§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I beg to move,That this House has no confidence in a Government which, after a lengthy period of industrial depression and confronted by a rapid and alarming growth in the numbers of unemployed, has failed to take measures to deal with a situation of unprecedented gravity.4.0 P.M.
I move this Resolution, placing on record the fact that, faced with a state of unprecedented gravity so far as unemployment is concerned, the Government have not done their duty. On this question of unemployment, the attack made upon the working classes, such as was made the other day from the Front Bench by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and such as is made almost every day in our newspapers, is one that has to be rebutted. The figures have risen to such proportions and have kept so steady that the subject will brook no delay, and, so far as we are concerned, we certainly hold the Government responsible for a neglect to use their powers and their influence which it is very hard to understand. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) a short time ago was quite accurate in one part of his pamphlet, where he gave a description of the crisis. He said:The position is much too serious. Our whole industrial system is arraigned by its failure to deal with the problem of unemployment. Our reigning economic system cannot justify itself unless it solves this, the greatest of our industrial and social problems.I quite agree. It is not any idea of a reorganised society that is in the dock. It is capitalism, capitalism in this country in particular, and this Government is standing alongside of it. What were the figures? In May, 1924, there were 1,057,000 on the unemployment registers, according to the Minister of Labour. That figure works out at 9.5 per cent. In the same month, in 1925, the figure had risen to 1,253,000, and the percentage was up from 9.5 to 11.2. The trade union figures are even worse. In the former year, they showed a percentage of seven 2056 unemployed, and last month they showed a, percentage of 10.1. It is not possible to paint that lily or to adorn that talc. The mere figures must strike everyone as charged with the most tragic significance unless we can reduce them.
At the very outset, there is on consideration that I wish to brush aside. I have heard it suggested again and again from the Front Bench that this is owing to an increase in mere registration. They did not make that explanation last year, and they are much less entitled to make it this year than we were entitled to make it last year because, while it is perfectly true, owing to the legislation for which we were responsible, that men and women who were unemployed, but who had been neglected hitherto, were put upon the register and were helped and thereby swelled the figures of unemployment since this Government came into office it has been sleepless in its attempts to knock off the register people who are properly entitled to be on it. We have been told, for instance, that the number of applicants that were rejected in Great Britain last year was 200,000, and we have been further told that of these there were 11,000 rejected because the state of their payments did not satisfy the rules and regulations of insurance. It is perfectly evident that thousands of people have been knocked off the register in order to try and save its funds, while a few thousands have been put on on account of the abolition of the gap and one or two other amendments, proper and adequate amendments, that were made while we were in office.
There is another point. We were told the other day by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a large part of the increase was owing to fraud. [HON. MEMBERS: "He did not say that!" and other HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, he did!"] That was his suggestion. It is not true. I would recommend hon. Members who think that I am doing him an injustice to read the report of his speech in the "Times" the next day. I do not know what he meant.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The Chancellor of the Exchequer takes the "Herald," does he not, against the OFFICIAL REPORT?
§ Mr. MacDONALD
For the very simple reason that certain reports were supplied by an agency, and the two or three newspapers that published the qualified report must only rank as one, whereas, so far as newspaper accurate reporting is concerned, untouched and unrevised by Ministers and speakers, I prefer to take the "Times." [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not the 'Herald'?"] Because the "Herald" report comes from an agency. I have not made these statements without going very carefully into them. The "Herald" report comes from an agency and is not supplied independently by its own shorthand writer in this House. The whole trouble is this. Let me be perfectly candid. Hon. Members on the other side will agree with this. Outside, there is a tremendous lot, if not most, of this volume of public opinion, which is passed along and expressed along from mouth to mouth, and from society to society, which goes upon the assumption that it is the fraudulent applications that have got successfully through that is so largely responsible for the increase in the figures of unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I say that unemployed men, like employed men, are oftentimes tempted and sometimes fall, but the percentage of fraud which has been proved in claiming and enjoying the unemployed pay is not a large one, and, if moral conduct of any section in society, from top to bottom, could be measured mathematically, as the conduct of unemployed men and women can be, the proportion that could be shown by any section of society would compare not much more favourably, if more favourably at all.
There is another point. It is suggested that if the workers would only consent to a reduction in wages, then the cost of production would be so lowered that we would bring our costs of production to a world level. While I do not quite know whether that statement is made with an absolute conception of a lower wage in mind or whether it has any standard of life that is going to be maintained by the lower wage, all I have to say is this: wages have been lowered. I have heard it stated in this House for years, and I have heard it stated outside since 1922, that if wages are lowered, then the cost of labour in production 2058 would be so substantially lowered that the cost of production would become an effective competitive cost. I have heard that said so often, and yet in our substantial industries the real wages paid to-day, compared with the wages paid in 1913–14 have fallen instead of increased. The increases in nominal wages have not kept pace with the increase in the cost of living. And so to-day the general poverty of our people is greater than it was in 1913–14. [HON. MEMBERS: "No! "] I hope hon. Members will notice that I say that the general poverty of our people is greater to-day than it was before the War, and still figures are produced to show that our cost of production is so high that effective competition cannot follow.
A year ago the outlook was quite different. A year ago there was confidence about it. [Interruption.] I warn hon. Members not to laugh too soon; I warn them not to laugh until I have finished this section. There was a confidence about it, a confidence that could not be upset by the lurid tales of rack and ruin which hon. Members opposite went about spreading all over the country. The outlook was brightening, and it did not suit their party purposes at all; they had to try to persuade the commerce and industry of this country that the advent of the Labour Government was going to depreciate the industrial condition of this country, and make grass grow in the streets of the City of London. I compliment them. They did it with energy and they did it heartily, without very much scruple. Nevertheless, the Government remained in touch with the industrial interests of the country, although the political uncertainties were somewhat hampering. Later on, the whole forces of commercialism, with very rare exceptions, raised themselves against us. "Given a Tory Government," they said, "then every condition that makes for stability and security will be with us; trade will boom, working men will be employed, and you will see the benefit of the exchange." There is not a single hon. Member on this side of the House who had not that sort of thing talked in his constituency. I remember very well the extraordinary imagination shown by one of them, a fellow-countryman of mine, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir It. Home). He was not merely content with his great business ex- 2059 perience and knowledge, but he went into poetic rhapsodies about the tremendous catastrophe that was going to result—and he did his best to produce it. I do not know whether the country really took him at his word or not, or took other right hon. gentlemen at their word, and believed that the return of a Tory Government was going to solve their difficulties, but, so far as it seems to me, they have been "sold a pup."
I warned hon. Members not to laugh too soon when I said that twelve months ago there was confidence growing. I find that in the King's Speech this sentence was used:"I am glad to note the signs of improvement in the state of trade and industry."That was the opinion of the Government, and that was an accurate description. I think they might have gone further and said:But I guarantee that with this Government they will not last long.If that prophecy had been made, it would have been very adequately fulfilled now. Test the national industrial position as we may—gilt-edged securities, railway returns, the psychology of general confidence, our export trade, the position of the coal trade in particular, which is one of the dramatic key trades of our country —test it by any of these tests, and deterioration is alone apparent. It is much worse than that. There is another test which Sir Allan Smith has placed upon record, one which really must give everyone who understands the signs and seasons a very great amount of disquiet. If the House will allow me, I will read what Sir Allan Smith wrote on the subject. He wrote:The income available for investment abroad—in other words, our trade balance was £252,000,000 in 1920, £154,000,000 in 1922, £102,000,000 in 1923, and £29,000,000 in 1924. In the current year we have come, on estimate, to a position which, apart from war conditions, has not previously been reached. Estimated from the result of the first five months, the trade balance in 1925 will be adverse to the extent of £26,000,000. In this estimate 'invisible exports' are taken on the same basis as in 1924, and, with the slump in shipping freights and other conditions, the figure taken is probably too favourable. The fact of supreme importance is that there is an estimated adverse balance for the current year which 2060 may turn out to be more than. £30,000,000 sterling.Such is the condition and the outlook of trade after eight months of a Tory Government being able to assure the country that the outlook was prosperous. These facts make one thing perfectly clear. There may or may not be wastrels in the ranks of the unemployed. Eliminate them all, and leave only as a residuum the very finest of human characters, and the best endeavour and skill of British brains. Do that, but, with trade in the condition I have described, your army of unemployed is to be enormously large, and the amount of suffering that is indicated by your statistics is to be most distressing. The country was led to expect that, when this Government came into office, all those things were steadily to disappear. It will to remembered that the Prime Minister's great campaign in 1923 was a campaign undertaken because he believed that the great problem of the nation was the problem of unemployment. He said—I am quoting from his Queen's Hall speech on the 19th November, 1923—that there were:Two main objects to attain—first, how to employ the people, and, secondly, to secure them a variety of employment.And, after painting a picture of unemployment and the effect it had upon him, he said:We have never been confronted before with a situation like this. Certainly within recent years, while you have had the unemployed chart running up and down, you have never had this prolonged rest at the bottom.That was two years ago, and still there is a very prolonged rest at the bottom. Upon that he commented:My proposals are the only ones before the country that are directed to the one end of fighting this nightmare of unemployment.What could the country expect? The country, remembering that, expected that there would be some definite, some effective, and some fruitful action if a Tory Government came into office. Moreover, he said:We regard unemployment as vital; we regard it as the one question of the day.Eight months in office, and we have still got to ask what they are doing in order to meet the difficulty! I would remind them that, in the mind of at least one of their Ministers, six days was quite 2061 enough to produce unemployment schemes. I would not like to pass any opinion about the Minister, but the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) has been selected as a Minister, and I find that six days after we came in the hon. Member—he was in Opposition—was terribly troubled; he was making a reputation—
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so, it was never said that we had a positive remedy for unemployment.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I have quoted sentences from the hon. Member's own lender to show that he gave the country to expect exactly the same thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!'] I see that hon. Members mean that what they said in 1923 they do not mean in 1925; or they mean to say that they are so tremendously keen about unemployment, so tremendously impressed with the seriousness of its character, that the cures they had are going to be kept in their pockets, and they are not going to take upon themselves the public responsibility of fighting for them at all costs—they will win elections rather than cure unemployment. After six weeks—the hon. Member for West Woolwich having started within six days—the Prime Minister, speaking on the 10th March, 1924, complaining that we had not produced great schemes, said:This problem will break you in time, as it will break every Government that fails to deal with it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1924; col. 1992, Vol. 170.]The Home Secretary—not merely the hon. Member for West Woolwich, but an important, first-rate Minister—on the 8th April, three months after we came into office, said:How many men are in work to-day under schemes produced by the present Government since they came into office? Not one." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th April, 1924; col. 336, Vol. 172.]What about the eight months? But the Minister for War, not being a vague-minded man, but a man who is always on the spot—he was on electricity, and he was in a tremendous hurry. He felt quite certain—I think over-estimating our capacity in the wealth of his charity— that four and a-half months was quite enough for us to produce a full-blown 2062 electrical scheme, a scheme to deal with the electrical power of the country; and so he said, looking rather threateningly at us:The right hon. Gentleman"—that was my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Labour—seems to forget that he has been in power, not for six weeks, but for nearly six months."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1924; cols. 2179–80, Vol. 176.1Nearly six months! Now it is eight months, and where is the scheme for electricity? We also had what amounted to a vote of censure moved upon us—not in the form in which I am doing it to-day, because I think it is very essential to-day that we should be able to discuss legislation as well as administration; but that is merely in passing. On the 29th May last year a Motion to reduce my right hon. Friend's salary was put down, and it was dealt with, quite properly, as a vote of no confidence. The Prime Minister, winding up, made it perfectly clear that he thought four-and-a-half months was quite enough for any Government to have to deal with unemployment. He said:We believe that in giving our vote to-night we are giving it as a protest against the handling by the Government of this subject of unemployment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th May, 1924; col. 732, Vol. 174.]That is four-and-a-half months. He has very nearly been twice that time, and still I put it to both sides of the House, what information of a substantial character have we really had regarding schemes dealing with unemployment? There are certain disquieting rumours going about. I should like to ask whether this is the action that is going to be taken. We are told by newspapers that are claiming, at any rate, to be pretty well informed, that the Government proposes to make a triple change in the present law. First of all it wishes to reduce the scales of payment. I should like to know if that is true. Are the scales of unemployment pay going to be reduced or are they not? Secondly we are told it proposes to widen the gap—to re-establish the six days again. We want to know is that so. We also want to know whether they are going to stiffen the regulations simply for the purpose, not of making unemployment insurance a genuine thing, but of saving funds and enabling certain 2063 proposals they are going to make regarding insurance to be practicable. Those three points ought to be dealt with. When one comes to consider what has been done, the field is pretty barren. I do not know if they have been hiding their light under a bushel or not, but at any rate they have not been putting it in the window. Perhaps they will give some information, Information should be given on three main subjects—young persons, women and men. What is being done for the young person? Every year 500,000 are coming out of the schools and are going into the factories. I remember a very interesting little experiment in which I was associated some years ago of linking up the back door of the school with the front door of the factory. I came across a report the other day showing that that had been carried on, and that during the last 12 months—I suppose it was an annual report—very successful work had been done in a certain district in London.
I should like to have information upon what the programme is that the Government has produced to deal with the peculiar case of the 500,000 young persons who leave school and, instead of getting into a factory or getting into the industrial habit, find nothing but the streets open and ready to receive them. Again we ought to know what is being done specially for the unemployed woman. Evidently road work and relief work of that kind is of no use to her. But it is when we come and make contrasts that we are appalled at the action of the Government. We (have just had a Budget that puts millions of pounds per annum into the pockets of people who certainly cannot be called poor, and whilst that is being done the Government is holding up its hands pleading poverty, pleading inability, pleading the end of the national resources. We ask it for large capital sums which, if wisely spent, will not be thrown away either in personal or in national luxuries, but will be sunk in national development, in other words will be bread thrown upon the waters which will come back after many days with a substantial addition to it, because it will result in the enrichment of the nation and the development of our latent possibilities. There is no relief for the burdens of the poor suggested in that Budget, no prospect of lightening burdens, no prospect of an economic ex- 2064 penditure of national wealth in such a way that the greater part of that wealth will fructify in the pockets of the masses of the people.
There is one important direction in which all Governments which have been concerned with unemployment have been trying to find some profitable channel down which their energies and their sympathies might run. I refer to land. We have our derelict land. We have water-logged land. We have land that may easily Ibe reclaimed. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Wash."] Not only the Wash. Hon. Members seem to be far more interested in remembering a word which has an amusing significance than in applying the problem of unemployment to this derelict and reclaimable land. But that is not all. We have spent millions of pounds upon roads and upon public works during the last few years, and when we have done that, and are now coming to an end, and find boards of guardians coming to an end of their resources, town councils coming to an end of their resources, and public authorities coming to an end of their resources, the expenditure which has brought them into that condition is now fructifying richly in the pockets of the private individual who happens to own the land. Is it not time that common sense and justice should take the place of class sympathy in this respect? We do a man no injustice, having improved his land, by enacting that those who did the improvement are going to claim the reward of the improvement. We take nothing from him. We simply say that money spent by the public for a public purpose shall yield the harvest to the public so that its public work may be continued. Fortunately I have a very interesting speech in my hand delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which is at this moment the most emphatic condemnation of the Government and its policy that anyone could utter. He was dealing at Manchester with the Manchester Ship Canal. He said of it:It is a channel to enable foreign goods to be imported cheaply into this country. It is a tube to bring dumping into the very heart of our national life, and you have built it. You have built this canal yourselves. You have built it at great cost, and you have thrived upon it. You have actually thrived in the process of committing this extraordinary folly.There the policy he inaugurated the other day for the purpose of improving trade, 2065 for the purpose of reducing the unemployed figures, so he said, is condemned by him in Manchester only a few years ago in connection with the Manchester Ship Canal, in which he took the most profound pride and in the existence of which as a dumping agent he made no apologies. He said:What kind of fools are those who come to us and say that when we have spent so much money in building a canal and making foreign goods cheap in the Manchester market, we should spend more money in Custom House officers and Custom House buildings in order to make them dear again? These arguments are not only against reason and logic, they are against nature.This is the reply to the big economic move that they make in order to deal with unemployment. He sides with me and my feelings on the point I just raised —the question of the land. He tells us in this speech how many acres of land had to be bought. He draws a contrast between the value of that land on the rate book and the value of that land in the agent's register after it had been sold to the Manchester Corporation. He goes on:I am told that 4,495 acres of land, purchased out of something like 5,000, I think, immediately after the decision to buy—4,995 acres were sold for £770,000, or an average of £172 per acre, that is to say, seven times the value of the agricultural land and the value on which it had been rated for public purposes.He comments upon that, that it is very bad for trade. He says:What had the landlord done for the community? What enterprise had he shown? What service had he rendered? What capital had he risked in order that he should gain this enormous multiplication of the value of his property? I will tell you in one word what he has done. (Cries of 'Nowt!') Can you guess it? (Cries of 'Yes!' and 'Nowt!') Yes. nothing.They were automatically enriched. He goes on to put in a plea for some methods by which the enrichment that they enjoy at the public expense shall be withdrawn from them and acquired for the public use:Here in England we have long enjoyed the blessings of Free Trade and of untaxed bread and meat, but, on the other hand, we have to set against these inestimable boons a vicious and unreformed system of land tenure. The system of local taxation to-day is just as clumsy and nearly as wasteful as the old unreformed system of national taxation. In many cases it is as great an impediment to progress, and it is, I think, the most sensible burden that the poorest class have 2066 to bear on their shoulders. I believe that it weighs to-day upon the interests of the country as heavily as the tariffs and Corn Laws sliding scales. 'You who shall liberate the land,' said Mr. Cobden, 'will do more for your country than we have done in the liberation of its commerce.'There is the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
1910. The right hon. Gentleman says, "I have changed my views." [An HON. MEMBER: "The War!"] Wars do not change fundamental economic facts. They are there. If the right hon. Gentleman has changed, very well. Let him say so. His speech from which I have quoted is, to me, such an admirable economic condemnation of the present Government's fiscal policy, and its lack of dealing with the land policy, that I am perfectly content to forego expressing my views and to quote a few sentences from the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
Instead of these sound economic views being adopted, tending to new markets, increasing our efficiency, imposing as public charges the benefits that the landlord is now enjoying on account of the expenditure of public money, the sort of Budget we had the other day will damage our industrial prospects, limit our markets and increase our difficulties. It is no use discussing unemployment, and it is no use discussing the question of trade by a mere superficial scratching of the surface. One has to consider the foundations, the architecture and the building. The building indicated in the speech which I have quoted was a sound and wise one, whereas the building that the Government is now putting its hands to will increase difficulties which are already too heavy. Instead of bringing about these benefits, the Chancellor of the Exchequer now casts his eye round about for any young virgin industry, promising in its youth, and, like the Minotaur, he looks abroad expecting a maiden tribute in order to swell his Exchequer receipts.
So much for the general policy. In regard to details, what have the Government done? A large programme is possible in national development— reclamation, drainage, afforestation, not merely for trees, but for men, and electrical development. What have they done regarding any one of these things? 2067 In regard to reclamation, they can joke about the Wash. In regard to drainage, we have heard nothing of any amendment of agricultural grants in that respect. Regarding afforestation, the last we heard was that they were limiting the amount of money that can now profitably be spent by the public in the afforestation of land, and that no scheme for the association of afforestation with land settlement, village communities, and so on, has yet been elaborated. As to electrical development, when we came into office we found practically nothing; but we left certain schemes in a very advanced stage of exploration. [Laughter.] Certainly. If hon. Members laugh and say that we did nothing in nine months, what are they going to do about their own Government doing nothing after eight months? At any rate, they had a start which was equal to one month, over and above the beginning that we had. Undoubtedly, the development of national electric power schemes is a very complicated, very difficult thing. It is not a scheme that can be produced in a week. Everybody knows that. The Government have been eight months in office and they are not even in a position to tell us upon what lines they are going or what is the general aspect of the scheme on which they are working.
Take Imperial matters. Take East Africa and Indian railways, desiring development and requiring development. Nothing has been done so far as we can see. The Report which has been issued by the Committee that went to East Africa indicates great possibilities. What is the Government doing to meet those possibilities? Take the question of foreign trade. There is still the Russian market. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh. I was told the other day, and I have just been told, that practically every State in Europe at the present moment is in Russia by its agents and representatives who are negotiating for grain deliveries. Whilst we imagine that we are staying out, it is our money that is enabling certain States to conduct negotiations and force prices up against us. That is business, I suppose, from the other side of the House.
If hon. Members had seen what I have seen, whatever their political prejudices 2068 may be about Russia—[Laughter]. It is not a laughing matter. Go to the East Coast of Scotland now. This, normally, is the fishing season. Normally the vast worthy population of that part of Scotland is on the sea catching herrings, mainly for the Russian market. The fish curers refuse to buy because there is no market. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] "Hear, hear!" That is all very well. They refuse to buy because there is no market. [An HON. MEMBER: "They will not pay."] There is any amount to pay. By bringing Russia within the scope of the Overseas Credit Schemes—[Laughter.] I repeat, by bringing Russia within the scope of the Overseas Credit Schemes, there would be scores of thousands of men and women in the north-east and the east of Scotland who would be happy, because they would have something coming in, whereas to-day they are in a state of distress unparalleled in the memory of living people. It is all very well to indulge in political prejudice, but when the political prejudice is indulged at the expense of the lives and the happiness of thousands of our people, then I protest. We do protest, and we shall protest in the most emphatic way we possibly can by carrying this Vote into the Division Lobby.
There is the question of foreign exchanges. That brings me to the edge of matters of large foreign policy, to which I do not intend to refer. The policy of the Government regarding depreciated exchanges, apparently, is simply to protect ourselves against imports from countries with depreciated exchanges, and then to leave the rest of the world's markets for our people to take their chance. What more does the Lace Duty mean? Of that trade, 73 per cent. is export. The only thing that the Government can do for these poor people in great distress in Nottingham and elsewhere is to say, "We will protect you against imports, but you have to take your chance in the world's markets for 73 per cent. of your produce." That is one of the most remarkable illusions, one of the most extraordinary pieces of deceit practised on the public that I have ever known since I have sat in this House.
Take the position of coal. This trade has been going worse and worse month after month, until now we are on the very edge of the precipice of a crisis. The Government says, "We can do 2069 nothing." They have seen the deterioration of production going on, and they have tried to suggest that the miner is to blame; but the figures given the other day show that the production per British miner is better than the production of the French miner, of the Belgian miner and of the German miner, better than the production of any miner outside the United States of America. In the United States, the production is due to two things, namely, special facilities in getting the coal on account of the nature of the sea, and special developments in the mechanical contrivances that the workmen use.
