§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
It will, no doubt, be a cause of universal satisfaction in every part of the House that the prolonged discussions on this Bill are drawing to a close. On the Committee stage alone we spent something like 77½ hours, which are equal to about 10½ full Parliamentary days. In addition, we had, of course, the Report stage, we have the Third Reading to-day, and two days were given to the Second Reading; so that no one, I think, can say that there has not been ample and adequate opportunity for discussing this Bill in every detail.
The Bill, as the House knows, is founded on an agreed Report, but it is obvious that a continuous effort has been made throughout the discussions to make it appear that this Bill is one of the most controversial that has been presented to Parliament during the present Session; and there is this curious fact, that, the closer the Bill follows the Report, the greater the opposition that it has seemed to provoke. Indeed, any reference which we made to the Report from time to time seemed to provoke the contemptuous indignation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw); and I can well understand that it is embarrassing to the right hon. Gentleman to find that the partisan views which he expresses with such vehemence in this House found little or no favour with an experienced body of men and women whose only object was to produce a fair and workable scheme, and put the whole system of unemployment insurance on a permanent and stable basis. I will give one illustration. A day or two ago, when we were discussing one of the Clauses of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to say that our action was, in his view, the maddest thing we had done yet. In that particular case the Bill, as in so many other instances, followed with almost verbal 1746 precision the Report of the Committee. The Committee, as the House knows, consisted of experienced men and women, and one of them was one of the most responsible, the most trusted leaders of the whole trade union movement—I mean Mr. Holmes; and yet, in spite of that, the right hon. Gentleman thought it proper to make this attack.
This extravagant language, if I may respectfully say so to the right hon. Gentleman, has, no doubt, been used by him in order to obscure so far as he can the hollowness of the criticism which he has directed against the Bill. I cannot think that the members of the Committee will be moved by these expressions. I wonder what the right hon. Gentleman would have said if we had embarked on legislation of this kind without the fullest and most complete investigation that we could give to it. The right hon. Gentleman would be the last person to say that the present system is perfect, or that it has no defects, because he has gone out of his way over and over again to tell us that the Bill for which he was responsible, and which he piloted through this House in 1924 was not a Bill in which he believed at all. He, therefore, is very fully alive to the defects of the present system. How better could those defeats be exposed, how better could we be in a position to remedy them, than by such an investigation as my right hon. Friend instituted? Now we are told that we are not entitled to place any reliance on the Report at all. Of course—and I think that this will be accepted in all parts of the House —the true explanation is, surely, this, that no Bill, whatever its details, unless it accepted the full Socialist doctrine of work or maintenance on a non-contributory basis, would have been acceptable to the Party opposite. The policy to which the right hon. Gentleman and his Party are committed is not insurance at all; it is a policy of out-of-work donation; it is a policy of dole on a gigantic scale.
I observe that the Liberal Party is not at the moment represented in this Chamber. It is quite true that during these discussions, extending over this long period, very few of them condescended to come here at all, but there are two conspicuous and honourable exceptions, one of whom is the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) and the other is 1747 the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris). Judged by every Parliamentary test, industry, ability and assiduity, they are fully entitled to be regarded as amongst the leaders of the Liberal Party, if for no other reason than that they are the only two who have consistently attended. What do we find? [Interruption.] I will include, if you like, the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney). We find that, while their distinguished but absent chief is denouncing this Government at every by-election, in the Press, and in public speeches, for being reckless, improvident people, who care nothing about economy and nothing about finance, at the very same time these Liberal gentlemen in the House of Commons are speaking for and voting for Amendments which, if accepted, would have added at the very least £20,000,000 a year to the cost of the scheme. The truth of the matter, surely, is that, in this imperfect world, neither the Liberal Party nor anyone else can have it both ways, at any rate not at the same time; and they cannot expect for long to bemuse the puzzled electorate by these specious promises of economy when simultaneously they are proposing and voting for vast additions to the expenditure of the country in one direction or another. I frankly confess of the two attitudes I much prefer the open contempt for an actuarial basis—
§ Mr. BETTERTON
—and the indifference to cost of which the right hon. Gentleman has so often boasted, and which is at least consistent with the professed policy of his party.
In commending this Bill for Third Reading, may I remind the House what its broad principle is? The Bill, as my right hon. Friend said in introducing it, with the exception of the contributions, carries out all the main recommendations of the Report, and the broad principle that is now at issue is this: By this Bill we are putting the system of insurance on a permanent footing, and assigning to it its proper place in our code of social legislation. We should be the first to admit that the question of unemployment is far more important than the question of unemployment insurance, but at the same time this by no 1748 means lessens the necessity for a sound, generous and reputable insurance scheme. When we were returned by a large majority in 1924 there were many people, not limited to one party, who expressed grave dissatisfaction with our system as it then was, and indeed, had we proposed at that time very drastic alterations, we should have had no difficulty either in carrying them through the House or in obtaining the concurrence of a large majority in the country.
We quite deliberately did not follow that course. For the first year that my right hon. Friend and I were in office we spent almost the whole of it in making the most complete personal examination into the details of the administration of the system as it existed. We spared ourselves no personal effort in order to know at first hand exactly what the scheme was and how it was working. After a year of the most careful examination we appointed this Committee, and the Committee also expended no less than a year hearing important evidence from every quarter in which they thought that they could find help in examining the problem, and at the end of the year they produced their Report. Whatever views hon. Members in different quarters of the House may have, I think we are under a great debt of gratitude to the Blanesburgh Committee for having devised a scheme which was acceptable to the various schools of thought that were represented on the Committee. It is true, and I think it would be true of every Committee dealing with almost any subject, to say that the scheme in every detail did not commend itself to every individual member of the Committee, but they were all prepared to accept it as a compromise, and they say so in the Report, and they add, what I believe to be perfectly true, that the value of their recommendation is enhanced and not diminished by that fact.
Everyone knows what a very difficult and controversial subject this is. There are those whose sympathy with the unemployed would lead them to support a scheme which would give wages—full wages if you like—for an indefinite period to all persons who are out of work. At the other end of the scale, there are those who are impressed with 1749 the demoralising effect of the dole, of the payment of something for nothing, and so impressed are they that I make no doubt some of them would in consequence tend to do far less than justice to the real needs of the situation. If ever, then, there was a question in which compromise was essential in the public interest, I put it to the House that this is one. One of the things that impressed me as much as anything about the Report of the Committee was this, that in their view—and they were perfectly right—the problem of unemployment should receive the closest attention not only of the Government but of the industries themselves. Equally striking was the desire of the Committee, as expressed in the Report, on the one hand for a generous scheme, honourable to those whom it benefits, free from all taint of charity, and on the other hand for a scheme which quite plainly includes within itself its own safeguards against what the Report described as injurious tendencies. Also the Committee, in a passage which will be remembered by every Member of the House, point out that otherwise the benefits, so far from maintaining the self-respect and the independence of insured persons when they are unemployed, will have precisely the opposite effect. On the Report of such a Committee, set up under those circumstances, this Bill is based. Apart from contributions to which I have already referred, where the Bill differs from the Report it differs in this, that the advantages and benefits it provides are more favourable to the insured persons than those recommended in the Report.
The Opposition have, of course, attempted to obscure from the House the real substance of the Bill. May I remind them what the Bill does. It provides a real insurance against unemployment, based on a statutory right, independent of political influences. It abandons the 26 weeks' limit of benefit. It abandons the existing ratio of benefit, that is to say the one-in-six rule. It substitutes a test deliberately designed to cover the great bulk of genuine unemployment. The combined tests of 30 contributions in the preceding 2 years and the genuineness of the search for work will in our view produce this result. In plain English it means that if a man has some insured work on an average 1750 in only 15 weeks in the year, and is genuinely in search of work, he can obtain benefit as of right. I cannot myself think that in any contributory scheme that is too harsh a test. The scheme is to be limited, as it obviously must be, to contributors to it—and if it is not it will degenerate into a mere pension scheme. In this way—this has not yet been pointed out, but it is very relevant to the whole matter—we have assumed for the scheme by far the greater burden of the whole volume of unemployment, and we have removed from the local authorities a burden which under earlier Acts would have fallen upon them. Therefore, in recommending this Bill to the acceptance of the House, I recommend it as a sound measure of constructive legislation. I used that phrase on the Second Reading, and the discussions we have had from that day to this confirm me in this view.
§ Mr. DUNCAN GRAHAM
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day three months."
I do not know whether the extreme satisfaction which the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary must feel at the end of what has been a disagreeable—
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
Not disagreeable? Well, shall I say agreeable passages, that have taken place between the two sides of the House, have led them to a more or less belligerent attitude, which we on this side are not in the habit of expecting from the Parliamentary Secretary, who began his speech in support of the Third Reading in that attitude. I suppose he was intending to frighten us. I listened very carefully and with the best will in the world to find anything good that could be said on behalf of the Bill, but I failed to grasp anything that would commend it to that section of the House which I think can fairly claim to represent the people who will be affected. I am glad to notice that the Liberal Benches are now occupied. I should have been glad if the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir John Simon) who now graces those Benches, had been present when the Parliamentary Secretary was drawing attention to 1751 the fact that the Liberal side of the House was empty. I hope that the Liberal Party outside this House or the Parliamentary Secretary's own Party outside will take note of some of the observations which the Minister made. It is pleasing to know that of the two parties in Opposition, he prefers the party which on this occasion has been led by the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw). I hope that when the election comes and the Tories have no candidate or one in whom they have very little faith, instead of giving their votes to the Liberals they will give them to the Labour candidate. Had that been done at the last general election we might have had a few extra Members.
The Parliamentary Secretary dealt much more with the Report of the Blanesburgh Committee than with the provisions of the Bill. That has been the practice adopted since the Bill was introduced. The Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary have always sheltered themselves behind the Blanesburgh Committee. I would not for a moment suggest that that Committee was not a competent committee from many points of view. Although we may not and do not agree with the conclusions of the Committee, we do not wish to be unfair to them or to say that we believe that the men and women who formed the Committee did not do their very best. We give them the credit for doing their best. It is not the Blanesburgh Committee we criticise or condemn so far as this Bill is concerned. We criticise and condemn the Government. They are really responsible. I am one of those who believe, and I think I speak the views of the large majority, indeed I think of the whole of the Members on this side, when I say that when the Blanesburgh Committee was appointed we expected, and I think the country expected, that the whole question of unemployment and its effects upon the persons who are the victims of unemployment would be considered and dealt with in a manner that would have removed the question entirely from the sphere of ordinary partisan political policy.
Unfortunately, the Government did not seem to view the matter from the standpoint from which we view it. Had they done so, had they been really anxious 1752 to procure a non-controversial report from a competent committee, they would surely have recognised that in a question of this sort it would only have been fair to have given to the Labour forces at least equal representation. I take strong exception to the suggestion that has been made during the discussion of the Bill that my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield) should be held to any extent responsible for the conclusions that were reached by the majority of the Committee. Occasionally, we have noticed a disposition which was perhaps in the minds of hon. Members opposite that they were not at all unwilling to throw a considerable share of the burden of blame upon the hon. Member for Wall-send. It is unfortunate that the expectations aroused by the appointment of the Committee have not been realised. We believe that whatever failures result from the passage of this Bill, and there will be considerable failures in the sense that the expectations of the Government will not be realised, the blame will lie entirely upon the Government.
This Bill has 16 Clauses and five Schedules, practically every one of which raises questions of policy and administration. Notwithstanding the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary that something like 11 Parliamentary days have been given to the discussion of the Bill, we on this side fairly and reasonably claim that sufficient time for the discussion of the Bill has not been given. The Bill itself involves the whole question of the Government's domestic policy, and a Bill of this character ought to have been discussed, not as a mere Departmental subject, but one in which all the Ministries affected by the Bill should have been represented on the Front Bench. What Departments are particularly affected by the Bill? In addition to the Ministry of Labour, I suggest that the Ministry of Health is equally interested, that the Treasury has a considerable interest in it, and there can be no doubt that in the present condition of this country the Board of Trade has a big interest in this Measure, especially as the Board of Trade is to be responsible for one of the industries in which unemployment has assumed somewhat alarming proportions in recent years.
The question is not one that should be treated merely as an economic question. 1753 It has social, moral and physical, implications which are perhaps even more important than the economic, and for that reason we consider that not only the Minister of Labour, but the representatives of the various Departments I have mentioned should have been responsible for the conduct of the Bill during its progress through the House—and I think the country will agree with us. This Bill should have been removed entirely from anything in the nature of political interests. Unfortunately many hon. Members opposite imagine that hon. Members on this side are only interested in one aspect of our political life, that we are Socialists and nothing else. It is true we have studied the question of Socialism to the best of our ability and have arrived at the conclusion that Socialism cannot be brought into operation in a. day, or a week, or a month. We are quite willing to say that it may take over a year, but in the meantime people have to live and industry has to be carried on. We depend on industry just as much as any hon. Member opposite, and we are just as anxious as they are to see the industries of the country in a prosperous condition. I submit, therefore, that when a Bill of this character is being discussed in this House and suggestions are made from this side they should have met with more sympathetic consideration than has been given to them by the Government during the progress of this Bill.
The unfortunate thing is that the Government have considered this matter purely as an economic question, and in the narrowest possible sense. They have failed to recognise the human aspect; they have treated the matter as if this aspect did not exist at all. It is a blind and foolish policy on the part of the Government, and we are sorry they have taken that line. There is no question whatever that when they are compelled, whether they like it or not, to submit themselves to the will of the people they will suffer considerably at the polls. It may be that in some divisions they will be able to retain the hold they have at the present time. I have no doubt that in Berkshire, in which the constituency of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) is situated, there will be a fairly satisfactory return so far as the Tory party is concerned.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
I am talking of Berkshire. The hon. Member for Reading, and the Minister for Labour himself, knows that there is no real unemployment in Berkshire. If there were the attitude of the hon. Member for Reading would be very different. If he had come from certain areas in the country he would have found it advisable to have taken quite a different line from that which he has adopted. This question is not settled yet by any means. The mere passing of this Bill to-day, and I have no doubt the Government will get their majority, will not settle the question. There have been quite a number of Unemployment Acts put upon the Statute Book since the end of the War, but none has been satisfactory, and in almost every Session we have been called upon to consider amending legislation. I believe that before the ink is dry on this Measure it will require amendment, and the Government will be called upon to take some action in regard to it. The Parliamentary Secretary has tried to convince us that sufficient time has been given to the discussion of this Bill. I admit, and the whole Labour party-will admit, that up to the end of the Fifth Clause fair time was given, but after we reached that stage the attitude adopted by the Government can be fairly described as partisan; they took full advantage of their majority. A large number of that majority took no part in the discussions on the Bill, but merely recorded their votes in the Lobby in favour of the position of the Government. I say that sufficient time has not been given to this Bill. Look at Clauses 6, 7 and 8. They deal with matters which certainly deserved, but did not receive, full and fair consideration. They were rushed through the Committee after half a day's discussion on a Friday afternoon. Clause 3 itself deals with the disqualifications for the receipt of benefit, a very important matter. The other Clauses deal with the continuous period of unemployment and the power to make grants out of the Unemployment Fund towards courses of instruction.
Up to the end of the fifth Clause we do not complain that the Government did not give us fair and reasonable time, but from the time when the guillotine was introduced their attitude cannot be de 1755 scribed in the terms which the Parliamentary Secretary desires the House and country to believe. He said that the recommendations of the Blanesburgh Committee were something in the nature of a compromise. In that case one would naturally expect, when the Bill was being discussed in Committee, that consideration would be given to other people's point of view. Unfortunately, that is not the case. With one or two exceptions there have been no concessions made on any of the Amendments that we have put forward. Only one or two minor concessions have been made, and it is fair to say that as the discussion went on the Government developed a partisanship that can only be characterised as due to an academic acquaintance with the subject or a callous indifference to the suffering that will fall on innocent men, women and children of the poorest class.
