§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I hope the House will forgive me, at this late hour, if I introduce an entirely new subject into the Debate. I want to make an appeal, very briefly, on behalf of the sick, and suffering members of the community, and to ask the Minister of Health whether he has now any further information than that which he has already given relative to the anomaly—in fact, I may call it a scandal—in connection with hospital accommodation in this country. I do not know whether every Member of the House understands, the position, but, so far as I know it, it is that there are, in the Poor Law infirmaries of this country, 30,000 empty beds, while, on the other hand, there is the-anomaly of, I should imagine, not very many short of 100,000 people waiting for admission to the beds of the ordinary hospitals. In the case of one hospital in London, at this very moment, there are 300 persons on the waiting list for 15 beds, an average of 20 persons waiting for a single bed.
I would not blame the Minister of Health at all if the case were not as I have stated. No one blames him, for instance, for the lack of accommodation in the voluntary hospitals. But I do think it is the duty of the Minister of Health to carry out the recommendations of the 1921 Committee of Inquiry which a previous Minister of Health set up in connection with this matter. There was sufficient evidence submitted then for any Minister of Health to act at once. The other day I asked the Minister a question on this very subject, and I was very disappointed indeed at the reply he gave; and I felt that, before the House adjourned, this subject should be raised once more, in order to try and induce the Minister to do something to remove the anomaly.
The other point that I desire to raise-is in relation to the position which has arisen at Gloucester. I do not want to argue to-night the question whether vac- 1659 cination or otherwise is the correct thing, but I do want to ask the Minister whether he is aware that in the town of Gloucester employers of labour have given notice of dismissal to their employés who are not willing to be vaccinated. I do not want to lead the House into a heated debate on the question of Vaccination; the point that I want to raise is a specific one. I would think twice before I challenged the decision of Parliament as to whether all persons in this country should be vaccinated; but I decline to allow an employer of labour, simply because he employs an individual, to utilise powers that were never given to him to compel his employé to be vaccinated. He has no title at all to do so, and the question I want to put to the Minister is, whether he knows of any powers anywhere which an employer may possess in law to dismiss his employé because he declines to be vaccinated. I know full well that an employer can dismiss his workman at any time without giving any reason at all; but we do want to protest, on this side of the House, against an employer anywhere doing what I have suggested is being done, and not on a small scale, because the information at my disposal is, that this is being done on a large scale in Gloucester. I trust that the Minister will be able to come to the rescue of these people who have a strong objection to being vaccinated, because some people, at any rate, think that the whole thing, which has been boosted in the Press as the small-pox scare, is merely a "stunt" on behalf of some newspapers.
The other question I want to raise is more important almost than either of the two I have mentioned. The Minister of Health has received a deputation this week from the Lancashire Insurance Committee, supported by Members of this House, relative to an arrangement which it was suggested should be made between Mr. Spahlinger and the Ministry of Health. I am sorry to learn that the result of the negotiations so far is not very encouraging, and I wanted to urge the Minister to tell the House and the country what is the exact situation in regard to the negotiations which have taken place already. I feel sure he will agree with me that the treatment of consumption has reached what I may term a deadlock. Sanatorium treatment after all 1660 is merely a treatment to ward off the disease. It does not, so far as I understand it, cure the disease at all. It provides a man with fresh air, gives him good food and decent shelter. In fact, all you do in a sanatorium is to teach him to live-properly. The treatment does not eliminate the disease from the patients system. I am a layman in these things, though I am secretary to a fairly large approved society, but as a layman I have come to the conclusion that you cannot go further in the treatment of consumption merely by providing sanatorium treatment, and so far as I know the Lancashire Insurance Committee have come to the same conclusion. It is now a case, I am told, for the bacteriologist to come in, and I understand that is where Mr. Spahlinger's case ought to be considered. We have a standing army in this country of 200,000 consumptives, and approximately 42,000 die every year. There are Members of the House who come in intimate connection with young men and women—and this is after all in the main a young person's disease—and see them lingering on into their graves, and I am sure every Member of the House, if he could be convinced that the Spahlinger treatment was the right thing, would be willing to support it. The deputation asked the Minister to support Mr. Spahlinger by way of a grant or subsidy, I believe, and not only by way of purchasing the serum. I believe the Minister has gone so far as to say he is prepared to set aside a separate institution with 40 or 50 patients upon whom experiments could be made with the new treatment, but I understand that Mr. Spahlinger is not able financially to accept an agreement of this kind. When I am asked, inside and outside the House, where are we going to get the money from, may I remind the Minister that we are losing every year a sum at least equivalent to £150,000,000 in loss of human labour and energy in sickness or disablement alone, and I should prefer that this House adopted the attitude that the prevention is better than the cure of disease.