The competition is becoming more and more marked month after month: the production from new coalfields in Russia, the expansion of production in Alsace, the use of coal from the Saar Valley. Everything has been perfectly plain and patent, so that "he who runs may read": the diminution of our exports, which has hit hard certain districts like South Wales, Durham and Scotland, the attempt to reduce wages, the attempt to increase hours, and relations between the two sides not improving but steadily growing worse. All that has been going on for months, and the Government, apparently, has done nothing to use its influence in order to bring them together and smooth over difficulties and rough patches and see whether some agreement cannot be come to so that the industry can be carried on with peace and prosperity. There is just the old-fashioned typical laissez faire Government action, which takes the view that a Government can do nothing to influence industry, unless it is to protect certain interests that are certainly not the common interest and not the national interest.
This is being done at a time when the Government enjoy a Parliamentary position that has not been enjoyed by any Government for a great number of years. They have no Parliamentary worries. That is a very important consideration. They have no recurring crises every second or third day which take up a very large percentage of the time of overburdened Ministers. Their Divisions on the Budget show that they have not only a large but a very servile majority.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
That may be one of the benefits of having one leader, and, in any event, it certainly has been to the advantage of the leader.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
It is a position of the utmost importance to the political situation. A Parliamentary situation which gives the Government a, perfectly free hand to develop this policy apart from any other consideration except what it considers the best thing to do. All these things have been steadily getting worse under the Government with their Parliamentary power unchallenged and unchallengable. At the end of eight months they have a barren record so far as industry is concerned. Schemes that were begun have been neglected, proposals that were very nearly finished dissipated. Up up, up go the figures of unemployment and the misery and unhappiness, and, I am not sure but what is much worse than all, the bad temper and the increasing effects of friction and despair on the people. That being the situation I have no hesitation in doing what I consider to be the duty of the Opposition to-day and moving the Vote of Censure which I now move.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
I have no fault to find with the Opposition for moving a Motion of this nature. I do not know how far the speech just delivered by the right hon. Gentleman may be acclaimed as a powerful and convincing attack on the Government. I am quite sure that it has not been a helpful contribution to the solution of these pressing problems, which weigh not only on the Government but on both sections of the Opposition and on all the House of Commons. I have often wondered how it was that speakers in old days used to stand at this Box for three or four hours at a time. I never realised the necessity for doing it until I tried to compose for this afternoon a speech which would deal with the whole of this tremendous subject. I am not going to speak for that length of time, but I do want to cover as much of the ground as I can, for the benefit of the whole House and of the country. 2071 I only regret that in attempting to do that so much must of necessity be left out, but I hope that much that I may leave out may be taken up later by my right hon. Friend, who sits beside me (Sir A. Steel-Maitland). Before I begin, I would apologise to the House, because I shall have to detain them at rather greater length than is my custom.
I think that at a time like this—grave, not graver perhaps than some times we have passed through during the last six years, but graver in some respects than it was last year—one of the most necessary conditions for all of us is this, that we should try to envisage afresh one problems, and that we should do what is often difficult in polemical politics, get our sense of perspective right, because if we get our sense of perspective wrong, if, to use a common phrase, we allow ourselves to get rattled, we may be driven collectively into some action that may not be either for the present or for the permanent benefit of the very industries which we are all desirous of helping.
Let us bear in mind that we have to-day on the unemployed register over 1,250,000, an increase of something like 228,000 over the corresponding date of last year. In examining those figures, we must bear in mind that about 70,000 of those numbers are due to certain changes which were made in the Insurance Act. I mention that, because we must have a comparative figure. It does not make the unemployment any better. The comparative figure is bad enough, but let us have it accurately. The comparative figure is a net increase of something like 160,000, and those are to be found almost entirely in a very few staple industries— coal, iron, steel, engineering and shipbuilding.
I may say, in passing, that, had it not been for the occupation of the Ruhr, in my view you would have had this crisis through which the coal industry is passing to-day a year or 18 months ago. In a less degree than in those great industries you have to reckon, too, great unemployment in cotton and wool, but in neither of them is it of so serious a nature. When you remember that the normal pre-War unemployment has been estimated at about 500,000, you will see, what I believe has been stated in this House before, that 2072 by far the greater part of what I may call the abnormal unemployment to-day results from the unemployment in the great industries that I have mentioned.
But we have to remember—and this should not be forgotten in considering unemployment statistics: it is part of the perspective—that the emigration, which used to average 200,000 a year for the five year period before the War, has fallen, in the last five years, to about 130,000, and that, although this country suffered the losses which it did suffer during the War, yet during the War there was no emigration. You have besides that to consider the gradual growth in the population which has gone on the whole time. There is no close estimate to-day of the increased population in this country, compared with what it was before the War, but it is considerable, and all these facts, when we look at the unemployed figures, must be borne in mind.
There is one other figure—and I am going to give the House very few figures in what I intend to say—which I think we ought to keep before us. Grave as is this unemployment, affecting, as the Leader of the Opposition said, something like 11 per cent. of the employable population, there is yet close on 90 per cent. of that population employed. That is a simple fact which is often overlooked, for two reasons. First of all, the localisation of the unemployment, that makes its incidence press with such weight, and calls everyone's attention to it; and, secondly, the way in which many men of all political views, and many newspapers in this country, have a habit of speaking about unemployment, as though this country was played out, as though everyone was out of work, and giving an impression abroad, where it has done infinite harm, that we have so far gone downhill, and that we are unable to fulfil orders, even if they are given to us. I think that some correction to that point of view ought to result from our attempt in this Debate to recover a sense of perspective, while fixing our gaze on what have been called the black spots to which I shall refer more than once before I sit down.
In considering unemployment there is another factor to be borne in mind. Unemployment is intermittent in most industries, and also it is interesting just to note what has been the difference in 2073 unemployment in the three great industries of coal, wool, and cotton over the last year. Last year 3 per cent. of the miners were unemployed. This year the figure is 16 per cent., and I fear that those figures must grow worse until the existing crisis, on which I am not going to comment to-day, is passed. In wool we see a deterioration and in cotton an improvement. In wool the percentage was 4½ last year, and it is 18 per cent. this year. In cotton it was 15½ per cent. last year, and it is 7½ per cent. this year, but on the other hand iron and steel and shipbuilding and engineering have remained depressed throughout, not only this year, but last year and the year before.
There is one other series of figures, and I hope that I shall not have to trouble the House with any more. Last autumn—I forget under which Government it was made; it is immaterial—a careful examination was made of a representative sample of the whole unemployment register, and out of a possible maximum of 125 weeks it was found that of the males 23 per cent. were employed for from nothing to 29 weeks; nearly 23 per cent. were employed for from 30 weeks to 59 weeks; over 23 per cent. for from 60 to 89 weeks, and over 30 per cent. for from 90 to the full 125 weeks; and, except in circumstances where one big trade dominates a whole district, as does happen unfortunately in certain districts of the country, out of every 100 registered as unemployed in any month, more than 60 obtained work for some period in that month. So that generally speaking, and always excepting the black spots, unemployment has not been, and is not continuous, but is intermittent. And our task therefore is not to substitute an artificial market for a vanished natural market, but to strengthen if possible the natural market, because intermittence has always been, even in normal times, a regular feature of unemployment.
The changing economic conditions of the world have always hitherto made it impossible to maintain demand at an equal pressure at all time over all industry. Against the general and the protracted depression in the black spots, you may fairly set the general, and on the whole progressive, improvement in the trades that are more related to personal consumption—clothes, boots. and shoes, furniture and distribution. The importance of that is that it shows that up to 2074 now, during these difficult times through which we have been passing, the purchasing power of the community as a whole has not been seriously impaired. [Interruption.] If hon. Members challenge that statement, it is open to them, of course, to give their reasons when they speak, and I hope they will do so, because this is a very important question, and my statement can be substantiated with figures. It is one of the questions which to-day ought to be brought out into the light of day. I am not speaking of the black spots, to which I shall return. I am speaking of the general condition of the country, where the areas are not dominated by the few industries which to-day are suffering so much.
Of course, remember this: The danger of the situation is that these depressed trades which I have quoted are mutually inter-dependent, and they are mostly grouped together in the same parts of the country, which increases enormously the weight of their burden, both on themselves and on the community as a whole. Indeed, the whole social structure of the community in some parts of the country has been threatened by the havoc that has been wrought in their industrial and economic life by this black cloud that has rested particularly on them. And the risk is that where you have trades of such importance, contributing by themselves so large a percentage of the total unemployment of the country, in the condition that they are in now, they run the risk of breaking down other trades by reducing the purchasing power of those who naturally and normally look to these "basic trades for, at any rate, a portion of their livelihood.
After these preliminary remarks, surveying the whole industrial situation, and the policy of this and past Governments to industry, I ought to say a few words on agriculture, to get it clear of other industries. Agriculture as an industry, broadly speaking, is not affected to-day by unemployment. There is, indeed, a certain shortage of skilled labour in some districts. In June of last year there were just over 800,000 workers on the farms in England and Wales, 34,000 more than in the previous year, and about the same as before the War. Such unemployment as does exist is mainly among casual labour. That difficulty has been met by the provision, by successive Governments, 2075 of drainage schemes, and, including this last season, 3,250,000 man-days have been provided by this work. But there is a real difficulty here. Beneficial as are the drainage schemes to the land, there will be a difficulty in finding sufficient unemployment now in the rural population to get labour that is accustomed to this kind of work.
I know very well that hon. Members opposite have turned their eyes for some time past—I rejoice that they should— to the land. But I venture to think that they have still a good deal to learn about the land. The difficulty is this: There does exist, perhaps not among hon. Members opposite, but certainly among their supporters in the country, an honest and genuine belief that by a stroke of the pen you can put the unemployed on the land—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"]—I am very glad to hear that—and enable them to keep themselves. Any substantial increase in arable land in this country must depend ultimately on prices. It is undoubtedly because of the fall in prices that the 1,000,000 workers of 40 years ago have become the 800,000 of today, and the drop in arable land from 14,000,000 acres to 11,000,000 acres accounts for over 100,000 of these men, the rest being accounted for by the largely increased use of mechanical implements and labour-saving devices. But, all the same, no Government to-day but must have studied, as I fancy each Government in turn has in recent years, how and in what way land settlement in this country ran be proceeded with.
It may not be generally known to Members, except those who have made a special study of the subject, that in Denmark, a country that is often held up as being the model of what every agricultural community should be, last year they passed a law that anyone wishing to get land must have supported himself by agricultural work for at least four years after his 17th year. I just quote that to show the amount of care that will have to be given to education and practical work before any scheme of this kind can be brought into fruitful being, and to effect that purpose would unquestionably mean a very large expenditure of public money. It is because this is the case, that the Government are taking their 2076 time, and will take their time, in spite of the jibes which we may receive, in examining this question with an ardent desire to find a solution for it while we are still in power.
Before I pass from agriculture, there is one really cheerful subject on which I would like to say a word—the subject of sugar. Sugar employs 10 men for every 100 acres on which beet is grown. In 1919 there were 400 acres under beet. Last year there were 23,000 acres, and this year 50,000 acres have been sown. That means that 5,000 men have found work which should be permanent, and 3,000 men are in continuous employment in putting up factories this summer. Ten factories which will be working this autumn will employ another 5,000 men, mainly unskilled, during the winter months, and this will tend to a decasualisation of the labour that is brought into the country districts for the purpose of hay-making and harvesting. In addition, these factories mean a permanent staff of chemists, foremen and engineers, numbering 600. They will each take 5,000 tons of coal, 2,500 tons of limestone, and all the consequent transport. I mention that merely to show that a start has been made, with the help of all parties in the House, and over a, period of years—a start has been made in an industry which may easily grow to be one of very great dimensions. I would only say here that, as is so often the case in this country, whatever the reason may be, it is always difficult, in the starting of a new industry, to get adequate capital. It is a matter which any Government might be asked to investigate—whether there is anything they can do, by making it more easy to have the capital provided, to enable the speed to be accelerated considerably at which these factories may be increased and spread throughout the country.
I would like to make two or three observations on two branches of policy which themselves affect the industrial situation of the country—foreign policy and financial policy. I shall be very brief on each. Our foreign policy, no matter what Government has been in power, has for the last few years been directed to replace chaos and turbulence in Europe by order and peace. It has been difficult, and it will be difficult. There have been new countries to be dealt with, new countries who have had 2077 to organise themselves, and old countries who have been faced with vast problems of reconstruction. But real progress has been made. We ourselves have played no mean part in the restoration of Austria and Hungary and Germany itself; and this country has exercised, either by herself or in conjunction with other countries or through the League of Nations, a steadying influence, and one directed unceasingly and unswervingly to peace, knowing that peace in Europe, as has been said over and over again in this House from all benches, is an absolutely essential concomitant to any industrial progress in this country. We are making, I think with the general assent of the House, one more attempt to take a step which we believe will have great effect in steadying and solidifying the position in the West of Europe, and helping to begin to heal the age-long strife and rivalry between two great nations. If our efforts, with the support of the people of this country, are crowned with success, I feel confident that we shall have passed another milestone on this long and toilsome road.
In a Debate of this kind we cannot omit to say a few words on financial policy. I do that the more readily because of the extremely powerful Budget speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition between the beginning and the ending of his unemployment speech. The object, again of all parties —because there has been continuity in finance as there has been continuity in foreign policy—the object of all parties, when in office, has been to balance the Budget out of revenue, to reduce debt and to reduce public expenditure, and by doing that to reduce taxation. From the beginning of the period after the War there really were only two money policies which could be followed. One was the policy which we followed and the other the policy of adopting a practically unlimited paper currency. That was followed by Russia, by Germany, and to a large extent by France. But we put ourselves in harmony with the principal gold-using countries of the world, the United States of America, our own Dominions of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and Holland, Sweden and Switzerland among the neutrals, and the reconstructed Germany.
If you look back, you can see there could have been only one course for a 2078 country like ours, which depends absolutely, if it is to maintain its standard of living, on a substantial foreign trade and its ability to meet competition. Had our domestic prices in this country remained at anything like the height at which they stood so recently, it would have been impossible for us to have sold any goods in the foreign markets, and our foreign trade would have been far worse even than it is to-day. The effect of monetary policy, however, in my views is often greatly exaggerated, for it is political uncertainty which withers up credit more perhaps than any other single cause, and it is the political uncertainty that Europe has been feeling lately, while these negotiations have been proceeding on the Continent, that have had a bad effect so far as credit goes; and there is no doubt that both in the United States and this country that bad effect has been felt.
To go back to what I said on foreign policy, I feel convinced that one of the first effects of a settlement being reached between France and Belgium and Germany and ourselves will be to give a much better environment in which foreign credit may flourish than we have enjoyed for some time. Whatever may be said about our financial policy, we can, at any rate, take comfort in the fact that our Bank rate in this country is lower than that in any other European country, except Holland and Switzerland. I thank the House for the patience with which they have listened to me up to this point, and I pass now, gladly, to explore what a Government, what the House of Commons, what the country may be able to consider and to do at this time. I am never one to dig about, either in my own speeches or in other people's. I have only one quotation which I want to give the House as a preface to what I am going to say now. I choose it because it is pellucid, and contains a profound truth, and in it, not for the first nor for the last time, the late Minister of Labour puts his finger right on the spot. He observed, on 4th August last:After three or four years of acceleration of work, the time has come when it is getting more and more difficult to find work to accelerate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th August,. 1924; col. 2572, Vol. 176.]Every Government has been brought up against that, and every Government must recognise the profound truth of 2079 this observation. I told the House I was not proposing to give them many figures, and if figures on some of the points, to which I am going to allude, are desired, they can be given later in the Debate by my right hon. Friend.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Thank you very much. I wish to observe that as regards what I may call the palliatives which have been adopted for many years past, we continue to use each one of them. They were mostly started I think in the time of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal party; they were continued by Mr. Bonar Law's Government, by my Government, by the Labour Government, and we are continuing them to-day. As time has gone on they have been extended in certain directions, but the principle remains the same. In export credits I cannot say whether it will be possible to devise anything that will be of great service, but we are considering, in connection with export credits, a 6cheme of insuring debts. With regard to trade facilities we have advertised that we are prepared to give facilities under that Act for the modernising and repairing of plant in works. I think that is something which may be of real value, and I should be glad to see advantage taken of it. Direct work on roads, of course, goes on and also schemes devised by local authorities and assisted by the Government. But there again we are up against this difficulty—that each successive year it becomes more difficult for the local authorities to put up schemes, and in some districts they have been so severely hit by what has gone before that you have a fresh problem, which did not face you years ago. Moreover, these schemes are mainly adapted to unskilled labour. The labour for which I must say I have the greatest sympathy and which I think has suffered most, is skilled labour. It would be a terrible thing for this country if, when we have passed through this terrible time, we found that the best of our skilled labour had had to go to foreign countries to earn their livelihood.
I want to say a word or two about what fell from the Leader of the Opposition with regard to certain statements of mine 2080 made in 1923. I perhaps read into them a meaning different from what he did. I will tell the House what I read into those remarks which he quotes. I was obsessed then, as I am to-day, by the cumulative effect of year after year of grave unemployment when it is, as we know it is now, centralised in a few staple and essential industries. It was for this reason that I proposed what we thought was—call it a remedy if you like—but owing to the efforts of hon. Gentlemen opposite we were soundly beaten. That, in my view, makes it all the more incumbent on hon. Members who, from their own conscience, fought us and beat us on that issue, and said, "This remedy at any rate you shall not apply"—all the more obligatory on them that they should devote their minds to what they think should be done, and what contribution they have to make to this problem which we are all trying to solve, when they have taken from us what we believed to be the surest remedy Hon. Members all know that one of the greatest difficulties which we have to-day is in the increasing restrictions which foreign countries are putting up against us, and I myself—and I think my fiscal opinions are well known—believe that to-day if it were possible, it would be to the benefit of this country if the whole of Europe went Free Trade. But though I would work for that, I see no possibility of it. I am not so confident whether it would be to our benefit to-day if the United States were to do that, and I, think to discuss it would be rather outside the terms of this Debate, though it would be a very interesting subject for discussion.
What is there that can be done? I remember very well a powerful speech made last year by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he was then, in the Labour Government on a Vote which we had on unemployment—I think at the beginning of August. Now, the right hon. Gentleman is an orator and he has imagination. I am not an orator, and I have no imagination. I remember very well I followed him in his flights when he explained to us that, while it was impossible for the agricultural labourer to "warm both hands before the fire of life," yet it would be possible if the right hon. Gentleman stayed on a little longer to enable the agricultural labourer to warm his inside with untaxed tea and his outside with an electrical kettle. He drew a picture of what rural development 2081 in this country might be if we paid proper attention to electricity. I do not propose to make any prophecies, or to paint any rosy pictures, but merely to make to the House a statement of the fact that the Government have had a practical scheme worked out for them which is at this moment being examined very carefully by a strong Committee, and if that Committee report as I hope it may—and it certainly will report before long—that that scheme is practicable, we shall then take the necessary steps to get the scheme put into existence, and to pass whatever legislation may be necessary to enable it to be done. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is it?"] I will tell hon. Members all about it in due time.
I want now to make some observations based on a very powerful speech made recently by Mr. Frank Hodges. He was speaking of what he thought a Government ought to do with regard to the low temperature carbonisation of coal and the general efficiency of scientific research. If the House will bear with me, I should like to make a few observations on scientific research in this country because I believe in a Debate of this kind a Prime Minister can have no better opportunity of bringing before the country what he believes the country ought to do in that direction.
No one will assert that British industry can be saved by science alone, but it is none the less true that until scientific methods and scientific men can take their place in industry, and an equal place, with the administrator and the financier, British trade will never be strong enough or resilient enough to meet the shocks that it is bound to meet as the years go by, or to meet the sudden and unexpected changes which will always arise in international trade. Englishmen are glad enough to employ science in a brand new industry, and they are glad enough to call it in at a time like this, when they fear that a great deal of their trade is slipping away, just as they call in the family doctor if they have some pain they cannot explain. But they are reluctant to employ it in the day-to-day work. The late Lord Lever-hulme attributed his success as a business man to the working of fear on imagination, and it is marvellous what can result if you have imagination and allow fear to play upon it. But I think the present 2082 situation in industry will cause our people more and more to turn their minds to what scientific research and scientific management can do. The electrical industry to-day is spending £250,000 a year on research, an impressive figure for this country. But there is one company in the United States of America that is now spending 9,000,000 dollars a year, has 3,000 trained workers in its research laboratories, and is going to increase that number to 5,000. There is no doubt that victory in the long run will go to the nation which can harness most efficiently and most securely science to its industry.
Our people, the majority of them, find it very difficult to realise that the days are gone for ever when we manufactured for the world, when we supplied the people with the goods we liked and not with what they wanted, and when they would have to take them at our price and our convenience. Those days are gone for ever. We were, of course, the first in the field. To-day we no longer hold a commanding position. Our very geographical position is less beneficial to us than it used to be, owing to the speeding up and improvement of transport throughout the world. Our shipping is open to severe competition. There is a tendency throughout the world to displace a great deal of the work of the skilled mechanic by making more and more efficient automatic machinery. There we have a tendency to lose, to that extent, what has been hitherto one of the most priceless assets to our country. Therefore, our success depends more and more on the quality of the goods we supply and on the cheap and efficient methods of our production.
The Government are doing a great deal to help in scientific research. There is work going on in the preservation and transport of foodstuffs, both in the scientific laboratories at Cambridge and in the low temperature research stations; research is going on into building materials and methods of construction, for which a new station will soon be opened, at Watford; there is research into the preservation and grading of timber and forest products; research into wireless is being conducted at Slough and Teddington; and there is all the research in the problems of mechanical and physical engineering which has been going on for some time at the 2083 National Laboratory at Teddington. That is all to the good, as is the help that the Government have given for the last few years to certain large industries in this country to organise research on the basis of the whole industry for the benefit of that industry, and I am glad to say that there are no fewer than 24 industries which are at present working on those lines. I thought it right to touch on that subject—I should like to say a great deal more about it—just to show, before I pass to another subject, how I regard it as vitally important to link up science with our industries to-day, and to say that the Government will always consider in what way they can best help in the attainment of this great object.
Now I come to the question of the low carbonisation of coal and the production from it of oil out of smokeless fuel. There are many people to-day who speak as though it would be possible, if the Government desired, to start these processes working on a commercial basis at half the pit heads in the country. But that is not the case. Put quite shortly, the position is this: Research has been going on at the Government station, and by various processes in private hands, several of which have reached remarkable results as far as the laboratory is concerned. The time has not come yet when a commercial process has been successfully devised. It will come, it may come soon, it may be in a few years, but it is as certain as we are standing and sitting in this House this afternoon that what has been proved successful in the laboratory will be proved successful commercially; and when that day comes, although what is discovered in the laboratories must be the common property of the science of the whole world, yet it will give this country probably the greatest push forward in development that it has had since the discovery of steam.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I cannot say what it will be used for yet, but I hope it will be used, first of all, for producing oil. If the results of the new experiments at East Greenwich justify it, the Government will certainly consider the question whether they might not erect a plant upon 2084 a commercial scale to help in the development of this scheme. The time is not ripe yet, but when it is ripe—and I hope it may be soon—we shall examine it with that desire.