I want again, in the kindliest possible way, to tell the Government that, whatever faults we may have, they do not include a merely academic knowledge of this particular subject. We have a close and very direct acquaintance with the persons who are affected by the Bill. Many of us have been unemployed and know the horrors of unemployment. I have been unemployed for long periods, not because I was unwilling to work but because my character was not good enough for certain employers, and that at a time when there was little or no unemployment in the mining industry. Still, most of us have come through that experience, and I suggest to learned and unlearned Members on the other side that experience is a better teacher than a doctrine of philosophy on questions of this sort. It would have been reasonable and would have shown a much fairer disposition on the part of Ministers if they had met us much more considerately than they have done.
The Parliamentary Secretary stated that during the last three years he had had considerable experience of the working of the Unemployment Insurance Acts. All Members of this House have had considerable experience of the Acts during the last six years. If the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary had consulted the records they would easily have found that the Bill will accentuate rather than relieve the position 1756 in the areas in which the industries of coal, iron, steel, engineering shipbuilding and textiles are carried on. It is not quite correct, as has been frequently said in this House, that the coal districts are apart from other districts in which the heavy industries are carried on. As a matter of fact, in the West of Scotland, in the small area in which industry is carried on, coal, iron, steel, engineering and shipbuilding are practically together. They form a comparatively small and compact area in Scotland. The same remark is true of the North-East coast. In Yorkshire and Lancashire you find that coal, iron and steel and the engineering and textile industries are all practically together. I mention this because I want to draw special attention to the effect that the Bill will have upon the particular areas that I have mentioned.
In the unemployment index for November I find there are 59 divisions and counties with a register of insured persons who total 11,500,000. In 25 of these divisions there are over 7,000,000 insured persons, and there the unemployment ranges from 8 to 32 per cent. I understand that the Minister is looking forward to the possibility of 8 per cent. being something like the normal position so far as unemployment is concerned. In those 25 counties or divisions it is considerably over 25 per cent. In the counties of Stafford, Cumberland, Lancashire, Worcester, Cheshire, Northumberland and Durham—I wish I could include Berkshire—there are 3,169,380 insured persons, with unemployment ranging from 10 to 20 per cent. Actually there are 421,867 unemployed persons drawing relief in the seven counties in England. Nearly 40 per cent., or, roughly, about 35 per cent. of the total unemployed, are in these counties. When we come to Wales we find that Wales as a whole is a necessitous area. In Carmarthen, Glamorgan, Monmouth and the rest of Wales the number of insured persons on the register is 593,260. Of this number 159,390 are unemployed, or a percentage of 23.5. It may be fairly stated that the coal industry is the principal industry in the Welsh valleys.
When we come to Scotland we find the county of Lanark, including Glasgow, with 522,980 persons on the register, and 61,189 unemployed, or a percentage of 1757 11.7. Lanarkshire represents approximately 40 per cent. of the total of insured persons in Scotland. Speaking as a Scotsman and a native of the county, I am rather proud of the fact, because the Labour movement, I claim, had its birth in the county, before the Clyde was known. In any case, it is interesting to remind the House that the first Labour Member who entered this House was a native of the county of Lanark. He started as a Lanarkshire miner. Ultimately he succeeded in getting into Parliament. I am looking forward hopefully to the time when the Members of my party will be on the right hand rather than on the left of Mr. Speaker, and with full power, and if we have to deal then with the question of unemployment we shall deal with it in a way entirely different from that in which it has been dealt with in this Bill. As I said, there are twelve divisions or 12 countries in England, Scotland and Wales with 4,285,620 insured persons, or fully 37 per cent. of the total of insured persons, and 622,446 unemployed, or, roughly, 60 per cent. of the total unemployed of the country.
These divisions have contributed more, perhaps, than any other area to the raising of Britain from a condition of comparative insignificance to that of being in the forefront of civilisation, and they are still capable of raising it to still greater heights. I would ask Members opposite, not those on the Front Bench, but supporters of the Government, what the Bill is going to do with these people. Will it give them work? Thus 622,000 are, admittedly, according to the Government's own statistics, unemployed at the present time. They are unemployed not because they are unwilling to work, but because they cannot get work. We on this side would like to know what this Bill is going to do to relieve the situation which is likely to arise when this Bill becomes an Act as a consequence of these people being deprived of unemployment benefit. Industry as at present organised can find no place for them. Even hidebound Tories will agree that industry as at present organised can do nothing for them, but the Government refuse to take any course other than that of throwing them out of unemployment benefit and compelling them to go on the rates. I hope the Government will, even now, 1758 reconsider their attitude. I appreciate the fact that, no matter what we may say on this side, we cannot change the Bill here, but there is yet time for a fair and full consideration of the matter.
We have strong feelings upon it, and we are entitled to have those strong feelings, because we come into daily contact with those who have been deprived of benefit and thrown on the parish. Only a small percentage of those who are deprived of benefit actually receive parish relief. I do not know the conditions in England, but in Scotland a young unmarried man capable of working receives no parish relief whatever. Rightly or wrongly, we have a feeling that the policy of the Government in this matter is dictated by interests that are not directly represented on the Treasury Bench, or, at least, are not supposed to be directly represented there. The net result of this policy will be the degradation of the working class and the lowering of their standard of life. I venture to hope, however, that in another place the Government will take the opportunity which is still open to them, to reconsider the position and to accept many of the Amendments submitted from this side, while, of course, safeguarding the Insurance Fund against imposture. We have never defended imposture or fraudulent claims and, in preventing imposture, the Government will receive willing support from this side. We think that they should at the same time make absolutely certain that no bona fide unemployed person should have reason to believe that the State machinery is being used against him, and we believe that such will be the case if this Bill becomes an Act in its present form. I hope that the Minister, when winding up the Debate will be able to tell us that he is prepared, on behalf of the Government, to consider favourably many of the suggestions which have been made from this side for the betterment of the Bill.
§ 12 n.
§ Mr. LINDLEY
I beg to second the Amendment.
In rising to second the rejection of this Measure, I do so, not for the mere purpose of opposing the Bill, nor for the purpose of obtaining personal or party kudos, but because I believe the Bill to be inherently bad and positively in- 1759 jurious to the interests of the unemployed workers of this country. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the Bill provides a statutory right to benefit for the unemployed worker. It would do so in the event of certain very difficult and almost impossible conditions being fulfilled. It reminds one of a country fair where a cheap-jack showman offers some sort of prize if you can accomplish an almost impossible task. This is the kind of Measure which we get from a Tory Government that has never yet expressed anything but sympathy for the unemployed, but has extended nothing in the shape of tangible benefit. Expressions of sympathy are perhaps the cheapest things on earth. It is easy to express sympathy and perhaps exceedingly difficult to deal with a problem of this kind. We have, in the past, tried to deal with this problem as though it were a self-contained problem and had no relation to the other problems facing us to-day. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) in chiding the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. T. Johnston)—who pointed out that the meagre benefits offered under this Bill, would seriously endanger the moral rectitude of young women in this country affected by the Measure—said: "You expect to get it both ways. You are persistently pointing out that the employers of this country are always anxious to employ young people in preference to adult workers." That is perfectly true. There is not merely a tendency in that direction, but it is a deliberate practice, of employers, to employ the cheapest juvenile labour they can get. Having used this cheap juvenile labour for a year or two, when these workers feel that because of the experience which they have acquired they are entitled to some increase of wages, then the employers have no further use for their services. They are thrown on the industrial scrap heap to be replaced by another volume of juvenile workers at the lowest possible wages.
It is admitted by the Minister of Labour that we have approximately 1,250,000 unemployed in this country, but nothing whatever has been said about those unfortunate unemployed workers who are deprived of benefit and compelled to seek relief from boards of guardians, 1760 and who, although unemployed, are not recognised as such by the Ministry of Labour. The number of these people is very large, and it would perhaps, if included, increase the official figure of unemployment to at least 2,000,000. Among these 2,000,000 unemployed it is no exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of thousands of young women who, because of the meagre and wretchedly inadequate benefit offered under this Bill, would have to supplement their income by hook or by crook, in some way or anther, and they would undoubtedly be in danger. But the young women are not the only people who would be in danger. What about the young men? They have to live somehow. You cannot expect them to lie down in the gutter and rot. They were able and willing to defend this country, and they did defend it when its very existence was in peril. They are the people who were told that their King and country needed them. Many of them went and they came back, expecting a livelihood in this country. Up to now nothing in the shape of a livelihood has been offered to them. These people are to be offered reduced unemployment benefit, and if they have to supplement their income by other means, is there any member of the Conservative party here or in the country who would blame them if they acquire the ways and means of living in circumstances that are not regarded as strictly legal?
I suggest that we are endeavouring to compel these people to do the impossible. We are manufacturing criminals, because I do not hesitate to say that if I were in the position of one of these unfortunate unemployed workers, and the money I obtained from the Unemployment Insurance Fund was not sufficient to meet my requirements, I would live in some way or other, because I believe that every man and woman in this country has the right to live. Interlocked with this question of unemployment is the question of the ownership of the land of this country, and until the land is free we are always going to be faced with this problem of unemployment, and we are always going to have to find money for the purpose of keeping in idleness people who are not merely willing but anxious to work.
I do not oppose this Bill because it emanates from a particular party. If the Measure were a good and beneficial 1761 Measure, whether it came from the Conservative party, the Liberal party, or the Labour party would be immaterial to me. There is not a single Member on this side who would not most heartily support the Measure, if he felt that it would be beneficial to the unemployed workers. It is not a question of party prejudice, but a question of whether this Bill is going to do the things that the Government say it will do. One certain thing has emanated from the discussion. It has been variously estimated that from 30,000 to 150,000 of the unemployed will be absolutely deprived of benefit under this Bill. Undoubtedly that means an increased number being thrown on the boards of guardians, and that the Government are seeking to relieve their financial responsibility in respect of the unemployed workers by fixing that responsibility upon the various local authorities up and down the country. Then the same people who criticise the Labour party in this House criticise local administration in the country, and tell us that the members of our party who are administering Poor Law relief schemes are responsible for extravagance and consequently for the increase in the local rates. How can hon. Members fix the responsibility upon anybody outside this House when they deliberately debar men and women from receiving unemployment benefit, not because they do not desire work, or are unable to work, but simply because there is not the work for them to do?
In that connection, we have had from Members opposite some very cheap jibes and rather dirty sneers in connection with the street corner loafers and the workshys. I have had some experience of working-class people, and I have found very few workshys, very few shirkers, and very few street corner loafers. On the other hand, we find that most of these people are very reluctant to appeal to the relieving officer or the board of guardians for help. They would far rather go to work and obtain something like a decent wage for work that they are not only willing but able to do. These circumstances are circumstances over which they have no control at all, and I would remind hon. Members opposite that the very fact that you have ex-Members of this House advertising in the public Press for work and unable to get it is not merely positive and conclusive evidence, but an abso- 1762 lute demonstration of the impossibility of obtaining work. Not long ago, one who had been addressed in this House as an hon. and gallant Member, one who had served his country well, one who had ability and reliability, found it impossible to get suitable work. He is only one of a number. If it be impossible for men of reliability and undoubted ability to obtain work, how much more impossible is it for those who have had no educational advantages and no special training in any particular direction?
Our policy surely is the right policy, the policy of work or maintenance. The Parliamentary Secretary denounced that policy as being a policy of donation, but for the life of me I cannot understand why it should be so described. A donation from whom? The whole wealth of the country is created by the workers of the country. Even Cabinet Ministers contribute very little towards the wealth of this country, and I am not sure that we should not miss the Cabinet Minister who is in charge of this Bill much less than we should one industrial worker. The industrial worker does produce something, and, when all is said and done, you have to admit, whether you like it or not, that your problem is, given a country and a people, how to make the best of that country in the interests of the whole of the people, and not merely in the interests of a few privileged people. [An HON. MEMBER:"That is Socialism!"] It may be, but it is common sense, and they may be synonymous terms, but is it common sense to expect these people, who are anxious to work, to endeavour to live on 17s. a week for an adult man, when we know very well that the cost of living has not decreased as the Ministry of Labour's figures would indicate? Even in this House, the other day, there was a criticism levelled against the method of arriving at those figures, and in spite of the figures indicating a very substantial increase over the pre-War figures, we are actually now expecting adult men to live on a reduced benefit and young people to live on a very substantially reduced benefit, and we are expecting them to remain law-abiding citizens at the same time. This Measure will simply add to the confusion and the chaos of existing legislation in respect to the payment of unemployment benefit. It does not clarify the 1763 position at all. It increases the difficulties of the problem, and it makes the administration of benefit much more difficult than it has been in the past.
I would like to have seen quite a number of things introduced into this Bill. I would like to have seen it made impossible for the various Employment Exchanges to offer one job to 20 different persons, and I would like to have seen it made impossible for men to be offered jobs that actually have no existence in fact. Within my own experience, I have seen that, when two jobs have been available, 30 workmen have been submitted, and usually the married workmen have been selected for work away from their own district, in the hope and expectation, and indeed in the anticipation, that they would offer some objection to being sent away from home on the very valid ground that it would be impossible for them to meet the increased expenses incurred. This thing has been done persistently, and if a workman has dared to offer some objection in the nature of pointing out how impossible it would be for him to accept the work offered because of the increased expense involved, he has been immediately struck off payment. By all sorts of subterfuges, Regulations have been framed, hitting all the time, not at those who are shirkers and workshys, but at those who are genuinely seeking work and who desire to get it.
It has been said that we cannot afford the increased benefit proposed by Members on this side of the House, that trade and industry will not stand this, that and the other. Is everything to be purchased at the expense of the poverty of the workers? Is no consideration whatever to be extended to those who are unemployed, who are on the verge of starvation and who scarcely know where the next meal is coming from? Is it fair to say that the burden must always be borne by those least able to bear it? Another point has been made that trade unions have imposed certain conditions in respect of the payment of their unemployment benefit. Fancy comparing the limited membership and the restricted resources of the trade unions with the resources of a State like this! If the Government of the day can offer nothing better to the unemployed people than the unemployment benefit scheme of the 1764 various trade unions, it is not saying very much for their ability to govern in the wise and beneficent manner that we are told they are able to do.
We are also told that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has exercised his influence in respect to the meagre payment of benefit. I have not noticed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken any deep and keen interest in the discussion of this Measure in its stages through the House of Commons. If he had given half as much attention to this matter as he has given to advertising his own great and magnificent ability to the people of this country and other countries, or half as much attention as he has given to disparaging the merits of the Labour party, to advertising the fact that we are unable to govern, and that he has an intellect of unusual magnitude, he would have been more frequently in this House, and have paid more consideration to the provisions of this Bill. It may be true that he has a gigantic intellect, something different from that of ordinary, common men. He may have an intellect of great magnitude, even of four dimensions, length, breadth, depth and thickness. We all agree that he possesses the last-named quality to a marked extent, but his attention to this Measure has been of a most meagre kind, and if he has exercised any influence in determining the extent of the benefits conceded, I hope he will extend further consideration, and will induce the Government to reconsider this problem.
