HC Deb 31 July 1925 vol 187 cc851-67

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill he now read the Third time."


I beg to move, to leave out the word "now" and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day three months."

I am moving this Amendment on behalf of the Labour party. It is a most objectionable Bill, and this is the strongest action that we can take in order to register our protest against the Measure and to express our detestation of some of its Clauses. The position with which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour was confronted was that the waiver Section in the 1924 Act would come to an end very shortly. There was, therefore, and we admit it and would have welcomed it, need for a one-clause Bill in order that some 200,000 people should not two months hence lose all rights to benefits. The right hon. Gentleman, instead of confining himself to that quite simple purpose, has chosen, or has been driven, to add certain extraneous proposals to the Bill—two of them of a particularly vicious character.

The other day I refreshed my memory by looking up newspaper cuttings of about three months ago, when there was a deluge of articles in the newspapers dealing with what were called "Scandals of the Dole." The implication was that large numbers of people were dishonestly obtaining unemployment benefit. There were suggestions in the newspapers that the Government were giving careful consideration to this problem. Presumably after these inquiries had been undertaken there were what I take to be inspired notices in the Press saying that really the people who were illegitimately obtaining unemployment benefit were the Scottish gillies. In other words, this vamped-up case against the unemployed disappeared, and there was, therefore, no opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman to make any savings at the expense of any large number of people who were obtaining unemployment benefit under false pretences, and the only way in which a saving could be effected was at the expense of the genuinely unemployed. Unemployment is a stubborn fact. So long as unemployment continues, the public conscience of this country demands that the unemployed shall in some way or another be maintained, and the only object of unemployment insurance legislation is to make such provision for the unemployed. It is fantastic, therefore, to legislate, as we are doing in this case, with the object of not providing for certain of the unemployed, and with the object of taking away some of the provision now made for all the unemployed. That is what the restoration of the Minister's discretion and the lengthening of the waiting period virtually mean.

Our contention is that at this juncture any worsening of the provision made for the unemployed is more unjust than ever it was before. After four years of unexampled trade depression and unexampled wages reduction, so far as most of the workers are concerned—many of them in industries where unemployment is most severe—wages, expressed in terms of purchasing power, are lower to-day than they were when the great War broke out. Notwithstanding the fact that these people are economically worse off than they were in 1914, which means that they are to-day worse off than they were as long ago as 1895; notwithstanding the fact that over a large area of the industrial field real wages are lower than they were 30 years ago, and that the reserves of the working people are, consequently, exhausted, and trade union resources are exhausted, the Government, instead of showing a little more generosity towards the unemployed, have chosen to make their lot harder. We have heard it emphasised during this Debate time after time that this is not a charity Bill but an insurance Bill. If that be so, and it deals with an insurance scheme, it seems to me most unjust to alter the terms of the insurance policy without consulting the policy-holders. I think it is iniquitous that people who have been led to believe that in return for certain contributions they are going to get certain benefits should now be told that they will have to suffer more hard- ships, and I think that is unjust and unfair to those who are compulsorily insured under this scheme.

We say that an insurance Bill has no purpose unless it is to help the unemployed worker. Does this Bill really help the unemployer worker? Really it is not an Unemployment Insurance Bill at all, and if it received its right title it would be a Contributory Pensions Financial Provisions Bill. This is really a Measure to mitigate the financial embarrassments of His Majesty's Government, and the last people whom the Minister of Labour and his colleagues have thought about are the unemployed workers. This is really a financial provisions Bill masquerading under the title of an Unemployment Insurance Bill. Apart from the provisions continuing the waiver Clause, this Bill makes no provision whatever for helping the unemployed. All that it does is to call the unemployed to the rescue of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Health.