I pass from that—and I have very nearly finished now—to three or four other lines of possible development. There is development in the Colonies, which we are examining all the time. There is one subject on which I would only say one word, and that is the film industry. I think the time has come when the position of that industry in this country should be examined with a view to seeing whether it be not possible, as it is desirable, on national grounds, to see that the larger proportion of the films exhibited in this country are British, having regard —and I put this to the whole House—to the enormous power which the film is developing for propaganda purposes, and the danger to which we in this country and our Empire subject ourselves if we allow that method of propaganda to be entirely in the hands of foreign countries.
Now there is one way in which Members of this House and people of this country can directly help, and that is to make a firm determination, wherever they are, so far as practicable, to insist on buying British goods and British goods alone. My hon. Friend who sits for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Trevelyan Thomson1) is never tired of asking what can be done for Middlesbrough. He is one of those who always urges us to use cheap iron and steel coming into this country, and now it has helped to ruin the borough in which he is so interested, let him lead a crusade for the purchase of British goods, and let our municipalities, in this time of stress and this time of danger to our industries, resolve that a slight saving of money shall not prevent them placing their contracts through this coming winter in this country rather than abroad.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those mills which have kept in employment during the last few months have been running on cheap steel that has come in, and found work for thousands of men in re-rolling it?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am glad to hear, for the sake of Middlesbrough, that it is not so bad as it has been represented.
§ Miss WILKINSON
Can the right hon. Gentleman say why he allows the Admiralty to use German steel in British warships?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I believe the hon. Lady is misinformed in that statement. I am told by the Admiralty that it is quite untrue.
Now I come to the last question about which I wish to say a word. I spoke some time ago about the "black spots," I spoke about the cumulative effect of unemployment, and it may well be that the time has now come when we ought to look at every possible kind of remedy, and examine it to see if it can be made applicable to meet the present situation. It may be that the time has come when, to give a stimulus to specially distressed industries, it may be desirable to take steps that would not or could not have been taken until unemployment had lasted for so long as it has. And, therefore, I think it would be useful if the House itself, in the course of this Debate, would examine and consider, as the Government are proposing to do, whether by any form of subsidy it may be possible to give, as I said, that stimulus and lift in the region of those industries which seem at the moment beaten down into a position of helplessness. The various forms in which subsidies may be given— and I can think of no others—are either by bounties on production or on export, or subsidies of specific contracts or orders mainly for export, or subsidies in specially distressed districts in aid of rates, to take that burden off those who manufacture in that district, or a subsidy to help to bring down goods rates on the railways. In all these methods of subsidising, the difficulties are great, and the difficulties may be insuperable, and, as far as I am concerned, so far as the Government are concerned, even in the case where any of these methods might be found practicable and desirable, I believe in the long run it would do more harm than good if any assistance of this kind were given to any industry that was not itself efficient and making every effort, and continuous and increasing effort, to make itself efficient.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The question in the minds of quite a number of Members on 2086 this side is, does the Prime Minister's reference to subsidies include the coal industry?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
At this moment I do not propose to say anything about the coal industry, because of the critical position of the negotiations, and I am quite certain at this moment, if I were to say anything as to the future of that industry, it could do harm in the discussions that are taking place. I have no right to appeal, perhaps, to this House, but I do beg hon. Members to reflect in this discussion whether if we were to bring the special subject of coal at this moment into our Debates, we might not run the risk of doing more harm than we should do good. The cause that the hon. Member has at heart is as near to me as it is to him, and I only say this because I am firmly convinced that I should do more harm than I could do. good if I were to discuss the prospects of that trade at this moment.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
To sum up, I would like to remind the House that I have tried to point out the extent to which a few and limited number of industries have affected the unemployment figures. I have tried to point out that the incidence of unemployment is changing, except in the black spots where the full weight of the depression, is felt; that, in spite of the depression, 90 per cent. of the workable population are employed, and a considerable number of trades are doing reasonably well, indicating the continuance of purchasing power, except, again, as it may be affected in the worst districts of the country; that the Government are maintaining the various expedients which have been practised during the last few years; that we are examining the question of land settlement, of speeding-up the development of sugar, colonial development, and are seriously going to explore the possibilities along these various methods of subsidy, and we shall be glad to hear them discussed in the House of Commons this afternoon; that we hope to be in a position to proceed with a big scheme of electrical development, assuming that the report which is now being examined proves satisfactory, as I believe it will.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The Prime Minister has asked that the matter of subsidies should be discussed in the Debate this afternoon. If that is going to be done, it is important that we should have some idea, at least, what the Prime Minister means. Does he mean subsidies to industry, subsidies to rates, subsidies to individual firms, and subsidies to railway companies, in order that they may reduce freights?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I will tell my right hon. Friend what is in my mind. I am taking the House of Commons, as I think the Leader of the House should, entirely into my confidence. I do not say that any of these things which I have mentioned are practicable or beneficial. I say that the Government are going to explore them. I think we need to make a great and special effort this winter. None of these things that I have mentioned, I repeat, may be practicable, but in mentioning them, and in mentioning them before we have considered them, I think it would be of great service if any Member in this House has criticism or opinion on these subjects that he should give the House the benefit, because I believe the subject of unemployment is one which the whole House should join hands to try to solve, and not employ all the time, although this is a Vote of Censure, in picking holes in what has been or what has not been done. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about last year?"] In this matter of unemployment, I have never been a supporter of picking holes unduly.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am only going to say one word about that Debate. The crux of that whole Debate was the unfortunate promise that there was a remedy. I have never pretended to have a remedy, because there is but little—as I have said again and again over the last five years, in one position and another— that any Government can do, and I believe that statements of that kind have been made from the Front Opposition Bench when they were in power.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister of Labour told me the other week, in the 2088 House of Commons, that he and the Government had a remedy for unemployment?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am afraid I am not a very close student of what other people say. I am responsible for myself, and, of course, for my colleagues. I dare say what my right hon. Friend said I should approve of, just as the Leader of the Opposition would approve of everything said by the late Minister of Health. I was just saying there are limits, and very strict limits, to what Parliament can do to help the industries of a country. After all, in a democracy, if people cannot save themselves, no Government can save them. Ultimately, whatever this or any other Government may do, the only thing that can save the trade of this country is brains and work. We are moving, and we shall move, into a state of far closer co-operation in industry than we have before. If we do not, we shall never recover our industries; and to win that position, and get that co-operation which is essential, I shall continue to devote every effort of which I am able. I know it is the fashion among some hon. Members opposite to call my speeches "sermons." I do not mind if they do. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is what your own people say about them!"] I do not mind who says it, because I know I am right.
I would make this observation. The peace, for which I have pleaded so much in this country, is to me as much as international peace is to the heart of the Leader of the Labour party. I remember so well, when the War broke out, I felt I understood what caused him that distress of his inner mind. It was this, that he saw shattered at his feet the ideal of international peace, to which he had given years of his life, years of his work, for which he had spoken, in which he believed and for which he longed. The outbreak of war to him meant that all that had gone, and it was that which cut him to the heart. I saw it, and I understood it. But I have exactly that passionate desire for peace at home. Let me just say this. I do not expect that peace will always be maintained. I keep my ideal. I shall never reach it, but my ideal is shared by many among you. It is shared by many of your people in the country. There are hundreds of thousands in this country to-day who are behind me 2089 and with me in this matter, and I thank from my heart those in prominent positions in this House and those in the country who work for peace. But I can say, that whenever my ideal is broken at the moment, whenever I fail, I shall go on the next day. I shall try to rebuild the shattered fragments of the house each time it falls to pieces. I shall carry on in this way, and try again and again so long as I have the power.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
The House, I am sure, has listened with pleasure to the earnestness and sincerity that has characterised the Prime Minister's eloquent speech. If sincerity and earnestness were the remedy for unemployment, then, within a very short time, it would have disappeared from our land. Unfortunately, the paths of Government, like the path to a certain place, are strewn with good intentions, which have not materialised. I should have liked the Prime Minister to have devoted most of his time rather to dealing with the situation that confronts us than in assuring us of his anxiety to bring about better conditions. He devoted his time rather to endeavouring to show that things are not quite so bad as they might be. He told us that 90 per cent. of the employable population is still employed. I think it is a dangerous frame of mind that finds a solution in that. He reminds us that unemployment is found mainly in a few trades out of the whole, in the coal, iron and steel industries, and probably he would include shipbuilding and one or two other trades. Is it necessary for me to remind the House that these are the basic industries of Great Britain, and that, if these collapse, the whole structure on which British industry rests will come to the ground? The right hon. Gentleman speaks as if he regarded the present situation as being merely a temporary one, one that will pass away as soon as industry has had the opportunity to adjust itself. He seems to assume that no great harm will be done by drifting.
How many captains of industry on the other side of the House or outside the House would, I wonder, agree with that complacent view of the situation? We have now had unemployment for four or five years, and during that prolonged period the anxiety of the workers has been increasing. We read the reports of various great industrial concerns in the 2090 country, and we are assured week after week that they are carrying on at a loss. In the financial columns of the "Times" last week, I read the annual report of a very large concern in my own Division— William Beardmore and Company, Limited. In this it was stated that during the past 12 months they had lost £500,000. I wonder how long concerns like that, and similar concerns, can go on losing money, half-a-million at a time? Is the Prime Minister certain that the amount of capital at the disposal of the coal, iron, steel and shipbuilding industries is sufficient to withstand this state of unemployment for a few years to come; and, if it be not sufficient, if the captains of industry lose heart in the struggle, and if coal, iron, steel and the shipbuilding industries collapse, or, perhaps I should say, continue to collapse, how long will the clothing trade, the boot trade, or the printing and other trades which rest on these, continue in comparative prosperity? I am afraid the Government have not yet realised the gravity of the present situation. I think its most dangerous feature is its look of permanency.
We are told that during our period of office we did not find a remedy for unemployment. I quite admit that we did not find a remedy for unemployment, but I submit to hon. Gentleman opposite that the failure of our Government or any Government to find for this nation a way out of its difficulties is not a fit subject for exultation, but is a matter of the very deepest regret. May I remind the House that we were not the only Government that failed to find a remedy? Since unemployment began in 1920 we have had five different Governments in power. We had the Coalition Government, which failed to find the remedy. Other Governments followed, and I can find for them, I think, an excuse which will appeal to reasonable men. When the Coalition Government had to tackle this problem, it was not of the serious dimensions with which it faces us now, and had not assumed those symptoms of permanency that are now its most dangerous feature. It was felt in those times that all that the industry required was time to adjust itself, and that in six or 12 months, when the workshops and machinery of this country had been adapted to the purposes of peace, order would be restored and British 2091 industry take on a, course of prosperity thus repairing the damage of the War. So though the Coalition Government, and I think we all shared their view and treated unemployment as a temporary difficulty.
In his speech the Prime Minister made certain remarks about the late Mr. Bonar Law's state of health preventing him and his Government from undertaking any great scheme of reconstruction. He also reminded us that during the brief period that his first Government held office his desire to obtain a majority for Protection, which attempt led him, unfortunately, to disaster, prevented his Government from contributing anything towards the solution of the problem. Is it surprising that the Labour Government, with a hostile and powerful majority in this House against it, compelled to operate an industrial system in which it had no great faith, during the period that it was in power, failed to remove unemployment from the path of this nation? Isn't it ridiculous to compare the failure of any of these Governments with the failure of the present Government? Here you have a Government that has a considerable majority in this House, that has no House of Lords to contend against, that has the support of the captains of industry, that has the friendship of the financiers, the backing of a powerful and influential Press, and has been blessed with unprecedented industrial peace. No Government in the history of Governments has had such an opportunity. Yet for the purpose of solving this problem the country might just as well have had no Government as the present Government. I do not think it is necessary to emphasise what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition laid down, that if this country is to survive, the problem of unemployment must be solved. If the industrial system under which we operate stands in the way of the solution of unemployment, and has become a menace to the survival of Britain as a nation, then I hope that all sections of the House will abandon their political prejudices and face the facts of the situation. The Prime Minister has taunted us with having had a sovereign remedy for unemployment! He stated that he had never claimed to have a remedy. I do 2092 not think it would be difficult for me to prove from the speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that when they went to the country they led it intentionally to believe that if they were returned to office with a substantial majority, unemployment would disappear. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That trade would revive, and that there would be work for all.
§ Sir JAMES REMNANT
That is not a true statement, and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to quote from any responsible person to that effect.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
They have been in office now as long as the Labour Government was in office. Conditions have got worse and worse, and the longer they stay in office the worse the conditions become. I have been asked to state the remedy that they told the electors would cure unemployment. What they said was that if the Socialists were removed from office and the Conservative Government returned, the country would have confidence in that Government; that as trade was such a delicate thing, a requirement for its health was a state of national confidence. Believing that appeal the electors gave them their substantial majority, a majority which, I think I am right in stating, far exceeded their expectations. That majority was given to the Government which we assumed to be stable. It seems to be stable, and I suppose I am safe in assuming that in that stable Government the captains of industry and the merchants of the country have absolute confidence. Yet, notwithstanding that majority, that stability, and that confidence, the trade of the country is not reviving. It is steadily disappearing, and the condition of our country becomes more and more dangerous every day. It seems to prove that confidence without action is useless, and action from the present Government is something which need not be expected. Their absence of policy demonstrates, I think, to most people that, however much confidence they have in them, the Government have no confidence in themselves or their system.
We were told that the next thing that industry required to assist it was industrial peace. There, again, the Government appealed to all sections of industry, employers and employés, to come to- 2093 gether and to keep out of the discussion anything that might cause friction where harmony was necessary. Eight months ago that appeal was responded to with enthusiasm. You have had perfect industrial peace since the present Government came to power. This truce in industry, if it had been properly handled, might have been utilised to lay the foundation of a more stable and prosperous industrial order that would have carried us over the next few critical years. But no use at all has been made of that period of peace. The Government have themselves succumbed to the craving for peace, and the result is that we are getting an industrial peace of quite another order, an industrial peace that in many districts is not being disturbed by the turn of a wheel or the sound of a workshop "hooter." The Government have no policy to put before the country. The Government cannot be bothered. The Government are allowing things to drift. The Government believe that industry will cure itself. The Government claim that it is none of their business to interfere in the present industrial position.
I submit that it is a serious matter when the Government of the country, recognising and admitting that the nation is in a serious and a dangerous condition, declare that it is no business of theirs to hold out a helping hand to save that sinking nation. During the Election the Government told the country that industry would be helped by a reduction in taxation. The Government have done nothing to reduce the taxation on industry. Anything they have done, or are proposing to do, is in the direction of increasing the taxation on industry. The Government have allowed the Bank Rate to be raised and credit made dearer for the industrialists of this country. In my opinion, they have restored the Gold Standard before conditions in this country warranted it, and in that way have helped exporters in every country but this. We have heard again to-day of the great things we may expect from Empire development. Any proposals that have come from the other side in regard to Empire development have been of the most pettifogging character. They do not yet seem to have developed the glimmering of a policy that would knit the various parts of this Empire together for 2094 mutual aid. Their views on Empire development have never soared higher than cheap currants and slave labour. That was their view when they came into office, and it is their view after eight months of office.
Now we are being told, not so much in the speech to-day as in the Press which supports the Government, and in the speeches of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite outside the House, that the way out of our present difficulties is by reductions in the costs of production, and that we must be prepared to face a substantial cut in the wages of the workers. I would like to hear the party opposite dispute that that is the view held by them and their friends outside. It is the only view before the country, coming from the other side, as a means of dealing with our industrial difficulties. In my opinion, that is the maddest course of all. If I wanted to bring ruin upon British industry I would advocate a reduction in the wages of British workers, not because it might lead to trouble from those workers, but because it would be the surest way of ruining the home market for British products. The Prime Minister himself was careful to remind us that 90 per cent. of our workers who are employed are kept in trade and industry largely by the demands of our people at home. It is the export trades that are suffering; it is not the home trade that is suffering. Where can one find a surer way of ruining the home trade than by bringing down the purchasing power of the British people? The Leader of the Opposition rightly reminded the House that there would be nothing experimental in that policy. During 1921, 1922 and 1923, wages in this country were reduced by £10,500,000 a week. During the eight months of a Labour Government in 1924 wages were increased by over £500,000 a week. The net result is that to-day the purchasing power of the British people, who are, after all, mainly wage-earners, is £10,000,000 a week less than it was in 1920. If reduction of wages had been a remedy for unemployment we should have seen unemployment disappearing at the rate at which wages were reduced, but we have seen the exact opposite occurring: as wages were reduced the purchasing power of our people diminished, the demands in our shops 2095 decreased, their orders to the factories correspondingly reduced, and unemployment naturally increased.
The Prime Minister appealed to us to try to get a proper perspective of the present situation in order to shape our course in an intelligent direction. May I respectfully submit to the Prime Minister, in his absence, that he does not yet seem to have grasped the fundamental cause of the present industrial stagnation? Let me try to state it very briefly. The Primp, Minister reminded us in his speech, and it has reference to what I want to say, of the fall that has taken place in the number of persons employed in agriculture in the last 40 years. He attributed much of it to so many millions of acres going out of cultivation, and said a large part of it was also due to the introduction of mechanical devices to do the work formerly done by manual labour. That is exactly what has been going on in industry outside agriculture, and multiplied by a thousand times. The present situation, I think it is worth while remembering, is one that is world wide. We were reminded of that the other day in a speech by the Home Secretary, in which he said many foolish things, but this wise one—that it is a situation that is world wide, and that we have to regard ourselves not merely as if we were a world within ourselves, not as if we occupied the isolated position that we occupied a century or even less ago, but that we are to-day in relation to the remainder of the world where London was to Lanarkshire a century ago. Through improvements in transport and other things the world has become a much smaller world, and to-day we have to consider our conditions, our proposals, and our policy in relation to the conditions and the policy prevailing in other parts of the world of which we are a part.
What is the world-wide situation which is facing us? Ever since the application of machinery to industry man's power in the production of wealth has" steadily decreased. When the other demands had been met out of the products of labour, the remainder was added to capital and used for new mills, new railways, new mines, new workships and new shipyards in the development of this and of every other country. Every time we increased our output we at the same time increased 2096 our surplus and restricted the area for the disposal of that surplus. During the War that process, which had been going on for a long time, got a great impetus. I think it would be safe for me to claim that in the four or five years of war-time we developed as much as we would have done in 50 normal years. It is not only that each man can now produce much more than he could in 1913, but we have now brought new nations into industry, brought new races into industry. The result is that the population of the world, being mostly wage-earners, cannot buy up the whole product of their labour, or even a substantial part of the product of their labour. In Western Europe, at any rate, we cannot get an outlet for the surplus that remains in the old way of adding to capital by raising additional workshops and adding to the number of our workers. A feature in the present situation that should not be neglected is that we have now more workshops than we can use, that we have more railways than we require, that we have more shipyards than are necessary, and that the old outlet for surplus goods no longer remains. The result is that as the workers cannot buy up the goods as rapidly as they are produced, or the capitalists dispose of the surplus in development, we have, and have naturally, industrial stagnation. To reduce wages will not help that.
The intelligent course, if it were possible—I am not submitting that in the world-wide position in which we are placed it is momentarily possible—the intelligent way out of the difficulty would be in a substantial and ever-continuous increase in the wages of the workers. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not money wages!"] Not in money wages, because I agree with the hon. Gentleman that an increase in money wages would be no use. This enables me to make a correction in what I believe to be a popular fallacy. We lived for years in the fallacious belief that a reduction in the cost of goods would lead to an increase in the consumption of goods. We forgot two things. We forgot that three-fourths of the consumers of goods were wage-earners, and that the wages of the wage-earners are fixed by the price of the commodity, and that when you bring down wages as you bring down prices you do not add to the purchasing power of three-fourths of the population. That being the case, if it 2097 were a practical policy, the way out of our present difficulties would be to increase the purchasing power of all people of the world. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to find agreement with that in other parts of the House. We were appealed to to-day to pool our brains, and see if anything could accrue from the mixture and the co-operation, and if we agree on that should not this House have as the prime factor in its foreign policy the economic conditions of foreign workers—the wages and the conditions under which they are employed? Is there not just as much danger in the 20th century of the British nation being smashed by international poverty as there was in the 19th century of the British nation going under because of international armaments? I submit that the Government day by day and this House week by week, until we get out of our present difficulties, should be dealing with the problem of unemployment in its relation to the living conditions of the workers in all parts of the world. I hope that the policy of finding a way out of the difficulty by reducing wages will not receive any influential support from hon. Members in any part of this House, and particularly I allude to hon. Members opposite. Such a policy would be ruinous and it would only increase unemployment in the home trades and make our difficulties worse, and bring us much nearer to that industrial chaos and social disorder which no hon. Member desires to see in this country.
I quite agree that we might gain a momentary advantage and snatch a few orders by reducing wages, or what is the same thing, lengthening the working hours without any corresponding increase in wages, but by adopting that method we do not add to the total number of orders but we diminish them by reducing wages and the world's purchasing power. We must not forget that this is a game at which more than two can play. I have listened with great interest to the speech of the Prime Minister, and I say with all due respect, that, however idealistic and sentimental he may be, his speech leaves the fundamental facts entirely out of consideration. I do not want to ridicule the proposals which he has made, but there was nothing new in them except the proposal for 2098 subsidies, on which I am sure he will not expect us to give a decision this afternoon. That raises a very big question which all hon. Members of this House will require time to discuss.
Leaving this question of subsidies out of account, when you run over the other things mentioned in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, such as the continuation of road schemes, research work, electrification, and so on, there we find nothing new. There is nothing new about the development of the beet industry, and, if I desired to score a party point, I might say that the Labour party did more to develop the beet industry of this country than any other Government of modern times, because it was our subsidy to the beet industry which placed it in its present prosperous position. When we come down to such questions as electrification and research work, where is the justification for the claims which have been put forward? We must remember that other countries can do the same. We have not a monopoly of these things, and much as these things will add to the productive capacity of this and every other country we must not delude ourselves into thinking that such things are any remedy for unemployment.
May I point out that industry is not at a standstill because of a shortage of goods or any lack of productive capacity, but simply because we cannot find a sufficient number of customers for the goods we are producing. Let us not get into a tangle by believing that when we increase our productive power, and when Germany follows suit, and we increase the world's output of goods and, at the same time reduce the purchasing power of the people, we are finding a remedy for unemployment. If we are going to follow out this competitive course we should be clear in our minds as to where it will lead us. Of course, we can reduce the wages of the workers in this country, and we may find in that way a little temporary relief. We may take some of our people off the dole and put them into employment in this way, but at what price? Simply at the price of taking orders from Germany and putting the Germans on the dole and placing them industrially in the position in which we are to-day.
