§ VOTE OF CENSURE PROPOSED.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. THOMAS SHAW
I beg to move,That this House regrets the continued failure of His Majesty's Government during the last three months to propose any measures for dealing adequately with the pressing problem of unemployment, and is of opinion that the discrimination now being exercised against many unemployed persons with regard to the payment of unemployment benefit is contrary to the principle of unemployment insurance, throws heavy and unjust burdens upon the rates in necessitous areas, and is adding to the suffering and discontent of the people.In rising to make this Motion which stands on the Paper in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends, I think I may say that there is one opinion common to all the House, and that is that the most serious internal problem of our country to-day is this problem of unemployment. If I demonstrate, as I hope to demonstrate, that the Government remain helpless and baffled before it, and make no attempt at all to deal with it, I think I am entitled to ask for the support of all the Members of the House who really believe that something effective ought to be done for the unemployed of this country. At the outset, may I call attention to the present position. It is said that in November there are 1,198,077 people unemployed. But that figure is absolutely misleading. It it not a true figure. I do not, of course, accuse the Ministry of Labour of giving untrue figures. But this is not the figure of the unemployed in this country, as the Minister of Labour well knows, and as every Member of the House who has taken an interest in this question also knows. I shall demonstrate, or hope to demonstrate, as I go along, from a statement made by the Prime Minister himself, that you must add at least 70,000 to this figure for a commencement before you begin to approximate to the real number of unemployed in this country. Therefore, to make the most moderate statement, we are faced with something like 1,250,000 working men and women in this country who cannot get work. I do not want to indulge in what 1642 Americans call "sob stuff," but those Members of the House who have known what unemployment means, and have seen the load of debt piling higher and higher, and who, when normal times have come, have worked for years in order to pay off this crushing burden of debt, will be under no delusion as to the amount of quiet suffering that is covered by these figures.
Our difficulty sometimes, when dealing with figures, is that we remember the figures only and forget the suffering and the individual standing behind them, There are then, at the very least, 1,250,000 workers in this country out of work, and we are asking the House to censure the Government for taking no effective steps to deal with the problem. The unemployed are getting every day more and more despondent as week succeeds week, month succeeds month, and year succeeds year, and yet their condition, instead of being improved by the Government, has been deliberately made worse. Instead of taking the view that, because they were unable to deal with the problem, at least the unemployed should not suffer, they have made the unemployed suffer for their own incapacity to handle the matter. That is the position of affairs. If we have to take the question of responsibility, may I quote from the Prime Minister himself? This is what the Prime Minister said about the business of the Conservative party so far as the great problem of unemployment is concerned:The Unionist party would be unfaithful to its principles and to its duties if it did not treat the task of grappling with the problem of unemployment of our people and with the serious condition of industry as a primary obligation.We are trying to arraign the Government, and T want to ask whether these are mere idle words, or whether the Government have some policy that we have not yet discovered and are in any way trying to meet the obligation that the Prime Minister admits is an obligation of the Government. I have also to quote a passage from the Prime Minister that, seriously, I cannot understand as coming from him. Whatever may be our political faith in this House, whatever our differences may be, I think there is a general opinion in the House that the Prime Minister is candid, is sincere, and certainly is not lacking in sympathy. But when I read a passage such as that I am 1643 going to quote from his Brighton speech, I begin to wonder whether his sympathy is the sympathy of wind or the real sympathy of the heart. [Interruption.] Yes, I mean exactly what I say. Here is what the Prime Minister said:We have to consider, in discussing the condition of the country, unemployment. Now bear in mind that nearly 90 per cent. of the workers of this country are employed; but two consequences flow from that small percentage of the whole that is unemployed to-day.One and a-quarter million, a small percentage of the whole!I will touch on the human aspect last.That is a true rendering in a phrase of the Government's policy towards the unemployed.I will touch on the human aspect last.
§ Mr. SHAW
Very well, I will deal with the least, and I shall hope to demonstrate that it is the least without any shadow of doubt.. Therefore, we have the Prime Minister apparently looking upon 1,250,000 unemployed as quite a minor thing—just a small thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO! "] What do words mean? The Prime Minister speaks plainly. The Prime Minister does, not make rash statements. He knows what the English language is; he knows how to use it, and these are his words. They are not mine. They are the Prime Minister's own words—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is your interpretation of them.] You can interpret them as you like. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why should we accept them distorted by you?"] As I have no intention of distorting them, I will read the words again.Bear in mind that nearly 90 per cent. of the workers of this country are employed; but two consequences flow from that small percentage of the whole that is unemployed to-day. I will touch on the human aspect last.There are the words, and it would take— [Interruption]. Really, hon. Members ought to be better sportsmen. Let me deal now with another speech of the Prime Minister. I like to quote authority, because it is well recognised in this House, and I want to demonstrate, if I ran, exactly what I mean when I say— [Laughter.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I hope that the House will observe the ordinary courtesies of debate, and that all views will be listened to seriously.
§ Mr. SHAW
I am quoting the Prime Minister now, in order to justify my statement at the beginning that the figures of unemployed given are not reliable. When the Prime Minister was speaking in June on a similar occasion, ho used these words:Let us bear in mind that we have to-day on the unemployed registered over 1,250,000, an increase of something like 228,000 over the corresponding date of last year—Because we were in office at that time.In examining these figures, we must bear in mind that about 70.000 of those numbers are due to certain changes that, were made in the Insurance Act."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th June. 1925, col. 2071. Vol. 185.]These changes, I think, have all been reversed by the present Minister. Will the right hon. Gentleman admit 50,000 of them?
§ Mr. SHAW
The right hon. Gentleman will not. Well, it is for him to prove one less than this number since he became Minister of Labour. His first action was to use his power of waiver in order to cut people off the unemployed list who were put on—not to find them work— so that I am perfectly justified in my statement, and it is a calm and temperate way of putting it to say that, instead of finding employment for people, what the Government have done has been to take benefit from unemployed people to whom it was previously given. These people have not got work. The benefit has simply been taken away. The reward they have had for believing in the promise of stability is that they have had to tighten their belts a little more, do a little more suffering, and realise what the promise meant to them. We ask, "What is the Government's policy? Where is it? What does it mean f and who is going to tell us what it is?" We do not see any policy except the policy of drift. We see no attempt to prove that the Government have a remedy, and they plainly stated that they had. This is from the 1645 "Unionist Record," issued by the National Unionist Association at the General Election. I take it that hon. Members opposite know something about it:The Unionist party has a positive remedy for unemployment. This remedy alone is to be found in the re-establishment and maintenance of our trade at home and overseas.Yes, when I said that from the Treasury Box, T was met with howls of derisive laughter. Then, to get votes, the Unionist party said this at the General Election. You have your positive remedy. You have been in office for many months, and the position to-day is worse than it was when you took office. You have taken from the unemployed. You have found no unemployment benefit. Those who are working are worse off than before. That is the result of the efforts of this Government with an almost unparalleled majority, with a great programme and with a positive remedy! Never has such a majority existed before and never has so much labour brought forth such a mouse as this. The workers are paid less money for their work. The unemployed are not getting any payment at all. Not a single man or woman but is working more than they were. That is the record of the Government. With such a record we think the Government stand condemned. The Government has a majority of two to one over every party in the House. We had to face the problem with one for and two against us, and our efforts were conditioned by the support we could get. There were supporters, I am very happy and proud to say, who in regard to unemployment stood by us loyally; and we did try, at any rate not only to find employment, but we tried also to see that those who were employed should, at any rate, not suffer the pangs of poverty.
We desire to know, Mr. Speaker, where all these promises of the last election have gone to? Have they materialised? Where is the stability that was going to give us peace and employment? We can see senility, but we see absolutely no mark of sane stability that is going to continue to give our people the power to live. I said a moment ago that there would be some justification for the Government in regard to these things if the position was better for the working people of this country. Let us see. In 1646 the first nine months of last year unemployment touched the lowest figure it had touched for years either before or after. That is number one; that is an incontroversible fact. A lower figure than for years before or after. More than that. I find that in the first nine months of this year—I am quoting from the Journal of the Ministry of Labour—when you take the advances and reductions in wages you find that the balance against the workers is £72,000 per week. If you include in the working year 50 weeks—the old balance was £76,000—you will find that the workers have less in wages under this beneficent Government by £3,800,000 a year. What was really the record of the first nine months of last year? On balance the record is a gain in wages to the workers of £560,000 a week, and a loss of £72,000, the balance being an increase of £488,000 a week, or in a 50-weeks year, an increase of wages of £24,400,000. Under the despised Labour Government the lowest unemployment rate and an increase in wages equivalent to £24,500,000: under this Government an increase in unemployment and a reduction in wages equivalent to £3,800,000! The demand still goes on. Only recently there was a great lock-out in Yorkshire and a demand for a reduction of wages. All over the country tentative steps are being taken to reduce again the wages of the workers. Stability! Yes, there is stability for certain people in the country. The investors of money have stability. The investors of their labour have neither stability nor security, nor do they meet with generosity.
May I turn to the history of this question as it has unrolled itself during the last few years? We had not been in office more than six weeks before we were attacked for not having solved the problem of unemployment. We never made a more definite promise in our lives. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh. oh!"] Oh, yes— than the Unionist party have made. If my hon. Friend opposite will do me the courtesy to listen to what I am saying, and let me finish my sentences, he will hear. We never made a more definite promise in our party as to the abolition of unemployment than the Unionist party have made. They made two. Their first promise to the country was that if they were given 1647 the opportunity of adopting Protection they would solve the problem of unemployment. They said that was the only solution. Then they said: "Oh, never mind that, we know it is the only solution, but if you send us back to power we will scrap our principles and not put our solution into operation." [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The Unionist party as a whole said it, including the Prime Minister and other Members of the Government. Hon. Members opposite came back to power on the promise that they would not apply the solution which was the only one to solve the problem. Now you have a second solution. What are you going to do with that one? That is the question we ask. What are you doing? Where is the evidence of any work you have done? We have heard a great deal about extraneous evidence. We see a great number of red herrings trailed about. We look in vain for the improvement that we were promised. Surely with all the talent and power in this Government something might be done, some little something that would give hope to those needing it, something that would, at any rate, give a better outlook to the suffering men and women of this country who are wondering anxiously when their time of distress is to finish. We have the statement, for instance, of the right lion. Gentlemen opposite who suggest that we are in this position because there are more miners out of work. The miner has feelings, passions, appetites like other men. The miner starves if he cannot get food. If he cannot clothe himself he suffers, and must go naked. It is food he requires. Why are the miners out of work?
I have here a manifesto unanimously adopted at the meeting of the Empire Industries Association, but as this might be supposed to he an organisation in favour of the Labour party I will leave it! I will deal with a quotation from "The Individualist"—that title will appeal to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The quotation I give from this magazine deals with the gold standard and coal prices and refers to a pamphlet, by Mr. Keynes, on "The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill." Mr. Keynes quotes from the "Economist"—this, again, is not a Labour paper—and the article deals with the result of the Chan- 1648 cellor's gold standard. It shows that the result has been to raise the cost of British coal to such an extent as to crowd it out in the competition in many countries. For instance, it is stated that before the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer British coal had an advantage of 1s. 10d. per ton in Brazil, and that when that step was taken the altered value of British sterling threw American coal into an advantageous position to the extent of 2s. 8d. per ton. Then we are assured that there might not be so much unemployment if it wore not for the miners! First of all, hon. Gentlemen opposite throw the miners out of work and then they say if it were not for the miners there would not be so much unemployment. We ask ourselves whether that would have been accepted as an excuse if we had been standing at the box-opposite, and if we had said: "Oh, it doesn't matter: there would have been no increase of unemployment if it had not been for the miners." If we had had the assurance to stand at that box and to say that, well. But hon. Members opposite know that that—
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
Will the right hon. Gentleman say who it was that said it did not matter?
§ Mr. SHAW
I decline to be dragged into side channels. I have had some experience of this sort of Debate, and I am standing here, and talking to people who should be doing things, and who have signally failed to do them. I am entitled to point these things out, and if I do it with the utmost care, surely what I say might be accepted.
May I now turn to the declared, not policy, but the declaration of the Government. We have the Chancellor of the Exchequer talking about the cornucopia overflowing with rich fruits and spreading a delectable repast upon the national table. Yes, but the contents of the cornucopia have fallen upon the rich, on the millionaire. What about the mill workers? Where is their cornucopia? The friends of the Chancellor of the Exchequer have done very well out of it. Our friends have done very badly. There are thousands in my division, genuine hard-working, decent people unemployed who have been removed from benefits. They have no work. The millionaire has his cornucopia overflowing with rich and delectable food. What 1649 have the workers got out of it? The workers have received absolutely nothing from this Government, which has thrown the burden of unemployment on to many localities where already we were overburdened. I, however, leave that matter to be dealt with by some of my other hon. Friends who have had more experience as to what the policy of the Government has been in this respect. The Chancellor of the Exchequer covers his mistakes and blunders under a mass of flowery verbiage. No Member in the House enjoys the Chancellor's speeches more than I do. They are brilliant, they are witty, he is a perfect master of English, but he has not given anything to these people. All the cornucopias in the world, and all the delectable repasts such as he gives us, would not pay for the soling of the boots of a working man's child.
Now let me turn to the Prime Minister, and I want to distinguish sharply between personality and policy, because there is no Member in the House who would deny either the sincerity or the good intentions of the Prime Minister. But you cannot fill our people's stomachs with high principles. What they want is not talk but something to eat. "Deeds, not words," is much better than the Prime Minister's motto of "Words, not deeds." It is deeds we are looking for not appeals to the nation to be better boys and girls. What we want is something solid and substantial, something our people can get hold of, something that will help them, and when we have got that we shall be infinitely more grateful than we are for the beautiful sentiments, beautifully expressed, from a man who, I suppose, is as honest as any man who sits in this House, or ever did sit here. Then we have the appeals to reason. We are told that only a good understanding between workers and employers will solve our problems. How do we set about getting our good understanding? We have the speeches of the Home Secretary and we have this extraordinary combination—a man may be kidnapped, and it is no crime; a man may be held up by armed ruffians and his van stolen, and it is no crime and the criminals are advised to join the police; and a man may express his opinions openly and get 12 months' imprisonment. Then you ask working men to believe that treatment is equal and fair. When the Cabinet have con- 1650 vinced working men that they will get justice there may be a chance of that good understanding, but there can be no good understanding so long as these glaring injustices are permitted to exist, and not only permitted to exist but backed by references such as that to castor oil on the part of the Home Secretary. It is no good mincing matters; there can be no good understanding until a clean game is played.
Then we have the President of the Hoard of Trade, who has a very important Department. We would like to know what it is going to do to get us some employment. We see no evidence of it so far. It is perfectly true that in the course of the next week or two the President of the Board of Trade might tax gas mantles, whether inverted or perpendicular. We want a little more than that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"!] You have cut out Tariff Reform, or else you are going to lie in your teeth, because you said you were not going to introduce it. You have cut out your Tariff Reform. What are you going to do? That is the question we reiterate. Up to the present you have just made things worse. It is time somebody told us exactly where we are and what the idea of the Government is. When the last Government went out of office they had in hand a question of electrical development which was intended to standarise frequency, in order to have a cable system throughout the country that would not only employ thousands of men at- wages but permanently enrich the country, developing it and making it infinitely more efficient. Are the Government doing anything there? The Prime Minister said he did not propose to make any prophecies, he did notintend 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.—[An HON. MEMBER: "Who by?"]— Really, Mr. Speaker, when interruptions are relevant and commonsense, one can deal with them, but I am reading a quotation from the Prime Minister and the hon. Member asks "Who by?" I will continue:At this very moment it is being examined very carefully.There are a lot of "verys" about—by a strong Committee and if that Committee report, as T hope it may, and it 1651 certainly will report before long, that that scheme is practical, we shall then take the necessary steps to get the scheme put into existence and to pass whatever legislation may be necessary to enable that to be done.Then there was a cry from hon. Members, "What is it?" The Prime Minister replied:I will tell hon. Members all about it in duo time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th June, 1925; col. 2081, Vol. 185.]As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be—drift, drift, drift. Promises, oh, yes, by the basket full; performances, none! There is nothing to prevent this Government taking any steps they can or wish to take. They have got unlimited power. The country has a right to know why they are unsuccessful, or whether they are really going to try to deal with the problem. Unfortunately—I think now unfortunately, I thought at the moment fortunately—we fell from office. I remember one of the last conversations I had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government, when we were discussing a capital sum of £100,000,000 deliberately to be applied for national enrichment and for providing not merely employment, but useful employment, for skilled men out of work.
§ Mr. SHAW
Well, it was not going to come from the moon, it was going to come from the taxpayers. The taxpayers' £101,1,000,000 spent on scientific schemes to enrich the country would have been a very profitable investment. Some Members cannot see beyond the mere spending of money; the results of the spending and the advantages of wise spending never appeal to them in the slightest degree.
I want to know, also, if anything is being done with regard to the development of afforestation in the country. We want wood, and it is a well-known fact that there are vast tracts of land that could well grow timber. If the growing of timber were combined with an allot- 1652 ment, so that the man could work part of his time at afforestation and part on the land, it would be possible to have village community settlements with healthy occupation for hundreds of our people. Is anything being done in this matter? I think the House has a right to know. We went further. Even when out of power we suggested to the Government a method that would, perhaps, have helped them to get something done. We knew what the difficulty was. The difficulty was a question of money and there was a technical difficulty of division of responsibility. The Minister of Labour is held responsible, generally, by the House for schemes for employing unemployed people. I venture to say that he himself cannot employ painters to paint his offices without the permission of another Government Department; but the Minister of Transport can initiate schemes, the Minister of Health can do a great deal through local authorities, and the Secretary of State for the Colonies can help very greatly with schemes of Colonial development. [Interruption.] Yes, schemes of Colonial development, and you will find this side as strong as yours when you begin to deal with them. You will always find us ready, when Colonial development comes along, not to vote for the least sum but for the greatest sum for sane development in our Colonies. We suggested that there should be a committee formed, the head of which should be the Minister of Labour, and that it should have definite sums put at its disposal in order that it might embark upon schemes of national development and of Colonial development. That scheme was turned down. If the Government will not accept our suggestions, we have a right to ask what suggestions they will accept, and we must reiterate this demand until we see some signs of salvation, until we see something done to improve the present state of affairs.
At present all we see is the position of the unemployed being made worse. We see that abominable poor-law taint being re-introduced into unemployment insurance. We see the abominable system of two persons, living in two houses next to each other, paying exactly the same insurance contributions, and liable to pay any deficit that may arise, and one of them obtaining benefits and the other 1653 refused benefits—charity introduced into what ought to be an insurance scheme, and an insurance scheme that is a national responsibility. Remember, a great number of these unemployed are people who fought in the War, and who were promised, as the whole of the people were promised, that afterwards a different state of things should exist. It is monstrous to penalise them in this fashion, and it is monstrous that any man or woman out of work and willing to work, for whom no work can be found, should remain without benefit. The building up of a huge pile of debts is an abomination amongst the working people of this country. If the Government cannot do anything for them, will they frankly admit their failure Will they say honestly to the House: "We have tried to deal with this problem; for nearly a year mow we have been attempting to deal with it; we have a majority so great that you cannot touch us; but we are absolutely unable to deal with it and we beg of you to come along and help us."
§ Mr. SHAW
I have given you one or two rabbits. Shall I give them to you again? This Government—loss in wages £4,000,000; our Government — gain in wages over £20,000,000. That is one rabbit for you. Now I will give you one of your rate. You have taken benefits from scores of thousands of decent working men and women. If the hon. Gentleman would like a few more rabbits I can give them.
In conclusion, I would say that all the brilliant speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, all the saintly speeches of the Prime Minister, all the red rubbish that appears sometimes in the newspapers, are no good at all to us. What we want is that these workless people should be found work, or that they should be able to live in a tolerable state of comfort. That is what we ask. That is what, I think, the country will demand. I move this Resolution because I think the Government have failed miserably either to tackle the problem or to treat the unemployed generously, and have failed to show any signs of an intention of either being generous or of dealing with the problem as it deserves to be dealt with.
§ Captain MACMILLAN
I venture to intervene in the Debate at this stage, primarily because there are one or two points which I wish to put to the Minister of Labour, in the hope that he will be able to deal with them. I also think that some of the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down deserve some attention. First of all, it would be most appropriate that the first speaker on this side of the House should state how much we deplore the unfortunate fact that owing to the illness of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) is not in his place to propose this Resolution. There is probably no one who deplores the right hon. Gentleman's absence more than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw). I think it is rather remarkable that in this attack along the whole front or, at any rate, a reconnaissance in force, according to the original plan the Minister responsible in the last Labour Government was to take no part at all. I should have thought that he would have been billed to take a leading part, apart from the lamented illness of his colleague.
I shall not attempt to follow all the points which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston raised in his speech, partly because so few of them seem to me to be germane to the subject, and I am afraid that I should be out of order if I attempted to deal with them I shall not deal with the Fascist movement or what the right hon. Gentleman said about Free Trade and Tariff Reform, but there were one or two statements so unsupported by evidence that I should like to refer to them. The right hon. Gentleman said that the figures which had been given relating to unemployment were not the figures of the whole of the unemployment in the country. He also gave a large number of quotations from Ministers and former Prime Ministers mostly out of their proper context, but he gave no details and figures to support the main argument which he put forward. He took the live register which gives the figures in the return of people registered at the Exchanges. There is a feeling that that figure can be lessened by the disallowing of claims, but the figure given for the live register includes the majority of those men and women whose claims have been disallowed but who continue on the 1655 register. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] It also includes a large number of people in non-insurable trades, and it includes those who are anxious for a change of employment.
