third—rate nation.
§ Mr. JOHN MURRAY
I am quite unable to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken in his attribution to the Minister of Labour of functions for which Providence alone would be adequate, although I see the motive of the suggestion, and, in a sense, I share it. While many points have been touched upon in the Debate with regard to the Ministry of Labour, none have been touched upon in a hostile spirit, and none with critical success. When the right hon. Gentleman rises to meet in detail the criticisms as to the construction and running of his Ministry, it seems to me that he will have little to answer. I have been looking at the Estimates, of which there are 20 pages, and it seems to me that, while the Ministry of Labour is not the wicked organisation which some hon. Members consider it to be, although they have not said so this afternoon, it does flourish like the green bay tree. In the short six years of its existence, it has added department to department, function to function, and salary to salary. As the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson) has reminded us, it has a most impressive and phenomenal list of salaries. The hon. Member did not ask why that has happened. I feel that I am but repeating what I said the other day in another Debate when I put it to him, and to the party which identifies itself with anti-waste, that they must not merely point out the big salaries which we have here, and which I believe to be earned in the Ministry of Labour, but they must present an alternative policy. If I may, I should like to give them a policy.
137 The Ministry of Labour is six years old, and these20 pages of Estimates cover an immense outburst of highly centralised government. That is the first important point. I do not blame the centralisation, and I believe in the Ministry of Labour; but centralising tendencies are not the only tendencies that are of value in the government and administration of the country. In those days a Ministry of Labour, which is a necessity for an industrial country, could only begin by a strong phase of centralisation. What I want to suggest to the Minister of Labour is that he should commune with his own spirit, and with those highly deserving officials whom he employs, as to whether the time is not at least rapidly approaching when these centralising tendencies, which have had all the scope in the Ministry of Labour up to this time, ought not to be balanced by decentralisation. I should like to say what I mean by the decentralisation which is appropriate for the functions of the Ministry of Labour. During the War it happened to be my work to have a share in the control of wages and in the practice of conciliation in the Ministry of Munitions, and it was often my lot to go to provincial towns and to handle troubles of an industrial sort at close quarters. Wherever one went one found that there was no organisation of a public kind to which one could appeal, and which ought to be keeping the peace locally, as the hon. Member who has just spoken asked the Minister of Labour should keep it for the whole country. I found that, although every industrial town and district in this country was honeycombed with sectional agencies of the men and the masters, with partial and partisan organisations, yet in none of those areas was there any statutory authority which could be trusted to sum up and express in its work the good sense, experience and goodwill of an industrial community. The masters have their own organisations, and so have the men. There are also bodies called chambers of commerce, but I have never been able to discover what they did; and there are equally futile bodies called trades councils.
There are all manner of sectional organisations on the two sides, none of which is approved and accepted in the industrial community as capable of voicing its view, of building up and maintaining a standard, of imposing a 138 good standard of behaviour, and infusing good feeling throughout the whole industrial body That I found from personal experience to be a grave deficiency in our arrangements during the War. Since the War, an important Committee which considered the functions and fate of the Employment Exchanges, and of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals (Mr. G. Barnes) was chairman, took a great deal of evidence from those advisory committees which are already attached to the local branches of the Employment exchanges, all of which went to show that these committees, wherever they are to he found, are tired of their merely advisory functions, and would rather drop out than goon giving advice that is not listened to. They claim the right to take over the management of that work in the localities as statutory executive bodies. The right hon. Gentleman, in his opening speech to-day, let fall a remark about devolution—avery guarded and defensive remark to the effect that he had no use for it in the present state of development of the Ministry of Labour. Later on I heard him utter compliments to the committees of voluntary workers who performed these advisory functions. I was glad to hear the compliments, but I thought that the members of these committees would be still more glad if they heard from the Minister anything of the nature of a promise to build up those advisory and voluntary functions in to a statutory shape. What I wish to suggest to the Minister, as a way out of many of his troubles, is that over-centralisation of Government control and expenditure is the great political evil which the War has left us, and that the truest path of advance in home affairs is to get rid of all these centralised agencies, so far as that may be done—for they always have a function—andbuild up in their place local bodies capable of performing the great bulk of those functions. In order that I may not seem to be talking in the air, I would suggest that the relation between the centralising and decentralising tendencies in the control of education should be taken as an example and followed by the Minister of Labour in fashioning and preparing the legislation which I hope he will one day soon undertake on this important point. We have the Board of Education, which, 139 Heaven knows, is big enough and bureaucratic enough, but up and down the country we have large and promising bodies of an autonomous kind under the local authorities which take from the central government and carry out with a freedom of their own under statutory conditions the vast bulk of the educational work of the country. I want to see that done with the Minister of Labour. It is no good doing as the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson) does, and that is, tell over all these members of the Civil Service at the Ministry of Labour who receive £2,000 a year. We must face this question, not in a cheeseparing way, but as a real problem of devolution. I believe that by devolution you would set up small but efficient bureaucracies under each of your local industrial authorities. These bureaucracies would do the work that is done by the local provincial branches of the Ministry of Labour, and do it better and faster and cheaper, because their masters would be in the same town, and they would be under the eye and under the thumb of the local bodies statutorily charged with their supervision, and I am, sure this would relieve the State of maintaining a huge army of bureaucrats in Whitehall.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
That is a suggestion which would involve legislation, and we cannot discuss that on the Estimates.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir Edwin Cornwall)
I was going to call the hon. Member to order, but as he was at the end of his speech I did not interrupt him. It is not in order at this stage to discuss legislation, or anything that involves legislation.
