§ Mr. STEPHEN WALSH
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
In moving the Amendment which stands in my name and that of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson), one is really surprised, in the light of existing conditions, to see the inadequacy of the provision made by the Labour Ministry to meet a national condition of things which all admit to be very serious, and which must people would describe as desperate. Speaking in this House on the 15th of last month the Minister of Labour said that schemes had been sanctioned by the Unemployment Grants Committee providing for an expenditure of £26,000,000, while schemes involving £2,500,000 were under consideration. Even if all these schemes were carried out, they would only have the effect, as was then admitted, of giving direct employment to 141,000 persons. At the end of January, there were admittedly 1,460,000 persons wholly unemployed. These figures have slightly improved in the meantime, and on 26th of last month the figure was given as 1,328,000. Taking the best comparison, the schemes sanctioned by the Unemployment Grants Committee would, at the very most, give employment to less than one in 10, and it will, therefore, be seen that the grants sanctioned by the Unemployment Grants Committee barely touch the fringe of the great problem arising from unemployment. The matter is even more serious than those figures in themselves would imply. Everyone will admit that no graver deterioration can take place, either morally, physically or in the social sense, than when men are unemployed for long periods who, in their youth and early manhood, obtained a high degree of skill and efficiency. The case of the unskilled worker is bad enough, as everyone admits, and, of course, one will not make comparisons between skilled and unskilled to the detriment of either, but every hon. Member will agree that when large bodies of men are for long periods out of work; when the only thing upon which they can exist are grants from the Unemployment Insurance Fund; when day after day they seek for work and fail to find it; when hope disappears from their breasts—that then, the skill they have acquired by earlier training and experience is in the process of slow evaporation. There can 775 be no detriment greater in the moral, physical, social and intellectual sense than the detriment which is certain to take place under such conditions.
We are told that 1,328,000 persons were unemployed only a fortnight ago. There must be at least two-sevenths of that total skilled workmen. What would that two sevenths represent in round figures? No completely accurate figures are obtain able, but I think a rough approximation might be reached by saying that at least 400,000 out of that 1,328,000 are skilled workers. The schemes sanctioned by the Unemployment Grants Committee hardly touch workmen of that class at all. The position of a workman in that class is really desperate. Relief works, good in themselves, do not incorporate that class which is the highest material the nation possesses. The construction of a few drains here or there, even the construction of arterial roads or the hundred and one other methods by which these grants are expended, leaves that class of work-man practically untouched. The gravity of that problem cannot be over-estimated, and I am sure in that I have the complete agreement of every Member of the House. It will be seen, from the point of view of the skilled worker alone, how hopelessly inadequate is the provision made in this Estimate. There is an increase on the last year of £20,000 in the unemployment grant to local authorities. The grant last year amounted to £830,000, and this year it is proposed that it should be £850,000. I think it will he seen that not only is there no serious attempt to deal with the problem as it affects the skilled workmen, but practically no serious attempt to deal with the problem as it affects the unskilled workmen. These terms are only being used in a relative sense, and not in any way as a disparagement of either class of worker.
One million totally unemployed! I know it is said repeatedly by the occupants of the Ministerial Bench that there is really a basis of hope in the existing situation, and that trade is improving. We have had that repeated, week after week, and month after month, for practically two years, yet there is no substantial improvement in the industrial situation, while we have this vast, body of skilled and unskilled people practically 776 left untended so far as the provision of employment is concerned. Take shipbuilding. Let us go into the figures, because this is such a serious matter in itself that it is desirable—if we have been on the wrong track, if we have been too timid, if economy has been effected on wrong lines, if, in the past, we really have been so desirous of saving what may be described as the national finances, regardless of what took place in other schemes of finance and taxation—to turn our backs upon our past and begin upon a new set of principles. It is true to say that we have made very serious efforts to get at as accurate figures as are obtainable. In shipbuilding, there is at this moment a vast mass of unemployment, numbering 123,000 people. Among the engineers—an industry and material absolutely necessary to the nation's welfare—we have 230,000 totally unemployed. In the iron and steel trades, we have 69,000; on the railways, there are 22,000 unemployed; in cotton, there are 70,000 unemployed; in the clothing industry, 60,000; and in the building industry, 156,000.
It might very well be said, and it would be a perfectly fair retort, that all these people could not be classified as highly-skilled workmen. They do, of course, taper off into the skilled and less skilled, and what is very roughly described as the unskilled, but there cannot be the slightest doubt that out of this vast mass of nearly 700,000 workers four-sevenths are skilled men. What, in the name of common sense, will the Estimates presented to the House this afternoon do for that vast mass of men? Nothing at all! I always try to restrain myself from using what can be said to be language of exaggeration, but one is really surprised at the almost pitiful character of the attempt made to deal with a problem overwhelming in its magnitude and gravity. Nothing substantial in the way of useful or productive employment has been provided. We say that the whole policy upon which these Estimates are framed is radically unsound. The problems of unemployment are not parochial. The policy of the Government, all along, has been to endeavour, as far as they possibly can, to place the main burden of the cost upon the local authorities.
This huge problem of unemployment on a national scale cannot be dealt with effectively on parochial lines. It has to 777 be lifted out of that plane altogether. It can only effectively be dealt with on national lines. Hon. Members know—and they must agree with me—that the local authorities have been so heavily burdened that they have practically broken down under the strain. There is not an hon. Member here but is acquainted with the tremendous figures of local taxation existing to-day, and with the ever-growing burden upon the local ratepayers. Of the schemes sanctioned by the -Unemployment Grants Committee, I will take just a few cases to illustrate the argument. Manchester at this moment has 35,000 people totally unemployed. The schemes provide for the direct employment of less than 5,000, or one in seven. Battersea has 6,000 people totally unemployed. The schemes provide for the direct employment of 400, or one in fifteen. Woolwich —which is probably suffering from abnormal conditions, but which would, even with normal conditions, have a large mass of unemployment—has 11,000 people at this moment totally unemployed, and the schemes provide for the employment of between 600 and 700. These figures could be multiplied almost indefinitely, and I am sure hon. Members must reach the same conclusion as myself, that the figures given to the House in the Estimates before us really do nothing except tinker and palter with the whole question.
The local authorities, as everyone knows, are utterly unable to shoulder the burden cast upon them by the Government policy. I do not at all blame the Minister of Labour, than whom there certainly has not been within my knowledge a more assiduous Member or Minister. I do appeal to him, indeed, we appeal to the House: Let us change the policy, let us change the whole principles. What happened? The policy, first of all, as the right hon. Gentleman will admit, placed the burden upon the employers and the workmen. As far as possible the cost has been transferred from the National Exchequer to the shoulders of the employers and the workers. Where public expenditure, has been necessary, and could not be avoided, it has been laid, as far as possible, on the local authorities. Thirdly, where the national liability has been assumed, it has been assumed mainly by way of loan. That is to say, in what are called non-productive undertakings a rather higher rate of relief has been 778 granted than in the case of productive or revenue-producing undertakings. In any case, a very large burden of the cost has been cast upon local authorities, with the result that, as every person who pays any attention at all to the conditions of local authorities knows, they are on the point of collapse.
It is hardly fair, in a general argument, to quote abnormal cases to prove one's point, but we do know that large numbers of authorities have practically reached the breaking point in respect of the local taxation that is now imposed. In our own industry, I know hon. friends of mine who can give some most striking examples. Leaving out the mining industry, and the abnormalities connected with it, it is perfectly true that in a very large number of the most progressive municipalities the burden of local taxation has reached the breaking point. I do not see how, under such conditions, the local authorities can be expected to finance schemes of work or to go into constructive arrangements adding still more to the excessive cost they are at present bearing, when the problem is really national in its character and in no sense a parochial one. A short time ago, in the days of the old Government, the right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), who occupied the position that our respected Minister of Labour occupies at the moment, stated thatNo less than £90,000,000 had been dispensed in benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Acts since the slump began, and that plans had been made, if necessary, to furnish another £50,000,000 up to the period ending June, 1923.We are therefore now in what might be called the effective zone. The right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell is really a marvel at figures, and I was often paralysed at the almost magical ease with which he handled them. He went on to say:But three-fourths of these large amounts have been found, or will be found, by the contributions of the workers themselves and their employers.First of all, the right hon. Gentleman took credit—I remember listening lo him —for the large amounts that have been found by the State., and then, in a kind of theatrical aside, he went on to say: "After all, do not be alarmed when you come later to examine these figures, 779 because three-fourths of these amounts are found by the workers and the employers." I remember bandying words with him, to what was probably my disadvantage, when I asked him whether it was the employer or the workman who, in the last resort, had found that money, and who found the State contribution. At the back of my mind there has always been the conviction that the workman, in the last resort, found it all, but when one is here to expound the generosity of a Government and the vast sums that they have found, one cannot, of course, possess a too closely analytical mind, and it is better to accept the statement at its face value. In the same way, it is simply impossible for the municipalities to go on, it is impossible far the workmen to have heavier burdens imposed on them than they are at present bearing, and it is equally impossible to allow this grave problem of unemployment to remain in its present position.
What, therefore, is to be done? It surely should be shouldered as a national problem. There ought to be no longer this process of continued evasion of a national responsibility. I cannot give the exact figures for my own town, but I can state what the rate is to-day, and I can state, I think, with certainty what it is likely to be in a very few weeks. In my own town of Wigan the existing rate is 17s. 6d. in the £, and there are thousands of people unable to pay their rates. There are hundreds of people who have been sued—and some of the very best working people in the country—for the non-payment of rates. The municipality can pay no more, and it is really almost adding insult to injury to ask them to do so. In face of the gravely overburdened condition of the municipalities at the present time, I do not know how we can impose any further burdens upon them. They would have to repudiate their obligations, and the fulfilment of those obligations would have to come back to the position from which it ought never to have been removed, namely, upon the National Exchequer.
I wish I could, in the time at my disposal, elucidate the point that a great deal of the cost and the friction and the failure have resulted from the initial intention of the Government not to treat this problem on national lines. It has, 780 first of all, been looked upon and dealt with on the lines of the old law of settlement. A person had a right to be maintained in a parish, he had no right to come out of that parish, and it was that parish that ought to be responsible. That was the old law of settlement in its crude outline—" Why should you shift from that parish? You ought to work there, and if you do not work there, you have no right to come into any other parish, and that parish must be responsible for you." Crudely stated, that seems to have been the fundamental idea that has infused itself into the whole policy of the Government in respect to unemployment. I am sure that in their hearts Members will agree that, over a period of time within this last 40 or 50 years, but mainly since the period of the War, the character of unemployment, its colossal scale, the consequences resulting directly from the War, have been such that only national treatment can hope to solve the difficulties that have resulted.
I would like to ask in this connection what is being done, or sought to be done, in respect to the provision of employment for women. I see some very slight reference to the training of women in domestic work and for the setting up of juvenile employment centres, but I have been driven to only one conclusion, namely, that in respect to the provision of suitable employment for women—and should think there are at the very lowest 200,000 women capable of work, desirous of doing their very best to maintain themselves, but unable to find work—I can see little provision at all made in these Estimates for this purpose. It is a very serious question, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will give us more information than is contained in the statement accompanying the Estimates. I feel—and I know that I carry my colleagues on these benches with me in this line of thought—that you will never deal in any effective manner with the grave problems resulting from the unemployment of the people, you will never do more than tinker with these problems, you will never do more than touch the fringe of them so long as you proceed on the parochial lines which have existed up to the present. There is not the slightest appearance in these Estimates of any conception of national responsibility for the evils that exist, and we are sure that, until you do deal with unemployment on broad 781 national and comprehensive lines, your efforts will result in failure. You may construct a small roadway here, you may ornament a lamp-post there, you may cut a few drains here, you may tinker just as much as you please, but you never will solve the problem so long as you are burdening the local authorities with burdens which have now reached the breaking point, and so long as you are treating the question on parochial lines. Only on national lines can a real remedy be found.
In rising to make what is my maiden speech, I beg to crave the indulgence of the Committee, and I do so with every confidence, because, short time as I have been in the House, I have never yet seen anything but the most generous indulgence given to any new Member, from whatever quarter of the House he may have spoken. I would like rather to vary the formula in which I ask for this indulgence, because I desire to ask for a double close of indulgence, and for two reasons. On this question of unemployment, there has been so much already said, and still more already written, that it almost seems an impossibility to say anything which will really throw fresh light on the subject. At the same time, I have decided to take the bit between my teeth and to attempt the impossible, though I must admit I am somewhat amazed at my own audacity. Incidentally, what I am going to say will, I think, perhaps be taken in some quarters rather as a heresy. Since I have been in the House there are two things which have struck me very profoundly on this unemployment question. The first is that there is in the mind and heart of every hon. Member of this House, in whatsoever quarter he may happen to sit, a real, true, and burning desire to contribute something to the solution of this problem; and the second consideration is this—and I say it with all humility and respect to the Committee—that, in spite of the desire shown in all quarters to come to grips with this problem, yet, in my humble view, the problem has been treated from every point of view except the right one.
I intend to look at the problem from this point of view. I regard unemployment as the greatest disease from which this country has ever suffered; in fact, it is the greatest disease since the Black Death. How have we treated this disease? So far, I submit, we have treated this 782 disease of unemployment only from the medical point of view; that is to say, we have accepted the fact that we have got unemployment, and then we have merely, as the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh) said, tinkered with it, given it a pill, so to speak, and hoped it would get better. We are this afternoon discussing what, after all, is only a palliative. The right way to treat this question of unemployment is not from the medical point of view so much as from the surgical point of view. I believe we have got to jet at the root cause of it, and then remove it by a short, sharp operation. The germ of the disease was touched upon by the Prime Minister in a remark which he made a short while ago, in reply to a. question, and that was this, that no doubt the policy of deflation that we in this country have adopted during the last four years was a cause of our unemployment problem. I would go further, and I would say that the policy of deflation which we have pursued in this country since the Armistice is the prime cause of our unemployment to-day.
It is from this point of view that attack the subject, and the proposition I wish to put to the Committee is this: We have deflated very much too fast, and in order to accomplish that deflation we have taxed ourselves much too heavily, we have strangled our industry—incidentally, we have ruined our agriculture—and, in consequence of this, we have got our unemployment, and all for what? Simply in order that we should make our pound sterling stand at very nearly its pre-War figure. This policy of deflation, I submit, is the root cause, and the surgical operation that I propose for the removal of the disease is that we should work for, and make sure that we have, a very sharp cut made in our present scale of taxation. I would like for a moment to compare the position of unemployment in this country and in other countries. I propose to take six countries of the world and compare their various positions in this respect. I propose to divide those countries in two groups. In group 1, I would place the countries where there is little or no unemployment, and I will start off with France. France has little or no unemployment. Her franc stands at its lowest figure. Germany has a little, but very little, unemployment, and her mark—though we do 783 not want to emulate it, I know—stands at almost its lowest record. In Belgium there is hardly, any unemployment—only 23,000, I think—and that is interesting, because in Belgium, being the most densely Populated of all the European countries, you might expect a good deal of unemployment But such is not the case. It is significant in Belgium that, with a very much depreciated franc, there is little or no unemployment. So much for group I countries, where there is practically no unemployment.
Let me come to group 2. First and foremost, there is the United States. What is her position? Her dollar, of course, stands at the highest rate of currency in the world. What is her position in regard to unemployment? The Minister of Labour, a short while ago, told me that the latest figures of unemployment available for America were those of last September, and there were then no fewer than 1,500,000 totally unemployed, and another 1,500,000 partially unemployed. There we have the country with the highest currency, and a very high rate of unemployment. Let us turn for contrast to another country, Switzerland, almost the exact opposite. You cannot imagine very well two countries less alike than America and Switzerland —America a sea-girt continent, and Switzerland a land-girt island. What do we find in Switzerland? We find that she has got. her franc back to pre-War parity, and, in fact, a little above it. The figures of unemployment for January in that small country were 50,000, and the figures last week had risen to 53,000. What is the position with regard to England, to complete the three which I put in this group? In England, of course, as we all know, the pound has nearly got back to pre-War parity, and we have still 1,328,000 unemployed in this country.
I submit that from these figures it is obvious that it is those countries, and those countries almost alone, whose currency approximates to pre-War parity, which are suffering from this disease of unemployment. The position of America especially requires thought, because I think the position of America is both significant and instructive to us. In any remarks I may make as regards the position of America, I wish to deprecate any idea that I do so in a spirit either of 784 criticism or disparagement. All I try to do is to draw a lesson from the position of America. American policy for a considerable number of years has been to collect gold. During the early stages of the War, when she was providing munitions and arms to nearly all the belligerent countries indiscriminately, it was, of course, an almost necessary consequence that she should collect a great deal of gold. But her policy is still unchanged. That is proved by the fact that she has only so recently asked us to repay her the debt that we owe her. The fact is that America has very nearly succeeded in cornering the gold of the world. But—and here, I think, is the lesson—America is under no delusion whatever as to the effect of having cornered the gold of the world. She recognises clearly enough, owing to the enhanced value of her dollar, consequent upon having cornered the gold, that she must expect a restriction of her export trade to Europe, because Europe simply cannot afford to trade with her, and so America very wisely wastes no time whatever shedding tears over her lost European trade. No, she decides to meet her unemployed problem by utilising her gold to develop her own internal and almost illimitable resources, and surrounds herself by an almost insurmountable tariff wall. America is now looking rather southwards than eastwards—rather more to the great Continent of South America than she is to the Continent of Europe, and this explains, I think, America's reluctance to engage actively in the reconstruction of Europe.
The fact is, America can afford, for the time being, at any rate, to do without Europe, so long as Europe cannot afford to trade with her. Rightly or wrongly, this is America's policy, and she adheres to it. But, after all, she is not inconsistent, because America's foreign policy is dictated by her financial policy. And herein lies the lesson for us, that what America can afford to do we most certainly cannot afford to do. America can afford the luxury of the high dollar, because of her vast internal resources and the fact that she is practically a self-supporting continent; and, if further proof be needed, surely the Fordney Tariff proves it up to the hilt. But the exact opposite is the case with us. We must import, and therefore we must ex- 785 port as well, and our policy of making the pound so dear, while it is true that it cheapens what we have to buy, makes what we have to sell too dear for other countries to buy. We have raised our pound too high, or rather, perhaps, I should say, too rapidly. It is no use sighing for our lost European markets so long as we continue the policy of making what we can produce too dear for the very markets in which we want to sell. Europe wants our goods, but, owing to our rate of exchange, she cannot afford to buy them, and I do not ignore the rising trade returns, which show such a very welcome improvement, at all events, within certain limits. But on an analysis of our rising trade returns, I am afraid we shall find that the increase of exports is due rather to the fresh situation which has recently arisen on the Continent of Europe, and which has compelled certain countries to buy from us such commodities as coal, for the simple reason that they have not been able to buy them elsewhere. It leads me to infer most regretfully that the recent increase in our export returns is rather in the nature of a spasmodic increase, and I do not believe that increase can be relied upon as being of a permanent nature. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech which he made on Tuesday, said:It was a very curious fact, and contrary to what one would have expected, that the percentage volume of trade, if one looked at it in groups all over the world, remained almost constant compared with the percentage of pre-War trade. In other words, our proportion of the whole trade, if divided up into the principal markets of the world, still remained constant.That may well be true, but I think the point is that, while we may be doing our percentage of trade as compared with other countries, other countries have no unemployment, and are producing to the full, whereas we are doing nothing of the kind. We are producing a far lower percentage in proportion to our potential producing power. I know quite well that when I advocate calling a halt in our policy of deflation I shall be met with a great many arguments, and certainly with three arguments. The first argument will be this: What about our debt to America? Surely it is a great advantage to us that we have made our pound so high in relation to the dollar, because it is going to cheapen the cost of the service of the American Debt. Of course, it is 786 obvious it will, but is it a matter of congratulation that we have succeeded in raising the pound to such a point that we have closed European 'markets to us at the expense of British workmen, and that we are having to spend more than the amount which we save on the service of the American Debt in unemployment doles to keep the British workman from starving? The second argument with which I shall be met may be this: "Oh, but if you stop your policy of deflation, you aim a blow at Government securities, which now stand very high, and that would be bad for the country's general financial position." I think that, although it is undoubtedly a good thing that Government securities should stand high, and give a sense of stability and security, and, incidentally, attract foreign money to this country, although that is all for the good, surely our position as regards our Government securities at the present moment is a purely fictitious one, because, in any case, as soon as a revival of trade does come, and from whatever cause it may come, it, is perfectly certain that trade will bring back into industrial channels the money which is now making our Government securities stand so high. The third argument which may be raised is, that if you depreciate, or suggest any depreciation, in your pound sterling, you will immediately raise the cost of living. I submit that that might be true if our productivity remained at its present low ebb. But it is quite a matter for argument whether inflation is not rather the effect than the cause of an increase in the cost of living. I would like to quote from some remarks of Mr. Robert Benson, Chairman of the Merchants' Trust, Ltd., on 2nd March. He said:All money is purchasing power, but all purchasing power is not money. Inflation and deflation beg the preliminary question, namely, whether an increase or decrease in the quantity of money, that is, of currency is the cause or the effect of the rise or fall, as the case may be, of general prices.I submit that if there were an increase of goods produced in this country, that increase would more than counteract any tendency there might be of a rise in the cost of living. The fact is that our policy of deflation is the root cause of the matter. It is some time since I was at school, I regretfully have to admit, but I remember there I was made to learn some alge-braical sums which were called simul- 787 taneous equations. I look at the problem in the form of an equation in this way: You have excessive taxation, which equals the crushing of industry; the crushing of industry means the curse of unemployment. If you eliminate the mean, and leave the two extremes, you have the result of the problem, and it is that heavy taxation is the direct root cause of unemployment.
It is all very well to point with pride to the pound sterling rapidly approaching its pre-War parity. That may give satisfaction to the financial purist. Does it satisfy any one single Member of this House, when you have only to glance down any street and see at the street corner the British workman standing workless? That is the price we have to pay for making our pound so precious. I believe, sometimes, Chancellors of the Exchequer suffer from what may be called "Balancing the Budget insomnia." I do not know whether the present Chancellor of the Exchequer suffers in that way or not, but if he should spend any wakeful moments in this manner, I should like to suggest to him that, rather than being altogether concerned with balancing his Budget, he should direct his mind to see in what way he can modify taxation so as to make it absolutely certain that we can give productive employment to the unemployed. I appeal to the Committee to consider the question of the unemployment problem from this point of view. I believe what we have got to do to-day is to review the whole position from this standpoint. We have got to bear in mind that what we may lose in the value of the pound in relation to the dollar we shall more than regain by getting back our lost European markets, and from the fact that we shall be able to start once again to pay British workmen for goods produced rather than the dole for doing nothing.
§ Mr. PERCY A. HARRIS
May I congratulate the last speaker on his maiden speech. It has no signs of inexperience. The hon. Gentleman certainly grappled with a most interesting problem with confidence and knowledge. He will, however, forgive me when I say that I am afraid I shall have to follow other channels of thought, or I shall bring myself within the tender mercies of the Chair and be ruled out of 788 order; for I am afraid I would not be allowed to follow into the whole question of the currency on this Unemployment Vote. I wish—and I am sure the Minister of Labour wishes—that we could get out of our difficulties merely by printing paper—by inflation! I think the Minister of Labour would be only too glad to hand over this problem to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and obviously it would be the business of the Chancellor to deal with this money problem. I will not, however, venture to discuss this most interesting question. I hope the hon. Member, who has just sat down, will give his views to the House on another occasion when we are especially surveying the financial position of the country. I am afraid I am going to approach this problem from a much narrower point of view, from the London point of view. We have had in this House the problem discussed from almost every point of view of the country except that of London.
Glasgow in particular, very rightly, very properly, has been setting London a good example, and has shown great keenness in dealing with unemployment and making the most interesting suggestions. But I wish, and I think I can show, that unfortunately, although London is not so articulate in putting its case, or putting it so prominently to the front, it is even more difficult to deal with this in London than any other part of the country. I have here statistics, not quite up-to-date, but very recent, which show that since the beginning of the year there has been a steady decrease in the number of the unemployed. On the 10th January there were on the live registers of the Employment Exchanges, the figures including men, women and juveniles, 174,000 or 38 per 1,000. These figures have steadily gone down, but slowly, and the latest figures show 157,000 or 35.2. That is very encouraging superficially, but when you return to Poor Law statistics you find that, while the number of names on the live registers of the Employment exchanges has gone down, the number receiving Poor Law relief in London has steadily gone up. On the 10th of January, the percentage was 50.4 This has gone up to 55.9—in round figures from 226,000 to 250,000. That is, that the number that has gone off, for whatever reason, the live registers has been more than counterbalanced by the number in 789 receipt of Poor Law relief in various ways. That is a very serious and significant fact.