I will, however, do the Minister of Labour this justice. I do not believe that when he assumed his present office he lay awake at night considering how he could extend the waiting period. I do not believe for a moment that he thought of restoring the Minister's discretion. When he took office he never had in mind that he would ever be called upon to do such a disgraceful thing. On the contrary, I believe he had in mind some intention of carrying out the great schemes of his younger and less unregenerate days, but he has found himself now in a position in which he is not a free agent. The object of this Bill, apart from the object of the waiver Clause, was to secure the passage of the provision for the extension of the waiting period and the restoration of the Minister's discretion. But those questions have not been decided on their merits; they are simply devices whereby the burden caused by the passing of the Contributory Pensions Bill could be eased.

This is how the thing works. This Bill is necessary because of the embarrassment that surrounded the Minister of Health when he was dealing with the Pensions Bill. This Measure was' necessary to enable lower contributions to be paid under the Pensions Bill, and was necessary to cover up the defects of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget, and that is the source of all our troubles now. Nobody can say that this Government after this has not got a related policy. It began with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, confronted with a deadly dull and unpopular Budget, desiring to give it some of that sparkle which we always associate with him, and desiring to bring into his great Budget speech something which would be attractive and at the same time detract attention from the other proposals in the Budget.

The Minister of Health, having to shoulder the Pensions Bill, naturally was desirous, for the credit of his Department, to carry the Bill through, and consequently the Government were driven to go to the Minister of Labour and give him his marching orders. Money had to be saved somehow, and they decided to do it at the expense of the unemployment insurance scheme. In other words, the Minister of Labour has become a pawn in the political game. The right hon. Gentleman is merely a marionette, the strings of which are held in the supple fingers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is sheer political humbug for anybody to come here and pretend that this Bill is an honest unemployment insurance scheme. These are hard words.


Not at all.


I feel very strongly on this question. I do the Minister of Labour this justice, that he has never pretended to defend Clause 1 and Clause 3 on their merits. Last night, however, a phrase fell from his lips which passed unnoticed, but it goes to the root of the problem. He said that this Bill has to be considered in relation to the whole scheme of social insurance. During all the stages of this Bill we have waited for an expression of opinion from the Minister of Labour or the Parliamentary Secretary in justification of the waiting period and the restoration of the Minister's discretion on their merits and showing whether they are in the interests of anybody, but no statement of that kind has been forthcoming. This Bill does not help the unemployed in their plight. On the contrary it increases their difficulties, and whilst the Government were driven to make provision for these 200,000 people who would otherwise suffer, they ought not to use that necessity to exploit the needs of working people and to exploit the insurance scheme in the interests of proposals that have nothing to do with unemployment or unemployment insurance.

Take the question of discretion. Does the right hon. Gentleman in his heart of hearts believe that it is a good thing to restore that discretion and indeed to strengthen it, and to continue it side by side with the statutory provisions made to supersede the discretion which were introduced by the late Minister of Labour last year? I venture to say that there is not a Member of this House who believes that any good purpose can be served by driving off the insurance fund any person to-day who is genuinely unemployed. We are told that a mere 70,000 persons are affected, but it is more than that. At the very least it is 300,000 persons because 70,000 homes are affected. Consequently 300,000 persons are going to be called upon to give up some little provision in order to satisfy the necessities of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Health. We have no indication that the right hon. Gentleman or his successors will not be driven again by financial pressure to extend the exercise of the discretion to more than the 70,000 contributors.

We have argued, and there has been no reply to the argument, that it is unjust to ask people to contribute and to continue in the future to contribute to a scheme to make good the deficiency, and yet deprive them of benefits under the scheme. There has been no reply to that argument. Again, no attempt has been made at any stage of this Bill to justify the increase in the waiting period except on financial grounds, and except on grounds of tradition, that it has always been six days until last year. That is no answer whatever. What does this proposal amount to? This is not a proposal which will affect only a limited number of the unemployed. This is not a question of sons and daughters living with their parents or of husbands sponging on their wives which the right hon. Gentleman appears determined to encourage. It is not that. This is a provision that will affect all the unemployed people. When it has been said from these benches that there are 1,300,000 people unemployed, the right hon. Gentleman has said, and has rightly said, that this is not a fixed army; it is an army with a constantly changing personnel, and there may be during a year 4,000,000 or even more people who at one time or another are unemployed.