2099 What is the next point? The next consequence of such a policy would be that the German capitalist would go to the German Government and say to them quite reasonably, "The British, having defeated us on the military field, are now trying to defeat us industrially. They have lengthened the hours of their workers and reduced wages in order to secure markets in Europe, and it is up to the German Government to ask the people of Germany to work longer hours for less wages in order to put the Britisher again on the dole." But it does not stop there. If you are going to pursue this policy of reducing wages and worsening conditions in the world generally in this way you must be prepared to see British workers go down to the level of their poorest competitors, and you must be prepared to see three-fourths of the British population going down to the level of the coolies. I hope no section of this House is going seriously to support a policy of that kind.
The only other suggestion that was seriously made is that we should attempt to bring production down to the level of the purchasing power of the workers. I read an article yesterday contributed to a Sunday paper by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond), and he proposed to secure industrial progress by taking national and international action to bring down the output of goods to the level of the purchasing power of the people of the world. I was glad to read that the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope other hon. Members now realise that we can make no further progress with production and trade until we have provided for consumption, provided an outlet for our goods. If that truth be more fully realised, I think it will do more than anything else to solve the problem of unemployment.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen does not suggest that we should take national or international action to bring up the purchasing power of the world. He recognises that the purchasing power of the world in reference to increased productivity is comparatively stationary, but he proposes to leave it stationary but recognising that it is necessary to bring about a balance between production and consumption he 2100 would stop the progress of production and keep it where we found it at the beginning of 1925. In other words, the right hon. Gentleman wants to put a stop to evolution in one of the important departments of life. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to attempt, as a political Mrs. Partington, to stop the flow of knowledge, and the world's progress. The world will go on in this way whether it suits the right hon. Gentleman and his industrial friends or not. Stephenson once said, in reply to a question as to what would happen if a cow got in front of his engine, "So much the worse for the cow."
I want to impress upon the House that the stereotyping of industry is no remedy at all. That policy is in operation to-day in the case of the banks. The policy of the banks in restricting credit and making it dearer is for the express purpose of restricting production. The shrewd financiers recognise that if you allow a superabundance of goods to get into your markets for which there are no purchasers, there is bound to be a collapse in price, and a corresponding collapse in the securities in which their money is invested, and, therefore, desiring to prevent that collapse in the value of securities, they try to balance consumption and production by making credit dearer as it suits their purpose.
But, after all, the great cause of unemployment in our country is the poverty of our own people. We on this side of the House always condemned poverty from a sentimental point of view, and we always subscribed to the idea that if poverty could be abolished that it would be well to abolish it, but poverty has now become a national menace. The Prime Minister appealed to us to have vision and imagination. Is it not more noble to contemplate a Britain in which the purchasing power of the wage-earning population has been raised to a standard that will enable them to purchase the goods at the rate at which hon. Members of this House purchase goods, and in that way provide an outlet for our goods, thus oiling the wheels of industry. Is it not much nobler to contemplate that than the competition which has been suggested, and which would only cause Britain to continue to go down and 2101 down. We want to improve generally the condition of the workers of this country in a way which will make the people happier, and the nation more prosperous. We want a Britain which will take its place in the future in the industrial world to an extent which will bear favourable comparison with the most prosperous days of the Britain we inherited.
§ 7.0 P.M.
Captain T. J. O'CONNOR
In rising to address the House for the first time, I do so with considerable diffidence and in the hope that the courtesy which is always extended to new speakers will not be lacking in my case. I anticipated when I attended this Debate this afternoon that we might possibly have envisaged this subject on something less of party lines, and with something of that broader vision which has permeated much of what the Prime Minister has said, than in fact we have met. But it did not take very long before the key to the discussion which we have listened to was set by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, because he had scarcely opened his lips before he made what I might, perhaps, without disrespect call a bee-line for an old stunt, and attacked the competitive and private capitalist system, as he called it. The whole of his argument and a great deal of that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) were both too purely political, and, I venture to say, that in the opinion of many of us were unworthy of a Debate of this importance, which demands so much sincerity from those who wish to make their points. One of the first points that was sought to be made was that between May of last year and the present time the unemployment figures had increased by something like a quarter of a million. That may be true. What was not indicated by the speaker was that the greater portion of that increase had taken place during the regime of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that, in fact, the figures at the present time, compared with the end of last October, are, with the exception of the increase in the coal industry, not so very greatly increased.
But I wish in the few minutes that I propose to detain the House to take a more general line and to depart from what, after all, are purely party views, 2102 on what is really a great national tragedy that is being enacted before our eyes. If I might say so, it has always struck me that we are in danger of confusing what actually is the great difficulty of the present time, of confusing the really vital unemployment problem with a minor problem, which is the problem of the efficient redistribution of labour, and which I maintain is another problem altogether. We have, in the first place, this vast army of one and a-quarter million men unable to find labour for their hands to do, and side by side with these men we have in many branches of our national life an almost unprecedented demand for the product of their labour. There seems to be no means at hand, at least no means have been discovered by any party that has held office in the past four years, to correlate these two features—the enormous demand for the product of labour and the enormous surplus of unemployed labour. It is in the hope that we might be helped towards a solution of that part of the problem that many of us are listening to this Debate this afternoon.
The pivotal needs of the people may be roughly classed as food, shelter, and clothing. As far as food is concerned, we, by a generation-long tariff system which has long passed its usefulness, have grown increasingly dependent upon the products of other countries. So far as shelter is concerned which, after all, is one of the first needs of the tribe, and which even savage tribes successfully provide for—we are not dealing usefully with the resources, either in manpower or in materials, that we have at hand, and it is open to critics of our society to suggest that in the sophisticated circumstances of our civilisation we are lagging behind the resourcefulness of even the savage. When we examine the figures of unemployment which were furnished by the Minister of Labour the other day, it must be a striking commentary to anybody that at a time when houses are in unprecedented demand there should be 59,000 people unemployed in the building trades alone.
Not only that, but, at a time when all the resources both in manpower and material are unable to contribute shelter for the people along traditional lines, the leaders of labour, and not the least among them the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston, are doing all 2103 in their power to prevent alternative methods of accommodation, which will contribute towards the solution of unemployment at the present time. There we have a ready means of putting new methods into practice. The steel trades depressed beyond measure could be producing an alternative form of house, and there is unskilled labour ready for the work, and yet by the iron, inflexible rules of the trade unions which control the building industry, fostered I may say by much of the class prejudice aroused in the country by the right hon. Gentleman himself, we are unable to supply that alternative need, and correlate supply and demand in that way. That seems to me to be in part, at any rate, an answer to the right hon. Gentleman, because the burden of his speech was that we must establish a new demand before we begin to produce more wealth. Here is the demand ready and waiting. All we have to do is to correlate it, by goodwill, and it can only be done by goodwill, with the available labour supply.
There are many other directions in which that striking feature of modern unemployment seems to protrude itself. It does not matter what simple operation of daily life you require to have performed, what simple need of the home is requisite, it is almost impossible promptly to obtain the labour to deal with it. Take a homely instance. I went to buy a pair of shoes seven weeks ago. I am afraid I am still standing in the same shoes as when I went to order the new ones, and the answer of my shoemaker was that it is almost impossible to obtain shoemakers at the present time. The tailor very often is obsessed by the same difficulty, and I understand that representations have been made to the Minister of Labour quite recently to the effect that the tailoring industry is in urgent demand of more men. Yet at the same time, if we look at the figures, we find that something like 9,000 tailors are unemployed and over 14,000 boot and shoe makers.
There is a wider aspect of the same feature of the problem, and that is as regards female unemployment. There are 88,000 women between the ages of 18 and 25 who are at the present moment unemployed. Most of these people it is reasonable to think have never really 2104 learnt a trade, and have never been apprenticed to anything. They are of an age and upbringing which make them suitable for quite a number of occupations. Owing to prejudice aroused, and purposely aroused in many cases, against domestic occupations, there is at the same time and side by side with all these young women a considerable shortage of domestic labour from one end of the country to the other. Here is another line of supply and demand we want connecting up. There has been the grievance hitherto that the Minister of Labour has taken the attitude that where a woman undertakes domestic service, if she undertakes it permanently, she is thereafter deprived of unemployment relief benefits, and I suggest to the Prime Minister that that is a matter which wants redressing at the earliest possible moment so that there shall be no reasonable excuse to prevent these women from obtaining occupations in domestic service.
Looking still with the eyes of one who sees a great deal wrong in the distribution of labour, as apart from the major problem, there is a far wider question and one which appeals with particular force to those of us on this side of the House, the possibility of redistributing our population and stimulating an increased demand within our own Empire. I regret very much that we did not hear this afternoon any new proposals for the stimulation of our overseas settlement campaign. There lies a possibility which has not been one tithe exploited by any party in this country. The figures of emigration have declined since 1913 from something like a quarter of a million to something like 130,000 last year. We have in Dominions like Australia vast open spaces only waiting manpower to develop them, only demanding to be filled with our own kith and kin, and we have the men, the young blood and young life that we could dower readily, even with the limited financial resources that we have in 1925, and so strengthen and foster the links that bind us, the Mother Country, to the Dominions. There was in 1923 a scheme I believe introduced by the Western Australian Government by which they proposed, in return for a loan of £10,000,000, to settle 100,000 young people on the land, and, as the figures of our juvenile unemployment amount to 300,000 2105 or 400,000, that seems to me an investment that would be very well spent. Better to spend lavishly, freely beyond any experience we have had in this direction, rather than waste this money in degenerating and demoralising boys of 16 and other young people by the dole.
I do not want to trespass on the courtesy of the House to any great length this afternoon, especially as many want to follow, but, if I might in conclusion, I would use a simile which struck me as I was listening to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon, to describe the position as regards unemployment as I see it to-day. It seems to me as though we had this tragedy being enacted before us, a drowning man clutching at anything that he could get, while a vivisectionist and an anti-vivisectionist stand on opposite sides of the river, neither willing to go to his help because neither can accommodate his theories to meet the views of the gentleman on the other bank. Do not let us allow that kind of artificial prejudice to stand between us and the opposition. It is a political remedy that we want; we want a remedy that will combine the efforts and the good will of people in all parts of the House and in all parts of the country. Do not let us approach it with our own particular shibboleths or ideas in view, whether they be Free Trade, Protection or Socialism, but let us realise that in the hearts of every party there is a sincere and real desire to see this great blot on our national honour removed, and that we will stretch many a point in favour of people of any other party, and even swallow a certain amount of their medicine if they like, in a real effort to see it cured.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken upon the success of his maiden effort. It was a real and very thoughtful contribution to our Debates, and he may be well satisfied with its success. He referred to the present situation as a national tragedy being enacted before our eyes. That was a very strong expression, and I wish I could be quite convinced that it was exaggerated, but I am afraid I cannot. The situation is a very serious one. I have recently made inquiries in many quarters as to the position of affairs, and have consulted men of high standing 2106 in the financial and business world, but I have never met one of them who did not take a very gloomy view of the prospects, and, whenever I asked them to find any rift anywhere in the clouds, they said, "No, we cannot see it anywhere." They had the confidence, which every Britisher has, that somehow or other we should pull through. We have done so before, and they all seemed convinced that somehow or other we should get through sooner or later; but not one of them could point out to me how or where they hoped that the present prospect was going to be amended.
If I may say so, I should have thought that this was the worst subject for a Vote of Censure. If the facts mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition are approximately correct—and I think they are—if the facts mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) and by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who made such an admirable speech a few minutes ago are correct, then it is a subject for very grave combined consideration by all parties in the House, representing, as we do, the nation which is suffering and which has ultimately to be saved. May I say, too, that not only do I think that this is a very inappropriate subject for a Vote of Censure, but I should have thought that the Leader of the Opposition was the last man who had a right to move a Vote of Censure upon this subject. I remember perfectly well when I was in the position of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, and was grappling with the subject of unemployment, feeling, as he does, that it is very easy to theorise, but that when you come to the practical difficulties they are not so easy to settle. There are a great many projects that occur to one's mind, but the moment you begin to examine them you find many factors and obstacles in the way.
I remember that the Leader of the Opposition made a speech at that time in which he said that the Labour party had a constructive policy which they could put into operation the next day if they found themselves in a position of governmental authority in this country, and that that policy in six months would bring them much nearer a desirable position of affairs, both at home and 2107 abroad, than any that the Coalition Government had exercised. I would ask any hon. or right hon. Gentleman who is going to speak in this Debate whether he can point to any project—I will not say any scheme—which has been submitted to the House of Commons for dealing with that problem that was not merely an extension or development of what had already been introduced by the very Government which the right hon. Gentleman was attacking at that time? There is not one. It is very easy to dogmatise about these matters. The right hon. Gentleman went down to my country last year, just after he had been made Prime Minister, and talked about the problem of unemployment, in order to show how he was equipped to deal with it, and he said:We are in some respects, especially on all the big questions that can only be solved by new conceptions of social organisation, intellectually superior to the other parties, because we are more up-to-date—we have used the experience of the years gone by with more effect. We will not reach perfection, but we will approach it.That was when the right hon. Gentleman was feeling a certain sense of exaltation after his appointment as Prime Minister; but then came the tragic declaration which he made at the Queen's Hall after he had announced the Dissolution of Parliament, after he had announced practically the end of his Ministry:The cure for unemployment has not yet been found.He had been feeling very confident. He had schemes, and there was the late President of the Board of Trade, who was oozing schemes—[An HON. MEMBER: "So were you!"] Yes, but I carried the schemes. I would ask the hon. Gentleman, if he is going to speak, to point out a single scheme which was even proposed in this House beyond the schemes that were introduced by the Coalition Government. There is not one. Unemployment insurance, export credits, trade facilities, research, the construction of great roads—there was not a single scheme that was introduced by the late Government that was beyond a small, halting step on the road on which we started. Therefore, I say that the right hon. Gentleman has moved a Vote of Censure to-day on a subject which it is peculiarly unfitting to censure at this 2108 stage, and that he is the last man who has the right to move it. [An HON. MEMBER: "After you! "] I have not moved it, because I think it is a most inappropriate occasion. And let me point this out, that when last year—[Interruption.] Perhaps hon. Gentlemen will allow me to proceed. Two of their number have already spoken, not, it is true, at inordinate length, but still they have been allowed to state their case. When, last year, a Motion was proposed involving a censure upon the Government, although we felt that the Government of the day had by no means made a real effort to carry out their promises, still, on that occasion we gave them a further opportunity, and it was entirely due to our votes that they got that opportunity. They must bear that in mind.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Yes, you thank us for nothing now, but it was not nothing at that time. May I just refer to what was said at that time by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) speaking, I think, about six or seven months after the late Government came into power? This is what he said:It can be truly said that we have not tackled unemployment as we were expected to do. It is simple truth to say that there is a growing sense of disappointment beginning to express itself because of the failure to produce any new schemes or big expansion of old schemes for finding work for the unemployed.Those are the facts. I am not at the present moment criticising them, because there is no one more conscious of the difficulties than I am, but speeches can be quoted from every right hon. Gentleman on the Labour Benches about what they were going to do. The only one in the case of whom I cannot find anything is the late Colonial Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas). [An HON. MEMBER: "He is a Welshman! "] And he is not a Welshman for nothing. He did not make those promises, but everyone else did. As a matter of fact, this Vote of Censure is not directed against the Government, but rather against the small group sitting here behind me, who have been deprived of one of the very few opportunities which they have of raising 2109 questions in this House—a very generous effort.
This is a question for very calm and! careful examination. We have been for five years in the trough of the wave, and I cannot see that there is any immediate prospect of improvement. I was a little disappointed in the speech of the Prime Minister. I expected him to give us a careful survey of the trade prospects, and the opinion of the Government as to what is going to happen. He said that he had been accused of preaching sermons, and I do not mind that—I was brought up in it. I do not mind his preaching homilies so long as he does not leave the collection to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he has a very heavy hand. I did expect from him, however, that he would have given us, upon the advice of the Departments and upon the advice of those whom he has a right to command to come to Downing Street to tell him what they think of the position, a real survey of the trade position and prospects. I have missed that in the speech of the Prime Minister, and I do hope that it will be made up when we get the next discussion upon the prospects of trade for this country.
The President of the Board of Trade made a very admirable survey, I remember, about two years ago, and I am sorry to say that all he said has been realised by what has happened since. He was quite clear. He had consulted all the authorities on this subject, financial, industrial and others, and I do hope that when next he comes to discuss the affairs of his Department—and I hope there will be an opportunity in a week's time— he will tell us, upon the authority of his advisers, where we stand. The right hon. Gentleman said that the purchasing capacity of this country had gone up. Is he quite sure that he is not confusing that with spending, which is a very different thing. I think we are spending more. I have gone through the trade statistics for last year very carefully and I have compared them with the Statistical Abstract for 1907–1913 and I find there that we are spending very much more in many directions than we are spending to-day. Is the right hon. Gentleman quite sure that we are doing that because our purchasing capacity is higher? I saw a very great authority on the subject the other day and I asked him "How is it everyone 2110 looks so prosperous? You have 1,250,000 of unemployed, your trade is down, but all the same there is a great look of prosperity about the country. Wherever you drive about, you see it." He said, "You are living on your reserves." I said, "How long will that last?" I asked him that two years ago, and he told me that then. I asked him last week, and he said, "I take a more pessimistic view." I said, "How long will that last?" "Well," he said, "you have very great reserves, but you are living on them." I should like to know what is the opinion of the Government upon that, because if that is true I am afraid we are watching a national tragedy. Is that true? I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at one set of figures. He said the purchasing capacity of this country is up. In most of the big substantial staple trades production is down. Here are some figures which the London School of Economics have published. They first of all take the figure of 100 as the average production between 1907 and 1913. Upon that basis, last year agriculture was down in production 11.3, taking an average of the last five years, mining was down by 129. This is quantity. Prices, of course, are much higher. Iron and steel, engineering and shipbuilding were down 119.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am taking an average of the last five years after the War, compared with the seven years before the War. It is very much down this year. When you come to textiles that is still more serious. Production is down by 29 per cent. When you come to other metals it is 40.9. When you talk about these industries you are talking about the most important industries in the country. They are all down, and some of them are still further down this year. It is no use talking about our purchasing capacity being greater than it was before the War when our production in our most important industries is down by these percentages, and in some of them still going down, with a population of three more millions at least to maintain. There must be something rotten in the State somewhere, and I think we ought to know from the Government what is their explanation of that. In the last 2111 year when I held the position the right hon. Gentleman occupies now, on 10th January unemployment was 2,000,000. When we left office it was 1,340,000. It was down by roughly 650,000. It is almost at the same figure now. You have had three years since then. What arrested it? I am not suggesting that it was due to the fact that you had a different Government. I am not making that point. It is much too serious for that. Something happened at that time. Whether it was the Ruhr occupation, which threw back the making of peace in Europe and further disturbed the exchanges or what not, something has happened to arrest the progress that we were beginning to make. It may be that we had reached the maximum we could hope to reach. If that is so that is a very serious factor indeed. I am rather in the stage of asking questions than of making suggestions. I am quite prepared to make my suggestions, but I want, first of all, to get from the Government of the day what the facts are. They have got them.
There has been an inquiry initiated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb). He appointed it about a year ago, and it is a very admirable body. They are investigating the whole problem. I should like to know at what stage that investigation now stands and whether they have got any facts which can be published to the House and the country which will be of the slightest use. I should also like to know how the census of production is proceeding, which was also, I believe, renewed last year. Can the President of the Board of Trade give us some sort of idea so that we may know what are the permanent factors? I expected the right hon. Gentleman to say something about that. What the country wants to know is this: Is this a temporary business, or are there permanent factors that we have to deal with? If it is purely temporary we will stand it. People will suffer. They will go through with it with greater determination and hope and comfort—there is comfort and hope in the worst conditions—if the Government car. tell them on the authority they possess to a degree that no one else could possibly do, because they have the whole of the facts and the machinery at their disposal—if they can say that in their judgment the factors are 2112 such that they will be gradually eliminated, and that the trouble is temporary, and that all we have to do is to sit tight and we will see the thing through. But we ought to know. There are factors which are certainly not temporary. I saw a very able letter yesterday in one of the Sunday papers from the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley). It was a very careful, moderately stated, thoughtful contribution to the problem. His view, as far as I could see, was that the factors were permanent. He mentioned that whereas before the War we were only importing £3,000,000 of oil, now we are importing about £24,000,000 of oil. I should like to know to what extent have factories been set up in other countries to produce goods which before the War we were selling. Then there is China, of course. There is the extent to which Japan has captured our trade, and there are other factors of that kind.
The right hon. Gentleman did not give very much hope with regard to remedies. I did not discover a single remedy that he suggested which he and I were not jointly responsible for five years ago. I think we ought to get some idea from the Government whether they have any suggestions to put forward which will deal with the problem, whether it is temporary or permanent. The situation is undoubtedly a very serious one from every point of view. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston takes that view, I can see very clearly, and there was a good deal in what he said with which I agree. But it is the Government of the day that ought to be able to tell us, first of all, is the problem a temporary one or is it a permanent one. Whether it is temporary or permanent, what are their suggestions for grappling with it? You cannot go on maintaining a million and a quarter of men on the bounty of the State. The right hon. Gentleman gave us some figures, on the examination of ten thousand unemployed people who have been subjected to some kind of exploration by the Ministry of Labour, as to how long they have been on the fund. I think he will find that not far from a quarter of them have been on the fund for pretty nearly two years. Anyone who makes inquiries will know for himself what a demoralising effect that has had. There is another fact in that investigation which the Prime Minister did not call attention to, that 2113 the majority of the people on the fund, if that is a sample, are people who are either very young or in the prime of life. They are not old people. They are not the unemployable class. There is a very large proportion of men in the neighbourhood of 24 and 25. It is a very serious thing to have hundreds of thousands of young and vigorous people who have nothing to do and who are hanging about. It is not merely the problem of destitution. As a matter of fact, the fact that there is no destitution is one thing that is screening the gravity of the situation. In the old days, when you had 400,000 or 500,000 unemployed and there was hardly any provision for them, except what two or three very powerful trade unions were able to make, the whole country was aroused and excited, the public conscience was impressed and there was a great feeling that something had to be done. Now you have this enormous fund. It prevents actual privation.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Very well, I will use the hon. Member's word. I do not want to have a controversy about a thing of that kind. There is no doubt at all that this is hiding from us the gravity of the position, and, therefore, I implore the Government to set on foot some investigation to ascertain what is likely to be the prospect. Let the House of Commons know. We have been discussing many things this year, some of importance, and some of no importance. There is nothing that could engage the attention of this great council of the nation which is of more consequence to the lives of the people than an examination of the trade prospects of the country, on which the livelihood of the people and the strength and might of the country depends.