I trust the Minister of Health will agree with those people who have been in contact with Mr. Spahlinger that he is a man of genius. Genius, as a rule, cannot find money. Genius is never a financier, and if this man has found a cure for consump- 1661 tion, although he is not a Britisher, I want to appeal to the Minister to see that the Ministry of Health of this country shall come to his aid in a small way financially in order that we may secure his treatment and prevent consumption as far as ever we can. I feel sure those of our people who have taken any interest at all in the Spahlinger case will be delighted to hear Something from the Minister of Health which will give us some hope. The Lancashire people in particular are very interested in this matter. They ask the Minister of Health if the Lancashire Insurance Committee may be allowed to spend part of their money in trying to secure this treatment for Lancashire patients. I do hope, if the Minister does not see his way clear to give a State subsidy in this matter, he will allow the Lancashire Insurance Committee to do something in the way they desire. After all, my experience has been that you can very often buy health if you are prepared to pay for it. We are not, apparently, prepared to pay for it so far, and I trust that the Minister will be able to say something hopeful to the thousands of people in this country suffering from consumption, especially to the parents of consumptive children, and that he will give us something that will help to cure this dread disease.
§ Mr. MARCH
I, like the last speaker, am interested in consumption very considerably. We get instructions from the Ministry of Health from time to time asking the local authorities to do all they can to stop the spread of tuberculosis. We get dispensaries set up for the treatment of tuberculosis, and then the authorities are called up about the expenditure which is being incurred in connection with running these dispensaries. We in our district have had a big increase of tuberculosis patients since the War, and we have had the sanction of the Ministry to have two doctors to attend to these patients. These patients cannot be attended to and looked after in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry without them, but when it comes to the question of the summer holiday, instead of having two doctors to look after them, we can only have one. The consequence is that those patients are to be neglected for two months as the doctors take their holidays. It seems rather peculiar that 1662 it is necessary to look after them for 10 months of the year with two doctors, and for the other two months of the year with one doctor.
We are also informed that the expenditure cannot be allowed to find the nourishment. Extra nourishment is not to be granted to these patients. I rather think the Ministry do not quite understand that in a district like ours probably 15 per cent. of the people are casual workers or the condition they must be in with that miserable casual employment which, as has been said on another question, very often is only one day, and not that, per week. However they think they can keep health and strength in their bodies by such miserable amounts as they get because of the shortage of employment I do not know. We are also informed that we must not provide shelters and bedsteads for these patients. What are we to provide? Are we to put them on the floor? Where are they to go? There is not to be decent consideration shown to these people who are sick and ill. Then, going from that, we claim that the Government should shoulder its responsibilities by looking after the people who are unemployed and not able to get the wherewithal to live, make it a national question, and not put so much imposition on the local authorities, which are already overburdened, as we are, in connection with cases of this description. We have maternity and child welfare centres, which have done excellent work. We have had great credit given to us for the work done. Not only is it being done by paid health visitors, but by voluntary people who have rendered great assistance in connection with the matter. We have doctors attending the children as they arrive at the maternity centres. A doctor frequently orders that a child shall have milk. We can give milk to the child, but we have to investigate all the circumstances in connection with the condition of the home and the income of the family. We can only give the milk to children up to the age of three. Then they are passed over to the local authority, and when it comes to a question of these children requiring milk, we have to cut down. There is a scale which has been circulated by the Ministry, and which has not been withdrawn, and although it has been proved in our locality that we have not exceeded 1663 the scale, we are informed that we have not to spend so much money in milk as we have been spending. One could hope that the Government would have been honest enough to say that there is no money, instead of issuing Circulars of the kind mentioned. The Minister told the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley that "the Circular has not been withdrawn." It has not been withdrawn, but when we are acting up to the Circular we are told that we cannot have the money in order to give the milk. That means that we are going to have an increase in the death-rate. In a locality like ours, with so much casual employment, it is not a question of "just this time," but the people are very poor all the time, and this nourishment is badly needed, especially when we have so many unemployed and so many under-employed. I hope the Minister will look into this matter and help the local authorities who desire to do all they can to keep people's bodies and souls together so that we shall not have so much illness.
§ 11.0 P.M.