I do not know what the reason is. It may be partly the working of the Employment Exchanges, but it does show that the figures on the Employment Exchanges provided for the Minister of Labour have to be studied in the light of the figures put forward by the Minister of Health, who, by the way, I am glad to see in his place. If be will allow me. I should like to congratulate him on the high honour he has just received, for it is a great compliment, not only to himself, but to all those interested in local government. We feel that in the right hon. Gentleman we have a man who understands local government, and who will bring to his new work many years of experience and intimate knowledge. It is very appropriate that the two Ministers should be together. I hope it will always be so, because when you are dealing with unemployment, you cannot deal with the subject in watertight compartments. It must be dealt with from a comprehensive point of view— from the point of view, both of the Poor Law and the work done by the Ministry of Health.
What is so disquieting about the affair is that, whilst there is not a very strong feeling against receiving relief through insurance, there is a very strong feeling against receiving relief under the Poor Law. There is a traditional sentiment— to some extent a wrong sentiment— still it exists, and I know of thousands of men in the East of London who would rather do anything, who would sell their last stick, before going to the guardians. It is traditional. It is in the blood. It has been handed down from father to son, the feeling that it is considered a degradation. I have heard it said, "I will do anything rather than go to the house." That is the "How d'ye do!" view, to use a popular phrase, which expresses the attitude of mind of the average workman. What he does feel is that once he starts to take Poor Law funds he is never likely to get out of it, and it makes it very difficult for him to get work; largely because of the regulations and arrangements, and largely because a man is supposed to have lost caste by receiving Poor Law help.
790 I have every sympathy with the Minister of Labour. I am not going to attack him. I appreciate what a difficult task he has. I realise that his heart is in his work, and that he is doing all he can to grapple with a difficult problem. I suggest to the Committee that he is the victim of a policy, and of our international position, rather than responsible for the position he has to face. Unemployment, of course, is due largely to the demoralisation and stagnation of our foreign trade, and he cannot be held responsible for that! I do, too, appreciate that during the last 12 months there has been a courageous attempt to grapple with the problem by various relief works and by schemes put in hand by the Ministry of Transport, which show ingenuity and a desire to tackle the matter in almost every part of the country, and to provide useful and productive work. In the case of London we do not seem to have done more than touch the fringe of the subject.
We had in London three very big main roads to be constructed; one in the East of London going from Beacontree to Southend, the other in the West of London giving relief to motor congestion, and another one going from Woolwich to South London. Very great hopes were put forward as to the number of men likely to be employed. The Ministry of Transport, I think, suggested that there would be employed on these roads something like 17,000 men. It may be news to the Minister, and certainly, I think, it will be a surprise to many hon. Members, to find that at no time on these three roads have more than 7,000 men been employed. That was a maximum. In November of last year only 4,300 men were employed. The thing was hardly worth doing. The numbers were so small they did not absorb even a percentage of the 157,000 out of work.
New roads have been put in hand, new roads from Kingston, and there has been a further development of the East London main road. But I should like to know about the figures of the men employed on these roads. They do not make any material difference to the number of men on Employment Exchange registers or the number of people seeking out-door relief. I am not sure whether this very large expenditure on the roads is economically sound. It certainly does seem to some extent to facilitate the traffic transport, 791 but the greatest advantage, I suggest, is to motorists. I am sorry to see that the Noble Lord the Member for Battersea (Viscount Curzon) is not in his place, for the present work makes the road a little less dangerous when he is taking his weekend drive. It may make the roads a little safer for pedestrians, but I am not sure whether it is really wise expenditure to sink so much money at one period and one time in the same year in making a large number of roads. I think if the Minister is really in earnest in this matter he might find some more productive way to use the money granted him by Parliament. I think the best thing he could do —and for this I am glad to see the Minister of Health in his place—is to consult his colleague the Minister of Health. There are large schemes around London ready to put into hand. There is much housing wanted. Estates have been bought, not with local government money, but with national money, and there are various housing schemes of the late Government. There are 3,000 acres of land belonging to the London County Council at Beacontree, bought with the assistance of money from the Exchequer. That estate has hardly been touched. It was originally bought to build at least 20,000 houses, and only 3,000 have been built and 1,000 more approved. Here we have this big estate, bought not at its agricultural value, but at its housing value, and it is lying derelict, with very few roads, and hardly any drains constructed and very little development. I suggest it would be far more productive and useful for the Ministry of Labour to get the co-operation of the Minister of Health in order to develop that estate, making new roads and drains and getting it ready far building.
When this has been done, then the Minister of Health could come along and assist the various housing authorities because, when the roads and the drains have been constructed, then there is some chance of private enterprise coming along to assist in the building of houses. I think that suggestion would absorb a large number of workers and many unskilled labourers in building roads and putting down drains. By assisting in this direction through the means of unemployment grants to this estate, even from the point of view of the construction of 792 roads and drains, it would tend to cheapen the building of houses, because one of the greatest costs in the building of houses is the very heavy charges incurred by road-making and the laying down of sewers.
The figures I have are rather significant from the point of view of the building trade. When unemployment first became serious, the number of men out of work was infinitesimal, and one of the reasons for cutting down the building programme was the shortage of bricklayers. All that has changed now, and actually in the building trade on the 22nd January of this year, in the greater London area, there were no less than 22,000 out of work. or 21.8 of the total number of insured workers in the building or allied trades. Since October last that number has steadily gone up, but that may be partly attributable to the winter, though it has been a very mild one, with very little frost, and it has only been necessary to shut down building operations for a very short period.
Here you have an organised industry with a large percentage of unemployed who could be very rapidly absorbed without any cost to the Unemployed Grants Committee and so much relief could be transferred to the house building on the estates already in possession of public authorities. I suggest that the Minister of Labour might very well consult the Minister of Health on that subject. I am not going to suggest that by building houses or constructing roads you are going to find any permanent remedy for unemployment, because at the present time every branch of industry is affected. One of the most tragic things in the east end of London is to find dozens of men out of employment who have never been out of work before, and who have never received in-door or out-door relief, and they are now marching the streets.
I know of one case in particular of a man who in 1915 was well over age and he joined the Army and went out to Mesopotamia. He had been in a small trade for 23 years, and when he came back the small industry of silk throwing in which he had been employed had stopped. This industry employed a large number of men and women in the east end of London, and this man on his return found the industry in which he had been employed closed down, and now that man is breaking his heart walking the streets.
793 In this case the man is too old to do road work or engage in other unskilled trades. In London, in particular, there are dozens of these small industries. In the north of England, of course, you have the great shipbuilding industry, and in Lancashire and Yorkshire the great textile industry, but in London you have a number of these small industries which now have been permanently killed.
In the early months of the War an attempt was made to tackle some of these industries and reorganise them for war purposes. All over London committees were set up under the Prince of Wales Fund. I was a member of one of those committees in Bethnal Green, and their business was to assist in transferring the energies of these small industries to new trades. With the assistance of the Prince of Wales Fund many of them were diverted into war trades. For instance, men making furniture were diverted to making munition boxes. Those making furniture covers were diverted to making sacks or bags for carrying munitions and so on. The idea of the Prince of Wales Fund was that when the War was over that machinery was to be set up again. Unfortunately, after the War there was a trade boom, the Prince of Wales Fund was closed, and nothing further was done. I would suggest that it might be possible to set up that machinery again and reconstitute the Prince of Wales Fund Committee.
That committee represented the Poor Law Guardians, the borough councils, the principal trade unions of the district and organisations representing the Chambers of Commerce in industries, and they were people with a knowledge of the industrial conditions of each district. I think such a committee could help to restore many industries which have been paralysed by the War. You could have a similar committee set up in each district of London to try and restore some of our ruined industries. I know many of them will never come back again, and new industries will be started in their place. Nevertheless there are many things which it is difficult to get at the present time.
I know there are some trades even at this time of pressure full up with orders, and cannot do all the business offered to them, whilst, at the same time, there are many trades which have been absolutely ruined. I know what I am suggesting will be looked upon as a new 794 departure of policy, but I think credits instead of being given to some of these large industrial organisations, it might be possible, with some machinery similar to the Prince of Wales Fund Committee, to set up local committees to which money might be allocated under strict rules to help to start again on new lines some of the small factories which have been ruined by the peace conditions. I think something of that sort would be far more satisfactory than constructing roads everywhere, which only absorb unskilled, workers.
There is some provision in the Estimates for training a certain number of women to domestic service, which is a very good proposal, but there are thousands of women in the East End of London who are engaged in factories, and it is not a practical proposition to suggest diverting them to domestic service. A scheme of this kind should deal not only with the men but also with the women. There are in the East End of London thousands of women who have to keep themselves and maintain their homes without any male assistance, and it is hard to think that when they see all these schemes, being organised to help the male breadwinner that women are almost entirely omitted. I hope the Minister of Labour will treat my suggestions with sympathy, consult trade organisations and trade unions, and make some inquiries in various localities to see whether something of the kind which I have suggested cannot be done.
I believe the Minister of Health has had some experience in regard to the establishment of municipal banks. I am not sure that financial assistance to small industries given through municipal banks would not be a far more practical way of assisting those industries than loans from the State. I do not intend to deal with that problem now, but it should be remembered by the Government that we depend for our very existence on our exports, and being able to pay for our food and our material and our imports by our manufactured goods. You cannot pay for those by making roads. Such enterprises may give relief for the moment, but if you cannot restore our industrial position bankruptcy in the end must be our fate. We have to get our trade going again on a large scale. Therefore I would suggest 795 that instead of spending so much money on unproductive work and relief works that the Labour Minister should apply his mind, after consultation with the Unemployment Committee of the Cabinet, to deal with the unemployed problem by trying to restore our great industries and at the same time keeping in mind some of those small trades which have suffered so grievously owing to the War.
I see that, under paragraph A for Sunday Services for the relief of unemployment, the Minister of Health has a Vote down dealing with the training of women in domestic work and the setting up of juvenile unemployment centres. I would like to say that if the right hon. Gentleman could see the result of the juvenile unemployment scheme on the young boys and girls he would indeed feel proud, and the House would realise that this money was not being wasted, but was one of the soundest investments the country could make. I am proud that the Government have taken it up, and I hope there will never be any outcry in the country against helping the juvenile population, because they are persons who cannot get any employment, the consequence being that they are forced to walk up and down the streets, and that is a most appalling waste which has been going on for a long time.
With regard to the training for domestic service, I only wish that the last House of Commons had gone more fully into this question, for if hon. Members had seen what we were actually doing I am sure we should not have had all those idiotic remarks made about putting so many of these people into domestic service. Anyone would have thought from some of the remarks which were made that you could drive people into jobs of this sort instead of having them trained for it. The work done under the Central Committee for the Training of Women has been one of the most remarkable things that happened during the War, and what has been accomplished in this respect is almost entirely due to the great 'work done by Miss Lilian Barker. In dealing with these women Miss Barker had a very persuasive manner, and by talking to them she was able to convince them that domestic service need not be slavery, although sometimes it is, but 796 that depends largely on the people who employ them. Much, of course, depends on the point of view. The greatest slavery is where there is but one domestic servant, but people cannot be blamed for being unable to employ more. Miss Barker tells these girls that domestic service is another form of national service, and so it is. I say if you can get a good domestic servant, someone who knows her job, your home life is made easier, and so, too, is your public life. I could never have done—perhaps some people do not think I have done anything —there are two points of view—some think I have been a national nuisance, others may think I have done a little—but, whatever I have done, I can truthfully say that if I had not had some most willing and skilled domestics I would never have been able to do it. Miss Barker explains things to girls; she tries to persuade and coax them into domestic service.
It may be asked why train them? Why not take them straight into your houses? Everyone ought to know that some of these girls have gone straight from school into the factories where they were a national asset, but the minute the War was over the State dispensed with their services and it was suggested that they should go into domestic service. Many of them had not the slightest idea as to how things should be done. They did not know how to lay a table. A saucepan was a mystery to many of them. That was not their fault: it was the fault of the work they had been doing. This Committee has succeeded in putting 14,000 girls into domestic service at a cost of £20 per head for three months' training. 70 per cent. or 80 per cent. of them have kept their places. The Committee has also put 4,000 women into professions of all kinds. Some have gone as masseuses, others as typists; one became a barrister. The work the Committee has done has been perfectly wonderful. Most people do not know anything about it, and I want the Minister when he speaks to-day to make it known that they have put 14,000 of these girls into domestic service, and that this has been entirely owing to the genius of Miss Lilan Barker. There is a class who cannot go into domestic service, whose home circumstances render it impossible. I know of a girl aged 22 without a father. She lives alone with her mother who is nearly 797 blind and she cannot leave her. Other girls are unfit for domestic service by reason of their physical health. They may be crippled or suffering from some other infirmity. Then there are girls who are thoroughly skilled in a trade and want to return to that trade. I do hope that the Minister of Labour will give some consideration to the women who are unable by reason of their health or home circumstances to enter domestic service. They deserve some sort of training for other work.
As an hon. Member, who spoke just now, has said, we are constantly talking about schemes for the relief of men, but no one is talking about schemes for the relief of women. Yet there are thousands of women who during the War did their bit just as well as the men. Many of them are too proud to apply for the unemployment benefit. I think women in that respect have been perfectly remarkable. I can mention many instances where they would almost rather starve than ask for the benefit, but they will go to this central committee and ask if there is any way by which they can he trained and fitted to do some work. I do beg the Minister of Labour, when he comes to speak presently, to give the House information about this central committee, of whose labours I have been speaking. Let him bear in mind that there are thousands of women who need and desire some sort of training to make themselves fit for work.
§ Captain O'GRADY
I have been acquainted with many of the small industries to which the hon. Member for South-west Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) referred. For a long number of years I have been working in the East End of London, carrying on trade union work in the factories, and, therefore, I can confirm my hon. Friend's statement as to the state of many of these smaller industries. With regard to domestic service, I do not attach very much importance to what has been said by the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). It seems to me rather a reflection on our social system that people should want so many others to wait upon them. The Noble Lady spoke of domestic service as a highly skilled occupation, and she specially mentioned the laying of the table. I may 798 remark that, probably, many of these girls have had considerable practice in laying tables not very well laden in years gone by. I think too much attention is being paid to the demand that girls should be trained for domestic service. I am concerned with a large body of unemployed women, who constitute a fairly big proportion of the number on the register My own Federation have a large body of members engaged in all kinds of occupations, and I have been astounded that the Minister of Labour should have overlooked the claims of these people, which have been brought to the, notice of the Ministry by our officials. Practically, nothing has been done for them.
I got up to utter my protest against the policy of the Government in regard to its treatment of the unemployed. A little while ago they were dealing with the unemployed by two methods. In the first place they were granting doles and then they seemed to get afraid of that policy, after a period of criticism, and began to start relief works. At the time the Minister of Labour delivered his speech on those works I made a careful calculation as to the number of people the schemes would employ, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh) has indicated to-day that they have only absorbed about 143,000 men. The curious fact is that since that time we have had several Unemployment Insurance Bills come along, and with them all manner of suggestions by which the treatment of the unemployed can be carried on under the dole system. I noticed in the Press the other day that the Cabinet Committee on Unemployment has practically been disbanded, and it was stated further that at last that Committee had about finished with the process of dealing with unemployment by finding work.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Montague Barlow)
That is a serious statement which I must challenge at once, because it is profoundly incorrect. The Prime Minister himself said the other day —and I therefore can repeat it—there have been changes, but the presence of the new Minister of Health on this bench to-day shows that he is determined, as I am determined, that the Cabinet Unemployment Committee which has been 799 dealing with this question shall continue its functions in the future as it has done in the past.
§ Captain O'GRADY
Of course I accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman and I am glad I gave him an opportunity to make it. We were very concerned with the fact that these works were being held up. Let me point out again, as I have done on previous occasions, that we seem never to tackle the unemployment problem until we get a condition of things similar to that which prevails to-day. Everything that has been suggested and promoted for the treatment of unemployment is really current legislation. In the 1906 Parliament many of us on these benches, when trade was good, pleaded with the Government to take this matter in hand. We suggested that there was no remedy for unemployment under our present commercial system. I want that to sink into the minds of hon. Members, as I am afraid otherwise we shall get into all kinds of difficulties in dealing with this problem. What we then said was that it should be treated by means of palliative measures, by giving work rather than by giving doles. We suggested that the consideration of this matter should be undertaken in times when trade was good, and that we should always have on the stocks schemes which could be reasonably put into operation when there was an indication that trade was going clown, and that they should be of such an elastic character that when trade improved again the men for whom employment had been found could be drafted back in the requisite numbers into the factories instead of flooding round the factory doors and making things worse. I fear that suggestion was not accepted.
I cannot for the life of me understand the Government asking us when we are criticising this Department what are our constructive measures? If hon. Members will refer to Hansard of about 16 years ago they will find that we then made these proposals and they will realise now that some of those proposals have been recently adopted. Therefore it cannot be claimed by the Government that their methods of dealing with unemployment are original. They have simply enlarged the small measures and schemes which we put forward in those days. Let me 800 deal with the question of the raising of money. I said in this House some time back, and I repeat it to-day, that the money which is raised for the purpose of giving unemployed benefit to people who are unemployed comes in the main from the workpeople themselves. Some disapproval was expressed just now when my hon. Friend suggested that the workers even paid the employer's share of the contribution. Everyone knows that in modern industry whatever the employer pays in this direction is passed on to the consumer. I do not say that it can be picked out in a lump sum as having been passed on, but the employer who pays a contribution to the unemployment fund sees that he does pass it on to the consumer in some way and, by reason of the fact that the greatest body of consumers are the people who are unemployed, obviously they pay that portion also. With regard to State benefit, I venture to say that a large portion of the State contribution to the Unemployment Fund is also paid by the workers; so that, in fact, that sum per week towards unemployment insurance is mainly raised from the workers themselves. I say, as I have said before, that we could give these benefits for longer periods for less contributions, and certainly with a great reduction in the cost of administration, if the matter were handed over to the trade unions. I do not think there can be much dispute about that.
I want to ask, further, what has been done with the thirty reports of the Reconstruction Committee, of which I was a member, and which worked towards the end of the War period with a view to helping to create this new world when the War was over. I myself spent about 18 months or so upon a particular Committee, and there was all the work of those business men and trade union officials, who sat for long periods developing schemes for the purpose of meeting the actual difficulty with which we are now face to face. As far as I understand, the whole of those 30 reports are in the archives of the Government somewhere, and there is no intention of getting them out and putting them into practical operation. I suggest to the Minister of Labour that he might look into that matter with a view to meeting the suggestions of my hon. Friend who raised the question of small industries in the East End of London. I am certain 801 that, if some of these schemes were rescued from their pigeon-holes, they could be applied to some such propositions as my hon. Friend suggested.
As has already been pointed out, this problem is really an intolerable burden upon the local authorities. The vicious tendency of the Government, and of the Department itself, even with a very humane Minister of Labour, is to try to denationalise the treatment of this question of unemployment. As an illustration of the way in which it affects certain bodies in the country, I may refer to Leeds. There is a great amount of unemployment in Leeds, but at Harrogate, a few miles away, there is a residential neighbourhood. Why should Leeds, together with the Government, bear the whole burden of providing relief measures and giving doles to unemployed people in Leeds? There is that residential district, with low rates and with no unemployment, where people go for reasons of health, and twenty-five miles away is Leeds, with a great surging mass of discontent, poverty and hunger, having to bear the whole burden. I noticed some time back that an arterial road is to be built between Liverpool and Manchester, at a cost of £3,000,000, but the Government insist that Manchester and Liverpool shall bear half the cost. Let me point out how this would work out.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
It is borne by all the local authorities. I do not want to interrupt, but let us get the facts right. The cost is £3,000,000, as the hon. Member says, but the Government's suggestion was that, according to the regular proportion of 50–50, the Government should put up £1,500,000, and all the local authorities—not merely Manchester and Liverpool—should put up the other half.
§ Captain O'GRADY
The declaration of the Manchester City Council, which, surely, will be accepted, was that it meant that they had to raise £250,000 towards that, which meant a penny rate for three years upon the citizens of Manchester. Clearly, that is an indication of the hardship that has to be borne by the local authorities. Whether the Government dispute the matter or not, they are becoming an object of suspicion, and I should not be surprised to see, very soon, local authorities going on strike. They cannot go on. It is no use their piling 802 up this great debt. I get letters from boards of guardians in Leeds frequently and constantly, complaining of this very fact, and it all arises from this method of the Government in dealing with the unemployment problem, and from the fact that they will not accept it as a national responsibility. The whole cost, in my judgment, ought to come out of the public purse.
That is the only criticism that I have to make about the Department. For myself, I have always had the best of attention from the Minister. Every letter I have written has been carefully gone into, and I can repeat with equal sincerity what was said by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh), namely, that I am glad we have a Minister of Labour such as we have, and I am sure the staff is responsive. Our criticism is not of the right hon. Gentleman or his staff; it is of the policy, or lack of policy, on the part of the Government. I say, on behalf of my trade union friends and of the large number of unions with which I am connected, that, if the right hon. Gentleman wants a Committee Similar to the Reconstruction Committees that existed during the latter part of the War period, we are prepared to give them, and to do what we can to help him, not to find more money for treatment by doles, but to provide suggestions for the carrying on of these works of public utility for the relief of the unemployed.
§ Captain SHIPWRIGHT
Like my hon. and gallant Friend who just now made a maiden speech, I crave the indulgence of the Committee. I have, perhaps, an additional reason for doing so. I see that the hon. Member for Thanet (Mr Harms-worth) is not in his place, and so, as I understand, I am the youngest. Member here to-day. Another reason is that I, like one of my hon. Friends opposite, have only just recovered from a surgical operation, and am speaking under rather difficult circumstances. Unlike the hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Major Ruggles-Brise), who treated this question as a disease—he said he would like to treat it as a surgical question—I should like to treat it more as an ordinary problem. I should like first to endorse what has just been said by the hon. Member for North-East Leeds (Captain O'Grady) in regard to the attention and consideration which the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour always 803 give to correspondence and deputations. I attended a deputation only yesterday to both the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour, and I do feel that they are doing their very utmost to solve the particularly difficult question that faces the local guardians and the local authorities. The position that I should like to put before the Committee in regard to this problem is that we have to examine its cause and we have to examine—indeed, it is apparent without examination—its effect, and to do our utmost to find the remedy. In this Chamber, probably more than in any other place, an ounce of fact is worth a ton of theory, and I do feel that the only thing that is of the slightest use in dealing with this problem of unemployment is to keep to the facts and the facts only. The hon. Member for Ince, who moved a reduction of £100 in this Vote, admitted that one of the main causes of this problem was the Great War; but I think we have to look even further than the Great War. I do not want my hon. Friends opposite to consider that what I am going to say is in any way crying over spilt milk; it is simply said with an honest endeavour to see if we can, for the future, try and remedy the ghastly condition of unemployment which exists to-day. The first cause, I admit, is the War, but I feel that the conditions of unemployment after the War were not what they were some years later. I know that some of my hon. Friends opposite do not entirely agree that the trade depression abroad, and also the trade depression at home, is of vital importance in this question, but personally I feel that it is.
