§ Mr. HAYDAY
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the wordsBut regret dint, in view of the disaster to British trade and of the large number of persons unemployed, there is no indication that the Government are prepared to recognise and deal effectively with the causes of unemployment, or to provide the opportunity for useful productive work for the people of this country; and further, in view of the exhaustion of national funds provided for the assistance of local authorities and the approaching cessation of unemployment insurance benefit, regrets that there is no indication of any intention on the part of the Government to grant substantial financial aid to local authorities who cannot be expected to bear a national burden.In reading through the Speech from the Throne one finds very meagre reference to the appalling disaster that has overtaken a large portion of the community, and which has been with us far too long without any serious attempt being made to evolve something approaching a permanent solution of our difficulties. The only reference one finds in His Majesty's Speech is in these words:The great and continued volume of unemployment among my people causes me the deepest concern and will continue to receive the [...]arnest attention of my Ministers. The only remedy for this distressing situation is to be found in the appeasement of international rivalries and suspicion and in the improvement of the conditions under which trade is carried on all over the world.I suggest that is simply a reference that waives aside the intention of His Majesty's 346 Ministers to do anything at all. In an earlier paragraph in the Speech we find something that gives us cause for very grave alarm, and leads us to believe that His Majesty's Ministers are not paying attention to alleviating distress more effectively or assisting to promote trade so as to absorb the unfortunate unemployed, but, that their activities will be on the lines of closing up avenues of employment rather than opening them wider. The paragraph to which I refer says:Every effort has been made to reduce public expenditure to the lowest possible limit, regard being had alike to the security and efficiency of the State, to public obligations and to the necessity of relieving our citizens to the utmost extent from the burdens which now rest heavily upon thorn. Retrenchment upon so great a scale must necessarily involve hardship to individuals, and the postponement of public hopes.Further, it goes on to say that economy must be practised by all and each, calling, as in the Speech from the Throne last year, for greater sacrifices. For the section of the community upon whose shoulders is placed the greatest burden legislation was introduced so far back as 1911, and in 1920 that legislation was enlarged to bring a still greater section within its scope. The longer the period of unemployment, the greater and the more intensified is the suffering of those who can appeal for relief tinder the Act. But there is far too large a number excluded from the provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Act, and for whom very little, if any, provision has been made at all. The Prime Minister, in a sixteen-column speech in answer to criticisms of the Speech from the Throne, devotes less than half-a-column to this question of unemployment, and to those who are at the moment in distress even that half-column reads like a message of despair, on account of the grandiose manner, such as only the Prime Minister is capable of using, in which he dismisses any criticism that the Government has not done anything on a very great scale. In reply to my right hon. Friend, the Member of Platting (Mr. Clynes) the Prime Minister said:He quoted some words of mine about the men who so gallantly fought for us in the War, when I said we were in honour hound not to see them starve as long as there was a crust in the national cupboard. Let me point out what we have done. We are spending at the present moment at the rate of over 100,000,000 a year in provision for 347 the unemployed. There is a great deal of crumb in addition to the crust there in that £100,000,000."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th February, 1922; col. 43, Vol. 150.]To whom did the Prime Minister refer when he said:We are spending at the rate of £100,000,000 per annum in relief of unemployment.Did he mean to convey that the State was spending this £100,000,000? If he intended that, it is a total misrepresentation of the real facts. If that be the annual expenditure, the State pays only one-fifth of that total. The workpeople and the employers pay the remainder. If we go a little further back we could put it in this way, in the Minister of Labour's own words during the debate on 15th June, 1921:Let me conclude with a rough forecast balance sheet for the insurance year July, 1921—July, 1922"—that is the year to which I assume the Prime Minister was referring the day before yesterday—based on the assumption that throughout that period there will be an average of 1,250,000 insured persons unemployed. On the income side I should hope to get in the year contributions from workpeople 13¾ millions, employers 154[...] millions, the State 7⅓millions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th June, 1921; col. 461, Vol. 143.]That is the real proportion of the State's direct contribution.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
Well, I cannot see any provision for the relief of unemployment where the Prime Minister could find the difference to make up the total of £100,000,000 as the State's direct contribution, because, as I hope to be able to show later, the State has rather restricted operations to the local authorities. What one may say is that the State, as a third partner under the Act, gets off with one-fifth of the responsibility and puts twofifths—near enough—on to the shoulders of the employés, and two-fifths on the employers. If £100,000,000 be the joint contributions of the State and the other contributions under the Unemployment Act, and represents the full amount in either relief work or unemployment funds, then let me point out that the State has not even in that respect fulfilled the obligation which it ought to have fulfilled in dealing with the problem. Why?
348 First of all we must remember the great cry that went forth last year that, [...]if you (the workmen) will suffer reductions in wages you will at once help to revive trade, and by your sacrifice of a few shillings per week help to absorb many of your unfortunate unemployed comrades." [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member says "hear, hear," but what are the facts? Take two or three of the principal industries of the country. The Government killed the coal export trade. The Government destroyed the market, and as soon as they destroyed it, they cut away from their joint responsibility with the other partners. Having thrown industry out of gear, so to speak, and put many thousands of operatives on to the unemployed market, having brought about a state of affairs like that, they went on from one blunder to another, and their policy has been similar throughout most of the principal industries of the country. Go to mining. Nobody can say to-day that it is a question of miners' wages that cripples their industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "They have no wages!"] If the miners asked for no wages, there would still be an outcry for the maintenance of the mines, all the overhead charges, and so on, and you would not hope to revive that industry, not to any substantial extent, or sufficiently to enable to react with beneficial results on the industries so immediately dependent upon coal. I suppose that if one pit is in full working—and I should hope my miner friends will rather develop this point in order that the public as well as the House may know the position—if one pit is working under a syndicate which has five other pits closed, with all the running and establishment charges of the six, and all these have to be carried on the output of the one, one can quite see that no matter what the miners sacrifice in wages the industry cannot carry that heavy burden—as in this case of carrying five idle pits on the one that is working. Nor would there be any satisfaction there from the point of view of reducing the cost of this commodity.
Take the iron and steel industry at the moment, and consider the contributions of the workpeople in those industries. They have suffered reductions of 32s. 6d. and 33s. 6d. per week during the last 9 or 10 months. After all their sacrifices, how- 349 ever, the strange fact remains that every week brings us news of the closing down of more iron and steel furnaces. [HON. MEMBERS "Not now!"] Well, let hon. Members realise this: This week or by next Tuesday, there is a group of blast furnaces belonging to the Stanton Iron Works Company, where the men are receiving a fortnight's notice of the closing down of furnaces at Alfreton and Riddings for a period of three months. It is stated that the stocks of pig-iron are sufficiently large to warrant this. Throughout the country, and at the moment, there is less than 20 per cent. of the steel and iron furnaces in blast as compared with the highest point previously reached. That is a fact. Orders are not coming in. What is the effect of this, of all these sacrifices that have been suffered? They have not contributed much towards the resuscitation of trade or the absorption of one solitary unemployed worker, because, indeed, the figure of the unemployed has a tendency to increase. You have, roughly, 2,000,000 unemployed to-day. The figures for the end of January showed an advance over the December period I think there has beer, just a little fluctuation latterly, but practically the position becomes worse. You are heading for the breakers faster now than ever before in this matter of unemployment.
Here is one effect. You diminish the purchasing power of the operative in work who is sacrificing more than his quota in the attempt to reabsorb into the industry his less fortunate fellow workmen. But he has not accomplished it. He has reduced his own standard of living. He has had taken from him the possibility of making additional sacrifices similar to those he has been making during the past 12 months; of the contribution from his earnings through the channels of the union, or his own individual helping of the lame dog over the stile. That avenue is closed, and in several cases the employed man himself has a standard not very much better than the man who finds himself unemployed. All these things, to my mind, are the result of the rather false policy that this Government has been carrying out. I should rather imagine that for incompetence during the last four years in dealing with the industrial life of this country it would be very difficult to find—I do not refer to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, because, 350 whilst he has control as head of the Department, unfortunately he is not the initiator of policy, for policies belong to the Cabinet—it would be very difficult to find a worse record. I do not know a Cabinet that could possibly be found under any circumstances that would display, I will not say greater callousness, but greater incompetence or less foresight in dealing with a problem of this sort than the present Ministers of the King. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members agree to that suggestion of incompetence, but from a very different point of view. Their policies are quite different to the policy that I would initiate, and whether your policy would not be more reactionary than the policy of the present Cabinet remains to be seen, but I fear so. Anyhow, the present policy is bad enough in all conscience.
We believe in working for the State as a whole and not for that section that has vested interests in it. We believe in defending and sustaining the weak in our industrial world, whereas other hon. Members would send them to blazes and damnation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh," and "No, no!"] We believe in fighting against the vested interests which have become fastened upon the constitution of the country. [An HON. MEMBER: "What would you do?"] Unfortunately we represent an unfortunate community about whom we are talking now, and that is the people who have been done so often by the people who ask these questions as to what we would do. I want further to call the attention of the House to what this Amendment says in respect of some other matters. I refer to the Unemployed Workers' Dependents Act. I think we have the right to get an answer or some indication as to what is really meant in the passage of His Majesty's Speech which refers to further cuts; whether some other steps a-re going to be taken that will deal with its continuance from the operatives' point of view from the date of the present Act. It is well to remember that from March, 1921, till the present time, sections of the workpeople of this country, numbering many thousands, have not performed, or have not had the opportunity to perform, a solitary day's work in that period, and in respect of those who were successful in getting an extension of 6 weeks. Two months' interval elapsed before they come down to the new period 351 on 3rd November, 1921. They are still unemployed, and the period of their benefit finishes on the 22nd of the present month—that is the first 16 weeks of it. The Act says that the Minister may extend the benefit for a further period of 6 weeks. If that extension is going to be tightened up, as an attempt was made to tighten it up last year, when many thousands were denied that extension, if there is to be an elimination of many thousands more from the enjoyment of that extended 6 weeks period, it means that there are workmen and workwomen in this country who have been unemployed since March of last year and who from the 22nd of the present month will have all sources of income closed to them until the commencement of the new period in July. That is a gap and a margin too wide to contemplate. This leaving of large bodies of workmen, after a long period of unemployment without any provision at all for sustenance, is as bad as it can be.
The operations of the Unemployed Workers' Dependants Act cease in May. There appears to be no immediate prospect of trade lifting at all, rather the tendency is that it will remain bad for many months. I would urge that the Government, so far from commencing to cut with their economy axe at the provisions made for unemployment, should seek, so far as they possibly can, to see to what, extent they will be able to supplement it. Hon. Members will do well to keep in mind that we on these Benches are no more supporters of the principle of dole-paying than anybody else. If the £100,000,000 which has been paid for unemployment benefit had been provided for useful work, and some additional grant provided for the residue that could not be absorbed, it would have been much better for the State, even though the State had spent another £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 on the top of that £100,000,000. Why? Much is sometimes heard of the physique of the ironstone miner and the blast furnace-man, men who have to wheel barrows with loads of anything up to 12 cwt. or 13 cwt. But their physique is not the same to-day as it was. Yet, when that industry is ready to reabsorb, it will reabsorb, men who are much weaker and certainly 25 per cent. less efficient than they were when originally thrown out of employment. I hope that that degree of depreciation 352 will not be allowed to set in at any greater rate, and I trust we shall do our best to try and recover.
There is another section of workpeople for whom I hope the Minister will be able to do something, and that is the large body known as outworkers. There are 2,000,000 people registered for unemployment benefit. I do not know whether that means they are receiving the benefit, but if it does, then it means that there are hundreds of thousands of others who might register if they had the opportunity of receiving some unemployment benefit. There must be many thousands of these workers, and I think they should he included under the insurance Acts. You will find these outworkers in almost every city and town. They come under the lowest minimum wage, and all through their distress there is nothing for them but the guardians. Hon. Members know that in some districts boards of guardians are more sympathetic and generous than in others, and yet there are many boards of guardians to-day making allowances so small and insignificant that they scarcely amount to the rent obligation of the applicant. I hope something will he done for this class of the community.
Another important point I desire to raise is in regard to the assistance given to the local authorities. I believe that that is one of the ways open to us in which, whatever expenditure is called for, will show a more useful return than anything else. Many of these local authorities have been restricted in their operations. I know that when the ratio of 60 per cent. of the wages bill was fixed under the Lord St. David's Scheme and the condition that only 75 per cent. of the standard rate should be paid to those employed upon this particular work. I know that this work in some towns and cities has been restricted in consequence, and I want to urge the Government, not only to increase their assistance to local authorities to execute really useful work in their areas, but I urge that greater facilities and encouragement should be given to the small towns, rural areas, and villages. Many towns are in a better revenue raising position than most of the rural areas, and yet it does not follow that every rural area is necessarily an agricultural area. If you go through the vast iron ore fields 353 all round Northamptonshire, Rutland, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, and up in the North you will find large bodies of hefty and strong men without any work or not earning sufficient to retain their physical energies. These men are willing and anxious to undertake any work that might come that way rather than receive the dole, and if anything can be done in this direction by increasing facilities for work under public authorities, I hope it will be done. It has been suggested that there is going to be a severe cut in this grant to local authorities, and that less of these facilities will be available for local authorities to take advantage of in the futures I understand that very soon these schemes will lapse, and that no new schemes will be entertained. The limited amount at the disposal of these committees is certainly very nearly absorbed, and there is very little hope of further assistance in that direction.
In view of the scant way in which this great problem is mentioned in the King's Speech, which calls for greater sacrifices, in view of the vulgar display of wealth one witnesses upon certain occasions on the one hand, and then the suggested attempts to cut down the assistance to these people who ought to have their allowances added to, I think a greater message of hope ought to have come through the lips of His Majesty to the country. I think Ministers ought to pay more attention to this matter, and they should make some real effort in the direction of assisting trade to recover itself. I know that questions dealing with our internal problems will be discussed during this Debate. We have heard something about an offer of £15,000,000 worth of shipping work being put forward by Russia to our shipbuilders provided that some guarantee of credit could be extended to them by the State, and this would enable those ships built here to carry cargoes of necessary goods from here to Russia. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who made that statement"] The statement was made here in London in the presence of shipowners only the day before yesterday, when we were discussing wages, and there was no denial of the statement then. Unless my hon. Friend knows more about shipping than those who claim to represent the shipbuilding industry from the employers' point of view I certainly must believe 354 that there is something in the matter mentioned, to the extent that if extended credits could be conceded to Russia she would have placed shipping orders to the extent of £15,000,000 with this country, and that would have absorbed a considerable amount of unemployment.
The Minister of Labour is largely bound by the policy of the Cabinet, but I am hopeful that this matter will be dealt with in a much more serious way than by merely waving it aside and sending out further messages of hope to the people to hang on a little longer. I hope the Government will decide to make some arrangement to cover the break in these allowances from the 22nd of February to next July, and I trust they will also do something in the direction of extending the dependants' allowances beyond the period of the present Act. I urge also that soma, more encouragement should be given to the local authorities to go on with useful work in order to absorb some of the ever-increasing body of unemployment in this country.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
In rising to second this. Amendment, may I claim the indulgence usually accorded to a Member speaking in this House for the first time? Coming, as I do, from the controversial platform of a bye-election, I find it somewhat difficult to accustom myself to the more subdued atmosphere of the House of Commons. I have been convinced during the short period I have been a Member that it does not appear to make very much difference what arguments are brought forward on either side of the House on any question in regard to their effect upon the opinions of hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, and, where older Members fail to succeed in this respect, I cannot hope to do any better. At least, I may be permitted to express the views I hold in supporting the Amendment now before the House. I could not help thinking when I heard the Speech from the Throne read that there was something lacking in the references that were made to this great tragedy of unemployment. They seem to me to be somewhat cold and indifferent references to a matter that concerns so many of the people that we on this side of the House represent. They say that "the matter is still receiving the serious attention of His Majesty's Government," but that overlooks the fact that the Government have been giving 355 the subject serious attention for three years without any tangible policy emerging from that consideration, and it seems to me to indicate very clearly that the Government as a matter of fact have no policy at all.
In that respect I differ from my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment when he referred to the "somewhat false policy of the Government in relation to unemployment. I have long since come to the conclusion that the Government have no policy, that they are banking on the future, and hoping that the course of international trade may revive in the near future and save them from the necessity of having to account for their inactivity during the past three years.
My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment made special reference to the results that would accrue from any change that might be made in the payment of unemployment benefit. I want the Government to realise, if they can, what would have happened in this country supposing there had been no trade unions to stand between the working classes of the country and the revolution which would undoubtedly have broken out had it not been for the fact that the trade unions were looking after their own members in times of stress and thereby saved the country from disturbance time and time again. That provision is made out of the hard-earned wages of men and women who are now taxing themselves voluntarily and out of sympathy with their fellows to the extent of 5s., 6s., and even 7s. per week. If they are to he told to-day that the Government contemplate a reduction in the insurance benefit it seems to me it will show that the Government are running away from responsibilities which they ought to assume without any hesitation whatever.
May I make one reference to what I consider to be a very vital cause of part of the unemployment now existing? The Postmaster-General has been justly criticised for increasing postal rates to the extent he has done. We who represent the workmen are constantly being told that what is wanted to-day to improve trade is, if possible, to reduce the cost of production. There are some of us who agree and some who disagree with that advice, but we are all bound to admit that the advice is economically sound. 356 If you want to increase the demand for goods, and therefore the demand for the labour which makes those goods, it becomes obvious that the cheaper the goods can be made the greater will be the demand for them. Yet what do we find? We find a Minister has increased the postal rates and placed a new burden upon what I may call a nerve centre of the trade of this country. The right hon. Gentleman in charging an extra ½d. postage for circulars has himself increased the cost of the production of those circulars to the extent of nearly 100 per cent. Of what use, is it for us on our part to advise our men to do what they can to produce more when they can turn round and tell us that the Postmaster-General himself has increased the cost of production in the printing trade, so far as it affects circulars and catalogues, by 100 per cent.? The right hon. Gentleman has already told us that he has done this because he has to make his Department pay. Let me remind the Minister for Labour that the Postmaster General is making his Department pay at the expense of the Ministry of Labour. He has by increasing postal rates and depressing trade put men out of employment, and the revenue that in consequence goes to the Post Office is actually drawn at the expense of the Ministry of Labour. These are facts which our men know, and I suggest to the Government that they ought to harmonise the policies of their various Departments in such a way that they shall not act obviously unfairly and injuriously to the trade of the country.
My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment said he thought that the present state of trade would continue for several months. I suppose it is dangerous for a new Member to prophesy as to what is likely to emerge from the present chaotic condition of industry. But I am hold enough to make a prophecy this afternoon, and I suggest that trade will not improve for twelve months, and possibly for two or three years. The Government itself cannot see a wary out of the present industrial chaos and confusion, and it is the absence of policy on the part of the Ministry that is causing our people throughout the country to rise in anger against a Government responsible to the people of the country which cannot carry out the responsibilities the people have a right to expect them to undertake. 357 The reason why the Government are unable to adopt a policy, or, having adopted a policy, are unable to carry it out, seems very clear. It is, that if they attempted to provide capital for the institution of work that would interfere with vested interests in the country, and because of interference with vested interests the support usually accorded to them would be withdrawn. I could not help thinking during the discussion which took place yesterday, when we were speaking of the desirability of the Labour party being placed in power, that if we had the courage to compare results we should find that a Labour Government would be prepared, if it had behind it a sufficient number of Members, to do what the Coalition Government cannot do to-day. We shall be told there is no capital whereby industry can be started by a Government, that taxation is too high, and that the taxable limit has already been reached throughout the country. Yet when a prospectus is issued for the subscription of new capital by the Anglo-Persian Oil Co., the amount asked for is subscribed over and over again. And why? There is plenty of capital today that might be used for the starting of work, but it could not be so used and at the same time yield a profit that would compare with the profit from investments of the character I have just mentioned.
What would be the difference between a Coalition Government in power and a Labour party in power? A Coalition Government are not prepared to use capital for the purpose of starting productive work, but a Labour party would have no such scruple and would be prepared to use the taxes that they imposed for the purposes of good government. Part of that good government surely is the provision of work for men and women who cannot now get it. We should not be quite so much concerned about the interests of the private employer and of the private capitalist, perhaps, as would a Coalition Government, but we should be more concerned with the interests of the population of this country, 20 per cent. of whom are to-day living in a state of semi-starvation on the amount that they receive from unemployment insurance and Poor Law relief. I hope that the Government will try to find a policy even if they run the risk of being told once more that the policy they are adopting 358 is a policy already advocated by the Labour party. They have done that before several times. Let them try to do it again in connection with this important question of unemployment. The peace of the country demands it. The time is coming when this country may no longer be the workshop of the world, when the course of trade will change and when we shall be thrown back more upon our own resources than we have been during the past 100 years. It behoves us to take whatever steps may be necessary to prevent the depression of trade getting worse and to protect the interests of the large number of men and women who to-day are crying out for help and who are asking the Government to come to their assistance. On those grounds I hope to receive the support of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite for the Amendment which I have much pleasure in seconding.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
We have just entered on a new year and a new Session of Parliament, and unemployment, grave and persistent, is still with us. The House has listened to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment to the Address with close attention and with solicitude for the problem with which my hon. Friends have dealt. The Seconder addressed us for the first time. I congratulate him upon his presentation of his case—lucid, eloquent and to the point, even if I have to deny myself the very great pleasure of concurrence with all his views. If I may say so, the Mover very well deserves the choice of his party as their spokesman in this important Debate. We, here know him and have known him as a sincere, straightforward advocate of his cause and a loyal and tireless representative of his fellow workmen. I regret that for a brief moment he was betrayed into an unnecessarily vigorous expletive. As I have said, unemployment, grave and persistent, continues with us. The depression began to develop, as the House knows, 17 months ago. The dispute in the coal industry gravely accentuated the situation. By the end of June of last year we touched bottom with well over 2,000,000 people wholly unemployed and over 1,000,000 on short time. Then came a steady and continuous trickle of improvement. By the end of November the unemployment figures stood at 1,833,000 359 wholly unemployed and 265,000 on short time. Christmas activities kept us at these better figures, but when those activities ceased, and many establishments closed for extended holidays over Christmas and the New Year, there was a material set-back. On 10th January we had 1,933,000 persons registered as wholly unemployed and 316,000 on short time During the last three weeks we have pulled forward again slightly. At the end of January the figures were 1,904,300 wholly unemployed and 280,000 on short time. But, although there has been that slight upward and continuous movement during these last few weeks, as yet there is no break on a wider front. At every point of advance our merchants and traders are still met and arrested, in common with those of other nations, by the dislocation and the devastation of the greatest smash-up in human history. The War has left the whole mechanism of international trade in ruins and on the scrap heap, and heavy taxation, the direct heritage of the War, acids another to the many factors which hamper recovery. The result is that the gravity and duration of the depression are unparalleled in our modern history.