The hon. Member for Reading has again and again told us that the trade unions do not pay benefit from the first day of unemployment. I only know that the trade union of which I am a member does pay unemployment benefit from the first day of unemployment, and that many others—I am not in a position to say all—pay benefit from the first day of unemployment. Those with which I am acquainted certainly do. The hon. Member for Reading thinks otherwise, but we have got accustomed to his presuming to knowledge on a very inadequate experience of the trade union movement. If the Government had been anxious to follow the example set by the various trade unions of the country, they could have done that right from the initiation of the unemployment scheme, and have made the benefit payable from 1765 the first day of unemployment, instead of making it payable from the seventh day of unemployment, and we would like to remind the House, particularly Members who sit on the Government Benches, that this waiting week does not mean merely waiting for six days and then drawing benefit at the end of those six days. It means waiting at least 14 days, and then frequently not being paid the benefit which the unemployed worker expects to get, with the result that the unemployed workers suffer considerably, and, if they suffer in that way, it does necessitate, again and again, an appeal to the relieving officer, which, in other circumstances, might not have to be made.
On the whole, therefore, there is no gain financially in inflicting this hardship upon the unemployed worker. There is no gain either locally or nationally. There is no gain to the health and stamina of the individual concerned. There is a direct loss in many directions, with the result that when these people do get work, in many instances they are unable to do that work. Hence, again, they are compelled to apply to their approved societies for sickness benefit. There is another source of expense arising from unwise legislation of this kind. It is not possible for this House to expect a volume of unemployed workers carrying on from day to day, week to week and year to year in a very docile manner, and remaining law-abiding citizens in circumstances in which the very people, who framed this legislation would find it impossible to live. I wonder what the Minister of Labour would do if he were an unemployed person, and were expected to live on 17s. a week. He might say, "Oh, I could get work ". It is rather strange that work always appears easy to get when you are not wanting it. It is when you are in want of a job that you find how very difficult it is to obtain. The heart-breaking, black despondency that comes along after a few days of seeking and searching for work which is not to be had, is one of those things that have to be experienced to be understood, and I venture to say that if the Minister of Labour had had such an experience, he would regard this problem from an entirely different angle, and would begin to understand, not in the academic sense referred to by the last speaker, but with the wisdom born of experience, how difficult it is to get work, 1766 no matter how assiduously you may search for it.
Undoubtedly, there does come a day when these people feel it hopeless to continue looking for work, and they come before the rota committee and are asked "Where have you been looking for work?" and they tell them, and they also tell them—if the hon. Member for Reading has sat on any rota committee he will know it—that when the Unemployment Insurance Act was first framed they were told it was framed for the express purpose of preventing their having to go about from place to place looking for work, that it was framed for the express purpose of finding work for the unemployed, and it had failed to fulfil its purpose. Consequently, the responsibility has again been thrown back on the unemployed person, who is least able to bear it.
I do hope that we may be able to induce the Government to reconsider this Measure, though hope in that direction is not very strong, I am bound to confess. Experience has proved to us on this side of the House how absolutely futile it is to endeavour to persuade this Government to depart from any particular line of action they have determined upon, or to induce them to do anything except that particular thing they have predetermined to do. Sympathy for the unemployed, yes, but we would like something more than sympathy. We ask for this Measure to be reconsidered, so that the workers of this country may feel that they are getting the consideration to which their services to the country entitle them, and if it be said that the policy of work or maintenance is a donation, it is only returning to the workers a small portion of the wealth which they have created. I do hope that this Measure will be reconsidered, and that we shall get some modification which will lead to a Measure that will be less harsh in its application to the unemployed.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House very truly said that on this subect something more than sympathy was needed; and, on the occasion when the Third Reading of the Bill dealing with Unemployment Insurance is down for discussion, we shall all feel that it is very necessary to consider what the House of Commons has been able to do with this 1767 Bill, and the judgment that we can form on the Bill itself after the efforts that have been made to amend it. I regret as much as anybody that there should not be, on Friday morning, a fuller attendance of Members at a Debate such as this. I looked round and made a simple calculation, and found that of the Conservative party four per cent. were present, of the Labour party 10 per cent. were present, and of the Liberal party 15 per cent. were present. I make that observation with all good humour, because some people may think that that illustrates the danger of statistical and percentage calculation. At any rate, we must agree that it is a misfortune that this Bill should be discussed on a Friday, a difficult day for many people. I am not suggesting that Members who are absent have not important public duties to attend to, but the one thing which is certain is that when half-past-three o'clock comes, some of those who are not here and, peradventure, may be resting from their labours, will roll up in accordance with the Government Whip, and will have no hesitation in pronouncing that all that they find is very good.
I only desire to intervene because I have, with a great deal of care, examined the Bill, and the Bill as amended in Committee, and, if the House will allow me, I should like to make observations briefly on two heads. First of all, I do wish to enter my protest, and I appeal to my colleagues in the House of Commons wherever they sit to support me, against the form in which this Bill is enacted. There is not one of us who, on different occasions, has not been led to protest against what is called legislation by reference. I am not quite sure that people outside the House of Commons always appreciate what is meant by that condemnation. Let me put it by means of an illustration which, at any rate, will give a picture. Not long ago it was the occasional occupation of lively young persons of both sexes in some quarters in London to indulge in the evening in what was called a treasure hunt. That is to say, there was an appointment that you should meet at a particular hour, at a particular spot, in order to join in the hunt for the treasure. You were given a clue, and if you were clever enough correctly to interpret the clue, you dashed off to some other point, 1768 which might be an archway under the railway at Battersea, or the third milestone on the Dover road, and you began to dig. If you dug at the right spot, which was always a very doubtful point, and persisted in your digging, ultimately you discovered what you were expected to find. It was not the treasure, but only another clue, and, having examined this second clue, you dashed off again to yet another address; and, if you were extremely fortunate, it might be that in the end you would find the treasure. The operation is very amusingly described in the last of the novels of Mr. A. E. W. Mason.
Legislation by reference is merely a form of Parliamentary treasure hunt, and, if you really want to see what it involves, I will give an illustration, from this Bill. If hon. Members will turn to page 3 of this Bill, they will find it deals with the extremely important subject of rates of benefit—not a very recondite topic in itself. On the top of page 3 they will read:—Sub-section (1) of Section one of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1922, shall be amended as follows:(i) for the words 'a widower or an unmarried man has residing with him any female person for the purpose of having the care of his dependent children,'and so on,there shall be substituted the words 'either a man or a woman'"—then there is a parenthesis—has residing with him or her,and so on; and then:in Sub-section (2) of the said Section one for the words 'decided by the Minister' there shall be substituted the words 'determined in the same manner as a claim for benefit,and so on and so forth. I could not help being entertained when the Parliamentary Secretary was good enough to tell us something about the Bill, and he said: "This is what it means in plain English." Plain English is the very last thing which anyone who is responsible for this Bill should declare to be found within its covers. It is not plain English. It is double Dutch. It does not stop there. If anybody takes the trouble to get the Statute of 1922, they will find that they are only at the beginning of the treasure hunt. You will not find the thing you are after, because, when you 1769 look at the Section in the 1922 Act, that refers to the Act of 1920 and the Act of 1921. This can be illustrated also in Clauses 5 and 6 in an amazing way, and it goes to such lengths that in the present discussion the Minister of Labour was good enough to give us some results of piecing this thing together, so that those of us in this House who are supposed to be comparatively expert in dealing with Parliamentary formulae, should have a chance of understanding what it would be if you put the separate bits of legislation more or less together. But let me point out that you make a great mistake if you imagine that we are merely playing a legislative game for one another's amusement in the House. Legislation, and especially legislation of this sort, loses half its value if it is not enacted in such a form that a person who is prepared to take the trouble—the social worker, the political agent, the subordinate official in a trade union—may really have the document before him and be able to use it so that any plain man who works at the subject can understand it. It is time we made a most determined appeal to those responsible to stop this method of legislation. I do not say at all that it has only occurred in the lifetime of the present Government.
What is the explanation? The explanation of it is two fold. First of all, there is a most accomplished staff of gentlemen who are Parliamentary draftsmen, whose own knowledge of statute law is quite remarkable, and who themselves quite easily describe what they intend to do by formulæ which, to most people, seem rather cryptic. The second reason is that the inevitable and natural desire of every Government in turn, it does not matter what its party complexion may be, and of the Chief Whip of every Government, to get through business, makes them much prefer a form of expression which most Members of the House, certainly will not instantly find it easy to follow, and which presents, therefore, probably a much narrower front for Debate than if we had the whole thing written out from beginning to end. Though I do not minimise the importance of those considerations if we are to get through our business, really this thing is being carried too far.
1770 I happen to know that inside some Government departments—for instance, in the Department of Inland Revenue— while we here are passing highly-elaborate amendments of the Finance Acts, till the whole thing becomes a very bad Chinese puzzle, they have an official copy which puts together these changes so as to provide their own officials with the results in, as far as possible, a convenient form. We do the same thing in this House, I think, in the case of the Army Annual Act; and I think I am right in saying the same thing is done with reference to the Government of India Act. In some parts of the British Empire, in Canada, for example, they have a regular system by which from time to time they issue what they call Statutes Revised; but we ourselves are really getting into such a condition of complication that Parliament as a legislative machine is in very grave danger of forfeiting the respect of ordinary people, which it ought to try to retain. It is nothing less than absurd to say to a man —a journalist, a social worker or other person interested in the subject—"Well, after all, there is the King's printers' copy, which you can buy for 2d." When he has got it, he finds after reading it from end to end that it does not convey any intelligible information as to what we have done. Therefore, I would venture most respectfully to address the Minister of Labour about this Bill. Here is a Bill which, for the most part, is not to come into effective operation until a much later date. It may or may not be easy to have a consolidating Statute in the meantime, but surely in the interests of the House of Commons, in the interests of the ordinary Members, and in the interests of the public, something ought to be done to get our legislation into a more intelligible form.
I have sometimes thought that it would be well worth while for the House of Commons, or for a Committee of the House, to turn its attention to this subject generally. It would be quite out of order to discuss that now, but it may be that we ought to have a simple commentary of an official kind bound up with any piece of complicated legislation which, without being the legislation itself, may none the less be referred to as an authoritative exposition, something that is drawn up by the persons in different parties who really have followed the 1771 Debates closely. For example, my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw) and the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday), and one or two others on this side, with two or three Members from the other side, could to-day state quite uncontroversially what it is which this Bill does in such a way as to make it intelligible to plain people. If we could not substitute that for our Statute, at any rate it would be a valuable accompaniment of it.
I have wished in the first instance, to make this respectful submission to the House on the subject of the form of the Bill. I think there have been 15 Unemployment Bills since the Statute of 1920, and nobody can possibly try to piece together what is in this Bill, in order to show what the result is, unless he is prepared to collect and to put markers in at least five volumes of the Statutes, which I have gathered here and brought to the House to show hon. Members what is involved. It really is the greatest delusion to suppose that the lawyer element desires the present system. It is far more useful from the point of view of understanding and developing statute law that it should be in terms which can be plainly understood, for no form of legal controversy is so trying, or is so much objected to by any member of the profession who is really trying to do honest and careful work in it, as this miserable business of tracing these things out from statute to statute under a running fire of comment from judges as to why it is that Parliament behaves in so curious a fashion. I do hope the Minister of Labour will be able to give us some practical satisfaction on this point. We really ought to have, if not in the form of a consolidating statute, then in the form of a White Paper, something which puts the present law of unemployment insurance, be it good, bad or indifferent, inside the folds of a single piece of paper. I mean of a single pamphlet, so that any one of us when asked about the subject has not got to trace things from one volume to another.
I do not wish to occupy time on what are matters of form, important as they are, without saying one or two words on the matters of substance connected with this Bill. It seems to me that the big criticism which may fairly be made of the way in which this Bill has been pre- 1772 sented and is being carried through the House by the Government is that from first to last the topic has been treated as though it were purely a Departmental question. I notice from the back of the Bill that Ministers who are alleged to be supporting the Minister of Labour are Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. McNeill, now Lord Cushendun; in other words, the Ministry of Health and the Treasury are recognised as Departments which ought to be specially concerned with this Bill. How much have we seen of the Minister of Health or of the Treasury in the course of the discussions on matters of principle in this Bill? The fundamental misfortune, I think, is that accomplished, diligent and helpful as the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour and his Under-Secretary are—I think we ought to acknowledge the assiduous attention which they have given to the matter in the House—the mere fact that the Prime Minister thinks it right to put this Bill in their charge without requiring other aspects of the question to be represented in Debate means that the whole atmosphere of the subject has been improperly presented. The right hon. Gentleman has conducted the whole of the discussions, and I have read nearly all of them, and been present at some, with great ingenuity. We know him to be a very ingenious man. I do not think I do him a great injustice when I say that he has always felt that, whenever possible, he should refer to the Blanesburgh Report, and he has always known that when he was in a difficulty he could quote something which he alleged had been done or thought of or proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston. Those are very natural devices, but quite a different thing from presenting the subject of unemployment insurance as it should be presented to the House of Commons.
May I point out three or four matters which at any rate make me very uneasy about the Bill. This Measure is avowedly presented upon the basis of the Blanesburgh Report, which is of course a very interesting and a very important document. As hon. Members know, I have recently had other special duties cast upon me, but perhaps I may be allowed to say that I trust it is a good omen that the Report of the Blanesburgh Committee was unanimous. I think it is a great achievement that on such a contro- 1773 versial subject as this a Committee should be able to produce a unanimous report. At the same time, when one looks closely into the Report of the Blanesburgh Committee, it is quite plain that the Report itself is based upon an assumption which greatly simplified the task of the members of the Committee, and that is an assumption that there will be an early return to a more normal cycle of trade. I do not wish to say a word in criticism of the ladies and gentlemen who took part in the work of that Committee, but it is manifest, when you read the Report that the assumption I have just referred to explains a good deal in regard to their recommendations. If there is going to be such a drop in the number of unemployed as the Blanesburgh Committee apparently assume, I am sure that we shall all be very much relieved. I hope it may be so. I do not profess to understand the economic theory about cycles of trade unless it means, as Mr. Tony Weller said about the funds, thatThey go up and they go down, like 'buses in the Strand.That is not a very scientific basis upon which to proceed, and it seems to me that, if the Ministry of Labour produce a Bill based on that theory, they will find themselves in what really amounts to a dilemma. Is the Minister of Labour prepared to assure Parliament that this is a safe way on which to proceed, although I must say the Government seem rather to hesitate about saying so in very express terms? The idea that we can found permanent legislation on this subject based upon actuarial calculations and figures which rest upon that hypothesis is manifestly a very dangerous way of proceeding. That is the first broad consideration which suggests itself to me after considering the Blanesburgh Report and its relation to the Government Bill.
In some other matters of importance the Bill does not in point of fact follow the recommendations of the Blanesburgh Report. I can imagine one reason why we have not seen much of the Treasury representatives in these Debates. The Blanesburgh Report suggested an equal contribution and that the Treasury should provide the sum required. It is all very well to say that the difference is not very great in fractions, but it is considerable when treated as a lump sum. 1774 In this matter the Government are producing a Bill which in that respect does not follow out the Blanesburgh Report at all.
I claim to have taken an interest in this question ever since 1911, and it seems to me that it is a real advantage, if it can be done on fair terms, to make the light of benefit a statutory right from beginning to end. The history of what used to be called uncovenanted benefit is well known to the House, and it is an example of how difficult it was to make an accurate calculation in regard to this question in the days after the War. It was thought by many people, and by some people of very great authority, that though there was this terrible depression which followed a purely temporary boom after the War, uncovenanted benefit could be set up in the sanguine hope that things would so much improve that those drawing it would be able to pay for it later on. That really was a delusion. Improvement is slow. Therefore, we pass into a stage now where the very alarming figure of total unemployment cannot be regarded as something which is purely temporary, exceptional, and abnormal. It is something with which, unhappily, we have to deal as a pressing problem which is not likely to disappear very quickly. That being so, I think the principle involved in saying that we must take this extended benefit and treat it as being upon a statutory basis, whatever that may be, is right, and in the same way I am very glad that we shall get rid, as this Bill will get rid, of the most dreadfully trying and difficult position which is involved when uncovenanted or additional benefit is so largely a matter of judgment either to be given or refused.