§ Mr. MURRAY
I accept the ruling of the Chair, and I will resay my point in two sentences. The only cure can come by a thoroughly scientific and statesmanlike scheme whereby, by that measure which I must not mention, an alternative method of working shall be brought into existence to these large offices in London.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
We have had a very useful Debate. I cannot reply to the speech of the hon. Member who preceded me, which was of interest and of value, because it was out of order, and, in the second place, because I should like to 140 have had much more time to think about it. Therefore, if I do not turn to it in the short reply I am in a position to make, I am sure my hon. Friend will understand the reason. My hon. Friend the Member for Welling borough (Mr. W. Smith), who opened the Debate, complained of delays in confirming Trade Board rates, especially in the grocery trade. I explained that the application of the Trade Board system to the distributive trades opened up a new field, and that it is not so easy of operation as in the case of direct production trades. I said also it was a pity it came at a time of great depression. But I knew that a considerable amount of evidence was being given before the Cave Committee on the application, for the firt time, to the distributive trades, of the Trade Board system, and therefore I thought I had better, in all the circumstances, wait until I got the report of the Committee before I took any definite line with regard to the proposals made. My hon. Friend suggested that I took that course being, as he would say, intimidated by political action. With the greatest possible respect, that is the sheerest nonsense. I was told from all quarters that if I went ahead with these rates, at a time of great depression, so far from helping people I should probably turn a good many of them into the streets, to swell the ranks of the unemployed. Any man in my position, with this grave responsibility, would be bound to go cautiously. I told the House so, and I am perfectly satisfied I did the right thing, and it is entirely beside the mark to suggest that I was intimidated by political action, or any other action.
One or two hon. Members referred to the training of women. There is in the Estimates a sum of £15,000 for the training of disabled nurses and war widows. Up to March, 1921, 7,174 unemployed women had been trained at a total cost of £154,000. Since April, 1921, the Central Committee on Women's Training and Unemployment have been responsible for the training of unemployed women. They trained 6,000 in home crafts, and they have in training at this time 2,500. The cost has been met by a grant of £50,000 from the Ministry of Labour Vote, to which the Central Committee is putting £100,000 from the share of the National Relief Fund placed at their disposal. They give £2 and I 141 give £1, or did last year, and that sum is shown in last year's Estimates. In addition, I am advised the Committee have recently allocated from their general fund a further sum of £20,000, which will provide training for a further 1,000. The hon. Member for Welling borough also asked about the exclusion of charwomen from the Act. That was the result of a High Court decision. He asks me to rule them in again, by some regulation. But I cannot; that will have to be a matter of legislation. If I am asked why I did not do it in the recent Bill, I answer that I did not think it expedient, and I am entitled to say, "Neither was there an Amendment moved to that effect."