Four million or more people per year are going to be asked now to forgo three days of the meagre benefit to which they have hitherto been entitled. What does it mean? If you take a married workman with three children, you are saying to him, when this calamity befalls him, "not only are you to wait three days, but you are to wait another three days, and we are going to deprive you of 14s. 6d., half a week's benefit." It is not a creditable thing to say to people with dependants upon them: "Instead of receiving for the second half of the first week that you are unemployed half a week's benefit, you are to receive nothing." If the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary are right, that it is not going to mean any increase in Poor Law relief, then it means that it is coming out of the vitality, the energy, and the comfort of these people and their dependants. Clause 3 is even meaner in its conception and worse in its operation than Clause 1, bad though Clause 1 may be.

We on these benches have said many times that we have no intention of appealing to the Government. There is no point in appealing to the right hon Gentleman the Minister of Labour to do a big thing on this Bill, because he cannot. He would need to be buttressed on either side by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Health. They have settled what he has to do and, while he may give a little concession here and a little concession there, this Bill is fixed, and there is, therefore, no point in making an appeal for its revision. At the same time, we cannot allow the Third Reading to go through without registering our view as to the iniquity of this Measure. It is a fraud upon the unemployed, and it shows the depths of political depravity to which the Government have fallen, that, within a few months of taking office, with its enormous majority and with a new programme of social regeneration which we were told that it had, the best it can do to deal with the unemployed workers is to deprive them of some of the little which they had.

We said from the beginning that we would fight this Bill everywhere at every stage, and we have done it. The fight will not cease when this Bill goes on to the Statute Book. Since the introduction of the Bill we have received at the Labour headquarters shoals of letters. I venture to say that 90 per cent. of the trade unions in this country have expressed in far more vigorous terms than you, Mr. Speaker, would allow me to use in this House their view about this Bill. You have by this Bill set fire to a new spirit of discontent among the workers of this country. We shall not stay our hands after this Bill has passed from this House. We shall continue to express what we know to be the deep-rooted objection and sense of injustice among the workers of this country at the meanness of a Government which, in the fifth year of unemployment, finds its financial salvation through penalising those who are least able to bear any burden. On these grounds, I beg to move the rejection of the Bill.


I beg to second the Amendment.

The Minister of Labour and his colleague have been charged with many things in the course of the passing of this Bill and I am going to charge them with one which, though it does not sound as serious as some of those which have been flung at them with all the passion which we have against this Bill on this side, is, I think, a very serious charge to make against a man to whom is committed the lives of so many poor people of this country. This Bill shows a complete lack of imagination. They have not in any way tried to visualise what effect this Bill is going to have upon our people. I take, first of all, the statement that the Minister made yesterday, apparently attempting to mitigate our opposition to Clause 1, in which he said that it would operate mainly against children living with their parents who might be expected to support them. Has the Minister of Labour ever thought what that really means? Does he assume that parents are always willing, even if able, to strain the financial exchequer in order to keep those whom normally they might expect that industry would maintain?

I do not think that there is anything that gave such trouble prior to the 1924 Act as the instructions that were given to Rota Committees with regard to children living with their parents, and particularly was this the case where women were concerned. The Rota Committees —and, after all, it is the Rota Committees we are dealing with in this matter and not the Minister—stretched those instructions to mean not only the girl's father and mother, but any possible relations whom they could conceive ought to keep her. Girls were turned out of benefit because they were told that their aunt, or their uncle, or their married brother—a man who already may have three or four little children—ought to maintain them. I want the House to see what this means for a girl who is accustomed to earn her own living, and always has been earning her own living since she was 14. In 1923 I brought before the Minister of Labour the case of a girl who had left home because of the cruelty of her father, and who was forced to go back or to starve. The rota committee said it did not matter that her father had ill-treated her; the point was that he should maintain her, and that, therefore, she ought to go back.