The live register is not the same as the books left figure. Therefore, it is untrue to say that the reduction of the last few months has anything to do with the allowing or the disallowing of benefit. The right hon. Gentleman made some very strong references in regard to the hardships imposed by this Government in its administration, but I notice that he refrained from giving any details, and he did not quote from the famous circular. In that I think he was wise. The circular which has caused some alarm and has not perhaps been wholly understood; but if it is read carefully it will be seen that the governing principles of the administration has been based upon fair and reasonable grounds. The governing feature isthat extended benefit is only to be withheld where circumstances are such that the withholding of extended benefit would not be likely to cause hardship.The class of persons removed from extended benefit under that circular are not the class about whom there is any matter of serious complaint whether under this administration or under the last administration or any previous Government. There are, however, classes of persons not able to receive extended benefit who are in a very serious and difficult position. That is not due to the administration of the Unemployment Act, but it is a situation which has arisen owing to the fact that really the Unemployment Insurance Act is trying to do two things. It is an employment insurance based on actuarial calculations, and based on the contributions paid.
In the second place, as regards extended benefit, the more freely it is granted the more unemployment insurance approximates to a measure of national Poor Law relief. We have to consider what we want to make this Act. We want to consider whether there is any possibility after a reconsideration of the whole position of running a dual system and making unemployment insurance a standard benefit at a higher rate and administered in a different manner. We have also to consider the question of helping the necessitous areas 1656 out of national contributions and using the national wealth for the payment of extended benefit and not charging it against the unemployment fund.
Those are two points which the Committee which is now sitting ought to consider very carefully. One of the tragedies about unemployment in necessitous areas is that men and women are gradually beginning to forget the principles of insurance and the difference between standard and extended benefit. It is a question as to whether we should not be better off if we had our insurance scheme working on its own basis, founded on the receipts from its own contributors as a charge upon industry, and a separate scheme provided to give assistance to the necessitous areas. This would then be a charge upon the taxpayers as a whole, and upon the rentier, and I believe this would have the additional advantage of separating the man or the woman drawing standard benefit in virtue of their contributions, and those who are drawing relief, partly contributed by the ordinary methods of Poor Law relief and partly by help given by the State as a whole. I throw out that suggestion, and I hops the Minister of Labour will be able to refer to it in his reply.
I cannot help feeling that the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Resolution with so much fervour and so little relevance seemed to me to be putting, for the most part, not so much the case for the prosecution as the case for the prisoner in the dock, he seemed to be more concerned with justifying his own administration—which he can never forget—than attacking this one, and I hope he will forgive me for saying that the speech which he has made, skilful as it was, did not contribute in any material degree towards the solution of this problem. He made no mention of certain vital facts about the situation, which is now of a much more hopeful character. His job, I know, is to take the dark side of things. He did not mention that this year there are 250,000 more people in insurable occupations than there were last year. Not only has there been a normal increase of 200,000 coming on to the labour market, but an extra 50,000 have been absorbed as well. He made no mention of the fact that 40 per cent. of our pre-War trade was done in Europe. The chances 1657 of recovering this have been largely increased by Locarno—by measures taken to secure the pacification and stabilisation of European politics.
The right hon. Gentleman also made charges against the administration of the Government in regard to the withholding of benefit without giving the slightest details or bringing any figures in support of that argument. He quoted from no official memorandum and he mentioned no official statement or circular. He made various statements which were unsupported by evidence of any kind. He made two suggestions at the end of his speech, but he failed to deal with the main problem before us. The right hon. Gentleman devoted himself to trying to solidify his not altogether solid forces, and I do not think there has ever been a Vote of Censure proposed in this House supported by such weak arguments.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. R. MORRISON
The last speaker has been dealing with one or two theories, and I want for a moment or two to bring the House back to realities. It seems to me that we have had enough of words in connection with unemployment, and we want to know exactly from the Government, during the Debate this afternoon, what they are doing to provide employment. During the last Parliament the party opposite were continually twitting those of us who were then on that side of the House about the fact that we had no schemes of employment to put into immediate operation. The ex-Minister of Labour, in opening the Debate this afternoon, said that before the Labour Government had been many months in office they were asked, where were their schemes of work? May I point out that we had not only not been months in office, but that six days after the Labour Government met this House the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, whom we are all pleased to see here this afternoon, actually complained that we had not yet brought forward any comprehensive scheme for dealing with unemployment. The Labour Government, may I remind the House, met the House of Commons for the first time on the 12th February, 1924, and six days afterwards, on the 18th February, the hon. Gentleman complained 1658 that no proposals had been put forward. He said:What they [the unemployed] really want is work…. It makes me all the more anxious to know when these proposals are going to be put forward. I have certainly not heard them yet."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 1924; col. 1405, Vol. 169.]That was after six days, and I am perfectly sure that no one will think it unreasonable if, after 13 months, we put the same question to the present Government—where are their schemes of work? Four months later, the present Home Secretary said in this House:They [the Labour Government] have been in office for four months, and they have not produced one single new scheme. That is the charge we make against them.— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1924; col. 2400, Vol. 173.]I have not risen merely to deal with the question of delay in putting forward schemes, but I want to carry it in a few sentences a stage further. There are many ugly rumours afloat at the present time, not only in this House, but throughout the country, and it seems to me that the time has come for some straight speaking in this House, and for the Prime Minister to take the country into his confidence and make an honest and straightforward statement on the matter. The question that I should like someone to answer from the Government Benches during the Debate is: Is it true that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has decided to take from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000 out of the Road Fund in order to make up for the mining subsidy? My reason for asking that question is that it seems to me to have a direct bearing upon this question of unemployment. I have fairly good reasons for asking that question, and I want to put them before the House. I put a question at the beginning of this week to the Minister of Transport who, I regret, is not in his place now, with regard to two definite proposals— for I think we ought to get down to definite proposals now. I put a question to him with regard to a proposal that has been before this House for quite a long time, namely, the projected new road to serve the London Docks. Almost every Member in this House who has taken an interest in transport questions has been exercised in his mind at the extraordinary delay that has arisen in tackling this question. I put a question on Tuesday 1659 to the Minister of Transport, asking him when the new road to serve the London Docks would be commenced, and I would like to remind the House of the extraordinary reply that he gave. He said, at the conclusion of his reply:I am not in a position to give any indication as to the likelihood or amount of a grant from the Road Fund, or the date at which the work could be commenced."— [OFFICIAL RFPORT, 24th November, 1925; col. 1185, Vol. 188.]On the same day I asked the Minister of Transport a further question concerning another of the constructive schemes as to the pushing on of which we were twitted when we were on the other side of the House schemes to provide employment for people at present out of work. I asked him whether it had now been definitely decided to construct a Thames tunnel between Dartford and Purfleet, connecting Kent and Essex, and his reply was:I have nothing to add to the information contained in the reply given to the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) on the 22nd June last, of which I am sending the hon. Member a copy."— ("OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th November, 1925; col. 1185, Vol. 188.]The reply to which he referred said:I am informed that the Committee, whilst they consider the scheme a desirable one, take the view that on traffic grounds other important schemes which they now have under consideration should take priority."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 22nd June. 1925: col. 1084, Vol. 185.]One could detail scores of cases in which constructive schemes that have been put forward, either by the present Government when they were in office previously or by the Labour Government, are now being stopped. Those proposals are not being proceeded with, and it seems to me that we ought to have, during this Debate, a clear statement from the Government, so that the House and the country may know exactly where we stand. The Chancellor of the Exchequer ought not to be allowed to talk round this question much longer, nor ought the Ministry of Transport to be allowed to fob us off with evasive answers. The question we are all anxious to have answered is: Are the Government or the Ministry of Transport deliberately holding up these schemes? All the circumstantial evidence I have been able to get hold of points to the fact that the Ministry of Transport are now preparing 1660 to take steps to advise local authorities that they are not prepared to sanction any more schemes which require large grants out of the Road Fund. That is in order to enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000 out of the Road Fund. That is very serious from the point of view of this country, and particularly from the point of view of unemployment. It seems to me that, if it be true, as I allege, and as the evidence seems to bear out, that this Government have deliberately come to a policy of stopping public authorities from going on with these constructive schemes which would provide employment, it means that the Government have decided, so far as schemes of road making, tunnel construction, or bridge building are concerned, to embark upon a policy of stagnation. If that be so, it is a very serious matter, and I hope that before this Debate closes some responsible member of the Government will make it clear to the House and to the country whether the allegations I have made in that connection are true, and exactly what the position of the Government is with regard to these great constructive schemes, which have been carried up to a point and now appear to be having a damper put upon them by Government Departments.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am very glad that my hon. Friend who has just sat down has raised that very important issue. Before I resume my seat I propose to enforce the observations he has made, and to press them upon the consideration of the House and the Government. Because I consider it to be a retrograde step; and to take it now, at a time when useful work for the unemployed is very much needed, seems to me to be the height of folly. Before I come to that, however, may I say that I was much more interested in the later part of the speech of my right hon. Friend who introduced this Motion, when he came to the constructive and suggestive part, than I was in the first part? Quite frankly, I do not think there is very much to be gained by recriminations one way or the other. We are confronted with a very serious national situation. Three Governments, perhaps four, have been dealing with it. The Government of which, I was the head had to deal with two years of unemployment. The Conservative Government have also had to deal with two years of 1661 unemployment between 1923 and the present period, and the Government of which my right hon. Friend (Mr. T. Shaw) was a member had about 10 months. We each of us had our difficulties, and it cannot be said that either of us made any suggestions that liquidated the difficulty and dealt with it permanently.
I want, if I may, as an old Member of this House, to urge the House to consider the problem apart from these attacks and counter-attacks, as a, serious national problem, because it is a serious national problem. I have been accused of taking a pessimistic view of British trade. Anybody who is guilty of making pessimistic speeches or writing pessimistic articles merely in order to create a sense of depression, or to make party capital, is guilty of very unpatriotic conduct, but, on the other hand, anyone who firmly believes that the situation is a serious one, and that it will be a very long time before there is complete recovery, would be equally unpatriotic \n not saying so, whatever the comments might be upon his declaration. There are symptoms of improvement, and one rejoices at that. Here and there there is a flicker of light. It is not to be seen very often, but it is to be seen here and there, and one must rejoice at that, to whatever party one belongs, because, it is our common interest, and that is what matters in the end. If British trade wore to fail, whatever party came in would have a pretty sad job to administer the wreck, and I cannot imagine anyone looking forward to the prospect with any sort of satisfaction.
I want to impress this upon the Government, and upon the House of Commons, that I think it is our duty quite fearlessly to examine the situation and put to ourselves this question: Is this a passing phase, which will soon have disappeared. or is it something that is going to continue for a long time? I do not mean exactly to continue in the position of to-day, but, assuming an improvement, is the improvement going to take a long time? If it is. then the policy is obviously a different one from the policy you would adopt if you made up your mind that you were going to be confronted with a boom in a very short time. Let us assume that there are men in this House who have come to the conclusion that next year there will be such a recovery of British 1662 trade that there will be hardly any unemployment at all, certainly nothing above the normal. Then I think it would be a mistake for the Government to embark upon great schemes; it would be better to finance the few intervening months with all sorts of temporary schemes that would prevent distress. But supposing that, on the other hand, the Government come to the conclusion, upon the advice of their experts, that this is going to be a very slow business, that we are going to climb back with great difficulty to the normal, then it is their business, if I may say so, to put before the House schemes that take those facts into account, and to relieve the country from a peril which is greater than the mere burden, and that is the peril of keeping a million men, especially young men, in idleness for years.
I conceive that to be the most serious danger of all. They do not want to be in idleness. Who does? I hear of people wanting to be kept idle, but I have not met many of them in any class, and I have noticed that people who can afford to be idle are always seeking for work in one kind of way and another, very often working harder at things which they have taken up voluntarily and which contribute nothing to their income than they would ever work at jobs for which they were paid. At least, that is my experience. I do not believe that people like idleness; I think they dislike it, and they get bored by it in the main. Very often people get so bored with it that they get into mischief.
If the House will put up with what I have to say, I should like to give a few figures showing exactly what affects my judgment in this matter. Unemployment during the last few weeks has gone down. I was looking at the figures of unemployment from 1921 to the present year. Between 1st January and 23rd October, 1922. unemployment went down by 654,000, and everyone said. "The boom is coming; trade depression is at an end." It went up slowly towards the end of the year, but taking the year as a whole there was a drop in 1922 of 630,000 in the unemployed. Observers came to the conclusion upon those facts that we were in for a very good time. Then came the next year. The figures went up at the beginning of the year, but they dropped 1663 again towards the end of the year. They dropped again up to August of last year. Then they went up again. Then they dropped again until May of this year, when the figures were very low, and everyone said again "good trade is coming," except those who were really connected with trade, and knew exactly what the difficulties were. But those who were merely general observers of the facts that were published in the newspapers came to the conclusion that the good time was beginning. They went up again very seriously. They are now dropping, but—I do not know whether this is a fact worth mentioning—from August last practically all the drop has been in women's employments. There is only a drop of 1,000 in the men.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That makes it worse. Even on the figures published by the Government there is only a drop of 1,000 in men. If it be true—and I am not going to express an opinion, because I have not really investigated the facts, and it would not be fair for me to suggest it, because I have no grounds on which to come to that conclusion—but if it be true, as my right hon. Friend seems to imagine, that there has been a good deal of squeezing of the figures, taking comparable conditions —because that is the test—with last year, it is not a drop of 1,000 that you have, but an increase of probably, according to him, 70,000. But it is quite good enough for the point I am putting, that the drop in men's trades has only been 1,000. It is no use saying that is only coal. Coal is a very essential part of the whole of our business, and it is not merely essential in the fact that it provides employment, but, as everyone knows who knows the working of the coal business, coal was the thing that paid for our food. Coal was the thing that paid our freights. It was the thing that enabled us to compete with the shipping of other countries, because we could send the coal out and get our cargoes back. It made a vast difference in the whole of our shipping business. Coal also affects railways. There is nothing that gives me more disquiet than to look at the weekly figures in the "Economist" and the "Statist" showing the decline in the traffic on the railways each week of this year compared 1664 with the weeks of last year. The figures given by the railway managers at the inquiry the other day—make all allowance for the fact that they were making a case; but I am sure they would not manipulate figures for that purpose, and they are all figures that were published— showed a very serious state of things.
Let us take this. It is not due—and this is, I think, a most serious fact that I should like to have the opinion of the Government upon—to the fact that the trade of the world is as good as it was in 1913. The League of Nations have inquired into that, and they published a document not very long ago showing that by 1924 the international trade of the world had recovered until in volume it was equal to 1913. What is our proportion? We are a little better off than other countries because the goods we are selling have a higher wholesale price, and that is the one thing that has saved us from—I do not like to use the word bankruptcy, but very serious difficulties. The same thing applies to 1925. We are getting bettor prices for the kind of goods we are selling than the average price for the export goods of the world. That has saved us to a certain extent. But take volume. The volume of international trade, according to the League of Nations investigation, is exactly where it was in 1913. Our export trade is 74 per cent. of what it was in 1913. What about France? It is 110 per cent. What about Italy? It is between 90 and 100 per cent. What about the United States of America? It is up by 10 per cent. upon the export trade of 1913. What about Japan? It is more than double the export trade of 1913. Canada has gone up by 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. There is only one country that is worse than ours, and that is Germany. The fact that the German export trade is only 50 per cent. of what it was in 1913, and ours 74 per cent. in spite of that, is in itself a menace. I am for Locarno. I supported it in this House. I paired for it. But do not let us make any mistake as to what it means. Germany is supporting Locarno because they know perfectly well that it is going to help to restore German credit. The difficulty of Germany at present is that in spite of low wages and long hours, which we are told are going to be a panacea in this country, export trade is only 50 per cent. What is her 1665 difficulty? It is that she cannot borrow money to finance her trade without paying extravagant prices. The moment you restore the peace of Europe you restore confidence in the intentions of Germany. There is no doubt at all that money will begin to flow in far more freely from the United States of America, from this country, quite possibly from France, so that the competition will become more serious. The first point I make is that the trade of the world is the same as it was in 1913, and ours is 74 per cent.
Let me give another figure. Between 1921 and 1922 our export trade went up by 19 per cent., which means that there was a recovery. Between 1922 and the end of 1923 it went up by 5.6 per cent. It was still recovering. In 1924 it went up again by 1 per cent. Take the 10 months trading of this year. It is down by 1 per cent. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tory Government!"] I am not a supporter of the Tory Government, but I think there is something much more serious than that, something that is much more fundamental, and what I really want, as a Member of this great Parliament, is to get it to face this formidable fact and find out what is the matter, examine it fearlessly, and deal with it fearlessly. But you will never do it as long as you have a kind of false optimism fostered, may be, sometimes for political purposes, may be sometimes for journalistic purposes, and may be for other purposes, that makes it impossible for us to go thoroughly into the subject and face it as a Parliament. I know this, that the moment the British House of Commons thoroughly seizes the fact that there is something seriously wrong, I will not believe any sort of party proclivity or prejudice will prevent us as a whole from applying the right remedy, whatever anyone's particular ideas may be as to the future ideal of the organisation of the State and of economy in this country. That is what I am trying to urge upon the British House of Commons. May I point out one other fact that is serious. In 1913 our percentage of the shipping tonnage of the world was 39. Our percentage of the shipping tonnage of the world to-day is 30. Shipping, coal, engineering, the woollen trade, cotton— when you name those things you are naming things where we have had a supremacy over the whole of the world, and where that supremacy, for some 1666 reason which we ought to delve into and find out, is being challenged in the export trade of the world.
I was glad of the line taken by my right hon. Friend at the end. There is a diminution of export. We may have an improvement—I hope we shall—but I have never met a man who has gone into it seriously who has not come to the conclusion that that improvement is going to be a slow one. What are you going to do meanwhile? I am not going to try to put it in the form of a criticism upon the Minister of Labour or his colleagues because I want to see something done, and I will tell him quite frankly what I want to see done. We may criticise as much as we like. We may move Votes of Censure as much as we like. The Government is there for four years I know it is a party Government. I know enough of the working of the party system in this country to know perfectly well that Governments as long as they have a majority can, somehow or other, run to the end of their tether. I am not criticising the particular majority which is in office to-day more than any other party majority. I have often seen some of my hon. Friends of the Labour party voting for things which they did not believe in in the least, in order to maintain party discipline. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] The only party where there is no party discipline is mine, but we are a long way from being in a position to form a Government. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that, according to all human probability, a Government representing hon. Members opposite—I do not say Gentlemen sitting there now, but at any rate, a Conservative Government—will be there for four years. What is important from the point of view of the country, is that they should do the right thing in this matter, because if a wrong line is taken for four years a mistake may be made from which we cannot recover. Something may be done which is irreparable; at least, the thing which would enable us to recover will not be done.
I am very glad of the line which has been taken by two of the speakers who have preceded me and, in so far as I can, I support them with all the strength of my being, and that is, that the Government should take advantage of the fact 1667 that there are over one million men who have nothing to do in this country at the present time, and promote schemes which would find employment. There is electricity. I was present when the Debate took place on that subject. Months ago, I begged the Government to give us some sort of answer as to what they were going to do. My right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had set up a committee for the purpose of investigating certain schemes. There were definite schemes on a very large scale. What answer was given on that occasion by the right hon. Gentleman representing the Government? I forget which Minister it was. [HON. MEMBERS: "Minister of Transport!"] The Minister of Transport said—I am quoting substantially what he said—it was in respect to the committee of experts who had been appointed to inquire—"I am not satisfied that the inquiry is on the right lines. I am going to have my own inquiry, and it will not take long." Where is that inquiry? What is being done?
We are behind all our competitors in what has been done during the last six or seven years in the matter of electricity. We ought to have an answer before this Debate concludes from the Minister of Labour upon this particular point, because unless we are as well equipped as our competitors it is idle for us to hope to make our 74 per cent. of pre-War trade 100 per cent. And let the House not forget that 100 per cent. of our 1913 trade is not enough to enable us to bear the burdens of ten times the national debt which we had then, four times the taxation we had then, and three or four millions more population. In order to be on an equality with 1913 we ought to have 125 per cent. at least.
One of the preceding speakers urged that something should be done in the way of developing our arterial roads. The last scheme of that kind was in 1921. Very largely, those arterial roads were constructed as a result of the unemployment programme of that year. Everybody admits that these roads are a great relief to traffic, but they are only the beginning. When we really need useful work for the unemployed, when we need more than even some sort of road development that will relieve the pressure 1668 of traffic which is stopping business and impeding it, and costing in London alone, according to one authority, £20,000,000 a. year, and when the deaths are increasing every year because of the conditions of our traffic, is this the time to raid a fund which was created for that purpose? I beg the Minister of Labour to see what he can do in this matter. I do not know whether he has any influence with the Chancellor of the Exchequer; I should not think that he has. I do not know who has? Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is more likely to have influence with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I beg him to try to bring the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reason—a difficult task I know—in regard to this matter.
Here is a fund which was created years and years ago and made available by the common consent of the community. From the housing point of view, from the traffic point of view and from the point of view of employment, it is vital that every penny of that money should be spent, and spent now, and you could spend it. The more you believe that trade is going to recover, the more necessary it is that you should spend this money now. I say that, because if trade recovers, you will not have the labour for this road work, and the more trade recovers, the greater will be the congestion of traffic. Therefore, this is the time to prepare for the good season that is coming—after hon. Members opposite have been there four years.
Take the question of housing. There are some trades, in fact most of our trades, where there is more labour available than there is work for the labour, but there is one task where there is less labour available than there is work for it, and that is building. I am not criticising the Minister of Health. With the means at his disposal, I have no doubt he is doing his very best, and he is getting a move on. So did his predecessor. But everybody knows that we are not overtaking the demand; we are a long way off that. I could quote passage after passage from reports from our great cities which have been sent to the Minister of Health referring to the conditions of deplorable overcrowding. Here is a case where there is real need, for the sake of the health of the people, 1669 real need for the contentment of the people and real need for justice to the people, that something should be done. I ask the Government whether they cannot find labour for that purpose. I know their difficulties, but my opinion is that if they will tackle the difficulties bravely there will be more support among trade unionists for them than they imagine, and far more.
You have scores, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of men—I have not the figures, but they are well within the recollection of the House—who passed from the building trade during the War into the engineering trade, and they are there yet. Why are they not brought back? How is it that young men are not trained for the purpose of erecting these buildings? The problem is not being tackled in the rural areas. In the towns you have a certain movement going on, although it is inadequate, but in the rural districts the problem is practically not grappled with at all. There are reports after reports from officers of health condemning houses on insanitary grounds. You cannot get a Court that will close these houses, because these are the only shelters which the people have at the present time. Therefore, you have to retain them there. I beg the Minister of Labour to tackle, firmly and boldly, the question of providing employment in the building trade. Whatever the difficulties are, he will find public opinion behind him that will be irresistible, and I have no hesitation in saying that the public opinion of the working classes will be as much behind him as any other class of the community.