Now let us examine the facts. As all hon. Members present will recollect, in 1920 there was a trade boom. It certainly was only temporary, as subsequent events proved, but what were the unemployment figures? I asked a question yesterday of the Minister of Labour, with an honest intention of trying to find out the causes of the present unemployment, and to see whether we could find a. remedy. In January, 1921, there were 701,000 registered as totally unemployed. Six months later there were 2,040,000. That was a very ghastly fact. It is not my place, and it is not my intention, to go into the reason for those figures; it is sufficient that we leave it, calling it the industrial dispute of 1921. During the nineteen 804 months since July, 1921, those unemployment figures have been going down very, very slowly, and, after studying this question, I have come to the conclusion that the cause was the general upset of trade, which was so quickly brought about during that dispute, and will take a very long time to remedy. It will be remembered that it was not only the particular industry concerned in the dispute that was affected. Unfortunately, every other industry was affected. The hon. and gallant Member for Camborne (Captain Moreing) will recollect how it affected us in Cornwall. I represent a constituency in a county one division of which is entirely dependent on one industry, namely, tin mining; and our most important item in carrying on the tin-mining industry is our power and our power bill. Directly after that dispute, every mine closed down, and they have not been re-opened. During the Debates here on unemployment I have paid very great attention, and have remained here as much as my health would allow, trying to gather some constructive policy from some of the hon. Members opposite. I feel that, as is perfectly natural, they, like hon. Members on this side, have this question absolutely at heart. I particularly noticed that in the last Session the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Show) asked a very interesting question. It was, in fact, a challenge, and perhaps I may quote his words. The hon. Member for Preston said:We have 1,300,000 unemployed. If you take the capitalist argument that inter-national trade depends absolutely on confidence, can any hon. or right hon. Member tell me of any nation in the world that has high confidence and admiration at the present moment for our own? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1922; col. 105, Vol. 159.]I am not concerned with admiration, but as regards confidence, yes. I would ask, what about America? In my constituency, which is largely an industrial clay area, employment depends almost entirely on American confidence and American trade. America is our best buyer. Without America as a customer we should have far larger numbers of unemployed. We have practically no unemployed to-day through this American confidence and credit. Under this policy we doubled our exports of china clay last year over the year 1921. Every since the Conservative Govern- 805 ment has been in office we have decreased by 50 per cent. the number of unemployed china clay workers. I think the policy of the Government, and the policy which hon. Members opposite are trying to find out, is above all one of revival of trade. The Leader of the Opposition has stated, I will not say that he is not interested in that measure but pretty nearly. The previous Government introduced certain ameliorative measures to deal with this problem. Among them I believe was a revival of trade, and the policy of reestablishing our international credit. It has had a certain good result which I will show in a few minutes yet. The Leader of the Opposition said:We are not interested in the ameliorative measures prepared by the late Government.During his very excellent Parliamentary address he was interrupted from this side of the House with the words "What would you do" As the novels say, I was dwelling on every word of his answer, and it was this:The party with which I am associated will very speedily show what it would do by an Amendment which it proposes to move to the Address.I looked out for the Amendment with a perfectly sincere endeavour to see some constructive policy. The Amendment was toregret that there is no proposal for adequate treatment of the victims and no indication of a change to enable our European customers to buy our goods.That is what his party proposed to do. Where is the constructive policy in that Amendment. A good many hon. Members opposite have certainly a very excellent idea as to what we want. I have heard credit mentioned more than once. I have heard confidence mentioned more than once and I have heard trade revival mentioned very often.
Now I come to the heart of my argument. The concern of every one in dealing with this question of employment is whether we are going up or down. Under this policy of the present Government I think we have cause for optimism, and the only reason I am standing up to-day is that I have ascertained a few facts and all I want to do is to introduce a little more of the spirit of optimism in discussing this Vote for unemployment. We have had one or two pessimistic speeches to-day. The answer to this question 806 whether we are going up or down can snore easily be found in the trade statistics. We had some interesting figures given us by the Minister of Labour yesterday. The first is that since 1st November, 1921, we have found that the cost of living has not gone up. It has gone down three points. The next question I asked was about exports. Perhaps hon. Members do not attach the same importance that I do to exports, but I am convinced that we have to establish this policy of confidence with the trading nations overseas. It is often forgotten that we are only a little island. We are unlike most other countries in the world. We cannot exist without credit and we must have our international confidence, which will give us that credit. Without credit you cannot have trade, but if you get the credit you will get the trade, and if you get the trade you will get exports, and more jobs for the unemployed. In December we have to remember the interruption to trade caused by the Christmas holidays, but during January we increased our exports to the extent of £9,000,000 over December, and it was an increase of £5,000,000 over the corresponding month of the year before. The question which hon. Members opposite are more concerned with—at any rate they voice that concern more than anyone else, and I sympathise with them—is this question of unemployment. One or two hon. Members have said we are tinkering with the question Perhaps that is their opinion, but I am only concerned with the facts. We may be tinkering with it but the chief reason why I want to introduce a more optimistic atmosphere into this Debate is that after all the numbers of unemployed have gone down, not slightly but very substantially, since they reached the highest pinnacle. We have had a decrease of 700,000 in the last 19 months.
I wanted to ascertain to what extent unemployment has gone down since the present Government has been in office, and the Minister gave me the figures for 4th December and 26th February. There is a decrease of 61,894 in those 11 weeks, which is a weekly average of 5,626. I think that is a very good reason for asking hon. Members opposite to make up their minds that the old country is not quite done yet. We can probably get a little more done if we remove some of this unfortunate atmosphere of suspicion that seems to 807 exist between a few hon. Members opposite and some on this side of the House. We have the cause of unemployment just as much at heart as they have, and we are only too willing to co-operate with Members of any party in trying to solve the most important question we have to face to-day. In the face of the facts I have just given, the country must have confidence in the present Government. As regards hon. Members opposite, we have done things together in the past, and I feel that the present Government can do a lot to-day with their help and their experience, but we are not here, as the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) said, to smash an atmosphere. We are here to create an atmosphere of a little more faith, a little more good will, and a little more confidence between all hon. Members and between our fellow-men. The figures I have given should introduce a more optimistic feeling into this Debate.
§ Mr. PRICE
May I crave the indulgence of the House for what is generally termed a maiden speech. I represent a big industrial constituency and, in addition, I claim to know something of labour because I am rather a large employer and, I believe, in my own district, I am considered not a bad one, even by the Socialists. Everyone in the House and in the country must be very glad of the improved state of trade and the reduced number of the unemployed, but I think there is a lot more that the Government could do because of the effect the unemployed insurance gratuity—not dole —is having on the labour of the country. I feel very strongly about it because I come in very close contact with it. It is absolutely essential that you should stop these men doing nothing day in and day out for months on end. By the time you get the work you will not have the men to do it. They will not be in a condition to do it. Since I have been standing for Shore-ditch I have found work for at least 20 men, and I do not think more than four or five of them have done more than a day's work. The reason they have stated to my agent has been that the work is too hard, but the truth is that the men are out of condition and they are too soft, and that is what we want to obviate. I was very much in sympathy with the hon. and gallant Member for South-East 808 Leeds (Captain O'Grady). The money that is going to tide this nation over the present period of depression ought to be found by the Government in its entirety, because it is not a local matter. It is a national matter, and it is for more important to keen these men at work, whatever it costs, than to let them deteriorate, and, if anyone has any doubt about it, I suggest, if he is connected with an industrial constituency, that he should get together a meeting of women and put this matter before them and, without any hesitation, the women will appreciate the deterioration that is taking place amongst their men. That is the best test of what is happening to the men in this country.
It seems to me there are three big points we ought to consider, two of them immediately. One is the extension of the roads, and everything connected with the lay out of this country for future traffic. That has hardly been touched upon. There is one road near where I live and that is the tram-road from Croydon to Purley. It. is a disgrace to any country to have such a road. Motorists and cyclists are quite liable to accidents, and yet nothing has been done for four years. There is another road in the next constituency to mine a mile and a half long which is in a shocking condition. If Germany can do it in her state surely to goodness we can do it to keep our men at work, and I believe that is the biggest factor we have to consider. The next point is housing. That ought to be gone on with as quickly as ever we can to get these men back to their work. I would stress it for all I am worth that it is absolutely essential, if you are going to keep these men in a fair condition so that their muscles and their minds are fit for work, that you have to get them back to work. A question was raised in regard to the minimum wage. I believe in a minimum wage.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must point out that we are in Committee of Supply, and that in Committee of Supply we mast discuss administration, and not new legislation.
§ 6.0 P. M.
§ Mr. PRICE
With regard to housing. I feel that we shall never get the problem solved by private enterprise. At the present time, there is a feeling of uncertainty which will prevent any man from putting his money into houses for the purpose 809 of letting. If the Labour party, with their capital levy, come to the fore, houses would feel the first brunt of that capital levy, because they cannot be moved.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I must point out that a capital levy would require legislation.
§ Mr. ELLIS
May I ask for the indulgence of the House, like so many other hon. Members have had to do this evening, in making my maiden speech. I ask it more safely, because I do not intend to trouble the House very long or to go into much detail. Since coming to this House, especially lately, as one who has had some interest and has done some work in industrial questions, I have listened with a considerable amount of interest to suggestions for the cure of unemployment. The most startling suggestion I have heard is one made by an hon. Member on these benches, when he said that, in effect, you can help un-employment by cutting your £1 Treasury notes into two, and so, by a process of inflation, persuade yourselves that you are richer than you were before. It would be out of order to enter into that subject. One hon. Member on the other side said he hoped that when later we discuss the question of money my hon. Friend would then develop at greater length the argument which he so attractively put forward to-night. I hope so, too, and that some of us who are interested in money questions will have an opportunity of answering him then. I remember the other night, when there were some rather keen passages between this side of the House and the other side, while the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Sidney Webb) was speaking, and we were asking what practical proposals had been made by the Labour party to prevent unemployment, the hon. Member replied that we did not do him the honour of reading his books.
§ Mr. ELLIS
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I was going to say that I have read with great interest all the books that he has recently published, and that while I got much intellectual entertainment and interest out of those books I failed to understand how any of his theories could ever be put into practice. Another hon. Member, I think it was the hon. Member for East Leeds (Mr. O'Grady), said that when we had any scheme of insurance that scheme always came back eventually on to the consumers, meaning that in this country those people who are earning weekly wages have to pay in a double sense; first of all, by their share towards the insurance fund, and then in the calculation which the employer makes as to what wages he can afford to pay. The hon. Member forgot that the bulk of the trade of this country is carried on with foreign nations. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Apart from what we make and sell in this country itself, the whole of our trade which is carried on with foreign nations does not respond to that statement of the hon. Member, for the very good reason that what you can get for your goods does not depend upon the price you yourselves would like to fix here, but on what the people who are buying the goods abroad can afford to pay. Therefore, the margin does not depend so much upon insurance as on what you can get, and the consumer who pays will not be, if you charge too much, the consumer of the goods abroad.
I want to put a few practical points from the point of view of administration, but before doing so, may I say that it is important in connection with the question of unemployment to realise that we must divide, broadly speaking, those who are employed in this country into two definite classes: (1) those who belong to skilled and highly-skilled trades, and (2) those who belong to partly-skilled or semiskilled trades, and casual workers and labourers generally. Therefore, if you have in industry certain trades depending upon foreign markets, as many of our trades are depending to-day upon foreign markets, it is the ability of these foreign markets to buy our goods which determines employment in this country. It is, therefore, impossible in that class of trade for the Government here to do anything with those trades in the direction of producing goods to be sold to 811 foreign countries unless those foreign countries are enabled to buy. Therefore, we are bound to meet that class of unemployment by some means of insurance. I am not going to deal with the question as to how it should be done. Hon. Members opposite know as well as I do that certain classes of skilled workmen in this country are not only unable to do the harder kind of work, but the doing of that work would destroy a great deal of their skill. Then we get to the comparatively unskilled and the semi-skilled, who are capable of doing a good deal of work which is not their normal course of work. A good deal of that labour is split up, if one may use the term, between two or three different trades in the year.
I now come to the question of housing. Nobody understands this question better than hon. Members who represent urban constituencies. Eighty per cent. of my constituents are workers for weekly wages, so I know as well as any hon. Member on this side, or on the other side of the House the difficulties that we have to face in providing houses. That is a question, if I may say so in the presence of the new Minister of Health, which I hope will be taken up not only with speed but with clearness, so that we may get a definite policy, and that we may know where we are. I am not quite sure, from the little experience I have had myself, that the Post Office is doing all it could in these days to carry out all the extensions which are required. In some instances which I know personally, where applications have been made, a great deal of time has been taken in settling the application, whereas we have men in the town existing on what is vaguely called the dole who, if this work were put in hand, under the supervision of skilled men, could be employed and get wages, and they would not have to stand about and take the dole. I hope that the electricity commissioners who have been set up to co-ordinate the system of electricity throughout the country will get on with their job as fast as they can, in order that the areas may be more quickly de-liminated than at the present time, thereby enabling the various local authorities and the power companies to know exactly where they are, so that they can get on with building their stations and proceeding with the work generally, thus releasing an enormous amount of 812 money which could go in the provision of these works. A good deal could be done in that way. Not only would the unskilled man be helped, the ordinary labourer or navvy, but employment would be found which would travel all through the trades which depend upon electricity for their prosperity.
I heard to-night with some interest a complaint on behalf of the local authorities that they are suffering to a tremendous extent from unemployment, and that matters ought to be taken in hand and that the Government should help. I am not sure that in many cases the local authorities of the country are doing all they could amongst themselves in order to alleviate unemployment. Hon. Members who come to this House and watch the progress of Private Business will find that many Private Bills are introduced by many corporations and other authorities for drainage and water schemes and matters of that kind, and they will find that a great deal of public money is spent by these authorities in fighting one another for various areas. I suggest that the Government might set up some kind of connecting committee between the various Departments of the State to go into these Bills when they are brought forward. For instance, in the case of a Water Bill they might say, "Here you have an area in which three or four authorities are interested. We are not going to allow you to spend money and waste time fighting one another. You must get on with the work as a joint body." A good deal of money might be saved in that way and a good deal of time might be saved, and it would enable people to get the work which is so much wanted.
I should like to say a few words about local employment committees which did so much work for the Ministry of Labour during the War, since the War, and up to date. Sufficient credit has not been given to the thousands of men and women throughout the country who have placed their services voluntarily at the disposal of the Ministry of Labour. I listened with great interest the other day to the speeches of the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary, but there was not a word of thanks given to the voluntary workers throughout the country. I am not putting it too high—I have had 12 years as a Court of Referees chairman, and have worked on many local employ- 813 meat committees—when I say that if it had not been for the work done by these committees the system instituted by the State of paying what is called doles could not have gone on at all. I take this opportunity of thanking all those whom I know who have done this work. I say frankly that most of that work has been done by members of trade unions and members of the working class generally, and they have done it, extraordinarily well. I hope that the time will come when it may be possible for the Government to save some money by considering whether the Courts of Referees and the local committee's panels cannot be-linked up together, in order that in time we may be able to take men from the local employment committee panels, which are practically the same panels as provide men for the Courts of Referees, and link them up into a new kind of Courts of Referees, the chairmen of which might be staffed from the large benches of magistrates in all our towns. If you do this you will not only save money, but you will have an opportunity of bringing these people into closer contact with each other which will lead to a better under-standing all round.
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Captain Shipwright.) gave us just now a lot of extremely interesting figures, but he did not carry them far enough. The Government were congratulated on the fact that since they came into office the reduction in the amount of unemployment has been at the rate of 5,600 a week. While that is true, yet if they divide that figure into the number of unemployed persons they will see that it will take between 200 and 250 weeks to get rid of them all, or that it will take some four and a half years. By that time I suppose that the Government will be out of office, and will be able to congratulate themselves on the fact that unemployment has been reduced during their term. What we are anxious for is that unemployment should be reduced very much more, rapidly.
I want to deal more particularly with the position of the Sheffield area which has been very badly hit since the War. I do not want to make a speech of complaint as to the manner in which the Ministry of Labour have dealt with the various schemes that have been put forward by the Sheffield Corporation to the 814 number of 41. Their action has been distinctly helpful, but I would like to point out that the grant from the Government is £155,000 plus a certain percentage on some of the schemes for the service of debt and interest for a term of years, and the whole cost of the schemes is £849,000, and if we take the number of men the schemes are going to employ it works out at rather more than 100,000 men-weeks. If we take it as merely 50 weeks it means employment for 2,000 men on full time for a year. But we have had unemployment in Sheffield now, and in most parts of the country, for the best part of two years. Therefore what has been done would amount to this, that employment for only 1,000 men during this period has been secured. We have 30,000 or 40,000 unemployed, therefore it means that only 3 per cent. have been provided for for that time. If you go to a row of unemployed men and have got to pick out three you cannot then suggest that you are dealing with the unemployment problem.
The Minister of Labour, in a speech at the end of November or the beginning of December, said that we were doing more than we had ever done before. While that is true, there is no question that we are only touching the fringe of the whole matter. Now on the point of money. As I have said, the total estimated cost of the schemes of which the Ministry has approved is £849,000, and the Government grant is £155,000. In other words, the Government grant amounts to 3s. 8d. in the £ which leaves the Sheffield Corporation with 16s. 4d. to pay. That is not all, because while we have these grants from the Ministry we, like every other authority, have a vast amount of money to contribute out of the rates to the guardians to help the unemployed. In Sheffield at the present time that amounts to something just short of £1,500,000. If we add that to the amount that we have got to pay in connection with the Government schemes, which, of course, will ultimately have to come out of the rates of the city, we get a total altogether of £2,347,000, and that means that, while the rates have contributed 18s. 8d. out of every £, the Government is contributing 1s. 4d. Under the present arrangement the more the Sheffield Corporation offers to do, the more work it undertakes to provide for the unem- 815 ployed, the heavier is our burden going to be, and so with every other locality in the same way, and on the unemployment rate at present they are paying 18s. 8d. while the Government are contributing 1s. 4d.
I make a comparison between the five largest Yorkshire towns in regard to unemployed men, on the figures which appeared in the OFFICIAL REPORT of yesterday. The number of unemployed men, per 10,000 of the population, in September last stood in Bradford at 178, in Hull 326, Leeds 322, Sheffield 670 and Middlesbrough 1,121. These figures have been reduced in the month ending 26th February by 30 in the case of Bradford, in Hull there has been an increase of 35, in Leeds an increase of 41, in Sheffield a reduction of 127 and in Middlesbrough a reduction of 396. In last September the amount of unemployment in Sheffield was twice what it was in Hull and in Leeds and four times what it was in Bradford. The figure is slightly reduced now, but the figure for Middlesbrough is still twice that for Hull and four times that for Bradford. Let us ask ourselves why we have this position in Sheffield and Middlesbrough, which I have taken as typical of the areas most heavily hit after the War, not that I want to separate them from the others. The position is this, that the help which Sheffield and Middlesbrough gave towards winning the War is help for which other parts of the country ought to feel greatly indebted.
On that ground we ask that the necessitous areas should receive far more consideration than they have received, and we suggest, in regard to this that a very much bigger view is needed. The schemes which we have are merely playing with the matter, and when all the schemes which have been put forward, or which may be put forward, in the way of road and construction and so forth, are finished, what are you going to do then? We have got to have some further vision on the whole problem of unemployment. We cannot emphasise too strongly what has been mentioned by other speakers—the deterioration that is going on the whole time. If anything like that is to continue it will be a very serious matter for the whole country. The hon. Member for South-East Leeds (Captain O'Grady) made an offer to the Ministry of Labour, which I hope will not be disregarded. The suggestion bas been made that we 816 need something in the way of a constructive policy. I think we need not to take the view, that has been taken in several quarters of this House, that we must always have unemployment with us. If we attempt to realise what that unemployment means in the way of suffering, no one would contend that we ought ever to have unemployment. I think that we do require something in the way of inquiry into the whole of the causes of unemployment, and while I am aware that it has been said that this is not a, time for that inquiry, I am also aware that, when that unemployment is over, we shall be told that there is no need for that inquiry. I think that we ought to face the whole problem and see whether there is not some solution of the whole difficulty.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
I am sure that I represent the views of Members on all sides of the House when I congratulate the hon. Members who have made such excellent maiden speeches, and it is encouraging that a subject, of such vital importance to the social well-being of our country as unemployment, should have called for such excellent contributions at a time like the present. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. C. Wilson)—though his is not a maiden speech—on the way in which he has emphasised the case, of which I would like to say a word, of necessitous areas. I do so with more encouragement because we have with us to-day, for the first time in this Parliament, a real live Minister of Health on the Bench opposite. I am sure that municipal authorities throughout the provinces will join in the congratulations which my hon. Friend the member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) offered to him. With his wide municipal experience, and the great record which he has of good pioneer work accomplished in the Midlands, he is going to be of advantage to the State, especially as Minister of Health, in which capacity his special qualifications will, we hope, bring about new visions and a new future for those of us who are engaged on municipal work in the provinces.
When we come to face the exceedingly difficult problem of unemployment, and the way in which the Government is dealing with it, we must regard it as somewhat unfortunate that the zeal for economy should be such that the Vote for unemployment in the coming year shows 817 a reduction in the amount to be provided. We are all anxious for real economy. We realise that the burden of taxes and rates is crippling industry. But until we can see some substantial reduction in unemployment it is not a time to reduce the assistance which the State has given in the past on this question. Other Members have said that this question of abnormal unemployment, from which we are suffering to-day, is a national and not a local problem. The hon. Member for Attercliffe gave us some figures concerning my own town, Middlesbrough, showing that unemployment was four and a half times greater, not than that of the country as a whole, but than that of other industrial areas in the same county. It is not, of course, the fault of the employers of Middlesbrough, or of the workers, or of the local authorities, that that extra burden is cast upon us, but because the heavy iron and steel industries, not merely in Middlesbrough, but in Sheffield and throughout the country, during the period of the War, performed a special service.
The Minister of Labour referred in a speech the other day to a report which had been issued dealing with three winters of unemployment, a report drawn up by men of business, skilled economists, and those who have made a careful study of the situation. In that report they stress particularly the heavy burden placed on these particular industries due to War conditions. As hon. Members know, the industries of iron and steel formed a special service and workers flocked from other areas into the towns where those industries are located, in order to answer the need of the time. When that particular class of work ceased the men were left there. There was no other work to which they could go elsewhere, and, if there had been, there were no houses in other districts to accommodate them. They were forced to remain in those particular areas, and the ratepayers and the guardians of those districts had thrust upon them a burden which was not theirs originally and which was caused by the War. We say that burden should be borne to a greater extent than it is at the present time, by the nation and not by these localities.
To turn to the question of rating, the latest figures given by the Ministry of Health in the interesting papers which 818 they submit to the House from time to time, show most extraordinary variations. In the right hon. Gentleman's own city, Birmingham, there is a rate of 17s., whereas that of Bourne-mouth is only 9s. The rate in Bradford is 16s., but that of Black-pool is only 8s. 3d. One might go right through the table, quoting instances like that, and we find that in industrial areas there are rates which are double and sometimes treble those of the residential areas. The claim we put forward is that this abnormal unemployment should be dealt with on a national basis. I wish the Committee to realise that the claim is only in respect of abnormal unemployment. There is no suggestion that ordinary Poor Law relief and ordinary rating should be shared by the rest of the country. The claim is that this abnormal burden, which is now breaking industry and retarding the recovery of trade, should be shared in to a greater extent by the nation as a whole. At a time like the present, the Committee will surely agree, much more might be done in providing works of greater benefit than those which are being carried out. Last year in relieving unemployment and in relief by the guardians of unemployed able-bodied men over £100,000,000 was spent, for which there was no return whatever in useful work. I would submit to business men and men of common sense that it should not pass the wit of man to devise a means of using a larger proportion of this money in the payment of wages for productive work, rather than in paying it out for nothing.
Reference has been made to the housing question. There I make a particular appeal to the Minister of Health that he should lose no time in implementing and expediting a scheme for the production of those houses which are so essential to the country. Is it not the height of folly, that at a time when our large industrial areas and congested districts, people are clamouring for houses, we should have 50,000 able bodied men belonging to the building trade walking about doing nothing and drawing unemployment benefit for doing nothing? There is much other valuable work that could be done. More roads could be built, more schools could be erected, more playgrounds could be laid out, more baths and washhouses put up, and many things could be clone to add to the amenities 819 of different districts and give us tangible assets for the building up of the health of the community. Is it not better that these men should be given useful work to perform rather than that they should fret their souls away in idleness, while as has been pointed out they are deteriorating all the time and becoming unfit to take up the burden of industry when trade does revive? I appeal both to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour to consider whether, with the administration at their disposal, they cannot help the local authorities to a greater extent than at present. The local authorities have pretty well exhausted their resources so far as rates are concerned, in instituting these works. Out of every pound spent on this class of work, 18s. has to be found by the ratepayers and only 2s. is found by the State. The State should increase that percentage. That percentage is spread over a limit of 20 years as a maximum, which only means less than one-third or sometimes a quarter of the burden of the whole scheme. The Minister may say that the State is making no inconsiderable contribution, but when we have regard to the fact that the local authority has to bear a burden which is three or four times that of the State, that rates often reach 20s. to 30s. in the £ in addition to rates added for loans for relief of unemployment amounting throughout the country to over £10,000,000, we must realise that the local authorities have got to breaking point and that something more must be done.
