Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £3,250,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927, for Relief arising out of Unemployment.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)
I should first explain that, although this Estimate appears under the general title of Money Required for the Relief of Unemployment, it is introduced on behalf of my right hon. Friend's Department because it is wholly for loans to necessitous authorities. The provision in the original Estimate for loans for this purpose was a sum of £850,000. Further provision was made in July amounting to £1,075,000, and, with the sum which is being asked for to-day, namely £3,250,000, the total required for this purpose is a stun of no less than £5,175,000. I should at once say that the long continuance of the coal stoppage, which accounts for the necessity of coming to ask for this sum to-day, will undoubtedly very seriously affect the financial position of the authorities concerned in the particular areas for a considerable period, and, even if there be a resumption of work immediately, it must be expected that some exceptional expenditure will continue for some months. I regret to say that in many of these areas there are also heavy arrears of rates outstanding, and it is feared that the authorities will experience considerable difficulty in collecting them before the end of the financial year. It is hoped, however, that if a very early settlement of the dispute is arrived at the provision now asked for 1716 will last to the end of the financial year. The sum we are asking for to-day is £3,250,000, of which £1,250,000 will already have been expended, and will have to be repaid to the Civil Contingencies Fund. Therefore, so far as the total of £1,250,000 is concerned, I regret to say that that has already had to be expended for this particular purpose.
In attempting to justify this further demand I must refer to the very regrettable position so far as the local authorities are concerned up and down the country. The amount distributed as out relief for the six months ended the 30th September, 1925, was £7,000,000, and for the six months ended the 30th September, 1926, £13,000,000. The total amount expended on Poor Law relief in the financial year 1924–25 was over £36,000,000, and of this sum no less than £31,000,000 was contributed by the local rates. During the financial year 1925–26, it is a very striking answer to many of the statements that have been made or may be made in this connection that a sum of no less than £31,400,000 was contributed in out relief from local rates alone.
Owing to the coal stoppage the authorities, that is to say the boards of guardians in England and Wales, and the parish councils in Scotland, have been required to find a sum of no less than £250,000 a week for the payment of relief to the dependants of miners and others affected by the stoppage for which no rate provision was made by them. Authority to borrow for current purposes has been given from time to time and until recently in the great majority of cases they had been able to obtain financial accommodation from the banks of the country. I think I should say that the banks have been most helpful in this connection. After the stoppage had continued for a considerable period, the financial position at any rate of a certain number of those authorities had become so uncertain that the banks were of necessity obliged to put a limit on their advances. As a result of that recourse had to be had to the Ministry of Health in England and the Scottish Board of Health for advances on loan to he made on the recommendation of the Goschen Committee.
So far as we are aware at the Ministry of Health, I think I can say that in no case has relief been withheld owing to 1717 the inability of guardians to obtain the necessary funds to meet these requirements, In all, about £3,000,000 in advances to 65 boards of guardians and parish councils have been recommended by the Goschen Committee for loans during the financial year. All these advances have been subject to the terms and conditions recommended by the Goschen Committee. The rate of interest for the advances made during the current year has been 5 per cent. and the period of the loans has varied according to the circumstances of the particular case. I may say in this connection, as several questions have been put to me, that at the present time advances are being made on a purely temporary basis, and the circumstances will be fully reviewed before the 31st March, 1927, and the period of the loan will then he fixed in each case as the circumstances of the area require.
I want to refer to the increase in the very large number of persons relieved. Unfortunately, also, there has been a very considerable increase in the cost of the relief. I have before me an interesting statement which I think it is worth while the Committee should consider, dealing with the country as a whole and showing a comparison of the assistance that has been given in previous disputes, as compared with the dispute which, unhappily, we have to consider again to-day. In 1893 the maximum increase in the number of persons in receipt of domiciliary relief in areas directly affected by the dispute was 2,270. In 1898, from April to July, the figure was 43,751, and in 1921, from April to July, when there was a. much larger area covered and the dispute was very much wider, the figure was 464,683, whilst the figures in connection with this dispute in 1926 from the 1st May to date were no less than 1,162,592, which is a terrible figure. So far as the increase in the cost of relief is concerned, the figures are of an equally tragic character. The records showing the cost of relief during the period of the earlier disputes I have referred to are not available.
§ Sir K. WOOD
No doubt the hon. Member will be able to put his point when his opportunity comes. It is estimated that so far as the increased cost of relief during the dispute in 1921 goes, the cost of outdoor relief in money and kind in the areas directly affected increased by at least £850,000. As compared with the rate of expenditure in April, 1926, the cost of outdoor relief in money and kind was greater during the period from the beginning of May, 1926, to the end of October, 1926, by approximately £5,800,000 in the areas directly affected by the dispute. No less than eleven-twelfths of the increase in numbers during the dispute, which includes both those directly and indirectly affected by it, occurred in 78 unions in which mining is a dominant industry. The increase in areas directly affected is two and a-half times greater than was the case during the dispute in 1921, and gives some illus tration of the devastation caused by this unhappy struggle.
On the 17th July of this year there were 50 unions in which 10 per cent. of the population were in receipt of relief and of those in 11 unions 20 per cent. were in receipt of relief, in six no less than 30 per cent., in four 40 per cent., and in one no less than 55 per cent. On the 13th August of this year, when the peak in the rise of people in receipt of relief was reached, the figure was no less than 2,273,985, and that was actually the number of people in receipt of relief in this country at that time. The present figure is 2,038,606.
I want to say that in these circumstances it is not surprising that this reduction of numbers has been accompanied by a tendency in many unions to reduce the scale on which relief to miners' dependants has been given, and in some cases to refuse out-door relief altogether. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] There are 24 cases in which boards of guardians have resolved that out-relief shall not ordinarily be given to dependants of miners. Where such a decision has been reached by a board of guardians, the relief of destitution is carried out either in institutions, or, in sudden and urgent cases, by the grant by the relieving officers of relief-in-kind. Where the course has been adopted of giving relief by way of institutions or through the relieving officer, there has been a substantial reduction in the 1719 number of genuine applications for relief in an institution. Although there were one or two instances in which organised demands for admission to the institutions on a large scale have been made, the persons admitted have left the institution, if they ever entered it, within 24 or at the most 48 hours of the order. It has also been necessary for boards of guardians in areas affected to review the whole of their expenditure and effect every economy which seemed to them possible, without the infliction of undue hardship on those dependent upon them. A question was raised about relief by way of loan. Relief in the great majority of cases has been granted on loan, and will be recovered when the borrowers have returned to work. I observe that hon. Gentlemen smile at that, but I may say that in previous disputes, where an obligation has been entered into to repay the money that has been advanced, the experience, I think, of local authorities up and down the country, and certainly of my Department, has been that the obligation has been honourably met. This policy has obvious advantages in relief to the ratepayer, and in certain cases the adoption of the policy of relief on loan has been followed by a reduction in the number of applications for relief.
It has been necessary, in order to restore, in some cases, the solvency of boards of guardians, for additions to be made to the rates, the amounts being substantial in many cases. At the present moment the authorised borrowing of boards of guardians in respect of current expenditure alone has risen to £15,000,000 from £8,800,000, the amount sanctioned on the 1st May. Very few boards of guardians have been able to take what I think would be generally agreed to be the necessary and desirable step of budgeting for a clearance of their temporary borrowing during the current half-year. There is one case, that of the Tynemouth Union, in which an additional rate of 3s. 2½d. has been levied; but in other cases it has been contended, and, undoubtedly, with a good deal of justice, that the union could got hear such an additional charge, and arrangements have been made, with the sanction of my right hon. Friend, to repay the indebtedness over a period of years
Criticism has also been again repeated in this House of the suggestions which 1720 were made by my right hon. Friend to the boards of guardians in the Circular of 5th May, 1926. The guardians were told on that occasion and at that time that they must make adequate arrangements for carrying out the statutory duty of relieving destitution, and, on the other hand, take all possible steps to conserve their financial resources. I venture to say that rarely has such advice been so amply justified as on this present occasion. The guardians have been also informed that they were not concerned with the merits of the dispute, but with the relief of destitution within the limits prescribed by law. In addition to that, my right hon. Friend, with a view to holding the balance fairly in the very difficult circumstances with which he has been confronted, has addressed a special communication to the relieving officers of the country, who have certainly had to carry out very difficult duties under most trying conditions at the present time. He has informed them that they must obey the lawful orders of the boards of guardians, but that any board of guardians would be acting ultra vires if it gave an unlawful order, and that the fact that the guardians gave such an order was no protection to the relieving officer if he were carrying out an unlawful act. They were reminded that they had an independent duty of affording relief in kind or by admission to an institution in cases of sudden or urgent necessity; and they were also told that they must act in such cases on their own responsibility and in an independent capacity.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I have recited these facts to the Committee, because I think it is well that at any rate one phase of the result of this meet unfortunate dispute should be put exactly before the House. So far as regards the charges that have been so freely made concerning starvation and matters of that kind, I can say that, while a dispute of this character of necessity involves discomfort and hardship, the officers of the Ministry, who have throughout been instructed to keep in close touch with the situation, have been unable to find cases in which the guardians or their officers have failed to relieve destitution, and the general effect of the information, so far as children are concerned, is that they are better fed and 1721 healthier than when their fathers were at work. [Interruption.] This tremendous expenditure has imposed an enormous burden upon the rates, which, in turn, have levied, and will ultimately levy again, a severe tax on our industries, especially when they have to meet others in the competitive markets of the world. While I am asking the Committee to sanction this amount, I may, perhaps, be allowed to express the hope that neither my right hon. Friend nor myself will ever have occasion to ask the House again to deal in this way with what I must regard as a very unfortunate and unhappy aspect of this dispute, which I am sure we all hope may speedily be brought to an end.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
May I ask a question on a point of explanation? The hon. Gentleman has made a statement, with very little explanation, and my difficulty is as to how far that statement affected Scotland. As you are aware, Mr. Hope, generally speaking, in health matters—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member will no doubt be able to put that question later. We are in Committee now, and the Minister can speak again.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The explanation that I wish to have is this: Generally speaking, in regard to health matters in Scotland, we have received from the Scottish Office a separate statement, because the Estimates on health matters come out differently.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It will be perfectly in order for the hon. Member or one of his friends to put questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland on that, and for him to answer them.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am not quite sure whether I ought not to condole with the hon. Gentleman on his speech. From beginning, to end it seemed to me to be an apology for the Government's ineptitude and gross mismanagement of the affairs of the country in regard to the coal dispute. I am not in favour of broadcasting most speeches, but I should very much have liked the hon. Gentleman's speech to be broadcast, in order that the country might understand the price that it is paying for the fact that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen sit on those benches. I should also like to call the attention of the Committee 1722 to the fact, that this question of necessitous areas and Poor Law relief is not a new one in the House of Commons. It is not merely a hardy annual; month by month, and almost week by week, questions are put to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this subject, and it is rather late in the day to try to ride off this afternoon merely on the question of the coal dispute. On that subject, however, I want to say two or three things preliminarily, in reply to the hon. Gentleman.
He tells us that the children are better fed than when their fathers were at work, and I think that that is, again, one of the most condemnatory statements that it is possible to make on the whole policy of His Majesty's Government. They are trying to drive these men back now on a lower wage and under worse conditions, so that, on their own showing, the workmen in the coal areas will not be able to maintain their children as well as they have been maintained under Poor Law relief. He has also told us how they took great care to see that no one really suffered. I am speaking now in the hearing of the hon. Gentleman's permanent officials, and they know perfectly well that it is a very old weapon that he has been talking about this afternoon, namely, the offering of a "house" order to people who apply for Poor Law relief. I know, and the hon. Gentleman knows, and I am sure the Minister knows, that boards of guardians who want to cut down public assistance always use the weapon of the "house" in order to bring that about.
There are many people in this country who would rather die than go into one of these Bastilles. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen cheer that, and yet this is what you offer to men who fought in the late War. [Interruption.] This is the sort of reward you are giving them for having won the War; this is the sort of paying back that you give them when, in their time of distress and need, you offer them what no humane Poor Law administrator would ever dream of offering, namely, the workhouse. I do not wonder that the hon. Gentleman is able this afternoon to say that the men who went in went out at the end of 24 hours. I would rather go into one of His Majesty's prisons than into an ordinary able-bodied workhouse. I am 1723 speaking as one who knows the interior of both, and it is perfectly certain that many men, and women, too, would prefer prison to these Bastilles. I would remind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that their own Lord George Hamilton, and the members of the Royal Commission who signed the Majority Report with him, condemned these places root and branch, and, so far as the able-bodied side is concerned, they have not been improved one whit. I think it is monstrous that a Minister can stand at that Box to-day and defend the proposition that, when men and women in need of public assistance come forward, they should be coolly told that as the only means by which they should get public assistance they must go into the workhouse. I think, too, that this separation of the relieving officers from the control of the board of guardians, although I know it is legal, is a very bad thing indeed, and this sort of Circular is only issued when Labour boards are guardians are in being and operating the Poor Law, and when they are trying to operate the Poor Law in a humane manner. It may be answered that the Memorandum went to every board, but I am certain if the right hon. Gentleman was put in the palace of truth he would have to admit quite frankly that when these precautionary words, with regard to the power of the relieving officer over the board of guardians to act apart from the board of guardians, were put into the Memorandum he had in mind those boards of guardians which are controlled by Labour representatives and no others. [An HON. MEMBER: "Can you wonder?"] I do wonder that he has the audacity to stand there and defend it.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman what he proposes to do in the future for the distressed areas in ordinary normal cases of unemployment? It is all very well to talk about the mining dispute that will be settled within some period, and the men will be back at work, but what does he propose to do to relieve those other districts? We are voting a sum in regard to public works. We heard nothing from the hon. Gentleman of the reason why the Public Grants Committee had virtually stopped their operations.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I do not know whether you, Sir, are aware that the sum we are 1724 asking for to-day is solely for loans to necessitous authorities in respect of Poor Law relief.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The note, as I read it, meant that the additional sum was being proposed for three purposes, for local authorities to carry out approved works, for distressed local authorities in exceptional cases and for the general purposes of Poor Law authorities in necessitous areas, and of this £3,000,000 some will go to each of those purposes.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The sum required is solely for this purpose. I think you, Sir, were reading from the recital—an aggregate sum of £1,925,000 for these three purposes—In consequence of the stoppage of work in the coal mining dispute, the expenditure will be larger than was anticipated, and it is estimated that a further sum of £3,250,000 will be required.This money will be solely devoted to the purpose of assisting Poor Law authorities in connection with the coal-mining dispute and of this £3,250,000, £1,500,000 has already been expended for this purpose and paid out of the Civil Contingencies Fund, and the balance will be wholly used for the same purpose.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Do I understand from the hon. Gentleman that, when this money is lent to local authorities, it will not be open to them to carry out approved works for the relief of unemployment, and that it will not go to necessitous areas?
§ Sir K. WOOD
This money is only to be advanced, of course, to Poor Law authorities, and they will only be allowed to devote it to Poor Law purposes.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If none of the money will go to authorities other than Poor Law authorities—if the hon. Gentleman tells me that officially, of course, the Debate must be confined to the purposes for which the money is to be devoted.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I could not give a definite undertaking that the Poor Law authorities receiving the money would not use it for those purposes, but the main purpose of the Vote is as I have indicated.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think I must get this point clear. Can this money go to 1725 local authorities other than Poor Law authorities? Can it go, for example, to city and borough councils? Would the Comptroller and Auditor-General disallow it if it went by loan to local authorities other than Poor Law authorities?
§ Sir K. WOOD
No, I could not say that. I cannot say it would be disallowed, but the great portion of the money will be used for the purpose I have indicated.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is obvious then, that if, after the money has been voted, it will be in the power of the Government to give some of it to other local authorities, it will be impossible to confine the Debate purely to Poor Law matters.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I think someone ought to be asked to put Estimates before the Committee in language that we can understand. On page 3 it says:Head under which this Vote will be accounted for by the Ministry of Labour.Where does the Ministry of Labour come in, if we are not to discuss anything connected with the Ministry of Labour? If that be so, I should like to ask why we should be misled by such a heading as that?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is a question I cannot answer. I am not responsible for the preparation of the Estimates, but I understand it is a joint estimate, and the discussion must be confined to the purposes—and they appear to be three—as stated in the note for which the money is sought to be expended.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
This is a joint estimate of the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health. In the main Vote there are certain items for which the Minister of Labour is responsible, for instance, the scheme for the training and equipment of women for juvenile unemployment, and for the training of young unemployed men. That is in the main Vote, but it is no part at all of this supplemental Vote. That is the reason why the Ministry of Labour in form appears in the Vote.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Is it not a fact that local authorities who are getting part of this £3,000,000 are devoting part of it to training?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I think you can only think that. You do not know. Therefore it is better for us to go on thinking in whichever way we please on the matter. This Estimate is for the purpose of enabling local authorities to carry out approved works for the relief of unemployment. That is one of the objects. We are facing a very difficult winter, and the difficulty will not disappear because the coal dispute may be ended and is not in any way attributable to the coal dispute. One would have imagined from the hon. Gentleman's speech that until to-day there had been no increase in pauperism or in the amount of money we are obliged to spend on Poor Law relief, and that had it not been for his own Government's gross mismanagement, everything would have been all right. But the contrary is the case, and I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman when he intends to do anything for necessitous areas in a definite manner.
Before he occupied the position he occupies now, when he was, I think, one of the chiefs of the Birmingham Corporation, at least before he became a member of a Tory Government, he was very anxious that something should be done. No one was more eloquent than he was. I do not think, if he really speaks the truth to himself—not to me—he will deny the fact that things are as difficult, if not more so, than when he championed the cause of the necessitous areas. It is true he appointed a Committee. It is a wonderful thing that if those who appoint a Committee or a Royal Commission do not want it to do anything they take good care to frame the terms of reference in such a way that nothing shall be done, and the right hon. Gentleman with all his good will, and with all the goad will that the Government and the rest of them have towards necessitous areas, put this before the Committee, which I admit was a very strong Committee composed of able men. You said to them in November, 1925, that they were to consider and report on any scheme that might be submitted to them for special 1727 assistance from the Exchequer to local authorities in necessitous urban and quasi urban areas. The result of that is this document. All the schemes put before him were voted down, but the Committee at the end said this. I want the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what he proposes to do on this part of the Committee's Report. He was very glib on one occasion when I was here, proving that the Committee had downed every scheme, and that it was so difficult that nothing realy could be done. He was very sorry and he poured out tears to the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) because he said, "Here am I, virtuous man that I am. I have appointed a strong Committee, and at the end the Committee says, what everyone else says, nothing can be done." But that is not all the Committee said. [Interruption.] I hope the Noble Lady (Lady Astor) will have a little more patience. You will be much more respected if you can learn to hold your tongue.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not a proper remark to make to an hon. Member of the House. The Chair must be addressed.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We have to report that none of the schemes placed before us have been regarded as providing a fair and equitable basis of distribution of special assistance from the Exchequer. The terms of our reference have necessarily restricted us to an examination and report upon the schemes submitted. Certain members of the Committee wish, however, to record their opinion that it is impossible to adopt some of the principles embodied in those schemes so as to give a basis of assistance to areas which are suffering severely from the heavy burden due to post-War conditions—not to the mining dispute conditions—The Report goes on:We would only add that, if the detailed Report inclines to stress the defects of the schemes to the exclusion of their merits, this arises from the scope of our inquiry.Then they acknowledge the ability of the people who put the schemes before them. I do not think that the Government should 1728 allow that question to remain where it is. They are, in fact, invited by the Committee to allow the Committee themselves to think out and produce a scheme, and the facts given this afternoon with regard to the effect of the mining dispute upon various areas do not in any way get rid of the further fact that, from John o' Groats to Land's End, every industrial area, whether mining or manufacturing, is in a parlous condition in regard to unemployment. Right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite never seem to realise that unemployment is chronic and has been getting worse for years past. Very few people realise the number of boys and girls, from 14 to 17 years of age, who are walking about the streets, and for whom there is no work. The Government, as far as I know, right from the start, have talked about this. I admit that here and there a school of sorts has been set up, but nothing effective at all has been done, and nothing effective will be done until the school age is raised and the children from 14 to 16 years of age are taken out of the labour market altogether. When you know that many thousands of these children have been for years out of employment, I cannot think of anything more dangerous for the children nor of any greater waste of money than to educate them and then give them nothing to do.