I do not believe that it is a good thing for a great Department, with a political chief at the head of it, or persons in a locality, to have to try to decide these things, because matters of this sort should not be within the range of discretion but should come within the range of a statutory right. This seems to me to be a very great improvement if it can in other respects be carried out fairly. I think the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary shows that there is a great deal in this Bill which is not by any means to be rejected as reactionary. There is another matter which nobody 1775 has attempted to deal with satisfactorily from the Government's side. You are changing the boundary which divides the persons who get unemployment benefit from the persons who have to resort to the Poor Law. We are entitled to ask the Minister: How much are you moving the boundary up so as to bring more people outside the range of unemployment insurance and consequently more within the bounds of the Poor Law? It is absolutely right that the House of Commons and the Opposition should have pressed this point again and again. If you look at the Blanesburgh Report and the speeches of Ministers, it will be found that there has been no actuarial calculation to show how far this scheme will pay for itself, and we have no definite guide as to the number of people who will be transferred from one category to another. One estimate is given in the Actuary's Report, and different figures are given from the Government Benches. I do not think it will be satisfactory if the House parts with this Bill without a more definite figure being given by the Minister of Labour.
Therefore I would like to ask: Does the Minister of Labour affirm or deny that the result of this legislation will be to cause a number of people to have recourse to the Poor Law who at the present time are getting unemployment benefit? Whatever the figure may be, it cannot be denied that something will happen in that direction. In the second place, I wish to ask: Is it really the Minister's view in regard to people who are genuinely out of work, and who belong to the class of insured persons, that we are improving their position if we make their maintenance a matter for the rates rather than a matter for the National Insurance Fund? I cannot help doubting whether it is going to be the considered view of the Government as a whole, and the Minister of Health in particular, that this additional burden, the part which is going to be shared, is to be carried, if it is carried at all, by ratepayers, by board of guardians, on the system of the Poor Law, instead of being carried on a fund which, at least, is centralised, and in that sense national.
Those are the considerations upon the substance of the Bill which I have been led to form as a result of examining it as 1776 well as I can. It is no satisfaction to be told that this Bill is going to make the statutory right universal and get rid of the element of additional benefit which stands on a lower plane if the statutory right is a paper statutory right to all insured persons, while, in fact, it is throwing upon the Poor Law, and upon people who are excluded from benefit, a burden of a different sort which has clearly to be met, but met under much more distressing conditions. The Government, let me grant, have improved the Bill in some respects as it has passed through the House. Under pressure, they have made some concessions. I must confess that I do not thoroughly understand the extent of the concession with regard to training centres for juveniles and young people. So far so good. But it appears to me at present to be in a very vague state. They have made, of course, a definite improvement by extending the expired period allowed to the sick unemployed by another year. They have conceded, I think, five less contributions for disabled ex-service men, and they have partially met the storm of indignation—because it was a perfectly genuine indignation—which was provoked by the drastic reduction in the benefit to young people. They have partially met it by their new graduated scale. I do not pretend to have gone into this matter like those who are greater experts and know more about it than I do, but I say plainly that, up to the present, I have not been convinced by that part of the Blanesburgh Report which seeks to make separate provision for the after-War class of young people. But be that as it is, it is plain that the Government do not really, in point of contribution or benefit, carry out the Report, and though it is modified as much as it is, it seems to me to be very doubtful whether or not that was an improvement in the Bill.
It seems to me that Parliament, in dealing with these matters, has to deal with them in a severely practical way and not to substitute expressions of sympathy, no doubt very sincerely held, for a real analysis and examination of the Bill itself. I wish in these matters to be perfectly candid about my own view. I am not one of those who thinks it is possible in this country to legislate in such terms as will secure, as far as money or wages secure such things, that people who have the misfortune to be for 1777 long periods unable to find work should be just as well off as the people who find work. I should not be acting honestly by the House of Commons if I professed to hold that view, because I do not. It seems to me that in the world as we find it, it is necessary that, apart from the other motives for finding work which every man of character and self-respect may be sure always to feel, it is impracticable for a community like ours to put people in the same position, whether they find work or whether they do not. I apply that to all classes. I am not by any means limiting it to what are ordinarily called the wage-earning classes. But, while that is so, we have in the last generation, since I have been in the House of Commons, really moved on the subject of unemployment into a perfectly definite national position. When the Bill of 1911 was introduced in this House by the Liberal Government of that day, no such provision by State organisation against the insurable risk of unemployment had ever been attempted, and step by step the thing has grown, and it has become one of the most important branches of our whole social structure.
It is fallacious to think that you can reduce the burden which the good sense of the community is accepting by any ingenious device which will re-define conditions, because the only result of that would be to throw persons who otherwise might come within the scheme on to the guardians of the Poor Law, which means a further burden on the rates. That would be very bad for them. It is extremely bad, I believe, for the right view of public policy as a whole. It throws the burden on the very localities which can least meet it in exact ratio to the extent to which the thing arises, exactly the wrong way about. It amounts, in fact, not to a contribution out of profits, which, after all, is what our direct taxation is, but a contribution out of industry itself whether it makes a profit or not, which is thoroughly unsound. The whole idea that by departmentalising action you can somehow reduce the burden thrown on to the country under this head, is really a delusion, unless it be be taken side by side with a revision of the administration of the Poor Law. I apologise to the House, especially as I have not been here during the detailed 1778 Debates as much as I usually have on Bills of this sort, but I have, none the less, kept very closely in touch with this branch of legislation, and I trust that the House will excuse me for having intervened to make these observations.
§ Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS
I have listened, as I always do, and as we all do, with interest and respect to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), and, quite frankly, I have been wondering why it was that he put the main case to-day for the party to which he belongs, having regard to the reason which he himself mentioned, namely, the fact that he has not been present to any great extent during our detailed Debates. I think that, if he had been present, he would not have said some of the things that he did say—for example, with regard to shifting the burden, or changing the boundary, as he called it. Some interesting information, which I have mentioned before, was supplied by the Minister in answer to a question, as to what happened to people who were disqualified from benefit. I will repeat the figures if I may. One-third got a job in a fortnight, and only 13 per cent. went to the Poor Law guardians in that period. The right hon. Gentleman is wrong when he says that, if you disqualify certain people, you are merely shifting the burden. All that happens in very many cases—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The figures I am quoting are based on a sample taken from districts with substantial unemployment. I am pointing out what has happened in those districts, and I very much doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman has analysed for Spen Valley the kind of information I am now quoting. When he has analysed it for his own constituency, perhaps he will inform the House of the result. I think he would probably find that this challenge could not be supported by statistical information if he went into it.
I rejoice to bear him, with his great authority, condemn this habit of legislation by reference. I believe that the present Government has done a good deal in the direction of consolidation, and I hope that it will do more; but, as I took the liberty of saying on the 1779 Second Reading. the trouble does not lie so much with the Government as with the Standing Orders of this House. I understand that it is not possible to introduce an amending and consolidating Bill the discussion on which can be restricted to the amending part only, without including the whole matter. I do hope, in saying farewell to this Bill for the moment, that it will not be long before we see it back in the form of a consolidating Bill, so that the law will be made clear, as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested.
I am sorry that the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill is not in his place, because he rather suggested that the support which I have given to the Bill was due to the fact that unemployment was not particularly bad in my constituency. He seemed to indicate that my chances at the next Election were rather good, and I was glad to hear it. The curious thing, however, is that I represent in this House 5,000 more Socialists than the hon. Member does, for 18,000 Socialists voted against me, and only 13,000 voted for him. I have, therefore, a good deal of experience of the kind of people who are likely to be critical of me, if my action in this matter has been open to criticism. The hon. Member deplored the fact that an important Clause, namely, Clause 6, had so little time for consideration, but I believe I am correct in saying that he went into the Lobby to vote against a proposal which would have given him another half-day in which to discuss Clause 6.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Will the hon. Member try to be accurate for once? We had to choose between the giving of an extra half-day to the Clauses or to the Schedules, and we took it for the Schedules. It was really a case of transferring half a day from the one to the other.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
It was taken for the Schedules, and I was here when we discussed the Schedules. I was the second speaker, and, if I had not got up when I did, the Debate on the particular matter under discussion would have collapsed. The deplorable thing, from the point of view of the Opposition, has been their almost complete inability on some occasions to keep the Debate going, and, 1780 had it not been for some provocative speeches from this side, which provided them with further ammunition, it would have petered out much earlier than it did.
The hon. Member who seconded the rejection reverted, I regret, to what I call the prostitution argument, which I had hoped had vanished from our Debates. After all, it is a very serious reflection on the womanhood of the country. This country is remarkably free from that evil, and always has been, as compared with many other countries. There was a time when there was no unemployment insurance in this country. Was it then the case that the bulk of our young women who were out of work became prostitutes? Of course they did not, and there is no justification for making that suggestion. The hon. Member condemned, and I agree with him, those employers who take on young people because their labour is cheap, and cast them out as soon as they reach a certain age. I regard the extent to which that is practised as deplorable, but, because it is practised, it does not alter the fact that unemployment amongst people of those ages, or just above, is not nearly so high as amongst males generally. Therefore, I think that the fear which the hon. Member expressed in that connection is quite unjustified. Then he accused us of having made reference to workshys and street-corner loafing. I think I have been present during these discussions as much as any other bank-bencher, and I have no recollection of anyone on this side using that phrase. We may have pointed out—
§ Mr. R. MORRISON
The hon. Member has inferred exactly the same thing within the last two minutes, when he said that people who were put off the live register got work in a fortnight.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
That is not an implication that they were necessarily work-shy; it merely implies that the actual opportunities of getting employment, even now, so far as the individual is concerned, are greater than people generally imagine. I recognise, however, and we all recognise, that there is amongst our poulation, as in every population, a small fraction that will take advantage of any scheme. The fact, however, that both we and hon. Members opposite recognise that, is no reason why 1781 we should be attacked on the ground that we have suggested that the general body of workers fall into that category. Of course it is not true.
§ Mr. LINDLEY
I did not say that the hon. Member suggested that the general body of workers fell into that category; what I said was that it was unfairly assumed that there is a greater number of people who are work-shy than actually exists.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I have not assumed anything of the sort. Suppose that one person in 100 has a rather lower moral standard in these matters than the great mass of self-respecting English people. That means 120,000 people, and 120,000 people with a rather lower standard, if they take undue advantage, can inflict immense injury on the Fund. That is only one per cent. I do not think that anyone will deny that one person out of 100 may possibly from time to time be a little weak, to put it no worse than that, and, realising that fact, we have to draft our legislation accordingly.
Several references have been made to boards of guardians, and it is interesting to examine what happens in different areas. The hon. Member who seconded the rejection referred to what we are alleged to say about Socialist boards of guardians. I have in mind a board of guardians which was presided over for many years, and still is for all that I know, by a member of the Socialist party. It is in the Black Country, where unemployment has been bad. Three miles away there is another board of guardians, the chairman of which is not a member of the Socialist party. The gentleman who is a member of the Socialist party has always had a very high conception of his duties towards the ratepayers, and the proportion of people in his district who are in receipt of relief is one in 100, while in the adjoining district, where unemployment is no worse, it is five in 100. Those are two boards of guardians in the same area, with the same general economic conditions, and the one which is presided over by a Socialist shows a rate of relief only one-fifth of that in the other case. That is because this particular chairman has a high conception of his duties in administering public money, and I only wish that the same high conception could be held everywhere.
1782 The great trouble is the demoralisation that occurs. If the general body of self-respecting people find that there are a few people who are improperly getting Poor Law relief or benefit, the grade just above them in their moral sense, seeing what is happening, say, "Why should we make the efforts that we are making when we find that these people who make no effort can get benefit?" Then gradually it spreads upwards. That is what we are working against, and have been working against, those of us who have been supporting the Government in the Debates on this Bill. I. believe in contributory insurance, and it has been for contributory insurance that I have been speaking throughout the proceedings on this Bill. I remember that twenty years ' ago, when I was an apprentice, in receipt of the large remuneration of 1d. an hour, the journeyman under whom I was working happened to be a member of the Socialist party, and we used to waste a certain proportion of our employer's time in political disputation. Those were the days when old age pensions were being discussed, but were not in operation, and I was arguing then for the contributory principle. I regret that it was not adopted; if it had been adopted we should have had a much better scheme. He, on the other hand, was arguing for a non-contributory scheme. I merely mention that because I have been consistent throughout in believing in this principle of contribution as a sound principle, and a principle which makes people respect to the full that which they obtain. Here is a fund, with 12,000,000 people contributing. The Minister is the trustee, and he has responsibilities to all those contributors. The number of people who have passed through the fund since it became general in 1920 is probably in the neighbourhood of 16,000,000. Of those, two-thirds have probably never drawn one penny of benefit. They are lucky, they rejoice in their good luck, and they are pleased that by their contributions they have been able to help others. But that two-thirds rightly demands from Parliament, and from the Minister who acts on behalf of Parliament, that their money shall not be wasted. Therefore, we are entitled to draw up proper conditions to safeguard the interests of the general body of the workers.
1783 Our people are freedom-loving and have a high sense of pride. The bulk of them will avoid making claims if they can. I have had no protests except one from my constituents during the course of the Bill. Very few other Members have had any protests against the action of the Government in introducing it. The steadily declining enthusiasm of the Opposition is manifest evidence that the opinion inside represents no wide feeling outside. I have always regarded unemployment insurance as a great social instrument. I have always resented the use of the word "dole" as applied to unemployment benefit. I believe in the system. I want it to be a good system. I do not want it to be used as an instrument for the social demoralisation and deterioration of our people. On this Bill, I believe that we have been engaged on the crucial issue of modern politics. Are we going to use our social legislation in order to maintain the sense of responsibility of our people, or are we going to use it in order that they may ultimately acquire the slave outlook—the slave who looked to his master for everything, the slave who belonged to his master? Are the bodies of our citizens to become the possession of the State? I hope not. I believe in the sense of liberty that our people have always had. I believe that they do not want to be demoralised. I believe that they have a sense of pride. I believe that the mass of our people would prefer the kind of Bill which will leave this House to-day to the kind of Bill which would have been passed if hon. Members opposite had had their own way.
§ Mr. R. MORRISON
I presume this is the last occasion on which we shall have the pleasure of listening to the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Williams) on this Bill, and I am sure many of us are sorry. During the progress of the Bill he has filled the part of the Handy Andy of the Tory Government. When no other support has been forthcoming for the Government, when the Minister himself has been almost in a difficulty, you could always trust the hon. Member to rush about and turn up his books and proceed to produce statistics from somewhere to try to help the Minister out. The frequent result has been that he has got the Minister into a greater difficulty. He has a wonderful gift for finding statistics. 1784 On every point that arises he will dive into a book and produce statistics. He reminds me of the old soldier who used to stand on the other side of Waterloo Bridge with a card round his neck bearing the words: "Kind friends, have pity on me. I am an old soldier. Battles, six; wounds, five; children, four; total 15." The hon. Member seems to belong to that category. When anyone rises to question that the effect of the Bill is going to be to throw people off the Employment Exchange on to the guardians, he immediately says "No, that is not so; I have got statistics," and he proceeds to produce figures. Yet he knows perfectly well that there is not a board of guardians in the country that takes the same position. Can he give me a single instance of a board of guardians that has passed a resolution in favour of this Bill? There is not a single one.