The same trouble arose in the Metropolitan area in 1920 and the then Government yielded to the pressure of the local authorities of the Metropolitan districts and brought in a Bill—the Local Authorities (Financial Assistance) Bill—which recognised the principle of a common Poor late for the whole Metropolitan area, whereby the burden was to a certain extent equalised. I know that geographically, it is not possible to do exactly the same thing with regard to local authorities throughout the length and breadth of the land, but the principle is the same and the principle is that assistance should be given by those who can afford it to those who are overburdened by a load which is really a national load. I appeal to the two Ministers I have mentioned, to recon- 820 sider the formula submitted to them by representatives of the necessitous areas, and to see if on the basis of the necessitous schools grant, they could not give some assistance to the local authorities and ensure that these authorities will not be left in their present position which is one of heading straight for bankruptcy. With regard to unemployment benefit, especially un-covenanted benefit, following out a scheme with which I know the Minister of Health expressed some sympathy in days gone by, might not, this un-covenanted benefit be used for assisting local authorities to carry on works of public usefulness? I realise an objection to that would be that the un-covenanted benefit has to be paid out of the insurance fund. I submit the un-covenanted benefit should never be paid out of the insurance fund. You are putting on to the insurance fund a load which, in the future, it cannot carry and this money which is being advanced from the insurance fund should have been paid by the State as a national contribution towards meeting a period of abnormal unemployment, If you admit that that should be done in order to save the insurance fund for the future and allow it to build up a reserve to meet times of stress; if you relieve it of this debt, which you are carrying forward and place that debt on the national Exchequer, then there will be no objection whatever to using the sum now administered as un-covenanted benefit, when drawn from the Exchequer, as a payment, to local authorities towards works of public utility.
We know the sympathies of the two Ministers concerned are with the local authorities, and I hope they may combine to influence the Treasury so as to break down that wall of hostility and objection which up to the present has been adamant on this particular question. As I have said, I assure the Committee that the local authorities in necessitous areas have got to the breaking point. In my own town there are thousands of ratepayers being summoned before the bench for rates which they had not paid and cannot pay. We are placing the burden on the poor of supporting the poor. It is only right and just, that in this matter, we should appeal to those who during the War made big profits in these districts. These profits have not gone into the localities where they were made, because it 821 is not often that the people who own businesses live in a district where the businesses are situated. The share-holders of big industrial firms, of iron and steel works, are not located in those towns where the works happen to be situated, but are scattered through the land. It is only right that those who made big profits out of the War should now, through their taxes, contribute some-thing to the relief of the burden which the making of those profits has involved.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I think the Committee may congratulate itself on the Debate. We have had a great many Debates in the last few months on this vital subject of unemployment, and I must honestly admit I thought some of those Debates did not carry us very much further, but I think to-night, though we have not had put before us any panacea which will solve all our difficulties, we have had a tone and temper in the Debate, coupled with certain useful contributions, on which the Committee may congratulate itself. First, I should like to join in the note of appreciation which has been sounded regarding the maiden speeches to which we have listened this afternoon. I agree with the hon. Member who spoke last, that it augurs well for the future of the House when maiden speeches are devoted to a topic of this importance. May I say a few words about such aspects of the discussion as relate primarily and indeed, I think, exclusively to the Ministry of Labour. Those aspects which relate more particularly to the responsibilities of the Ministry of Health are in most able hands to-night, and I shall not venture to trespass on ground which naturally is not mine. I shall deal first with the speech of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson). He referred, though incidentally, to a topic to which we have all devoted a good deal of attention, the topic of the utilisation either of benefit, or some equivalent grant, in aid of wages. A Government Report has been issued which puts the case, I think fairly clearly, against the utilisation of the benefit from the unemployment insurance fund for that purpose. That statement expresses the regret which we all feel, that we have been unable to discover, after careful consideration, a means of using the benefit or its equivalent in this way without depression of wages and the other disastrous conve- 822 quences which resulted a hundred years ago from similar grants in aid. Therefore I am bound to say I must join issue with the hon. Member on that point. He said he would not suggest that such grants in aid of wages should be made from the unemployment insurance fund.For this relief, much thanks.I, as trustee of the fund, should have had to fight a battle with him on that point. I do not think, however, the hon. Member's proposal in that respect really eases the situation. All the difficulties involved in administration, all the difficulties which are mentioned in the Report, and the great difficulty which is involved— necessarily involved I fear—in any grant in aid of wages, namely that is bound to depress wages, will apply equally whether your grant is made from the insurance fund or from national sources.
Mr. T. THOMSON
I only suggested it in regard to public works carried out by local authorities, and not to wages generally.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I accept that suggestion, and in the Report which was published on behalf of the Government, a careful differentiation was made between a grant in aid of private wages and a grant in aid of wages paid by municipalities. Of two dangerous things the latter, I agree, is the less dangerous, but the broad fact is that the same argument applies, namely, if you use money from public sources in aid of wages, even though it is only wages paid by municipalities, then to the extent to which those wages are paid it would tend to have this deleterious effect. I am afraid I cannot go to that extent with my hon. Friend. I hope he will forgive me if I leave the rest of his speech in hands much more competent to deal with it than mine. A remark was made when I was out of the Chamber with regard to an omission on my part, and I must say the remark rather cuts me to the quick. A suggestion was made that I had not expressed sufficient thanks to the splendid employment committees operating throughout the country, without whose magnificent assistance it would have been quite impossible for the work of the Labour Ministry to be carried on during these times of distress, and quite impossible for unemployment benefit to be administered with such care and thoroughness as 823 it has been administered. It cuts me to the quick for two reasons.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I do not know where it came from, but all the same it cuts me to the quick, and for two reasons. First, I profoundly regret that the impression should be abroad that I could have been guilty of such an omission; and, in the second place, on every occasion when I have stood at this Table I think—certainly on a great many occasions—I have stated that I was profoundly grateful, more grateful perhaps than I could express, to these splendid committees for the work they have done. I have said over and over again, both here and in the provinces, that without their assistance it would have been impossible for us to carry on. I hope, therefore, the hon. Member will forgive me if on some occasion when I have expressed these sentiments he did not happen to be in the Chamber.
Before I give a sort of progress report, I would like to take one or two of the interesting suggestions that were raised in the Debate by speakers. One is a suggestion made in his admirable speech by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris), who, I am sorry to say, is not here at the moment. Speaking with an intimate knowledge of the East End of London, he referred to the case of the small industries there. He made a suggestion, to which I listened with interest, as to whether it would not be possible to do something on the lines of what was done in the War, namely, to have committees to see whether, in the case of small industries which have suffered through the fact that the whole machinery of international trade has been smashed, it would not be possible to pick up those who were engaged in them and fit them into other small industries. That was an interesting suggestion, and I hope the hon. Member will give me an opportunity of talking the matter over with him to see how far progress can be made along those lines. Then the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Captain O'Grady) pressed us with the precedent of what he himself recommended some years ago. It is always a very convincing argument to a speaker if he himself was responsible for the pre- 824 cedent. He said, "Why do you not arrange plans ahead in times of prosperity and when trade is good?" The more effective preparation there can be on those lines the better; we are all agreed about that; but I would like to put it to him, and I am sorry he is not here, that there are immense difficulties involved in that. In the first place, the scale of the works has got to be enormous. The reproach to us from the other side of the Table is that, admitting the figure of 200,000 employed as the result of the Government scheme, that number is too small in proportion to the 1,340,000 unemployed. That criticism indicates that the schemes you are to envisage in times of prosperity in order to pick up a large number of people in times of crisis and of unemployment have got to be very big indeed—on a vast scale. Apparently you are to have schemes which can be turned off and on like a tap. You are to have schemes to pick up labour in bad times and release it when times are good; you ought to be able, somehow, to contrive schemes which you can carry on up to a certain point, and then put them into cold storage till you want them again. That is not a very easy thing to contrive, as all will realise who have had experience of administration and of dealing with large numbers of unemployed persons, and it is a matter which requires also a great measure of Governmental control.
It will be said, "That can be done through the local authorities. They are in the position to adjust very largely their requirements, to postpone them when there is no immediate necessity, and to bring them on when there is." With that I agree, but the acceptance of that idea cuts across the criticism that all these schemes should be undertaken by the nation as a whole and not through the local authorities. I should like to say a word or two about that criticism, because it is constantly urged against us. It is said, "You at the centre have endeavoured to devolve responsibility as much as you could. You have attempted to make other people and not the State pay. You have attempted to make the local authorities, and not yourselves, do the work." That was put to me by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh) in moving the reduction. I wish he would carry the reasoning in that argument a little further. He says, "Relieve all local 825 organisations of their burdens; this is a national problem; throw it boldly on the Exchequer." If the Exchequer were overburdened with resources, if it were a sort of bursting granary of gold, there might be something to be said for it; but when you have got a depleted Exchequer and a Chancellor casting about to see if, haply, he can find some new person to tax, and indicating that there are considerable difficulties in adjusting his Budget, then to throw this burden on the Exchequer must mean taxation. It can mean nothing else. If you have increased taxation, that means, inevitably, a certain amount of inflation, and that means a certain amount of depreciation of wages, so that, even though wages are nominally considerable, they cease to be real wages. I do not think that is desirable. I have a good deal of sympathy with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Malden (Major Ruggles-Brise), who, in his maiden speech, dealt with the policy of deflation as a cause of unemployment. There is a good deal to be said on those lines, but there is also a good deal to be said on the other side. While it is true that the restoration of the gold value of the pound and its parity to the dollar produces some difficulty, it produces a good many advantages as well, as we shall discover when we begin to pay off our American debt. I venture to suggest to the Member for Ince that it is not true to say we are dealing with this problem entirely by thrusting the burden on somebody else.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
Well, very largely. I venture to suggest we are dealing with the problem by a combination, a very reasonable combination under the circumstances. Take the Unemployment Insurance Act. That has a fund broad-based as the country, which is administered from the centre. Then you have the schemes which are, as it were, half and half; those under Lord St. Davids Committee, the loan arrangements, the Ministry of Transport schemes and all the development of roads, which go on what Americans would call the 50–50 basis. Those are cases where there is half a national effort and half a local effort. Thirdly, you get an effort which is purely—subject to certain cases of real distress—a local effort—I mean work carried on by the guardians. That, I 826 suggest, is a reasonable way of endeavouring to carry the burden—by the co-operation of the national and the local forces.
An appeal was made to me by the hon. Member for Ince with regard to women's training, an appeal with which I have considerable sympathy, and also with regard to the question of juveniles, and the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) reinforced the same appeal. I should like to say a word or two about those special topics. I feel a little difficulty in dealing with the Vote generally, because the Debate has not proceeded quite on the lines indicated by the reduction as it appeared on the Paper. As it appeared it dealt with two items, relief and unemployment. But the Member for Ince—and I take no exception to it, I am not complaining in the least, but it makes the thing not quite so clear as it might otherwise have been— dealt with Item 1 on the Paper, Unemployment Grants to Local Authorities, whereas the reduction was moved on the whole Vote, so that we could discuss it altogether. Some of the Speakers were not quite clear which item they were referring to when raising points or directing criticisms. It was suggested by the hon. Member for West Middles-brough that there was a reduction under the first head, but there was actually an increase of the unemployment grants to the local authorities, a small increase, but still an increase.
If the hon. Member will look at page 5 of the Estimates, he will see, when he says there was a decrease from last year, that that is only true if he omit the Supplementary Estimates. I am not going to suggest that Supplementary Estimates are desirable things, but in times of crisis like this they are sometimes unavoidable. It is only if you include the Supplementary Estimates of last year that you can suggest that there is a diminution. As a matter of fact, there is an increase on the Vote on Account. The Vote on Account deals, broadly, with two things. It deals with the local authority grant, under the first head, and with some miscellaneous items under the second. I propose to deal with them both together. Under the second head, there are various special topics mentioned on page 5, 827 specifically. They include drainage, afforestation, women's training, juvenile unemployment centres—which I have already mentioned—and three cases of loans to local authorities, so that, coupled with the work of the Unemployment Grants Committee—Lord St Davids Committee—it really covers a good portion of the field, though it does not cover it all, by any means. The whole of our program is rather a large picture, and what we here get is only one or two of the items.
I could, if the Committee desired it, give a progress report of the additional works that have been undertaken in regard to relief works—that is to say, by Lord St. Davids Committee—through 60 per cent. grants of wages or loan. I could also give a progress report on the work of the Ministry of Transport and the development of roads. If the Committee desires it I will do so, though I do not want to weary them with figures. We go through these things at intervals of about a fortnight's duration, nowadays, and it is a little difficult to know how best to assist the Committee in the matter. I will, as shortly as I can, give the figures. First of all, as to the Lord St. Davids Committee; one portion of their work is the financing of small schemes for local authorities, who do not want to borrow money, by grants of 60 per cent. of wages. The original scheme had come to an end, and I announced an extension in November. The position there is, that of the £600,000 available from the central source, which would mean work undertaken to the extent of about £2,000,000, £400,000 has been already appropriated, involving about £1,500,000 of work.
With regard to loans under the Lord St. Davids scheme, hon. Members will recall that they were of two characters. There are the loans in respect of revenue-producing schemes and those in respect of non-revenue producing schemes. In the case of the non-revenue producing schemes, they are on the basis of 65 per cent. interest and sinking fund, up to a period not exceeding 15 years. In the case of revenue-producing schemes, the terms are, naturally, somewhat, more stringent. Under the two heads, 1,728 schemes were approved, and loans sanctioned amounting to about £17,500,000. That was before the new programme was 828 arranged for this winter. Since then, from November up to the end of February, 1,532 additional schemes have been approved, involving £9,000,000 in loans, making a total, since 1921, of £26,750,000 out of a possible £30,000,000. Therefore, the money there has been of use, and is fructifying in the shape of effective schemes.
As to the Ministry of Transport, the figures in the programme which I announced to the House in November, involve £5,300,000. On the 15th February, a little more than a fortnight ago, I announced an extension of £5,600,000, making, roughly, £11,000,000 in all. The Committee will realise that when these programmes are launched it takes some time before they come into operation. Roads have to be surveyed, and so on, and they come into operation progressively. Under the November programme, 177 schemes have been approved, involving well over £2,000,000 of work. Under the February programme there have been 73 schemes approved, involving well over £1,000,000. Under both programmes schemes are being pressed on rapidly, and surveys, for instance, of such new roads as the Kingston and Sutton by-pass road, the Glasgow-Duntocher-Bowling road, and the Birmingham-Wolverhampton road, are progressing or are nearly completed. Directly the surveys are completed, the work will be put in hand. This is an instance of what I suggested just now, that it is not very easy to find schemes which you can press on during times of bad employment and slacken on when the times are better. When work on these roads has been undertaken, even if employment gets much better in the summer, it will probably be necessary to carry it on, or else there will be a certain amount of wastage.
There are other items in the programme which must not be omitted from the general picture. There are things like the general work undertaken by local authorities, very often under Government suggestion. There is also the question of acceleration of work by Government Departments, which I have mentioned on more than one occasion. I have had the figures checked again—I have not given them under each head. So far as I can estimate, the figures, which I gave on 15th February, of 141,000 as directly engaged as the result of our efforts, and 829 of 200,000, including trade facilities, as finding employment directly or indirectly, have increased by a thousand or two. I cannot put it much higher than that, since I reported on that only a little more than a fortnight ago.
§ Mr. C. DUNCAN
I understand that between £11,000,000 and £12,000,000 is being raised by taxation of motors. How much of that money has been spent, what schemes are there for spending that money, and how much has been spent on the roads?
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I said that most of these road schemes were Ministry of Transport schemes. That means that the money, prima facie, comes from the Road Fund, which is subscribed by owners of motor cars. When it is suggested, as was the case by one Member, that we should use this money, not on road work but in building houses or some other work, the answer is clear, that it is not very fair to the motor user, who pays a somewhat heavy tax for the enjoyment of his motor car, to take his money and use it for building houses. It is not unreasonable to improve the roads with it, but any other object would clearly not be in accordance with the basis on which the taxation was levied. I do not propose to say any more on that subject, nor anything on the subject of unemployment insurance. We shall be discussing that very shortly in Committee upstairs, upon the proposals of the new Bill.
The question was raised in our Debates, a few days ago, as to whether it was fair to call the Unemployment Insurance Fund insolvent because it had borrowed £17,000,000. I happen to have been looking at the figures of the London County Council, which are of interest in dealing with this subject. They are roughly as follows. The income from rates, State subventions, and so on, is roughly £30,000,000, and the net debt is something like £50,000,000. I do not think it is suggested, in this House and certainly not on the Stock Market, that the London County Council can be considered an insolvent body. It. is obvious, on those figures, that the debt of the London County Council is a very large debt and much larger than the debt of the Unemployment Insurance Fund There is this to be borne in mind, in connection with the debt of the Unemployment 830 Insurance Fund. The fund itself is of a very special character, made up by contributions from people who are to benefit out of it. Therefore, I agree, as Trustee of the Fund—I can say no more—that it is essential to exercise every caution with regard to administering that great Fund.
As to other aspects of our programme, I should like to say one word, because I have not dealt with it in other speeches, about the question of overseas settlement. Reports appear in the Press, from time to time, of the progress made in this regard, and the Committee may find it of interest if I summarise the position to-day. As the Committee is aware, the Empire Settlement Act was passed last year. In a full year, it provides £3,000,000 for Empire settlement, that money to be expended on the basis of £1 for £1–£1 by the Dominions and £1 by the mother country. It is clearly essential, before that fund of money can begin to flow and before the body of migrants can begin to flow, that there should be a proper scheme, considered and agreed on between the authorities here and the authorities in each Dominion concerned. I am glad to say that the process of making agreements with the Dominions concerned is proceeding smoothly and rapidly. Agreements have now been made with, for instance, the whole of Australia, with New Zealand, with Ontario, and with Western Australia.
Progress has been made in selecting those who will take advantage of those schemes. For instance, in the case of Australia, 11,648 assisted passages have been approved. In the case of New Zealand, for various grades of settlers, 2,000 assisted passages have been approved. The scheme for Ontario was signed so recently as 1st February last. That was for assisted passages for farm servants and domestic servants up to 4,000, in the next 12 months, and 450 passages have already been approved. The agreement with Western Australia was actually signed on the last occasion that I had the honour of addressing the House, on l5th February. It is hoped, under it, that it will be possible to settle young men, with financial help, in groups of 20 to 30 under proper supervision. Not only that, but it is proposed to clear blocks of land and to establish farms up the number of from 5,000 to 6,000 farms.
In that connection, no doubt, the Committee will bear in mind a very interest- 831 ing scheme which is under consideration in the West for settlement, on the lines of what I venture to call associational emigration. I do not want to go into that at length now, but I think there is a great prospect before us on the lines of what I call associational emigration. Those of us who were concerned with raising troops in the War will remember how the idea of the Pals' Battalions seemed to fill the bill on so many occasions—the idea of men being enlisted from the same neighbourhood, very often from the same street, speaking the same language, having the same associations, very often officered by men they knew. They went to the front as units, and they had a common tie of local loyalty. I venture to think that the old days of migration, of settlement, where the individual, the pioneer, the hardy man, fought his own way, were all very well 50 years ago, but we ought to be able to do something better than that now, and I throw out the idea—I do not want to develop it here—whether it would not be possible for our big counties to do, as Devon and Cornwall are doing, and also for our big towns, to start village settlements in the new countries bearing the names of the old country, sending out their sons, possibly under some sort of supervision, and all the time giving them assistance from home. It is on such lines as these that this scheme of the western counties is working, and it is to some such scheme as this that I think we can look forward for the development of emigration.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I believe the Western Counties scheme does not, at present, but I should like to say this, that this idea that. I was attempting to outline so hurriedly, of associational emigration schemes, would have great advantages in this way. Not only would they derive support from a common loyalty, but they would provide a machinery by which you could fit in, not only both sexes, but all grades of society, and you could send out to the new countries, as it were, complete units. I was very much moved by an appeal that was made to me by the right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) in respect of that large 832 body—300,000 or so—of ex-service men that weighs so heavily on my conscience and, I believe, on the conscience of everyone in this country. I do not know that a country has ever had a problem like that. They are all young men, strong, full of energy, many of them married, all untrained, who, but for the War, would have fitted by this time into some kind of skilled or semi-skilled trade and who, as far as one can see at the present time, have nothing in front of them except the difficulties of a life of casual or unskilled labour. I have no panacea, but I can say this, that that is a problem which weighs with me and is with me constantly. I am taking steps at the moment to see whether I cannot get to a closer approximation to knowledge of the problem on the basis of figures, localities, and so on. It is a much bigger problem in some areas than others, and if any assistance is to be found for the solution of that problem along the lines of Empire settlement— and I think we may find some real assistance there—I can assure the Committee it will be pressed to the limit so far as I am concerned.
I see from an announcement in the papers this morning—and I have no more knowledge of the facts—that we may look forward in the autumn to the, presence in this country of the Prime Ministers and leading statesmen of the Dominions, and that we may hope for the inception of that Economic Conference, from which I hope great good may come.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. NORTONGRIFFITHS
Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate in what way his Department co-operates with the Overseas Settlement Committee?
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I am very glad to be reminded of that. The way in which we co-operate is this. There is the Overseas Settlement Committee, on which the Ministries concerned are represented, including the Ministry of Labour, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour is Vice-Chairman of Committee. In addition to that, the services of our managers and divisional controllers, and staffs of Exchanges are, of course, put at the disposal of this Committee, advertising is done, lectures are held, notices are placed, some of the Exchanges are told, "You can have 50 spare berths in such 833 and such a steamer if you can find the men," and so on. I speak with recent experience, because, as the Committee knows, I have been making a tour through some of the large industrial centres, and I have seen the process actually working, and by means of publicity of that kind we are bringing to the notice of those who may wish to try their fortunes in a newer, freer, and wider country, the opportunities of the Empire Settlement Scheme.
Turning to Item 2 of the Vote, there are certain items there with which I want to deal, and the hon. Member for Ince is lying in wait for me on the subject of the training of women. On page 5 certain specific items are mentioned. There are the headings of light railways, drainage, and afforestation, with regard to which I can report that schemes have been approved nearly up to the limit of the money announced in the programme of November last. For drainage the amount appropriated was just over £500,000, and 1,324 schemes have been approved, and on 24th February there were between 6,000 and 7,000 men employed on them. With regard to light railways, there have been two successful schemes which have been developing, and on those two schemes, one in Devon-shire, at Torrington, and one in the Welsh Highlands, there w ere between 600 and 700 men employed on the 24th February. With regard to forestry, a total expenditure of £100,000 was sanctioned. As I have explained on more than one occasion in this House, the afforestation schemes are particularly valuable, because they are widely scattered all over the country. They do not employ a large number of men, but they serve to pick up a lot of isolated pools of unemployment in a large number of parts of the country. On 24th February, 335 schemes were approved, and there were nearly 2,000 men at work. Under these three heads of drainage, afforestation, and light railways, the money involved was £773,000. A considerable portion of that—about £225,000—is not provided for already, and, therefore, it is included under this Vote on Account of £1,000,000 which appears on the Paper.
As to the question of women's training, which appears on page 5, I am glad to have an opportunity of mentioning that. Somehow in our previous discussions on this subject of provision against unem- 834 ployment it has not received quite the attention which it deserves, and I should like, while I am dealing with it, to render a particular tribute to the work which has been done by the Central Committee that was set up during the War, with Lady Crewe as Chairman; I think Miss Violet Markham has been Vice-chairman, and they have had a very active executive officer, whose services have already been mentioned by the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). I should like here and now to tender to that Committee, to their officials, and to the Chairman and Vice-chairman, the hearty thanks of myself and of the Government for the very admirable work they have been doing now for several years. Their work was primarily the training of professional women, but in about 1921 they started courses for the training of women for domestic service. While I am mentioning the working of the Committee and the personnel engaged upon it, I do not think I should like to lose the opportunity of saying how much the work of that Committee owed in its earlier stages, before her untimely death, to Miss Mary MacArthur. She was, I know, a devoted servant of the Committee and rendered excellent and helpful service during the latter portion of her life.
In 1921 these courses for domestic service were started, and they have done most admirable work. I hope the Committee will forgive me if I say a word or two at this point about the question of the training of women for domestic service, and first of all about the whole question of the position of domestic servants. I was visiting Birmingham recently, and I had the privilege of addressing the Birmingham Employment Committee, and a very prominent and distinguished woman worker in the ranks of women trade unionists was speaking on this very subject when I came into the room. She bears a name very honoured, not only by trades unionism, but throughout England—I mean Miss Julia Varley and she said that it is unfortunate in this country at the moment that domestic service has largely ceased to be an honourable profession. I think that is a very sad state of things. I say it quite frankly, although some of my hon. Friends opposite may not agree with me. We all of us, who are any good in this com- 835 munity, live by rendering services one to another, and I cannot distinguish between grades of honour in service, and the idea that some kinds of service are more honourable or more distinguished than others seems to me, not only a profound mistake, but a great disservice to the community as a whole.