Very few people in this House realise that, apart from the mining dispute, there are something between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 people out of work—that is, when the Minister of Labour has worked his will upon the applicants for assistance from the Employment Exchanges. We know that the policy of the present Government has driven more and more men and women on to the Poor Law. It seems to me that we do not grapple with the fact that, whereas in 1913 it was estimated that the number out of employment was 300,000, in 1924 it was 1,100,000, and that is leaving out of account the numbers driven on to the Poor Law. It is not to be got rid of by coming here and telling us how you have pushed down the numbers in receipt of Poor Law relief; it will only be dealt with effectively when you deal with causes. I believe you will never get rid of unemployment until there 1729 is a bigger and better distribution of the wealth produced by the country among the workers who produce it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would remind the hon. Member that that could not be done without legislation; at least, the Minister of Health could not do it.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
That was only an interpolation so that the Minister could understand the extent of the problem he has to deal with. We have a number of Members from Manchester here, and in the discussions upon unemployment and under-employment we hear very little from them about the conditions in their county, which are most appalling. The only industry that is busy is the industry which was mentioned by the Prime Minister, which manufactures cotton machinery to be sent abroad to compete with the Lancashire cotton operatives. I noticed to-day in one of the newspapers that there is a great shout that we have got a £1,000,000 order for cotton machinery to go to Australia, so I suppose in a short time the Lancashire people will not be able to send their cotton goods there. The figures which I am to give will show the necessity of doing something bigger than the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health and the Under-Secretary have put before us. From September, 1922, to December, 1922, the cotton operatives of Lancashire were only allowed to work 35 hours a week. From January, 1923, to February, 1923, the hours were 35; from March, 1923 to November, 1923, the hours were 24. From February, 1924, to November, 1924, the hours were 26¼. In 1926, from January to March, the hours were 31½; since then they have been 35 and in some instances only 24 hours per week. You talk of the evil results of the coal dispute, but think of the evil results of wages such as these, which take away from the worker the ability to buy goods To-day the only policy the Government stands for is less wages for the worker.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman seems to be going a great way from the question of whether grants, or what grants, should be given or loans made to local authorities.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The right hon. Gentleman will not know what schemes to put before us unless he knows what is the problem he is dealing with. I 1730 have sat in this House a long time, and I have never heard from any Minister any statement showing that he realised that unemployment amongst the working classes very large arises from the fact that the employed are robbed of what they produce and have only very little purchasing power left. Your precious Grants Committee, acting, I suppose, on instructions, have now practically cut off all grants to local authorities. No local authority now can get a grant for public works unless they can show that the work would not be undertaken for at least five years. That is on record, and I suppose no one will attempt to controvert it. If you take Lancashire, or any great town, London included, you will find there is plenty of work that ought to be done and that ought not to be postponed for two, three, four, or five years, and the only reason why it is not done is that right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen have made up their minds that this is a convenient time for cutting off public assistance that has been hitherto rendered to the victims of unemployment.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
You may not think it arises, but it does arise. I cannot help it if you have not prepared your Votes properly.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I understand that the five years' postponement does not operate with regard to any grants which are in this Vote, but applies only to schemes where there is capital expenditure.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The proceedings of the Unemployment Grants Committee are confined to Grants-in-Aid, and these do not come under this Vote at all. This Vote is merely concerned with loans to local authorities. These loans may be used by local authorities in expenditure upon approved works for the relief of unemployment, but that is quite a different thing from Grants-in-Aid.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am a little doubtful whether the right hon. Gentleman is right. I do not understand why there should be this great anxiety to stop me talking, but I would put this to the right hon. Gentleman. Supposing the local authority comes to him for a loan for the 1731 purposes of relieving unemployment, and puts up a scheme of work, what are the terms under which he will consider that proposition? You have already put it on record that the Unemployment Grants Committee shall not grant a loan unless it is for work that would not be done for at least five years.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Gentleman is now on a different point altogether. The question is what comes under this particular Vote. If a local authority came to me and asked me to sanction a loan for them to expend money derived from their own rates upon work for relief of unemployment, I should have to examine the application in the light of the circumstances and, if I approved, I should make an advance of the loan. But that is an entirely different case from the case where they come to the Unemployment Grants Committee and ask assistance by way of grant-in-aid.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
But you have not really answered the question. Will you tell us whether you are to impose a five years' limit or not? That is really the point?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman may ask whether in granting a loan to local authorities under this Vote, the Minister would impose a five years' limit or not, but it is clear that the Unemployment Grants Committee does not come under the Vote, and therefore their action cannot be pursued.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I repeat that it is a great pity that this Vote was not prepared in a more accurate manner, so that we could know what it has or has not in it. Let me read the Estimate to the Committee. It says quite definitely:Sundry Services. … for meeting expenditure on loans to local authorities for the purpose of enabling them to carry out approved work for the relief of unemployment, to distressed local authorities in exceptional cases for their general purposes.Surely, I am entitled to think that the right hon. Gentleman would not lay down one set of Regulations for one committee that he controlled, and have another set of conditions for the granting of loans himself. If so I do not understand his policy. I always understood that when 1732 he does not want to grant a loan, he does not grant it because he thinks that it is not going to be properly spent.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
It is the dominating reason. It is the reason that the right hon. Gentleman puts forward again and again. In this case he is imposing certain conditions, and I am entitled to think, unless the right hon. Gentleman repudiates it so that we can understand his repudiation, that he will impose the same kind of conditions that have been imposed, on his instructions, by the Unemployment Grants Committee. What he is doing to-day is this: he has definitely and of set purpose not only attempted to cut down the scales of relief throughout the country, but he is also, in conjunction with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, doing his best to push people off and to prevent them getting public assistance. It is all part of that old-fashioned C.O.S. policy from which I should have imagined the right hon. Gentleman had emancipated himself. I should have thought that at this time of day the sort of scales and the sort of policy that he pursues daily in regard to public assistance were as dead as the Dodo; but instead, we find the right hon. Gentleman, who is supposed to be one of the most progressive administrators of local affairs, coming forward and setting up a policy which his own father repudiated from those benches many years ago. I would remind him that it was the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain who first broke loose from the idea that a man who was out of work should be driven to the workhouse, and who sent out the first circular urging local authorities not to drive men to the workhouse and not to drive them to parish relief, but to try to get them proper local work that needed to be done.
The right hon. Gentleman, at this time of day, is taking us back to the days of Mr. Goschen who, when he was head of the local government board, imagined sometime in the seventies, that if he could persuade boards of guardians throughout the country to offer only the workhouse and to give no outdoor relief —certain boards in London adopted the policy, Whitechapel in particular—they would stamp out pauperism and unem- 1733 ployment. Experience from that date to the present time has proved how hopelessly stupid that policy is, and yet the right hon. Gentleman in his dealings with boards of guardians has one thing in his mind, and that is to cut down the scale and to reduce the number of applicants. I read out figures in order to show that you cannot get rid of the figures and you cannot get rid of the number of applicants unless you get rid of the causes which compel people to act in this way. You may imagine that in the policy you are adopting you will succeed. Some hon. Members when we discuss this question appear to be very amused that some of us should feel that the unemployed, the aged, the sick, the widows and the children who make up the bulk of the people who are treated by the Poor Law, are entitled to a decent, wholesome standard of existence. I do not think that my life would be worth living, and I do not think that the life of any man is worth living, if one has not in one's heart the feeling that any human being should have as decent a standard of life as oneself. Lord Derby, speaking some time ago, said that when the War ended it was necessary to deal with the unemployed in a generous manner, because if we had not done so there would have been grave fear of revolution. He went on to say that that danger is past. I think that remark was very unworthy of him. I think it is unworthy of any public man that he should have stated that you only assisted the men who fought in the War because you were afraid of what they would do. I once exhibited a War medal in this House, and I was tempted to bring some medals to-day belonging to men who, in the words of Dr. Macnamara, formed a human wall which stood between this country and destruction in France. The ex-service men have learned a very bitter lesson.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think that these remarks can be connected with the question of loans to local authorities.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
It is with regard to the Poor Law relief of which the Minister has been speaking. Tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of men who have been spoken about this afternoon fought in the late War. Many of them wear medals and many of their medals are in pawn. I think we are entitled to call public attention to the 1734 fact that the only reward which the country can give them is Poor Law relief in a most stinted manner, and to cut down in every possible way the number of those who go to the unemployment exchanges. I want to say here what I say outside, that I think it is a perfectly scandalous thing that this House should permit this to go on. You have your Poppy days, and your Armistice festivals, and yet there are millions of men and their dependants living on the verge of destitution. Henry George once said that you cannot train boys and girls and teach them to read and write and then not give them an honest living. He also said that you cannot have men educated and voting, and at the same time send them out on to the streets to tramp in a vain search to get work. You may feel very strong and very powerful that you have driven the miners into their present position; you may feel very strong and very powerful because the operatives of Lancashire are working on starvation wages. You may feel very proud that the Minister can tell us this afternoon that the relieving officers offer decent, honest men the workhouse; but I am as confident as I am that I stand here that unless you change your ways and change your methods there will come about a change in a manner that this House and other people will not very much relish.
§ Mr. KIDD
I should like to bring to the notice of the Committee the peculiar difficulty of local authorities and parish councils in the mining areas in Scotland, particularly in the county of West Lothian, where something like 12,600 of the population is engaged in mining. Some are engaged in coal mining and some in shale mining. Only a year ago we had difficulties in the shale mines, and those difficulties left the parishes seriously affected. Now, a large number of parishes have been overtaken by the difficulty in the coal mining industry. Some of the parishes have been affected both by the shale mining difficulty and the coal mining difficulty. The Committee will, therefore, realise how badly stricken these parishes are, and I am not surprised that I have received very strong representations from those parishes that any assistance given by the Government to them should take the form not of a loan hut of a grant. I am well 1735 aware that I must make out a case in support of a grant and believe that a very strong case can be established. In the first place, the parish councils had no discretion left to them by the Scottish Board of Health as to whether they could or could not grant the relief. Not only so, but the method of relief and the amount of relief were also dictated by the Scottish Board of Health. The Scottish Board of Health acted, I suppose, on the instructions of the Government.
These parishes, therefore, make this point, that for the first time, without precedent, there is a novel interpretation of the Poor Law. Previously, the interpretation of the Poor Law was this, that, leaving out of account any difference of opinion as to whether the wage was sufficient or insufficient, so long as money could be earned equal to the maintenance of the dependants, that money had to be earned or, the State had its duty to perform against the man who refusing to earn what he might earn, cast the burden of his dependants upon the local authority or the parishes. My county has been smitten hip and thigh, and so smitten at the dictation of the Scottish Board of Health, acting under the directions of the Government, and those directions are quite contrary to precedent with regard to the interpretation of the Poor Law. That in itself is sufficient to justify their view that the assistance to be granted should take the form, not of a loan, but of a grant. Are we to understand, and I put this question to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I hope he will reply to it specifically, that the principle is now being established, and established for the first time, that in the event of any stoppage—it is the merest accident that this point has been raised by a stoppage in the mining industry, for what holds good in regard to mining must hold good in regard to any other industry—provided the stoppage is general to the industry, thereupon, despite the fact that money could be earned by those engaged in the industry sufficient to keep the dependants they still may refuse to earn that money and cause the local authority or the parish council to undertake the maintenance of those dependants? Unless the Secretary of State for Scotland can say now that this rule is to be established he has no answer to the claim 1736 of the parish councils in my district when they ask, not as a matter of grace, but as a matter of right, that the assistance given should take the form of a grant and not a loan.
I was glad to hear an hon. Member opposite make a reference to the difference in the position in Scotland as compared with the position in England. In England it has been the practice, I believe, to grant a loan to the recipients of relief, this loan to be recovered, and I was not surprised to hear that the sense of honour is so keen that the obligations undertaken have been honourably discharged. In Scotland no such practice obtains, and the result is that on the parish councils of Scotland we have a perfect avalanche of burden thrown which they can ill afford to bear. The burden is not a momentary one. It continues for such a length of time that a parish which desires to attract fresh industries to take the place of its main industry which is in danger of decay is unable to do so because of the burden of rates cast upon it. I have no wish to parade the grievances of this particular county. I rest my case on the principle I have enunciated, and I have vindicated it on the grounds of the absolute necessity of the area I represent. I hope the Secretary of State when he replies will give me an answer that I can carry back to my constituency which will afford them some comfort and relief from the anxieties from which they are suffering at the present time.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
I criticise this Vote, not because it is so large, but because it is not large enough to meet the appalling needs of many of the distressed areas in this country. Reference has already been made to the large amount of unemployment in the mining areas, but there are other areas where unemployment is as great, if not greater. The average amount of unemployment throughout the country is 13'6, but in certain districts and in certain trades is amounts to over 60 per cent. In the case of the shipbuilding trade it is 58.5 per cent.; in the pig iron industry 64 per cent., and in the iron and steel industry as a whole it is over 50 per cent. In the town I represent, Middlesbrough, out of 43,000 insured workers over 18,000 are actually receiving benefit, that is over 1737 42 per cent. of the total insured population, and there are a thousand others who are deprived of benefit owing to the arbitrary restrictions of the Minister of Labour, and who are getting relief from the rates. This is casting an almost impossible burden on local rates.
Reference has already been made to the claims of the necessitous areas, but I should like to supplement it and to ask what the Minister is going to do in order to carry out the recommendation of the Committee when they said that it was not impossible to adapt some of the schemes in order to meet the necessities of these areas. I hope he will follow up that recommendation of the Committee. Surely it is most unfair that residential areas should escape with a rate of 8s. in the £ while industrial areas have to bear double and treble that amount in rates. The Parliamentary Secretary has alluded to the burden which this must mean on the industries of the country, and this is well illustrated by figures which I can give from my own district. The local rates in this district in 1913–14 were equal to a cost of 1s. per ton of steel produced, but to-day those rates are equal to 6s. and 7s per ton of steel produced. I hope the Ministry of Health will be able to see their way to make larger grants from the Unemployment Grants Committee.
In reply to a question I put, the Parliamentary Secretary said that in the year ending September last schemes amounting to over £11,000,000 had been sanctioned as compared with schemes amounting to £21,000,000 the previous year, showing a very serious falling off in the assistance which the Government has given. The number of men employed under these schemes on September last was 19,000 as compared with 32,000 a year previously. From these figures one would think that the amount of unemployment is decreasing, whereas it is considerably more than a year ago. These men have to be supported somehow, and surely it is better to support them at work rather than allow them to draw unemployment benefit or receive relief from the guardians. Since the Armistice we have spent £350,000,000 in out-of-work donations, unemployment benefit, and the relief of able-bodied men by the guardians; and no services have been rendered whatever for it. If we are to go on these lines it is surely more 1738 sensible to spend a little more money and get work of a valuable national character in return.
Instead of stopping the Unemployment Grants Committee I hope the Minister will give an increased grant, and also increase the proportion of the grant made to local authorities. In Middlesbrough we have spent over a million pounds of money in work of this kind and have only received 31 per cent. of the cost, and as the rates are 19s. 4d. in the £ it is impossible to go on these lines. The Government should make a considerably larger grant to local authorities in order to enable them to do work of a useful national character and should themselves put in hand work on main roads, afforestation, the reclamation of the foreshore. At any rate, they should allow local authorities who have schemes in hand to carry them out to the best of their ability. On the question of loans to Poor Law Guardians the Minister said that they were all on a temporary basis, but before he comes to a final decision I hope he will take into consideration the necessities of these various areas and give them at least five years in which to repay the loans. It is no good asking them to pay in one or two years, because that is impossible; and it would only cripple industry and hinder a revival of trade which is so essential.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I have listened with considerable interest to the discussion. One remark of the Minister of Health led me to conclude that he must be getting some very idle information from those who have been considering the state of affairs in the mining areas. I do not believe the children in the mining areas have been better looked after since the strike began than they were before. It is too silly a suggestion, and the people who make it are either suffering from some kind of psychological myopia or they do not know what they are talking about. Anybody who knows anything of the mining areas knows that if there is one specimen of a good father to his children it is the miner, and generally he has a larger number of them than the rest of the population. But he looks after them well, and not only that, he seems to have a paternal complex, for, when a mining disaster takes place, then they will divide the children who have 1739 been deprived of their parents among themselves and bring them up as their own. The only place where you will find anything to equal this is in some parts of the Highlands, where the crofters and fishermen take in for a nominal consideration numbers of orphan children and keep them as their own.
Having disposed of that fallacy, for fallacy it is, based on wrong information, I want to deal with another point. I heard a cry of "shame" from the benches opposite when the Minister said that some parish councils were reducing the allowance and some refusing it. I have considered this question since the last time I spoke in this House very carefully, and I have come to the conclusion that some parish councils are influenced by the Merthyr Tydvil decision. They are driven to grant this relief when a strike is on. But I think it is a very great mistake, and that it is an hardship on the recipients to give them this relief when a stoppage of the kind we have to-day begins. You cannot do any people greater harm than encourage them to carry on a struggle against an economic law, to which in the end they must yield. You are doing them an injury. It is like advising a man to go into litigation which in the end he must inevitably lose. He has to bear not only his own costs but the costs of the other side as well. The assistance you have given him has only led him further into the bog. Take the case of the assistance given to the White Russians by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Who had most ground for complaint? Not the Bolshevists, but the White Russians who were assisted, and who would never have suffered the great hardships they did had they not received this misguided assistance. In the same way, who had most cause of complaint when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George)—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I hope these analogies are not going to be pursued any further. I was afraid the hon. and learned Member was going to refer to what happened in 1919.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Surely one is always entitled to take analogies from history, no matter how recent.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I was afraid that the analogies of the hon. and learned Member might be enlarged upon by other hon. Members.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I hope my little digression will not be abused by other hon. Members. I was going to give another historical parallel from what happened at Smyrna and the assistance which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs gave to the Greeks. It is very hard on those who receive assistance when the assistance given does not achieve the object desired. At hon. Member opposite has said that the miners would never give in as long as they could get food. I ask them, as man to man, is it not foolish that this practice has been indulged in. I will tell the Committee how it strikes an ordinary member of the community; it is always well to take a simple illustration. One man has a considerable quantity of food, more than he needs. Another man has a considerable quantity of coal, and that is all he has. He says to the man with the food, "I want some of your food," and the man with the food says, "I want some of your coal to cook it." But the man with the coal says "You are not going to get that coal because I am on strike." Do you think that the man with the food is going to part with it unless he gets the coal with which to cook it? This strike has affected the whole community, and mostly the working classes and the poor. It has undoubtedly increased the numbers of the unemployed. The people who are really damaged by a strike are the working classes. They are the ones who really suffer and are likely to suffer. The people who control the industry may have a certain amount of capital written off on paper, but it does not affect them otherwise. It is the poor and the working class who have been hit in this matter. For academic descriptions, or to decide whether a particular organisation is to rule in an industry, surely it was not worth while to take advantage of the splendid valour and fortitude of the miners in order to lead them into the morass in which they find themselves.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
With all respect I submit that the question is whether we should give these loans and encourage the authorities to grant money when it can lead only to greater suffering among those on whose behalf the loan is incurred. I would support getting boots and food for the children and food for them when there was a shortage. There has been a great deal of suffering in the mining areas. People have been short of food and clothing and everything else, and one would be glad to do something for them if the whole business was over. I have been amused to see the indignation expressed because the miners took money from Russia. What difference is there between taking it from Russia and taking it from the Government Front Bench? I wish that the Russians had sent far more, for it would have relieved the rates. But the handing out of money in this way to continue the conflict, is damaging the miners and all the working classes in the community. I think it is very unwise and it is not kindness. What the miners are really resisting is economic law, and the rest of the inhabitants of the country are looking on in bewilderment and asking what is the meaning of financing a strike with public money. It would be far kinder to say, "We have all to work. We cannot all get the job we want, but we have all to work for food and drink." Those who work for food and drink work a great deal harder than those who work only for food. The working classes have to understand that. The man who will not recognise economic laws is doing an injury to himself and to the working classes as a whole. I admire the fortitude of the miners and the way in which they have stood out in this long dispute. There has been nothing finer in an industrial fight for a very long time. But it is time to consider to what it is all leading. We must get the country back to prosperity as soon as possible.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
In the few remarks that I propose to make I desire to deal solely with certain financial and administrative matters connected with this Vote. The Minister said that he hoped this was the last Estimate of the kind that he would lay before the House. While we all agree with the hope, I am afraid that it is very unlikely of 1742 fulfilment, because this system of loans to local authorities was not caused by the coal strike. It was aggravated by the strike but it was in existence for many years before. Last July the Minister gave a list of the boards of guardians which were then, insolvent, in the sense that they were obliged to borrow to meet current expenditure. There were 38 of those boards, and they included such places as Barrow and Birmingham, Chesterfield and Newcastle, Sheffield and Swansea—38 of our large industrial towns—and last March they had incurred loans to the amount of nearly £7,000,000. We have to-day in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the other places that have incurred loans. If you leave out the London unions, which are under another rule, they number 94 unions, which have been compelled to borrow money in order to defray current expenses.
This Vote is dealing only with a small class, because there are two classes of local authorities which are insolvent in the sense that I have mentioned. There the those whose credit is exhausted, and those who, though they cannot meet expenditure out of income, have still some credit at the bank. But those two classes are not divided by any hard and fast rule. The exhaustion of the credit of Poor Law authorities is progressive, and Union after Union is sliding out of the class that still has credit into the class that must come to the Treasury because the banks will not lend them any more money. It is not particularly likely, I fear, that the end of the coal dispute will mean that our trade will be as well off as it was at the beginning. Nothing can be more probable than that in the next Estimates we shall have an even larger sum to guarantee for the purpose of financing the Unions. Up to last March the Unions had incurred a debt of only £7,000,000. Up to last May they had been allowed only £8,000,000, if I took down the figures correctly. They have now been allowed £15,000,000, and neither the Minister nor anyone else can say whether their credit, collectively or individually, will be enough to bear it. They may come one after the other upon the Treasury. It is an evil financial system to meet current expenditure out of loan. It is a very bad thing, as far as Parliament is concerned, that demands of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 or 1743 £5,000,000 should be made on the Treasury—amounts which cannot be properly budgeted for and which may surprise Parliament and the Chancellor of the Exchequer as one by one they mature.