If the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald), instead of moving a Vote of Censure against the Government, had moved the same vote against politicians in general, there would have been much more justification for it, I believe that some, at any rate, of our present difficulties and a great deal of the despair and despondency we feel now, comes from the fact 2114 that for some years politicians, not only of one party, but of all parties, have consistently held up as a kind of dope promises of some political remedy for unemployment. Hon. Members opposite are, perhaps, the worst offenders in that line. For years at every street corner they have preached that Socialism is the cure for every ill, that Socialism, in some extraordinary way, is going to fling open markets that are closed to us, that Socialism is going to make China a consuming nation again, that Socialism is going to make Russia pay its way, and Italy to revert from electric power to the buying of British coal. The right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) drew a comparison between the Prime Minister and Mrs. Partington. If he liked to look round for similes, he might have seen a resemblance between his leader, or shall I say his colleague, the right hon. Member for Aberavon and King Canute. He, like that monarch, but without the royal knowledge of the futility of his act, is trying to command the economic waves to flow backward at the mere mention of the word Socialism.
Members of my own party have also been to blame. Protection has been preached as an economic remedy based on the soundest lines. However well it may be argued, you cannot help leaving behind the impression that a tariff wall is an inefficient substitute for industrial efficiency and industrial enterprise. It is, perhaps, hon. Members who sit below the Gangway opposite who have least to reproach themselves, and that is due solely to the fact that so remote is their chance of ever again being in office that nobody has paid any attention to what they have said. The position has been laid before us very clearly. It is quite simple to find, on broad lines, what is the reason for the present state of unemployment. The reason is world depression. It is easy to find, on broad lines, a solution for that world depression, it is world prosperity. I saw, the other day, a definition of world prosperity which was not a new one, but I think it was rather a neat one. It described world prosperity as a state of free exchange in which everyone could use the purchasing power inherent in their own labour and circumstances to purchase, the produce and service of others. If we look round the world now, does that state of things exist? We see one great nation 2115 in economic collapse. We see another great nation which, through years of incessant civil wars, has ceased to be a consumer as far as the world is concerned. Everywhere we see high taxation, which reduces the proportion between the purchasing power of the producer and what he produces. Everywhere we see large armaments which withdraw from production large classes of men whose purchasing power in the world market has to be made up by other producers.
All these things are outside national control, yet it is for not dealing with them, for not dealing with subjects over which the Government has no control, that this Vote of Censure has been moved. What lies within the national authority is in very small compass. All that we can do is to try to raise the ratio between the purchasing power of the producer and what he produces. We can only do that by turning his labour into better lines of production. The Prime Minister threw out the hint of subsidy as a remedy. I trust that if that policy is to be pursued, the only subsidy given will be a subsidy in relief of present burdens. I should like to take an illustration which was in the mouths of hon. Members opposite on several occasions during the Debates on the Budget. I refer to the case of the cotton industry in. Lancashire. There, as we all know, during the War and after the War the heavy trade, the trade in cheap cotton, was lost. Our markets were captured by Asiatic competitors. But the cotton industry was self-reliant, and it set about to find new markets. It set to work with its ingenuity, its artistic taste and its scientific skill. And it is gradually finding new markets for new products, in place of the old markets which the old produce now fails to capture.
What would have been the result in that industry if instead of being self-reliant the industry had come to the Government, and the Government Had been weak and a subsidy had been granted? They would have been able by that subsidy to compete more or less on completely uneconomic terms with the Asiatic produce. That would have gone on for one, two or three years until the cumulative burden of that subsidy and the other subsidies which would have had 2116 to be given to other trades became too great. The thing would collapse, and the industry would find that they could no longer compete in the old market nor with other nations who had not been drugged by subsidies and doped by Government action, but had been forced to look for new markets where they were firmly established. In those new markets we have now, by our ingenuity and energy established ourselves. I trust that the Government will not recede from what they consider to be not only a wise, but a courageous policy. It does not require any ingenuity to think of a subsidy, but it requires a great deal of courage to stand up, as the Minister of Labour has stood up in this House, and lay down the principle that any interference by a Government in the directing of industry can only lead to a worse situation that we have at the present time. Although I believe that it would be fatal to the Government to interfere directly with industry, there are, of course, certain lines of action which it should pursue. There is the alleviation of the suffering which is caused by unemployment. There is the foreign policy, which will tend to bring the world into that state which is essential for world prosperity. I do not propose to pursue the latter subject now, but I would like to say a few words on the other. The function of the Government is to act as an efficient enterprise, as a circulator of scientific discoveries, as well as an inventor and experimenter of its own.
Is it not possible to utilise the present system of factory inspection in some way? At the Board of Education there are inspectors who tour the country, inspecting schools. Their function, primarily, is to report on the schools, but, in fact, each inspector acts as a kind of propagandist. In every school he visits he sees some new idea, some experiment being started, and some successful achievement. At the next school he visits he hands on that knowledge. He says that such and such a school is trying this, or such and such a school has obtained very good results from that. I wonder whether it would be possible to utilise, within certain limits, the present system of factory inspection for that purpose.
A further point is in regard to economy. Obviously, the higher taxation 2117 is, the lower is the ratio of the purchasing power of the individual to the value of what he produces. That is one of the essentials of world prosperity. I do not propose to emulate the agility of the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir Fredric Wise) who, on the Third Reading of the Budget discoursed on subjects varying from seed potatoes to stud farms; but I would refer to one big avenue for economy, and that is, the service of the War Debt. Do the Government consider that the psychological moment has arrived for a voluntary conversion of the War Stock which is at admittedly uneconomic rates? Some of us believe that we are faced now with difficulties and with dangers which are as great, if not greater, than any that faced us during the War. We believe that it is time to re-create the atmosphere of sacrifice which we found during the War. The difficulties in the way of a scheme like this may be many in theory, but there should be no difficulty in practice. Nothing could be simpler than to issue in place of each existing denomination of War Stock, whether Five per Cent. War Loan, Four and a Half War Loan, or Three and a Half Conversion, Stock exactly similar, bearing a reduced rate of interest for a limited period of years. At the end of that period of years, that Stock would rank once again pari-passu with the existing stock.
The effect could not be harmful. It is not like the suggestion of hon. Members opposite. There is no realisation to be made. Every man inspired by a sense of sacrifice could decide for himself whether a sacrifice on this account would do good or would do harm. The result would not be negligible. If only one half of the War Stock was converted, and the rate of conversion was only ½ per cent. lower than the existing rate, we should have an annual saving of £25,000,000. That saving of £25,000,000 could be spent in scientific experiments, in grants-in-aid of rates, or in whatever capital development of industry might be desirable. Over and above the actual economic advantage, there would be an advantage in psychology. We are faced with tremendous difficulties, difficulties which I believe we shall overcome, but which we can only overcome by sacrifice, and sacrifice to be effective must be national, and not a sacrifice made only by certain classes in the community.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Miss WILKINSON
In this House I re-present one of the districts that has been most hardly hit by unemployment—a district to which the Prime Minister rightly alluded as one of the black spots. It is a district which produces heavy iron and steel, a district with very highly skilled workers, whose skill and knowledge means a very definite asset to the country. As the Prime Minister said, this is one of the districts where unemployment is very definitely growing. Those of us who represent Teeside in this House, like the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton (Captain Macmillan) and the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) are continually receiving reports that more and more blast furnaces are closing down, and we have to decide how this problem can be met. The Prime Minister's suggestion admittedly do not deal with these black spots. Roads and reservoirs have had their turn. They are almost of no further use now. Therefore, with the pre-War market for heavy steel closing, with other coutries manufacturing under the stimulus of war, now competing where they once imported from us, we have to find new markets, and I suggest that there are two requisites for those new markets if they are found. That is, that they should be mainly agricultural and raw material producing.
The Prime Minister suggested in August, 1923, that the things which were necessary are a restoration of stable conditions throughout the world, and a development of new markets. Those who like myself were listening with great intentness to what the Prime Minister had to say were very disappointed to notice that, except for a very casual reference, he made no suggestion as to where those new markets were to be found. I am going to suggest that one of the markets which ought to be explored and considered by the Government, especially by the President of the Board of Trade, is Russia. Russia is about the only country left that fulfils these requirements. When the name of Russia is mentioned many people, especially hon. Members on the opposite side, immediately become alarmed and say "Bogey," but those of us who have listened to this discussion will have realised that on all sides Mem- 2119 bers have shown a very real desire to deal with this problem on a business basis, and I believe that by the extension of credit facilities to Russia we would open up new markets which would give a certain amount of employment in many of those trades in which we have not been able to do more than touch the fringe of the problem, namely in the iron, steel and engineering industry. The result would be to save an enormous amount in unemployment pay and it would be a safe investment for the State.
First of all we have the Prime Minister as an authority for the statement that in Russia we have one of the largest potential markets in the world. British and Russian trade, even with all the handicaps that political prejudice could place upon it, has been steadily growing. In 1921 it was £6,000,000; in 1922, £16,500,000; in 1923, under the then Conservative Government, it fell to £14,500,000; but in 1924, under a Labour Government which encouraged this trade, it had risen to £31,000,000. In the same time, the total foreign trade of Russia had increased five times. I am not about to suggest that this alone is sufficient to solve the whole unemployment question, but I do suggest that it provides a demand in respect of the kind of goods supplied by those of our industries which have been worse hit.
The vice-president of the Soviet Delegation stated in the course of negotiations that were proceeding last year that the credits would have been used for purchases, in this country, of steamers and motor ships, equipment for mines, mills and railways and internal-combustion engines and electrical equipment. Those are just the trades that are suffering at the present time. From my own personal knowledge I can state that my brother happens to be working in Metropolitan Vickers, on an enormous contract for what is the old Russian Co-operative Society. Without that contract hundreds of skilled engineers would be unemployed in Metropolitan Vickers, but the chairman, Sir Philip Nash, stated in his latest address to the company:Before leaving the subject of our export trade, I would like to draw your attention to some large contracts which we have taken from Russia, which have been accepted by us without being able to utilise the export credits scheme or the Trade Facilities Act. Your Board feel that they have practically 2120 reached the limit of business which we are able to provide, in accepting at our own risk in the present condition of things. On the other hand, there is a large amount of business offering of a desirable nature, and we feel that a natural corollary to the efficient recognition of the Soviet Government would be an extension to Russia of the Trade Facilities Act, or some other scheme of a similar nature which, provided a concern like our own had already shown its bona fides by accepting a certain amount of business at its own risk, would enable it to take at least an equal amount of business under some financial guarantee provided by the Government.The curious thing is that Russia is today, I believe, the only country that is explicitly excluded from credits by the order of the President of the Board of Trade. Whenever the question of trade with Russia is mentioned there are certain reasons that are brought forward for excluding Russia. One, for example, the Foreign Secretary stated to a recent delegation of the Trade Union Congress that waited on him on the subject of Russian trade and unemployment. Russia, he said, could use her trade balance with Great Britain for the purchase of commodities from this country to a much greater extent than she does, if she wanted to do so, but I want to point out that at present Russia is very much in the position of a very small shop people without credit who has to buy in order to turn over very quickly, and sell again, and consequently Russia has had to buy in this country not goods that set our factories to work but largely re-exported goods, cotton, rubber, goods that have been brought into this country, and are re-exported, which provide a certain amount of employment for clerks and shippers, but do not deal with the fundamental question of employment in industry.
Obviously the purchase of plant requires the use of capital for a considerable period, and Russia at present has no available free capital. In addition to this enormous handicap that is placed on trade between this country and Russia, I am told by a responsible official of the Soviet delegation that she has had to pay as high a rate as 25 per cent. for discounting her bills. Then the second reason which is given is that Russia has never taken more than a small percentage of the total goods of this country, but if hon. Gentlemen will refer to the pre-War figures they will find that just previous to 2121 the War there was a very largely increased trade between the two countries. In the 15 years previous to the War the export of Russia to this country, mainly of food and raw material, more than doubled, and the imports from this country into Russia increased at a similar rate. I have the quantities here which I could give to hon. Members if they desired. It may be said that Germany is the natural source for the supply of Russian trade, and trade between Germany and Russia did increase enormously before the War, because the German manufacturers were prepared to give three years' credit to the Russian agriculturists. Now Germany has no spare credit, and we have.
When we suggest that extending these trade facilities would be a better means of utilising our resources than by spending our money on giving unemployment pay, the reply is that Russia will not pay her debt. May I ask hon. Members to listen to the type of men who have said that as far as trading debts are concerned Russia does not owe us a penny. We have the men like Mr. Leslie Urquhart, chairman of the Russia Asiatic Consolidated Company; or Mr. A. G. Marshall, director of the British Engineering Company of Russia, which is responsible for large exports of engineering plant from this country to Russia; we have the Co-operative Wholesale Society, which I can assure hon. Gentlemen is not a Bolshevist organisation; and we have men of the standing of Sir Alfred Nimmo, of the Federation of British Industries. They have all testified that these trading debts are being honoured to the last pound. Obviously it would be madness if one farthing of these trading debts were not honoured by the Russian Government.
Hon. Members may say, "What about the confiscated property and the pre-War debt?" There does exist a great deal of misconception on this subject. First of all, there are of course the counter claims for the damage due to the civil war, and in Russia it was largely subsidised through the activities of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. Not one word has been said about the activities of the Labour Government last year, in trying to get this whole vexed problem settled, and to get those counter claims met and to have the whole thing settled. I may state that had the Labour Government 2122 still been in office the late Prime Minister, who was then the Foreign Secretary, would have been able to lay on the Table of this House a very adequate settlement of all these outstanding matters, and until there is full diplomatic recognition there never will be a settlement. Merely saying that you cannot settle it because those pre-War debts were not settled simply lands us in a vicious circle from which somebody has to break loose. I am aware of the enormous social pull that is being exerted against Russia, but we want markets. Our people are more concerned about getting employment than they are about the feelings in reference to Russian political matters.
I wish to endorse what was said by the hon. Member for Luton (Captain O'Connor), in an admirable maiden speech, in which he spoke of what is happening in this country while we quarrel about our theories of the Government of Russia, which, in any case, will not be settled according to our ideas. Meantime, we allow all this valuable trade to go past us and other countries are going to take advantage of it. May I remind hon. Gentlemen that here we have in Russia a potential market of 100,000,000, who occupy one-sixth of the total surface of the globe. This one-sixth produces raw materials that are vitally necessary for our industries. That country for many years to come will never be a manufacturing country in the sense which we understand it. They are a nation of peasants, of agriculturists, and not 5 per cent. of the population is concerned in manufactures in the sense in which we are a manufacturing nation. The only thing that is necessary, when we have, as I see in my constituency every time I visit it, a growing number of men, highly skilled, standing at the street corners desperate and despairing, while in Russia we have the people, as I have seen them, ploughing their land with pointed sticks because they cannot get tractors and agricultural machinery—all that is needed is to relate that demand to that capacity to supply, that the Government shall be prepared to send the credit along the channels and, as it were, to irrigate that market. Although I am not suggesting that this would solve the whole unemployment problem. I do say that we in the North-East demand the renewal of trade with Russia—I was one 2123 of the candidates who won an Election on the Russian Treaty—and that one of the most popular things this Government could do would be to use the export credit facilities and the Trade Facilities Act so as to allow great firms like Metropolitan-Vickers, and Ruston & Proctor, of Lincoln, to get the orders that they are anxious to accept. It is stupid to put men on the streets when there is this demand for equipment in Russia.
I will deal very briefly with the question of unemployment among women. As I am the only woman Member of my party in the House, I must say something on this head. It is one of the tragedies that there are no unemployment schemes for women. The woman who was a Minister in the Labour Government was, I know, taking the most special care of this subject, but, unfortunately, she had to go before her schemes were completed. Here you have all these women unemployed and no schemes whatever to meet their needs. I know I shall be told that there is a large demand for skilled domestic servants. In many cases the unemployed women are skilled workers or women used to factory conditions, and they would be hopelessly unsuitable in any kind of domestic service. We have had schemes for training the women in domestic service, but they do not solve the problem. It is ridiculous to say that every woman can become a domestic servant. There ought to be at the Ministry of Labour some kind of committee or small department to look into the question of finding a new outlet for that kind of women's labour which was called into the labour market very largely as a result of the War. Owing to the enormous depression you have thousands of women who must earn their own living, but cannot get work to do. There is an enormous possibility for women's labour in the proper development of the telephone system. Three or four times the number of women now employed could be employed. I have tried to deal with one or two practical remedies, because I do not think it matters in the least what we feel of each other as parties. Our remedy is Socialism. If we cannot get that, at least let us explore these practical matters, in order to get a certain number of our people back to work.
§ Captain MACMILLAN
I do not suppose there has often been a Debate in which there was a greater desire on both sides of the House that no word should be spoken which would be of a hindering or even of an unhelpful character at this crisis. There are, indeed, many occasions on which the interchange of repartee between us is a matter which affords us useful entertainment, and in which the thrust of some skilled duellist causes almost as much pleasure to the victim as to the author of the blow. But these weapons are more properly confined to that species of mimic warfare which we politicians are supposed to carry on. I was interested, when listening to the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon, to see that it was in that character that he conceived it to be his duty to bring forward this Motion. At this time it seems to me that any kind of interchange of this sort is mischievous and wicked. Unemployment Debates in the past have consisted chiefly in the party that is momentarily out of office unmercifully twitting the party that is for the moment in office, and the party that is in office, with equal fervour and even less novelty, spends its time in recalling the history of the time when those now out of office were in office. I have not any deplorable past, because I am not one of the older Members of the House. I rise for the sole purpose of saying one or two things which some of us believe may usefully and properly be said from this side of the House.
There is no question of the gravity of the problem that confronts us. Those of us who sit for purely industrial constituencies, and particularly those who sit for constituencies where the great trades, iron and steel and shipbuilding, are mostly concentrated, are fully aware of the poignancy and the pathos of the situation with which we are every day confronted. There is no division of opinion upon that point. I think, therefore, that if we consider the situation to-day, and compare it with the situation of last year, or the year before, there are two main differences of which we are all conscious. The situation has become more grave, but it is not a new position. It i.3 simply the intensifying of an economic situation that has been developing for the last three or four years. We are, as it were, like people suffering from a 2125 disease, and the moment of crisis is approaching. That is the only thing that is new about the present situation: the crisis is become day by day nearer. While we have been theorising and talking the stark and gaunt spectre of economic fact has been slowly and steadily pursuing its devastating path. That is new. But only in that respect.
The second feature is that there has never been a time when these facts were becoming more generally understood by the people as a whole, when the condition of the depressed areas of England was being more generally known in the country as a whole, and when there has been a greater desire on the part of all people, both in sheltered and unsheltered industries, whether they belong to the rentier class, or to any other—a more general desire to use every means they can for a peaceful solution of these difficulties. Then again you have conferences in progress in every industry that is affected at the present time and we hope that these will be fruitful of benefit. I think the Leader of the Opposition would have been better employed had he dealt in his speech with some of the very proper points which organised labour can make, should make and, I hope, will make in putting forward its case in these industrial conferences. Organised labour will, I hope, have the assistance of the highest skill and of the best accounting and auditing advice in connection with this matter. There are suspicions that figures put forward are inaccurate or that something is being concealed. I hope the best accounting skill and advice as I say, will be available so that if these suspicions be true, we may know of it and so that the country may deal in the proper manner with those who have put forward such figures. If, on the other hand, these suspicions are false, it is well that they should be dissipated by the clear light of fact.
In the second place, organised labour should employ skilled technical advice so that it may be in a position to say, where necessary, "You ask us to make sacrifices and concessions but your works are out of date, your machinery should be replaced, and your organisation is inefficient." That is the sort of answer which a trade union leader is properly employed in making in these industrial 2126 conferences where the facts justify such an answer. If that is found to be the case, we have the machinery of the Trades Facilities Act and we can devise fresh machinery for seeing that where concessions are asked, particularly if those concessions are to be made by Labour, they shall be made to industries which are efficient and properly managed. While that is true as to the proper procedure of organised labour at these conferences, nothing can possibly be done in bringing this crisis to a successful conclusion except there is an absolutely open and fair attitude on the part of the employing class. It is either now or never that all the cards must be put on the table.
There may have been periods, though I do not myself believe it, when the Conservative party could have been properly accused of taking too much the side of the employing classes. That certainly is not true to-day, and, speaking for myself and for any of us in this House, I can say that if we are satisfied—or rather unless we are satisfied that in the conferences now going on, the employing class is prepared to put all its cards on the table and to adopt what was called by a great statesman the only cure for industry, the open-air cure, then they will not get any support from us. There is talk of subsidy. I believe that along the lines of inquiry into the incidence of Imperial and local taxation may be found a fair and proper means of subsidising the depressed areas. We have at present before this House a Bill which is the necessary preliminary to the setting up of any such machinery. If an industry is to go to the rest of the country and ask for subsidy and support, surely it must go as a united and harmonious body. If there is disunion with the industry itself, what can it expect from the country as a whole?
I think it was Lord Derby who described those areas where unemployment is most pressing, as devastated areas. In France the devastated areas have been given special concessions in regard to local taxation, and that may be the solution of our own problem. If these industries, as a result of the negotiations now proceeding, can go to the rest of the country with unity in their own ranks to seek help from the more prosperous and the more fortunate, I believe they will have an overwhelming case. I frankly and sincerely say that from whatever side opposition may come 2127 to such unity, that opposition will not have our support. We feel at this time, above all others, the only useful Words any of us can say from this side of the House are to appeal, particularly to the employing class, to come forward frankly and fairly and put their position so clearly to the leaders of Labour that such harmony and unity as we all desire may be accomplished and, in that way, industry may find its own cure for its own ills by its own efforts.
§ Mr. LAWSON
There has brooded over this House during the whole Debate a sense of helplessness in relation to the unemployment problem, and I think that sense of helplessness is due to the fact that the Government, since it came into office, has steadfastly refused to have anything to do with the investigations now taking place in regard to Various industries. During the past few months those of us who are connected with the mining industry have been asking questions and making suggestions to the Government, but if there is one Department in this Government which seems more helpless than another it is the Mines Department. I sometimes wonder if the Prime Minister took the miners' representatives in this House seriously when he appointed to that Department a very estimable gentleman, but one who seems to me to take as little interest as he possibly could in the industry which he is supposed to superintend. There was a further instance of that attitude this afternoon in an answer which was given to me by the Prime Minister. The mining industry has reached a crisis which will probably further intensify the unemployment position. I asked the Prime Minister for a definite assurance, regarding the coal owners' proposal that the Seven Hours Act should be set aside and that the miners should work an eight-hour day, that the Government would not contemplate setting aside the Seven Hour Act. The Prime Minister says that at the present moment he cannot say anything in view of the negotiations which are taking place.