So much for the first point. Secondly, as to the need of training. Some of my friends, especially some of my friends not of my own sex, say to me that there are heaps of mistresses who would be only too glad to get girls without any training at all. I have been taking some pains to inquire into the whole position, and I have put myself into contact with those who have had more experience than I have. I have had the privilege of conversation and interviews with those who are responsible for this women's work in connection with the Young Women's Christian Association, and I would draw the attention of the Committee very shortly to a letter written by a very well known and very distinguished social worker, who is also President of the Young Women's Christian Association— I mean Lady Procter. She wrote a letter to the "Times" quite recently, in which she said:I can personally testify to the splendid efforts being made by many girls trained for other work to obtain and keep posts as domestic servants.That was in reply to a complaint, somewhat uninformed, that had appeared in the "Times" that there was this immense difficulty of getting domestic servants because girls preferred to take the dole. I want to confine myself to the point of training. When I saw this letter, I put myself in touch with the Young Women's Christian Association and with the writer of the letter, and as a result of various communications and interviews she wrote me this letter:I think it may be of interest to your Department to hear that, in consequence of a letter addressed by me as President of the Y.W.C.A. to the 'Times' inferring that untrained girls were willing to enter domestic service, about 100 applications have been received by our Association from employers asking"—for what? Not for untrained girls, butfor trained cooks, parlour maids, housemaids, etc… No offer to take a factory girl, train her and provide her with outfit, has been received. Ladies who are annoyed and bewildered by the dearth of 836 efficient servants have evidently forgotten the large number of girls who would by now be fully trained had they not, with the approval of the whole country, gone from school to make munitions in 1915, '16 and '17.I do not wish to say more than that on the subject of the desirability of domestic training. That the working of the training centres has been good, I can say without hesitation. Since May, 1921, the Central Committee have initiated 289 courses, with accommodation for some 12,000 women and girls. The financial position has been met partly by funds which the Central Committee had at their disposal in their own hands, and partly by the Ministry of Labour, namely, £150,000 in the hands of the Central Committee and £100,000 in two separate grants of £50,000 each from the Ministry of Labour. Down to March, 1923, it is estimated that the cost will be £180,000, of which about £65,000 is from Government funds. For the year 1923–24, it is proposed to re-vote £35,000 from this Estimate, so that the whole £100,000 promised from Government sources will be forthcoming. As indicated by the hon. Member for Plymouth, those courses have been successful—I think one may say, eminently successful. Of those trained, 70 per cent. or over, go into domestic service, and that., I think, in itself indicates that the courses have been successful for the purpose for which they were established.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
Does it mean that the unexpended balance of £35,000 is to be devoted to this particular object during 1924?
§ Sir M. BARLOW
All I can say is that that is all the prevision at the moment. If the hon. Gentleman will look up page 5 of the Estimates he will see that the original Vote on Account was not the only thing that was done for work of this kind. I am giving no pledges, and making no promises, but if he puts it to me whether this is the final word, I cannot say what will happen in the future.
As to juvenile centres, the grave deterioration of young persons in this country is a subject that is. I am sure, of the deepest concern to all of us. It is sad enough, Heaven knows, to see crowds of men and women unemployed, but it is heart-breaking to see young persons—boys and girls, but particularly boys—standing round the street corners, 837 and rapidly going through a process of deterioration, from which it is very difficult to see any salvation. Therefore, I think the whole House will approve the policy of the Government in setting up opportunities for juvenile employment centres on the lines already indicated. Those centres are being instituted by the Ministry of Labour in co-operation with the Board of Education. As I have indicated on more than one occasion, there are educational courses for the boys in handicraft, technical training and physical recreation. The handicraft, of course, is given a local colour wherever possible. For instance, at Yarmouth the boys are taught net-making, and the older boys certain courses in elementary navigation, and so on. For the girls, there are housewifery and physical exercises. The finance of the scheme is for the State to provide 75 per cent. and the local education authority 25 per cent. There have been 72 applications for schemes from the chief industrial centres, such as London and Edinburgh; 48 have been approved and 17 are still being considered. It is anticipated that the attendance at the 48 approved centres will be from 16,000 to 17,000. Nine authorities have so far refused, including Glasgow, Dundee, Sheffield and Coventry, but I do not desire to leave the matter entirely where it rests at the moment.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
If the right hon. Gentleman means that, from the experience of his own constituency, they cannot bear the burden of the 25 per cent., because they are necessitous areas, then I hope he will put it all on the State.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
That is not precisely what I mean, and the hon. Member must not take me as giving any pledge in the matter. But I do think it would be a very bad thing if these nine important areas did not find some means of dealing with the problem, and I will mention a point in a moment from which we may see some light with regard to these areas. On the 28th February there were in full swing 48 centres under 23 authorities, with an average attendance of between 7,000 and 8,000, two-thirds being boys and one-third girls. These centres are in the chief industrial centres, such as London, Cardiff, Manchester, Bristol, Derby, St. Helens, Northampton, Barrow, Aberdeen, and so on. It will be borne in mind, of 838 course, that there is no power to compel attendance (except indirectly, for boys and girls from 16 to 18, by the refusal of the payment of the unemployment insurance benefit unless they attend); and in some centres—for instance, in London—there are voluntary day continuation schools which take a considerable number from 14 to 16 years of age. I mentioned just now that I should have to indicates, possible development. It is an interesting sign that a good many voluntary associations have been taking steps to see whether they could not qualify to start centres under the scheme. That is a movement which I would most gladly welcome; but, as the Board of Education and the local authority are linked in responsibility in the matter, it clearly must be understood that any local agency, such as the Young Men's Christian Association, or any body of that kind, or any social service league, which is willing and ready to start a centre, must do so in cooperation with the local education authority, which must take the responsibility. I do not say that the local education authority need necessarily provide the money if the money is forthcoming from other sources, but the local education authority must take the responsibility. Subject to that being done, the idea, generally speaking, would, subject to the scheme being a proper one, meet with our approval.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that if we can raise by voluntary subscription a proportion of the local contribution, he will make up the amount?
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I did not say that. What I said was, that if a voluntary agency chooses to put itself into touch with the local education authority, make provision of schools, and so on, and hear a proportion or the whole of the cost, then, provided the local education authority can see its way to have the necessary 25 per cent. secured, it is no concern of the Central Authority exactly how that 25 per cent. is made up.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Under these conditions, does that mean that that would take away the control from the Central Authority?
§ Sir M. BARLOW
No. There is no control. The scheme has got to be approved by ourselves and the Board of 839 Education, but the essential linch pin in the whole arrangement is the local education authority, which has the local knowledge and the local experience in a way we cannot pretend to have. They clearly must be satisfied that the proposal put up by any voluntary agency is satisfactory, and they must also satisfy the Government auditors with regard to the proportion for which they are responsible. But, provided that both those qualifications were satisfied, we should welcome the co-operation.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
There, again, I could not possibly answer hypothetically what scheme would or would not be a satisfactory one. It must be a scheme of which the local authority approve, and then, when the local authority approve, and take responsibility, it will come up to us in London in the ordinary way. But I cannot, offhand, say what would or what would not be approved. That must be a question mainly for the local authority. If my hon. Friend has any particular case in mind, and he would like to probe it further, either I or the officers of my Department would be glad to go into it with him. Then with regard to local loans. There are three species of local loans indicated on the Paper. One is where grants for unemployment relief schemes have been approved by Lord St. Davids, and are satisfactory schemes because so approved, but the local authority cannot find the money. That is a case which was put strongly by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) and, I think, the hon. Member for South-East Leeds (Captain O'Grady) also. The second kind of loan is where local authorities, in somewhat difficult circumstances, cannot borrow otherwise, and desire a loan for their general purposes. The third class is that of Poor Law guardians, also because they are in some difficulties, and want a loan. This Vote on Account of £1,000,000 is meant to obtain permission for those three classes of loans. Applications are dealt with by what is known as the Goschen Committee, and there are certain rules which that Committee has to observe. The loans Pan be made for certain limited periods, and there is a provision that the interest must be at the current rate for loans of a 840 similar type, and the interest can be postponed if necessity can be shown.
Some criticism is urged against this policy of local loans. I would be glad— I think we shall all be glad—if there were no necessity to have recourse to them, but I think it is only fair to bear this in mind. The experience of the past has shown that this policy of loans during times of difficulty for a reasonably short period has not been unsatisfactory. There was a period, I think, during the distress resulting from the cotton difficulties in the 'sixties during the Civil War, when the same policy had to be resorted to. I daresay the same criticisms were then used against it—that it was very danger-our, and so on. But the sun shone again, and eventually times got better, and arrangements could be made to pay the loan off. I do suggest, therefore, that the policy is working not unreasonably now, and does not, harbour all the immense difficulties and dangers which are sometimes suggested. The total amount actually borrowed to date, including overdrafts, is about £4,000,000. Under Heads A and B (local authorities) only very small amounts have been borrowed through the Goschen Committee up to date—about £100,000. That really is an assurance that the local authorities are not having this frightful difficulty in carrying the burdens either in regard to schemes, or even the difficult areas, with regard to current expenses. There have not been those heart-breaking, backbreaking burdens sometimes represented from the opposite benches. If there had been a good deal more than £100,000 would have been needed.
In regard to the third head, namely, Boards of Guardians, a considerable amount has been borrowed. The amount is something like £1,200,000, borrowed with the consent of the Goschen Committee. I gave the figure of the local authorities and heads A and B a moment ago. Their loans, including overdrafts, were £4,000,000. For Boards of Guardians the general loans, including overdraft, up to date, were £8,000,000 and £1,200,000 was borrowed under the Goschen Committee.
It is in regard to these five items, which I have gone into more specifically because I thought they required some little explanation, that provision is made in the Vote on Account. I cannot give the specific figures except the £225,000 which 841 I mentioned in connection with the first item, and also the Vote for £35,000. I am sure the Committee will realise it is quite impossible at this stage to say definitely what the figure will be in the coming 12 months. I hope, with this explanation, the Committee will believe that this is not an inadequate provision for the coming 12 months under these heads.
§ Mr. WILLIAM GRAHAM
One of the difficulties of the Debate is that we have to try to work in references to the conditions in Scotland under somewhat trying circumstances. I am glad to see in attendance, not only the Minister of Health— if I may respectfully say so—but also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Scottish Board of Health, either of whom may be able to reply to some of the criticisms which we intend to offer. There is one small point which applies to an important class of the community which I should like to mention. It is one of the lamentable faces regarding the efforts we, have made to deal with unemployment in Scotland that very few of the schemes apply to women. It is no exaggeration to say that in most of the centres in Scotland it has been practically impossible to find any occupation for unemployed women and girls. My complaint to-night is so far we have failed to consider the numerous schemes which have been put forward through Scottish Departments.
Quite recently the Scottish Council of Women's Trades promoted a small but very useful scheme under which a number of women might be employed in poultry farming in the highlands of Scotland. That scheme has been before the appropriate Government Department during one or two years without any result up to the present date. I am not here to suggest that the scheme would have employed more than one or two women at the best, or a comparatively small number, but it is hard that when constructive suggestions are put forward which might employ large or small numbers of people, and when remedial measures for women are promoted, that this sort of fate should overtake them. So I venture to express the hope that in considering the position of women we are going to give particular attention to this matter North of the Tweed.
The main part of the very few remarks which I intend to make will be devoted to-night to matters which more partic- 842 ularly concern the Minister of Health. This is a Vote on Account for £1,000,000 out of the aggregate sum of £1,700,000. Under the head of Sundry Services there are references to the Departments under which this money will be applied. I do not suggest for a moment that many of the schemes which are enumerated here are not valuable in every way, but I do most strongly suggest that some of them are not nearly so urgent as other schemes which have been denied financial provision in the past, and which, in my judgment, would employ far more people now. It has been urged in Debate over and over again that it would be very much better to apply a portion of this money for housing under existing powers under different Departments in the State. I want to try to give a working illustration of what is actually happening in this matter in Scotland at the present time. No doubt we shall share in these grants for relief schemes, and efforts will be made to employ unskilled men. The Annual Report of the Committee of the Privy Council on Education in Scotland has directed attention to the fact that during the past year or two the provision of new schools has been more or less completely suspended, and that a large amount of necessary sanitary and other work in the Scottish schools, for all of which full powers exist at the present time, cannot be undertaken because of the importance of economy in the State. While we are stopping that necessary work in education on the one side, we are going to pour out a portion of this Vote on Account of £1,000,000 in relief schemes in Scotland, which are not nearly so urgent as the one of which I am speaking.
There is another illustration, which is even more urgent. Some time ago, I think almost at the time when the housing policy was suspended, it was announced that for the clearance of slums, and also for reconstruction in slum areas, in Scotland an annual sum of £30,000 would be set aside. The hope was expressed when that Vote was introduced to this House that it would do something to find employment for unemployed men. The same expenditure for men skilled men in the building trades would certainly have helped the unskilled workers. May I illustrate the utter inadequacy of that grant? I make the suggestion that instead of applying the money under some of the heads in this way we should place more at the disposal 843 of the schemes of the kind I have just described. This is an annual grant of £30,000 for Scotland, that is the whole country, for slum clearances. In practice Edinburgh, which is a very important centre for housing reform, will get year by year £4,000, and that £4,000 in the City of Edinburgh will not do more than touch, perhaps, one or two tenements or blocks of property. No Scotsman quarrels with grants of any amount at all, but the sum of £30,000 is absolutely ludicrous. It would be, far better to apply to the slum clearances the principle which is contained on page 6 of this Estimate, where a reference is made to the Forestry Fund (Grant-in-Aid). Under that heading the Government indicates that an effort will be made to provide not so much for abnormal conditions but rather to extend the normal course of the work; to place an extra sum at the disposal of the normal operations and so absorb the unemployed or employ a rather larger number of unemployed. If that principle is good in Forestry—I am not quarrelling with it— it seems to me it would be far better business, especially when we have a large number of people unemployed, to place more money at the disposal for slum clearances and for the provision of houses and provide employment in that way.
There is another argument of a very important character as affecting labour, which I think supports that contention. Much of this work, for which we are seeking to provide, is quite clearly aimed at, what is called unskilled labour. I have heard innumerable discussions, at which that has been suggested over and over again. I want to ask the Minister of Labour whether that is altogether sound policy at the present day? There are large numbers of skilled and semiskilled men and women unemployed. I suggest that if you place more money at the disposal of really constructive schemes, under which I include housing, you will absorb that skilled and semi-skilled labour in the first place, and to a considerable extent you will also absorb unskilled labour. The danger of some of these schemes is providing definitely for a limited number of unskilled workers in many cases and in departments of work not nearly so important as either slum clearance of housing reform. I do trust 844 that in the case of Scotland we will consider that policy at the present day. We are, on this Vote, not allowed to discuss the housing policy as a whole, but I understand we are entitled to draw comparisons between the kind of expenditure here involved and what might be done to provide employment under schemes now in force, of which the annual grant of £30,000 to Scotland is a conspicuous example. The only other point, which I am going to refer to, is one of importance not only to Scotland but to the country as a whole. I may be forgiven if I deal with it in the light of Scottish conditions, in view of what the Minister of Labour has just said. We have had references in this Debate to the importance of making fuller provision for necessitous areas. What has been our experience in Scotland in providing for the very large numbers of unemployed during the past one or 2½ years and the effect on Scottish Poor Law institutions? In actual practice this is, roughly, what has happened. The unemployment allowance has, of course, been granted and extended to a very large number of people.
While the period of the gap was in operation the men and women oscillated between the unemployment insurance allowance on the one side and Poor Law relief on the other. When the gap was reduced the tendency to accept Poor Law relief was probably diminished, but by that time large numbers had exhausted their right, and the Scottish Poor Law authorities were faced with an enormous burden. Bad as that situation was in Scotland in necessitous areas it was not spread over Scotland as a whole, but it was mostly confined to the industrial belt between Glasgow and Edinburgh, with perhaps minor expressions of the disease in the North, and to some extent in the border counties. We made application to the Government, drawing attention to the enormous burdens which had been placed upon a comparatively small number of Scottish Poor Law authorities, and we urged, I think quite properly, that this was a national problem and should be dealt with on national lines, but the Government rejected that contention and placed a large part of the duty on the parish council.
Of course the result was that the local rates bounded up to an enormous extent, 845 and it was quite a common thing to find in Scotland, particularly in the industrial belt, a parish council with a greatly increased poor rate, due to this extra provision for unemployment relief, and next door to that parish there would be a state of affairs in which there had been practically no increase at all. The explanation is that the one parish was residential and contiguous to an industrial area, and to a large extent it had escaped the depression of the times. It had enjoyed not a very large increase over its former Poor Law rate, whereas next door there might be a very heavy burden upon a large number of ratepayers, many of them unemployed. We did our very best to secure consideration of that state of affairs from the Government of the day, and all that we could obtain was a promise that loans would be placed at the disposal of the parish councils in Scotland in order to enable them to face that burden, and they were promised generous conditions as regards the terms of repayment.
May I draw attention to another difficulty, which is, perhaps, largely peculiar to the Scottish system. Before this exceptional distress in Scotland we had in the Scottish Poor Law recourse to what we know as the parish of settlement, that is, if we relieved people in distress we could fall back upon their parish of settlement and make good the expenditure in that way. That had the effect of distributing the burden all over the country as a whole, because in many cases it was common for a city in this way to have recourse to a rural parish. If that had obtained generally, I am inclined to think there would have been a better distribution of this burden over Scotland, but in practice in relieving the unemployed there is no such thing as recourse to settlement at all. The parish councils would find it impossible to apply a scheme of that kind, and the not effect in Scotland of the whole operation has been to place an absolutely unfair burden upon a restricted number of areas which have now to carry a load which in no shape or form they should have been called upon to bear. That enormous load has depressed the chances of industrial recovery where such recovery is most urgently required.
With regard to Scottish rating, we have had the Report of Lord Dunedin's Committee, which considered the position in 846 Scotland. That Report made it perfectly plain that the limit had been reached as to the burden which Scottish ratepayers should carry at the present time. I do not think that is true generally in Scotland, but it is true of the areas to which I have just referred. The question I am going to ask is this. For a very long time in Scotland we have tried to arrive at a definition of "necessitous area." On this point I have no knowledge of English conditions, and I am not qualified to speak upon that point, but in Scotland there is a kind of formula or understanding as to the method by which we define a necessitous area. Presumably that would be one of the areas to be assisted under the scheme now before the House. One of the most distinguished local administrators in Scotland (Sir Thomas Munro) declared a few days ago that, notwithstanding the fact that he and others had applied their minds to finding a definition of "necessitous area" for many years, they had been unable to arrive at a satisfactory solution.
The definition of a necessitous area would include many ingredients, and particularly the industrial condition of the district. In practice we find, for the purpose of a necessitous area in Scotland, the definition depends very largely upon the existence of a high rate, and that throws us back upon the fundamental valuation upon which that rate is based, and which, of course, will influence it to a very large extent. Look at the position in Scotland of valuation as compared with England, and let us ask ourselves candidly whether we are doing justice to the Scottish people in this matter. It is notorious that over a very large part of Scotland the system of valuation is very much better than in England, because, in the first place, it is more up to date, and, in the second place, it is better because the assessor is compelled to enter upon the valuation roll the actual rent of the property, where it is let, and where he is satisfied that abonâ fide rental is being obtained. If the test of a necessitous area in Scotland is to be the existence of high rates, quite clearly we have to look to the underlying valuation. In the ease of the City of Edinburgh we have a very high valuation, and, of course, the higher the valuation the lower the rate tends to be, taking one 847 thing with another, and that is true of other districts in Scotland.
That would lead some people to suggest that we have not to such a great extent necessitous areas as other districts in Scotland, where, perhaps, a larger rate is in force, but there you very often find a lower range of valuation in existence in the locality, so that a district which has a high valuation, and to that extent, perhaps, a lower rate, would presumably get less, or tend to get less, under this method of dealing with the necessitous areas if we rely upon high rates as a test, although, in fact, a district like Edinburgh might not only be more badly penalised by war-time conditions, but we might also be paying more in the aggregate amount, by comparison with other localities, than perhaps districts which were regarded as more worthy of this special treatment. I put that point in debate to-night because it is a very important issue in the Scottish administration of this grant. I do not know whether later in the Debate we shall have any light thrown upon Scottish conditions at all. Owing to the absence of the Lord Advocate, we are at a very great disadvantage in having no Scottish Law Officer present to say what, is to be done as regards Scottish valuation and necessitous areas.
I do not wish to press my complaint, because we on this side can do nothing in Scotland to facilitate the return of the present Lord Advocate to this House, but I urge very strongly that, if we are going on in the treatment of necessitous areas relying on the existence of the high rate test, that is not in Scotland an accurate way to deal with the problem. Our remedy is to make this a national burden, and that is the only way in which the situation can be met. I am bound to add, however, that if we cannot get our ideal realised it is the duty of the, Government to say that, in so far as the burden falls upon the people of the country, it should be fairly and evenly distributed, and should not be enforced upon a limited number of highly necessitous areas, which have suffered most severely because of the depression through which this country has passed.
§ Mr. PETO
Anyone who has watched the progress of this Debate cannot fail 848 to notice the fact that almost every single member who has risen has done so with the single intention of trying to help to some extent in dealing with this great problem of unemployment. Party spirit has been singularly absent from the Debate, and if I find myself more in sympathy with several speeches which have been delivered from the benches opposite than with the speech of the Minister in reply, the right hon. Gentleman must forgive me and not think I am anxious to break the continuity of helpful speeches if I criticise his remarks not so much for any sin of commission as for the omissions on his part. An hon. Member opposite made a point just now which I should like to elaborate for a moment. He pointed out that singularly little is being done to provide for the employment of skilled workers. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh) stated that very little skilled employment is being found, and he urged that if constructional work were undertaken to a larger extent it would be possible to employ a larger proportion of skilled labour which would carry with it unskilled labour. I want to go a step further. I wonder whether the Minister of Labour has ever made any calculations as to the extent to which unemployment is caused by unemployment. To what extent is the absence of purchasing power on the part of the great mass of unemployed in this country causing further unemployment? I cannot say what the proportion is, but I am certain that if we spent more in finding full wages for skilled workmen we should be securing customers for that which is produced by other skilled workmen who are out of employment in other trades.
I thought the speech of the Minister met very fairly the criticisms from the other side as to the distribution of the burden between the rates and the taxes. That question does not seem to me to be of anything approaching the importance which the other side have attached to it. The hon. Member for Ince said that practically no skilled employment was being found. He added that he did not wish to use any words of exaggeration, but I expect the right hon. Gentleman feels that he did somewhat exaggerate in making that statement. Undoubtedly, the bulk of the employment which is being found is of the nature of road-making, and we know that that is not suitable for skilled workmen, neither does it to any great 849 extent provide skilled work. There are no great measures for the creation of national assets or for constructional work. If the Committee will forgive me for going into a very simple analogy, I will deal with the national question from another point of view in order to show how the problem may be tackled. Take the case of agriculture. There the work is seasonal, and the farmers every winter do work of reparation and other kinds of work in anticipation of the next busy season. We do not dismiss the farm hands wholesale in the winter. We look around to see what we can give them to do in preparation for the next season's work. Again, take the case of ship-owners. In the busy time their vessels have barely time to turn round in port, and have to be sent to sea often covered barnacles. The moment things begin to slacken off, what do the owners do? They employ people indirectly, not exactly the same people, perhaps, by putting their ships in dry dock, by fitting them with new engines and boilers, and they prepare them for the next busy season. In every trade and industry there are alternations of busy and slack times, and in the slack times it is customary to make preparation for the next busy season.
Why should not that system be applied to the national problem? It is not as though the unemployment problem has not arisen in previous years. It is due to changes in trade. We were the country which other countries looked to to produce manufactured goods required in the development of all countries, and we always had markets and we always had cargoes for our ships. But that period is dead. All countries are now adopting the policy of producing everything they can for themselves, and they are bound to get our trade. We must look at this question from that point of view and also from the point of view that this is undoubtedly a period of exceptional depression. I need not go into the reasons for that, they are well known, they are many and complicated. But in so far as it is seasonal unemployment, due to war, due to the dislocation of Europe, it is undoubtedly the proper policy for the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport and every Ministry concerned with employment, to think of great constructional works which will occupy a large 850 proportion of the skilled labour, and which will make production in this country cheaper in the future when business again is good. If they will adopt that policy it will put us in a better position to compete with the industries of other countries all over the world.