Those are the facts as briefly as I can put them. The implication of the Amendment is that, if the Government had only done this, and if the Government had only done that, things would be in a vastly better and happier condition to-day. That is clearly the implication. It is so simple and so easy to say that; but let the man who lays down the proposition reckon himself lucky that it is not his job. I can honestly say that we have worked double tides at this problem, the gravest of the welter of problems thrown up by the Great War. I do not claim—
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I do not claim that we are infallible, because I well know that infallibility is the peculiar prerogative of the Front Opposition Bench at all times and in all circumstances. One would almost imagine that we in this country alone are suffering, and suffering through the incompetence of an incapable Government. My right 360 hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) was, I venture to think, very much nearer the mark when in this House on 20th October he said:There is no short simple remedy. If the Labour party, or any other section of the House, were sitting on the Government Benches we could not get up and say that, with the world position as it is, there is one short simple remedy for this problem.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am quoting my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby. He went on:It would only deceive the unemployed to say that. Far better for us to face the cold, hard facts. In the first place, it is not a local problem; it is not a national problem; it is an international problem, and no one Government on its own responsibility can solve the problem, although, incidentally, a Government can contribute to its solution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th October, 1921; col. 386, Vol. 147.]Look abroad. France and Germany, it is true, present exceptional features. In France there is a great absorption of labour in the devastated areas; there is the larger number of men in her standing army; there is the widespread system of peasant proprietorship; and, as a result of this last factor, the economic structure, if I may so put it, of the country is such that town and country are much more mutually self-sufficing and self-assisting than is the case with us. The case of Germany, too, is peculiar. She can manufacture for export at prices which, in terms of foreign exchanges, give her a very great advantage. In the United States, however, although there is no percentage of unemployment computed for the whole country, in the typical manufacturing State of Massachusetts 21.2 per cent. of trade union members are unemployed. In Denmark the trade union percentage is 20.8, in Sweden 28.6, in Holland 17, and in Norway 15.1; while in Switzerland there are no less than 43 per cent. wholly unemployed, with a further 30 per cent. on short time, in the greatest of the Swiss industries, watch making. Our trade union figure is 16.5 per cent. at this time. The figures, of course, are not altogether comparable, but they do afford evidence of the worldwide incidence of the existing industrial depression. I do not doubt that if my right hon. and hon. Friends opposite 361 were members of the Legislatures of the several countries to which I have here referred, they would promptly get up and tell the respective Government Benches what they thought of them, as they have told us.
There is a complaint, in the early part of the Amendment, that "there is no indication that the Government are prepared to recognise and deal effectively with the causes of unemployment"; and the presence of that complaint strikes me as a little curious, standing as it does in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Widnes Mr. A. Henderson). I am sorry that he is not here. I have no doubt that he would remember Christmas Day, 1920, when, at the invitation of the Prime Minister, he and my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir A. Smith) and myself met together at 10, Downing Street, to see what could be done by way of making further provision for the alleviation of distress consequent upon unemployment. Our idea at that meeting on Christmas Day, 1920, was that a representative committee of employers and Labour representatives should be set up for the purpose of assisting us, and I had some correspondence with my right hon. Friend in the endeavour to fix up the matter. My right hon. Friend insisted, on behalf of the Labour party, that such a committee must be commissioned to go into causes as well as the problem of finding palliatives. We pointed out that the immediate problem, the alleviation of distress, was very urgent indeed, and that a committee charged to consider causes would take a long time—
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
But let me finish my story—and that a committee competent to deal with the one problem of causes might not necessarily be a competent committee to deal adequately with the other. Nevertheless, my right hon. Friend—and I make no complaint—was adamant upon the point that we must inquire into causes. Finally, I wrote to say, "Very well, go into causes by all means; but, as the immediate problem, the alleviation of distress, presses, let us have an interim report on the immediate remedies." I should like to quote the terms of reference of the proposed Com- 362 mittee of Inquiry which I then put forward to my right hon. Friend. They were:
In sending that letter on 7th January, 1921, I really did think that I gave my right hon. Friend everything that he asked for; but what was the result? My right hon. Friend, as Secretary of the Labour party, had to tell me that it was unanimously agreed not to accept appointment to the Committee; they would have a Committee of their own. I do not believe in recrimination—it does not help; but, in view of the terms of the early part of this Amendment, which makes the complaint that we are doing nothing to recognise and deal effectively with causes, I think I am entitled to ask here, "Why did not you accept the invitation 13 months ago to come over and help us?"
- "(1) To consider and report upon the causes that have led to the present unemployment, and to make recommendations thereon.
- (2) To consider and report within one month upon the schemes now in operation for meeting the hardships of the present unemployment and to make recommendations as to their adequacy; and, if found to be inadequate, to make recommendations for their improvement.
- (3) To consider and report within three months how far it may be feasible for each industry or group of industries to develop schemes of insurance against unemployment beyond that provided by the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1920."
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am glad that that is conceded. I thought we were all in this trying to help each other, but from the last speech it might appear that it was purely a Labour representative's job. I must press this point. It would have been different if they had said, "We will come and see what we can do," but they did not, and there it is. I have said that the present trade depression and unemployment are unparalleled in our history, and, notwithstanding the terms of the Amendment, so has been the effort to find remedy and palliative unparalleled in our history.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Certainly. That is my job. Both the Government and the municipal authorities, notwithstanding 363 the grave financial embarrassments with which we are confronted, have made provision for the unemployed on a scale out of all relationship to anything attempted in the, past. In the direction only of finding useful and productive work for men who would otherwise have been unemployed round about £40,000,000 have been set aside for productive work in one way or another by local authorities and the Government from the autumn of 1920 to the present time. That work-finding programme has been in two parts, the very considerable effort put forth from November, 1920, to November, 1921, and the continuing and increasing effort initiated at the later date. From the autumn of 1920 onwards, local authorities generally, with a public spirit and earnest responsibility which we cannot too highly appraise, came forward and, with financial assistance from the Government, put in hand schemes of arterial road-works, road maintenance and repair work, and other useful local undertakings, and in these ways we were able, month by month, from the beginning of 1920 right away on, to keep 90,000 men at work who would otherwise have been unemployed. The second, and in many respects the more comprehensive endeavour was initiated last fall through the various proposals which were put forward and submitted to Parliament and approved by it at the Session which was specially devoted to the consideration of the problem of unemployment.
Let me run through the results so far as they have gone, of what I call that second and more comprehensive effort. In the first place, we tried by extending and amending the export credits scheme and by offering Government guarantees for loans up to £25,000,000 for capital undertakings which would promote employment, to do what we could to get at the root of the trouble and produce an increase of employment, where it is beyond question most valuable, in the normal industries and occupations of the people. Under the original export credits scheme of 1919 the amount of credit sanctioned up to the end of October last was £3,647,000. In the past three months that figure has been practically doubled under the arrangements which were put in hand 364 in the little Session of Parliament last October and November devoted to unemployment.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I cannot answer that, but if the question is put to the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade, he will endeavour to give the information. With regard to the offer of guarantees of loans for capital up to £25,000,000, we have had the assistance of the Advisory Committee of Business Men, with Sir Robert Kindersley as Chairman and Sir William Plender and Colonel Schuster as members. Their task is a difficult one because while the possibility of providing early increased employment is the final test they apply, very many of the schemes submitted to them have been of a kind which involves considerable work of negotiation and preparation. They have, however, so far recommended guarantees totalling £2,100,000, and under these proposals work has started in various districts in the North and the Midlands entailing employment for cement workers, iron, steel, and electrical workers and the unskilled workers associated with these provisional arrangements are now also far advanced in the case of several large proposals for railway work and the manufacture of locomotives for export. In these cases, which would involve guarantees up to a further £14,000,000, it is hoped that final approval may be given at an early date. Progress in this respect with schemes covering £14,000,000 of capital now rests entirely with the applicants for guarantees. In the same direction of endeavouring to stimulate normal industry, £563,000 was provided in Supplementary Estimates last Session for the acceleration of certain Government contracts and contracts have so far been expedited by the Postmaster-General and by the Admiralty. Further, we asked local authorities to co-operate with us once more, as they had done during the previous period, in the provision of relief through immediate local works. We offered them, through the St. David's Committee, for a period of years a proportion of the Loan charges which they incurred to put such works in hand. The response has been very great. The St. David's Committee has done its work admirably. Again I am grateful. The Minister of Health, who has been 365 more particularly in charge of that section, will be glad to give the House full details of this particular feature of our endeavour. At the same time, we have extended the work, which has been provided for the former period, on road schemes, assisted by the Minister of Transport.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That Department is conducted by the Minister of Health, who intends, if opportunity offers, to deal with the matter. In continuation of the work which has been done in the way of road work, in association with the Ministry of Transport, we provided a further £2,000,000 last November, and that has been allotted to large schemes of work in the home counties which have been carried out with the co-operation of the London County Council and to a number of provincial schemes. That is, of course, additional to the road works put in hand earlier under the former of these two efforts. In all there are 33,000 men employed to-day on arterial road works and in addition, about half as many again on road maintenance and road repair work at this time. Now for the agricultural areas, the staple industry of which is outside the insurance scheme. We provided a considerable sum for Government assistance to land drainage and improvement afforestation, and light railway works. A large number of small land drainage schemes, 181 in all, have been sanctioned and about 3,500 men, who would be otherwise unemployed, are at this time at work on land drainage schemes, where operations have actually begun. Four hundred and sixty-five schemes have been approved by the Forestry Commission, and those already in hand employ 4,000 men. Light railway undertakings are necessarily slower to mature. There are preliminaries to be settled, and negotiations to carry out, but I am informed that in two cases all is ready for a start as soon as the promoters' arrangements are completed, and in others negotiations are well advanced. As a result of these various efforts to provide productive work, the number of men reported to me as definitely employed now at work under these schemes, put in hand by the 366 Government and local authorities, is 126,000. That number does not take any account of the undoubtedly large number of persons for whom employment in ancillary occupations must follow as the result of these operations; neither does it take any account of the men employed on capital undertakings under the Guarantee of Loans scheme; neither does it reflect any additional employment which has arisen or resulted from the Export Credits scheme. If allowance is made for these factors, obviously the real total number of men for whom employment has been provided must certainly be much greater, and will increase in the near future.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite may say: "What a meagre result?" And they may, and do, put into their Amendment complaint that we have not sufficiently provided the opportunity for useful productive work for the people of this country. I have told the House in terms what we have done and are doing, and hon. Members opposite complain that we have not sufficiently provided the opportunity for useful productive work, but believe me, the task of making work outside the ordinary channels of industry is very difficult, and when you have made it the work is quite unsuitable for a large number of those for whom you wish to make provision. I gather that the answer of the seconder will be: "We would go on another tack altogether. We would open productive factories under State direction." What would that mean? You would make work for one section by throwing another section of the same industry into unemployment. There are large numbers of unemployed to-day in any craft you like to take. Open a State factory—it will be very expensive, and all you will do will be to take away work which some of the people are doing. You would spend enormous sums of money without reducing the aggregate unemployment. Not only that, I think it is extremely likely that your very expenditure would prejudice employment in other directions. Therefore, with great respect to the view of the Seconder of the Amendment, I should call it a fantastic method of dealing with the unemployment problem.
Manifestly, in our work-making endeavour we can only touch the fringe of the problem which confronts us. The only way to find work for the mass of people unemployed in this country is to 367 get the mills, the factories and the workshops going again. That we have striven and are striving to do. In the meantime, we were bound to do everything that our straitened circumstances permitted to mitigate the hardships of unemployment. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will tell the House what provision was made for facilities for the sanction of loans to boards of guardians; but our main agency in the direction of making provision for those for whom there is not, and for whom you cannot make, work at the present time has been the Unemployment Insurance Act. That Act was, happily, very widely extended before the heavy weather came upon us. From November, 1920, to November, 1921, we were able to dispense under that Act £50,000,000 of benefit, and from November, 1921, up to roughly, round about Easter, a period of six months, we shall dispense another £25,000,000. Let me again remind those who rather loosely use the word "dole" in connection with these payments that, roughly, four-fifths of this money comes from the employers and the workpeople.
The unemployment benefit at the present time is 15s. a week for men and 12s a week for women. That is being paid now for the second special period laid down in the Act of last March. That period commenced on 3rd November last and the Act provided that there should be 16 weeks of benefit payable in that period to the persons so entitled. For those who, owing to the unbroken character of their unemployment, have to draw that benefit continuously, the 16 weeks will be exhausted on 22nd February; but the Act of last July gave power to extend this 16 weeks period by a further period not exceeding 6 weeks. In reply to my hon. Friend, I may say that the question of that extension is naturally receiving my most anxious consideration, and I hope to make a statement upon it without delay. By the same co-operation of the employers, the work-people and the State we are now, under the Unemployed Workers' Dependants Act of last November, adding to the unemployed men's 15s. benefit, 5s. a week on behalf of his wife or housekeeper, and 1s. a week on behalf of his little children. Under this provision grants are now being made weekly in respect of 600,000 adult dependants and about 1,000,000 children. 368 These grants will continue to be paid week by week in proper cases for a period up to 9th May so long as unemployment benefit remains due.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
In the case of those who exhaust their benefit on the 22nd February, and who may not have it continued for 6 weeks, automatically the dependants' allowances cease.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Certainly. One was dependent upon the other. As I have said, the question of extension is engaging my most anxious attention, and I hope to make a statement about it without delay. In connection with the weekly payments paid under the Unemployment Insurance Act and the Unemployed Workers' Dependants Act, I wish to pay a tribute to the devotion and the tireless services of the officials of the Employment Exchanges. Hon. Members may take what view they like of the future of the Exchange system, but I must say that the officers of the Employment Exchanges have rendered a great and signal social service during this long period of trade depression. I am also deeply indebted to the local employment committees for the tireless and patient way in which they have spent their time examining claims for benefit. The task is a stupendous one. Let me give one figure only. Apart altogether from the permanent machinery of the Insurance Act, the check of the exchange officer, the check of the chief insurance officer, the check of the Board of Referees, and the check of the umpires, the local employment committees examined for us during 1921 5,344,000 claims for benefit under the emergency provisions of Section 3 of the Act of last March, admitting and rejecting as the law demanded. Both on the part of the local employment committees and the exchange officials[...] claims of doubtful validity call for careful examination, and impose a serious responsibility. There are people—a very small minority, no doubt—young people without dependants, young people who get help of sorts from relatives, young people living at home, who come for benefit without having made what one could hardly describe as particularly strenuous efforts to get work. We follow up as well as we can the statements that work cannot be found. I cannot finally test that unless I have a vacancy to offer.
§ Mr. ARTHUR MICHAEL SAMUEL
Employers as a rule do not come to you. They leave you alone, because they have no faith in the exchanges.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That is a thousand pities. So far as the men are concerned, except for the relief works, which I have described, and the numbers that I have given, there is not very much work which can be offered to-day in most localities. There is another side to the picture, which reveals a pathetic spectacle. A firm advertises for 50 men to work in a timber yard, and, almost before the gates are opened, they find 5,000 weary men outside pleading to be taken on. Take the case of the levelling work to be clone at Wembley. I shall not be far out if I say that the applications, personal and written, which have been made to the Employment Exchanges by men wanting to be taken on to that job, would fill the vacancies 20 times over. My hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) says the employers have no faith in the Employment Exchanges. I am very sorry. They could help us a great deal. If only I could get vacancies reported to the Employment Exchanges wherever there are any—and as things improve there will he vacancies—it would relieve me and be of enormous assistance to everybody concerned, particularly to the unemployed themselves, the vast majority of whom are quite honest when they say that they prefer work to doles.
The weekly contributions under the Unemployment Insurance Act, the Unemployed Workers' Dependants Act, and the Health Insurance Act are pretty heavy. They are particularly heavy upon the workpeople on short time, and they are very heavy upon industry; but I have received practically no complaint from the workpeople in respect of this heavy impost, or from the employers in respect of this heavy charge upon them. That is characteristic of our people, and finds its fitting counterpart in the fortitude with which the great body of unemployed men and women have faced and are facing the hardships of the situation. There is another very vital direction in which a similar spirit becomes more and more apparent. The outstanding feature of these many months of depression and gloom has been the increasing community of understanding, of aim and of purpose between the employers and the employed people. As the Minister of 370 Labour I am glad to stand here and pay a tribute to the growing disposition of the employers to got their workpeople together and discuss jointly with them, frankly and freely, the facts, the prospects and the necessities of the problems before them.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am very glad to hear that so many others are now following my hon. Friend's most admirable example, to which I am endeavouring to pay a tribute. I am sure that much that has been going on in this direction of consultation and conciliation and understanding of each other's point of view during these gloomy months, gives us solid assurance that when we do come out again into better times we shall reap to the full the fruits of the opportunities then presented to us. But that opportunity can only come when the deep-seated cause of the present depression is removed, when success has crowned our efforts fully to re-establish peace, stability and confidence amongst all our neighbours—because it is upon these sure foundations alone that the trader can go forth to engage upon the enterprises which in turn bring prosperity, succour and contentment to those who work in the factory and the workshop. Therefore I shall have the support of the House when I pray that the labours of the International Conference at Genoa may be crowned with success. Every step that may be taken there towards the solution of this mighty problem of the economic reconstruction of Europe and the world is also a special step towards the renewal of prosperity in London, in Leeds, in Manchester, in Birmingham, in Glasgow and elsewhere. We begin this Session as we began and ended the last Session, taking counsel together on this grave and anxious problem, and I have no doubt that the House, in its solicitude, will return to the discussion as the Session proceeds. Though there are lighter patches in the shadows around us we cannot say yet that the gloom is definitely lifting and passing away, but we must stick it out, stick it out with grim determination, leaving no effort, no expedient untried until we have worked our way through once more, somehow or other, to re-establish trade and regular employment.
§ Mr. CLYNES
My right hon. Friend referred in very kindly terms to the case as it was put from this side of the House by my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment and by my hon. Friend the Member for South-east Southwark (Mr. Naylor). I am sure the House will like me to add that the speech of the hon. Member for Southwark was really a model of what a maiden speech might well be, and I congratulate him upon the vigour, the ease, and the skill with which, for the first time, he undertook to discharge the difficult task of addressing this House. My right hon. Friend has given us a speech which almost entirely has been a narrative of what the Government has done, split up here and there, and in that regard securing the sympathy of the House for those who are concerned, with some description of the suffering involved in this continued unemployment. It was not a speech which seems to me to hold out any reassurance whatever to this large suffering mass or to give them the slightest hope of any early improvement in their condition. There was no hint of a new plan, no indication of any kind as to affording more substantial assistance by the Government, either in regard to their pressing financial needs or to their equally pressing need for employment. It was a hopeless speech, it is not too much, therefore, to say, which has been delivered by the Minister of Labour on this outstanding problem of all the internal problems of the country.
The right hon. Gentleman began by telling us that the War has left the trade of Europe in ruins. I do not accept that statement as meaning exactly the same thing as that which is in the mind of my right hon. Friend, for I would say that the peace more than the War in Europe accounts to-day for the ever deepening state of unemployment which has prevailed since the War terminated. We are discussing this subject in relation to the terms of the King's Speech, and I would therefore remind the House that since this Parliament was elected there have been four Speeches from the Throne. If hon. Members look up these four speeches they will find that in the first two, when unemployment was not exceptionally severe, but when there bad been created in the public mind an expectation of this question being the business of the Govern- 372 ment, there were general promises of treatment and Government action to deal with the question. They will find in the third speech the declaration that this was not a subject that could be dealt with by legislation, and now we have in this fourth speech the announcement by inference that the Government itself can do nothing within these shores. Nothing is hinted at in the speech of my right hon. Friend, and nothing is said in the Speech from the Throne but that we are to look for prospects of improvement not to Westminster, not to the Cabinet, but that we must turn our eyes to Genoa and look to what might be the outcome of the great economic conference which is to be assembled there. For myself I welcome warmly the terms in the Speech from the Throne relating to this question of unemployment. Our grievance is that these terms are not accompanied by or preceded by definite declarations of policy on unemployment which internally could be pursued and applied by the British Government. Surely the Government is not wholly devoid of the faculty for organisation. Surely something can be attempted even on the lines described by the right hon. Gentleman in his accounts of what has already been done.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I will reach that stage in my remarks a little later. May I draw attention to the fact that there is not a line of hopefulness in the Speech from the Throne or of any further undertaking on the part of the Ministry to pass Bills or to take administrative action in reference to this problem. How far that falls short of the needs of those concerned is very well expressed in the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman himself. So our complaint is first that nothing is proposed as to further action here. But we welcome heartily the terms of the King's Speech for the reason that these terms might well have been written by my right hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. A. Henderson). They are in every sense labour's language. Let me read them:The only remedy for this distressing situation is to be found in the appeasement of international rivalries and suspicions, and in the improvement of the conditions under which trade is carried on all over the world. For these reasons I welcome the arrange- 373 ments which are now being made for the meeting of an International Conference at Genoa at which, I trust, it will be possible to establish peace on a fair basis in Europe and to reach a settlement of the many important questions arising out of the pressing need for financial and economic reconstruction.These are the things which we have been saying in this House and outside it since the end of the War. The first party to call for a great economic conference which would undertake the task of financial and economic reconstructions of a ruined Europe was the Labour party. This is the second time that view has been put before the country. This, therefore, is an instance of the Government undertaking at last to try to do the right thing when they can no longer continue to do the wrong thing. They have for these last three years since the end of the War ignored our appeals. They have kept on these mockeries of conferences, and these partial consultations under the auspices of the body which is called the Supreme Council, and having finally seen that that sort of partial meeting of representatives of portions of Europe is powerless to effect any economic or financial reconstruction, they now go the length of inviting the representatives of Soviet Russia, and of Germany, and, indeed, they are sending invitations to all those representatives, for wham years ago Labour claimed the right of admission and discussion as to these questions of European reconstruction.