Take my own board. It has never been a Labour board of guardians. I do not know whether it will be or not, but it certainly is not now and has not been, and yet it is very seriously concerned about this Bill. It is sending letters to Members of Parliament, because of the number of people who are going to be driven on to them. The members of the Edmonton Board of Guardians know more about what the effect of the Bill will be in their area than the hon. Member does. They point out in a letter to me that, during the past three years, they have disbursed £760,000 in direct assistance to able-bodied unemployed men and have spent another £100,000 in providing work. At present, they are assisting 1,700 unemployed men at a cost of £98,870 per annum, and they are so alarmed now at the further burdens that are going to be put on them by this Bill that they are calling a conference of the Middlesex County Council and other local authorities, and Members of Parliament and representatives of the Ministries of Health and Labour, to consider what steps can be taken to bring pressure to bear on the Government to find employment for those out of work.
Although I have not taken any part in the proceedings on the Bill, and have not been nearly so active as the hon. Member, I have done my share of listening. This, I take it, is the Government's Christmas gift to the unemployed. The Parliamentary Secretary surprised most of us. He usually makes a quiet and in- 1785 dustrious sort of speech, but to-day he seemed to come down here in quite a tub-thumping mood. He seemed to be satisfied that at last the job was nearly finished, and he said that the end of the Bill would be received with satisfaction in every part of the House. I do not think that he can say the same about every part of the country. It may be received with satisfaction that the job is nearly finished, but I do not think it will. He said, as if it were something to be proud of, that we had spent 10½ days in dealing with this question.
§ Mr. MORRISON
Is there not something seriously wrong with the state of the country when the Government spends 10½ days on the Committee stage of an Autumn Session and not even half a day to deal with unemployment and trying to get people into work? I saw some posters in the vicinity of the hon. Member's constituency the other day asking what the Conservative Government have done and giving a list of the things that they have done. I wonder whether this Bill will be added to it? I wonder whether posters will be put up on the hoardings? We shall see whether the posters which will be issued by the Conservative party as to the things that the Conservative Government have done will include that they have passed this Bill. I doubt it very much. My main objection, which has been stated over and over again, to this sort of thing is that we should regard unemployment as a national problem, and that this Bill will remove thousands from national assistance and put them on to local assistance. In other words, despite the hon. Member's statistics, the Bill is going to throw still further burdens on to the poor and make the poor keep the poor.
I shall be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary—I have not troubled him during the Debates—will bring before the Minister this point, which has not been touched on up to now. There are many injustices in this Bill, large and small, and this, I think, the hon. Gentleman will agree is one. Under the regulations issued under the Milk and Dairies Act, a man is compelled to cease work if a case of notifiable infectious disease occurs in his family. The man has no option. He must leave work imme- 1786 diately; otherwise, his employer would be liable to a penalty. The man is an insured person. There may be scarlet fever, measles, or some other infectious disease in his home, and, because he is employed as a milk distributor, he is required under the Milk and Dairies Order to leave his work. There is no question in such a case of an insufficient number of stamps. He is a fully insured person, but he is informed that benefit cannot be paid to him because he is not available for employment, as he does not comply with the third regulation that he is capable of and available for work in his own occupation. He is not available for work, because, by an Act of Parliament, he is compelled to stay away from work. There is infectious disease in his family, and it would be dangerous to the public if he were to continue distributing milk.
In the co-operative movement, with which I am connected, we have a very large milk trade, although by no means the greater part of the milk trade of this country, and we have had a very large number of cases of men who have had to stand off from their employment, sometimes for three or four weeks, because of infectious disease. They are fully insured and have been paying for years into unemployment insurance, and yet in a case where such a person is deprived by Act of Parliament of his employment he is not allowed to draw insurance benefit. He is put into the position that his employer has to pay his wages and receive no service in return, or the man has to go without wages. I am pleased to say that usually in the co-operative movement we are able to pay wages in such cases for all the time, but that is a business hardship which ought not to come upon any concern. Other firms are not able to do what we have done in the co-operative movement and the man suffers.
The Parliamentary Secretary will recognise that, although this is probably a small point, it is a very real one to the people concerned. Even at this late hour, will it be too late for some steps to be taken in another place to meet the point, or, failing that, would it not be possible for an instruction to be issued to the umpire with regard to dealing with the cases of men who under regulations issued in connection with the Milk and 1787 Dairies Act are prevented from following their employment while cases of infectious disease exist in their family. I should be glad if the Minister of Labour, in reply, would say whether the point can be met in this Bill in another place, or whether it could be met in some other way.
§ Major GEORGE DAVIES
Like the last hon. Member who has spoken, I have in these Debates been a consumer rather than a producer. Now that we are approaching the closing stages of what has been an acrimonious discussion on a contentious Bill, I think it would not be without interest if we reviewed one or two important considerations which have emerged during the Debates. It would have been desirable, if during the discussion as to whether we should apply the guillotine to this Measure or not, the Prime Minister, in addition to pointing out the interminable hours and days that have been taken up in the discussion of the Bill, had also drawn attention to the difference between the columns in the OFFICIAL REPORT filled by speeches of hon. Members opposite compared with the columns occupied by speeches made from this side of the House. More than one hon. Member opposite has taunted us with not having arisen to support the Minister. They know quite well that our action or inaction was guided by two motives. One was that we did not wish unduly to prolong an already unduly protracted Debate, and the other was genuinely to give hon. Members opposite, who we knew were naturally very intensely concerned, a full opportunity of taking part in the Debate if they wished to do so.
§ Major DAVIES
I am not asking for any appreciation. If there be anything in the criticism that we hear both inside and outside the House that our Debates are tending to become tedious and lifeless, it is very largely due to the lack of a sense of proportion on the part of hon. Members opposite. It does not matter whether a Bill is of first magnitude or of comparatively small importance, or whether an Amendment under discussion is of real substance or a most trivial thing, Member after Member on 1788 the opposite side of the House seems to conceive it to be his duty to himself, to his party, to the House of Commons, and I suspect to his constituents, to get up and to deliver himself of a speech varying in length from 15 to 45 minutes, filled often not with concrete argument so much as with vain repetition of personal and general abuse. It demands a considerable amount of restraint and self-control from hon. Members on this side of the House when we have levelled against us, not as a heated interjection in the course of Debate but as part of a considered speech, the charge thatmost of the men who come from the class to which the majority of the other side belong—that means this side—live to a large extent by preying upon the girls who are being reduced to this stage.That means girls who are driven on the streets by poverty. It really does call for an enormous amount of self-control and restraint to listen in silence to that kind of personal abuse. It is true that the hon. Member who used those words went on to say that he did not mean to be offensive. If he did not mean to be offensive, all I can say is that if at any time he did wish to be offensive to this side of the House I wonder what kind of charge he would choose to level against us?
I was glad to observe that in the course of an impassioned appeal addressed to us by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Lindley) he did give us some credit for possessing decent feeling and human sympathy. The fact is that in considering a matter like this there are two lines of approach: one through the heart, and the other through the head. It is, of course, natural that hon. Members opposite should regard this matter from a more poignant angle than is common to us on this side, and, naturally, they approach it almost entirely from the heart. However essential it may be that we should not lose sight of that consideration, everyone will admit that in an Assembly such as this we cannot allow sentiment entirely to outrun due legislative deliberation. In discussing the Bill, there is a fundamental difference between the two sides of the House. We approach the question of unemployment as an industrial evil in an endeavour to 1789 provide insurance in connection with it. Hon. Members opposite base their attitude on the slogan, "Work or maintenance." I strongly deny the right of any man, I do not care what may be his position, rank or status, to claim the right to live, the right to work or the right to breathe even. Those three alleged axioms are fundamentally at the bottom of the claim "work or maintenance" Once we went so far as to incorporate that idea into an Act of Parliament, we should be going a very long way towards the time when the unfortunate citizen would feel the grip of the harsh hand of bureaucratic interference and control not only from the cradle to the grave but during the time before the necessity for the cradle has arisen. It is not impossible to picture what the future citizen will have to go through. He will have to get a licence from the Office of Works', and in due course he will have to get an endorsement from the Ministry of Labour.
§ Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
This argument is rather far from the Bill. On the Third Reading of a Bill we have to discuss what is in the Bill, and we are not entitled to enter into a discussion on a speculative system such as that which is now being pursued by the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Major DAVIES
I bow to your ruling. My argument was on the lines of what has already been brought forward in the Debate, and that is the difference between the policy of "work or maintenance" and an insurance policy. If you rule that to pursue that argument would be out of Order, I will not further pursue it. There are three terrors which over-shadow a large proportion of the industrial population of this country: old age, sickness, and unemployment. Two of those have already been dealt with by means of insurance, and this Bill is an endeavour to apply to the third terror the same principle. For those of us who have never known the real weight of these anxieties it is not always so easy adequately to visualise what they mean to those for whom the dividing line between reasonable comfort and sheer want and penury is such a narrow one. At the same time, if we once admit the thesis that a man can receive for doing nothing remuneration comparable substantially to what he would get while in full time em- 1790 ployment, then, in my opinion, we shall be ringing the death knell of our industrial recovery and prosperity.
Hon. Members opposite know as well as we do that there is nothing more demoralising to a man who is unemployed, and who is willing and anxious to get work, than to find himself drawing unemployment benefit, even though he be generally entitled to it by virtue of the contributions he has made to the Insurance Fund. If that be the case, it is a thousand times worse with regard to men who do not so ardently desire work, but who are gaining their subsistence from extended benefit. The critics of this Bill are never tired of comparing the man who is receiving extended, or unearned, benefit with the man who has to apply to the Poor Law guardians. However we may like to camouflage it, in both these cases these men are really on the dole. I confess that I see little difference in regard to the effect on the recipient, whether he be drawing his dole from the Unemployment Insurance Fund or from the Poor Law guardians, though, of course, with regard to the question of the burden on industry, it is infinitely greater if it falls on the ratepayer than if it falls on the taxpayer. I am speaking of the effect on the recipient.
I admit that I am not personally greatly enamoured of applying insurance methods to the question of unemployment; for this reason. Old age is a thing which is definite and inevitable, if we live long enough. We cannot retard or hasten it. Ill-health is very largely a matter which is beyond the control of the individual entirely, with certain well-known exceptions, such as self-inflicted wounds, and non-hereditary venereal disease, and those people who refuse to take advantage of modern developments in medicine and surgery, such as the Christian Scientists. But the vast majority of men prefer good health to ill-health, in the same way as the vast majority prefer remunerative employment to inadequately remunerated idleness. If, however, we were to set up a system whereby the return to the individual concerned was substantially the same in both cases, the whole position would be entirely altered. After all, I do not suppose that there is any difference of opinion in the House about the desire to eliminate the scrimshanker from benefit. We have too 1791 often the difficulty as to how to define adequately the scrimshanker; he is said to be the man who is not genuinely seeking work. It is true that the statistics show that the proportion improperly obtaining benefit is relatively small, but I imagine there is no one who has not had experience of men who, from every common-sense point of view, should be in receipt of unemployment benefit who do not happen to have fulfilled the statutory conditions; yet, at the same time, we all know numbers of men who meticulously observe every statutory condition, and yet are really scrimshankers at heart.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) said some time ago that the only cure for unemployment was to find work for the unemployed. That is a trite and obvious commonplace, but at the same time it is fundamentally and profoundly true. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. A, Greenwood) in the course of these discussions pointed out that there are thousands of men who have been unemployed for months and years, who have no prospects of ever getting employment, who could only be absorbed into industry at the expense of pushing out those already employed. It is quite obvious that if in our heavy industries, such as coal, iron and steel, we have hundreds and thousands of men without any prospect of ever getting employment in their own vocations again, it is absolutely essential facilities should be found to give them opportunities of getting employment in other walks of life, for I do not suppose any hon. Member would suggest that such cases are to continue to receive extended benefit until their life's end, and benefit, mark you, contributed to not only by the State and taxpayer, but largely by the contributions of their more fortunate brethren who happen to be in whole-time employment. It is for this reason that we have had emphasis laid on the vital importance of the elasticity and inter-changeability of labour.
May I draw the attention of the House to this consideration. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has told the House that there are hundreds and thousands of men who will never be reabsorbed into the industries in this country, except at the cost of those already at work. In that 1792 case, it is no solution to find alternative employment merely in this country. I know that the mention of the word "emigration" in connection with a matter of unemployment insurance is very often like waving a red flag to a bull to hon. Members opposite. They like to charge us with being heartless wretches who are imbued with the one motive of trying to push off our own responsibilities on to the Dominions, without caring a rap as to what will happen to the unfortunate individual emigrant. To-day, the possibilities and opportunities of life overseas are such, and the Departments, not only the officials of the Ministry of Labour, but various other Government departments, and other organisations, indeed the Governments and officials of the Dominions concerned, are taking such constant and anxious care over this matter that it is no longer fair to level such a charge against those who would suggest a careful, regulated, and developed emigration in connection with this problem, this dual problem, for not only is it a problem of unemployment but a problem of finding employment for those unable to get work.
I hold that we are entirely justified in trying to deal with this question of unemployment on an actuarial insurance basis, but at the same time I do not think we should allow the matter to stop there. It must be supplemented by other steps, such as the provision of training centres for juveniles, the development of the opportunities for the elasticity and inter-changeability of labour, and the promotion of every step in a carefully thought out and regulated emigration in the interests and success of the emigrants themselves. Finally, if it should turn out, as a result of this Bill, that some of the fears which have been expressed on both sides of the House are realised, then we must make proper provision for such people who are genuinely those we want to assist, and who may possibly be transferred from the charge of the taxpayer to the charge of the ratepayer.
§ Mr. WRIGHT
I want to put in a plea to the Government to reconsider this Bill, basing that plea on a long experience of industrial areas and on my belief that the Bill will add to the already enormous burdens of poor and deserving people. We have spent 15 or 16 days in discussing the problem of 1793 Unemployment Insurance. We have spent five times as much time on the Bill as we spent in the last five years in discussing the causes of and remedies for unemployment. If only we could have got down to the roots of the problem the reason for this Bill would have been less than it is. The observations of the last speaker with regard to Members on the Labour Benches and their attitude towards emigration are not strictly accurate. We maintain that there are in this country great possibilities which have not yet been used. In to-day's "Times" there is a letter from a correspondent with regard to a well-educated young fellow of 18 who has been rejected as a possible emigrant to Australia because he happens to wear spectacles. This young man does not require to wear spectacles at all times, but he has been rejected on the ground that he uses them at all. If possible emigrants are to be rejected for such flimsy reasons there is really little purpose in taunting Members on this side of the House that they are against emigration.
I appeal to the Government regarding this Bill from one special point of view. The very able speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) put the case very well from an area from which I come, the county of Lanark, which is feeling very acutely the effects of this particular problem. There is an alarm spreading, and rightly so, among many of the people who have been long unemployed. There is the shadow of starvation over the land. This Bill is a further development of what I regard as organised starvation by the Government. The Government are using a very powerful weapon, and one which, strictly speaking, they are not entitled to use, because they represent a minority in the country on the returns of the last General Election. I think the Bill is an abuse of power. I have held for a number of years that there is a system of organised starvation in the country and that this Bill is a further development of it. I make no apologies for that assertion. I have made it in many parts of the land and I shall continue to make it so long as the possibilities of developing our own resources are neglected and we carry this enormous burden.