My last word—perhaps hon. Friends of mine will think that I am going back to my old obsession—relates to what was said by one of my hon. Friends, that something should be done to provide more employment on the land. He referred to afforestation. Let the Minister of Labour consider what is happening at the present time. The flight of labour from the land is not over yet. In the North of England, where they are opening up new and profitable mines, they are finding labour, not among the 300,000 miners who are out of work in other parts, but from the agricultural labourers in the contiguous areas. That is an injury, a permanent injury, to the community, because it is very difficult to get them back once they 1670 have left the land. These men are putting out of employment those who could be employed. They are impoverishing the land, and I would urge the Government—having done my very best to avoid anything in the nature of party recriminations and to put the case before the House from the point of view of the serious gravity of the problem—to take its courage in its hands and to announce to the House of Commons a scheme which will carry conviction to the heart of the nation that the problem is being solved. If they do that, I have no hesitation in saying that they will get support from every class of the community.
§ Sir FRANK SANDERSON
It is of peculiar interest to me to make my first contribution to the Debates of this House on the subject of unemployment, because the whole of my life has been spent in industry. If I may be permitted to do so, I should like to refer to one statement made in the very interesting speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) when he stated that France has now 110 per cent. more export trade than before the War.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If I said that, it was grossly inaccurate. I said that our export trade is 74 per cent. of our pre-War trade and that France's export trade is 110 per cent.; not 110 per cent. in addition to her pre-War trade. I am glad of the opportunity to make that correction.
§ Sir F. SANDERSON
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) is not present. He criticised the Government upon its recent legislation which has affected those who are eligible for unemployment benefit. I am afraid that I am not able altogether to agree with him in his remarks on that point. I am sure there is no one in the country who would for one moment suggest anything which would in any way attempt to withhold payment in those legitimate cases of unemployment of which I regret the country has so many at the present time; but we all know that there are many people, unfortunately, who have made a practice of 1671 qualifying for unemployment benefit. There is also no credit due to those firms which have deliberately organised their work in such a way as to enable their workers to receive unemployment pay. Other Members of the House are aware that such cases do prevail.
In the course of the last 12 months so much has been said and written in regard to unemployment that it is difficult to say anything new, but still the difficulty remains, and if we are to battle seriously with the problem it is necessary to find new avenues of effort into which we may turn. It will be generally accepted that unemployment is due to depression in industry, and that depression is due, in the main, to the lack of credit in different parts of the world, especially in those parts of the world which hitherto were customers of this country. One of the greatest assets of this country is its national credit, and the House of Commons and the Government should consider some bold, comprehensive, well-considered scheme which would harness our national credit for the purpose of developing industry and employing the great army of the unemployed. We used our national credit to bring the War to a satisfactory conclusion, and surely the Government should use it also to overcome unemployment.
The Government should consider a really bold scheme, because much as we may appreciate the great efforts which have been made not only by this Government but by preceding Governments to deal with this problem, we must realise that much has yet to be done. If it would raise a loan, let us say, of £50,000,000 or even £100,000,000, that money could be used for the purpose of facilitating the granting of credits abroad in our Dominions and Crown Colonies. We have there potential customers for all those commodities which this country can produce. I may be permitted to give two illustrations to drive home my point. Every Member of this House I have no doubt could from his travels illustrate different points in the same way as I am able to do. There are several Members of this House who returned recently from a visit to Poland. While we were there we were given every facility to study the different aspects of 1672 life in that country, their difficulties, their problems, and the nature of the goods which they require at present. In that country, the area of which compares favourably with that of Germany with a population approximating to that of France, there are now enormous possibilities, and what we found was that they were purchasing their requirements principally from America and from Germany, the reason being that they were able to obtain better credit facilities from those countries than they were able to secure from our own country. From what we saw also when we examined their natural resources, and from our conversations with those responsible for the conduct of affairs in that country, we were satisfied that ample security could be given for any credit which this country might entertain.
Similar remarks might be made in reference both to the Dominions and the Crown Colonies. One has to go no further than Africa to appreciate the enormous possibilities there of finding markets for those very commodities which our country is at present so anxious to export. They require railways, wagons, trucks, sleepers, agricultural machinery, electrical machinery and all those commodities produced by our industries which are suffering so much at present from depression. If we refer to the position at home, is it not an amazing fact that while we have the raw material, the mills, the factories, and we have the capital, the credit and the labour, we cannot amalgamate these in order to produce the development of our public services in the way of extension and electrification of our railways, and development and transmission of electrical energy.
The right hon. Member for Preston and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs this afternoon touched on the question of electricity. It does seem to me to be very disappointing that year after year we hear the same arguments brought forward and yet our position remains the same. I remember that in 1918 I drew up my report to the Ministry of Reconstruction, dealing with this very matter, the question of electrical development. Seven years have passed and how much further have we travelled on the road towards a real development of electrical plant in this country? Every farmer in this country has to be content 1673 to use either manual labour or horse labour, whereas he should be able to get an adequate supply of electric power if he so requires. We have a great lesson to learn from the Continent, particularly from Germany, in this respect. Those of us who have travelled through that country have seen, stretching for hundreds of miles, those great cables which go into every little town, every village and every hamlet in that country, conveying electrical energy. I do beseech the Government to consider some constructive policy whereby it would be possible to develop to a more serious extent our public services.
Whilst putting forward proposals which would strike more deeply at the root of the trouble, I am far from minimising the work already done by the Government to alleviate unemployment, and I am in entire disagreement with the Motion. The sooner it is possible to withdraw extended benefit altogether the sooner shall we get back to a more normal healthy condition of industrial life. Some of the measures of the present Government may not for the moment appeal to the popular mind, but like all Governments with large majorities, whilst returned to power with heavy responsibility, it also has great opportunities, for it has the time before it in which to see its schemes bear fruit. I urge the Government to continue a far-sighted, and daring policy, to have the courage of its convictions, and to abandon the policy of mere alleviation and strike a decisive blow at the very root of unemployment.
§ Mr. BARKER
This Debate opened with great good humour. Personally, I like anything humorous, but I do not see much humour in this subject. Neither do I see much humour in the Motion that is on the Paper, because very definitely it accuses the Government of three things: first, their failure to deal with unemployment: secondly, their unfair discrimination against the unemployed; and, thirdly, the placing of a national burden upon necessitous areas. I do not see much in a resolution of this character to extract humour, and, when we remember the position of people in this country, I think that it is a gross reflection upon this House to jeer at a subject of this character. If hon. Members lived in 1674 some of these necessitous areas it might perhaps kindle a little humanity in their hard hearts. Quotations have been made from remarks which the Prime Minister made last year. I have another quotation. It is to be found in the daily Press to-day. It is addressed to a member of the Government who is fighting for his political life at Bury St. Edmunds, and this is what the Prime Minister says:The Government have schemes for the relief of unemployment and for the stimulation of trade and these schemes will be energetically prosecuted.6.0 P.M.
That is a fine electioneering face to put on the situation. It is in strong contrast with the position that we find in this House. I would like respectfully to ask the Minister of Labour or the Prime Minister himself what are the schemes that are being energetically prosecuted? If there are such schemes they would be the most glorious news that our unemployed have had for years. I can promise that there will be great rejoicing in Abertillery and in many other areas of that character if there is only a shred of truth in the statement of the Prime Minister.
This subject is the gravest subject that can be brought before this House. Only yesterday—you will find it mentioned in the South Wales newspapers—a great deputation of the unemployed down in Bedwellty got desperate and raided the guardians as they were sitting in their office in the Bedwellty Union. You can never cure unemployment by sending Communists to prison. Unemployment in this country will have to be tackled, or else you will have more Communists, and men who are not Communists, and women too, probably, whom you will have to put into gaol. It is time that the Government and this House wakened from their lethargy, and attempted to give serious consideration to the problem. Those of us who have been in this House and have seen the last three or four Governments have had some very strange experiences here. When the Labour Government were in office they were continually taunted because they did not find work for the unemployed. The Labour Government were working to find a scheme, and they have found a scheme. That scheme was brought before this House on 22nd May of this year, and it was derisively rejected by the Government. If the proposal were in operation 1675 now it would be possible to investigate the schemes referred to by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), because it proposed to appoint a board that was to sit permanently in order to examine schemes for providing employment. It proposed also to place a sum of money to the credit of the board so that the schemes could be financed.
The proposal has been turned down. The British Legion, for which hon. Members opposite profess to have so much love—it, is an organisation which is made up entirely of ex-Service men, many hundreds of thousands of whom are unemployed after serving in the War— brought out a scheme for the solution of unemployment. The scheme provided that the Government should raise a loan of £200,000,000. It was very much on the same lines as the Labour party proposal. Rut the Government turned a deaf ear to that scheme also. If the Government deride every scheme that is brought forward, there is an obligation upon them to produce a scheme themselves. If they are energetically prosecuting this business, how is it that we have not had their scheme before now? The Conservatives have been in office for 13 months. The truth is, that their remedies for unemployment are a mere sham. They are giving a subsidy to the mining industry, but the export of coal is continuously going down. It has gone down by no less than 6,000,000 tons during the last nine months. It went down by 19,000,000 tons last year.
The Government are doing nothing whatever. They have appointed a Commission which is taking evidence, and that has been done only to blind and confuse the situation. The area to which I belong is called a necessitous area, and, Heaven knows, it is a necessitous area. In Blaina there is a population of 20,000 people of whom only 200 are employed. This kind of thing has been going on since 1921. The Ebbw Vale Company sunk a shaft. The people waited patiently until the work was done. It was completed and all the modern appliances were made available. Then the company began to work the shaft two and three days a week. But now they have closed it down altogether. In Blaina to-day there is the gravest possible 1676 destitution. Some of my colleagues who have been there know that that is so. There are people there who have never been able to renew their clothing for years, and they are living on the very verge of starvation all the time. In Abertillery, which is lower down the Valley, out of 10,000 workers there are 5,000 unemployed. Only last week the Secretary for Mines gave me some figures which showed that in Monmouthshire alone there are 27 collieries closed and 11,500 miners unemployed since the beginning of this year. Down at Abercarn, again lower down the Valley, there are four collieries closed and 4,000 men unemployed.
The local governing bodies have done their best to grapple with the situation. There have been deputations to the Ministry during the Recess. They are told that they must limit their relief to the revenue that they can draw. Anything more cynical and more mocking it is impossible to conceive. In Bedwellty Union the guardians have borrowed £419,000 that they are not able to repay. At the behest of conferences that have been held in the area, the local governing bodies have brought out many schemes, but they have all been turned down by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour. In the Rhymney district people are in the same plight. They have been bringing out schemes for finding work for the unemployed, but they have been denied any assistance from the Government. The position of the people in these areas is becoming desperate in the extreme. I want to ask the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health very seriously what is to be done in these areas when these people are refused the assistance that is necessary if they are to carry out their schemes of relief? In the areas referred to there are between £100,000 and £200,000 arrears of rates, which it is humanly impossible to collect. Summonses have been taken out against the people, who have been brought in hundreds to the police court, and when the police have gone to the homes, they have found that there are no effects. They have been unable to levy any distraint in consequence, except in a very few cases. That is the condition of things in some of these necessitous areas.
I want to know from the Government definitely, without any evasion whatever, 1677 what is to be done in these areas when the guardians are refused any loans or grants to enable them to function as local governing bodies. The local government in these areas is absolutely in ruins. But there is still further oppression going on. The Ministry of Health is attacking the scales of relief all over these areas. The people there are living on a scale of relief which is very much lower than the scale even in convict prisons and workhouses, and they are being treated, not as British citizens, but as if they were criminals. They are not responsible. These people have no land, no mines, no factories. They cannot find employment unless they can find an employer, and the employer will not employ them unless he can make a profit out of them. When a State is in such a rotten economic position as that, there is a great responsibility upon someone to find food and clothing for the people.
Let me refer to the scale of relief of the Bedwellty Union. The guardians have been asked to reduce the scale, and have been told when they came to London that if they did not reduce the scale there would be no more money for them. Here is the scale: For a man and wife, £1 per week; for each child up to the third child, 6s. per week; for the fourth child, 6d. per week; and if there should be a fifth child, nothing is paid for it. The Ministry of Health says that that scale is too high and must be reduced. It is a downright shame! I would rather not be the Minister of Health who said that. In Newport Union there is a scale no better, and they are trying to improve it, but they are getting no support from the Ministry nor from the guardians down there. As a matter of fact, it is no use trying to discuss the matter. There is a co-ordinated policy running through the Government to oppress the unemployed as far as possible. It runs right through Government policy, from the Prime Minister's statement that wages must come down, to the Minister of Labour, who is taking men off the unemployment benefit list and throwing them on to the guardians.
Five hundred have been taken off the list in Blaina, and the expenditure on relief has gone up in the Bedwellty Union by no less than £600 a week, through the action of the Minister of 1678 Labour in striking these men off the unemployment benefit list and telling them that their relations should maintain them. I have given him details of a case this week. He has had it in his hands five days, but he has not had time, he says, to find out the rights and wrongs of the case. All the time that that man is waiting he is getting no unemployment benefit. Is there any legal obligation on the relations of such a man to maintain him? The relations themselves have not the means to do so. They are only working half-time because there is no full-time in that area at all, and if by accident in one particular week a man earns a certain sum, though it does not represent the average of his income, it is taken as typical of his income, and he is struck off the register. This spirit runs through the whole gamut of the policy of the various Government Departments. The Minister of Health is in the same position—that of driving the people down all the time, lower and lower, until they are becoming desperate.
I assure the House it is no pleasure to me to speak on this subject as I have done so many times here. I would rather speak on some other subject, and I only wish the Government would give me the opportunity of complimenting them on the way they are dealing with this matter, instead of forcing me to censure them. I hope the Government will seriosuly take up the problem of trying to find work for the unemployed. There is an obligation on them to do so, now that they have rejected the Labour party's policy and the ex-Service men's policy. With reference to the question of discrimination, it is a most contemptible thing, because the people concerned are not able to retaliate, or to protect themselves. What right has the Minister of Labour to strike a man off the register because that man is single? When that man goes to work, if he does get employment, he will have to pay his 9d. per week like the married man. To discriminate against him is not playing the game. As to the necessitous areas, why should the Minister of Health place on bankrupt necessitous areas the responsibility for maintaining the unemployed when it is a national emergency? It is because of this crime—and it is nothing but a crime which the Government has committed—it is because these things 1679 have been done shamelessly by the Government, that this Motion is on the Paper.
On the question of juveniles, I would point out that there are in these areas boys who left school four years ago at the age of 14 and who have not had a day's work since. They are destitute and are to be found hanging about railway stations looking for jobs at carrying bags. Every time I return home there is a fight at the station for the job of carrying my bag, among boys who ought to be filling some useful and worthy employment. Such a state of affairs in. this country, under the British flag, cannot be laughed at in this House. It is a serious matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs made a casual reference to afforestation. The hills of Monmouthshire have been denuded of trees for war purposes and mining purposes, but no attempt has been made to replant those hills, though there are thousands of men unemployed in that area. What is the Forestry Department of the Government doing in that matter? Why do they not employ these men on this work which would be beneficial to the men and ultimately beneficial to the country? For the reasons I have mentioned this Motion of Censure is on the Paper, a Motion which is doubly and trebly merited by the Government and which will, I hope, have some effect upon them.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENT1NCK
In the few remarks which I venture to address to the House I will studiously avoid the controversial aspects of the unemployment question. I rise to disseminate goodwill in industry. I am aware that there is nothing now or original in this theme, and that the need for increased good will and peace in industry has become one of the commonplaces of our political life. The Prime Minister and the Bishops and others have appealed in their speeches for peace. I rise to urge that Ministers should not confine themselves to pious exhortations, but should show some qualities of leadership. If the time was ever favourable to take occasion by the hand in this matter, it is so at present. The air seems full of good intentions, and enlightened ideas. One gathers from speeches and articles 1680 in the newspapers that there is a concensus of opinion that if the competitive power of our industry is to be restored, there must be greater co-operation in industry, and in order to get that cooperation a new spirit must be shown by the employer. In other words, greater attention must be paid to the human factor in industry. I feel so confident that now is the time for action on the part of the Government, that I have no hesitation in making the same appeal to them as I have made to two preceding Governments, and that is to see if steps cannot be taken to summon an industrial conference, representative of the workers and the employers. That conference should be charged with the duty of hammering out an industrial charter which, by giving the workers increased and higher status, will secure their good will and co-operation. If the Government were to guarantee that they would carry out the recommendations of this conference, and if the workers were approached in the right spirit, I have sufficient confidence in the common sense and good will of the people of this country to believe that the invitation would be cordially accepted.
The workers must first be approached in the right spirit, and there are three essentials to the success of any such conference. The first is that the demand for longer hours and lower wages must be frankly withdrawn. The second is that the workers must be given a share in the control of their own industries. In other words, a step must be taken towards the democratisation of industry, and the third essential is that if, by increased production, increased profits are reaped by the employers, the workers should have a proportionate share of those increased profits. I am convinced that there cannot be any progress towards good-will in industry so long as the demand for longer hours and lower wages is persevered in by the employers. Unfortunately it is an obsession in some quarters that the only way to restore our industry is to force the conditions of the workers down to the level of the Continental workers' conditions. For instance, in the coal industry we are asked to believe that that industry is so effectively organised and so efficiently conducted, that the only possible thing to be done for it is to lengthen the hours of labour to reduce the wages. I am glad to think 1681 however that there is increasing scepticism on this point. Colonel Willey, who is, I think, chairman of the Federation of British Industries, throws over that idea and says there is nothing detrimental to increased production in high wages.
In the matter of hours there is unfortunately a suspicion abroad that the Government, in some way or in some degree, sympathise with the demand for longer hours. I am sure there is no basis for that suspicion. But the Government has itself to blame. I consider that the Government's refusal to make the 48-hour week a statutory obligation was most unfortunate. That refusal has made it more difficult to secure the industrial co-operation which is so necessary, and I appeal to the Minister of Labour to reconsider his attitude on this question. To make the 48-hour week a statutory obligation on the employers of this country would not handicap our industry and would not injure any section of it. On the contrary, it would be a gesture which would have a most beneficial psychological effect, not only on the workers of this country, but elsewhere if the right hon. Gentleman were to give an undertaking that he would do his best to secure the co-operation of the nations abroad. I am curious to know what steps he has taken. I do not think we are under any necessity to wait for the Germans or any other people, but it would be a very good thing if he secured a conference to consider the question. If the hours of labour and the rates of wages were removed from the employers' programme, I feel the ground would be clear for a serious and hopeful discussion the object of which would be the engendering of a better spirit. I think the letter which Colonel Willey recently addressed to the "Times" was of enormous importance. Writing with all the authority which he has as chairman of the Federation of British Industries, he made the confession that we in this country have a great deal to learn from the American employers. I may give one quotation from his letter:The workers have a right to be satisfied that the employers are doing their share. There is a suspicion in the minds of the public that industrial leadership and its philosophy towards labour is not keeping step with world evolution. The docile acquiescence and unquestioning faith of labour in the wisdom of management in 1682 which they have neither executive share nor confidence that the participation is equitable, cannot, in view of labour organisation, be expected to continue.Evidently Colonel Willey thinks it is time to democratise our industries. I believe it was Carlyle who said that no man thinks as his grandfather did, but Colonel Willey evidently considers that a great many employers think exactly as their fathers and grandfathers did. He realises that the American employers of labour secure the co-operation of their workers because they deserve it and have taken steps to get it while, on the other hand, he realises that organised labour in America gives its co-operation because American labour gets its quid pro quo in high wages, constant employment and a share in the profits and control. It is very interesting to see how American employers deal with their industrial problems.
Take, for instance, the clothing trade. The clothing trade nine years ago was riddled with industrial unrest, and strikes and lockouts were constant. The employers in the clothing trade did not, like the employers in the coal industry here, accuse their workmen of Bolshevism and Communism, but took steps to democratise their industry. In conjunction with their workers, they appointed a joint board with an independent chairman, and that board deals with any questions connected with wages, discipline, staffing, discharges, and working conditions. In other words, the clothing industry was thoroughly democratised, and the result of that democratisation was not, as some people might imagine, chaos in the industry, but perfect harmony, tremendous prosperity, higher profits, and higher wages. It is also interesting to see how the railway industry in America dealt with a slump in trade. The Baltimore and Ohio Railway, as opposed to our own railway directors here who are asking their workmen to accept a reduction in wages, took steps to secure the co-operation of their men in effecting a more economic running of their railways. They got their workers to join with them in co-operative committees, which were charged with the duty of suggesting economic working and proposals for regularising employment, and so successful has the result been on the Baltimore Railway that its example is now being 1683 copied throughout not only the United States but Canada as well.