The question that occurred to my mind was: Does the Prime Minister think that the Seven Hours Act is something that can be concerned with negotiations? The Seven Hours Act is something that concerns the Government alone, and the 2128 Government ought to make up their mind definitely to stand by that Act and not allow any extension of it, for the simple reason that the suggestion laid down by the coalowners has created a spirit of unrest and irritation throughout the whole industry and will undoubtedly go far to mar the negotiations which are going to take place. The miner does not believe that the eight hours suggestion is in any way going to affect the present position in the industry. We have sat in this House during the past few years, and in prosperous times we have heard mineowners claim that the seven hours should be eight hours. I have even heard an outstanding coalowner in this House rebuke other coalowners because they were asking for an extension of the seven hours to eight hours when, as he himself said, the miners were producing more under the seven hours than they were under the eight hours, and how, in those circumstances, the coalowners can suggest to the country generally that an extension of an hour in an industry in which the markets are already glutted with coal is going to improve the position, I fail to understand.
According to the official figures given by the Minister of Mines, there were on 25th May 199,154 men unemployed in the mining industry, but I venture to say that those figures are totally inaccurate. The Prime Minister this afternoon pointed out that one of the difficulties that they were in was that, owing to certain alleviations and extensions of the Unemployment Insurance Act and the operation of certain new benefits since they came into office, the number of people on the unemployment insurance fund had been artificially raised, but I suggest to him that the steps that the Government have taken to rob men and women of unemployment benefit have more than accounted for the number that have gone on as a result of the benefits given by Labour during the last Government. In my own County of Durham—and I know I am speaking of the mining industry generally—out of something like 150,000 to 170,000 workers in Durham, there are nearly 50,000 unemployed in the mining industry alone. I have had a list given me, and some men have had suggestions made to them by the coalowners to accept reductions of wages and some to accept increases of hours, because we have a 2129 local agreement on the question of hours too. The amazing thing is the extent to which the miners in that district—and I believe it is uniform—have been prepared to suffer reductions. They have met these people in the most reasonable way, and yet what have they done? In some cases they have suffered reductions, but they would not agree with the coalowners that the county agreement, to which the owners were partners and which they signed, should be set aside. "Very well," said the coalowners, "we will close the mine."
I was talking last night to the secretary of a large lodge, one of the most moderate and rational men you would find in any part of this country in any class, and he told me that a coalowner said: "We want a reduction of wages, and we also want an increase of hours, over and above what the county agreement gives." They said: "What reduction of wages do you want?" The owner said what they wanted, and they gave him the reduction, but they said: "We cannot suffer any violation of our county agreement." He said he wanted both the hours agreement to be extended and the wages, or prices, to be reduced. The secretary, speaking for the men, said: "We will not violate the hours agreement signed by you. What increased reduction will you take in order to keep the pit going, in place of the violation of this agreement?" He said: "None; we want the increase of working time." Will this House be surprised when I say that those men, although they have submitted to a drastic reduction, and although they were willing to increase that reduction rather than violate a county agreement that affects all the men, have been refused unemployment benefit by the representative of the Ministry of Labour? That is not a single case, because there is case after case, in my own county, of men who have been not only willing but anxious to consider ways and means of keeping the pits open and who have been told that the pit was closed as the result of a dispute over wages, and they are not getting unemployment benefit.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, nor am I acquainted with the facts to which he refers, but is 2130 he certain that that is not a case which was decided by the umpire, over whom we have no more control than he has?
§ Mr. LAWSON
Yes, it has been tried by the referees. There is a claim for a re-hearing, but we have had so many cases of this description in Durham that we are not very hopeful about the result of the re-hearing, in view of our experience.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I only want to be quite clear that the hon. Member is not unwittingly making a statement which is not quite fair to the Ministry of Labour. From what he said, I gathered that this is a definite case which would go to the umpire, and we have no more control over the decision of the umpire than he has.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that it is the Ministry of Labour's representative who first of all refused the benefit, and the whole proceedings are carried out by the Ministry of Labour. I am not in doubt about these facts, because I was talking only last night with the secretary, and I got the details with a view to giving them in this House. We have, on the list given by one of the chief of the Durham Miners' Association about 5,000 colliers idle, having refused local reductions or longer hours. Then there are about 8,000 who have simply refused longer hours, and 5,000 who have refused local reductions. This is the position, that men are saying to the coal owners: "We want to keep this pit open; what are your terms for keeping the pit or the district going?" They say so and so, but they go back a week after, or a fortnight after, and those terms are not low enough; they want lower terms. I speak, I think, for the mining industry generally, and if it is representative of industry at all, it is a shameful thing to the Ministry of Labour. Some owners in the County of Durham at the present moment seem to me to be taking deliberate steps to put the men in the wrong, and leaving those men to the mercy of the representatives of the Ministry of Labour, which the hon. Member opposite represents. I do not like to say a thing like that, but we have unemployment in my county and in Wales on a scale which other people scarcely understand.
2131 Unemployment is a terrible thing, wherever you find it, but you get some areas where it is scattered here and there, and although large numbers of people are concerned, it is varied to such an extent that it is not felt quite so heavily as in other places. But what is the position in Wales and in Durham? [An HON. MEMBER: "And in Yorkshire."] Yes, and now in Yorkshire, too, I believe. You have people in Wales in the remote mountains where, if you stop a pit, the population is derelict. If they go to another colliery, that colliery is in the same position. It looks very much as if it will sweep through the whole of my county, and you will have a derelict area, the population of which includes the finest men it is possible to find. I was speaking with a friend, who is not a miner, of a miner who had been nine months out of work, and the friend remarked that, so far from being pleased at being released all that time from the dangers of the mine, the thing that was more painful to that man than all the dangers of the mine, was that he could not get the opportunity of facing those dangers.
I am not hopeful of the industries of this country so long as the Government of the day maintain the attitude of detachment which the Prime Minister manifested when he spoke this afternoon. Are the coalowners always to be in the position of saying, "This is my coal, and we are going to do simply what we like, and if we deal death and destruction among the population of this country nobody is to do anything about it"? The Prime Minister and the Government have got to do business. I was pleased to hear some of the things the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon. I confess I am charmed with his spirit, but this House can take it from me, that because of the peculiar nature of the unemployment problem at this moment, because of the black spots about which the Prime Minister spoke, this country is in a dangerous position, and I warn the Government that the last thing they should do is to cut down unemployment benefit or continue to rob miners of their right.
I would not have said a word about this to-night, because I should not like to do anything or say anything which 2132 would mar the proper solution of these questions. [An HON. MEMBER: "You have done it."] I have done it because I believe that the coalowners want an extension of hours, and an extension of hours will intensify the position, because I believe that if the coalowners carry on for an extension of hours, they are aiming at it, not because of the present position of the industry, but because they want to get back to the old position, and they see an opportunity. I would warn them and the Government that the miner is never so dangerous as when people think he is down, and if they do not realise it now, they will realise it before the trouble is over.
§ Mr. RADFORD
The Prime Minister in his speech this afternoon was good enough to say that the Government would welcome suggestions from any part of the House for dealing with this question of industrial depression and unemployment. I do not know whether that is a formal way of inviting suggestions from the leaders of the Opposition parties, and that he would hardly expect to get suggestions from his own back benches, but I have a scheme that I would like to submit to the House in broad outline. I am sure there is no subject of such paramount importance to our nation to-day as the one the House has been discussing this afternoon and evening. I do not know whether the motives of those who proposed this Motion were such as to entitle them to praise from these benches, but, at any rate, the result of it has been that this all-important subject has been ventilated once more, and I am sure we cannot give too much time and thought to it. The appalling loss this country is suffering with an unemployed list of something like 1,250,000 hardly bears thinking about. In calculating it in terms of money alone, on an average earning power of somewhere in the neighbourhood of £3 a week, it means a loss to the country of nearly £200,000,000 a year. But beyond that monetary loss there is the appalling amount of misery, of loss of self-respect, heartache and disappointment, and, particularly among the younger members of the unemployed, the loss, shall I say, of character.
I am sure that of the 1,250,000 unemployed, we are all agreed that the vast majority would much rather be working. 2133 Only this morning I received a pathetic letter from one of my constituents, a man who has been unemployed for two years. His wife had kept the place going as a cleaner, and now she has lost her job. They say they do not want the dole, but only some work. I am sure they are typical of the great bulk of these unemployed. But the position is even more serious than even these huge figures indicate, because, in addition to the 1,250,000, or thereabouts, unemployed, we do not know how many unemployed there would be if those firms, which have been struggling on, hoping against hope the last two or three years, waiting for the tide to turn, have to close down. Undoubtedly, many more hundreds of thousands are within reasonable reach of being on the unemployed market. These unemployed constitute a load on the remaining workers in employment, and on the industries still working, and, as every hundred thousand is added to the unemployed ranks, it casts a heavier load still on those still working, and tends to make costs higher. The result of these additions to the unemployed list is cumulative, and rises by arithmetical progression. In the past we used to have a comfortable trade balance. Our imports exceeded our visible exports, but, added to that, were our invisible exports, and so that left us with a surplus. That surplus has been dwindling, and, as has been stated in the Debate to-day, it is calculated that this year there will be actually a deficiency. There are a limited number of years during which we can go on with a deficiency. We are living on capital, and we are heading to a state of affairs which we cannot contemplate with equanimity.
What is the root cause of unemployment? I have heard it debated here by much abler men than myself, but I have never heard in plain English as to what really is the explanation of our unemployment; and that is that British goods and British productions are too dear. We want to get our markets back. We talk about looking after new markets. The Prime Minister was blamed the other night for not pointing out fresh markets, but if we provide the right quality of goods at a price that is competitive with those of our competitors throughout the world our goods will find their market once more. Whether the capitalist 2134 system prevails, or whether, as hon. Members opposite say, we should have goods-produced under Socialism they have got to be manufactured for no greater cost than they are sold for. No concern can for long carry on the production or the sale of goods at a loss. We are under the necessity, whether it be private enterprise or not, not to do that. Hon. Members opposite overlook that point sometimes. An hon. Member in one of our debates referred to the instance of a colliery in his own constituency, and said if the mine had only been owned by the State that colliery would never have been closed down. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] But the present private owners of that mine would not have closed it down had it not been that the sales of the coal were not recouping them for the wages, and the overhead and other expenses. Is it suggested that under State ownership the State should be ready to make good out of the Exchequer what might be lost in that way? If that be so, then I think we must be more careful than ever in seeing that we do not have State ownership.
9.0 P. M.
I come back to the question of costs. This is the scheme I wish to submit for the consideration of the House. Our problem is to get the cost of goods down. Of what does the cost of the production of goods of any kind consist? It consists of raw materials, the wages of the manual workers, the wages of the salaried officials, the clerical staff, salesmen, managerial staff, and so on, also the fuel, railway carriage, cartage, rents of premises, ground rents, or royalties, rates, electricity, gas, water, postage and other expenses, and interest on money borrowed. Broadly speaking I think the expenses can be massed under the heads I have named. Broadly speaking, too, half the cost of the production of goods is wages. In some cases it is more, in some cases less. Therefore, both equity and necessity demand that wages ought not to be called upon to bear the whole burden of getting costs down. Hitherto amongst the suggestions we have heard we have generally been told that the workers have got to work longer hours, to give more intensive production, or to take less wages. My proposals involve these, but. in addition we must take steps to reduce the salaries of the officials by the same percentage and also the other costs for fuel, railway carriage, rates, elec- 2135 tricity, gas, water, interest, rents, and other expenses, bank charges, and so on, incurred in the manufacture of these various things. By permission of the House I should like to put before hon. Members my proposals for reaching that end. I propose, with all diffidence, that a committee of all parties, with all manufacturing interests represented—this only from the point of view of getting expert evidence—and Board of Trade officials should be appointed, and that that committee should investigate and see by what percentage, broadly speaking, it is necessary to reduce the selling price of British ships, British steel, British machinery, British engines, pig-iron, British coal, and other British productions, by what percentage it is desirable and necessary to get the price down, so that we may once more command our share of the world's markets. That can easily be ascertained. Take shipbuilding. It is common knowledge, it has been discussed in this House, how our lowest tender for a £50,000 job has been beaten by some foreign firm tendering for £40,000, and so on, in bigger sums—it may have been in the neighbourhood of £100,000. Any of the figures will do for the sake of argument, and showing what I mean. This committee, having made its inquiries, would, I suggest, report and recommend that British productions must be reduced in cost by a certain percentage if we are to once more secure our fair share of what is going in the trade of the world.
By way of example, let us assume the rate recommended to be ten per cent. The matter having been reported, the next thing would be for the Government to pass an Act called, if you like, the National Emergencies Ten Per Cent. Deduction Act, or some analogous title.
§ Mr. RADFORD
Take first the case of a Municipality. Under the provisions of this Act, rent, interest and other payments of that nature, the salaries of the people—under agreement for 10 years if you like—must be accepted less the deduction. The municipality, accordingly, would pay interest on its debt less the deduction arrived at. Its salaried officials would be all receiv- 2136 ing a lower rate of pay, and the result would be that that municipality would require to levy a smaller amount for the rates in order to cover its commitments. Therefore, the amount of rates levied on the manufacturing concerns in its area would be reduced, with corresponding benefit. Take the case of a railway company, or a canal company. Every official in the employ of that company, from the highest to the lowest, would come down under this statutory 10 per cent., the interest on money borrowed by the railway company or the canal company would similarly be a less sum owing to the deduction, and the end of it would be to debit the interest on that railway company's profit and loss account by a reduction of 10 per cent. The company would be able to reduce its rates and charges for the carrying of passengers and goods by the same amount. The result would be that on each concern the freight account for railway carriage would be reduced by the 10 per cent.
We come now to a difficulty. Unfortunately our industries are divided into sheltered and unsheltered industries. In the sheltered industries, I believe, calculations have shown that in the existing state of affairs in the country an uneconomic rate of pay is in many cases being paid. In those cases the 10 per cent. would be deducted from the wages as well as from the higher salaried people. In the case of the unsheltered industries, those in which there is the greatest volume of unemployment, and where, unfortunately, the rate of pay is very low, instead of asking for any reduction we should have to ask for an increase of output equivalent to the 10 per cent., or extra time worked. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I would ask hon. Members opposite whether it is better to have a nominal wage of £2 15s. per week and be employed in earning it, or to call your wage £3 15s. per week and be out of work? I could understand the attitude of hon. Members opposite towards the reduction of wages or the increased output on the part of those whom they claim to represent if the suggestion were made that the wages should be lowered or that the output should be made greater to swell the employers' profits. In this case it is not so. The idea is to keep works going that would otherwise stop. 2137 They are not merely in competition with one another in this country, but with firms in Belgium, France, Italy, America and Germany. If hon. Members would remember that fact, I am sure they would adopt a more reasonable attitude towards proposals for either reducing wages or intensifying output.
Next we come to steel. The same rule would apply. The steel people would get their pig iron at 10 per cent. less, their wages and salaries bills would be 10 per cent. less, and their coal at 10 per cent. less would represent a terrific saving. Seeing that it takes, as I think it does, approximately, four tons of fuel to make a ton of steel, it would mean that the present price of nearly half a ton of coal would be saved in the price of each ton of steel. In the shipbuilding industry, one of the most hard hit, shipbuilders would buy their steel plates at about 10 per cent. less than now, their wages and salaries bill would be reduced by 10 per cent.— or, if wages were not reduced, they would get a 10 per cent. more intensive output. The charge for notes, the cost of power and lighting, and, in fact, every other overhead expense would be down in the same way; the legal charges and the auditors' and accountants' charges would all be down by 10 per cent., and with everyone bearing their share of the sacrifice shipbuilders would be able once more to quote prices for ships which would allow us to compete in the markets of the world.
The biggest difficulty—though I suppose it is not the way of a skilled politician to suggest any difficulties in his own scheme—would be with regard to retailers. If this scheme, or something analogous to it, were adopted, steps would have to be taken to prevent retailers from sticking to their present margin of profit. It could be done. What would be the effect on the national Budget? Under this scheme interest on War Loan, interest on Consols, all interest, would be paid subject to the same deduction of 10 per cent. The present Budget of approximately £800,000,000 would be reduced, not by 10 per cent. on the whole, because of the, interest to be paid to people abroad, for we should only be able to make this deduction in the payments to our own nationals; but it would mean a saving of some £70,000,000 out of the £800,000,000. What a relief that would 2138 be all round. In addition to the benefits I have endeavoured to enumerate, every industry and every workman or workwoman would benefit by the reduction of the present levy for unemployment insurance, because of the vast number of people who would be brought into work again; and since this sacrifice would be general and universal—[Interruption.] Can hon. Gentlemen point out anyone who would not be bearing a share under this scheme? The people; with independent incomes, the "idle rich," as they are called, and all the middle class people who receive interest on their investments would receive interest, even on Government investments, less this deduction of 10 per cent., because it is only by everybody bearing a share that it is possible to get the cost of production down all round. With everything coming down by a common percentage we should all be nearly as well off with the reduction as we are at present. The only things on which we could not effect this deduction would be purchases of raw materials and foodstuffs abroad and the payment of interest to nations abroad. In those cases we should have to pay the gross amount. If we decided that a 10 per cent. reduction in sale price was necessary, it might be that to enable it to be effected we should have to have a 12½ per cent. reduction all over the country.
In conclusion, I would remind the House that this is a time of national crisis. The position is far more serious than the people of this country and, if I may say so with respect, than many Members of this House realise. We are at a crisis in the affairs of our nation. In the last decade we faced more than one crisis and we came through by mutual sacrifice, and I appeal to hon. Members opposite, to hon. Members on this side, and even to the Government to probe these suggestions—I put them no higher than that—to see if it is possible for us to arrive at some scheme which may help to get our country out of the present serious position, so that the generations who come after us may be able to say of this generation, in the noble words of Macaulay:Then none was for a party;But all were for the State.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
On a point of Order. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] May I speak on a point of Order? As the one person representing a well-acknowledged party like the Communist party, upon whose work in Parliament should depend the ultimate future of the growing voting strength in favour of the anti-capitalist movement of this country, may I have your ruling as to whether, as such, I should have a place in the official and important Debates or I should have no place at all, and thus that all my supporters should be cut out of Parliamentary representation?
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
The Debate has now ranged over a very large field, and it is quite impossible in the time at my disposal to cover even a part of the ground on such a very large subject as that we have been discussing, but I would like to draw attention to certain phases of the question and to some points in the various speeches. The hon. Member for the Chester-le-Street Division of Durham (Mr. Lawson), who has left the House, made a very strong and a very impassioned speech on behalf of the unemployed miners in the Durham district. His speech raised a question which I want to put to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has asked us not to go into any detail in discussing the coal crisis, and he probably has his reasons for doing so, but I would like to ask, Is it not possible for the Government, through the Mines Department, to give to the country, as well, perhaps, as to the various interests, some really authoritative opinion on some of the questions which form part of the controversy? One of those questions is the extension of hours. We have the very important question of whether or not an extension of the daily hours from seven to eight in coal mining would reduce the cost or not, or would be beneficial or would not be beneficial to the industry.
I gather from the speech I listened to that the hon. Member who represents a mining constituency is of opinion that the extension of hours would fee of no benefit to his industry, and would probably have no effect in reducing costs. On the other hand, I have heard other people, with as 2140 equal authority, tell me it is the only way of saving the coal-mining industry. It is obvious that on a question like this it is difficult to get two parties to a discussion to accept each other's view, and it is even more impossible for people outside to form any opinion. The Government, through the Mines Department, ought to be in a position to form a definite and clear opinion and to issue definite information. Everybody is more or less agreed as to the necessity of getting the coal industry on to a better basis. One way of getting it on a better basis is to reduce costs. It seems to me a great pity that, after all the discussion that has taken place between the coalowners and the miners, nothing seems to have been arrived at as to what is actually required to solve the problem.
In all these discussions we seem to deal with these matters as if they were simply a national affair. We are told that trade depression is a national question. I would like to point out that the coal industry and other industries are not dealing simply with a national question, but they have to face an international situation. The whole of the coal industry is now working without any profit, and in every country it is being put forward that if you lower wages you will get more orders. May I point out that once you start that process it will go on indefinitely, and therefore, instead of pursuing that course, your real solution must be an international one. If more coal is to be produced all round, then it is only by some international agreement that any stability can be secured.
The same applies to the steel and iron trades. In these cases the War has caused a much larger capacity for producing steel and iron, and you have to go much further than a consideration of the national aspect if you want to deal substantially with the difficulties which are affecting all the countries of Europe in the same manner as our own. The Prime Minister said that this was a financial problem. All I would like to say in that respect is that for the past four years I have been pointing out that a policy of deflation is bound to create unemployment. The policy which has been adopted by the Government has created the very thing we do not want, and in trying to 2141 find a solution we have, by our financial policy, created and extended the evil which we are all so anxious to remedy.
We have had various steps of deflation. We have had the policy of deflation in exports, we have had heavy taxation, heavy sinking fund charges and, finally, a gold standard, and every one of these steps which have been taken has diminished our exports. This enables us, it is true, to import more cheaply and buy raw material and food at a lower price, but at the same time it must not be overlooked that the effect of this policy is that your export trade is being continually decreased. We look at the unemployment statistics and we say, "What is the matter, our export trade is going down?" The fact of the matter is you have been taking steps to help them to go down, and you cannot carry on two contradictory policies at the same time. All those who have studied the policy of the gold standard say that it must have some action of that kind, and therefore you must grin and bear it. The result is that by all these means you depress industry and we find as a consequence the House of Commons and our political leaders in a state of helpless despondency, not knowing what steps to take in order to remedy the evil. That is the position we are in.
Let me give an instance on the American Exchange. The American Exchange went down, and South Wales sent tinplates to America and jumped over the tariff wall. Now this position has been reversed, and you find a large number who were employed in this trade now unemployed. That was a direct consequence of the improvement of the American exchange. I invite the Government to present us with a balance sheet demonstrating the advantages which they claim for the policy which they have adopted. We do not send so many goods to America as we do to countries with a bad exchange, and the coal trade is at a standstill to-day because your former purchasers abroad cannot afford to buy the coal at its present price. We are really living, in this matter, in two different constellations, in which you have good exchange and bad exchange countries, and you have to examine carefully which are your best customers.
2142 The Prime Minister has invited suggestions, and he has made a reference to subsidies in regard to certain industries which contribute about 50 per cent. of our unemployed. I will not follow the hon. Member, who spoke last, in regard to his new idea, but as I have put forward a scheme in which there was a suggestion of a subsidy, perhaps the House will permit me to say a few words on this subject. The root ideas of subsidies are the same, that is, you have too great a difference between the cost of production and the capacity to purchase, which means that the price is more than the customer can afford to pay. How are you going to bridge that gap?