But we are not the only people who are alarmed. I am sure that in view of what is about to happen, the boards of 1794 guardians will have to bear the burden in England as a result of the passing of this Bill, and the parish councils will bear it in Scotland. Those in the industrial areas, particularly, are greatly alarmed. I have attended quite a number of conferences in the City of Glasgow. They have been conferences representing the parish councils of Scotland and have been called to consider this problem. Only yesterday, I received a communication from the Parish Council of Blantyre. There was a meeting of the council on Thursday last, and the Secretary wrote to me:I was instructed to forward the enclosed resolution to you, and to ask that you will use your influence to have something done in this matter. The burden on parish councils has been steadily increasing since 1921, through the emergency relief Acts passed since that date throwing added numbers on the Council role of the poor. From 1920 to 1927, the burden of rates have increased from 16s. 11d. to 21s. 2d., an increase of 4s. 2d. in the £.The resolution passed by the parish council is typical of resolutions we are receiving from other parish councils in Scotland. It is as follows:—The Parish Council of Blantyre, having considered the Unemployment Insurance Bill, expresses keen dissatisfaction that as a corollary to that Bill another has not been prepared by the Government to provide adequate financial assistance to parish councils in respect of the heavy burdens still thrown upon them in relieving the able-bodied, a burden which will shortly be considerably added to if the Unemployment Insurance Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.We have, in all the great industrial areas, honest and hard-working men who desire to do their best to maintain those for whom they are responsible. I have known men to walk from the town of Blantyre to Westminster, 400 miles, and not get a single day's work in the course of that journey, and then to walk back again. Many of these men responded heartily and readily when a national appeal was made for men to defend the nation in the hour of its extremity. Those men have returned. Some of them are now absolutely destitute. The time limit has expired and they know not which way to turn. I hope that, even at this late stage of our proceedings, the Government will not turn a deaf ear to the appeals which are being made to them. There is no body of people more deserving than those 1795 who by hand or brain have helped to add to the wealth of the community.
I am not personally concerned for the moment with the question of the right to work or maintenance. At any rate, even if we pressed that to its utmost limits, we should only be in the position of many men who belong to what are called the Services, men who are always kept whether they are working or not. If such men retire on half pay, there are certain Government Departments, the Admiralty for instance, where they draw a large salary and half pay in addition, and that gives them an ample opportunity of obtaining all the essentials of life. I should be very pleased to give my support to a Bill making it possible for every destitute man and woman to claim at least two meals a day, and the burden of providing adequate work would then rest on the Government. But I ask to-day that before this Bill is passed the whole question should be reconsidered, and that we should not drive the people down to despair because of destitution, as this Bill will drive them.
§ Mr. L. THOMPSON
I want to speak from what is possibly a somewhat singular position. I find myself one of a certain number on this side of the House who, while accepting the main principle of the Bill, have found themselves in considerable opposition to the Government. I wish to say at the outset that the further one goes in investigations regarding that position, the more one is confirmed in that position. I would have been neglecting my duty not only to myself, but to those whom I represent, if I had not placed before the House in the final discussion on this Bill these further considerations. I take up my present position largely from the standpoint indicated by the Parliamentary Secretary in his admirable speech, when, referring to the basis of the Bill, he mentioned the combined tests covering the whole of unemployment. It is exactly on that point of the combined tests that I wish to make myself particularly plain, and to show how an undue incidence rests on constituencies like my own and on large numbers of similar areas. I have based my position, first, on the inadequacy of the White Paper, and, secondly, on my own findings, but I wish now to confine my remarks to the findings of the actuary. 1796 Without unduly prolonging the argument, I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that there has been a considerable indefiniteness and lack of information in connection with the actuary's findings. But this is clear, that after making an historical survey, he had to base his findings on total unemployment over a trade cycle. I have been trying to find out what a trade cycle means. The Blanesburgh Report does not help one very much except that in one particular instance in paragraph 64 it says, referring to the commencement of a scheme in such a cycle:So commenced, its income and expenditure have been fixed so as to balance over a period of from 10 to 15 years.2.0 p.m.
I have drawn three trade cycles extending from 10 to 15 years, and I have started from the position in which we now find ourselves. In any cycle you must make a start and you must end where you started. That is what I understand by a trade cycle, and, as I say, I constructed three of those cycles myself. This is the outstanding feature. In any trade cycle commencing from the present position and taking an average of 6 per cent.—upon which this Report is based—you must touch a 3 per cent. unemployment. I put it to the House: Do we seriously anticipate that in the next six or seven years we shall reach 3 per cent. of unemployment? If we do so, it will be a near approximation to 1913. Personally, I hope it is possible, but, if it is not reached, of course the whole basis of the Report will be altered by the difference between 3 per cent. and anything in excess of that figure. That is the first position, and on that position the actuary bases his whole contention as to a 6 per cent average. I have been anxious to find out whether that 6 per cent. will affect the present position materially. The actuary's findings are based first on total unemployment with certain deductions. The first limitation is the waiting period. The second is the qualifying contributions rule, and the third is to be found in all these provisions such as to sickness during unemployment periods, "genuinely seeking work," and so forth, and the final Report is set out as follows:I conclude, therefore, that the combined effect of the waiting period and the other limiting conditions is that of the total amount of unemployment 26 per cent. will not entail the payment of benefit.1797 That is to say that 26 per cent. of the total unemployment during a trade cycle will not entail benefit. In other words, it is a direct relation of 26 per cent., at any point of juncture, to unemployment during those years. I find myself in this position, notwithstanding anything I have said in this discussion, that I have two tests as confirmed by the actuary's Report. The first is the 7 per cent. that will be affected by the 30 contributions rule, and the second is that there will be a total of 26 per cent. affected in relation to the total unemployment. Without wearying the House with statistics concerning this point, I want to be emphatic about it. There was an altercation the other day between the Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw) about a kindergarten sum, and the question was asked if unemployment had been reduced to 6 per cent., how would the numbers be affected? I think what was left in the mind of the House was that the result of that simple sum went to show that a normal situation would exist. As a matter of fact, that is not quite the position. The actuarial position is this, that if you were to apply the actuary's figure to the present unemployment you would then have disqualified under the 30 contributions test 79,000 people. If you applied his total of 26 per cent. you would have 293,000 insured persons disallowed benefit.
The truth is that it is very difficult to find out a comparative or corresponding figure to-day. I make it out that under the operation of the present Measure something equivalent to 166,000 people will be disqualified under the various conditions. If that can be disproved, of course it will alter my figures, but it is certainly true that according to the findings of the actuary, a considerable number, varying from 100,000 to 130,000 people, would be disqualified on the basis of the 26 per cent. It is possible to apply that to every successive change in unemployment, whether it be 8 per cent. or 7 per cent. or 6 per cent; but the true position is that you do not get any relief until after you have come to 6 per cent. of average unemployment. If my figures are correct it would appear that when you reach 6 per cent., an equal number 1798 of insured persons will be disqualified compared with those who are now being disqualified in relation to a larger amount of unemployment. As I view this serious position I see that the incidence of the Bill in its present form means that everything above 6 per cent. of unemployment bears a correspondingly high ratio of increase of disallowance, and below 6 per cent. bears a corresponding and converse lessening.
Therefore, while I join in every desire that we may quickly reach a normal state, I cannot anticipate that 3 per cent. will be reached in a very short number of years. My last word to my right hon. Friend is this, that I represent an industrial area that I have been touched during these last five years with a feeling of their infirmities, and that possibly I have borne the pressure of the adversity of the unemployed equally with any hon. Member opposite. Bearing that in mind, I ask the Minister if, with fresh emphasis, he will during his reply assure this House and this country that there is no intention on the part of the Government to put undue pressure on the already over-pressed unemployed, on the areas from which they come, or on the industries in which they are engaged. I know the difficulty, but if the right hon. Gentleman could give us an assurance that will quiet our fears, that he and the Government are prepared to look into this whole matter very carefully, I, for one, while not wholly satisfied, would at least feel that I had had some expression of sympathy and regard in reference to the unexampled state of things which exists in these areas.
§ Major OWEN
While agreeing with what has been said by my colleagues on this side of the House on the general principles of this Bill, I want more specifically to draw attention to the conditions existing in one industry which is the chief and practically the sole industry of my own constituency, namely, that of slate quarrying and sett quarrying. The difficulty arises mainly out of the question of the waiting period. During the Committee stage and again on Report, I put down a new Clause to cover what I consider to be a serious defect in the Unemployment Insurance Acts of the past and in this Bill. By the Act of 1925 the waiting period was extended from three days to six days, 1799 with the result that the men working in the slate quarries and in the sett quarries were put at a great disadvantage so far as obtaining unemployment benefit was concerned. Most hon. Members will know that in these particular industries it often happens that a rock may get loose or a quantity of rubble or rubbish may fall, rendering it dangerous for the men to continue at their work, and the Regulations in connection with the industry are so strict that the employers are compelled to withdraw their men from work in such cases. This happens frequently, and the time taken to render the dangerous position safe usually extends over three, four, five, or six days, but almost without exception it does not go beyond the sixth day.
There is no unemployment at present in either the slate quarrying industry or the sett industry to any great extent, but these men although they pay their contributions regularly, and although very often, as a result of being thrown out for three, four, or five days, they find it practically impossible to make the minimum wage, are compelled to pay their insurance contributions, and year after year they get no benefit at all. I have written to the Ministry, I have put cases before the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary, and I have found them most sympathetic, but the answer that I get invariably is that the law says that six days must intervene, and I am put off with something like this letter which I have received from the Parliamentary Secretary:
If the Department can arrange for these accidents to take place within six weeks, the Act will operate, and the men will receive benefit, but nature does not work in that way. Though it is a fact that twice or three times in the year the men are withdrawn from employment by the operation of a law passed by this House, yet by another law we prevent those men getting what is justly theirs in the way of unemployment benefit. It is a matter which, I know, has the sympathy both 1800 of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Parliamentary Secretary. Will it not be possible either by Regulation or by some Amendment to this Bill in another place, to make the position of these men fairer and more just? It may appear that I have an axe to grind, but it is simply that I feel that something should be done to make the scheme itself a success. The scheme is imposed upon these men, who feel that they have to pay something from which they receive no benefit whatever. They are hard-working men, and they are not withdrawn from work because they refuse to work or because there is no work, but because the law says they must not work. I, therefore, confidently appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give some satisfaction to this excellent body of men, than whom there are no finer workmen in the country, and I feel sure that the scheme itself will be strengthened, that the cost to the scheme will be very small, but that it will relieve poverty and want in the case of these men.
- "(1) Any three or more days of unemployment, whether consecutive or not, within a period of six consecutive days are treated as a continuous period of unemployment, and
- "(2) any two such continuous periods of three or more days are treated as continuous with one another if they are separated by not more than six weeks."
§ Mr. ROBERT HUDSON
I would like to remind the House that the Minister said, in his Second Reading speech, that this Bill radically recast the whole of the existing system. I quite agree, for I firmly believe that the present Unemployment Insurance scheme is not an Insurance scheme at all. It is an immense system of State relief, which is paid for by a special direct tax on two portions of the community, the employers of labour in certain industries, and by a poll tax on the men engaged in those industries. It has not been, especially since 1920, an insurance scheme at all. This Bill is going to make an entirely new departure and to revert to the conditions of 1911. It is going to start, for the first time since the War, a definite insurance scheme limited to people who pay that insurance; but the effect of changing over from State relief to insurance is going to exclude a very large number of persons from what the Blanesburgh Committee called "the insurance field." The question is, what is going to be done for those people? Are we going to leave them to the workings of blind chance, or to the narrow outlook of local authorities; or are we going to increase the burden under which national industry in depressed districts already labours?
1801 I say, perfectly frankly, that if this scheme is to be regarded as a solution of our difficulties, and of all the difficulties with which we are to be faced, I am afraid, in the next four or five years, it is fundamentally unsound both in method and scope, and will increase rather than diminish those difficulties. I am perfectly certain my apprehensions are shared by enormous numbers of Members on these benches. If, on the other hand, as the Minister said, this scheme is merely to be regarded as a solution, or attempted solution, of the problem of normal unemployment in normal times and normal areas, I venture to think it is a good Bill, and will meet not only with the approval of this House, but with the approval of the country. But—and it is a very big "but," and an essential "but"—that Bill must be accompanied by some promise of a comprehensive measure to deal with the other problems —the problem of the men who are outside the insurance scheme, and, I would venture to suggest, the problems of the respective incidence of national and local taxation. I do not know whether it is the province of the Minister of Labour or the Minister of Health to bring in such a Measure, but I am perfectly certain that if the right hon. Gentleman or his colleague the Minister of Health will bring in such a Measure on sound and statesmanlike lines, he will be astonished at the amount of support he will get for it in what, at first sight, seem the most unlikely quarters in this Parliament. I hope, before this debate ends, we shall receive some kind of assurance on those lines from the Minister in question.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
We have arrived at the end of Parliamentary debates which have been exceptional in character, and the Government have come to the position they now are in, not by the exercise of reason, but by the exercise of repression. There is still no Member in this House who, speaking fairly and honestly, can say that the intricacies and the difficulties of this Bill have been comprehended and discussed. There is no Member in this House who can say what the position of the Minister is, or what the position of his Government is, on the criticisms that have been advanced, not only from our side of the House but from his own side. Everybody, with one exception, who has paid the slightest attention to the details of this Bill, who has made the slightest 1802 effort to deal with the alleged statistical grounds on which the Bill is based, has criticised the scheme of the Minister, and not one Member has supported to the full extent the propositions he makes with regard to the heart of his scheme, the 30 contributions.
We have heard a variety of speeches, but, strange to say, until the Guillotine was applied, when free discussion ranged, and Members could discuss the intricacies and difficulties of the Bill, there was almost complete silence on his side. But since the time was limited, his forces began to become vocal. I remember one of the first speeches coming from the other side when the Prime Minister was putting on the Guillotine. The speech was something like this, if I may sum itup—"When I was a child and naughty, my nurse told me that if I cried I should have something to cry for." The Prime Minister was giving us something to cry for. That is the Tory mental attitude—the superior person laying down the law to the infant. God help this country if this Bill be a sample of what the Conservative party will do if we have got to take the Conservative party as the nurse of the country! He went on to say—and the same thing has been said in another way by the hon. and gallant Member for Yeovil (Major Davies)—that they had been silent, because silence was the best support a Government sometimes could have. I agree. I remember a passage from an author who is a favourite, I think, both of the Minister and myself. I refer to Shakespeare when he said:Oh, my Antonio, I do know of theseThat therefore only are reputed wiseFor saying nothing; when, I am very sureIf they should speak, would almost damn those earsWhich, hearing them, would call their brothers fools.I think those strong silent men who sit behind the Government, a mixture of Bulldog Drummond, with just a touch of the Samur and Bret Harte's Heathen Chinee to add an Oriental flavour, are the strong silent men whom Shakespeare depicted so well. Really, what was required on those benches was not the strong silent man, but the man who could face the problem that has been put to the Minister, and which he has up to now refused to face. I heard the speech of the Parliamentary 1803 Secretary. I think it was a brilliant speech, for it evaded the points in a way that was very skilful—in fact, skilful in the extreme. He sat down without saying a solitary word of what was to become of the people who were thrown out of benefit, or how the people under the new scales were to keep themselves. Not a word have we had either from Minister or Parliamentary Secretary on these crucial criticisms of the scheme. What are they going to do with those people who are to be thrown but of benefit or given benefits that are absolutely insufficient to keep them in the plainest food, let alone clothing and shelter?
Let me give a short historical survey. Since 1924, the whole of the action of the Minister seems to have been to see how many people he can take off the benefit list. He took steps to refuse benefits to certain young people, who were paying in exactly the same way as others to whom benefit was paid. There was the three days' waiting period, which is really a misstatement, because it was more than a waiting period. The waiting period is only half the story. It was also a three days' period for which nothing was paid. He increased that to six. I do not hesitate to say that, from information conveyed to me from pretty well all my colleagues on this side, there has been a great tightening up of administration, and that officials of the Ministry, whenever they see a possibility of getting a person off benefit, seize the opportunity. I have taken the precaution to bring with me details of a case to show what I mean. Here is a man who is a labourer. He has a wife and seven children, and he is drawing unemployment benefit. He is offered a job 30 miles away from home, at 39s. a week. That involves either the removal of his home, if he can get a house, with the expenses of removal, or he must keep two homes going. The insurance officer takes exception to that man being paid his benefit. Not only that, but when the Court of Referees has recommended that the claim should be allowed, the insurance officer forces the case before the umpire. I mention that to show the kind of administration that is going on. All through, from 1924 to the present day, the only action of the Minister has been to get people off his list, and there has been no corresponding 1804 action on the part of the Government to provide work for those who were pushed off.