I should like to supplement the statement made by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) regarding the attitude of the Ministry towards Mr. Spahlinger. I should like the Minister to reconsider the whole of the facts and to reconsider the decision at which he arrived yesterday. The facts, very briefly, are these: Mr. Spahlinger is the discoverer of a cure for tuberculosis. The cure in 80 per cent. of the cases treated has proved to be efficacious. Mr. Spahlinger, as very often happens to men who devote their lives to science, put in and spent all the money that he had, all that his father had and all that his family had in order to arrive at the results which he has obtained, and to-day we find that he is in difficulties—I do not think it is any good mincing matters—to the extent of about £100,000. It might be said that the man is a bankrupt. That is not quite the way to look at it. He is not an ordinary bankrupt who has spent his substance in riotous living. Neither in fact is he a bankrupt. A trustee in bankruptcy looking at his assets and liabilities would say "You have here assets worth £12,000 which are secured to a bank for a debt," but what are his assets? A 1664 cure on which the medical profession—I am not a medical man—pronounce a blessing all over the world, I am told. That could be commercialised. That could be sold to a commercial undertaking which works for dividends, and nothing else. But that is the last thing that Mr. Spahlinger wants. He knows that if this cure were commercialised, the possibilities of obtaining a cure for poor people would be minimised seriously. The hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March) said a moment ago that money would buy health. Unfortunately, that is not the case. A little thought on his part would prove that that is ridiculous. That is speaking generally But in this particular case I bow to what my hon. Friend says. Mr. Spahlinger does not want that. He desires that the poor should have the first claim on this cure.
Mr. Spahlinger states his entire liabilities at £100,000. Only £24,000 of that amount is pressing. But debts which are not pressing to-day are pressing to-morrow. So for our purpose we regard the amount due as £100,000. In return for that, we may obtain his laboratory, the whole of his estate, his father's estate, which is at present in the hands of the bank on mortgage. So that this young man can get on with his research, he is handing them over to you on trust for 10 years. I am only anxious that it should not become the property of some other people. He only asks further for a sum of money to be allowed him to continue his research. He asks for £10,000. He has gone the length of saying that you may appoint a Committee to record how the money is spent, to prove clearly that none of it is spent on himself. That is going a long way when we recollect what is this cure. The proper question arises, How is he going to live? He says that his wife, who, I may mention, acts as his secretary, and has given him enormous assistance, his father, mother, and sister, are dependent on him. I have no compunction in bringing out all these facts, because I want the House and the country to know them. All he asks is a bare £2,000 a year. It is bare when there are five people to live on it. It is not in the hard crude commercial sense a business proposition. The business proposition always demands its pound of flesh. 1665 Here you have in front of you this pale-faced student. The man does not look as if he ever spent a shilling on himself in his life. I have spent a very great deal of time with the man during the last week or two, and, admitting that it is not easy to talk business to a man who is an undoubted genius, this is put to the Minister: "Will you take the risk for £100,000, and a subsidy of £10,000 a year for three years, with the possibility of finding and providing a cure for tuberculosis?" What is he prepared to do? He says, "For the assistance given to me, I will give you 50 per cent. of my sera and my vaccine." What more can a man do? After the facts were placed in front of me, 10 or 12 days ago, I spent an enormous amount of time trying to bridge a way whereby some agreement could be entered into between Mr. Spahlinger and the Minister so that this cure should not pass out of the country's hands.
I got an answer full of sympathy from the Minister, but I should like him to look at it through another pair of spectacles. He says, "I cannot advise the Ministry to liquidate this man's debts, nor can I advise or allow the Lancashire Insurance Committee, or any other insurance committee, to spend any of their money on the same thing." If hon. Members knew as much as I know about it—and I wish they did—nobody would ever accuse the Minister of Health, or any other Minister, of playing with this country's funds if, in an attempt of that sort, the whole £100,000 were wasted. Many more hundreds of thousands of pounds are wasted in mal-administration every day in this country. We ask the Minister, with all the earnestness we possess, on behalf of the people in this country who to-day are suffering—my hon. Friend gave the numbers—to do this. He says it is an object for charity. What does he mean I Does he mean that it is a sort of thing which does not bring immediate and financial results, and that therefore we may possibly lose the whole £100,000, and he may be attacked in the House and receive complaints? If that is all he means, then Ministers are dead souls altogether. If he means that he has not the courage to face what attacks may be launched against him if the; whole sum is lost, if that is what is left of Ministers 1666 of the Crown in this country, I am very sorry.
I do not agree with the Minister that this is a case for charity. Where are we to begin? If I were a rich man—I am poor, as a matter of fact, very poor, and it is easy for a very poor man to say what a rich one would do—and able to give this man the money he requires, I would not stand up here for five minutes asking the House to do it. I would do it myself. I have thought of men I might ask, but I do not think it is fair to put Mr. Spahlinger in the position of having to ask for charity. I ask the Minister to reconsider this, and to send a man out to Geneva to get out all the facts and the truth as to the man's position and to make the best arrangement that can be arrived at, so that this country can get the benefit of this cure. If I have said one or two things that I ought not to have said, I am sorry, but I feel so earnest about this. I am not complaining against the Minister, he is in a very difficult position, but I ask him to adjust his views with another pair of spectacles, and to ask himself if he really cannot justify the risk. I am perfectly sure that every hon. Member in this House, to whatever party he belongs, will wish him well if he comes to the con elusion that he can make the advance Mr. Spahlinger requires.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Lord Eustace Percy)
I rise to reply to the points that have been raised in the last three speeches, and I will do it as briefly as I possibly can. Although neither of the first two speakers are here, I am afraid I must deal with the points which they made. First of all, the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Daviee) spoke of the number of empty beds in the Poor Law infirmaries as being 30,000. That figure is quite incorrect. It represents the highest figure at the slackest season of the year.