My right hon. Friend pointed out that we were not alone in suffering. That is quite true. How could it be otherwise? It is incidental and in the nature of things that countries in Europe should all suffer more or less like ourselves because of the European trade break-down. We can have neither all the benefits nor all the disadvantages of either trade prosperity or trade ruin in Europe, but we do stand in a special case which should have called, in the circumstances, on our behalf for a totally different line of policy from our Ministers than that which other countries could dare to pursue. France can afford to take risks for the reasons described by my right hon. Friend. Compared with ourselves she is largely a pastoral country with conditions of population entirely different from ours and she is in no way dependent as we are for internal prosperity on having a great export trade. It is because of the very exceptional posi- 374 tion in which we stand, as being largely a market for the world and as being so enormously dependent upon the maintenance of our overseas trade, that our Ministers should have kept their eye upon the degree of greater ruin to industry in this country if there was anything like a break-down of European trade conditions. The faults of these peace provisions and totally impossible plans that have been followed are meekly revealed now in the terms of the speech which tells us that at last we must have a great conference at Genoa and that all those who have been previously excluded must be brought together to try to make work that which never will work unless enormously modified—the Treaty of Versailles.
The right hon. Gentleman described the result of all the skilled and sustained service and effort of more than one Ministry in relation to the task of finding work for the unemployed. I would like to ask for an answer to the question—Upon which ground is the right hon. Gentleman going to base his claim? He points out that they have found employment, under the auspices of the local authorities to a large extent, for some 90,000 men, that on arterial road-making work they have found employment for 33,000 men, at certain other jobs for about half that number, that export credits have found employment for a certain number, and thus they can produce a figure exceeding, I think, about 180,000 workers. Then when we go further and say that that is the policy which the Government can further follow he tells us that if they do they would be throwing other people out of work. I ask therefore upon which ground is the right hon. Gentleman going to base his claim for dealing with unemployment? He cannot have it both ways. He must choose as to whether finding work through a statutory department or through the local authorities is beneficent work, proper and profitable work, or is it work which, when undertaken by the municipalities or by the State, causes the unemployment of other workers who would otherwise not be unemployed?
I will put this question to the Minister of Health. Would the employment of a larger number of workers in larger, more ambitious and more numerous housing schemes in this country throw out of work people who otherwise would be employed? Surely not. I do not want to go into the 375 Government reversal of policy on the question of housing, but clearly its effect has been to damp down all the prospects which were held out of keeping builders busy for a considerable time to come. Undoubtedly there must have been an enormous falling off in the opportunities of work for a considerable number of men in the building trades. At the moment I do not know what the figures are, but common report indicates that a very large number of building trades workers are now out of employment who would have been in employment if the Government had not almost completely reversed its plan on the question of house construction.
The Prime Minister has some responsibility on the question of schemes. I expected to-day that in addition to an outline of what had already been accomplished there would have been some indication of the carrying a little further of Government policy by means either of a Bill or administrative action. The Prime Minister was prepared in October of last year to address himself specially to this question when on his way from Scotland. Labour representatives from London went to that part of the country and the Prime Minister gave an indication of great schemes that were in his mind. This is his language:No schemes have yet been formulated, but the Cabinet must meet immediately. Suggestions will be drafted and the scheme determined upon will be put before the House.As is well-known, something was done. How much, is revealed in the speech we have heard to-day. The Prime Minister addressed himself to a great theme. He created great expectations by making a promise and announcing that the question would be dealt with by such means as the Government had at their disposal. That sort of thing can be carried too far. Are we now to understand that the schemes of last October are the full length of any Government effort on this question? Is there to be no answer to that question? The Prime Minister raised an expectation by his language of October last and gave a promise which was obviously intended to create the impression that the problem would be dealt with in something like an adequate way, and now his colleague, the Minister of Labour, is left quite unable to hold out the slightest 376 hope of going beyond the little attempted in the Session of October last. It would appear that this Government is satisfied to limit itself always to the plan of promising that something is to be done, and yet never attempting it. It is that which is creating not only disappointment but bitterness, and that which fills the minds of a great many people outside this House with a sense of the unreality of Ministerial pronouncements. The Government are always going to do something, but it never gets done.
I say deliberately that that pronouncement of the Prmie Minister was obviously designed to create the impression that this difficulty would be dealt with, and yet now we find ourselves in a state very little better than was our condition four months ago. My right hon. Friend opposite dissents from that. He must not measure improvement by any barometer of a slightly decreased list of the numbers of the unemployed. You can have a decrease to a slight extent in the total numbers of unemployed and yet have a far worse situation, because the resources and the general ability to supplement the meagre allowance secured to these men from the Government or through local agencies provide far less sustenance now than was the case three or four months ago. The longer masses of men are out of work the deeper is their privation and the greater are their difficulties. I complain, therefore, that public expectation has been roused by promises which the Government should at least try to make good by definite legislation or by administrative action. In the course of last Session we had some attempt made to provide special grants for the unemployed, and again it is the Prime Minister's language which causes me to return to what was done last year. I would like to remind my right hon. Friend opposite again of how completely large numbers of persons in this country who could well afford, and easily afford, to pay their contribution to the special fund, which will very soon be exhausted—the Dependant's Fund—how completely large numbers have escaped making a contribution. To that fund only the employers and the workers paid.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The State pays a comparatively small contribution. Out of 377 some £7,000,000 it pays something over £2,000,000. Certainly the State is the lesser contributor. Considerable numbers of people escaped contribution. For instance, the Members of this House escaped any contribution. So did the professional classes, the farming class, municipal employés, civil servants, financiers and bankers, and others. Indeed, a few million people well able to make a substantial contribution to that special fund escaped contributions altogether. The least the right hon. Gentleman might have done was to have announced that some plan would be applied whereby those classes would be made to contribute, so that the fund could be drawn out somewhat or the small payments which are made from it slightly increased. On this question the Prime Minister laid down certain principles when he said:if you have a body of men in any country willing to work and anxious to work but for whom no work can be found, they cannot be allowed to starve so long as there is a crust in the national cupboard. The honour of our country demands it; the call of our common humanity appeals for it; the precepts, the noble precepts of our common faith insist upon it. That is the first principle which I regard as the action of a civilised Government in any land.That is the kind of language to win applause, but the Prime Minister should be extremely careful about his declarations on questions which indeed do stir the community, and upon which we are entitled to call on him to suit his action to his word.
§ Mr. HOWARD GRITTEN
In order better to follow the argument, would the right hon. Gentleman answer this question: Supposing contributions were made by these classes which, he says, are not now contributing at all, would that contribution, in his opinion, relieve the State of liability?
§ Mr. CLYNES
That is not my meaning. I do not want it to relieve the State. I am pointing out that the working classes are themselves taxpayers. Then the State comes forward and says that they must pay also a weekly contribution out of their wages. My complaint is that other taxpayers are not treated in like manner; they pay only one contribution, whereas the working man is obliged to pay two, merely because he is covered by the Unemployment Insurance Act.
§ Mr. CLYNES
My right hon. Friend should be the last man in this House or out of it to ask whether anybody has starved. I am sure that question must arise from the inner depth of his innocence as to what are the conditions of the working classes in this country. Let him go to any part of the East End of London; let him go to the docks to see men fighting for a job. Let him go to any big town or city. Let him, if he will, try the new experience of walking into the homes of working men. He might do that during an election time. Let him do it now in any part of the country and acquaint himself by some personal contact with what are the realities of the impoverished and semi-starving state of a very large number of the people of the country.
§ Sir A. MOND
The right hon. Gentleman quoted some words of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister's words, I imagine, were deliberately chosen and very limited, and he now charges the Prime Minister with not carrying out what he said. He must not talk now about impoverished conditions.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I accept the view that the Prime Minister's language was deliberately chosen. My complaint is that the implication of that language is now deliberately avoided. You have deliberate promises, you have an expectation created in the mind of the country that certain things will be done. My point is that these things are not done at all. How can it be said that a state of starvation is prevented if you limit the maintenance of a working man to 15s. a week? That is a sum which, in pre-War values, will not purchase more than about 8s. worth. It means that you are asking an ordinary working man, so far as his individual support from the State is concerned, leaving aside his wife and children for the time being, to live upon a sum which, in pre-War values, amounts to about 1s. a day. That is not giving him his share of the crust. His child can get as much as 1s. a week. That is the value now put upon the heads of the children of the men who fought and won the War.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I can feel almost the disturbed state of mind of many hon. Gentlemen who are doing me the honour of listening to me, but I should be interested to hear how far they can show that these things are not true. I am sorry to say that in one sense they are cheap; they are the truths that have become commonplaces. They are merely the terms that express the realities of life, and the man who thinks them cheap should himself try, not for one week or month, but for one day, to limit himself to the means of subsistence which this Government has so far provided. Then he will see how cheap or how dear the experience is to him. [An HON. MEMBER: "Have the Labour party tried that experiment?"] I am sure hon. Gentlemen will have their opportunities in the course of these Debates, and if the Government would provide the Labour party with the facility of another day to continue this discussion we should be happy to try to answer all their questions. I said that I welcomed the terms of the Speech from the Throne so far as it relates to the international aspect of this question, but I want to do more than merely claim credit for the Labour party for having years ago appealed for the very plan which the Government has now decided upon. Economic prosperity is impossible until a real peace is established. Real peace, in our judgment, depends upon Russia and Germany being brought into this Conference and being linked in their interests with other European countries and with America. I think I have been sustained in that view by one little thing contained in the speech to which the House has just listened. This is not merely our question; it affects little States in America as well as big countries in parts of Europe, but I repeat that it is the old Labour appeal, and we support any plan of the Government designed speedily to produce good results from a conference. Here I would repeat what I endeavoured to say the other day, that we want a speedy economic recovery more than we want a party victory. The Prime Minister did not scruple to make a more or less serviceable debating point out of the view which I put before the House a day or two ago. Part of a sentence which I used was taken as a declaration of Labour policy. My full statement 380 shows we have no desire to take the place of Ministers merely for the sake of taking their places. It is not office that for the moment we want, so much as a new policy if the Government is willing to pursue that policy. Indeed, we want trade revival more than we want a General Election.
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
Would the right hon. Gentleman kindly say what his party are doing to help employment or trade?
§ Mr. CLYNES
I am afraid that is one of the questions which I have to bring under the head of my remark made a moment ago as to the necessity of another day if we are expected to deal with all these points. As it would appear that, my meaning is not yet plain, I will reduce my statement to the terms necessary for any intelligence which may still have difficulty in understanding what I have in mind. The situation outside is a terrible one. I feel it keenly—as I am sure all other Members do—and I say solemnly, that an election, if it took place in a few weeks or a month, could not deal with this matter in a way that would give us any relief for months to come. That is my meaning. What I want in place of election talk is Parliamentary action. If we can get a policy which now, this week or next week, will produce relief for the weeks immediately ahead, I say I would set every personal or party consideration aside and give all the assistance I could to produce immediate results which would have a beneficent effect outside these walls. I hope my meaning is now clear. If the Government is in earnest in asking for unity, we are in earnest in offering our support to any policy which now will relieve the terrible sufferings being endured outside these walls.
I find my language of a day or two ago has been most grossly misrepresented in a speech made by the Coalition candidate in a bye-election in London. He said I declared in this House that I wanted this Government to continue in office. I never said anything of the kind, and I have been doing my best inside this House and outside, to replace the Government with a better one. But this is the Government that for the time being we have got. I want to ask how far this Government, which is the only one that can use any power—how far can this Government go upon lines of policy which might have the effect of relieving the economic situation? 381 I might draw attention to the fact that on the 15th December the Labour Members of this House, together with many other Labour representatives, saw the Prime Minister and had a long interview with him. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour was present. We then put before the Prime Minister our appeal for an international economic conference, so it does not come to us as, in any way, a new thing. We especially believe that there are opportunities we have neglected of restoring our trading relations with Russia. We are mindful of the financial difficulties, but surely all these problems should not be outside the possibility of successful treatment on the part of right hon. Gentlemen who claim a monopoly of fitness to rule a State. If they have this extraordinary faculty, and if they alone possess it, they should be able to apply it to things which are difficult, as well as things which are easy. Any child can do the easy thing; it is only the difficult job that Ministers should take credit in facing. Their action, as we allege, has been the cause of this economic breakdown—their failure to make a peace which would have permitted the world to undertake the tasks of reconstruction which still await us. If their policy has been the cause of these results they ought to have the wisdom to reverse that policy and apply plans to make workable those conditions of prosperity which I do not believe will ever properly be restored, until we get a more ample exchange of commodities as between one country and another.
Before the War, Russia was nearly our chief concern. Part of our prosperity is linked up with the prosperity of Russian agriculture, which offers great opportunities for the manufacture in this country of agricultural machinery and the supply of a great many things required on the land. That kind of trade with Russia is impossible without adequate credit arrangements and without recognition of, and consultation with, the Russian Government. I see that theme is still a subject for hilarity on the part of one hon. Gentleman opposite. Let me therefore say that as yet we are not yet technically at peace with Russia, we do not trade with, we do not deal with and we do not consult with the Russian Government as a Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not an elected Government."] We shall do that in due course when pressure 382 becomes so irresistible that we can no longer refuse to do it. What I am saying is, that for the time being it is the Russian Government and I am interrupted with the remark that it is not an elected Government. Was the Government of the Tsar an elected Government? Have we always been so nice and precise in the selection of our customers? Are we only to treat with democrats? Have we come now to the point that we must chose the method of government of the people with whom we are to trade? I say it is for the Russian people themselves to settle how they are to govern, and it is for us to neglect no opportunity of doing business with the Russian people. Then the debts of the Russian Government await discussion. M. Krassin and his colleagues for a considerable time past, have expressed publicly their willingness to discuss with our Government the question of the debts and the financial obligations which were entered into in the past, but instead of treating this question as business men and doing business with anybody because of the very urgency of our own needs, we shelter behind these secondary and trivial points as to whether Russia has proceeded to elect a democratic government or not. What is the Prime Minister's view, as expressed by him on Tuesday, in respect to Russia? The Prime Minister used language which suggested that we ought to consider ourselves lucky because the workers in this country were not as badly off as the Russian workers. That statement was cheered by hon. Members who sit behind the Prime Minister. What a humiliating comparison. We are neither sympathetic with, nor responsible for, Russian methods of government, but what led up to them. I will not occupy time in describing how there were at least two revolutions and a complete breakdown of anything that could be called an economic system in Russia, and following upon that attacks, invasions, and a blockade which would have crippled Russia in any case had she not been partially crippled already by what had preceded these wicked attacks upon her. Russia includes a population in no way gifted as are our own people with skill in trades, in no way educated as our people are, not possessing this Government of all the gifts and all the fitness to govern, yet that is the country with which we are now asked to compare our- 383 selves. When we say we have 2,000,000 of people starving, when we say we have enormous reductions in wages and great distress on account of those reductions, the Prime Minister asks us to be consoled by the fact that, badly off as we are, it can be said that people in Russia are worse. That is a doctrine which I suggest to the Prime Minister can be pressed too far.
If we set aside the famine and the consequences of the famine of Russia, I risk a question to my right hon. Friend which I hope he will answer. Can he say that, apart from the famine and its effects upon Russia, that now, in the main, workers in Russia are worse off than the unemployed here? I have said we accept no responsibility for and in no way approve of Russian methods of government. That is not the point; but when we are asked to look at the picture of what is happening in Russia I think we are entitled to demand some evidence for the conclusion evidently reached by the Prime Minister, and we are entitled to ask that our country should be listed with some similar country. Compare us with America, Italy, France, Germany or Spain and I say we come out of the comparison very badly indeed. That is largely due to the blindness of our own Ministers who overlooked the fact that we are a great exporting country and insisted as they did upon conditions of peace which were certain to mean economic disaster. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) addressed most pointed questions to the Government yesterday and made a number of very serious charges, to which some answer should be furnished. He reminded the Government that it was our representatives at Versailes who, even more than the French representatives, were the first cause of those conditions in the Treaty which are the root cause of our suffering. It. seems to me no answer is attempted to the main part of the charge levelled against the Government as being the first cause and the instrument of our present difficulties. If the so-called best brains of Britain cannot do for the people of this country any better than the Bolshevik Government can do for Russia, it is time, I think, that they gave way to somebody who can. At any rate, we assemble for this Session, as the right hon. Gentleman said, faced with condi- 384 tions scarcely any better for the unemployed in point of the burden on them than was the case some months ago, and certainly worse in degree of suffering for the masses of the unemployed now, and I think accordingly, in view of the absence of any indication of any further measures to be taken within these shores, we are entitled to ask the assent of the House to the Amendment now before it. We submit the Amendment in the hope even that before this Debate is exhausted, somebody will be able to come in for the Government to announce that the realities of the situation are recognised and that, in addition to what little has been attempted, much more will be tried for the starving poor of the country.
§ Sir G. RENWICK
I have listened to the speeches already delivered in the hope that we might hear from the Labour Members on the other side as to how the state of unemployment might be modified, but as usual, and as in past Sessions, not one word comes from them except the demand for greater help from the Government. I listened to the speech of the Mover of the Amendment, and he himself acknowledged, practically, that all they demanded was increased assistance from the Government. He said there was not a single case where reductions of wages had led to an increase of trade in this country. May I call his attention to the decrease of wages in the coal trade? We in Northumberland and Durham rely largely on the coal trade, and the miners in those counties have submitted to drastic reductions in wages. I sincerely hope they will not be asked to suffer any further reductions, but it has done something. It has brought about a demand for coal such as we have not experienced for some years, and at the present time the loading places are congested. It is almost impossible to get a ship loaded at the present time owing to the demand for coal, not only for this month, but for next month and possibly the, month after. I am quite aware that the colliery owners are not making large profits. Some of them are possibly still working at a loss, but the demand is there, and it has been brought about directly by the decrease in the wages, bringing the cost of coal down to an economic price.
The Seconder of the Amendment made a very moderate speech, and I must com- 385 pliment him on his maiden speech. He is a decided acquisition to this House on account of his moderation and the temperate manner in which he spoke. He asked why so much money is being subscribed for works like the Anglo-Persian Oil Company instead of for productive industries, and I will give the answer at once. It is not being put into productive industries but into gilt-edged securities because we manufacturers cannot show our shareholders, or would-be shareholders, that we can make any profit, and the result is that instead of putting their money into productive industries, they put it into gilt-edged securities and into debentures of first-class companies, which have to pay six, seven, and even eight per cent. for their debentures, and nine and ten per cent. for their preference shares. Can we manufacturers expect anybody to put their money into productive industries in face of competition of that description? Even the Government have had to pay five and six per cent. for the money they have borrowed, and we cannot compete. We have this extraordinary state of affairs, that for some years now there has practically not been a single prospectus in the newspapers asking for subscriptions to any new industrial company. Money has been asked for to extend and to carry on old industries, well established, but the formation of new industries is practically at an end, and if I might be asked for another reason why capitalists are shy of putting their money into productive industries, I would refer to the speeches of the right hon. Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes), who has started again a campaign threatening a levy upon capital. Nothing more fatal could be thought of to scare capital, and I would seriously ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he is wise in raising that cry at the present time, when there are so many difficulties to contend with.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I have not raised this cry recently. I did recently say that if capital had been levied as Labour first proposed it should be, capital would have suffered less than capital continues to suffer by the heavy taxation now imposed upon it.
§ Sir G. RENWICK
I read the speech, and I am quite certain that the conclusion I drew from it, and other people as well, was that this was the beginning of another 386 campaign for a levy on capital. In the course of his speech just now, the right hon. Gentleman said there is a large number of people starving in this country. I cannot imagine, considering the enormous amount of money paid in different directions, that many people can be starving. He said: "Go to the docks, and see there the starving people." I have been to the docks to-day. I had heard of the dreadful state of affairs there, and I went and looked into some books and statements of wages, and this is what I found at a place I know very well at the docks, that this week 12 men working upon a ship drew £21 17s. 2d., equal to £1 16s. 5d. per man, for eight
hours' work. Is there any starvation there?
§ Sir G. RENWICK
They were working on piece-work, the simplest work, loading cement in bags and tallow in casks—unskilled men. Another gang on the same day—a gang of twelve men—drew £19 0s. 7d., or £1 11s. 8d. per man, for eight hours' work, loading cement in bags. Is there any starvation there? I was so anxious to see that the men were receiving fair wages that I said: Let me see the books for three months. Last December I put similar facts before the House, and a Labour Member said he was after my blood, while another said I ought to be ashamed of myself and never put my foot in the House again for making such statements. Whether he is going to be after my blood now I do not know. I took out a page of the accounts that we are bound to supply to the Inland Revenue authorities, and I found that twelve men on one page averaged £65 for the quarter ending 5th January, for four days per week work with no overtime. That is £260 a year, and some of them got £300. If I advertised at the present time for a clerk in these offices at £250 I would have a thousand applications, and yet we are told that these men are starving. There may be some men starving, but there are plenty of them earning good money, and if the work is not more fairly distributed amongst the number of men, let the trade union leaders take the blame, not those who are employing them and endeavouring to pay them a fair day's wages for a fair day's work.