I know that the Minister, if he merely looks at this thing as a kind of balancing of figures, and forgets that flesh and blood are implicated, can justify anything. He has a £22,000,000 debt on the insurance fund, and he inherited from us a debt of £4,000,000. After all, that is not the most important thing. The important question is this: Is it better to spend money on keeping people, so to speak, in good repair, than not to spend it and drive people to despair? That is the point that is between us, and no balancing of figures and no argument from any Report can take away the responsibility from the Minister. It is not the Blanesburgh Committee who are standing at that Box; it is the Minister. We cannot argue with the Blanesburgh Committee, and I shall try and illustrate in a moment that they were misled altogether by the figures that were put before them, and that probably, if they had taken notice of the real state of affairs, their recommendations might have been different.
I do not intend to say anything more about the lamentable failure during the last three years of the Government's efforts. I may be permitted to say this about the way which people outside this House regard this Bill. We are not the only people who look with the gravest misgivings on what the probabilities will be when this Bill becomes an Act. Within a very short time of the announcement of the Government, the "Times" made an estimate that this Act would take 150,000 people off benefit. It is not only the "Times" that has taken a considerable interest in this matter.
If one thing above all others will appeal to the Minister, and certain Members of his party, it is the view that is held in that Mecca of all good Conservatives, Birmingham. Here is what the Birmingham Guardians say—In the opinion of the Board, the provisions of the Bill will ultimately add to the already grievous financial burden borne by Poor Law authorities in areas where considerable unemployment exists.This is not a Labour point of view. It is a point of view of a very Conservative Board of Guardians, and I think the right hon. Gentleman knows better the 1805 politics of Birmingham than I do. The Board of Guardians goes on to say—This Board deplores the proposal to reduce to 8s. a week the benefit for young women of 18 to 21 years of age, as a sum totally inadequate to meet the pure necessities of life, which, if persisted in, may have consequences seriously detrimental to the recipient and to the general community.Then the Board of Guardians calls attention to the fact, which we have tried to prove over and over again, that unemployment is national in origin, and that national responsibility ought to be assumed for it. These are the views of a Board of Guardians which, probably, has come to this decision with much heart searching, because of the fact that the decision may seem to run counter to the decision of the Government. Then, on the question of the 30 weeks' contributions, the Committee of the Board of Guardians which specially dealt with this problem says that the necessary qualification of 30 contributions will have the effect of throwing large numbers of people on to the relief fund of the Guardians. So that from the very Mecca of Conservatism there comes the criticism that we have made. The Minister has constantly refused to deal either with the question of what is to happen to those who are thrown off benefit or how these young people are to keep themselves. He has talked about the Blanesburgh Report, and he has given us figures, but he has never faced that crucial fact, and if I may put it to him again it is really a serious one. Living flesh and blood are more important than mere figures. What is of importance is that in this country, of which we have protested so much that we are proud, no person, who is genuinely a Briton, should have an insufficiency of either food, clothing or shelter. That is the principal thing, and the figures are quite secondary when that consideration enters into the question.
I will deal now with the Bill itself, and try to show that it is based on a misconception, and that the White Paper is not quite correct, certainly that it is not likely to be accurate in its prophecies. The Minister says, in effect, in his White Paper, that when the Bill comes into operation, the provisions as to 30 contributions in two years will result in 56,000 people being thrown out of benefit. In Committee I have already dealt with 1806 several remarkable things in this White Paper. Let me deal with the provisions on page 5. A sample has been taken respesenting 1 per cent, of claimants on the register, and it is said that if the 30 contributions' rule had to apply to this 1 per cent, in April, 1927, 1,037 males and 62 females would fall out of benefit, a total of 1,099, or, roughly, one-ninth of the sample. Then the Paper goes on to say that certain deductions must be made. We must take 82 from the 1,099 because, at April, 1929 to 1930, persons who are then aged 65 or over will have to be deducted from the figures. Then we must take away 194 coal-mining claimants who would not have failed but for abnormal conditions.
I suggest that so far as the 30 contributions' rule is concerned the position in the coal fields is getting worse and not better, and that to make any deduction on the ground that there will be an improvement in the coal mining situation is a most absurd thing. Whole areas are being laid bare now, and there is every probability that the position will be even worse than it is now. I know all about the coal stoppage, but there is the fact that in South Wales, in Scotland, in Durham and in other areas, men are every day going outside the 30 contributions limit and if your Bill comes into operation whole areas will be disfranchised, so to speak, and put out of benefit. Then a 10 per cent. deduction is to be made for the difference between the 9.3 per cent. rate of unemployment at April, 1927, and 8 per cent. in 1929–30. On that account they slice off another 82. Then they take off 25 per cent for a lower rate of unemployment over the two year period 1927 and 1928 than over the period 1925 and 1926. Will the Minister give me his attention for a moment, because it is quite possible that I have not understood? This is a sample of 10,000 cases. You would have 10,000 cases even if your unemployment came down, but you are taking 185 off your list of the sample cases because unemployment might be less. Why do you take off 185? I cannot understand it. This is a sample 10,000, and it does not matter whether it is 1927 or 1935. If 10,000 cases give a result of 1,099, you have no right to say "We are going to take 25 per cent. off"—not off the total number of the unemployed, but off the sample cases— 1807 "because the unemployment will be less in 1929–30."
I think these figures are absolutely mad. Never in the whole course of my life have I seen figures presented in such a way. The Actuary says that if the conditions be like what they were in 1924 and 1925 that he estimates that 20 per cent. will be disqualified by this rule. As a matter of fact, there is very little difference between 1924 and 1927. I have already called the Minister's attention to the facts. It is not accurate strictly to compare the figures of 1924 and of 1927, but let us take the Minister's own figures. There are only 45,000 fewer people unemployed to-day than there were three years ago, and yet here is the Actuary talking about the provisions of this legislation being based on an estimate of 6 per cent. unemployment. This 6 per cent. basis means that there will be a decrease of over 400,000 people on the live register in 1929. The thing is sheer madness. You cannot estimate that in 1928 or 1929 or 1930 we are going to have 400,000 fewer people on the register, and a Committee which bases its recommendations on a mythical 6 per cent. which does not exist, and which is not likely to exist, cannot command confidence.
Then we are told that other people may be brought into benefit who will offset those who are taken off benefit. I have once already given the House a homely illustration, and I am sorry to have to repeat it. What earthly good is it to Jack Smith, on his beam ends, down and out, thrown out of unemployment benefit, to be told that young Tom Smith, in the next street, who has been unemployed but has not been paid benefit, is now going to be paid benefit? How does it help him, the poor devil who is down and out, to be told that somebody else who previously has not been given benefit is now to get it? What are you going to do—this is the recurring question—with the people thrown out of benefit? That is the question with which the Minister must deal. It is no use burking the issue by pretending that the Blanesburgh Committee said this or that somebody else said that or that insurance principles demand that we must follow this method. None of these things counts at the present day. What 1808 people want to know is, what are you going to do with the people whom you will deprive of the little sustenance which they now have?
I will leave the 30 contributions' rule, simply because I have not time to go into it further. I turn to another point of the Bill, which to me is of the most vital importance. I turn to the Schedule dealing with young persons, and permit me to say that arguments as to scientific insurance have surely gone mad if they are applied to this scheme, because while the contributions must be exactly the same there are now to be two or three different benefits. Here, again, it is no use the Minister sheltering himself behind the Blanesburgh Report. What is a young girl of 18 to do with 10s. a week, on which she obviously cannot keep herself? How is she to find the other absolute minimum of 12s. in order to live?
§ Mr. SHAW
Yes, 8s., but at 19 she gets 10s. How is she to live? Will the Minister tell the House quite frankly what he proposes these girls should do? Where should they get the balance, and in what way? It is no use the Minister of Labour pretending that we are not responsible for these things. The present state of the country is the direct result of the War. We are responsible so far as these people are concerned, and I should be ashamed of any Briton who tried to escape his responsibility. The Briton who will calmly sit at home and see these people suffer in this way through no fault of their own is a kind of Briton of whom I am not proud; and I do not admire the patriotism of people who do not seem to care under what conditions these unemployed people have to live. We have heard a good deal about patriotism from people who are well clothed themselves, but the patriotism which talks so much about figures is no patriotism at all. How can you expect these people to fight for your flag if this is the kind of way in which you treat them? During the War these people were promised a country "fit for heroes to live in." That was when you wanted them, but now when you think you can do without them you throw them to the dogs. I am sorry to have to use strong language on this question, but these are the facts.
Apparently, hon. Members do not care what happens. The Government up to 1809 the present have not answered our criticism as to what is to become of these young people. You know that you are giving them what they cannot or even attempt to live on. Apparently, from the position which the Government supporters take up, they do not care whether they live or not. You are saying to these people, "Here is 10s. a week, and that is the end of it so far as we are concerned." All these nice mathematical calculations in connection with an insurance system that will cut off the benefit of all these people without thinking of their future is something which does not appeal to me. If the Minister of Labour had said: "The Government have a comprehensive scheme, and we will make it such that, while reducing our insurance scheme to certain mathematical limits, we will make sure that the poor people shall not suffer," the case might have been different. Instead of this, there has not been a word of sympathy or support for these people, and we have not been told how the young people will be able to live.
The Minister of Labour ought to give us a straight answer to the perfectly pertinent criticism which has been made, not merely from these Benches, but from other parts of the House as to how many people will be struck off benefit by this Bill, and what will be their fate. This Bill is not going to maintain those people, and you are not giving them the ordinary plain food which is requisite to keep people in a decent state of health. Are these people not made like you are? Do they not possess feelings and passions the same as you do? We cannot face a picture of that kind with equanimity. In my own county it is the custom at Christmas time among our good-hearted Lancashire folk to try to be happy and make everybody else happy. In ordinary times at Christmas the streets are filled with happy, rejoicing people, but this year, I am afraid, they will be full of people and not many of them will be rejoicing.
What message does the Government send to these people? The town of Blackburn, if it does not possess the largest number of looms of any town in Lancashire, certainly comes very" near holding that position. In that town, the secretary of a large organisation, in sending out his quarterly report, says that unfortunately he can look forward only 1810 to a black Christmas for the members of his organisation. The opinion of an employer in the same county, who controls more looms than any man in the world, is that in his view we are heading for destruction and disaster. At this time, with these prospects before the people, the only Christmas present the Government can send to them is a Bill which, on the showing of the Government themselves, will strike 56,000 people off benefit, and the probability is that the real total will reach three times that number. Is there no hope for the future? Are we not going to have a proposition of any kind to absorb these people in employment, and are they to receive no help from the Government? I am afraid that we shall be obliged to return to our respective constituencies, and say to those we represent, "We have done our best, but it seems to be of more importance to the Government that a small sum of money should be saved to the Treasury than that you people should have at any rate the beginnings of comfort."
During the whole of these arguments I have noticed a method of using figures which I deplore. The State contribution is less than one-third, but, whenever the proportions are spoken of, they are used in such a way as would tend to make people believe that the whole sum comes from the Government. Why did the Minister of Labour not leave the law alone? What hurry was there to alter it? I could understand the right hon. Gentleman's desire to make an alteration to get a more mathematically accurate scheme if he had any grounds to assume that the state of trade was likely to improve rapidly. As a matter of fact, to-day there is not a single person less in the total of unemployed, and there is no justification whatever for the wild assumption that in the near future unemployment will drop. During the course of the Debate on this Bill our criticisms have been hampered and checked by the use of the guillotine. The Government have relied not upon reason, because no reason has been given why these people should be struck off benefit. The Government have relied entirely on repression. I am aware that the Government will get this Bill through, but I do not know how long it will be before it is reversed. It is, however, very certain that this Bill will only remain on the Statute Book so long as the Government are able, by 1811 means of a powerful majority, to keep it there. When the Government are not in that position, this Bill will come off the Statute Book, and it will go where it most deservedly ought to go.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The discussions on this Bill during the long proceedings in Committee and on its other stages have covered a great range of subjects. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) said that our discussions had been unduly curtailed, but there is no one who has been present through all the stages of this Measure who does not realise that during the early stages of the Bill there was a deliberate attempt to waste time. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!'] It is also a fact that since the guillotine has been introduced one difficulty which the Opposition have had to face is to get people to talk until the clock strikes. The discussions have covered a wide range of subjects, including Poor Law, industrial policy, education, technical training, and other questions. It is quite true that national insurance is affected by all those questions, and that together they go to make up all this complex of questions with which society of the present day has to deal. I never forget that. But at the same time it is impossible, as anyone must realise, to traverse all the ground, tempting as it may be, in which this particular system of industrial insurance is connected with the other problems which, as I say, it affects and by which it is affected.
I must confine myself in the time that remains this afternoon to a broad consideration of the object which we set out to accomplish by this Bill and the nature of the system which, we hope, will be advanced another stage on its way to establishment this afternoon. I ask the House to consider, very briefly, what is the present system which we are sweeping away. It is a system in which there is a good deal of confusion. It is a system in which there are two kinds of unemployment benefit differing entirely in principle one from another; a system in which there are different sets of conditions attached to each of these sets of benefits; where there are different kinds of machinery to deal with each kind of benefit, and, finally, when you have made use of that machinery, different appeals to different judges for a final 1812 decision on any case. It is a complex system—and that is why we set out, as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, has said, to simplify it. At the present time, in four months, and if only the machinery could work quick enough, in four weeks a man can pass from standard benefit to extended benefit, back again to standard benefit, back again to extended benefit a second time, and be dealt with by different conditions on each occasion. I say that that is the type of system and the type of complexity that we are sweeping away.
I now come to the effect of this Bill. It has been objected that the phraseology of it is obscure. I know it is. I do not like the obscurity any more than anyone else present. I am not going to argue the long case which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) dealt with this morning. I am willing to grant him the whole of it. What is really important is not that the phraseology is obscure, but that the substance of the system which it sets up is simple. Whether the Bill be obscure or not, the system it sets up is quite uniform and clear, clear as regards its facts, clear as regards its conditions, clear as regards its machinery and uniformity, and, also, as regards the final authority that can be brought to adjudicate on each case.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
It is clear to anyone who chooses to study the Bill. It is plain to anybody. The facts are these. I will deal a little more in detail with them later on. We set up a new class of benefits for people between 18 and 21, and as regards the benefits for the two existing classes, the new rates are slightly lower for juveniles and slightly higher for adults. As regards conditions, we set up two main conditions only, instead of a much larger number that are now in existence. As regards the machinery, there is to be one type of machinery only, with the insurance officer, the court of referees, and the umpire; there is to be one final authority for the statutory benefit which is set up, and that is the umpire alone, an independent officer with whose discretion no administrative Minister can interfere.