The figure covers a class of institutions which is a good deal broader than what are commonly called Poor Law infirmaries. As a matter of fact, on 1st January the number of empty beds in the Poor Law infirmaries of the country was just over 6,000, or about 18 per cent. Therefore, the extent of what the hon. Member regards as this evil is considerably less than the House might have 1667 understood from his remarks. It is perfectly true that this is a problem which has to be met. When the hon. Member says it is a scandal, he supplies an instance of what very commonly happens—when these speeches are made, it is very often at a time when the evil has already been recognised and when, all over the country, considerable steps are being taken for a better organisation and better utilisation of the space in our Poor Law infirmaries. I have not time to go into all the different ways in which our Poor Law infirmaries are doing an increasing work in supplementing the work of the general hospitals. Anyone acquainted with the problem knows that is the case, and I have every hope it will increasingly be the case in the future, and the Ministry will certainly do everything they can to encourage, by the various authorities throughout the country, the most economic and efficient use of the available space.
The second point raised by the hon. Member for Westhoughton was with regard to the action of certain employers of labour in Gloucester. On that point, he will excuse me from entering into a discussion. I can only say this—and I am sure he will recognise what I mean—that if I were in Gloucester I should certainly claim the right to protect my household from what I should consider was a risk, by refusing to take into my private employment any person who was not vaccinated, and I should regard it as a rather gross form of tyranny if the State were to tell me I was not at liberty to do so. To what extent that principle is applicable to various forms of business or industry in this country I will not pause to discuss at this moment. I think the hon. Member for Westhoughton should remember when he puts his side of the question that the other principle is equally applicable and that the interference of the State with the freedom of the individual, in this instance, might be a very gross form of tyranny. Dealing with the point raised by the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. March) he did not give me notice that he was going to raise the maternity and child welfare question, and, as he is not now in the House, I may confine myself to this reply. He asks that the Ministry should take the question of the provision of milk and so on into earnest consideration. They 1668 are certainly prepared to do so, but this question was discussed at great length and was the subject of a good deal of debate and difference of opinion on the Estimates some time ago. Since that time, I do not know that the hon. Member has approached the Department with a view to clearing up those differences. I should be glad to see him at any time, but I am afraid that to raise the question without notice at this late hour is not the best way of clearing up any administrative differences that there may be between us. As regards the question of the lack of grant towards various forms of expenditure for the prevention and cure of tuberculosis, such, for instance, as extra nourishment and bedding, it is not quite true that no grant is given for extra nourishment. There is a grant, at any rate, in certain cases and in certain areas, for extra nourishment.
It is quite true there is no grant given for bedding, but I must protest against the assumption that it is outside the power of local authorities to take on any new activities for the prevention or cure of disease unless they get a grant from the central Government. After all, the boot is rather on the other leg. This is the only infectious disease for which local authorities get any grant at all, and I think this assumption that the central Government are bound to give a grant to every form of useful and necessary local activity which local sanitary authorities may need to go in for is a very large assumption, which ought not to be made.
Finally, I should like to come to the very important question raised by the hon. Member for Westhoughton and by the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Lieut.-Colonel Hodge) in regard to Mr. Spahlinger. I do not think the House will require me to say that if the action of the Ministry in this matter has not fully met the views of the hon. and gallant Member for Preston—and I think he has expressed to-night greater disapproval of the attitude than I had understood him to entertain before from our previous com munications—it is not either because—
I agree, as I said, and I have agreed all along, that as a business proposition it will not hold water.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I think I understand what the hon. and gallant Member had in mind, but if we have not met him as he would have wished us to meet him, it is not because we are ignorant of the intense interest throughout the country and the intense and distressing need which there is throughout the country for an adequate and efficient cure for tuberculosis. Neither, let me tell the hon. Member for Westhoughton, is it because we fear to spend the money, that we are frightened of the expense; it is not that, and I think I can explain very easily and quickly what our real attitude is. I think it is a matter which should be made clear. I think I can claim, and I think Mr. Spahlinger himself would admit, that he has received every consideration at the hands of the Ministry, and not only at the hands of my right hon. Friend but at the hands of the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Sir A. Mond) before him.