The truth is that this system of meeting the expenditure on out-relief by loans is an illegitimate method for overcoming a fundamental fault in our national policy and national finance. To show this, I want to go back for one moment to the time before the coal strike, and to deal with the relief of destitution due to unemployment. That relief is provided from two sources, unemployment benefit and Poor Law relief. The Poor Law is a kind of residual legatee of the burden, and has to make up the amount paid in unemployment pay, whatever may be needed in excess of unemployment benefit. The amount received from unemployment benefit is limited partly by Statute and partly by administration, and the boards of guardians have to bear the weight of whatever is left unprovided for. How very closely the poor rate corresponds with the amount paid in unemployment benefit is shown by a very interesting chart that the London County Council have prepared. They put on one chart the numbers receiving unemployment benefit and the numbers receiving Poor Law relief month by month. Every gap in the unemployment benefit produces a corresponding rise in the numbers on the Poor Law; and month by month the changes in this and the rate of figures correspond. The burden cast upon the local authorities by making them the residuary legatees of the money expended on unemployment has been enough to break up local government. It has broken in a great many areas, and there is a danger of its breaking in all those areas, comprising some of the biggest industrial towns in England, which have suffered most from unemployment.
Look at the sums spent on out-relief over a series of years. Up to 1918 the total out-relief in England and Wales was regularly a sum of from £2,000,000 to £3,000,000. It varied from year to year. 1908–9 was a bad year, with £3,344,000 spent on out-relief. 1913–14 was a good year, with £2,400,000 spent. In 1918–19 the amount was £3,053,000. But in 1925–26, before the coal stoppage, 1744 out-relief alone stood at £15,326,000, instead of the sum, varying from about £2,000,000 to £3,000,000 a year, which was fairly regular over a long term of years. Nearly the whole of that gigantic rise is due to the relief, directly or indirectly, of the unemployed. I know that the Minister in his Report tries to divide the sum paid in out-relief between the unemployed and the unemployable, but that distinction is only a technical distinction, and for two reasons. The frontier between the unemployed who may draw benefit and the unemployable who may not, is a frontier varying with the state of trade and with administrative decisions. I have here the Report of the Minister of Labour, explaining why it has been thought proper to exclude whole classes of persons as unlikely to obtain work. One of these is the class of elderly men. "Some of these people," the Report says, have an excellent record of insurable work, especially skilled trades-men. Unfortunately, for them, the periods of old age and trade depression have coincided."
In the same way we are told that in the present circumstances it is morally impossible for ex-service disabled men to find work. I am not quarrelling now with the legality of the decision. I am not even quarrelling with the facts. It is no doubt true that these people, in the circumstances of the trade depression, cannot find work. But the reason they are off unemployment benefit and going on to the guardians is precisely because trade is so bad that they have no chance of employment. That is a perfectly fair statement of the case, and the Minister of Labour would not dispute it. Those people are reckoned in the Minister of Health's figures as unemployable, but only because there is general depression. Secondly, the unemployables who come on the Poor Law vary in number according to whether there is good trade or not. If a man has an old age pension of 10s. a week and a couple of employed sons, he never comes on the Poor Law at all; but when there is unemployment that man comes on to the Poor Law. Therefore, I think I have the right to claim that the whole of the monstrous increase from £3,000,000 to £15,000,000 a year is due to unemployment, particularly as the widows' pensions have relieved the class who would be ordinarily considered un- 1745 employables. The local authorities have shouldered £15,000,000, who also pays for unemployment benefit? The State pays in its contribution to unemployment benefit £13,150,000 and industry pays £36,700,000. In passing, may I refer to what the Minister said about the burden on industry? It is commonly said that the payment is being made by employers and workpeople. But that was only true in the first weeks during which the charge was made. Every change of wages alters the incidence. Now, after six years of changing wages and changing prices, nobody in the world can say whether the unemployment insurance payments are borne by the workpeople, the employer or the consumer. You can only say about this £36,700,000 that it is in the nature of an overhead charge on industry, and it is impossible to say whether it reduces wages or profits, or puts up prices.
So far, we have come up to the period just before the coal stoppage with the amount borne on the rates varying to the extent of £12,000,000, while the State is bearing £13,000,000 and industry is bearing an overhead charge of £36,700,000. That infliction on the rates would be bad enough if the rates were evenly spread because the rates are a tax less elastic than the Income Tax or the general taxes. They are inelastic for two reasons. First, they are not the measure of a man's capacity to pay, and, secondly, they fall with unfair incidence on different businesses. They have a certain unfairness from which you cannot get away, and, therefore, high rates are a very great evil. This evil is enormously aggravated when the incidence of this sum falls, not generally over the country, but upon the industrial districts and the coalfields. If hon. Members examine the list of the 92 unions which cannot grant out-relief out of current expenses, they will see that these unions cover the bulk of our industrial and coalfield population. These are the people whose rates are so high that in the opinion of the Minister it is improper to ask them to pledge the rates any further. The Minister knows what all local administrations know, that there is a breaking point above which you cannot put on more rates. If you put on rates a little more than 20s. in the £ you bankrupt shopkeepers and drive industry out of the district. The Minister knows 1746 and the local authorities know, that you cannot possibly get the total rate above a figure of not so much more than 20s. in the £. I point out—we are talking about unemployment and trade depression—that the factories which give employment are some of the largest ratepayers, and I do not think anybody can measure what a depression of trade it is that industry should have hung round its neck a burden of £36,700,000 unemployment benefit, and should, in addition, have to pay these extra rates.
That is how I look at the matter from the financial point of view. The insolvency of local authorities has also very important effects in the administrative sphere. The Minister can attach whatever conditions he pleases to these loans. The Minister can declare in default any one of these 96 boards. They are all people who are unlikely to be able to discharge their liabilities. The Minister has been placed in an altogether irregular position of power. It is irregular because these powers of placing what conditions he pleases on loans are powers which Parliament never conferred upon him. They have fallen into his lap accidentally, and as a result of that accidental achievement of power, the Minister's control has not been conditioned by Parliament and no corresponding duties have been placed upon him by Parliament. Contrast the position of the President of the Board of Education with that of the Minister of Health. The President of the Board of Education has great powers over local authorities, but Parliament has laid duties upon him. He must see that every child has the opportunity of a proper education. The Minister of Health unfortunately has not the duty of seeing that every child is properly fed imposed upon him by Statute. The President of the Board of Education has to lay upon the Table a code to be approved by Parliament, and he is bound by that code to act uniformly towards education authorities. The Minister of Health has not to lay any code on the Table regarding the conditions which he places upon loans. He can do as he likes and impose different conditions in different localities as he pleases. He is, in short, in a position with regard to local authorities which Parliament has never given to any Minister. Is it not perfectly clear that 1747 these loans are an irregular way of giving grants to local authorities? They are of the nature of grants. The money is Parliamentary money sent to the relief of the locality, and it is money earmarked with such conditions as the Minister is pleased to impose.
What we are faced with is not a temporary emergency due to the coal stoppage, but a new and thoroughly vicious administrative way of financing local authorities. The Minister of Health recently sent a document to the London County Council explaining how he was going to reform the Poor Law. There are a few little reforms that were mentioned in 1909, but there is no word that will solve this difficulty which is, in its root, a financial difficulty. Indeed, some of the Minister's proposals, as far as they do effect finance, in this list of suggestions—this draft Bill—which he has sent out to the local authorities will only place some districts in an impossible position. In my own district the proposals simply mean loading the greater part of the rates of the West Ham Union on to the poorest parts of that union, the borough of West Ham. East Ham is to have its burden lightened under the new proposals, while West Ham is to have 6s. 10d. or ls. more on the rates. I have never known anything more careless than the financial proposals of this draft Bill. They are just put into the Bill incidentally—in passing as it were. But with regard to the main question, what is the matter with the localities is that too much has been placed upon them. They have been left to bear too great a share of the burden of unemployment. The State has thrown upon the ratepayers of selected districts, and those most hit by unemployment, a burden which the ratepayers cannot bear.
These loans are, as I say, an irregular and anomalous method of meeting a fundamental error in our national finance. Until we have a proper system of grants in aid of out-relief, until we have some system such as the Board of Education used to employ for the relief of necessitous areas, so long we shall have no proper local government and we shall have industry and the ratepayers penalised beyond what they can bear in the districts which are most hit by unemployment. Nothing short of such a 1748 system will do the localities any good. I look for any proposals from the Minister to meet this situation and I find none at all; and I say here that unless Parliament in its wisdom turns its attention to the question of the finance of unemployment and the finance of the local authorities, we shall see locality after locality drifting into the condition of those localities whose credit is exhausted, and we shall not have one but many Estimates of a kind which I believe to be profoundly irregular.
§ Captain MACMILLAN
It is not my intention to follow all the points which have been raised in this Debate. Two speeches have been made from the Opposition side, and they varied very considerably. I do not propose to follow the attack made by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) who delivered a speech with which the House of Commons is by now familiar. Without much regard to the particular subject under discussion the hon. Member succeeds in attaching this speech to almost every topic—so far as he can within the rules of order—his object being to make a series of insulting remarks which are intended to arouse the anger of hon. Members on this side, but which fail in that effect if the Members on this side are able to control their feelings. When the hon. Member, however, goes so far as to talk about the human wall which stood between this country and destruction in the War I think he almost reaches the limit of the patience even of hon. Members upon this side. The hon. Member and his friends consistently sought to undermine that human wall, and I should have thought, at this time of day, the less said about that subject by the hon. Member the better.
The other speech made from the Opposition side differed in toto from the speech of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley. It was one of the most interesting speeches I have had the privilege of hearing in the House of Commons, and it raised many topics and points with which I am in complete agreement. I feel that it has done a great service in bringing renewed attention to one of the most important problems of the present time, namely, the relation between national and local taxation. Many arguments which were raised by the hon. Member for North 1749 East Ham (Miss Lawrence) seemed to me to be very cogent, and, not least, the argument that our system of raising local taxation is in many ways anomalous and ill-suited to modern conditions. One of the great duties which lies before this Government, or any Government in the future, is to consider the position of the producer—master and man, employer and employed, because the interests of the two are inextricably bound up—and how far they may be relieved in comparison with the interests of the rentier. I think the balance has been weighed unduly in favour of the rentier. On this question of national and local taxation there is an opportunity of redressing that balance. The solutions put forward by the hon. Member for North East Ham are not necessarily those to be adopted. It would be possible to redress the balance by nationalising certain local services, not necessarily the Poor Law service. It might be possible to nationalise other services, even the education services, which at present constitute a greater charge upon local rates even than the Poor Law services, but, however that may be, I think that she has done a great service in bringing forward, in such an admirable speech, these questions which underlie some of the great problems with which we have been faced.
On the other hand, this is a purely administrative Vote, and although these questions are germane to it, I have risen to-day for one small purpose, to raise one particular point, which I should be very glad for the Minister of Labour or his Parliamentary Secretary to answer. I believe that there has been some confusion in certain areas with regard to the performance of relief work, and how far work done on relief may be ranked for unemployment benefit in the future. I understand that in same areas there is some confusion between relief work which is organised by local authorities, that is to say, work on roads under the Unemployment Grants Fund and so on, for which wages are paid and in respect of which unemployment contributions are earned, and relief work of another kind, and it ought to be quite clear to all authorities administering unemployment relief, although I believe it is not quite clear to all of them, that in the former cases the grant earned entitles a man to 1750 benefit, or at least to the consideration of a claim to benefit. There is also a relief work which is really a test work set by Poor Law authorities, as a test for giving relief. That is quite a different form of work, for which no, wage is paid, and, of course, in that case no contribution is made to the Unemployment Fund, and, therefore, no payment results to the benefit of the man. I think it would do some good, because I believe that considerable misapprehension exists in certain parts of the country on the subject, if the Parliamentary Secretary could see his way to give some clear statement as to what is the existing state of the law and the Regulations on this subject.
Before I sit down, I would again, if I may—it is a subject on which I have already ventured to speak in this House—press on the attention of the Government the vital and important fact that, apart from other and wider questions, which we cannot discuss to-day, such as the recovery of our trade, how far the root causes and the contributory causes of the depression can be removed by not physical facts at all, but by the spiritual facts of a better condition of our industrial life generally—apart from all that—there is the question of the Government's duty to the producer, as opposed to the rentier, and in considering that question, I hope the Government will realise that this question of correlation between local and national taxation is one of the most important problems that awaits solution.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I should like to say a few words in this Debate, as I represent a necessitous area. It is unfortunate that the Minister has to ask for a further supply of £3,000,000, but it is quite beside the point for anyone to say that it is inconceivable that, at this time in our national life, we could allow destitution to go unrelieved. The real question that seems to me to emerge is that dealt with in the very able speech which we have heard from the hon. Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence), largely supported by the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton - on - Tees (Captain Macmillan), who followed her, namely, What is the most advisable way of spreading over the community the money that is necessary to relieve destitution? In my own constituency there are 100,000 people who largely live upon the wages that are 1751 paid at the shipyards and collieries. Numerous shopkeepers have no other source of income to look to than those wages, and for close upon 12 months both of those sources have been entirely dried up. The guardians are called upon to give relief. As regard's the shipyards, they say: "We need not do very much there, because these persons have unemployment benefit," but, as regards the miners, they get no unemployment benefit, and they have to give there to the full extent. I understand that a scale has been established, which no one can say is on the extravagant side, of 12s. for a wife and 4s. for each child.
The guardians in my particular district had first to borrow from their bank up to close upon £200,000. Then they came to the Minister, and he gave them a loan of £40,000 under this grant. That was soon followed by another loan of £40,000, and still for the current half year, the guardians are £60,000 short of the amount which they have actually paid away in relief. They say to the overseers: "We must get that £60,000," and the overseers say: "Our ratepayers cannot pay it." Then they come to the Minister. I conducted a deputation before the head of the Department, and I am bound to say that we were received with the utmost consideration and courtesy but, as was to be expected, with very cold comfort. He told us there were many others in the same position as that in which we found ourselves, and, speaking for myself, I fully appreciated the weight of his argument, but still, there is the fact. I only give this by way of illustration.
If this £60,000 cannot be supplied out of the National Exchequer, then it has to be supplied out of the pockets of the poor shopkeepers in South Shields. They are hit very badly in this way, that not only are they who now are called upon to carry the burden asked to do so just because they are the weakest, but there are big ratepayers in a district like that, such as colliery owners and shipyard concerns. As the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, the rating of these large utility bodies and collieries is done on the accountancy principle, and if their yards or collieries are closed, they have to pay rates only in respect of their fixed capital. That is a very small amount. So that what the big men are saved comes with 1752 double force on the poor shopkeepers. Many of them have already closed down, and if they cannot get this £60,000, a great number more will have to close down. Distress warrants will follow, and that means that their stock-in-trade will be sold, which really is the very instrument by which they carry on their work.
It is a picture which the right hon. Gentleman does not need painting, as he knows it as well as I do. "But," he says, "that is all very well, but where is the money to come from? We have to come to Parliament to ask for £3,000,000." It is in answer to that question that I respectfully urge him to reconsider again and again the powerful arguments that have been put by the hon. Lady the Member for East Ham North, supported by the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton-on-Tees. Why should the shopkeepers and residents in an area such as South Shields be called upon to shoulder what is really a national burden? Our national exports fall off, and our exporting centres are fixed here and there. Why should the mere centres which are used as the places for carrying on the national industry themselves bear all the sufferings because that industry falls off? Unemployment is a malady of the constitution, and its seat does not lie in the mere locus where an industry is carried on. We are told: "After all, why should not the local people bear the burden of their own industrial misfortunes?" There was a good deal of force in that argument when the original Act of Elizabeth was passed, and that Act, twisted, no doubt, out of all semblance to its, original shape, is the contrivance by which we are still carrying on the poor relief of this country—this archaic method, which is wholly out of keeping with modern conditions—and the number of extraordinary ways in which it has to be twisted and turned in order to adjust it to the requirements of the day is ludicrous. When you had this an agricultural country, cut up into various little areas in a rough and ready way, it was quite fair to let each area look after its own poor, but now the industrial evolution has entirely changed all that, and for the life of me I have never heard an argument to justify its continuance.
It has been said: "If you in South Shields and similar districts have to bear 1753 the lose in bad times, you get the benefit in good times." We do not. These areas do not get the benefit in good times. Good times mean, to some extent, higher wages, and to that small extent the local shopkeepers find a greater purchasing power, but, in the main, good times mean big profits, which pass quite away from the district and are really hardly any benefit at all to the people in it. What the ordinary distributor of goods has to look to in these districts is the weekly wages alone. Another remark that I have heard made, not in this Debate, is: "Well, if these men are out of employment properly, they receive their unemployment benefit, and the only persons that create this grievance are those who, so to speak, are wrongfully out of employment." Is that true? Is it true to say that the men out in South Shields are out because of any conduct of their own? Have we come to this, that men are to be called blameworthy because they say: "We will be loyal to the rest of our trade unions, and, therefore, whatever we may be personally inclined to do, we will do what the large majority wish us to do"?
I, therefore, urge upon the right hon. Gentleman again to consider the advisability of making a drastic change in the whole of this question, and seeing that a rich place like Westminster or a residential place like Bournemouth does not altogether escape when times are bad and that the people who have the ill-luck to live around the centres of our national activity are not to be the sole sufferers. It in wrong, and I do not think it is possible to put forward an argument to justify it. I would press the right hon. Gentleman, out of this £3,000,000 which is now being voted, to give special consideration to my own district, which, apart from the advantage it has of having me for its Member, has the disadvantage of carrying on industries that have both been at a standstill for the last 12 months. If it be at all possible, I urge him to see that some of this £3,000,000 goes there.
§ Miss WILKINSON
As other speakers have said, the hon. Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence) has dealt so brilliantly with the underlying principles of the finance of this subject, that it is hardly necessary for any subsequent 1754 speaker to do more than show how the present system is affecting the necessitous areas for which many of us on these benches speak. I know that a Debate of this kind almost always resolves itself into hon. Members forming a sort of Poor Law queue on behalf of their own constituencies at the doors of the Ministry of Health, but that is due to the system which the hon. Member for East Ham North has explained. I want to ask the Minister of Health if he can to give to boards of guardians some indication as to how they are to deal with the impossible deadlock which his policy and that of his predecessors has landed them in. To take my own area of Middlesbrough, which is purely an iron and steel area. It had suffered from unemployment for years before this lock-out came as a final blow. The Middlesbrough Board of Guardians cannot, unfortunately, be accused of any extravagance with regard to the amount of relief they give. They have been niggardly to the last degree. At least that can be counted to them for virtue by the right hon. Gentleman. Yet, owing to the policy of his colleague, the Minister of Labour, men have been placed on the rates at a cost of an extra £800 per week. The total of that debt now amounts to exactly the sum by which Middlesbrough is regarded as insolvent. Although they are in this position through no fault of their own, through no fault of the people living in the town, they are pressed by the Minister of Health to repay this loan in a short time. I know the Minister of Health has made a slight easement of his demand for the repayment of loan, but it is only slight, and the office table of the Chief Constable of the town is piled with distress warrants which have to be issued.
I only give Middlesbrough as an example, because it is a town with which I am intimate, but it can be paralleled by every one of these necessitous towns. Here you have the whole town at a standstill. Nothing anybody can do in present circumstances can get these people work. Many of them are living in council houses towards the erection of which the Minister of Health paid subsidies. Even in present conditions, with the best wages, they cannot afford to pay the rents and rates, amounting as they do to as much as 17s. 6d. a week. The position is that these people are having 1755 debts for rent and rates piled up against them. In some cases, men who were earning, when at work as labourers in the steel yards, 37s. 6d. a week, and have four or five children, have debts up to £70 standing against them. These people can never pay them. The wages they get week by week, if in full employment, are barely necessary for them to meet their current expenses. They have to go on the unemployment dole. Then, owing to the policy of the Minister of Labour, they are turned off that on to the Poor Law, and when they go there, they are told that they must sign a paper promising to pay back the relief which they receive. They have already a debt of £70 or £80 against them, which has accumulated during years of unemployment previously. Perfectly fantastic debts are being piled up against some of these unfortunate men on account of loans under the Poor Law.