I have ventured to put these few suggestions for better co-operation in industry in all good faith and as a contribution—I am afraid only a very small contribution—to what is so necessary at the present time, namely, peace and good will in industry. To my mind, it is absolutely fatuous to see so much ill-will in industry and to see so many people at cross purposes, people who, by trying to defeat one another, are committing suicide themselves. Some people are greatly alarmed at the activities of the Communists in this country, and the Home Secretary rends the air with cries of apprehension, but I submit that the proper way to defeat Communism in this country is not to imprison a few individuals, but by making the institution of private property in this country satisfy the reasonable aspirations of the workers of the country. Private enterprise at the present moment' —we cannot get away from the fact— does not satisfy the reasonable, aspirations of the workers. One of the results of the spread of Socialism and Communism is that, so far from satisfying their aspirations, it arouses their increasing resentment. The reason for that resentment is that it does not give them the elements of a human and a good life, and I do ask the Government to take what, I feel, is the most effective step towards the restoration of prosperity in this country, and that is by restoring peace and good will in industry. That is a problem which, to my mind, should not be beyond the wit of man to solve and should not be outside the range of statesmanship of the present Government, if they show courage and sympathy, and it is time for constructive proposals. I submit very strongly that nothing would be more helpful than that they should ask the workers of this country to cooperate with them in a great industrial problem, charged with the duty of hammering out an industrial policy.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I do not know what comfort the Government can get from the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck), who has just eat down. I would only like to see the ranks of the 1684 Government's supporters permeated with quite a large number of hon. Members having such keen sympathies as the Noble Lord has shown. But we this evening, on the Floor of the House of Commons, say to the Government and to the Noble Lord who has just sat down that they cannot escape their share of the censure that we feel is due for their very harsh treatment of the unemployed, and, I would say, wicked interpretation of the Regulations and powers that they took to themselves, with their large majority, through the last Unemployment Act. I would remind them thatIll fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.There can be but very little difference of opinion as to the truth, the logic, and the sincerity of such a quotation. Whatever difference there may be as to the accumulation of wealth, which I feel sure is going on as rapidly as it ever did in this country, getting into fewer hands, there can be no doubt as to the decay that has set in and that has been helped along by the Government of the day amongst the vast industrial population of our country. I say that because the last Act of Parliament dealing with unemployment placed such a tremendous weapon in the hands of the Minister of Labour, and let me say that, while the Ministry of Labour is nominally the Department for censure, we do not lose sight of the fact that it is the Government that must accept full responsibility for any act of the Ministry of Labour. In order that the House might get a fuller perspective of the tragedy that has been with us in its aggravated form from early 1921, I think it would be as well just to quote a figure or two. For instance, over 5,000,000 of our people have been unemployed at one time or another from March, 1921, up to the present time, and I challenge the Minister of Labour to say that it is one less than 5,000,000, and during that period you have, under your regulations governing either uncovenanted benefit, as it was, or extended benefit, as it is now, refused no fewer than 1,973,000 applications for extended benefit. In round figures, 2,000,000 applications have been refused uncovenanted or extended benefit. "Oh, yes," some supporters of the Government 1685 may say, "that would be a natural sequence of insurance based on actuarial calculations." Do you cut things so fine if you know of a person without the bare necessities of life that you ask for his political faith, for his creed, or for his morals? You at once set to as human beings to do your duty and relieve the distress that has fallen to the lot of the unfortunate.
Here, you say, this is a gift. It is not. It is a loan, for which you will extract full payment, and there will be no County Court in connection with the repayment. The first hour's work that the person obtains must carry with it deductions as against the benefit he may already have received, so that it seems to me that it is a very paltry excuse to set up, on the part of a Government or a nation, that this is more in the nature of a gift. I have said times out of number in this House that when you are dealing with large bodies of unemployed persons and all the distress and suffering that must surround such a condition, you must look upon it more in the light of the nation insuring itself against something worse. You may inflict suffering on an individual, but when the suffering on that individual has amassed in such proportions that it must fasten itself upon and reflect itself in the nation as a whole, then the nation must be very careful. It must do its best to eradicate the possibilities of it becoming a permanent disease that will hamper the nation.
When you view the discretionary power that the Minister of Labour himself holds, you see that here is a power held by one Minister, and the Minister must accept in himself the full responsibility for his acts in that connection. It is a power that gives him control over at least 200,000 of those who may make application for extended benefit. You may well say that if there are 1,200,000 on your live register, over 500,000 of those are on extended benefit at the present time. I heard an hon. Member opposite say that the figures were as nearly as possible a true indication of the actual state of unemployment. That is wrong, and I am sure the Minister himself would be the first to admit that, while it is possible for you to show a reduction in comparable figures on the live register of 10,000, it may actually happen that there is more unemployment in the 1686 country rather than less. From 25th August until 12th October, which were given last week as the last available figures, the Minister himself, acting on his own discretion, refused benefit in over 31,000 cases, and in that number there were over 14,000 females. By far the larger proportion under either of the four heads coming under his discretion were the single women or widows under 25 year? of age living with relatives. I think the figure was somewhere about 5,000 females under that particular head, and many of these people have applied for extended benefit on more than one occasion. Now that the Minister's discretion puts them definitely outside the realm of success in any further claim for extended benefit, what purpose is there in their going on signing a register? They simply leave off signing. They simply keep away from the employment exchange, and if you have no registration, there can be no inclusion of these figures in your general statement as to the live register. Why do you discriminate and call it a live register, if it is not intended to convey to the country that it represents those registering and for whom the insurance has some responsibility? It is not a register of dead claims; it is a register of live claims. Then why call it a live register, when numbers cease to sign it after they have had two or three of their applications for extended benefit turned down? Therefore, I say, instead of your figure of unemployment being just a little under 1,200,000 on the live register, the figure is more like 1,400,000. The live register, I suppose, does not show those between the ages of 14 and 16.
There are one or two points I want to get home, if I can, to the Minister's mind. I want the House to consider what will become of those 31,126 whom the Minister himself has disqualified—the single men under the age of 25? I can only imagine this being used as an instrument to force them, by economic pressure, to join one or other branch of His Majesty's Forces. But, of course, there is a large number—I believe about 11,152—under the age of 25, single men or widowers living with their relatives not with their parents. What is to become of them? You show no standard of income that could be made comparable. You leave it at a loose end, to be varied according to the locality, to be worked out accord- 1687 ing to the whim of your people or yourselves, as you are called upon to judge them. Does the Government remember the Birmingham case, and all the cruel questions that were submitted to a number of women? I believe the Government's attention has been called to it. They were low-down questions, which, if one were submitted to the wife or the daughter of the average man, that man would be less than a man unless he took some very strenuous steps to deal, if need be, in a physical manner with the brute who would put such questions for the purpose of disqualifying an applicant from extended benefit. Instead of being as sympathetic as they ought, and giving assistance as they might, there is an atmosphere in some of the committees, which is tainted with the heavy, brutish driving-power that the Government has in its determination. It is perhaps not yet satisfied to the full that it has crushed enough life and hope out of a large part of our industrial population. Does it still mean to use the steam-roller, while those who are carrying out the harsh measures try to outdo it in the matter of the Regulations and instructions?
What of the young women of 25 years and under? I have heard of a case—I have not completed inquiries yet—in which it is stated or suggested—but, perhaps, I ought not to use it, because I am not yet fully satisfied, but I will put the possibility of such a case, in the hope that it will get from the Minister in his reply some indication which, through the OFFICIAL REPORT, may be conveyed to any committee which might seem inclined to adopt a line such as has been suggested to me. In dealing with single women and the relationship question, the possibility of two single sisters renting a room, one being unemployed and the other employed, inquiry is made as to the earnings of the one, and the estimate that those earnings are sufficient to pay the rent of the room and keen the sister. If those are the depths to which the inquiry has gone—and the earnings, if slender, can be estimated as merely an eked-out existence—then I say you are not doing the right, the fair and the proper thing, and if such an incident did happen, it would be an abuse of the powers that the House has given to the Minister to use in his discretion, if he feels it is in the public 1688 interest so to do. I am concerned as to what is going to happen to those young women of 25 and under. The road to calamity is always made easy. It is very difficult to get back on to a high moral plane, and so easy to get away. These young women will either have to apply to boards of guardians for relief, or they will have, so to speak, to take from the family income something which they know will mean a lessening of the sustenance of those who have to participate in it. I know if they are women of independent spirit they would do their best, but if you keep the pressure up long enough, it will break the stoutest heart and the best intentions which these unfortunate industrialists are called upon to go through. The Ministry of Labour and the Government have been sadly lacking. They have harshly interpreted the powers and Regulations given to them. They have tried artificially to reduce the number signing the live register, in order that a make-believe atmosphere should be created throughout the country, and lead us to think that things are improving out of all proportion to the actual state of affairs.
I would like the time to come when you have a co-ordination of your social insurance schemes—I am speaking purely of the insurance side of the administration—and set up a Ministry to deal with social insurance alone. Here you have a Labour Ministry dealing with one part and a Health Ministry dealing with another part, overlapping, with no settled policy. The Labour Minister knows when he discards people from his list they are away from him, but he does not know of other things. Let him read the annual reports of medical officers. I have four or five which, if I had plenty of time, I would deal with more fully, but I have reports which show that medical officers have reported, that whereas, just prior to 1923, we were arresting the growth of tuberculosis, from 1923 it has been on the up-grade again, due in the main to under-nourishment, unemployment and so on. You do not get rid of your problem by saving these pounds, shillings and pence a week, and the nation will pay more dearly and out of proportion in the long run, unless it deals more sympathetically and humanely with the troubles which beset the industrial population of the country.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Any debate on unemployment must be serious. There is no question at all that trade is, as a, matter of fact, improving at the present moment, but even so, I am the last person not to recognise how serious is the hardship, and how acute very often are the misfortunes and the sufferings of those who are still out of employment, in the very serious degree of unemployment that exists. The very nature of the subject makes any debate on unemployment a serious one. Otherwise, from the arguments that we have heard this afternoon, it would have been difficult to believe that this was meant seriously as a Vote of Censure upon the Government of the day. We have all the crimes in the insurance calendar brought against the Government, and, if I may say so without offence, I have never known so big a mare's nest so honestly got into by a large number of persons, no doubt with the most excellent intentions and sincerity. I will take, first of all, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who opened this Vote of Censure, the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw). I am sorry that an engagement in the North has taken him from us, as I would sooner have made these criticisms on his speech in his presence than in his absence. He is brought here as a gentle, but, as he almost himself said, clearly as a moat reluctant Boanerges to thunder against us, and he has done so. He produced his figures, which are surprising. Not so many weeks ago he stated that between 200,000 and 250,000 persons would be driven off benefit as the result of the restoration of my discretion under the Act recently passed. Everyone knows, as the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken knows, what is that discretion. It deals with the question of single persons living with their parents who could support them, and married persons living with their husbands or their wives who could support them. The right hon. Member for Preston said a little time ago that the exercise of that discretion—
§ Mr. HAYDAY
The Minister said "single persons living with their parents." They are all relatives—it may be brothers, sisters or aunts.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I have no wish to misrepresent anybody. I have 1690 the figures here. He said between 200,000 and 250,000 persons would be driven off benefit by the exercise of discretion under the last Act. There are his words in writing, corrected, a definite proof of his statement. Now to-day he has come down to the figure of 70,000. What is the reason for that drop, and what is the reasons for his figures? The House will bear with me if I deal with some figures, because we have to get down to the facts of the case, and the facts of the case are based on figures. I do not neglect, and I am sure hon. Members will not accuse me of ever neglecting, the human side, but when one deals with a problem of this magnitude, the amount of discrimination and all the rest of it; when figures are thrown at me as proof, I have to deal with the question, and prove it by figures as well.
The first estimate of the right hon. Member for Preston was that 250,000 persons would be deprived of benefit. To-day his figure comes down to 70,000. But what reason does he give? He asserts that the effect of his measures of last year was to put 70,000 people on to benefit, and that the consequence of our Act of last Session and the measures taken to carry it out must have been to take 70,000 off. He, the late Minister of Labour, stated that we had reversed all the steps he had taken. I am sorry he is not present to hear what I have to say, but he ought to have known his own business better. He would have known that the steps which he took included the abolition of the "gap" and the change in the rule governing continuity of employment which were among the most important in their effect on the live register. I have not altered either of these. To argue that, because he estimated 70,000 as the addition due to last year's Act, therefore that must be the difference this year, is perfectly futile and without foundation. I have no quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman, but the fact is that Boanerges has got hold of the wrong thunder. He gave his estimate as 250,000 in the summer, and was not dealing with the thing in a hurry, but when he had had time to prepare a regular address. In such circumstances he gave his settled estimate of from 200,000 to 250,000. The real fact of the matter is that the number of 1691 persons dealt with under the restoration of my discretion, who would not have been disallowed under the other statutory conditions, is between 20,000 and 25,000. The reasons I will give in a moment. Therefore, hon. Members do not need to be great mathematicians to see that between 200,000 and 250,000 on the one hand, and 20,000 and 25,000 on the other, there is some discrepancy. It is only 10 times as much. Some hon. Member says only a nought. It is 1,000 per cent.
I was reading an account of a speech by the right hon. Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes), the reasons for whose absence I regret as much as anyone, just two or three days ago. He said that the Labour party is the only party that counts. If it does, I wish their arithmetic were a little better.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am sorry to interrupt. I am not very clear as to the meaning of that figure of 20,000 or 25,000. What does it mean? Does it mean that, in order to make the two figures—this year and last year—comparable, 20,000 or 25,000 is to be added?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
No, it does not, and I am coming to that in a moment. I will remind the right hon. Member when I get there.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I want to ask whether the figure of 20,000 is the figure relating to your own discretion. You yourself gave me figures over 30,000 — 31,000.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
That is the point to which I was coming, but I will gladly tell the hon. Member now. The total number that were disqualified and disallowed under those headings was 31,000, but there is every reason to know, and for reasons which I will explain later, that some of them would have been disallowed under the other ordinary conditions which have been continually in existence.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Quite so. The increase is between 20,000 and 25,000, and I will give the hon. Member reasons in a minute or two if he will allow me to do so. Those are the real figures that ought to be regarded as falling to be added to the live register. There are some subtractions to follow afterwards. What the right hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate said was that these figures are misleading. He made a comparatively mild statement, but when I read the speeches by hon. Members opposite and by a Member of the late Government, I see, from the report of them at any rate, that I have been charged with "faking" the figures. I let him know that I would probably have to refer to this to-day. That was the charge made against me by the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) who was a Minister in the late Government. Now what does faking the figures mean on my part as head of a Government Department? It means "cooking" them, or tampering with them for purposes of deception. It is an ugly word and this is an ugly charge. I say quite definitely that I have never, either in print or by word of mouth, given a single figure to this House or to any Committee of it to my knowledge and belief which has not only been absolutely accurate itself, but has not been perfectly fair in the inferences to be drawn from it—not one. I would never be a party to anything of that kind. I am charged with faking the figures, and that by an ex-Minister of the late Government. I say that that charge ought either to be withdrawn, or I ought to know whether he or the Loader of the Opposition is prepared to support it. I think I have a right to ask either for withdrawal, or for a statement that it will be supported and borne out.
I will now go on and I trust hon. Members will realise that I am prepared to justify and stand by any of the figures I give entirely, and not only the accuracy of the literal figures but any inference from them too. There has been no unfair discrimination against insured persons at all—none. So far as an inquiry has been carried out. in the constituencies it has been perfectly right 1693 and fair. I have done exactly what I said in this House from the beginning I would do. I have always thought the fairest thing was to try and discriminate as clearly as possible between people who are really justified in getting benefit and people who are not. Those who really have a claim to benefit should get it and those who have not a proper claim should not. That is right from the point of view not merely of the Exchequer but of the many contributors of the Insurance Fund.
I hope the House will allow me to deal with figures which are the essence of the problem. As we say in Scotland in our barbarous language, "Facts are chiels that winna ding." They will not fly away. You keep them there. I compare the percentage of disallowances of the claims made in the last period of the Labour Government with the very highest figure for any month under this Government. The latest percentage under the late Government was 133 per cent., and the highest figure under this Government for any month was 19.3 per cent.—a difference of 6 per cent. on the total on which it is calculated. The total of the claims on which this is an increase is 479,000, and therefore, taking the figure most unfavourable to myself from the point of view of Gentlemen opposite, 6 per cent. on 479,000 is a total of 29,000. By the exercise of my discretion, tightening-up and other causes, the difference is 29,000, and no more. That is the total of the extra amount of disallowances.
The hon. Member who has just spoken and others have charged me with not being fair and not being just. He has given one instance. I am prepared to take it. He gave the case of a deputy-chairman in a court of referees at Birmingham who made some remarks which were not suitable with regard to some of the women applicants who came before him. I have arranged to replace him already. I am bound to say I do not think he had any intention of being insulting, but there it was. I thought that it was an injudicious statement, and I have already taken action. Take, on the other hand, the type of case in which I exercise my discretion. Take a concrete ease. It is much easier to judge this thing by concrete cases than by 1694 generalities. It is the case of a workman whom I know well. He said to me:Here am I earning something just over £3 a week and I have a wife and family to keep. My neighbour next door is earning £5, and up till recently his wife has been drawing extended benefit as well. I do not see why I should pay contributions to give extended benefit to the wife of my neighbour.That was his remark, made on his own initiative to me. Every care is taken in the instructions that have been issued —and here they are—to see that the discretionary power should not be used so as to create hardship. It is a perfectly light and perfectly proper measure. It is doing justice all round. It is doing justice to the contributor and to the applicants, and I have every reason to believe it is really endorsed by those who go into the case and think it out.
Let me get to the wording of the Motion. It states that we have actedcontrary to the principle of unemployment insurance.That is another part of this grave charge. What are the principles of insurance? The Motion involves a suggestion of the most absurd kind. Take life insurance—not many people would wish to give it to the family of a suicide. Take fire insurance. People who set fire to their own houses are not considered eligible under a fire insurance to benefit. [Interruption.] I do not wish to be disrespectful to my hon. Friend opposite, but he has a bee in his bonnet in regard to that particular point. The principles of insurance are the same, whatever the social system may be. The same principles apply throughout. Take health insurance. If a man be ill, and unable to work, he can be tended, and get his insurance benefit while away from his work. But it does not mean that if hon. Members, or I, for instance, have a slight headache that we can keep away from work and claim health insurance. Many of our families would turn us out under those circumstances. There is a reasonable limit in everything. The man who is really in order in getting the benefit of health insurance is not the man who has got some slight indisposition. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is a disgraceful comparison!"] Precisely the same applies in regard to Unemployment Insurance. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] If a person cannot get work then he is 1695 entitled to start with standard benefit so long as he fulfils certain obvious and necessary conditions. He is also entitled, when he has exhausted his contributions, and if he is genuinely trying to get work, to claim extended benefit. But I say he has to be a person who is genuinely seeking work, capable of it, and unable to get it. If there is reason to believe that he can get work, or there is reason to believe that he does not need extended benefit, then it is not carrying out the principles of insurance to give it. Hon. Members opposite would seem to wish to try and turn the scheme into a gigantic system of poor relief simply because—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I deprecate these interruptions. I would ask hon. Members to preserve order, so that the Minister's remarks may be heard, as well as those of other speakers.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I have to treat this Motion as a Vote of Censure, which is controversial. Consequently, I am forced to deal with this matter by controversial arguments.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Let me deal with the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who asked what figures should be added to or subtracted from the live register to show whether employment is getting really better or worse. Take the live register Then take the increase in the number of disallowances, and you add to the live register 29,000 for the purpose of comparison. But that is not all. The live register includes, as my hon. Friend who spoke first on the subject on this side pointed out, a large category of persons in addition to those in receipt of benefit. It includes those who are not in insurable trades who are registering for employment, but it also includes a number of those who have been disallowed benefit, but are still continuing to register. It includes all these. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Nottingham was completely at fault. The number of those who have been disallowed and who yet register is, as has been stated, constantly increasing. One reason is that at the Exchanges we 1696 always are asking those who are disallowed to continue to register. I am encouraging that everywhere—that they should always be asked to register
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
If the hon. Gentleman will give me any case where this is otherwise I shall be glad, because it is against my wishes. I wish that they should all be encouraged to register. That is one reason. Another reason is that there are more willing to do so, because the number of placings has been constantly growing. They have increased something like 12 or 13 per cent. since I have been in charge of the administration. They have increased in a very limited period from a little over 700,000 to a little over 800,000. For that reason people are more willing to register. What has been the result of that? The number of persons whose claims have been disallowed but who continue to register is 48,000 more than a year ago. This figure of 48,000 must be set off against the 29,000 previously mentioned. Therefore, the figure is really 19,000 better than the live register would Show for purposes of comparison. If anyone wants to make a comparison between this year and last at this time, he can, if he wishes, take 19,000 from this live register in order to see what the improvement in trade has been. The fact is that without question there is a very distinct improvement in trade at the present time. There is really no question about that.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, in the course of his interesting speech, alluded to the state of affairs generally of production and trade in other countries as compared with this country. The most reliable figures that I know are the figures which have been produced by what is known as the Balfour Committee, set up under the late Government. So far as the researches of that Committee went, they showed that the whole of the overseas trade of the world in 1923 had shrunk in volume as compared with the period before the War—in volume, I am not talking about prices! But, of that shrunken volume, the share of this country was not loss, but rather greater than in 1913. It had risen by a 1697 total of 1 per cent. I am speaking from memory of the figures, and I refer to the total of the overseas trade. So far as the total is concerned, that is what the Committee found. At the present time there is without question, I should say, an improvement. It is an improvement with very dark patches, but it is still there. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) appeared to me to come down prepared to curse. But if he examines facts he will bless. He was like a kind of disconcerted Balaam. He came down this afternoon prepared to curse; he should have remained to bless.
In the first place, it is quite clear that with the growth in population we have got over 200,000 more men employed in this country than a year ago. There is no doubt of that. I recognise the improvement, but I regret as much as the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, or anyone else in this House, the depression in the coal trade. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about steel?"] One trade at a time, please. I am talking of what was said this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston. He told us what he thought was the cause of the depression in the coal trade. He attributed it to the action of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the Budget and the gold standard. But let him just consider one thing before he talks again. What was the percentage in the appreciation of the sovereign? Five, 6 or 7 per cent. What were the differences in prices? He quoted in regard to the price of coal in Brazil a difference of 4s. 6d. I took it down at the time. That is about 25 per cent. on the f.o.b. prices. You cannot get 25 per cent. rise in prices from 5, 6 or 7 per cent. appreciation of gold, whatever else you may get.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The coalowners have made the same statement before the Coal Commission as the Member for Preston.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I have yet to learn that the coalowners gave those figures, but in any case I am not responsible for them. Let me, however, say this. The last monthly census shows over 240,000 men still unemployed in the coal trade. I hope with all my heart that that will improve, although we 1698 have got to realise one thing. A lot of men came into the coal trade during the War, while many of the miners were on service. Some still remain, and it is difficult for any trade to bear such a large influx of workers when the output has been reduced.