1813 I take up, to start with, the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston on another point. The data on which these proposals have been made and on which the Bill has been drawn up were most carefully thought out. I do not pretend for a moment that you could get an actuary's estimate either for the Committee's proposals or for the Bill which would work with the precision of a mathematical drawing. Of course, it is impossible in the circumstances. I quite agree that nothing in the way of information could satisfy the Opposition. They did not intend to be satisfied whatever was given to them. One might have brought a whole British Museum full of actuaries' reports, and they would not have been satisfied with them. I make bold to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston has not mastered those that he has received.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Yes, and I am going to deal with one remark that the right hon. Gentleman made. We did place before the House more information than has ever before been given on a Bill of this kind. Hon. Members have had before them, not only the report which embodies the substance of our proposals and gives reasons, but also the actuary's statement to the Committee, the actuary's statement on the Bill, and the White Paper that we have published in addition. That is more material than has ever been furnished before. The right hon. Gentleman criticises this White Paper. I wish he had taken his objections yesterday or the day before so that we could have dealt with them in detail. I will take one objection—the first which he mentioned, his great objection. Why did I make a deduction in the case of miners when the mining position to-day is worse than it ever has been before? Of all the objections that could be made that was the most absurd. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheek!"] Of all the things in the White Paper that is the one which proves most conclusively that it is not cheek. [Interruption.] Oh, no, I am stating the facts. I was challenged on it. It is not cheek; it is the truth.
What are the facts? The right hon. Gentleman complained of the reduction with regard to the miners because he says you cannot make that reduction in the 1814 position in which the mining industry is to-day. What is the percentage of unemployment in the mining industry to-day? Does the right hon. Gentleman know? At any rate, he does not give it to me. The period of two years on which that figure was obtained was a period in the course of which the coal dispute occurred, when there were 80 per cent, of miners unemployed, who thereby could not get a qualification. That brought the percentage of unemployment over the whole of the two years up to something between 35 and 40 per cent. I would be the last to decry the unhappy position of the coalmining industry to-day, but everyone in this House knows that the rate of unemployment in the coal mines to-day, at its worst, is not half that figure. Therefore, it is perfectly obvious that a deduction has to be made from a figure swollen up to 80 per cent., unless the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to say that the 80 per cent. itself will in the normal state of affairs occur again. I take that point, which I never meant to deal with, because the right hon. Gentleman challenged me on it as I passed. A great deal has been said in the course of these Debates—
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I will offer to the right hon. Gentleman this challenge. I am not going to spend time on details; we have had a difference of opinion before about a matter of statistics, and he will know that he did not come off entirely victorious. I will offer him this challenge: I will argue on the statistics we have brought forward before any competent statistician or economist, and I shall be perfectly willing to do so and to take full time in doing it, but I am not going to spend the remaining minutes this afternoon on that one point. A great deal of play has been made during the course of previous Debates, and to-day as well, with regard to the fact that I said that we have followed the Report of the Blanesburgh Committee. I have never for one moment sheltered myself behind that Report; when I have referred to it I have always said, as I do now, that I take absolutely full responsibility for everything. This right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) dealt with this subject, and I would have said to him, had he 1815 remained after delivering his interesting speech, that there are two things that you can do—you can take the case, as I have always done, on its merits, but, on the other hand, it is also justifiable and right to point out the weight of authority upon your own side as well. That is a practice which the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself has always followed in the many successful legal cases, at any rate, which he has argued.
I would impress upon the attention, at any rate of Members on this side of the House, this fact, that, while I take full responsibility for the proposals in this Bill, yet the Bill as it was brought in did follow precisely the suggestions of the Blanesburgh Committee. As it passes its Third Reading it will again be in precise accord, except only for the modification of the rates, which I myself suggested, in the case of people between 18 and 21. I would venture to say, also, that, when this Bill begins to come into complete operation, at the end of the transition period, it will then be in precise accord with the recommendations of the Blanesburgh Committee, including the rates of contribution. There is only one point upon which our decision is postponed, and that is as to the rates of contribution that will be introduced when it is possible to make the big and substantial reduction when the debt has been paid off. In reference to the debt, there is one statement that I cannot allow to pass, although I do not want to raise a controversy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston said that we were responsible for raising the debt from £7,000,000 to £22,000,000. He knows that that is not true. As regards the amount of the debt the position is improving, but the great reduction of rates cannot, humanly speaking, come into force in the immediate future, and it is for that reason that, as I have said, we have postponed the decision, on the very principle which I think most people recommend, namely, that there is no reason to leap before you come to the stile. In all other respects we have followed with precision the Report of the Committee.
I fully realise, however, that it has been part and parcel of the tactics of the Opposition to belittle the Blanesburgh Report itself. The right hon. Gentleman referred to it as the Gospel of St. Blanesburgh. He should know a little more 1816 about Holy Writ before he makes jokes of that kind. If he knew a little more about Holy Writ, he would know that there were not one, but three synoptic Gospels alike in doctrine and having the same fundamental ideal. So it is here. There is the Gospel of St. Blanesburgh, the Gospel of St. Holmes and the Gospel of St. Margaret also. Those gospels are not only similar, but identical. I say that because it does connote an underlying truth of very considerable importance. On that Committee you had people of great ability and experience, but also people of very widely differing views meeting together. It was said, truly, that their Report could never have been written by any one of them separately, and yet, meeting together, they produced a report which was not a mere compromise but really a whole, a unit, because it meant that the different views and tendencies corrected one another and brought about probably greater truth than any one of them separately. It really was exactly as if any one took the colours of the spectrum. If they meet together, they produce a white light, which not a single one of them without the others would ever be able to show. That is the real value of the Blanesburgh Report and that also is one of the measures of the gratitude that we ought to have to the people who sat on that Committee.
Now let us consider some of the main provisions of this Measure. First of all, there is the question of benefits. We set up an intermediate class of persons from 18 to 21. I myself increased the rates that were in the original Bill. I have stated before that I wanted to follow the Blanesburgh Report, and put it before the House in its fullness, and I therefore put in the rates that were in the Bill. The increase which I suggested was an increase which I had thought of long before there was any outcry of opinion, and which I thought was a proper increase to make. It is all very well to say that those of us who have produced this scheme do not argue and do not talk in a way that shows that we have any care for humanity. I should like to put this truth before the House, and it is worth remembering. It is not the people who talk the most about these things who really feel the most, and it is not the people who promise the most who are the most sincere. Throughout the whole 1817 of this Bill, the position that I have always endeavoured to take up has been to try to put myself, first of all, in the position of an insured person, and afterwards to stand back and try to think about the matter calmly and reason it out. I have no particular concern to prove my case to hon. Members opposite —[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?']—after the way they have received my statements. But I would like to adduce one evidence of my attitude. One matter, small in itself but yet an evidence in proof, is the last Amendment which I put down yesterday with regard to young persons with dependants.
As regards other benefits, juvenile and adult, the net result is that the amount is about the same as at present. The juveniles get somewhat less and the adults get somewhat more. I say at once that these rates are not intended to be full maintenance. They never have been intended to be full maintenance; I have always said that. But I do say that these rates, while approximately the same as before, are at least as good or better than those that obtain in any other country in the world. They are not Socialist proposals. I would never be responsible for the Socialist proposals, because the Socialist proposals, such as we have had them produced inside this House and outside, amount to nothing less than a gigantic system of Poor Law relief masquerading under an alias. The cost of them has not been calculated by the people who brought them forward. They were asked what the cost would be. Have they ever attempted to think it out? These purists in regard to finance do not know the cost of the proposals which they have brought forward. I have had the cost calculated as far as possible, and it would amount to an additional burden on the taxpayer of between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000 a year. I would ask hon. Members opposite how that sum would be obtained. From the Surtax, already shrunken when its mistakes have been corrected to about half the original sum? I wonder how much would be left for the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Socialist Budget for the reduction of debt. What I say in regard to that kind of proposal is that, not only is it bad for the country, but it is not wanted by the vast bulk of honest and self-respecting workmen.
1818 I will deal briefly with the nature of the conditions—the 30 contributions in two years, genuinely seeking work, and the condition that after being out of work a man should for a reasonable time get benefit if he cannot get a job in his own trade, and after that he should take any suitable job at proper rates. They are perfectly suitable conditions for any permanent scheme that will serve this country through normal times. No man of any practical experience, whatever his political beliefs, will say that they are unfair conditions. They are not party in character, and they might come from any quarter. I can prove that. I can say to hon. Members opposite that they are the proposals of the Blanesburgh Committee. I can say, further, that they meet with the approval of the Trades Union Council. I have here a memorandum from that trade union body, which says:The new scheme abolishes the fundamental conditions of standard benefit; abolishes extended benefit, with Minister's discretion, exceptions, etc.; abolishes the special conditions for extended benefit and has a uniform condition which is similar to but more restricted than that mentioned on the opposite side of the page, which is the 30 contributions rule. As against the permanent rule of the present scheme, that there must be 30 contributions within two insurance years preceding the benefit year, the new rule is that there shall be 30 contributions for two years preceding the date of the application or review of the claim. In the present scheme the maximum continuous benefit possible (standard and extended) is more than 104 weeks, and in the new scheme 74 weeks (or possibly 86 weeks)…. All benefit should be a statutory right provided the statutory conditions are fulfilled. The effect is to give substantially what the Labour Movement asked for in this respect.That is as regards the 30 contributions and the genuinely seeking work. When it comes to the provisions for a man who is out of work, this Bill follows precisely the suggestions made by the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hay day) when he gave evidence before the Blanesburgh Committee. Therefore, I say that these conditions are in no sense of a party character. They might have come from any set of people who were cognisant of the facts, and it is for that reason, so far as these conditions are concerned, that I wish I could have prevailed on all sections of the House to accept them as being suitable. It was put to me a day or two ago that my amour propre was involved in this scheme. That is not so. 1819 It is not my own child for which I am pleading. It is not even the child of the Committee. It is a foundling which has been left on the doorstep. Someone passing by has picked it up and dressed it in Parliamentary clothes, and brought it to the christening; but when it is brought to the christening it is disowned by its own father, the right hon. Member for Preston. The principal features of the Bill are his; they are in his likeness. He has sneaked away from it on every occasion, on one excuse or another. On one occasion he has told us that when he brought in a Bill he had not full powers, that he had to please the Liberal party; on another occasion that he had changed his mind, that he made a mistake. None of these excuses will hold water for a moment. Take the two principal features of this Measure.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I say perfectly distinctly that the chief features are the right hon. Gentleman's. Take the two principal parts. First, the genuinely seeking work. That was not forced upon him by the Liberal party. It was a bright idea of his own, he was not under compulsion. The 30 contributions' condition had never appeared before. It was the creation of his own fertile brain, without compulsion from anyone. He says continually that he has changed his mind. The right hon. Gentleman is always changing his mind. He changed it on genuinely seeking work; he changed it on the 30 contributions' rule, and he changed it on the trade disputes Clause. He put down an Amendment to delete the first part of it, and then did not move it. Every word of this is absolutely true. One is entitled to ask, as he is always changing his mind, is he to come to this House and point the direction we ought to take? I grant that he is the ideal weathercock, but that is no reason why he should set up as a direction post.
There is one most important matter which has caused very genuine anxiety on both sides of the House. I refer to the areas in which there are industries that are abnormally depressed. I say to those who are apprehensive on this matter that their apprehension need not be so great if they make one necessary distinction, and that is the difference between normal and abnormal features. This scheme was intended as a permanent scheme for normal times. It is the abnormal features that make the black spots at the present time—black spots because of the War, some appearing early, and some later, like the coal trouble. But in their very nature they are temporary. Those who are apprehensive must not judge the scheme as a permanent scheme by its effect at this moment but by what it will be by two years hence; and they must further recognise what ought to be a simple truth, which is that where there are abnormal features the proper thing to do is to deal with them by special means and not to twist a permanent Measure or knock the bottom out of it in order to deal with the problem. I can quote no better authority than the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, when he said:
You cannot make these people a burden on insurance funds which were intended, not to meet these people's needs and circumstances, but a totally different industrial risk carefully valued out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1927; col. 1075; Vol. 210.]
That was his statement less than a month ago. Judged by all the proper tests this Bill establishes a system which is good in itself. I think it is the best system that could be devised by this country, and it has been devised with great care. Once again I give my thanks to the Committee that devised it and on its merits I commend it without hesitation to the House.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 233; Noes, 124.1823
|Division No.458.]||AYES.||[3.30 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Balniel, Lord||Betterton, Henry B.|
|Albery, Irving James||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Birchall, Major J. Dearman|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Blades, Sir George Rowland|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart|
|Atkinson, C.||Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bennett, A. J.||Brassey, Sir Leonard|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Berry, Sir George||Briggs, J. Harold|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hammersley, S. S.||Preston, William|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hanbury, C.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Harrison, G. J. C.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Burman, J. B.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hawke, John Anthony||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Henderson, Capt. R.R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Rye, F. G.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Cecil Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hilton, Cecil||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Savery, S. S.|
|Charteris Brigadier-General J||Holt, Capt. H. P.||Shaw. R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Chilcott Sir Warden||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W)|
|Christie J. A.||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston spencer||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Shepperson. E W.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Howard-Bury Colonel C. K.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Cobb Sir Cyril||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Hume, Sir G. H.||Smith R.W.(Aberd'n & Kino'dine, C.)|
|Colman, N. C. D||Huntingfield, Lord||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hurst, Gerald B.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Illffe, Sir Edward M.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Iveagh, Countess of||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|cope, Major William||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Courthope Colonel Sir G. L.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Knox, sir Alfred||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lamb, J. O.||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J H||Leigh, sir john (Clapham)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset Yeovil)||Lister Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell.|
|Davies. Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Looker, Herbert William||Tryon, Rt. Hon George clement|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lowe, sir Francis William||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Dixey, A. C.||Lynn Sir R. J.||Ward Col, J (stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Drewe, c.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Ellis, R. G.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||MacIntyre, Ian||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||McLean, Major A.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Macquisten, F. A.||Wells, S. R.|
|Fielden, E. B.||Maltland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple.|
|Finburgh, s.||Malone, Major P. B.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Margesson, Captain D.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wilson, Sir Murrough (Yorks, Richm'd)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Morden, Colonel W. Grant||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Withers, John James|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Gates, Percy||Nelson, Sir Frank||Womersley, W. J.|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrsf'ld.)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Grace. John||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Oakley, T.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w,E)||Pennefather, Sir John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Penny, Frederick George||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and Colonel Gibbs.|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Broad, F. A.||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Buchanan, G.||Day, Colonel Harry|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Cape, Thomas||Duckworth, John|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Charleton, H. C.||Duncan, C.|
|Baker, Walter||Cluse, W. S.||Dunnico, H.|
|Barnes, A.||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Edge, Sir William|
|Barr. J.||Compton, Joseph||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)|
|Batey, Joseph||Connolly, M.||Forrest. W.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Crawfurd, H. E.||Gardner, J. P.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Dalton, Hugh||Garro-Jones. Captain G. M.|
|Gillett, George M||Livingstone, A. M.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey Rotherhithe)|
|Gosling, Harry||Lowth, T.||Smith, H. B. Less. (Keighley)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||MacDonald. Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Graham Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Mackinder, W.||Snell, Harry|
|Greenall T.||MacLaren, Andrew||Stamford, T. W.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||March, S.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mitchell, E. Rossiyn (Paisley)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Groves, T.||Montague, Frederick||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Morris R. H.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Hall F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Morrison, R. c. (Tottenham, N.)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Naylor. T. E.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Oliver, George Harold||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Hardie, George D||Owen. Major G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Harris, Percy A.||Palin, John Henry||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Hartshorn Rt Hon. Vernon||Paling, W.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Hayday Arthur||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Hayes, John Henry||Ponsonby Arthur||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Henderson Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Potts, John S.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Westwood, J.|
|Hirst, G. H.||Riley, Ben||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford South)||Ritson, J.||Whiteley, W.|
|Hore-Beilsha, Leslie||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||Williams. Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Robinson, W. C. (York, W.R., Elland,||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Rose, Frank H.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Windsor, Walter|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Scrymgeour, E.||Wright, W.|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Scurr, John||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Kennedy T.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Lansbury, George||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
|Lawson, John James||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Charles Edwards.|
|Lindley, F. W.||Sitch, Charles H.|
Question put, and agreed to.