I want to ask the Minister of Health, what does it profit him, or his Department, or his Government, if people are going to be driven to desperation in this way? The Parliamentary Secretary made a great point when he said that many of the loans under the 1921 stoppage have been paid off, and he talked about the honour of the working-class. Far be it from me to deny the honour among people whom I have the honour to represent, but I will say that it is a very doubtful question of honour when women, who need that money to feed their children, are being driven by every kind of bloodsucking method—and I want to use that term, because it is not too hard—by relieving officer, by distress officer, to give in repayment of loans money which is urgently needed to feed the future citizens of this country. What kind of public policy can that be? I have talked with women who are really young in years, who look 10 and 15 years older than they are because of the incessant worry of these loans and these debts. I have been into houses where every article of furniture of any value whatever bears a distress ticket that that furniture cannot be removed from that house until the debt is paid, and even the Chief Constable, who, to do him justice, is one of the kindliest men I know, and is anxious to give everybody the fullest licence that he can, is driven by the Minister of Labour. The woman knows 1756 that at any moment the bailiffs may come and take her furniture. What happens when they do come and take her furniture? The whole house of furniture which she has struggled to get together may go for an old song. Who is there to buy? Everyone who needs the kind of furniture she has got is in just as great distress as she herself. I have been present in my constituency at some of these enforced sales. They are pathetic in the last degree. Furniture that means so much to the woman, which has been accumulated in the early days of her marriage, goes for a few shillings. And, then, it is not as if the loans could be repaid. They cannot. The home is broken up, and no one is any the better off, while broken-hearted men and women are left to sink lower and lower, and to feel that nobody cares for them.
In some cases the position is even worse. The irony of it is that nearly all the cases I am quoting, for which I can give names and addresses, come from a garden village, because there, of course, the rents are very high and the rates are calculated on those rents. In some cases you have respectable working men, who have never been known to come within the clutches of the law, being imprisoned. We are told that there is no imprisonment for debt in this country. There is the mockery of being given so many weeks to pay, when the very person who sentences them knows there is not the slightest possibility of their ever being able to pay. Then these men are taken to prison, and I have had women in my constituency coming to me in the most terrible grief, because they feel that the stain of their men being gaol birds will never be wiped out.
Those are the conditions. Nobody knows them better than the Minister of Health. I feel that to allow great bodies of respectable, industrious men and women to be ground down in this way almost takes us back to mediaeval times. And why is it being done? Although £36,000,000 in the first Budget a His Majesty's present Government was remitted to Income Tax and Super-tax payers, yet the Minister of Health comes forward to ask for a miserable £3,000,000 to deal with this situation. We want that sum in Middlesbrough alone. It is not enough for half-a-dozen necessitous areas, and yet with a problem of this 1757 kind before them, this Government, who could give back £36,000,000 to those who could best afford to pay, come along with a miserable £3,000,000 for this purpose. There are whole areas of this country which are sinking down into a morass of poverty, and which, as far as the lifetime of the present citizens is concerned, will never get any better. These are not people at the end of their lives, but young married people with young growing families, who, after all, are the hope of this country. They see in front of them years and years with nothing but this hopeless debt which they have to try to liquidate as time goes on.
The position of the mining areas, of which I can speak as Chairman of the Women's Committee for the Relief of Miners' Wives and their Families, is, of course, even worse. I would like to deal with the extraordinary falsehood, with its veneer of truth, in the Prime Minister's letter to America, and repeated by the Parliamentary Secretary, as to the children being better fed than before. There is this modicum of truth, that in certain areas where there are Labour boards of guardians the proportion which has to be spent on food is higher than when the fathers were at work, because when the fathers are at work the amount to be spent on food is parcelled out of a generally inadequate income. Grocery tickets are given, and there are no means by which any other goods of any kind can be got but food. Thus it comes about that in the areas generally where the amounts given by the boards of guardians are adequate for food alone, it still means that none of the other expenses can be met. There is nothing for clothes, boots and the other necessaries of life. I was in a mining area last week where we took boots to the children, who were unable to put them on because their legs were running with sores, and they had open and broken chilblains as the result of the awful boots they had been wearing in the bad weather. That is not a condition of affairs which any Minister of Health, worthy of the name, can view with equanimity, and I do want to urge upon the Government that they take this miserable £3,000,000 back and give us an Estimate which is something like adequate to meet the case.
In listening to the speech made by the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) I could not quite understand the point of view she took up during the discussion on the Bill which a private Member brought in to-day to promote peace in industry, for the hon. Member was one of those who shouted that they did not want peace.
§ Miss WILKINSON
Oh, really! On a point of Order. What I said was, "Tell that to the coal owners," because this was a lock-out, and not a strike.
Oh, no. When it was said, "We want peace in industry," you said, "We do not want peace."
§ Miss WILKINSON
On a point of Order! I must ask the hon. Member to repeat what I said, and not to put in my mouth words which I certainly had not the remotest intention of saying. The hon. Member is completely misrepresenting me.
We understood it so on this side; and if that was not said to-day, I think I am right in saying that the hon. Member belongs to that section of the Socialist party who really are not out for peace in industry. I think if one followed her round the country one would hear that those are her views. When she drew the picture she gave us of the case of the women she was perfectly right. Anything more tragic than what is going on I do not know; but how on earth are things going to get better unless trade and industry improve? The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) said the present Government had shown that they were unable to manage things, and that they had been a failure. Is it not very difficult for any Government to govern if there are certain sections of the community who do not want trade to flourish? The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley held up to us the picture of the men forming what he called the human wall during the War, but what on earth did he do during the War or has he done since the War to promote a better feeling throughout the country? Sometimes the hon. Member looks at me, and he always tries to get a rise out of me. I do not know whether it is a publicity stunt, or what it is, but it is rather tiresome.
I am thinking of the women and children, and I do not see how on earth the Government can make things better 1759 if hon. Members who come here telling us the tragic side of things afterwards go round the country to preach the class war. That is the trouble which is at the bottom of the whole thing. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley quoted the figures of unemployment in 1913 in comparison with those of 1926. I think some hon. Members must have forgotten the effect of the lock-out or strike, or whatever you like to call it—it comes to the same thing, and we ought not to be thinking about words, but about the situation of the country. The fact is that before that occurred trade was beginning to recover. I am not going into that, however, but I do protest that it is no good coming here and saying that we on this side are failing when there are so many on the other side who are doing nothing to help forward what the country most needs, and that is peace in industry and peace among all classes in place of the class war.
The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough said the conditions were almost like those in mediæval times. Of course; and they are going to be like mediaeval times unless we get trade. What built up England? Trade. What will build her up now? Trade. Although many hon. Members opposite are looking forward to the ideal of a Socialist State, we know perfectly well that until it comes the only way we can recover our trade is by capital and labour working together. Hon. Members go round the constituencies and see the ghastly conditions there, but are they striving for what many of us on this side are trying to bring about? We are not trying to stand up for the mine-owners, any more than for the miners' leaders. I wish some lion. Members opposite had as much courage as we have had, because I believe they have got it in their power to relieve a great deal of the distress arising from all these thousands of people being thrown on the unemployment market and clamouring for relief.
With reference to the Prime Minister's message to America, I must remind the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough that in June, as soon as the strike began, a great many of the labour women put it out that the children were starving. I thought it was wrong of them to do so, 1760 and I took the trouble to go all over Wales with a late Member of the House of Commons to see whether there was starvation.
We missed only one valley. We did not find a single case of starvation. It was by overstating the case that the trouble was started. There are individual cases of neglect—they can be found at any time, either in peace or in war—where children are undernourished, but there is no starvation. But there is this, which I think is very serious, and that is that a great many children under five years of age—under school age—are being undernourished. The House and the country ought to face that position, because children who are undernourished before the age of five never really catch up afterwards. That is a problem. There are a great many of those cases about, especially in Monmouthshire. I believe I can say that nearly 50 per cent. of the children under five years of age are undernourished; hut, still, there are no real cases of starvation.
Then, about the letter to America, I would like to ask this. How on earth would it help England to talk over there about starving children when there were no starving children? There are no starving children now, though there are undernourished children. There may be some children starving from neglect, but that has always gone on. I can assure hon. Members that there is no person in the whole of the United Kingdom who is more interested in children than I am, and I have made it my business to watch this thing just as vigilantly as any hon. Member on the other side. There are individual hard cases, but the hardship arises from the lack of boots and clothes, and that is going to get worse even if we have peace to-morrow. The real hardship of lack of boots and clothes among the children has got to be faced, and I hope that once the strike is settled there will be a real movement—not a party movement, a movement on the part of the women of England—to start a women's relief fund to help women and children with boots and clothes. I want to create a better feeling, and I think that is the way to do it. We shall not 1761 do it by exaggeration. Hon. Members can see what strikes or lock-outs bring about, and I hope they will bear in mind that there is only one way of keeping people from the Poor Law, and only one way of getting them out of the long lines of the unemployed, and that is by an improvement in trade.
The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley said, "What we want to do is to raise the school age." He knows perfectly well that when his Government were in power they had a majority here in the House to raise the school age. [Interruption.] Of course, you had, and you did not do it. Why? Because it was not popular, and it was said that not only was it not popular, but that it was not possible. There are many things hon. Members opposite can beat the Government with, and they ought not to beat them with a stick that was broken on their own backs when they were in power. Hon. Members ought not to confine themselves to preaching good-will abroad. Let them preach it at home also. We on our side are perfectly willing to stand up to our reactionaries, and to do all we can to make things better. Are hon. Members opposite willing to do so? They should not get up in the pulpits on Sundays—well, no, they do not get up in the pulpit, but they get on the parade and preach class warfare, and it is madness, especially from the point of view of the thousands of people who cannot get work and are never likely to get it unless trade improves.
§ Mr. MARCH
Listening to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health I was left with the impression that he was trying to make the public believe there were no poor requiring relief until the coal lock out occurred. He deplored the amount of poverty that had had to be relieved during that period, as we all deplore it, and he had to justify the action of the Department in coming forward to ask for this sum of money, but I suppose he forgot. the returns issued by his own Department, made up to 1st January, 1996—long before the coal lock-out—showing increased numbers of people requiring assistance from boards of guardians. This was due in many cases to want of employment, and also to the 1762 action of the Ministry of Labour in cutting people off from benefit in many instances when they were entitled to it, let alone the cases in which they were applying for extended benefit. On page 27 of that report of persons in receipt of poor relief hon. Members will find the necessitous cases dealt with by the London boards of guardians. Out of the 25 London boards there is only one which does not show an increase in the numbers of persons receiving relief over the numbers for the previous year. The one board of guardians which did not record any increase in numbers was that for Westminster, the district in which this House is situated. There one found a reduction of 98, and I suppose if we looked round we should find the explanation to be through the pulling down of the slum areas in this neighbourhood people have transferred to other districts. What we have to bear in mind is that the number of people requiring assistance has gradually been increasing owing to unemployment.
The district I represent is an exporting district, and when trade declines and exports decrease unemployment increases in our district. Most of the employment is casual, and within a few days of being thrown out of work most of the people have to go to the board of guardians. There are one or two other factors which have also helped the increases. The Ministry of Pensions dole out certain allowances to men, their families and dependants, but the amount is not enough, and they have to apply to boards of guardians for assistance. Many of the men have tried to get employment. A case was handed to me to-day by one of my constituents. The man has an army pension of 25s. 5d. a week, and has a wife and two dependent children. He has been thrown out of employment, and has applied for unemployment benefit. Apparently he had previously received extended benefit, but he has now on his cards, from July, 1925, to October 29, 1926, 109 stamps. He has applied for unemployment benefit, and is toldThe Committee are of opinion that it is not expedient in the public interest to allow extended benefit, having regard to the conditions mentioned in paragraph 3 on the back hereof.I would like hon. Members to take particular notice of what paragraph 3 1763 on the back hereof means and what it says:Short time workers whose incomes are sufficient to justify the withholding of extended benefit.25s. 5d. for a man and wife and two children, and that is the reason why it is withheld! He pays rent of 7s. 6d. a week out of that, so it leaves 18s. on which four of them have to try to exist. I would like many hon. Members who have been talking about peace in industry, and peace in our time, to try and exist on 18s. a week and see how well they would get on with it. The worse of it is, that the longer those people are off the worse they are served. The Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour run away with the idea that the longer they are unemployed and the longer they are receiving from the board of guardians the less they ought to have. Ordinarily one would think that if a man were unemployed and getting no income he would require more at the end of three months than when he first started. Yet these people are supposed to try to eke it out and do with less and less in the weeks, months, and years that they happen to be unemployed or seeking relief. That is a wrong policy which will not build up the rising generation. If they would only read page 4 of the preface to this Report issued by their own Department they would learn that Poor Law relief in England and Wales, on the 1st January, 1926, was being received by 1,439,810, or 370 per 10,000 of the estimated population, an increase of 234,543 or 19 per cent. as compared with the corresponding number on the preceding 1st January. A gradual increase has been going on in every one of the Metropolitan boroughs where they get assistance from the Common Poor Fund. What must it be to the other outside areas where they are not blessed with that kind of assistance?
In this Report you will find that in most of the outlying provincial towns the number of people in distress and requiring assistance and support from the board of guardians has increased. You can look at Norfolk or Suffolk, the south-west area or the eastern area; you can even go to Gloucester and Worcester and find an increase in the number of people requiring assistance. This has 1764 been going on long before the coal lockout. It is owing to the policy of the Government in not doing their best to bring about trade in this country, but holding up the rights they have to bring about peace among the countries which would employ our people by the exports which we could send to them. You are cutting off the poorest from receiving grants because they cannot comply with the tightened-up Regulations which you have issued. That has been done purposely, so that you should not pay any money or find work for those people. I am glad to know that the men in the districts are all clamouring for work. They would prefer work at any time. If you cannot get money, the men cannot go on working; they must keep body and soul together, and the only place is the board of guardians.
§ Lieut.-Colonel THOM
I wish to take advantage of the presence of the Secretary of State for Scotland to emphasise the remarks which have fallen from the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) with regard to the position of many of the parish councils in Scotland. Practically every speech that has been delivered in this House this afternoon has raised the general question of the relationship between the administration of local affairs, local expenditure, and the responsibility of the national Exchequer. That is a very wide and difficult question. The very fact that a Commission has sat and has considered schemes and made no definite recommendations with regard to any of them is an indication of how bad things are. The Committee does not expect the Minister of Health to give a definite declaration: of policy on that point this afternoon. I wish to impress upon the Government, and on the Secretary of State for Scotland, that the question is one which is earnestly engaging the attention of public bodies throughout Scotland, and of public-spirited citizens, who, up to now, at great sacrifice and much personal inconvenience, have endeavoured to administer affairs in Scotland.
I have the honour to represent a constituency which is mixed in this respect. It consists of several large residential areas and several large industrial areas. Unfortunately, one or two of those industrial areas are also necessitous areas in 1765 the sense that we have been using the term this afternoon. I wish to refer, in particular, in support of the argument I intend to advance, to one area known as the Vale of Leven. That area is unique in this respect, that it received, as a result of the War, an artificial stimulation to its industry. There was a factory taken over by the Admiralty for the manufacture of munitions, and for the purpose of the manufacture of munitions the Admiralty introduced into this area a large number of families and built, houses for them. These people settled there and are living there at the present moment. At the end of the War the factory was closed down and the men were thrown out of employment, with consequent recourse to the local authority for relief. The position is this. This area has been increasing its rates year by year. It has had to borrow from the Goschen Committee, and I understand that by the end of this year it will have borrowed something like £50,000. The feeling generally among the citizens who administer the local affairs of that area is that at no time will this area be able to pay back the £50,000.
It is distinct from the mining district in this respect, that the mining districts at the present moment know what is their burden. When the stoppage finishes, and these men go back to work and are able to pay their rates, this burden of the rates will come clown. As far as this particular area is concerned, there, is no prospect of any reduction in the rates. There is only one hope of revival in this area, and it is a revival of trade. The unfortunate thing is that there can be no revival of trade until the rates are reduced. My right hon. Friend will agree that when a company goes down with the idea of starting a business in this area the first thing it inquires about is the local rates. As long as the local rates are high, there is no possibility of a revival of trade, and it is only by a revival of trade that you can possibly hope to reduce the appalling burden of taxation which the local inhabitants have to face. Therefore, the task with which the parish councils are faced at the present moment is a very difficult one indeed. There is no use, so far as this particular area is concerned, in increasing the rates, because they have got to the position that even 1766 if they increase the rate by so much per pound there is no possibility of collecting the money. They are up against a deadlock. These men, who are doing their best to administer local affairs, find themselves faced with an impossible task that has two most unfortunate results.
I find this state of affairs not only in this part of the country, but in other parts of Scotland. It is driving moderate business men, who up to now have taken an active part in the administration of local affairs, out of local politics altogether. They see that they are faced with a hopeless task. They go to the Board of Health in Scotland, and the Board of Health tells them they must apply business methods in the administration of local affairs. When I went to the Board of Health in Scotland with regard to this particular area, they treated me with absolute sympathy, but they insisted that we should face economic facts and apply business methods to the administration of local affairs. The business men see that it is impossible to carry on with this burden of taxation. Throughout the length and breadth of Scotland there are men who have sacrificed much time in the administration of local affairs, who belong to the Labour party, the Unionist party, and the Liberal party, and they are convinced that so far as many of the areas are concerned the national Exchequer must come in and do something to remedy an almost impossible state of affairs. This appalling state of affairs, and the impossibility of carrying on local administration on business lines, is driving those public-spirited men out of local politics. Extremists are getting in who are promising the unemployed more than it ise possible to give considering the limited exchequer from which they can draw.
There is one other unfortunate result. In these industrial areas there are thousands of men who are working on part time. They have to pay rates. There are small tradesmen who are unable to collect their rents and their business accounts. The result is that they are unable to pay their rates in one single payment as they could do in times of prosperity. In this one area alone you have as many as 500 people going every week to the collector of local taxes and paying sums from 1s. to 2s. 6d. I third, it is one of the cardinal principles of 1767 taxation that it should be imposed and collected in such a way as to cause the least irritation. To have big masses of honest working people paying in every week sums from 1s. to 2s. 6d. is humiliating and degrading, and I think it is a question the Government should take into immediate consideration.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I rise to take part in this Debate because I understand that the Secretary of State for Scotland is going to intervene, and I wish to raise one or two points relating to Scotland. On this side of the House we can agree with the demand made by the hon. Member who has just sat down for some form of State assistance. I am sorry the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) is not in her place, because she made the remarkable statement that there was no starvation so far as the country generally was concerned. I do not represent a mining area, but I do represent an industrial area. I happen to have a brother who practises as a doctor from day to day in Glasgow, and my brother declares that in some of the industrial parts of that city the housing conditions are scandalous and require radical and desperate treatment. He also says that the people are underfed, and that actual privation is prevalent in many parts of the city of Glasgow.
Recently a circular has been issued by the Scottish Office on this question to every parish council in Scotland which practically says that the parish councils are spending too much money and utilising their services too largely. The circular informs them that if they go on spending in that way the Scottish Board of Health cannot help them, and they ask those parish councils to curtail their spending activities. The Scottish Board of Health recommend the parish councils which are granting any sum in excess of unemployment benefit to stop that payment as early as possible. That is the course the Government are recommending to the local authorities. They are told at the same time that if they do not fit in with the suggestion they may have cuts made in their loans which are so much required by those councils.
Consider for a moment the state of things in the city represented by the Secretary of State for Scotland, the 1768 Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie), the Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne). In that city 29s. per week is the amount of relief allowed for a man, his wife and three children. On that they have to face their daily expenditure. Along comes the Secretary of State for Scotland who informs the parish councils who have made the amount 33s. per week that they must cut the relief down to 29s. I think the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) and the hon. Member for Springburn will be ready to bear me out in that statement. In Glasgow last week the price of coal was 5s. 3d. per cwt., in some cases it was actually more. That was the price of coal in Govan Hill last Saturday where I know that a neighbour of mine paid 5s. 3d. in the street for a bag of coal. Even a poor family consisting of a man and his wife and three children require at least one bag of coal per week. If you take 5s. for a cwt. of coal from the 29s. allowed in relief, that leaves the family I have referred to 24s. per week to pay the rent and provide food and clothing for five persons. This cannot be done. Even the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, with all his cleverness, could not feed three children and two adults on an income of 24s. a week. Even if you have a "Daily Mail" or a "Glasgow Record" stunt, you cannot devise a method of feeding five persons on 24s. a week. I understand that there has recently been a small decrease in the price of coal. Of course, you must allow 6s. at least for rent, and that leaves 18s. to keep five persons. The whole thing is preposterous, and yet hon. Members in this House come forward and say that there is no starvation or privation in the country. As a matter of fact, the doctors connected with the parish councils, who go into the homes of the poor day after day and see the children there, tell us that it is no use prescribing medicine, because what the people require is food. As a matter of fact, the doctors have to tell the people that they cannot give them medicine, because what they require is more food. The only remedy put forward by the Government is that brutal and cruel remedy propounded by the Parliamentary Secretary, of asking the people to go 1769 inside the poor-house. That kind of thing is happening day in and day out in the cities and towns of Scotland.
The question of the local debt and the rates has been raised. I do not think it is a fitting thing for a man who has just been raised to the office of a Secretary of State that one of the first acts he does in that capacity is to issue a Circular to deprive the poorest of the poor of a little increased allowance which they were getting. I do not think that becomes his great office, and that Circular ought to be withdrawn as soon as possible. I know some people have been trying to induce the Scottish Office not to pay any relief to the miners' dependants, and they have been trying to get the Scottish Board of Health to take sides against the miners. This problem is getting worse every day. It would exist in your industrial districts even if you had no lock-out.