Last year, in 1922, the Ministry took the initiative of sending out a specially qualified officer to Switzerland to acquaint himself with Mr. Spahlinger's method, and on receipt of this officer's report, the Ministry, in August last year, made a proposal to Mr. Spahlinger which Mr. Spahlinger was unable to accept, though he stated that under normal conditions he would have been glad to do so. Arrangements made between Mr. Spahlinger and the Red Cross Society also fell through. This year there has been a renewal of these discussions. As the House knows, my right hon. Friend has recently seen Mr. Spahlinger, and—
We are all desirous to arrive at the truth, but I think it is only fair to say that the moment you made your offer a year ago, which was in fact a very good offer indeed, Mr. Spahlinger himself was unable, owing to an agreement which was then in existence between him and someone else, to accept the offer.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I never expressed any opinion as to why he refused. I am merely stating the fact that he said he was unable to accept the proposal, though under normal conditions he would have been glad to do so. My right hon. Friend has recently seen Mr. Spahlinger, and has also consulted with certain hon. Members for Lancashire in regard to the assistance 1670 which Mr. Spahlinger now requires. So far as the Government are concerned, the position is now quite simple. We are interested in what is commonly known as the Spahlinger treatment. We are satisfied that there is a prima facie case for such further scientific inquiry as will enable medical authorities and the world in general to form a definite and final opinion as to its efficacy.
But if there is to be any question of the expenditure of public funds, Parliamentary sanction for such expenditure will be necessary, and the Government would obviously not be justified in coming to Parliament to ask for such sanction, except on the basis of adequate information and reasonable security. In the opinion of my right hon. Friend these conditions can best be satisfied by asking Mr. Spahlinger to take an early opportunity of making a full statement of his process and results to a body competent to pass expert opinion upon them. My right hon. Friend understands that such an opportunity is being afforded in this country, and when Mr. Spahlinger has taken advantage of it, it should be possible to arrive at a decision as to what action, if any, can appropriately be taken by the Government. Meanwhile, my right hon. Friend hopes that the appeal which, he understands, is now being made for funds from private sources may be successful in meeting the immediate difficulties of Mr. Spahlinger's position. That is the actual position. I think the House will recognise that it is a reasonable one, that it gives Mr. Spahlinger every opportunity of assistance, on the sole condition laid down in the statement I have just made, and I think that the country may feel assured that we are watching this question with very great interest, and, so far as it lies with us, we shall do everything in our power to give such assistance as trustees for public funds can give in such a case.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
I am rather sorry the Noble Lord replied before we had an opportunity of passing some comment on the announcement of the Minister of Health with regard to relief in necessitous areas. Although the right hon. Gentleman truly said it had been referred to by several speakers, we had not the benefit of his actual announcement in detail as to what the Government propose to do, and therefore had no 1671 opportunity of commenting upon it. I am bound to say that, as the representative of a necessitous area, I am—as, I believe, other hon. Members who sit for necessitous areas are—profoundly disappointed with the announcement the right hon. Gentleman has made as the considered policy and view of the Government on this matter. It is all the more to be regretted that such a decision should be arrived at after the very long period which has been given to the discussion of this matter, both by the present Government and by the Government immediately preceding it, and I do think we ought to have this opportunity of saying one or two things about the reasons advanced by the Minister for turning down the revised formula, which he said he had considered, and was unable to advise the Cabinet or the Government or the House to accept. I gather that the Minister's principal objection—because he placed emphasis upon this—was that a grant or any financial aid from the Government to necessitous areas on the lines of the formula would be likely to encourage expenditure of an extravagant, or even of an unwise, nature by some local authorities, at any rate, which would have to deal with special unemployment.
I should like to point out to the Minister that there was a very good safeguard against that revised formula that was submitted. That formula laid it down—To end Poor Law Authorities relieving an average number of persons throughout the year in excess of the number appropriate thereto (subject to the limitations provided) there shall be paid a grant as follows:In respect of every such excess case relieved 75 per cent. of either of the following amounts, whichever is the less:Therefore, if the formula provided for relief to be given on the average expenditure per person relieved in England and Wales, the local authority which did happen to be extravagant would not be able to get relief at all commensurate with their extravagance based on a formula of that character. The right hon. Gentleman laid emphasis upon this point: he rightly said that the cost of relief of the unprecedented unemployment in in- 1672 dustrial areas was placing a burden on industries which it was impossible for them to go on bearing if they were to get back to anything like normal conditions. That is perfectly true, but it is not the whole question. I myself am most anxious that in the case, of Sheffield and other necessitous areas that there should be relief from the present overwhelming burden of the poor-rate. The right hon. Gentleman did not remember the fact that in places like Sheffield it is not only the immediate burden upon industry, it is the fact that every service for which either the board of guardians or the town council is responsible is starved because of the general pressure of the rates caused by the very high poor-rate owing to the relief for unemployment. For example, a certain number of houses have been erected in Sheffield, and in the present state of unemployment it is exceedingly hard for the Ministry to interfere with the rent. The effect of raising the rents to the tenants, who are heavily burdened at the present time, when nothing can be contributed out of the local rates over and above the ordinary penny, is obvious; because of the present charge on the rates for relief, they cannot face the increase of rates.