§ Mr. W. SMITH
I think the explanation of that would be that we were under the impression that the Act could be extended (by an order of the Ministry, and that there was no necessity for legislation.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Well, I do not think so—after the matter had been dealt with by a High Court action. I am sorry if my hon. Friend thought it could be done by regulation. Nothing I have ever said would have suggested it. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) referred to the regulation made under the six weeks' extension of benefit which came to an end on the 26th February, and referred to the fact that I had stated that the provision of unemployment benefit from now onwards—15 weeks to the end of October and a possible extension afterwards—will all be under those regulations. He suggested that there will be hardship in particular cases if that is done, and particularly the case, which has been ruled out, of the single young man or young woman living at home or living with relatives who can partly or wholly maintain them. This is not covenanted benefit. Covenanted benefit is payable under the permanent Statute. This is uncovenanted.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Or may not pay, and many of them are not in a position to pay. No one knows that better than my hon. Friend. What have I done? I have said: I will make such regulations 142 as will, at any rate, secure that the fund shall not be improperly dissipated, that it shall be confined to those and conserved for those who really need it, and particularly those who are responsible for children. If there is any single young fellow or girl living at home whose parents can maintain them, they ought not to get this further free uncovenanted benefit. But I recognise that cases of hardship will arise, and in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), who, in the Debates on the Unemployment Insurance Bill, asked, "What about the home when both father and mother are out of work?" I say the rule does not apply there, because they are not in a position to maintain them.
On Saturday I sent out a general letter to the local committees on this question of boys and girls who are living with their relatives who may be able to maintain them. Perhaps I might read the last paragraph, and, in any case, I will send each of my hon. Friend's opposite a copy. The last paragraph gives the spirit of it:Without making anything in the nature of a general charge, the Minister cannot disguise from himself the fact that in the case of a certain number of the younger applicants for benefit who have no responsibilities and who turn to their relatives for a measure, at any rate, of maintenance, the search for work in lieu of benefit is not invariably as diligent as could be desired. On the other hand there is the real difficulty that at the moment it certainly cannot be said that work is everywhere available. What the Minister wishes the committees to do is to examine carefully the merits of each case, in the light of the conditions laid down. These conditions are not designed to rule out benefit in cases where such deprivation would inflict real hardship. They are intended, however, to prevent the improper dissipation of a fund which is limited, which is built up mainly by heavy contributions from employers and employed, and which is urgently needed to meet the case of those for whom it is properly designed.The hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Captain Bowyer) is very anxious about what we are going to do in the future with regard to the Appointments Branch, and the other branches of our activities, for carrying out the obligation under which we rest to the ex-service men. Let me tell him what I said on that point. We have made such economies as we have judged possible without prejudicing the interests of those we are charged to help. With this governing consideration in mind, we have consulted 143 the British Legion at each stage, and we have been most glad of their advice and assistance.
I have got, on the administrative side, to roll up and economise as I can, without doing prejudice to the ex-service men or in any way failing to carry out the obligations under which we all rest to them. As regards the Civil Liabilities and the Appointments Branch as they are now, I shall continue to make such economies on the purely administrative and official sides as I think are reasonable and just and desirable, and which will not do any injury or prejudice to the ex-service men. I hope to have my hon. and gallant Friend's assistance in that. If he says to me that there will be a number of ex-service men who want training or assistance at the hands of the Civil Liabilities Branch, and asks whether there will be any man left without any opportunity of coming to us and asking that we shall redeem the promises we made, I say, "No, there will not be. Whatever machinery is necessary to ensure that the ex-service man gets a square deal will be retained." My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Woolwich (Captain Gee) wants to know what we are to do with the disabled men. He says there are 29,000 waiting, but many of these are not ready for training yet; they are still under treatment. It was suggested, but not so much by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Woolwich, that we have slowed down in our endeavours on behalf of these men. Nothing of the kind. I tried to explain how we have to pass through the bottle-neck of the local technical advisory committees as to what numbers we can admit. I am making no complaint. The local technical advisory committees look at the state of trade, at the number of men already unemployed, many of them ex-service men, some of them disabled ex-service men, and they say there is no use our passing through a lot of men that we have at our disposal, because that will only lead to unemployment at the other end. The whole of this scheme rests on trade expansion, not on trade contraction. This year we have placed in training during January, February and March 4,200 men, and, as regards the improver-ships we have appointed special canvassers to go round and try to get 144 improverships for those men. They have got already 3,800. I have asked the employers to take these men as