Take as an example Govan parish. It is a cul de sac, and no new houses or factories are being built in that parish because every available inch of ground is already built upon. What is happening is that all the new houses which those who are better able to pay require are being built outside the parish, and they are removing from the parish of Govan to the better-off places, thus throwing the burden of the rates on the Govan parish. This will increase as months and years go by. There is one way at least in which the Secretary of State for Scotland can help the parish councils. The parish council I represented here in this House paid last year interest amounting to a rate of 1s. 6d. in the £. Last year I took a different line from some of my colleagues upon a subject in regard to which the Government were making a certain arrangement with Northern Ireland. On that occasion £2000,000 or £3,000,000 was the amount voted for the relief of unemployment in Northern Ireland. That sum was granted, and I did not oppose it because my own views are not antagonistic to the Government of Northern Ireland. That sum of money was granted to relieve unemployment in that part of Great Britain, and surely it is not too much to ask the Government to do for Scotland and England what they have already carried out in the case of Northern Ireland, namely, that money should be voted for that purpose for 1770 other parts of the country. With regard to this question of interest on loans, the Government are charging 5 per cent. on every penny which is owing by the parish council. The parish council say that they do not object to the burden of repayment, and they will pay every penny of the loans back again, but they do think that if they shoulder this burden it ought to be free of the terrible interest which this country is imposing. Surely you can give the parish councils relief from this terrible oncost of interest on these particular burdens. At least the parish council make this demand that the loans ought to be granted without any interest at all when the money is wanted for the relief of the poor.
With regard to the miners' stoppage, the men have never asked for a penny more wages, and for a long time they have been existing on low wages, and now they are asked to work longer hours as well. On this issue I think that morally the Minister of Labour has every right to pay unemployment benefit to every miner who is out of work. Not only should the miner get unemployment relief, but the Minister of Labour ought to pay to every miner unemployed benefit because these miners have not come out on strike, but they have been deliberately locked out and flung out of work. What is the latest policy of the Secretary of State for Scotland? It is that there ought to be some reduction in the benefits, and the latest Circular states as a reason for reducing these benefits that during the last two years a man has not had a reasonable period of work. These men have not worked for two years, and therefore they have no claims for unemployment benefit. If these men are not going to get unemployment benefit, what other alternative have the Government to take the place of that benefit? These burdens cannot go on indefinitely, and what is the Government going to give to the unemployed in place of those benefits?
I could imagine the Government coming along with a machine gun and mowing the poor people down, and I could at least agree that there would be a certain amount of logic in that, but I cannot tolerate the idea, although the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) may laugh, of watching people starving, day by day. 1771 I live in my own Division, and when Parliament is not sitting I am never away from it. I have not had a holiday from it for four years; and, living there and mixing with and meeting people as I do, I can say without exaggeration that I have witnessed people, who have worked beside me in my own trade, slowly starving, and their children starving also. The doctors in my Division, whether they be Catholics, Protestants or Jews, will admit that starvation is taking place, and you have no right to come along and say there shall be no unemployment benefit. You pass Regulation after Regulation, and say it is an insurance fund. I will grant you that, but I have a right to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, under whose custodianship this matter has been placed, "What are you going to give in its place?"
Will the hon. Member—and this is really very important—give us the names and addresses of the people who are starving?
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I will tell the Noble Lady what I will do. I have not a palatial dwelling—merely two rooms and a kitchen—but, if she will come down to my Division, I will give her a room, and will take her to scores and scores of the people who are starving.
I cannot come down to the hon. Member's Division; I have a Division of my own but I would like the names and addresses of the people who are starving. The hon. Member has no right to make that assertion in the House of Commons unless he can prove it.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
If the Noble Lady will come down to my Division I will show her, not one, but countless hundreds. As I said earlier, before she came in—she often comes in and, without listening to a speech, interrupts it is a habit of hers—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Shut your mouth and listen to me! I know you have no manners, but at least you should have sense.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
It is not worthy of the dignity of the House when hon. Members behave in this way.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Is it in order, when an hon. Member is making a speech for two or three hon. Members opposite to interrupt him?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am not speaking of any Member in particular; I am speaking of the whole House.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Very often I am guilty of the worst kind of interruptions, but I never grumble. The only thing I object to is the Noble Lady not being able to take her own medicine.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Just allow me; you are not, dealing with a horse at Newmarket. I have a brother practising as a doctor in Glasgow, who goes to the poorest of the poor. He would take her ladyship to people—people who are on his own panel—who are starving to-night, if she cares to come down, she can call me any name she likes if my statement is not correct. I am not going to say that the whole of Glasgow is starving, but I will repeat what I said earlier, when the Noble Lady was not here. There are families whose total income is 29s. a week. I have a brother-in-law who is unemployed, and his total income from the parish council is 29s. He has a wife and three children—that is five persons—and a week last Saturday the price of a bag of coal was 5s. 3d. Deduct that from 29s. and also 6s. for rent, and ask yourself if you can feed them—even you, and you are clever. It cannot be done; it is starvation, literal and brutal and cruel. I do not want to say that the Secretary of State for Scotland is personally cruel, but that is the fact. One of the first things he ought to do is to withdraw that Circular, and allow the parish councils to go on in their own way. If they care to spend a little more, let them do so, but at least allow them that amount if freedom.
There is another problem arising from the Poor Law that the Secretary of State for Scotland cannot avoid. Every day in Glasgow wholesale eviction decrees are granted against people for rent. 1773 That is the ordinary course of the law, and it would not be in order to discuss it now, but it happens, and the reason is that the people cannot pay their rent. What is happening is that, owing to the insufficiency of the grant, they cannot pay their rent, and, as a result, we have several families going into two-apartment houses in order to club together and pay the rent. One of the direct outcomes of this insufficient relief is tremendous overcrowding, because the only way in which the rent can be met is for three or four of these families, without regard to sanitation or anything else, to club together and overcrowd in one house. Mr. Gilmour, the chairman of the house factors, who does not agree with my politics, will accept that view. He says, "We have to get our rent, and we have to take evictions. We know the parish council income is not sufficient to pay the rent, but we must protect ourselves." Consequently, they take this action, and what happens is that three or four people who used to reside next door to one another, and are all out of work, club together and go into one house; that is their only method of paying rent.
Arising from that—and this is my last observation—is another problem. I sometimes go to the Glasgow Sheriff Court, where I see boys of 15, 16 or 17 charged with various offences. Sometimes it is stealing out of telephone boxes, sometimes it is stealing fruit from a shop, and one cannot but view with alarm the rapid increase of certain juvenile crimes. It is a shocking thing that we should send them to the Borstal Institution and spend £1 a week to keep them there after they are criminals, and yet will not give to their parents 7s. 6d. to keep them outside the police court. It is a shocking and cruel thing when we give criminals better treatment than decent people who are not criminals. I was at Duke Street Prison the other week watching some women, one of whom was serving a life sentence. She was comfortable, to some extent at any rate; at least she was clad, she had a room to sleep in, and she had warmth and food. Then I walked to the south side of Glasgow, and saw decent people who had never committed any crime, but who could not get one-half of what we treat our fellows to inside a prison. I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, in no personal fashion, and not even, I hope, in too critical or carping a fashion, 1774 to try and help to give Scottish people a better chance of life than they have been getting for some time back.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)
Perhaps I may be permitted to say a few words upon this Supplementary Estimate and upon the aspects of it which mainly concern Scotland. We have listened in this Debate to various speeches, some of which have been confined directly to the subject before the Committee, while others have touched upon or mentioned subjects of vast interest and of great social importance. Into these I shall not venture to travel on this occasion, but my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd), who spoke earlier in the Debate, asked me whether I was placing any novel interpretation upon the administration by the Scottish Board of Health in connection with the application of the Poor Law to Scotland. I am not conscious of having done anything of the sort. All I should like to say on that point is that, when this very regrettable situation arose in Scotland, similar in extent and degree to that which was facing the Ministry of Health in England, I felt it my duty to interpret the law, upon the best advice available to me, and, above all, the object which has actuated my administration and that of the Board of Health in Scotland has been to see that the parish councils were advised upon the law as we understand it, and that, so far as is possible, with a due regard to the possible length of the dispute, to the difficulties, and to the question of economy and their ability to meet the claims which would fall upon them, they should give adequate and necessary assistance to prevent destitution and real suffering. From time to time it has been represented to me, as, indeed, it has been represented in this House to-night, that there have been cases of starvation in the country. I have asked repeatedly for the names and addresses of any individuals falling under such a category, and have immediately ordered an investigation by the officers under the Board of Health, and I am satisfied, apart from any question as to whether this or the other individual was getting a sufficient degree of nutritive constituents in the shape of food, that, so far as the actual question of starvation is concerned, no such cases have been substantiated. If I may refer—
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
With regard to what has been said by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) about the case of a child who might be getting Poor Law relief and the doctor finds that what, it wants is not medicine but nourishment, it is within the province of that medical man to give an order for nourishment. It is his duty, and if failure has taken place, in the knowledge of the hon. Member, in dealing with this problem by such means, I beg of him to bring those cases to the Scottish Board of Health. This very regrettable situation has thrown an enormous strain upon the local administration, and is throwing a burden of which we cannot even at present see the end, or know how far it is going to be destructive of the ability of parish councils to carry on this duty in the future. Its effects upon trade and industry are bound to remain for a long and, I fear, an indefinite period. Realising that these difficulties are going to be crippling to us, I say that our action has been directed towards seeing that no individual actually came to a state of destitution and that, with regard to the children, the fullest care was taken that they should be adequately and properly looked after. Of course, it would not be in order for me to speak of what has been done with regard to children of school age, but relief and food have been given to those attending school.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I have had over fifty cases brought to the Board of Health and investigated and in not one of them has the allegation been substantiated. Let me turn to the actual Supplementary Estimate that is now before the Committee. This problem of relief to miners' dependants has entailed an outlay in Scotland of something like £600,000, and of course a considerable 1776 proportion of this outlay has been provided directly through the agency of the Scottish Board of Health from the Goschen Committee. There came a period when, whatever hon. Members may think about the amount which has been provided by parish councils, they were unable to Secure any further advances from the banks, and I then took steps with the Board of Health to supply to these parish councils, directly sums of money through the Goschen Committee which would assist them to carry out these duties.
That has been done, and, facing a very difficult problem and having a great deal of criticism, not only from certain parish councils, but from people outside parish councils, the Government have pursued an even way, not taking sides as to the rights or wrongs of the dispute. They have had one object before them, that food should be given whore it was essential, and that suffering, so far as possible, should be prevented. In spite of all these troubles, we find an improvement in the death rate. Under these circumstances, do not, on the one hand, let any portion of the House use exaggerated language, and claim that such food as has been given contains all those properties which under the very best circumstances one would like to see given, and, on the other hand, let us avoid making rash statements that there are people at present actually starving, because I cannot think for a moment that that can be substantiated, and if any hon. Member or anyone outside the House can bring to my notice officially any such case, it will be investigated.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am sorry I have to waste a good maiden speech. It is usual to say the House will accord me that courtesy it always accords to one who has not addressed them for a long time. I do not want to see the Committee running away from the actual distress that there is in Scotland and in parts of England and Wales over a definition. The right hon. Gentleman is probably absolutely right when he says there is no starvation. It does them credit in one way. I notice that hon. Members opposite are always tremendously ready to rush forward and applaud the definite statement of the Secretary of State that there is no starvation. They are so anxious that they have the applause out 1777 before he has finished his statement. That indicates to me that they are all anxious that it should be so, but it is not so. I do not know what is the definition of the word "starvation" that satisfies the Scottish Office, whether you must have one foot in the grave or a whole leg in the grave or what fraction of the person has to be in the grave before the Scottish Office will admit that a person is starving. But there is undoubtedly, both among school children, children under school age, among the parents, and particularly among the mothers, a very aggravated amount of mal-nutrition. There is obvious physical deterioration. The right hon. Gentleman does not need to take reports from his officials. In my own small way I have to deal with reports from officials who act in certain directions under my chairmanship, and I know that the officials always tell the figurehead, if we may use the word without being offensive to one another, the story that they think will please him. You and I may not accept it and we may cross-examine them, but it is a natural thing for a person who is working under the direction of someone else to try to say the thing he knows the other fellow wants said.
I went through the industrial part of the right hon. Gentleman's constituency the other day; that is the part that does not vote for him, and obviously there is serious distress there. The schoolmasters and teachers in the schools in that town are my personal friends. I meet them casually here and casually there, and they tell me the difficulties of their work. They also tell me of the tremendous difficulties which have to be gone through before an individual teacher, teaching a class of children, seeing deterioration taking place in their physique from day to day, and it is taking place from day to day and the teacher sees it very speedily when he or she sees a bright, intelligent., smart young child turning in a few weeks, through the change in the family circumstances, into a dullard who cannot whip itself up into the faintest interest into the proceedings of the school. I know that may arise in other ways. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health is completely bored at the proceedings here. I see him yawning very widely and taking no 1778 interest. It is a trivial thing, and it is a pity his time should be wasted. That is not the result of under-feeding. In the elementary schools right round Glasgow, in the South Side and in the East End, the obvious deterioration that is taking place in the school children cannot be escaped by those who come into contact with it, but I have absolutely no doubt that statistics can be produced that there is no such suffering in the whole of Glasgow. I have seen the statistics. I have heard the statement made time and again, and I have read reports that there is absolutely no suffering in the country now.
I heard the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) interrupt the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). I could take her into the constituency of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. She does not need me to take her. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will take her himself into houses where the conditions will make her and him absolutely sick. You do not need to rely on reports in the papers. Go and look at it. Yet I am certain the officials responsible for Poor Law administration in that district will assure you the next morning that there is no serious destitution in the whole neighbourhood. The Under-Secretary knows his constituency. He sometimes goes there between elections, and he knows it is true. He knows the names of the streets. He would tell the Noble Lady there is no starvation in the, highly technical sense of the word as it is used in the State Department, but there is very serious misery and hardship arising both from lack of food and lack of clothing. The hon. Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) earlier in the Debate told a story of how the collier could not expect the food producer to give him food if he did not give the food producer coal, and tried to make out that that is the position in the community to-day, but the position actually in those neighbourhoods is that the men and women who have worked year after year and steadily paid their rates, have the right to come and say, "Out of the store of food and clothing and house accommodation that we have contributed during the years when we had the chance, we want to have enough to keep us in decent efficiency now."
1779 8.0. P.M.
We ask it all the more because we have absolutely no responsibility for the circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day. It is not the fault of the dock labourer on the Clyde that the ships are not coming in; it is not the fault of the boilermaker in the shipyards that no ships are being built on the stocks; it is the fault of the great captains of industry. They told us that they could run the industry of the country efficiently and effectively, and they cannot now turn round and blame the dock labourer and the boilermaker. The primary responsibility for the present state of things rests with the great captains of industry and the leaders of private enterprise, while the secondary responsibility rests with us in the House of Commons, to whom the people have entrusted the running of this country. The only people who have no responsibility for the condition of the country are the people who are suffering most and we are arguing here about whether we shall give them 6d. or ls. I am appealing to the right hon. Gentleman not merely, in dealing with his parish councils in Scotland—and I would also appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health with reference to his boards of guardians in England—not to prevent them from raising the amount but definitely to encourage them to say to the people applying for relief and support that they will help them, and to treat them as fellow human beings, to treat them as hon. Members opposite would treat one another, and indeed would treat Members on these benches.
It is the great paradox of this House that I do not believe that there is one hon. Member or right hon. Member opposite who would not do a kindly act to another individual Member on this side—a mere personal kindly act. For instance, if I came and told hon. Members that I had not had any food for a couple of days they would say, "Come along and join with me. It is a confounded shame. Maxton is a human being in spite of his appearance." But when it comes to dealing with people outside in the country whom hon. Members do not know, then statistics satisfy, figures satisfy, any assurance from any official is enough. But that is not good enough. The human relations 1780 that hon. Members bring into their connections with people with whom they are personally associated, with people whom they know as individuals and not as the mere aggregate of workers, the same principles of understanding, of decency, of sportsmanship, of gentlemanliness, ought to be applied in the public service. Hon. Members should endeavour not to get rid of their responsibility in the meanest anti cheapest way, but to act generously and courteously towards people they do not even know.
I see that the Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) nods her head, but was she not doing the thing of which I am complaining, when, half an hour ago, she was doing her best to disprove the statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan)? If I took the Noble Lady into Glasgow to-night with £1,000 in her pocket, I could take her through 1,000 homes, and the mere seeing of them would empty her pocket before she had gone through all of them, and yet she is quite pleased to accept figures and assurances from the Secretary of State that there is no misery in the country. Does she honestly believe that there is no misery?
§ Mr. MAXTON
The Noble Lady is prepared to stand for misery, but she draws the line at starvation. That is the position of the right hon. Gentleman and of Noble and hon. Members opposite. They would draw the line at starvation.
Misery may be a mental thing; you may have misery on a full stomach if you like, but starvation a very different thing. There is always misery in the country, and there is very great misery now. The hon. Member for Gorbals said there was starvation, and I interrupted him because I wanted to know where the starvation was. But there are miserable men in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I know that misery may be a purely mental state arising from a full stomach. As a matter of fact I have experienced it myself, but we are not discussing our own personal ailments. The misery we are talking about is the misery that is arising in our industrial areas to-day through the lack of sufficiency of the ordinary things of 1781 life. We have misery arising in our cities through the fact that the people are over-crowded. That creates physical misery and physical deterioration. We have misery arising through the lack of clothing, through the want of food. I am prepared to agree that there are not many people dying of those conditions—unfortunately; probably they would be better off dead. But is it the conception of hon. Members opposite that they should just do enough to keep people alive, however miserable and uncomfortable the condition of those people may be, and that then they have no further responsibility? They have done their duty, and they have kept them alive. There is no starvation. That is not the standard hon. Members would apply in their personal and social relationships, and if that is not the standard they would apply to their friends, it should not be the standard that is applied in our administration of the affairs of this country.
I hope that I have not obtruded myself to too great an extent on the Committee. I hope I have done something to prevent hon. Members from wasting a discussion, which gets right into the homes of the huge masses of our people, over a quibble about a definition of a particular word. The misery is there, and hon. Members opposite know it as well as I do. Hon. Members say that the State has no duty to make people happy and comfortable. I think it is the prime duty and possibly the only duty of the State to do so. I will leave it to the Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth and other people better informed than I am to make the people good. But I think we can quite well ask Governments and States that they should provide for all the people the physical comforts that can so easily be secured for them. I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland in his control, direction and stimulation of the administration of Scotland, that all his efforts shall be turned, not towards getting away with the minimum but towards giving the most that can possibly be given.
§ Sir SAMUEL CHAPMAN
May I presume on behalf of the whole Committee to say how delighted we are to see the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) back with us, restored to health? The 1782 hon. Member, with whom we hardly ever agree, brings a good breath of fresh air always to the House and it does us all good to hear him. It is not exactly the way in which he puts things but it is what is at the bottom of his sentiments that we all appreciate. While we do not agree with the methods which he advances, we are all agreed that, if it were at all possible to rid all the people of this country of their misery by Acts of Parliament, the House of Commons would do it here and now. But it is a question which has baffled the most experienced statesmen for centuries, and the problem is not how to get rid of misery by Acts of Parliament but to see that Acts of Parliament, while we think they may do good, may not in the end cause greater misery and more unemployment by their passing than would have been the case if they had not passed at all.
I really rose to reply to an insinuation which was thrown out by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Lieut.-Colonel Thom) was referring to the discussion about the Vale of Leven. He referred to the fact that the only way to obtain a reduction of the rates in the Vale of Leven was the establishment of more factories in that district for the employment of the people. It was then that the hon. Member for Gorbals threw out an insinuation, which I have heard him make before in this House, and that is the reason for my rising, that certain silk factories which were mentioned during the time of the by-election did not materialise, and he insinuated that it was an election "stunt." That insinuation is not correct. I had something to do with bringing a silk factory to Dunfermline, helped by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson), and there was an opportunity of operating the Alexandria Works in the Vale of Leven, not for the same purpose but for a similar purpose, and not for weeks but for months, and some of my hon. Friends worked with the intention of bringing that factory to the Vale of Leven.
§ Mr. T. HENDERSON
On a point of Order. Was the hon. Member in the House when the hon. Member for Gorbals was speaking, because the hon. Member for Gorbals did not say anything of the kind?
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member for Gorbals did make such a statement, then the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) may deny it from his own knowledge, but the matter must not be pursued indefinitely.
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
I rose to say that there was an insinuation in the hon. Member's remarks—I may have misinterpreted them—that the matter was mentioned during the by-election for the purpose of getting votes. That is not true.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the question was referred to incidentally, then, of course, it is in order to deny it, but it is not relevant to the Debate, and could not be gone into in detail.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
On a point of Order. May I ask the hon. Member whether he is aware that prior to this thing happening the Argyll Motor Company wanted these works, and that if they had secured them there would have been work going on now in the Vale of Leven?
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I have addressed this House so frequently on the question of necessitous areas in the past that I must apologise to the Committee for addressing it again on the same subject. If hon. Members will apply their minds to the speech delivered this afternoon by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, they cannot but feel a very grave sense of dissatisfaction with that speech. If we could imagine the conditions reversed, and that speech being delivered by a member of the Labour Government in 1924, and the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health sitting on this side of the House, one can realise what pertinacity he would have shown in trying to extract from the Minister of the Labour Government some outline of 1784 policy which the Government had in view for dealing with the situation.