The hon. Member for Ince said that three-quarters of the £90,000,000 or the £50,000,000 which has been disbursed in unemployment benefit was admitted to have been contributed by employers and employed, and he was not sure that the other quarter would not; ultimately come out of the pockets of the workers. Neither am I, as I am convinced that it does not matter where you put the burden in the first place, it will ultimately be paid by the great mass of consumers in this country. It does, in one form or another, always filter down to the actual people who form the great bulk of the population. I do not, therefore, feel any anxiey about equalisation as between rates and taxes. It seems to me at the present moment that almost every person who walks the streets may well label one pocket rates and the other taxes. As soon as he puts half-a-crown into one pocket the tax collector will take it out, and if he puts a half-a-crown into the other pocket the rate collector will take it out. It is very much the same if he puts the live shillings into one pocket and nothing into the other. It will all be required in these times either for local or for national purposes. But I quite admit there is good reason why the burden should be eased in exceptional cases to the ratepayer. Undoubtedly, ratepayers are at, the limit of their powers in many cases. I notice in this Estimate there is provision for loans in certain cases. I do not object to the principle of loan. I think it better they should be granted, because when we get through the worst of these times we can review the position and regulate what is to be done about the loans.
Just in the same way the burden of this exceptional unemployment is being put on to national insurance schemes. It is being carried forward as a debt, and that is perfectly correct accountancy. When the time comes for us to settle up, we shall probably realise, as we have done in connection with the larger question of the War debts, that all classes in this 851 country have been fighting this question of unemployment, and, when it is a question of paying back or starting the unemployment scheme with a clean sheet, we may have a Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time who will be able to take a broad view, and, perhaps, consider that from the national point of view it is better, as in the case of the Inter-Allied War Debts, to regard it as a thing which it is necessary more or less to write off. For the time being it is perfectly right to carry it forward as a debit, to be considered in the future when the occasion comes. I want to conclude by making a suggestion which I have brought before my right hon. Friend and also before the present Minister of Health; and may I say I am very glad that that right hon. Gentleman was appointed to that office, not only because of his great experience in local affairs in Birmingham—in housing problems and every problem with which his Department will have to deal—but also because he took a most active interest in the canal system of this country. Only in 1921 we had the Interim Report of the last Committee appointed under the Ministry of Transport, which bears the right hon. Gentleman's name as Chairman. I do not think there has been anything since the Interim Report, and that Interim Report was only one of the many matters which he has taken up in connection with this question of canal transport. I remember that the first time I had the honour and pleasure of meeting him was when he came upstairs to one of the Committee rooms to give a most interesting lecture to Members on the canal system known as the Birmingham Cross, in which he was much interested and with regard to which he gave all the figures and facts.
I notice that in the last Interim Report are definite, concrete suggestions with regard to the derelict canal system of this country, which if they were put into practical effect, would provide an enormous amount of work for skilled labour. I should like to make it clear that making a canal is very different from making a road. Making a road is nearly all pick and shovel and barrow work, but a canal involves an enormous amount of engineering work — locomotives, rails, trucks, excavating machines, quay equipment, and the like, whether it is a big ship canal like the Clyde and Forth Canal or a smaller inland waterway. During 852 the War we had to pledge our future credit up to the very neck in order to win through, and now we have another problem, the peace problem, which is just as serious, before us. Instead of this constant drain in order to keep people just from starving—for that is really all we do—I suggest that we simply pledge the credit of the country to some extent. In regard to the Clyde and Forth Canal, a series of questions were put by hon. Members opposite only on Monday last, and I find that, on the question of the practicability of the scheme, the Prime Minister said this:The Government only make inquiries when a definite scheme is submitted."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1923; col. 30, Vol. 161.]What is the position? No company is being promoted. There is an association known as the Mid-Scotland Ship Canal National Association. They are not out to promote any scheme or make any profit, but they believe this will he a great national asset of enormous benefit, not only to the Navy for the defence of the country, but to that district of Scotland lying between the Clyde and the Forth. The one thing they want in order to get closer estimates of cost is a survey. It is a somewhat costly thing, which would employ a considerable amount of highly-skilled technical labour, but, surely, in a time of unemployment, the Government ought not to turn down the whole scheme because its promoters—or rather, the people who are interested in it, because there are no promoters—cannot prove that it is going to be an immediate commercial success. The Government say they will not look into it or make any further inquiries because these estimates cannot be produced, and a survey cannot be undertaken. Why should not the Government grant this survey, and put on to it the most skilled engineers that they can employ, people to make the necessary borings, and so on, in order that the matter may be closely estimated and gone into to see whether it will be a paying proposition within a reasonable number of years?
We have a great deal to encourage us. Just the same sort of thing was said about the Manchester Ship Canal, of which the right hon. Gentleman knows far more than I do; but the way in which the freight trade of Manchester has increased since 853 the making of the canal is really absolutely phenomenal, while we know that the trade of the Port of Manchester has increased in infinitely more rapid proportion than the trade of the Port of Glasgow. It is impossible to say with any absolute certainty beforehand what will be the actual return to the country on such an investment. All that is required is that the Government should guarantee for a certain number of years a certain rate of interest on what would be, probably, the debenture stock of the company. Taking the figure of £24,000,000, which is the most likely estimate that can be arrived at, it is not an enormous sum for the Government to guarantee for, say, 20, 25 or 30 years. If such a guarantee were given, it would tide over the period during which traffic was developing. It would make the scheme a practicable one from a financial point of view, and contractors could be got to undertake it.
I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider seriously the Government's attitude with regard to such a scheme. The Prime Minister's answer, to which I have referred, is definite—the Government only make inquiries when a definite scheme is submitted. A definite scheme cannot be submitted without considerable expenditure on a survey. There is no company promoting any scheme, but only an association of gentlemen who have spent a good deal of their own money upon what they believe to be a national matter. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at this question of unemployment, from now onwards, from the point of view of whether he cannot do what practically every hon. Member on the other side of the Committee has asked, namely, devise constructional schemes. I do not exclude the question of housing, although I do not mention it, because I am not particularly anxious about the future of the unemployed in the building trade. I am confident that the Government's housing scheme, when we know it, will absorb most of the unemployed labour in the building trade. I do ask, however, that schemes may be undertaken which will absorb a far greater proportion of skilled labour than mere road-making, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider road-making from the following point of view. Hon. Members opposite have shown how hardly hit localities are in the matter of rates. When we are making all these new roads 854 all over the country, we are really imposing an increased charge upon local rates in the future. Roads 60 and 80 feet wide will cost a great deal more to keep up than the old roads which have been found for years to be quite sufficient for the local traffic, and which, perhaps, had a road surface 24 feet wide. We are doing that all over the place. Cannot we spend some of that money in grants to these local authorities to enable them to recondition and put in order their own roads, and so help the local rates, which are largely paid by farmers in rural districts, instead of making grand new roads which in some cases are only required for long distance traffic which the local people have very little interest in and which will be a burden on the local rates for years.
§ Mr. PETO
I find myself in complete agreement with the general complaint which has been the tenour of practically every speech from those benches, that of the money we are spending far too large a proportion is being employed in merely, so to speak, keeping people alive, and far too little in the direction of employing skilled labour. Not only the right hon. Gentleman's Department but all Departments of the Government need to bring more vision to this problem and to see whether, taking their courage in both hands, they cannot do something on a more adequate scale to deal with this great problem.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I should like to compliment the hon. Member who has just sat down on the courage he has displayed in refusing to run atilt at Members on these benches because we are not always putting forward, as we are told, suggestions of a constructive character. This is about the first time I have heard the compliment extended to us that he has extended to-night. We hear a great deal about the lack of constructive ideas on these benches. As a matter of fact, we hear rather too much. To my mind, listening to these discussions and contemplating the suggestions put forward by the Government itself, takes my mind back a few years in the political discussions which have ranged round the question of unemployment. I remember the first Act of 1905. Surely the position occupied 855 by the Government to-night and the position occupied by the Conservative party in 1905 mark a considerable advance, but where they are to-night we were in 1905, and practically every proposal that they have made they have taken from proposals put forward from time to time by Members of this party. Therefore I protest against this constant assertion that nothing of a constructive character comes from these benches. The difficulty is that we are compelled to be destructive of the actual proposals put forward because they are always falling so far short of the actual needs of the case. What is the matter with these proposals now? The difficulty the Government is in at the moment is that they are contemplating this unemployment as a temporary phase, whereas it is likely to be of a very important character. Unemployment in this case, I am sure, is not going to be of the short duration to which we have been accustomed in the past. The last few years have considerably changed this problem from every point of view. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Peto) told us that there has been considerable development in ether countries. He speaks of trade with other countries. We have to remember that most countries, not only in Europe, but in Southern America, are becoming industralised. They are all producing commodities that we used practically to have a monopoly of at one time, and there is terrific competition going on, and most of the nations which have become industrialised are finding themselves with surpluses. The consequence is that, because of the surpluses remaining in the varions countries, these periods of unemployment come with recurring frequency. The period between good trade and bad trade gets relatively shorter than was the case some few decades ago, and therefore, because that is an indubitable fact, which I think no one on the benches opposite would deny for a moment, it behoves those who are dealing with this problem not to look at it as a temporary thing, but to regard it as something which needs considering from a somewhat different angle. Mention has been made of skilled workers. I have known skilled workers put to work on relief jobs who have been ruined for their own trade. I have known scores of men who have been rendered unfit for taking advantage of an opportu- 856 nity, when it came, of pursuing their own employment. You cannot put a man to hard work and expect him to go back to watchmaking. Their hands get spoilt and they lose the sensitiveness required for delicate operations, and this kind of thing is not good enough from that point of view.
With regard to this question of the need for a change of point of view, the War changed a good many things. In the years of the War we developed invention and methods and processes to a quite abnormal degree. The productive power from the mechanical point of view developed in the four years of the War in a larger ratio than in any previous 25 years in our history. Plants in all parts of the country were developed abnormally and mechanical power increased. That is true not only of our own country but of every country which took part in the War or in the production of war material, because the neutrals developed just as we did ourselves. Our steel plants have developed abnormally, and steel plants developed in practically every other country in the world in the same ratio as here. It is true of Belgium, of Germany, of America and of France, and we are in the position that the industrial capital of the country is so vast that there is no chance of finding that plant employment for a very considerable length of time. We are in a very abnormal situation, and one of the difficulties of the Government is that they refuse to face this question from the enlarged point of view which has become necessary. There is an allotment of money here for afforestation. There are reports upon afforestation. Committees have sat on the question. The need for afforestation is recognised, but £50,000 for afforestation is surely an absurdity, considering that even during the War we denuded our hillsides of the few woods and trees which existed to a very large extent. Fifty thousand pounds seems a ridiculous and grotesque amount for dealing with the question of afforestation when one realises that various committees have postulated the idea that the amount of afforestation required in this country, even before the War, would necessitate an expenditure of at least £15,000,000.
Do we not recognise that afforestation would be a very profitable and suitable method of work in this country? I am 857 not supposed to be a patriot from the War point of view. I did not take the point of view of hon. Members who sit on the other side during the War. What I did see was this, that this country was placed in a particularly dangerous position owing to the possibility of our food supplies being cut off. I found, further, that the enormous calls that were being made on our shipping for military purposes increased the risk in regard to our food supplies, because armies must be supplied with material even if civilians go short. During the War it was clear that we were using a very large amount of our mercantile marine for the carrying of pit props from abroad, because the labour of our miners was essential, not only for ourselves and our Allies from the naval point of view, but also for the purpose of military operations. Had we been enabled to utilise some of the potential resources that lay at our disposal through a previously well-considered scheme of afforestation, there would have been hundreds of thousands of tonnage available for the carrying of foodstuffs; but that tonnage had to be devoted to the carrying of pit props and timber for use by our own miners in our own mines.
From the point of view of national safety, it would pay the Government well to embark upon an extensive scheme of afforestation, and to think a little less about some of the schemes they are developing at the present time. The difficulty is that the Government is bound by its own philosophy. It does not like the idea of public ownership. It wonders to whom the forests will belong if afforestation takes places. If it could he done by private companies showing a 10 per cent. profit we might be asked for a subsidy, and hon. Members opposite would accept subsidies and guarantees with the alacrity that they have displayed in other directions already. That is a point that must be considered in relation to this question, namely, the point of view of ownership. There we get to the Government's position in regard to housing. The whole idea of property being owned by public bodies is deprecated. It is considered a wrong policy for a municipality to own houses. Municipalities can have drains and sewers and things about which there is no profit, and from which profit cannot be extracted, but they must not own houses.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member seems to be going into rather wide questions. He must keep his argument directly to the question of unemployment.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I was trying to show that but for this bad philosophy upon which the Government bases its policy we might get more unemployed men engaged in building houses. It is the Government's point of view that prevents the unemployed builder from getting on with the construction of the houses for which people are dying. There is no doubt about that; because had health has increased through the lack of housing. We are lacking in co-ordination between the various Departments. There ought to be closer co-ordination between the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health. These two Departments ought to work together in a far more complete manner than appears to be the case to-day.
I want to deal with the question of necessitous area. I have the honour to represent Merthyr Tydvil. The rates of Merthyr Tydvil are extremely high. Merthyr is usually held up as one of the bad boys of the family; as an example which other towns are warned not to emulate. We have been cursed in Merthyr with an extremely large amount of unemployment in proportion to our population. The difficulty is, that the rates are assessed in a rather different way from the way in which they are assessed in most towns. In Merthyr the rates are assessed upon the output of the works of the borough. The great steel works at Dowlais have their rates assessed upon total output. The colliery companies are also assessed upon output. When bad times come and trade falls off, and there is a large amount of unemployment to be looked after by the local authorities, even under the Government schemes, and while the number of unemployed is increasing, financial burdens are increasing, and the monetary demands are increasing by leaps and bounds, the amount which the borough can receive from the rates goes down, because of the bad trade and the fact that the rate-able value of the works and mines has decreased. That places a borough like Merthyr Tydvil in peculiarly difficult circumstances, and in these circumstances such a borough has a right to come along and ask that this burden which rests upon 859 them, and which is not attributable to any fault of their own, ought to be borne in a more equitable manner by the more fortunate areas outside.
We have had a very detailed, elaborate, careful speech by the Minister of Labour. The speech was informative, and I am sure that within the bounds of his Department he has laid his cards upon the table, and told us what he would like to do and what he is prepared to do. I have nothing to say about the right hon. Gentleman, but I would point out that the method of dealing with this question of finance does seem to require a little recasting. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the burden that would be cast upon the taxpayers if certain schemes were put into operation. That depends upon the kind of scheme. If your schemes are likely to be of a profitable character, you need not burden the taxpayer with taxes. If those schemes are of a profitable character, why is it not possible to raise the money on loan, and allow the interest to be repaid from the revenue derived from the undertaking. This introduction of revenue-producing schemes is not on all fours with the problem of war expenditure. We raised huge loans in this country with which to finance military operations. We should have been better off to-day if more had been raised by taxation and less by loans, because so far as the War itself is concerned there is no return for the expenditure, apart from the actual results of the War. Perhaps hon. Members opposite are satisfied with what they have got for their money; but I should not accept that. But when you come to expenditure upon undertakings which may be of a revenue-producing character it seems to me possible to raise your money by other means.
It would be no use telling citizens of Glasgow that they have been taxed to provide their magnificent service of tramways, and it would be the same if you went to Manchester and said the same thing. They know that they have carried out those works on loans which they have repaid from revenue, so that they are standing to-day practically cost-free so far as the ratepayers are concerned. If the Government went in for schemes of that description from the national point of view the taxpayers instead of being 860 burdened might be relieved of the burdens which they now carry, and employment of a different character would be found, employment for skilled workers as well as for unskilled workers. Reciprocity would be set up between one set of workers and the other; the mere fact that you had solved employment at one end would produce employment at the other. The new consumers would set other people at work. Increased employment for the bricklayers would increase employment for the cotton operatives. If we approach the question from that point of view and allow ourselves not to be frightened by mere names, but establish a policy fixed upon clear principles from the point of view of the whole and not of a section, the problem would be dealt with in a far more effective way than seems likely to be the case at the present moment.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
Very practical suggestions have been made in this Debate in connection with unemployment which deserve very serious consideration by the Government. The remarks of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Wall-head) on forestry and housing are illustrative of that. These are schemes that give a permanent return, and, though the return on forestry may be very distant, the return on housing would be very immediate. I associate myself with the hon. Member for Barn-staple (Mr. Peto), who suggested the prosecution of the mid-Scotland Canal. The Prime Minister said the other day that the Government were unable to do anything until definite schemes were placed before them. I have been hon. secretary of the Mid-Scotland Canal Association for the last 12 years. That association has been putting before the Government schemes during the last 10 or 12 years, and I am glad to see that we have so many supporters now. The remarks of the hon. Member for Barn-staple are very apposite.
Here we have a great national scheme; it is not a Scottish scheme. It is only an incident that the canal happens to he in Scotland. The facts in favour of it are that it shortens the distance from the East Coast to the West, and provides a route for ships injured in the Navy, ships injured during war and ships which require repair. If the Admiralty had said 12 years before the War what it said 12 months ago, that canal 861 would have been built in time for the War, and we should have a permanent route for maritime traffic for all time at no cost, for the cost of the canal would have been saved during the War. The prospect of war is not now very great, but the mercantile value of the canal would be very great, and the fact that it would not pay immediately should not deter the Government from taking up the scheme. At least they could make the inquiry that is necessary. All the data upon which the cost would be based are not yet known. There are two possible schemes. One is viâ Loch Lomond; that would involve taking a large area of land, the sale and development of which subsequently would probably pay a large part of the cost of the canal. The other is a canal direct From Grangemouth, which, while it would cost more, would pass through industrial districts. I would recommend this to the serious consideration of the Government, and I hope that they will at least make such inquiries as will enable a decision to be arrived at.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
What amount of tonnage would have to pass through the canal to make it pay on its capitalisation?
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
It was estimated recently that about 12,000,000 tons of mercantile shipping would pass through the canal every year. That has been disputed by some, but it has been calculated on a very detailed basis, and I think that it is approximately true. But what the Canal Association has suggested to the Government is that they should set up an inquiry by a representative of the Board of Trade, a representative of the Admiralty, and a representative of the shipping interests. An expert committee of inquiry like that could determine how far that canal would be justified by the prospect of mercantile shipping using it. When we consider that the whole of the European shipping on the West Coast of Northern Europe would probably prefer to pay the canal dues through a canal like that, instead of going round the North of Scotland or coming through the congested English Channel, it is obvious that a very large revenue would come from the Atlantic shipping alone, apart from the coastal shipping which would inevitably make use of it. The strategic 862 advantages might not in themselves justify the canal now, and the mercantile advantages might not in themselves justify the canal, but the two combined most certainly would. This has been claimed by the Mid-Scotland Canal Association for the last 20 years.
I would like to refer to some other topics of this kind on this Vote. Speaking generally, unemployment is not a specific disease for which there is a specific cure. It is rather an epidemic which has very many causes, and in so far as we can discover the causes and remove them, we can avert unemployment. Trade, we have been told over and over again, is the great cure for unemployment. Trade is like a river. It will flow if you remove the obstacles in its path, and if trade comes unemployment will disappear. The obstacles to trade revival are the difficulties in the way of private enterprise. There is one enterprise that could be developed in this country that would greatly relieve unemployment and would lead to permanent good. I refer to land reclamation.
I have examined personally nearly 30,000 acres of reclaimable land on the coast of Britain. I have examined the Firth of Forth, Morecambe Bay, the Solway Firth, and large tracts of land which to-day can be economically reclaimed. Large tracts have already been reclaimed, but they were reclaimed from 50 to three or four hundred years ago, and they were recaimed at a time when labour was about 9s. a week or less, and all the work was done by hand. But to-day, the development of ditchers in America and Canada and the development of embanking and suction dredges have so reduced the cost of labour that spoil is often turned over in America and Canada to-day at one per cent. per cubic yard. Large areas of land have been reclaimed by these modern ditchers in such a way as to make land available now. This is rich, virgin land. I am not talking about land which has to be fertilised, but land which, a few years after reclamation, will produce as much as 85 bushels of wheat to the acre. I have seen land on the Firth of Forth in crop, and watched the progress of the crop, and I have seen its results, and it produced 85 bushels of wheat to the acre—wheat of a very high quality. There is one area on the Firth of Forth of over 2,000 acres of exactly similar land on the foreshore, where the 863 farm is situated, which produced these rich crops. That land would not be reclaimed to-day as land was reclaimed a hundred or more years ago—that is, it would not be reclaimed by hand. It would be reclaimed by modern machinery. I have seen ditchers in Canada which ditched fourteen feet wide by four feet six deep and did a mile a day and only two men a shift working it. These men were enclosed in the covering over the dredge and it walked on six feet, almost as if it were human. That land was turned over at a cost of 4d. or 5d. per cubic yard.
I suggest to the Government that the question of land reclamation round our coasts should be re-examined. Great areas have been examined in the past and it was shown that it would not pay to reclaim them; but these require to be examined again in the light of modern developments and the, possibilities of modern machinery and I am quite sure a fruitful source of employment and of profit would result. One of the ways by which private enterprise can be stimulated is by removing the obstacles in the way of private enterprise. In 1918 when the Land Drainage Act was going through Parliament I suggested a way by which this could be done. When I suggested to people round the Firth of Forth that this land was so valuable that it might be reclaimed very economically, they said the burden of taxation and rates was so great that it would almost equal the value of the land by the time the land came into productivity. It was said that if you reclaimed land on the foreshore it was land which had been covered with tide water, and you would have to wait until all the salt was out of the land and that would take anything from three to ten years dependent upon the rainfall and upon the amount of sunshine. I moved an Amendment to the Act I have just mentioned which met this case. The Amendment wasThat all land reclaimed from the sea for the purposes of agriculture, and while it is so used, shall, in regard to the increased value given to it by drainage, be exempt for is period of 20 years from the time when it s first brought into cultivation from all taxation other than that provided in this Act.Rates and taxes are a burden upon private enterprise and it seems to me there is no reason why you should not, for a certain period after reclamation, 864 exempt that land from taxation. If you do so, private enterprise will reclaim that land because it will be productive long before any of these great national and local burdens of rating and taxation are placed upon us. It would pay the State directly as well as indirectly. If that had been done 25 or 20 years ago, that land would have been reclaimed and the country would now be enjoying the benefit of the rates and taxes arising from its highly improved and developed state I believe it is possible to give a great amount of stimulation to private enterprise if we exempt from these burdens certain private enterprises which would be operative if it were not for them. There is one other item with which I desire to deal. There are ninny minor local enterprise or local State activities which could be undertaken almost at once. As I said before, unemployment is so many-sided and there are so many causes of it that you have to search everywhere and relieve it here and relieve it there. You must try not to look for certain individual cures or methods, but try, wherever you find an opportunity, to stimulate private enterprise or to guarantee by the State, works which are profitable and likely to be of permanent good. That condition is essential. Wherever you find the opportunity of doing so, you should do it at once.
I mention one illustration in my own constituency. There is a, post office required at Dumfries. Dumfries to-day pays £736 a week in unemployment benefit. The Post Office authorities bought a site for a post office several years ago, and the land is there lying waste while a post office is urgently needed. Another Government Department requires the old post office, which local postal requirements have now outgrown. It would be possible to start that work and relieve a great deal of local unemployment or, at least, make the money which is being expended do something effective. Instead of men receiving £736 a week for doing nothing, they would be getting twice as much for doing something, and the State would benefit. The post office has got to be built, the land is there and has been paid for, yet the work is held up. That is one illustration, and there must be many throughout the country where, if a little courage were displayed and a little enterprise shown on the part of Govern- 865 meat, a great deal of work might, be provided for those who are now unemployed, and the demand upon the Exchequer would be lessened accordingly.
§ Mr. BURGESS
I listened intently to the speech of the Minister of Labour particularly to the proposals whereby he hopes to deal with the large number of unemployed women in this country. I must confess that once again the right hon. Gentleman has convinced me that hon. Members on the opposite side of the House do not really grasp what it means to be unemployed. There are approximately a quarter of a million unemployed women in this country and the only suggestion offered by the Government is that some might be trained as domestic servants. I was interested to listen to the remark of the Minister that, he could not, understand why A was that domestic service was looked down upon. We on this side of the House can understand why that is so. [HON. MEMBERS: Why?"] We are fully acquainted with the fact that large numbers of women had to pass through the mill of domestic service as it was in pre-War days and we find—and this cannot be disputed even by hon. Members on the other side of the House— that quite a large number of the domestic servants in this country were truthfully described as "slaveys" because the terms of their employment in a large number of houses, constituted nothing more nor less than slavery. The conditions which they were able to secure during the War improved their status considerably in as much as it was recognised that every human being required a certain amount of relaxation and leisure and their leisure time was increased from the old night off once a week or once a fortnight to a few hours a night out or probably every other night out. I am sorry to say we find now that there is a scarcity of jobs for women in this country, that a large number of people who are in a position to employ domestic servants, are once again reverting to the bad conditions which prevailed before the War. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Members may say "No!" but I remain convinced that what I have said is absolutely correct.