There is a certain school of thought which refuses to bridge that gap at all and they say it is unsound economically to endeavour to do it. They say that we had better leave things alone and in time matters will right themselves. That is the view which has been expressed by the Labour party in a criticism of my scheme in a memorandum which they have issued. They take a most orthodox economic view which certainly surprised me, and I wondered who was responsible for drawing up such a remarkable document. The statement that my scheme is superficially inadequate does not prove anything except an abusive intention. It is said it would deflect the Insurance Fund from its proper purpose in order to subsidise employers to pay wages to workers who would have obtained employment without the aid of the scheme. Very well, if the workers could obtain work without the aid of any subsidy, why are they not obtaining it, why are they walking the streets? Why are you moving this Vote of Censure? Obviously if these people can obtain work, one has to assume that they are slackers and do not want to obtain work. Why are not they getting it? They are not getting it because the work is not there; the work is not there because people are not making the goods; they are not making the goods because they cannot sell them; and they cannot sell their goods because their goods are too dear. Therefore a subsidy on wages, reducing the cost of production, would enable people to get work. To-day they cannot get it. That is my first answer to the extraordinary statement, which is signed, 2143 I may say by a number of the leading members of the Labour party.
Let me deal with some of these objections. What is the fundamental objection? That the money which has been subscribed for the purpose of unemployment insurance should not be used for the purpose I propose. What kindness are you affording to any workman when you say: "Here is the money to walk the streets with, and by heavens, you use that money to get a job, and off you get!" What service are you rendering to him or his family by taking up an attitude of that kind. I cannot understand by what manner of method you are supposed to advantage in any possible way those we all want to help by taking up that attitude. It seems to me an incredible attitude, if there are 10,000 men out of work and 9,900 would accept and would be glad to have the chance of accepting it because they want to get back to work.
Let me go on to another point which has been brought up on more than one occasion. I have been told, and this is one of the chief points that has been put over and over again: "You are discriminating against efficient firms by a premium on inefficient firms." Let me deal with that, one of these curious theorist recondite points that I am continually meeting. Let me take shipbuilding. Is there one shipyard working at even 50 per cent. of its capacity, however efficient it may be? They are working far below the full employment capacity of that industry. Some of your most efficient works are those in which you have your largest measure of unemployment. That is very curious. Some of your largest plants put up during the War, some of your latest plants, as the Prime Minister knows probably as well as anybody, are to-day not running because their unit capacity is so large that you cannot operate them. The old-fashioned plants to-day are more economical plants to work than some of the best plants put up in South Wales for steel. It is not merely inefficiency to-day. These are the basic facts.
The scheme I have proposed is a voluntary scheme, leaving it free to any man to either take or surrender his unemployment benefit for his job or not. 2144 It is not compulsory; I am not taking anything away from him; I am not giving the employer even full advantage of the men he takes on. I am only giving him three-quarters and keeping 25 per cent. for the Unemployment Insurance Fund. What will that do? It will immediately reduce the growing burden on your unemployment benefit fund, and will immediately reduce your contribution. What do I ask him to do? I ask him to prove to a committee, composed of his own and trade union representatives, and, if you like, a Government representative, two essential facts, that the work which he wants to employ people on is new work, and that he is not simply taking away work from one person and handing it out to another. It is work which is not to be got otherwise for this country at all. I am always being told that my scheme does nothing but take an order from firm "A" to give it to firm "B." Obviously, if it did not do more than that it would be entirely useless. What is happening to-day is not that firms "A" and "B" are taking from each other; it is firms "X" and "Z" in Holland and Germany which are taking these very ships from this country. We have had example after example where a narrow margin of difference has meant loss of orders, and you deliberately go on paying hundreds of thousands of pounds in unemployment benefit. Under my scheme a very much smaller amount would give thousands of men employment, save your unemployment fund, and get industry going again.
Sometimes I wonder whether we are still a business nation. We seem to have become a nation of academic economists —mere political word-spinners, occupied with our own shadows instead of dealing practically with practical questions People put up bogies and ask me to knock them down. I have been knocking them down month after month. You can put up any number of theoretical bogies to any scheme and no human being can ever tell you whether that will happen or not until you try. When you try, you find something quite different happens to what anybody expects. You can raise endless hypotheses. But there are three fallacies which I would point out. One fallacy is that the volume of trade is limited, therefore if one man gets an order another man loses it. That is not true. The volume of trade is not limited. Trade is not static, but dynamic. The 2145 second is about efficiency, as I have pointed out. The third is that the area of subsidised labour would be immensely extended. As my scheme stands, it could not be extended. I have a datum line by which a man has got to give the Employment Exchange a return for the number of people employed in his place every six months. He cannot get any advantage of any kind unless he is employing more people. I have endeavoured to safeguard against a man who simply dismisses people and then says, "I want more men," and who does a little fake that way. I think I have killed that and successfully killed also the idea of a continued area of extension and also against an automatic ending.
Let me argue from what we do to-day. You say you are not subsidising. Yes, you are. You are subsidising idleness; you are paying £100,000,000 a year in Poor Law relief and in unemployment benefit in order to artificially keep up the labour market. If you withdrew both, the obvious result would be an enormous slump in the labour market. That, your true economist, your theoretician, would tell you you ought to do. That is what we did in 1837, when the Poor Law Commission abolished able-bodied relief altogether, and threw that whole system of outdoor relief over and produced a revolutionary result, largely I think because trade was so much improved that they could afford to do it. No one would do that to-day, and I do not think it would be possible or right to do it. But, surely, it would be a sensible thing to utilise this money in order to create work, rather than simply pouring it away year after year. We are not working on a true economic basis, but on a false and bad economic basis. Any kind of basis which will create work and give people something to do must be better than one which keeps them in a demoralising state of idleness.
I do not want to go into details, because I have provided Members with copies of the pamphlet which I published, and I am going to provide them with copies of a revised edition shortly; but I am not going to let this idea sleep. I do not say that it is ideal; I do not say that nothing better can be done, but I am not prepared to go on waiting year after year while nothing is being done. It is no use our standing here saying that it is a 2146 great tragedy, that it is a great crisis, that it is a great national disgrace, if we are not prepared to take any steps to remedy it, or make any effort to alter it. We had much better say that we cannot deal with it, and forget about it. Since I first started this idea, in 1922, we have had these Debates year after year, but we have really made no substantial progress. I am not reproaching anyone, but no member of any party can honestly get up and say that they are taking any decisive action in the direction of making a change. When I was chairman of the Cabinet Unemployment Committee, which considered these matters very carefully, there was always the idea that after the winter things would be better, and, whenever a scheme was proposed which would last for a few years it was always said, "You must not do that, because there will be no unemployed." I think it is that attitude which has entirely spoiled our whole handling of the situation. We have always temporised. If we had made up our minds five years ago that we were going to have five years of unemployment, we should certainly have launched, as we ought to launch to-day, large schemes employing large bodies of men over a number of years.
This is only one scheme in the line of progress that ought to-be pursued. I should like to draw the attention of the House to another country which also went on to the gold standard and had enormous unemployment, namely, Switzerland. The Swiss found what we have found, namely, an immense depression in their chief export trade, the watch industry, especially to countries with very depreciated exchanges, and, being hard-headed, practical people, they said, "We have got to do something about it." They did so. They began, some years ago, in 1921, with 27,000 people unemployed in their watch and clock industry, and they laid down a scheme for a subsidy under conditions similar to mine, although the machinery was not exactly the same. They laid it down that there should be a further employment of personnel which would otherwise have been unemployed, that the subsidy should only be given to manufacturers who would otherwise be working at a loss, that the amount of the subsidy should not exceed the sum which 2147 would otherwise be paid in unemployment benefit, and that, where the result justified the possibility, repayment should be considered. They started in 1921 with 27,000 unemployed. In March, 1922, they had 22,000 unemployed; in June, 1922, 13,000; in December 1922, 9,000; and in March, 1923, 7,000; so that they reduced their unemployment figures in that industry by 75 per cent. They have done that, and I have yet to learn that anything terrible has happened; I have yet to learn that some fearful economic disaster has overtaken the country.
I give that as an example of a similar scheme which has worked and which has produced a result which is rather what we should have expected. I still say that, of all the schemes I have considered and discussed, the scheme I have put forward has some transcendant advantages. It has the great psychological advantage of employing men in the factory where they have always worked; it has the great advantage of marrying the man to his job, and making him feel that he is doing something to get a job; it has the great advantage that automatically the employer knows exactly what subsidy he is to get; and it has the great advantage that it will be automatically safeguarded from abuse. It can be used by local authorities and public-utility societies, and I have had communications from a great many saying that they are prepared to use it. I say, let us make a start somewhere and try. The worse that can happen is—what? It may be that you will have no more people unemployed, that you are no better off. The best that can happen is that you would make a real hole in unemployment. When once you start one of a series of industries going, others will follow suit. We know that they are all correlated. You would get ships going you would get steel going, you would get rolling mills going, you would get coal going. It is like throwing a stone into a pool, and making rings form which extend outwards, interlocking with one another, so that you could never say how great the effect would be.
There are other directions, also, as to which I hope we shall hear a little more. We have our national credit, and we have achieved that national credit by enormous sacrifices. Why should we not use it on 2148 a big scale, on a scale which would achieve some results? I remember very well the Minister of Health, before he was in office, bringing forward a scheme of great importance for a great waterway between Bristol and Liverpool. Such schemes produce permanent assets. Even if, like the Manchester Ship Canal, they do not show any interest on capital at first, they would have an indirect effect upon industry which it is almost impossible to calculate. The Leader of the Opposition spoke about land reclamation. I remember very well being in Bavaria after the War, and driving out to Munich and seeing large peat bogs being reclaimed for agricultural purposes. I asked the Bavarian Minister what this was for, and he said it was being done by ex-soldiers who were going to be settled on the land. It was an elaborate scientific process, and I asked him, "How can you afford to pay for it?" He said, "We have got to pay for it. These men have to be found something to do." They had not got a great national credit, but they did pay for it, and those men are producing food and feeding themselves. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman not to be so frightened about putting people on the land. There is not quite so much mystery about it as some people make out. But I would say, do not put them on the land on the terms on which you have put the ex-service soldiers on the land. Do not put them on to dear land, and make them pay rents three times higher than farmers have to pay. Do not try to make them repay the cost of putting them on the land, out of which they are trying to make something, in a certain number of years; do not charge them with the expenses for buildings which ought never to be put up; and do not leave them disorganised, without proper co-operative machinery either for produce or for sale. That scheme fell through, but I have seen in Palestine people, very unfitted for the land, doing quite well on the land under proper direction and on reasonable terms. We have thousands of people here to-day who could make some kind of a living for themselves on the land under a really properly organised and generously treated system.
Then we have heard only one line about Empire development. Why not more? Why not deal with this matter financially in a bigger way? I am certain, from 2149 what I have been told in the City, that they would much prefer the Government to raise some big loans of its own, instead of continually petering out small loans under the Trade Facilities Scheme and so on. The continual creation of a few millions of stock is not at all popular. Money can be found. The right hon. Gentleman will probably be advised that it cannot be found. He will be told the money market is choked up and the underwriters do not want any more, and all that kind of talk, which is quite true. But if he made one of the great speeches he is in the habit of making, if he asks the country to find the money to re-establish the Empire and to find the money to solve the unemployment problem, he could get any number of millions that he wants. Really, we want something like £100,000,000 or £200,000,000. When I was Chairman of the Committee of which he was a member, when someone told us that £10,000,000 were required, I remarked that you might as well put a postage stamp over a battleship which had got its side blown in by a torpedo to stop it sinking. You cannot deal with the unemployment problem, which is a large capital problem, in this pedantic manner.
May I tell the House one experience. This Spring I was in Greece. Greece is a small country with 7,000,000 inhabitants. It has had 10 years of war. Into that country, owing to the exigencies of the late war with Turkey, 1,500,000 refugees have been dumped. You see their huts, cottages and wooden shanties everywhere. I talked to the Minister of Finance there and said, "What are you doing with these people? Have you any unemployed?" He said, "No, we cannot afford to have them unemployed. We have them settled on the land." I said to the governor of the Bank of Greece, "How do you do it?" He said, "We have had to give them large credits, probably more than we ought to have given them, but we could not leave them to starve." We have made a large loan to Greece to establish her unemployed, but we have not done anything of the same kind for ourselves. Does it not seem remarkable, and rather a disgrace? Supposing one of our Dominions had been invaded. Suppose 2,000,000 English families came overseas to our shores. What would you do with 2150 them? Would you sit down and debate at length what you could afford? No, you would have to deal with them as Greece has had to do. You would gather the army of unemployed in one spot and exhibit them to the British people. They would insist, not that more committees should be appointed or that more investigations should take place, but that something should be done at once. They would get a Government which would take rapid and decisive action. They would really deal with the canker in their midst.
One thing I am convinced about is that you cannot afford to go on as you are doing now. That is the real point. You have to make up your mind that it is so bad and so dangerous to the commonwealth that you cannot allow it to continue. The real feeding ground of the Communists is the despair you are creating. Decent, respectable people want to work, and apparently we have not the organising capacity to create anything. Surely you ought to sweep aside the whole of these pedantic and theoretical considerations, which to my mind have been holding us up too long. I am disappointed in that sense with the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He means well, but I do not think he has really taken the helm of his own ship. If he really made up his mind as to the course he wanted to steer and insisted that it should be done, it would not be rejected on the ground that it was either too uneconomic or too unsound or too visionary. I invite him to deal with the question in a broad and courageous way. Let us show the world that after all we, who pride ourselves on our power of organisation all over the world, can deal with this problem at Home.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
On a point of Order. May I respectfully ask if the Standing Orders and the practice of the House permit the Whips of the majority party to entirely freeze out from the right of speaking one who has the misfortune of being in an extreme minority though representing a new political party?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Neither the Whips nor the Standing Orders of the House have anything to do with the question who catches my eye.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
May I ask what regulations the representative of a new party should follow or observe in order to catch the eye of the Speaker?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I have not been able to see the hon. Member on this occasion, but he has not been unheard in the present Session.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
In the few minutes I propose to occupy the time of the House, I shall devote myself to the subject which ought to be before us. In view of most of the speeches which have been delivered in this Debate, neither excepting that of the Prime Minister nor that of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, I think it is necessary to remind the House that we ought to be discussing a Vote of Censure upon the Government. One can understand the affection of a fond parent for his own offspring, and that may explain the reason why the right hon. Gentleman has occupied so much of the time this evening in explaining and attempting to defend a scheme which is antiquated and for which, up to the present, he has been unable to find even one single supporter.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
We are discussing, or at any rate we ought to be discussing, the neglect of the Government to deal with this question of unemployment. The Prime Minister said the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was not helpful as a contribution to the treatment of this problem. I wonder now much the speech of the Prime Minister himself is likely to help the solution of this question, or even to find work for a single one of the million and a quarter of unemployed. The Prime Minister's speech made no attempt whatever to defend the action or inaction of the Government in regard to this matter. We ought not to be having an academic mutual improvement society debate upon the causes of unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was nothing more than a string of platitudinous analyses, well-known to everyone, of the general causes of unemployment. What we want to know, and why we have put down this Vote of 2152 Censure, is what the Government are going to do to find work now. The Prime Minister told us that he could have occupied three hours of the time of the House this afternoon. He spoke for an hour. I am sure the House would have been quite content and glad to listen to the Prime Minister for another two hours if he had been able to contribute anything at all substantial to the treatment of this question.
My right hon. Friend the leader of the Opposition referred to the treatment which the Labour Government received at the hands of the Opposition 12 months ago. We had not been in office a month before we began to be bombarded every day with questions from hon. Members opposite, wanting to know what our plans were. The Prime Minister took part in. a Debate on the subject within five or six weeks of the Labour Government taking office. On that occasion he did not, as he did this afternoon, speak about the difficulties of dealing with this problem. He did not on that occasion talk about its grave character. He confined himself exclusively to criticising the young Labour Government for not having already abolished unemployment. We are in the position this evening that the Prime Minister occupied 12 months ago and we are not going to be led away into general discussion, into academic discussion of the causes of unemployment. We are prepared to do that at the proper time and on the proper occasion. This evening we are not in the dock; it is the Ministers opposite who are in the dock.
On the advent of the Labour Government, 12 months ago, commercial confidence began to improve. By every sign and by every test of improvement, trade, following the advent of the Labour Government, was of the most satisfactory and promising character. The price of Government stock went up, which is the best indication of improving national credit. What has happened under this Government, which was returned to improve trade? We were to have a stable Government, which would give greater confidence to the commercial and financial interests of the country. They have been in office eight months. As they have been reminded this afternoon, they themselves admitted in the King's Speech that there were promises of improving trade. What 2153 has the Prime Minister had to say about that this afternoon? He said that trade is no worse. Trade is worse. I would like to tell the Prime Minister, and I am sure that he will agree with this statement, that when we have a state of industry such as exists to-day, if there be no improvement, things are going worse.
Commercial men, great industrialists in the country, are losing heart. That is the most fatal thing that can happen. They are losing heart very largely for the reason that was bluntly confessed by one of the supporters of the Government only a few days ago. Speaking as the representative of the industrial group in this House, he said that the opinion was widespread amongst commercial people in the country that this Government either knew nothing about industry or cared nothing about industry. Are there any signs that the confidence which was to be brought about by the return of the present Government to power has been realised? Take Government stocks, one of the best tests that you can have of financial and commercial confidence in the Government. Consols when the Prime Minister took office stood at 58½. They were down the other day below 56. The 3½ per cent. conversion loan stood at 79¾ in October last year. It is down now to 75½. This lack of confidence is not-shown only in the decline of Government stock. It has affected all industrial securities.
Has the Prime Minister seen the monthly summary of the "Bankers' Magazine," in regard to the falling value of securities, which was published two or three days ago? They tell us that during the month of June, on 365 representative securities, there was a shrinkage in money value of not less than £48,000,000, and that British funds alone accounted for £31,000,000 of that amount. This is not a political document. Then they go on to make this remarkable observation:It is impossible not to be impressed with the very considerable reaction that has taken place in securities as a whole during' the first half of the current year.During the tenure of office of the right hon. Gentleman. He spent the earlier part of his speech, the greater part of his speech, in trying to minimise the import- 2154 ance and severity of the unemployment problem. He told us that there were 89 per cent. who were employed and only 11 per cent. unemployed. We are not concerned with those who are in work, but with the 1,250,000 who are out of work. It is no consolation to those who are out of work to know that there are more people in employment. If the right hon. Gentleman remains in office, supported by his colleagues, for the next four years, he would be a venturesome man who would say that the proportion of employed and unemployed would 'be in anything like the ratio that they are to-day. It is much more likely that you will have as many people out of work as you have in employment. In the face of this situation, what has the right hon. Gentleman to offer? Nothing, absolutely nothing. He spoke for an hour, and he never made one single constructive proposal.
We have been reminded—we knew we should be reminded—of the statement which appeared in a former Election manifesto of the Labour party that we had a positive remedy for unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman had a positive remedy for unemployment at the same Election, and at that Election, although he failed to secure a majority of the Members of this House, he had behind him a larger number of Members than the Labour Government had when in office Therefore we are justified in asking him, why does not he apply his positive remedy. The only reply he could give to us this afternoon was that, as we had said we had a positive remedy, it rested not with him but with us to propound some practical scheme for lessening the number of unemployed. But the right hon. Gentleman should be the man of action—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why!"] We are not in office. The responsibility of dealing with this question rests with the right hon. Gentleman.
I ask again, what does he offer us? Nothing, except this: He is considering a number of questions, he is inquiring into a number of questions, he is going to see whether certain developments take place or not. In regard to low carbonisation there have been successful laboratory experiments, and some time in the dim and distant future that may become a commercial proposition. He is going to watch and wait and see. Meanwhile 2155 the number of unemployed is continually increasing. Is that going to do anything for those who are out of work now? Is that going to do anything to stimulate our dying industry? What has it got to offer in regard to electricity? At any rate, we did do something in that matter, and we left the work well prepared for the right hon. Gentleman. We were in office a shorter time than the right hon. Gentleman has already held not merely office, but power. If we had remained in office up to the present time those electricity schemes which we had well in hand would be, in a very large measure, in practical operation to-day. They have had our Reports, they have had those Reports for months; they appointed a Committee to consider them and now the Government are considering them. Again, what is that going to do for the trade? How many unemployed will that provide work for? Again, it is inquiry, it is consideration, it is wait and see, but there is not one single practical Measure.
The right hon. Gentleman made a statement to the House, and if he had not read it carefully from the notes of his speech, I should have thought that it was an unconsidered impromptu idea which occurred to his mind. It is just like the one that he made in his speech when he was censuring us 12 months ago, when he made the suggestion that the Government might buy up the whole of the food supplies of the Dominions and market them in this country. I had the temerity to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman to ask him what he meant, and it was perfectly clear from what he said in reply that he did not know what he did mean. I asked him if he meant subsidies to private firms. Subsidies to landowners, subsidies to rates. He did not know, but he appealed to the House of Commons in the course of this Debate to give him some ideas about the question. It is not for the House of Commons to give the Prime Minister ideas. It is for the Prime Minister to give his ideas and his schemes to the House of Commons. Again, is that going to do anything for the unemployed now?
I have done the right hon. Gentleman an injustice. He did offer one suggestion. He was speaking, he said, to the country—I wonder what the country and the unemployed will think about his 2156 speech to-morrow morning—and he advised the country to buy only British goods. I am quite sure that the Prime Minister did not give one moment's consideration to the matter before he gave that advice to the country. What are the industries which he tells us are depressed, which constitute in the main the unemployment problem in its aggravated form? Cotton? The people are advised to buy only British cotton— [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—and by that means improve employment in the cotton trade. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because they buy practically only British cotton already. Not only do we supply the home market with cotton, but in normal times four-fifths of the output of Lancashire is sent to foreign markets. Again, another of those depressed industries is coal, and we are advised to solve the unemployment problem by buying only British coal. The shipbuilding industry is also an exceedingly depressed industry, and so we are to buy only British ships —[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—and by that means we are to solve the unemployment problem.
An hon. Member opposite by his interruption confesses that he does not know much about it. He asks "Why not?" Does the Prime Minister advise this country in regard to international trade to adopt the isolationist policy and to exclude foreign goods? Is that the policy? But the Prime Minister knows well that that is the most fatal policy that could be advocated in the country, which has to depend to such a great extent upon markets for its own manufactures in foreign countries. If you are going to adopt that policy then you cannot blame other countries if they follow your example, and what is going to become then of your export trade in cotton goods, and in woollen goods, and indeed in all our manufactured articles? That was the only suggestion which the Prime Minister offered, a suggestion which, if carried out, would make the present condition of things worse than it is to-day.