Frequently, we have had discussions upon this question in the House and, although it has not been always directly relevant and in order, the Minister in charge has been allowed to say what the Government had in mind for dealing with the problems with which these figures are attempting to deal. Not one single word has been given to the House to-day as indication of present intention in the way of outlining any proposals, nor is there any hope of any future proposals forthcoming from the Ministry. If I gather aright, the Government, judging from the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, have settled down to the quiet conviction that nothing whatever can be done to deal with this situation; that we are only to drift on, and if we are to do anything at all it is to find so many millions of pounds from the Treasury from time to time. There was a little exaggerated satisfaction in the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. It is true that he harrowed the feelings of the Committee—I do not say that that was entirely wrong; I dare say the Committee was entirely in agreement with him on the matter—with a picture of the present condition of local government generally. Undoubtedly, the outlook for local authorities is full of the gravest menace. No one who knows anything about local government from actual experience can have any sort of satisfaction from contemplating the present and prospective outlook for local authorities.
In what terms did the Parliamentary Secretary express satisfaction with things as they are? He actually told us, as evidence why we should feel satisfaction with things as they are, that children were better off to-day than they were in the days before the lock-out began. Better off, in a period when for over six months their fathers have earned not one single penny by way of wages; when they have had nothing at all by way of unemployment benefit; when the calls upon the home have had to be met out of resources accumulated in pre-stoppage days; in a time when distress has been so prevalent that local funds have had to be gathered by choirs singing north, south, east and west, and when voluntary subscriptions have had to be sent in by 1785 people in all grades of life I In a condition like that., we are assured by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health that the condition of the children in these mining areas, these Poor Law areas, is better than it was before the lock-out began. What a shocking commentary upon the condition of affairs in pre-stoppage days. The only deduction we can draw from that remark is that the condition of affairs in the days when the parents were earning were such as to merit the gravest possible reflection upon our national economy.
The whole bias of the Parliamentary Secretary's argument was in this direction, that the present conditions in the necessitous areas are very largely due to this most unfortunate industrial dispute during the last seven months. No one will deny, and I think no one could deny, that the industrial dispute of the last seven months has very gravely aggravated the situation, but it is no use our allowing the Government to get behind that as an excuse for the present affairs in those areas. So grave was the situation last year that the Government appointed a Committee to inquire into the matter, and that Committee was specifically asked to investigate the question as to what could or should be done in order to lift the burden from the shoulders of these overburdened areas. I would like to ask the Minister of Health once again a, question which I have asked on previous occasions. Are we to understand that the Government, through the Ministry of Health, have abandoned for all time the idea of securing in some way or other some sort of scheme to help the specially necessitous areas?
On a previous occasion, in reply to some remarks of my own, the Minister of Health cited the Report presented by the Committee on the schemes for assistance in necessitous areas, as if the Report warranted the assumption that in the view of the Committee no sort of scheme could be devised for dealing with these exceptionally ill-placed areas. As a matter of fact, this very Committee specifically declared, as the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) pointed out, that they did not feel justified in saying that the schemes put before them were not entirely schemes which, with little adjustment, might prove useful. What they felt, called upon to 1786 say was that the terms of reference to the Committee wore such as precluded their discussing the adaptability of these schemes for the particular purpose they had in view. They did sayWe would only add that if our detailed Report inclines to stress the defects of the schemes to the exclusion of their merits, this arises from the scope of our inquiry.The report indicates that there did seem to the minds of members of that Committee sufficient merit in these schemes to justify further examination of them from the point of view of their adaptability for the use of necessitous areas, if the Government would only bend their mind to that end.
What is the position? The House must look with care at the prospective position of these local authorities. Not only are they grievously overburdened with the heavy loans they have contracted during the last seven months, but it is true to say that they have been reduced to such a parlous state financially that at this moment they are actually getting loans to repay loans, which, to use an everyday expression, is just feeding a dog with its own tail. What is the outlook for local government having regard to this situation? Everyone can see that in the immediate future all forms of social services are bound to be rapidly curtailed unless the Government makes some really generous gesture in order to help these authorities. For my part, it is only my own opinion, and it does not bind anyone on this side, I have been driven to this conclusion, that unless something is done speedily some of these authorities will be so closely driven that they will be almost on the verge of being compelled to repudiate these loans. That would be a most disastrous thing from the point of view of the credit of these authorities, and would jeopardise any chance of their obtaining loans on the money market for social services.
I ask the Minister of Health whether it is not possible for him to contemplate a proposal whereby this money shall be loaned to these authorities, not on the basis of a 5 per cent. rate of interest, but free of all interest for a period of time. I gather from what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary that the Ministry do not know the ultimate conditions upon which these loans are to be 1787 granted. They are to be granted temporarily and up to the dud of March next year, and at the end of March next year the position will be regularised, and they will be told on what conditions these loans are to be granted. If these local authorities are to be enabled to meet their day to day requirements, their financial condition must be substantially relieved, and, therefore, in the absence from the Government of an out and out grant, I ask whether the Minister cannot give them a loan on much easier terms than 5 per cent.
There is one other word I desire to say speakers on the other side of the House have indicated what a serious burden this grave financial difficulty involves upon the industry in these various areas, and especially is this so in mining areas. We need not discuss the right or wrongs of the dispute now. It is too late. We have had seven months of this industrial dispute. Everyone acquainted with the mining areas knows that the rates which colliery companies pay to the local authorities depends on the output of coal. During the last six or seven months no coal has been produced whatever, which means, not a temporary loss, but a permanent dead loss of any payment towards local rates by colliery companies. It will handicap them for many a long year; they will not be able to make up the loss. In the absence of that contribution from the colliery companies, people who have no relation at all to the dispute, small grocers and drapers, and small business people, are feeling the pinch greatly and are finding it a very hard task to pay their local rates at all. In my own area there are thousands and thousands of pounds of arrears of rates which these business people cannot pay. If they are to be called upon to make up for the lack of rates from colliery companies it means that the increased local taxation is going to be crippling to the last degree and will obviously drive out of business quite a large number of people who have committed their future to this form of earning their living.
Therefore, at the risk of reiteration—and it is difficult to say anything new on this question—I ask the Minister to give us some assurance to-night as to whether he will not reconsider this question, whether he has really made up his 1788 mind that the work, which was propounded before the Committee, is entirely fallacious in character and must be utterly and absolutely rejected, and whether he cannot consider the provision of these loans to local authorities at much easier terms than 5 per cent.? We have heard from the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) this afternoon a very graphic account of the condition of affairs in the Scottish areas. I cannot presume to imitate the word picture he presented to the Committee. All I would say is this, that however graphic the hon. Member for Bridgeton made his picture of the economic conditions in Glasgow, those conditions must apply in large measure to the mining areas of England and Wales as well. It is true of England; it is true of Wales; and it is true of Scotland. It must be so. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) told us that she had been inquiring in South Wales. I remember the occasion very well, as she invited-me to go down with her. It was not possible for me to do so, but if any hon. Member cares to examine the figures he will be astonished at the very large number of children of school age in those areas who are never allowed by their parents to go to the schools for the meals provided by the local education authority.
This is partly because the local education authority have publicly declared to the parents that whatever money is expended on providing these meals the parents will be expected to pay it back when the lock-out is over. The other reason is that parents do not like to make a public display of their want and privation, and it is true that in a community of 3,000 to 5,000 people you will not find more than 500 children at the outside being fed in the schools, a fact which leads obviously to this conclusion, that there are hundreds of children attending the schools, primary or secondary, whose parents do not allow them to go there for meals and who must be suffering terribly from privation and malnutrition; I do not say from starvation. Whatever has been said by the hon. Member for Bridgeton applies to all these areas, and whether we can prove actual starvation or not, it is nevertheless true that there is very great need and want which can only be removed by a 1789 generous Government acting generously towards these local authorities who have to bear these terrible burdens.
§ Mrs. PHILIPSON
I represent a mining area, and like the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson), I have been down amongst the miners and their wives and children. I know them very well, and I only wish the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough were in her place, and as chairman of the relief committee, I would ask her to bring a little of the human element into the consideration of these cases when they ask for relief. I have not risen to speak on behalf of the miners' wives and children, but on behalf of a class of worker who, so far, has not been mentioned in this Debate. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) stated that the miners did not go on strike. I think I can honestly say that the men for whom I speak have never gone on strike. They are hard-working men, proud men, and men on whom this country relies for part of its food supplies. I am speaking on behalf of the fishermen, many of whom are suffering great hardships, as they have suffered for several months, even before the coal stoppage took place. The Minister knows quite well that the fishermen's work is seasonal employment. I appeal to him that when the fishermen's case comes before him every thought shall be given to it. Sometimes, though they could appeal, they do not appeal, but when they do appeal I hope they will be given the fullest consideration and be treated fairly.
§ Mr. HARRIS
One could not fail to notice during the Debate that all the Lady Members of the House have taken part. That is right and proper in the discussion of a question of this kind. I think the Minister of Health must have felt convinced of the breakdown of the machinery of local government, if he wanted any convincing. I do not think that he wanted any convincing, because the strong line which he has taken in legislation is a proof that the old and clumsy local machinery for dealing with unemployment has not been able to stand the strain of the post-War economic upheaval and the disputes which were inevitable as a result of the decreased wealth of the country. But it is a mistake to think that this state of things 1790 is confined to any part of the country. There is hardly any section of the community which is not affected. Fishermen, of course, are affected by, the shortage of coal. Through all these troubles London has not been very conspicuous or very vocal, largely because of the peculiar nature of London industry. There are no large trades. London is a place of many small industries. But I can speak as an East End Member and say that the unemployment, bad as it was a few months ago, has been intensified by the economic disturbance due to the shortage of coal. There seems to be an impression in the Government Departments that the strain of unemployment in London has for some reason or other decreased. It is certainly not so in Bethnal Green. The other day a letter was sent to the Unemployment Grants Committee asking for assistance such as had been given for three years. From the reply one gathered that someone had an impression that employment had improved in East London. This was the letter that we received:They find that the extent of the unemployment in the district of Bethnal Green is not sufficiently exceptional to bring the application within the revised conditions.How they arrived at that impression it is very difficult to understand, for I have figures here which show that during the last 12 months the amount of unemployment, as indicated by out-relief, has never been so great. In fact it has doubled during the past 12 months. In 1923 and 1924 and 1925 it averaged about £67,000. In 1926 the total ran up to the immense figure of £137,000. That rate of out-relief is unfortunately still necessary. It may be that it is due to a tightening of the machinery at the Employment Exchanges for dealing with unemployment insurance, but, whatever the cause, it proves that the strain on local authorities has never been greater. Nor can it be suggested, in my district, at any rate, that we have a revolutionary board of guardians. The majority claim to belong to no party. They do not acknowledge the Labour party and it cannot be said that they receive orders from Moscow. We always hear how demoralising both the dole and relief are, and that it is far better for men to have employment than to be idle. The members of the local authority feel that as much as anyone. They made attempts to find work. Thanks to the assistance 1791 of the Unemployment Grants Committee in the past, a large number of men, totalling about 1,000, have been employed constantly in restoring many of the streets that have received very rough wear owing to additional heavy lorry and motor traffic. Now that is to be stopped.
The local authority cannot possibly find, out of the local rates, the money for this relief work. The local rates are already 22s. in the pound, and the assessable value of the district is small. The population is 120,000, all working classes. What does the Minister suggest? Does he suggest that as there is a Common Poor Fund it does not matter that these men are idle and are shoved on to the Poor Law? Would it not be better to find some kind of useful employment? I do not know whether the proper course is to make application for a loan out of the money now being provided. There will be great competition for the money we are now voting. I know districts where the pressure is much worse even than it is in London. I feel it is a very unwise and unsound policy to dry up this machinery for finding employment. Even if it be only a few weeks' work on the roads it is something to restore a man's self respect. If we fail in the locality to find work we cannot any longer appeal to the County Council. There was a great scheme of arterial roads which gave regular employment to a large number of men. At one time there was a constant army of 7,000 men employed on arterial roads. Now fewer than 900 men are so employed and the work is drawing to an end. There is no suggestion of any large extension of this kind of work.
It is a great responsibility for the Minister to have no programme and no policy at a time like the present. We had hoped that in 1926 there would be a great boom in trade. That hope has been frustrated by the coal stoppage, and by other causes. We have to face facts. I am afraid that we are in for a very severe winter in London, and that the next few months are likely to be bad. For the first time during the last five or six years there has been no new suggestion for finding employment. Hon. Members opposite call the dole demoralizing. Let them realise that the present policy of the Ministry tends to 1792 discourage any attempt by local authorities to put in hand, before their proper date, useful works of a constructive character as a means of finding employment. I put forward the case for London because I feel there is a danger of London being overlooked in the consideration of claims in this respect. I am satisfied that permanent injury is being done to these men by long years without regular employment. I should like to see them go back to their own trades and industries, and in regular employment, but as that is not possible I consider we have a responsibility to encourage local authorities to plan and put in hand works of a useful character which will add to the wealth of their districts. Local authorities ought to be encouraged in this direction and not discouraged as is being done by the letter to which I have just referred—a letter which seems to show that there is an absolute bankruptcy of ideas in the Ministry of Health.
§ Mr. BARKER
I rise to support the reduction of the Vote. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) said we had reached a position in the areas of local authorities and especially in necessitous areas, where the interest on loans and the redemption of debt were absorbing all the local revenue. I have here a statement issued on 10th November to the Bedwellty Board of Guardians by the clerk to the gravity of which I should like to draw the Minister's attention. The clerk informs the board that since the commencement of the coal stoppage the total amoant given in relief to the families of miners, apart from other unemployed and ordinary cases, was £257,187. He points out that the board have borrowed £940,000 and at present owe the Ministry £851,187. Since the stoppage the board has borrowed £355,000 and there is an overdraft at the bank of £11,000. The board on the date of this statement signed cheques for £32,000 and decided to apply for a further loan of £35,000. There has been unemployment in that union for the last five years. There are collieries within five minutes walk of my residence which have not worked for the last 15 months.
The statement of the Parliamentary Secretary at the opening of this Debate was one of the most startling ever made in the House of Commons and it would 1793 be impossible for anyone on this side to frame a more formidable indictment of the Government than the mere recital of the facts. These matters have been before Parliament frequently and have been the subject of almost constant debate. This submerging into poverty and destitution of certain areas has been going on for five years, but nothing whatever has been done to meet the situation. As far back as December, 1925, the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) who takes an immense interest in this question elicited some information from the Minister of Labour with reference to unemployment in certain areas. He got statistics for 10 areas showing that the average percentage of unemployed in those areas was no less than 54.8, taking insured persons recorded as unemployed at the Employment Exchanges. Then he had statistics from 10 other areas where the average worked out at only 1.6. Among the first 10 areas the constituent: which I represent, Abertillery, had no less than 54.6, and in Crumlin, another part of the constituency which I represent, there were 42 per cent unemployed. I think myself that shows the very bankruptcy and negation of statesmanship. The misery inflicted on these areas is incalculable and indescribable, and why certain areas should be selected to bear the burden of unemployment when other wealthier areas like the City of London practically escape all the burden, I fail to see. Within the last few days I have had communications from the local authority in my area with reference to this matter. They are at their wits end; they do not know how to deal with this situation; they are embarrassed and have no idea of what to do. I represent a one-industry area. It depends on the mining industry and if that is stagnant then there is no revenue. I have here a resolution from the Abertillery Urban District Council dated 5th November last:The council resolve to urge the Minister of Health to require boards of guardians to raise money granted by them in relief in cases clue to industrial disputes by means of loans repayable over a term of years, instead of making immediate calls on the overseers of the poor for such money, or in the alternative to authorise overseers of the poor to raise the monies called for by the guardians for this purpose by similar means.1794 The guardians of the Newport Union, which is the union in which a number of my constituents are relieved, passed the following resolution:That we consider the burden of the exceptional relief due to the national coal stoppage should not he exclusively placed on areas in which collieries are situated, but should be regarded as a national charge, and that we invite the unions in South Wales and Monmouthshire who are so affected to join in a protest to the Government and to ask Members of Parliament representing their districts or part thereof to support same.I think these requests are exceedingly modest. Personally, I think they are too modest. I think the debts that have been imposed on these areas by unemployment arising out of a national emergency should be wiped out altogether. How are these areas to recover their position? They are already paying double in rates compared with what they were paying before the War. Some of the miners in the area have an increase of 3s. a week on their rent owing to the high rates caused by unemployment over which they have no control, and for which they have no responsibility, and it is time that the Government attempted to deal with this question. I do not think they can deal with the cause of the question. The cause of this trouble, in my opinion, is the Capitalist system, it is private enterprise, that has been glorified so much in this House, and which is now reducing Europe to a state of beggary and starvation. I do not expect the Government to deal with that vast question—
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BARKER
I hope, however, the Government will deal with the administrative side, and see that this unemployment becomes a national charge, and not a charge upon localities. I want now to say a few words with reference to the Circular that the right hon. Gentleman has issued from his Department. This Circular has been governing the operations of the Poor Law since the beginning of May. In the first paragraph of this Circular, the famous or infamous Circular No. 703, it states that it is the primary duty of boards of guardians "to conserve their financial resources." It is their primary duty, in the face of this national stoppage, not to relieve destitution, but "to conserve their financial 1795 resources." I may say that the Pontypool Board, which is responsible for a number of my constituents being properly relieved, has interpreted this in a way that should delight the right hon. Gentleman, because it has stopped the relief altogether, and has inflicted indescribable misery upon large numbers of people. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has no idea of what is going on in these necessitous areas. A week last Friday there was a meeting of 75 women affected by the decision of the Pontypool Guardians in withholding relief. They had their children around them, and they were in a state of distraction, and no fewer than three deputations were sent down to the relieving officer before they could get any relief for these people, who were in a state of absolute destitution. In paragraph (6) of this Circular a most dastardly use is made of the Poor Law, for it states:Where the applicant for relief is able-bodied and physically capable of work, the grant of relief to him is unlawful if work is available for him or he is thrown on the guardians through his own act or consent.Those words "or consent" were put in deliberately to meet the situation arising out of the coal stoppage, because if a man would not accept the employers' terms, he became banned for relief, and it has been very effective indeed. In paragraph (7) we are told:In cases in which the applicant, though ordinarily able-bodied, is, as a result of continued unemployment or otherwise, no longer physically able to perform work, relief may be granted, but it is obviously proper that in such a case a full report should be made to the guardians by the relieving officer and ordinarily by a medical officer.If relief is given to a starving unemployed man, it must be at once reported to the relieving officer or to a doctor. Then we are told, in the next paragraph, that every case must he scrutinised, and in paragraph (11), after all these formalities have been gone through, the magnificent sum of 18s. is allowed for a man and 5s. for a woman, but it states:In cases where, under the Merthyr Tydfil judgment, relief may not lawfully be given to the man, it may be found necessary to increase the allowances to the women and children above the figures of unemployment benefit, but it is thought that such allowances should not exceed the 1796 sum of 12s. and 4s. for the woman and each child respectively, these amounts representing what was found reasonable in the emergency of 1921.I would not like to see the children of the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth having to be kept on 4s. a week. The whole thing is inhuman and disgraceful. These terms have done the work for which they have been designed. They have compelled the miners to accept terms that would disgrace a slave-owner, and the miners of this country and the other workers will remember as long as ever they live the existence of the Conservative Government. I have pleasure in supporting the Amendment to reduce the Vote.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The figures given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health filled every Member on this side, as well as the Members of the Government, with misgiving, for we on these Benches have not watched the growth of relief on a large scale to a large number of people without considerable misgiving. The average worker of this country has regretted more than anyone can tell to have been forced stage by stage to ask for and accept relief, and I am sure my hon. Friends on this side will agree with me that one of the most lamentable things we have seen in our lifetime has been to see, not only other workers, but sometimes our own intimate friends, men of self-reliance and self-respect, being compelled stage by stage, through lack of employment, to ask for help from the guardians. That is not the men's fault; it is the fault of the Parliament of this country. The Governments of this country have now had something like seven years in which to face this problem, and I must say—and I know that we had a minority Labour Government nine months in office—that I have been amazed to think that all the wisdom there is in this House, all the knowledge of all the misery in the country, all the wealth we have in this country, have not yet compelled any Government to face this question fairly with a possibility of its solution.
We have young men in various industries, with the natural tendency to want to work—active men, men with genius in their fingers, with centuries of industrial discipline behind them, who are miserable when they are not working. They ask for work but cannot get it, but they can go 1797 into the Army or the Navy. They can have work there; they can have pay; they can have clothes and shelter, and they can be kept in good physical condition. And yet these wonderful craftsmen cannot get the opportunity to produce wealth in this land of ours! I wonder, as we talk time after time, when we are to get to the stage when, instead of talking about how much relief they are to get, we are going to talk about how much work they are to get. I think, sometimes, that our Empire has almost paralleled the experience of a great Empire thousands and thousands of years ago, and I say there are very great signs that if we do not place this question on a constructive basis, we are going in exactly the same way as that old Empire went.