But there is a more serious thing that has been stated in all the books and reports that have been issued dealing with the problem of the adolescent unemployed. The difficulty, and one of the causes of the degeneration of boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 20 who have not been able to get a job, is that they feel that the world does not want them, that they have not any niche or place in the world, and they drift about the streets, not anxious to go home, feeling that they are a burden on already over-burdened people. I want to ask the Government what they think is going to be the effect when even these meagre few shillings that were given to these boys and girls, and that were in some way a help to the already overburdened income, are taken from them? They will still further feel that no one wants them, and that they are of no use—the most appalling thing that can get into the mind of any boy or girl at that critical period of their life.

If a boy or girl loses the restraint of civilisation then, they are going down for life. When we speak about their going into industry, it is not that we feel that factory wheels are the things to which young boys and girls should be tied, but we know that children of the class of the Minister of Labour and his colleague are carefully watched over at school, and we feel that these children, who leave school at 14, ought to go somewhere where they are trained to be useful citizens. If that be taken from them, what is going to remain? Let me remind the Minister that, when he is dealing with the young women in this matter, if the young girl of 14, 16, 18, or 20 is told that she must bring in something to the family exchequer, and if she is in a desperate condition, with even her unemployment benefit gone, and she has nothing in the world, there is generally one way in which she can replenish the exchequer, and I want to ask the Minister, is he prepared to drive some of our working girls to that? It is not a question of saying that these are imaginary things. Those of us who have dealt with working girls know that this is the desperate alternative many of them have to face when they are driven from pillar to post as they are by this Bill.

Then, with regard to the question of Ministerial discretion, I want to ask the Minister whether he really does not feel that he has sufficient power in these four Clauses to turn off anybody that he wants to turn off? It seems to me that the rota committees and the Employment Exchange officials have been extremely efficient in turning off just as many people as is required. I suppose the only point is that previously they had some little difficulties, they had at least to go through some form of proof that the man had done something wrong, but now they need not trouble even to do that. All that they need do is to say that the Minister in his discretion does not think it expedient. Some of us who have come from the North-East Coast know how this will work in that district, and I wish some of the Conservative Members from the North-East Coast were present to-day, because I I should like to know how some of them are facing, if they ever do face, the unemployed in their constituencies. You have the provision That in normal times insurable employment suited to his capacities would be likely to be available for him. That is a very wide provision, which has turned off quite a lot of people on the North-East Coast without any further condition. The Middlesbrough Town Council has said that, even if normal times returned, there would be 4,000 men in Middlesbrough for whom, owing to the reorganisation of industry and other forces, largely due to the War, there would be no employment available. That is a very wide provision. But, even if they prove that, they can then be told that, in the ministerial discretion, it Is not considered expedient for them to receive benefit. Then there is the provision That he has, during the two years immediately preceding the date of the application for benefit, been employed in. an insurable employment. That, again, turns off a very large number of people, because, on the North East Coast, the slump started in 1921, and many of these men have had four years' battling with poverty and unemployment Finally—does not this give the Minister all that he wants?—there is the provision That he is making every reasonable effort to obtain employment. Think of the number of pink slips to be given out, when a man has tramped to every factory and every works gates in the district. If only the Minister would realise the battle of a man's self-respect when he is insulted at every works gate when he tries to get some evidence to prove that he is genuinely seeking work! What legacy are we piling up for the future of these men who have tried, and who at every turn are met with some Clause or some way of forcing them down still lower. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that there were large numbers of people who were learning to qualify for unemployment benefit. I have suggested to the unemployed in my district that I am willing to hold classes to teach them how to qualify, because, if they have any more restrictions, it will be beyond the wit of any ordinary person to find out how they are to qualify.