improvers, but my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Woolwich made a suggestion which I would commend to my hon. Friends opposite. He said: "These Local Technical Advisory Committees tell you the numbers from time to time in each craft who may be admitted. Why do not they take a little more risk? In 18 months from now things cannot be so bad as they are, and they must improve. Why do not they be a little more generous and let more men in now, in the almost certain hope that when the men have finished their training work will be ready for them. I make that appeal myself. There is a risk, but the risk is not so great as the risk which these men ran on the Vimy Ridge, at Beaumont Hamel, at Delville Wood, and all the rest of them. I am sending out a circular in which I will get my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions to join with me in putting that point to the Local Technical Advisory Committees. No craft has done better than the boot and shoe trade, and I am deeply obliged to them, and so are the ex-service men. This circular will be sent to the Local Technical Advisory Committees, and it will be along the lines that they should take a little more risk.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that these technical advisory committees find it extremely difficult to place the men after a few weeks at the instructional school?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I know that. If it is suggested that the sort of instruction given induces the employers to refuse to take them, then I would be very glad of the hon. Member's help so that we might make this as perfect a scheme as we can. With regard to trade unions under Section 17 the sum of Is. a week has been held, if I may say so with great respect, to be too much, and the Geddes Committee recommended that the arrangement should be reviewed. In pursuance of my duty I proceeded to review it. I take the recommendations of the Geddes Committee very seriously indeed, as these Estimates ought to show. I have had a report from the Committee recommending that the grant should be reduced and the proposed reduction was stated by me on Thursday. The scale will be a sliding scale which will vary 145 with the general rate of unemployment. At the minimum rate of unemployment the grant will be at the maximum scale. The rate will be as follows: The rate of unemployment not exceeding 4 per cent., 6d.: exceeding 4 per cent, and not exceeding 8 per cent., fid.; exceeding 8 per cent, and not exceeding 12 per cent., 4d. Exceeding 12 per cent., 3d. That is the scale, but if my hon. Friend will make any representation to me I will be glad to meet him on this matter without committing myself in any way. As regards our staff, the hon. Member for Wood Green suggested that a good deal of this was camouflage and window-dressing. I think he is mistaken in regard to that. I might remind him of an answer I gave on the 5th April, in which I said:In August last a change of Secretary afforded opportunity to review the controlling posts at the Ministry. There were then a Secretary at £3,000, a Chief Labour Adviser at £3,000, and a second Secretary at £1,350. It was decided to appoint the Secretary at £2,200, to continue the Chief Labour Adviser at £3,000, and to abolish the post of second Secretary. These arrangements effected a saving of £2,150 per annum."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April. 1922: col. 2215, Vol. 152.]Do you call that camouflage and window dressing? It is a real definite saving. I do not know if I need refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Mossley. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton suggested that we gave a kind of turn or lead or suggested certain terms in arbitration proceedings. That is a serious statement to make. If the British people are to get it into their heads that the dice are loaded against them, away goes the whole system of arbitration. Let mo tell him that no instructions under any circumstances are ever given to the arbitrator. I hope he will take the opportunity of putting my strong disclaimer on this point before the person who suggested it to him.
§ Captain BOWYER
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware that hundreds of speeches have been made in the course of the last few weeks advocating on behalf of the British Legion that the Government should compulsorily enforce the employment of disabled ex-service men?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The idea is that we should compel employers to employ a 146 quota of disabled men, but I would far rather rest on the voluntary appeal. It has not done so badly, and I confess that I think the compulsory course or a course of that sort might defeat its own end.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Yes, of course. My Friend knows that a Government contract could not be given to any firm that is not on the King's Roll. That is not the proposition. The proposition is to make it compulsory throughout the land that firms should employ a certain proportion of disabled ex-service men. I do not think I would like to carry it as far as that. It would defeat its own end.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
In striking the percentage of unemployed, is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to exclude from the total membership the men who are superannuated, apprentices, &c.?
§ Mr. AMMON
I want to make a reference to the point raised by the right hon. Member for Walsall in which he referred to the fact that what we are most interested in is how to prepare in the larger sense to meet the problems that confront us to-day. He said that last year ho made a very fervent appeal to the Ministry and another fervent appeal to the employers of labour, that they might devise ways and means to overcome the temporary difficulties and seek to find employment for those who are out of employment. He then said, or words to that effect, that, despairing of getting any satisfactory solution, he then turned to the Members on these benches, and unfortunately he was afraid that certain economic theories that were held here rather stood in the way of our giving the lead that was necessary.
§ It being a Quarter past Sight of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.