HC Deb 12 February 1924 vol 169 cc759-60

Now there is the other question, the question of unemployment. Here, again, we are faced with a problem at which, in my view, we have hitherto rather nibbled. Two things have to be secured, and these we are working at: First, work; secondly, an effective income which is being supplied by the scheme of insurance if work cannot be provided. I think that is roughly the situation. There is not the least doubt that whatever Government face the problem of unemployment ought to face it, first of all, with the idea of putting the unemployed men back in their own work. Therefore, in so far as the Government can influence trade, that should be its first. point of attack. Consequently, we shall concentrate, not first of all on the relief of unemployment, but on the restoration of trade. We are not going to diminish industrial capital in order to provide relief. I saw the other day one of those periodical attacks upon us, by people who really do not know what they are writing about—attacks which assume that. our only conception of capital is that we should raid it, distribute it for consumption, and so bring the nation to bankruptcy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Capital levy!"]

5.0 P.M.

I am very much obliged to the hon. Member for adding such a valuable footnote to the remark I have just made. I wish to make it perfectly clear that the Government have no intention of drawing off from the normal channels of trade large sums for extemporised measures which can only be palliatives. That is the old, sound, Socialist doctrine, and the necessity of expenditure for subsidising schemes in direct relief of unemployment will be judged in relation to the greater necessity for maintaining undisturbed the ordinary financial facilities and re sources of trade and industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hoar, hear !"] I am entirely gratified to find hon. Members opposite cheering such a good, sound Socialist doctrine, and I hope they will cheer the supplement to it. It is this, that, while we have to be economic and scientific in dealing with material capital, we must be equally economic and scientific in dealing with human capital. Therefore, any scheme dealing with unemployment must do both—must revive trade, and must in the meantime give adequate maintenance to those who are unemployed, pending the revival of trade. That is the complete scheme for dealing with unemployment. We, therefore, propose to speed up the Trade Facilities Act, which lapsed in November, 1923, and which requires to be reinvigorated. We shall deal with the Export Credits. and extend the period over which they will operate.. That does not mean, I am told, that we shall require to ask for money, because there are unexpended balances that will practically cover the extended period of the operation of the Act. Such a letter as that addressed to the late Prime Minister by Sir Allan Smith has already been taken into consideration, and will be made the subject of proposals later on. So much for the extension of trade facilities.

Back to