With regard to the waiting period, I wonder if the Minister of Labour has ever read the Report that was issued by his own Department on "An Investigation into the Personal Circumstances in the Industrial History of 10,000 Claimants to Unemployment Benefit." Here is his own Department, which says that, of this sort of sample, this cross-section of unemployed that was taken, 86.1 per cent. of males and 90.2 per cent. of females in normal times would be steadily or fairly steadily employed. Therefore, this Bill is not going to hit the wastrel. As I have said before, the really artistic liar can always get unemployment benefit. The people who are hit are the people who either cannot or will not do that sort of thing.

We had a most extraordinary statement from the Minister last night, in which he suggested that he was willing to postpone the coming into operation of the waiting period until October, because of the troubled situation. Does the Minister realise how that statement is going to be taken? Because, just at this moment the miners are preparing, or were preparing, for the biggest fight of their history, because all the other industrial workers, goaded by Bills like this and other actions of the class whom the Minister represents, were lining up behind them, because the whole of our class was threatening industrial trouble, the Minister comes along and says that, because they are making a fuss, he will extend the time before this waiting period comes into operation until October. It is part of the general policy that has been adumbrated by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. This Insurance Bill is not, and never has been, an insurance against unemployment. It has been coldly stated by Lord Derby and other friends of the right hon. Gentleman that it is an insurance against revolution; and, because something like a difficult situation seems to be arising, therefore, the Minister will draw back. The Minister of Labour rather reminds me of the ship's doctor who had to stand by when in the old days a sailor was being flogged, just to see how many lashes the man could stand before he gave up altogether and died. We now have the Minister of Labour standing by, carefully watching the industrial situation, putting on the screw from time to time, and just seeing how much the working classes will stand. When they put their backs up and say, "We will not stand this any more," you immediately find the right hon. Gentleman drawing back and saying, "Well, I will not put you through this until October, because by then the situation will have quietened down, and again it will be safe to screw you down a little further."

The right hon. Gentleman and his friends on every election platform sneer at some of us and say the Labour party is in favour of violent action—direct action. The right hon. Gentleman has told every working man in the country by the statement he made last night that if they will kick up enough fuss they can force the Minister back as far as they want. That is not the statement of any trade unionist. It is the statement of the Minister of Labour from his own Front Bench. I want him to realise what he is doing. For four years they have been going through an experience that very few of us would like to face. When you talk about the waiting period you assume that these men and women automatically go on to poor relief for that waiting period. Not a bit of it. It is not a simple thing to walk into the guardians' office and say. "We are on the waiting period this week, can we have relief please" and take it away in a basket or in their pockets. It is a long and complicated and designedly cumbrous business, and some of these men and women go the whole of that week with precious little food indeed. I remember once meeting one of the most active woman workers in my constituency. I came out of the station and found her panting and white against the wall. I asked her what was the matter. She made some conventional excuse about a headache but I pressed her further. She had had no food of any kind for 36 hours. The little she had been able to beg she had given to her children. I took her into the nearest café. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman has ever sat in front of a human being who was not fed for 36 hours. It is not a pleasant sight, but this is the sort of thing that will happen all over the country when this Bill is passed. What is three days' waiting period to a Budget, like there is in this country, to the wealth that there is in this country? You know it is a bagatelle. You know it means nothing. But you are driving down our people as far as ever you can. This is the wickedest Bill that was ever put on the Statute Book of the country.

Colonel BURTON

As one who has listened to the Debates on this Bill during the whole of its stages—Second Reading, Committee, and again yesterday—I feel I have some knowledge of what is in the minds of hon. Members opposite. They seem, as far as I can gather, to presuppose that the Labour Minister will always exercise his rights in a tyrannical manner. They have become so obsessed by the tyranny of their trade union methods that they fear that he will in turn show the same spirit. I would rather rely on the present Labour Ministry than on the "fools, crooks and twisters"—[Interruption.]