I will be perfectly straightforward with the House. A statement has been made by the coalowners that they have hopes that the trade will improve so as to reabsorb the men who are out of work. For my own part, I do not see any immediate prospect of that kind. I do not minimise for a moment the suffering or the trouble in the coal trade, but when the right hon. Gentleman or anyone else says: "Can the Government provide a remedy in the case of the coal trade?" I say they cannot have studied the actual situation.
The depression is not in this country alone. There is depression in the coal trade in Germany. If anyone will read the German papers, they will read what might be almost a description of what is happening in this country. There is depression in Spain, Czechoslovakia, Belgium and even in France. It is spread right over the Continent, and in all coal-producing countries of Europe. It is, therefore, perfectly futile to condemn this or any Government because it is unable to find a remedy in England. Let us be quite clear and candid about the amount of unemployment here. The worst impression is given abroad and our own trade is injured if any of us cries "stinking fish." There is no question as to employment being bettor in this country generally. In the cotton trade there is an improvement, and a distinct one. In the woollen trade there is an improvement, and a distinct one. In the iron and steel trade there is an improvement, quite slight at present, but perceptible. The shipbuilding trade is the one that has been hardest hit. [HON MEMBERS: "Reparation ships!"] We must remember that the shipbuilding trade is dependent more than any other on the overseas carrying trade of the world. A very little alteration one way or the other in the amount that is carried will tend to bring back prosperity or have the reverse effect on the shipbuilding trade. It seems time, though I would not like to be rash, that with a big cotton crop, a big wheat 1699 crop, and a big rice crop, there is more hope for this trade in the near future.
I look forward with quite distinct hopes, and would ask hon. Members to remember that the improvement that has taken place in the course of the last month has come at a time when, usually, trade has slackened and got worse. Every year there is a cyclical course of trade. First a move downwards in unemployment in the Spring, because things improve in the Spring; that goes on through the Summer; then the move is upward again and unemployment gets worse towards this time of the year. This year, however, it has improved, just at the period when it usually has got worse, before the Christmas trade has had time to show itself. Therefore now, if at any time, there is reason for hope and not for despair.
Another reason for hope lies in the fulfilment of the statement which was made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Debate on the previous Vote of Censure. There he said: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."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th June, 1925. col. 2078. Vol. 185.]The improvement began before the Locarno settlement, and I think the combination of the two is likely to give in quite good hope with regard to the near future.
The right hon. Gentleman in his speech asked about Government relief works. For myself, I make a quite distinct difference between schemes which are merely for relief and schemes that a Government can put in hand, and which have a practical and economic value, which, as I always say, are few in number. I give my opinion about these relief schemes quite frankly. Early in the year I said I thought that at best they were only palliatives and might, by the burdens they east on rates and taxes, create greater troubles than they could cure. They are a transference of employment, and not an ultimate addition to employment. That transference may be well worth while in acute crises, or it may be right in the case of areas which 1700 are very hardly hit, but if a depression of trade is universal that is how you get the springs of vitality and resilience sapped. At times it may be right to undertake some work as a relief scheme, if it is possible, even if the price has got to be paid by the rest of the country.
As regards the country as a whole, the case as I forecasted it in March has only been strengthened as the months have gone by. I think it is thoroughly wrong to diminish industrial capital in order to provide relief. I felt bound to give it as my opinion to my own colleagues in the Government that we should not draw off from the normal channels of trade large sums for extemporised measures which can only be palliatives. It is on these principles we have decided to act, while paying special regard, by way of expenditure, to areas that are peculiarly hard hit; and, indeed, a special Committee has been appointed to consider their case. But while schemes already approved will go on, approval will not be given to new-relief schemes in other places which are not particularly distressed. When trade is reviving it is far better to have money invested in trade itself. It is a sound doctrine. It is not a doctrine of any one party but of all parties—Conservative, Liberal or Socialist—that the necessity of expenditure for subsidising schemes in direct relief of unemployment will be judged in relation to the greater necessity for maintaining undisturbed the ordinary financial facilities and resources of trade and industry. I hope that policy approves itself to the party opposite. I hear murmurs, but I am sure it will approve itself to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, because I will now quote his own statement in the past. It was made in his first speech on assuming office:We are not going to diminish industrial capital in order to provide relief.Hon. Members will see that in my own statement of policy, though I do not often agree with the views of the right hon. Gentleman, I was glad to do so on this occasion, and I largely used his own words to express my own sentiments. He went on:I wish to make it perfectly clear that the Government have no intention of drawing off from the normal channels of trade large sums for extemporised measures which can only be palliatives. That is the old, sound Socialist doctrine …1701 I would say it is the sound doctrine for everybody—And the necessity of expenditure for subsidising schemes in direct relief of unemployment will be judged in relation to the greater necessity for maintaining undisturbed the ordinary financial facilities and resources of trade and industry.As regards relief schemes, I say at once that, so far as it is possible for a Government to do anything else, then they ought to do it. But if they are rash, if they go in for schemes which are not good business in themselves, they really tend to diminish employment in this country instead of increasing it. I am told by the right hon. Gentle man opposite that they found a way in their Bill this Summer to enable the Government to consider new schemes of development. The reason why we disapproved of it was that we thought we had a more excellent way. We had a Committee of the Cabinet, parallel to the Committee of Imperial Defence, the Committee of Civil Research—a Committee of the whole Cabinet—set up to do precisely the same work with greater power and more flexibility. It has been at work. In this connection let me refer once again to the words of the Resolution: That in the past three months the Government have not proposed any measures for dealing adequately with the pressing problem of unemployment. I say here and now that relief schemes, in my opinion, are at best a palliative, no cure, and may create more harm, save in exceptional circumstances, than the good they do.
I do not believe any Government can cure unemployment—I have never thought so—directly by their own schemes. If they can produce schemes which are sound in themselves they ought to do so. Here I pay my tribute at once to the right hon. Gentlemen who were responsible for the Trade Facilities scheme and the Exports Credits scheme. They have done well, and I think those who introduced those schemes should have all thanks. In that connection what have we done? To start with, we have reopened the market for foreign loans—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who closed it?"]—because now the position financially is such that we can do it with safety. That is one of the recent steps. I know so well what may be the advantages of that. Long ago, when I was at the Department of Overseas Trade, I saw every day the 1702 advantages coming from the wise investing of British capital in foreign lands. Take the Argentine railways. We get-orders from them for the steel trade, for all kinds of railway material; and not only so, but when there is an investment of that kind the staffs who go out to help in the management of the railway are largely British, and being accustomed to British articles all their lives, they send over for them again across the seas, and create more trade for this country. That was the advantage of reopening the market to new loans, as soon as the position admitted of its being done.
Take the next question. No doubt hon. Members opposite may not agree, but I would appeal to hon. Members on this side of the House. We have reintroduced the McKenna Duties. I never knew a rasher act than the abolition of them. A believer in Free Trade may think that a person who under a Free Trade system is thrown out of work in one industry will be absorbed in another; but the essence of that doctrine is that this can only happen in a time of brisk trade. To take the McKenna duties off when trade was most depressed was, to my mind, the most foolish thing that could be done from the point of view of Free Traders themselves.
In the next place we hope to get the safeguarding duties passed by this House before Christmas comes. Those are matters of controversy.
The next items I come to, I am glad to say, are not matters of controversy. There is beet sugar. I bow my acknowledgments to the late Chancellor of the Exchequer who smiled upon sugar beet, but at least we have made his bantling into a very big baby by now. The sum of £90,000 was expended on the sugar beet industry under the Trade Facilities Act during his reign. Up to now there are, I think, 10 factories working, another two are projected, and eight are in contemplation. Over £2,000,000 has been guaranteed under the Trade Facilities Act for beet sugar—either for factories already working or approved and to be set up. I would ask the House to see that we have been carrying on with what speed and energy we can that kind of development. We inherited it, but I say at once it is a wholesome scheme. In the first place, it 1703 provides employment in this country; and we know by now that there is every good hope of the beet sugar industry being established here as a self-supporting industry when the period of the subsidy comes to an end. And what do we get meanwhile? We get something like 1,000 men busy on the erection of every factory, another 500 (on the average) carrying out work in the factory, and another 500 are needed in the fields. That is one of the advantages. Another advantage is that at a time when the trade balance in our favour is none too great, we are producing sugar in this country and eating into the bill of millions of pounds we have had to pay to foreign countries for our sugar, thereby setting money free for other purposes and also strengthening exchange. That is what happened with regard to sugar. Let me take another case.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am now-going to deal with East Africa. The Government has agreed to provide money to carry out various developments in East Africa. That means that the amount we have provided for East Africa will come back here in the shape of orders for railway material and thus help one of the industries in this country most depressed. You get also the further development of a country under British tutelage. At the same time a supply is created of raw materials such as cotton, and that is a matter which affects the whole of the world's industry. Lastly you get, in addition, freights to and fro in the carrying trade.
Then there is the case of housing and that is a crucial one, and it is different in England and Scotland. There is an annual figure in regard to houses needed in England which has been estimated at something between 75,000 and 100,000 houses quite apart from the capital shortage. Even taking the higher figure, not only has the regular annual increment been provided under the 1923 Act, but the capital shortage is being made good as well. In Scotland the case is different, because there there is a capital shortage and there is also an annual shortage. That annual need has never been met since the end of the war, and it means that the capital 1704 shortage of houses in Scotland has become consistently worse. I say at once that the conditions of housing in Glasgow are worse than in any place in the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
That is the reason why the Prime Minister has given an additional grant of £40 for demonstration houses which are not to be erected by building labour. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but you have a situation that is quite clear in Scotland. You have the fact that there are not enough houses being built to fill the annual need quite apart from overtaking the capital shortage. The reason for this is that the resources of the ordinary building trade are not sufficient to build the houses required. As a matter of fact there is no unemployment among bricklayers, plumbers, and masons in Scotland.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I know that in Scotland there are houses standing idle for want of plasterers to complete them, and the building of houses cannot go on properly for the want of sufficient skilled building labour.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
That is why the offer has been made—to encourage non-building-trade labour. Here you have a greater need for houses than in any other place in the Kingdom, and at the same time a large number of men who want employment, and by this additional bonus we have tried to make those two things meet. I want to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) will give us the full weight of his own influence and the influence of his supporters in order to carry out that policy.
§ Mr. AMMON
I want at the outset to deal with a personal reference to myself in regard to a speech which I delivered on Sunday last, and to acknowledge the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman in intimating to me that he intended to raise this question. I 1705 am prepared to justify the statement that I made in the speech to which he refers. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that a statement in a paper consisting only of three lines cannot be described as a verbatim report of what I said. I have refreshed my memory by having an interview with the chairman of the meeting, and I state again that the figures issued by the Minister of Labour were, so far as the actual representation of the real number of unemployed is concerned, in the category of "fakes." I also indicated what had happened as a result of the Bill brought in by the present Government in dealing with the several categories of persons who no longer appear on the live register of the Employment Exchanges. I want to prove that.
On Friday last week I went down to my constiuency. I interviewed a number of people and I saw a long string of unemployed men and women who had been to the. Employment Exchanges and found that they had fallen under the operation of the regulation now put into force by the Minister of Labour, and man after man and woman after woman said when I pressed them "What is the good of going to the Exchange and putting our names down?" One man said that they were told by the Employment Exchange officials that it was no good their coming there. I say that when we find that sort of thing going on in all quarters we have a right to say that the official figures as published do not indicate accurately the number of persons unemployed.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am sure the hon. Member will realise that I do not wish to do him any injustice by intervening now. It is not merely a question as to whether the official figures indicate sufficiently accurately what is required for the purposes of comparison. The objection I raise is to the word "fake," which means "to falsify or to cheat, for the purpose of deception." Does the hon. Member accuse me of falsifying these figures for the purpose of deception? I have looked up the meaning of this word in the dictionary, and if the hon. Member does the same he will find that I am right. What I ask is not whether the hon. Member thinks a comparison can ho properly made, but does he charge me with tampering with these figures or not?
§ Mr. AMMON
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has spoken about a quarter of a million more people being employed in industry as a result of the present Government coining into office. Surely that is a misrepresentation of the facts, and may be justly characterised by the use of language very much stronger than anything I have been accused of saying. I do not think the Minister of Labour is aware of what is actually going on, because in every part of the country we have men and women telling us that as a result of the application of the new regulation which has been put into operation they no longer go to the Employment Exchanges, and they tell us that the Employment Exchange officials inform them when they go that it is no use going there at all. I think that is a sufficient indication that the live register does not convey an accurate representation of the facts.
I can quote the evidence of an eminent business man in the City who drew my attention to the figures published stating that unemployment was going down, and an hon. Member of this House who was with us called attention to the fact that those figures paid no regard to the people I have mentioned of the increased number who were applying for Poor Law relief, and that business man said, "It is totally dishonest to issue figures like that which are calculated to deceive the public." That is the impression which is being conveyed. I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman is doing that with deliberate intent, but if that is the, impression conveyed by his figures he should publish them in an entirely different form, making it so clear that anybody who reads them will know exactly what the position is at the present time.
The hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. March) has (handed me a statement in relation to his own union indicating a 1707 great increase in the number of unemployed in the Borough of Poplar, and showing the large increase in the amount spent upon unemployment relief since the operation of that regulation. What is being done there is being done in practically every borough. That is the true return of the unemployed, not the figures that are published. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to get his own Ministry of Labour Gazette for this month, and turn to the trade union unemployment figures published there and those emanating from his own Department. There is a very marked discrepancy between the two, which, surely, shows that, although hon. Members in this House are instructed in going into these figures, and know how to dissect them and get at accurate results, so far as the country is concerned a totally wrong impression is conveyed. The right hon. Gentleman has been criticising other people for misrepresentation of the actual position of affairs. He has said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) has altered his figures from 250,000 to 70,000, which he calculated would be the effect of these new regulations. He asked where my hon. Friend got the 70,000. Surely he listened to the speech of my right hon Friend, and heard that then he was quoting from a speech of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister himself gave this figure of 70,000 as the result of the operation of these regulations. It is not for me to say whether the Prime Minister was right or wrong—
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Under last year's Act they had an effect of 70,000 but, it does not follow that they will under this year's Act.
§ Mr. AMM0N
I will even go so far as to accept the right hon. Gentleman's own interpretation of the meaning of that figure, but the fact still remains that the figure to which my right hon. Friend referred was 70,000, and he read it from a speech of the Prime Minister. I see that some hon. Members on the opposite side are nodding assent, and it will be within their recollection. I would only say that even the most censorious of us might be careful when accusing other people of making exaggerated statements, 1708 because we are likely to do it even within a few minutes of the delivery of a speech in our own hearing. I again say, as I have said again and again, and as I said in my speech to which reference has been made, that, under the present conditions in which the figures are published by the right hon. Gentleman's Department and issued to the public through the Press, they do not convey an accurate impression or an accurate idea as to the volume of unemployment. To that extent, although I do not believe it was intended by the right hon. Gentleman, it amounts to deceiving the public demand.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
On a point of Order. May I ask whether the Minister, when he is asked definite questions by an hon. Member, is entitled to make a long speech and not reply to one of them? I am referring to the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Barker), who gave most awful cases of poverty and destitution. The Minister has not taken the trouble to say a single word about these, but only indulged in a lot of figure-juggling which. does not matter twopence to anyone.
§ Major SALMON
I should like to approach this subject of unemployment from a practical point of view. We have heard this afternoon and this evening a great deal about the desirability of the Government finding work for the unemployed. There is no doubt that unemployment is a very serious problem, and one which ought to be faced, not, if I may say so, from a party point of view, but from a national point of view. It is a question that needs to be considered in all its aspects, and I think, if one may say so, after having listened to the speech of the Minister of Labour, that the line his Department is taking must commend itself to every right thinking man and woman throughout the country. The mere idea of finding temporary work is not solving the unemployment question. The Government in the past have found money for the purpose of helping local authorities to put forward and go on with certain work, but there is a limit to the class of work 1709 on which local authorities can spend money to a satisfactory purpose, and, besides, it does not really touch the problem that the House is so desirous of settling. I venture to think that what we want to do is to follow the lines that have been laid down by the Government in the way of extending, say, the Safeguarding of Industries Act and the Trade Facilities Act, and the reimposition of the McKenna Duties. In all those directions you are really appealing to industry generally, you are giving industry generally an opportunity of taking from the ranks of the unemployed men and women who understand all kinds of industry, and you are really putting it on a permanent basis. If hon. Members opposite are really sincere, and are desirous of putting employment on a sound, businesslike basis, I shall be much interested to see next week how they vote for the Safeguarding of Industries Bill, which will be the means, in my view, of finding employment in this country for a very large number of those who are in want of permanent work.
§ Major SALMON
On that remark I should like to say that I do not think either side is going to solve this problem if we approach it merely from the point of view of recrimination. We have got to do this job together, and it has been truly said that, if we are to increase industry in this country, we have got to see that a better feeling exists between employed and employer. That must be so if we are really going to meet the difficulties we are up against. Do not let us deceive ourselves. The problem we have to meet is that of being in a position to compete with the world in our export trade. It is no use our thinking that we can retain or maintain our position in the commercial world unless we are in a position to compete with the Continent for export business, and the only way in which we can compete successfully is by seeing that our cost of production is not too high. It is not, in my view, necessary, in order to do that, to reduce wages or to increase the hours worked, but it is essential, if you are going to pay a fair wage under fair conditions, that you should receive a full day's output from the employé.
§ Major SALMON
I am not going to be side-tracked into discussing an academic question, but what I venture to suggest is that you cannot possibly be in a position to increase trade generally unless you are in a position to sell your goods in competition with foreign competitors. I am afraid that if we are not careful the conditions operating in sheltered industries will cripple, to a large extent our ability to meet foreign competition, and we shall have to consider jointly how this problem is to be met. It is equally important that the employers should realise that they cannot live on their past successes. They, in turn, have got to adopt modern methods, and must bring up their organisation to modern standards. On the other hand, the employé has to recognise that he has got to do his share in creating and in helping to try to regain the trade of the country. Industry suffers from time to time from strikes and lock-outs. I want to recall to hon. Members opposite that only a few days ago all quarters of the House were out with the idea of applauding the Locarno Agreement for international peace. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] The majority. The large majority of the country are, and the fact remains that a very large majority in this House, were out to support the Locarno Agreement and to do all they could to see that it was ratified by this country. What is the basis of that Agreement? It is, I suggest, that, if there is a dispute between one country and another, or a different interpretation of an agreement, it should be settled by arbitration. I venture to ask my Friends opposite, why should not the same policy be adopted to secure industrial peace in this country? Why should we not settle all trade disputes in the future by compulsory arbitration?
§ Major SALMON
The Government. I suggest that the Government should appoint arbitrators. I am sure that our friends opposite believe that within a reasonable time they will occupy the Government Benches, and then they will be in exactly the same position. But the 1711 point I want to make is that, if industry generally were put on a firm basis, and if it were realised by both sides that they would be compelled to settle any disputes by arbitration, I believe that the men employed in industry would themselves settle their own disputes. After all, they know more about it than any outsider, they would be in a much better position, and they would be stimulated to settle disputes if they knew that, if they could not come to an agreement round the table, an arbitrator would decide and both sides would have to carry out his decision. I feel that what we want to try to create is a much better feeling between the employer and the employé. I am quite sure that the interest of the one is identical with the interest of the other.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
May I ask the hon. and gallant Member whether the waitresses' dispute was settled by arbitration?
§ Major SALMON
The point I am trying to deal with is not an individual but a national case. The same principle applies to a business that applies to the industry of the country, that if it is going to be successful there must be loyal co-operation between the employers and the employed, and the best answer to the hon. Member who interrupted is the result of the industry that he was indirectly attempting to attack. So much for that. If we can approach the subject not so much from a political point of view but with a real desire or a will to see how we can permanently reduce unemployment we shall do it much better than by either side trying to pick holes in the other. What one rather wants is a constructive policy, and I suggest that the policy of the Government is such that it is stimulating industry, and the, proof that it is stimulating industry is the fact that slowly but surely—which is infinitely better than being too fast—the policy adopted by the Government is reflected in the reduction of the unemployed, and I believe as time goes on we shall find that it will be successful and that we shall be in a position to regain and maintain our prestige in the commercial world.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
I am sometimes asked by my business friends 1712 whether people in London really understand the position in one's own district, and after listening to the speech of the Minister of Labour I must answer in the negative. He gave us almost a glowing account of the trade position, especially with regard to unemployment, and one would hardly believe, in face of the figures he gave, that according to the latest returns of the "Labour Gazette" —he may have more recent figures, but according to the latest available for us. up to 26th October, with regard to the northern coast there were no fewer than 51.3 per cent. unemployed workers in the ship-building trade, and in the marine engineering trade in the same district 39.5 per cent. How one can get any comfort, or see any hope, from figures of that description I fail to understand. Therefore, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not rest satisfied with the complacency of his remarks this evening but will realise that some parts of the country are still in a desperate position and it is because they are so bad that the working of the new Regulations for the administration of unemployed benefit-acts so harshly.
What is the good of telling a man he is not making every reasonable effort to obtain employment when in his own trade-more than half are unemployed, or telling him he has not been employed insurably to such an extent as is reasonable during the preceding two years when during the whole of that time you have had an unemployment rate of 30, 40 or 50 per cent.? Whatever the right hon. Gentleman's instructions may be to his local Employment Exchanges, in actual practice the administration is in many eases of a very harsh character. Every week-end I have numbers of cases coming before me individually—not wasters or shirkers but citizens who have lived in the town all their life, decent hard-working men. who until the recent abnormal period of unemployment had never been unemployed, and then they have had their benefit refused under the new Regulations. The Minister made light of the numbers that had been refused. He scored a point, as he thought, because the number? were less than had been anticipated. Whether the number has been large or small, the fact that there are any is a real hardship, and the real answer is that in all these districts, according to the returns of the local 1713 boards of guardians, their relief bill is going up every week by hundreds of thousands of pounds, which is surely the strongest evidence that his administration is working harshly. Not only is it unfair to the insured persons, but it is unfair to the district, because while under the Regulations benefit may be refused to these workers, the local authorities, knowing something of the actual needs and conditions of the sufferers, cannot refuse them relief, and the consequence is that you turn on to the local rates a burden which should really be a national charge.