§ Mr. BURGESS
I wish to inform the hon. Member that there are a large number of girls to-day who are having to 866 endure conditions that no woman should be compelled to endure, in many homes in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rot!"] It is not rot, it is absolute fact. I know these facts may be distasteful to hon. Members opposite, and I know I shall say several things with which hon. Members opposite will not agree. I shall consider that I have done effective work and shall take it is a compliment if they say "rot" at the end of my speech. What is the proposal put forward by the Minister with regard to the 40,000 boys between the ages of 16 and 18 who are out of work? We are told that some centres have juvenile establishments taking in some cases five or six thousand boys, but there are large numbers of boys who are receiving no training at all, which means that in the coming years if trade ever does boom—it does not seem as if it is going to do so in the near future—we shall have a number of unskilled men out of all proportion to those who are necessary to carry on the trade of the country as skilled workers. I am sorry that the Government is not prepared to deal with this matter in a more enlightened manner than apparently it is prepared to do. I listened to the Minister with regard to the proposals to send men out of the country to seek a home abroad, and I am sorry that he did not elaborate more fully the fresh proposals that he is putting forward under the Empire Settlement Bill. It w as certainly a novel suggestion not to ask a young fellow to go abroad and work on a farm thousands of miles from his home without any of his kith and kin near, and I should be pleased to know that it would be possible that where a man or woman are compelled to seek a home in other lands they should at least have the consolation of knowing that they were travelling, and were going to settle down with, those with whom they have so much in common by reason of coming from the same neighbourhood, or by being relatives.
All these proposals prove to my mind conclusively that the Government has done nothing and is going to do nothing that the local authorities have not done or will be compelled to do. The. Government is still pursuing the policy of placing the burden of the unemployed man in this country on the shoulders of those who are the least able to afford it. In this 867 country to-day the incidence of unemployment does not fall in equal proportion on all the towns. In some cases, according to the statistics issued by the Minister of Health up to June last, we find that there were in Sheffield 205 unemployed persons to the 1,000, while in some other towns it was as low as 10 per 1,000. That means that a local authority which has a large number of people unemployed is still having to bear the burden of maintaining those unemployed persons, whereas a snore fortunately situated town is not having to contribute anything towards the burden of its less fortunate neighbour. Our contention is that the only solution is that the State should accept its responsibility of dealing with the unemployed, and should not compel the burden to rest on the shoulders of the local authorities. Local authorities to-day were never in a more desperate condition with regard to finance. The policy that has been pursued by the Government is one of actually encouraging local authorities to borrow money in order to meet the current expenditure. If a Labour Government had done such a thing, it would have been termed wild-cat finance. We are prepared to state that this is wild-cat finance in the very worst form. It is throwing on the local authorities a burden that they should not be compelled to bear, for we find that by reason of the fact that a large number of inhabitants of a certain town are unemployed the prosperity of all sections is affected. It means that the traders, the professional classes, all feel the effect of a large number of people being out of work, and yet on their shoulders is placed this extra burden equally with those who are not directly affected by being out of work themselves. On their shoulders is placed this burden that ought to be placed on the shoulders of the nation.
Borrowing money in order to meet this burden means that the ratepayers in years to come will also have to bear a burden that should be met to-day out of the national resources, and not out of the local resources. The unemployment evil has to be paid for, and it has to be paid for either in money or by the people. It. is being paid for by the people to-day in the shape of misery, loss of happiness, and loss of health. It means that many children who are growing up to-day, because they will not receive sufficient 868 nourishment, will never know what it is to be strong, healthy, human beings. We claim that if it is right that money can be raised, and will be raised by taxation, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated the other night, if ever this country has to fight for its life again in order to find the ways and means—we must fight in order to save the lives of so many people who need their lives saving to-day. It is no good waiting for war to break out to raise money in order to save the life of the people who are not prepared in times of peace to save the lives of the little children who are slowly dying of starvation. We know that is actually taking place to-day. I wish I could compel every Member of this House to be unemployed for a certain length of time, and I would also compel them to live on the dole. Then I am convinced that in a very short time drastic measures would be passed to deal with the greatest evil that exists to-day.
I could not help smiling when I heard the Minister refer to afforestation. We are told that £50,000 is going to be spent. In Germany, before the War, between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 people were wholly or partially employed in afforestation. In this country quite 1,000,000 people could ultimately be wholly or partially absorbed if real schemes of afforestation were embarked upon by the Government.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir JOHN NORTONGRIFFITHS
May I be permitted to add my congratulations to our new Minister of Health, and to express the belief that his great business experience will aid considerably in solving the very difficult problems he now has to face, and also that it will he to the benefit of this House, generally. It was with great pleasure that I listened to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Dr. Chapple), because I know of the great work he did during the War, particularly in helping in the initial stages of the development of plaster of Paris or wooden legs for legless men. I am not quite sure, but I think it was the plaster of Paris upon which he concentrated first. The hon. Member dealt with one point, in which I have taken some interest in the past, that of reclamation. We have heard it stated in this House, on more than one occasion, and I was glad to hear it from the benches opposite, that the efforts of the State should be directed towards solving, or try- 869 ing to solve, the unemployment problem by providing useful work, and that an attempt should be made to do that by carrying out work which in time would yield some return. I think some effort should be made to follow up the work of the Department that was set up after the Armistice to deal with reclamation schemes. I believe exhaustive inquiries were made all over the country, at great expense, to ascertain where works of that nature could profitably be undertaken. I have often wondered where the results of that very careful investigation, by competent men, were to be found, and whether we should reap advantage if we could only get access to them. I believe the Department has been closed up; and all those documents have probably been pigeonholed and lost. I would suggest, however, that if they are available the right hon. Gentleman should have them taken out.
The previous speaker, to whom I listened with interest, referred to what, has been said about domestic servants. I do not think it was his intention, but he did convey to those of us who were listening, that it was a life of slavery, from start to finish, for everyone who happened to take up that calling. No doubt there are cases where domestic servants have to work harder than they ought, but, on the other hand, there are hundreds and thousands of cases where quite the contrary exists. I could give an illustration of three cases, the details of which I know. I have gone into them, and I know that what I am about to say does exist. In one case, the domestics have had a broadcasting apparatus put in, and once a week they are allowed to have their friends come in and see them. They have a gramophone, and they live as happy a life as any people could wish to live under any circumstances. I am sure the hon. Member will be willing to admit that, even in domestic life, there is a good side as well as a bad side, as there must be in every sphere of life. There are many domestics to-day who would not give up their calling even if they were able to obtain what might appear at the moment to be a more attractive occupation; they would be quite content to carry on. If we can only get back that happy old spirit between master and men, in whatever sphere of life we are—I have had my boss, many and many a time, in days gone by, as a 870 youth and in my young manhood—if we try to understand one another, to work for each other, and to help each other, it will be a much better world to live in than it is at the present time.
The hon. Member also referred—that brings me to the matter in which I am particularly interested—to boys, between the ages of 16 and 18, going overseas. May I assure the hon. Gentleman that I was a very naughty boy at the age of 17. The result of that naughtiness was that I went overseas, and I consider that that was the best day's work I ever did. As a result of 17 years of overseas life, I have never hesitated to give advice to all my friends. I am constantly asked by people what they should do with their sons, and if I can help them, or advise them. I have always given the same answer—I gave it to-day; I am giving it almost daily— "Get your young boy overseas, somewhere, and let him get a chance of swinging a cat without knocking his head against the wall." I know it is true that many who went overseas at my age are dead and gone, but that was from old age; and that is what I am suffering from at the moment. This does open up a wonderful vista, however, for some of these youngsters who go overseas. One of my two sons will soon be old enough to go. He will go for the experience as far away as I can send him, and he is looking forward to it with pleasure.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I will deal with that problem in a minute, and that is my quarrel with the Government at the present time. My son will go, and will get his experience, as have others. I am sure there are many hon. Members, in all corners of the House, who have relatives or friends in some overseas country, where they went with just enough money to take them there. They have made good, they probably have a big farm of their own, with live-stock, and have been successful in their ambition to get on in life. I could give picture after picture where I have had some connection with men during my life, young people, who have gone overseas and made good, and are now doing very well and are very happy. I will give one instance. In a bad trade period, I think in 1911–12, in Stafford-shire, I met a family—a man who 871 had five children and a wife. This was a case where I heard he was in trouble, and I said I would make a, point of calling to see him. I found him with his wife and his five children, very despondent and unhappy, because he had been nine or ten months trying to get work.
I put this proposition to him. I said, "I am going out to Canada, and if you like I will take you and your wife and children, and I will find you work." He said, "I do not want charity." I said, "There is no charity with me. I will go to the mayor of this town, and I will lend the money, or get the money somehow for you, and you will repay it to the mayor as and when you can." He said, "That's a deal." I went to Canada and on to Vancouver, and sometime afterwards I went again to Canada, and I saw that man at Vancouver. He had moved from the little dwelling he first got to a bigger and better house. He went from that to something still better, and when I got to his home, instead of seeing five poorly clad children as I had previously seen, I had well booted, healthy, happy children jumping into the car which had driven me there, before I could get out of it, and he and his wife also greeted me. He had made good and had by that time become a prominent man. His eldest daughter was working in a jam factory. Incidentally, I believe that man finished up with a family of ten, and today he hopes, from what I have heard recently, to contest one of the elections for a member of the local legislative council.
I could give a dozen other pictures, but I will mention only one now. In about the same period, 1911–12, I wanted to try and place 20 young women in Winnipeg, and I got a group of ladies there interested, with the result that one of them came over and acted as matron, and took out 20 young girls. We kept trace of them. They were looked after the whole way. They were met at St. John's or Quebec, and put on the train, and they were taken right to Winnipeg, where they were taken great care of. I went 12 months later, and followed up the history of every single girl of that bunch of 20. Everyone of them had married and was doing extremely well and very happy. I want simply to ginger the Government up to that state of try- 872 ing to get the local effort referred to by the Minister of Labour, whom I congratulate on the good work he is doing. I want, to try and get his Department to tune up to a point where he will encourage any local effort, if they come to him, or to the Colonial Office, and say, "We, ourselves, can help ourselves; give us your State aid under the existing law, and let us get busy." My whole complaint to-day is this. I have tried time after time, by questions and by letters, to get a move on, to try and get some machinery working quickly, whereby we can help people who want to go overseas—not to encourage them—there is no encouragement necessary. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not stay at home?"] Why should you stop them going if they want to go? The whole House of Commons could not have stopped me going at 17, and why should you want, to stop others? I do not want to encourage them to go.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I do go every year almost. I want to let every single man in this country go who has relatives in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or Canada who want them to go, to test it. I had a cable sent to the local Press in New South Wales, believing that this great emigration scheme was going to be some big move, suggesting that they should send me the names of any people in England who wanted to go for whom people out there could find work or for whom relatives could find homes, and I have had dozens of letters coming in by the last. mail and the mail before, in reply. Let me put this to the Committee, and I appeal most, seriously to the Front Bench. A family receives a letter from some overseas connection, say, in Sydney, Melbourne, New Zealand, or South Africa, or somewhere else, saying, "If you come, I will give you a home and work, so come along. I cannot, afford to pay your passage, but I believe you have some big emigration scheme at home in England which will provide the wherewithal to enable you to join me." Any individual anywhere in England, or Scotland, or Wales may to-day get such a letter, but how are they going to proceed? Are they going to the Colonial Office or to the Minister of Labour 873 —some family in Shropshire, say, or in Scotland—to knock at the door and say, "I have received this letter; I want to join my kith and kin overseas"? It is impossible to conceive that we can go ahead under the existing machinery which is available to-day. It is too laborious.
You have a Colonial Office to-day overloaded with work, with Mesopotamia and the Near East brought in, in addition to Ireland, and one Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the lot. I was much interested to-night in listening to the Minister of Labour, and I thought that one of the best things that could happen possibly would be to get the Minister of Labour to take over the emigration problem from the Colonial Office. His Department would have more time than the Colonial Office to attend to it and to concentrate the whole of their attention on this very important problem. Why is it important? Before the War, according to Um figures available, we had 450,000 people who migrated every year. There were five years of war, so that there were five times 450,000. Two years after the War you are doing nothing, and you can say that you have, in round figures, something approaching 3,000,000 people who would have emigrated in the ordinary course of events without any assistance, had not the War stopped them from going. That is the problem to be dealt with. I remember being on a boat going to South America, and getting through the wireless on board ship the message that the previous Government were going to vote £300,000 towards overseas emigration or development. I sat down, and drafted a wireless message, to every Minister of the previous Cabinet, praying and hoping they had made a mistake in the wireless, and that it was £3,000,000 instead of £300,000.
I know that our good friend the Under-Secretary to the Colonies has his heart and soul in this movement, and so has the First Lord of the Admiralty, and always has had. Other members of the Government are also keen. Then why this delay? There is no effort. We are just creeping along, after all we have heard. Then I begin to think. That is when I get cold feet. I do most earnestly urge upon the Government to 874 realise this point of view. You will never get any real relief in this country, even if you get, a trade boom, which you will not for seven or ten years, until you give freedom to those who want to go overseas, and you let them migrate wherever they want to go, the Empire for preference. I have letters from two men who served in my regiment, asking whether they could get overseas, and the answer was that there is no fund to let these fellows go back where they came from to fight in the Great. War, and here they are stranded. I maintain that it is cheap money to let those men have their passages to go back where they can get work. I do appeal, therefore, to the powers that be to try to open up some channel. I have asked my question of the War Office. It; cannot be done. I put another question to another Minister, and got the same answer. Those- men ought to be allowed to go. Let them have their third-class passage money, if necessary. A man in this country wanting work ought to be able to go to some responsible member of the Government— my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour I should like to see; there could be no one better—and say to him, "Here is my proof; my brother writes asking me to come and join him. Can I get my passage money? I will go steerage," but there is no answer from anyone telling him how to do it. By my own efforts some seven men and their families have gone in the last month, or are going, but there is a limit to individual effort.
We want some bigger, quicker machinery inside the Government to meet this pressing problem. I have no idea of holding up the House the whole night, but I have got off my chest what I wanted to say. I conclude with this appeal to the Government. I want them, to realise that, however willing the Colonial Office is, it cannot handle this proposition satisfactorily with the Overseas Committee consisting of 16 Members. No Committee of 16, 10, or 7 could get a move on. I do not care who or what they are. The best committee is a committee of two and one stops away. If you, really want to get some big, quick result, let some responsible Minister have full powers from the Cabinet to go ahead and get on with the business, and so satisfy the desire of the people in this country, who are simply 875 longing to go where they know they can make good, and lead happy lives.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I want, briefly, to deal with the problem of unemployment so far as Scotland, particularly Glasgow, is concerned. May I remind the Committee that quite recently the Prime Minister visited the City of Glasgow, and there he was met by a deputation of unemployed, who pressed upon him the problem of unemployment. I would like to ask the responsible Minister present to-night how far those promised plans of the Prime Minister have developed. On that occasion, when the deputation met the Prime Minister, he promised them relief schemes, and said everything possible would be done in order to solve the problem. The Prime Minister met that deputation primarily as a Glasgow member, and we find to-day that the number of unemployed in Glasgow has increased within the past 12 months. The number of unemployed in Glasgow has increased by fully 300 inside of 12 months. We find alongside of that, despite the promise of the Prime Minister to the deputation, that the number of people employed in relief work is down by 800. Here you have the Prime Minister meeting a deputation, and promising them work, and instead of work being found there are 800 less employed to-day on relief work in the City of Glasgow than there were formerly.
Might I direct the particular attention of the Scottish Office to the problem of housing. I find from the answer to a question given a week last Tuesday that the Scottish Office admitted that the local authorities asked, roughly, for 30,000 houses to be built in Scotland. That was the demand for the local authorities. We find that since that demand was made, in the last four years only 24,000 houses have been put up, and that there still remains in Scotland the need for well over 100,000 houses. Alongside of that, fully 18,000 builders and auxiliary workers are idle, together with foundry workers in Falkirk and other places in Scotland where there are large numbers of unemployed. If you set your building trade workers to work that would mean immediate employment of these large numbers of other men. Last week we met metal employers, and they pleaded with us to get the Government to do something to proceed with houses 876 and work of that description, because, they told us, that as soon as that began moulders and other craftsmen would be given employment. I would plead with the Scottish Office that here they have, in the first place, a definite promise by the Prime Minister to a Glasgow deputation to do something for us, and, instead of doing anything, the number of unemployed have gone from had to worse. Less relief work men are employed, and housing schemes in Scotland are almost at a standstill. Instead of paying £10,000 weekly in doles in the City of Glasgow, approximately the amount paid to metal and light castings workers and others, you should spend that money, nay, much more than that money, in building the necessary houses.
One word upon another subject raised by one of the hon. Members for Edinburgh, that Scotland was being given a grant of £30,000 for slum clearances. Thirty thousand pounds will not meet the demand of Glasgow, let alone the rest of Scotland, for slum clearance purposes. It would hardly meet the demand for two streets in Glasgow. Any person who knows Glasgow knows the urgent and the clamant need there is for slum clearances there. I would urge those responsible to pay heed and to give work to men, and not doles. There is need in Scotland particularly for new houses. The urgent problem of a Government who had thought for the welfare of their people would be to see that every useful man was employed in useful work. I hope the Scottish Office and the Minister of Labour will give employment wherever they can to help, and so help to solve the problem of housing, and also to improve the conditions of the people.
§ Captain ELLIOT (Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health, Scotland)
I shall only detain the House a few minutes to deal with two or three points which hon. Members have put, and to deal with them briefly, as the general case will be reviewed by the Minister in closing the Debate. The particular point put forward both by the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Gorbals Division of Glasgow (Mr. Buchanan) were that particular attention should be given to Scottish unemployment, and particularly to the question of housing. I 877 think it is a matter of general agreement with hon. Members that the problem of housing, while a very important problem, as in general is the welfare of the nation, is not a case in which the unemployment is so pressing as it is in the other trades.
§ Captain ELLIOT
But the hon. Member will admit there is something in the distribution of these 18,000 men. There are certain trades and classes, we all know, where the unemployment is more, severe than in others. It is useless to attempt to smooth over the fact that we cannot absorb that number of people in housing in any particular area, because the housing industry has to be considered as a whole, and in some areas the building trade has a much heavier incidence of un-ployment than in other places. Consequently, when you find, as has been found in the past, that there is a very strong resistance on the part of the trade unions to any scheme of dilution in certain areas, it is necessary for us to take that into account in the general figure of unemployment in the building and other trades, and still more in the general unemployment throughout Scotland.
With that one word on the question of the housing position, I wish to refer to one or two of the observations made by the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh. He pointed out, as certain other Members did, the small amount of money which had been spent for relief schemes for unemployed women. Undoubtedly this is an aspect of the problem which will require, much closer attention in the future than it has received in the past. He spoke of slum clearances, work on which in many towns would relieve by absorption many of the unemployed. I would point out the estimate for schemes to the extent of £30,000 was allocated to local authorities on schemes which they themselves put forward, with reference to the amount of work which they thought they could get accomplished within the next two years. The local authorities did not themselves consider that a very much larger amount of labour could be got for these schemes than there was in the schemes which they put forward for our consideration at the Ministry of Health, Edinburgh. The main point put forward by the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh was the problem of the necessitous 878 areas. We need in this respect a standard definition to be come to as to what is a necessitous area. That will be dealt with by the Minister of Health in the general review of the situation, and, therefore, I will only say that it is not a problem peculiar to Scotland alone. It is a problem where definition is necessary, and that is one of the great troubles of the responsible authorities at the present time. I have not time to touch on the general schemes which were put forward for Scotland—the question of afforestation, the Forth and Clyde Ship Canal, and so on. I do not want to accentuate the position of the Home Rule Parliament which meets every evening just now at Westminster to discuss our own Scottish local affairs. Briefly, however, I would say that these two points, housing and the question of necessitous areas, are questions which, though important to us in Scotland, must be considered in relation to the state of trade in the country as a whole. These problems are not separate for Scotland. You cannot divorce Poor Law relief, or housing, or the Forth and Clyde Ship Canal from the general state of trade throughout the country and the general finances of the country. Any other points which hon. Members wish to raise I shall be pleased to discuss with them privately, but I do not consider that I would he justified in discussing any longer Scottish local affairs, though I was anxious to reply to the few hon. Members who had raised specific cases.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
There are one or two questions which I would like to ask before the Minister replies. The Minister of Labour spoke of the amount of money which is being spent on road work, and I think he mentioned the sum of £11,000,000. In looking at the Estimate I notice that there appears to be no sum put down for 1923–24 as a Treasury contribution. Are we to gather from that the only money to be spent on road work is the money received by the Road Board out of motor taxation, and that there is to be no further grant from the Treasury? If that be so, I think it is rather regrettable, because of all kinds of work that can be utilised to relieve unemployment this work seems to be the most satisfactory, and it is one of the most useful objects on which money can be spent. I think we have always been too niggardly in our expenditure on road work. There 879 is no doubt that with a greater development of motor transport than there has ever been before the planning of roads on a large scale will be a vital necessity for the future prosperity of this country.
I think on this question of roads we find ourselves playing about a good deal touching up and repairing old roads, but if we wish to deal with heavy transport by heavy motors successfully you will have to construct roads of the character adopted in the United States, and not merely patch up your road or construct roads that are not going to suit this purpose. I want the Government to go boldly ahead and spend a considerable amount of money for this purpose. I am rather surprised to find that there is a diminution in this Vote as compared with last year, because I cannot see in the unemployment situation any justification for diminishing the amount of money to be spent. Although it is quite true that unemployment has improved a great deal during the last six months, and is improving every week, it is doing so at a rate that cannot give us any hope that we shall have solved the acute depression in the very near future.
I am rather distressed by the policy adopted with regard to the training of domestic servants. Of course, this is a subject which can be much better discussed by the lady Members of this House, but I think it is admitted that there is a great lack of domestic servants, and I was rather astonished to hear hon. Members on the Labour benches say that these servants had to accept any kind of situation. That is not the case in London, because I find ladies complaining that there is not a place where they can get domestic servants on any terms. If that is so, surely the amount put forward of £35,000 is entirely inadequate, and it would pay us much better to increase this amount and have more training in order to get these people off our books.
Another question I would like to ask is, to what extent are private agencies being utilised by the Overseas Settlement Committee on the question of emigration? At the conference over which I presided not long ago we had an interesting paper by one of the chief officials of the Salvation Army. It was a very practical paper, in which he gave an account of the vast experience which that organisation 880 has had in sending Poor Law children overseas. Why should not some such organisation as that be utilised by the Government? Are we to understand that all the Government are prepared to do is that where a private organisation will grant a £1 for a child the Government will find another £1? Surely, if you can use this organisation and have the assistance of their skilled staff and experience, it would be an economy, knowing that the money will he well administered to give them the whole sum, and not restrict this good work by making a bargain which is really no bargain at all.
One hon. Member has referred to loans to local authorities, which he has described as wild-cat finance. I have had a fairly long experience in finance, and I do not know that I have been accused before of wild-cat finance. When you are dealing with a temporary state of affairs it is a wise policy to anticipate future revenue in order to help you over present difficulties, and that was the system of loans which was adopted. I do not now enter into the wider question as to whether the burden should be national or local, but I would point out that there seems to be a kind of curious distinction drawn between the local and national purse, and there seems to be an impression that there is a national purse which exists only in the abstract into which you can dip your hand, but even then the local taxpayer would have to pay his share of it. With regard to what has been said by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. A. V. Alexander), I have some recollection of administration on this subject in Sheffield, and, if I remember rightly, we experienced very considerable difficulties because the rates paid by various boards of guardians in that district varied.
§ Sir A. MOND
I am speaking on information conveyed to me from time to time, but I am quite ready to await the report of the inspector on the subject. 881 There is one further question I would like to put. There is a diminution in the amount allowed for export trade credits for the next financial year as compared with the last. I should like to know the reason for that. Is it due to any falling off in trade? On the general question I have often expressed my view that we ought to provide more work in various ways and to spend less money on either Poor Law relief or unemployment insurance benefit. In spite of objections that have been raised I still adhere to the position I have taken up. I still believe that a voluntary surrender of benefit could be so devised as to provide for a large amount of employment, to be given. I cannot see why, because of something which happened in 1833 or at some other period or because some economic law might be infringed, you should debar a man from surrendering benefit so as to enable him to get a full day's pay for a full day's work.