- (1) The average expenditure per person relieved in the Union area; or
- (2) The average expenditure per person relieved throughout England and Wales."
We have the question of education in Sheffield—one of pressing necessity, which cannot be faced by the town council or the education authority, which has done its level best to keep the expenditure within a reasonable figure. Yet the offer of the right hon. Gentleman is a loan with postponed interest! Whilst that might be relief to the rates during the period sufficient to relieve industry, it will not enable them in the future to tackle the services that are being starved at the present time because of the high rates. Is it giving any encouragement to places like Sheffield, Middlesbrough, and other towns I have mentioned to be told that the only relief that the Government can offer is by way of loan with postponed interest, which is no real loan in regard to the awful accummulation of debt that, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is there. Boards of guardians have had to borrow money for current expenditure in the last year or two, and not only has the debt of these boards accumulated to an enormous extent, but side by side with that the Corporation of Sheffield and similar cities here had to borrow in regard to relief 1673 works upon which so much value has been placed in a pervious discussion. I am bound to say that from that point of view the suggestion made by the Minister is most unsatisfactory. Of course those who are beggars cannot always be choosers, and it would be unwise for the representative of a city like Sheffield to say to the Minister if we cannot have all we want we will not have anything at all, but we do say that the offer which he has announced to-night is very inadequate to meet the situation so far as Sheffield is concerned. I still hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider the matter with a view to granting, at any rate, in such cases as Sheffield, some more permanent assistance than has been suggested by him with regard to the relief of the debt which every patriotic city has had to incur where there has been abnormal relief.
There is another point which calls for some comment from the representative for Sheffield, and it is the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, in regard to local authorities whose policy he regards as extravagant, to the effect that this House must not relieve them from having to learn the lesson of their own experience, and if they make mistakes they must suffer the consequences. I would like to point out that Sheffield, Middlesbrough, Barrow and similar towns are in their present plight because they happen to be areas to which there was a large influx of population to produce munitions of war. They did their best to help the country in times of difficulty, and if I put another construction on the words of the right hon. Gentleman, that they should not make the mistake of having such a great influx of population in time of national stress and should not make again the endeavours they made before to help the Government, because they will have learned by their experience that they would have to pay the piper themselves when faced with the Poor Law relief and unemployment relief necessary after the War is over, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not wish that construction to be placed upon his words. Areas like Sheffield, Middlesbrough, Barrow and West Ham, which have done such enormous war services and have done their best to cater for such a great influx of population they ought to receive very much more recognition and sympathy from the Government than has 1674 been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman to-night.
§ Mr. BROAD
I cannot compliment the Minister of Health upon his speech, because I feel very disappointed with it. In the early part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman referred to the necessitous Poor Law areas appeal for assistance. May I point out that they are now bearing a very unfair proportion of what is a national responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman referred to some figures relating to the rating system, but if that system produces such results as he has stated, and he has any real desire and intention to relieve these districts, surely he could have found some formula. I think it would have been far more honest on his part if he had told us plainly that the Government had no intention of dealing with the situation. That is what I feel about that matter. He spoke again, as far as other assistance is concerned, of giving facilities to these extremely hard hit Poor Law authorities in a way which would add to their responsibilities in the shape of further loans. That is a prospect not good enough to meet the situation. Although the right hon. Gentleman complained of a later formula which dealt with other considerations than that of exceptional unemployment; yet, after all, these considerations have been accentuated by the existence of severe unemployment which has enabled the employers to reduce wages to such an extent that even people in work have been compelled to seek assistance from the Poor Law. We have been getting back to the conditions of 1834, and wages are so low that a workman, should his family life meet with the slightest disturbance, say, in the form of sickness, must have recourse to the Poor Law. It is not good enough to say that these considerations are quite local. When the Poor Law was instituted in the early part of the last century, each local district was to some extent a self-contained economic unit. We cannot say that to-day because the poor in one district very often consist of the working people whom the big employers in another district have thrown out of employment Therefore this must be treated as a national consideration. Beyond these things the Minister of Health seemed to have very little to say. His speech has been a repetition of what has been done on previous occasions, and then 1675 declaring that the whole position is a local responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman told us that one Minister after another had greatly concerned himself about these things and had been unable to find a solution. If Ministers cannot find a solution, then I say they are absolutely bankrupt of ideas to face the situation. Yet it is a situation which in the main is a creation of the present Government and of people connected with them. We have heard this afternoon from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) something about Germany and her development and how she has brought her economic processes up-to-date. That shows what we have to face there. It is the same with France and other countries, but I noticed very little mention of America in this connection. When we are considering this question of unemployment we must remember it is not the normal swing of boom and slump that we have had to face in the past. We have to sell in the world markets, and while during this period we have had from one and a half to two million of our people unemployed we have seen France fully employed and able to find work for some of our own mechanics; we have seen the Germans fully employed and we have seen America at the top of the boom while we have been down in the slump. But we have indications that America is getting towards the end of the boom, and we have seen already that in the last month they have overtaken their orders for pig-iron and steel—to the extent of something like 600,000 tons and that they have now disposed of their arrears of orders. They are blowing out already some of their furnaces. What is going to be the position within two or three months, when America, having passed the zenith of her boom, comes down into the slump? Is there then any hope of our recovery? Anyone who follows the economic position knows that when, at the time of a boom in world trade, a country like ours, dependent on world markets, is at the bottom of the slump, there is no hope of its recovery when the world market is falling to pieces. That is very different from what we have had to face in other winters. It is not the ordinary play of economic forces that is responsible for the accentuated unem- 1676 ployment in this country. We have the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir A. Smith) presenting a manifesto to the Government and weeping tears because of the break-up of a union; but who is more responsible for that, especially as regards the Engineering Union, than the hon. Member himself?
We have seen that because of the War we are faced with an enormous Debt, which results in a heavy Income Tax, prevents the Government from taking the taxes off food, and is handicapping us in our recovery in the world market. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead asked, "Is England to be the only country to pay an indemnity "? But to whom are we paying an indemnity? It is to those who held the country to ransom during war-time, and who are represented on those benches. Seven-eighths of that Debt is represented in this country, and we know, when they talk about the depletion of our capital during war-time, that they added to their capital during war-time. When they talk about the destruction of capital during war-time, one can go through the West End and the City and see that they have lost their old offices and built big marble palaces instead, while in the country big mansions have been built where there were only humble lodges before—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"]—and, instead of destruction having taken place, as they say, in industrial areas, we find, in place of their old workshops, huge capital developments and the last word in modern machinery. This great Debt is a mortgage on the life and labour of the people, held in bondage to the capitalist classes who profiteered out of them during the War. This War Debt, which is such a handicap to your industry, is almost to a penny the measure of the profiteering that went on during the War. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish!"] I think I can prove it. Does that money represent anything that existed previous to the War? Every pair of boots the men wore, every rag of their clothing, every strap of their equipment, the rifles and side-arms they carried, were all made during war-time. Every mortar, cannon, machine gun, shot and shell was made during war-time, and aeroplanes, tanks and submarines were made during war-time. They were made by our labour-power, with half our manhood away, either fighting or in training. 1677 The other half did all the ordinary work of the nation, and, in addition, made all this exceptional war equipment; and you all lived better than you ever did before, and had a fine old time. It was a glorious War, and you made some fine profits.
§ Mr. BROAD
The whole of these things were during the War. Profiteering broke out the day the War began. Organised labour went to the Prime Minister (Mr. Asquith), protesting against profiteering, asking him to control it, and undertook not to take advantage of the points to demand better wages and conditions, but the right hon. Gentleman said, "Business as usual," and he could not interfere.
§ Mr. BROAD
I am trying to get to that. I am dealing with what was allowed this afternoon, with the way in which the War Debt is being handled, and that what is handicapping us in our recovery is the fact of the huge War Debt being over us. If Germany is in such a favourable position owing to the fact that she has eliminated her War Debt by a certain process which you may call confiscation if you like—the inflation of currency—and France has reduced her War Debt and as a consequence has brought about a much more favourable economic position, it is about time we handled that position as well from our point of view. The Government in its Budget should have made provision for dealing with that great War Debt. I believe this is fundamental, and, whether you like it or not, before you can put this country on a basis to regain its position in the world market, either you yourselves or some other Government will have to deal with this huge War Debt in that way.