387 The next point that all the speakers opposite emphasised is that we should find public money to do public work. Make roads, they say. There is nothing more extravagant than asking local authorities to supply men who are out of work with work upon roads. Let me give an instance that happened recently. A firm with which I am connected undertook to supply a piece of road for a local authority at any time if called upon to do so. The authority called upon the company a fortnight ago to make the road, and we immediately said we would get tenders for the work. "Oh," said the surveyor to the local authority, "Let us do it. We want to find work for the unemployed." We said "Well, if you will do it at the same price as the contractor, you can have it." The price they said they would do it for was £1,420. I said: "That is no good." We had one contractor's estimate for £1,062, or 25 per cent. less than the local authority's price; another 26 per cent. cheaper, and another for £924, and the contractor said: "If you give the local authority the order to do that work, you will throw my men out, of employment. My men are accustomed to road-making and know how to use the pick and the shovel. Do not throw them out." Is there any public company or manufacturer who would be justified in paying £1,420 to an authority to do work a contractor would do for £920? There is nothing more extravagant than asking the unemployed to do work which is generally of a character they are utterly unfit to carry out.
We were twitted by hon. Members opposite with, "Why do not you build ships for the Russians?" We should like to. Many berths are empty, and not a single machine being turned round. We are anxious for work, and we would build the ships, but where is the 15,000,000 to come from? Every Friday or Saturday we have got to pay the wages to the men, and if we told them we were waiting for the money from Russia, there would be trouble. We are perfectly willing and anxious to build the ships, but let the Russians send the money here, and not ask our Government to supply money to Russia so that the Russians can send it here after a large amount of it will have been taken by the Russian Government on the way round. The right hon. Member for Miles 388 Platting practically sneered at the idea of the Genoa Conference. I approve of the Genoa Conference, because I believe that all these questions relating to stabilisation of exchange and the reopening of markets cannot be dealt with by one country alone. It requires more than one. They twitted us with the fact that 2,000,000 men are out, of employment in this country. How is it that 6,000,000 are out of employment in the United States? Is the United States Government responsible for that? How is it that 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 men who were relieved from military and naval duties in Germany are at the present moment all being employed, and that in some parts of Germany there is so much work that they cannot promptly execute orders because they want more men?
Let the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters tackle these questions. These are practical questions, and I would like the right hon. Gentleman to give us an answer to one or two of them. Another question on which I would ask for an answer is this. How is it that the coals which are being shipped in such large quantities are going to France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany, three of them where the exchange is very adverse to this country? How is it that the Germans are coming into our markets, buying up wool wholesale at high prices, and paying cash for it if they have not the money? I sincerely hope the Genoa Conference will find some means to get them to pay a little more than they are paying at the present time. The right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) came down to the City a few days ago and talked to business men, and he wanted to point out what he called the way to economic restoration. He said:There will he no permanent and general revival in trade until the nations have shown themselves ready to face with courage the post-War inheritance which we all share in common.It is the War that has caused the unemployment. The nations must meet together somewhere and try to settle this matter. Therefore I welcome the idea of a Conference, which I wish God-speed, for I think it will do an enormous amount of good. The right hon. Gentleman went further and said:The final assessment and liquidation of outstanding liabilities, the immediate lowering and ultimate removal of tariff barriers, with the result of opening all markets to the free interchange of commodities.389 is absolutely necessary to the restoration of trade. May I ask how are we going to get other nations to remove their tariff barriers? Failing argument, does the right hon. Gentleman suggest we should try force? There are only two ways of doing it—by argument or retaliation. Therefore, I hope this Genoa Conference will result in bringing about some lowering of the tariffs in other countries against our goods. Again, the right hon. Member for Paisley thinks it is necessary that we should have the effective prosecution of a universal policy of disarmament, both on land and sea and in the air. Who has done more to bring about that than His Majesty's present Government? And yet there is no language too strong for many so-called respectable newspapers with which to vilify the Prime Minister and his supporters. I sometimes think it would not be a bad plan to present some of these editors with a new dictionary of slang. They must have used all the words they know at the present time in vilifying the Prime Minister. Then the right hon. Gentleman said:It is along that road, and along no other, that you can open the way to economic restoration and a new era of domestic and international prosperity.He also said that we want no more interference by the Government with trade. We have plenty of that, and I can imagine that, if there is an election, the Labour party and the Independent Liberals will form a Coalition—a very bad one, but they will form a Coalition, in which we may assume that the right hon. Member for Paisley will be head of the Government, and the right hon. Members for Miles Platting and Widnes Chancellor of the Exchequer and President of the Board of Trade. The Prime Minister would say, "You must not interfere with trade: let trade be free." Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade would say, "Oh, but we want to interfere. We want to open Government workshops, and we want grants for roadwork, factories, and all sorts of employment." The difficulties will be far worse than anything at the present time with this Government.
The Government has tried doles. I have had something to do with dole relief being given at a time when manufacturers could not get labour because the 390 men preferred to have the doles, or, as some put it, "They would rather have £1 a week for 'nowt' than 30s. a week for doing work." Then we tried trade boards, labour exchanges, wage boards, grants to the unemployed, and relief works. We opened factories, we controlled the coal trade and all other trades. It did not bring about a restoration of trade. Then the Government flooded the market with about 500 German ships at a time when shipbuilders could not get orders. They planted them on the market at about one-third of what it cost to build ships. Is it surprising that in the shipyards at the present time you cannot get an order? Then the Government have thrown millions of pounds worth of textile and other goods upon the market, depressing the prices and causing direct unemployment. We are getting rid of this, but I believe the Government have still a few things up their sleeve, and until they have got rid of them we shall not get that revival of trade we ought to have.
I will conclude by saying that the Government have tried and Labour has tried. Give the employers now a chance. Give them fair play. Let them try. If they have fair play and the Government will not interfere with them, and they can get reasonably cheap money, they are prepared to start their factories, set the wheels going, and take orders without a profit, if they can pay their working expenses. Give the employers a chance, and I venture to say we shall see a reasonable improvement in trade. There is a break in the clouds already. It will come slowly. I do not want, to see any booms, but improvement is coming in various directions. To-day I am told the exchange with the United States has been still further improved. I discussed it with two corn merchants on the Baltic to-day. I said, "How is that?" They said, "We believe that the United States has now very little grain to export, and that they are now buying more goods from this country than we are from them." I said, "Let that continue. I hope it is so." That is another sign that things are improving, and I do implore the Labour Members to pay a little attention to those associated with commerce, who know what they are talking about, and know the difficulties. Give them a chance. Treat them with fair play, and 391 I venture to say before very long we shall have a real improvement in trade.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
May I add my voice to the general chorus of congratulations to the hon. Member for South-east Southwark (Mr. Naylor), who made his maiden speech this afternoon—a very admirable and very lucid speech. He has come from the hustings to the more quiet atmosphere of the House of Commons. He asked, "Why is so much money being devoted to gilt-edged securities?" He pointed out that there was a huge subscription to the Anglo-Persian Oil issue. There could not be a more profitable use for British capital than to develop the means for motive power in foreign countries. If British capital is not used in foreign countries, this country cannot live. We must have a foreign trade. I am one of those who do not believe in Government interference in industry. I believe that the more Government interferes in industry the worse it is for industry. My hon. Friend who moved this Amendment said that the Government had killed the coal trade, and they were doing the same in other industries. I want to keep the Government out of industry as much as possible. There is no doubt whatever that the Prime Minister has a genuine sympathy with the working classes of the country, but the Prime Minister has not been able to cure unemployment. He has a Labour Minister who is genuinely interested in this subject. There is a very large staff of officials, and I believe at the head of the Labour Department is a former Labour Member of this House acting as Permanent Secretary.
For all that, they have not been able to cure unemployment. Supposing my right hon. Friend here, whom we all so much respect, and to whose speech I listened with so much interest, were Prime Minister, does he think he would cure unemployment? I do not think so. What is this House asked to do? It is that we should make further grants from the Exchequer; but will not that be adding to the disease? The hon. Member who moved this Amendment said there is a good deal of vulgar ostentation. So there is, and I only wish we could tax it. There can be nothing more galling to a man who wants work and cannot get it, 392 and who has a hungry family at home, to see people frittering away money in vulgar luxuries; it is one of the worst symptoms; but if the Government. permits money to remain in the taxpayer's pocket—to use Mr. Gladstone's phrase—there it will fructify. If the Government take it out of the taxpayer's pocket they use it in every wild-cat experiment. This is not a rich man's question. I view it from the point of view of the worker, and I believe the worker is injured by huge Government grants. Government grants and Government expenditure really mean that capital will be taken away from the employer, and if a man has to pay £100 in taxation, he has not got that £100 to spend in giving employment. There is no way out of it. More than that, the tax collector comes along and there is not the money to devote to the extension of work, which must be extended if employment is to be carried on and industry is to prosper. I view with the gravest suspicion all these demands for increased grants from the public purse. We must get back to a healthier, simpler state of affairs. I want to inculcate the doctrine of self-help rather than of State help. We were bound to have a bad time after the War. I was amazed at the Prime Minister when he made his speeches during the Election—I thought he would have known better—he made a good many speeches then which I am sure at the present time he would just as well had not been made. The right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) and the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment said we were to expect trade from Russia. I would say to my hon. Friends on the Labour Benches: Russia is in a very parlous state, a terribly parlous state, it will be a very long period before she becomes a potential customer of ours. The transport system of Russia has absolutely broken down. The first essential for her is to have railways, rolling stock, rails; those could be manufactured in this country. I said to a very large manufacturer of rolling stock the other day: "If you had an order, say, for a £1,000,000 worth of rolling stock from Russia"—he was a very large manufacturer, and could easily have executed the contract—"would you send it there?" He said: "I would not trust the present Soviet Government with a bob." I want my hon. Friend's really 393 to understand this; I have given great thought to it. Do they expect the Government to undertake a liability which a private manufacturer would not shoulder? That would mean that the Government would have to take more out of the taxpayers' pockets. The next point is that in Russia there is absolutely no currency to-day. I was talking with a gentleman who had come back from Moscow, and he told me that the paper rouble is not worth anything. A man with a silver rouble might be able to buy a couple of geese, and I do not know what else; but the currency in Russia had absolutely gone. The only method by which trade can be done in Russia is by barter. If a peasant wants a pair of boots, as there is no currency, you can only go to him and exchange the pair of boots for his sack of wheat, and even then there is no transport to bring it away. Therefore I say to my hon. Friends that much as I wish to see Russia restored, it will be a very long time indeed—it may be five or ten years—before any progress is made in that country.
I have more than once asked that the Government should take some action, not in the shape of interfering with trade, but of ascertaining the actual facts. I have asked the Government to give us an open Commission to find out the facts. How far is dear postage contributing to bad trade? How far are high railway rates contributing to bad trade? High railway rates, to-day, are throttling industry, and I know they are throttling agriculture. Wages, as I understand, have been reduced in the railway world. Rates have not come down; passenger fares have not come down. I warn the railway companies—I do not know if there are any railway directors here, but I think I see one—that unless they do bring down their rates and their fares they are bound to suffer. I was at Waterloo last Thursday, going down to my home. Waterloo Station was a desert; there was hardly anybody there at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I said to the railway servants, going down: "What are you going to do? Here are the trains going up and down with nobody in them." They did not know what was going to happen. I want the Government to let the people of this country know the facts, and then to trust to the people to work out their own salvation.
394 Take coal. Why is it that in London we have to pay double the price for coal? I understand from Mr. Hodges, the extremely able miners' leader, that the miners are receiving almost starvation wages, and that the coalowners are getting no profit. Why is it we have to pay double for our coal? I do not understand it. Somebody is reaping the benefit; I want to know who. We have a new Mines Department, a brand new creation of the present Government. What on earth good has it done? No doubt it costs £200,000 or £300,000 a year. It is no good, and simply means a lot more officials. Again, I want to find out the facts about trade union restrictions. I am told over and over again that trade unionists are restricting output, and that their action retards employment. Let us know the facts. Is it the fact that trade unions to-day are imposing such rules on the employers that they restrict employment? If it is so, let us find it out. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I know there are those who deny it and others who say that it is so. Lot us know; I want to find these things out. Public opinion is the best solvent for all these difficulties. May I ask my Friends the trade union leaders here if they are quite sure that all this machinery of unemployment insurance and unemployment exchanges which we have established is the best for the working man. Everyone who has thought about it knows full well that combination is essential to the workers. I am a firm believer, as every man must be who has any interest in the working man, in combination; but combination for business purposes, I doubt very much whether the trade unions really get value for their money in the political world. I cannot understand why this unemployment donation cannot be worked by the trade unions themselves without all this vast Government machinery. Let us see what the Labour Ministry cost last year. It was an enormous sum; it cost £28,000,000 for the Ministry of Labour and unemployment grants. Would not that work be very much better done by the trade unions themselves? I cannot understand why it is. Here you have a Government Department—
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY of the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Sir Montague Barlow)
The right hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that a 395 very large proportion of that expenditure is in connection with war services.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I am taking the Government Return, but it does not matter. You have a huge number of officials and they cost a great sum of money. They have no direct interest in the expenditure. This was illustrated the other day, I think, in an almost priceless manner. A man went to an employment exchange and the manager of the exchange said to him: "I cannot give you any work, but I can give you 25s. a week," or something like that. If the trade unions were administering this money I fancy they would see to it that they weeded out the "Weary Willies" and the "Tired Tims" who never mean to do any work. I am coming to the conclusion, and I say it deliberately, that we should be better without all these employment exchanges. I am sorry to have to get back to those primitive political principles, principles which were good enough for my leader, Mr. Gladstone, and which will have to stand the test of time now. What does all this officialism mean? These officials consume, they do not produce, or they do not produce anything that is of use for ordinary human consumption. They do not produce a, loaf of bread, or a pair of boots, or a suit of clothes. One thing I believe they do produce, and that is red tape; but you cannot eat red tape nor can you drink it. If we were to walk up Whitehall and if we could see every man who is in Government pay adorned with a yard of red tape, what a lot of bunting there would be.
In these matters I think our Labour friends are mistaken in asking for more and more Government officials. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not for more"!] They are asking for an additional grant at any rate, and that means more officials. I hold, as the last speaker has said, that you must give the employers of this country a chance. It is no good attempting to break down the capitalist system, as you call it, unless you are going to put something better in its place. They have broken down the capitalist system in Russia, and there is a terrible state of affairs in that country. There was one remark of the Minister of Labour with which I entirely agreed. I cannot understand anybody who wants to be in the 396 position of having to deal with the affairs of the Government at the present moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] My hon. Friends are more ambitious. I have been in a Government, and it is very much easier to criticise than to construct. The men who are in the Government, and who are doing their best, deserve every encouragement; but I say frankly that, in my judgment, the Government have gone much too far in the creation of officials. If this Labour Amendment means that you are going to create more officials, I shall object to it, and vote against it, because I firmly believe that in the interests of the working man himself officialism is a blight and a curse.
§ Mr. G. BALFOUR
The right hon. Member who just sat down expressed a desire to know whether there was any truth in the allegation that trade unions were restricting output, and whether that restriction was contributing to any material extent to the present unemployment. I am sure he must have found considerable interest in the remarks made by the hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Sir G. Renwick), and perhaps the information I have to give him will also prove interesting. I happened to be travelling three weeks ago through the County of Fife, and crossing from Dunfermline to Edinburgh I was in company with the managing director of one of the collieries thereabouts, who supplied me with this information which, he said, I could use, as it could be easily checked A County of Fife miner, working at the face, was getting in the previous week from 45s. to 55s. per week. while the man at the shoot at the Methil Dock, Fife-shire, where the coal is shot into the bunkers, had a wage varying from a minimum of £9 to a maximum of £12 per week, without any overtime whatsoever. That is to say, the man sitting at the mechanical shoot, seeing the coal go into the vessel, made so much more than the man working where the coal was hewn at the face, in the mine, and whose wage varied from 45s. to 55s. for the week. If you analyse that and follow it through all the transport connected with that particular transaction at the docks you will find one of the great contributory causes of our unemployment to-day. That is, however, by the way.
397 I wish to address myself to the problem of what is the real cause of unemployment, not merely the passing cause, which, had we that alone to deal with, could be dealt with by a temporary dole or some grant of this House. We have, however, to seek further than that, and to try to find out what is the real, permanent cause of that unemployment which we must overcome if we are going to re-establish the industry of this country, not for the purpose of having employment to-day or to-morrow, or at the end of this year, or even of next year, but in order to secure employment continuously for the years that are to be, and to re-establish our trade and commerce upon that basis and foundation that were, once ours, and so put ourselves in that position we once occupied as the premier commercial country of the world.
In my view, there are only three parties or classes of people vitally interested in this problem. They are the workman, who is interested in the receipt of an honest wage for honest work; the consumer, whose interest it is to see that, there is a sufficient supply of commodities at a moderate price; and the taxpayer, who is interested in seeing that there is a sufficient volume of trade and prosperity so that taxation shall be a minor and not a major call upon his purse. Following that up, let us try to see really upon what it is that employment depends. Employment obviously depends upon the purchase both of the necessaries of life and its luxuries. If employment depended upon the bare necessaries of life it would keep us in a poor state of comfort, bordering on a state of half-barbarism. I would ask my Labour friends on the right of me to remember that. The production of commodities to supply the necessities of life only would leave us merely in a state of moderate barbarism and no comfort whatever. If we are to fight to remove unemployment we must know, we must investigate and discover the causes of unemployment. In any civilised community, if employment represents little more than merely providing the necessaries of life, it means scarcely that, and nothing in the way of essential comfort even for the poorest of our industrial workers. If wages are paid merely for the necessaries distributed in any community it is questionable if they would supply more than mere bread, and water, and cave shelter! It is questionable even if 398 such wages would supply The Comfort of the Communist. The provision of employment and the distribution of wealth, properly arranged, are for the maximum advantage of the worker, and the maximum advantage of the worker must always come first.
We are, then, driven to this conclusion, that it is the superfluous comforts and the provision of luxuries which are the distributing medium that gives employment and comfort to the workers of the country. This is the yarn which is most essential in our social and economic fabric, a fabric which has been determined by liberty in the past; in the mere attempt to alter that thread, the thread of liberty, we shall be robbing the industrial workers of the country. Upon that liberty depends the volume of employment which gives work to the people of this country.
Having said that, let us ask ourselves the question, what will secure this? We have the election pledge of the Prime Minister given at the 1918 election, when he said that industry rightly claimed to be free. Give effect to that pledge and you will find a cure for unemployment. You will set going the wheels of industry and in a year or two most of the great ills that depress the country at the present time will be cured. We cannot cure unemployment by Government decrees, by taking from each man his elementary rights and liberty, by making it an offence to work more than limited hours, by fixing a minimum wage. There is no cure for unemployment along those lines. These methods have already nearly ruined the country. The semblance of prosperity was only maintained over the country by distributing not merely the wages but, in addition, a great portion of our capital, that capital which was our inheritance. Again I ask, what is a cure for this unemployment problem?
We must, I suggest, start by repealing Acts of Parliament and substituting a new Trade Union Act for the present law. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I say substituting a new Trade Union Act for the present law, and founding it on the nature of things: founding it on the reality and the truth of things. Transfer great and solemn duties and great obligations to autonomous trade unions. Leave each of the trade unions free to deal with and invest their own funds. Give them the great duty of 399 the distribution of out-of-work benefit. Allow them to deal with disablement benefit. Allow them to deal with technical instruction, with scholarships, and the bringing up of the youth from the workshop. You will then have them not Government Departments, as they have now practically become, but after they have got their great charter they will be free guilds of trade and commerce—allembracing and real labour organisations—embracing all, from the boy who sweeps the workshop floor to the one you now term a captain of industry. Bring them all in and give them a charter of a great, free guild of trade and commerce. Do this and you start to solve the unemployment problem and retain a free Britain, a great democracy, and a practical socialism in the highest sense. I would conclude with this simple question which was asked by Thomas Carlyle quite a number of years ago:It is not, how do you agree with Downing Street and accredited semblances, but how you agree with God's universe and the actual reality of things.
§ Sir GODFREY COLLINS
In the first part of his speech the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House suggested that the employment of people in certain luxury trades tended to help unemployment. Later he argued that, if industry could be completely free, that that would be a cure for unemployment. I am afraid that the causes of unemployment are deeper than he put them; more far-reaching; and in the course of the very few remarks that I shall make I shall endeavour to show that the international situation is the main factor that has caused the unemployment not only in this country, but, as the Minister of Labour said, in the other countries of the world. The Minister of Labour made great play with many figures. He reminded the House of the total number of unemployed in this country, America, Denmark, Switzerland, and other countries, and at the end he enumerated the various measures which the Government last Session submitted to the House of Commons as their solution, or attempted solution, of the problem. He said that 6 per cent. of the people unemployed to-day had found work through the Government measures. That is the Government contribution to this great problem.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I am referring to the figures the Minister of Labour himself submitted in reply to my two hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Amendment. Six per cent. of the unemployed have found work through these schemes. I never myself thought, and have never suggested, that these various remedies suggested by the Government would find very much employment, but the Government have raised hopes in the minds of the people of this country through these measures which they have passed into law, and the result is extremely disappointing. Unless I was quite mistaken, it is 6 per cent. of the total unemployed that the Government have found work for through these measures.
But I am anxious this evening to draw the attention of the House to the Amendment and what follows. My hon. Friends argued that the Government have not dealt successfully with the causes of unemployment. My hon. Friend the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) in the course of the Debate yesterday argued that the reparations policy of the Government was straining our foreign relations and creating difficulties between this country and our Allies. He asked several questions to which we have had no reply. I venture to draw the Government's attention again to the bearing of the policy of reparations on the question of unemployment in this country. There is common agreement in all quarters of the House that the reparations to be paid by Germany can only be paid by an excess of imports over exports. Speaking broadly, Germany is not an exporting country of foodstuffs and raw materials. If we make an exception in the case of sugar.