§ Mr. WEBB
I think it will be acknowledged that we have had a very useful Debate. Of course, we do not expect in discussions of this kind any pronouncement of a Heaven-sent panacea to get us out of our difficulties. This is the opportunity we have for criticising the general policy of the Department. We are not at all satisfied with the administration of this Department as of other Government Departments. May I, in passing, quite respectfully offer out congratulations to the new Minister of Health. I would refer only to the municipal experience which the right hon. Gentleman brings to a Department in which municipal experience is perhaps more necessary and more useful than in any other Department.. I cannot refrain from referring to the fact that a quarter of a century ago the father of the right hon. Gentleman who was then appointed to the Local Government Board, finding a state of unemployment in existence at that time, initiated some of the measures which we have been pursuing ever since, and as regards that question, he worked a revolution in the Local Government, Board, which had never dreamed of the policy that he then introduced. I venture to hope that that is an augury, and to look forward to the accession of the right hon. Gentleman to his new office as bringing as great a change in the policy of the 882 Ministry of Health in regard to this subject as was initiated a quarter of a century ago by a right hon. Gentleman bearing the same illustrious name.
It is quite interesting to look back to the unemployment of that time. I remember the unemployment of 1879, which was very nearly as bad in proportion as the present unemployment, and at that time there were none of these measures on the carrying out of which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour so proudly congratulated the country and the Committee. Practically none of these measures were undertaken to meet the great stress of 1879, when 11 per cent. of the whole population were unemployed. We have got on since then. I do not want in any way to seem to claim for our side any credit; all people have contributed to the progress. It, is a little interesting, however, to notice that practically all these measures which the right hon. Gentleman reviewed this afternoon, in comparison with those devised by the President of the Local Government Board of 1879, have been brought forward by Members who have been spoken of as Labour agitators; and when, in 1892 or 1893, the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil at that time, Mr. Keir Hardie, pleaded in this Chamber that measures of this kind should be carried out for the unemployed, he received no response from the President of the Local Government Board of that day, and, indeed, received very little sympathy from the Members of the House of that time.
Our complaint—and it is a complaint that has been echoed, not merely from these benches, but practically from all quarters of the Committee—is that what is being done is nothing like in proportion to the magnitude of the evil, and nothing like enough. I am too young a Member of the House of Commons to know how far it is customary, but certainly this afternoon Members have risen one after another from all quarters of the Committee to complain that the Government is not doing enough. Perhaps that is a common form in Committee I can understand that it might be; but I am simple enough to take it as a genuine expression of opinion on the part of hon. Members, and to believe that they think that more ought to be done. Probably many of us 883 have promised at the recent Election that more should be done, and I am inclined to believe that the country expects more to be done. I do not want to object, at this hour, to this or that measure put forward by the Minister of Labour or the Minister of Health. I am prepared to approve of practically every one of them. All that I ask is that there should he much more of them—much more in quantity and much more in range. When the country gets into such a condition as that in which it is at this moment, with 12 per cent, of its entire population unemployed —and I am afraid that if we had all the statistics the percentage shown would be rather higher than that—you cannot even begin to deal with the question in a wise and statesmanlike way. You have your patient desperately sick, and all that you can do is to apply remedial measures of one kind or another. Therefore, I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for not dealing with this problem in what I consider to be a wise and statesmanlike way. He cannot do it at this moment. He ought to have done it, or his predecessor ought, a long time ago, and I am coming to the application of that presently.
We do not want to object to remedial measures, but we do ask the Government to apply more of them. As far as we can make out, the Government have provided work for about 3 per cent. of the men who are unemployed. As has been said, if you get 100 of your unemployed men standing outside the Employment Exchange, what the Government is doing is to provide work directly and indirectly for about 3 per cent. of them—continuously I mean. That is what it comes to. To provide for three out of every 100 is nothing near enough, and if it is wise and proper and just to expend public money and engage public credit to employ 3 per cent of the men, the other 97 per cent., who after all are citizens and taxpayers, have a right to say that if it is justifiable to do this for 3 per cent., why is it not justifiable to do it for the 97 per cent., or at any rate for a great deal larger proportion than 3 per cent.? Therefore, when the Government takes credit for having expedited works in this or that Department we are entitled to ask whether the Post Office is really putting in hand all the work it is going to do for the next 10 years. It is very odd that when the 884 Government says circulars have been sent out to the local authorities urging them to put in hand all the works they have in view and are going to do in the next few years anyhow, somehow or other it does not apply to schools. Simultaneously with that you have the Minister of Education practically stopping all the building of schools by local authorities. What is the explanation of that contradiction? On the one hand the Government urges local authorities to do more works, and on the other the Government refuses to let the local authorities engage in what is now the largest department of local expenditure, namely, arrears of school building. Practically no schools have been built for the last eight or nine years and yet the Government will not allow local authorities to build schools although at the same time it is pressing them, as it says, to put all the work possible in hand.
Similarly, with afforestation. I need hardly say I know nothing about forests. I am a Londoner. But I have served on the Development Commission for a good many years, where we were struggling until a year or two ago, when it was taken out of our hands, with this question of afforestation. I am astonished to see that the total amount spent in afforestation is just this miserable few tens of thousands of pounds. The hon. Member who referred to it as a sham cannot have been far wrong. If afforestation is practicable at all, it is surely possible to go ahead at a greater rate than a few tens of thousands a year. I do not want to refer any more to the subject of canals. I cannot pretend to tell whether a ship canal across Scotland is likely to pay any dividend. It seems to me the Government might at least inquire whether it is likely to be useful. I do not know that it is the object of canals to create dividends any more than it is the object of roads to pay dividends. The justification of a road is that it carries the traffic. The justification of the canal might be that it carried the traffic. After all, two of the most celebrated canals in the world, the canal of Languedoc in France and the Erie Canal in the United States have been from the beginning free of charge, and there has never been any suggestion of paying any dividend on them. The Manchester Ship Canal is sometimes cited as 885 an instance of a transaction which has not been very lucrative to the proprietors and shareholders, except the shareholders are citizens of Manchester. They consider they have gained far more in the Improvement of the trade of Manchester and of the value of property in Manchester than they could possibly have lost in interest on their shares. I had the experience of being asked by Lord St. Aldwyn, on a Royal Commission, whether the speculation of the Bristol Corporation in constructing docks had been successful. I said, "Yes, eminently successful." It made him jump. He said "Surely you are aware it has never paid a penny dividend?" I said "No, but it has prevented Bristol from sinking into the condition of Bruges." That ought to be the way in which the Government should consider these schemes which no joint stock company will undertake, because its object is not to preserve cities from sinking into the condition of Bruges, but to make dividends. The Government ought, quite apart from the theories of collectivism and individualism, to undertake these great enterprises which do not yield sufficient dividend in cash to warrant the speculative investors taking them up.
I want to make another complaint, and that is, that the Government, under these various heads, is doing enough in the way of small schemes. There seems a tendency to confine help for the unemployed, schemes of relief work, 60 per cent, grants, etc., to places where there are thousands of unemployed and not to places where there are only hundreds unemployed. The pangs of starvation are just as great if you are only one of a few score, or only one of a few hundreds, as if you are one of a few thousands. As this money is contributed from national funds, towards which even members of small communities pay their share, it is reasonable to ask that they shall get something like a proportionate share in relation to their number of unemployed. They should not be excluded because their unemployed are not sufficiently numerous to make a riot. I do not want to accuse Ministers of making that a reason, but it has been given to me as a possible explanation of the reason why a place with 5,000 unemployed gets a large amount of relief work, whereas a place with only 500 unemployed does not get even a proportionate sum, and per- 886 haps nothing at all. If the number of small schemes were multiplied we should be doing just as much in proportion as in helping the larger places.
It is a scandal and disgrace to us as a community that whereas we have done a great deal for the men, we have done so little for the women. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman would claim any credit for what has been done for these sufferers from unemployment. It is possible to do a good deal for women, if we take the trouble to think about it. It is possible to do a good deal for juveniles. It is estimated that there are 200,000 youths and maidens out of work. Surely, something more ought to be done for them than merely putting a few thousands of them into classes.
We must deal with the relations between national and local finance at a very early date. On this, as on other matters, there is a Select Committee sitting and inquiring into the conditions of grants-in-aid. Fundamentally, whatever the conditions are, there is a very urgent necessity for increasing the aggregate of grants-in-aid, which now amount to about£70,000,000. We shall have to increase the aggregate of these grants-in-aid at a very early date. In a few years, necessarily, we shall be paying £100,000,000 a year in grants-in-aid, instead of £70,000,000. If we are to get the co-operation of the local authorities, for which the right hon. Gentleman asks, and which is indispensable for any large schemes, we roust realise that the local authorities are now at the breaking point, and that we shall not be able to get that co-operation unless we put their finances in order on the basis of grants-in-aid, as being a method far superior to raising loans for current needs in the way of poor relief.
Then passing on to finance, I do not think that we are acting wisely in attempting to limit our financial dealing with the unemployment question to what we can provide out of the revenue of the year. I am not in favour of what is called inflation. I know that the Minister of Labour is very fond of warning us against inflation. Inflation means usually the inflation of currency or anything which acts as currency. The meaning is, that such inflation tends to raise prices and to reduce the value of wages, and everything else as the right hon. Gentleman 887 says. But let the right hon. Gentleman take heart. He will not commit any inflation at all if he merely provides an opportunity for the investment of capital. Sometimes people forget that when you have labour unemployed you have capital unemployed to the same extent. You have at this moment as much capital unemployed and seeking employment, as you have labour seeking employment. Provided that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not indulge in fictitious borrowing, as occasionally we have had to do, but just merely borrows on tap, taking the capital offered to him which is seeking investment, he will be able to go ahead at a very much greater rate without any danger of currency inflation.
An expression has been used by a former Member of this House with some reputation, John Stuart Mill. He said, not in this House—I am afraid that this House could not have received it at that time, but it has grown wiser since—In these matters small causes do not produce merely small results. They produce no results at all.That is true. In so far as you are merely making a small alleviation of the unemployment, of course you may be keeping some people alive, but from the point of view of getting rid of unemployment, I am inclined to think that the effort is very largely thrown away. You ought to do much more if you are going to get any appreciable results. This is not merely a temporary question. Unemployment has been with us all through the last 100 years. Unemployment is going to be with us decade after decade again. My own greatest complaint against Government administration to-day is not that they are feeble, not that they are doing the thing in a small way, without vision, grasp or power, but that they are not even remedying the mistake which was made by their predecessors five years ago. That is to say, they are not preparing for the next spurt of unemployment. Now is the time when you want to he concerned to make plans which will prevent the next spurt of unemployment, which will come in five or ten years' time. I urge the Government not merely to display more power and greater vision and strength in the administration of this question, but that they ought at the same time to be beginning at once to lay their plans to 888 deal more wisely with the unemployment which will come in the future now before it comes.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)
[who on rising for the first time as Minister of Health was received with cheers]: This House is always generous to any one of its members who undertakes a new responsibility, especially if it be one of exceptional difficulty, and while I recognise that some part of those cheers are due to the natural rejoicing of hon. Members at seeing a Minister of Health at last, I make my grateful acknowledgment to the hurl Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) and other hon. Members who, earlier in the Debate, made such kindly references to my new duties. This Debate has ranged over the various methods which have been adopted, or not adopted, by the Government for dealing with unemployment, a matter which concerns the Minister of Labour rather more than it does me. But the interest of the Ministry of Health in the subject is only second to that of the Ministry of Labour. It is not merely that the prevalence of unemployment means the infliction of great burdens and liabilities upon boards of guardians and the raising of the rates of the local authorities, with which the Ministry has to deal, but that it affects also another function of the Ministry, which has been a little obscured by more controversial subjects. I mean the function of improving the health of the people. I cannot help thinking that the vital statistics of the last two or three years are a wonderful tribute to the work of the Ministry of Health, and of the medical officers of health throughout the country.
One would have supposed that in times like these the results of unemployment would have been reflected in a great increase in the mortality rate, and especially in the infant mortality rate. Instead of that, we have seen all records broken in the opposite direction. But it would be a mistake to suppose from that, that unemployment does not affect the health of the people. In particular it must affect the physique of the children. No one who watched the children during the days of the War, when the working classes were earning high wages, could have failed to perceive the enormous improvements in their appearance and physique, which were the result of the 889 higher earnings of that period, and no one could have helped feeling that that improvement was likely to be reflected in the future, indeed all through their lives, in a. greater ability to resist disease. It may be that the remarkable figures to which t have alluded have some foundation in the exceptionally good nourishment which these children were able to obtain during that time. So I say that the Ministry of Health is vitally interested in this question, and I assure hon. Members that, following the remark that was made by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green) (Mr. Harris), it will be the endeavour of myself, in conjunction with my colleague, the Minister of Labour, to do all we possibly can between us in helping forward schemes which will relieve unemployment.
The hon. Member for Seaham made a very interesting speech, and the burden of his complaint was that the Government, although they have done something, have done it on too small a scale. That is a very easy criticism to make, but I do not think the hon. Member makes sufficient allowance for the fact that the problem with which we have to deal to-day is so much greater in degree than anything that has occurred before, that it. amounts to a difference in kind, and we have got to feel our way and proceed from experience to experience, if we are not to make mistakes, which would be disastrous to the finances of the country as a whole. We are trustees for the taxpayer, and it would never do for us to launch out into ill-considered, ill-thought-out schemes, which could only result in immense financial liabilities without perhaps affording the employment which is to be their excuse. Therefore, the House and the country must regard the effort of the. Government in this direction as in the nature of a cumulative effort. We shall proceed to add scheme to scheme, and gradually build up a system which, indeed, may never be adequate to cover the whole field— I do not imagine it can—but will as it goes on, deal with a gradually increasing proportion of those who are now unemployed and a burden upon the rates. We shall explore new schemes, and some of the suggestions which have been made to-night will, no doubt, be very helpful to us. There is just one suggestion made by the hon. Member for Seaham 890 to which I may refer. He spoke about canals, and in doing so he touched a very soft spot in my heart. I happen to have given great attention to that question, and I agree with the hon. Member that is an eminently suitable and practical subject for assistance in times of unemployment. But is it not a thing that you can go at helter-skelter. It is a matter which requires long negotiation, a good deal of consideration, engineering surveys, and negotiations between carious parties before you can make a beginning.
The canals of this country are in the hands of private companies and railway companies. There is hardly a single through route which is owned by the same company from end to end. What is the result of that? You cannot carry through any scheme of improvement of a canal, at the expense of the Government and the State, without first of all buying up the property. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nationalisation!"] Not necessarily nationalisation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I do not wish to go into the whole question but could I talk for a very long time upon it. Hon. Members who have read the Report of the Committee over which I presided will know that the recommendations of that Committee were that the canals should be dealt with by what we called regional trusts, and before you can get regional trusts you have to get some sort of agreement between the various local authorities concerned. There is a scheme of that kind at present under consideration in the Midlands. I have taken an interest in the matter, and only recently I had a letter from a town clerk asking me if I could give him any assurance that if the local authority were prepared to go on with their part of the scheme, they could get adequate assistance from the Government. That is just the sort of scheme that we can get by degrees. If we can get a few schemes of that kind going, we shall be able to make some appreciable advance in dealing with this question on a bigger scale than has been possible up to now.
I should like to make some reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Swansea (Sir A. Mond). I am afraid my reply must be inadequate, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if that is the case. He will appreciate that I have not had an opportunity of really going into this subject. He asked if there were to be any more 891 money spent on roads. So far as I know, there has been no such development of a great, brand-new main road system such as I gather he had in his mind. There, again, it takes some little time before you can work out a scheme which will really employ a very large number of men. I can assure my right hon. Friend, however that that, as well as the other suggestions that he made, will be carefully considered, and we shall be able to see later on whether it is possible to carry out his ideas soon.
I wish to say one or two words on one subject in this Vote which does particularly affect my Department, I mean that of necessitous areas. What is the case? It is said that boards of guardians are perfectly ready to take care of the ordinary needs of Poor Law relief, hut that they have to deal now with absolutely exceptional and abnormal conditions. It is said that the incidence of this abnormal pressure is different in different localities, that it bears hardest on those localities where the rate-able value is lowest, and that people are less able to bear it. It is said that that is clue, not to local causes, but to causes of a very much more widespread character, and that, therefore, it is only reasonable that the burden should be, to some extent, equalised, and should not fall solely on those localities. That is a fair statement of the case, and I ought to be able to put it because I, myself, not so very long ago, accompanied a deputation to the late Prime Minister to put something like that view. At that time I was free of all responsibility. It was not my business to point out any difficulties on the other side, but I am in a different position now. I have to consider what the difficulties are, and I want to put to the House some of them, as they appear to me.
First of all, what is a necessitous area? The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) has, I believe—I am sorry I was out of the House at the time he spoke—pointed out the difficulties of defining what a necessitous area is. There is more than that. Not only is there a difficulty in defining a necessitous area, but there are also very great differences in the method of valuation in different areas. Therefore, supposing that you did say you would give a grant out of State resources, and distribute it 892 among those necessitous areas, upon a basis of the assessable value per head of the population, you might be, and probably would be, doing a very unfair thing. You would be treating one area in a different way from another. There was a scheme put forward some time ago, which was known as the West Ham Scheme. It was, I think, devised by the West Ham officials, and it provided that rather more than 25 per cent. of the whole of any Government grant given should be given to West Ham.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Then the hon. Member will have come to the same conclusion. I give that illustration to show that different people will have different ideas as to the method of distribution, and the difficulty really is not so much in the principle, because, after all, the principle has already been recognised. The unemployment insurance scheme itself is a recognition of the principle, because that is a national scheme, and I believe it is a fact that, of the persons ordinarily employed and their dependents who are in receipt of outdoor relief, no less than 91 per cent. belong to families the heads of which are also insured persons under the Act, so that to that extent there is a very real relief to the guardians from the benefits which come from the Unemployment insurance Act. At the time when I went with this deputation, a very serious cause of complaint on the part of the guardians was what was known as the gap, which was then five weeks, and they pointed out that when the gap came about they had a flood of applicants coming to them at once, who completely dislocated all their machinery, and made it almost impossible for them to carry on their work. As the result of the deputation, the gap was reduced from five weeks to one week, and that grievance, at any rate, has been very much minimised.
We have to recognise that, while the principle, as I say, is already admitted, no scheme has as yet been brought forward which would be an equitable scheme, which would be an acceptable scheme, and which would not involve a large measure of State control. If the State 893 is to give large grants to boards of guardians or to local authorities, it is quite clear that it must protect itself by exercising some measure of control, and I think that the boards of guardians object, and very rightly object, to having interference by the State, from a central body, in what, after all, is a question of dealing with individual cases. It is only local people who have the local knowledge that can deal fairly and faithfully with local cases, and any scheme which brought in Whitehall to regulate, to interfere with, and to hamper them in their operations, would be subject to the very gravest objections. We have done something, by means of the loans to which my right hon. Friend has referred, to ease
§ the burden for the time being. It is possible that we, may be able to do more in that direction in the future. At any rate, until somebody can show us a better way, we submit that the methods that we have adopted will tide us over the difficult times through which we are passing, the worst of which, I believe, have already gone by, and we submit that that is the best way of dealing with the matter.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £126,599,900, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 166; Noes, 275.895
|Division No. 20.]||AYES.||[11.0 p m.|
|Adams. D.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hardie, George D.||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Adamson, W. M (Staff., Cannock)||Harney, E. A.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Harris, Percy A.||Potts, John S.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hartshorn, Vernon||Richardson, R. (Houghton-Ie-Spring)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hastings, Patrick||Riley, Ben|
|Barnes, A.||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Ritson, J.|
|Batey. Joseph||Hayday, Arthur||Roberts, C. H. (Derby)|
|Bann, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hayes, T. H.||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Bonwick, A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Bowdier, W. A.||Herriotts, J.||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hill, A.||Saklatvala, S.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hinds, John||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Brotherton, J.||Hirst, G. H.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Sexton, James|
|Buchanan, G.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Burgess, S.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Butler, J. R. M. (Cambridge Univ.)||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham. Silvertown)||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snell, Harry|
|Cairns, John||Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)|
|Chapple, W. A.||Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kenyon, Barnet||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Clarke, Sir E. C.||Kirkwood, D.||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lansbury, George||Sullivan, J.|
|Collins, Pat (Walsall)||Lawson, John James||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Collison, Levl||Leach, W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley)||Thornton, M.|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Lewis, Thomas A.||Tout, W. J.|
|Davies. Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Linfield, F. C.||Trevelyan, C. P.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lowth, T.||Turner, Ben|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lunn, William||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Duffy, T. Gavan||McCurdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.||Warne, G. H.|
|Duncan, C.||MacDonald, J, R. (Aberavon)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dunnico, H.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Ede, James Chuter||M'Entee, V. L.||Webb. Sidney|
|Edmonds, G.||McLaren, Andrew||Weir, L. M.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedweilty)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Westwood, J.|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||March, S.||White, H. G. (Birkenhoad, E.)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.||Whiteley, W.|
|Fairbairn, R. R.||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Wignall, James|
|Falconer, J.||Maxton, James||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Foot, Isaac||Millar, J. D.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Gosling, Harry||Morel, E. D.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)||Wright, W.|
|Greenall, T.||Nichol, Robert||Young, Rt. Hon. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||O'Grady, Captain James||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Groves, T.||Oliver, George Harold|
|Grundy, T. W.||Paling, W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr. T.|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Griffiths.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Lougher, L.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Erskine- Boist, Captain C.||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)||Maddocks. Henry|
|Apsley, Lord||Evans, Ernest (Cardigan)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Malcne, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Falcon, Captain Michael||Manville, Edward|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W.||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Margesson, H. D. R.|
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover);||Fawkes, Major F. H.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.|
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Foreman, Sir Henry||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Forestler-Walker. L.||Molloy, Major L. G. S.|
|Banks, Mitchell||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Moison, Major John Elsdale|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Frece, Sir Walter de||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C,|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Becker, Harry||Furness, G. J.||Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Gaibraith, J. F. W.||Morrison-Bell. Major A. C. (Honiton)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Murchison, C. K.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Gates, Percy||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Bennett, A. J. (Mansfield)||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Nesbitt, Robert C.|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Goff. sir R. Park||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Berry. Sir George||Gould, James C.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Greaves-Lord, Walter||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Greene, Lt.-Col- Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Greenwood. William (Stockport)||Nicholson. William G. (Petersfield)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Gretton, Colonel John||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Guinness, Lieut. Col. Hon. W. E.||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Boyd-Carpenter. Major A.||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Ormsby-Gore. Hon. William|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Llv"p'l,W.D'by)||Paget, T. G.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Halstead, Major D.||Parker, Owen (Kettering)|
|Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)||Pease, William Edwin|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Pennefather, De Fonbianque|
|Bruford, R.||Harrison, F. C.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Bruton, Sir James||Harvey, Major S. E.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hawke, John Anthony||Peto, Basil E.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)||Philipson, H. H.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Henderson, Sir T. (Roxburgh)||Pielou. D. P.|
|Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Burney, Com. (Middx., Uxbridge)||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Preston, Sir W. R.|
|Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North)||Hewett, Sir J. P.||Price, E. G.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Hilder, Lieut-Colonel Frank||Privett, F. J.|
|Button, H. S.||Hiley, Sir Ernest||Raeburn, Sir-William H.|
|Cadogan, Major Edward||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Raine, W.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Rankin, Captain James Stuart|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Remer, J. R.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hood, Sir Joseph||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Chamberlain. Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hopkins, John W. W.||Reynolds. W. G. W.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Houlton, John Plowright||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Robertson, J. D. (Islington. W.)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hudson, Capt. A.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hughes, Coliingwood||Ruqgles-Brise. Major E.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips,||Hume, G. H.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Collie, Sir John||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Russell, William (Bolton)|
|Colvin, Brig-General Richard Beale||Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midiothian, N.)||Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cope, Major William||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Jackson, Lieut-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.|
|Courthope, Lieut-Col. George L.||Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.|
|Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Jodrell. Sir Neville Paul||Sandon, Lord|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Shipwright, Captain D.|
|Crooke, J. S. (Deritend)||Kelley. Major Fred (Rotherham)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel||Simpson-Hinchcliffe, W. A.|
|Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||King. Captain Henry Douglas||Singleton, J. E.|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Skelton. A. N.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lamb, J. O||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon. South)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.||Smith, Sir Harold (Wavertree)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Somervilie, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Dawson. Sir Philip||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)||Lloyd, Cyril E.. (Dudley)||Sparkes. H. W.|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Stanley, Lord|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lorden, John William||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Lorimer, H. D.||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Ellis, R. G.||Lort-Wllliams, J.||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)||Wise, Frederick|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Satcliffe, T.||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Wells, S. R.||Wood, Major Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||Wheter, Col. Granville C. H||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Whitla, Sir William|
|Turton, Edmund Russborough||Willey, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel Gibbs|
|Wallace, Captain E.||Winterton, Earl|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.
§ Committee to sit again upon Monday next.