I want to join in the appeal made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stockton (Captain Macmillan) to see whether the Government, even at this late stage, could not provide some further method of dealing with those for whom they are refusing extended benefit by providing for their maintenance out of some national fund instead of throwing them on to the local rates. It may be true that as this is an insurance fund pure and simple there may not be a bona fide claim on contributions paid, but if that is so there is no reason why they should be thrown on to the local rates. It is, however, a reason why the national conscience of the people should be charged with the cost. I hope something may come of the appeal the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made, which will be supported from all sides of the House where the conditions are similar. I was the more disappointed that the Minister said he was not going to encourage any extension of what he described as relief work. Surely the policy since the Armistice has been a foolish policy of paying away huge sums of money for no value received. Since the Armistice, by out-of-work donations, unemployed benefit and payment of the able-bodied poor, something over £350,000,000 has been paid away for no services rendered. Is the Government prepared to go on during the next five years, if unemployment continues, with the same policy? Would it not be far sounder from an economic point of view to get value for money paid? It is not the benefit of what is called the dole that people want, it is work. It would be infinitely sounder to spend even a little more money and have something to show as a return, certainly something 1714 to show in improved moral and health of the people, but also to have national assets as the result of this expenditure of public money.
I hope it is not too late for the Government to reconsider the matter because a lot of this so-called relief work is not work manufactured for the sake of making work. It is work of a valuable character to the localities concerned. Reference has been made to afforestation, electrification, recovery of foreshore and many other schemes of work of a national character which would be invaluable to the nation and would find work for many hundreds of thousands of people. I put it to the Government that if they have not the vision to do this themselves they should stand in the way of local authorities who are prepared to do the work provided they can have adequate financial assistance. But when, as in so many of these cases, where the need is greatest they have borne the heat and burden of the day, and have already spent more than they can afford out of their local resources their rates are up to a fabulous extent and therefore, they find they are compelled to stop spending money. They have the schemes, they have the plans prepared, the. work requires to be done and they have the men to do it. It is only obtuseness on the part of the Government in refusing to give more liberal aid which prevents the work being done.
Take the question of roads. Here I would like to reinforce what has been said from this side as to the folly of cutting down the expenditure on roads at the present time, apart altogether from the immorality of raiding the Road Fund for any other purpose. Surely there never was a time when there was more need for work to be put in hand on the roads, in order to find more employment. Apart from the roads, where 50 per cent. of the cost is paid by the Government, in all other classes of relief work the total percentage of the assistance given does not amount to more than 33 per cent. I know that the formula sounds better — 65 per cent. in some cases and 75 per cent. in other cases for half the period of the loan, but that works out, as is obvious, and as has been shown by the various local authorities, at something between 25 per cent. and 33 per cent. of the total cost, leaving the greater part of the burden still to 1715 be borne by the local authority. Where the local authorities in many cases are burdened with rates of 18s. and 20s. and more in the £, it is impossible for them to go on financing work which is really of a national character.
In many cases the people in these districts, especially the heavy iron and steel districts, went there during the War in order to expedite the manufacture of munitions, and they were left there when the War finished and are unable to move on account of the shortage of houses, with the result that these districts, which did their part so well during the War, are now landed with a bigger proportion of the unemployed than is their natural due. There is very strong reason why these districts should have help in the way of a larger percentage of grants so that they may put in hand work of a useful character, which will help to maintain the moral of the men and give valuable return for the money that is expended.
With regard to the administration of the new Regulations, there is one point to which I would like to draw the special attention of the Minister. It is a point which is being interpreted by the local committee so that where a man has had stamps for what is called relief work, the stamps are not being counted, in many cases, as qualifying him, under the Regulations, for extended benefit. I know that the stamps, as stamps, count: to his credit as far as striking a balance is concerned, but in so far as the consideration goes as to whether he has been employed in insurable employment in the previous two years, it has in many cases meant that the local committees are refusing to count work of that character as qualifying for benefit. That is, manifestly, unfair, because this is work of a useful character. In many cases it is street work, sewage work, etc., carried on by a corporation, and work on which, if the corporation were not getting a grant in respect of it, these men would probably be engaged in the course of their ordinary occupation. Moreover, the men have paid the stamps and have been forced to contribute the stamps, and they are entitled to the benefits that accrue. A promise was given by the Parliamentary Secretary that amended instruction?! would be sent out, but I understand, in answer to a question, that they have not 1716 been sent out. I hope he will assure me to-night that that amended instruction will be sent out without further delay, so that this sense of injustice can be removed.
§ Captain BRASS
I am very glad to think that hon. Members opposite have put down this Vote, not because I think the Government ought to be censured, but because it relates to the vital question which this country has to consider at the present time. I do not want to make any sort of provocative speech. I was sorry to hear the words that fell from the lips of the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) when he spoke about the windy sympathy, the sympathy of wind, from the Prime Minister.
§ Captain BRASS
I think he assumed that the Prime Minister was talking in a windy way. I do not think that is a fair thing to say. The question is, What can this House do to solve the problem of unemployment? I was disappointed with the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He started very well, and I thought he would have developed an argument which was a very serious argument, namely, that the position of unemployment in this country is not a temporary matter, but a matter of permanency at the present time. The Minister of Labour dealt with many figures, and with the Unemployment Insurance Act. I do not propose to go into the Unemployment Insurance Act, but I do intend to mention some figures to which I would draw the attention of hon. Members. The solution of the unemployment problem, to my way of thinking, is not in finding temporary employment, but in finding permanent employment for the people of this country. The making of roads by weavers, and so on, is not permanent employment for the people in industry in this country. What we need to do is to try to find some solution for our problem and to create a condition where we can have some sort of permanent employment for the people who are coming into industry and those who are already in industry.
The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs suggested that there was a danger that we might think that, if our unemployment figures were reduced to a 1717 certain extent, we were in a fair way of solving the unemployment problem. I think there is a danger there. If the unemployment figures fall by a certain small percentage, there is a danger of the people in this country beginning to think that the real problem of unemployment, which is somewhere round about 1,250,000, is in a fair way of being solved. That is not the case. At the present time, we have 40,000 more men of employable age unemployed in this country than we had this time last year. Let us examine the real position of this country to-day. I would like hon. Members to follow me in the few figures I am about to give, because this is not a party question at all, but a question of trying to solve one of the greatest difficulties that this country has had to solve in recent times. Before the War, the average emigration from this country was, roughly, 400,000 a year.
§ Captain BRASS
The average emigration. In the six years 1908–13, about 2,400,000 people left these shores. During the five War years, 1914–18, the average emigration from this country was 100,000 a year.
§ Captain BRASS
The average unemployment in those years was 100,000 a year. In the five years, 500,000 people left these shores who did not return. In addition there were 750,000 men killed in the War, so that in the five years of the War period 1,250,000 people left these shores and did not come back, compared with a pre-War average of 2,000,000. Consequently, during those five years we had accumulated in this country about 750,000 more people than would have been here if the pre-War rate of emigration had continued.
During the post-War period, between 1919 and 1924, the number of people who left these shores annually was on the average 200,000, instead of 400,000 a year in the six pre-War years. Consequently we have accumulated in this country in the six post-War years 1,200,000 people more than would have been here if the pre-War rate of migration had continued. If we add those together, the 1718 1,200,000 of the post-War period and the 750,000 of the War period, we find that we have accumulated 1,950,000 more people in this country than would have been here if the pre-War rate of migration had continued and the War had not taken place. Leaving Ireland out of account altogether—
§ Captain BRASS
I am not saying that 400,000 went each year. I say that the average migration was 400,000. In 1913, not 400,000, but 469,000 was the number, and, in the three years preceding 1911–1912 and 1913 the average was over 450,000. I have the figures, which I will be glad to show to the hon. Member if he would like to see them. We have accumulated in this country somewhere round about 1,700,000 people more than would have been here if the previous rate of migration had continued and there had been no war. I am merely trying to suggest a reason why we have so many people unemployed in the country. The real crux of the whole problem is not a question of trying to absorb 1,700,000 people into industry in this country. The problem which we have to solve—I think that the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) mentioned this figure—is to be able to absorb between 800,000 and 700,000 males of employable age into industry in this country.
Before the War we had a large number of people unemployed, but let us examine the post-War position to see whether it is or is not possible for us in this country to absorb this large mass of people who have been accumulated here during and since the war period. Let us examine, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs did, our export trade. Look at the cotton trade. Before the War in 1913 we exported 7,000,000,000 yards of cotton cloth from this country. In 1921 the figure had fallen to 3,100,000,000 yards. That is a very big falling off in the greatest of our exports, which accounted in pre-War times for 20 per cent. of the whole export of the country. Then look at our heavy industries. In the steel and iron industry we find that in the 1719 six pre-War years, 1908–1913, the average tonnage exported out of the country was 4,500,000 tons. In the six post-War years 1919 the average amount of steel and iron goods exported out of the country was 3,133,000 tons. Consequently there has been a drop in that industry of about 25 per cent. As far as machinery parts are concerned they have dropped very considerably. In 1913 the amount exported out of this country was 700,000 tons. In 1923 they had dropped to 450,000 tons.
What I think happened was that during the War our pre-War customers, especially in the heavy industries, unable to get the goods with which we provided them previously, installed plants in their own country for the production of those particular commodities. Not only that, but they also set up plants for increased production for war purposes, so as to provide this country and France and so on with what was necessary for war purpases. Consequently we have in the world at present too many big, heavy machinery plants as compared with the period before the War. That has happened all over the world, with the result that it has seriously affected our export trade. As the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said, our export trade at present is about three-quarters of what it was before the War.
I read a very interesting book the other day published by the Federation of British Industries — [Laughter] — hon. Members need not laugh—in which there were charts showing how the raising of money on the London market for investment abroad and the emigration and the employment went together over a period of years. Looking at these charts you will see that the amount of capital available for investment abroad, and used for an investment abroad, the number of people who emigrated out of the country, and the employment in the country all went together, and as the amount of capital for foreign loans increased so did the emigration increase and the unemployment figures in this country decreased. I feel that the real position is that we are travelling round a vicious circle. Before the War we had a surplus export in this country of somewhere round about £200,000,000 a year, that is a surplus of 1720 exports over imports. We were consequently able to invest somewhere round about £200,000,000 a year in foreign countries, developing our Dominions and so on, with the result that in this way we were able to migrate a large number of our increasing population from this country, to develop our Dominions, and to America and South America and so on.
In the three pre-War years the average amount of external capital issued on the London market was £173,000,000 a year. In the six post-War years, from 1919 to 1924, the average amount of capital used for external loans had dropped to £57,800,000 a year. In the three pre-War years we were able to invest abroad £521,000,000, but in the six post-War years we were able to invest abroad only £346,000,000, which is a very great decrease. I think there is a very close connection between the amount of capital available for investment in foreign loans and the migration from this country. At the present time we are in a very serious position. Our surplus of exports over imports has been very considerably reduced since the War for several reasons. Our invisible exports have been reduced by about £90,000,000 a year by the absorption of our investments abroad during the War period. We have to pay to the United States about £30,000,000 a year for interest and sinking fund on our debt. Our export trade has been reduced by three-quarters. Consequently we have a very small surplus exportable value to-day; we have a very small amount of money which we can use for development purposes and to help people to migrate.
We have about 1,250,000 unemployed in this country, with the result that we spend indirectly about £100,000,000 a year to keep a large number of people idle. That, again, has the result that we increase the taxation of the country to such an extent that we make it very difficult indeed for people here to export at such a price that we can compete with foreign countries. That in itself reduces our surplus exportable value; it reduces the amount of exports that we had before the War, because we are less efficient than before the War, owing to the high taxation and having to keep at least 1,250,000 people unemployed. In dealing with the uremployment problem it is not very useful to talk only of the Unemployment Insurance Act. One should make 1721 constructive suggestions and try to find, if not a solution, at least some amelioration of the present deplorable state of affairs. It really is a deplorable state of affairs. It is destroying the moral of the whole people. It is sapping the strength of the whole of the nation; and, unless the problem can be solved, there is very great danger that the British race will gradually, not disappear altogether, but become less powerful for good than before.
I suggest that the Government should consider this problem very seriously. I am much impressed with the present position, and I think that unless the Government try to do something it will not go very well with them at the next General Election, I am perfectly candid about it. I feel that if this Government goes to the country at the end of its period of office and says, "We have the same number of people unemployed as we had before the last Election," the people will not show the same confidence in them that they showed then. During the War the Government were able to create credits to the extent of some £8,000,000,000, so as to be able to carry the War to a victorious end. The Government should use the credit which it has now for the purpose of migrating a large number of people from this country, that is, settling people in our Dominions so as to develop the Dominions. We have accumulated in this country about 800,000 people who ordinarily would not be here. The Government should try to settle a large number of these people in the Dominions. If they do that the problem is solved to a very large extent. As we all know, the difficulty is not in this country. The late Secretary of State for the Colonies said, in a Debate on the Colonial Office Estimates, that there were 50,000 people in this country anxious and ready to migrate, but that the Dominions would not have them. That sums up the position.
§ Captain BRASS
They have a problem of their own, I agree, but if the scheme were properly financed from this country with the Dominions, especially Australia, there would be a fine opportunity for developing that country. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite do not agree with me, but I know there are many opposite 1722 who do agree with my suggestions. I would urge the Government to try to solve the problem in this way. They should approach Mr. Bruce, the Prime Minister of Australia, and the State Governments of Australia—they really have more to do with it than the Prime Minister, because the land belongs to the States and not to the Commonwealth— with a view to settling a large number of people from this country on the land. In that way we would gradually build up our exports again.
§ Mr. T. HENDERSON
The last speaker has repeated a commonplace in saying that this is not a party question. I always understood that the Unionist party had a cure for unemployment, and that it was Protection, the building of tariff walls, and the Safeguarding of Industries Act. I desire to be candid with the House. There is in my opinion a clear dividing line between the Conservative party and the Labour party with regard to this question. We believe we shall have unemployment until the system known to us as the capitalist system is wiped out of existence. We believe and hope that as time goes on we will be able to take such steps to deal with unemployment as we can in the circumstances we are called upon to meet, but all our actions will be governed by the idea of removing this system and establishing a new one. I am. surprised at the Minister of Labour. He must know the facts which exist in the country to-day. I wish to deal particularly with the case of a body of insured persons, the casual dock labourers, who sign in one Exchange for the whole side of the River Clyde. It is impossible for any casual dock worker to obtain extended benefit. If a casual worker goes to the Exchange, places his books in the Exchange and signs on there the manager or his officials will go back on the record of that individual for one month, and if they find that the insured person has earned half or more than half of the normal earnings during that period he becomes disentitled to benefit. That is one side of it. He cannot claim extended benefit. If he has not earned a half or more than half, the Minister's instructions are that because he has not earned half he is not entitled to benefit and, in any circumstances, the casual dock labourer is denied extended benefit.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
The Minister asks me to quote. I have taken dozens of dock labourers up to the exchange personally. This is a personal experience. I have taken them three and four times a week during the last six weeks and I know quite well that the manager of the exchange does not know what the regulation really is. I ask the Minister to explain how the casual dock labourer can comply to the extent of being allowed to get extended benefit. Here is the position. Once a dock-worker has received his full standard benefit and when he is refused extended benefit, he may be working only one day or part of a day during the week. He is entitled to receive the amount of the stamps he has put into the Exchange, but his working term is calculated, instead of stamps, and it would take him to work almost 2½, years under his present conditions before he would be entitled to receive extended benefit. So far as the casual dock-worker is concerned it is impossible to get any advantages at the Employment Exchange; I wish to explain to the Minister what is happening on Clydeside with regard to the regulations and the Act passed by the Conservative party this year. The Minister and his supporters must have understood when they passed that Act that they were going to bring great hardship and misery to the unemployed in every part of the country. What you have done is this. You have sent to the parish councils the young single man, the married woman and the man who, according to your instructions, is not entitled to extended benefit, and you have raised the payments by the parish council on the South side of the city of Glasgow from £1,800 per week to £4,756 per week. Need I tell the House that no parish council in Scotland has borrowed more than the Govan parish council, and if the Minister of Health were here we might easily understand what pressure has been brought to bear upon that parish council that the payments they are now making should be restricted.
There is no use in talking in general terms about hardships. I will give one case which is typical of many. I know a widow, who was working for 20 years and 1724 who left Glasgow in her anxiety to get employment, and went to the herring fishing at Oban. She came back to Glasgow and under your new Regulations she is not entitled to benefit. All the benefit she has drawn has been for a period of five weeks although, as I say, she has been working regularly for the last 20 years. Again, we have the case of a woman who has been deserted by her husband. The man we understand is in Canada, The woman was working steadily for one year prior to signing on at the Exchange and she was refused benefit because she declined to go round the residential districts knocking at the doors and asking that she should be allowed to wash floors and do work of that kind. Whatever may be the custom in this part of the country, no woman in Scotland is accustomed to do that kind of thing. This woman's claim was disallowed under Regulations about which we know nothing at all. When we go to the Exchange to find why benefit has been disallowed we cannot learn the reason. If we write to the Minister's Department we get the usual answer. We desire to ask those who have the power, to go more carefully into these cases, to see that the Department is more generous, and to see that cases of the kind mentioned are dealt with fairly. In the case of the single man, especially, more generosity should be shown. A man of 23 is debarred from benefit; a man of 25 is allowed benefit. The circumstances may be very hard in both cases, and the mere factor of age should not deprive a man of his rights. The Minister has explained to the House to-night that he has a sympathy for the working-class people on the Clydeside, a part of the country that has suffered perhaps more than any other part through unemployment, and I want him to see if he cannot do something to take away the hardships that his Regulations are creating. If he does that, while we do not agree with him or his party or his policy, we can at least feel some regard for his actions.
Mr. ROY WILSON
I have listened to-day to the speeches which have been made, and I think I have listened to every Debate in this Parliament on the subject of unemployment, and I want to-night to try to approach this question from, perhaps, rather a different angle 1725 from that from which it alias been approached by other speakers. I want to give my views to the House on the whole question of unemployment as briefly as I can, the views of a plain business man, and it seems to me that, if we are going to get a proper perspective and to come to any reasonable solution of the difficulties which surround this most complex question, we must strip our minds of party prejudice and try to face the business facts as they exist. I ask myself, first of all: What, is the cause of the unrest among the people of this country? The next question I ask myself is: What are the underlying causes which are operating in the country and which lie at the root of unemployment? If we can answer these questions, then I think we can satisfy ourselves upon two very important facts, and we can turn then to the question of what is the appropriate remedy for the difficulties with which we are faced.
It is not unfair to say that the principal cause of the unrest among our people in this country is that during the War they became accustomed to a higher standard of living, and I do not think that is a bad thing. It is a good thing, but I very strongly hold this view—that if a higher standard of living is to be maintained by the people of this country, they must face certain economic facts and bring all possible intelligence to bear to overcome those facts. My second point is the underlying causes of this scourge of unemployment, which has baffled the statesmen of all parties during the last few years. It is not unfair to say that those causes may be summed up under three heads.
The first cause of unemployment is that in a world greatly impoverished by the War we find ourselves in the position that competing countries are able to produce, not only raw materials, but manufactured articles, on terms with which we at present cannot compete. There are factors in their favour, such as depreciated exchanges, longer hours of labour, and lower wages, with which at this moment I do not propose to deal, but the facts certainly show that we find ourselves in a position in which we cannot favourably compete. The second factor underlying the difficulties besetting this unemployment problem is this: All the 1726 industries in this country are labouring under enormous overhead expenses and charges, and in many cases extravagant administrative expenses, and they are labouring under a burden of high taxes and high rates which makes it extremely difficult to weather the difficult days through which we are passing. The third factor—and I mention this last, although, in my judgment, it is by no manner of means the least important—is the extremely high cost of living for the necessaries of life for our people, and particularly for our workers.
It is not difficult to state, as I have stated, quite shortly, the reasons which are at the bottom of this unemployment scourge, and it is perhaps not too easy to find the remedies, but if we can be satisfied as to what those remedies are to be, I think it is the plain duty of every one of us to apply them with all the vigour at our command, and I propose to ask the House to bear with me for a very few minutes if I indicate, quite briefly, what I think those remedies will have to be. First of all, I am convinced that some means must be found for a greater output by our manufacturers and by our producers of raw materials. Whether that is to be done by improved methods, by improved machinery, or by a speeding-up process, I am not prepared to-night to argue, but quite clearly that is a most important factor, and I, for one, believe that it can be solved, or very largely solved, if our people will only apply themselves, manufacturers and employers and workpeople, to a solution of that particular point.
The second point that I made was the high cost of the administrative side of the businesses and industries of the country. I should like to ask a question, which really is not very difficult to answer, and it is this: What is the root cause, what is the usual cause, underlying the bankruptcy or the failure of a commercial company? To one who has in the last 30 years practised banking that is not a very difficult question to answer. Indeed, I am safe in saying that you will find two causes operating almost invariably when you find firms getting into the bankruptcy court or going into liquidation, and those two causes are, first, extravagant and expensive administration expenses, and, secondly, a long list of bad and doubtful debts. Those two factors are at the bot- 1727 tom of the trouble in our national finances to-day. We have extravagant overhead expenses, and we have a long list of bad and very doubtful debts, and those factors are constituting a tremendous clog upon industry generally in this country.
The question of our heavy national burden is common knowledge in this House, but I want to say, as a very humble supporter of His Majesty's Government, that I most profoundly hope that when the Cabinet are considering, as I believe they are considering, the question of ruthless economy, they will not hesitate, under these special circumstances, to apply the most drastic reductions all round in our general expenses. I want to make my position in this respect perfectly clear. I hope, if there is to be a drastic cut all round, that it is not going to rest upon the shoulders of any one class. I trust that the burdens, if they have to be borne, will be distributed fairly upon the shoulders of the whole of the community, and as a particular instance I will take the question of our debts. We know that the Government is engaged at the present time in getting a funding arrangement from our continental debtors, and I can only profoundly hope that success will attend their efforts.