In order to pay reparations Germany is driven to selling her manufactured goods against Great Britain, not only in our own markets, but in the neutral markets of the world. She can only pay reparations by selling these goods at lower prices than British goods. An examination of the trade returns of Great Britain and Germany before the War reveals the close similarity between the export trade of those two countries. Our Government have attempted to prevent the dumping of manufactured articles in this country by passing the German Reparations Recovery Act and the Safeguarding of 401 Industries Bill. But what is the result? Simply that traders to-day who are importing goods from Germany are paying the duty either wholly or in part, and that duty is being passed on by the traders of this country to the consumers. Therefore German reparations, so far as the export of goods to this country is concerned, are being paid for by the people of this country. Both of the Acts to which I have alluded to have had the effect of maintaining and raising prices. On these Benches we believe any legislation, whether direct or indirect, that tends to keep prices above their natural level tends to create unemployment. That is the effect of the Goverment reparations policy on the home market.
Let me draw attention to the position in the neutral markets of the world. We have to meet German competition in those markets and by the reparations policy of our Government the German manufacturer is being forced to sell and undercut British export traders in those markets. With the threat of armed occupation hanging over the head of the German people, the employers in Germany have not been slow to point out to the people that unless they work for long hours at low wages their country may be occupied by Allied troops. Consequently our traders are being forced to meet this artificial competition in the neutral markets of the world. Before the War British traders were able to meet the competition of German manufacturers both in quality and price, but to-day they are handicapped by these artificial conditions in Germany which are creating sweated labour conditions, and whatever be the price of British manufactures it is vital for Germany to sell goods abroad at lower prices, and consequently a vicious circle is set up. If we reduce prices to meet German competition, then through the threat of armed occupation the German manufacturer again lowers his price and another vicious circle is set up, with the result that British trade is being handicapped in the neutral markets of the world. These conditions are artificial, and they cannot be modified and altered unless Britain can compete successfully with manufacturers in the neutral markets of the world. We cannot secure the foodstuffs and raw materials which we require. If Britain was a nation of merchants the present reparations would do this country 402 no harm, but the present reparations policy has created and is creating great hardships throughout this country.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Central Newcastle (Sir G. Renwick) pointed out how the sale of German ships in this market had depressed the shipbuilding industry. What hon. Members have failed to realise is, that what has happened in the shipbuilding industry is happening every day in the neutral markets of the world. I think the time has come for the policy of the Government to be revised. The position to-day is very similar to what it was in Germany after the termination of the Franco-German War. The indemnity is a Prussian innovation imported from Prussia. After the Franco-German War, through the paying of the indemnity by France to Germany, great unemployment was created in Germany from 1872 to 1876. The result was that Bismarck from 1876 to 1878, with the assistance of some National Liberals in that country, passed some tariff resolutions in 1878.
History is repeating itself to-day. Reparations, as we now know them, are causing unemployment in this country. The Government of the day, with the assistance of National Liberals, are passing tariff measures like Bismarck did in 1878. I hope our experience will show the necessity of altering the present policy. The statesmen of other days cancelled the sums which we had lent during a long struggle to our Allies. We did not try to exact any indemnity with the result that trade improved and that the 2s. Income Tax, levied during the War, was repealed within three or four years. I think this argument will stand the test of criticism, and I say definitely that until the German Reparation Question is placed upon a secure economic basis, unemployment will continue in this country.
Let me now pass on to another subject which arises on this Amendment. We believe on these Benches that complete freedom of trade is necessary, that the world to-day is suffering from high prices, and yet this is the moment of all others which the Government chose to proclaim and nut on the Statute Book a different principle. The Government believe that scarcity is better than plenty, otherwise they would not have passed the Safeguarding of Industries Bill. They believed that high prices are better than low prices. 403 We believe in the complete freedom of trade and I think the House of Commons will be well advised to repeal those Measures and allow prices to come to their natural level and not stop in any way the free flow of goods from one country to another.
The Address goes on to say that the only remedy for unemployment is to deal with the international situation. There is a very potent factor which causes unemployment which is directly under the control of His Majesty's Ministers, and that is their policy of high expenditure which involves excessive taxation and which takes from the pockets of the people more than any Government should take. I know that that subject will be dealt with on Monday next and I do not desire this evening to develop that line of thought, or to show how unemployment is being created through excessive expenditure on armaments. I am bound to say, however, that three years ago a cry was raised on every platform declaring, "We will search the pockets of the German nation." We all know that very little money has been forthcoming from that quarter, although on the other hand no Government has ever been so successful in searching the pocket of the British taxpayers. They have been more successful in that policy than any Government in any other country in the world.
During the last four weeks there has definitely emerged two definite lines of policy to deal with our financial and economic situation. The cleavage has been present before, but during the last four weeks it has come into the forefront of public attention. What is that cleavage? What are those two policies? What is the Government record and policy which stands revealed to the people? One is a vindictive foreign policy and based upon the theory that scarcity is better than plenty and that high prices are better than low prices. The other policy is a reckless extravagance with the hard-earned money of the British taxpayers. On the other hand, there is the policy associated with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean). That is the policy which has made Britain great, a foreign policy which will restore and not crush foreign nations, establishing complete freedom of 404 trade abroad, and rigid economy at home. I repeat what was said on the opening day by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles, and we shall let that issue go forward to the electors.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down undertook to explain to the House of Commons and the country what is obscure to everyone else—the real causes of unemployment. Judging from the time which he occupied in arguing one particular proposition, I take it he has come to the conclusion that the real reason why there is unemployment in this country is because of the exaction of indemnities from Germany. I think I am entitled to ask the hon. Gentleman and those associated with him—does he really represent their policy in this respect? What is their policy? Is it a policy that you should say to Germany: "The demand for reparation for devastation in France and in Belgium and for the damage done here, is to be withdrawn and cancelled." Is that the policy? Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have no right to go about the country and say that unemployment difficulties are attributable entirely to German reparations unless they are prepared also to say, "If we are returned, we will cancel all these claims." Is that the policy of the hon. Gentleman? Surely after the time he has occupied, he should tell us. This is a sample of the kind of criticism the Government is subjected to. Every point is made whether it is for or against them. I will give an illustration. The hon. Gentleman has two leaders. Beside him sits my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) who smiles with satisfaction at the knowledge he has got such a follower. He must not be too sure that he will retain him long. I think I have had the honour of leading the hon. Gentleman once or twice. The hon. Member also has another leader, my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). Have they committed themselves to the policy of reducing the reparations?
The hon. Gentleman has another leader who has entered the arena just recently—Lord Grey. What does Lord Grey say? He says: "You are unkind to France. You are pressing France too hard." What have we been pressing France about? The only pressure we have brought to bear on France is to take into 405 account the difficulties of the situation in Germany and not to exact the extreme instalments during that period. Which of the two policies does the hon. Gentleman support? This is what I am told is the new honest policy. One leader goes round and says to Germany: "We will cancel your debt," and the other leader goes round to France and says: "These fellows are pressing you hard. I will back you up. Go on." What interpretation does France put upon that? The interpretation France puts upon that is this: "That the policy of the present English Government, which is not to press Germany in her present condition, is not mine. I will back you up." A united party at last! They have got rid of the National Liberals, they have got Liberalism pure and. undefiled, and above all, have they got an honest policy, instead of one story to one elector and a different one to another; instead of one story to Germany and another to France; instead of one story in the ear of the unemployed, saying you are suffering because of these exactions upon Germany, and another to the taxpayer, who is looking forward to getting something out of them. Which is their policy? We are entitled to know.
I am told this is the alternative Government. It is coming in quickly. When it comes in, is the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken the exponent of its policy? Are we to go to France, and are we to say to France: "Yes, your richest provinces have been devastated, hundreds of thousands of your houses have gone, your factories have been destroyed, enormous burdens have been cast upon France causing a huge deficit annually in her Budget; but you must not ask Germany, who was guilty of the devastation, to pay one penny." Why? Because it is the cause of unemployment. Is that the policy? I am asking the hon. Gentleman. That is one advantage of these speeches being made here and not outside. You can here ask questions. You can see they have not quite made up their minds which horse to run. They will try both and see which is the winner. If they happen to win, they will have to deal with the problem. We are entitled to know beforehand what they are going to do. But there is no ground or basis for the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman. He has not even the shallowest knowledge of the problem. He talks about Germany 406 cutting out our goods in the neutral markets of the world. If only he had read what Dr. Rathenau said at Cannes—where he gave us figures—and those we have are substantially correct—showing that the export trade of Germany is just 25 per cent. what it was before the War.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
In goods, in quantity. Ours is certainly more than twice that percentage even in a bad year. It is not true. The causes of unemployment are of a totally different character. It is attributable to causes deeper and more far-reaching. They are causes which will take a long time for the world to get over. They are the exhaustion of the resources of the world. They are the impoverishment of our customers throughout the world. China, India, and every part of the world is impoverished. The people cannot buy. Orders are not coming in. There is a general expectation that prices will come down, and a good many orders are being held back purely for that reason. If the problem is simply to be examined in this kind of way, to try and find out what criticism can be made against the Government here, and what different criticism to another audience utterly inconsistent one with the other, instead of a real examination of a problem which affects us all, we shall never be able to cure unemployment.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The Prime Minister's intervention in this Debate has been rather unexpected. We did not anticipate he would take part in the Debate on Unemployment, and for perfectly good reasons which have, indeed, been illustrated by the speech to which we have just listened. It is perfectly well known to every one in this House that the Prime Minister and, indeed, every Minister on that Front Bench is at his wits' end to know what to do.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The right hon. Gentleman sits on that Bench and in order to show that he has mastered the subject he tears to pieces the suggestions made on this Bench. Is that not exactly what he has done to-day? Let us consider the Prime Minister's proposition. He sees the failure of three years of his 407 peace. He sees, not only in this country, but throughout the world, civilisation is dying, and people who manufacture for others being increasingly thrown out of work, because their customers are unable to buy their goods. The peasantry of Europe are perfectly prosperous. The people who own land in Hungary and in Germany, and even in Russia itself, except where famine has occurred, are prosperous, while the people in the towns in Petrograd, Moscow, Budapest and Vienna are not. And that is what is coming about in this country. The people in the towns who manufacture for the rest of the world are finding that their services are no longer required. They are out of work. If you are going to solve this question of unemployment, obviously you must stop civilisation dying, and the Prime Minister knows perfectly well that that is his duty. That is why he has summoned the meeting at Genoa. I fear it may be too late. That is why during this last three years he has been attempting to induce his colleagues on that Bench, and in Paris as well, to consent to the recognition of Russia, and to trade with Russia, in order to re-establish civilisation. He was the author of the Prinkipo proposals. He has seen all through the necessity for that, but he has failed because he has not had the moral courage to stand up for the French Government. He had been right all through over Russia. He is looking to Russia to save us now. I am afraid it is too late. Still, he has been right all through, in spite of the speech to which we have just listened. He has been fighting for a revision of the Versailles Treaty—of the economic clauses of that Treaty. He knows perfectly well that those economic clauses must be revised if civilisation is to be saved. He comes down and points out the ridiculous claims of any party in this House to know of any cause for unemployment. One party says that the reparations must be scratched. He has tried to do it himself. That is his proposal at Genoa. All the best minds for the last year have been engaged in trying to revise the Versailles Treaty. The right hon. Gentleman has actually gone so far as to make it quite clear that Great Britain is willing to drop the reparations ear-marked for the repayment of pensions. [An HON. MEMBER: 408 "The Coalition party is not, if you are."] The party which is prepared to advocate even policies which are unpopular is the party for me; not the party which can laugh while Rome is burning and which is ultimately forced to adopt our principles. On Russia you are coming along nicely. On reparations you are doing the same. The Prime Minister is even trying to persuade his followers that it may be necessary, in the interests of civilisation, to shake hands with murder, whether it be in Ireland or in Russia. And in all these efforts to restore civilisation, he is thereby trying to restore the trade of this country and to reduce unemployment. Is he able to do so? That is the problem we have to face now.
They are to meet on the 8th March at Genoa. Will they meet at Genoa? The Prime Minister is committed to the French Government, and I fear that his position at Genoa is going to be an exceptionally difficult one. It would be entirely different were the Prime Minister in a position to get what he knows to be right. He knows, and even the Ministers who are now left on the Government Bench know, that he is committed to France, that he. can only recognise Russia, and thereby help to re-establish the trade of Russia, with the permission of France, and only on French terms—terms which will fasten round the necks of the Russian people a Treaty, responsibilities, liabilities for debt, which will strangle that people every bit as badly as the Versailles Treaty strangles the German nation. The Prime Minister knows that he cannot help the Russian situation as he would if he had not made his commitments to France. He knows, too, that he cannot persuade the French Government to drop their reparations. He is committed there also, and he is trying, in his desperate efforts to save civilisation, to bribe the French Government with a pact—blackmail if there was an example of it internationally. We have to guarantee France in order that France may consent to help save civilisation in Europe. That is the position as it is today, and the French are screwing up the terms of the blackmail. I warn the Government that, whatever pact, forced upon us by French blackmail, may be agreed to by this Government, it will not hold the democracy of this country, who 409 will have nothing whatever to do with entangling alliances. We pin our faith on getting closer to the American state of mind, the American psychology; and, indeed, we welcome the Congress at Washington because it has done more than anything else to bring together England and America, and to separate us, and to separate America, from the imperialist, militarist policy of France. But even if the foreign policy that the Prime Minister cashes to secure and is unable to secure—even if Genoa could be successful, and I doubt if it will come off at all—if it could be successful, is that going to get to the root of unemployment? Is that going to solve the problem? I will tell the right hon. Gentleman this, that, if it would solve the problem, he would not do it. Unemployment is very useful. Unemployment is invaluable to hon. Members. It brings wages down. It has brought wages down. Unemployment, which is essential to your capitalists—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Is an hon. Member below the Gangway entitled to say, Mr. Speaker, that my statement is scandalous?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Let me elaborate the subject. What is it that makes the worker at the present time content to work for low wages and long hours? Why, whenever there is a dispute at the present time, do the workers have to accept the employers' terms? What is it that has stopped all strikes during the last six months? It is fear on the part, of the workers of this country. They are afraid. There is a reign of terror in this country to-day. These people are afraid. What are they afraid of? They are afraid of losing their job, and joining the ranks of the unemployed. Every week, as Friday comes round, every man in the workshops is wondering, "Will the fore-roan give me my notice this week?" The fear of unemployment is the scourge of the worker. The fear of unemployment is the whip used by the capitalist system on the workers of this country. Therefore, I think it is hardly likely that the Government will do away with unemployment or go to the cause of unemployment. 410 They and their predecessors have always done all they could to make this necessary unemployment decent, tolerable, or, at least, not too unpleasant to look at. You will keep their heads above water by insuring them—largely with their own money; but abolish unemployment That would to too radical even for the two right hon. Gentlemen whom I see on the Government bench—old Radicals, sound in Free Trade and committed to the Safeguarding of Industries Act. This question is rather too radical even for them, but I would ask them this: Do not they think that the Amendment we have put upon the Paper to-day is rather a better Amendment for unemployment than what they have been accustomed to have?
To find useful and productive work is rather more useful than finding doles for the unemployed. Hitherto, the best effort of this Government, whenever unemployment has been discussed, has been to find insurance benefit for the unemployed. They have even gone so far as to institute a poll tax in this country upon all people who are employed, even though they are employed only for two or three days a week, and to make them pay the money for those who are not so fortunate as to be employed. A poll tax, which in the old days brought Wat Tyler on to the scene, is, apparently, accepted as the natural thing; but they have never gone into the question whether it is possible to provide useful productive work. The Minister of Labour to-day got rather near it. He described how, by lending money and lending Government credit to local authorities and to merchants in foreign countries, he had actually been able to put 127,000 people on to useful productive work. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) observed, if you can find it for 127,000, why should not you find it for all? You are on the horns of a dilemma. Either the Government, in finding work for these 127,000, has really lightened the problem of unemployment in the country—in which case they can extend that system indefinitely—or it is merely window-dressing for the purposes of persuading people that they are doing something to deal with unemployment. I do not care which solution you take, but you might just consider which it is. I notice that the tendency is for the Minister of Labour to consider that any money 411 he can get from the Treasury to lend to anyone to produce anything is going to help matters. I think that, before the right hon. Gentleman deals with unemployment in future, he should be quite clear that if you take £1 from the taxpayers and spend that £1 on making work for somebody which he would not otherwise be paid for or do, you are thereby increasing unemployment in this country. Perhaps that is not quite clear to the right hon. Gentleman. You take £1 from the taxpayer, and therefore the taxpayer is not able to buy the goods which he wants; and that £1 which the taxpayer would spend in buying goods which he requires to have made by someone will be spent instead by the right hon. Gentleman—that is to say, the surplus, after his Department has been paid—on making work which is not so much needed. That is the foundation of all sound economics even in Government Departments. I am speaking for the Labour party—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will not be quite so glad when we carry it to its conclusion. What we require, therefore, is to see that any work that is done is useful productive work—not digging holes one day and filling them up the next.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I observed the other day that the Corporation of Canterbury—an ecclesiastical city governed strictly on Coalition principles—are blessed with a corporation farm, and that they decided, in view of the amount of unemployment in the borough, to dig up their farm with spades instead of using ploughs; and the "Daily Herald"—the wicked organ of the proletariat—suggested that, as there were unemployed outside Canterbury as well as inside, they should dig up their fields with toothpicks instead of with spades. That is one way of making work, but it does not solve the problem in the least. It merely creates more unemployment than you get rid of. What we have to confine ourselves to, if we really want to solve the problem of unemployment, is the increase of useful productive work to which we draw attention in this Amendment. What is useful productive work? It is any sort of useful work which plays 412 a part in the conversion of land and raw materials into finished articles where you want them and when you want them—I include the retail and distributing trades. For instance, in the trade with which my name is associated—and I wish my cash was—useful productive work converts the raw clay from Cornwall and Devon to cups and saucers on your tea table, and the very hest cups and saucers they are too.
Useful productive work converts agricultural land into ham sandwiches. It converts Thirlmere into Manchester drinking water. It converts the raw coal and iron under ground into bicycles or locomotives. Those are all examples of useful productive work. They all consist in the conversion of land and raw materials into finished articles. They all begin by the application of labour to land. If the work you want to increase depends in the first place upon the application of labour to land there is one perfectly simple way of increasing that work that we want to increase. That is to make it easier for labour to apply itself to the land. There at present, on one side of a brick wall, is the man able, anxious and willing to work, and on the other side of the wall is the raw material with which alone you can start work. In between there is that wall, and the two right hon. Gentlemen there keep on piling that wall higher and higher so as to prevent the man from getting work. We know the way to get work. Break that wall down. Make it easy for the primary trades—the building trade, the mining and quarrying trade, the agricultural trade—to get at their raw materials and they in turn will call upon the services of all the other workers in the community to complete the processes of manufacture which they have begun. But that would mean attacking the friends of the Government, and the Government will not do it. The right hon. Gentleman who is taking notes now and who is going to reply to me at half-past ten to-night knows as well as I know that that is the solution. He knows as well as I know that if to-morrow he could break the land monopoly, if to-morrow he would merely introduce a change in the basis of rating which would knock the bottom out of the land market, he would do more for unemployment than all the doles the other right hon. Gentleman will ever screw out of the Treasury from now to Kingdom come. He will not do it because it would bit his 413 friends. He will not do it because if you find work for the unemployed, or better still, if the unemployed can find work for themselves, the capitalist system, upon which he thrives, will go under and cheap labour, sweated labour, slave labour will cease to exist.
§ Mr. REMER
On the Order Paper to-day an Amendment appears in my name which it has been intimated to me by Mr. Speaker will not be in Order, and therefore I have not risen for the purpose of moving it, but I should like to say that I am in very large agreement and sympathise to the full with those portions of the speeches of the Labour party opposite which express concern with the large amount of unemployment which, unfortunately, exists. But that unemployment is solely caused because the trade of the country is only about one quarter what it was in pre-War days. One of the great causes of our lose of trade is the tariffs which have been raised and increased by foreign countries since the War took place. I am not making that statement on my own account. I have as one authority the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) who, speaking last evening, said:There is now hardly a country—France, Italy, Poland, Czecho-Slovakia, Yugo-Slavia—which has not set up tariff barriers between themselves.The information I have received is that France, to take one of the countries named, has raised a tariff wall amounting to something like 400 per cent. The United States of America are at present considering and debating an increase of the tariff which she has already in existence against this country in such a way that it is almost impossible for this country to trade with the United States, and even India, a portion of our own Empire, has recently raised her tariff against this country, against Lancashire cotton, and has undoubtedly caused great unemployment in Lancashire, without protests, as far as I can understand, from the Free Trade Viceroy and without protest from the Free Trade Secretary of State for India, and it should he noted that the Indian Government have not given any preference to Lancashire goods and have given no consideration to the difficulties through which we are passing. With all this happening in foreign countries, and even in our own Empire, 414 it is the height of madness for the present Government to allow goods to come in free at present which our people can make here and which, if they were taxed to a reasonable extent, would find employment for many thousands of our people. I understand that last year £100,000,000 worth or more of wholly manufactured goods came into this country which could have provided useful productive work, to use the language of the Labour party's Amendment, for the people of this country.
I should like to direct the attention of the Labour party particularly to what is happening in Germany at the present moment. One of the articles which they very largely make is machine tools. They are made by German workmen paid at the rate, I am informed, of 400 marks per week. If you translate that into English currency at the present rate of exchange it amounts to the princely sum of 10s. per week. Is it not perfectly obvious that with these facts in front of the Labour party they must realise that our work-people are bound to be cut out and undersold in the markets of the world and even in this country. I had some figures given me during last week. I understand a Preston manufacturer who makes looms was quoting recently for a very large order in Lancashire which would have found very considerable employment for our people, and the price he quoted was one which he considered was below his cost price, namely, £95. Yet the order has gone to Germany at the price of £19, and I consider it is a shame that so many people by that means are thrown out of employment. I believe these facts ought to be taken very seriously into consideration by the Labour party, which, I understand, has always advocated a policy of Free Trade. There are Members of the Conservative party, and I believe of the National Liberal party, who are Free Traders. When I go into my constituency and speak my protective views to some of the manufacturing people in Lancashire and other parts of the country they tell me they are opposed to my views, and I want the Labour party to understand why they are opposed to them. They say that they want Free Trade because they want the free imports of manufactured goods to continue, because by that means, and that means only, can they break down the trade union tyranny and the trade union machine. I want to drive the fact 415 home particularly to the Labour party that one of the chief reasons that exists among manufacturers who are Free Traders is that they know that by Free Trade alone they can break down the trade union tyranny.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir E. Cornwall)
That is not a point of Order. The hon. Member (Mr. Ramer) must remember that we have an Amendment before the House. He is not out of order, but we do not want to drift into a fiscal debate.