I was unable to catch the hon. and gallant Gentleman's words, but they appeared to me to carry unpleasant imputations. I hope he will withdraw them.

Colonel BURTON

I am very sorry hon. Members opposite are so quick upon the uptake. Had they allowed me to finish my sentence, they would have seen that that was a quotation from the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who, speaking at a Labour summer school at Scarborough last year, said if ever there was a movement in which there had been "fools, crooks and twisters" it had been in their movement. As far as my opinion of them is concerned, I will withdraw, but I cannot speak for the hon. Member for Bridgeton. I very much regret that they are so thin skinned, because during these Debates we have been called "brass-faced employers," and "thieves, rogues and vagabonds who live on the proceeds of sweated labour, and murderers," and one hon. Member, in a crescendo of ecstasy, consigned us all to hell. We have listened to them week in and week out, making what one might call gramophonic statements from the point of view of the person who is supposed to require protection from the State. We have heard that it is quite impossible for the workers to pay their contribution, and it is quite impossible for them to go six days without receiving unemployment benefit. I have in my hand figures showing that squads of men regularly work for two days a week and earn £3 15s. on those two days; another squad earn £4 3s. 5d., and a third squad £8. These people are supposed not to be able to support themselves for a period of six days, the new waiting period. How can we, representing agricultural constituencies, go to our people and say, "Here we have in London people earning £8 in two days and living on unemployment benefit for the rest of the week "? How can we go to agricultural workers who earn a little over £2 for a full week's work from early morn to dewy eve and say we have not protested against this? How can we say we were not anxious to support the Minister of Labour in exercising a right of waiver against people earning such money? Only the other day we had the privilege of accepting the hospitality of the Chairman of the Port of London Authority, and many hon. Members opposite went on the boat with us. He told us that the wages of to-day are 157 per cent. over the pre-War wages; that the time workers received in 1914 £l 15s. 6d. per week and to-day £4 3s. 7d., and that the piece workers received £l 16s. 6d. before the War and to-day they receive £5 4s. 2d. These men work a full week. When we get men working a full week for many weeks and earning such wages, and then they come out of employment, if they have not saved sufficient to take them over the waiting period of six days, they have not tried. I regret that the Chairman of the Port of London Authority did not tell us other reasons why the expenses are so great, and why so many men are out of employment. At the present moment the Port of London Authority are paying £389,000 every year in rates and taxes, which represents a dead-weight sum of £25 15s. 6d. of rates and taxes on every ship which comes into their docks. That is a dead-weight burden which drives many ships to the Continent, thereby throwing many men out of employment.

It is no use going into the question of the differences between piecework and time work production, because everybody knows them; but I do say that when men on piecework are earning such wages it would be a travesty of justice to allow them to come on the Unemployment Benefit without the Minister having the opportunity to exercise his right of waiver. We have been told that these insurance schemes have no effect upon the profits of companies. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) stated the other day that he never knew of a single firm where insurance premiums made the slightest difference to the profits. I have in mind a company, a meeting of which I attended last week, where they paid out £37,000 in wages in 12 months.


How much in dividends?

Colonel BURTON

The profit on that £37,000 was £220—a great profit !

Colonel DAY

Put your house in order. You do not know how to run your business.

Colonel BURTON

Then along came the premium demand for the Employers' Liability Act, amounting to £720, which wiped out the profits and left the company with a deficit of £500. Even when faced with a deficit of £500, they still had to find their overhead expenses. When people say that the premiums for insurance schemes make no difference to profits, they have not the foggiest idea of what they are talking. I hope the Minister will continue his right of waiver, Even hon. Members opposite have not in their wildest dreams any idea that any other Minister will occupy the right hon. Gentleman's position before June next, at which time this Act comes to an end. I would rather leave it to the beneficent view of the present occupant of the office than to any of the hon. Members opposite, who have made wild statements and speeches on the subject.