My third point was the cost of living. I am convinced, beyond any shadow of doubt in my own mind, that there is gross profiteering going on in certain sections of the community. May I give one very simple example, a very humble example, within my own knowledge? Two articles of daily consumption of most people in this country, jam and marmalade, are being sold in the retail shops of the West Coast of Africa at a good deal less per 2 lb. pot than a similar pot of jam or marmalade is being sold to the workers in the industrial suburbs of London. It is not a question of the rebate on Sugar Duty. There is a very heavy import duty on those Colonies of 20 per cent. ad valorem. There are high freights, insurance, overhead expenses, and a profit required from those foreign branches, and I am satisfied in my own mind that that is a fair example, which I commend to the attention of the Food Council, and it is only one of many which show that the prices of the necessaries of life are too high in this country. [An 1728 HON. MEMBER: "What is the maker of the jam?"] Keiller, of Dundee.
I do not wish to be provocative, and I desire to keep away from party questions. These are the facts. In conclusion. I want to say this with all earnestness, particularly to my hon. Friends opposite. In view of the difficulties which are surrounding industry to-day, in view of the fact that, at any rate in certain respects, and in certain districts of the country, we see just a slight shade of improvement, in these industries, is this a time for one of the great sheltered industries in this country to come forward with a proposal for an increase of wages? If that were granted, I think all of us in this House know that it would bear very harshly upon other industries which to-day are struggling to keep themselves alive. I do ask hon. Members, particularly those who are the leaders of the trade unions in this country, to approach these matters, bearing in mind the well-being of the whole community. Finally, may I say, in all seriousness, it does seem to me that, during the next few months, the leaders of the great unions of this country will be face to face with a very great responsibility. They will have to take one of two courses. They will either have to take that course which will lead their people along paths of sanity and reason, and help them to understand the difficult economic factors which have to be faced if we are to get back to brighter and happier days, or they will have take them along that dark and dangerous path where force is to be the argument, the end of which no one can foresee. I do hope that with the great responsibility which will be theirs during the next few weeks, they will decide to take the wise, sensible and businesslike course. If they do not, I am profoundly convinced that we shall be led into a period of great misery, and it may be that even this generation will not recover from the added difficulties which such a course will involve.
§ Mr. RITSON
The speech just delivered, or the latter part of it, combined the attitude of the "Daily Mail" and 1729 the Home Secretary. These terrible doubts as to what is going to happen in May, these prophecies and half-threats are causing more trouble than all the actual facts put together. There are two or three kinds of mischief-makers who ought to be before the Judges at the earliest opportunity. I want to say something with regard to the mining situation. I cannot understand the attitude of the Minister or his Department in this regard. What I have got to complain of for the moment is that in Durham in particular his Department is hindering us at every turn. We are anxious as far as we can to keep the peace. We find that the action of the Umpire in two or three cases has put us in a rather serious predicament. I want to refer to the question of Sherburn House Colliery. It is rather a local matter. In this case the men have been idle for 68 weeks. They were refused benefit before. It was said that it was a trade dispute, and they refused to take reductions below a figure at which they could live.
It may astonish the House to know that in Durham and in Northumberland the arangement was that if the miners produced so much, they got a reduction at the end of each quarter. That was for putting energy into their work. That system has been broken down, and because our people refuse to take a reduction after having given their best to the country, it was then decided that; it was a trade dispute. The Referee gave a decision in favour of the men, but the Umpire turned them down. These men accept a reduction so far. It is again refused by the owners. They offer another reduction, and again it is refused by the owners, and in August a deputation went to the management and asked if it were possible, with the aid of the subsidy, for their colliery to be re-opened. The statement of the agent for the management was that even with the aid of the subsidy it was impossible to open the colliery, as they would lose 2s. 2d. a ton if they did. Yet these men are refused benefits. We have applied again and again. We find that these people, who are not allowed to have any relief, are then turned down by the board of guardians because they are able-bodied workmen. We go to the Minister of Health and ask his assistance, and he says he takes the, Merthyr Tydvil 1730 decision. Because these men are refusing work as able-bodied men, they will have to starve!
The position is this. We have now been told that the colliery started yesterday. Only 100 men out of 1,200 have got a start, but because the Umpire has given a. decision on the original case we are told that the balance of men who cannot get started cannot possibly get their unemployment benefits, as the Umpire has given his decision. These men have been starved into submission. An hon. Friend below made a speech on the position in Wales. Let mo tell him this: that we have as fine a class of men at that particular colliery as it is possible to have in any part of the country. They are men who have saved their last penny and who have given to everything it was possible to give in charity and now have to sell their furniture and the bailiffs are standing at the door. Everything those people have atempted to do has been turned down by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour, and now the women and children are starving.
I would like to say this to the Government. I see no hope in the coal trade if you are going to treat men thus, who are thrown out because they have refused to go down below the cost of living, you will never get men contented and get that co-operation talked of on the other side of the House. You can never get it when men are treated like that. You not only arouse the spirit of the men, but the spirit of the women, and when you arouse the spirit of the North Country women, history tells you they are more determined than the men to fight to the last ditch. With regard to the action of the Department in regard to new Regulations, there is to-day in our colliery district a hardship that the Minister cannot possibly agree with. Take his Regulation with regard to 10s. per head being sufficient for a family. There is a coal hewer in Durham making, say, £2 10s. a week, and he has lads of 22 or 23—so long as they are under 25— who have subscribed to unemployment benefit ever since they were 16. But because the father earns £2 10s. a week and has two great big lads who have contributed since they were 16, because they are under 25 these young men are struck off and cannot be allowed benefit. You are asking for the young men to get the 1731 spirit of their forefathers! You are killing the spirit of the rising generation of both young men and young women. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), whose wit seemed to be as eloquent as his tongue, He has made the same speech ever since he started to criticise; the same speech, word for word; simply a recitation that he has got off, and ail the additions he made to it to-day was in reference to the lack of discipline in his own party. So far as I am concerned, I am not going beyond this: I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman that one of the things which has made our people distrust politicians was, that he began the rot by making more promises than he ever could fulfill. He came before us, as a mining community, not only in Durham and Northumberland, and promised that he would not only take us to the gates of Heaven but take us to the Welsh hills, which appeared to be greater. [An HON. MEMBER: "Come over here!"] I do not want to go over there. I am a very strict teetotaller, like the Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor).
On that last question, I would like to say that teetotallers are not confined to any section of this House.
§ Mr. RITSON
I would like to say to the Noble Lady that there are some teetotallers I am very proud of and there are others I fear. It is not the preaching; it is what you do. I was going to say with regard to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that, after all, we do not trust him. He can come here and make as many speeches as he likes and ask the Government in a reasonable tone and take the very course that is always natural with him of differing from nobody and yet being apart from everybody. I have no use for lighter-than-air politicians. I have often said that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs went to the gates of Heaven together and the goodly Saint asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what gate he wanted, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would say, "Any gate so long as I get in." On the other hand, if he asked the right hon. 1732 Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, the goodly Saint would say, "I have known you from the beginning, and I have left both gates ajar for you, never knowing which way you were coming." I would rather trust honestly the Minister who is in charge of this Department, bad as it is, because after all I do not blame the Minister so much. I feel that the Department has got the better of the Minister and it is our duty, and it is your duty on that side, if you want to keep us together and to work, to give us something different from what is coming from that Department at the present time, encouraged by the "Daily Mail," a spirit that our people are lazy. Our people will work at any moment, but in the meantime give them sustenance and do not talk about relief work. Go,and bring back the capital our forefathers created—it is invested in foreign lands with sweated labour—and then we should co-operate and make this country greater than it has been.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
The hon. Member who has just entertained the House so vastly with his speech has perhaps not enlightened us a great deal in a serious Debate. I do not know whether his humorous sallies at the expense of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) will help us very much to solve the great problem of unemployment, or that a very great contribution towards that solution was contributed by him. I would say that on this subject I have heard so many Debates of this character in this House that I am a little weary—[HON. MEMBERS: "So are we all! "]—by the successive attacks on successive parties as to what they have promised and what they have not done in this matter. I do not think that a member of the Labour party is exactly the person to hurl brickbats at. the heads of other people in this respect. We have not advanced a great deal. I will say this: that everything which has been done and which is operating to-day for the benefit of the unemployed was the creation of the Cabinet of which I was a member. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yon said that last time!" and interruption.] It is absolutely true. Nobody has yet, unfortunately, added anything by way of improvement. I regret to say, nobody more than myself, that nothing has been done to improve the steps taken 1733 in those years. That is a statement of fact which cannot be challenged. I regret it.
Perhaps I, more than any other man, advocated for years that further steps, that decided steps, should be taken to help unemployment in this country. Why should we have a policy of subsidising idleness rather than work? We ought not to be deterred in this matter by departmental red tape, or by the fears of economic purists; we should realise that the money which has been subscribed, as to three-quarters of it, by industry, should be used for the purposes of giving work in industry instead of giving inadequate benefits. The workers would certainly prefer to use their money in order to obtain work than accept an adequate dole. I agree with what has been said in this respect from the Labour Benches on that aspect of the case, though some of the observations and interruptions are irrelevant to any discussion on this subject, whilst they are very difficult perhaps to deal with—[An Hon. MEMBER: "What about your own firm?"] In reply to that I can inform the hon. Member that we have created and issued£ 100,000 in ordinary shares in two years to our workmen and they have taken them up. But if we are discussing this matter, do lot us discuss it on a basis that we are anxious, so far as we can, to help, and not by jeers and insults to any of us take away value from the Debate.
§ Sir A. MOND
I made a statement which I repeat, that in the case of emergency, and continued unemployment, going on year after year, that no party and no Government has any particular reason to congratulate itself on the result of its efforts. I still adhere to the views I have expressed, and which I intend to go on repeating, that still more radical and more revolutionary stops—if you like —ought to be taken in order to subsidise work instead of idleness. Nothing has cheered me more in this matter than to find one of the big unions of this country, the Boilermakers, recently addressed to the Prime Minister a communication with similar conclusions to those which I have reached. They have put forward a scheme to the effect that it is better for 1734 industry, better for the morale of the men themselves, and that it would increase the happiness of these people, if, instead of frittering away a river of gold, which is being paid away into the sands year after year, to the extent of something like £100,000,000, the matter should be otherwise dealt with. I cannot understand the objections which have been raised. These objections seem to me to carry no more weight, if you look at the gravity of the position, than they have carried all the time.
Only yesterday I had put into my hands a very interesting document published, I think, by the Foreign Office, dealing with the position of unemployment in Germany. Without going into the details of this brochure, I was interested to find that in Germany the unemployment funds which have been contributed by employed and employer are being used on relief works in order to create work. The Ministry of Labour shrunk terror-stricken, owing to Departmental opposition, and what not, from the idea of a subsidy to trade. But, I would ask how can a Government which only a few months ago threw something like £20,000,000 to the coal industry without any condition, without any scheme, without any guarantee that a single more miner would he employed, how can a Government sitting on those benches in those circumstances raise the cry of the wickedness of subsidising industry out of funds which have been contributed, three-quarters, by the industry for the purpose of what? For the purpose of helping the unemployed. The Unemployment Insurance Scheme was created in order to help the unemployed, not simply for the paying out of benefits. Why cannot you give the, workmen the option in this matter? The hon. Gentleman who last spoke said, I fully agree, what is perfectly true. People who cannot find employment today are anxious to find it. If that be so, why do we not allow those men to have the money, and to use the money for what they consider a special purpose, and not care for what anybody else thinks about the matter?
Why should the workman not be allowed to exchange it for full-time work at full trade union wages? Why are you stopping him? I would say to him: "So long as you are doing the work, here is the money." I cannot understand the psychology of those who put themselves 1735 in an opposite position. I know there are many objections that people have raised to the subsidising of efficient and inefficient, and they have expressed fears of that which really does not in fact exist. Raise objections to every scheme if you like. But I challenge the Front Bench opposite, or the Front Bench on this side of the House, or hon. Members in any part of the House, to produce any scheme by way of alleviation that is seriously going to improve the condition of affairs.
We have heard many reasons for the cause of unemployment. We have been creating unemployment in this country by our financial policy. Nobody can deny that fact. Nobody can deny that the Government's gold standard policy must create, at any rate for a certain time, more unemployment. The working man is entitled to say to those who have created unemployment, "You have got to find us employment, to make employment. "Take the shipbuilding industry itself. It has suffered directly from the action of the Government, suffered from the taking over of German ships as reparation. No body can deny that. [An HON. MEMBER: "You were a member of the Government who did it.!"] Never mind whether I was in office then, that does not make the fact any different. It has suffered, undoubtedly, from the fiscal policy we have pursued, and therefore my conclusion is that it is entitled to special consideration, and I think the claim put forward on its behalf ought to have a very great deal of support. There is a difficulty undoubtedly, a considerable difficulty, which one cannot overlook, and that is that there is in existence to-day in the world a large surplus of shipping, and the question is whether the creation of more ships would serve any useful purpose. But is it not the fact that a great deal of the existing shipping is obsolete? Is it not the fact that the sooner it is scrapped the better? Is it not the fact that we are losing a certain amount of our shipping supremacy by trying to continue to run obsolete craft against modern craft, and would it not be better to build modem craft and retain our position in shipping, hastening the destruction of the obsolete ships, which have been waiting overlong for the scrap-heap? To-day we are, I 1736 think, at a turning point. I am not a pessimist about British industry, I am not a pessimist about this country or any part of its population. There is no doubt that we still have ahead of us a road which is difficult to traverse, but also, there is no doubt that the narrower the margin gets between the cost of production being too high and the purchasing power being too low, the easier it is to tip the balance the other way.
We have heard to-day, not unnaturally, complaints about the difficulties and hardships of those engaged in the mining industry, and their hardship in not receiving unemployment benefit when, perhaps, they ought to be entitled to it. The receipt of unemployment benefit is an extraordinarily unsatisfactory solution of the unemployment question. It is no solution at all. If we got the heavy metal industry going the coal industry would automatically begin to improve. Surely it is time some effort was made. There is one part of the scheme which I have proposed, and about which so many difficulties have been raised, to which I would especially like to draw attention, and that is the question of allowing local authorities, public utility societies, Parliamentary companies with statutory rights and limited dividends, to make use of this scheme if the Government are not willing to extend it to industry generally. I have had letters—I do not want to weary the House with them—from local authorities, urban and rural district councils, borough councils, county councils, and public utility companies, assuring me that with the help of my scheme they could set a considerable number of people to work. What harm would that do? In what way would this be any worse or any more dangerous to the Lord St. David's Grants Committee or other methods which have been adopted? To me it is amazing to hear the Government say that a scheme of subsidy would be ruinous to the morale and industry of the country, and at the same time to see them using the Trade Facilities Act, which is a subsidy in another way. There is no essential difference in principle between the one and the other, and, therefore, surely we should try to make a beginning and see.
I feel it is a reflection on our whole social organisation, our capacity for 1737 organisation that year after year we have this vast army of unemployed marching about with nothing to do. I heard only last night a gentleman who, I suppose, is one of the greatest experts in the labour world on the miner's question, and who had recently been to Germany. In the coal valleys of the Ruhr they are having exactly the same difficulties that we are. Poor pits are being closed down and 100,000 miners were put out of work. Of those miners 75,000 have been found work in one way or another—on the land, on relief work, and in other directions, with the assistance of the German Government. Of the 100,000 only 25,000 are to-day on the unemployment benefit list. Here we have 249,000 miners on the registers, and we are told that no more relief work can be started, that no more money is to be voted—less money is being voted this year than previously. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman and his Department, cannot the Government, understand the evil of teaching people not to work, not to be active and do things, not to produce things, but to receive money for doing nothing? There is not a statesman in the Empire or on the Continent I have talked to who can understand the attitude we take up. I remember talking in this House not very long ago to the Premier of Ontario, He told me of the great depression they had about12months ago in that Province and in Toronto. He said: "We laid down one principle. No man gets any money who does not work when we find work for him. How can you go on with the system you have adopted in this country? Cannot you sec that you will in time create a class of people who are neither capable of work, nor willing to work? "Surely financial considerations and organizing difficulties cannot be allowed to stand in the way of preventing the continual demoralisation of some of the finest and best technicians the world has ever produced or seen. You cannot keep a reserve army in a state of demoralisation and expect it at a moment's notice, when you want it to enter the battle line, to come up to scratch, after months during which it has had little exercise or food. It is as industrially foolish as it is humanly wicked. Therefore I hope, even at this last moment, that the present Government, with their vast majority, their uncon- 1738 trolled command, their unassailable position and a sympathetic Prime Minister, will really take their courage in both hands and launch out in a large, substantial and courageous manner. Years ago, when I was on the Cabinet Committee, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was a colleague of mine, when great schemes were brought up to employ the unemployed on a large scale how often was I told, "Oh, it is no use starting on that scheme. It will take three years and you never will have the men at the finish." I wish we had disregarded those advisers and started those schemes, because we should have had to-day something to show for the money.
Why did we go on deluding ourselves year after year? We can afford to under take big schemes to find work for the workers. I shall never forget when I was in Athens some time ago there I found a poor war-worn country with a population of less than 10,000,000 and there were something like 1,000,000 refugees from Asia Minor and Constantinople arriving and bringing with them their furniture and belongings, and they were quite destitute. They had to be housed and fed and sot to work. Their devotion and zeal was remarkable, and yet that task was accomplished and, what is more, was accomplished with financial help from this country, because we lent them a big loan to re-establish the unemployed, and yet we are told that we are entirely incapable of providing money to do the same thing for our own unemployed. What an extraordinary position! We can lend millions to Greece for this purpose, but we are so chary and bankrupt that we cannot find the means of helping our own people. The figures of our expenditure to-day would have quite staggered us before the War, but we have got so used to the chronic state of this disease that we have begun to look upon it with indifference in all directions. This serious canker in the State is one which breeds discontent and from which revolutions are bred. This is a canker which every citizen is interested to see cut out, and unless the Government are prepared to tackle it, not in the kind of spirit we have seen up to the present and not in a spirit of complacency, there will be no silver lining unless it is tackled in the spirit which the country will demand, a 1739 spirit of more resolute action and greater courage than those who are sitting on the Treasury Bench to-day have shown.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) is in a very special position in regard to this matter. So far as hon. Members opposite and ourselves are concerned, we have a political feud with each other, and we fight across the Floor of the House. The right hon. Gentleman has a political feud with himself. He has been telling us of a most wonderful scheme for dealing with this difficulty that was devised to punish Germany by bringing German ships here, and he said that that was of such a business character that it is necessary for the State now to compensate the industry for this action. The right hon. Gentleman has produced a scheme for dealing with the unemployed about which we have heard a great deal, and he has proceeded to make certain replies to those who attacked that scheme. Those replies he made were not addressed to us, but they were replies made to his own colleagues sitting on his own benches. I think it is beet to leave the right hon. Gentleman to fight his own battles in a sort of civil war while we, like God-fearing nations, fight eachother. There is. one thing that I can thoroughly agree with in the speech of the Minister of Labour. He said that if we all get into the habit of crying stinking fish against ourselves, our greatest enemy will very quickly become ourselves; that those who have been responsible for saying that Great Britain is in some terrible danger of collapse and getting rotten about its roots or foundations are unpatriotic; and that if there is any improvement in trade now, it is in spite of the attacks that these gentlemen have made upon this Measure. They agreed with that and the truth of it has struck the Government Bench, but there is something else, and it is that any hon. Member who reads the American newspapers will agree with me that nothing has done our reputation more damage in America than the only very partially true statements that are made, particularly by hon. Members opposite, about what they call the "dole."
As they represent the dole, it is a piece of the most impudent State charity that 1740 has ever been devised. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!' and "Name!"] It is the argument that the dole is something for nothing. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] That is so. That is the impression which has got abroad, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen supported me, because he referred to a very wise remark that some Canadian Prime Minister had made. I hope the right hon. Gentleman enlightened him about his error that this country seems to be handing out millions of money to people whose one claim is that they are out of work, because that is not the case. This is fundamentally an insurance. A friend of mine who came back from America the other day, and who is one of my colleagues on this bench, when I asked him what information and what wisdom he picked up on the other side of the Atlantic, drew an exceedingly long and solemn face, and he said, "The great damage which is being done to our business reputation and our political intelligence is being done by false descriptions of the dole." We have heard again from the Minister of Labour that he is a very well-intentioned man. He always tells us that, and, if he would be so good as to make a note of it, I would suggest that he takes my word, as the representative of all my party, that it is unnecessary to raise that again. We want to know the record. He spoke for an hour, and, really, what did he say? A good many small things—he could not help that in 60 minutes—but nothing that really showed that the Government are seriously settling down to tackle the two big questions, how to improve our national trade and how to deal with the peculiar features of unemployment as we now experience it. Those are the two vexed questions which require to be settled. What is happening? We know perfectly well from the unemployment figures during the time the Government have been in office that there has been no substantial diminution. They have failed to reduce the figures for unemployment. We know from the figures that wages in the meantime are down. We know that, taking our home market, as represented by the consuming capacity of the mass of our people, that market, at the end of a little over 12 months, is less fruitful for the producer, is less capable as a demanding agency for 1741 British labour than it was on the first day when they sat on the bench opposite.
That is the second thing that we know. The third thing that we know is that there are more unemployed people to-day without sustenance than there were six months ago. We know that there is greater pressure upon the Poor Law authorities now, and greater burdens are put directly upon property on account of that pressure, than was the case 13 months ago. As a contrast, more care has been taken of the rich people during the last 12 months than since the War. Their taxation is less, and their possessions are more stable, by a mere administrative Act. The alloy in their gold has been taken out, and the gold remains. Their consumption is greater. If we examine the figures for the production of luxuries, we see that there is more demand for luxuries in this country than before. The financial policy of the country during the last 12 months has been a policy of easement for those who have, and, in so far as assistance has been given to the poor, the adjustment in the burdens which are borne by those who supply the national income has been so manipulated that the poor themselves have to pay for it. That is the situation. The great contribution that was made to that situation was made by the Minister of Labour when he made reflections upon the repeal of the McKenna Duties. I am not quite sure if I can reproduce his words; I wish I could. It was the most insane thing, or the most foolish thing, that was ever done! ("HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I knew that the encouragement of hon. Members would be drawn forth by that remark. The right hon. Gentleman gave us some figures yesterday in reply to questions. He wants to maintain the reputation of his party for counting; he believes in figures. Well, there are his own figures. He was asked if he would give the numbers of insured persons in the McKenna industries. He said that he could not give them all, but would give the main ones.