§ Mr. REMER
I cannot understand the logic of those people who are arguing in favour of a Free Trade policy and who to-day have denounced with such passion the reparation policy of this country. I have been led to believe that it is the policy of the Free Traders, and the Free Trade argument, that you should buy your goods in the cheapest market. Under this reparation policy you are not only buying your goods in the cheapest market, but you are having the goods given to you free. I cannot see why it is wrong to have your goods given to you free and at the same time be right to have your goods given to you at a lower price than your people can produce them. I wish the Free Trade Members would realise that condemnation of reparations and advocacy of Free Trade are absolutely inconsistent. There are a large number of things coming into this country which are absolute luxuries. Last year £18,000,000 worth of goods of silk manufacture were imported into this country, and I am sure that no sane person would argue that it would do any harm if those imported goods were taxed and we manufactured them in this country. If those goods were manufactured here they would find employment for many thousands of people in useful work. We have in the Budget, fortunately, a certain number of 416 goods which are taxed, and now the manufacture of those goods provides useful productive occupation in this country. One of the articles taxed at the present time is motor-cars, and I would remind the House that the Ford Motor Company, immediately that tax was put on, instead of importing those cars from America, as they had done previously, brought them here in their various parts and assembled them at Trafford Park, Manchester, thereby finding useful, productive work for British workmen.
The Minister of Labour to-night, in quoting figures about Switzerland, referred to the great unemployment which existed there owing to the stagnation of the watch trade. Why is it that there is such stagnation in Switzerland? It is entirely because we in this country have put a tax of 33⅓ per cent. on imported watches and clocks, finding by that means useful productive work for the people of this country. We must consider by what means we can find work for our people. I have been told by some Members of my own party that it is not opportune to raise this question. I am not versed in party methods or party dealings, but I do feel that while there are many thousands, amounting to nearly 2,000,000, of our people unemployed, it is the height of folly, and utterly absurd, to import such a large quantity of manufactured goods from abroad.
§ Mr. SEXTON
This Amendment has been a very fruitful source of discussion. The discussion has ranged from the question of how much an hour a dock labourer should get to foreign politics, and now we have reached the stage of Free Trade or Protection. It is perhaps natural that that should be the case, because I do not think there is a question under the sun from which you can dissociate employment and unemployment. The most remarkable speeches that I have heard in connection with this matter have been from both sides of the House by three hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Sir G. Renwick) They all disagreed in detail, but they all agreed that there was something rotten in the state of Denmark concerning trade unionism. I regret that the hon. Member for Newcastle is not in his place, because during his speech I interjected a remark and said that a statement which he had made was not true. I want to qualify 417 that statement. He brought up to-night what be brought up last Session, namely, the old story, Bing Charles' head again, as to the extravagant demands of the casual labourer at the docks. He stated the case of men working at certain car goes, and his speech so impressed the House that several Members in their speeches have expressed surprise and indignation at the statements he made. He said that in certain isolated cases men who worked 8 hours received enormous wages for the 8 hours and, incidentally, he said that when he mentioned it last Session some of the Labour Members were out for his blood. I know the hon. Member for Newcastle and I would be the last man to be out for his blood, for if we have to have employers I must say this for his credit, that he is one of the best employers I know. I cannot say as much for his facts.
While I am not out for his blood, I am certainly out for his facts. The statements he made are incidentally correct, but how were they arrived at? Deliberately, under the direction of one of the brightest legal brains in another place (Lord Shaw), we sat for six weeks and went minutely into every detail connected with dock labour, and after thoroughly examining the whole case an award was given which included contracts and cases like the one mentioned by the hon Member for Newcastle. Employers accepted it. The case which the hon. Member mentioned are cases of very rare occurrence which would only happen in extraordinary circumstances, as, for instance, where you drag a man out of his bed at two or three o'clock in the morning, so that he loses his night's rest and the whole of the following day, and if for that four hours instead of one are charged it is more of a prohibitive price than anything else, in order to prevent the employer exploiting the man in the middle of the night. These instances occur only very rarely. These men are not working a full week. Sometimes they do not work half a week.
Then the hon. Member spoke of the work being easy. I wonder if he has ever tried it; I have. I wonder if he has ever tried bags of cement on the back of his neck for twelve hours at a stretch, and found when he went home at night that whatever was in the stuff had eaten not only through his coat and shirt, but down to his bones so that the 418 flesh was festering for weeks afterwards. I have known instances myself when certain cargoes were being worked such as bleaching powder in a ship's hold and when casks burst I have actually had to put on a diver's suit to go down to work. I wonder if the hon. Member has ever been down a ship's hold full of bulk guano. A man cannot stay down there for more than two hours without blood running through his eyes, nose and ears. Are such instances as the hon. Member gave to be brought up here to cover the whole range of casual labour? He pointed out that these men are not starving because they are earning such big wages. If I had my time to go over again I would not do some of the jobs at the docks for all the fortunes the shipowners in this country ever made. He says nothing about the 45 per cent, of the men who do not get anything. That is the condition of affairs to-day. There is nothing about the men who get a half-day or a day and a half during the week and who, because they get even a half-day, are compelled to pay towards the State unemployment benefit while they are disqualified from receiving any of the unemployed benefit to which they have contributed. I have listened with great care to the speech of the Minister of Labour, and I took notes of some of the points which he made. One of these was that the younger men in many cases are not anxious for work, and that, having no obligations, they would rather loaf and receive the dole. I hope that he did not intend that to be a sweeping statement.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
No. I said that there are cases. I think the precise words I used were "a very small minority no doubt."
§ Mr. SEXTON
I am glad to hear that, because I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that those cases, including the young men, are very rare.
§ Mr. SEXTON
Here and there there may be cases of that character. I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman has his difficulties just as we have. Another point which he made was that when his Government or his Department made an offer to the Labour party to come in and help to relieve the situation we refused to go in.
§ Mr. SEXTON
The explanation is public property. The answer given is perfectly logical and just. He asked us to come in now when this horrible mess had been created—I am not going into the causes—for which we are not responsible, and commit ourselves to a policy for which the Government are. responsible and take the blame of the results. I will endorse what the right hon. Gentleman says about officials of the labour exchanges. I have some association with them, and I want publicly to pay them this tribute, that they are doing good work against obstacles. They are there not to do what they would like to do, but to administer the law as it exists. So far as I am concerned, I have received nothing but the greatest help and courtesy from all of them. In the course of this Parliament we have had a King's Speech every Session. I think there have been five King's Speeches since 1918. Every one of them has dealt with this question of unemployment, and expressed the opinion that His Majesty's Government would do something to relieve the situation. We looked with great hope to this item in the King's Speech. Hope has told a flattering tale, but hope deferred maketh the heart grow sick, and our heart has grown sick with the continually repeated expressions of goodwill in regard to unemployment in the King's Speech which have not been realised as I am sure His Gracious Majesty himself would desire. When I say that I say it in all humility, and, I hope, with becoming modesty, as one who knows something of what His Majesty thinks of unemployment. I hope that I am not transgressing the rules of this House in saying that I think that if the King's Speech was not the reflection of the opinion of the Cabinet, the language of the Speech would be much more vigorous and satisfactory on the question of unemployment than it is.
I recognise that after the holocaust of four years of war, the Government had difficulties to face. I recognise that during that period hundreds of thousands of people were added to the industrial classes who were never in industry before. They were introduced into production, production not for the benefit of the country, but for destruction. 7,000,000 men, the best bone and sinew in this country, were taken from the producing classes to fight. Over 1,000,000 of them 420 never came back, and their places were taken by people who had never before been in industry. To meet demobilisation, when it came, the dole was created. As one who has had some experience of it, I think that that was the first and the worst mistake the Government made. If they had taken our advice they could have avoided much of the mischief created by the dole. But the dole served the purpose of preventing trouble. From the Government's point of view, it was a temporary investment, although distinctly bad in principle. What followed? We are suffering to-day, and will continue to suffer, for the inevitable economic results of paying this money to people for producing nothing.
In an endeavour to cover up this mistake, the Government launched into insurance for unemployment, and again we pointed out that the method of the Government was the wrong method. We suggested remedies which were scoffed at. The Prime Minister on Tuesday night replied to some criticism in a most eloquent passage, and showed that skill in debate which always fascinates temporarily, though it is not of a very lasting and convincing character after a Debate is over. The right hon. Gentleman made a great point of the fact that £100,000,000 was being contributed by the Government for the purpose of relieving unemployment. It would be interesting to know how he makes up that sum. The question was asked to-night, and I think the Minister of Labour has admitted that four-fifths of the contribution came from the employers and the workmen. In that case, how can the Government claim to have contributed anything at all with respect to unemployment, save merely to have imposed another very great penalty upon men who can ill-afford it?
I want to give the Minister of Labour a case typical of what is happening under the Unemployment Insurance Act. I can give both the man's name and the number. It is typical of what is happening every day of the week. A man is signed on for six days from Saturday, 28th January, to Friday, 3rd February. On the Friday evening at five o'clock the six days' qualifying period was ended. At least the man thought it was. He was offered a job after five o'clock and he worked a few hours up to 9 o'clock. Because he worked from five to nine on that Friday night, although he had put 421 in the six days' qualifying period, this man, though having to pay the contribution out of the four hours' work, is absolutely disqualified from receiving unemployment benefit, and has to start all over again. Let me give the House another typical case, and this applies to ex-service men, many of whom have drifted down to the docks and have become casual labourers—men who, when they went to the War, were middle-class men, men whose employers told them they would keep their jobs for them until they came back, and now that they have come back they have found either that their jobs were filled by women at half the price, or that the firm had gone bankrupt or changed hands, and that there was no job available. The last resource of men like that was to drift to the docks to get an odd day or half-day of work.
Here is a typical case. A man loses his job. He has to go to the docks. Bit by bit his household goods are sold to meet the high cost of living. He is injured at the docks; he gets compensation. At the end of six months the employer applies to the Court for a reduction of the compensation and offers the man light employment. Light employment at the docks is a farce from beginning to end. There is no such thing. The man leaves the job; he cannot do it. He goes home broken, but his compensation is reduced to a penny a week by the County Court Judge, and he has no redress. The quarter before that he had a fairly good quarter. And, O the irony of the whole tragic brutal business! For that good quarter he was charged Income Tax, but having arrears to make up and debts to pay, he neglected to pay the Income Tax. The next quarter he had no income, but a warrant is issued and, like a sword of Damocles, that warrant is hanging over his head to-day. Worse remains. His children play truant in order to forage for food in the streets. They are sent to an industrial school and an order is made for the payment of so much per week by the parents. The man cannot pay, and the law of the land says that if he does not pay he shall go to gaol. I can give specific cases of men going to gaol periodically, men who fought during the War and offered themselves voluntarily. Yet, I find surprise expressed at such incidents as that of Poplar. I have heard the whole Labour movement condemned and painted black because of the Poplar incident and because the Poplar 422 Guardians are said to have overstepped the law and to have been extravagant in distribution of relief. I freely confess I have not any sympathy with the Poplar Guardians. I think that their chickens are coming home to roost and the devil's cure to them, but at the same time such incidents as that of Poplar are not to be wondered at.
In conclusion, may I say I have listened to jibes across the floor of the House against the Labour party and their supposed arrogance in claiming a monopoly of the title of Labour. I have read speeches from men in exalted positions in another place, and speeches from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, ridiculing the impudence of Labour in choosing for itself a monopoly of that title. I have yet to learn that we do choose anything of the kind. What we do, and what we are entitled to do, is to say at least that we are returned from our constituencies on a Labour ticket and we represent Labour each in our own particular constituency. May I be permitted to say with respect to the right hon. Gentleman who used the jibe against us last night as to our arrogance in assuming the title of Labour that it would be difficult for him to define the title to which he is entitled, with the crowd he has behind him to-day? That would be very difficult indeed. We should not, however, be jibing and ridiculing each other, for one thing confronts the whole of the country, and I, like him and like everybody else, want to give this old country a chance, for she has never had a fair chance. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle (Sir G. Renwick) said we should give the employers a chance. They have their chance. They have it now. [An HON. MEMBER: "And they are taking it, too."] What are they doing? They are bringing us back below the pre-War conditions. I[...] is quite true, as has been said to-night by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), that they know they have got us for the time being. They know we are powerless to strike now. Strikes at any time, either normal or abnormal, do not do anybody any good. I frankly admit that, but what are the employers doing? All that beautiful spirit of unity and "follow the flag" and "keep the old flag flying" that existed during the War has flown right out of the window, and they are back again on 423 the old battlefield screwing the workers down as far as they can.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I am not going to try to defend everything that is done in the name of trade unions, but one hon. Gentleman below the gangway to-night has said, or at least inferred, that the rules of the trade unions to-day deliberately restrict output. I challenge that hon. Member, or any other Member of this House, to point to any rule of any trade union that I know that lays down such a doctrine. I have never been able to discover it, but the employers to-day take advantage of every declaration of the Ministry of Labour in the "Labour Gazette," and they point to the Board of Trade figures—the index figures—as a justification for pulling down wages to the level of those index figures. I am not one who does not recognise fully that the conditions of the War, and the wages which existed during the War, cannot go on existing if industries be successful. I recognise that frankly, but I want to remind employers that they have the machinery by which they can regulate these things, and if they intend us to settle disputes on the basis of the mere level of subsistence, then they are making the biggest mistake of their lives. I would never agree to go back to the old subsistence level. At the very least I would demand a big margin above the subsistence level. If we would only lay our minds down to this, instead of jibing at each other across the floor of this House and everywhere else, the condition of this country will be bettered sooner than it can be in any other way.
§ Sir R. COOPER
In listening to the Debate this evening I am profoundly impressed by the wide gulf of difference between the opinions of Members in different parts of the House as to the causes of unemployment and on the economic problem as it affects this country in particular and the world in general. When one listens to some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) and the hon. Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) one really begins to think that many of us in this House would be doing far more useful work for 424 our country if we could come together, if necessary privately, and hammer out the facts relating to these grave differences. It is appalling to me to hear the statements made this evening that employers and capitalists to-day are deliberately and systematically working for the reduction of wage rates and are taking every advantage from one end of the country to another. I think the words of the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) were: "They know they have got us for the moment."
§ Sir R. COOPER
Though we have differed in the past, I can claim the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme as a personal friend, and I am not going to doubt the bona fides of the opinions of either of these two hon. Members. They undoubtedly believe what they are saying. What is more, they know that speeches of this sort are being made right through the country. If any good is going to come from the policy of the present Government; if any good is going to come from any alternative Government, whether it be those represented by the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) or the Labour party, it cannot come as long as there is this enormous gulf of difference in this House, let alone among the people of the country. I say that amidst all these differences there can be nothing but internal strife and scrapping one with the other. Meanwhile other nations are going to pick up the markets of the world which are going to be re-formed as the world settles down to normal conditions. For my part I would rather for the next week; or month, or six months, acting with others of my hon. Friends who held other views, stick to a discussion of the facts, until one or other had to honestly give in and recognise which was right. Nothing could he more profitable, but it is not within my capability to propose something practical by which we could get over this enormous gulf. All I can say, in answer to the statement which was made twice to-night, and which is made right through the country, is that, first of all, Labour leaders, and more especially trade union officials, who, as a rule, know the general up-to-date facts about their particular trade, have in words admitted the need under the present peculiar conditions of a reduce- 425 tion in the rates of wages in those particular cases where, under war conditions, they rose to a higher level than in some others. It is on record—I have the statements at home—and I assert that there are many trade union officials, and certainly some recognised leaders of Labour, who have recognised that something has got to be done in the interests of the people they represent if we are to re-create the channels of a full and fair employment for the people of this country.
There cannot, however, be many Labour Members in this House who in their especial spheres of work do not know from actual facts that where some customer in the world wants to buy something, he can buy it in other countries cheaper than this. The problem is complicated, of course, by the great question of the difference in the exchange values, but the simple fact remains that if there is an opportunity, for instance, of getting an order for a small river steamer for Brazil, that order cannot come here to-day because the steamer can be bought cheaper on the Continent, and by no means only on account of the difference in the exchange values, but because the actual £s. d. paid out by any employer in wages for the construction of that steamer is far greater in amount here than in many other countries, notably, of course, in countries like Belgium, Germany, and Holland. Even if hon. Members are going to say that exchange rates account for it—and I suppose indirectly there is truth in that—the fact still remains that we do not get the order, we do not get the production, and we do not get the employment for our people, and something has got to be done to get it. Under these conditions, for any hon. Member to suggest that employers and capitalists in any quantity—Heaven knows we have got bad employers and bad capitalists, just as we have got bad workmen, and plenty of both, unfortunately—but if as a general rule it is going to he alleged that employers of labour, owners of factories, and capitalists are in any sense concerned in taking advantage of the working classes to-day, and of the rates of wages, all I can say is that those who form the Labour party have no idea and no understanding of what is going on in the country. That is a grave difference of opinion between many of us, for which the facts can 426 easily be given. One manufacturer after another, I am certain, would come forward and let the real facts of this factory or that factory be fully made known to Members of the Labour party, to satisfy them that they are wrong, if in return it was known that the representatives of Labour would then, at any rate, modify their views accordingly.
The majority of people—I know some of them in this House—who are regarded as wealthy men are at their wits' end to know how they are going to carry on for the next year or two. I can only say, from what little experience I have, that it is astonishing in how many factories in this country at the present time, where there is more than one particular grade of article turned out, the owners are considering what they can lop off in order to preserve their capital and make it go as far as possible. I am doing that myself. I was in Glasgow only last Monday, and I am cutting off there one half in order to preserve the other half. I have got to do it. There is no opportunity for people situated like that to be playing fast and loose with labour and with rates of wages, and so on, and I cannot imagine for one moment that Labour leaders and representatives generally, with their somewhat intimate knowledge even of the employers' position to-day, can possibly hold those views seriously. If they do not, and if those statements are wrong, it is far too grave a position that we are in for anyone to stretch their imagination or to be supporting in any form views which are not tenable.
It is my intention to support the Amendment which has been moved on these benches to-night, and I do so, not only because the actual wording of the Amendment entirely appeals to me, but because I am profoundly dissatisfied with the wording in the Speech from the Throne in reference to unemployment. To me it is amazing that His Majesty's Government—the Cabinet—could one and all put their hands to an expression which states:The only remedy for this distressing situation is to be found in the appeasement of international rivalries and suspicions, and in the improvement of the conditions under which trade is carried on all over the world.I understand those words to mean—I trust I am wrong—that His Majesty's Ministers have come to the conclusion that there is only one possible remedy 427 now to which they can turn. It is the remedy which—I am sure we all wish them well in attempting it—they hope to carry through at the Genoa Conference. First of all, however, that Conference has got to be held; secondly, there has got to be agreement, and if that is happily obtained and the basis is made upon which Europe can reasonably be reconstructed, I ask hon. Members in all quarters of the House whether it is unreasonable to say that not a week or a month, but a year or 18 months, or two years even, must pass more or less before you can possibly hope to see any profitable, tangible result in an increased demand for goods in this country and the reduction of unemployment. If that is true, it is saying in my opinion to this House and to the country, "We are united in the opinion that there is nothing left except this, and we all know that we cannot hope to reap the fruits of our labours, however successful, at Genoa for close on another two years." If that is the position, then I for one begin to feel that somebody outside the Government has got to get to work to discover if that is the last word in the means by which unemployment in this country can be reduced. I am profoundly opposed to the Labour Members' programme, and to what they recommend as the means of averting or reducing unemployment; but if the statement in the Speech from the Throne is really true and represents the last word, the only remedy, which this present Government can ever offer to the country, for my part I begin to take a much broader view of some of those proposals which up till now I have heartily detested.
This, to my mind, is the most profound problem affecting the recovery of this country and the maintenance of our Empire. Quite apart from whatever may be the result of the Genoa Conference, I am not one of those people who, after examining to the best of one's ability the causes that have led to this unhappy economic situation throughout the world, believe that it is going to be rapidly improved. I believe this problem is one that certainly will not be disposed of this year; I am much more inclined to think it will not be for four or five years. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment 428 accused the Government of lack of foresight. I entirely concur with him. The Government last autumn somewhat tardily made some attempt to try to save the situation, but we know more to-day than we did at that time. More consideration of what further can be done is demanded. It will never do to continue on the assumption that this is coming to an early end, and so to live from hand to mouth, from month to month.
I will briefly mention three of the leading directions in which I suggest that a good deal more can be done to reduce unemployment, if not to-day, at any rate in a shorter time than you can hope to-reduce it by the Genoa Conference. First of all, there is the lowering of taxation; and, secondly, the cultivation of overseas markets. There has been a good deal of talk this evening on foreign policy, but foreign and imperial policy such as is being followed by the present Government, in my opinion, is nut conducive, as it ought to be, to looking out for, and securing, markets for our produce. I believe I am right in saying that one of the principal objects of foreign policy in any nation is to promote its own productivity and its own prosperity. I suggest there is room for very much more to be done, certainly in the Near East, towards the provision in the very near future of markets for British goods than we are likely to get under the present policy.
I turn to the speeches which have been made by those who have been supporting the Amendment. I entirely agree with the Amendment, but what disappoints me so much in listening to the speeches which have been made is this: not one hon. Gentleman on the Labour benches has made any suggestion as to what more the Government can do directly to increase the productive employment of our people. [Hon. MEMBERS "Oh!"] Well, one or two suggestions have been made. One by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the party was that we should go on building houses faster, and not slower. I do not hesitate to say that, in my constituency, which is one of the most completely industrial working-class constituencies in the country—
§ Sir R. COOPER
Absolutely true. I have said frankly there to labour audiences that of all the causes which 429 have made the building of houses since the War difficult, one of the greatest has been the working man himself. He would not allow, in many cases, the houses to be built. But that; is beside my point. What I want to emphasise is that, to get out of our present trouble, we have to aim at getting more employment, not in indirect ways such as building schools, and so on, which is all splendid in its way, to help us tide over, but what is the cause of the real trouble? It is loss of national wealth. We have talked freely of the War depreciating the national wealth of this country to the tune, roughly, of £8,000,000,000, but does the House recollect that since the War has been over we have, through our Government, rightly or wrongly, further depreciated our national wealth by close upon another £4,000,000,000. The depreciated wealth of this country since 1914 is very nearly £12,000,000,000. The problem to which the Labour party have got to get down is how to re-create the wealth.