The Parliamentary Secretary gave us, as my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Barker) said, some very formidable figures. I must say was rather surprised at one stage of his speech at a statement he made. I rather thought be smacked his lips over it. It was that large numbers of men had sought an opportunity on an organised scale to go into the workhouse, but when they had gone there they wanted to be out within 24 hours. I was wondering what can be the state of mind of the officials of the Ministry of Health in regard to such statements. The hon. Gentleman knows quite well that large numbers of men have gone into the workhouse in mining areas, and have stayed there until they have been put out, and then wanted to return. In his own Department there is correspondence with me in regard to a case where a father and son in my own Division went into the workhouse. They were absolutely destitute. They had been lodging with someone before the stoppage. They stayed as long as they could, and the good people did the best they could for them. After leaving their lodgings, they were homeless, and went into the work house. They were there until the guardians appointed by the Minister went into office, when they were put out of the workhouse. I met them at a meeting I was addressing. They were then in a very lamentable condition. Indeed, think the men's condition obviously agreed with the statement that they had had nothing to eat since the day before. We had to do what we could on the spur 1798 of the moment for those people. I got into touch with the right hon. Gentleman's Department. It was admitted that this was a fact, but the Department said the men were in good physical condition when they were put out of the workhouse, and if they were down to the state of destitution, and—if I may use the word—starvation in which they had been in before, they would be allowed to go into the workhouse if they were to seek admission.
I wonder what state of mind the Department could be in when they knew as they were bound to know, that there were cases of that description all up and down the country. The right hon. Gentleman has three appointed guardians in Chester-le-Street now. I venture to say he can get hundreds of men immediately to go into the workhouse and stay there until this is through. What is true of that union is true of practically every union in every mining area in this country; and when one knows these things, with the most sincere desire to be fair to the Department, when figures of the kind are given, knowing they are going to be scattered about the country by the Press to be used against the men, how are you to expect that we, who know the actual conditions, can be anything like satisfied with a statement of that description from the Treasury Bench?
The hon. Gentleman said that the standard of the children was higher. I am very glad to say that in many areas we have been able to feed the children, and I quite frankly say our people, through voluntary effort, giving their services, have done that on a first-class scale. I am quite willing to make that admission, but I wish that had been done in other mining areas. I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit that that has only been done in the main—there are a few honourable xceptions—in areas where Labour has been in office. I have been in mining areas in this country, and when I asked how children were being fed in one area, it was said, "We feed them voluntarily. We give them one meal a day every other day if we can get in the money to get the food for them." The hon. Gentleman knows, and his Department knows, that that applies to many mining areas in this country, and I say 1799 it is not to the credit of his Department if children have been fed.
The hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) tried to make a nice distinction between misery and starvation. There is such a thing as misery of the feet as well as of the stomach, and in areas like ours, where the children have been fed by the county council, the condition of the feet of the bairns has been most lamentable. Only through voluntary efforts have bairns been able to have boots at the present time. I was pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman, in an interview we had with him, say that he was prepared to consider some scheme through the guardians, with a view to the possibility of meeting something of that kind. I do not know whether anything has been done, but I was very pleased with the spirit of the right hon. Gentleman in that respect. I trust something has been done, and, if not, that it will be done quickly, because in mining areas where we use, as far as we can, the powers we have to meet the needs of the children, things are very bad indeed, and if they are in such a condition in those areas, they must be really terrible in some mining areas of this country.
After all, what has landed us in this trouble? There may be differences of opinion on various points as to what should have been done or should not have been done in this conflict, but this elementary fact cannot be resisted, that men have fought, and have patiently suffered in order to save great masses of men in the richest industry in the country from enduring wages which would have led them into a state of impoverishment and misery. Men in my area will go back at a wage of 6s. 8d. a day—grown men, skilled men at their work, though, it is true, not men working at the face. One-half of the men in the county I represent. will have 6s. 8d. a day if they get the wage that is offered now.
§ Mr. LAWSON
My hon. Friend states 60 per cent., and I will accept that figure. At 6 days a week it is a wage round about £2, though they will not get that much. Under the wages scale in operation before the stoppage great masses of men in the mining areas were forced to appeal for 1800 relief in order to supplement their wages. The Minister knows that that was one of the great problems he had to deal with. The men who were forced to apply for relief were men who, years ago, would sooner have gone to any lengths rather than come down to such a state of affairs. That is what is at the root of this trouble; and it is to save men from having to seek relief, to supplement their wages, that we have endured this struggle for the last seven months. We can agree with hon. Members on the other side of the House in this, that we wish to see our people self-supporting, wish to see them freed from dependence on the guardians. It is because of the continued refusal to face this question, and the continued reliance upon reductions of wages and the impoverishment of our people, that a great party has been sent to the House of Commons. We have been sent here not to appeal for relief but to secure conditions which will enable our people to be serf-reliant and to develop their personalities. I would implore the Government not to be content merely with diminishing the grant of relief and testing the properity of the country by the number of people who are not on relief, but to test its prosperity by the number of men and women who are earning decent wages.
The Minister of Health has appointed three members to take over the duties of the Chester-le-Street Board of Guardians. I want to say quite frankly that I think the conditions under which the guardians were taken over were honourable to the guardians themselves and not too honourable to the Minister.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member cannot raise that point on this Vote; it can be raised on some other occasion.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I accept your ruling, Mr. Hope, and I think I shall be within the Rules of the Committee if I put this point. My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Barker) dealt with Circular 703 and the amount had been laid down as the relief that could be given to a woman. The sum was 12s. One of the first acts of the guardians in my own area was to lower that relief to 8s., with 2s. for a child, and, indeed, they have been talking already about the possibility of further reductions. I appeal to the Minister to use his influence to 1801 see that the people in this area get at least the benefit of the circular which he sent out, though that is asking little enough. Before the stoppage our district was in the same position as Abertillery—half-a-dozen collieries had been stopped for something like 12 months, and had just got into operation again—some of them —before the stoppage began. We had 5,000 or 6,000 men who had been unemployed for over a year before the stoppage, and the conditions in the district were simply terrible. The drain upon the guardians has been very great and the drain upon the people has been greater, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, who has appointed these three guardians for Chester-le-Street, to use his influence with them to secure that in these closing days of the stoppage—at least, in what we hope are the closing days—and in the future weeks and months, the women and children will be decently looked after—that instead of the guardians being merely desirous of showing a good return to the Ministry of Health, they shall be more particular about carrying out their duties, giving effect to the law, and saving the people to whom they are responsible from destitution and despair.
§ Mr. FINBURGH
I listened with great respect to the last speaker, but I cannot agree with him in his pessimistic view of this country being on the downward grade because I believe that if only we are true to ourselves the prospects of this country are as good as ever. I am rather concerned with what the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) said with reference to the cotton industry, about which he gave some startling figures. He was right about unemployment in the cotton industry. In the cotton areas things are very very bad. In the Barnoldswick area there were formerly 32 sheds and mills, and 26 have gone into the Bankruptcy Court or had to close down. In the Burnley area I believe 40 to 50 have had to go into the Bankruptcy Court or close down. The industry generally is in a deplorable state. So far I can agree with the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley, but he forgot one point. He did not tell the Committee who are Lancashire's largest customers. He knows as well as I do 1802 that our largest customers are India, China and South America.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid the hon. Member is raising a question which cannot be influenced by any possible loans to local authorities.
§ Mr. FINBURGH
The point has some bearing if we are to deal with the poverty of the areas I have mentioned, and what I was going to say was this.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The question before the Committee is how the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health can deal with unemployment by granting loans, at what rate of interest and under what condition. That is the only subject before the Committee.
§ Mr. FINBURGH
I should like to say that we have to find the remedy for the causes of the distress for which the Minister has to provide money. My humble opinion is that hon. Members opposite are responsible for the distress.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member does not appreciate that this is a Supplementary Estimate which cannot be discussed in this manner. He can only dwell on points for which money is taken in the Supplementary Estimate and for which the Minister of Health in this case is responsible.
§ Mr. FINBURGH
I accept your ruling, Mr. Hope, but the hon. Member inferred that hon. Members opposite held a monopoly in dealing with cases of distress. I entirely disagree with that. Speaking from my own personal experience in Salford, we did not study to what party people belonged. All parties came to the help of those we thought were in need. The children were studied and the women were looked after. I am not prepared to say whether they were better off before the stoppage. That there is distress goes without saying. I was interested to hear the statement of the hon. Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence). In a well-reasoned speech she said that rates over 20s. in the pound drove industry out of the country. But what price Poplar, West Ham and East Ham?
§ Mr. FINBURGH
What about Merthyr Tydvil? We hear it very frequently said by Members opposite that we do not care what the rates are. I have heard it repeatedly said on platforms by Socialist and Labour speakers. They make no bones about it. They have repeated and repeated again that we do not care what the rates are, we are going to get there. What the country wants in my humble opinion to restore things to the normal state is industrial peace. That is what we require. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Minister of Health has nothing to do with that. He is concerned with what he can do by lending money. That is all we are discussing.
§ Mr. FINBURGH
I am hopeful, Mr. Hope, that things will improve very quickly and that there will be no need for these drains upon resources. I am sanguine that times will be better and distress will be very much reduced, and we will again be restored to a normal state where this poverty and distress shall be diminished to a very large extent.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I am sure Members of the Committee will have listened with very great interest to the speech just delivered by the hon. Member for North Salford (Mr. Finburgh). I should imagine, from the general optimism that prevailed the whole of his speech, that he must now be a recruit to the Mustard Club. We were all delighted to hear that all would be well with the country so long as we remained true to ourselves. I am not quite sure what sections he meant when he referred to "ourselves." Probably he meant those sections of the community who belong to the financial interests who are getting fresh holds upon the country by the method of dealing with the difficulties in necessitous areas now before the House will do very well out of the distress, the misery, the suffering and the privations which are existing and form for them a new source of income with every advance they make to distressed local authorities. I want to ask the Minister of Health whether it is not possible for him to give some more serious consideration than he has yet given to the general problem of dealing 1804 with necessitous areas. This afternoon there was one passage in the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary with which I entirely agree, when he said that the additional burdens now being placed upon local rates were very serious matters indeed for the industries situated in those unfortunate areas. One would have imagined from his speech that those difficulties began with the beginning of the coal dispute. As a matter of fact, in most of the worst areas, apart from the coalfields, those difficulties are of long standing and are, in the main, the direct consequence of the action of the Ministry of Labour in refusing Employment Exchange benefit to large classes of unemployed people throughout the country.
During 1925, when the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1924, became operative, Poor Law relief in the city I have the honour to represent dropped at once by some £200 or £300 a week. During the last 12 months hundreds of men have been refused employment exchange benefit, with the direct consequence that we have once again had to increase the poor rate and place additional burdens upon the locality. Before that took place we had entered into commitments that will prove a burden on the export industries of our city, and will last as far as interest and sinking fund are concerned for the next 30 years. The proposal to continue the method of dealing with the relief of unemployment by loans is one that really we ought seriously to consider before we assent to much more development in that direction. It is very commonly assumed that the ratepayer and the taxpayer are the same person. That is not at all true. While on the one hand the right hon. Gentlemen the Minister of Labour and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have been engaged in relieving the burdens of the taxpayer—the Income Tax and Supertax payer—the other Departments keep on piling burdens upon the local authorities, with the consequence that even the poorest families in the community, who are compelled to pay rates in order to live in a house, have to face added burdens while the Super-tax payer is granted a reduction in taxation. We believe the time has come for a reversal of that policy, and I seriously ask the Minister of Health to talk to his colleagues at the Ministry of Labour, and 1805 see whether some modification of the present operation of the Insurance Acts cannot be brought about.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I am very sorry if I was out of order. If a little bit more humane administration was practised at the Ministry of Labour it would certainly avoid some of the burdens being thrown on local authorities. With regard to extended benefit, which is now paid at the discretion of the Minister, a little bit more sympathetic administration in that direction would avoid some of the obligations being thrown on local authorities. I had a case brought to my knowledge a few weeks ago of a man who was refused unemployment insurance benefit the Employment Exchange who had been sent to work some 20 miles away from the city in which he resided and for a full week's work he received about 30s. So long as this man was able to get five days' work a week he could manage to maintain himself, but when employment in that particular factory fell to four days, then to three days, and afterwards to two days a week the man was unable to maintain himself and pay for lodgings in that town, and for nearly two months he cycled 20 miles to work on two or three days per week, otherwise he would have lost his employment insurance. Of course, it was impossible for the man to continue in that way, and now his maintenance is thrown upon the locality. We want the Minister of Health to have a talk with the Minister of Labour to see if they cannot adopt a more sympathetic administration. I also want to know if it is a fact that the Department have issued any special instructions to the auditors responsible for the audit of Poor Law accounts. In my constituency we have been enjoying the privilege of visits from those who occupy the position of Government auditors, and they tell us that we must reduce the scale of relief which we are now paying, otherwise they will surcharge us. I think the local guardians who represent the ratepayers who will have to foot the bill for relief are entitled to have their own interpretation within the law of what is a reasonable rate of relief for human beings to exist upon, and so far as I know it is no part of the duty of an auditor to determine what 1806 is necessary to maintain those who, unfortunately, have to come to the Poor Law. Therefore, I should like the Minister of Health to tell us exactly what are the duties of an auditor and where they begin and end.
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would be possible for him to make some representation to another Government Department whose conduct is directly responsible for a considerable amount of the unemployment existing in the city of Lincoln to-day. I am now referring to the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade, who has refused to allow the consideration of applications made under the Export Credits Act to finance Anglo-Russian trade. As a direct consequence of those credits, if they had been granted, we could have brought a considerable amount of work to the city of Lincoln which had to be refused because of the refusal of the Government to consider certain applications made under those Acts. Not only did the Government Department refuse to consider those applications, but actually when negotiations were in progress affecting very large contracts, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade absolutely declined to receive a deputation of manufacturers representing that area, who might have been able to bring to that city a large amount of work which would have considerably relieved unemployment in that area.
Not only that, but the general attitude of certain Members of the Government in their public speeches is directly responsible for much of the unemployment which exist in our city to-day, because their utterances have created an uncertainty with regard to the future that constitutes a barrier to all long-term credit transactions, and our manufacturers cannot afford to take the risk because of the political uncertainty created by speeches of that kind. If the Minister of Health could get his distinguished brother to clear up matters and foster better relations between Great Britain and Russia, then he would be doing a great deal towards helping to reduce unemployment, and we should in that way be able to avoid the necessity of having to bring before the House Estimates of this kind to relieve those who are the victims of the Government 1807 policy. I hope and trust that these representatives will be met, and that the general problem of dealing with distressed areas will be put upon an entirely different footing. The present system makes the local position worse and worse, places fresh burdens upon industry, and prevents the recovery of our trade position.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
I have carefully perused the White Paper issued in regard to this Estimate, and I find there is no indication as to how much of this money is to go to provide for the relief of unemployment; neither is there any indication as to how much of it is to be used for loans in order to deal with Poor Law relief directly arising out of the coal stoppage. I want to know whether the loans to necessitous areas will be for long or short periods? May I suggest that the loans arising out of the coal stoppage for Poor Relief should be for a period of not less than five years? I know that I am debarred on this occasion from suggesting legislation, but in my opinion this heavy burden should be placed on the National Exchequer and ought not to be left to be charged mainly on the local rates.
May I point out the very bad effect which these short loans are going to have upon the British coal industry itself. Asuming what we all hope that the stoppage is coming to an early close, and that a general resumption of work may be anticipated within the next few weeks, the fact remains that very heavy financial burdens have accrued on account of this coal stoppage, and it is obvious that the whole of those burdens cannot be met out of the revenue of the rates during the next few years. In this respect I think South Wales is typical of the whole of the mining industry and during this stoppage no coalfield has been hit worse than South Wales. Normally the output of the South Wales coalfields is 50,000,000 tons of coal per year. Everybody must realise that the export of coal in large volumes will be necessary in the future as in the past to maintain our trade and improve it internationally.
In this connection may I point out that the Union of Pontypridd is the largest mining union in Great Britain, and it has a normal output of 10,000,000 tons of coal, which is more than one-fifth 1808 of the coal output of South Wales. Practically all of that coal is sold for bunkers and for export. The Pontypridd Union had a rateable value, just before the stoppage began in April last, of £1,250,000. Practically one-third of that was made up of the assessment on the output from the coal mines of that area; about one-third of the assessment value is got on the assessment of cottage properties, and nearly one-third from the shops and small business premises in the area. As in most parts of South Wales, so in this area there are no other big industries to assist with the rates, so that about one-third of the rate revenue is always secured on the output of coal in each six months, and the rates are assessed on the collieries on the basis of the output of the previous six months. That has a very important bearing on the next year or two's development in South Wales and elsewhere. Already, on account of the coal stoppage, the local authorities have failed to collect more than some 60 per cent. of the rates due for the last half-year ending in September last, and nearly 40 per cent. of the rates are still in arrear, from collieries, cottages and tradespeople.
The position is going to be very much more serious for the next year or two if we are going to be committed to the Ministry's policy of short loans, and for this reason. Throughout the South Wales and most other coalfields, for the half-year in which we are now—the 1st October to the 31st March next—there will be very little rate revenue from the collieries, for the simple reason that they will not be paying on their output when work is resumed, but upon the output that was secured during the six months from April last to September last; and, as the collieries have only worked one month out of the six, we shall not get, for the coming six months at any rate, more than one-sixth of the normal value from the output of the collieries to assist the local rates. That means that the rate burden upon cottage property and small businesses will be increased by at least 25 per cent. to make up for this loss on the output of coal. The loss will continue in the following half-year, because two months of the second half-year are already gone without, speaking generally, a resumption of work.
I make that point for this reason that, in the present half-year, the rates on cottages and small properties will be 1809 increased by from 3s. to 4s. in the £ per half-year, and the current rates on the annual basis are in the neghbourhood of 25s. for the year. It is unthinkable that this extra burden should be placed upon these local authorities. We have also to remember that, in addition to this extra burden, they will be faced with having to repay the money borrowed for the purpose of Poor Law relief within the next two half-years. That is not going to bring prosperity, but is going to make prosperity impossible in the coal industry. In the Pontypridd Union alone the normal relief of £5,000 a week has gone up to £20,000, and that is typical of the rest of the coalfield.
The first result, therefore, of these short loans is going to be that the miners, who are the bulk of the population, are going back to work at longer hours, and with a reduced earning capacity in spite of the longer hours; and 30,000 miners in South Wales, at least, will never work in the mines as long as the eight hours day is in operation in this country. That will be an extra burden on Poor Law relief and the Unemployment Fund, and instances of it can be multiplied all over the country. Then, again, the relief that the miners' wives and children have been having has not been relief as ordinarily understood; they have been compelled in every ease to sign that they will repay the money advanced to them in this way, so that it is really an advance out of future wages with which they are faced. I ask the Committee to consider, how is it possible for 1,000,000 miners in this country, going back on the low wages that will obtain, with increased unemployment in their own ranks, to meet the expense of this enormous increase of rate burden out of their wages, much less to repay the cost, which they are legally committed to repay, of Poor Law relief, and the cost of the feeding of children by the education authority? I say it is a physical impossibility, and the net result of this policy of short loans is going to be to cripple the industry, and to make it impossible for the miners to resume work with any sense of contentment. The increased burden upon their wages of these excess rates is going to create discontent, and there is going to be no decent settle- 1810 ment or sense of peace or contentment in the industry.
My practical suggestion to the Minister is that he should seriously consider a revision of his loan policy, that, in face of all the hard facts of the industry, he should agree that all these local authorities should be relieved of repayment for a short period, and that in every instance the period of the loan should be not less than five years. I further suggest that the repayment should be on a sliding scale, so that in the first few years it may be low, gradually increasing to a heavier rate towards the conclusion of the five years or whatever longer period the Minister may be disposed to fix. If he meets us in that direction, it will be a very good thing, not only for the miners in being relieved of this charge upon their future earnings, but also for the tradespeople who cannot carry on and pay their own rates unless the purchasing power of the miners is maintained; and the colliery companies themselves will be very seriously injured, and their cost of production will be enormously increased, unless a long-period loan policy is endorsed and carried out by the Ministry in this way. I make these suggestions in the hope that they will be considered seriously by the Minister. He must have been bombarded during the last few months with all kinds of suggestions and appeals from every quarter. I hope he will appreciate the enormous difficulties that there will be throughout the coal district, at any rate for years to come, on account of this settlement which is in sight, and which will be bad for the purchasing power of the miners, for the tradespeople, and for the collieries, unless they can be assisted in this way by the principle of long-period loans.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
The Debate this afternoon on this important though limited question seems to have overwhelmingly demonstrated the necessity for greater co-ordination amongst those Departments that are specially concerned with the problem of unemployment. It has been emphasised again and again in different speeches from both sides of the Committee that unemployment is the great factor in the enormous increase of pauperism in this country, and I want to urge upon the Minister of Health the great necessity of treating preventive and constructive measures as far more 1811 important even than the question of these necessary loans. If I may be permitted to emphasise what I mean by some figures which specially relate to women and juveniles, I think that perhaps I can make the point clearer, hut, before coming to these figures, I should like to direct the attention of the Committee to the kind of problem that any hon. Member may meet on almost any day in the week.