12 N.


This is the second occasion on which we have had the hon. and gallant Member opposite taking advantage of the discussion on this Bill to make an outrageous attack upon a certain section of workers in this country. That is the only peg on which he can hang his attacks. We have been treated to another Baron Munchausen story from the hon. and gallant Member. On the last occasion he quoted what he called a typical case of a man who earned £15 a week. He now tells us of a man who earned £8 in two days. He told us that the man who earned £15 a week did nothing but twiddle his fingers.

Colonel BURTON

That is a travesty of my statement. The last time I spoke in this House in that connection I said that a man, a trimmer in a coal ship, earned £15 12s. 6d. in four days. The man who twiddled his fingers earned only £3 15s.


My recollection is not bad. The coal trimmer was said to have earned £15 in four days. A coal trimmer works in an atmosphere which would poison the devil himself. He is shut up from all daylight and is in even a worse condition than the miner down the pit. He works night and day. The hon. and gallant Member wants us to believe that the earnings of this man are typical of the earnings of every casual labourer who works at the docks. He has a very vivid imagination. I understand that the hon. Member belongs to the shipping fraternity. He is a ship broker. He forgot to tell the House that shipbrokers by twiddling their fingers can earn £10,000 in 10 minutes.

The hon. and gallant Member has endeavoured to persuade the House that the type of man he quoted is the type of man who represents the casual labourers. He has spoken about the piece-work system and the time system. Who is responsible for the piece-work system? The employers themselves. We do not want piece-work. Nobody wants piece-work. The man who works piecework is induced to kill himself in a short time, in order to earn as much as he can. The bargain is made between the man and the employer. The employer tells him, "You do as much as you can. Increase the output, and the more you earn for yourself, the more you earn for us." When the employer finds that the man has earned £8 in two days by wearing his soul case out, he says, "You are earning too much. We will cut you down." Then we have the hon. and gallant Member, with an imagination that would make Baron Munchausen turn in his grave, coming here to tell us that that case is typical of the casual labourer, who, in reality, is not working more than a day and a-half on the average. I would advise the hon. and gallant Member to go to his own people, and talk to them as he talks to us. I had not intended to speak, but I could not refrain from replying to the hon. and gallant Member.

I am not going to attack the Minister to-day. It is not his fault. He is simply nursing one of the "babies on the shore" for the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not want to be disrespectful or personal. There is an old saying that figures cannot lie, but there is another saying that liars can figure. I am not concerned about the figures in this House. I am concerned about the figures in the streets, the figures on the Thames Embankment, the children in their houses, the. men described last night by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) who pawn their war medals to get food for their families, the men who go round opening taxi-cabs for a few coppers. Those are the figures for whom I am concerned. I want to see things going on smoothly, but it is impossible for things to go on smoothly if this kind of thing is to continue. We are getting to the point of desperation. I am getting there very quickly myself. I do not want to get too far, but the responsibility is on those who are forcing us to go there.


The speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Sudbury (Colonel Burton) throws more light upon what is at the back of the minds of hon. Members who support this Bill than all the other speeches which have been delivered in our discussions. The Minister, I think, is trying to do the best he can. I know his great interest in these matters, and I do not think that he shares the sort of views that are represented by the driving force behind the Bill, and that are expressed in the sort of conversation which is carried on at dinner tables. It indicates the spirit of opposition which is felt to all social reforms for the betterment of this country, and which is due to a mixture of muddle-headedness and prejudice. The hon. and gallant Member gave an illuminating account of what happens when a man is paid by results. We were told that people work harder and earn more. There may be a system in industry based on that, and it is fair. But the moment that they do earn more the hon. and gallant Member comes here, and, because the workers work harder and earn more, he holds them up to ridicule. I tell the hon. and gallant Member that it is the practice of—

Forward to