Then he recommended us subsidies. It is true that he does not know what he meant by subsidies, but apparently somebody had said to him, "subsidies."
He asked the House of Commons what they have to say about subsidies. In reply to my interjection he showed that he evidently had some recollection of the 2157 phraseology by which he had supported the Safeguarding of Industries scheme, by talking about subsidising efficient industry. But it is not efficient industry that needs subsidising, if subsidising an industry is going to do any good at all. Even in industries like coal and iron, there are firms, well organised firms, efficient firms, who are making very considerable profits. A very large firm of iron and steel works in South Wales had its annual meeting last week, and it had had a very prosperous year. That was a very efficient firm. Therefore, it is not the efficient firm which wants subsidising. I must not be understood as giving any support whatever to the vague and indefinite suggestion of the Prime Minister that it was efficient industries, those best able to compete, which would have any claim at all on the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman.
Nothing doing in electricity; nothing doing in agriculture, except what was started by the Labour Government last year. Nothing doing to train the agricultural worker, about the need of which he spoke very strongly. Nothing doing for afforestation; nothing doing for roads, except what the Labour Government started last year; nothing doing in research. The right hon. Gentleman gave us a long list of research that was going on, all of which was in actual operation under the Labour Government. But, perhaps, I have again done an injustice to the right hon. Gentleman. He thinks that the development of the film industry would solve the unemployment problem. When the Parish Councils Bill was before this House the late Lord Salisbury said that what the rural worker wanted was not parish councils but circuses. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal is very much like that. He cannot provide work for the unemployed and, therefore, he proposes to give them British films.The most extraordinary feature of this present Government is, not that they have not only done nothing to reduce unemployment, but that they have made a point of going out of their way to do everything they can to increase it.Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise those words? Speaking a year ago at Manchester the right hon. Gentleman said that. How truly the words apply to his own Government! Not only have they done nothing to improve trade and 2158 unemployment, but in the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer they have deliberately gone out of their way to injure trade and to imperil the financial position of the country. After eight months they stand there, objects of pity. Eight months ago their supporters in the country hailed their return to power as the beginning of a new era of prosperity. Trade to-day is admittedly in such a state that employers are losing heart and giving up the struggle, in many cases, in despair. The number of unemployed is increasing; the mining industry of the country is hurtling to ruin, and the only thing the Prime Minister could say about it this afternoon was that there were 3 per cent. unemployed a year ago and 16 per cent. to-day. That is the only consolation he can give to the mining industry.
Eight months in office, and to-day the Prime Minister gets up and has not one grain of hope to give to these 1,250,000 unemployed! It is not merely that, because this 1,250,000 are not always the same persons. The right hon. Gentleman himself read out figures which show that probably half to three-quarters of the workers of this country are unemployed for some time during the period of 12 months. Therefore this is not merely, as the right hon. Gentleman tried to make appear, a problem of 10 per cent. of our population, but a problem of 40 per cent., of 50 per cent., of 70 per cent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Make it 100 per cent.!" and Laughter.] It is quite consistent with the record on this question of hon. Members opposite to treat an increase in the number of unemployed as a matter for laughter and joking. I do not include the Prime Minister in that indictment of his party. I sympathise with him in the character of the men who support him. The right hon. Gentleman concluded with one of his very feeling perorations. I know it is almost sacrilege to lay ruthless hands upon a man's peroration, but the unemployed are not going to be fed by copy-book maxims, and what I would say to the Prime Minister, with all respect, is, "Let us have a little less sentiment and a little more practice." It is all very well to be an idealist, but to be an idealist you must have ideas. The right hon. Gentleman to-day, seat-i-mentalist though he be and though his heart may be, and I believe is, in the 2159 right place, is utterly devoid of all ideas for dealing with this grave problem which is growing more grave day by day. That is why we ask the House of Commons to support this Vote of Censure. Of course we know that we shall not carry it. Those servile hordes, including the squads who have been recalled from leave, will support the Government in the Lobby to-night. Dare I conclude with these words. [HON. MEMBERS: "A peroration!"] Yes, but not my peroration:He prophesied that by the time the next Election came, the conduct of the Labour Government in regard to the question would be regarded by the electorate as one of the most damning episodes in the whole of their career. Whatever chance they might have had of winning the sympathy of the country would be thrown away by the manner in which they had thus lost every opportunity they had of improving the condition of the people and of doing something for the unemployed.If that were true—those are the words of the Prime Minister—of the Labour Government, I venture to say that, when the next General Election comes, in a far greater measure the country will consider it to be true of the present Government.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland)
We have listened to a remarkable speech, characterised not, certainly, with sentimentality, but with the usual sweetness and light and good-nature that we expect from the right hon. Gentleman. He has given us his pity, and he has given the Prime Minister his sympathy, two most valuable gifts, which, I am quite sure, the Prime Minister appreciates at their true worth. A few minutes before, he ridiculed, in his own characteristic style, the Prime Minister's appeal to buy British goods. If I were to judge from the right hon. Gentleman, talking with the pure milk of his own fiscal doctrine, which probably would have been curdled by the time that it had reached the rest of us, he would ask us simply to buy foreign goods. Is that the policy he would like us to carry out more and more under the circumstances? Is that what he thinks would cure the present situation, or is he not going to prescribe until he is again called in?
Look at what underlies his own criticism. He says: "Here you have the iron and steel industry depressed and the shipbuilding industry depressed; are you 2160 going to buy heavy iron and steel and ships?" I say to the right hon. Gentleman that his researches do not seem to have carried him very far in the economics of which he talks. Let him take some of the goods that might be bought. I will take some of those that come in in quite large quantities, something that might be bought by ordinary consumers: glassware, gloves, sewing machines, garments of various kinds, hardware. Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that, if we were to buy more of these, it would not follow, as has happened in every trade cycle and change up till now, that the orders in constructional steel and machinery would follow the increased consumption of other goods in this country? If he does not, I may say that his research into and knowledge of industry do not seem to have led to very good purpose.
Now, I come back to one or two of the other statements which have been made, which have given rise to a good deal of misconstruction this afternoon? I made a note of some of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition. He was talking about the numbers that were unemployed, as the right hon. Gentleman has just done, and he apparently, so far as I could gather from the words that I took down, asked for this inference to be drawn, that thousands and thousands had been knocked off by the Administration and a few thousands had been put on by the Labour act of last year, as though, for purposes of comparison, unemployment was greater than it apparently seems at present from the figures. If the right hon. Gentleman did not mean that, there was no other inference that could be drawn from his words as he used them, which I took down. Moreover, the words which he used were these, that this Government had been sleepless in their efforts to knock off the register those who were entitled to be on it. There is not a single shadow of substance of any sort or kind for that. [Interruption.] Let us ask him, as with the other vague and general allegations he made, to give us the actual facts and figures.
The Leader of the Opposition has tried to blacken the situation from the point of view of the wellbeing of the country. I do not want to minimise the situation, but it is equally bad, from the point of 2161 view of the country, to try to make it out worse than it is. It is absurd to pretend at this moment, as the Leader of the Opposition did, that the standard of wellbeing in this country on the whole is worse than it was before the War. The whole facts point the other way. To pretend at this moment that it is worse is to go against all the facts Take what is an indication for the country as a whole. You get an increase in the importations of food into this country of 26 per cent. by volume over what they were in 1913. If all allowance is made for the state of agriculture in this country and allows for the increase in population since then, it will be found that the aggregate amount of food consumed in this country is much larger per head. There is no one who can say, in the light of facts and statistics of that kind, that any allegation such as the right hon. Gentleman has made is justified for one moment.
The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) asked a good many questions about the future of industry and the outlook. The Vote for the Board of Trade is going to be taken on Monday, and as there is so little time to-night—otherwise I would have gone into the question of the trade outlook—I have to pass that by. All I can say to the right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) is that when he says we have not analysed the situation, when he says we have not attempted to think it out, we must presume no doubt that he has analysed it and thought it out. We have attempted to think it out just as much as the right hon. Gentleman has. When I hear allegations of that kind, all I can say is that for many years the temple of the world has re-echoed to the Pharisee's prayer, but, undoubtedly, on this occasion the accent of it is the accent of the party opposite.
Let us go on to the things that have been done. The Leader of the Opposition said that we led the country to expect a cure from us. Let him point to an authoritative statement.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
He never said anything of the kind, and we were very careful indeed—[Interruption]— because we were honest with the country. I have said again and again at this table, and in the country, that no Government can actually provide a cure for unemployment. We have been scoffed at for saying that openly, straightforwardly, and honestly, but I say it again to-night. Every one who is honest with himself in this House 99 per cent. of us—must realise that no Government, whoever they be, can create a cure at this moment for unemployment. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why did you not say that last year?"] I did. I put it in my Election address. I do not for a moment propose to say that the Government should' do nothing, or should support merely a negative policy, but I do say quite openly and honestly for people to realise that, all that can be done by a Government to-day, however active, must be limited in amount as compared with the present volume of unemployment, and also limited in time. Some remedies can be applied at once, but many remedies must take some time in maturing. Some are quicker than others.
Take the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) who has just spoken. He spoke about grants to local authorities. Here the difficulty is as, of course, we all know, that a grant is a strain upon their funds. Take also afforestation. That is going forward faster than was the case when the Government of the right hon. Gentleman was in power. Then road making, the amount of that work is half as much again as when the right hon. Gentleman's Government was in power. [An HON. MEMBER: "Give us the figures!"] In the case of ordinary road-making employment is mainly given to unskilled labour; whereas in bridge-building there is more employment for the engineering trade. We are therefore paying particular attention to the question of bridge-building. We all agree, however, that at the best these things are palliatives. I could give hon. Gentlemen opposite figures which would compare very favourably with the figures that they could produce. Then what about our measures which are not merely palliatives, but good in themselves and a help for the future, 2163 to help us to get a larger share of the export trade in order to fill up the gap which has been made through the collapse of the foreign markets? We are helping in that direction and we also have Measures directed to trying to expand internal production in this country.
Take the question of Imperial Development to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded, by migration to the Dominions. A migrant to the Dominions is an infinitely better customer for the goods of our manufacturers in this country than is any other citizen of any other country abroad. I wonder what the party opposite, with one or two honourable exceptions, have done for promoting migration to our Colonies? [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the good?"] The right hon. Gentleman has asked what are we doing for agriculture and migration? We have thought out two training schemes for young men who are unemployed. They have been approved. These are not in order to turn the men into complete agriculturists, but to give them some degree of training in order that they may make good agriculturists if they migrate. It is asked, why migrate?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The hon. Gentleman wants to swallow two things at once, and such a course often causes mental indigestion. I am not asking anyone who wants to keep people at home to do what I have not done myself. I have relatives of my own who have emigrated to Canada and connections in New Zealand. Why on earth should anyone say they ought necessarily to stay in this country and should not go to the Dominions when it means strengthening the Empire? At any rate, it is interesting to know what the attitude of the party opposite is.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
This is very important. Will the right hon. Gentleman please tell the House of any improvement in the migration schemes that we made when we were in office that the Government have altered in any syllable—any one scheme to any of the Dominions?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The schemes are being pressed forward in order to get the people to the Do- 2164 minions. [Interruption.] We all know the zeal of the right hon. Gentleman in this matter. He would be the first to say that the real founder, the real person who has pressed migration more than anyone else in this House, was not himself but the present Colonial Secretary. This all helps to relieve unemployment. Then, what has been done in the Colonies? Just recently several orders have been put out by the Colonies. We have just recently given trade facilities to the Benguella Railway for over £1,000,000, to be spent in this country in relief of unemployment. That is a type of what is happening in the Colonies.
Take the case of electricity. I am going to deal in a moment with what the right hon. Gentleman said about electricity. That is not the only scheme we have considered since we came into office. It was put to me, by a very competent engineer, when I came to my Department, that the whole railway system should be subject to review, so that we might have 50-ton trucks in this country and the whole of our railway equipment on a larger scale. I went into that carefully, and came to the conclusion, after taking careful advice, that it was a proposal really not suited to this country; and therefore a detailed scheme with regard to that was not wanted. Then there is the question of the waterways of this country. I sat in business for months with the canal schemes of Germany, France and Belgium opposite me. They have been put upon the shelf, pigeon-holed, and I hope to have them, after having made some inquiries about them, gone into again. Take the proposals for safeguarding industries. The right hon. Gentleman does not approve of them; and yet I am bound to say far more employment will be given to industry under the Safeguarding of Industries Scheme than by anything which his Government ever approved or considered. Take the question of sugar. The Leader of the Opposition pointed to the adverse trade balance against us. There was little encouragement for the beet-sugar industry from the party opposite, and yet what is the result of the increase of the sugar-beet crop? It means that we shall get additional employment, one man for every 10 acres under beet, and if we get a production, which is perfectly possible, of 2165 some 300,000 tons of sugar, we eat into the whole adverse trade balance of some £34,000,000 a year.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that that never received support from us?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I will answer the right hon. Gentleman in a minute. I am going to deal with coal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sugar!"] I will come back to sugar. Hon. Members opposite need not be disappointed. I am coming again to sugar. Just one word about coal. All these new systems cannot mature at once, and we do not know exactly what they may do when they come to fruition. There is doubt about the coal industry being able to regain its full former prosperity, and so we are trying to aid the development of these schemes. As I have already said, neither this Government, nor, in fact, any Government, has got an absolute cure for unemployment, and that is quite true, but all these things may help. The fact remains, however, that if you want a real cure you have to go back to the great basic industries, and get them back to their former prosperity. That is why we have asked the Committee on Civil Research to have a careful, close and adequate inquiry into the iron and steel industry. These trades have made an application for help under the Safeguarding of Industries Scheme, but that application is suspended until a close inquiry has been made by the Committee of Civil Research.
In connection with that inquiry, may I be allowed to say that it is not proposed to exclude any of those subjects which may be material. Further than this it is not proposed to exclude subsidies from that inquiry. But it is no good talking about subsidies in a vague and abstract way. We must consider them in relation to some concrete industry, and in this connection the Committee will be asked to consider the question of subsidies. We are no doctrinaires with regard to subsidies, but up to this time we can say that no scheme has been proposed which we think would achieve the object desired, although we are perfectly willing to consider any of them in relation to a concrete industry. I wish however to make it perfectly and absolutely clear that no industry, neither coal nor any other industry, should look to us for 2166 a subsidy when such an application would postpone other negotiations for a settlement.
I have run through these various points as quickly as I could. I now turn to examine the position of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Snowden), who says that he is the prosecuting counsel, and we are the criminals in the dock, lie has complained again and again that we have charged the Labour party with not producing their cure, and he has asked what is our cure? He told the House that we came forward with a policy of Protection for this country. We did so, and we put it before the country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite and his friends pressed forward what they call their positive remedy, but they have never yet disclosed what it is. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes we have!"] Then what is it?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Can any ex Minister tell us what was that positive remedy? It is interesting to note how silent hon. Members are on this point when a single word might give us the answer. We have had many men who came back from the War with dysentery and ulceration. Every wise doctor knew that you could only treat an illness like that by a long, a careful treatment, and yet many quick and quack remedies were suggested. Our quarrel with the party opposite is not that there was a cure for unemployment which they did not apply, but that the Labour Party promised a cure when they knew quite well that they had not got one.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston, in his interview with the Leader of the Opposition again accused us for not being prepared to make a scientific study of this question. He referred, of course, to the Bill that was brought before Parliament on a Friday some weeks' ago by the Labour party. He complained that it was a Bill of vital importance—I refer to an interview published this morning—a. Bill of vital importance which Tories sacrificed a Friday to come down and cast out. Is it not significant, if he thought it of that vital importance, that neither he nor the late Chancellor of the Exchequer thought it worth while to come and say anything to support it? That was their 2167 proposal—a proposal which the Chancellor of the Exchequer well knows would never have worked if they had tried to put it into operation. But the Leader of the Opposition has a Celtic imagination and sometimes when he thinks of a bright idea, his imagination projects it into the world of fact as though it was a thing already in being [HON. MEMBERS: "What are you going to do about unemployment!"] Let us take one or two of these questions about which we have been asked. Electricity.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Take sugar then first of all. Who was it brought it in? It was brought in by the Coalition Government, and was likely to give employment in this country. Who opposed it? Who brought in the official Labour Amendment opposing it? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lymo (Colonel Wedgwood) on behalf of the party opposite. Now take the electricity scheme. The right hon. Gentleman made a great claim for the electricity scheme. He says we have done nothing. I say without hesitation, we came and we found the scheme in an utterly rudimentary condition. More work has been done upon it, by us, more real useful work, to bring it in the way of fruition than was ever done before the right hon. Gentleman and his friends left office.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
And if it had made no greater progress, we should all have been in our coffins before it had ever had a chance of being realised. I challenge anyone, looking at the state in which it was left by the last Government and the amount of work that has been done since, to come to any other conclusion of any sort or kind. Look at the comparative record of the safeguarding of industries—
§ Mr. MAXTON
He has been talking utter rubbish for 25 minutes. He has said not one single scrap that is of any use. [Interruption.]
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Hon. Members opposite know quite well that I have been through the different things that this Government have been doing —[Interruption.]
§ Mr. MAXTON
It is not an answer; it is an insult to every hon. Member. It is utter rubbish. He has taken up 25 minutes in pettifogging debate.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Is not it significant of what is happening? Here have I been right through the whole of the facts and figures briefly but in detail—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. MAXTON
On a point of Order. We bring forward a Vote of Censure on 2169 the Government, and now we are listening to—[Interruption.]
That this House has no confidence in a Government which, after a lengthy period
of industrial depression and confronted by a rapid and alarming growth in the numbers of unemployed, has failed to take measures to deal with a situation of unprecedented gravity.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 143; Noes, 373.2173
|Division No. 218.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hastings, Sir Patrick||Scurr, John|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hayes, John Henry||Sexton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hirst, G. H.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Barnes, A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Barr, J.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Batey, Joseph||John. William (Rhondda, West)||Smillie, Robert|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Briant, Frank||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Snell, Harry|
|Broad, F. A.||Kelly, W. T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)|
|Buchanan, G.||Kirk wood, D.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lansbury, George||Stephen, Campbell|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawson, John James||Sutton, J. E.|
|Clowes, S.||Lee, F.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lindley, F. W.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Livingstone, A. M.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Compton, Joseph||Lowth, T.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Connolly, M.||Lunn, William||Thurtle, E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Mackinder, W.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||MacLaren, Andrew||Varley, Frank B.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||March, S.||Viant, S. P.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Maxton, James||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dennison, R.||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Warne, G. H.|
|Duncan, C.||Montague, Frederick||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dunnico, H.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Murnin, H.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Naylor, T. E.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Gillett, George M.||Oliver, George Harold||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gosling, Harry||Palin, John Henry||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Win. (Edin., Cent.)||Paling, W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Greenall, T.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Potts, John S.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Groves, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Riley, Ben||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Ritson, J.||Windsor, Walter|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F.O.(W. Bromwich)||Wright, W.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Rose, Frank H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hardie, George D.||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr. T.|
|Harris, Percy A.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Kennedy.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Briscoe, Richard George|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Brittain, Sir Harry|
|Albery, Irving James||Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Bennett, A. J.||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Berry, Sir George||Brown, Brig. Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Betterton, Henry B.||Buckingham, Sir H.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Bullock, Captain M.|
|Astor, Viscountes||Blades, Sir George Rowland||Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Blundell, F. N.||Burman, J. B.|
|Atkinson, C.||Boothby, R. J. G.||Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Burton, Colonel H. W.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Butler, Sir Geoffrey|
|Balniel, Lord||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Butt. Sir Alfred|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Brass, Captain W.||Calne, Gordon Hall|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Brassey, Sir Leonard||Campbell, E. T.|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cassels, J. D.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Gretton, Colonel John||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Cayzer, Maj Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth. S.)||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Macintyre, I.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||McLean, Major A.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||MacMillan, Captain H.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R.(Eastbourne)||Malone, Major P. B.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hammersley, S. S.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Hanbury, C.||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Harland, A.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Harrison, G. J. C.||Merriman, F. B.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hartington, Marquess of||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Clayton, G. C.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark. Lanark)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Harvey, Majors. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Haslam, Henry C.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hawke, John Anthony||Moles, Thomas|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootie)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Cope, Major William||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Morning, Captain A. H.|
|Couper, J. B.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn. N.)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Murchison, C. K.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Herbert, S.(York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hilton, Cecil||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Crook, C. W.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Neville, R. J.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Crookshank. Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Holt, Capt. A. O. J.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Curzon Captain Viscount||Homan, C. W. J.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Davidson, J. (Hertfd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Oakley, T.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Davison Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Dawson Sir Philip||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Cumb., N.)||Owen, Major G.|
|Dixey A. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd. Whiteh'n)||Penny, Frederick George|
|Doyle Sir N. Grattan||Hume, Sir G. H.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Drewe, C.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Perring, William George|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Huntingfield, Lord||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Hurd, Percy A.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Hurst. Gerald B.||Phillipson, Mabel|
|Elveden, Viscount||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Pielou, D. P.|
|England, Colonel A.||Iliffe Sir Edward M.||Plicher, G.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Preston, William|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Jacob, A. E.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Radford, E. A.|
|Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Jephcott, A. R.||Raine, W|
|Fermoy, Lord||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Ramsden, E.|
|Fielden, E. B.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Finburgh, S.||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Rawson, Alfred Cooper|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Fleming, D. P.||Kidd, J- (Linlithgow)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Ford, P. J.||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Reiner, J. R.|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Remnant, Sir James|
|Forrest, W.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Lamb, J. Q.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R.||Richardson. Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Ropner, Major L.|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Gates, Percy||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Gee, Captain R.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)||Rye, F. G.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Loder, J. de V.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Looker, Herbert William||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Goff, Sir Park||Lougher, L.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Lowe. Sir Francis William||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Grace, John||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Grant, J. A.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Sandon, Lord|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Lumley, L. R.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E.)||MacAndrew, Charles Glen||Savery, S. S.|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Shepperson, E. W.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||Winby, Colonel L. p.|
|Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Skelton, A. N.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Croydon, S.)||Winter-ton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Tinne. J. A.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Womersley, W. J.|
|Smithers, Waldron||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Waddington, R.||Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W. R., Ripon)|
|Spender Clay, Colonel H.||Wallace, Captain D. E.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Sprot, Sir Alexander||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Stanley, Col. Hon. G.F.(Will'sden, E.)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Warrender, Sir Victor||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Storry Deans, R.||Watts, Dr. T.||Young, E. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Wells, S. R.|
|Strickland Sir Gerald||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)||Colonel Gibbs.|
|Styles, Captain H. Walter||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
Lords Amendments considered accordingly, and agreed to.