He was asked if he could give the number of unemployed persons in the same industries at the two periods, the one the end of the protected period and the other the end of the unprotected period. In July, 1924, in the con- 1742 struction and repair of motor vehicles, cycles and aircraft, the number insured was 201,000. In 1925, at the end of the unprotected period, it was 213,000. That is degradation. That is counting 201,000 as more than 213,000. We are not prophesying; we are counting. Whatever we may think of the right hon. Gentleman, he did not pose to-day as a prophet, but took his stand properly upon ascertained, recorded facts, which had been counted, 201,000 is fewer than 213,000 in Labour mathematics, but more, I suppose, in Tory mathematics. Then take, the numbers recorded at Employment Exchanges as unemployed. On the 28th July, 1924, at the end of the protective period, the number was 15,969, and on the 27th July, 1925, it was 13,911.
I am, for the moment at any rate, a passive counter in the hands of the Front Government Bench. I take the figures which they have presented to us. Then Protection came in again, his wonderful salve—[Hour. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] —the batteries have been unmasked again—for industrial ills. And this is what it means in figures. It is the counting side of this. Until 6th October, 1935, after the McKenna Duties had been in operation again—[Interruption.] Is the philosophy that to begin with it is going to deteriorate the position of labour? That is not what you told us before. The 13,900 unemployed became 15,200. The same is the case with the lace industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the total employed?"] The total employed has nothing whatever to do with the figures of unemployment beyond the figures I have quoted. I have quoted the total insured employés and the ratio, whatever may be the number of uninsured, which I should imagine must be next to nothing—I quoted the number of employed who are insured. I said that the McKenna Duties being imposed, that number was reduced. The. reduced number. the number of unemployed, went up. A larger number of unemployed persons with a smaller number of employed persons means a. larger percentage. That is the sum and substance of their achievement.
Then regarding their policy the right hon. Gentleman quoted me. What is the use of laying down those mere doctrines 1743 which are perfectly sound? How is he applying them? He is applying them by ceasing to discriminate as to what relief work is not for the reduction of industrial capital and what relief work is. That is the whole point, that he and I—he there now, a Labour Minister if he was going to succeed him from this side— would have to do. What is it? [An HON. MEMBER: "Reduce rates!"] That is a clever interjection and a contribution worthy of the hon. Member who made it. I am trying to get something that is really of importance and something that is a matter of principle. How is this differentiation going to take place? The right hon. Gentleman says, "I am just going to give two or three figures." Is that a foreshadow of the raid the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to make on the Road Fund? I suppose the Chancellor has got the Minister of Labour in his pocket and the Minister of Labour, who ought to fight harder than anyone else for the keeping of this fund as it was established for the purpose for which it was established, for the purpose of providing opportunities, as it has done, of putting thousands of men on to fruitful and useful work, has apparently yielded and has warned us that the Chancellor is going to make his raid on the Road Fund and the Minister of Labour is going to acquiesce. We shall see.
There is another thing. There is the whole question of training for national development. He has told us about training for emigration. It is the same old story. We will make presents of millions of pounds, in training brains and intelligence and creating skill, to the Dominions. I understood that there was a scheme for emigration and for the training of emigrants.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I am surprised the right hon. Gentleman did not. It is one of the many defects of his speech. That is part of the relief scheme. The Road Fund is part of the relief scheme. If you reduce the Road Fund by millions, you will reduce your opportunities for starting relief funds. I am interested in this emigration scheme, but I do not want training for emigration only. I want training for settlement in our own country. 1744 We know perfectly well what has been the result so far. How often have we tried to get land settlement here, and how often have we failed! We were to settle ex-soldiers on the land. In a sort of good-hearted way and with most genuine intentions it was said: "We will help you to go on the land." They went. You have lost millions of pounds on it. But that is not the last word.
We are not going to allow the land to become derelict because this experiment or that experiment has failed, because whereever you make comparisons, whether in Denmark or anywhere else, you find conditions as bad as ours, markets as uncertain as ours, climate as unpropitious as ours, soil as heartbreaking as ours, all conquered by will and the training of men, and we can do it here. I want that done as part and parcel of the unemployment scheme. There was nothing said about that; no attempt to use money, to use time, to bring the unemployed man and the unemployed land, the undeveloped land, and the undeveloped resources into an industrial and economic union.
Time passes and the money goes. Twelve months have passed, and the Government have not produced a single scheme. They have not advanced an inch any of the ideas that were being worked out before. They just come here and tell us that in the normal development of things trade is becoming a little better than it was six months ago, and that good trade will absorb the unemployed eventually, and we shall go on as we are going. That is practically all that has been said by the Government to-day. What about housing? What about the absorption of thousands of individuals into useful spheres of employment? Every week we see in trade papers opportunities for development, while the Government is quiescent, doing nothing. If unemployment ended tomorrow, by a tremendous outburst in the expansion of our trade, the Ministry of Labour would not leave in its pigeon-holes one single constructive scheme that could be taken up five or six years from now in order to help us to solve the problem that would come upon us again in a period of unemployment.
Before I conclude, I wish to say a word about this dole. The dole is a thing 1745 which one simply hates. That anybody, rich or poor, should live without doing service to the community, without working either by muscle or by brain, is one of the most immoral ideas that can come to infest, and poison the social mind of people. But what are you going to do? This is a matter upon which one would like all sorts of ideas to come up. This is what one expects Governments to keep on trying and trying to get away out of. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Why did not you?"] We did. [Laughter.] Why that vacant laugh? We did not succeed. Need you laugh at that?
§ Mr. MacDONALD
How are we going to bring together the sound idea that the dole is bad, and the adoption of some method of insurance or otherwise, supplemented every now and again by special payments such as we are now having to give on account of the special nature of unemployment? How are we going to bring those two together and observe the moral requirements of one and the physical and humane necessity of the other? There was nothing gave me more pride than to learn from a member of a board of guardians in the constituency which I have the honour to represent that attentive months' idleness in certain steelworks in my constituency, with 400 people out of work, the people drew upon their own savings, and out of the whole lot only three, by reason of specially low pay and specially large families, had to go to the board of guardians for extra help. That is the sort of thing that makes one proud of one's people. This must be emphasised. Hon. Members on the other side are always emphasising it.
Then what is your policy about it? What is being done to fulfil the purpose of the dole and yet to protect ourselves against its inevitable evil consequences if it becomes habitual? Nothing except knock off. Every one whom you can manage somehow or another to knock off goes off. Not for moral reasons—I should be sympathetic with that—but to enable you to pose as philanthropists next year and pay new pensions to widows, of which the unemployed people have to stand a large share. The right hon. Gentleman gave us that case of the woman living with her husband, having 1746 £5 a week, and being knocked off. He gave that as something for which he and the present Government policy were responsible. Does he mean to tell this House that before he issued his circular, before he changed the law, that case would not have been considered by the local Committee, and that the chances are that it would not have been knocked off? Of course, he does not because he cannot. That case, if 12 months ago it had been brought before a local committee, and the local committee had done, its duty, would never have been the subject of extended benefit. Certainly it never would, under the figures that the right hon. Gentleman gave.
What it, all amounts to is this: That this policy of knocking off, instead of raising the moral of the people, has lowered it, because it compels them to go to the boards of guardians. I know that it is getting fashionable now to go to boards of guardians. I was born and brought up with the idea that the person who went to the board of guardians lost his heart and died within six months of the horrible experience. I candidly confess that I still maintain that prejudice. Take the figures of any industrial board of guardians and what do you find? That this knocking off is increasing the Poor Rate. There are some figures which have been given to me about Sheffield On the 21st of February, 1925, the Poor Law cases numbered 3,951. On the 21st of November. 1925. the cases numbered 4.412. This substantial increase was due to the fact that the applicants had been refused their extended benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Act The figures show also that on 21st February, 1925, there were 14,764 persons affected, and on 21st November, 1925, the number had grown to 15,355. The cost in February was £2,615, and in November £3,809. The extra cost per annum is estimated at £50,000.
I have also got a paper that has been circulated to-night by the Poplar Board of Guardians. There, 298 people have been disallowed the benefit and have been obliged to go to the board of guardians. I have a lot of other figures here. When a person draws benefit under the Insurance Act he can maintain a certain amount of self-respect, because he feels that he has established a claim to the money, that ho has paid for it—perhaps 1747 not all, especially for extended benefit, but even then he knows perfectly well that the moment he gets work again he has to repay that money. So that, even to that extent, his self-respect need not be injured by the feeling that he is receiving charity. That is what is being knocked off. What is being put in its place is the knocking at the door of the board of guardians, an interview with the board, and the receipt of charity. The union is the most demoralising home of charity. There is no personal contact in it at all.
I confess that if the Government had come to me and had said, "We have been working about this"—not one word about it—"but we have found difficulties that we did not anticipate when the Prime Minister made his last statement about it. We are, however, still working at it. We are working at afforestation, at reclamation, at the problem of how to get the unemployed on the land, or how to develop our own national resources. We are working at all these things," I would have been content. Really, in my heart of hearts, knowing how tremendously difficult the details of such problems are, knowing that this country has made a profound mistake by losing grip as an organised whole of its people and resources, handing them over to a hugger-mugger and disconnected evolution. I can see that it is going to take some time to get the land organised and controlled and our population fitted to useful work here. If the Government had said, "We are working it out and, meantime, we are seeing that no injustice is done to anyone," I could not have felt in my heart that we had any cause of complaint, but that is not the case. What they say is, "We are letting things go. There is a better movement in things, according to natural and normal circumstances, and our duty is to register the figures and prove to you that the existence of a Tory Government is not necessarily injurious to trade." That is the gist of the right hon. Gentleman's speech and there I am perfectly willing to leave it.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
I do not propose to go again over the ground which has been covered. 1748 The speeches made during this Debate extended over a very wide field, and a good deal of what has been said has been in relation to obvious points. On the other hand, questions have been asked and criticisms made, with some of which I shall attempt to deal. Before I do so I must refer to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond), who again expounded that scheme which we know so well. He claimed that if we accepted his scheme all our troubles would be at an end. It would not be respectful to so great a man and so well-recognised an authority to attempt to deal with it to-night in detail. But this much I will say that, speaking for myself, it appears to me to have every vice which a subsidy scheme can have. If you are going to give a subsidy, do it straightforwardly; do not go to a man and say, "We will take your money as insurance and then divert it to something else to which you never subscribed." Apparently the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to this matter is, "Raid the Unemployment Fund, which was subscribed as an insurance fund, but for Heaven's sake do not touch the Road Fund."
§ Sir A. MOND
For the hundredth time I explain to the hon. Gentleman that it is entirely voluntary on the part of the person who receives benefit whether he chooses to surrender it or not. There is no question of raiding anything.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
That would increase the complications.
The right hon. Gentleman said that nothing had been done of any account for the relief of unemployment which was not done by the Coalition Government, I recollect that one of the Measures which that Government passed was the Safeguarding of Industries Act, in the framing of which the hight hon. Gentleman is reputed to have done so much. He will have an opportunity next week, so I understand, to repeat the action which he took three or four years ago and to carry again into effect one of those measures which he then thought was of so great an advantage to industry.
The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Barker) made a speech which I am sure 1749 impressed the House. The case he made was this—and I accept every word he said about the industrial situation in the district because I know it is true. He said, "Here is a district where trade and industry and employment have gone to the bad. The Ministry of Labour in collusion and collaboration with the Ministry of Health have taken action which is forcing down the standard of living of the people. The result of your action is that you send up the expense of outdoor relief, the guardians are overwhelmed with debts, and they have no means by which they can increase the rates to meet them." That, shortly, is the point which the hon. Member made. I have had a consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and he authorises me to say this: The Minister of Health is tiding over the difficulty by advancing loans to guardians in special cases, and he is giving easy terms with regard to the repayment of capital and the payment of interest. He recognises that this is not a permanent arrangement, and, as the hon. Member knows, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has set up a Committee under Sir Harry Goschen, as Chairman, whose, business it will be, to quote the terms of reference,To consider and report on any schemes which may he submitted to them for special assistance from the Exchequer to local authorities in necessitous urban and quasi-urban areas.Until that Committee has reported, it is, of course, quite impossible, as the hon. Gentleman will understand, for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to formulate a permanent policy, but the temporary measures taken by him will in the meantime be maintained.
The same point was put by another hon. Member, who also took another point in regard to relief work, and I think the same point was put by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taylor) yesterday at Question time. The directions which were referred to by the hon. Member in paragraphs 61 and 62 of the Circular issued are intended to relate to test work to which men are put by guardians as a test of their bona fides in relation to applications for relief from the guardians. They are not intended to apply to the case of men who work on grant-aided relief schemes under ordinary conditions, and, 1750 as the hon. Member for Lincoln said yesterday, I did myself give an undertaking to him and to a deputation which I received that instructions would be issued to that effect. Those instructions are now in draft, and they will be issued in the course of the next few days.
The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Ritson) raised a point with regard to the umpire and the cases of standard benefit which are decided by the umpire under the Act. It has always been a principle of the Unemployment Insurance Act that the final decision with regard to standard benefit should be given by someone who is entirely independent of the Ministry and quite free and independent of all Departmental control. The umpire is not only entirely independent of us with regard to the decisions he makes, but with regard to the procedure which. he adopts and everything connected with it, and it would be quite wrong for me, or for any other member of the Ministry of Labour, to discuss the merits of any decisions which ho may give, because those decisions are final, and they are binding.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said in the course of his speech that a dole is a thing that is simply hateful. It is because this is an insurance scheme that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has adopted the attitude he has, and taken the action he has. It is because he hates the dole just as much as the right hon. Gentleman does. [An HON. MEMRER: "It is not a dole!"] I did not say it was. It is because he is anxious that this insurance scheme should not degenerate into a relief-giving agency that he has been careful to preserve for it the elements of insurance. This Motion seeks to condemn the Government, in the first place, for the exercise of discrimination, and it says that we are administering this Act without regard to the principles of unemployed insurance. I would ask the House to consider whether there is any principle of insurance which allows unlimited benefit without any reference to the contribution paid. The moment you allow an indiscriminate right to benefit without reference to the contribution that is paid, then the thing ceases to be insurance from any point of view. It is not insurance. 1751 It then degenerates into what the right hon. Gentleman detests just as much as we do, namely, an eleemosynary grant. It is because my right hon. Friend is anxious to preserve the insurance aspect of the scheme that he has acted as he has with regard to the exercise of his discretion. It really is not fair to my right hon. Friend, and it is not fair to the Department, to pretend, on the one hand, that this is an insurance scheme, and then, on the other, to come down here and seek to condemn him because he refuses to violate the very first principle of insurance.
The point put by the Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) was really an argument that this scheme had indeed lost every element of insurance. He said, "The problem is so pressing and distress is so great, you must abandon the theory of insurance." The opposite view to that was put by my hon. and gallant Friend. We cannot accept the view that it is not our duty to maintain this insurance. My right hon. Friend is a trustee for this Fund. He has duties, not merely to the working classes, but to all the classes who contribute. They have a right to look to him to ensure that the money they subscribe is not dissipated or spent on something that is not insurance at all. In a scheme of this complexity it depends for its administration very largely on the local committees and local effort. It is full of many complications. My right hon. Friend has set up a committee of singular competence under the chairmanship of Lord Blanes-burgh. Many of the points raised in Debate to-night will be brought to the notice of Lord Blanes-burgh's Committee, and I feel the result of his inquiry will enable us to make more perfect the scheme which is, and must be at the present time, subject to criticism.
I must say a word about the subject of discrimination. There have been many references to-night to the actions of my right hon. Friend under the discretion that was granted him a few months ago I ought to say that he. has exercised this discretion in exactly the way he said he was going to exercise it. He has applied it to exactly the classes of persons to whom he said he would apply it. The House, when passing the Act three months ago, knew exactly what my right 1752 hon. Friend meant to do. In the circulars sent out he said:The sums available for extended benefit are limited. It is therefore necessary to conserve the funds for the benefit of those who are in most need of assistance.The only discrimination, therefore, that he has made is in discriminating in favour of those who are in most need. The charge that we have discriminated in favour of one person at the expense of another has entirely broken down, and we are entitled to the confidence of the House.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
We have listened to hon. Members from below the gangway on this side, and to hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, and it would seem to those of us who sit on the Labour benches that hon. Members in. their speeches have admitted the failure of the capitalist system in carrying on the affairs of this country. They have admitted that we have in this country over 1,000,000 people willing to work who cannot obtain it. That is their admission. They have thrown practically into their speeches in this House to-night those sneers they have uttered outside against the unemployed; yet they have admitted that these people are willing to work, and that they cannot find employment for them in this country.
They have talked about emigration. They have talked about sending these people abroad. Once, however, you get them abroad you can send them supplies, you can send them clothing, and other articles which they require. But these million and a quarter unemployed people in this country require these things too, and that is creating a demand for goods. The right hon. Gentleman who represents Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) has told us about a scheme in which he suggests a. subsidy, but it is to be voluntary. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if in this scheme he is going to set up to give the workmen their insurance money he is going to give them a part-share in the representation in the particular business that will be subsidised from the unemployment funds?
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The right hon. Gentleman says he will consider it. That means that in the years that have passed he has not considered it. He will not take 1753 the matter into consideration, so that really the scheme is not complete! It has to go further than it has got at the present time. I do not want to talk out the Motion, and in the moment or two that is left me I should like to tell the Minister of Labour that he and his Department have utterly failed in the last 12 months they have been in office. With a majority greater than any we have had in this country for a number of years they have utterly failed to prove their capacity to govern, and their capacity even to ameliorate the social evils of this country. The only capacity that the Ministry of Labour has shown, that the Ministry of Health has shown, that the entire Tory Government has shown, is a
§ capacity for further starving and crushing down the most helpless in our community—those to whom they should have extended a helping hand to raise them up.
That this House regrets the continued failure of His Majesty's Government during the last three months to propose any measures for dealing adequately with the pressing problem of unemployment, and is of opinion that the discrimination now being exercised against many unemployed persons with regard to the payment of unemployment benefit is contrary to the principle of unemployment insurance, throws heavy and unjust burdens upon the rates in necessitous areas, and is adding to the suffering and discontent of the people.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 133; Noes, 322.1757
|Division No. 418.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hardie, George D.||Scurr, John|
|Ammon, Charles George||Harris, Percy A.||Sexton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Varnon||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Hastings, Sir Patrick||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Baker, Walter||Hayday, Arthur||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Barnes, A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Barr, J.||Hirst, G. H.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Smillie, Robert|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Briant, Frank||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Broad, F. A.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Bromfield, William||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Bromley, J.||Kelly, W. T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Buchanan, G.||Kennedy, T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cape, Thomas||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lansbury, George||Taylor, R. A.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, John James||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lee, F.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Compton, Joseph||Lindley, F. W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Connolly, M.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cove, W. G.||Lowth, T.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lunn, William||Varley, Frank B.|
|Dalton, Hugh||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Mackinder, W.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Dennison, R.||March, S.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Duncan, C.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Dunnico, H.||Montague, Frederick||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Morris, R. H.||Weir, L. M.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Naylor, T. E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Oliver, George Harold||Whiteley, W.|
|Gbbins, Joseph||Palin, John Henry||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gillett, George M.||Paling, W.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Gosling, Harry||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Win. (Edin., Cent.)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Potts, John S.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Windsor, Walter|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Riley, Ben||Wright, W.|
|Groves, T.||Ritson, J.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Saklatvala, Shapurji||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Mr. Warne and Mr. Hayes.|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Alexander, Sir Win. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Ashmead-Bartlett, E.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.|
|Albery, Irving James||Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Astor, Viscountess|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Apsley, Lord||Atholl, Duchess of|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Luce, Major-Gen Sir Richard Harman|
|Balniel, Lord||Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Lumley, L. R.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Elveden, Viscount||MacAndrew, Charles Glen|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Everard, W. Lindsay||Macintyre, Ian|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||McLean, Major A.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||MacMillan, Captain H.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Berry, Sir George||Fermoy, Lord||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John|
|Bethell, A.||Fielden, E. B.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Finburgh, S.||MacRobert, Alexander M.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Forrest, W.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Malone, Major P. S.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Fraser, Captain Ian||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Frece, Sir Walter de||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Meller, R. J.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Merriman, F. B.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Gates, Percy||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Brass, Captain W.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Goff, Sir Park||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Gower, Sir Robert||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Grant, J. A.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Gretton, Colonel John||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Murchison, C. K.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Burman, J. B.||Hanbury, C.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Harland, A.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W.G. (Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Harrison, G. J. C.||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hartington, Marquess of||Oakley, T.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Harvey, Major s. E. (Devon, Totnes)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Haslam, Henry C.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Hawke, John Anthony||Orsmby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Perring, William George|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Philipson, Mabel|
|Christie, J. A.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Pielou, D. P.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Pilcher, G.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Clarry Reginald George||Holland, Sir Arthur||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Clayton. G. C.||Holt, Capt. H. P.||Preston, William|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Homan, C. W. J.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Ramsden, E.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Cumb., N.)||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hume, Sir G. H.||Remer, J. R.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Rentnui, G. S.|
|Cope, Major William||Huntingfield, Lord||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Courtauid, Major J. S.||Hurd, Percy A.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Jacob, A. E.||Rye. F. G.|
|Crook, C. W.||Jephcott, A. R.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gansbro)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry||Lamb, J. Q.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lane-Fox, Colonel George R.||Sandon, Lord|
|Dalziel, Sir Davison||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave, D.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Savery, S. S.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l. Exchange)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Loder, J. de V.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Looker, Herbert William||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts., Westb'y)|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Drewe, C.||Lougher, L.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Univ., Belfst||Thompson, Luxe (Sunderland)||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Smithers, Waldron||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Spender Clay, Colonel H.||Waddington, R.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Sprot, Sir Alexander||Wallace, Captain D. E.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Warrender, Sir Victor||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Storry Deans, R.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||Watts, Dr. T.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Wells, S. R.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
|Tasker, Major R. Inigo||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)||Colonel Gibbs.|
|Templeton, W. P.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|