§ Sir R. COOPER
I have said before, and I think it is true, that there is no section of the community who to-day could be in a better position than the Labour party and the great trade union leaders to know in one industry and another what remedies can be adopted directly to increase production. The leader of the Labour party, in his concluding words to-night, said that we want speedy economic recovery, and that they want, not office, but Parliamentary action to produce immediate results. The real obstacle to the Labour party, to whom I am in all sincerity appealing, successfully attacking the problem to-day, is the fact that they are attached to a policy which fundamentally is to abolish private enterprise. We recognise that, and I am not so foolish as to suggest that they should go back on it. But I do offer them this suggestion. You may say to this House and to the country, "We believe the system is bad, rotten, anything you like; we believe it ought to be altered, but we realise that if we can have our way, as one day we may, it will be a gradual process, and will take a number of years." Let them take that line, and say that, much as they hate the system at present, there are various directions in which, at any rate, they 430 can do something to increase the productive, capacity of this country, and improve the employment situation.
There are other remarks which I would like to have made, but I will content myself with ending by an appeal, which I make in all sincerity. We are all in desperate straits; whatever may he said about the Labour party by us, or about us by the Labour party in the country, when all that is said and done, there is no one of us on either side who does not want to do his utmost for the country. If so, do let us get down to the rock bottom of this problem. You are not doing it, and you know it. We have tried and you do not like our method. Do help us out, and put forward the best proposals you can to help matters.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
I should have liked to have had an opportunity of replying to the hon. Baronet who has made such an eloquent speech. I will only say, however, that we do know something of the inside working of the business. We know what our attitude has always been, but it has been frequently misunderstood by the other side. I want, however, to-night, to raise a specific question dealing with one of the causes of unemployment, and to make an appeal to see whether that cause cannot be removed and what some of us consider a wrong set right. I am glad to see the President of the Board of Trade here, because this really concerns him. I want to raise the question of the so-called Australian zinc concentrates contract, which was made some time towards the end of the War period. It is generally known that such a contract was made between Mr. Hughes, the Premier of Australia, and either our own Prime Minister or someone acting on his behalf. The contract was made during the War period, and I have no fault to find with it. It was a very good contract at that time. It served its purpose, and while the War continued there is no doubt that it was in the interests of this country. I want to be quite clear on this. I am putting my statement more in the form of queries and questions, because the President of the Board of Trade is here. During the three years I have been in this House I have never heard any statement regarding this contract. I have never seen any reference to it in the Estimates or in any other way. I was for eight months on a Departmental Com- 431 mittee appointed by the Board of Trade and we made repeated applications for information concerning the contract. We made requests for a copy of the contract, we asked to know what was the price being paid for the concentrates, and so on. We were always refused, and for some reason or other we were never allowed to see a copy of the contract. We never knew the prices paid, what was being done with the accumulation of the ore, nor what prices were being obtained for selling it to other countries.
We do know, however, that for two years this contract for the supply of zinc concentrates has closed down all our mines in this country. It was not a very large industry, it is true; probably it would not produce more than 20 per cent. of the requirements of this commodity, but it found employment for some thousands of men and capital was invested in the mines which have all been stopped and are derelict. We have been informed—it is only on information I am going, I have been as close up against this question as any man in the House, and I can only assume things now—that this contract was entered into for the period of the War, and for 10 years after the termination of the War. In 1919 an agreement was come to that the contract should terminate in 1929. Therefore, until 1929, our mines must remain closed, and our men must remain unemployed. Consequently the capital invested in the mines will be lost. The mines themselves will be derelict, and I do not know what will become of the labour. I am told that the contract was made on that basis of 84s. per ton plus transport, which would equal, say, 60s. per ton. We are to accept the whole output of the Broken Hill mines for 10 years at the price fixed upon. This, approximately, would be, say, 120s. per ton for the export and transport of the zinc concentrates. The Government entered into a contract to construct huge works at Avonmouth to deal with these concentrates. Then the Armistice was signed. The contracts were stopped and the works to-day are standing as a great big monument of failure. They were never completed. The ore is coming in by thousands of pounds into this country, but there are no means of dealing with it. Consequently the Government have had to sell the ore to Belgium, Germany and France. I am told, and this is one of the things about 432 which I want information, that it is being sold at about 60s. per ton, so that on every ton there is practically a loss of anything between £4 and £5 as resulting from this contract.
I should like to know how much money the Government have paid already to make up for its losses since this contract has been entered into; how much it is costing the Government to continue at the present time; and how much it is estimated it will cost later on as the contract comes to its fulfilment. We have approached the Government and the Board of Trade, and we have said: "You cannot break the contract. They are holding you tight to it, and they will. If these mines were Government property we might not have so much to complain about, but they are private speculations, and they are working night and day in Australia. Consequently they are making money at the expense of our own people. What losses have been incurred; how are you going to cover your losses?" I have been informed, and I know I am right, that contracts have been entered into for the supply of the ore to the South Wales area, for the spelter works there have been shut down for many years. At what price are they selling the ore? How many pounds per ton are being lost on the sale to-day? I am not complaining so much about that, but while the ore goes direct into other countries at the market rate our Government has a contract with the Australian Government to buy the concentrates at 84s. per ton, plus transport costs, and no matter how much the market may fluctuate and the price rise or fall, that price has to be paid until 1929. That is a bad bargain. We have said to the Government: "You have had your Bill for the protection of British Industries. Here is an instance. Give to the British mines exactly the same conditions as you are giving to the Australian mines, and let them resume operations." That has been refused. I know the Government cannot break a contract, but they can give to the British mines the same chance, and thus allow them to resume work. They can save these mines; they can save the capital invested in them; and they can find employment for those who are out of work. I desired to raise this one point, to ask for information with regard to the losses incurred by this contract, and as to the enormous loss which will fall on the taxpayer before it expires.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Baldwin)
I am sure the House will expect me to say a word in reply to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wignall). The subject which he has raised is one of great importance. He was fully justified in putting the points he has put, and, curiously enough, it is a subject that has never been discussed in this House. My hon. Friend was probably nor, aware, when he originally intended to raise this question, that in the very first group of Estimates which will be brought forward within the next week or ten days there will be an Estimate for this very subject of the zinc concentrates. It was my intention, and is, in introducing that Estimate, to give the House the fullest information and history of the making and terms of that contract, to give the House the fullest information that it is in my power to give. The subject will undoubtedly he debated, as it deserves to be, at full length. I trust with that assurance my hon. Friend and the House will be satisfied for to-night.
Whatever the causes and wherever the fault lies in this great matter of unemployment there can only be one universal feeling of the deepest sympathy and regret for the thousands of men and women that are to-day suffering mentally and physically because they are and have been workless, and in many cases destitute. I recognise with gratitude the measures which the Government have taken, and which, I submit, are bath wise and prompt and undertaken in a sympathetic spirit. I agree, however, with much that has fallen from one hon. Member that these measures are but palliatives, and that the Government cannot stop at palliatives. They must, as has been suggested, dive deeper and ascertain the causes of the present state of affairs in order that they may be annihilated, if possible, so that when future periods and cycles of trade depression come—as come they certainly will—we may be able to meet them without a repetition of the present misery.
In his speech not long ago the Prime Minister said that the causes of unemployment may be summed up in one word, that was the word war! With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, may I say I think he has rather confined his 434 judgment and curtailed his imagination, for, surely, there are many other apparent causes, and I would sum them also up in one word, namely, waste. War and waste. These are the terrible twins which have brought us to the present position. May I for a few moments invite the attention of hon. Members to conditions before the War. By the enterprise of generations of our merchants, by the skill, industry, and inventive genius of our engineers, by the industry and ability of our workmen, we had become the pioneers in the world's industry and commercial activities. We were a nation rich beyond the dreams of avarice. When the War came a large part of the capital accumulated by generations of effort, not only in this country but in large part in other countries, was absolutely blown to pieces. What then was the first task for us to undertake, that should have been faced by this country? Surely, to re-create our wealth and re-establish our capital, for without that capital you cannot have credit, and without capital and credit you cannot have a free interchange of goods; this free interchange of goods and the turning over of money form the whole basis on which commercial activity is founded and on which we have to depend for employment for our workmen.
May I draw attention to the way in which we tackled that task of reconstruction on the signing of the Armistice. We began by a series of great strikes. That is one of the heads of waste that I desire respectfully to call to the attention of hon. Members. These strikes were so great, so well organised, so vast, that they nearly upset the very foundations of society. I am not judging the rights or wrongs of this matter, I am only submitting to hon. Members that surely the time has arrived to recognise, and experience has taught, that strikes are a savage, antiquated, and cumbersome way of settling trade disputes. Has not the time arrived—I would suggest to the Government—when by consultation with the heads of the employés, the employers, and the Government, some method of arbitration could not be decided upon by which evidence could be given in open court before independent and skilled judges who would give the verdict. Surely the force of public opinion following that verdict would in the end help materially towards the settlement of these labour questions and dis- 435 putes which unfortunately too often are settled by strikes. The waste that has ensued in this country during the last few years from these causes has been countless. I trust that my words may be considered in the spirit in which I have given them, with nothing of ill-feeling towards the working classes.
Let me mention another form of waste that I think has not a little to do with the present conditions of affairs. I refer to an interesting speech which I heard not long ago by a Labour Member. In that speech he declared one of the worst forms of waste was to give doles to the man who had no work and did no work for that dole. I agree. It is bad. I venture, however, with great respect, to submit to that hon. Gentleman that there is another form of waste which is even worse than that, and that is the form in which a man receives a full day's wage for doing half-a-day's work, or where two or three or four men are compelled to be employed in order to do the work of one. This raises the price of the goods, and that is the one thing which prevents us from competing successfully in foreign markets. Before we can get back our foreign trade we must either supply goods of equal quality at a lower price, or at the same price but a better quality. It is only by that means that we are going to get trade back and re-establish employment of the working men in this country.
There are other forms of waste, and one is the spirit of extravagance which we have seen so clearly in all parts of the country and amongst all classes of society. This example has been largely set by the Government itself, and this again reacts upon the prosperity of the country. It has necessitated huge taxation, and people cannot and will not make profits by commercial enterprises in England when half of them are taken away in the form of taxation. The Government can do a great deal by legislation, but a great deal of what I have hinted at has to come from the inside rather than from the outside. If we can only correct these matters, if we can get the working man to adopt the grand old maxim, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might," I believe in the end we shall be able to emerge from the clouds under which we at present exist into a land of sunnier promise, with brighter hopes and contentment.
§ Mr. T. GRIFFITHS
With regard to what has been said by the hon. Member who has just sat down, I have read in the Press and I have heard in his speeches on several occasions the same accusation which he has just made against the working classes of the country, but I have never yet heard a case cited. I can assure the hon. Member that in the two trades I represent, the tin plate trade, the steel trade and the sheet trade, I do not know of a single workman who will go into work to earn only 5s. if there is 10s. to be got. I should like, when these general charges are being made, to hear cases cited. Similar charges have been made against the miners and the engineers, but in those cases we have not had specific cases brought before us. With regard to the Amendment, I think the speech of the Minister of Labour is the most disappointing that. I have ever heard in this House, because it does not offer a, ray of hope to the unemployed men and women in the country. If offers no prospect of work, no relief whatever to the overburdened and actually bankrupt local authorities of the country.
The only thing we got from the Minister was statistics. The Labour party have been asked, "What is your remedy for unemployment?" I want to remind the Prime Minister of some things that were done during the period of the War. I remember the right hon. Gentleman came down to South Wales when there was a great shortage of shells. Private enterprise in this country had failed, so far as the production of shells was concerned, and the charge they made for them was too excessive, with the result that the Government had to start munition factories. They started at least three or four factories in South Wales, with what result? We were able to produce the shells much cheaper than private enterprise, with the result that private enterprise had to bring their prices down to that fixed by the munition factories. That is one thing we discovered during the War. Surely it is not only the workers of the country that private enterprise is prepared to fleece, but they are prepared to fleece the Government as well. As for the splendid work done by the munition factories. I remember reading a speech by the Colonial Secretary, in which he said:This work has been so magnificently done that we have been able to reduce the price 437 of shells to the minimum, and if this is what we call Socialism, then I am prepared to accept Socialism.That is what he said. I am going to make a suggestion. If the Government were compelled to admit that they could not trust private enterprise during the War in order to carry on the industries of the country, and they had to control the mines, munition factories, steel trade and the railways, why is it that they cannot do exactly the same thing in times of peace. I say that every man and woman who looked for work during the period of the War could obtain it. I am going to make a suggestion. It is for Cabinet Ministers to work it out. In the district which I represent there are scores of mills idle, and in some parts where there are five collieries only three are working. In the steel trade hundreds of furnaces are idle. In the tin plate trade scores of mills are standing still; in the cotton industry hundreds of looms are idle, and in the agricultural industry thousands of men are out of employment. I am going to suggest that if it was open to the Government to go into competition with private enterprise during the War—and I am not proposing anything in the shape of confiscation at all—it is equally open to them to take control of the mines, factories and land which are idle and to allow the 2,000,000 people who are out of employment to produce and exchange the goods produced among themselves. I guarantee that they would work the scheme successfully. During the period of the War the Government had to build new munition factories, and they put up buildings all over the country, but the mines are there for anybody to work, and the land and labour are also there, and there would be no need to open up new mines. Surely it would be easy for the Minister of Health, with all his genius and capacity for making wealth for private companies, to do exactly the same thing for the country. There is a proposal for consideration.
I have one other point which I wish to submit. I have a letter here from the Abersychan District Council stating that they have got all the necessary material to enable them to go on building houses, but the right hon. Gentleman's Department is preventing them doing it. Let us have not merely sympathy, but some- 438 thing practical from the Government. Why not let these people go on with the building. It will find work for men now unemployed, and they in their turn, by having money to spend, will find work for others in factories and on the land producing the goods which they require. There is a good economic lecture for the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to content himself with giving us statistics. What we want is work for the men, women, and children, and if he cannot give them work, will he not see that they have food and [...] decent chance of life.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
I am very glad to be permitted to reply to the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, although I notice they are not present at the moment. A great many allegations have been made to-night, and the usual blame has been put upon the Government. I would rather that the blame was put upon the right shoulders. I was asked by a right hon. Friend on the Front Bench if I could give any instance proving injury done by trade union regulations. I will give one case from my own personal knowledge. It may be said that "one swallow does not make a summer." I could give many many more, but I confine myself to this one. A large repair job was given by my firm to the Clyde. It involved a matter of £25,000, and it was given at a time when repair work was very much wanted. What occurred? At New Year's time, which is a Scottish holiday, works were shut on the Friday before New Year's day to open again on the 16th January, but repair work was to be resumed on the 5th January, the reason being that new work is generally less urgent than repair work. In the case to which I am referring intimation was given to the men that they might come into the yard on the 5th and resume their work. One would have thought that at a time like the present when men are complaining that they have no wages and no money to spend, and are almost starving, two or three days' holiday, especially in bad weather such as we had in Scotland, would suffice and the men would be mighty thankful to come in on the 5th and earn high wages. As a matter of fact they were perfectly willing, and they presented themselves at the gates. But then a stormy petrel, a delegate, appeared on the 439 scene and informed both the men and the masters that the men could not resume work until they had had 6 days' holiday. The men said they were willing to come back, but were threatened with a fine of £5 per man if they dared to do so. They also said that, in order to conform with their trade union rules they would come back if they were paid time-and-a-half until the 16th January. The employers who, I think, were doing, through my instrumentality, a very good turn to the men replied, "If those are your terms, you can come back on the 16th," and the result was that these men, through the interference of their union, were out of work from the 5th until the 16th January. I would ask Members on the other side, did any trade unionist leaders have the courage to denounce an act like that? Not one. In the Port of Barrow—I am sorry that my hon. Friend who represents it is not here—there was a valuable piece of repair work, involving tens of thousands of pounds, which that big ship-building company could have had on the one condition that they worked a great deal of overtime and through the holidays, because the matter was one of pressing necessity. The matter was submitted to the trade unions. Unlimited overtime was not permitted; holiday time was not permitted; and the inevitable result was that the employer had to decline the contract and it went to the Continent, I heard.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The hon. Member has addressed a question to us which I prefer not to allow to pass without some answer. He has given us an instance of Scotsmen wanting a good deal for nothing. That is not at all unusual, but does the hon. Member really imply that the political party represented on these Benches can have any kind of responsibility for such a case as he has described?
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
My answer is to ask why, when the leaders of the men permit acts like that to pass without condemnation, do they come here and complain against the Government for not creating employment, when here are employers creating employment and it is rejected?
§ Mr. J. DAVISON
Before the hon. Member leaves that, will he explain how it comes about that Great Britain gained 440 her commercial and industrial supremacy before the War—
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
Then the charge is brought against the Government that unemployment has been caused by the reparations. The Prime Minister dealt with that in a very spirited manner, and I am not going to enlarge upon it. The Government, however, is blamed for having taken German tonnage as part of the reparations. What would have happened had the doctrines preached from the opposite side of the House been carried out, namely, that these vessels should have been left in the possession of Germany? A German ship can now be run far more cheaply than the best-managed British ship, and the result would have been that we should have had more tonnage laid up even than we have now, and we have half of our ships laid up at present. We have been paying firemen and seamen £12 a month, and you can get a German crew for 10s. What sort of competition should we have been up against had those vessels been left in the hands of the Germans? The hon. Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins) some time ago challenged me in this House because of the views which I advocated in connection with the steel industry. He wanted cheap German steel dumped on the Clyde, for he said to the shipowners[...] "It is your policy to have cheap ships." The proposers of this Amendment bewail, and rather blame the Government for, the fact that the steelworks of this country are largely laid idle. What has laid them idle? It was the incoming of German and Belgian and other cheap steel. Look at the want of consistency on the opposite Benches. If you mention anything about safeguarding industries on this side there is a roar of derision from them. Free trade is their policy, but they are not consistent in carrying it out. They will admit cheap German goods here, but suppose that, when I send my ship to Germany to discharge and finish her voyage, and my contract with my crew is over, I were, in fulfilment of the doctrine they preach so frequently, to say to my captain, "You take a cheap 441 German crew at £3 10s. instead of £12." What would happen to me when I get to Cardiff, say, to bunker my ship? The first obstacle I should be up against would be the word passed round by the trade unions, "A blackleg ship; do not open the dock gates." If, by ingenuity and foresight, I managed to provide that the dock gates should be opened by someone other than a trade unionist, I should be up against the trimmers, who would not trim my bunker coal. Here, therefore, is the doctrine of Free Trade on the one hand and not on the other. You can bring in cheap stuff and put your workmen out of work, but if you dare to go and take a cheap alien into your employment it is a crime.
Take the shipbuilding industry, which, I am sorry to say, has perhaps the poorest prospect of any trade that I know in this country. Why is that? At the present time the cost of steel and the cost of wages have made it absolutely impossible for any wise shipowner to enter into a contract for shipbuilding. What is happening at the present time, although these, shipbuilding operatives know as well as I do that the reason why no orders are coming in is the heavy cost a building? I read in a paper only to-day that the proposed reduction of the bonus which was put on when the cost of living was 176 per cent.—it is now 92 per cent.—was absolutely refused by their Unions. That is not conducive to getting orders. Again, why have hon. Members on the other side, both on platforms and in this House, been preaching ever since the War the doctrine of the abolition of capitalism. They say capital must end. [HON. MEMBERS: "Capitalism!"] Is that an inducement to amicable co-operation between employers and men? When the War was over we, all saw that the inflated profits and wages could never continue, and the one rational course that should have been taken by both masters and men was to lay their heads together and try for all they were worth to bring about a state of affairs where this enormous unemployment could be avoided. At an early stage the Government—it was in the year 1919, the first year I was in this House—set up an Industrial Council which was to do a great deal in bringing the two parties, employers and employed, together, and we hailed it with satisfaction. The Prime Minister and the Minister of 442 Labour gave it a very good sendoff, but what happened? I think I am not wrong in saying that three of the largest trade unions in this country refused to have anything to do with it.
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
Yes, I know there were two, and I think I am safe in saying there were three. That Council has never really functioned. What followed? I wonder if hon. Members opposite know how many million hours were lost in the coal strike—or rather, dispute; I dare not call it a strike.
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
For your sake I will call it a lock-out. After it was over, and irreparable damage was done—and we are not nearly through with it yet—their principal men, in a Committee room in this House, declared that no negotiations could take place unless the principle of a pool were agreed to. What do they say now? That the whole thing was a gross mistake. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who said it?"] Mr. Hodges and Mr. Herbert Smith. [An HON. MEMBER: "Mr. Hodges is only one man!"] I want to repudiate the charge made by more than one speaker that there is a conspiracy of employers or capitalists—call them anything you like—to reduce wages in order that we may get the men under our thumb. I know many employers, myself included, who are taking on jobs that we are losing money by. We are not the callous people we are sometimes held out to be. We have some regard for our men who have served us many years, and would do a great deal to give them employment, but we are to a certain extent only the managers of businesses in which there are large numbers of shareholders, some of them, I am sorry to say, probably worse off than the working classes themselves, and we have them to regard. But what would help us a great deal would be that when we try to do these things we should not immediately be met by some of the obstructions, an example of which I have given. St is sufficient to discourage anyone, but I, and, I hope, many of my confrères are not so easily discouraged. Because we are sometimes compelled to say these things it is thought we are a callous set of men, and have no regard 443 for the privations going on just now. I prefer deeds to words, and I can say without any boasting that not only in my private business, but in public undertakings for which I am responsible, I have contributed more than my fair share of work and help in this great evil which we are trying to combat.