§ Mr. BROAD
The interrupter was out of order, I take it, as well as myself. The Government has a special responsibility for making provision for meeting unemployment, and is to be found fault with in not having during the past Session made adequate provision for dealing with unemployment, because on the admission of the late Prime Minister himself the Government of the day, of which he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, was largely responsible for the policy which produced the unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law) said:I think there is very little doubt that if we had effected our deflation at a slower rate, we should not have had this unemployment.Is there not responsibility on the Government Benches for it then? If the policy of deflation by the Government, in conjunction with the great financial interests, produced the unemployment, for financial reasons and Government reasons, they must accept the responsibility. Even the present Prime Minister, when President of the Board of Trade, in November, 1921, addressing the friends of commerce at Liverpool said:Wages concessions are, generally speaking, being made very satisfactorily. It has been a difficult thing, but the fall of wages has come along very well.That was speaking as President of the Board of Trade. We know full well that there was a concerted effort by the Government of that day to stop every piece of work they possibly could in conjunction with the bankers. They gave notice to withdraw their overdrafts on purpose to produce that situation of unemployment so that they could bring the status of the workers down. That has been the cause, to a great extent—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is again going outside the discussion allowable here. We cannot go back so far as that.
§ Mr. BROAD
I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but in discussing the causes which bring about this result to deal with it adequate, we must go back to some extent, and other hon. Members have referred to it—to the War period. In conclusion, I am going to say—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I do not know that the conclusion of my speech 1679 may not take so long as that of some other Members when they are interrupted. I have often felt very cross at the difficulties of Members getting a decent hearing after the dinner hour. [Interruption.] I mean what I say. There are, after the dinner hour, a great many interjections, and very often a chorus of derision—
§ Mr. BROAD
I wish to insist on the fact that it is the Government's responsibility to make proper provision for the unemployed, and that they have failed to do so. They have failed to realise their responsibility in this matter, and we want to drive it home to them. Apart from their particular actions, to which I have referred, and which in my contention are largely responsible for the exceptional amount of unemployment in this country as compared with our competitors in other countries, there is this higher and moral responsibility as well. It is the right of every individual to have the opportunity to earn a living. The natural way for him to do that is to apply his labour to the soil, and if the State has taken away that share of his of the common inheritance, and has deprived him of his livelihood, it is for the State to provide him with an opportunity to earn a living. That is the high moral claim we make. The State has not made that provision. In my own neighbourhood we see hundreds of young men who fought in the War, who, prior to the War, were fine physically, and now, though perhaps without any loss of limb, they have been brought down to a very low stage of vitality, and are no economic proposition to any employer. They are getting no pension, nothing from insurance, and because they are single men the Poor Law are refusing them anything at all. There are others who only get a pension of half-a-crown and five shillings a week as representing their disability walking about the streets.
You talk about the King's Roll of Honour! Where is the Roll of Honour that the Government ought to sign? Why do they not take their responsibility? Where is the honour that the men who offered their lives and fought for the 1680 country to which they thought they belonged should come back and find there is not a bit of the country that belongs to them? We do not look across the seas for payment of the indemnity. It is paid by the people who live here. The remedy is in our own hands. If the Government has not the will, circumstances will place someone else in the position before long, because in the near future we are going to have a very critical situation in this country, much worse than ever before, much worse than any hon. Members, perhaps, have contemplated. You have failed to realise your responsibilities. You have been throwing out money with both hands to the agriculturists. For what? So that they may be enabled to pay the enhanced rents forced on them during war time, so that they may be able to pay—those who were compelled to buy—the mortgages and the interest on the mortgages which they have incurred in order to take over the land at enhanced prices. You can do that with both hands, but when there is anything to be done for the relief of the people who have borne the burden and heat of the day and have suffered for you you cannot afford money for education, or for milk for nursing mothers, or for anything else. Every item of expenditure in this House which affects the health and social service of the people is reduced to a minimum, but if someone wants to get married there is £15,000 added to his salary to enable him to keep up a decent establishment. You spend a certain amount on education to make efficient wage-slaves. The rudiments of education they have received have given them an opportunity of reading and understanding, and they want to know-how it is that in this country, which is the common heritage of all, some are condemned to a sordid struggle for the necessaries of life, from the cradle to the grave, and that their children will be thrown in the gutters like themselves. That sort of life is not good enough. There is no necessity for it. We proved during the War what was the full productive power of our labour. We know that is has increased enormously. What is lacking is not new markets abroad but the development of our home markets. Give us the benefit of our productive power, and the masses of the people will be only too willing to consume the things they produce. 1681 That will relieve the position. You fail to realise that our productive power has increased at an enormous rate, and that the standard of living of the people has not been correspondingly improved. You are all the time talking of the need for the extension of foreign markets. You know full well that this game has to come to an end. If industrialism in the various competing nations depends upon the further extending of foreign markets it means another war. We have passed through one war which was caused through commercial expansion. We are on the eve of another war. We are having difficulties with France.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is quite irrelevant. This is the third time, and I must now ask him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.