Take, for example, the closing of Messrs. Tate and Lyle's sugar factory in Canning Town. There you have, in a smitten district, from 2,300 to 2,600 persons suddenly deprived of their normal means of livelihood. Is there any Poor Law union in the country that would look with any degree of favour upon a migration of any or all of those 2,300 families? Is it at all possible for any one who knows Canning Town to conceive that those 2,300 people are going to be absorbed very easily? It seems to me that here the guardians are likely to be faced with a considerable increase in the number of persons who are going to be assisted because of the failure of any normal means of providing work for them. But if we had built up in this country instead of the policy of advance and check which seems to be mainly the policy of the Conservative Government, if instead of merely regarding things from a temporary point of view we could right away accept the necessity for building up a permanent structure of training, in connection particularly with the younger elements of labour, in order to make labour more fluid and more adaptable, that would be one of the quickest ways of relieving the burden of the Poor Law authorities.
In the current number of the Ministry of Labour Gazette there are three groups of figures to which I have paid a good deal of attention. There are three groups of unemployed women and juveniles, the North-Western Division, the North-Eastern Division, and the Midlands Division. In the North-Western Division there are 103,863 women and 21,037 juveniles, in the North-Eastern Division 51,792 women and 20,224 juveniles, and in the Midlands 52,006 women and 10,402 juveniles unemployed. Those are areas in all of which there are marked distressed or necessitous areas in connection with Poor Law administration. If you 1812 compare those statistics with the juvenile statistics in an area like London you find, from the Juvenile Unemployment Committee's Survey and Report, that there appears to be far less unemployment of juveniles in London but a far more serious state of affairs. The juvenile unemployment statistics are, between the ages of 14 and 16 4½ per cent. and between 16 and 18 2½ per cent., but the Committee goes on to say thatthe problem is rather the small opportunity which the employment available offers for safeguarding the working life and the outlook generally of juvenile workers,in other words, that where there are these enormous pools of juvenile unemployment the juveniles are drifting into blind alley occupations and that the problem becomes intensified when they reach the age of 18. My plea to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour, coupled in this Vote, is that we should begin at that end of the question with far greater earnestness and zeal than this House has hitherto displayed. By building up a system of training centres we can prevent this unemployment taking the aggravated form it must take if people are to remain workless until they have exhausted their unemployment benefit; then they come upon the Poor Law and there is a gradual diminution of self-respect; the very appearance of the people is changed to such an extent that they verge on the unemployable and so enormously intensify the whole problem.
In connection with the training centres you have the other side of the picture. Go to places like the Wallsend or Birmingham centres, those two nonresidential centres, or Clayton and Brandon, the experimental farm centres, and compare the types—the same sort of people—after they have been there a few weeks, with the Labour Exchange queue or the type of people who go to the Poor Law guardians. They are almost unrecognisable, so great has the change been which has taken place in their outlook on life, in their aliveness and general adaptability. There are some very striking figures which were given in relation particularly to the farm training centres which the Minister of Health ought to be particularly gratified to study. It was noted that in some cases young men, who might otherwise have been 1813 acceptable to the Dominion authorities, were turned down as unfit, but young men, who had been in these training centres for a few weeks, were regarded by the Dominion authorities as desirable persons for migration overseas. I want to urge that if we are going to treat this problem on a scientific basis it is pitiful to come to the House with a Supplementary Estimate for loans to Poor Law authorities when what would be far more effective would be to come to the House for grants which would enormously accelerate training schemes and conserve the quality of labour and the personal self-respect of the great army of workers, and whatever applies to the men applies with greater emphasis to the women and young people. We have in relation to this matter the figures of those opportunities that are open for training for women, and they are miserably meagre, in spite of all the pressure that has been brought to bear on the question. Out of the enormous total of 271,000 women and 40,000 girls who are unemployed at present, the only possibilities for training at the moment are places for 1,308, and we have a positive cry going up for more opportunities for training for women. We have here a demand, for instance, especially in the North Eastern Division, an area which is earmarked by the Minister of Health as a distressed area, 170 applications from one centre which accommodates 50, from another centre which accommodates 20 cases we had 80 applications, at another place for 20 we had 100 applications, and we were asked if we could not possibly make room for 140.
The moral of all this is that in connection with this work of solving the destitution problem there must be continuity of policy in regard to these constructive and preventive Measures. We see no glimpse of that in any of the speeches which have been made from the Government side to-day. One very seldom does see on the Government side any sort of real grip of the problem, and where the real solution lies. It is because I feel so strongly about this matter of training that I urge the Minister of Health to see whether or not his Department cannot use the powers they now possess to a far greater extent than they have ever been used before, and recognise that when this problem of 1814 excessive destitution is met, when perhaps in five or ten years time we may then get to the normal five or six per cent. of unemployment, there will still be need for a method of drafting unemployed persons, particularly young persons below 30, into training centres when they become unemployed; never permit them to reach the stage of destitution. It is in regard to these matters, particularly in regard to the opportunities for utilising the departmental and administrative powers they now possess, that I deplore the fact that this Supplementary Estimate is confined to the £3,000,000 required for loans to guardians instead of an equal amount being provided which would secure continuity of work in relation to the establishment of training centres all over the country. Here is this small effort, the most satisfactory that has been made at all in regard to the training of women and young persons, constantly being crippled because they do not know when they are going to have their heads chopped off. They are working under sentence now. Instead of being able to plan for two, three or five years ahead, they have had to go from hand to mouth year after year, constantly being crippled in their efforts to expand and meet the real obvious needs of the situation. I wanted to be able to congratulate the Minister of Labour upon this small development in the setting up of two farm-training centres. But it is important to remember that, side by side with the training of men for emigration to overseas countries, it is equally important, if not more important, to fit the women also for work in the Dominions. Men are poor, helpless creatures in the Dominions when they are without the women. I urge that there should be a far greater attempt to use the existing powers without asking for any fresh powers, and I do ask the Minister of Health to be far more alive to the necessity of what I have been pointing out than has appeared hitherto in the speeches made by Members of the Government.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I feel that there have been two features which have particularly impressed me in the Debate that has taken place to-day. The first was the fact that every hon. Lady who is a Member of this House, except one, 1815 has taken part in the Debate, and I think it will be agreed that each one made a contribution in which there was something useful, something interesting, and something pointed. I feel, however, that the hon. Lady who has just sat down is rather unreasonable in accusing me of want of ideas for the training of women and children for emigration to the Dominions and Colonies, when the subject of the Debate is really so far removed from that. The second feature of the Debate that impressed itself upon me is the extraordinary unanimity with which hon. Members opposite have avoided the whole subject which was really before the Committee to-day. If they had been ordered by some superior authority to adopt every device to avoid a discussion of the coal stoppage and try to lead the House oft on some extraneous subjects, they could not have done so with greater determination than they have shown. But, whatever views hon. Members opposite may take about the desirability of avoiding discussion of the coal stoppage, I must make it clear to the Committee that, had it not been for the stoppage in the coal industry, we should not have been here this afternoon asking for this estimate, boards of guardians would not have found themselves in the deplorable position which has been described with so much force by hon. Members opposite, the industries of the country would not have found themselves threatened with that terrible burden of rates which is bound to make more difficult their task of competing with foreign industries, and we should not have the sad spectacle of men reduced to going and asking for Poor Law relief who have never had to do so before.
I must stress that matter, because I do think there is a. tendency among those engaged in that industry when a dispute arises in that industry to think that the consequences of that dispute affect themselves alone and to forget that the results which have been deplored this afternoon are the inevitable results of a paralysis which affects not only themselves, but that many hundreds and, perhaps, thousands of people who are not concerned in the dispute suffer from it as well. The point I desire to put to the Committee is this, that, although I am not at all averse to discussing this old 1816 and rather threadbare problem of the necessitous areas, you must not adduce arguments for special measures for dealing with these areas from any conditions that exist in circumstances which are altogether exceptional. There is nothing more dangerous or more foolish than to take special circumstances and found upon them a policy which is to he a permanent policy. That is bound to lead you wrong, and, while one must certainly modify one's policy to meet those exceptional circumstances, when you come to permanent policy you must put out of your mind what is only temporary and have regard to the conditions which you may expect to last, at least for a very considerable time. I had anticipated that, after some of the speeches and comments which have been made on the action of the Ministry of Health during the stoppage, I should have heard more accusations and charges against myself than I have heard this afternoon. But there has been practically nothing for me to answer.
I have had an extraordinarily difficult position during the stoppage. At the very outset, foreseeing that it. would be probably prolonged and of great severity, I had to make up my mind what advice, if any, I should give to the boards of guardians in a position that was obviously going to he one of extreme difficulty. I gave them advice in a circular which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Barker). Considering the whole course of events, and considering what I should do if I were placed in the same position again, with the knowledge that I have now got of the results of the advice I gave, I feel that I have nothing to regret either in what I have done or in what I have left undone. My duty, on the one hand, was to see that the guardians carried out their statutory obligations. On the other hand, I foresaw that, if the struggle was protracted, local authorities might be placed in a position of great gravity and even danger. On the whole, I feel that boards of guardians deserve the highest possible credit for the manner in which they have handled a very difficult situation in the areas which have been affected. I must say that it has been rather astonishing to read in the papers from time to time suggestions that the Ministry of Health has been responsible for a policy of 1817 starvation. It astonishes me very much because nothing is further from the facts.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I have said it in public meetings and I repeat it now, that, if you look at all the facts, you might not unfairly say that the strike has been financed by the boards of guardians, and certainly it is a remarkable fact, and I commend it to the attention of the hon. Member who thinks I have been responsible for starvation, that, taking those 78 unions in which are comprised 80 per cent. of the miners of this country, and comparing the amount of relief given in those unions during the 26 weeks of this strike with the amount of relief given in the 13 weeks of the 1921 strike—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I am using the term employed by the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Miss Lawrence). Taking the two periods and comparing the amount of domiciliary relief that was given, I find that it averaged per week in 1921, £94,000. In the same unions the average per week this year has been upwards of £312,000. How can anybody, after that, say that my policy has been to cut down the relief? The claims of the extremer Members of the party opposite if they were carried to their logical conclusion would mean that it is the duty of the country to support anybody an: the family of any people who have a dispute with their employers and who do not choose to accept the terms which are offered to them. That is going further than is justified or is acceptable to the public of this country.
I think it is, on the whole, a matter of congratulation that during this extraordinarily severe crisis through which we have passed, when so many hundreds of thousands of men have been out of employment, not only has it been a period during which there has been a less amount of suffering and hardship inflicted upon the families of those concerned in the industry directly concerned and those thrown out of employment in other industries by the stoppage, but it certainly is a fact that as far as nourishment is concerned that there has been no evidence of mal-nutrition. We have had 1818 repeated reports that the children are actually better fed than they were when their fathers were in work. [Interruption.] That remark seems to excite extraordinary animosity and bitterness on the part of hon. Members opposite. I do not see why it should not be so. It is very simple, and is accounted for, I think, by two things. Firstly, the relief given by the guardians has been very largely in kind. There was a definite proportion of the income of the household which had to be given in articles of necessity. Secondly, there has been a good deal of feeding of children in the schools. That has meant that the children have had regular meals, with scientifically chosen menus, well cooked and, therefore, probably more nutritious than if they had been cooked at home, where, perhaps, the cooking is not so good and where, perhaps, the opportunities for cooking are not so good.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
The cooking has been done by the children's own parents in my own county, without any cost at all to the rates.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not know that that is very relevant. The facts which I have stated explain, on the whole, and there is sufficient evidence to justify it, the fair condition in which the children have been maintained. Of course, there must be hardship, there must be privation, and there must be suffering if you have a dispute of this kind. Do hon. Members opposite think that we can go through a stoppage in one of our greatest industries, lasting for over six months, and the people concerned are going to be just as well off as before? The thing is impossible. Every class in the country suffers through such a stoppage. I know there is bound to be some difficulty in providing adequate clothing, but as far as children are concerned I myself told the deputation that I was sympathetic to the proposal of supplying the boots which the children ought to have in winter, and I have made it known that whilst I could not agree that the guardians should be allowed to issue boots, as it would be extremely difficult from an administrative point of view, yet I would be prepared to consider applications from boards of guardians to make some contribution of a limited expenditure to voluntary organisations, where they existed, in order to provide boots for children. And I have 1819 suggested that the contribution might he made in the form of providing leather.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
Does that apply to voluntary organisations dealing with ordinary unemployment or only to the mining areas?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not make any distinction. It will apply wherever there is hardship to which it is intended to apply. We have heard a great deal of the old story about necessitous areas, and the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has asked me what I am going to do about it. He has also reminded me of the occasion when I went on a deputation to the Coalition Government. It is certainly a little hard to find the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Percy Harris) accusing me of having no policy in this matter and describing the Ministry of Health as bankrupt of ideas, seeing that there has been an allusion more than once to the Debate which took place last May, in which I gave the Committee, as far as I could, what was the practicable and permanent policy I had in mind. When I went on the deputation to the Coalition Government I argued that the present distribution of grants from the Exchequer was unfair in its incidence. I still take the same view, but when I took office I found that the difficulty of discovering a practical scheme for altering that incidence and putting it on a more satisfactory line was much greater than I had been aware of when I went on the deputation, and up to the present those difficulties have not been surmounted.
It is very easy to use arguments to show the inconsistency of hon. Members opposite in accusing us of not doing the thing they failed to do themselves, but I do think it is necessary I should give the Committee one quotation from a member of the Labour Government on this particular matter, because it does show that the difficulties are real, and that they are felt by any Government, whatever its political complexion. I have quite a selection of them here. One is from the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield), and another from the right hon. Gentleman sitting next to her on the Front Opposition Bench (Mr. Clynes), but the one I would select is from a speech made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. A. 1820 Greenwood), who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health in the Labour Government. This is what he said on the 4th August, 1924:There is no Member of the House who does not feel very considerable sympathy with those particular black spots which, during the long trade depression, have suffered very acutely. It is true that many of us on this side of the House believed in some special treatment for necessitous areas. It is an open secret that there has not been a Minister of Health since the War who was not favourably disposed towards some special treatment of that kind, and who, having examined the problem, has not come to the conclusion that the practical difficulties in the way of any formula are almost unsuperable. — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th August, 1924; col. 2601, Vol. 176.]
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member is quite free to criticise his own leaders. I have quoted that passage to show that the difficulties are not the invention of this particular Government, but are difficulties which have existed all through and hitherto have prevented any satisfactory solution of what I have always frankly admitted to be an exceedingly difficult problem. But for hon. Members to say that we have no ideas is going a little further than they are justified in going. The hon. Member for East Ham North made a very interesting speech upon the subject. She very skilfully analysed some of the leading features of the situation, and for once in a way I found myself agreeing with a good deal of what she said. But what was her remedy? She declared that a system of finance which enabled the Guardians to meet their current expenditure by borrowing was thoroughly vicious. I am not sure that I do not agree with that—if it were our system of finance. But what I say is that the borrowing by the guardians is a fortuitous and occasional occurrence necessitated at the present time by the condition arising out of the coal stoppage. I do not say that that is the permanent policy of the Ministry. She told the Committee that the Minister of Health had acquired, by accident as it were, powers which Parliament never intended to give, powers of imposing conditions on boards of guardians who came to him for a loan. Would she impose no conditions? Would she receive these prodigals with open arms and feed them upon 1821 the fatted calf, as a reward for having overdrawn their banking accounts? What is the remedy? I want to know whether that is the policy; is the fatted calf the policy of the hon. Member? I may not have understood her correctly, but I understood that instead of making loans, we should make grants to these authorities, apparently without condition. Is that suggested?
§ Miss LAWRENCE
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. My argument was that a loan, with conditions imposed by the will of the Minister in each case, was not a satisfactory way of dealing with Parliamentary money, and I ventured to suggest that in dealing with out-relief money ought to be given by Parliament in the same way as education grants are administered—money budgeted for according to a code, money that would be regularly determined by Parliament, so that the policy of the grant would be a subject of proper consideration.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
That policy would break down immediately in circumstances like these. Suppose that the board of guardians had budgeted for their expenditure during the year. Could they have foreseen the circumstances of the stoppage? What would happen when they came to pay out perhaps five, six, or ten times the amount in out-relief per week for which they had been estimating in their budget? They would be absolutely bound to come to the Minister and to ask either for a grant or for a loan. Let us for the moment turn our minds to the special circumstances of the day. Let us remember that, as has been stated already, before the coal stoppage there was the problem of the necessitous areas, and that even if the effect of the coal stoppage had passed away, the problem would still be with us. How, then, is that problem to be solved? I say you cannot, in solving it, take account only of the expenses in an area in the way of out-relief. We must take account of the general expenditure in that area and of the capacity of the area. When hon. Members refer, as they have been doing, to the Report of the Committee on Schemes of Assistance to Necessitous Areas, let me remind them of one passage in that Report. The Committee, in 1822 dealing with what is known as the West Ham scheme for the relief of necessitous areas, quoted Mr. Johnson, who, I think, is the author of the scheme, as saying that he thought it would be almost a necessity for a Government Department to fix scales of relief, varying with the class of area, and he agreed that such a step should be a condition precedent to the bringing into operation of any scheme of assistance. What the Committee thought of that is to be found on the following page, where they say:We regard the prescription of scales for the governance throughout the country of the relief actually to be given not only as impracticable, in which view we are supported by Mr. Neal, but as incompatible with the whole system of administration of poor relief.I entirely agree with that view. The prescription of scales of relief from the Ministry of Health to the various boards of guardians throughout the country is the last thing we should attempt to do. It is altogether to destroy the whole principle of local government and local initiative, but I say I believe that by the system of bock grants—when it is possible to allocate those block grants on a fair and proper basis, taking account not merely of population but also of capacity to pay as measured by rateable value—it may be possible to get a scheme which will bring relief to these necessitous areas without inflicting injustice on any other part of the country. That is the permanent policy to which I look forward as a solution of this problem.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
It is not in my power to answer that question. It must depend on many factors, of which no doubt the hon. Member himself is one.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the various statements that have been made from time to time in this House and which I do not wish now to repeat as I have not the exact words in my mind. I am saying what I believe to be the right direction in which to look for a permanent solution of the problem.
§ Mr. MAXTON
There has been no Cabinet decision? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] Will the right hon. Gentleman not answer the question? It is evidently an awkward point.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I have really only repeated what I have said previously and I beg hon. Members opposite who are genuinely interested in this question and who are not desirous of exploiting it for party purposes while they happen to be in Opposition, to believe that this is
§ a matter which I have never treated otherwise than seriously. It is one to which I have given constant thought and, having arrived at a definite conclusion, I am only waiting for the opportunity to put that conclusion into practice.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £3,249,900, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 81; Noes, 215.1825
|Division No. 459.]||AYES.||[10.37 p.m.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Groves, T.||Potts, John S.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Baker, Walter||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Riley, Ben|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ritson, J.|
|Barnes, A.||Harris, Percy A.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Barr, J.||Hayday, Arthur||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, G. H.||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Scurr, John|
|Bromfield, William||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sexton, James|
|Bromley, J.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Taylor, R. A.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kelly, W. T.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Compton, Joseph||Kennedy, T.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lansbury, George||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lawrence, Susan||Townend, A. E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lawson, John James||Viant, S. P.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lee, F.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lowth, T.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Duncan, C.||Lunn, William||Westwood, J.|
|Dunnico, H.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Fenby, T. D.||March, S.||Whiteley, W.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Maxton, James||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Gillett, George M.||Oliver, George Harold|
|Gosling, Harry||Owen, Major G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Paling, W.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. T. Henderson.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Christie, J. A.||Foster, Sir Harry S.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.|
|Albery, Irving James||Clayton, G. C.||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Frece, Sir Walter de|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Gadie, Lieut.-Colonel Anthony|
|Astor, Viscountess||Cooper, A. Duff||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Atkinson, C.||Courtauld, Major J.S.||Gates, Percy|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Goff, Sir Park|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Bethel, A.||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Grace, John|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Graham, Frederick F. (Cumb'ld., N.)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Grant, Sir J. A.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Dawson, Sir Philip||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Dixey, A. C.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Braithwaite, A. N.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Hanbury, C.|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Elveden, Viscount||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Everard, W. Lindsay||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Fermoy, Lord||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Fielden, E. B.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Finburgh, S.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Meyer, Sir Frank||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Moore- Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Jacob, A. E.||Nuttall, Ellis||Thomson, F. C (Aberdeen, South)|
|Jephcott, A. R.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Tinne, J. A.|
|Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Pennefather, Sir John||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Waddington, R.|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Philipson, Mabel||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Pielou, D. P.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Power, Sir John Cecil||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Price, Major C. W. M.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Locker-Lampoon, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Radford, E. A.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Loder, J. de V.||Raine, W.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Lord, Walter Greaves-||Ramsden, E.||Wells, S. R.|
|Lougher, L.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Remer, J. R.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Rice, Sir Frederick||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Ropner, Major L.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|MacIntyre, Ian||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|McLean, Major A.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Rye, F. G.||Womersley, W. J.|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|MacRobert, Alexander M.||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Wragg, Herbert|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Sandon, Lord||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Savery, S. S.||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Skelton, A. N.|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Meller, R. J.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Captain Viscount Curzon and|
|Merriman, F. B.||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Captain Margesson.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.