I am going to end in a word of more hopefulness than I have heard expressed from the benches opposite. We have turned the corner. I believe things are looking better. We have cheaper coal, without which it is impossible to conduct some of our industries. We have had some reduction of wages. [An HON. MEMBER: "Starvation wages."] If I had time I would answer that but I have not. The American exchange is up to 4.35 and the Italian and French and even the German exchanges are better. All these things are helpful, and I may tell the House, whether they believe it or not, that there is an enormous amount of energy, enterprise and hopefulness on the part of those who have built up our great commercial system. I recommend some of my hon. Friends opposite to read a very instructive article which they will find in a paper they used to laud to the skies, though I do not think they are quite so favourable towards it at present—the "Clarion." If there is any man in this country who was an out-and-out confirmed Socialist years ago, it is Robert Blatchford. Be kind enough to read his "Second Thoughts on Socialism." It is a far better answer than anything I myself could produce. I have not heard one constructive word from the other side. The only thing approaching it was the statement of the seconder of the Amendment, who declared unblushingly that if the Labour party got into power and had the present conditions to cope with they would take the capital which he says is lying unproductive and use it more profitably than it is being used now. I should like—on the spur of the moment I attempted it at that time—to ask him where he would find the capital. If you will simply come off what I call that stupid position of blaming the employer for all this and considering that what he is out for is to screw you down, if you will drop that insane idea, and drop the mistrust which you entertain, and co-operate with the employers, we have a chance now of putting things for- 444 ward. If we miss this chance I do not know when it may occur again.
§ Sir A. MOND
The hon. Member who has just addressed the House has given us some interesting particulars from his own experience. The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. T. Griffiths) invited me, in his usual cheery manner, to undertake the task of organising a number of industries which are to-day idle and to get them to exchange goods with each other. He seemed to think that it was possible to create wealth by a number of people who had nothing doing business with one another. I am afraid that my financial genius, such as it is, does not extend to the possibility of carrying out such a scheme. He said that during the War there was splendid employment for everybody in the country, but he forgot the fact that we had taken many millions of people out of the country and sent them to fight. If we could remove 6,000,000 people from the country to-day our unemployment problem would be a great deal easier. I would also point out that in those days there was no difficulty in finding a market for shells. If we could find as ready a market for our output to-day as we did then for war munitions, we should not have been engaged to-day considering the difficult and complex problem which must occupy the attention of all those who have a regard for the welfare of the country.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I suggest this to the Minister of Health—that you should set those people to work and pay them wages to buy back what they produce.
§ Sir A. MOND
We accumulated a debt of £8,000,000,000 during the War in a transaction of that kind. A great part of the burden of debt and taxation which we have to-day is due to the fact that we spent the savings of a century in five years, and we have now slowly to reaccumulate that capital, which hon. Members opposite hold in such light regard, and the possession of which they regard with so much contempt, in order to enable us to get our industries going again. The phenomena through which we are passing is not new. It has been the experience of mankind after every great war, and I do not think that blame can be attached to the Government or to any other party in the State for the fundamental difficulties in which we find 445 ourselves. I have had some figures prepared showing the position after the great Napoleonic Wars in 1815 when, as now, we had passed through a long and exhausting period, when we had accumulated a large debt, and had diverted our energies from peace-time production to fighting. It is very interesting to know that in 1815 we had 1,300,000 persons in receipt of poor-law relief out of a total population of only 11,000,000, whereas to-day, out of a population of 38,000,000, we only have 1,400,000 persons in receipt of poor-law relief and 1,800,000 persons unemployed. At, a time when all of us, even the most' sanguine, are apt to become despondent, and when all kinds of charges are thrown about, with regard to the cause of unemployment, it is in everybody's interest, and it is in the interests of all sections of the community, to realise that similar economic conditions have at other times produced similar effects, and also to trace—I do not intend to do so to-night, for it would take too long—how this country has in times past managed to get itself out of more difficult positions into a state of prosperity.
When hon. Members opposite say that the destruction of the capitalist system is the only method of dealing with this matter I may point out that we were in a much worse position between 1815 and 1830 than we are in to-day. We did not then destroy the capitalist system, and after that time we began the period of greatest prosperity that this country has ever known. Russia has destroyed the capitalist system and has got itself into a state of the greatest misery. To-day it is reintroducing it in order to get itself on to firm foundations and to enable the population to live. And yet this country to-day is invited to follow a course which has produced nothing but failure in Russia, but the people of this country will decline to follow such an example. The right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) committed himself to a most remarkable statement when he said that he was of opinion—I do not know on what evidence—that the workmen in Russia to-day were in a better position than the unemployed in this country. I do not think that the workmen in Russia, even when employed, before the War were in as good a position as our workmen who are unemployed to-day.
446 To[...]day it is notorious that, the whole transport system of Russia has broken down. Its huge cities are without fuel, and people of apparent wealth sit in fur coats shivering with practically no food. The population of Petrograd and Moscow have had to emigrate and to try to scrape together something for that purpose. The factories have been closed, and the capitalists who knew how to run them have gone away. The people who took charge of them did not know how to work them, and it is a strange thing to say that people in that country to-day are in a better position than the unemployed in this country. We have had very different evidence from the people who had the misfortune to be in Russia during the revolution, and who experienced the intolerable conditions. What has been said might possibly be true of some of the industrial districts of Russia which the Bolshevists have not been able to penetrate, where their régime has never been able to carry out its way, and some kind of order and reasonable management still prevails. But the Russian example is not an example to follow.
The right hon. Gentleman is very censorious of our modest efforts to help to solve the problem which is baffling not only the most incompetent Government in the world, as we have been described, but the Governments of great countries such as the United States of America or democratic Governments like that of Switzerland, and most of the Governments of the world. If we were the only country where there was great unemployment and the Government could not remedy it there might be a great deal of force in what has been said. For there are something like 4,000,000 unemployed in the United States, and there is great unemployment in Switzerland and in many other countries, both agricultural and industrial. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour gave the figures of employment for various countries. We are not then face to face with a more or less incompetent Government or a number of entirely foolish people who went to Versailles and, being the only parties engaged in making a peace treaty and the only people who fought in the War and had a right to say something in settling the terms of the Treaty, did so with the most disastrous results. We are face to face with the deeper and more difficult aspects of the case.
447 How pleasant it would be merely to exchange places with those on the Bench opposite and to ask my right hon. Friend and his colleagues to come here and relieve this country from its burden. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and myself have been struggling to the best of our ability to bring about an improvement, and how glad we should be if we could effect an exchange with such a happy result. The right hon. Gentleman has only himself to blame if to-day he is not in a position to assist our country. It was not by our wish but by their own choice that our Labour colleagues left the Coalition at such a critical moment.
§ Sir A. MOND
The right hon. Gentleman and his friends thought our company good enough to keep at one time and rendered valuable service to the State. I do not say that they were not entitled to leave, but the right hon. Gentleman is not entitled to come now and say what he says. He has refused to use the influence that he and his friends possessed. He cannot deny that when he and they were members of the Government their views were listened to with respect, and their advice very often followed. He cannot deny that. He is not entitled now to say, "We do not wish to take office. We are not going to take over your responsibilities. We prefer to stand outside." What an attitude! What a patriotic attitude! What a contribution to the solution of the problem! [HON. MEMBERS: "Listen to the patriot."] I am trying to do my best. I would sooner stand at this box and try to do my best than sit on the Opposition Bench and throw stones even at the Labour party. The arguments we have heard to-day contain not one practical suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman blames the peace, but he always forgets the War. According to him, if the War had gone on we should to-day have been in a better position than we are in because of the wretched peace which he says the Government made. Our troubles to-day are due to the exhaustion of the War and not to the terms of the peace. The right hon. Gentleman always talks of this Government and of the Prime Minister as being alone respon- 448 sible for the Treaty of Versailles. He knows perfectly well that that is absolutely untrue. The British Government was only one of a number of Governments responsible for the Treaty, and the British Government, no more than any other allied Government, could alone have laid down the conditions of peace.
I heard an hon. Member to-day make the astounding statement that the Government had destroyed the export coal trade. What is the fact? Owing to the fact that under the German reparations scheme the French got coal from Germany our exports of coal to France necessarily diminished. At Versailles we acted in concert with nations as powerful and as independent as ourselves, and nations as such entitled to state the conditions of peace—nations whose valour and suffering and help have prevented us from being to-day a German province. Had Germany conquered the size of the indemnity would not have been questioned in the same way in Germany. Germany would not have cared what happened to the vanquished. All these people who have acted with us are to-day described as if they were so many criminals. It makes my blood boil to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who took such a distinguished part in the War, used the language that he used about allied nations whose blood is intermingled with ours in imperishable memory on the battlefields of France. We may have differences. Our interests may not always be the same; our politics cannot always be the same; but there is no reason why we should use the tone or the language towards people who have fought and bled with us which my hon. and gallant Friend thought right to use. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) gave a long explanation—I think it was the chief reason of his speech—to explain away the, statement he made the other day, that he and his friends did not wish to undertake office. I heard the explanation and I tried to follow it, but I am rather more confused by the second edition than I was by the first. His one consoling thought is that, at any rate, now we shall at last follow the policy of his party and do some business with the Russian Government. I was not aware that Governments were in the habit of doing much business with each other; I thought that was best 449 carried out by individuals. If we have not done business with Russia, I would point out to him that it is most difficult to do business in a country where the right of private property is not being recognised and where all the debts of the past have been repudiated. Nobody who sells goods there can find out whether they will ever receive anything for them. It would obviously create employment if the Government ordered goods here and sent them to Russia; it would also give employment by ordering goods here and sinking them in the North Sea, but that is not trade. The right hon. Gentleman made a statement which shocked me profoundly. He said, Why should we care what sort of Government is in Russia, legal or illegal, bloodstained or not bloodstained, legitimate or illegitimate—we must do business. Those are sentiments which might shock if heard expressed by a hardened, cynical, chairman of a capitalist company in the City of London. Coming from the leader of the Labour party, the arch-enemy of the doctrine of profit and enterprise, I must confess I should never have thought it possible to hear this cruel and cynical code of morality. Really if the right hon. Gentleman will reflect that before the War, in the year 1913, we exported to Russia £10,000,000 worth of manufactured goods, he will see how much trade with Russia we could have done during these last years. He might even have thought that his morality was not so poor that he could afford to break it up for that; that the business was not so much that he need sacrifice every moral sentiment in connection with it. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins) is, like myself, a good Free Trader. I am glad to know he seems to have a rooted objection to cheap German ships. He said that if you have ships sent into this country from Germany for nothing, of course your shipbuilding industry must suffer. From the mouth of a Free Trader that seems to me a remarkable doctrine. If you get goods for nothing, you surely cannot get them any cheaper. The hon. Member went on to denounce key industries and all the terrible restrictions we have put on trade. I understand his motto is, "No cheap German ships, but cheap German toys." I am an old-fashioned Free Trader, and I do not understand these new doctrines. 450 I do not agree with anything that the hon. Gentleman said. He suffers from one of the most extraordinary delusions, and thinks that if we had made no claim on the Germans for reparations they would export less goods and compete less strongly in our markets, but I can assure him, as one who has had some experience of business in the earlier days before the War, when there were no reparations to make, that the German exported every ton he could, and he would do so now. The only difference would be that he would keep all the profits instead of some of them coming to us. Therefore this doctrine does not in the least appeal, and never has appealed, to me. The hon. Gentleman is out of date also in his analysis of what happened in Germany in 1872, and really he should read something later than Norman Angell. At any rate, I am not convinced that getting something for nothing is bad business, nor am I convinced, or ever to be convinced, that it is right that a great nation which has committed a great wrong and inflicted great damage on humanity, and caused suffering and loss throughout the world, should have a moral right to be let off all damages, so that in the future all nations should know that whatever their conduct was it would be condoned and forgiven, and no penalty whatever would fall on them.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme does not in the least agree with his leaders about the causes of unemployment. He swept aside all their subterfuges about Russia and said to them, "I will lead you back to the true paths of economics." He pointed out that every pound paid out for relief works was paid out of taxation and was merely creating unemployment, and therefore it follows that all the hon. Members of his party who ask for more relief work are causing more unemployment. I am afraid he has not yet converted his hon. Friends to his views. Whenever they ask for more money in order to subsidise housing he would point out to them, I suppose, that they would be causing more taxation and thereby putting more people out of work. I agree in a large measure with his economic doctrines in that regard, but he committed himself to some extraordinary propositions. He asked why we could not indefinitely extend the process of credits. 451 One reason is because there is not an indefinite number of objects we could usefully achieve, and another reason is that we have not an indefinite amount of money with which to do it. Now we have unemployment there is no demand for consumption of goods, and therefore by merely producing articles for which there is no demand you are not going to do anything in the long run to help unemployment. I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend has quite given us credit for what we are doing on the unemployment schemes which we are carrying out. This, I believe, is the first time a determined effort has been made that public money should not be spent on the kind of work to which he referred, such as digging and filling up holes, but to enable local authorities to carry out work which would have to be carried out in any case—such revenue-producing work as electric light and water works. A sum of £25,000,000 has been set aside to guarantee revenue-producing schemes. This is the first time, I believe, that the Government has stepped in to create definite revenue-producing work. So far, I think, that is all to our credit.
The right hon. Member for Platting says there has been no effort, no result, and that we have been sitting still helplessly. So far as local authorities are concerned, schemes are going on, and a great many have not yet been commenced. Work to the amount of £15,000,000 or £18,000,000 is being carried on. There may be a moment of halt, for schemes to be examined to see that we have good value for the taxpayers' money, for which we are responsible. Some considerable schemes have been passed by the Kindersley Committee, one very large one affecting the Port of London which will give employment to a large number of people in London and outside. Other large schemes for useful purposes are, I hope, on the eve of being carried out, and I hope to see some good results from these—not enormous, but really useful results.
An hon. Member said, "You are allowing money to be invested abroad; why cannot we invest it in this country?" The Colonial and Dominion loans raised in this country are giving a certain amount of work in this country. As for sitting down and being callous or indifferent, or 452 trying to bring down wages, my hon. Friend knows in his heart of hearts that it is not true. We have to show courage and not be afraid of large experiments. We have a great Empire to develop and there are great possibilities of creating markets for our manufactured goods. In the gracious Speech a Measure is promised to enable the Government to give effect to the policy of co-operation in Empire settlement and irrigation. I sincerely believe that will do good.
That, surely, is a reasonable and sound policy, and one which will achieve some permanent good. It is not the handing out of a temporary dole nor the putting down of our social structure, but the creation, so far as is possible, of a self-satisfying Empire, whose people are our people, who will remain true to us and will go on with our institutions, and where the British race can go on prospering as it has done in the past.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I have heard many controversial speeches, and there have been two from very prominent employers—the hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Sir G. Renwick) and the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Sir W. Raeburn). The first hon. Member said that the Labour party had never said a word about the unemployed question except when they were asking for help from the Government. Surely he could not have listened to the discussion, so there must be another reason for the opinion he held. The hon. Member for Dumbarton painted, in very gloomy colours, the wicked policy of the Labour party, which had determined on high wages and had almost ruined the country. The true facts are that the labourers of this country have been engaged in a violent struggle to keep up with the enormous prices which have been charged by the makers of necessaries. That is the pith of the situation, and every honest man will admit it.
I have only a few minutes to deal with a point of material importance, which is a suggestion from the Labour party for the improvement of the trade of this country. Before the War the largest exporting industry was that of cotton. In regard to that industry no employer and no Member of Parliament has ever made an accusation of "ca canny." There is no claim that they have shirked; there never has been, and this trade has had 50 per cent. of its members unemployed 453 for almost the last two years. So there can be no claim that the wicked policy of "ca canny" or the shirking of work on the part of the workers is responsible for this state of affairs. What is responsible? I want to state what I think is one of the causes of unemployment in the trade. I am sorry I cannot deal with the general question. Eighty per cent. of the products of this industry before the War were exported to India. The Indian market, in a sense, is almost closed to-day. I want to give one of the reasons why not only India but the Near and Middle East are almost closed to our products. There are 70,000,000 Mohammedans in India. Every one of those Mohammedans believes that he has been badly let down. May I repeat what I have already said in this House? These Mohammedans stood by our side in the War, believing that the words uttered by the Prime Minister of the country were to be carried out. The promise definitely given by the Prime Minister was that we were not fighting to take away Thrace from Turkey nor the renowned lands of Asia Minor that were distinctly Turkish. On that basis the Mohammedans fought by our side and in the East won the War.
What did the Mohammedans find after the War had terminated? They found that Thrace was handed to Greece, and that part of the renowned lands of Asia Minor which were distinctly Turkish in race were taken away. Can one wonder that in those conditions there is seething discontent in India, and that Hindu and Moslem are now working together against British interests and British Government? If my information be true, the condition of affairs in India to—day is extremely grave, and we are on the verge of a dangerous revolution in that country.
I hope that the Government will again, at any rate, carefully consider its policy in regard to Turkey. For once France
§ has had a sounder view than ourselves. They understand where the read) Turkish Government is, who are those that the Turkish people recognise as their governors. Everybody who has read anything at all knows that Moslem faith demands that the caliph should be an independent temporal sovereign, and that the Moslems will not recognise the Sultan of Turkey as an independent sovereign so long as his palace is under the guns of British war vessels. That is the position of affairs in the Near East. I suggest the careful reconsideration of this subject, and that generous treatment on our part should be meted out to the Turks. The words of the Prime Minister should be applied, and everything done to give our Moslem subjects the assurance that the words of the Premier were words to be acted upon—to give the Mohammedans, not only of India, but Egypt and all over the world, the clear impression that we are prepared to treat them fairly. This, in my opinion, will do more to restore commerce with India, to pacify India and Egypt, and to restore our trade in the Middle and Far East than any other thing the Government can do. That is my opinion. That is a conclusive statement from a Labour man who is not asking for money, but is asking that the word of the British Prime Minister should be kept, that our Moslem subjects should be treated decently, who is asking that the same principles applied to other countries should be applied to Turkey, that Turkey should be generously treated, and finally that the Moslem world should be satisfied and the dangers of the religious situation removed; that our policy should be based on sounder, moral, and commercial lines than it has of late been based.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 78; Noes, 270.457
|Division No. 1.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Cooper, sir Richard Ashmoe||Hancock, John George|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hartshorn, Vernon|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hayday, Arthur|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Hayward, Evan|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Finney, Samuel||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Galbraith, Samuel||Hogge, James Myles|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Gillis, William||Holmes, J. Stanley|
|Briant, Frank||Glanville, Harold James||Irving, Dan|
|Bromfield, William||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Cape, Thomas||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Grundy, T. W.||Lawson, John James|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Lunn, William|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Halls, Walter||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Royce, William Stapleton||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Sexton, James||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Mills, John Edmund||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Wignall, James|
|Myers, Thomas||Sitch, Charles H.||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Spencer, George A.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Spoor, B. G.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Poison, Sir Thomas A.||Swan, J. E.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Rendall, Atheistan||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr. T.|
|Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Griffiths.|
|Robertson, John||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Rose, Frank H.|
|Adkins, Sir William Ryland Dent||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Jodrell, Neville Paul|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Johnson, Sir Stanley|
|Armitage, Robert||Dawson, Sir Philip||Johnstone, Joseph|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Dean, Commander P. T.||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)|
|Atkey, A. R.||Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Dewhurst, Lieut-Commander Harry||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Dockrell, Sir Maurice||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Ednam, Viscount||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Elveden, Viscount||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Evans, Ernest||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Falcon, Captain Michael||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.|
|Barrand, A. R.||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Lorden, John William|
|Bell, Lieut-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Fildes, Henry||Lort-Willlams, J.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon0 W.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Benn, sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart. (Gr'nw'h)||Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Foreman, Sir Henry||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Forestier-Walker, L.||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col Charles W. W.|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||McMicking, Major Gilbert|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Gardner, Ernest||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Gilbert, James Daniel||Maddocks, Henry|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Glyn, Major Ralph||Manville, Edward|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Green, Albert (Derby)||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Mitchell, Sir William Lane|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Bruton, Sir James||Gretton, Colonel John||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Morrison, Hugh|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W E.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Mount, Sir William Arthur|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hailwood, Augustine||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hail, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Murchison, C. K|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l,W.D'by)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Casey, T. W.||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Neat, Arthur|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.(Birm.,W.)||Harms worth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||Henderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||O'Neill, Rt. Him. Hugh|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Parker, James|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hills, Major John Waller||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Hohier, Gerald Fitzroy||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Peel, Col. Hn. s. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Hood, Joseph||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hopkins, John W. W.||Percy, Charles (Tynemouth)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Pickering, Colonel Emil W.|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Hudson, R. M.||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Craig, Capt. C. C. (Antrim, South)||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hunter-Weston, Lieut-Gen. Sir A. G.||Pratt, John William|
|Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Hurd, Percy A.||Purchase, H. G.|
|Daiziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Randies, Sir John Scurrah|
|Davies, Sir Joseph (Chester, Crewe)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Rankin, Captain James Stuart|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Jameson, John Gordon||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Rawlinson, John Frederick Pee!||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)||Starkey, Captain John Ralph||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Remer, J. R.||Steel, Major S. Strang||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Renwick, Sir George||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Strauss, Edward Anthony||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Sturrock, J. Leng||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Roberts, Samuel (Hereford. Hereford)||Sugden, W. H.||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.||Windsor, Viscount|
|Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Sykes, sir Charles (Huddersfield)||Winterton, Earl|
|Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Taylor, J.||Wise, Frederick|
|Rutherford. Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)|
|Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthu[...]||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Wood, Major Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Townshend, Sir Charles Vere Ferrers||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Tryon, Major George Clement||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. sir L.|
|Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Vickers, Douglas||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Seddon, J. A.||Wallace, J.||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swinden)|
|Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor||Younger, Sir George|
|Shaw, William T. (Forfar)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.||McCurdy.|
|Smith hers, Sir Alfred W.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.